Friday, March 27, 2009

Travel to Minnesota

My grandfather has been struggling to breath now for many years, but in the last week the struggle has increased ten-fold. We do not know how long he has to live, and therefore I have traveled with my wife and sister to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, to spend time with what might be his last days in this life. I ask for your prayers and thoughts as our family celebrates and grieves the life of a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He has held witness to a beautiful life of faith and faithfulness both to God and to his family, and even in this last week has desired to "show Christ," to the nurses and doctors who he encounters. I praise God today for the life of my grandfather.

Travel to Minnesota

My grandfather has been struggling to breath now for many years, but in the last week the struggle has increased ten-fold. We do not know how long he has to live, and therefore I have traveled with my wife and sister to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, to spend time with what might be his last days in this life. I ask for your prayers and thoughts as our family celebrates and grieves the life of a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He has held witness to a beautiful life of faith and faithfulness both to God and to his family, and even in this last week has desired to "show Christ," to the nurses and doctors who he encounters. I praise God today for the life of my grandfather.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Wife Swap" - Perversion of a Covenant

An article was posted on CNN today, highlighting the uproar many are expressing about the comments that Stephen Fowler made during an airing on January 30th of the reality show, “Wife Swap.” Apparently, Fowler made comments about his wife being “undereducated,” a “dumb redneck,” and made comments about her weight (you can read the article here). What absolutely astounds me is the outrage that is shown about Fowlers comments, and not that such a show would even exist!

The genre of reality television seeks to provide entertainment by looking at the bewildering lives of other people. That Americans are drawn to and entertained by the “swapping” of spouses absolutely sickens me! Marriage covenant turns to the perversity of entertainment in the public arena. I spoke with a lady this morning who told about losing her step-kids when she divorced her first husband, and said that the beauty of adoption is that even after you split, those kids are still yours. Is this the sanctity of marriage? Is this the life-long commitment to grow in love and stay true to our vows? The American perception of marriage should be a “grievous moment” to those who have experienced the covenant with God: Christ with His Church. Lord, have mercy.

Can P&W Replace the Lord's Supper?

Sunday morning worship, for many, is the formative event of the Christian life. Despite our hopes and theological understanding of the faith and community existing and finding life outside the “one hour on Sunday morning,” the reality is that current Western-individual “church” finds its meaning and life through this institution and particularly through the expressions during a weekly gathering. The evangelical model of this gathering has become known for its time of praise and worship, coupled alongside a necessary expository preaching of the Word (or a moral lesson). There is little question that, in the scope of Christian history and tradition, this is a new way of thinking and practice. Because of a void of written liturgy, Sara Koenig highlights that, “evangelical churches lack a common liturgical text with which to make comparisons with other liturgical traditions, rendering interdenominational dialogue difficult” (141).

Koenig traces this praise and worship model from the Jesus Movement in the 1970’s, with humble beginnings with a “coffee house phenomenon” to the current commercial industry encompassing “recording companies, radio stations…supplemental materials” (142). This movement and commercialization has changed not only the music that we hear and sing, but our theological understandings of worship itself. One cannot breeze by the shocking reality that these “praise and worship” services have replaced the former understanding of the worship gathering, consisting of primarily Word and Sacrament (Eucharist).

If this is true, then the logical conclusion would be that, for some reason, better or worse, the practice and participation in the Sacrament has been replaced with this musical experience. In fact, for many evangelical proponents of this P+W mentality, the experience could be considered sacramental in terms of offering “divine grace,” which is the purpose of Koenig’s article. I am not an opponent of the praise and worship scene, and I credit some of the most formative experiences in my path of sanctification to such ecstatic moments in song and prayer. Koenig says that, “the goal of Praise and Worship time, then, is intimacy with God,” and that, “the intimate encounter with God is followed by instructions on how to obey God in the world” (143). However, I question greatly the liberty that has been taken in replacing the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with this cultural movement, and wonder if we greatly miss out on a deeper experience of God in Table fellowship.

Koenig uses a very popular lyric coming from “Better Is One Day,” to describe the senses involved in P+W:



My heart and flesh cry out for You, the living God/
Your spirit’s water to my soul
I’ve tasted and I’ve seen, come once again to me/
I will draw near to You…


This plea is not only a cry for emotional/intellectual ascent, but to “taste” and “see”; to feel the living God in a bodily sense and draw near (149). It is through these songs that the worshippers expresses desire to see, touch, and taste the Divine presence. Sound like the Lord’s Supper? “Congregational song acts as consecrated bread and wine as it sets the stage for invocation and encounter” (151).

The question then becomes, why participate in the Lord’s Supper at all? Many will answer because, “Jesus instructed it.” But is this really what is meant? Don’t we put aside specific “Jesus” instruction all the time? The giving of one’s possessions, praying the Lord’s Prayer, healing the sick, and caring for the widows, all seem to be instructions that Jesus clearly laid out for followers to participate in. The Christian faith is built not around law, but grace. There is nothing that we can do that has not already been accomplished. So why participate in the Table fellowship, if not because of command or instruction, when the experience of God’s presence - seeing, tasting, touching - happens in our time of singing?

(If you know me, you know that I believe very deeply and give great weight to the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, I obviously have my own thoughts to that final question, but am interested in hearing how others respond. I am sure those thoughts will come out in comments, and maybe in a further post)



All quotations are from:

Sarah Koenig, “This is My Daily Bread: Toward a Sacramental Theology of Evangelical Praise and Worship,” in Worship 82.2 (March 2008): 141-161.

"Wife Swap" - Perversion of a Covenant

An article was posted on CNN today, highlighting the uproar many are expressing about the comments that Stephen Fowler made during an airing on January 30th of the reality show, “Wife Swap.” Apparently, Fowler made comments about his wife being “undereducated,” a “dumb redneck,” and made comments about her weight (you can read the article here). What absolutely astounds me is the outrage that is shown about Fowlers comments, and not that such a show would even exist!
The genre of reality television seeks to provide entertainment by looking at the bewildering lives of other people. That Americans are drawn to and entertained by the “swapping” of spouses absolutely sickens me! Marriage covenant turns to the perversity of entertainment in the public arena. I spoke with a lady this morning who told about losing her step-kids when she divorced her first husband, and said that the beauty of adoption is that even after you split, those kids are still yours. Is this the sanctity of marriage? Is this the life-long commitment to grow in love and stay true to our vows? The American perception of marriage should be a “grievous moment” to those who have experienced the covenant with God: Christ with His Church. Lord, have mercy.

Labels:

Can P&W Replace the Lord's Supper?

Sunday morning worship, for many, is the formative event of the Christian life. Despite our hopes and theological understanding of the faith and community existing and finding life outside the “one hour on Sunday morning,” the reality is that current Western-individual “church” finds its meaning and life through this institution and particularly through the expressions during a weekly gathering. The evangelical model of this gathering has become known for its time of praise and worship, coupled alongside a necessary expository preaching of the Word (or a moral lesson). There is little question that, in the scope of Christian history and tradition, this is a new way of thinking and practice. Because of a void of written liturgy, Sara Koenig highlights that, “evangelical churches lack a common liturgical text with which to make comparisons with other liturgical traditions, rendering interdenominational dialogue difficult” (141).
Koenig traces this praise and worship model from the Jesus Movement in the 1970’s, with humble beginnings with a “coffee house phenomenon” to the current commercial industry encompassing “recording companies, radio stations…supplemental materials” (142). This movement and commercialization has changed not only the music that we hear and sing, but our theological understandings of worship itself. One cannot breeze by the shocking reality that these “praise and worship” services have replaced the former understanding of the worship gathering, consisting of primarily Word and Sacrament (Eucharist).
If this is true, then the logical conclusion would be that, for some reason, better or worse, the practice and participation in the Sacrament has been replaced with this musical experience. In fact, for many evangelical proponents of this P+W mentality, the experience could be considered sacramental in terms of offering “divine grace,” which is the purpose of Koenig’s article. I am not an opponent of the praise and worship scene, and I credit some of the most formative experiences in my path of sanctification to such ecstatic moments in song and prayer. Koenig says that, “the goal of Praise and Worship time, then, is intimacy with God,” and that, “the intimate encounter with God is followed by instructions on how to obey God in the world” (143). However, I question greatly the liberty that has been taken in replacing the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with this cultural movement, and wonder if we greatly miss out on a deeper experience of God in Table fellowship.
Koenig uses a very popular lyric coming from “Better Is One Day,” to describe the senses involved in P+W:
My heart and flesh cry out for You, the living God/
Your spirit’s water to my soul
I’ve tasted and I’ve seen, come once again to me/
I will draw near to You…

This plea is not only a cry for emotional/intellectual ascent, but to “taste” and “see”; to feel the living God in a bodily sense and draw near (149). It is through these songs that the worshippers expresses desire to see, touch, and taste the Divine presence. Sound like the Lord’s Supper? “Congregational song acts as consecrated bread and wine as it sets the stage for invocation and encounter” (151).
The question then becomes, why participate in the Lord’s Supper at all? Many will answer because, “Jesus instructed it.” But is this really what is meant? Don’t we put aside specific “Jesus” instruction all the time? The giving of one’s possessions, praying the Lord’s Prayer, healing the sick, and caring for the widows, all seem to be instructions that Jesus clearly laid out for followers to participate in. The Christian faith is built not around law, but grace. There is nothing that we can do that has not already been accomplished. So why participate in the Table fellowship, if not because of command or instruction, when the experience of God’s presence - seeing, tasting, touching - happens in our time of singing?
(If you know me, you know that I believe very deeply and give great weight to the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, I obviously have my own thoughts to that final question, but am interested in hearing how others respond. I am sure those thoughts will come out in comments, and maybe in a further post)
All quotations are from:
Sarah Koenig, “This is My Daily Bread: Toward a Sacramental Theology of Evangelical Praise and Worship,” in Worship 82.2 (March 2008): 141-161.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Anabaptist Perspective on a Sacrament

The sacramental practice of the Eucharist is an oft debated, overly divisive aspect of the Christian faith, which will most likely continue to cause division despite its very nature to tell the story of our unity through God-Incarnate. I was recently engaged in a discussion revolving around the ordinance vs. sacramental model of the Lord's Supper, and found that I was intellectually yearning for a better grasp of the spectrum of belief and practice. This morning I found a few moments to read an article on an Anabaptist perspective by Michelle Ferguson ("Anabaptist Liturgy: Sacramental Theology," in Direction 36.2 (Fall 2007): 247-257.)


In the article, Ferguson highlights two Anabaptist theologians, Pilgram Marpeck and John Howard Yoder, who have given voice to what many have considered an oxymoron: Anabaptist liturgy. Marpeck defines a sacrament as, "an encounter between God's grace and an existential human response of faith" that must necessarily happen within/through the material world" (250). It is by means of the ceremony that we "grasp the workings of God," through them that we enter into the life of God by being church visibly (250). Ferguson uses Marpeck's ontological understanding of the sacraments as a means to, "regain a sense of mystery we have lost by our practice of reducing sacrament to merely symbolic ordinance" (251). And this supper that is shared between and among believers is an experience that embodies the love of Christ to one another and to the world. The debate that found primary emphasis during the Reformation concerning the Eucharist was the means by which Christ was present; to Marpeck and Ferguson, this "real presence" of Christ happens in the action of the community and its transformation rather that simply through the elements (251).


Ferguson summarizes Yoder's call to see "the significance of the common meal in the New Testament before it was reduced to a wafer/cracker and a sip of wine/juice" (253). Yoder's emphasis is on the social aspect of the meal, and says that, "if their meal failed to reflect the overcoming of social stratification, Paul told the Corinthians that the participants would be celebrating their own condemnation (11:29). In celebrating their fellowship around the table, the early Christians testified that the messianic age, often pictured as a banquet, had begun" (254). It is this, "essential participation in kingdom living," that gave definition and life to the meal. It is in this act that the body of Christ becomes for the world an "ongoing incarnation of Christ" (255).


Pastor Adam Hultstrand emphasized in church yesterday that too many Christians, ourselves included, talk far too much and take far too little action. Ferguson uses her own sacramental understandings and those of Marpeck and Yoder to conclude in a similar fashion that, "As it is, it seems that we "go to church" without being the church; we tell a story we do not live" (255).


Liturgy and sacrament as not only telling, but living the story of God-Incarnate, seems to be a healthy perspective and approach to our common-sacramental meal. I deeply appreciated this short article, and feel that this Anabaptist perspective gives much needed perspective to a too often "religious-ritualistic" practice void of meaning, or at least understanding.

Anabaptist Perspective on a Sacrament

The sacramental practice of the Eucharist is an oft debated, overly divisive aspect of the Christian faith, which will most likely continue to cause division despite its very nature to tell the story of our unity through God-Incarnate. I was recently engaged in a discussion revolving around the ordinance vs. sacramental model of the Lord's Supper, and found that I was intellectually yearning for a better grasp of the spectrum of belief and practice. This morning I found a few moments to read an article on an Anabaptist perspective by Michelle Ferguson ("Anabaptist Liturgy: Sacramental Theology," in Direction 36.2 (Fall 2007): 247-257.)


In the article, Ferguson highlights two Anabaptist theologians, Pilgram Marpeck and John Howard Yoder, who have given voice to what many have considered an oxymoron: Anabaptist liturgy. Marpeck defines a sacrament as, "an encounter between God's grace and an existential human response of faith" that must necessarily happen within/through the material world" (250). It is by means of the ceremony that we "grasp the workings of God," through them that we enter into the life of God by being church visibly (250). Ferguson uses Marpeck's ontological understanding of the sacraments as a means to, "regain a sense of mystery we have lost by our practice of reducing sacrament to merely symbolic ordinance" (251). And this supper that is shared between and among believers is an experience that embodies the love of Christ to one another and to the world. The debate that found primary emphasis during the Reformation concerning the Eucharist was the means by which Christ was present; to Marpeck and Ferguson, this "real presence" of Christ happens in the action of the community and its transformation rather that simply through the elements (251).


Ferguson summarizes Yoder's call to see "the significance of the common meal in the New Testament before it was reduced to a wafer/cracker and a sip of wine/juice" (253). Yoder's emphasis is on the social aspect of the meal, and says that, "if their meal failed to reflect the overcoming of social stratification, Paul told the Corinthians that the participants would be celebrating their own condemnation (11:29). In celebrating their fellowship around the table, the early Christians testified that the messianic age, often pictured as a banquet, had begun" (254). It is this, "essential participation in kingdom living," that gave definition and life to the meal. It is in this act that the body of Christ becomes for the world an "ongoing incarnation of Christ" (255).


Pastor Adam Hultstrand emphasized in church yesterday that too many Christians, ourselves included, talk far too much and take far too little action. Ferguson uses her own sacramental understandings and those of Marpeck and Yoder to conclude in a similar fashion that, "As it is, it seems that we "go to church" without being the church; we tell a story we do not live" (255).


Liturgy and sacrament as not only telling, but living the story of God-Incarnate, seems to be a healthy perspective and approach to our common-sacramental meal. I deeply appreciated this short article, and feel that this Anabaptist perspective gives much needed perspective to a too often "religious-ritualistic" practice void of meaning, or at least understanding.

Labels: