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The Speed of Life: Part 2

This is Part Two in a three part series. You can read the Part One here.

As I was saying…

Their faith was real (i.e. the fruits of the spirit were evident in their lives) while at the same time they were quiet, lit candles, worshiped with people who wore robes (or wore them themselves) while peacefully honoring our Lord. I found myself asking them about their faith. Asking myself and the Lord, “Is there something I am missing or more importantly could add to my faith by learning from these friends?”

Providentially Speaking: These things happened within a week of each other-about a month ago:

1. Thursday Annie asks if I’ll consider reviewing a book about Advent on my blog (stay tuned, by the way). I agree to do so although  I confess (now) that I was doing something else (getting her a recipe or something?) when she asked me so I was distracted and didn’t really understand what I was agreeing to.

2. The Lord speaks to me at church on Sunday about our family understanding more about and appreciating the importance of  “Advent” and other “significant church celebrations”. This is vague because I don’t actually know what “significant church celebrations” are.

3. Monday we have our pastor and his family over for dinner. We find out he used to be a Methodist Priest. He shares with us his heart on bridging the liturgical faith traditions with evangelical faith traditions (or lack thereof). I should add here that this is my paraphrase, not his. I’m not sure if that’s how he’d put it-but it’s what I got out of it. I share with he and his wife how God laid on my heart to learn these traditions. He says this year our church would be putting more of a focus on Advent. Slowly, he says, as to not alarm anyone and scare them off (again, my words, not his).

And there seems to be a stirring among us (“us” here could be defined as Christian women bloggers) in desiring something deeper of our faith. Is it new or is it the internet that allows us to “go into other’s living rooms” and find out what they do with their family? Is it that my kids are older and I am thinking differently now that I know they can sit still and understand more? Is it God’s heart shining strongly on a culture that has stripped their faith down so much so that we wear long dangly cross earrings (sorry if you have those) and hear songs sung by Christian music artists about ugly Christmas sweaters (also, sorry if you have those-and I do think they are funny and should be worn-but an entire song?). Maybe it’s the fact that we are studying the Middle Ages and are realizing what a huge endeavor it was to carry the message of Christ throughout all of these centuries?

Let me be very clear on something. The Bible clearly states that salvation comes by “…confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead…” Romans 10:9. It’s simple. An act of faith, but simple and uncomplicated.

That being said, maybe these church traditions would add richness to my (our) faith? So I bought a set of Advent candles that our church was offering and El Guapo made me a beautiful advent candle made barn wood. We started doing Sunday evening Advent readings. Then, I got this book…which I’ll share with you in the third installment : )

Although I’ve only gotten a few comments on the blog here (or maybe just my dad?) I’ve had a couple of great conversations with a couple of you about this. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours, too-so feel free to comment, call, send a text or email.

Signing off from balmy Colorado (45 degrees today!),

La Gringa

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12 thoughts on “The Speed of Life: Part 2

  1. Jim says:

    Martin Luther wrote a lot about a church and people who, rather than following scripture, developed their own ideas about what helps them be more emotionally spiritual. I believe that we should stay as close to the bible as possible. I of course grew up with the pendulum being all to one side ie, robes don’t make you more holy, ministers aren’t reverends, we are all priests, christmas and easter were not in the bible but were developed centuries later. Where does tradition stop. I once asked a catholic priest why they do many of the things they do..where is it in scripture? He said, it is not in the bible but is church tradition. I think the bible is the only guide.

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  2. Mom says:

    What would Jesus do? Building a closer relationship to our Lord is a daily endeavor and Jesus and His disciples give us several examples to follow i.e.. prayer, words, kind deeds, and studying his Word to know what kind of life we as Christians should live.

    Christmas and Easter are man-made traditions. No where in the Bible did Jesus ask us to celebrate his birth at a certain time of year with presents, candles, or advent. However, man ‘invented’ a tradition that by giving presents it’s like God giving us the most wonderful ‘present’ of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we justify celebrating Christmas. Does celebrating it once a year give us a closer relationship to God? Does lighting candles and having special prayers four weeks leading up to Christmas make us more spiritual? Hopefully, we are in prayer everyday of the year thanking God for His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

    Did Christ want us to fast once a year leading up to a man-made celebration of his death and resurrection and have ashes placed on our foreheads? He did ask us to remember His death, burial, and resurrection by partaking in the breaking of bread and drinking from the cup when we fellowship together.
    If fasting draws us closer to our Lord, it can be done at any time of the year.

    Christmas? Easter? Advent? Lent? Traditions?
    What keeps us focused on Christ daily…what distracts?
    What does the Bible say? What would Jesus have us do?

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    • I am enjoying this! Funny we’ve never talked about it in person! I mean, you raised me this way, so I suppose that’s more than talking about it but doing it : ) I’d love to see if anyone else weighs in before I respond. Thank you for taking the time to write our your thoughts, mom and dad!

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  3. Aunt Karen says:

    You have definitely given me food for thought, I have thought about this all day before sitting down to respond to what you have set forth.

    Over the past several months, our church has been putting an emphasis on returning to the church of the New Testament, the early churches that were being established by the Apostles. There was no liturgy, no robes, (as was in the Old Testament covenant)! It was very simple, yet very specific. “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42. We are to love one another and to care for each another. We are encouraging our large congregation break into small groups and to meet weekly in homes, where we can be accountable to one another, minister to others and each other etc. Then once a week, we can gather together in the Church building where we can worship as a larger Body of Believers.

    God loves us so much that he wants a very deep and personal relationship with each one of us, He wants us to draw near to him, to seek is guidance and direction in all areas of our lives. He wants us to commune with Him, to depend on Him.

    I am fearful that liturgy can become meaningless words, though wise they may be, as they are repeated over and over. I feel that IF God had wanted the New Testament church to have a more formal format, He would have provided for it very specifically, as He did in the Old Testament where He was very specific about the robes of the priests and the items in the Temple etc. He also set-up many Feast days and celebrations — not so in the New Testament. Albeit, they do still have meaning in the whole of Bible history of things

    We have found the “Jesus Calling” and/or “Jesus Calling for Children” is an excellent daily devotional that helps one to develop a close personal relationship with the Lord, relying on scripture, to encourage one to daily put their complete faith and trust in the Lord for ALL things. We are to let His Light shine forth from our hearts and lives as He works through us. He will lead us in being a blessing to others. We are to lead others (our children) into this personal relationship with Him.

    I must say that while I do appreciate some aspects of contemporary worship, I do miss the more traditional hymns, as the words contain such spiritual insight and truths from the scriptures. But, I also realize that traditional music is not the music of this generation. I see very deep and meaningful worship in the contemporary worship services. Our worship should be joyful and happy, we are celebrating a Risen Savior! God wants us to worship Him from our hearts!

    What does God want from us? Feeling “religious” does not take the place of a close personal relationship with the God of the Universe.

    Love you,
    Aunt Karen

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    • Aunt Karen, I SO appreciate all of the thought, time and wisdom you offered here. I had a wonderful conversation with my parents about it yesterday. I look forward to sharing more thoughts related to what you mentioned as well as the other comments, too, in Part Three!
      Love you, too!!

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  4. Yeah, I prefer a liturgical worship experience. Yes, the liturgy can become a meaningless exercise in repeating some of the same phrases again and again, but I grazed in other ecclesiastical pastures, too, and the praise and worship choruses and hymns… well how often do we pay attention to the words? And, most of the “contemporary” worship services I have attended the congregation is NOT actually singing many of the unsingable choruses–the worship band is! Anyway, hey, did your pastor actually say he used to be a Methodist priest? Or did you make that up. Cause Methodist don’t have priests, although they have bishops. … Finally, Luther had his sola scriptura, but Wesley expanded this to what’s known now as the Wesleyan or Methodist Quadrelateral, i.e. Scripture, tradition, experience and reason are all sources of spiritual or theological knowledge …

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    • Thank you for your input, Timothy! And no, he didn’t actually say he was a Methodist priest…I’ll ask him tomorrow…he must have been a bishop? Obviously I am not lying when I say this is all new to me!
      : )

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  6. Uncle Dave says:

    Traditions
    Yes Christmas is a tradition along with symbols and words that are used during the season. The Christian celebration is of the birth of the Savior of the world who takes away the sin of the world, thus giving us the certainty of our faith. It is a celebration of His birth, even though we do not know the exact day of His birth. Even though there may be heathen roots to the day, we Christians choose to give spiritual meaning to the day we celebrate. Therefore the tradition continues, just as the celebration of our own
    birth is a tradition.

    Other days of tradition are celebrated for various reasons such as Lent which has heathen roots to “honor” one of the counterfeit persons of so called miraculous birth (such as virgin birth). Many Christians choose to give that time period a meaning to help their own faith.

    There are several possible non-Christian roots for what we commonly call Easter. If we Christians assign a meaning to the resurrection of The Christ as the reason we are Christians, then we can have the certainty of spending eternity with Him; faith.

    God gave specific ceremonies to His people the Jews to be followed every year and during the year. Each of the seven feast “days” had specific meaning that pointed to events that related to The Christ. Those were more than tradition, since they were God given. The 613 “laws” (regulations) were given to show what it takes to be acceptable in the sight of God. Many new “laws” were added by Rabbis over the years that soon became the “traditions of men” that Christ came to eliminate. We need to wary of man-added traditions.

    Liturgies
    I grew up with the words of several liturgies in Lutheran and Methodist churches, but they were just words with little meaning to me at the time. I think there are many people today who have the same experience of little meaning. If we truly understand and accept the true meaning of those words of popular liturgies, we strengthen our faith in the reason the for the birth and resurrection of The Christ (The Messiah to the Jews). We can’t let the repetition of words get in the way of the meaning of the words.

    If we look at the early church, there was only the Apostles teachings and the
    remembrance (each time they gathered) of the gift of The Christ who gave his life in our place. That gift was the life of Christ, the only sacrifice to God that would accept to redeem you and me.

    Since liturgies and symbols are man-made, man-added, they were started to make faith possibly easier to understand since many are scripture based. That does not make them wrong, but it is the Christian meaning that Christians should apply to them and not substitute them for true faith.

    Uncle Dave

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  7. When a young teenager and not a believer I memorized the words to two songs: Hotel California by the Eagles, and Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. In each song I found words that expressed something that I was feeling but for which I had no words – alone and a bit trapped. Pressing PLAY on my cassette deck helped me bring my emotions into focus.

    I think this is how traditions can work – they help us with something already inside – and why few people, families, cultures, or Christians ever escape forming practices that tell their important stories. We all love fireworks on the 4th of July; they help remind us of the dawn’s early light that revealed a US flag still standing. This is one note of the tune of Christian tradition.

    The second was their teaching purpose. In their day, stained glass windows, nativity scenes, and repeated fasts were the means by which the Gospel story was told among an illiterate people. The crucifixion was their Mark 15, and the empty cross their Mark 16. Luke 1-2 was recited proficiently each year by seven year olds as Mary and Joseph figurines moved from room to room, arriving at the manger on Christmas Eve. Lenten fasts taught the words of Jesus from Matthew 16.24: ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

    The third note of Christian tradition, surprisingly enough, is evangelism. When Patrick went to Ireland, he used the three-leaved shamrock to speak of God’s trinitarian nature. In the same way, Christians borrowed the date of Christmas, Christmas trees, and giving of presents. Each had took something that was part of a local and pagan celebration and recast it to teach those who didn’t know of Jesus and his Gospel.

    These notes, of course, don’t make traditions and rites and liturgies not found in the bible “good and perfect” as Paul writes in Romans 12.2. But they may help us understand how to mark the ways in which God has worked in our lives, how we can teach others in an non-Christian culture by what we do, and how we can borrow the symbols of others in the service of the true God revealing himself to those we reach out to. I have the date I confessed my sin and received Jesus’ sacrifice for me marked on my calendar. Our family uses an Advent wreath and Bible readings to teach our 3 and 5 year olds God’s saving work. When talking with my neighbor, I learned his Buddhist prayer flags are not because he pursues the eight-fold path, but because he wishes for the wrongs of this world to be righted. I told him the cross on my wall speaks of a similar desire, and the means by which righteousness will prevail (and so much more!).

    Christians must inspect our symbols and traditions, always reforming, replacing, or excising them, because it is in our sinful nature to mistake the symbol for what is symbolized. There is no replacement for Jesus himself, not even a Christmas pageant using no words other than Luke 2.1-20. If we don’t, the real man Nicholas of Myra who gave gold coins to poor, starving servant children, becomes the jolly, rotund, greed-feeding Santa of the shopping mall. Ugh! We must submit all things to the Holy Spirit; all thoughts to Christ.

    When I served at the altar and celebrated communion, we used a regular set of prayers through out the year. Each told the story of Jesus’ saving work because of God’s love. As I prayed with and among other believers, we were enlivened as in these ancient words we made our hearts known to God and the Holy Spirit made himself known in our souls. It wasn’t a formula, at least not most of the time. The words of the Eucharistic Prayer were as the words of a love song, becoming more expressive of my love of Jesus each time it was sung. I am grateful for those who wrote the words. And I am not fooled to think they words are magic or are what it means to put one’s trust in Jesus.

    For me, how brother and sister believers have walked before me are precious gifts. Some of what they pass on as forms are to be rejected; but many are good. Because we don’t find the words of another’s love song, the figures of their story, or their symbols of evangelism working for us, this doesn’t mean they were subpar believers. It might be quite the opposite. They, warts and all, brought the biblical faith to us through dark times in the Church, when no one had a bible or bible app, and when they did not know from who their next meal would come. God brought it to us, of course, but through them.

    I’m not going to cross myself at the final blessing at the end of our worship service, but I’ll thankfully trace a cross with my thumb on my forehead, lips, and heart, praying the words “God, by in my mind, my words, and heart” as I walk into the emergency room to be with parents whose child is fighting for her life.

    May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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  8. Aunt Cheri says:

    Lori, I think you know when we were living in Denver, we were attending an Anglican Church. We first starting going because so many of the people I worked with at the Denver Seminary served there – Music minister, the “Priest” (never called him that, it was too uncomfortable for me) was an alumni of DS, so on and so on. The robes took me back at first until “Pastor” Billy explained the symbol of the robes, which were all white – very simple, were to denote being servants to the people. Then there was the cross, that was brought to the middle of the sanctuary when the Word was being read and special attention given to that time of the service. I also, could not go with the tracing of the cross to my forehead, lips and heart – Dennis did and felt very comforted by it. There is no “magic” to any of these styles or traditions. We had communion every service, but it was administered by an ordained minister of the Anglican church and the infant baptism – I couldn’t go there…..BUT the liturgy and the common prayers of the people were PROFOUND to me, this little Church of Christ girl! At first, I had to empty my mind of words that had ripped these rituals apart from my childhood, which were not part of scripture, but opinions stated by the church hierarchy. Even though we are not attending an Anglican church now, Dennis and I have admitted we miss some of the rituals we experienced for over a year. I find myself repeating some of the prayers in my mind at times which give me peace – “passing of the peace” – very special part of the service with a greeting. I love the advent candle and the expression of the different areas of Christ’s life and intentional emphasis on the season. The one Easter we were at this little Englewood church, rich in the Lent practices of fasting, foot washing, etc. was one of the richest times I have ever had with a church body. Can you fast anytime, have a foot washing, light candles – ANYTIME??? OF COURSE!!!! But there is something profound when done as a church body. Does this save you? NO….does acapella singing, save you? Does, candle lighting, hanging crosses, wearing robes, no….BUT does it bring you closer to your relationship to the FATHER, does it enrich your worship experience? If you say, yes, embrace it! DON”T fear it or box it up as “right or wrong”. I’m proud of your investigating and searching….go forth and form your traditions which allow for more…

    I love you, Lori…..you should talk with your cousin, Shawna and Stephanie about their worship styles and traditions…very enlightening! At least we ALL worship the RISEN LORD! Praise GOD!!!!!

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  9. Uncle Jimmy says:

    A lot has been said here so I will add just a little. I have a background in the Christian (both Disciples of Christ and Independent), Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. I have some very memorable and meaningful experiences in all of them. But personally I like the reverence of the Lutheran Church services. To me having a quiet time to commune with God is more important than listening to a six piece band and 4 vocalists blaring away at a hundred decibels in my tender ears. But – this doesn’t mean that I am condemning that type of a service — not at all. If everybody had the same requirements for worshiping our Lord and God then there would only be one church denomination. I think that whatever works for each individual that brings them to a relationship with Jesus is what counts. People following one method of worship should not demean other methods that are used by other Christians or accuse them or not really believing or being sincere. If hymn words or liturgy are only words being mouthed then that is a problem with the individual, not the words.

    There is not a lot of guidance in the bible (New Testament) regarding how we should worship – one day a week, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, musical instruments, no musical instruments, wine not grape juice, grape juice not wine, robes, no robes, choir in the back, choir in the front, applause, no applause – and it goes on and on. So, I guess my point is to appreciate whatever brings a person to Christ and love all of those who have accepted Him as their savior – there’s very definite guidance there. It’s really pretty simple. How you get there is not the issue, it’s that you get there.

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