Thursday, March 29, 2012

You think the reformation is over? It is now . . .

Carl Trueman's excellent article on how the advent of mega churches signals the end of the reformation is well worth a read and has really stuck with me in my own struggles with a church which, while hardly mega, is getting to the point where it is difficult to know everybody, and certainly not possible to really know everybody.  However even in small churches I have noticed a tendency to jetison the insights and advances of the reformation without so much as a thought. 

This particular regression can be blamed on the "creative" outlet provided by digital video projectors whereby communion is now not complete without either a slide showing a blood stained figure on a cross, or a pained face with a crown of thorns, or even better yet a youtube video where some american crooner sings about the cross set to slide show put together by a theologically illiterate teenager in their bedroom complete with every cliched Christ image on google.  Suddenly we are worshipping an image in our allegedly Bible believing churches, using a cheesy digital image to focus our thoughts on the suffering of Jesus. 

Don't get me wrong I have no problem with movies made out of the story of Jesus, although some of them are terrible, or pictures in the children's Bibles.  But by playing such images as part of our worship, especially as part of a communion service we take attention away from the image Jesus actually did leave us, the bread and the wine shared among the people of God - which is clearly not Jesus but points us to his presence within and among us, and focuses us on the sad tragic physical suffering of crucifixion which is really not the focus of the Bible when it comes to the cross at all.  Jesus' death really wasn't that tragic in the vast scale of human suffering, others have died longer more painful and humiliating deaths.  The evangelists do not labour the fact that he was in pain, or that it was really sad that Jesus was being hurt, etc, etc.  The focus of the gospel writers was on the meaning of his death, and that should be our focus too, but it is hard to do that when corny gory images of someones idea of Christ are filling up the front of the church.

And to reward you for reading my rant, here is some unrelated light relief from the Sacred Sandwich,

Let me know what you think, :-)


  1. Those tacky pictures are even worse than the old organists who insisted on playing during communion. If Jesus, bread and wine, and the gathered community are not enough go home and watch Die Hard 17 instead!

  2. I too am frustrated by the amount of 'noise' in today's corporate communion services. But I've also heard many pastors bemoan how they have tried to re-orient the communion sacrament in 'their' church but are stymied by silver saints tenured to the communion roster or worship teams who think that 'tradition' is a swear word.
    To these pastors, I would dare to say:
    1) Have a 'vision' for communion in your church that is bigger than 'that's how we've always done it' - Clearly and repeatedly delineate Why we do it & Why we do it this way. Indoctrinate anyone involved in the delivery/process of communion with 'the vision' and have the courage to challenge those who stray from the vision
    2) Please regularly teach congregants about communion, away from the communion table. This way you won't need to tell me/them what or how to think during this sacrament.
    No doubt some people will moan and you will have to deal with complaints- but that's why you the pastor are paid the big bucks.
    PS - Tim - even worse than tacky pictures and old organists are the desperately obscure pre-communion hymns that only olde English lit majors can decode