Thinking Out Loud

November 13, 2014

When Church Gets Too Informal

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 am

What’s the most distracting thing you’ve seen someone do in church?

I had noticed her for many weeks. A very animated conversationalist. Frizzy hair that swung back and forth as she made various points to her conversational companion. I spotted this taking place for several weeks in a row. Talking up a storm. In church. During the service.

I never understood why the ushers didn’t address the problem. This was a very conservative church and there was no missing her hair and head bobbing back and forth. Surely the leadership here would DO something.

Then came the week that we ended up sitting directly behind her. She talked through the call to worship. She talked through the opening prayer. She talked through the first half of the opening scripture reading. Okay, this was scripture, the Word, right? It was then that with a voice that was reined in so it wouldn’t travel too far, but with a voice that was distinct, clear and firm, I said, “W-i-l-l  y-o-u  p-l-e-a-s-e  b-e  q-u-i-e-t.”

She got the message. I hoped she would think about whatever might have motivated me to do that. (Gee, I dunno know; maybe wanting to hear the service? Maybe something about having respect for the reading of the Word of God?) Instead, the service ended, and her son-in-law, who was sitting two seats over, stood up, turned around slowly towards me in all his massive 260 lb. frame, and informed me that if I ever did something like that again he would take care of me out in the parking lot. Or something like that.

We left that church shortly after. Not because of her, or him, but because the ushers, deacons and other leaders were gutless to deal with her. It took me to do it.

text_message_girlFlash forward several years. My youngest son returned home from church — a different church — with the news that a girl whom he named in the youth group who was sitting a row behind him was text messaging throughout the entire sermon. I happen to know this girl’s family and they are infected with the same germ as the woman with the bobbing hair. I’ve seen them conversing in a manner so animated that it was distracting to me on the farthest part of the other side of a very wide auditorium. Texting uses no audio, but in a church service, it’s amazing how the little taps can carry.

Interesting how you can be in a room with 300 other people but it only takes one person to spoil the experience. If the person was making a lot of noise, it would be dealt with, but sometimes these things sit on the borderline between requiring action or determining that confronting the situation might make a greater (and more memorable) distraction.

I like that we can dress casually for church. I like that we sing contemporary songs. I like that we show cuts from popular movies. I like that we laugh and are transparent about our lives. But…

I miss reverence. I miss solemnity. I miss the awe with which should approach that part of our week where we enter into the transcendency of bringing our worship before a holy God. I miss the holy hush I experienced in some meetings I attended in my early twenties.  I miss people treating that part of the week as something special.

If I had been sitting anywhere near this girl, I don’t know exactly what I might have done, but it wouldn’t have been pleasant. I might have gone for “P-u-t  t-h-a-t  t-h-i-n-g  a-w-a-y  n-o-w.” But remember, he was sitting in front of in this case and would have had to turn around to do this.

Then again, I might have simply stepped out of the service for a few minutes.

To make a whip out of cords. 

So… what’s the most distracting thing you’ve seen someone do in church?

September 30, 2014

Currently Reading: N. T. Wright on The Psalms

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

The Case For The PsalmsOkay, I admit it.  I currently have four books on the go, and one should probably finish one before starting another.

N. T. Wright’s The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential should not be confused with Lee Strobel’s The Case for… series. I don’t think of this as apologetic, though in a way, it is a defense of the Psalter at a time when people’s reading habits probably direct them more to the gospels, the epistles or the history narratives.

Or more likely, they’re not reading at all.

He brilliantly notes themes and motifs that run throughout the collection and with the proliferation of Wright vids on YouTube, you can hear him speaking of the beauty of the various psalms as you read and his lament over what we are losing in the modern church, or have already lost.

“The enormously popular ‘worship songs,’ some of which use phrases from the Psalms here and there but most of which do not, have largely displaced, for thousands of regular and enthusiastic worshipers, the steady rhythm and deep soul searching of the Psalms themselves. This, I believe, is a great impoverishment. By all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church’s original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy” (p. 5).

Still, I am 120 pages into what is about a 200 page, digest-sized hardcover, and I feel I can’t truly address the book without noting what others might consider superficial; namely that much of the book’s content is simply copious reiteration of the Biblical texts from the New Revised Standard Version. That, and the book’s cost $22.99 US/$25.99 CA has me questioning the value to the reader. The Case doesn’t purport to be an academic title, which would explain the shorter length in light of the higher price.

As a book-lover and someone with great respect for Wright, I like the book; but as someone who spends part of his week as a book-seller, I guess I just can’t make the case for The Case for the Psalms.


I admit this review may frustrate some especially fans of Wright, so I offer you another reviewer’s work as an alternative, Tim Peck at the blog Sojourner who goes into the book in great detail and with great admiration.

August 17, 2013

Missing Easter Sunday

Apparently James MacDonald isn’t the only one who has issues with preaching about Easter on Easter Sunday morning. I found this in my files from April, 2009:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20

golgotha

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I enjoy reading the worship sets that people file at Fred McKinnon’s blog as part of something called The Sunday Setlists. So I looked forward to the recap of what was being presented on Fred’s blog for Easter Sunday in some of the top churches in the U.S., Canada and beyond. I know some worship leaders find the Christmas Carols frustrating — we won’t get into that debate now — but figured anything dealing with suffering, death and resurrection of Christ would represent the best that Christian music (modern and traditional) has to offer.

Some worship directors clearly rose the occasion. In both their comments and their choice of songs it was clear that this high point in the church calendar was also the high point in the worship music cycle of their house of worship.

good-friday1But other worship leaders clearly weren’t going to let something as pedestrian as Easter get in the way of their worship agenda. In fact a couple of churches — as evidenced either in the WL’s writeup or further linking to the church sites — clearly continued with other theme series they were running. At least one did a kind of split service between their current series and Easter, as though the ‘holiday’ was an interjection not unlike making room for a baby dedication or mention that it’s the Sunday closest to Veterans Day.

On April 13th, I wrote the following letter to McKinnon:

I didn’t want to spoil the mood in the Sunday Setlist comments, but it’s amazing to see the difference between the WLs who really focused on the death and resurrection of Christ, and those who simply did the songs that are currently popular, or the songs they were going to do anyway before Easter “got in the way.”

Everybody encourages everyone else in the respective blog comments; there seems little room for critical evaluation here.

The one that really got me was the church that went ahead with a sermon series acknowledging that it had nothing to do with Easter.

As a guy who is being edged out of weekly WL duties — it is a young man’s game — I really wish I was still more active, when I see so much disregard for the central Sunday of the church calendar.

More recently the blog Slice of Laodacia reports that the website Pirate Christian Radio awarded the “Worst Easter Sermon Award” to Joel Osteen. Here’s some highlights:

“Every Christmas Christians whine and complain about secular and atheistic efforts designed to take Christ out of Christmas yet more and more Christian pastors have committed an even worse offense and have removed Jesus Christ and His victorious resurrection from the grave from their Easter sermons,” said Chris Rosebrough. “Far too many pastors have played the role of Judas and have betrayed Jesus. Rather than being paid 30 pieces of silver, these pastors have sold Jesus out for the fame and adulation that accompany having a ‘growing, relevant ‘man-centered’ church’.”

…The sermons Rosebrough picked for this year’s contest included:

  • A sermon that explored the “deep” spiritual lessons of the movie Slumdog Millionaire .
  • A sermon entitled “Beer Babes & Baseball”
  • A sermon entitled “Livin’ Venti” that encouraged people to live life to the fullest.
  • A sermon entitled “You Have Come Back Power”
  • And a sermon entitled “Easter in the Octagon”

This year’s winner of the first ever, Worst Easter Sermon Award went to Joel Osteen’s sermon “You Have Come Back Power”.

Commenting on Osteen’s sermon Rosebrough stated, “Jesus didn’t die and rise again on the cross so that you can have ‘come back power over life’s set backs’. Osteen completely missed the point of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and as a result he missed the entire point of Christianity.”

Said Rosebrough, “I wasn’t surprised that Osteen was the first winner of this award. Osteen is like the Tiger Woods of heresy, he takes false teaching to a whole new level.”

And also a couple of days ago, Stephen Weber on the devotional blog Daily Encouragement writes the second of a two-parter called The Tyranny of the New writes:

…Most churches now want to be identified as contemporary (whatever that really means). Wouldn’t most churches in 1900 or at any other time in history have been contemporary during their age?

My annoyance at the contemporary church is not the embracing of the new, something I feel has been done all through history, but rather the tendency to devalue and disparage the old. Among so many I encounter a snobby attitude toward older music, i.e. hymns or even music written within the past twenty five years.

I was visiting with a friend after Easter who attends a self-identified “contemporary” church in our area. He’s my age and has a history in the church. I asked him about the service, “Did you sing some of those great Easter songs like ‘He Lives’ or ‘Christ The Lord Is Risen Today’?” He told me, “Oh no, we just sang new choruses.” I asked if they sang any songs dealing with the Resurrection. He told me they sang an “old” song from 1999 that he thought might have had something to do with the Resurrection! That’s sad!

One of the best memories I have of 2008 is a Good Friday service where the worship was led by a man in his late 60s. He chose mostly modern worship pieces, but the choices were so absolutely, totally focused on the message of the cross. At the time, the choices seemed so self-evident — especially having just come from a similar service in a nearby town — but I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote them all down anyway, trying to preserve this lesson in choosing worship material.

By the way, Weber’s text for his post was:

“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

christoncross1I think that something key is being lost when worship leaders miss the point. In the church I contributed to most over the past three years, I was solely responsible for the first 35-40 minutes of the service, and then the pastor would speak for 35-40 minutes. That’s a major responsibility. I wasn’t on staff, I wasn’t on the board, but I had the second largest contribution to each person’s Sunday worship experience. Humbling.

Therefore, I wouldn’t dare walk into an Easter Sunday service without being absolutely convinced that this particular date demanded my absolute best. Easter is why we have a church. Easter is why we have a faith. Easter is why we have a hope. Easter is why we have salvation.

Agree?

Update March, 2010: As we approach Easter again I noticed this particular post was getting a lot of traffic. I just want to point out here that The Sunday Setlists — mentioned in the first paragraph — is now part of The Worship Community blog.

Also, if you’re not a regular reader here, I also didn’t want to leave the impression I was giving a blanket endorsement to the Slice of Laodicea blog or to Pirate Radio. I’m just saying that I think in this instance they got it right.

June 26, 2013

Wednesday Link List

So, is Pope Francis a revivalist?

Saved - Pope Francis

Now, on to the links…

Some very, very high profile Christian sites and at least one radio show get their news stories here. We know who you are…

The Wednesday List Lynx might be getting a new home as early as next week.

The Wednesday List Lynx might be getting a new home as early as next week.

Stop the presses! Is this the last link list?

We’re cooking up a partnership that could mean more people than ever would get to share in what we’ve been doing here for five years. Just think of the larger number of people who would get saved just clicking on these same stories. They might not even have to click; conviction might come just by reading the teasers. 

Really, why are we considering this? It’s about power and the ability to take bribes to promote various blogs and websites.

So stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel. But maybe not actually same bat channel.

June 30, 2012

Weekend Link List

Normally there are links here on Wednesday, when the week is half over; today there are links here on June 30th, when the year is half over. Profound, huh? So have you stuck to all those resolutions from January 1st?

  • Dr. Grant Mullen‘s appearances on the Drew Marshall Show always draw a lot of phone calls.  Last week’s — all 49 minutes — is now available on Drew’s site.
  • And over at SkyeBox, more episodes of The Phil Vischer podcast are available. Had a blast last night listening to # 4 — the interview with Eric Metaxas — all 49 minutes. (Or 53.)
  • Justin Davis gets transparent about how lack of intimacy, or worse, false intimacy can lead to behaviors which can destroy a marriage.
  • More than 60 New York City churches that were facing eviction from meeting in NYC schools caught a break this week, but the city is fully expected to appeal the decision.
  • Several dozen Mormons will resign en masse today (30th) in protest over LDS church doctrines and policies; but those who leave pay immense social and business consequences.
  • Click over to C201 for a dose of apologetics: Ravi Zacharias on good versus evil; and a reading of C. S. Lewis on free will that you might want to listen to twice.
  • I discovered another lost worship song — from two decades ago — this week. Enjoy “To Be Like You” from Calvary Chapel Downey with Pam Fadness.
  • Also of worship interest: Gospel-driven worship can become obligatory when in fact, songs can be used to drive various points and aspects of both God’s nature and Christian experience. Bob Kauflin reposts some great advice.
  • Earlier this month Tim Stevens listed five reasons why you shouldn’t do church online, but show up in person. But then he had four reasons why churches should provide online services.
  • Yes, I know I list lots of links on this topic, but there is much discussion going on and many people affected. This blog  is called Coming Out Christian: Conversations about being gay and Christian in America.
  • Local-Boy-Makes-Good Department: A Canadian, Lawrence Wilkes is currently the interim pastor at the famed — and troubled — Crystal Cathedral. [HT: Bene]
  • A two-day rally is planned for Sept 28 and 29 in Philadelphia under the banner, America For Jesus 2012. Organizers have been part of previous events in Washington.
  • Temptation Department:Author Steven James reflected on the storylines of his recent suspense novels and came up with a non-fiction title, Flirting With The Forbidden which features 15 first-person narratives from scripture.

March 21, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Click the image above for sourcing; meanwhile, here are the rest of this week’s suggested readings:

  • The Economist catches up to the wind of Evangelical and Charismatic Christianity blowing through the church in the UK.  Yeah, really, The Economist. 
  • I was recently scanning the four youth books that deal with cutting, addiction, abuse and food disorders by Nancy Alcorn, and noticed the books are somewhat of a commercial for something called Mercy Ministries. Then I read this report.
  • Last week while we were linklisting here, Pete Wilson posted an article about all the damage being done by Facebook. Except that Facebook isn’t really the culprit
  • At Internet Monk, Denise Spencer, wife of the late Michael Spencer who founded iMonk, shares some insights she discovered after being lost in a forest.
  • Why do so many Christian blogs have Christian book reviews, and so few have Christian music reviews? Amy Sondova at Backseat Writer is the exception with this in-depth CD review of The Same Love by Paul Baloche.
  • Here’s an intriguing idea: What if we read the directives in Paul’s epistles in the first person? This example from Galatians 3 models what could be an instant small group exercise. B. J. Stockman guest posts at Zach’s. (Chapters one and two are also blogged there.)
  • Here’s an opportunity to wear your Spandex to the Red Sea: Stryper frontman Michael Sweet is leading a Holy Land tour.
  • Why Writers Need Editors: A guy we associate with alternative Christian media doesn’t have much use for mainstream Christian media. Maybe too much so.  He apologizes, sort of.
  • Here’s a short story that will rock your world when it comes to how we tend to view who pays for what when it comes to missions. Not everyone gets a 4-star hotel with M&Ms (red ones removed) either.
  • Texas pastor and blogger Trey Morgan was involved in a house giveaway last week that didn’t involve either Habitat for Humanity or Extreme Makeover Home Edition. It’s the second house they’ve given away. (Here’s more about the first one.)
  • If some are chosen, elect or predestined, why evangelize? Here’s a Calvinist with seven Biblical reasons.
  • Wanna go deep? Here’s an article about the concept that worship is a physical act; there isn’t a higher or purer worship to be experienced; not in this life.
  • Author Linda Mintle talks to CBN News about the “Am I Pretty?” YouTube video disturbing teen trend.
  • And here’s another parenting must-read: Brad Whitt’s 20 Ways To Tell Your Child You Love Them
  • Know someone responsible for worship and/or creative arts ministry in your local church? Tell them about Sunday online magazine.
  • Dave Carrol has a great quotation from Randy Bohlender’s new book, Jesus Killed My Church.
  • Speaking of books, Rick Apperson reviews the new Mike Howerton book Glorious Mess which he found literally too funny.
  • Here’s a blog link just for the sisters; but the guys can read it, too. Sometimes parents exasperate their kids because we think that they have to learn to do a task the way we do it.
  • Hometown (sort of) rapper Chris Greenwood aka Manafest, has a new album, Fighter releasing in April. One of the producers worked with Justin Bieber while another produced for The Newsboys.
  • Don’t forget to have your link suggestions in by Monday night.
  • For our closing picture below, we ask the musical question: Why throw out your old car parts when they can be part of the church stage design on Sunday morning? Click the image for the story link.

February 22, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Church life:

  • Hal West, author of  The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish : “No one will argue against the fact that since the beginning of Christian history there has existed a tension between two distinct groups in the church – the clergy and the laity. ”  Read what pastors don’t get and what people don’t get.
  • A. J. Swoboda: “I think not having our children worship with us in worship can be dangerous. Who else is to teach them why and how we sing? How else are children to learn the ways of worship? …I wonder if something was lost when we split the family up in church?”  Read more at A. J.’s blog.
  • Carter Moss: ” I desperately want to hear from God through every avenue possible. That why I love leading at a church that uses movie clips…, TV show clips…, and secular music… every chance we get.” This link has been in my files since August; read Why My Faith (And Yours) Needs Pop Culture.
  • He said, she said:  “…[S]he continues to nominate women for the board of elders, something their denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, allows. [Pastor] Willson has said that only qualified men can be elders at Second Presbyterian.”  A longtime member faces church discipline in Memphis.
  • So if you jump through all the hoops and actually get to sing a solo at Thompson Road Baptist Church, you can’t sing a Contemporary Christian Music song or “a song that was made popular by CCM.” In other words, if Casting Crowns covers “Dwelling in Beulah Land” it’s goes off the approved list. (Click the image to isolate the text, and then a 2nd time to enlarge it.)
  • Yours truly borrows a list of 13 signs of a healthy church, and then adds a description of a very healthy church you may have heard before; all at Christianity 201.

Christian blogosphere:

  • Mrs. Beamish isn’t too happy with the worship style changes in her local C. of E. (Church of England). Especially the ‘friendlier’ passing of the piece and up-tempo music. A hilarious song posted to YouTube back in ’08.
  • Lifeway Christian Bookstores are going to continue selling the revised NIV Bible after all. Yawn.
  • Prodigal Magazine re-launches on March 1st with Allison and Darrell Westerfelt taking the reins.
  • Paul Helm, who teaches at Regent College on the phrase, ‘asking Jesus into your heart : “They are using words and phrases that bear a positive relation to the language in which the faith has been officially as preached and confessed by the church through the centuries, but a rather loose relation..” Pray the prayer, read the post.
  • This is a new product that not even XXX.Church.Com had heard of when I wrote them this week. Check out My Porn Blocker, currently available at a ridiculously low price.
  • Steve McCoy reveals where the treasure is buried: A stash of online articles by Redeemer Presbyterian’s Timothy Keller.   It was derived from a larger list featuring various authors.
  • CNN’s Belief Blog offers an excellent profile of Ed Dobson along with a look at his latest video My Garden.
  • I love the tagline for this blog: Was 1611 the last word for the English Bible? The KJV Only Debate Blog is a blog but it looks like the real action is in the forum. “This blog aims to confront the King James controversy head on, and evaluate the claims of KJV-onlyism from a Biblical perspective.The authors are all former proponents of KJV-onlyism. …[W]e acknowledge that there are multiple varieties of the KJV-only position.”
  • In a first for Canada, a Teen Challenge center in Brandon, Manitoba will launch as a women-only facility.
  • Want to understand the basics of Christianity?  The Australian website YDYC — Your Destiny, Your Choice — has a number of basic videos explaining salvation.
  • Here’s a fun video by The Left filmed in a theater in Western Canada, enjoy Cellophane. At GodTube, they cite various faith influences, though their bio doesn’t.
  • Today is the first day of Lent.  If you have absolutely no idea what that means, you might want to start with this introduction to the church calendar.
  • All good lists must come to an end; if you’re an otter, don’t forget to say your prayers.

January 21, 2012

Eugene Peterson: Can You ‘Experience’ Worship?

For several days at Christianity 201, I’ve been sharing my excitement over discovering that Eugene Peterson The Message bible translator is also Eugene Peterson the author. For those of you who’ve known this secret for some time, I apologize for arriving late to the party.  I’m reading The Jesus Way (Eerdman’s) and spreading the reading out over several weeks, which is really what is needed to take it all in.

Each section of the book deals with the different “ways” of living that some choose, including Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Moses and Elijah.  The study of the text is most thorough, but in each section, Peterson breaks away from the text long enough to provide contemporary application.  He minces no words in his concern over the state of the modern church in the west, particularly in North America with which he is most familiar.

The study on Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal yielded these comments:


“Harlotry” is the stock prophetic criticism of the worship of the people who are assimilated to Baalistic forms.  While the prophetic accusation of “harlotry” has a literal reference to the sacred prostitution of the Baal cult, it is also a metaphor that extends its meaning into the entire theology of worship, worship that seeks fulfillment through self-expression, worship that accepts the needs and desires and passions of the worshiper as its baseline.  “Harlotry” is worship that says, “I will give you satisfaction.  You want religious feelings? I will give them to you.  You want your needs fulfilled?  I’ll do it in the form most arousing to you.”  A divine will that sets itself in opposition to the sin-tastes and self-preoccupations of humanity is incomprehensible in Baalism and is so impatiently discarded.  Baalism reduces worship to the spiritual stature of the worshiper.  Its canons are that it should be interesting, relevant and exciting – that I “get something out of it.”

Baal’s Mount Carmel altar lacks neither action nor ecstasy.  The 450 priests put on quite a show.  But the altar call comes up empty.

Yahweh’s altar is presided over by the solitary prophet Elijah.  It is a quiet affair, a worship that is centered on the God of the covenant.  Elijah prepares the altar and prays briefly and simply.  In Yahwism something is said - words that call men and women to serve, love, obey, sing, adore, act responsibly, decide.  Authentic worship means being present to the living God who penetrates the whole of human life.  The proclamation of God’s word and our response to God’s Spirit touches everything that is involved in being human: mind and body, thinking and feeling, work and family, friends and government, buildings and flowers.

Sensory participation is not excluded – how could it be if the whole person is to be presented to God?  When the people of God worship there are bodily postures of standing and kneeling and prostration in prayer.  Sacred dances and antiphonal singing express community solidarity.  Dress and liturgy develop dramatic energies.  Solemn silence sensitizes ears to listen.  But as rich and varied as the sensory life is, it is always defined and ordered by the word of God.  Nothing is done simply for the sake of the sensory experience involved – which eliminates all propagandistic and emotional manipulation.

A frequently used phrase in North American culture that is symptomatic of Baalistic tendencies in worship is “let’s have a worship experience.”  It is the Baalistic perversion of “let us worship God.”  It is the difference between cultivating something that makes sense to an individual, and acting in response to what makes sense to God.  In a “worship experience”, a person sees something that excites him or her and goes about putting spiritual wrappings around it.  A person experiences something in the realm of dependency, anxiety, love, loss, or joy and a connection is made with the ultimate.  Worship becomes a movement from what I see or experience or hear, to prayer or celebration or discussion in a religious setting.  Individual feelings trump the word of God.

Biblically formed people of God do not use the term “worship” as a description of experience, such as “I can have a worship experience with God on the golf course.”  What that means is, “I can have religious feelings reminding me of good things, awesome things, beautiful things nearly any place.”  Which is true enough.  The only thing wrong with the statement is its ignorance, thinking that such experience makes up what the Christian church calls worship.

The biblical usage is very different.  It talks of worship as a response to God’s word in the context of the community of God’s people.  Worship in the biblical sources and in liturgical history is not something a person experiences, it is something we do, regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all.  The experience develops out of the worship, not the other way around.  Isaiah saw, heard, and felt on the day he received his prophetic call while at worship in the temple – but he didn’t go there in order to have a “seraphim experience”.

At the Mount Carmel Yahweh altar things are very different.  Elijah prays briefly.  The fire falls.  The altar call brings “all the people” to their knees.  They make their decision: “Yahweh, he is God; Yahweh, he is God.” And then the rain comes.

~Eugene Peterson

December 23, 2011

Get Your Picture Taken Next to Jesus

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:29 am

I found this today at the devotional blog Daily Encouragement and am fairly confident that, since it’s rather short, authors Stephen and Brooksyne Weber wouldn’t object to me including it in its entirety. They titled it True Worshipers.

“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him’” (Matthew 2:7,8). “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23).

Here in America we are already in the midst of the next presidential race although the election is still over 10 months away!  Among the hot topics is the pursuit of religious or value voters and regardless of the politician’s political ideology attempts are made by many to use the name of Jesus to gain voters (when the group of potential voters serves their own political interest.)

When catering to a specific voting constituency political candidates jostle to use Jesus, a sort of “getting my picture taken beside Him” approach attempting to convey that “I too worship Him.”  Although only God knows their real heart and motive, many of them hardly pass the “you shall know them by their fruit” test!

Herod was the first to have a political interest in worshipping Jesus.  He feigned interest as he sought the advice of the Magi to find out where Jesus was.   His insincere explanation for needing their advice was so that “I too may go and worship Him.”  However the text goes on to reveal that Herod’s motive was jealousy and the real intent of his search was to find Jesus and kill Him.  He certainly had no plan to worship the newborn King.

The Magi (wise men) however appeared to have the purest of motives in their quest.  They had responded to the star seen from the east (some authorities feel as far away as present Iran) and began a long, arduous journey to seek out the Child.  When they had worshipped Him and gave of their gifts they were instructed in a dream to take another way back, rather than reporting to Herod.

They, along with the shepherds, Anna, and Simeon are the very first true worshipers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Later, during His ministry, Jesus spoke of “true worshipers” as those who worship God in “spirit and in truth” and taught his hearers, “for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”  What about you and me today?  Are we true worshipers, the kind of worshiper the Father seeks?  That’s my heart’s desire today, and I trust that it is yours as well!

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

November 25, 2011

Unlike Keyboard, Piano Story Probably Not Black and White

I can already hear the cries of, “But, Paul; you don’t understand the big picture; there’s another side to this you have to consider.”

So let’s begin with the facts.  St. Andrew’s Church in downtown Toronto, Canada recently paid $100,000 for a Bosendorfer grand piano. 

Actually, that’s not fact, either.  The price of the piano was at least $100,000, but the exact amount is protected by a non-disclosure agreement by both the church and the vendor, Robert Lowry Piano Experts, also of Toronto. 

But can the church keep the secret?  By law, sometime in the spring the church has to have an annual meeting; copies of the budget need to be distributed and the purchase price of the piano should be there, in black and white for all to read.

Unless it’s buried in another budget item.  Last month, a Toronto Star piece on this musical spending spree noted that superior instruments of this caliber (or calibre as we spell it here) can go for up to $240,000. 

Some context:  St. Andrew’s is not a megachurch.  A survey of 1,000 churchgoers in the greater Toronto metropolitan area might, if we’re lucky, reveal 50 people who could place the church on a map or among a list of church images. 

Unless we asked a specifically downtown crowd.  The church is located in the heart of the financial district and also just a block from Toronto’s gallery of live theaters (or theatres, as we spell it here; noticing a trend?) on King Street West, not to mention across the road from Roy Thompson Hall.  Perhaps both arts-minded and wealthy business patrons require excellence in their musical instruments, and this church does host the occasional concert, and wanted a piano that any self-respecting pianist would desire to play.

However, walk a mile in almost any direction from this church or any other downtown church and you’ll find examples of poverty.  Two miles and you’ll find shelters and missions and soup kitchens.  The question is not, “How could the church spend $100,000 on a piano?”  There were after all donations as part of a two-year fundraising campaign.  The better question is, “How can a church justify having a $100,000 piano in the present economic climate?” 

It just seems a little out of touch with times we live in. But then this strikes at the heart of times we live in; where examples of grotesque wealth of the few exist side-by-side examples of gross poverty of the many. 

You’d think someone would see this and stage a protest or something.

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