Friday, April 12, 2013

Corsets and worship

The actress Michelle Dockery who plays Lady Mary Crawly on Downton Abbey told an interviewer in the New Yorker that her posture had permanently changed because of the costumes she has to wear for the show. "It really helps you understand how a corset shapes your worldview - the way you breathe, and eat. I think it is the single reason that women are less accomplished historically than men, they couldn't actually breathe!"

Downton Abbey shows two very different environments and how they shape the people of each one. There is the "upstairs" aristocratic world and the "downstairs" world of servants who meet their every need. Each world is shaped by rituals, and disciplines - different worldviews. It is not easy to cross from one world to the other. Dress and proper vestments play a role in how life is lived out. They support the proper worldview.

James Smith makes this point in Imagining the Kingdom. We are physical creatures in worship as well as outside of worship. When I was young it was important to sit still in church, to be as quiet as I could. I was not always able to conform to these disciplines and I heard about it afterward. But, what did that teach me? God wanted us to be quiet and still so we could listen to His word. It felt more like punishment and I counted the minutes til church was out (that was always predictable, too, one hour on the nose). What does movement in worship teach us? There is dance in the Bible, and bowing to the ground. There is loud singing, and instruments of all kinds. There are public prayers and responses, questions and answers as well as sermons. Actions are powerful teachers and shapers of behavior. We give an offering, we bow down to pray, we raise our hands to praise, we move forward and receive the bread and the wine ( how did it come to be grape juice?). We hear children fidget and babies cry. I see adults holding the infants from other families during worship. True, they are more interested in the babies than what I am saying from the pulpit! But, what an example of God's care for us. In what other ways can we flesh out the incarnation in worship?