While I agree that the form our gathering takes is very important, I disagree that form is sufficient to reshape us on its own. For anything I participate in to have the shaping influence that Smith describes in You Are What You Love, I must surrender to that influence. When it comes to Sunday morning the best situation is when I recognize that I am in God’s presence and that He has a desire to do some work in me. Then, when I submit to Him and partner with Him in that work amazing things can happen.
For example, the following poem is an ancient statement of confession. In the order of worship that Smith describes this would be recited aloud by the entire congregation immediately after the call to worship. Its intention is to establish in our hearts and minds that we are sinners saved by grace. That is the reason we are gathered together. There may be more power in the poetic form than I’m willing to acknowledge, but I just can’t help thinking that reciting this each week could either be either heart changing or heart hardening depending on my attitude.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
There is one other thing that I want to draw attention to. I just read this aloud, but I couldn’t read the words that were on the page. I was reading it by myself and for it to make sense I needed to change all the plural pronouns to personal pronouns. If I’m reading this with my brothers and sisters on Sunday morning, then the plural pronouns make sense and add another level of meaning. We are in this sin and grace thing together. We are one body in need of forgiveness.
The closest I’ve gotten to experiencing what is intended here is praying the Lord’s Prayer at the end of each service when we are visiting the church in Elk. It is their habit and I think it is a good one.
For my grandchildren:
There are things in you that need to change. Let God be in charge of that.