Worship should create a new paradigm

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This is a collection of items that are quick and to the point, mostly observations on being a Christian, but emphasis on worship. As always you are welcome to add your comments, I look forward to hearing from people on what I write, it helps to know if they are just being effective. Thanks and God bless and as always come and worship at First St Johns 10:30 am Sunday mornings 140 W King St downtown York, Pa. Plenty of on street parking. Bring this blog with you and you will get a Lutheran Coffee cup and a copy of Lee Stroebel’s “A Case for Christ”.

+++ There’s a story on AOL, a woman who was arrested because she left her children in the car to go to a job interview. She’s homeless, unemployed and needed a job. Yea, enormously stupid, but certainly a symptom of how we have lost a sense of community. We have an employment support group at First St Johns. No, we wouldn’t be able to solve all this woman’s problems, but I’m sure we could have helped. If she had got in touch with me and said “hi, I’m part of the employment group, I’m part of the church and here’s the deal…” I would’ve watched the children if that was the problem, but you know what, I’d bet you a serious money I’d find someone in the church who would be happy to serve and to watch the children. There is an effort to raise money for her, don’t know if it’s for her defense or provision. Either way, the barn door’s getting closed late. The church is always for the gospel of Jesus, but it’s also there for the mutual support of the saints, and those who the Holy Spirit brings to His church. There would be a lot more in terms of community if we would rely on and support the church so that we can collectively support each other and build a community for the saints, present and future. This woman wouldn’t be in jail and in jeopardy of losing her children. I ask you, what would have been better for her and you, being part of a group that is there to support each other, or picking up the pieces afterward. Furthermore, what organization in today’s society, other than the church, that’s really available to provide such support? You can start tomorrow, 140 W King St, downtown York, worship at 10:30am

+++ In seminary, in the church that I was called to, in fact just seemed to be the general wisdom, that “contemporary” worship was the way to go to really reach people in worship.

The first difficulty that I encountered in this respect was, what do we mean by contemporary worship? Many who are in the National Church, and the local church, have their own idea of what “contemporary” is, and it is just not “contemporary”. I have my own idea of “contemporary” and frankly my idea is dated, not entirely out of the arena, but definitely on the edges. What is “contemporary” now is good, there is plenty of good stuff there, but this is not what is generally accepted in the church, and it seems the more I read, the more it seems as if people in general don’t think this is “worship”, it’s great and appreciated, but not for worship.

This is counter-intuitive to me, but the more research I read, the more anecdotal evidence I hear and see, the more it indicates that the younger generations are looking for more traditional, liturgical, what I’ve come to call “classic Christian worship”.

The latest is from the Barna Research Group. Barna is on the cutting edge of research on the Christian community. The latest findings are related to the perceptions of the new pope, Pope Francis. The following describes Roman Catholic worship attendance. Roman Catholic worship continues to be highly liturgical, still in the tradition of centuries old worship. More and more I am convinced that is what people are looking for today. Society today is so unstable, starting with the family unit and cutting through society to the biggest institutions. While the church is certainly fits into that cross-section, it seems that there is a resurgence and it is in more “classical” worship. This trend seems to be in the younger generations who see that there is at least some stability, something much more substantial in classical worship. It seems as if “Boomers” and older are still tied to “contemporary” worship, that is what is contemporary to them. But the younger generations more traditional. The Barna report says: “Looking at reported weekly church attendance numbers from January 2013 to January 2014, attendance among all U.S. adults declined from 37% to 36%, and from 48% to 46% among self-identified Catholics. Interestingly, Catholic Boomers and Elders (those ages 49 and older) are less likely to report church attendance in a typical week, while Catholic Millennials and Gen-Xers show significant increases in church attendance over the last year. Among Millennial Catholics, church attendance is at 47% compared to 34% just one year ago—an increase of 13 percentage points. Among Gen-X Catholics, 42% attended church in the past week, compared with 32% a year ago.
In an open-response question, the survey asked those who reported changes under Pope Francis’s influence to describe what, specifically, they are doing differently. Among the most common answers were returning to more regular church attendance, more frequent or fervent prayer and stronger belief or trust in God. Other common responses highlighted one of Francis’s trademarks: under his influence, at least a few Catholics and Protestants—young and old alike—say they are trying to be more humble.”. (Barna Group Mar 18, 2014) These are certainly indicative of “classical” worship, versus “contemporary” worship which is much more focused on passivity, being entertained.
No, I’m not saying this is conclusive, but frankly if there’s a trend at all, what Barna reports seems to be consistent with the rest of what I’ve seen and heard. I’m not saying that worship should be driven by public opinion (yes I can hear the gasps even in cyber-space). I am saying that is what is going on around us, is driving many back to actual worship. That is worship that is tangibly understood as worship, we are realizing that we cannot depend on the things around us and many are seeing the church and genuine worship as something to depend on and bring us back into the presence of the Lord, He who we can trust in and rely on.

+++  One of my most discussed posts has been on the Lord’s Supper. The Lutheran Church teaches that in the Lord’s Supper we receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus. It is not just a memorial or some kind of remembrance, but that Jesus is truly giving us His Body and Blood to give us spiritual nourishment, to give us forgiveness of our sins. Because this is His true Body and Blood, we are, obviously expected to treat the Lord’s Supper with great reverence, that it is only for those who are truly in Christ and who the Lord has brought to a true understanding of what they are doing in the communion. This is done through the teaching of the church.

Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 11:27-30: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

Clearly it is not in the interests of one who does not properly discern the Body and Blood and the pastor who is responsible for the proper instruction and guidance. Dr Martin Luther refers to pastors as “soul doctors”, a responsibility, at least I don’t take lightly. To be unworthy is not meant to be a pejorative statement, it’s simply meant to say, if you do not understand what this is all about, it’s not going to do you any good. Further more for those who actively abuse it, Paul is saying that many have become sick and even died. If we take Paul seriously, why would we even play around with this?

I’ve been watching the “Bible” series and I saw a really great illustration about this concept. At the Last Supper Jesus gives Judas the “sop”, piece of bread and then Judas rushes out of the upper room. As soon as he gets outside he starts choking and it shows Judas spitting out what I would think of as the Host. Judas would not be forgiven, or saved, He could not tolerate the Host. The pastor serving the Host, the communicant receiving the Host is what the Holy Spirit blesses and turns into the Body. If that is not done, then it is taken in vain, that is, taken in an unworthy manner. It’s not about what is nice, hospitable, or some how impugns, it is simply the formula that Scripture directs us. This should be respected and not made into some kind of popular vote. If you really don’t understand what it is, and respect the teachings of Scripture, why would you want it to begin with? It doesn’t give forgiveness, or salvation and it may even be to your harm. Why another pastor would teach otherwise baffles me.

It is a sign of respect, have the proper understanding of this most holy gift and honor our Lord who gave His Body and Blood so that we would be saved in Him.

+++10 Symptoms that Your Christianity is too Comfortable (Gene Brooks)

1. You are not attending church with a high level of expectancy

2. You no longer seem to be concerned about the spiritual condition of neighbors, family members or co-workers.

3. You haven’t had a spiritual conversation with a non-Christian in a long time. you can’t even think how you’d manage one.

4. The Bible seems lifeless to you. It’s like a history book with so many unpronounceable words.

5. Your happiness on Sunday mornings is more important to you than what it takes to reach the unreached nations. As long as you get your parking spot, your seat, and hear the music you like, everything’s fine.

6. The plight of the poor doesn’t concern you. Images of overseas suffering do not move you to action.

7. The idea of worship seems a boring waste of time. You don’t ‘get anything out of it.’

8. You do  not give your financial resources sacrificially. You kind of resent it, actually.

9. Your prayers don’t seem to make it past the ceiling. There’s this faint frustration when you try to pray.

10. It doesn’t even dawn on you that God could do something incredibly radical in your life at any moment today. It’s not even on your radar.

It is not about your comfort and entertainment. It is about the Glory of the Holy One of Israel. So what do yo do about it? Do the things you know to do. Confess to the Lord and repent of your dead and wooden Christianity. Open the Word of God and ask the Lord to renew your spirit through the ministry of His Spirit. Psalm 51 is a good place to start. Read and pray through that one.

+++ When He [Jesus] speaks the Law I feel naked, I feel undressed, vulnerable. When He speaks Gospel I feel loved in a way I can never express. Something happens when Jesus speaks. [Dr Michael Horton  White Horse Inn podcast talking about what people might have felt like who heard Jesus speak to them in His life on earth.]   Dec 19, 2009

+++ Jesus healed mostly just the blind, the deaf. He also heals outcasts. What is harder to tell a man to walk or to forgive sins.? Jesus might say to us: “It’s easy for me to say walk. But I have to suffer and die in order for sins to be forgiven,

+++ Try this the next time you pray, meditate on God not as a way for you to go up, but to understand how He has come down to us.

+++ You might want to reinforce with children, grandchildren, right out of the gate, that the people of the Bible are real, the things the Bible talks about is actual history. These things really happened. Too often we try to make the Bible to be simply stories, thinking that is the easiest way for children to understand them. But what usually happens, is we keep doing that, even when they are older and they end up being adults who think that the Bible is just a bunch of stories. Help even the youngest children know that these stories are about real people, that the Bible is about how God has come to real people and affected their lives and moved them to do difficult things to His glory.

+++ One aspect of the Trinity that we really don’t consider is that no person [Father, Son, Holy Spirit] of the Trinity would thwart the will of another. All the persons of the Trinity are in accord with each person of the Godhead. So it’s not 3 gods, it’s three persons/one God. [Issues Etc May 28, 2010]

“Christian service is not about creating a better world. Nor is it about a message that has no trust of compassion during its delivery. The gospel is both practiced and spoke. This means the biblical world view is about having a heart for our fellow humans created in the image of God with the satisfying and of pointing them to or only real hope of eternal deliverance; repentance and faith in Jesus Christ our Redeemer and King.”

Steve Horn “Delivering both help and hope”  Answers Magazine  Jan-Mar 2014 p 38

[Ex 23:31-33] …Luther: “Man was especially created for the knowledge and worship of God; for the Sabbath was not ordained for sheep and cows, but for men, that in them the knowledge of God might be developed and might increase. Therefore, although man lost his knowledge of God, nevertheless, God wanted this command about sanctifying the Sabbath to remain in force. On the seventh day He wanted me to busy themselves both with His word and with the other forms of worship established by Him so that we might give first thought to the fact that this nature was created chiefly for acknowledging and glorifying God (AE 1:80)

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