Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trinitarian Prayer

There's an ongoing conversation in my head and heart, surrounding the Trinity. Trinity. A confusing and mysterious doctrine of the Christian faith. The conversation has been awakened in me because of a class I'm taking this semester, the History of Christian Worship. The question at the heart of this class is, "If God is Trinitarian, what impact should that have on worship?"

I commend the book to you, "Worshipping Trinity" by Robin Parry (I quoted from it about a week ago). Parry poses the question, the very bold question, of whether our churches today are basically unitarian in practice-- do we fail to recognize God as who he is-- a Trinitarian God, the great Three-in-One? If someone were to enter our churches, what would they take away about our beliefs about God? Do we use only generic terms of Lord and God, and Lord God? What kind of picture of God are we painting when we limit our language of God only to those kinds of terms? When we say them, yes, we know to whom we are referring and speaking (please do not think I am suggesting we NOT use those terms. He is our Lord!!). But. Are worship leaders, by not incorporating Trinitarian elements into worship, presenting an incomplete picture of who God really is? So that worship participants don't know who the Holy Spirit is? Or Jesus? Or God the Father? Are we teaching people that somehow, all three persons of the Godhead are not active and present in the world? Are we missing out on a more full picture (and experience) of who God is?

Another question: do we ever lift up one person of the Godhead over the others? Do we exalt one, leaving out the others? Meaning, have we put too much focus on just Jesus, or just the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that God is our heavenly Father, and the father of Jesus?

I offer to you an example of Trinitarian prayer. This is from Hippolytus, a Christian leader from 3rd Century Rome. We spent this past week in my worship class reading Hippolytus' On the Apostolic Tradition. How does this prayer differ from a lot of the prayers we pray in Sunday morning worship? Is there something to be learned from this way of praying?

We give thanks to you God, through your beloved child Jesus Christ, whom, in the last times, you sent to us as savior and redeemer and angel of your will, who is your inseparable Word through whom you made all things and who was well pleasing to you. You sent him from heaven into the womb of a virgin, and he was conceived and made flesh in the womb and shown to be your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. He fulfilled your will and won for you a holy people, opening wide his hands when he suffered that he might set free from suffering those who believed in you. When he was handing over to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death and break the chains of the devil and harrow hell and illuminate the just and fix a boundary and manifest the resurrection, he took bread and giving thanks to you he said: take, eat, this is my body which will be broken for you. Likewise with the cup saying: this is my blood which is poured out for you. Whenever you do this, you perform my commemoration.

Remembering therefore his death and resurrection, we offer you bread and cup, giving thanks to you because you have held us worthy to stand before you and ministry to you as priest.

And we ask that you should send your Holy Spirit on the presbytery of the holy church. Gathering us into one, may you grant to all the saints who receive for the fullness of the Holy Spirit, for the confirmation of their faith in truth, that we may praise and glorify you through your child Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and honor to you, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church both bow and to the ages of the ages. Amen.


Sara said...

thanks Kelly! :) its funny that you're talking about the Trinity right before you graduate, b/c for some reason i thought about this alot before my graduation, though i'm not sure why! if you haven't read Steve Seamands book "Ministry in the Image of God," read it! you'd love it for sure!!

Kelly Lawson said...

I HAVE read it! But it was several semesters ago, and I've been thinking about that book (and wanting to reread it) lately.

Jason said...

Kelly - I think I have your "Ministry in the image of God" book. I can get it back to you if you want.

This is a tremendous post. I think, if ministers are honest, most of our ministry (worship leading or otherwise) is based very little on research / theological reflection and more about what we've seen, known, or experienced - make sense?

I can speak for myself and say there is often VERY little time to reflect and assess theologically because of the day to day demands of ministry.

I don't think we do present a holistic picture of God very often. Maybe we choose one or the other to focus on in each worship service.

I think the Holy Spirit is the most overlooked, particularly because any change that is affected, we usually attribute to our own work.

Kelly Lawson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly Lawson said...

Jason, something Parry mentioned in his book (I THINK) is that it's not necessarily even bad if one worship service may be more "heavy" on the Jesus aspect or the Holy Spirit aspect than others. So long as over time, in worship, we present a holistic picture of God. I think I agree with this assessment. On Sundays like Pentecost, or seasons like Lent, you're probably going to focus on person of the Godhead more than others. But we talked about in class (which blew me away) that at Christmas the Holy Spirit TOTALLY gets the short end of the stick. We COMPLETELY ignore and forget about the HUGE role that HE played in the Christmas narrative. Yet he's not EVER one of the persons we talk about at Christmas. Crazy.

And yes. I agree with you about most of our ministry just being what we've seen and experienced ourselves. We just need to think, as ministers, about the theological implications of each and everything we do and say in regards to our ministry. So that the people we are leading, when they mirror what THEY'VE seen and experienced, are able to worship God for who he is-- the Trinitarian God! :)

Kelly Lawson said...

P.S. Great insight here:

I think the Holy Spirit is the most overlooked, particularly because any change that is affected, we usually attribute to our own work.

OUCH. And sadly, so often true.