Immediacy and Mediation


At the book launch for Remembering our Future, Ian Stackhouse gave a small talk in the Chapel at Kings College, that tied into his chapter in the book, and his experience as a charismatic evangelical, with regards to immediacy and mediation in worship, that correlated to my experiences and journey being within Vineyard Churches.

Ian outlines how within the charismatic evangelical stream of church (whose decedents birthed the emerging church), there was the move to equate immediacy as antithetical to mediation. The immediate experience of God was to be had by removing traditional practices of mediation, such as word and sacrament. The immanent experience of God came unmediated by the Spirit in our worship and prayer times, once we removed all those religious things that got in the way. Ironically it is the modern worship style that then mediates the experiences of God.

It got me thinking about how this process has continued, the project of pursuing non mediation, that culminates in the logical conclusions of self mediation, that capitulates to the post modern world, of consumer agency. If church had become about individuals gathering to/for my non-mediated experiences, then why do I even need church/others at all?

Surely I can podcast, download, web 2.0. myspace, blog, text, facebook, chose, design, create, etc my experiences of God, on my terms in my way, i.e. place myself as the consumer mediator for all my God experiences? Save the price of an entry/admission fee, everything is immediate to the post-modern consumer. Why should anything be mediated through others, be restricted, take time to experience. The sacred has collapsed into consumer aesthetic non-mediated immediacy. In other words the immediacy of God becomes a recreational commodity, where the unmediated experience of God leads us to become nonrelating, and isolated selves. Where as the goal of releasing the individual to experience God without the control and manipulation of the church, we have gone to far.

Miroslav Volf reminds us that God is the experience in the social relationship of the trinity. The incarnation is a Trinitarian act, where God is mediated in time and space, through the church, the body of Christ.

There are experiences of God that can only be had by being in connected, local, missional and social relationships with other Christians. For our worship, that means that many charismatic evangelicals, rather than becoming post-charismatic, are seeking to reconnect their experiences into the mediation of traditions of the church, and are finding that they aren't exclusive to each other.

It's why many of us are finding that assigned daily prayers, the church calendar, are more than cool aesthetic experiences, but deeply formative mediations that root our immediate experiences of God.

How we do that is the big hairy question.