Ritual

For those who make the claim, “I’m not ‘religious,’ I’m ‘spiritual,'” this word is like death.

For Pentecostals, this word is like death.

I grew up hearing about “dead rituals.” What I have come to realize is that rituals are not “dead.” As believers, it is often US who are dead. We’re just blaming something else.

Ritual belongs in life. The celebrations of life, the commemorations of life, the memorials of life… all are rituals in some way.

In the life of the Church, the Table of the Lord is ritual. Eugene Peterson has a wonderful passage on “Ritual” in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. 

Jesus ordained the Table, and it IS a ritual. Peterson defines ritual in Communion as an ordered arrangement of actions and words that Christians reproduce wherever and whenever they want to “remember” and “proclaim” salvation.

In communion we realize that reality is larger than ourselves. We need that reminder.

Ritual keeps us in touch with and preserves mystery. The presence of the Lord at the Table is very real. Explain that!

Ritual in the Table of the Lord is critical because we need to realize we can’t manipulate the elements of the Table. We can’t rearrange too much. We can’t manipulate response.

“So a ritual, simply as ritual, prevents me from retaining any illusions that I am self-sufficient at the same time that it thrusts me into a life with others.” (Eugene Peterson)

Let us get lost in the rhythm of ritual.

The Path to Holiness

We want “holiness” is a few easy steps.

Holiness might be “possible” in a few steps, but they aren’t easy. Our affections have to be turned. Holiness comes when our affections are on Christ and not our own agendas. Our vision is full of Christ, and rid of this world’s agenda.

We need the taste of the Kingdom in our spiritual mouths. We need that holy hunger. Taste and see the Lord is GOOD.

We also need “crisis” moments. We realize our tastes have been wrong. Our tastes don’t just need adjusting… they need changing. That brings crisis. We like our lives. We like the way we think things are.

But the Kingdom comes. The taste touches us and we are awakened. But the old tastes don’t go quietly into the night. There is a crisis. Sometimes there may be several crisis points. We have to face our frailty. We have to face our ugly nature. We fall on Christ.

Taste and see… he is GOOD.

The Process of Discipleship and the Beauty of Communion

I wrote earlier about the process of discipleship.

When it comes to obedience, we so often need to “loop” right back up to faith. Discipleship isn’t “linear.” It’s a cycle. It’s a cycle that grows, but we never “leave” a certain step or stage of the process. We build.

That is the beauty of communion. It “loops” us around.

We come back to faith. We come back to the reality of the Beatitudes: no one is beyond Kingdom blessing. We come to Table of the Lord saying, “Thank you, Lord, for reaching down to touch my life. I am not beyond your reach!”

We need the constant reminder that we are broken human beings in need of the blessing of the Kingdom. We come to this table and realize that YES! the Kingdom of God HAS touched us! We are truly blessed.

The gifts of God ARE for the people of God!

Whiplash Politics and Reactive Christianity

Another fine column by David Brooks in The New York Times illustrates our extreme unhappiness with all things government. We just can’t be satisfied. Those who want limited government really aren’t happy. Those who want government involvement aren’t happy, either.

As Brooks points out, what HAS happened in the past ten years is government has become more pervasive, and that happened under BOTH political parties controlling the system. What we are getting as a result is an experiment very few people really want. The backlash may be incredibly severe.

Our current age of 24 hour “on” is going to give our culture serious whiplash issues. For instance, President Obama has been in office just over a year and a half and already there are rumblings of his demise in the mid-term elections and the question of his re-election. Eighteen months and we’re not happy.

Liberals aren’t happy because he hasn’t moved fast enough. Conservatives are unhappy because… well, because he’s a Democrat.

Republicans are licking their chops as they anticipate regaining control in at least one house of Congress.

It all hinges on dissatisfaction. It’s not about answers, really. It’s about dissatisfaction. Obama and the Democrats were elected based on the dissatisfaction with Bush. This mid-term election will hinge on people being dissatisfied with the direction the Democrats are going.

It’s not just that we’re unhappy. We’re unhappy in a hurry.

And this thought brings me to Christianity, American style. We are just a dissatisfied bunch. Evangelicals have a current backlash where a younger generation is fed up with evangelicals being tied to the Republican party. It’s a fair critique. But, the backlash has been wild and crazy.

The reaction has gone from just choosing not to vote Republican to tossing out all semblance of “church” and now we have churches that don’t look like churches doing theology poorly and Jesus is convoluted in our practice. We look for churches like we’re looking for a new style of clothing at the mall.

We’ve created a whiplash Christianity as well. It’s not that we’re just choosing not to be the Republican waterboy. No. We have to throw it all out and act like pagans in the process. It’s become almost an anti-church movement. We’ve lost the Body of Christ. You lose the Body of Christ, don’t pretend you actually know the HEAD. You don’t have the HEAD without the BODY.

Hopefully we’ll settle down and realize it’s just crazy to throw in with ANY political party lock, stock, and barrel. (That has a ways to go, but with the speed in which we do things now, it may not take long. It’s now vogue to make sure you vote DEMOCRAT. Crazy.)

Hopefully we’ll settle down and realize the CHURCH is vital. We find a body of believers and STICK with that body. We worship together. We DO LIFE together. The substance is CHRIST. And his substance is found best in his Body.

Let the political system suffer from whiplash. Let’s not play that game with Christ and his Church any more.

Narcissicistic Christianity

I admire people who write well, and say things I try to say. When I write them it’s just not very fluid.

This post on “Jesus and me broke up” is outstanding. It encapsulates my thoughts on what is going wrong in American Christianity. We have a Christianity that isn’t about Jesus. It’s about “me.” There is a power that is about living in Christ. His resurrection. His death. We need to remember it is NOT about us! It IS about him! HIS glory! HIS kingdom.

This paragraph stands out:

“The same Jesus who gave himself again to his disciple after they had contributed to the process by which he was killed, this same Jesus was concerned (prior to his death) that he be remembered precisely for and in his death. This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you. Do this to remember me! The Jesus of Christian faith is not an invisible psychological aid. The experience of resurrection is this: living he confronts us with his death. He wants us to know him as a man who poured himself out for the world and also as a man who was broken by the world. This death is the culmination of the person and it is this that determines whatever kind of ‘relationship’ we might have with him.”

We don’t need a “relationship” like WE know that word! It’s not just a “romance.” I need to be confronted by a holy God and WORSHIP him. It is like the story of Peter the day the Lord told him to cast his nets on the other side of the boat. When the huge haul came in, Peter’s response was, “Get away from me! I’m not worthy!” He had encountered the holy. It like Isaiah in Isaiah 6. We are confronted and we cry, “I am unclean!”

YES, we are then given access. But we should then keep a holy response. We live in the power of the Kingdom… YES! We are called to cast out demons… YES! Heal the sick… YES! But let’s not turn that into a sloppy relationship where we just take advantage of a still holy God.

It is not about narcissicistic romance. It’s not this relationship where we cry to God, “What have you done for me lately?”

It is about being confronted with our offense, then touched by forgiveness. It’s not about romance. It’s about discipleship.