Of all places, the church should, surely, be the most realistic.  The church knows how far humanity has fallen [and] understands the cost of that fall in both the incarnate death of Christ and the inevitable death of every single believer.  In the psalms of lament, the church has a poetic language for giving expression to the deepest longings of a humanity looking to find rest not in this world but in the next.  In the great liturgies of the church, death casts a long, creative, cathartic shadow.  Our worship should reflect the realities of a life that must face death before experiencing resurrection.

It is, therefore, an irony of the most perverse kind that churches have become places where Pascalian distraction and a notion of entertainment that eschews the tragic seem to dominate just as comprehensively as they do in the wider world.  I am sure that the separation of church buildings from graveyards was not the intentional start of this process, but it certainly helped to lessen the presence of death.  The present generation does not have the inconvenience of passing the graves of loved ones as it gathers for worship.  Nowadays, death has all but vanished from the inside of churches, as well.

From: “Tragic Worship” by Carl R. Trueman; published in First Things (June, 2013); accessed online.


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