Lagniappe for October 11 (’14)
So many “testimonies” are reduced to what God has done for me, not what he has declared in the Christ. Of course, it is inevitable that Christ does for me while he declares to me, but both are really done upon me in order to place me within a people. How many testimonies seem content to be an individualized, “He’s done for me ‘A’, and so you should trust him, too, so he’ll do for you ‘A’.” The umbrella-narrative of a transformed community is lacking or obscured in too many instances. In other words, it is very common for these testimonies to take place inside a church but to have little to do with the Church. Mostly, it’s just what’s happened in my life for me. At the end of the day, such “testimony” stands against the constant thread of Scripture and the idea of togetherness-for-sanctification inherent in commands like, “Do not neglect the habit of meeting together….” After all, if I can do the same thing from a blog that I can on Sunday morning, one of these two just ain’t necessary. Sunday should be an atmosphere and galaxy beyond my—or your—testimony, no matter how “encouraging” you (or others) think it is.
I like what O’Donovan says regarding the central place the Lord’s Prayer should have in a Christian liturgy, and how this may apply to the all-too-common ubiquitous testimony that often serves as the emotional high point of a service, especially falling after the sermon as if the sermon serves only to “pick us up” before the altar call, testimony, and conversion experience that marks my life and without which I cannot really be called a Christian. In other words, let’s compare the importance of the two. Note especially the second sentence:
“The concept of worship as magnified personal self-expression, a large-screen projection of the “I,” obstructs the formation of the community by depriving lay members of the congregation of their proper ownership of the words of prayer. If the primary material for common reflection, replacing hymns and prayers that can be learned, possessed, and used by every worshipper, comes to be the spontaneous feelings of the minister and the autobiographies of selected model Christians, there is no room for the interaction of community and individual to develop. The model “I” overwhelms the (genuinely) personal contribution of the worshipper with a fake personality, imposing sentiments, moods, narratives, and reactions that purport to be personal but belong, in fact, to no actual person—not even to the minister, who affects them at the price of forcing his or her real personality into a straightjacket, trying to be the one single and embracing personality that will serve for all.”