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The Necessity of Teaching People Worship and the Liturgy: Evangelical Catholic IX

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the day, please discuss and meditate on it:

 2  Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved. 3  As the scripture says, “You have found out for yourselves how kind the Lord is.” 4  Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5  Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 2:2-5 (TEV)

 “This emphasis on beauty in the liturgical life of the Church is another reason why Evangelical Catholicism takes sacramental preparation and adult catechesis so seriously. Absent a true understanding of what the liturgy is, grounded in a firm grasp of what the Gospel is, those who “come to church” do not grow in living faith. Liturgy without Gospel is superstition, or self-worship, or both. Thus evangelical Catholic parishes take care to provide ongoing liturgical catechesis; this is primarily done through preaching, but it is also done through the various other means by which pastors communicate with their people. Pastors who understand that liturgical catechesis is a matter of empowering their people to exercise the priestly gift that is theirs by reason of Baptism will be likely to be effective in building worshipping communities that celebrate the sacred liturgy nobly, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Evangelical Catholic liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Having been lifted up to the threshold of the Throne of Grace through the dignified celebration of the Church’s liturgy, evangelical Catholics leave Sunday Mass with a new charge of missionary energy. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.” (1)

I recently began a new class at our church, one that is, at once a review of our our faith and of the what and why of our Liturgical Worship.   I need to start off with a disclaimer I suppose, that I find an incredible richness in the liturgy, yet because of the uncommon language, and the unexplained movements, that richness is mostly hidden.  When I comment to that extent some have accused me of being a proponent of anti-liturgical or aliturgical (i.e.  Contemptorary Worship) even though I have noted the same errors in those groups. The church (and I mean the church in its entirety ) in the twenty-first century simply doesn’t do a good enough job teaching people the way in which we worship.  This is true whether it is in the uncommon language and movements of Liturgical churches, or the Contemporary services where the simpler movements are still not explained, and are often far removed from the interaction of a Liturgical Service.

In Wiegel’s article – there is much that is true to the church outside the auspices of Rome. (As well of course, as the Church of Rome about which he writes.)  Specifically of the quote above, and the Bible passage, I would highlight these things.

1.  Worship/Liturgy without the Gospel is empty superstition
There is a part of me that loves to describe food, for example the sizzling of a thick slice of bacon, with its incredible flavor investing the air throughout a home.  It’s because I love watching people uncontrollably begin to react.  You can’t help it.  The same thing should happen within the liturgy – when people are so aware of the grace, the gospel, the love, the mercy and peace  that is about to be shared, that they cannot but begin to react in expectation.  Like those babies in Peter’s letter, there is a desire that builds within us, when we know about what we are to receive.  Absolution, being reminded of the promises of our baptism as we make the sign of the cross, the fact that we are welcome into the Father’s presence, not only that – He desires our presence!  Then, the incredible feast – that which we must give thanks and praise.   ( I hope maybe you are longing for communion like deacons hunger for bacon.)

But imagine not knowing what bacon tasted like?  Imagine not knowing what the flavor that is carried throughout a home where it is cooked.  How could you know how good, how alive the flavor would make your mouth come alive?  The same is true with the liturgy – we rob people when we don’t show them how the Liturgy delivers to them everything of Christ – His presence, His mercy, His love, His comfort, forgiveness, peace, healing…… to them.  This is true as well – when the service is robbed of liturgical elements, when we don’t take the time to realize that that’s the Lamb of God, sent to take away  our sins as well as the sins of the world,  or,  my gosh – we have seen His salvation,  or even as simply as hearing that every burden we have, God desires to take away from us, that we may realize that indeed His is the glory and the honor and the power….as we pray as He taught.

2.  Teaching the people the Liturgy, (and how it delivers to them Christ) is something that empowers them, that helps them realize the gifts given to them in their baptism.  Heling them know that they are God’s children, priests and kings.  As Peter says, as we are joined to the Chief Cornerstone in our Baptism – we are used to build that spiritual temple – where we all work together, serving together, as His priests, where our work is acceptable to God, because it isn’t ours, it is Christ’s Jesus. (see Romans 12:1-10)  People need only realize what is being given to them, if how the liturgy teachings them, shows them, how to dance with God through life, even through the slow and somber times.  Having realized the incredible power of God’s love, having been taught what they need to know about Christ, having realized how God has ministered to them through word and sacrament…how could we not be empowered?  Look at Acts – every time someone proclaimed the Gospel of Christ’s work, the sermons weren’t even completed before someone did something.  Because they proclaimed the gospel – and the people heard it.

May ours do as well.

3.  And that is why the third thing happens:  liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic (insert your own “brand here) Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.

I love that Wiegel described what it means to be missional, to have an apostolate.  It’s not about recruiting people to become members of the organism.  It isn’t about getting them from their churches to ours, or to convert them for the sake of numbers.  I love the way Wiegel puts this…it is so… well Lutheran.  Worship is a means (and it contains the means) to meet Christ, and enter into a relationship with Him.  A relationship where He no longer calls use servants – but indeed, friends.  This is what it is all about, this is why we do what we  do.

They need to know Him – and this liturgy – honed and translated into the language of the people, does that very thing….. so well.

So I encourage you – if a pastor or priest, church musician, worship leader, singer – know  why and what you do – and share it with those who need to know Jesus….. and then watch your liturgy come alive…..

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 74). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Angels and Spiritual Warfare…it is not what we think!

Devotional thought of the day to be discussed.

This week in liturgical churches, we celebrate the Feast of St Michael and all Archangels.  (Yes even in Lutheran Churches – check your pericope!)

Now, with the obvious disclaimer that we do not worship these beings, we can and do interact with them.  Jesus talks about children having such angels in heaven, and we see one in action in the life of the prophet Daniel, and in the life of Moses. One such discussion is noted in the Epistle of Jude:

1:8 In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. 9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) Jude 1:8-9 (NLT)     

Herein lies a great challenge for us, for whether it be spiritual battle, or dealing with those that antagonize or berate us, we want to strike back accordingly.  We want to take justice into our own very creative hands, and trash those who hurt us, or more often, hurt others.  In doing so, we engage our own falseness, we do so in our weakness, we do so in a way, that is sure to find us defeated, demoralized, bitter, broken.   Or we come back that way, but disguised with a sense of triumphant joy.  “We showed them”, “we pounded them into the ground”, “Got’em!” we cry, and we fail to see that both they and we are bleeding from the fight.  There is no winner, just more division, more pain, and another battle to fight another day.

Michael the Archangel fought Lucifer in a different manner.  He didn’t go head to head – could he have?  Perhaps, but we will find that angels primary vocation is not to do battle.  We love to picture them, either as weak cherubs at valentines day – piercing hearts with arrows to cause love. (Interesting thought there -change the love from erotic to agape – that’s how the Holy Spirit works) or a valiant towering warriors with swords laced with purifying fire.  But scripture primarily talks of them in two ways.  One – bringing a message to God’s people.  Secondly, and this is really their place – before the throne of God. leading the hosts of heaven, with the 24 elders, adoringly declaring the praise of God.

So Michael, who like us was designed not for battle, but for worship and fellowship, keeps it simple.  “The Lord correct you!”   and the battle is over.

When we put justice into His hands.. the outcome of spiritual battles is assured.  Christ’s power simply overwhelms Satan’s, because Christ’s power is life, not death.  It is reconciliation of God’s people with God and each other, not division.   FOr someone used to living in the presence of God, the battle is simply a matter of turning it over to our Lord, who died on the cross, that no other need die, that no other need be broken.  It is when we realize this, that gathering together becomes more than a country club like gathering .

But to get to that place, means we have to let Christ deal with our own “demons”.  To break the power of sin and satan over us, for believers, to realize that is what happens in the sacraments, in baptism, as we feast, as we confess and are absolved.  Josemarie Escriva wrote well,

“You, who see yourself so badly lacking in virtues, in talents, in abilities… Do you not feel the desire to cry out like the blind Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”? What a beautiful aspiration for you to say very often, “Lord, have pity on me!” He will hear you and come to your aid.”   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 882-886). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If we need to deal with our own pain which oppresses us, if our “personal demons” (which usually aren’t demons in the way we picture them) need to be dealt with, the cry of Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, will see those “demons” rebuked and their hold broken, and our souls and heart and minds and bodies – freed to worship.  It is a prayer that God always answers, for the promise and fulfillment of the prayer is what the cross is always about.

So Lord, have mercy on us, rebuke that which oppresses us, help us live as Your body, your people.  AMEN

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