October 07, 2006

quaker worship in heaven/david

Forrest has been talking about Revelation being a riff on monarchal models of government. In effect -- this is all about how God is the true king -- but also -- how the kingship of God is so radically different from any early kingship it deconstructs the very institution. I'm hoping Forrest will be feel free to explore this further.

My take is that Revelation is a Christian liturgy set in heaven. This is not exclusive to other interpretations. The activities of a royal courtroom with its pomp and circumstance is also a liturgy of sorts and the two social practices -- worship of God and honouring of the king -- mimic one another.

So -- from a regal standpoint we see praises of the king echoing his coronation. We see a worthy reader brought forth to read the royal edicts of the seven times sealed scroll, and we see the armies of the king finals sent forth to exact the royal imperative. And now, with the breaking of the last seal, we see this dramatic pause before the contents are actually read.

As liturgy, we begin with hymns of praise - the Trisagion -- hymn of three holies dominates. We then move into prayers of the people and prepare for the reading of the sacred prophecies. It is at this point there is silence in heaven for the space of about a half hour.

I rose and read this passage at Yearly Meeting once. I then closed the bible and said, so when we gather in worship, our worship is joined with the worship of heaven.

A number of people came to me following worship to talk to me. Two wanted the chapter references to look up -- they didn't recall this passage. One was just surprised the Book of Revelation should be read aloud in a Quaker Meeting (the original Friends practically lived and breathed this stuff, btw). And another simply had not imagined interpreting the passage as Friends' manner of worship.

Of course the logical implication of all this is that worship in heaven is semi-programmed -- high liturgy of the Easter Orthodox style with a half hour of open waiting worship plunked down just before the scripture reading.


At 6:47 p.m., Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

To take the silence in Heaven as a deliberate silence written into a pre-planned or ordained liturgy is to make it a programmed silence, not a true act of unprogrammed worship.

And so too with any Friends meeting in which they intend and anticipate silence -- their silence is programmed, liturgical, and not the original Quaker approach to worship at all.

People in Quaker meetings who come to meetings counting on silence for the hour (or whatever) of their scheduled worship, often become upset if someone with a baby, or with a mental condition, or with a simple breathing problem, deprives them of that silence. But people participating in the Quaker meeting for worship in a truly unprogrammed state of mind don't become upset at such things, because the silence was never an expectation in their minds in the first place.

My reading of the "silence in heaven" text (Apocalypse/Revelation 8:1) is that the silence was not liturgical, but spontaneous. As I wrote on my own blog in the posting where I discussed this passage, "I think that Heaven falls silent because those who dwell there are guided by feelings, not by theologies or ideologies." (I would add that I think they are also not being guided by liturgies.) "They are silenced by compassionate sorrow, not moved to speak by their convictions. And so, I hope, it may also be with us."

Just my personal take, you understand.

At 2:19 p.m., Blogger david said...

I certainly have met folks who gripe that vocal minsitry is a distraction from the silence and agree they just aren't getting it.

However, I have not witnessed a semi-programmed meeting before -- so don't feel qualified to say whether it is truly waiting worship or not. My undersatnding is that vocal minsitry can and does happen in the midst of such open worship times.

Whether it is a half-hour or a full hour and whether it happens in the context of more structured worship or not is really moot for me. What matters is whether folks are listening for and to, waiting for and on, the Christ-Spirit -- and are enabled thereby to to give voice to what they hear.

At 2:21 p.m., Blogger david said...

Oh BTW, read your posting on Revelation on your own blog. I appreciated the insights of it. If you're willing to cross post it here it can be arranged.

At 7:38 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

What looks to me like the best explanation of the silence--is that this goes with a Jewish notion that the angels are silent for a certain period each day, while the incense is being burned in the Temple, so that the prayers being carried up with the incense can be heard.

We've just been hearing unhappy mumblings from under the altar. And now the incense is carrying up the prayers of the saints, presumably the ones who've been demanding vindication all this time... and God is compassionately letting those prayers be heard.

This is not good; I mean that in this context, when God hears an outcry of suffering, the lives of the inhabitants of the Earth get excessively interesting, but short. Soon we will have an angel appearing to announce that there will be no further delay.

I know this is not a sequential, historical narrative here, but so far as our world and our news do arouse similar concerns--it might behoove us to consider, what is causing all this and how can we make sure it isn't us?

At 8:23 p.m., Blogger david said...

Anybody a James Branch Cabel fan? In his satire Jurgen we find that heaven has a hole in the floor so that the prayers of Earth's peoples can be heard from heaven. Whenever there's a war on earth the angels move the tablets of of the law to cover the hole. They're terrified that if God hears prayers asking for him to smite the enemy he'll wipe out humanity in a fit of righteous anger. So instead he simply sees the law.

Unanswered prayer during wartime -- is a grace.

At 8:45 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

There was also a Jerome Bixby short story called "It's a Good Day," where a mutant child with extraordinary powers has wisked the household into a pocket universe, away from all those other people thinking bad thoughts at him, and is doing his best to keep the family happy, while they strive not to think of any problem whatsoever, lest he fix it. Drasticly, according to his own a-human understanding of what's appropriate.

This was not a good image of God as automatic prayer-answerer. It was a good illustration of why we don't want our prayers answered by an automatic process, but rather by an entity with more wisdom than we have.

And then, the fact that God does have more wisdom than we do, is precisely why we aren't always pleased with the responses.

Think of God as a fond parent with insane children. Now and then he needs to give them something they've asked, so they won't think their wishes are being ignored. And it doesn't really do as much damage as we think; what's real about us is precisely not destructible.

At 7:31 a.m., Blogger david said...

Wasn't that turned into a Twilight Zone episode?


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