Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘gifts of the spirit’

Christ Pantokrator mosaic, Ravenna, 6th century.

Christ Pantokrator mosaic, Ravenna, 6th century.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. [Ephesians 1: 17 – 19a, CEB]

At my church, I often have the privilege of “hosting” one of the morning services. In this capacity, I welcome the people, introduce the substance of the service, pray for the congregants, sometimes lead communion, give announcements, and finally, release the people at the closing with a final word and/or blessing.

Today, I am touched by these words from the lectionary for they speak from my heart what I desire for you, my reader. What greater gift can I offer you than a revelation of God and an open heart to the presence of God in your life whose promises await you (and me)?

This week, on Facebook, a friend challenged her FB followers to define beauty in three words. One of the best answers I read was “Revelation of God.” That made total sense. For all things beautiful have their roots in the creative hand of God.

So, with that in mind, I bless you. I pray for you beauty and all the other benefits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and even self-control. What more do we need in this world to walk the Way?

Read Full Post »

Separating myself from “corrupting influences” is not so easy. It’s a matter of degree, that difference between good, better & best. In some areas, I have been successful and on occasion, I have been blessed and used in a powerful way but it’s an erratic arrangement.

II Timothy 2:21
So whoever cleanses himself/herself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself/herself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself/herself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.
[Amplified]

Some of this “separation” feels too strict and legalistic, like those Pharisaical laws that disallowed touching contaminated things without all kinds of ceremonial washings and waiting times. It smacks of the story that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37] who broke all kinds of laws to minister to an injured and “unclean” man. There are contemporary versions of this, various religious sects that will not allow people of differing beliefs to sit at table or to share in communion or other sacred acts.

And so I manage to excuse or validate some of my choices in the name of freedom. But it can be a slippery slope, I know.

I think it’s important to recognize the value of single-minded piety, as long as it is also lived with grace and generosity toward others who do not live in the same way. That kind of life does indeed prepare the mind and soul for greater challenges of faith. There are other hints to this concept like Paul’s references to the athletes who prepare hard for the race, who practice their craft diligently, who commit their energies toward attaining a particular goal.

In earlier years of my faith journey, I have somewhat foolishly asked God to drop gifts and signs on me, to use me as that intermediary for healing or miracles. And yes, it’s true that these are gifts; it’s possible that God, for the sake of the moment, might grant such experiences. But for the long haul? I think it’s the warriors of faith, the ones who don’t necessarily shy away from “corruptions” and “contaminations,” they simply don’t have time or interest there. It’s a non-issue.

If I am in a time of prayer and meditation, I am not watching the unenlightening television show or browsing the Internet for inappropriate content. My “self” is elsewhere engaged.

It all boils down to this for me: to be used for “noble purpose” is part and parcel of my daily life, how I manage the little things [Luke 16:10a]. Thanks be to God.

Read Full Post »

Can you imagine a time when everyone in a gathering was so fired up for God that they had to be admonished to “slow down,” to take turns, to be polite? Everything from music to words of knowledge to prophetic utterances were common place. What happened?

I Corinthians 14:26b, 33
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. . . . For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

I guess, in the “name of order,” habits developed. I’m trying to remember a saying about traditions. It’s something like, “the first time you do something, it’s a novelty, the second time you do it, it’s repetition, and the third time, it’s tradition, locked in stone.” How many families have traditions that got started accidentally? And once they’ve passed the “three times” mark, how do you stop them?

Church services are no different it seems. Repetition and tradition have ruled the roost for so long in church that it’s nearly impossible to envision a “new order.” Solomon knew, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

When the Charismatics emerged in the 1970’s, they were determined to break the mold and get back to the old ways. They took the Corinthian verses about the manifestation of the gifts and church leaders encouraged their flocks to sing in the spirit, prophesy in the spirit, speak in tongues, interpret, etc. I know because I was there, singin’, dancin’, and prophesyin’. Those were exciting times. But then, things got a little out of hand. Bold people got carried away and it seemed like they had prophecies and tongues every week, every service, every opportunity. And more often than not, the utterances were relatively generic or downright anemic (not unlike newspaper astrology – fits for anyone). After awhile, even I started to cringe whenever I heard someone start in a loud voice, “My children, my children . . . ” Most of these prophetic statements were less than enlightening.

And so, after awhile, one by one, these wild services started putting on the brakes. Pastors had quiet conversations with the self-anointed prophets and tongue speakers and “in the name of order,” everyone settled down to a standard: praise songs, worship songs, a prophetic utterance or two (maybe a tongue and maybe an interpretation, but they all sounded the same), greeting one another, announcements, fund-raising (I mean, offering), more music, and then the sermon. I guess we were saving the best for last?

Eventually, the “wild” churches became equally traditional and tame as the very churches they tried to break away from.

I think this is one reason for the interest in the old forms like liturgy, praying the hours, celebrating the church calendar, weekly and daily communion, meditation, contemplation, labyrinth prayers, and so on. You want order? That’s well thought out order.

But, is it any better? There’s no better or worse to any of these traditions really.

Another trend is “house churches.” Of course, these have been popping up here and there for years, so it’s not really that new, but the popularity of home churches is gaining momentum. In some cases, it’s a push back from large churches, traditions, and the like. In other cases, they are an outgrowth of the “small group” movement where folks from bigger churches have discovered they can enter into more meaningful relationships in weekly meetings with fewer people. But I have a feeling, traditions and “order of worship” have developed in these settings as well.

So, what’s the answer? Don’t know.

I have some kind of an “ideal” in my mind. But it’s just that, a dream: church as koinonia, where people know each other, love each other, and care for each other. And flowing over koinonia, the vertical relationships with God who covers a multitude of sins and mistakes. And flowing out of koinonia is service together to help those who cannot help themselves. How big can koinonia get? I don’t know, but I doubt it’s much bigger than Jesus’s example of the twelve. Anything outside of that is just friendly fellowship.

One thing the Catholics did right was the parish concept: people worshiping together who live together. Koinonia is no different. We must be able to participate in one another’s lives.

I asked a friend the other day, “If disaster happened, where would you run?” He said, most people go home. But face it, the family unit is too small and isolated to face true disaster. And in many cases, family is dispersed as well. Can I run to my church? At this point, it’s 25 minutes away by car. My neighbors? I have lived on the same block for twelve years and although I can name six or seven families, that’s my limit. Would we turn to one another in the face of danger? Would a type of koinonia develop from need on our block? Would we approach disaster the same way without a shared faith?

Lots of questions today. Lots of dreaming.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: