Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Liturgy vs. Entertainment

Stanley Hauerwas laments the loss of liturgy ("the work of the people") within the church growth movement in favor of "worship experiences" that promote religious entertainment:

6 comments:

Christopher said...

Leitourgia does not mean "the work of the people." Like lex orandi, lex credendi this one gets tossed around too quickly and easily. As one of my doctor fathers, John Klentos reminds us, historical semantics, that is, the relation of the term to an individual public work, like taking out the trash, does not Christian usage make. Leitourgia in a Christian context first and foremost means God's work for us, that is the Divine Service or Divine Liturgy. Within this is our response to God. The German Gottesdienst captures also this first God's initiative and our response as does the Benedictine Opus Dei or Work of God. Interestingly, St Nyssa is one of the earliest to use leitourgia, and like Luther's usage of Gottesdienst, both use these terms as our response of service to God in love of neighbor that follows the Holy Communion.

Why do I say this, because liturgy as "the work of the people" has been used in my experience to justify that we can do any old thing we want, like say, composing our own creed or leaving out the Confession of Sin during Lent because we don't like it. No, what is put together must proclaim and profess Christ sufficiently, as in, creedally, and in Episcopalian tradition, Prayerbook-ly within the very generous rubrics provided therein.

Bryan Owen said...

I agree with pretty much everything you've said, Christopher, even as I note:

Leitourgia = laos (people) + ergon (work).

This literally means "work of the people."

As you have rightly noted, in the context of Christian worship, this "work of the people" is a response to the prior work of God on our behalf. And as far as Biblical grounding for that prior Divine work and our thankful (eucharistic) response, I can think of no better passage than Romans 5:6-8.

Perhaps such an explication of the word "liturgy" may be regarded as overly literal. But I note that Hauerwas gets paid more than I do for being literally-minded.

As to "lex orandi est lex credendi et agenda," I continue to stand by my review of Aidan Kavanagh's On Liturgical Theology.

BTW, I miss having access to your blog.

Steve Hayes said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who is concerned about this What is worship? Khanya

Liturgy is the work of the people, not the work of the "worship team".

Matt Gunter said...

I think Christopher is right to caution against how liturgy as "the work of the people" and lex orandi, lex credendi get abused (I would add that there is a good bit of etiological silliness associated with "credo").
But, I do not think Hauwerwas is using liturgy to mean we can do whatever we want.

Liturgy is probably better understood as "the work *for* the people". Originally it meant public work undertaken by wealthy patrons - public works and, more often, public religious feasts. It was work *for* the people.

As Christopher points out, the liturgy of Christian worship is not, in the first place the work we do. It is, first of all, entering into the public work of Christ. "Christ has obtained a ministry [the Greek word here is 'leitourgia'] which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant it mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises." (Heb. 8:6)

That said, there is also the awesome mystery of our being invited to participate in that ministry. So, as long as it is recognized as secondary, we might still say liturgy is the work *of* the people who are being incorporated into the work *for* the people accomplished in the public liturgy of Jesus Christ.

Thus, I think Hauerwas is right that our liturgy should be partipatory and not about our entertainment. Indeed, it should not be about us much at all.

hawk said...

I'm not sure about the academic complications abounding in this discussion. My interest is peaked by Hauerwas' critique of worship as entertainment. I would like to hear him discuss worship as propaganda or worship as psychological manipulation. I did not hear him say, "do what you want" although he may be suggesting that Christian worship should be an expression of God's people in a particular place at a particular time.

Thanks for the post.

Christopher said...

I understand the literal translation, that in and of itself should be used with caution. As Fr. Gunter points out, Christ's work on behalf of the people into which we enter and in participate is more accurate. Again, in Episcopal circles, I have heard this misused too much. In Lutheran circles as well. So caution is important.

As to Kavanaugh, a lot of work has went on since then on the controverted lex and primary/secondary theology matters. In our own tradition, it has never been a one way relationship between prayer and theology (what K calls secondary).