If you haven’t read You are What You Love: the Spiritual Power of Habit or Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith, I highly recommend you do so. There aren’t books that come along too regularly that cause you to re-think human nature, or worship, but You are What You Love is just such a book. Grounded in an Augustinian view of human nature, Smith argues that we are not, as Descartes and his Enlightenment counterparts would argue, primarily “rational” thinkers. Instead we are always being drawn towards something or someone.
We are not static “bobbleheads,” but dynamic actors constantly being pulled towards our loves. In this sense, we are, as human beings, primarily “lovers.” And, as Augustine would argue, when those loves are oriented rightly, we will flourish as human beings, made in the image of God.
From this understanding of humanity, Smith builds an argument around the importance of recognizing how we learn. That, as “lovers,” we are shaped primarily by the practices that make up our lives. From here, he distinguishes between “cultural liturgies” and the liturgies that make up our worship in christian churches.
Wherever you fall on the “worship wars” debates that have raged decades, Smith makes some significant arguments for the value of traditional Christian liturgies in worship. Whether or not you ultimately agree, his arguments are worth considering as we contemplate the different ways in which worship shapes our daily lives.
In other words, we imagine human beings as giant bobble headed dolls: with humungous heads and itty-bitty, unimportant bodies.
Christian worship, we should recognize, is essentially a counter-formation to those rival liturgies we are often immersed in, cultural practices that covertly capture our loves and longings, miscalibrating them, orienting us to rival versions of the good life.
Your love is a kind of automaticity. That’s why we need to be aware of how it is acquired.
Pastors need to be ethnographers of the everyday, helping parishioners see their own environment as one that is formative, and all too often deformative.
“Liturgy,” as I’m using the word, is a shorthand term for those rituals that are loaded with an ultimate story about who we are and what we’re for. They carry within them a kind of ultimate orientation.
Here’s the dirty little secret, which we get intimations of but are encouraged to quickly forget: when the shopping excursion is over and all the bags are brought into the house as the spoils of our adventure, we find that we’ve come back to the same old “real world” we left. The thrill of the shopping experience is over and now we have to do our homework, cut the grass, and wash the dishes.
Spiritual formation in Christ requires a lot of rehabituation precisely because we build up so many disordered habits over a lifetime. This is also why the spiritual formation of children is one of the most significant callings of the body of Christ.
The Church-the body of Christ-is the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and retrain our appetites. Indeed, isn’t the church where we are are nourished by the Word, where we “eat the Word” and receive the bread of life?
There is no sanctification without the church, not because some building holds a superstitious magic, but rather because the the church is the very body of Christ, animated by the Spirit of God and composed of Spirited practices.
In a formational paradigm, repetition isn’t insincere, because you’re not showing, your submitting. This is crucial because there is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive.
If we want to be a people rented by a biblical worldview and guided by biblical wisdom, one of the best spiritual investments we can make is to mine the riches of historic Christian worship, which is rooted in the conviction that the Word is caught more than it is taught.
Christian worship should tell a story that makes us want to set sail for the immense sea that is the Triune God, birthing in us a longing for a “better country-a heavenly one” that is kingdom come (Heb. 11:16).
Worship that restores us is worship that restories us.
The sending at the end of the worship service is a replay of the original commissioning of humanity as GOd’s image bearers because in Christ-and in the practices of Christian worship-we can finally be the humans we were made to be. So we are sent out to inhabit the sanctuary of God’s creation as living, breathing, “images” of God.
This regular, stark, uncomfortable confession of sinn doesn’t seem like something that would be “enjoyed” by seekers. It raises difficult questions and brings us face-to-face with disquieting truths about ourselves. It feels like the very opposite of being sensitive to those who are seeking. But what if the opportunity to confess is precisely what wes long for? What if an invitation to confess our sins is actually the answer to our seeking? What if we want to confess our sins and didn’t even realize it until given the opportunity? In other words, what if confession is, unwittingly, the desire of every broken heart? In that case, extending an invitation to confession would be the most “sensitive” thing we could do, a gift to seeking souls.”
Interested in the book? Click here for a link to the book on Amazon.
That’s all I got folks!
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