An Embodied Argument

I’ve been working my way through the Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (2nd edition, Hauerwas and Wells) the last couple days. The book is an extended argument for the integral nature of worship and ethics. It’s pretty costly book, but certainly worth encouraging a library near you to pick up.

In chapter 5, “Gathering: Worship, Imagination, and Formation,” Philip Kenneson writes:  “Every human life is an embodied argument about what things are worth doing, who or what is worthy of attention, who or what is worthy of allegiance and sacrifice, and what projects or endeavors are worthy of human energies. In short, every human life is “ bent ” toward something. Every human life is an act of worship.”

The question I am left pondering this morning is: “What embodied argument am I making by the way I live my life about who is worthy to be worshiped?” It’s a good question to ask from time to time and answering honestly means paying close attention to the rhythms and patterns of my days and weeks. Some rhythms are more obvious – gathering for worship on Sundays, nightly family dinners; some I would guess are less so. To really answer this question, I need the insight and perspective of those around me. I wonder how my wife and our children would answer this question? I wonder what reviewing my calendar or my bank statements would reveal? I wonder what my neighbors and friends and others in my church would observe? 

And, if for a moment, I can step outside of the individualism so prevalent in the broader North American culture, I might also ask: “What embodied argument are we who claim to follow Jesus Christ making by the way we live life together about God and the Good News that we claim shapes us?” In other words, what do the practices and rhythms of our community reveal about who we worship? How do the ways we gather and the patterns we engage around time, money, and space paint a picture of who or what we worship? While we can answer this question in part, I suspect we would also benefit from hearing what others around us would observe about us.

These have been good contemplative questions to begin asking this morning. But I am also aware that I am asking these questions today – July 4th. I’m struck by the juxtaposition of reading about an embodied argument of worship while the U.S. celebrates its independence, making a bold and celebratory embodied argument for what the nation worships. I wonder, in the context of such a broad cultural embodiment of what is to be worshiped, if these questions about our embodied argument(s) of who we worship become all the more important for those of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ.

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