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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

worship as bedazzlement...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jonny Baker has written an excellent review of the Ikon 'Fundamentalism' service at Greenbelt this year for the latest issue of Church Times (read it 'here' - update... this article is no longer online, sorry!), where he comments that "worship as drama, retaining mystery and ambiguity, is a refreshing change from predictable, routine worship that leaves very little room for mystery."

I went to the Ikon service and was deeply moved by it without being able to put my finger on why! I wasn't even sure that I'd been in a 'worship' service, but I knew that I had been deeply challenged and had engaged with God at some real (as opposed to superficial) level. I think the Paisley sermon was the thing that got me most!

Anyway, when I read Jonny's piece in the Church Times, I felt he summarised almost perfectly my own experience of the 'Fundamentalism' service, and writes in a much more eloquent way than I ever could! So, thanks Jonny for putting into words some of my own reflections (without even knowing it!!)

For Pete Rollins' own take on the service, see 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:40 PM


A quote relating to worship/ revelation as bedazzlement from a Shamanistic song from the turn of the last century (quoted in 'Shamans and Elders' by Humphrey and Onon, OUP,1996):

"At a time when I was seventeen years old, together with all the women, having set out to the steppes and valleys, having gathered vegetable plants there, we were returning home, when suddenly with a dazzle arising in my eyes I stopped understanding anything. I hardly managed to get home. Not knowing why, I myself, weak, knowing nothing, fell backwards....My physical sensations dimmed, and suddenly from the tie-beam like the sun in the sky a huge mirror descended. Only just coming to I took the mirror and, it seems, in purity and solitude my whole body turned into powder. With a breaking of eighty bones ninety bones were twisted. And thus I myself, becoming radiant, in unity with the great spirit, I myself became glorious, legendary and elevated!'

This bears comparison with Paul on the road to Damascus, I think. It's an initiatory experience - I've found these are common in the biographies of shamans (I can see my own experience in these terms). Paul, remember, was so disorientated it took him years to (re)make sense of what had happened to him.

Walter Wink writes about such events, they 'are only meaningful if they are grasped at the imaginal or symbolic [as opposed to rational] level' ('Unmasking the Powers', p.146). It is fascinating (and gives great pause for thought) to think that our church services can operate to one another as part of the fundamental revelatory process of God.

One wonders how Jesus might have experienced this bedazzlement and revelation, both within himself and to the world. My gut response is that for him it must have been continuous and simultaneous: he was deconstructing his religion even as he was fulfilling it, right until his death on the cross. And as with him, so with us. It is scary to think that the emerging church conversation may never have an end result - the very fact that we are in radical conversation may be the new shape of church.

Someone said to me on Sunday, 'our generation is fearful of what you are saying'. I wonder if they may have grasped something of the momentousness of the revelation now opening up before us that we sometimes take for granted.

commented by Blogger Steve Lancaster, 1:26 PM  

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