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The Search for Real Worship

Altar with communionDevotional 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

Spirituality, Religion, debates, a serpent on the pole (and other theological nonsense)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. 27  Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:26-27 (MSG)

12 In the third place, such traditions have turned out to be a grievous burden to consciences, for it was not possible to keep all the traditions, and yet the people were of the opinion that they were a necessary service of God.
13 Gerson writes that many fell into despair on this account, and some even committed suicide, because they had not heard anything of the consolation of the grace of Christ.
14 We can see in the writings of the summists6 and canonists7 how consciences have been confused, for they undertook to collate the traditions and sought mitigations to relieve consciences,
15 but they were so occupied with such efforts that they neglected all wholesome Christian teachings about more important things, such as faith, consolation in severe trials, and the like.  (1)

384    Confusion. I knew you were unsure of the rightness of your judgment. And, so that you might understand me, I wrote you: “The devil has a very ugly face, and since he’s so smart he won’t risk our seeing his horns. He never makes a direct attack. That’s why he so often comes in the disguise of nobleness and even of spirituality!”  (1)


When I see individuals or groups opposing each other, I often find that they make the same error. Like my favorite illustration of the pessimist and the optimist arguing about the 16 oz container with 8 oz of liquid in it.  They lose their ability to fight when I reveal that the purpose for the glass is not the discussion, but so I may be refreshed through drinking its contents.   (Usually they get upset at me until I remind them that it was my beer they were arguing about.. not their own)

I see this often in debates about religion, and about spirituality.  Often it includes a debate about traditions, whether those traditions are understood or not.  Or whether the traditions belong to the centuries or that traditions someone has created in more modern times… like over the last decade…. or year.

Either way, the debates come about in such a way that they are competitive and miss the meaning.  They may not be debates even, but blogs and video blogs that try and prove their view right. Or that their preferred theologians kick but on less holy and knowledgable folk.

And all it does it leave the writers, and the readers, scrambling to find the next quote, the next arrow to be added to their quiver, the next weapon to back their position.

And int he meantime, we lose sight of Jesus,  We turn away from the conduits of grace, His word, and His sacraments.  We fail to be in awe, for we fail to recognize His presence.  The very presence that our traditions (whether new or ancient) had a part in revealing to us.

My son last night, as we were reading about the destruction of the serpent Moses obediently fashioned, wondered why people would offer sacrifices to it.   He’s noted that God saved them using the bronze serpent; the serpent didn’t save them.  So it was silly to his eight-year-old mind that people would worship a tool rather than the one wielding it.  But how many other things have been like that.  The Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, Gideon’s breastplate, the liturgy, contemporary and traditional music. Even crosses and church buildings, theologians and philosophers and their writings…

All of that stuff can be good, it can also distract us from offering a glass of water in His name.  It can edify us, or it can prevent us from edifying others.  It can consume our time, and while seeming good, it can also become sin, separating us from spending time with God.  It can blind us to what God has commissioned, a life walked with Him, going where He sends us, to reconcile the world back to Him (and therefore to each other).

This is real life, walking humbly with God…. living for others as Christ did.

May all our traditions, all our practices, point us toward Him, and may we see Him, and not the practices.

.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 65–66). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 970-972). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Are We Afraid of Intimacy With God?

Discussion and Devotional Thoughts of the Day:Dawn at Concordia

 11  I will live among you in my sacred Tent, and I will never turn away from you. 12  I will be with you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12 (TEV)

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. (1)

78      Heroism, sanctity, daring, require a constant spiritual preparation. You can only ever give to others what you already have. And, to give God to them, you yourself need to get to know him, to live his Life, to serve him. (2)

I have pondered why the church is anemic in America.

We have incredible theologians, great exegetes, and emphasis on apologetics.  We have Church Growth studies and strategies, church planters, church restorers, more seminaries than anywhere else in the world.

Yet the church in America still is in decline.  It is so bad now, that we actually have experts in church viability, and strategies to close churches.  The key phrase these days is a legacy church – a church which realizes it isn’t viable, and therefore determines how to will its assets to something that will live and thrive.

We’e forgotten His promises, we’ve forgotten that this faith we have, is faith in those promises, a trust that is based in not knowing about God

A trust not founded in theological treatises, or exegeting the word skuballw correctly, or in knowing which studies to use to understand a church, or which programs might work in which context. It’s a trust that isn’t dependent on using a 14th century liturgy, (or one from a red, blue or maroon hymnal) or haing the right contemporary service order.  All these things are tools, they can be used in our churches, But we never, ever dare put our trust in them.  They are not what we count on, they are not whom we believe on, and they will let us down.

It is a trust that comes from knowing God, and knowing Him intimately.

It is then we can study His promises and claim those promises (not promises we or others create) as His promises to us.

But it still isn’t about the promises.  They are incredible, they are awesome… but our faith isn’t in them.

It is in Him.

It is in realize that He lives with us, in us, that He has come to us, and saved us, cleansed us, is healing us, and is shepherding us, His church, that we come to know Him.  Yes, intimately, and we know He knows us more intimately that we will ever know ourselves.  It was that knowledge that caused Him to comes to us, to die for us, for in knowing us, He loves us, and we… amazed, in awe, begin to learn to love Him back.

That love of His for us is what makes us holy..  It is what drives missionaries and martyrs.  It’s what makes grandma’s and great aunt’s pray for their prodigals on their knees, It is what makes all the heroes of the faith trust in God in their darkest hour.  It is what is causing the church in the “third world” or the Global South, to grow in the face of persecution, in the face of famine, in the face of spiritual warfare.

It’s time we remembered that…. its times we shared that, in chruches, and restaurants, in our homes, our workplaces.

God is with us.  God loves us… and share the extent of that love.

 

(1)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 493-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question!

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day

8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9  Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by themHebrews 13:8-9 (TEV) 

Although it seems a paradox, those who call themselves sons of the Church may often be precisely those who sow greater confusion.  (1)

I see a lot of confusion among the people of the church caused by those in the church today.  Matter of fact, the old cliche, “we’ve met the enemy and we are it!” may be at a epic high.  It doesn’t matter what denomination, what movement, what area, there is a battle who is more faithful.  In my denomination, the battle as to who is most faithful often is waged between those who want to abide by the old rules, the old ways and customs and methods of the church in its 1940’s-1950’s heyday, and those who define faithfulness as being tied to ourreach and mission.  We get convinced that only if we can find the right box, with the right walls, then God will bless us – because we are faithful. That God will cause the church to thrive because of our perfect liturgy, our our desire to see people know Christ.

And we lovk ourslves in a box…. Sometimes in fear, sometimes in frustration, sometimes just because we want and need a way to now we are okay with God.

It is ironic.  But then, as sinners, we are good about making it all about ourselves.

In other times, it was waged over music, or church governance or finances or any of a number of good and practical things.  We focus on concepts, on the theology, on the practice… and we forget about the content, the relationship.. to put it bluntly, what I see lacking the most in these battles, is our desire to know and make known the Lord who loves us.

It’s time to cut through the confusion, its time to strip away both new ideas and old man-made requitements and just draw our strength from where it comes.  Hebrews says it is a gift of God, it is grace, it is walking each day in His presence, reveling in His mercy, depending on His faithfulness, trusting ourselves into His loving hands…confident of His faithfulness.

Seeing whatever happens as something He is working through, whether it is joyous or a cross, whether it is in abundancae …well… let me quote Paul

8  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9  there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10  At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (TEV)

Here is the key that stops us from looking for affirmation of our faithfulness- because we don’t need it.  We have Christ.   We have a God who says, “you are my child, I have begotten you… dwell in my love.”

And when we do.. all sorts of interesting things happen…not that we’d notice… for our lives would be constantly praising Him… for His faithfulness.

So stop trying to prove your faithful, that your faithfulness is superior or more holy.. and just dwell in His presence, evjoy His love.. and adore Him..for He is our God, and we are His kids.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1664-1665). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Laity, Liturgy and Worship, Spectators or Participants? A vision for traditional and contemporary facilitators

Devotional/Discussion THought of the day:
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man* to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”   John 12:23-27

We cannot, then, simply be present at a liturgical rite as spectators.… we must become, to an extent, the actors in it. We must therefore see ourselves sitting at table at the Last Supper, standing along the Via Crucis lightning-struck at the mystery of the risen Jesus’ appearances … In any believer who participates in the liturgy there is no sense of remoteness or of being on the outside. Consequently in celebrating the paschal mystery the believer is taken into and overcome by the dramatic power of the ‘hour’ of Christ, ‘my hour’ as he called it (see Jn 2:4, 12:23, 17:1 etc.) (DL 1982: 173).[i]

As I was doing my sermon preparation reseatch yesterday, I came across the quote above in blue.   It struck me pretty powerfully, especially as I compare it to some liturgy and worship I saw this summerFor those unfamiliar with church lingo,  let me define the first three words in our title.

  • Laity – those who aren’t ordained, commission as pastors, priests, deacons, ministers, etc..  In other words, normal people like you….
  • Liturgy – the order to a church service. Sometimes called a worship service or a mass
  • Worship – our response to God’s love, most often thought of as when the church gathers.

Those words in blue struck me, they resonate with me, because that is how I think we need to engage in liturgy and worship – but even more, how we need to facilitate our people’s engaging in liturgy and worship.

Whether it is a song, or the readings or the sermon, it has to be something that engages them, body ad soul and mind.   That heightens their awareness that we – the congregation, is in the presence of God.  That the leaders aren’t doing worship for the rest of the folk to observe,  (which can happen with choirs and praise teams both) that we are praying with the pastor/prayer leaders, that we are bring invited to dine with God….   That this 60-75 minutes is bringing us into the passion and presence of Christ, as much as if we were in the upper room, as much as if we stood at the foot of the cross, as much as if we were on the mountain as He commissions us all to disciple others, baptizing them and teaching them to treasure and guard the revealtion of God that gives them life.

We are part of the drama, the dialogue, and being part of it transforms us.

But this isnt’ easy to do, it takes thought and preparation and consciously avoiding just going through the motions, and most of all…prayer and dependance on God.   Wlaking with Him, being in awe of Him, knowing His presence and longing to see those who’ve come connected to Him.  It can be done by Catholics and Baptists, Non-Denoms and high church Anglicans, Pentacostals and even Lutherans.  In can be done in majestic basillicas, and humble chapels.  In crowds of 10,000, and 5 people at the beach, or in a park.  Rich, poor, whatever class or level of education, whatever ethnic or langauge or music style…. can do this.

It’s about seeing Jesus, lifted up on the cross – drawing us all to Him – for that is what this is all about…

Not just about the forgiveness of sins…
Not just about healing our brokenness..
not just about eternal life in paradise…

It’s about walking with Him.

Not just the pastor, or the music minister, or the praise team…

All of us… with Him.

AMEN


DL Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1979 (1982) Collegeville: The Liturgical Press.

[i] Torevell, D. (2004). Losing the Sacred: Ritual, Modernity, and Liturgical Reform (pp. 170–171). London;  New York: T&T Clark.

Liturgy, Language and the People it is for:

Discussion thought of the Day:

2  Those who speak in strange tongues do not speak to others but to God, because no one understands them. They are speaking secret truths by the power of the Spirit. 3  But those

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Eva...

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2006), 15. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

who proclaim God’s message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort. 4  Those who speak in strange tongues help only themselves, but those who proclaim God’s message help the whole church.    1 Corinthians 14:2-4 (TEV) 

Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Corinthians 14:2-9, but it has also been so ordained by man’s law. The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship.  (1)

Last night, during the time my son and I spend reading scripture and now the Augsburg Confession together ( in Kindergarten – he chose that after 10 times reading the small catechism to me!) we came across this passage, one I think my denomination overlooks I think.  I know I do – simply because in a conversation a month ago, I brought up the quote from 1 Corinthians 14 and was told that it wasn’t speaking about Latin and German (and High English) but rather (their words) just speaking in tongues.

Sigh, I allowed them to get away with it – forgetting that in this Article – it is made all to clear that our spiritual forefathers  were talking about using language that people know – and use regularly.

I have also backed down a bit when people claim that the liturgy is not for people seeking God, but rather for the initiated, for those that cherish words like salutary, words like Nunc Dimitis, and grasp the many varied and intricate ways the mass point people to the fact that Christ is merciful, loving and present in their lives.  This is a reaction to those who claim that the church service must be seeker-sensitive ( I think they mean seeker driven – but that is my opinion)  Again – look at our Lutheran Confessions, the ceremonies of our liturgy are not for those with all the knowledge – but are to benefit those without such knowledge.  It’s not for the spiritually elite, but those of us who have been spiritually bankrupt – without understanding what we need to know about Jesus. ( His love, His mercy, His presence – heck even the middle one needs to be unpacked — mercy= His compassionate and careful cleansing us of all that is unjust – our sin and the sins of others that affect our lives )

I so love the attitude of Melancthon in writing this – an attitude that shows me how much our forefathers cared about those who didn’t know God, or those who knew of Him, but didn’t know Him.  I love the balance that says – what we’ve done is good – great – this liturgy speaks of Christ – but let us speak in a language those uninitiated in the faith.

Let our words proclaim His love, His mercy, His presence in our lives!  Let those words be such that they are heard, and treasured.

And may we see the glory of God that is with us, as we see the awe in faces as they hear and know the love of God – and with us begin to explore its depths, heights, breadt and width!  AMEN!

(1)  — Augsberg Confession, Article XXIV

Gravity and God’s Grace….

Devotional Thought of the Day….

 32  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  John 12:32 (NLT)

As I walk between the extremes of Christianity, and my own branch of the church, I hear a lot of advice about the church.  Some suggest that God will bless the church, if we are faithful to this model.  Wait, most of them say that – their models just appear – whether traditional or contemporary, whether doctrinal or social – fundamental or liberal to be at odds with the other models.  I would content they might not be as much as they think, they are often making observations about the same thing from different perspectives.

But that isn’t the point.

I would contend that it isn’t how liturgical you are, or whether you church is Lutheran or Catholic or Methodist, or whether you are involved in social ministry, or training the next generation of leaders, or whatever it is.  What matters is, is Christ lifted up.   For Jesus is where we find hope, it is His love, His desire to reconcile us to the Father, that is seen when He is lifted up on the cross.   I will contend that this is the unseen core of the what drives both the church growth crown and the we have to be faithful to our past crowd.

They both love, even if they don’t realize it, how Christ is revealed to them.

The grace and mercy of Christ is like gravity – it is so needed, and the more people need it, the more they get caught in its pull.  The more aware they are of being broken, the more they are pulled to the one who is lifted up, just so their souls can find healing.  Such was the story of the serpent on the pole – look there – find healing.  It was the nature of Solomon’s temple – for believers – look there – find forgiveness/healing, for non-believers, God will hear them – and bring them what they need.

It is, always and forever, about our relationship with Christ, for nothing else provides us with what we need, nothing is like the one crucified to show us His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people.

May the Holy Spirit remove from us everything else that catches our eyes,,,, leaving only Christ visible…and then, as the Spirit transforms us into His image – may we see that around us with His eyes.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Narcissism in the Church today….breaking it down so “they” can say AMEN!

First United Lutheran Church ca.1890

First United Lutheran Church ca.1890 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 19  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. 20  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. 21  It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. 22  “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. 23  If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! 24  “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. Matthew 6:19-24 (MSG)

Saint John tells us that the other enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep-seated avariciousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, then, use this expression of Sacred Scripture to indicate that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us—other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age—with just human vision. Then the eyes of our soul grow dull. Reason proclaims itself sufficient to understand everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation, which hides behind the power of our intellect, given by our Father God to man so that he might know and love him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human mind appoints itself the center of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect that “you shall be like gods.”22 So filled with love for itself, it turns its back on the love of God. (1)

When we hear the words of the gospel, we often look to our society, to the excess of things that people have.  The chasing after the faster car, the nicer home, the bigger screen.  Some of it comes as well as we think about our children or grandchildren, and we want “the best” for them as well.  The best schools, the best universities, the best spouses.  All around us is this culture of narcissism, and yes, even among us in the church as we buy into the ways of the world.

But it can slip into the church in a different way as well – when we demand that the church meet our needs, that it provides for us.  That the worship service provide what we think we need, that the beauty there is for us to enjoy, that everything in the church revolves around its members – for isn’t the church here to minister to “us”?  You want to know whether a church is healthy or narcisstic?  Look at where it’s treasures are.  Is the budget and the best resources, focused on ministering inward?  Or is it on ministering to those around us – and we the center of the church’s work.  Does the church find comfort in its own secret language, in being anti-cultural instead of counter-cultural?  What about the music – and the sermons?  Do we want the sin confronted to be the sins in our community, or are we willing to have our sins addressed, with both the law that nails them to the cross – and the grace that cleanses us of them? Is the beauty of our liturgy, our sanctuaries, our Bible translations and sermons and our music such that someone who is not familiar with the church, will perceive God’s glory during the service?  Or is it all about those within the church?

Or are we willing to be such a church, that we see what Paul is really saying to the church in Corinth,

 16  Otherwise, if you say your blessing only with the spirit, how is the uninitiated person going to answer ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, without understanding what you are saying? 17  You may be making your thanksgiving well, but the other person is not built up at all. 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 (NJB)  

Paul is telling us, that church doesn’t exist just to encourage the individual – especially the individual who already has been baptized, gifted with faith and repentance, and sealed as God’s child.  The world doesn’t revolve around the believer, nor should the church.  Instead, we are called to love as Christ loved, to submit ourselves to others our of reverence for Christ, to die to self.

For interestingly, it is then, as we willing lose our life – that we find it, and in dieing to self – we truly live.

So this week – as you receive God’s love – see who God is sending you to… to love so well – that they find themselves saying Amen….

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 475-484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Beauty of the Liturgy – Evangelical Catholic VIII

Church HDR

Church HDR (Photo credit: I_am_Allan)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day”
 1  Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. 2  Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. 3  Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. 4  Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, 5  “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” 6  He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 7  Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. 8  You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” John 12:1-8 (MSG)

“Evangelical Catholicism embraces this rediscovery of beauty as a primary category for understanding God and his ways and applies it to the Church’s liturgy. Its approach to church architecture, church decoration, liturgical music, liturgical vesture, and all the other tangibles of the Church’s liturgical life proceeds from the question, “Is this beautiful in such a way that it helps disclose the living God in Word and Sacrament?” In that respect, Evangelical Catholicism’s approach to liturgy is not somewhere “between” the approaches favored by liturgical traditionalists and liturgical progressives, but ahead of the curve of the now-tiresome Liturgy Wars.”  (1)

As I continue my journey through the book Evangelcial Catholic – I came to the above quote regarding the Liturgy.  Comes at an auspicious time, as I am about to start a Adult Bible Study on the Liturgy.

( I am started reading the book for two reasons – the first being a friend recommended it to help me understand where the Catholic Church is heading and secondly, because the Lutheran Churches were once know as the Evangelical Catholic Church )

As I think about the movement of the Liturgy (my study is called “The Dance of the Liturgy”) this concept of beauty is important – if not critical.  It does what I’ve long contended – that in the battles of the owrship wars, the focus in not in the right place – and both extremes make the same error in what they point out is the problem.  Let me illustrate.  Let’s take church A – the are traditional (hymns, pipe organs, chausables, the pastor rapidly goes through the motions  in a near monotone) but the organ is played too loud, the people can’t sing and they do not know what is behind the symbolism of the liturgy, the music, the sanctuary.   Church B is contetemporary/progressive – (band which is made up of low level skilled musicians that don’t quite sync together, casually dressed pastor/priest) but again the music is too loud – there is no flow or theme to the service.  Church C is like Church A – except people KNOW why they are doing what they are doing and why, the organ is used to facilitate worship, and the pastor reads, preaches and prays in a way that is more akin to a dialgoe and story), and Church D – the praise band – moved to the side – practiced and whether simple or complex play as one and focus is such that  facilitates the singing of the people, the service is designed to instill the truth that God comes to them, brings them to life and guides their life in response.

Churches A & B are always held up as the examples of why the other form of worship isn’t “good and right and beneficial”.  They distract people from why they are there, they give rise to complaints and dissatisfaction. They become the basis of the worship wars – the argument that is equivelant to saying the sanctuary is 1/4 full or 3/4 empty.  And they completely take the discussion away from the purpose of the sanctuary – why it was dedicated.  To be a place where

In C & D, I contend – there would be little discussion or nature of worship wars.  The churches are focused on creating an atmosphere that is such that God is easily revealed through word and sacrament.  It’s a complete package – the skills of all of those who facilitate worship.  Where the musician and the pastor are not the focus – but everything blends in together in such a way that it is seamless – that God is the focus, His presence revealed, His love and mercy known and received.

Where the worship, the sermon, and the ‘execution” of them, the actual decor and atmosphere – whether simple or ornate, whether 20 people or 5000 – is “beautiful” because what it is supposed to be, the people of God gathered into His presence, receiving His gifts through (not of) word and sacrament, is what it is.

May all our churches become more and more beautiful, as we abound in His love.

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 71-72). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The Dance of the Liturgy, Learning to Partner with God

Devotional Thought of the Day,

 11  You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. 12  So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. LORD, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever!  Psalm 30:11-12 (TEV)

I’ve been working on a new series for Sunday School – which is shaping up pretty nicely.

It is a refresher of sorts, a way to help people remember why we do what we do in worship – which is in many ways – a rehearsal for life now, and life everlasting.  For those who prefer church terms – it is a on-going catachesis – a way to present the core of our faith in such a way that people see it with fresh eyes.  You see, while our liturgy is worship – it is also where we learn what it means to partner with God, to follow His lead, to celebrate and move.  If we learn the lessons from it – if they become as integral to our life as the steps of a dance are to an accomplished dancer, we find it flowing into our lives – and the dance continues, no longer practice – but lives in us as we leave our sanctuaries.  The steps, the rhythm, the music, all becomes part of us.  Even more – that we are partners with God – becomes more natural, more real, the discipline, the beauty, it is our life.

The first basic key for us – is that everything is focused on our Partner…. as we let Him guide us through this dance of life.

Come, its time to pray, our Partner awaits…

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