Tag Archives: Protestant

Worship Like You’re Drunk at 9 a.m.

“These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”
Acts 2:15 (NIV)

I grew up in a very traditional church paradigm for a midwest American Protestant. I, and my family, were expected to dress in our “Sunday best.” Every part of the church routine was carefully planned and orchestrated. The service had a certain pageantry to it. You kept quiet. You sat up straight in the unpadded wooden pew. You stood when you were told to stand. You sang the verses you were told to sing when you were told to sing them. You sat quietly and listened. It was all very proper.

In the nearly forty years I’ve been a follower of Jesus I have worshipped in a veritable plethora of environments across cultures and denominations. Catholic and Protestant, mainline and charismatic, traditional and non-traditional, I’ve had a lot of different experiences. I’ve worshipped in a poor mountain village on Mindanao in the Philippines where chickens scurried around the dirt floor and a dog wandered in to flop to sleep under the rickety table that served as an altar where I was preaching. I’ve worshiped in silence with Quakers and in the raucous call and response of an African-American congregation. I’ve worshipped at St. Patrick’s in Dublin, the National Synagogue in Jerusalem, and with a handful of Arab believers in Nazareth.

I’ve always held an expansive view of worship. There are always things I can learn from different cultures and traditions. I have, however, made a few observations along the way.

I believe that between the Reformation and the Enlightenment, Protestants by-and-large disembodied worship. The Reformation did away with physical gestures like genuflection and kneeling. The Enlightenment convinced us that our brains were the center of the worship experience, embellished by a couple of instances of standing, singing, and maybe a recitation.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t think the worship paradigm in which I was raised was wrong, but perhaps I’d describe it as purposefully limited. In my perpetual journey through God’s Message I find that the call to praise and worship is always physically active with repeated encouragements to shout, lift hands, dance, sing, clap, play instruments, lift banners and the like. I have yet to come across an exhortation in the Bible asking me to praise God with my hands in my pockets, to praise God with mumbling, or to rejoice in passive sitting.

I’ve also observed, both in scriptural descriptions and in my own experiences, that when Holy Spirit pours out on a group of people at worship things can get a little weird. In today’s chapter, casual observers thought Peter and the boys were drunk at 9:00 in the morning. When King David was worshipping in the Spirit his wife became pissed off at how publicly “undignified” he was acting.

This morning I’m enjoying dusting off some old memories of diverse worship experiences in which I’ve participated. I’m also reminded by the events of Pentecost in today’s chapter that I can’t think of one description of Holy Spirit outpouring that is described as a quiet affair of public propriety. When the religious leaders chastised Jesus’ followers for their raucous outpouring of praise, Jesus replied, “If they were silenced then the rocks would cry out.”

The further I get in my journey, the less I care about what anyone else thinks. I’ll take an outpouring of Holy Spirit anytime. I’ll worship like I’m drunk at 9:00 in the morning.

 

Priests, Protestants and Me

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull of sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
Leviticus 8:1-3 (NRSV)

Aaron was Moses’ right-hand man, and it was Aaron and his sons who were chosen to be the priests in the sacrificial system of the ancient Hebrews. In today’s chapter, God through Moses takes Aaron and his sons through a ritual of ordination to become priests. It is a long ritual filled with metaphor from their priestly vestments to a little dab ‘ill do ya of blood on the ear lobe.

A priest is a mediator between God and man. A priest stands in the spiritual gap. The priest represents God to humanity and represents humanity before God. A priest is spiritually elevated and ordained to handle and serve the sacrifice, to carry our prayers into the presence of the Almighty, and to bestow forgiveness and absolution to the common sinner.

Among Christian institutions, the priesthood is one of the major differences between Roman Catholicism (and Greek Orthodox and Anglican) and the Protestant denominations. Protestants believe that since Jesus death and resurrection there is only one priest and mediator, and it is Jesus:

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. Hebrews 4:14

“For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all….” 1 Timothy 2:5

Three of the four gospel writers report that when Jesus died the curtain in the Hebrew temple was torn in two. That curtain separated people from the area of the temple where God resided. Only the priest could enter. When the curtain was torn, the way was made for anyone to enter into God’s presence. Jesus was the sacrifice, the mediator, and the priest who stands in the gap.

In my Protestant circles, we think very little of the role of a priest anymore. I have, however, observed along my journey that Protestants often like to unwittingly bestow priestly powers on our pastors and spiritual leaders. It seems there is something innately human about doing so despite what we say we believe.

This morning I’m mulling over my own understanding of the role of priests, the work of Jesus and what that means. The ultimate sacrifice has been made. The curtain is torn. The way is open for me to enter into God’s presence. I need no other emissary, or representative, or priest. I need only approach.

Will I?

 

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Chapter-a-Day Acts 18

Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. Acts 18:3 (NLT)

I love the fact that Paul did what he had to do in order to fulfill the task God gave him. Not willing to be completely dependent on others, he worked diligently at the menial task of tent making so he could provide for himself. Coming from my Dutch Protestant heritage, I learned a lot about the worth of working hard and doing a job well no matter what the task. Being faithful with a small, menial task is generally rewarded with the opportunity to be given more responsibility with greater reward.

I’ve worked a lot of different jobs in my life. I’ve been paid to do a lot of different things:

  • Delivering newspapers
  • Babysitter
  • Lawnmower
  • Envelope stuffer
  • 35 mm film inspector/duster/splicer
  • Outbound telemarketer
  • Counter of nuts/bolts/screws for inventory
  • Corn pollinator
  • Package sorter
  • Bus boy
  • Book store clerk
  • Library clerk
  • Cook
  • Janitor
  • Driver
  • 35 mm film inspector/duster/splicer
  • Voice talent on radio commercials
  • PA Announcer for sporting events
  • Speaker
  • Writer
  • Napkin folder
  • Table setter
  • Cameraman
  • Photographer
  • Actor
  • Director
  • Administrator
  • Pastor
  • Counselor

I’m sure there’s more.

I sometimes get a kick out of people who sit in relative paralysis and endlessly wonder “what does God want me to do?” The longer I live the more I’m convinced that we are a lot like a jet ski. You can’t steer the dumb thing unless it’s moving forward.

Do something. Do anything. Just GO! God will direct you if you’re moving, working, and doing. He can’t direct us if we’re sitting dead in the water.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 11

from Shayan via Flickr

And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17 (NLT)

We can scarce understand what momentous paradigm shift Peter and the early believers experienced in the events chronicled in the past few chapters. It was deep, profound social unrest. The walls the Jews had built up between themselves and the non-Jews (Gentiles) through the centuries were tall and thick and seemingly impenetrable. As Jews, the 12 apostles of Jesus were comfortable keeping Jesus’ work and teaching within the clearly defined boundaries of the Jewish law and culture. As had happened so many times in the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, God had other plans; Plans that would obliterate their own personal agendas.

Peter walking into Cornelius’ house and ministering to him and his family is not unlike a southern Ku Klux Klan member in 1930s America walking into an African American’s home for a meal. It’s like an Irish Catholic walking into a Protestant’s home in Northern Ireland and embracing them. It was radical and it was sure to reverberate through the young Christian community with conflict, dissent, and boisterous protest. And, it was clearly the work of God.

As the arguments rose in crescendo, Peter asked the crucial question: “Who was I to stand in God’s way?”

Throughout my life journey I’ve witnessed God doing the inexplicable, and I have stood in the center of the resulting maelstrom of vehement disbelief, anger, and dissent. I have run into individuals and groups who want to dictate what God will do, when He will do it, and how He will go about doing it. They want God to fit nicely inside the box of their own design and cultural or denominational comfort zone. I have watched people stretch and twist God’s own Word to defend and justify their prejudiced views. Like Peter, I have even been guilty of it myself.

Increasingly I find myself desperately desiring that God’s will, not mine, be done. The only boundaries I desire to place on God are those that God Himself has ordained and set in place. I want God to have free reign in my heart, my life, my home, and my community. God forbid that I should ever stand in the way of what He is doing, but grant that I may free fall into it.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 6

Bruegel Proverbs
Image via Wikipedia

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
      Learn from their ways and become wise!
Proverbs 6:6 (NLT)

I often tell the story of my Grandpa Vander Well. A life-long educator, when he hit mandatory retirement from teaching he took over the school lunch and bus programs. Years later he was told that he had to retire from that position. He promptly found a job as bailiff at the county courthouse. He held that job until he was in his 90’s and the judge called him into chambers to tell him, “Herman, I’m tired of having to wake you  up to take the jury out. It’s time for you to retire.”

A short time later he was moved to a nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee for new residents. He would take it upon himself to show people around and teach them the ropes. “The day I stop working,” he was fond of saying, “is the day I die.” He wasn’t far off.

As a young man I underestimated the generational impact that my Dutch Protestant heritage had on me. The work ethic that my grandfather inherited from his Dutch immigrant father and the culture of his upbringing was impressed upon his children and his children’s children. There is a lot to be learned and profited from a willingness to work and the honor of doing a job well.

I feel a rant coming on. I will, however, spare you the reading. Today, I’m thankful for the example of my parents, grandparents, and ancestors who honored both work and rest. I’m thankful for both my labor and my leisure.

It’s Monday morning. Time to get back to work.