Episode 105: The Places of Encounter

In this episode we feature a conversation we had at our recent Essential Church Learning Community on “places of encounter” in our worship gatherings.

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Worship in the early church was designed around a fourfold shape or movement: the (re)gathering of the body, the proclamation of the Word, the response (which was usually done at the Table), and the sending, where the church is sent back out as missionaries… 

One of the things that can happen to us when we think about “encounter” as the place where the Holy Spirit “fits” within our worship service… but in the thinking of the New Testament, the Spirit is the whole logic of the service… the Spirit supersaturates everything that the church is… 

The third stanza of the Creed speaks to this… the church is a continuation of the stanza on the creed… the impact of the Triune God in the world is the existence of the church in the first place… which means that the whole service, in a sense, is “charismatic”…  

When we’re thinking about the “encounter” paradigm, it’s easy to think that we only encounter the Spirit in one part of the service… but this runs contrary to what Paul says in Ephesians 5…  

Paul thinks that we get filled with the Spirit by speaking to one another, by singing and making music, by giving thanks, and by submitting to one another… which means that we encounter the Spirit in each one of these places… 

Too much evangelical preaching prizes doctrinal correctness as the bar we must measure up to… too much charismatic preaching prizes experience… we think both are crucial… 

We think that the sermon is the place where the Word of God himself is speaking through the words of Scripture and through the words of the preacher… good preaching happens when we ask, “What is the Spirit saying NOW to these people?” 

Art is intentionally evocative… when Cranmer wrote the prayer book, he knew that what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies… part of why the arts belong in church is because we are trying to help people love Jesus, not just learn about Jesus… 

Sacraments are a proclamation that there is a startling physicality to the life of faith… we’re not gnostics or dualists… Jesus gives his people bread and wine because Jesus thought that faith was startlingly physical… to follow Jesus is to become “fleshy” in all the right ways… 

I want to remind you that sacraments are not just nice little mental assents to something that happened but that Jesus is changing us spiritually, physically, physiologically through them… 

The Spirit comes to us through other people… when we show up in worship, we are bringing the gifts and graces God has given us for other people…

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