I believe it was Dallas Willard who said “Feelings are a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”
As the children of the enlightenment, romantic and existentialist movements, many of us are fixated on feelings as the guiding compass for our lives. Postmoderns at their best are highly intuitive and conceptual wonderkids. At our worst? If we don’t feel it, it’s not true, good, right or necessary — so we slack into self-absorbed madness.
When it comes to Church, our patterns are similar.
We react against dry-eyed worship and service regimen. We react against the functional deism and theological turntwists of the 18th century — a Jesus-walked-six-inches-off-the-ground, God-is-high-and-dry-from-our-reality worldview. We react against communities that say they are communities but have no true community in the heart of their community. Yes, that was intentional.
As a result, we throw out the weekly celebration of the Eucharist because it doesn’t “feel” so rich to us anymore — though it has been the central act of the living worship of the Church for almost 2000 years.
We neglect reading the scriptures publicly, out loud and with ritual in community, revisiting, re-celebrating and reclaiming the Story, because it will “feel” dry after a time — after the pattern of all historic Church traditions. Thus, a media-storied generation sees the canon text as essentially “optional, inspirational stories among many other stories.”
Yet, here’s a thought. Tonight I am finishing painting a room, because I have to lay hardwood in the afternoon (that’s when the rental gear is the cheapest). It’s 1:23 am, and I don’t feel like continuing to paint. Despite my best planning, things changed in my schedule.
I choose to paint till it’s finished. Just like I’ll choose to pray for my kids every night whether I feel like it or not. Just like I’ll choose to save money over the years though I feel like spending it or giving it all away. I choose to stay with a goal that is larger than my emotional contentment tonight.
Why? Because that thing is good for us, and for those around us. My grandfather and grandmother made a daily choice to pray for me for decades. I’ll make choices that dramatically affect my great, great grandchildren.
That feels like a good enough reason to me. I want to make choices about worship that last more than a season of cultural shift that over the scope of history will be a blip on the screen. Then, I want to act on those choices in the here and the now.