One of my repeated themes of the last year is that worship is not something we create on Sunday mornings. Worship is going on all the time in heaven, and our worship is an attempt to connect with that - to become part of it, learn the steps and the songs. If you remember the descriptions of heaven as a wedding feast, then the idea of learning all those line dances, preparing for the songs that have special meanings at various parts of the ceremony, and looking forward to drinking almost too much except now you actually have good judgment, can begin to see how the combination of pentecostal enthusiasm and liturgical familiarity might work.
But I didn't come to tell you about that. Sorry. I was thinking about icons. The Eastern Orthodox belief is that icons are windows through to heaven, into God's presence, which is why staring contemplation is so regularly used in that tradition. I found a very unexpected parallel to that this week. In our first week of visitng churches in hopes of finding a new community, we went to the physically closest house of worship, Relevant Church. It uses screens with the lyrics to its recorded music, backgrounded with the usual clouds, doves, or mountains. I'm not usually fond of this. In particular, I have disliked the trend of franchise churches, where worship designed and controlled in one location is broadcast out to many locations at once. As one who believes it should be the community that makes its own worship, no matter how unable the members are to produce music, atmosphere, or powerful reading, this newer style smacks too much of entertainment and packaging.
And yet I was brought up short this week, realising that screen-staring worship, known to be shared with other believers across incredible distances, bears some similarity to that window-into-heaven approach. If we are not quite connecting our worship to heaven, we are at least connecting it across time and distance to the church at large. If we really believe that worship is not something we make, some fingerpainting we produce each Sunday for God to put on his refrigerator, but an ever-present reality we attempt to discover in our weak way, then this screen thing has some possibilities.
I'm still not all that attracted to the idea, but I expect I'll have to give it some thought. Every worship choice gains some things and loses others.