Sunday, October 18, 2009

i blame Luther

Luther really opened up a can (make that a Diet) of worms when he nailed up 95 Theses on a Wittenburg door. the religious climate was pretty cold where no-one outside of the priesthood could really understand the goings-on during mass and salvation was sold to you if you could pay. i gotta admit that he definitely brought Christendom back into the eyes of the common man, using the language of the common man but he also started us on a path that caused some "issues" for guys like me. the concept of sola scriptura brought scripture into the vernacular and eventually brought many versions and translations of the scriptures on to my desk, but it also put the church on a path where Christian life became all about "rules for how do i live better?" instead of "concentrate on the relational with God". we as the church worried a lot about what the rules for living were and less about asking ourselves how to find God amidst our living. we became more teaching focused since we needed to learn from the beginning and we became less focused on relational worship.
from Luther we went to other various reformers and we in turn concentrated on the scriptures in the hands of the regular man. we ran away from tradition and ritual, but it's not like that's a bad thing ... completely. from the reformers we begin to see groups like the Puritans who in turn focused more and more on the concept of piety and holiness. in other words the list of rules for living better became a full fledged movement. holiness is not a bad concept at all except that in our thirst to learn to live better we did away with tradition and the relational nature with God. we kept God at arms length because we hadn't figured out how to be holy according to our rules and since God is by definition holy then we would always have to keep relationship with God at arms length.
i'm a product of my own background. my family has a Puritanical bent. the Evangelical movement is much about teaching on how to live life better and less about relationship with the mysterious. it is more about do as i say and hierarchy than it is about vertical relationship and ritual than i want it to be. it has more to do with following the rules than it has to do with letting the church's tradition speak to you from beyond millenia.
consequently, i struggle with the rules that churches tell me i must follow in order to be a believer. i struggle that i don't see enough freedom in my daily walk with God. i want to have a connection to the ancient, to the traditions and rituals that come directly from Christ. that's how i want to find value in my walk with God. i want more reliance on liturgy than i want reliance on teaching from the pastor. i want a connection to God through ritual, through symbol and i want that ritual and symbol to come to me from the 1st century. i want my worship service to be balanced between the centrality of the Eucharist and some teaching from the scriptures. i want singing of spiritual songs and i want to hear from the Word, scriptures handed down through the centuries to draw us closer to God.
i read a blog post recently talking about the importance of liturgy and it pushed me a tiny bit in the direction of this post. i want to hear and rely on the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed more, not because i want to put the Creeds on a pedastal but rather because i think they point me to God a bit. we've been discussing what place the Eucharist has in our church services during our Adult Teaching time prior to worship over the last month or so and a common theme that came out to me was how the Reformation changed the balance of the worship service so that we relied more on teaching (since the common man needed more teaching) and less on the ritual found in the Eucharist. i think that many churches are still there. we've gotten away from the mystery of faith and have boiled it down to a list of how to live. i've got to think that when i think of worship now i have less and less interest in teaching and more and more interest in the mystery.
so you see, Luther you really opened up a can. some of the stuff you brought out has helped multiple millions move toward faith but also it has moved us away from some ancient connections to Christ as we moved away from the mysteries of the faith. i'm getting more and more joy out of ritual, out of the mystery in my walk with God. i've decided to keep the teaching part in my own walk too but i still want a better connection with ritual and the ancient. that's just how i feel and yes, i kinda blame Luther.


anias blog said...

Excellent and thoughtful post, Ian.


Gary said...

Interesting thoughts. From my understanding, the Pre-reformation church didn't really operate as a church (a body of believers) though. Partly because they didn't understand what was going on.

They would gather in the church at the time of
mass, but as the priests were doing their thing, everyone was doing their own thing too- private rosary or chatting to neighbours or worse... The only bit they were together was when the bell rang to signify the moment of 'change' in the bread and wine.

Mystery and adoration aren't wrong, but I reckon the church can better be the church as it gathers around the word and sacraments to be encouraged by God's word and by one another.

shallowfrozenwater said...

i don't disagree with anything you say here Gary, i just think that the evangelical movement in particular has moved away from mystery in faith in its attempt to teach more. i want more balance in the service so that the sacraments are given more balance within a worship service. that way we can all still have teaching, hear from the word, sing and pray together and we can still celebrate the mystery of faith together in the Eucharist.