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SCP Ceremonial 9-30-11

SCP Ceremonial 9-30-11

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Published by Derek Olsen
This is my address to the Third Annual Conference of the Episcopal Church's Society of Catholic Priests in Detroit on September 30, 2011. My working title was "Why We Do What We Do: The Theological Implications of Liturgical Ceremonial." I seek to lay out a theoretical foundation on ministry & worship that has substantive practical implications for how Anglican worship is conducted with regard to those parts not regulated by the Book of Common Prayer.
This is my address to the Third Annual Conference of the Episcopal Church's Society of Catholic Priests in Detroit on September 30, 2011. My working title was "Why We Do What We Do: The Theological Implications of Liturgical Ceremonial." I seek to lay out a theoretical foundation on ministry & worship that has substantive practical implications for how Anglican worship is conducted with regard to those parts not regulated by the Book of Common Prayer.

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Published by: Derek Olsen on Oct 03, 2011
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1
 Theology & Action in the Liturgy 
 An Address to the Third Annual Conference of the Society of Catholic PriestsSeptember 30, 2011 by Derek Olsen
[Note to the reader: This is the text of an oral presentation. Thus, there are no footnotes and the language is informal. The bold and the italics indicate some but not all of the things that I would emphasize verbally.]
First, let me start off by thanking you for this opportunity to come back and speak to you. I really enjoyed being able to speak to you last year and am honored to come back and speak with you again.So
 — 
my thanks to Fr. Cobb, Fr. Hendrickson, and the other folks who were in on inviting me back. When I was chatting with Father Cramer about this whole topic of the theological implications of 
liturgical ceremonial, he said: ―Great, I‘d love to hear something more about that, because I reall
hate it when people say to me things like, ‗When are we going to stop talking about copes and start
talking about
real ministry
?‘‖
The implication that you hear often times in our church is thatceremonial is something extra, it
s an add-
on, it‘s additio
nal frippery, and is fundamentally something that can divert us from the work of real ministry. As a result we have to begin with the
question of ―what exactly 
is
 
real ministry.‖ What is our purpose here? What is it that we are trying to
accomplish in our work as clergy? Then once we have a sense of that, we can move on to thequestion of where copes and liturgies and ceremonial fit into the true work of ministry.
 This is a really big topic to tackle. We‘re only going to able to make a start on it. We‘re no
t even
going to be able to get to the ―meaning‖ questions. Instead what I‘m going to do is talk a bit about a
theoretical framework that gives us a starting point: why all of this stuff matters, then make apractical turn and begin a conversation about only two of the many implications that this framework offers us. And it all starts with this basic question: what is real ministry? The simplest answer about the work of real ministry has to be this: Proclaiming the good news of  what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. That is the real work of ministry. Now, that's a pretty broad mandate. So how do we do this? We could attack this question by looking at all the specificactivities the clergy do. However, I think a better direction is to get a sense of the big picture first. As I said last time I was with you, for me the center of our task is described in Ephesians chapter 4.Our purpose is to:
equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, untilall of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, tomaturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. But, speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is our head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, aseach part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up inlove.
 
2Equiping the saints for the work of ministry, growing into maturity, building up the body of Christin love.Now, how does Paul say that we accomplish this? Further on in the chapter he tells us: You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt anddiluted by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clotheyourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in truerighteousness and holiness. The transformation of the whole self according to the mind of Christ. The renewing of the spirit of our minds, and clothing ourselves with the new self. Paul is talking about a fundamentaltransformation here. He's talking about a fundamental shift with the way that we perceive, interpret,and interact with the world.However you fell about postmodernism, one of the things that it has brought to our attention is thathuman beings, as complex reasoning, thinking beings, simply cannot have a direct and unmediatedexperience of reality. There is no pure, objective, unfiltered, experience of the real. Instead, we havea lens, a layer, a model of interpretation that helps us make sense of our direct inputs and that helpus conceptual make sense of what we experience. Instead our cultures and our languages give us aprearranged system for how to comprehend things and how to fit things together. From the very  ways that our mother tongue
s grammar is constructed
 — 
the very fact of breaking things into verbs,and nouns, and adjectives and the way that they relate to one another
 — 
shapes the way that weconceptualize what we encounter. For instance, the fact that a language has no grammatical futuretense matters profoundly when we talk about how people from that frame of reference understand
time. It‘s not just that our experiences shape our languages; it‘s that our languages shape what we
experience and how we make sense of those experiences. This is our worldview. So, a worldview is alens of interpretation that helps us make sense of the world. It's an understanding of how things fittogether that gives us a frame of reference for making sense of our experiences and encounters andrelationships.Now when we take this postmodern concept of a worldview, and we put it up alongside Paul'slanguage about the renewal of our minds, and putting on the new self in Christ, then we begin to
realize that we‘re entering 
familiar territory. One way of understanding what Paul is talking abouthere is that the goal of Christian maturity is inhabiting a fundamentally Christian worldview. Growthinto maturity in Christ is a process of learning to perceive the world through the lens of the gospel. Through the transformation of the mind, worldly values are supplanted by gospel values, worldly priorities are challenged by God's priorities.In 1984 the Lutheran medievalist George Lindbeck wrote a short little book called
The Nature of Doctrine 
. And in this book he makes the suggestion that faith and doctrine make a lot more sense when we come at them from the right angle. Instead of thinking about the faith as transmitting a setof thoughts that have to be properly thought, we need to start conceiving of the faith as a linguistic-cultural system. Just as our culture enculturates us into a worldview formed by things like our
 
3language and our deep cultural symbols, the Christian faith is best understood as a culture and alanguage that connect the dots to help us understand the relationships between God, the world, andourselves.
 What makes this both interesting and challenging is that we can‘t even talk about ―a‖ worldview.
Instead, we have to talk about a variety of worldviews or parts of worldviews that press themselvesupon us that we have to fit together in some way that seems to make sense. Even this central lensfor how we see and experience things is composite construct of a bunch of direct ways of conceiving of and valuing the world. So
 — 
a
―traditional American‖ worldview might tell us that
family is important; and that in thinking about our decisions and priorities, family should be most
important. We‘re fed status
-oriented worldviews that tell us that what is most important is how important we are, what our title is and the size of our take-home package. Advertisements feed us aconsumerist worldview telling us that our worth is equivalent to what we have and that if we have
less, we‘re worth
-less. To all of these messages, the Gospel offers a word of challenge and critique. Trying to figure our way through incarnate life is hard, but the call of the Gospel is the call to transform how we see,experience, and value things. What does it mean to take seriously the call to the love of God andl
ove of neighbor? ―The old self‖ is Paul‘s shorthand for those old ways of making sense of what‘s
really important, the lusts that we must suppress are much less about sex and much more about ourneeds and insecurities for those things like money, or status, or safety, that ultimately 
 will not
and
cannot
give us life. As we put on the new self into which we are baptized, we are challenged torevolutionize our experience of the world, to see as God sees, to love as God loves.Rather than a collection of doctrinal thinking points, Lindbeck's understanding of the faith as alinguistic-cultural endeavor most clearly engages with this notion of forming a Christian worldview  within the body of Christ in order to bring the body to the maturity of Christ. Now, we are formedin many ways in many places, and at many times. However, as Christians who find our primary identity in our baptism, as members of the crucified and risen Christ, and branches of the same vine,our most important and paradigmatic experiences occur when we are together. You can't be aChristian by yourself! Furthermore, our fullest identity is found when we gather for Eucharistic worship. In the Eucharist, the disparate and scattered members of the body of Christ are heldtogether, are re-membered, forming a physical and literal body of Christ; in the Eucharist, we aremost fully who we are baptized to be in community 
 – 
and participate most deeply in the mystery andpromise of baptism. Within our Eucharistic worship, we are given the extraordinary opportunity toparticipate within the interior life of the Trinity: as the body of Christ we join with Christ in hispraise of and self-offering to the Father through the Holy Spirit. What we do in worship is not
just
 to gather together as a community, it's not
just
to praise God together, it's not
just
to express ouridentity as the gathered body of Christ, it is to make present an eschatological reality where weforeshadow the full consummation of all in all. This is our moment when we enact most clearly whatthe kingdom of God is.

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