Are We the Modern Prophets?
Thoughts that drag me to Jesus, and to the cross
15The 50 prophets from Jericho saw him and said, “The power of Elijah is on Elisha!” They went to meet him, bowed down before him, 16and said, “There are fifty of us here, all strong men. Let us go and look for your master. Maybe the spirit of the LORD has carried him away and left him on some mountain or in some valley.”
“No, you must not go,” Elisha answered.
17 But they insisted until he gave in and let them go. The 50 of them went and looked high and low for Elijah for three days, but didn’t find him. 18Then they returned to Elisha, who had waited at Jericho, and he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?” 2 Kings 2:15-18 GNT
In other words, the church is not just any assembly that happens to call itself by the name of Jesus for whatever reason or purpose, or where there may be orders calling themselves holy and so on. To counter a current heresy, the church is not just “people.” That assertion may rightly controvert the idea that the church is a building or even an institution, but it too easily forgets that the church is a gathering called and shaped by the gospel of its Lord, Jesus Christ. The Christian church occurs where the quite specific activity known as speaking the gospel occurs and the sacraments are administered according to that gospel. Where that does not occur there is no such thing as the church of Jesus Christ.
I look at the 50 prophets that Elisha encountered, and I see me.
And I see the church today.
We can recognize the Spirit of God on someone; we see the call God has laid on their life, But when they speak for Him, it is as if we didn’t know them, or we doubted they speak for God, and we go and waste a couple of days, doing our own thing.
We do this with each other, and we do this even with the scriptures. Liberal and conservative alike, we look for what resonates with our emotions and our thoughts, blissfully forgetting those emotions and thoughts have been twisted by sin.
We see that to an extent in the claim that “people are the church,” when people are talking about the buildings, but even more about the structure and those in responsibility. No longer is the church where God’s word is preached, and He blesses people with the sacraments. Forde rails against this–for where is there hope given, where is life cleansed, where else is there a chance to be still, and be revived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
While church should serve man, it should not serve his desires. Elisha was grieving, but he was also aware the time had come for others to step up, for Elijah to rest. The 50 should have done the same, for they saw God at work. When we hear the gospel, when we see the miraculous sacraments, I pray that we can be like Elijah, and work from that place of communion, humbling ourselves, and repenting of our trying to replace God.
Lord, help us to recognize the Elisha’s in our lives, help us to hear Your word, and receive your sacraments, and then help us to die to self, and see Christ live with us. AMEN!
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 186–187.
The Search for Real Worship
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “Believe me,” returned Jesus, “the time is coming when worshipping the Father will not be a matter of ‘on this hill-side’ or ‘in Jerusalem’. Nowadays you are worshipping with your eyes shut. We Jews are worshipping with our eyes open, for the salvation of mankind is to come from our race. Yet the time is coming, yes, and has already come, when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in reality. Indeed, the Father looks for men who will worship him like that. God is spirit, and those who worship him can only worship in spirit and in reality.” John 4:21 (Phillips NT)
17. In seminaries and houses of religious, clerics shall be given a liturgical formation in their spiritual life. For this they will need proper direction, so that they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them wholeheartedly; and they will also need personally to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as popular devotions which are imbued with the spirit of the liturgy. In addition they must learn how to observe the liturgical laws, so that life in seminaries and houses of religious may be thoroughly influenced by the spirit of the liturgy.
18. Priests, both secular and religious, who are already working in the Lord’s vineyard are to be helped by every suitable means to understand ever more fully what it is that they are doing when they perform sacred rites; they are to be aided to live the liturgical life and to share it with the faithful entrusted to their care
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.
When I was a child, my parents had a prayer meeting in our house, that lots of people attended. It was not unusual for a few priests, a brother, a couple of Baptist pastors and an Assembly of God pastor to be present. It was there I played guitar with Brother Michael, and there I learned to pray.
I also went to parochial school, and there we had masses and other services that were dedicated to God as well. I would often serve as an altar boy and played the organ as well. From those perspectives, I saw more of the mass and fell in love with the sacredness of it, even the parts I didn’t quite understand.
Since then, I’ve played and led praise bands, become a non-denomination pastor, then moved into the Lutheran Church where a form of the historic liturgy is our “style” of worship. And yet the lessons from the prayer meetings and non-denom worship leading play into the planning of worship as well.
As I read Vatican II’s words in green this morning, I saw them trying to unify the two streams of worship I have known. Starting with the pastoral training in seminaries, there must be part of that training that teaches the pastors and priests to worship God with all their heart, to understand and actively take part in the mysterion of God, to realize the Trinity is not just observing the mass, but participating in it.
Liturgy must be “lived” whether it is the historic liturgy or the common liturgy of prayer meetings and evangelical gathering. Those facilitating it must get caught up in it themselves, so that while they are aware of the people’s participation, they first are praising God for all He is, in their life.
It’s not about being the best musician, the best singer, the perfect reader of scripture, the perfect liturgist. ( We can add ushers, altar guild members, sound techs, parishioners) It is about knowing the presence of God in this place, of realizing the blessings He is pouring out, and responding with others, even helping them to do value this time with God.
These words we say, and in the liturgy they are all from scripture, are the words of God, scripture read and sang and breathed. They are the words of life that kept Peter and the apostles bound to Jesus when everyone else ran away. They are the words, as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession states. that touch us. That the Spirit uses to draw us into Christ, to develop in us a dependence on Him, and in that dependence, to pour out all we are upon Him.
This isn’t something I think we teach people to do in a lecture, or even in a sermon. It is something that is modeled and formed in them, and in order for that to happen, it must be modeled and formed in those who lead. Whether this is in a full liturgy, or in a back yard worship time that simply happens among friends.
God is with us, may we realize this, and help those who come to our churches, bible studies and prayer meetings realize it, and when they do, cry confidently, “Lord, have mercy on us”
Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print
Have I Become What I Struggle Against?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: 10 “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. 11 The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. 12 I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ 13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’ ” 14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 18:9-14 (MSG)
For a legalist, spirituality is tantamount to saying, “I think the right way, live the right way, associate with the right people, read my Bible, pray, go to church, and avoid worldly ways; therefore I am spiritual.” This person might be a “good” person, live a straight and disciplined life, be a good friend and neighbor, and support the church and its ministries. But legalism is not true Christian spirituality, for in the end it looks to self to achieve a condition of spirituality by adhering to a predetermined set of rules and fixed doctrinal interpretations. It goes beyond what the Bible teaches and what the common tradition embraces.
Legalistic spirituality is not directly situated in God’s story of creation, incarnation, and re-creation. Legalistic spirituality is situated in derivative rules and doctrines determined by a particular cultural expression of the faith. This sort of spirituality, instead of contemplating the mystery of God’s vision and participating in the life purposed by God, measures a person’s spiritual state by the secondary rules and doctrines that ask: “Are you keeping the rules?” “Are you adhering to the doctrinal particulars espoused by this particular church?” Legalism focuses on the self and how well the self adheres to the group expectations.
As I read the Webber’s words, into my mind popped a number of legalists that I deal with, or have to deal with the consequences of their actions. They frustrate the heck out of me, and to be honest, the consequences of their actions and their decisions scare me. I’ve seen too many people give up on the church, and some even give up on God because of the legalism.
But as I re-read the words, I have to wonder, how often do I (and you can and perhaps should) turn into the very thing I struggle against, the same thing that frustrates me, the same thing that pisses me off.
Is it possible that I could become what Webber calls a legalist? Have I become so antagonized by their actions that I justify myself in order to feel more righteous than those I can’t understand, or for that matter stand?
It is all too easy to become the Pharisee, to find the attitude inside myself that finds others less holy (usually those I catch doing that to others – but that doesn’t excuse or justify my sin)
As Webber says, I can be good, I can know all the right doctrines, I can express them fluently, but the moment I count out that to justify me, at least compared to them.
And that is the point, I stop comparing myself to Jesus, I stopped seeing my own faults, and therefore the need to cling to Jesus, who justify me and would justify them. That’s what spirituality is to Webber, the reason he called the book the Divine Embrace.
It is there on the cross that I can find the peace I need, and the ability to love those that frustrate me, to realize that those who I find as legalistic I can find compassion for, and I can find the hope to not be legalistic.
For God is with us….. and therefore, there is hope!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.