Why I Won't Shut Up About Worship Already

I know I'm a blowhard. I know that, if you read through this blog or follow me on t3h social medias that it just reads like I'm complaining about something popular in Evangelical circles all the time. Most of y'all probably just read it as "Johnny disapproves because he doesn't like it."

That's not why.

Every July 4th, or on the nearest Sunday, most Evangelicals in America will trot out this verse from 2 Chronicles: "...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Now we have to ask, "Is this a promise made to Christians today?" There are several possible answers. It could be a promise only to ancient Israel. I don't believe so, because we are still His people, called by His name. It could be that the promise was temporary TO the ancient Kingdom. I don't find that in the text. It could be either there is no God or He doesn't keep his word, but if you believe either of those the promise is moot. Or it could be, as I believe, God has made, and keeps, this promise to all His people for all time, not just during the Temple administration.

The next question, then, is, "How's the land?" As far as I can tell, it doesn't seem very healed. So the conclusion I reach is that, whatever we think we're doing, it isn't what the Lord is speaking about in this promise.

This is a concern for me in terms of the worship of the Bible-believing Church (don't care what the Bible-doubting Church does; they are irrelevant) because I believe worship drives the societal car, and whatever judgement the Lord is visiting on a nation starts in His house and moves outward. I don't blame the unbelievers; they don't have the promise.

So it's that--coming before the Lord lacking humility, not turning from iniquity, not seeking His face that concerns me when I see it, and I'm afraid I see it often. Maybe I'm overly sensitive and am seeing something else, but I refer you to the questions above.

God's Dwelling

Reading in the Revelation for Advent…

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

How about that? And who are those who dwell in Heaven?

But God, being rich in mercy, ...made us alive together with Christ...and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…
Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Heavy.








Spirit and Truth from St. Basil

"Another sense may however be given to the phrase, that just as the Father is seen in the Son, so is the Son in the Spirit. The worship in the Spirit suggests the idea of the operation of our intelligence being carried on in the light, as may be learned from the words spoken to the woman of Samaria. Deceived as she was by the customs of her country into the belief that worship was local, our Lord, with the object of giving her better instruction, said that worship ought to be offered in Spirit and in Truth, plainly meaning by the Truth, Himself. As then we speak of the worship offered in the Image of God the Father as worship in the Son, so too do we speak of worship in the Spirit as showing in Himself the Godhead of the Lord. Wherefore even in our worship the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son. If you remain outside the Spirit you will not be able even to worship at all; and on your becoming in Him you will in no way be able to dissever Him from God—any more than you will divorce light from visible objects. For it is impossible to behold the Image of the invisible God except by the enlightenment of the Spirit, and impracticable for him to fix his gaze on the Image to dissever the light from the Image, because the cause of vision is of necessity seen at the same time as the visible objects. Thus fitly and consistently do we behold the Brightness of the glory of God by means of the illumination of the Spirit, and by means of the Express Image we are led up to Him of whom He is the Express Image and Seal, graven to the like."

The Drinking Hymn




I wrote a drinking hymn.

At my Church it's very common for the men to sit around a table and enjoy libations and a good cigar or pipe together. At those times it's very common for someone to raise a glass and say, "To the King!" I thought it would be nice if we had a drinking song along those lines we could sing together at our Men's Retreat or monthly "Pipe Club," or even on Sundays around the Church patio after worship. I wrote it mostly during the drive out to Concan and we learned it and sang it for the video posted above. I was really pleased with it and shared it with a few friends who I thought might get a kick out of it.

I was not prepared for it to have almost 10,000 views and to have been shared 70 times! It seems to have really resonated with a lot of people, and for that I'm really glad. I'd like to share some thoughts about why I think that is.

Fellowship
I think many of us in the Evangelical world are starved for Christian community. We sit in crowds of hundreds, sing a couple of songs, hear a sermon by a preacher on a video screen and then high tail it out of there before the traffic gets too bad. Maybe we'll meet the usual friends at a restaurant, maybe we'll see our Bible study group, but there's a lack of "common life" in which a group has committed themselves to one another for years.

The brothers you see in that video have years of worship, time invested, and sharing one another's ups and downs together. Being a small Parish, we get involved with one another quickly upon joining, and that's pretty much the expectation of membership. We want you with us for far more than an hour and a half on Sunday. Further, when corporate worship is hitting on all cylinders fellowship will naturally grow from it. Common Prayer builds common life. This is a HUGE part of why I go to a "liturgical" Church.

Masculinity
Another big problem today is that the Church has become so feminized. Revivalist emotionalism led to feminist prohibitionism led to men leaving the Church or abdicating their religious responsibilities. At Holy Trinity there is a very masculine Church culture. Men are free to be men and our worship reflects that. Interestingly, our women feel freed up by this to be more feminine.

The smoking and drinking and all that are what usually strike visitors but really, they are just manifestations of something deeper, and it is that that I think attracts people. We have men who neither drink nor smoke but are as strongly involved in forming our Church culture as those who do, after all, so it is something else behind that face of it.

I believe it's mostly liturgical. The form and content of our liturgy, the hymns and songs we sing, the preaching we hear are full of avenues for men to praise God like men. The emasculating sentimentality of revivalism is not found in a Church like ours, neither is self-centered therapeutic moralism in the preaching of the Word.

Godly leaders protecting us from those things, as well as keeping us clear from the opposite error of a fakey machismo, has created a bond of brotherhood which further sustains itself by continued example in our common life and growth together. The Lord has kindly blessed us with a very small, imperfect glimpse of what it's supposed to be like for Christian men to share life together. I think men and women alike pick up on this and realize they are longing for it.

What You Can Do
If you're one of those people longing for the fellowship and masculine freedom you see in the video, you can have it! Start hanging around after Church. Spend time with each other. Be men; don't feel you have to relate to each other in some contrived way. One of the problems with "men's groups" is that they often want the guys to get together and "share" the way women do. Just be yourselves.

Take a look at your worship--the things you say, the things you do, the prayers you pray.
God has provided clear instruction on how to approach Him as a man. Study. Commit. Throw yourself into the cause of Christ.

Join us!

Catechism, pt. 1

By "Catechism" I'm not referring to the method of religious instruction consisting of questions and answers. Catechesis is a big part of what I'll be describing, but I'm using the term as the overall description of a method of disciple-making, which for our purposes is going to center on the form and content of the worship service. I got the term from John Williamson Nevin, who coined it to describe the antithesis of revivalism, or as he named it the system of the "Anxious Bench."

1. We trust the Holy Ghost to bring to Christ all those appointed to eternal life.
2. The call to the unbeliever is to become a worshipper of the Triune God.
3. This is a thing foreign to him as an unbeliever.
4. It is therefore to be expected that Christian worship isn't readily "accessible" to him.
5. It will become so as he is converted and instructed.
6. Both actually begin as he observes and participates as he is able.
7. It is therefore necessary that he observes worship done decently and in good order, according to God's revealed standards.