Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Words With Weight
The Greek word translated here as "empty" (kenos) could mean "empty" in a literal sense. In one of Jesus' parables, for example, a servant goes on behalf of his master to fetch the harvest from some tenant farmers, but they beat the servant "and sent him away empty-handed [kenon, a form of kenos]" (Mark 12:3). In Ephesians 5:6, kenos is used metaphorically. Empty words are those that lack substance, wisdom, and truth. They are words not filled with reality or matched with action. The famed fourth-century preacher, John Chrysostom, said when preaching on this verse from Ephesians, "There are always people among us who want to diminish the force of words. . . . Empty words are words that are for a moment attractive but in no way are proved by deeds" (Homily on Ephesians 18.5.5-6.1).As I read that today I find myself wondering about a situation where empty words have taken hold. Some in the church see it and some don't. Are calls for unity in such a situation further empty words? Is the disunity more harmful to the gospel than the original empty words?
Paul was concerned that the recipients of his letter might be enticed by purveyors of empty words to reject a Christ-shaped perspective on life, especially when it comes to sexuality and greed. We have no shortage of such empty words today. In multiple ways, the empty wordsmiths of our world convince us that life is best when filled with sexual exploits and lots of stuff. We can begin to be persuaded that Christian morality is outdated, irrelevant, and oppressive. Thus, Paul's injunction to the Ephesians deserves a new hearing today: Let no one deceive you with empty words.
There are so many variables in such circumstances that I do not think there can be a straightforward answer. There is so much Christian division that I know we dilute the message. But unity in support of emptiness is not genuine unity either.
It is also not good enough to be "true to your own perspective." I am a sinner, like all other sinners, and I can be wrong. My perspective must be shaped and tempered by Scripture and others steeped in it.
This I know - I mourn for the church right now. We mix empty and meaningful words with such ease anymore that we present people with enormous dilemmas. How many are lost on the horns of such dilemmas?
church dilemmas emptiness
Monday, March 02, 2015
The Sunday Service
The Christian church has culturally cross-pollinated its worship for almost two millennia. Egeria, a fourth-century Spanish pilgrim, wrote an eyewitness account of worship practices in Jerusalem. Those practices became the basis for the emerging liturgical year. In the sixth century, after retaking the Italian peninsula from the Ostrogoths, Emperor Justinian appointed three popes. The result was "blended worship," a mix of East and West that brought the Hebrew Halleluia and the Greek Kyrie Eleison...I have to be honest, I almost want to vomit when I read a sentence that uses the phrase "blended worship" in a sentence discussing Hebrew and Greek traditions. Talk about rewriting history! Note as well the confusion of the service with worship. Worship is a component of a church service, but it is not the sole reason for the service.
You want to really discuss history. The emphasis on preaching of the modern Protestant church arises out of the general spread of literacy. Ceremony, iconography, liturgy arose becasue in an essentially illiterate society, they were ways of driving home the ideas involved in Christianity. We moved away form them becasue people can read for themselves now.
And yet we live in a post-literate age. Young people communicate primarily in images - video, selfie, etc. They do not even communicate through music really. In this age of musical pursuit by style instead of radio programming. music is highly eclectic and less communicative than it is evocative. But studies show that young people prefer communicating in this manner becasue it allows them to fashion an image instead of be truly self-revelatory. These modes of communication are about keeping ones deepest self isolated from the outside world.
Historically, the liturgy with accompanying imagery and music, repeated as it was over and over and over again, reached people on deep soul-like levels. You cannot keep something you repeat so frequently "out there." It reaches into you through the sheer weight of the repetition.
It's not about culture, it's about changing lives and any discussion on the Sunday Service that is about cultural adaptation bothers me. It is asking the wrong questions. Of course it will adapt to culture, but not for culture's sake. The deeper must be preserved in the process.
church liturgy music service
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
On The Nose
The Church polices the boundaries of orthodoxy, of course. This requires negations, as the delicious denunciations of the Syllabus of Errors illustrate. But in the main Catholics tend to see the Church as self-sufficient, a world unto itself. Most Protestants sense this, and it can be very irritating to them.I think that describes perfectly what is wrong with the Protestant church - we are defined largely by being not Catholic. That said it also contains a warning for the Catholic church, it's not "self-sufficiency" it is Christ sufficiency. I think it is self-sufficiency that has lead to most the issues in side Catholicism, when they place the good of the church in front of Christ. (but then that is true for most churches when they err.
I can imagine a speaker at a “Future of Catholicism” conference discussing the ways in which Pentecostalism in South America puts great pressure on the Church. Protestantism is obviously part of the world in which the Church finds herself. Moreover, the Church has an ecumenical vocation, and that requires engaging Protestantism. But on the whole when Catholics discuss or debate the future of Catholicism the issues are almost always intramural.
But dangers aside, the Catholic presumption of self-sufficiency is for the best. The conviction that our future comes from within provides an important freedom. For when we’re too dependent on negation, we allow ourselves to be defined by changing winds of fashion. That’s because what we don’t do and believe depends on what others do do and believe.
The Protestant church, particularly in its evangelical expressions, works so hard to be in the world that it is often consumed by the world. At least when measured numerically, this greatly aids evangelization, but it hurts maturity. There is no place for the more mature Christian to retreat to to be fed and rest and revive. Revival in the Protestant tradition consists of returning to "the gospel message" getting fired up about it again rather than advancing in our own personal relationship with God, the church and the world.
The Protestant church is like someone wandering the wilderness aimlessly, the Mountain Men of religion if you will. The Catholic church is like the army - building outposts and reaching into the wilderness from those outposts. I wonder if that analogy might help the relationship between the two? The army could use a good scout from time to time.
Catholicism Protestantism evangelism
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Getting What You Want
If you were to ask me if I am an idolater, my first answer would be "No! I worship the one true God." That's true. But if you were to ask me if I worship anything besides or alongside God, I might be less confident in my answer. Then, if you were to ask me about my desires, I would readily admit that there is plenty of competition in my heart when it comes to yearning. Yes, I desire God. But I also desire lots of other things. Some of these are good things, things that are gifts from God, like the love of family. Yet, at times my desire for those things can exceed my desire for the Lord. Periodically, he and I have a good chat about this, which mainly involves my confession, reception of forgiveness, and then a renewal of my commitment to love the Lord more than anything or anyone, more than security, more than health, more than my family, more than making a difference in the world.The secularist would argue that this sort of "Christian advice" is really about coping with disappointment, that if all we desire is God, we cannot be disappointed. I can see and understand that argument, but why is that practicality a bad thing?
See that's the thing about God's instructions, they sound holy, but they are usually very practical as well. What I find most fascinating is the practical benefit the secularist ignores. If we desire God above all, it changes us, not just what we desire. We become better people and becasue we are better people, the world is a better place. If enough people desire God above all the world becomes a very nice place. That's very practical.
But there's the rub, see the secularist is not really holding to a point of view, they are holding to themselves. They can sense the change that would come and they want nothing to do with it.
So, the essential question is are you willing to be changed?
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
It Is A Discipline
Giving is a personal act, and every one of us should set aside an amount of money to give. Even children ought to be taught this. It might be a few pennies, a nickel, or even a dime. But they should be taught that they should give to the Lord.Habits shape us. That which we do habitually becomes a part of us. We no longer think about it, it just happens.
Some people might say, "I think that is legalistic. I like to just give as it comes to me. I like to give in the moment."
Yet Paul instructed the believers to set something aside ahead of time (see 1 Corinthians 16:2). In reality, is it actually legalistic to say, "I am going to take a portion of my income and set it aside to be invested in the work of the kingdom of God"? That is not legalism, friend. That is good planning and obedience. And it is a good way to live.
What better habit than giving? Not becasue of what the money does out there, but becasue of what it does to us. Suddenly the other matters more than the self. We have to practice that. Heroism does not come because we rise to the occasion, it comes because we have habituated it in a thousand small ways through the years. If you do not practice sacrifice, you will not sacrifice when it is most necessary.
We tend to think that money is somehow different than other things we give away like time and energy, but its not. The idea is to develop a mindset of giving of everything that is precious to us.
discipline giving habit
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
It has been said to the point of boredom that we live in a narcissistic age, where we are wont to fixate on our needs, our wants, our wishes, and our hopes—at the expense of others and certainly at the expense of God. We do not like it when a teacher uses up the whole class time presenting her material, even if it is material from the Word of God. We want to be able to ask our questions about our concerns, otherwise we feel talked down to, or we feel the class is not relevant to our lives.What this reflects is a deep, deep problem. There is no question that the Bible often is not directly relevant to a specific situation, but that is not the point. The point is that being a person steeped in scripture is one vital and important aspect of developing character and character gives us the tools to behave as a Christian in a situation where we do not have direct guidance.
It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don’t spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.
This situation reflects the fact that we no longer want to hear that we are sinners that need to have our character reformed. We are all so happy with ourselves that we just need "a little guidance" for a rough patch. That's not even cheap grace, that's no grace. If we are not sinners, then grace is not needed.
The church caters to this because the church more and more appears in need of audience becasue audience fills the plates and pays the pastors and staff. We have quit leading and started following. We no longer lead people to Christ we beg them for attention.
What a lack of faith that represents, it means that we assume that the Christian life is not as attractive as the alternatives out there, so we have to bend the Christian life to be more attractive. If we do not find the Christian life attractive, what will none Christians find?
I need to pray now.
church leadership scripture sin