Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?

Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?

People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?

The Cross of Christ & the Love of God – What Saves Us?

The_Cross____by_jkinerI am currently writing a book on love, both God’s love and our love. In writing the first half of my book I have sought to deal with the cross. I do not know how you can talk about God’s love and not go to the cross. Every reader of the New Testament can readily see that the cross is central to the story of God’s love and redemption.

“Christ died for our sins” is central to the earliest confessions and is a bottom line teaching of the New Testament. But how we understand what happened on the cross, in terms of God’s saving us through the death of Christ, is another matter. Several theories of the atonement have been debated and embraced by various Christians over the last ten-plus centuries. (The early church also held a view and in general I do not fully agree with this view either as I shall show in my book.)

I have decided to make my way into this controversy, with fear and trembling in one way, precisely because I believe that

True Friendships (3)

The goal of life for every Christian should be the kingdom of God. The gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God. Tragically, we have settled for what Dallas Willard calls “the gospel of sin management,” a gospel which is something far less than the gospel of the kingdom.

UnknownVery early in the church’s history a group of men and women, fearing the devastation to the soul brought about by the breakdown of spiritual culture inside the church, went to live in the desert in order to learn how to practice the Christian life with greater clarity. Robert Wilken (photo), the famous church historian and patristic scholar, has written, “In their writings the phrase used most often to depict what one strives for in life’s daily struggles was ‘purity of heart.’ Without purity of heart, all yearning for holiness and all desire for God come to naught, for hour by hour, even minute by minute, we are bent and shaped by distractions and wayward thoughts, many good and legitimate, that drive our minds and take our

By |January 16th, 2014|Categories: Forgiveness, Liturgy, Patristics, Sports|

Mary in Ecumenical Perspective

Registration Table for NWCUI mentioned yesterday that I attended two seminars at the National Workshop on Christian Unity (NWCU) in Columbus, April 8–11. The second was titled: “Mary in Ecumenical Perspective.” It was taught by one of the leading liturgical scholars in North American Christianity, Dr. Maxwell Johnson, Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Johnson was marvelous. He was engaging, interesting, lucid and very funny. No one seemed bored for one moment and the room was alive. When he was done the questions flowed out of his outstanding presentation. Let me explain, very briefly, his thesis.

While many Protestants believe Mary presents a rather significant barrier to Christian unity Dr. Johnson believes the exact opposite is the case, both in our respective church traditions and in a growing awareness of Mary’s role in Christian life and devotion. A major source for Johnson’s argument was rooted in Martin Luther. This was the strength of his paper since he is a Lutheran himself. He showed, quite plainly, how Luther honored Mary and retained all the ancient-faith

The Role of Catechesis, Adult Conversions and Assimilation

The National Workshop on Christian Unity (NWCU) adopted as its theme for this year’s gathering in Columbus, Ohio, “What Does God Requires of Us?” (Micah 6:6–8). A variety of speakers addressed plenary sessions including Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker, Professor of Worship at Boston University School of Theology; Ms. Kathryn Lohre, Director for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious for the ELCA and the President of the National Council of Churches; Bishop Emeritus Don McCoid (ELCA) and Rev. Leo Walsh (Catholic). Nine different seminars were also offered. (Attenders could only go to three over the course of two full days.)

The various denominational networks, listed in yesterday’s post, met during the day on Monday. The opening session of the NWCU was on Monday evening, April 8, at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. St. Joseph’s is the cathedral church of the diocese of Columbus. This magnificent service of worship was one of the best ecumenical liturgical services of worship I have ever attended. Representatives of many churches contributed. The sermon, based on the theme text in Micah, was delivered by the bishop7Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, the

Why I Celebrate Lent

images-1For those readers who do not practice Lent, and I am sure there are a few, bear with me while I tell you why I do.

First, what is Lent?

The word “Lent” means “spring” and comes from the Middle English lente, meaning “lengthen.” It signifies the “lengthening” of the days after long winter nights. The cold and darkness of winter is beginning to pass and spring is not too far behind. New life is near and the season reminds us of renewed spiritual life and growth.

When did the church begin to observe Lent?

As early as the second century, making it a much older Christian tradition than the celebration of Advent and Christmas. Irenaeus (130–202) wrote about Lent “going back to the time of our forefathers.” That’s pretty impressive in terms of its origins. It stands to reason that the early church observed this time because new converts were prepared for baptism and entry into the church at Easter and this time was a part of the process. It was also a time for those already baptized

Complete Trust and Commercial Assurances

In the worship of this past Lord’s Day the divine liturgy that I shared in led us to confess that there were times when we failed to think of God’s call upon our lives properly. Because of these times we could not live an “impossible dream” because we saw this call as “an unwelcome interruption.” I was struck by how powerful this simple confession was to me. The line which followed said, “Faithful God, the apostle Paul emphasizes Abraham’s complete trust and faith in your promises and how he grew ever stronger in faith, fully convinced of your ability to fulfill what has been promised.”

Then this affirmation was followed by an application and confession which genuinely struck me as soul-searching in a profound way:

We find it hard to hear your promises above the commercial assurance of transformation–promises tempting us to trust the newest and trendiest product to realize our dreams. For all the times when we do not place our hope and trust in you alone, forgive us, O God. 

I thought about this confession over the last 24 hours. I believe that it is

By |September 17th, 2012|Categories: Business, Liturgy, Personal|

Should the Church Gather for the Unchurched?

Marino.matt_webWhen I was in Phoenix in Arizona I met Rev. Matthew Marino. Matt is the Episcopal Canon of Arizona for Youth and Adult Ministries. He serves out of the diocesan office in Phoenix, where we met for the first time in November last year. We had a delightful time and connected very easily. 

Matt has 30 years experience leading youth ministry in a variety of contexts (rural, suburban and urban) and across the economic and ethnic continuum. He has developed a variety of training programs including the two-year Youth Ministry Apprenticeship training for full-time youth directors, curriculums for Young Life's multi-ethnic Student-Staff and volunteers, and the Remuda Ranch Center Aftercare Recovery Workbook. He has a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Arizona State University and was a member of Fuller Theological Seminary's first Urban Youth Ministry Cohort. Matt is Canon for Youth and Young Adults, leads the YMA training and a church plant team at St. Jude's, Phoenix. Matt's passion

By |February 13th, 2012|Categories: Liturgy, Sacraments, The Church|

The Passing of the Peace

When I began to understand ancient liturgical practice some years ago one of the more beautiful discoveries was “The Passing of the Peace.” I had never heard the term until I was introduced to the practice in a liturgical context. Like everything else I encounter in the practice of worship I wanted to know what this term really meant and where the practice came from.

First, for those who do not know the term, it is used in many liturgical services after the reading of biblical texts, the sermon and The Lord’s Prayer. It always comes before the Eucharist or communion. The church will be led in prayer as a congregation and various ways of responding and praying are used. Following this the “passing of the peace” generally occurs. The leader says, “The peace of Christ be with you.” The congregation responds, “And also with you.” And then the leader urges the people to share the peace with one another.

Best Second, the “passing of the peace” occurs just before

By |November 21st, 2010|Categories: Liturgy, Sacraments, Unity of the Church|

Forms of Prayer

I have been reading an old book that bears the title The Prayers of the Early Church (1930), written by Dom Fernand Cabrol, a Benedictine. It is a study of how the early church developed prayer within the context of liturgy. There is much to like in this treatment but some things to pursue that will not gain universal acclaim for sure. The flavor is quite Roman Catholic.

power-of-prayer In a chapter titled “Forms of Prayer” the author writes: “From the very outset one of the distinguishing features of liturgical prayer is the element of spontaneity or improvisation in its utterance.” He adds, “Thus we learn from Justin, Tertullian, and most of the writers of this period . . . even the most solemn formulas were extemporized.” Variety and free-form were normative but in time more was written down. He rightly concludes: “However, this freedom of improvisation was not anarchy. Prayer was subject to certain rules; in some instances the theme was necessarily used, for instance in

By |September 19th, 2010|Categories: Liturgy, Prayer|