A Liturgical Imagination #UCCShooting

Posted October 2, 2015 @ 3:51pm | by Tripp

Here we go again. Here is our national liturgy.

A young man walks into a building armed to the teeth. Students die. The police arrive. The young man dies in a shootout with the police. It is a complex and devastating suicide. So many lives are marked. A community is marked. And the media storm begins.

Our liturgy moves from the local to the international at the speed of the internet.

The National Rifle Association contra mundum, Liberals and Conservatives are squaring off, and Pundits are shouting. The beleaguered President Obama predicts that he will have to address the nation again before his term is over when there is another mass shooting. The media is on fire. For now.

The liturgy gradually comes to a close as our shared attentions are drawn elsewhere by the always updating Twitter feed.

Somewhere someone is making plans to kill or injure another score of people as an elaborate suicide.

We choose this liturgy every day. It is a service of our own devising.

We define it as liberty or freedom. We describe it as part and parcel of the American way. We insist that it is good and the virtuous. We insist it is godly and what Jesus wants for us. This is the highest good we can imagine, this life where every person has a handgun. As such, it is an utter failure of imagination.

The failure of the American imagination may be the defining sin of our time.

So often it seems as if we assume our imaginations are disembodied. Instead, the truth is that we pour billions of dollars into the actualizing of our imaginations. Our imaginations stretch across the oceans to other lands as we invest in natural resources. Our imaginations destroy cities in countries far away like Iraq. Our imaginations stretch into outer space and online.

We imagine ourselves as patriots. We imagine ourselves as virtuous heroes. Some of us imagine that the right to carry a concealed weapon is a reflection of the call to love our neighbor as ourselves. We imagine others as insane or monstrous.

We have, in these imaginings, forgotten that we are human beings and not heroes or monsters. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are, all of us, the ubiquitous signs of God on earth, the Imago Dei.

In my Missional Liturgy class we discuss the intersection of liturgy and ethics. We have been asking questions about bodies and what kind of creature it is that worships. We wonder if worship forms us or is it we that form the worship. There is, of course, a very complex dynamic at work as we form and are formed. But in the end, I hope we come away with a definition of what it means to be human; a rich, life-giving definition.

In light of yesterday’s event, I feel I should offer this beginning to a definition: Individually and collectively, as part of Creation itself, we are the very image of God.

Can we imagine this? Can we imagine that we are God’s image and not monsters or heroes?

President Obama asked us to do more than offer our thoughts and prayers. I echo that sentiment. We need to act. We need to show that our imaginations have flesh and that flesh is capable of more than apathy or violence. We know we are capable of those things. We have proven it time and time again. We have invested billions.

Instead, let us see if we are capable of putting new flesh on our imaginations. Imagine that you and your neighbor, the stranger across the road, are the very Image of God.

Then we can begin a new liturgy.

The Lord be with you.

This post was also shared on Missional Liturgy at ABSW.

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