Couldn't come up with a better title. This week in the seminary's worship class they are looking at acts of worship beyond baptism, communion, and other sign acts (last week involved everything from tongues to footwashing). We're talking weddings, funerals, and things we might put in the category of "civil religion," including the frequent intersection of nationalism with Christian worship.
For example, I don't get too bent out of shape over it, but it seems very peculiar to put an American flag in the pulpit area. We are so used to this practice that it is hard for us to see how truly bizarre it is. To try to get at the bizarreness, imagine how Dietrich Bonhoeffer would respond if he had walked in after seeing Nazi flags in German churches? Picture a Brazilian flag on a pulpit in Brazil or a Russian flag in a Russian Orthodox chancel. Are we saying that we worship our country along with God or that our country is as holy as the cross. Imagine how we Protestants would react to an icon of a Christian saint up front--and it's at least Christian! God smiles.
There are other perspectives you commonly hear from worship professors, things that most American ministers have never even thought of. For example, although I think God is very patient, I would strongly urge couples getting married to include the congregation in communion if they are having it. Communion is not something two people do in private. It is a body of Christ thing.
Other things worship experts often say, perhaps with less force than the above: 1) having a wedding outside rather than in a church building hints at a mindset that is probably leaning more secular than Christian; 2) the Wedding March comes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, hardly a Christian drama, and is odd in a worship service; 3) close the casket at a funeral because a Christian funeral should be a worship service, and a worship service is more about God than the individual who has died; 4) some even argue against the typical time of testimonials to the dead person in the worship service of the funeral proper.
What are your thoughts? I always smile at a church that makes a big deal out of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Mother's Day, but couldn't tell you what Advent or Ash Wednesday was to save its life. This is the typical syncretism of religion and culture that takes place everywhere in all religions.