Monday, January 21, 2013

A Theologian and Worship Planner Considers the Inauguration

Here we are on the morning of another Inauguration Day.  I don't usually have the day off, so I don't usually watch the festivities.  Four years ago, I had to watch:  it was too historic to miss.

I've had lots of time to reflect, especially as the nation has geared up to do it again.  It's interesting to me how similar the Inauguration could be to a worship service:  not in who we're worshiping, but in how we put the components together.

I know people who believe that Christians have been worshipping the same way since the first century, but that's not true.  Still, even as the means of delivery change, the component parts have been remarkably similar:  music, Bible readings, sermon/homily, and prayer.  Some of us have a sung liturgy, while some have no liturgy at all.  But it's a rare Christian worship service that has no Scripture reading.  I have yet to attend a worship service with no prayer.

The Inauguration is similar.  Central to the ceremonies is the swearing in--but the way it's approached tells us much about what to expect.  What Bible will the President choose?  We're told that today he'll be using both the Bible that Martin Luther King used and the one that Lincoln used, their personal Bibles.  That seems appropriate to me.

We'll have poetry today from a Cuban-American immigrant gay poet.  This choice shows Obama's inclusionary streak.

But we'll also have some preachers.  I'll be very interested to see how they behave.  Will they strive for inclusivity?  How will they structure their prayers?  Will the prayers be anchored in Biblical imagery?  If so, which imagery?

There will likely be music, and I'll be interested to see what's chosen. 

And then there's the parade.  And the balls.

I love how this kind of festive day can pull so many of us together, even if we didn't vote for the one being inaugurated.  I love that this kind of festive day can remind us of the larger picture--a similar goal for worship, I think.  We tend to get bogged down in minutia, things that won't be terribly important a year from now and maybe not even next month.

Like worship, Inaugural festivities call us to be our better selves, while reminding us of the sacrifices that have occurred to get us to this point.  In a way, it's a shame we can't have Inaugural festivities more often.

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