The 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) was an ardent critic of his Danish church. He felt that the church had grown cold, lost is fervent connection to God and had very much become compromised by every day culture. The following quote is attributed to Kierkegaard and has always challenged me.
I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, “If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.” And I looked around and nobody was laughing.
Fortunately for us, we have given up on stained glass, satin bookmarks and velvet robes. Stodgy, boring worship services are a thing of the past. But, we should not think we are any less ironic in our worship. Now, if you are a happening church, you worship in a black box building with a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar lighting system that provides the perfect atmosphere for the perfect moment of worship. Songs are beamed to multiple giant screens powered by $80,000 video projectors. The pastor arrives on stage on his Harley and we are entertained by the finest band money can buy. And the pastor could replace any comic on the late night TV with his polished monologue contributed to him by his host of writers/staff.
And we manage to do more with less. We have less church and more family, or so we say. We have vacation mission trips where we can see how the rest of the world lives and sing a few happy songs about Jesus for them. Of course we worship God in the tree stand deer hunting, the golf course, the infield stand at the ball game, and on the deck of the cruise ship. We even fellowship with God’s people on Facebook and Twitter. There is nothing like staying electronically connected. It is almost like being there.
But I smell a sense of irony here. Just like the Danish church of the 19th century, we keep God at a distance by our very worship and daily practices. We really don’t want to hear, “sell all that you have, take up your cross and follow me.” No, pastors still want to be superstars, and church members want to be free from God with no boundaries and still be sanctified.
And no one laughs.
I have tried to find the source of the Kierkegaard quote but I cannot find it. If anyone knows where it is from, please let me know.