Love and Right Form

XKCD: Papyrus

It’s the thought that counts? A bit of yes and a bit of no.

It’s not just the thought that counts. Of course one ought to take pleasure in the attempt to convey love, but I think we can all recognize a certain failure nonetheless if we look at a gift as a manifestation of love as well as a signifier of that same love. If a gift is just a way to encode love rather than an emanation of love itself, we ought to be unreservedly happy in the situation portrayed in the comic. As it is, however, we see gifts, even highly linguistic and symbolic ones, as ways to manifest love, not just to represent it in a complex code.

What’s my point? We’ll start with my philosophical point: for things that are more than messages, though they may be messages as well, much more matters than authorial intent, particularly when the author’s not God. What matters as well as the doer’s intent is the real, objective thing – defined as it is by the God of whatever the universe is. For a moment, I’ll take this down to the level of pure code. Say the objective thing is a kind of code too: nevertheless, using a code incompatible with this first code (try telling your mom that you meant ‘yes’ when you told her ‘no’ yesterday about what she asked you on the phone) is a failure of more than just communication for the one who so chooses.

Let’s try the point about God now. If we try to speak a language foreign to God (though we could hardly really do that), we have a whole different problem: then we’re trying to be on equal terms with God, when our place, our essence, has us exist under him. This is also called idolatry, pride, and hubris.

More concretely, I apply this to worship. Of course – and I’m talking mainly about the Church here – God still loves us when we manifest our love poorly: how can he not, since he loves us still when we do things that represent hatred to him? That says nothing, however, about effective worship. Like a gift of love, worship’s about what the recipient wants and what’s good for him, and vastly more for God than for man. Our knowledge of God is all from God’s choice to reveal himself to us. Only through Scripture can we know enough, though creation itself also testifies to God’s power and majesty.

To keep this post’s length manageable, I’ll stop here and say just this: next time we think about worship, we want something as heartfelt as possible, yes, but let’s not do it in the Papyrus typeface.


3 responses to “Love and Right Form

  1. What’s God’s taste in music like, then? How can we tell if we’re writing in Papyrus or not?

    (Though I do totally think that if xkcd could somehow be worship, then the manifestation would be sooooo worthy.)


    • Hmm, I don’t know what I think of God’s taste in music – though of course worship’s more than music. I suppose it involves something analogous aesthetically to shofars and cymbals and lyres all at the right points. I mean, there are all kinds of Psalms: loud Psalms, quiet and reflective Psalms, fairly short Psalms, long Psalms, lamenting Psalms, exulting Psalms, the whole gamut.

      But besides music, I submit that the order of worship and the other things we do with our bodies matters. What we emphasize to either the conscious mind or the unconscious mind matters, and I think we should seek to match that to what the Bible proclaims and how much.

      We do have a lot (and I mean a lot) in Leviticus and the rest of the Old Testament about how God ordered the Israelites to worship him inside and outside the Tent of Meeting – and we have those songs of praise outside of formal worship too, as in celebration of the crossing of the Sea of Sedges from Egypt or Israel’s victory over Sisera. Obviously, Hebrews says the system of animal sacrifices has been fulfilled by Christ, so we’re trying to figure out how to change the Old to the New (not to discard the grace that lay in Old Testament worship).


  2. Pingback: Poverty Relief and Liturgical Splendour as Worship « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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