Preparing For Worship – Jonathan McGregor.
In the last year of his life, Soren Kierkegaard stopped going to church. In the 1850s, in Copenhagen, Denmark, everyone went to church. Kierkegaard made himself conspicuous, drinking his coffee at a café in full view of the good people piling into the pews. If you were Danish, then you were Christian; your citizenship was conferred at your (infant) baptism, and church was just something you did. Unless you were an atheist (though, legally, you’d want to keep that under your hat) or a Moravian, whose unlicensed and impassioned meetings were held outside the city’s majestic cathedrals.
But Kierkegaard was neither. He was a controversial author, a theologian without a pulpit or professorship, the subject of whispered rumors and the butt of printed jokes. His father had taken him to Moravian meetings as a child, and their fervor for the Bible rubbed off on him, but he’d never joined them. He couldn’t call himself an atheist, for that would require certainty, and the whole problem was his uncertainty.
Soren Kierkegaard was not at church because he could not say for certain whether or not he was a Christian. All these others streaming in the doors of the churches seemed so sure. But when Kierkegaard looked at Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament, and then he turned his eyes to the beautiful buildings filled with good, nice people and presided over by government-sanctioned clergy, he could not make the two pictures line up. What did it mean to be a Christian anyway? Surely the Danish Church’s too-easy answer was unsatisfying. But if you couldn’t say what a Christian was, how could you know you were one?
So he drank his coffee. And he wrote, pressing the question of what it means to be a Christian on his neighbors.
He would put the question to us as well: What are we here for? If it is merely to participate in the accepted Sunday activity of our class and culture, Kierkegaard would nudge us to look again at those disciples, those witnesses sent out with “no purse, no bag, no sandals,” barefoot walking on snakes and scorpions, sheep among wolves. What were they about?
Careful. If we look closely enough, we might get caught up in it — in Him. After all, as Kierkegaard says somewhere, you can’t catch hold of the truth. The truth catches hold of you.