Monday, June 8, 2009

Worship and the transformation of Christian Identity

Leonora Tubbs Tisdale contends that ‘a focus upon identity does remind us that at the heart of Christian worship is the formation and transformation of Christian identity – both individual and corporate – through the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit. In worship we bring our assumptions about God, nature, time, and humanity into a realm where we encounter, through the “strange new world” of God’s revelation, new ways of envisioning and living in relationship with God and all creation. In worship we offer our own limited worldviews and distorted values unto a God who can, through the Spirit’s workings, extend our myopic vision and correct our astigmatisms. And in worship, we enter a realm in which we ourselves – through the singing of hymns, offering of prayers, and participation in various ritual acts – engage in a dance of faith that also serves as dress rehearsal for faithful and transformed living in the realm of God’s reign.
Preaching, then has to do with the formation and transformation of Christian identity – not only of individuals, but also of congregations. Yet if we as preachers are going to proclaim the gospel in ways capable of transforming congregational identity, we first need to become better acquainted with the ways in which our people already imagine God and the world. If we are going to aid in the extension of myopic vision or the correction of astigmatic values, then we must first strive to “see” God and the world as our people do. And if we are going to engage our people in ritual acts that enable them to become better dancers of the faith – both within worship and without – then we must first know where their steps are faltering and where they are most in need of dress rehearsal for the new age to come’ (Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Preaching as local theology and folk art. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997: 57).

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