James K.A. Smith: Taking a Liturgical Audit of Your Life [altær]

James K.A. Smith: Taking a Liturgical Audit of Your Life [altær]


[upbeat music]>>Last night I tried to sort of reframe how we would think about discipleship and Christian formation by revisiting this question, the very first question that Jesus poses, the first words that Jesus utters in the Gospel of John, which is this piercing question: “What do you want?” And the reason why that’s such a piercing, invasive, fundamental question is because to ask what I want is
actually to bury down to the deepest sort of
core and fiber of who I am. Because it’s really asking, “What do you love?” And in fact there’s this wonderful sort of book-ending function
in the Gospel of John where the first words
and the first question that Jesus asks is, “What do you want?” And the last question that Jesus asks is, “Do you love me?” And what I’m suggesting is that those are in a way the same question, and they are the most fundamental question of Christian discipleship
because you are what you love. You’re not just what you think. You’re not just what you know. You’re not just what you believe. Those aren’t in fact as defining and as orienting as this more base question, “What do you love?” So what do you want? What do you love? This morning I want to pause and I want to drill
down a little bit deeper on that question because
I think if you start to realize that the very core and fabric of our identity is located in what Scripture calls the heart, that I am what I love, then I also think we have to
face this disturbing reality: you might not love what you think. You are what you love, but you might not love what you think. This was sort of an epiphany for me when I was watching this film that probably no one
has seen, unfortunately. [laughs] But I’m gonna try to
describe a little bit to you. It’s by the Russian
filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Does anybody know Tarkovsky? Any film students here? I see that hand! So okay let me just sketch
a little bit of the plot. It’s actually pretty straightforward and then there’s this gem of a revelation in the middle of it. This is a Russian film
that was appeared in 1980. It has this simple plot that has three key characters. The movie by the way, did I
tell you, is called Stalker. But it’s not really scary. It’s not like freaky. It’s this story: there’s a person, a
character named the Stalker who is really, it’s
kind of an unfortunate, I feel like there’s something
lost in translation here because really he’s the guide. He’s somebody who is going to lead these other two characters
named the Writer and the Professor. Super creative names in this film, but you have the Stalker, the guide, and then you have the
Writer and the Professor. What you have to do is picture a world that is this kind of
post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s Mad Max-ish. It’s this dark, barren, sad, tragic landscape. But there is in this world a region called the Zone, which is like an oasis of joy amidst all of this Chernobyl-like
destruction and loss. And within the region called The Zone there is then this inner
sanctum simply called the Room. Everybody with me? So you’ve got the Stalker, the guide, who is leading the
Writer and the Professor because everybody wants
to get to the Room. Everybody wants to make
a pilgrimage to the Room and the the Stalker’s the
one to take you there. Why? Because in the Room you get what you want. This is a magical room. This is where the movie sort of shifts from being like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to something like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It all of a sudden becomes this sort of magical possibility. It moves into this sci-fi
imaginative reality. And the Room draws them there. The Room is the goal of their pilgrimage, this long arduous journey, because in the Room they will
achieve their heart’s desire. In the Room you get exactly what you want. And so part of the movie is this the challenge of making it there, they get into the Zone, they’re now making it to
the threshold of the Room. And right as that happens, all of a sudden Professor
and Writer get cold feet. And in a remarkable book by
Geoffrey Dyer the critic, called Zona, he describes the scene this way. Let me repeat Dyer’s description. He says this. They’re in a big, abandoned,
derelict, dark, damp room with what looked like the remains of an enormous chemistry set floating in the puddle in the middle as if the Zone resulted from
some ill-conceived experiment that went horribly wrong. Off to the right through
a large hole in the wall is a source of light
that they look towards. For a long while no one speaks. The air is full of the chirpy
chirp cheep cheep of birdsong. It’s the opposite of those places where the sedge has withered from the lake and no birds sing. The birds are whistling and
chirping and singing like mad. And Stalker tells Writer and Professor, he tells us that we are now
at the threshold of the Room. “This is the most important moment in your life,” he says. “Your innermost wish
will be made true here. “So here we are. “This is the place where
you’ve wanted to get to. “This is the place where
you can have what you want. “Who wants to go first?” Both the Professor and the Writer stop and don’t want to go in. Why would that be? [laughs] Wait [laughs] you’ve just done this long arduous journey, right? The whole point was to get to this place where you can have what you want. Why wouldn’t you step into that room? Both the Writer and the Professor have this disturbing doubt that kind of bubbles up in them, and they start asking
themselves this question, “What if I don’t want what I think?” Well says Dyer that’s
for the Room to decide. The Room reveals all. What you get is not what
you think you wish for, but what you most deeply wish for. And all of a sudden there’s
this very disturbing epiphany that’s creeping up on the
Professor and the Writer. What if the don’t want
what they think they want? What if the desires that
they are conscious of, the ones that they have
chosen so to speak, what if those are not in fact
their most innermost longings, their deepest wants? What if in some sense
their deepest longings, their most unconscious longings that have been humming under
their consciousness unawares, what if those are for something else? Would you want to step into the Room? Do you know what you want? Do you love what you think? See I think as Christians we should have some sense of identifying with this struggle, this tension, this worry because… Let’s do it this way. If I ask you as a Christian
to answer the question, “What do you want?” Right? If I ask you to answer the question, “What do you really love?” Of course we all know the answer
to that question. [laughs] It’s not a problem of
intellectual knowledge or conviction here. You know what you want to say. You know what you ought to say. And you will be entirely authentic and sincere in your articulation of that. If I ask you what you want, you know what to say and
you know what you want because you have an intellectual
conviction about that. But what about if your wants and your longings are actually shaped below the radar of what you
are consciously aware of? What if you stepped into a room that showed you not just
what you think you want but what you really sort have
oriented your life towards. Would you want to step into that room? Are you confident that
what you think you love actually aligns with
your innermost longings? This, says Dyer, is one of
the lessons of the Zone. Sometimes a man doesn’t want to do what a man thinks he wants to do. Now I think one of the great blessings and gifts that God gives us is that the practices of Christian worship face this disturbing reality head on. By the way, free little
footnote for a second, one of the things that
struck me last night and that a friend pointed out is… You know I’ve been talking about the role that worship plays in shaping us, changing us, transforming us, really recalibrating our
hearts’ loves and longings. I do want to say, can I just point out one technical thing? When I say “worship” I don’t just mean music. Is everybody with me? In other words I know
every time I say “worship” you’re thinking “singing”, which is absolutely part of worship. But I actually want to
today get us to zoom out in a more expanded sense of
what we think counts as worship as the entire story that
the people of God rehearse when they are gathered
around Word and table. Right? So when I talk about “worship”
we’re not just talking about being transformed by a song service, we’re actually talking
about the entire repertoire of what the people of God
are called to rehearse when we gather around Word and table as the body of Christ. And if you think about this tension, would I step into this room? Do I know what I really love? I think one of the great gifts of historic Christian
worship is that it faces this tension, this reality, this gap between head and heart right straight head on. And it invites us then into
a practice of confession in which we own up to our own worries and doubts and struggles about this gap between what we know what we
love and what we ought to love and where our longings are
really oriented towards. Let me give you an example of what I think is a
beautiful prayer of confession from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer that names this tension beautifully. And imagine being a people
who are regularly invited to own this reality in this prayer. It goes like this: Almighty and most merciful
Father we have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. Spiritual maturity is
becoming the kind of people who have this realization that I know the devices
and desire of my own heart sometimes outstrip what I know, and even what I believe. And that if God is going to make me and mold me and alter me, He actually has to transform the devices and desires of my own heart’s. The body of Christ then
is that unique community of practice, of rhythms, of routines, of formative worship
that owns up to the fact that we don’t always
love what we say we do. We don’t always love what we say we do. That the devices and
desires of our own hearts often outstrip our best intentions, our best knowledge, our best believings. In fact the practices of Christian worship will be precisely the kind of tangible, practiced, reformative way
to address that tension and gap we talked about last night, of closing the gap between head and heart. But I want spend a little
bit of time this morning talking about why I think this changes how we should look at
our own sort of rhythms of cultural immersion, of the daily mundane routines
that we are involved in. And that’s why I’ve subtitled
the message this morning Taking a Liturgical Audit of Your Life. And I want to work towards explaining what I mean by that. If you were there last night, I tried to emphasize that love is a habit. Right? Love isn’t just an emotion. Love isn’t even just a choice. When Paul describes love
as a habit, as a virtue, what that means is love is like this this interior disposition, this inclination that is cultivated in you so that you become a
certain kind of person who is leaning in a certain direction and toward a certain end. When we call something a habit that means it’s second nature. It comes to you without
having to think about it. It’s just part of the
fabric of who you are. It’s like breathing and blinking. And to make love a habit in that way is for it to become so
woven into the fabric of your character that now it bubbles up from who you are. But here’s the deal: the way you learn to
love is through practice. There’s not a direct channel from the intellectual
deposits into your mind about what you ought to love to then all of a sudden that [snaps] just flipping a switch and you now have the dispositions. The formation of our
loves actually takes time, of being part of a people that is oriented towards a certain end. So not only is love itself
in some ways unconscious, the formation of our loves
can also be unconscious. If you learn to love and how to love and what to love through the rhythms and
routines and rituals that you are a part of… Friends one of the things
I want us to realize is that means that you
might be learning to love in places you didn’t even realize. But it also means you could be learning to love the wrong things [laughs] in the wrong way. You can become a people who consciously and intellectually have
all the right convictions about who you want to be and who you want to worship. And yet because your loves are shaped at this unconscious level, you don’t even recognize the way that your heart is being bent and misoriented and miscalibrated
as we said last night to some rival god, to some rival kingdom. Our idolatries are not primarily
intellectual convictions. They are affective capturings. So consider the implications of that for what you love. If you think of… Let’s call love shaping
practices, routines, rituals, I want to call those liturgies okay? Not just to use a sort
of high churchy word, but to say that we are talking about loaded love shaping practices. Liturgies are the most
formative kinds of practices. If liturgies are love
shaping practices however, what that means is they are
not just something that you do. They’re doing something to you. They’re not just expressions of something that you believe, they are forming what you will believe. Now if that’s the case, if liturgies are these
love shaping practices then it also means that
liturgies are not confined to churchy spaces. And in fact there are
liturgies everywhere. We tend to have sort of cultural awareness where we are worried about the messages and ideas out there in a culture. And because we have that
narrow bandwidth of focus on sort of intellectual content, we completely miss what’s
going on under the radar and don’t realize that in many ways the culture isn’t trying
to change what you think. The culture is trying
to change what you love. And the way it’s doing
that is not by trying to change your mind. Let me give you a couple of examples, see if this works. Several years ago when my
oldest son was a teenager, I remember one day he asked, “Dad will you take me to the Temple?” And I was like, “Oh.” And then I remembered. This was actually a mild parenting win because it came out of a
conversation we had one time in which I tried to
describe to him why the mall is the most religious site in any city. And so I was telling him about, I gave him this… It’s terrible to be the child of a philosophy professor
okay? [audience laughs] Cause this is how dinner conversations go, is dad just waxes eloquent about why the mall is a liturgical space, it really functions as a temple. And so when he asked me, “Dad will you take me to the Temple hall?” I think he’s kind of mocking me, but I’ll take it cause it
means he remembered the idea. Right? Well what’s going on here? On what way could you think
about the mall as a temple? Because the mall doesn’t
care what you think, but the mall really cares
about what you want. And it actually wants to make you the kind of person who
thinks the satisfaction of certain wants will make you happy. The gospel of consumerism is not a message that you are convinced of. The gospel of consumerism
is a vision of a way of life that you practice your way into by participating in the
liturgies of the mall. Now these work fantastically. First of all the mall has an
unbelievable evangelism program that is called marketing. Right? [audience laughs] I’m actually being dead serious because the way marketing works… Cause this is kind of
what breaks my heart. I think the mall has a better appreciation of the fact that we are lovers than the Church does. I think the mall actually
has a better insight into the fact that the center of the human person is the heart, while the Church is
trucking water to our mind. Because when you get to the mall, well what draws you there is marketing, the evangelism of the mall. And how does that work? The evangelism of the mall is not trying to provide you with any
knowledge or information. Watch any 30 second commercial spot and see if there is any information about the product in that commercial. There’s not hardly ever. Right? Why? Instead what happens is in 30 seconds… Some of the most brilliant
minds in our culture work in advertising. Right? And some of the most creative minds. Because what they are able to do is in the space of 30 seconds, actually within the
space usually of about 23 because they need seven seconds to sort of show a logo and so on, within the space of 23 seconds they will tell an entire story. It’s a narrative. The way the evangelism of the mall works is it doesn’t appeal to your intellect, it appeals to your imagination. And it pictures a story in which you say, “I want to be a character in that story.” Oh and it turns out all the characters in that story drink
Starbucks, drive Volkswagens. Do know what I mean? That’s sort of like left unstated. But what happens is you are captured by a vision of the good life that is painted for you in this affective imaginative
medium of the story. And so you are pulled in. And then imagine when you
get to the mall, right, the mall is this… By the way it’s not an accident that the mall hearkens to
sort of ancient cathedrals. In fact there’s an architectural historian at the University of Virginia that has documented the sacred
architecture of the mall. Or the temple-like Buddhist space of the Apple Store, right? All of this is intentional
because what it’s doing is it’s inviting you into a space. The mall has its own
liturgical calendar right? It has its own seasons
and colors and space. And when you walk into the mall it’s almost like space
and time are transformed. Have you ever noticed there
are no windows in malls ight? Once you’re inside a
mall it’s very very hard to see outside except for the
sort of Baroquely folded light that comes through skylights and things. Why? Because now you want to be in a space that is almost timeless. And the best thing that
can happen at the mall is you lose track of time. Right? And as you are walking down the labyrinthine
corridors of the mall, hopefully getting lost is their goal, one of the things that you’ll notice is all along the wall are the
icons of the good life. They’re called manikins. They are dressed in the sort of vision of what will make you happy. And the mall’s gospel is predicated on the thrill of novelty right? That I need that and I need it now. Even though in three
months that’s gonna be old and boring and I need to throw it away and get the next new thing. But the way the gospel of
consumerism gets a hold of you is not by changing your mind but by captivating your heart. And if you are immersed in
these rhythms and rituals, without realizing that they are in fact doing something to you, right, the mall isn’t just the place that you go the mall is the place that is forming you. Shaping you at this unconscious level. Now you could start to
feel the nervousness about stepping into the
threshold of the Room because on the one hand
you’re good Biola students and you know and believe what you ought. But if you’re not aware of all the ways that your loves and longings and desires are being captured by cultural liturgies, you might not realize that your deepest innermost unconscious
longings are still bent, are still miscalibrated, disoriented. I’ll give you one more
example of the way these kinds of secular liturgies work. Do you notice we haven’t talked anything about what’s being sold. We’re just talking about the way of life that’s associated with it. I’ll give you one other example. This comes from… I’m convinced that if Martian
anthropologists ever wanted to really understand
North American society, they should just study
beer commercials okay? Because beer commercials
are like this portal into a worldview right? And I remember one day
watching this beer commercial. I must have been watching
sports or something. And this beer commercial comes on. It was for a really lame
beer called Michelob Ultra, so I’ve heard at least. I don’t know. I think it’s not…
[audience laughs] Friends if you’re gonna backslide don’t do it with Michelob Ultra. [audience laughs] Anyway so there’s this fantastic portrayal in which…. So okay. And we also all know that beer commercials are inherently sexist right? So just stick with me for a second. These guys are at the office. It’s the end of a workday. They come out of the office building. It’s time to go home. There’s a car sitting at the curb. It’s this guy’s car. It’s a terrible car. Who would ever want to drive that car? And so they guys come out. They don’t like that car and so they simply do this. [makes rushing air sound] Boom. Beautiful new car. It’s a beer commercial, so it magically cuts to the beach right? All of a sudden these
guys are on the beach. They see some young ladies
off in the distance. They’re thinking oh well these, we might be interested in this. But they can’t really quite tell. And so what they do is this. And all of a sudden
the ladies are up close and they can see them. And they’re drinking Michelob Ultra so they’re totally into these guys and everything’s going fantastic right? Cut to another scene. They’re at the club now. The DJ is up. The DJ is playing stuff that
they don’t want to hear. And so once again [whistles] now they’re hearing exactly
what they want to hear. And I stepped back and I
thought that is fantastic. Heartbreaking but fantastic. Because actually what
they’ve just shown me is that this device is training me how to relate to the world. Do you know what I mean? Do you see what they’ve done? All those movements is they’ve taken the tiny little micro rituals of how I engage with this device, and have shown that in fact
that’s kind of what I want the world to be. And we’re not even
talking about the content that you’re looking at here. Steve Jobs… By the way I was totally looking up to see if I could get an early showing of the Steve Jobs movie
since it’s Los Angeles, but it’s not till I leave. Steve Jobs is the absolute master of desire and wants. That’s actually all Steve
Jobs really had going for him. And he knew that there
would be something affective and formative about the intimacy of our interacting with
a device in such… You don’t touch an iPhone right? You sort of caress it a little bit. [audience laughs] There’s something sort of
inherently affective about it. But notice what this
commercial is illustrating is that quite apart from
what I’m looking at, this micro ritual has
affectively taught me that I am the center of the world and I should never be bored. I should never be unentertained, and I should always have what I want at my fingertips when I want it. That friends is egoism. But the way you learned it, the illustration is beautiful because it’s not because
somebody came along and gave you an argument about
why you had to be an egoist. They just gave you a phone. And the phone comes loaded
with liturgies and rituals. And in an implicit way, in this unconscious way you
don’t realize all of the ways that you are learning to love disorderedly. [laughs] So what we need to do, what I want to suggest as something… This is about as close as
practical as I’m gonna get. Alright? I think there are two
important implications of this. First of all I want to encourage you, and you could make this a sort of a theme for meditation for your
prayer experiences this week. I encourage you to take
what I’m gonna call a liturgical audit of your life. And what I mean is this: Find some way and some quiet contemplative space to sort of look at the
rhythms and routines and rituals of your
life through this lens. And be especially attentive to the things that you give yourself to that you might have thought
are just something that you do. And start to realize that they
are doing something to you. Take a look at the things
that you give your time to, that you give yourself away to, and ask yourself what
story of the good life is sort of implicitly
carried in this practice? In this cultural liturgy? And is it one that aligns with the Kingdom vision of Christ? Take time to take a
liturgical audit of your life. What’s shaping you? What’s forming you? What’s working on your loves below the radar of your consciousness? And I think I would say
that is not necessarily that the outcome of
that is not necessarily that you retreat from
it or withdraw from it, although there will
obviously be some things for which that is certainly true. But sometimes also its not
like I don’t go to the mall, although I try to go
as little as possible. But it’s almost like
once you see something for what it is it defangs some of its liturgical power
a little bit, right? So that’s the beginning of
a sort of defense mechanism. However it’s insufficient
because what you also need now more positively is ask yourself, “What formative practices do
I need to commit myself to “that are going to recalibrate my heart?” And actually what my biggest hope is that this would reframe what you think is at stake in church, what you would see is at stake in worship. Friends worship, the gathering of the people
of God around Word and table, is precisely the space
into which God invites us so that we can have our hearts re-tuned to sing the songs of Zion right? And to have those, have that sort of unconscious orientation become our true north. You’ve probably heard there’s
this old preacher’s joke that gets at this. There’s a flood happening in a village and one man in the village has heard this confident revelation
that God is going to save him. And so he’s confidently
trusting in this promise that God is going to save him. And as the waters are rising and everybody is sort of sloshing around, some folks, friends come by in a canoe and they say, “Hey jump in. “We’re here to save you.” It’s like, “No no no I’m good. “God’s gonna save me.” Like okay fine. The waters keep rising, keep rising. He’s now up on the roof of his house. And a motorboat speeds by and says, “Come on jump in. “We’re gonna save you.” And he’s like, “No no no no I’m all good. “God’s gonna save me.” Alright have it your way. Flood waters rise, rise, he’s on the peak of his house. He’s holding onto the chimney. The water’s up to his chin. Coast Guard chugs in on an helicopter. “Grab the rope sir. “We’re going to save you.” “It’s all good. God’s gonna save me.” Doesn’t work out so well [laughs]. Gets to the proverbial gates and says, “Lord I thought you promised to save me.” To which God says, “I sent you a canoe. “I sent you a motorboat. “I sent you a helicopter. “What more were you looking for?” Friends I think that there’s
an important spiritual truth in there which is this: the recalibration of
our loves is not about the next new thing. It’s not about finding something novel. It’s not about finding
the right conference, or the right book, or the right retreat, or the right event, or some sort of cataclysmic [claps] shock, some thunderbolt of transformation. The secret to recalibrating your loves is to get in the boat that Jesus sends you. And the boat that Jesus sends us is the body of Christ. That is the ark. That is the space in which
we are invited now, not… The worship of the body of Christ is not just us showing up at a club to demonstrate to demonstrate
and express our praise and worship to God. We don’t go to church to
show something to Jesus. We go to church because we
are called there by God. The primary actor in worship is not us. The primary agent in worship is not us. The one who is leading and
acting and doing in worship is the ascended Christ who
calls us to himself as his body and meets us in worship and is molding and making and
remaking us into his image. That’s the incarnational lesson. Stop thinking about
what’s the next new way that we can do church that it’s cool and hip and relevant
and will keep people in. The new way is the ancient way, which is to find the practices
of the body of Christ and to see that they aren’t
just something that we do, but that they are doing something to us, that this is the space in
which Christ will transform us. We keep looking for God as if the new, in the new as if grace was always bound up with the next best thing. But in the midst of
that Jesus encourages us to attend a weekly meal. It’s like having supper. It’s banal. It’s mundane in some ways. It might even be boring
every once in a while. But it’s doing something to you. It’s immersing the Gospel story in you. There’s a great quip from
Mark Twain where he says, “He who carries a cat by the tail “learns something he can
learn in no other way.” Makes sense? Right? So imagine I’ve carried a cat by the tail and now I’m gonna describe it to you. And I do it in wonderful prose. That’s never gonna be
the same as me saying, “Here’s your cat.” Right? Why? Because there is an irreducible
kind of understanding that comes with that experience. Friends I’m suggesting that
there is an irreducible way of absorbing the Gospel that happens in the practices of worship. That for me to be part of a body of Christ that prays a prayer of confession over and over and over again, and then over and over again always [fingers snap] and
immediately [fingers snap] here’s the good news
announced of my absolution, my pardon, the mercy that God gives me. That is for me to start getting a story that sinks into my bones. And it’s one of the reasons
too why this is about sort of knowing things in your gut. And now you can also start to understand why worship has a bodily component to it. And you start to realize why was it that ancient Christians
when they would gather to hear God’s word and to celebrate the Lord’s supper, when they would go through this rhythm of reminding themselves of God’s holiness and their sinfulness and God’s confession they would do it on their knees. Because this is like
carrying a cat by the tail. It’s like my old rickety
knees know something about God’s mercy. But that’s not near as powerful as being told to stand up when he says, “You’re forgiven.” There are ways that we
absorb the Gospel in worship that now sink into your bones and become the orienting story that guides your very
orientation to the world. So you don’t have to go looking for the next best thing. The most potent, the most charged, the most transformative site
of the spirit’s work is found in this really unlikely place, the church. Let’s pray. [upbeat music]>>Narrator: Biola
University offers a variety of Biblically centered degree programs ranging from business to ministry to the arts and sciences. Visit biola.edu to find out how Biola could make a difference in your life. [upbeat music]

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