Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Opening up the possibilities

Ok, the dangers of posting once a week are catching up with me again.  Last time we spoke, Easter was a long ways off, now, it's already behind us.  It's interesting as the celebration comes and goes, to notice that it is one of a tiny handful of events in the New Testament we have a solid date on, with the events of Holy Week coinciding with the Jewish Passover celebrations.  For all the attention Christmas gets, there is little solid evidence presented in the Bible of it's date.  We know that the Bible tells us the important things we need to know, not always the things we want to know, so getting that detailed date on Christ's death and resurrection evidently trumps the need to know the date of His birth.  Continuing down this path, I started thinking about how very few dates, celebrations, and even rituals we were passed through the New Testament.  Reading through the Old Testament, we find a long litany of feasts, celebrations and rituals passed to Israel to properly worship God, while in the New, we have Easter and Pentecost for dated events, and we have communion, baptism and tithing for rituals.  One could count the Lord's Prayer as one of the few examples of liturgy.  Why the shift?

I'm not pretending to know the mind of God, but it's my two bits that the shift comes for several reasons.  By the available accounts, we see that before the Mosaic Law was handed down, it seems that worship was a bit more personalized.  Adam and Eve walked and talked directly with God in the Garden, without ritual, Cain and Abel brought the sacrifices of their own choosing.  While David wrote a long variety of psalms to praise and petition God, once we get into the years of the nation of Israel, the focus of worship appears to be almost exclusively to the Mosaic rituals.  This led to the legalism exemplified by the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Jesus spoke against.  Not everyone performed the rituals or sang the songs heartlessly, but most of us know that feeling of just not being into it on Sunday morning, or even in personal devotion time, and just going through familiar motions.    

The New Covenant not only opened up salvation for people outside the decedents of  Abraham, it also reopened the world of worship.  From the melodic chants of Benedictine monks to the tortured screams of the unblack metal band, from thumping beats of the hip hop Christian soldiers to the quiet tranquility of our favorite hundred year old hymns, they are all valid expressions of faith.  I've never been a fan of the traditional/contemporary split services that are very common on church signs anymore, (just seems to be dividing not bringing together, other activities and group work can eliminate that split, however, it seems to be adding a lot of uphill struggle) but I do understand the reasoning of letting people worship in the ways most comfortable.  That's part of the idea.  Instead of tailoring our heart to our worship, we have the freedom to tailor our worship to our heart.

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