Liturgy Done Well
From the Daily Office Lectionary for Friday in the week of Advent 1, Year 2 (4 December 2015)
Matthew 22:2 ~ “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”
Jesus goes on from this statement to tale a rather weird and disturbing parable about wedding guests who refuse to attend because of more pressing business, of a host so outraged that he sends soldiers to murder the invited guests and sends slaves into the streets to drag in the uninvited, and of a dragooned and thus unprepared attendee who thrown into prison because of his attire. In these days of mass murders, of hostage takings and political kidnappings, of violence done in the name of disagreement . . . that parable is not something I want to touch in any way!
So . . . I’ll just stick with the basic opening metaphor of “kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet.” I can deal with that. It’s a nice analogy that makes sense. It tells me what that other analog for the kingdom of heaven, corporate worship, should be like.
Wedding banquets: food, drink, music, dancing, people having a good time, love and commitment on display and celebrated, gifts given and received, speeches filled with remembrance and silly jokes, toasts and blessings wishing all well into the future . . . What’s not to like about wedding banquets?
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from someone I believe to be a fellow Christian, but a co-religionist of a different ethic and a different aesthetic, who told me that God does not like liturgy. Citing Isaiah’s condemnation of the Temple worship of faithless Israel – “Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them (Isa 1:14) – he suggested that God does not applaud our liturgy, but is instead sickened by it.
I rather doubt that. The God Incarnate who enjoyed weddings and even catered wedding banquets (remember Cana of Galilee?) knew what he was saying when he drew his analogy. If the kingdom of God is like a wedding feast, then worship should include food, drink, music, dance, remembrance, jokes, blessings, and gifts, and when liturgy is done well, it does!
I believe that that makes God glad.