This may be a bit overwhelming and perhaps difficult to absorb all at once. However, I would like to challenge you (and myself) to jump in with boldness and hope and consider what follows. I mentioned in last week's gathering that this coming Sunday we would discuss the Nairobi Statement. I don't expect that you have ever heard about it. It does, though, provide an interesting framework for our ongoing discussion.
The Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture, from the Department for Theology and Studies of the Lutheran World Federation and completed in 1996, provides for us a rich description of the dynamic relationship between worship and culture and gives us lenses to help frame our conversations.
A lens alters how we perceive what is in front of us—shading when the light is too bright, magnifying what is near or too far away. In a similar way, the Nairobi Statement alters our vision by showing us four ways worship relates to culture: trans-cultural, counter-cultural, contextual and cross-cultural.
The product of the Lutheran World Federation Worship and Culture Study in the 1990s, the Nairobi Statement arose from the face-to-face discussions of Lutherans from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, China, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, New Guinea, Norway, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, and the USA, as these participants urgently talked together about faithful worship in Lutheran churches in our time. They were helped in this discussion by ecumenical partners who came from the Philippines, Kenya and the USA. They were convened by the Rev. S. Anita Stauffer, and it was she who created the draft which, at a meeting in Kenya in 1996, became the whole group’s Nairobi Statement.
NAIROBI STATEMENT ON WORSHIP AND CULTURE:
Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities
1. Introduction1.1. Worship is the heart and pulse of the Christian Church. In worship we celebrate together God's gracious gifts of creation and salvation, and are strengthened to live in response to God's grace. Worship always involves actions, not merely words. To consider worship is to consider music, art, and architecture, as well as liturgy and preaching.
1.2. The reality that Christian worship is always celebrated in a given local cultural setting draws our attention to the dynamics between worship and the world's many local cultures.
1.3 Christian worship relates dynamically to culture in at least four ways.
- First, it is trans-cultural, the same substance for everyone everywhere, beyond culture.
- Second, it is contextual, varying according to the local situation (both nature and culture).
- Third, it is counter-cultural, challenging what is contrary to the Gospel in a given culture.
- Fourth, it is cross-cultural, making possible sharing between different local cultures.
In all four dynamics, there are helpful principles which can be identified.
We face a significant challenge. We are less than whole when entire segments of our faith community (and potential faith community) are largely absent from our assembly. If worship is indeed the heart and pulse of the Christian Church, than we may be in need of a spiritual cardiologist or at least an honest appraisal of our current heart health. Our mission requires us to move beyond the familiar.
Please prayerfully consider this Nairobi Statement and anticipate a lively exchange on Sunday morning.
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October 30, 2016
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, gracious Lord,
we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people.
Keep them steadfast in your word,
protect and comfort them in times of trial,
defend them against all enemies of the gospel,
and bestow on the church your saving peace,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen