Last Saturday I participated in the ordination service for Scott McDermand and then on Sunday I attended the church he pastors and was able to participate in the first worship service led by Pastor McDermand. The pew I was sitting in was almost completely full and I was right in the middle. To my right was Scott’s sister and then his dad and then his wife. To my left was a family I had dinner with on Friday. To my immediate left was the daughter, in her twenties, and next to her was her boyfriend. She and her boyfriend trickled in late, just after the first hymn. But it was her posture during worship that got my attention. Every time we were seated she was hunched over on her boyfriend, head on his shoulder. She was obviously tired. I don’t … Read More »
Happy New Year! This is the first Sunday in Advent, which is regarded by Western Christianity as the beginning of the liturgical year. Sometimes Christians mistakenly think of Advent as being synonymous with the birth of Christ or with Christmas. But it really isn’t. In fact, Advent’s primary focus is on what we usually call the second coming of Christ. It’s for this reason that you will find the lectionary readings of the church focusing on this topic, this year.
I like what Laurence Stookey says about this, “What may seem to be an anomaly is a very important theological point: The beginning of the liturgical year takes our thinking to the very end of things.” (Christ’s Time for the Church, 121)
This is important because beginning at the end equips us to make sense of the rest of Jesus’ life and … Read More »
Even for Paul there was mystery in the Christian faith, especially when it came to the work of Christ on behalf of his church. Speaking in the context of marriage he would say, this mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). The preface to his summary of the rudimentary facts of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension reads like this: Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). Christianity is not in opposition to a healthy and vigorous life of the mind; nor is it in opposition to mystery. It is opposed to stupidity and ignorance on the one hand and to rationalism on the other. When we come to the topic of the Eucharist we come to a topic of great mystery. Perhaps this is … Read More »
This week we raise and hopefully answer the question: Why do we pause to remember the Protestant Reformation each year? Let me suggest three reasons why. First, we do so to emphasize our catholicity. To answer the question like that is somewhat ironic because historically the Reformation was the watershed event that severed the Protestants from the Roman Catholics. By catholicity I don’t mean “Roman Catholic.” Rather, I mean, in the most rudimentary definition of the word, unity. That is what “catholic” means. When I became the pastor of New Life in October 2005, the Reformation service was one of the first things that I organized. Each year we host an evening worship service in which like-minded churches join together to celebrate their unity centered around the truths of the Reformation as codified in the reformed confessions and around the … Read More »
It’s a very old practice for the minister to ask parents or sponsors bringing an infant to be baptized what the child’s name is. Specifically, “What is the Christian name of this child?” To us modern westerners it sounds strange. Is the minister that disconnected that he doesn’t even know the child’s name? We tend to ascribe a name at birth. I have a hunch they did the same thing in the early centuries of the church and in Israel as well. But the formal naming of the child was tied to circumcision in the Old Testament (Luke 1:59) and to baptism when it replaced circumcision in the New Testament. Evidence suggests that adult converts often changed their names at baptism. What this suggests, then, is that for Christians baptism is the beginning. It all starts here, in the water. … Read More »
The recent NFL controversy—which is spreading to other venues too—concerning the appropriate posture during the national anthem got my mind running in so many different directions.
First, there is the liturgical path I went down. We are liturgical beings and therefore we need structure and order and routine. It’s just what we do. It’s who we are. It’s all around us if we will look around and see. We need it. We crave it. As such the national anthem serves as the liturgical call to worship of all American sporting events. Very interesting, to me at least.
Rather than merely parroting some words passed down through the generations,our confession of faith is a pledge of allegiance to king Jesus.
Second, I got thinking about the nature of this national anthem itself—this cultural call to worship—and what protests to it signified. Far more than … Read More »
With very rare exceptions, the answer to the question: “Who may come and partake of the Lord’s Supper?” is universally answered with the word: Christians. That is, there would be very few who say it doesn’t matter if someone is a Buddhist or Muslim or an atheist. Come as you are. All are welcome. Very, very, very few would hold to that position. That said, while the majority of Christendom would reserve the table of the Lord for Christians, defining who and/or what a Christian is, is another thing altogether. And the difficulty of that definition then manifests itself in differing approaches to what is called fencing the table. Some want to build a really big wall to keep people that don’t belong out. Others not so tall or no wall, at all.
The no-wall-at-all position is called Open Communion. I’ve … Read More »
Every Sunday we gather for worship because we believe God will do exactly what He promised. He calls us together every week promising to cleanse us from our sins, speak to us in His word, hear our prayers and praises, feed us at His table, and send us out into the world under His blessing. As we gather, God renews His covenant with us so that we may live each day in communion with Him and with one another. Because we trust His promises, we come together expectantly looking to our Triune God to work on and in us that we might work for Him.
In his book Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross, Doug Jones suggests that one of the ways of the cross—that is of following Jesus—is the “Way of Community.” He suggests that,
The way … Read More »
Thousands of years ago, God called a man named Abram to leave his home, his country and his family and promised to bless him and bless all the families of the earth through him. That covenant promise has been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the descendant of Abram, who forgives sins through His death and resurrection, and is in the process of restoring the divisions of the human race, restoring men and women to the glory for which were made.
Because we trust His promises, we come together expectantly
Every Sunday we gather for worship because we believe God will do exactly what He promised. He calls us together every week promising to cleanse us from our sins, speak to us in His word, hear our prayers and praises, feed us at His table, and send us out … Read More »
There are many words students of Christianity have used to describe modern Evangelical Christianity, but few are better than the word rootless. Historically, theologically, and liturgically modern Evangelicalism lacks any type of mooring. And to most evangelicals that is not an insult or theological slur. In fact, in many circles it’s a badge of honor. Theological and liturgical innovation is encouraged and something to be celebrated. As you probably guessed, this saddens and scares me. I desperately want to be part of Christendom and its theology and traditions, theology and traditions that date back thousands of years. I want to engage in the theology and practice of the past in the ways Christians always have. In this way we are not against tradition across the board—as Protestants are often accused of being. Rather we are opposed—like Luther and Calvin—to bad … Read More »