Thinking Out Loud

May 30, 2017

Birthdays, the Civic Calendar, Christian Holidays, and Jewish Feasts

“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.” – Exodus 12:14 NLT

Today’s my birthday. Not one ending in a zero or a five, thankfully. In the broadest span of people who call themselves Christians, there are some splinter groups who do not celebrate their birthdays or wedding anniversaries at all. A larger number of people feel that the civic holidays or ‘greeting card days’ (Veteran’s Day, 4th of July, Mother’s Day, etc.) have no place in the year of the local church. Then there are those who skip Christmas and Easter, regarding those as pagan celebrations.

With yesterday being Memorial Day in the United States, I wrote the following originally for Christianity 201. But it’s my birthday and I’m feeling lazy this morning. (Plus I don’t want you to miss yesterday’s book review.) So I started thinking about the Jewish festivals and as you can imagine, there is wealth of material available online on this topic…

First stop for the Christian is to understand our Jewish roots, and in particular the Feast Days and also, as the lower section of the chart below shows, their fulfillment in the New Testament:

Source: God’s Calendar.

In searching, I came across several articles by a group called United Church of God, which celebrates these Feasts but doesn’t do Christmas or Easter. (Jehovah’s Witnesses fall into this category as well.) I don’t know much about this group, but I found this comment challenging:

Jesus Christ celebrated seven festivals every year that most Christians today can’t even name, yet He is at the core of all of them.

But one article on another site — I won’t link to this one — asked the question, “Should you observe God’s holy days or demonic holidays?” This rather provocative approach accomplishes little. We don’t live in a theocratic society as did the Jewish people. You may not celebrate those points on the calendar, but probably the place where you work will be closed for the day. Does the modern, secular Christmas detract from the Biblical story of incarnation? Absolutely, but we can also use the day as a talking point to inform our non-churched friends and neighbors. Similarly, we can share with them why the secular symbols of Easter — eggs and rabbits — are a shadow of the story of life we find in the resurrection.

One of the arguments used by those who oppose secular holidays, and secularized Christian holidays is that it constitutes adding to the calendar God has already given. Two verses in Deuteronomy are quoted:

Don’t add anything to the word that I am commanding you, and don’t take anything away from it. Instead, keep the commands of the Lord your God that I am commanding all of you. (4:2, CEV)

Diligently do everything I command you, the way I command you: don’t add to it; don’t subtract from it. (12:14, MSG)

Again, remember these verses are from the Pentateuch. These books teach us the ways of God and God’s dealing with humankind, but they also encode a law we are no longer under.

Those from liturgical churches however do have Evangelicals at an advantage. In the Biblical panorama of the church calendar we see things which are often missed in our modern churches. It might do some good to swap out the names Christmas and Easter to look more closely at “Epiphany” or “Resurrection Sunday.”

Source: Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Missouri

Another example: We just passed Ascension Day on Thursday. Writing on Friday at DailyEncouragement.net, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber noted:

In most of Christendom this day doesn’t have nearly the emphasis as other notable events in our Lord’s earthly life such as His birth, death, resurrection or Day of Pentecost which followed His Ascension by 10 days. I wonder how many readers even recalled that yesterday was Ascension Day prior to reading today’s message?

The old order communities of faith in our area place great emphasis on this holy day. As we traveled through that part of the county yesterday we noted that many of the stores and businesses are closed on Ascension Day with special services being held.

Many Christians express their faith in creeds and a line in the Apostle’s Creed states, “He ascended into heaven”. Other churches have formal statements of doctrine and this truth is expressed as in a statement such as “in His ascension to the right hand of the Father”.

Did you know that Thursday was Ascension Day? I know that I never gave it a moment’s thought. Yet today, Americans will both celebrate and remember the nation’s military history with Memorial Day. I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s important to remember the people who paved the way for our liberty and freedom. But I think it’s sad that, myself included, an important day on the church calendar should pass without notice…

In preparing this I realized there is a place of balance to be found here between our spiritual worship and our civic obligations; and especially between our First Testament history and our Second Testament life under grace. Verses can easily be pulled out to randomly support particular positions. With respect to the Law, I think this one is helpful:

NLT Gal 4:10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.

 

 

 

 

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October 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster

Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.

A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.

The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.

What a Mug I Have of Coffee

September 3, 2014

Wednesday Link List

The cartoon is from ASBO Jesus, which sadly isn’t being updated. The lower one appeared here about five years ago, and was from Pundit Kitchen.

They call it Labor Day because on Tuesday we all had to work twice as hard to catch up. Take a few minutes to pause and do some clicking:

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available for private investigations if there’s a link in your life that’s gone missing.  Or, for free, you can read his blog, Thinking Out Loud.

church and state from pundit kitchen

May 17, 2013

Exploiting Communion to Make a Political Statement

Rainbow Communion Bread

I believe my good-better-best approach to the whole gay debate is much healthier response to the issue of Christians and homosexuality than the hardline, binary right-and-wrong approach that’s more prevalent.   In that respect, I think the Christian gay community have a better ally than this blog than I might get credit for; though some progressive Christians will consider me conservative nonetheless.

But the decision by Jay Bakker to create a rainbow themed communion bread on the occasion of the opening of his church’s new location in Minnesota clearly crosses a line — for reasons I get into below — though not everybody feels that way.   For example, if you don’t know the story, Tony Jones describes it:

Last night, Courtney and I were on hand to help our dear friend, Jay Bakker, launch the new Minneapolis site of Revolution Church.  You can hear Jay’s inaugural sermon, “Vulgar Grace Throws the First Stone.”

The photo above is a detail shot by Courtney of the rainbow communion bread that we contributed to the service. We baked that loaf — the same loaf that Courtney baked with our friends Rachel and Rachet for our (sacramental) wedding — in support of marriage equality. Jay has been an outspoken proponent of marriage equality and has performed several same-sex weddings. When he broke the bread last night, Jay told us to remember not just the broken body of Jesus, but also the broken bodies and spirits of many GLBT persons who have been persecuted for their non-heterosexuality.

At the blog Juicy Ecumenism (yes, that’s its name) we read another account:

Complementing the rainbow bread, Bakker spoke on grace and inclusion, focusing on St. Paul, who “gets grace the most,” as he was a ruthless persecutor of Christians before his conversion. “The Bible is full of unperfect [sic] people” and it was “murderers and traitors … literally starting a faith, being part of a faith and that’s what I would call the good news,” Bakker said. He added that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi also “Really got the idea of what inclusion was meant to be, what loving your enemy was meant to be, what loving your neighbor.”

At Huffington Post:

Bakker reports that the rainbow communion has gotten people questioning his orthodoxy. He responds that “I don’t think Jesus is insecure about sharing communion with others, including gay folks who suffered. So many lives have been lost because of what Christians say and preach. Heterosexisim and homophobia are deadly.”

I don’t want to give a lot of space to this issue. I know this is an issue about which Bakker and Jones and many others are truly passionate.

However when you are also remembering the plight of people in the LGBT community when you are supposed to be remembering the death of Jesus, then you are creating a mixed meaning to the communion service, and making the remembrance of Christ’s death share the stage with some contemporary social issue.

But there is also the issue of altering the symbol used in the sacrament. True, Jesus lived in a world without food coloring, but we have to believe that when the scriptures say “He took bread and brake it;” we are looking at bread that free and clear of any additional symbolism, references, advertising or fortune cookie message. The formula is: The bread = Christ’s body, broken for you. There is no room here to add anything or manipulate this Eucharistic formula.

And why stop at rainbow coloring? There are other “ribbon” colors. Shall we observe a particularly colored bread on behalf of those who suffered child abuse or are fighting cancer? 

No.  The broken body of Jesus Christ is for the forgiveness of sin. And woe to anyone (see Rev. 22) who adds anything to that.

April 3, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Not new, but too good just to link; you have to watch this…

  • Edith Shaeffer, wife of the late Christian philosopher Francis Shaeffer, has died at age 98
  • A member of The Church on the Way in Valencia,CA — and grandson of Jack Hayford, the church’s founder — is now back home uninjured after being kidnapped last week in Mexico.
  • Singer Carrie Underwood and NHL hockey player Mike Fisher discuss their shared faith in Jesus.
  • Know the song “‘Tis a Gift To Be Simple”?  Terry Mattingly says that definitely applies to the new Pope.
  • Yes the Easter story really happened in a real place, and if you want, you can even get the GPS coordinates.
  • And did they play that “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a-Coming” video at your church this week? Here’s the text for all you aspiring preachers to give it your best shot.
  • And don’t miss this story about church pyrotechnics gone awry. This could have ended very badly.
  • Also at Parchment Pen: Did the author of the Gospel of Mark sleep in the nude?  The public wants to know.
  • Sandy Patti is headlining at Carnegie Hall with the Manhattan Pops Orchestra and the pianist formerly (and still) known simply as Dino.
  • For 32 years, Rick Warren said ‘no’ to the idea of doing a radio show. But then a year ago
  • A friend of ours, Rick Webster, pastor of The Third Space church in Peterborough has written Introducing Jesus — but he doesn’t use the word pastor, preferring Spiritual Wilderness Guide and Community Architect. We don’t normally do this here, but you can order the book online
  • From the artist who brought us the Reimagine song, a cover of Larry Norman’s UFO song.
  • Canadian author and blogger Sheila Wray-Gregoire says that if you are concerned for someone, you need to ask yourself three questions before you say anything.
  • Another Elevation Church high-tech year end summary. Does your church’s annual report look like this?
  • Maybe some cartoonists can illustrate complex issues, but Dave Walker finds himself somewhat lost for ideas in Uganda
  • Okay, Doug Wilson, curiosity was killing me when you wrote Good Friday and the Death of Same Sex Envy. (And then he also discusses pattern recognition, too.)
  • Shauna Niequist is the wife of a Christian musician and daughter of a world famous pastor. And a published author.  But she still deals with jealousy.
  • Money Where Your Mouth Is Department: Michael Kelley offers us two things we can learn from the Veronica Mars movie campaign on Kickstarter.
  • How about another 30-or-so links, all on the subject of apologetics? And don’t miss the first comment. 
  • Blog flashback — one year ago: James MacDonald’s holiness test.
  • The latest addition to our “lost song” collection at YouTube is this original version of God and Man at Table by Craig Smith. 
  • And I didn’t realize until today how much this song and this song sound alike. Guess some classic gospel music or CCM just flies under the copyright radar.

Top Bible Sales 2012

June 20, 2011

The Jesus Movement Turns 40

I am a direct product of the Jesus Movement.

That is not an admission of age, for if you are a member of the contemporary Church — that is to say, any church that is not locked into a business-as-usual, same order-of-service way of doing things as church circa 1940 — then you are also a direct product of the Jesus Movement, even if, unlike Buck Herring, you never had a pair of blue suede sandals.*  This period of time, rewrote the playbook for Christianity, and the June 21, 1971 cover of Time Magazine was really prophetic, since the movement wouldn’t truly hit its stride until the mid to late part of that decade.

The Jesus Movement was the catalyst that propelled the church into the 20th century, albeit nearly 75 years too late.  Music changed.  Dress change.  The stage was set for the emergence of social justice and compassion ministries that wouldn’t come to fruition until the late 1990s.  The evangelical church got away from country club religion — with its ‘for members only’ attitude — and became more about reaching out.   Years before the term ‘next generation ministry’ would be coined; the Jesus Movement paved the way for a new generation of leaders; with some of the changes being perhaps superficial, but others birthing entire new denominations.

Chuck Smith invited the kids to come to church and when his parishioners charged that their studded jeans were scratching the pews, Smith removed the pews and while he was at it, moved the baptism services to Pirates Cove on the Pacific ocean.  Larry Norman caught much criticism for his long hair, but was actually a rather gifted Bible teacher if only the older generation would have taken time to listen, and around him gathered a generation of teens and twenty-somethings who the church might have otherwise drifted away.  Barry McGuire went from protest singer to the man who would write “Communion Song” one of the best ‘lost’ worship songs, while Campus Crusade’s Michael Omartian brought the sound of keyboard synthesizers into the music mix while singing about Old Testament prophets. 

Kids traveled to Pennsylvania dairy farms for outdoor festivals where the speaker list was held as equal to the musician list, with two favorite teachers being the team of Larry Tomczak and C. J. Mahaney.  Paul Baker and Scott Ross put Christian music on radio stations both sacred and secular, and in the process put Christian music on the map.  A man named Arthur Blessitt carried a cross (yes, literally) across many continents and challenged a generation to find their own expression of bold witness. The Highway Missionary Society took to the road while Jesus People USA took to the Cabrini Green projects of inner city Chicago at the same time Nicky Cruz went from New York City gang leader to evangelist.

It was the best of times.  Period.   It was possibly the most significant spiritual movement to take place in North America in the 1900s.  Really.  I mean that. And I’m not the first to suggest it.

So happy birthday to all the aging Jesus People, and to those who wish you were there.   This week Andrew Jones shares some memories, but it also might be the right time to read Ed Underwood’s challenge to recapture the spirit and energy (and innocence) of those days as he writes in Reborn To Be Wild.   Because the Evangelical church today is a product of those times, you might actually want to read all you can about what happened and why.  You might even want to start your own revolution.

*I have no proof that Second Chapter of Acts’ Buck Herring actually owned blue suede sandals, but that was the rumor back in the day.  And yes, for several hours a couple of us did share the back of Daniel Amos’ Alex MacDougall’s house with Larry Norman, but Larry mostly slept and did laundry. 

Pictured: Time Magazine cover, June 21, 1971

April 11, 2011

“Christian” Dancing — How Far is Too Far?

“On the Sundays where we do the Pole Fitness for Jesus we do the upbeat contemporary Christian music… people have to bring their church program to get in, so we’re basically just continuing the whole worship thing.”

~Crystal Deans, Christian pole dancing instructor

Christian pole dancing.

Seriously.

I was going to embed the video, but couldn’t bring myself to do that.  You’ll have to click over to Ragamuffin Soul to watch the 2-minute news clip.  I’ll wait right here for you to click back…

…Okay, where were we?

So let’s review our possible responses here:

  1. The arts, in their pure form, are morally neutral.  Like a blank piece of paper, any sense of “rightness” or “wrongness” that might be ascribed to a work of art relates to what the artist is doing, not the form itself.
  2. The issue isn’t moral neutrality, but one of legalism versus license.  All things may not be edifying, or even the best stewardship of your time, but they are fundamentally permissible since we’re under grace, not law.
  3. Certain art forms are not morally neutral, but are tainted.  This was the argument used against the early adopters of contemporary Christian music; the evil was in the beat, intrinsic to the rhythm.  The response of tribes in Africa — the famous, “Why are you calling up the spirits?” line — proves it.
  4. Certain forms are simply guilty by association.  You may think you’re playing an innocent game of “Crazy Eights” with your kids, but you’re acquainting them with a playing card deck that is used for gambling and has historical anti-Christian roots.  You should want to abstain from even the appearance of evil.
  5. None of the above.  This is simply a really, really bad idea.  Like a certain gift company in Seymour, Indiana that buys up picture frames in the general gift market and then tosses a Bible verse inside — one that actually disappears when you use them to frame a picture — this just cheapens the word “Christian,” which was never meant to be an adjective in the first place.

So there you have it.

I would write more on this subject, but I’m late for my Christian nudists meeting, which I have to wrap up by supper so I can meet tonight with my Christian pyramid sales group.

Ooops!  Did I say that last one out loud?

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