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TH 302 06 Week 3

Lathrop uses this word Ordo continuously. We should examine what this means.

At its root, "ordo" basically means "pattern". It is a way of ordering Space, Time, and Things. A way of putting things together in combinations that bring about meaning.

Last week, we looked at Baptism in various church services, and ask questions about it. When does it occur? Where does it occur? Who can do it? As we answer these questions, we find that patterns emerge; elements hang together and have a logic of their own. As we examine how these answers lean against one another, we see that theological patterns begin to emerge.


If you imagine the architecture of a church (as we did last week), the standard arrangement would often be pews or chairs, arranged in rows or a semicircle, with all the seating ranged around a central focal point. Asking "what is in that central point" will direct you often to a great deal of theological undersanding about that particular church (as Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also).

Often times this central point will be occupied by a table, or a pulpit, or a bapistry, or some combination of these. Bapistry, table and pulpit in the line of sight give you the strong symbols of washing, Lord's Supper and Word in the central place.

Think about your experinece of entering the church. Often you are greeted by an usher, who hands you an order of worship. The usher's job is (in one sense) to 'guard the door' (a throwback to when Christianity was more exclusive and its worship and sacraments were allowed only to baptized members), but it's also the usher's job to orient you to space and time. If they direct you to a seat, they are showing you how and where to 'be' in this worship space. The order of worship you recieve tells you, implicitly, 'here's how time will be organized for the next hour or so.' The architecture tells your eyes where to look, what to focus on, and the order of worship begins to tell you how to be for a certain period of time. These are all part of what Lathrop means when he talks about the ordo of worship.


Space is not the only thing arranged in liturgy. We also must focus on this question of time. The way our time is arranged affects us theologically. There are many ways we might speak about this. Let us begin with a discussion of the arangement of the week.

We have inherited the seven-day week from very ancient Israelite practice, though there are some interesting diferences. In common usage, the days of the week (as Lathrop points out) are named after pagan gods (This is also true of the names of the months). Think about this in relation to the first commandment of the Decalogue: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.

It is interesting to note that, if we look at the Hebrew naming of the days, they distinctly do not carry the pagan names of the gods. If you translate the names of days from the Hebrew, they mean 'first day,' 'second day' ... etc. Six days are numbered, and the seventh has the name Shabbat (Sabbath). The ancient Israleites believed that to use the pagan names of gods for days was a form of idolatry. This is the first way we can see the ordering of time having a theological effect.

The Sabbath, the day of rest, points us theologically back to the creation account in Genesis, when God ordained a day of rest. This day of rest also makes a difference to our bodies, as we will explore below. The notion that God ordains a way that you use the seventh day of the week is a subtle theological claim. Six days ae used for one purpose, and the seventh for another. The way we structure our week points toward the creation and the creator, in much the way that the architecture of the church points us to the central matters of our worship.

Another connection between the week and worship is this notion of First Day / Eighth Day. The repeating pattern of creation takes seven days. Christians began to shift the day of worship from the seventh day to the first day. This was partly for remembrance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but over time it also acquired another theological meaning. The notion from Isaiah and other texts of the 'New Creation' - a creation that arises out of the seven-days of creation and goes further. This creation begins, if you will, on the 'Eighth Day'. This new creation erupts in the midst of 'regular time' - in the incarnation and in our worship. So we worship on the first day, but theologically it also gestures toward the 'Eighth Day".

So simply by placing our worship on Sunday, we are pointed toward the theological questions of Eschatology, Providence, Apocalyptic and Creation.

Chronos and Kairos

There are two ways of measuring time. Chronos time is the time we are most used to. "Chronological" time, the time we find on a watch. We name this specifically, as in "we will meet for lunch at 2:30". Kairos time is a different way of accounting for the time you are in. "It's Harvest time," "It's winter time," "It's God's time."

Chronos and Kairos times can overlap. Church starts at 10:30... Church starts when the Saints gather and the Holy Spirit is present. Both of these statements can coexist together, though they are not saying the same thing. God's time does not always run by the watch. Often in our Chronos time, we find the Kairos time breaking in.

In the Gospel times, Jesus often said things like, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is among you." This is an example of what we mean by the 'inbreaking' of Kairos time. Time gets rearranged in the incarnation and atoning death of Jesus Christ. When does church hapen? Perhaps at 10:30 on Sunday morning, or around a hospital bed, or or when someone shows kindness and hospitality to a stranger... in the midst of disaster or regular life, church can erupt and the Kingdom can come close. In the midst of a moment, church can happen. Time apears to be going on as normal, but something changes.

The Church has its own Time

Christmas, Easter, Good Friday. The Church has its own calendar, that it returns to and remembers. Holidays are rooted in "Holy Days," the notion that certain days are set aside, for worship and remembering. These are not just nice ideas, but rather ways of living the reality of church, of living the reality of the Gospel. What time do you live by? What time are you keeping: the world's time, or God's time?

Just as the architecture of a church orients you and focuses you on what's important, the ordering of time and how you use your time points to the important focal points of your life.

We can see this come up in the conflict between worship time and 'kickoff time' - the fidgeting that sometimes happens when the sermon is going long and the football game is about to begin. This is not to say that sports are bad or that fotball is of the Devil, but this is pointed out to illustrate the conflict that can occur between differing arrangements of time. When the world time and sacred time overlap, what gets priority?

This is reflective, as well, of the changing way we view our attention span in current times. We are living in a fast-paced world, where we are disciplined (and I use this word intentionally) to expect rapid changes to keep our attention. We get bored after 15 minutes. The way the secular world arranges our time and this changes who we are. The way we use our time has an effect on our bodies and the way we think. We often do not stop to notice it, but this has profound consequences for our lives as believers, and our lives generally.

Our worship self is refelctive of the times we live in. The fact that we squeeze worship into one or two days a week (and only a few hours of the day at that) is reflective of this contemporary ordering of time priorities. If we were members of the church i the first or second century, we would see our time ordered very differently. On days we worked, we would gather in the mornings and the evenings for a brief time of worship every day, with Sunday worship being the focal point of the week for which the rest of our days prepare us. Often also the mid-day would be interrupted by prayer as well.

Certain traditions still do this. If you think of monks in monasteries, for example, they follow what is caled the "daily office." This cycle starts with prayer at 4 in the morning, and goes through the day where every few hours they stop again to pray. This is our Christian heritage: stop what you are doing, in the midst of every day, to have refelction and prayer, to order your life around God.

To imagine how radically this discipline might go: think what would happen in a world in which, instead of cutting the sermon short for the game, the game stopped a couple times during play while the athletes knelt and prayed.

Ordo of Space and Time affect who we are as a People

Contemporary worship us an attempt at times to cater to a people who have been changed by the culture in which we live. If you think about the arrangement of space in contemporary worship, it is often filled not by a cross, or a table, or even a pulpit. The focal point is a blank screen, upon which words are projected. We are focused often times on an emptiness in the heart of our worship space, when our worship is too-conformed to contemporary culture. As one student pointed out in our discussion, "Sometimes we don't give space and time to hear the voice of the Spirit when we worship..."

It bears looking at how these arrangements of space and time discussed here affect our bodies. If you work seven days a week, your body breaks down. If you don't take time to sleep or sleep too much, your body breaks down. If your patterns of life are not properly ordered (disciplined), we get out of sorts. This is a way of saying that the way we order our time changes our bodily life. We are affected by the way we spend our moments, and how they are ordered. Chronos time affect us - sleeping, eating, the cycles of our day.

The time we live in during history is also a type of Chronos time. The clothes I wear, how my body is protected and the hurts I feel at the end of the da are different in the 21st century tan they would be if I were living in the first century. Even the notion of 'washing the feet' has a different meaning and purpose than it did in the time of Jesus. I don' t wear sandals, I wear sneakers; my feet look and smell differently than Peter's dusty feet would have. My body (its look, its smell) is affected by the time I am living in. Chronos time affects us.

In what ways, then, are we afected by Kairos time? In what way does the reality that I am a creature of God, and that Jesus entered time to save me and sinners like me, affect my body? Does it at all? How does my relationship to God's time affect how I look, how I feel, even how I smell or feel pain?

In the discussion it came up that the way we embody the reality of Christ affect us. In theological terms we would refer to this as 'holiness' or 'sancitfication.' Our body becomes a living witness to the reality of God's time. Not just what we wear (such as a cross or a t-shirt) but the very essence of who we are is affected by this sort of holiness.

Sometimes the way we live 'breaks down' on us, and it is at those moments that we begin to reconsider how we have spent our time. The inbreaking of the Kingdom often accompanies a more radical 'breaking' of what has worked before. God speaks to us in Chonos time to push us to Kairos time, we might say.

Which time is real? They both are. Which came first? Theologically, we would argue that the Kairos time, God's time, is first. We often act, however, like Chronos time is more real, and that Kairos occasionally 'breaks in' as something unnatural. But which came first? The Garden came first. Adam and Eve's perfection came first. But then, with the occurance of the Fall, the Garden was lost and Adam and Eve entered 'normal,' Chronos time. We have lived so long in the Fall, that we mistake this for reality.

For centuries, however, the Christian church has attested to a different reality. When Peter steps out of the boat and walks a few feet on the waves, this is not something abnormal breaking into 'reality,' but rather the advent of true human reality into the fallen world. When Peter and Jesus walk on the water, so the Church claims, they are doing what they were born to do. We are affected so deeply by the time we live in, however, that we reverese these realities, and believe that the limitation of Chronos time are 'real', and that miracles are something out-of-the-ordinary, or 'special cases.' We are lost in a world that has the wrong time. How long, in the world of the game, can we live in the world of the Garden?

The changing of time that occurs when you pass through the waters of Baptism - this is part of what we think about at this point. How are our bodies, our disciplines, our ways of viewing relaity, affected by this action of going into the water and rising again? Are they affected at all, and if so, what does this mean for the way in which we live in this world? What does this mean for the way we worship?

The tension we feel in worship is between the twin dangers - of letting our holy things get so 'holy' that they stop speaking to our lives and get in the way of love of God, or letting our holy things get so 'ordinary' and secular that they seek to draw us toward heaven and God. These both are dangers against which we must think and struggle in our worship. We must not let the things we have get in the way of the things that matter.

(last modified 2006-01-26)       [Login]
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Theology 302 SPRING 2006