Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rediscovering Passion in Our Worship

While I loath the tendency with some movements to equate the spirit only with emotionalism, I also am concerned that we have swung to the opposite extreme in our repudiation of the fiery nature of our baptism. Having been raised in rural Utah, this concern did not arise with me until I lived in Boston, Alabama and Ohio - where I saw first-hand people whose "emotionalism" actually was influenced by the Spirit.

Currently, in our ward, there is a man whose testimony is usually expressed in terms of "I just want to give thanks and praise to Jesus and my Heavenly Father" - and it is so cool to hear. I don't want the revivalistic stirring of emotions instead of the Spirit, but when we deny the emotional aspects of our interaction with the Spirit, I believe we risk killing the passion that should accompany our convictions.

I heard a talk recently in Sacrament Meeting that inspired a member of the ward to tell the speaker, "Thank you. I feel like I heard a sermon today." The only difference apparent to me was the obvious passion of the presenter and the pleas within the talk to change the way the members viewed and acted toward each other. Iow, there was real passion invested and expressed in the talk, not merely a dry and peaceful recitation of doctrine. That experience has made me think deeply about the way we teach each other as we express the Spirit we feel.

There is a real danger in playing with fire (allowing emotional manifestations of the Spirit), but there is just as real a danger of freezing from the lack of fire (not allowing them).


adamf said...

This makes me think of another issue related to striking the balance in our talks--the use of metaphor. While on one hand they can be powerful when teaching or expressing an idea, if taken to an extreme they can turn into what Stephen Robinson calls spiritual Twinkies. You can tell this is happening when the speaker is telling a fictional story that takes up the bulk of their talk, and they get very emotional--e.g. the story of the boy on the train tracks whose father has to decide if he will kill his boy or the people on the train. Very emotional, very emotionally manipulative. In sum , emotions are fine, but they should serve rather than dominate.

Unknown said...

I think that we as a church really need to work on steering away from platitudes and niceties in our talks (obligatory joke at the beggining, etc) and talk about things that are Real to us. I think a lot of people do this, and I feel like I really benefit when the speaker (or gospel doctrine teacher, or YW-lesson presenter) feels they have a real message to share and a challenge to give.

Unknown said...

Hey, that's my shtick! The joke at the beginning that is.

I don't know about the fictional story thing. The savior taught in parables, which by definition is a fictional story. I think that's a really good way to express a point. However, those parables should definitely help the listeners relate to the topic and not be just a nice story.

Papa D said...

adamf, I agree that metaphorical stories can be powerful without being manipulative, but I also agree that their place is NOT in Sacrament Meeting - or any other non-instructional setting. I also agree that any good metaphor can be shared in 2 minutes or less.

As Ian said, there absolutely is a place. It's the execution that bothers me in many cases.

NSG, Amen. I also really dislike the obligatory joke. We are talking about a WORSHIP service, not an ice breaker.

In the end, I just want people to speak from the heart, with real emotion and passion. I want Sacrament Meeting to be a WORSHIP service - NOT a Sunday School meeting for everyone. There is an important difference, and that difference gets lost too often.

Papa D said...

Sorry, I meant to say that the place for **extended** metaphors is not Sacrament Meeting. Those that can be shared in less than 2 minutes and are on topic are fine in that setting - again, as Ian notes, as long as they illuminate the main point of the talk.

Michaela Stephens said...

Amen! Passion is important! Emotion motivates. But I think that if we are going to use passion, it has to be of the inspiring variety, something that moves us with a vision of what we can become, something that gives us a glimpse into the eternities.