Monday, February 08, 2010

"Casual" Isn't Always Better

If "Casual Fridays" can be taken too far in the workplace - what about the worship-place?

Numerous churches tout their casual or informal worship services, designed to make people more comfortable and at ease. But it's more than casual clothing, it's a casual approach toward God. It's symptomatic of our American culture, but it's not compatible with Lutheran theology.
"Casual worship" sends the wrong message, that sin is no big deal. It also fails to confess well God's presence. As a pastor friend of mine said, "act like God's in the room, because he is!"

Isaiah trembled in fear in the presence of God, "woe to me, I am ruined!" God's presence, his holiness, should first of all make us sinners uncomfortable. I suspect most of us would feel more uneasy in the presence of a famous person than the Lord of Creation.

Where's the awareness of our sin? Adam and Eve sought to hide their shame with fig leaves. But God provided the covering for them. We may seek to hide our shame and imperfections, but God provides all the covering we need in Christ.

Even so, that doesn't mean we should treat God lightly, or casually. Forgiveness doesn't mean we should no longer fear God. We are still the creature, and he the creator. We are still the beggars, pleading for our very lives and trusting in his mercy.
I'm reminded of something Pastor Petersen said once...

There are those among us who think the Gospel is best or most fully expressed as a casual, comfortable relationship with God. For them the resurrection of Jesus Christ means no fussiness, no solemnity, no seriousness, or formality. It is not enough that Jesus is your friend, He must be your bosom buddy. He is the kind of God you could go fishing with. It'd be okay if you hadn't showered and smelled like fish, if you wiped you nose on your sleeve. If you belched He'd laugh. He is the kind of God who likes greasy snack foods and licks His fingers. It is not really the Gospel for these people unless you can say: "Hey, Jesus, pull my finger." For them He is the kind of God you can tease. He understands. That is why they're always telling us He has a sense of humor (His sense, by the way, is always the same as theirs.) The bottom line though is that they find nothing to be afraid of in their God. They do not mean to be disrespectful. It is simply that they are completely and utterly comfortable with Him. It is this theology that creates casualness and unpreparedness in those who lead worship. They are sloppy on purpose. They want to show there is nothing to be uptight or worried about.


Susan said...

Interesting point. Surely it's a balance. Glad I read this.

Preachrboy said...

A balance for sure. I suppose one could go to far in the "formal" direction, but I don't see it too often.

I like Cwirla's term, "relaxed formality".

Preachrboy said...

Maybe the analogy here would be if people showed up to the office in a tux or cocktail dress. Somehow in our world, I think the underwear problem is actually the more likely absurd scenario.

Untamed Shrew said...

It's really not a crime to prepare your body for worship while you prepare your heart. Just as there is a time and a place for a swimsuit, a tux, a negligee, a clown costume, or sweat pants, there is also a time and place for wearing your Sunday best.