I am not a sentimental person, so I have a difficult time in grasping the emotion which Willimon pours into most of his works in this genre. I am attached to the Church, and have enjoyed my conversion to the liturgical style of corporate worship, but even then, I simply don’t have the sentimentality of this author. Yet, when he harkens back to the formation of our worship style, or deals with the sociological issues in our corporate style of worship, my interest comes alive and I am able to read Willimon without that pit in my stomach when I get close to emotional outbursts or melodrama.
What I do like about this book is Willimon’s focus on the real presence of the believer in the worship service. This message is needed today, and the more so when we find that ‘church’ is being incorporated into the multimedia landscape more and more today. Radio was replaced by the television which is being replaced by portable media devices where we can listen to podcasts of sermons or read blog posts detailing what someone has said about God. While the sermon is important, what is missing during these new styles of interacting with God is the physical reality of being next to someone as we give our praise to God Above (p30). It is here that we can come to be forgiven and to forgive (p40).This has intrigued me since I first started joining in the liturgical responses, wherein the liturgist forgives the congregation and the congregation enthusiastically responds with ‘You are forgiven!’
While I cannot enjoy this book as much as I would a book on the historical worship service, Willimon still manages to offer me some insights, such as the story told on 57-58. We do live as Atheists! We do need each other. We do need our sins to be brought before us and have us rely upon others. We do need that corporate worship which Willimon is able to bring out in every emotional detail. To be frank, the more I read of Willimon, the more I miss the saying of the Apostles’ Creed. It is every bit of a corporate worship as singing together and the more so because saying the Creed incorporates us throughout history, even back to those who first said it. It is a sacrament lite, indeed. Willimon is correct as well that the Scripture is part of our corporate experience. He notes that Scripture ‘was never intended to be read silently, in the confines of our own homes’ and that when Scripture is read in public, ‘the Bible is being restored to its original context.’ We make too much of the individual use of the Text when in fact, that freedom as alienated us way from the goal of the Holy Text – to build a community (p73).
So Willimon is too sentimental for me – so what? He still offers to me a different, and sometimes much needed, way of looking at the drama which is Christian worship.