Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Words with no place in worship.

(This article is written for mature believers only.  New converts and immature believers will be learning this content as they go.)

Worship is sacred.

Worship is beholden by God.

Worship is directed, and we obey.

Sometimes we lose track of what we're supposed to do. We lose our way and become lost sheep.  We lose light of the flock and the Shepard and we start placing the focus elsewhere.

Here are some things I have heard said in churches that have no place in worship:

"Well normally we stand for the Gospel, but we've done a lot of standing today so let's all sit for the Gospel."

Is it important to stand during some parts of the service?  Can't we worship in our spirits even if we don't look like it?  After all, we hear the same thing.  We get the same information.  I still get a lot out of it. I'm still being fed.

Standing is a sign of reverence just as lifting your hands is a sign of praise and adoration.  If you choose to sit during a visible sign of reverence, you are doing the opposite of revering the Creator of the universe... you are despising Him.  I guarantee that the person who said this did not mean to despise the Lord.  Most likely, this person never learned the significance of standing during the Gospel.

However, think about the implication that must have been made. We stand to revere God, but we're tired so let's sit down.  The considerations are pitting our comfort versus God's deserving of reverence.  How many times in a week do we decide not to do something for God that he has designed for us to do for the sake of our own comfort?  How often do we skip morning prayer so we can sleep a little longer? Do we miss the Eucharistic celebration so we can have some family time, or so that we won't have to work hard to get there on time in the morning? Do we not raise our hands because it makes us uncomfortable?  Do we not pray in public for the same reason? Do we watch The Voice instead of reading the Word?

Any time we make a decision to honor our own comfort instead of honoring God, we are placing ourselves at the center of the universe.  Our faith is based on sacrifice.  His sacrifice becomes the model of our sacrifice.  He hung on a cross for hours...  we can't stand for a few minutes?

"Well we have a baptism today, so there's not enough time for the eucharist."

Can I suggest that all other elements of worship are expendable other than the Eucharist?

The Eucharist is at the center, without the center you only have emptiness. In too many traditions today, things of men are at the center.  Music.  Reading.  Videos. The sermon. Youth Group.  Coffee hour.

Can you have the worship Jesus designed without the sermon?  Yes.
Music? Yes.
Readings? Yes.
Videos?  Yes.
Youth Groups? Yes.
Coffee hour?  Yes.
Sunday School? Yes.
The Offering? Yes.
Even the sermon? (thousands of preachers are saying "No! Not the Sermon!!"  /   while their congregations are thinking "Well...maybe cutting it down to 10 minutes?")


Jesus did not say do it when nothing else is going on.  Jesus did not say, eh you should do it, but if you're having a busy Sunday, get rid of it.

How self-focused is it of us to disobey our Savior?  If we're going to disobey Him here, why not other places?  Can you think of anywhere else in our culture where were are choosing not to obey what He commanded us to do? Maybe a big reason why is because we as the Church have been choosing not to obey Him.

As Christians we really need to think deeply about the decisions we make and analyze what the impact of them are.

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Engaging Our Culture With Good News

O and E at St.P’s CEC

by Michael Kinsey, St. Patrick's Seminarian
Online Ministry Writer--Outreach and Evangelism (O and E)
Vol. I, 2

Engaging Our Culture With Good News
Ren Fest, History Forums, Medieval Re-enactment

Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ!  I hope the last month has treated you well and has seen a deeper faith in God.  Having gone through Lent and just experiencing the wonder of Resurrection I pray that you have a new vision of who God is and who He wants you to be! 

This month’s edition of O and E at St. P’s CEC is going to focus on one part of our convergent nature.  We are a sacramental/liturgical, evangelical and charismatic communion.  The question I posed to all of you in the first edition is the question of “how?”  How can we reach out to people who have lost faith or who have never had faith through each of the three streams of the Church?  This edition will focus on how to reach out to people who will respond best to the sacramental/liturgical stream.

To begin, we must realize that we are not leaving out any information about our communion.  We are convergent.  Just because some people might respond better to knowing that we are sacramental/liturgical does not mean we neglect to speak of the other two streams!  What a surprise that would be for the seeker to come into a church thinking we are only sacramental and they hear the evangelical Gospel and witness charismatic expression!  We must always remember to include each stream, even if we are focusing on one in particular.
So, who are the people who would respond best to knowing that we are a sacramental/liturgical church?   I would say there are two categories of people who would respond best.

 (1)  There are some individuals who have an avid love of history, of cultural (or family) tradition and of learning from those realities so that their lives might be lived more fully. 

These types of individuals would be well-suited to have a discussion about the sacramental/liturgical aspect of our communion.  Think for a moment, we are a modern expression of the Ancient Church.  We continue the rites, the rituals and the regulae fide (the rule of faith)!  We are connected to the Ancient Church in a very real, tangible and visual way.  Anyone who loves history can appreciate the historicity of our modern expression.  This kind of individual can be found studying in college libraries, posting in history forums online and participating in festivals like the Renaissance Festival or the Mountain Man Festival. 

In order to reach these individuals we need to be present in these areas.  Colleges need Christ more than ever.  Professors speak against faith and for vain philosophy even in the religion classes!  Students who have any inclination toward faith are quickly isolated.  We need to break down that isolation and show them that they are not alone!  UB and Daemen are on our back doorstep.  How can we reach the history lovers with the Gospel and with a modern connection to the Ancient Church?  Online forums are often bereft of Christ-likeness.  We can interject Christ’s love in those forums while at the same time demonstrating the ACTUAL connection our communion has with the Ancient Church!  We can go to the Renaissance Festivals (a great excuse to dress up) and proclaim the Gospel!  We are LIVING history.  What more does a performer at a Ren Festival or Mountain Man Festival desire but to LIVE OUT history?  We can provide that for them regularly through the active connection we have to the Ancient Church!   

     It takes commitment, however, to do that.  It takes a healthy realization that we will not reach everyone all at once.  It will be hard work.  These are not the only places that history/culture lovers congregate.  There are more.  We need to be there, advocating for a living history in the living Ancient Church.    

(2)  There are those who would respond best to discussions of God through the promise of God showing up in worship! 

This can happen in each of the three streams of Church, although differently.  God shows up in church through the Eucharist, which is the most obvious first step in the discussion.  There will be questions about transubstantiation, consubstantiation, etc. which can be answered later by the parish priest.  The most important aspect of the Eucharist for which we advocate is that God arrives through it.  Do you need God’s actual presence to see you through your difficulties?  God is present in the Eucharist!  Do you need God’s actual grace to give you peace in the midst of tribulation?  God’s grace is present in the Eucharist!  Yet, God and His grace is in the midst of each of the sacraments!  Do you need healing?  God and His grace are in the sacrament of Healing!  Do you need grace to resist evil?  God and His grace are present in the sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation!  Do you want you and your fiancĂ© to have a blessed marriage?  God and His grace are present in the sacrament of Marriage!  Do you feel like you want to give your life entirely to God and His work? God and His grace are present in the sacrament of Holy Orders!  Are you struggling with sin and evil?  Has your life been in a tale-spin spiral at an ever increasing speed?  God and His grace are present in the sacrament of Reconciliation!  He can stop the tail-spin and set your airplane aright! 

Brothers and sisters, THIS IS EXCITING!  God is PRESENT with us in the sacraments!  Those who are struggling in life need to know this!!!  So the question becomes, who can we reach through sacrament language?  The answer is this – ANYONE WHO IS HURTING!  Whether people say they are agnostic, atheist, or other, everyone needs and wants assurance that someone else is looking out for their best interest.  Who better to look out for our best interest than God?  So, is there someone you know that is hurting, Christian or otherwise, who needs to know that God is actually present and that His grace can actually assist?  Tell them about the presence of God and His grace in the sacraments!  I am sure the parish priest can and will answer the more difficult questions that arise. You are called to preach and proclaim. The priest can teach and explain!

So, brothers and sisters, do you know of any history and culture lovers that are also hurting?  These are the people who are going to best respond to the sacramental/liturgical nature of our communion.  Reach out to them in love.  Demonstrate the Gospel to them.  Invite them to church to experience the rites, the rituals and to see the grace of God visited upon those who are baptized through the Eucharist.  With prayer, patience and love, they will ask for baptism (if they are not already baptized) or take the Eucharist fresh (if they are already baptized).  They will experience for themselves the actual presence of God and His grace through the sacrament and through the liturgy.  More than filling our pews, or the coffers, we are called to preach and proclaim Christ to a lost and broken world.  This is our mission.  This is our purpose.  Join with St. Patrick’s to see that the city of Buffalo hears the Good News once again – fresh – Ancient – with God’s very presence.