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Monday, 24 March 2008

Christendom is hard to get away from...

Moving between churching, being reminded of the main stages of the Easter story and the National Folk Festival was an experience that raised lots of interesting theological questions.

Maunday Thursday with its once a year inclusion of foot-washing in the Anglican liturgy left me ambivalent and aware of how complex meanings and symbols of power and service can get. The call by Jesus was to wash one another's feet. To have those in power in the church wash feet looks appropriate at first glance. From another angle the act can result in the subtle association of their position and role with sacred power by those in clerical positions. Without anyone intending it is almost impossible to completely dissociate themselves from the memory of the Gospel story in which Jesus washes the disciples feet.

The National Folk Festival offered some interesting images for discipleship and community. We had renderings of the prophets - critique of injustice and the call for the powerful to be brought low and lashings of the wisdom literature wit reflections on how to live in all sorts of situations and relationships. Much of the music and songs, as well as the craft of performance is passed on through forms of mentoring and discipleship and disciplined practice. Exemplary performers of the craft of musicianship are acknowledged because they are just that exemplary performers. It is not the same thing as professionalism.

The choice of hymns on Easter Sunday made me acutely aware of how much the imagery is shaped by themes of battle, crusade etc. Much of the language does not have strong warrant in the Gospel stories. The wonder of a new creation (Tom Wright is strong on this theme) doesn't get much of a run. Even where there is warrant in the NT for the victory metaphor it is often presented without reference to the fact that Jesus had rejected the way of violence on the path to his arrest. Again there is deep confusion here - the centuries of christendom have left their imprint on our language of worship and we just accept it without thinking - without stopping to ask the question as to how this language might strike someone with only minimal knowledge of the NT but some knowledge of the Church's implication in the crusades.

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