October 17, 2017

Just Beyond The 100th Time

Dedicated to all of you on the same journey. Keep faith and keep going. You’re not alone.

It’s time for one of your favorite programs here at Internet Monk.com: “Secret, Terrible, Unspoken Thoughts…REVEALED!”

Today’s secret thought was uttered by a commenter in a recent discussion thread, but it’s the kind of terrible thought that lurks in the minds of many of you reading this post. What terrible, shameful, embarrassing secret thought am I referring to?

Frankly, I’m to the point where there isn’t that much a pastor/teacher is going to be able to say that I haven’t heard 100 times already.

I know, I know. Shameful. Can you believe there are people like that out there? Someone call the watchbloggers.

Well…..I’ve thought about his kind of statement a lot. I preach about 10-12 times a month, and have preached as often as 20 times a month at my current ministry. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of sermons on tape, mp3, cd. I’ve read sermons- thousands of them. I’m on both sides of the comment, both criminal and consumer.

Some of those preachers have been my very best teachers. I absolutely believe in the value of the right kind of repetition. Gospel proclamation calls for it. Biblical preaching calls for it. It’s commanded. I do it in the classroom.

But let’s have an honest go at, shall we? What is this commenter actually talking about? (Now the REAL shocking truth will be REVEALED!)

The commenter is correct, and he isn’t saying “tickle my ears with something new.” He’s saying that the model of Christian spiritual formation now extent in worship is one that sees the 40 minute information dump as the primary means of spiritual growth. The sermon, the sermon and the sermon from the preacher, the theologian and the teacher. Plus a daily quiet time. That’s evangelical spiritual formation in a nutshell.

It’s hit me like a ton of bricks this past year: the blogosphere is full of voices that think we are all a bunch of big brains, and nothing more. We need more information. More data. More sermons. More books. More facts. More lectures. We are what we think. We are what we hear, read and think. So open up those brains and pour it in…after an appropriate prayer.

Behind this is a view of humanness that needs to be called out. (More SHOCKING REVELATIONS!!)

What thousands of evangelicals are experiencing is not a call from the Holy Spirit to become an overstuffed theological brain with a vocabulary that can only be decoded by a committee of seminary professors and a reading list that looks like the “atonement” shelf at a seminary bookstore.

No, they- we- are longing for authentic humanness in the Gospel. A full and genuine human experience. Normal human life as God created and recreated it. Not more information in a competition to quote the most scripture and do the best imitation of a walking apologetics class. Not more religion of the (fill in the blank) _______ sort. No….humanness made alive in the incarnation. Created, incarnated, redeemed, resurrected humanity.

We long to be human beings, fully alive to who we are, to God, to one another and to all that being made in the image of the incarnated God means.

We long for beauty, for multiple expressions and experiences of beauty.

We long for relational and emotional connection; to know we are not alone; to love and be love; to be heard and to hear our human family.

We long for worship to engage the senses, the body, the whole personality. We long for mystery, not explanation. We long for symbolism, not just exposition. We long for a recognition of what it means for God to be God and for each of us to be human, not for more aspirations to know as much as God and instructions on how to be more than human.

We long for Jesus to come to us in every way that life comes to us, and not just in a set of propositions.

We long for honesty about the brutal pain and disappointments of life, and we long to hear the voices of others experiencing that brokenness.

We are tired of the culture of lies that Christians perpetuate in their fear that someone will know about the beer in the fridge, the porn on the computer, the affair, the repeated abuse, the unbelieving child, the nagging doubts, the frightening diagnosis and the desperate fears.

We long for a spirituality of stillness, contentment and acceptance in the place of spiritual competition and wretched urgency. We have grown weary and sick of being “challenged” to do more, be more committed, more surrendered, more holy by our own energy.

We long for prayer that is not a means to accomplish things, bring miracles, generate power, impress the listener. We long for the depths of spirituality, not the show of being spiritual.

We long to be loved, to be quietly accepted, to be told to lie down in green pastures, to stop the race, to pray in silence. To be given a spirituality of dignity, not a spirituality that is a feature of this week’s sermon series on how to have more sex, make more money, have better kids, smile more, achieve great things and otherwise turn the salvation of Jesus into a means to an American end.

We long to understand the spirituality of those whose religion does not drive them crazy. We long to know the Bible’s message and then be free to live it. We want to be lifted up, not beaten down. We hope for a simple spirituality, not an exciting, never-before-experienced high from the show.

Yes, the commenter speaks the truth, we have heard the same answers a hundred times. Not the same Gospel necessarily, or even the Gospel applied in 100 different ways. But the same 100 moral exhortations. The same 100 life lessons. The same 100 theological necessities. The same 100 spiritual demands. The same 100 pastors sounding like the same 10 pastors. The 100 same catch phrases. The same 100 commercials. The same 100 half-truths, convenient half-truths and agreed upon untruths.

We have heard evangelicalism’s products, its promises, its prosperity promises, its prevarications and protests at least 100 times. Those of us with longer track records have been through all of this, under different names, with different spins, different bumper stickers, t-shirts and gurus. But it is all the same.

It is far less than the glories of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is far less than it thinks it is. And we feel the emptiness in our souls, even as our minds and senses are overwhelmed by the “wow!”

Where in the New Testament does anyone say how great their church is? Where in the New Testament does anyone brag on their favorite preacher? (Other than in Corinth.) Where in the New Testament are we told to spend money on church advertising and making our pastor’s name the brand of the entire church? Where are we told we know so much that we are experts on everything and can fix anything? Where are we told in the New Testament that we are producing experiences? Where does it say we are competing for the world’s attention the world’s way?

Yes, we’ve heard it all 100 times before, and our children will hear it a 1000 times more if they stay in evangelicalism. They will hear it because the entire gassed up, energized machine is launching itself into the future with all the arrogance it can muster, replete with every answer and all wisdom, learning nothing and seeing nothing wrong.

In 2009, we will hear it all 100 times again and again.

But not all of us. Perhaps less of us than you think.

Some of us will finally say good-bye to this insanity. Some of us will stay, but we will not be listening anymore. Some of us will discover others ways, other paths, other pilgrims and friends.

In fact, many of those standing to say the same things and do the same things and insist on the same things will feel the Great Emptiness in it all.

Somewhere, just beyond the 100th time we hear it all again and the 100th time we hear the new version of it in the latest church, latest book, latest sermon series, latest CD, latest web site and so on….somewhere, we’ll hear it the last time and we’ll walk away.

We will be hearing something else….someone else. Other voices and other music. Another way of being Christian.

Comments

  1. Thank you.

  2. Is it worth noting (before we all run off and become Russian Orthodox) that the New Testament glimpses of churches appear to be pretty heavy on the preaching element of the service? For example, Acts 20:7-12 shows a Sunday Service that includes the breaking of bread but the preaching is the center. Paul speaks until midnight as people literally fall asleep!

    It is interesting that, according to NT Wright, there was a movement in Judaism in the first and second century to provide alternatives to Temple worship. The Pharisaic and Rabbinic traditions made the case that the full presence of God was experienced any time that Torah was read (and this was presented as an alternative to Temple worship).

    I would argue that we as protestants have historically followed this line of reason. If the Bible is God’s word and we are seeking to be conformed to His image it makes sense that the transforming Word of God would be at the center of that effort. I don’t think that the Catholic/Orthodox traditions of a 10-15 minute homily is in any way substantial enough. And I know from personal experience that Biblical illiteracy among even the most devout Catholics is pretty prevalent as a result.

    None of this is to say that some more structured liturgy should not be considered and adhered to but I think we need to avoid the trap of thinking that the long sermon is a modern innovation that should be deemphasized.

  3. Is it worth noting (before we all run off and become Russian Orthodox) that the New Testament glimpses of churches appear to be pretty heavy on the preaching element of the service? For example, Acts 20:7-12 shows a Sunday Service that includes the breaking of bread but the preaching is the center. Paul speaks until midnight as people literally fall asleep!
    First of all, building a pattern based on one instance where Paul spoke a long time at the Sunday service is hardly a good way to decide how to order a worship service. It notes that Paul was going to be leaving the area the next day so I would say that context lends itself to the view that this was an unusual thing rather than the norm. An exception was being made to hear directly from an Apostle and to take advantage of the time that you had him there in town.

    There are other more detailed descriptions of the early church worship service from The Didache and from letters by Justin Martyr to the Roman emporer at the time that show that the pattern was clearly one of a service centered around the Eucharist but that included reading Scripture and teaching. And this pattern persisted for well over 1500 years after the Apostles.

    I’m certainly not saying that there’s some perfect length of time for a homily or sermon to run. But I do think that structuring a worship service around a 40-45 minutes sermon (and pushing Holy Communion to a monthly or quarterly occurrence as a consequence) is not the way it was meant to be.

  4. Ragamuffin: Exactly.

  5. Ragamuffin, Didache does not give any indication as to the relative length or emphasis of the various parts of a Sunday service. Your willingness to dismiss New Testament examples of church is wrong and certainly breaks from the Protestant tradition of allowing Scripture to be our primary guide as to how we should live out our faith. You can discount Acts 20 but I think that it gives us a better sense of what church looked like for the apostles than Didache does. Further, there are other NT examples. For example, the worship on Pentecost in Acts 2 is recounted as primarily a sermon by Peter. There are also several points in Acts where the worship is summarized by the phrase “the preaching of the word” (e.g. Acts 5:42, 8:4, 8:25, 9:28). In Acts 6:2 describes the primary role of a pastor as “preaching the word”.

    And don’t get me wrong, I like a high liturgy and I like tradition. I actually am in favor of a movement in this direction among evangelicals. But I do think that if we look jealously at the Orthodox or Catholics we run the risk of forgetting to blessings of the Reformation where the great reformers rightly placed a huge emphasis on the reading and exposition of scripture as the centerpiece of our worship.

  6. BTW, If we really want to be consistent with the historic traditions, we would stop having short 1 hr services and go to 4+ hour services. Then maybe the 40-45 minute sermon won’t seem so long.

  7. BTW 2, I totally agree on the weekly Eucharist. I think it is bad thing to not do it weekly.

  8. Will S: Exactly how does the use of the term “preaching Jesus Christ” settle the issue that the sermon was the largest component of early church worship?

    Maybe it was, but I’m completely in the dark on how you are making this conclusion. The NT never says how long a sermon should be. Examples of shorter or longer sermons or the content of sermons does nothing to answer the question.

    I am constrained to 20 minutes in my sermons by school schedule. It never occurred to me that this was a problem since my audience has an attention span of about 8 minutes.

    I agree that if all elements of worship clearly taught in the Bible are combined, you have a service longer than an hour. And I agree that the proclamation of the word will be one of the longer elements. But we simply don’t know about the length of sermons or a lot of other things about them.

    And BTW, I loved the phrase “Protestant tradition.” Honesty is always appreciated here. 🙂

    peace

    ms

  9. Imonk, I guess my point was the following. The few examples we have of church services (ie Acts 2, Acts 20) record the events by largely recording the sermon. If we are to assume that Luke was accurately recording the services, I think it is not a big jump of logic to say that the sermon was the centerpiece of the service from a time standpoint.

    By noting that Acts calls elders of the church “preachers” rather than priests or pray-ers or etc I was inviting us to the conclusion that: these men were known for preaching the word *primarily*. Certainly the administration of communion, prayers, and music were part of the job then as they are today but the people knew them to be preachers primarily. I think that is significant and might give us a sense for how they related to the people (by preaching and presumably doing so in the context of church services).

    Maybe I am wrong on this but I don’t see anything in the Biblical tradition that would indicate that communion or anything else should be the center of the service. And I think that Wright’s discussion of the Pharisaic and Rabbinic traditions as viewing the Torah as a valid way to experience God maybe an explanation as to why the Apostle Paul (a Pharisee himself) might adopt such an approach to worship.

    We should keep in mind that Catholics put the Eucharist at the center of the service for theological reasons. They believe that they are performing a sacrifice every time Mass is said and that Christ Incarnate takes the form of bread. This sacerdotal sense of the pastor did not find its roots in the NT and actually did not really gain ground until late in the second century. We should remember that the Greek word for Priest is hierious while the new testament word for a pastor was presbuteros. It all gets complicated in history but at some point pastors started to be known for sacerdotal functions to an extent that prebuteros came to be the word that was used for hierious. We now translate hierious as priest (a derivative of the word presbuteros).

    Obviously theology is a driver of liturgy. While I have argued that it is a mistake to look to the Catholics for answers (for the reasons stated above) I also think the ridiculousness of the typical Baptist service reflects something ridiculous going on theologically.

  10. >…Maybe I am wrong on this but I don’t see anything in the Biblical tradition that would indicate that communion or anything else should be the center of the service.

    Can’t agree with that, though I’m not sure what “center” means in your usage. “Breaking of bread” is accepted by all credible scholars as Eucharist. Paul’s instructions in I Cor are clear.

    I can’t find any evidence in the ECFs that the Eucharist was imported in at the expense of preaching.

    The Didache is pretty strong evidence of a continuity from The Gospels to the Epistles to the early second Cent, and then it’s on to Ignatius.

    I was taught as a Baptist to NOT see the eucharist in the NT because of anti-Catholic assumptions. I don’t see how an honest reading of the Gospels cooperates with any kind of preaching/eucharist “either/or.” It’s clearly both/and.

  11. Oh, let me clarify. I was not trying to say that the Eucharist was imported. Not at all. It was there at the beginning and continues to be a important element of the service (and the tendency to go to once a month communion is simply wrongheaded).

    What I was saying is that Catholics, in general, go to church for the Eucharist. I remember the churchgoers at my RC church would regularly leave after Eucharist (skipping the last hymn, benediction etc). This is a result of theology (specifically the sacrificial and transubstantiation). In contrast, Protestants have historically centered around the word. We have said that the reading and exposition of the Word is the primary means of communing with God. So, similar to the Catholics, it is not strange to see Protestants slipping out the back at the end of the sermon.

    I guess my whole point has been that, while perhaps neither approach is perfect, the latter is much closer to the biblical glimpses that we have (and the Pharisaic tradition that the early church had so many connections to) than the former (which is the result of later theology derived based on Greek philosophical influences). I think we need to be a little careful when we reference ECF as though they are representative of the apostles. The church was grown exponentially in terms of numbers and geography and what may have been done in Lyon or Hippo decades and centuries later. The ECF were as a whole awesome guys that deserve our reading but they certainly implemented some innovations(as any scholar would attest) that we might want to think twice before we adopt.

    Now, perhaps we as protestants need a better theology of the Eucharist. I think you are right that our tendency to completely downplay the sacrament is a reactionary result of anti-Catholic sentiments. The historic Protestant Creeds (39 Articles, Westminster confession, etc) have a higher theology of the Eucharist than what is typically shown in the modern day evangelical church. The Westminster Confession, for example, says that Christ is spiritually present in the Eucharist. Theological confusion on the issue is probably the reason that Eucharist has been relegated to once a month.

    But I don’t think that we will ever have the high view of Eucharist that the Catholics have for the simple reason that this high view is the result of theology that was an innovation of church history and is unsupported by scripture. In short, the Catholics (God love em) are wrong on this one.

  12. About the rabbinic theology that the full presence of God was there whenever the word of God was proclaimed … That does happen to be the same rabbinic theology that Jesus appropriated to himself, and instead of ‘whenever two or three study the Torah, the presence of God is with them’ it became ‘whenever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them’.

    We can’t lose sight that the Word of God was never primarily a book: the Word is always living and active, and is primarily an incarnation: it is Jesus. The proof that the word of God is not mere information is that God did not send a book; he sent his Son, and all the books in the world could not contain him (though it hasn’t stopped us from trying).

    The Word of God created the world (he spoke and it was). The Word of God became flesh — we are not so much the people of the book as the people of the incarnation. And if the word remains information and is not incarnate, if we do not live the words of God (starting with joy in creation’s goodness), then we’ve missed it. “We diligently study the Scriptures because we think by *them* we have eternal life. These are they that testify of *Christ*.”

    Take care & God bless
    WF

  13. WF, Couple things. First of all, your interpretation of I think goes a bit too far. The passage is not an explanation as to how to do a church service but is instead a call to join together in the name of Jesus. That is he was establishing his church. It is interesting that that there was a saying in the Pirqe Aboth (Mishna) that Jesus may have been echoing as he uttered those words. It reads, “If two sit together and teh words of the Law are spoken between them, the Divine Presence rests between them.” I don’t think that Jesus was drawing a contrast between church and the Pharisaic tradition so much as he is placing himself above all the other incarnational touchpoints of the Jewish faith (he also does so with the temple at various points) but I don’t think that we can conclude that therefore Jesus was telling us that the reading of the word is downplayed. On the contrary, I think that this quote (if it is true that Jesus was referecing the Pharisaic saying) demonstrates further that the praxis and modes of worship for Jesus and his followers were closer to the Pharisaic approach than to any other Jewish traditions.

    No, Jesus’ statement does not suggest that he is advocating a radical break from the Jewish worship but instead suggests that he wants that worship to be about him.

    You are right that the New Testament was still be collected in the Apostolic church but every sermon that we find in Acts and the letters that we find within the New Testament suggest that the reading of the OT and the exposition of such in terms of Jesus was pretty darn central. Further, there is much evidence (within and without the New Testament) to suggest that in the days of the Apostles they were already reading each other’s letters and the gospels within their worship and even considering them scripture (i.e. 2 Pe 3:15). In other words, ever single data point we have of the apostlic age shows us that scripture and expositional preaching were central to the service.

    Finally, it is important to keep in mind that neither Jesus nor Paul viewed themselves as inventing a new religion but instead bringing the fulfillment of what had been given before. So to say that Jesus and Paul (one a Pharisee and one close to the Pharisees in many ways) completely changed the worship service without a whole lot of evidence to say that they did (which I don’t think you have presented) begs the question.

    Just to note one more time: I believe that communion is important and should be practiced weekly with weighty worship. I believe that liturgy is unavoidable and therefore might as well be planned. I think that if we don’t have a Christian calendar, we will have a pagan one. I think that the bells and smells of catholicism are not required but can be nice. Don’t get me wrong on these things. I am not a Baptist and I hate worshiptainment. My only point all along has been that scripture and exposition should be central and the protestant decision to place them in the center is based on good scriptural backing, historical backing and theological foundations.

  14. Hi Will

    I think some of your assumptions about me aren’t quite right. But the only point I really want to get across to you is this: either it’s all about Jesus, or it’s verging on pointless.

    Read your own comments on exposition (with which I fully agree): “every sermon that we find in Acts and the letters that we find within the New Testament suggest that the reading of the OT and the exposition of such in terms of Jesus was pretty darn central.” Amen. But when I read it from you, it sounds like the emphasis is on the fact or act of exposition, almost as an exercise or centerpiece; but for them the emphasis was not the exposition but Jesus, and he was the point of the act and fact of exposition, without whom they would not have been expositing.

    Not only are the sermons in Acts about Jesus’ death and resurrection, but communion is also about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and so is baptism. (I’m another of the Lutherans, in case you can’t tell.)

    Exposit all you want about Jesus’ death and resurrection: that is what creates faith, hope, and love. Just don’t tell me that exposition is the point; Jesus is.

    Take care & God bless
    WF

  15. An Anxious Anglican says:

    Will et al: For those of you who are intent on building a liturgy or church service on the texts we find in Acts, there is a very interesting essay in the Guardian this week by Jane Williams (wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a great theologian in her own right) on the question of “when Luke is simply chronicling what his research suggests actually happened, and when he is making theological recommendations.” See the article at this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2008/dec/29/christianity-acts-apostles-church-ideal. For a more extended discussion of what the early church did with liturgy, try Aidan Kavanaugh’s modern classic “On Liturgical Theology.” Both resources counsel caution in trying to discern what a “real” service looked like from Biblical texts.

  16. Triple A, you do realize that I was not making the case that Acts had any sort of exhaustive description of the early church service. What I did argue is that there are a few touch points (the few services that are described coupled with the terms that were used to describe Christian pastors) that seem to indicate that the centrality of scriptural exposition as a means of drawing near to God and His Son. I then coupled this with the well documented fact that the broader Jewish faith viewed scripture as a way of experiencing the divine presence.

    I then made the argument that these two points are helpful indicators that traditional Protestant liturgy that focuses on the reading of scripture and the preaching of the Word are not terribly off base. And I made the argument that the later traditions that played off the development of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the increased emphasis on the literal presence of Christ in the bread are the drivers for Eucharistic centrality in the Catholic service (and other apostolic traditions).

    It doesn’t seem like a big leap of logic to me and it is pretty consistent with the thoughts of protestant theology over the past 500 years.

  17. Will S:

    Are you suggesting that the real presence is a later development?

    Do you believe the early Christians basically had Baptist theology and ecclesiology?

    peace

    ms

  18. I frankly find it hard to believe…bordering on incredulous…that the same men who were roundly being persecuted for holding unswervingly to the faith the Apostles handed down to them, that argued forcefully to their own peril against heresies and syncretism, completely ditched what the Apostles taught them regarding how to conduct worship services and what was the central element of it. So much so that by the time Justin Martyr wrote his letters or the Didache was put to paper that they utterly missed the boat.

    I just don’t find that believable. And two glancing passages in Acts, one of which in context was not a normal Sunday service, aren’t enough to make a Biblical case to change my mind.

  19. imonk, no, I am suggesting that transubstantiation is a later development. Real presence has always been affirmed but the manner and way in which the Christ was present was not defined for many years (actually arguably not defined until Aquinas). But keep in mind that Orthodox and Protestant affirm the real presence in some sense (but both reject transubstantiation). One thing that we don’t find in the early churches is devotion and worship toward the host. This is something that is a result of later thinking. This coupled with the teaching that the sacrament is a sacrifice (something not found in Protestantism) certainly contributed to the change in emphasis from word to Eucharist.

    I don’t think that the early church were baptists.

  20. Ragamuffin, first off as I mentioned before Justin Martyr and Didache do not give us a picture of the relative time or importance of the various elements of a Sunday service they offer instruction and description of the various elements (and not exhaustively). But with regards to the changes between first century Christians and second century Christians in general, if you take the faith of a relatively small group of Palestinian Jews and then expand it quickly to millions of non Jews throughout the Roman empire you are going to get some changes. We are talking about a language change, a cultural change, a philosophical and educational change etc. These are big changes. I would be incredulous if there were no changes. Of course there were changes.

    And keep in mind that I am not even talking major or malicious changes. I am not saying they started denying the faith or rejecting Christ or any thing radical. I am saying that they went from emphasizing the written word of the God and its exposition (a Jewish practice that Jesus and Paul would have been very familiar with) to emphasizing the Eucharist as central (with sacrificial elements that are foreign to the NT and the Apostolic fathers).

    I am no Baptist but I think that we need to realize that if we are imagining that the modern Catholic Mass was even remotely like a first century Jewish service…..well, I can’t help there.

  21. I completely agree with everything you’re saying, Michael. I agree with you that personal transformation is at the heart of it, a personal discovery of what it means to follow the person of Jesus. I do think that a big component that’s missing in Evangelicalism is spiritual direction. If all of us frustrated Evangelicals would seek-out a spiritual director (in the truest sense of the word… not a “mentor” or “accountability partner”) to have someone to journey alongside us, be with us when we ask the hard questions, challenge us to look deeper, be a presence of prayer in our lives, etc… I think we would discover a richness in growth and relationship that we’ve been looking for. If churches saw spiritual formation and ALL that that entails as a main focus of ministry, they would be open to asking, “How is this helpful for growth?” of everything they’re doing. I do really see individual spiritual direction and group spiritual direction as a huge aspect that’s missing in current evangelicalism that has the potential to make a huge difference in our growth. Maybe this is a first step.

  22. “Where are we told in the New Testament that we are producing experiences? Where does it say we are competing for the world’s attention the world’s way?”

    I think it says this all over the NT. Signs and wonders are what grabs you into the NT. Wow, imagine walking on water, experiencing healing, feeling the Spirit shake the room… And didn’t Paul say he was “all things to all people?” Was he really a good Jew as he said in Acts, or did he eat whatever was put in front of him? Sounds like he was being flexible and was “competing for the world’s attention the world’s way.”

    Churches offer this way of thinking because, on a simple level, this is what so much of the NT says. This is entry level Christianity. It is what Jesus and Paul used to get people’s attention. It gets old quickly, but it is biblical. I know I sound cynical, but every enduring Christian eventually realizes a deeper message when they see the inevitability of the cross and the need to only become all things for Christ.

  23. I recently converted to conservative Lutheran after wandering in the evangelical wilderness for 10+ years actively looking for relief from the previous decades caught in the hamster wheel of evangelical principles and etc. I was completely burned out by the law diet and Christless Christianity I kept finding.

    I love the Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper – it is a means of grace and I receive the body and blood of my Savior for the forgiveness of sins among other benefits. This is why it is central to the worship service. It is word and sacrament together – not one or the other. In Lutheran confessional circles you are forgiven with the absolution and the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. Much grace and gospel!

    IMonk – have you read Dr. Allen P. Ross (Anglican) book: Recalling the Hope of Glory? He is an OT professor at Beeson Divinity and his book is supposed to be a survey on worship from Genesis to Revelation. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s supposed to cover why the use of liturgy and communion is the scriptural foundation for how God wants to be worshiped. It’s not a Lutheran book, but I ordered it hoping to understand what the bible says about worship.

    I am relieved to be out of the evangelical nightmare and very slowly learning the traditional forms of worship, hymns, church calendar, lectionary, and etc.

  24. FRISCOSAN says:

    I am filled with love for each of you. Your are a community as God is the community into which we are all beckoned. Don’t ever stop your search for the missing ingredient in you and your churches. I found it after much effort. I didn’t leave my church but I did shake much dust from my feet. I found what was missing in a very unlikely place. It is in my heart right where God said He put it. I was led to it by, of all people, Jesus himself. The discovery started when I was ready to learn from Him and I “happened” to read the title of the first chapter in a book: “What did Jesus teach?” Huh, I already know what Jesus teaches, I thought. I was wrong. My knowledge of what Jesus teaches was only as deep as the ink on the paper. So much for my great teachers the clergy of the various churches, the theolgians, the philosophers the modern day Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes who lay heavy burdens on us. These are the only folks that anger Jesus for the harm they do to his sheep with their superficial understanding and preaching. It was St. Thomas of Aquinas himself who said to his amanuensis “Take all these books I have written and burn them for they are worth only but straw”. This happened after Thomas experienced Jesus revelation directly while offering the Eucharist. He never wrote another word of theology. He had received the missing ingredient. So, what did Jesus really teach? So few seem to know. The scriptures have at least ten levels of understanding, according to some medieval scholars. The ink was not deep enough for me. When I mined Jesus teachings, I encountered great treasures of understanding put there for me to find when I became humble enough to ask, seek, knock. I did have to sell all that I had intellectually relied upon but it was only the garbage Paul said it was. It is clear to me that there are some major problems with the translation, interpretation and application of Jesus teaching. The only way to know for sure is to judge by the fruits, as Jesus taught. The fruits of the prevailing churchy scene were not enough for me, or you, I gather. I had to let Him reveal to me understanding of what He taught and then I had live it to see if it worked, which it does. I found it amazingly simple. All great things are simple. Today, I hang out with churchy people in hopes of passing Jesus’ true teaching along. Though the churchy ones clearly love me, they always joke of burning me at the stake for my outrageous, but refreshing, insights into the scriptures and the current secular/religious scene. It must be good because even the churchiest people eventually see at least some of the light I must try to bring. It is said we are all created with a tiny crack in our skulls, that His light might someday penetrate. I am glad that I can readily admit I am the greatest of sinners and totally unable to make myself or anyone else sinless. It keeps me humble enough to remember that God created me worthy and that I cannot improve on His work. What I can do is unlearn what I learned from the ignorant and gullible people who taught me the great untruths they believed in about their and my unworthiness. Today I am first a spritual being, then a Christian, then a church member.
    Happiest New Year to you all!