Tonight I came across an article entitled Why We Go To Church: The Intuition of Law And The Counter-Intuition of Gospel. It is certainly worth reading. Steve Zrimec has some memorable turns of phrase, like “fish on bicycles” and “the muscle of faith”, i.e. ears. Although my baptistic convictions don’t permit me to go along with the covenantal aspects of the article, I did find it most helpful, since I have recently been discussing this very topic. I found that reflection on it has also brought a few other concerns I have into focus. Here’s a little of what I’ve been thinking.
The vision of “legions of furious note-takers” is particularly striking. I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. I find taking notes an aid to concentration, even if I don’t make a great deal of use of the notes afterwards. I know that many of the most thrilling sermons I have heard have proved impossible to listen to while taking notes. I’m sure that was because they were intensely Gospel-charged. But, then again, I have found blessing from the providential discovery of notes later, sometimes years later. They help me recall the message, or stimulate me to further meditation. I don’t think it is a simple choice between the furious legions and the “simple yet intent hearers”, though I do take the point that we can often be writing our one legalistic to do list. We must certainly develop our ability to listen intently to the ministry of the Word, however much our mental faculties have been crippled by exposure to television. If we can endure the banalities of television for hour upon hour, can we not endure half an hour of Christ-exalting preaching?
I must confess that I had not really considered the alien qualities of the Gospel that we must constantly learn in quite the way Steve presents them. It has often struck me that one of the great benefits of the Lord’s Supper is that it reorients us to the other-wordly when for most of the week we are bombarded by this-worldly concerns. It saddens me that many absent themselves from this weekly remembrance. I cannot understand deliberately staying away from the Supper, unless it is because the concerns of this world have taken such a grip of us that we do not see how far our view of reality has been shaped by The Lie. But then, if we have not grasped the Gospel and been gripped by it, we will not see it as an opportunity to express our Gratitude. Or perhaps, it is that we are gripped more by Guilt than the Gospel, that we are unable to express Gratitude. Although I was brought up in a Christian tradition where ministry of the Word followed the Supper, I am persuaded that the ministry of the Word ought to precede the Supper, since the sermon ought to give fuel to meditation and Gratitude. I’m sure that if I can’t make the connection between the sermon and the Supper, I haven’t been listening intently.