First, I want to say that God is good all the time. I was seriously languishing after our last discussion because I am surrounded by many non-denominational church goers who are fervent but not necessarily aware of the richness of the history and liturgical tradition that James is unpacking. I met up with a friend who told me that this strain of worship and mindfulness is being restored to large non denominational communities. I hadn't really thought about it but the author of Seven, Jen Hatmaker, did talk about adopting the hours for a season which is this kind of formative practice. Apparently there is someone who is creating a morning and evening office that you can listen to in your car on the way to and from church. Again, not necessarily a focus on community - but at least a move towards creating formative practices.
Back to the chapter. The discussion about tithing as representing a different approach to economy was interesting to me. I do agree with James that we often don't understand the radicalness of what God calls us to do with our money but it is something that we have an opportunity to respond to every week. I do think there are lots of interesting discussions surrounding a Christian community, economy and our approach to money (and not just Dave Ramsey). This is a part of worship that should and could be further explored.
At the close of the service there is a blessing. I recently listened to talk 6 from Andrew Kern and he talks about blessing in it - what it truly looks like (hint: read Psalm 1). I like how James describes it in the context of worship
We are not sent out as orphans, nor are we sent out to prove ourselves. The blessing speaks of affirmation and conferral - that we go empowered for this mission, graced recipients of good gifts, filled with the Spirit, our imaginations fueled by the Word to imagine the world otherwise.Kern really challenges us as parents, home educators, to consider how we are blessing our children.
James uses the rest of the chapter to challenge us to be cultural laborers in a way that follows Christ. He doesn't call us to engage in the "culture wars" but to lead through service and as witnesses. He further discusses other ways that we can engage in developing our liturgical practices - Bible study, community, etc. I do like how he calls us to be a community - in relationship with each other - as a key part of our witness. Our culture is hungry for true community - we were made for it after all. However, he makes a clear case that
The formative force of such extra- Sunday practices is diminished if they are unhooked from the liturgical practices of the ecclessial community.There is a continuing movement toward smaller home groups, cell groups, etc. that diminish and overshadow the Sunday worship session. I like the case that he makes that the Sunday worship should provide the life blood for these further expressions. Although unintentionally, some of these efforts downplay worship, forgetting that this is the key thing that sets us apart. Worship the way that he outlines it is just so rich and powerful and I do hope that it is making a come back.
We've reached the end of chapter 5. Next we turn towards what this means for education.