One of the great burdens of contemporary forms of church is the (largely) unspoken demand to be original. Every. Single. Weekend.
This is driven by a popular sense in the contemporary American imagination that any practice or words or songs from earlier generations are inferior or stale or not as wise as the words and practices we come up with right here, right now. Our hubris in this assumption is amazing.
Tied to this in some churches is not only a demand for the new or original or fresh but an urgent sense that the church must always be poised to run toward "the next big thing" God is doing.
This restless disposition is also often connected to the desire for emotional, spontaneous and—this is sometimes missed—"positive" experiences. It *has* to be uplifting.
This can leave no room for lament or sorrow or the very human experience of loss and defeat. It can be driven by a kind of escapism and denial of the world as it is, motivated by a gnostic vision of some other place than earth, far away from the good creation held hostage, far from the actual world in which the incarnate God is with us, and with all persons, baptized or unbaptized, seeking to save us all and the cosmos he loves on a torturous cross of wood.
The great treasure that we have in the prayers and liturgies and songs and sacrament—and seasons—of the church of the ages is the benefit of collective Christian wisdom, forged in the harsh and fiery conditions of fallen existence across cultures and times and languages and empires other than our own.
We discover in these ancient (or at least less recent) practices and prayers proven interpretations of our actual lives as Christ followers in an often hostile and always difficult daily grind.
In the inspired practices of past generations of Christians, in their Spirit-bearing words and actions—the reality of the risen presence of Jesus with us (as much then as now) speaking and acting through his body, the church—we find genuine joy in this struggle for a holy life on a planet that is not yet the resurrected world God is bringing to this earth.
We find the rhythms and attitudes and disciplines and resources in the tested and true worship of the ages to be the kind of people in the actual world—in the world as it is, amid the broken humanity we find in ourselves and others—that are becoming by these prayers and practices, week in and week out, icons of God's redeeming presence as Light and Life in the middle of evil and disintegration and darkness.
In these ancient gifts we find incarnate worship: the faithful praise of God that the church has always given in response to the great love of the Father for the world witnessed in the flesh of his Son Jesus Christ because their Spirit has filled our hearts with the awareness of God's radical solidarity with us in every hard and icy and pain-filled moment of existence.
There is more to be said about this hunger for the spontaneous that is such a distraction in the American church but I suspect that a large part of this need can be diagnosed as a failure to pay attention to ALL of the ways Jesus sought to redeem us in his incarnation, baptism, temptation, preaching, parables, and transfiguration; in his suffering-as-one-of-us life; in his death, descent to hell, resurrection, ascension and in the sending of the Spirit. We need to preach and enact in worship all of Christ's life as it comes to us annually by the sacred year.
We think we need *more* from God because we have failed as a church to immerse ourselves in ALL the mystery of what God the Father has already done for us in Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
And the great church of the ages across all denominations and groups—no church has a monopoly—keeps that living wisdom about Jesus in its fasts and celebrations and sacraments and hymnals and lectionaries and prayers and communal worship. And these are meant to baptize us into a comprehensive, cosmos-converting vision of the living Christ.