Monday, February 15, 2010

Old Testament YouTube

On this date in 2005, YouTube launched into service.

Today, five years later, Facebook is projected to reach 400 million users.

Four hundred million people is a larger social entity than most nations.

Already, it is difficult to imagine a world without YouTube and Facebook.

Add Google to that picture.

Now add the Internet.

Now add personal computers.

All these advances have occurred in less than one generation.

When I was an adolescent in South America, it took as long as three months to get a letter from our family in the United States. From time to time we would phone a relative, but it required taking a trip to downtown Quito, waiting for a time slot for the limited cable capacity, then yelling for several minutes hoping that most of what had been said would be heard.

The world has changed, and changed and changed again.

So what do we do with faith in a God who “changes not?”

Most of us believe that we are free to change certain elements of our worship and church structure. After all, we’ve been doing that all along. Otherwise, we would all worship like the Greek Orthodox. (Although one could argue that the Orthodox merely froze their changes at an earlier date than the rest of us (about 400 AD).

We are left with the agreement that some things ought to change and other things ought not to change but divided about what sorts of things change or remain the same.

We Christians can get downright testy when we think someone is deliberately tampering with our faith. We also have a tendency to sanctify the cultural idiosyncrasies of some particular bygone era. In fact, our differences are often about which historical era was the 'sanctified' one.

Certainly, we must honor the Christians of the past. Therefore, we should preserve their contributions. On the other hand, however saintly they may have been, our spiritual ancestors were not right about everything.

That is certainly the case about traditional gender roles.

Opinions about gender roles, like much of what we call “common sense,” are based on the accepted practices of the particular people, in a particular time that lived within a particular culture.

As we discussed in another blog, a Bible translator or theologian must carefully, prayerfully, and honorably separate what the Bible claims to be unchangeable truth from things that relate to his or her own specific cultural.

That can be difficult to do.

In the matter of God’s “gender,” we must recognize that both male and female human beings are made in God’s image and likeness. We can infer then that both maleness and femaleness have their origin in God. This means that God transcends gender. Even so, for His own reasons, God usually chose to refer to Himself as male. We must respect God’s choice in this. However, we should not make more of this issue than the Bible itself does.

How do we navigate societal change while remaining true to our spiritual foundations?

In today’s Old Testament reading from the One Year Bible, God instructs the priests about their vestments. Priests wore certain things and not other things when leading worship. Nowhere in the New Testament did God say, “Forget about all that stuff.” In fact, the worship patterns that St. John the Revelator reports seeing in heaven are pretty much the same as what God instructed in the Old Testament. The Orthodox Christians believe that this is a pattern for all times. We lack permission to change or adapt that pattern in any way.

Society does what it wants; the church remains the same.

Interesting, isn’t it? What we call “conservative Christianity” in this country, when compared to the Orthodox, are unbelievably liberal and innovative. We make changes in how we worship all the time.

Should we?


What are the fruit of these changes? Do we experience awe in our worship less than the Orthodox?


Does it matter?

What does matter: doctrine, worship, behavior, fellowship, service? What matters the most?

Can we substitute fellowship over a cup of coffee for wine in a formal communion service? How about grape juice, since we have already made that shift?

Having ancient/future faith is about recognizing that we must honor our roots. We are stewards of a heritage. Like St. Paul, we are giving “that which we have received.”

On the other hand, we are responsible to communicate the gospel in a way that it will actually be received. However faithful to the past we may be, it doesn’t matter much if no one understands it enough to actually accept it. If we adapt the faith so much that it becomes something that Christ does not recognize, then we fail our mission to take the gospel to the world. If we are so faithful to the past forms that we fail to communicate the gospel, we also fail.

In an age of Facebook and Youtube, we are no longer making beautiful illuminated manuscripts that take years to complete. However, the Word is going out to the nations in most of the world’s languages. Every day we text people all over the world. Our ancestors – even our grandparents - would have been stunned by this development.

We stretch back...into the past. We stretch our descendants.

Ancient/future; it can feel like it stretches us to the breaking point.

But it doesn’t. It just makes us good communicators of the good news. And, perhaps, it makes us respectful of the differences among us. After all, the differences allow us to maintain what comes to us from the past, even as we adapt ourselves to a world that those who gave us our heritage could have never imagined.

Kyrie Eleison

Christos Eleison


James said...

Pastor Dan,

Help me here, just being a lay Christian, one who follows Christ as my High and Only Priest. Please help me understand how the Apostles, adding Paul to the mix, who were not priest complied with the worship as instructed by God in the Old Testament? Second, should we be offering sacrifice in the temple? If we are to be “Orthodox,” shouldn’t we be keeping all the 613 instructions?

Just a little confused as to which priest I am to following. Help me here.

With our culture being shifted by movies such as Avatar calling God “mother”. One wonders which do we listen to? Times like these are we so driven by change that we follow every wind that blows?

David as well had this problem; he consulted men instead of God’s word, and lost a good man in the process. II Samuel 6.

Is part of this mystery one of the reasons Jewish Rabbi only teach Kabbalah to learned believers for fear of confusion?

I personally think the best is yet to come, and what we think was unthinkable by our grandparents is just todays telegraph. dot dot dot dash dash dot dot dot …--…

O Lord, Lord have mercy and save our soul.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Pastor Dan. I struggle with the changes in the church at times. Sometimes I want huge steps forward and other times I want us to stay where we are. No one else probably thinks quite like I do on what should change and what should remain. If we all insist that our ideas of what changes and what stays the same are right, it leads to a lot of confusion. It's a good lesson in flexibility and grace - learning to be a part of the body of Christ and adjusting to change - and stability - standing up for the things that should never change.

Dan said...

The Book of Hebrews tells us thta Jesus was the last High Priest, and was not of the tribe of Levi. He opened the door to Gentiles to become "fellow citizins with the saints," and expanded the idea of priesthood as well. The sacrifice also has been done once and for all. What is left is the Lord's table, where there is no bloody sacrifice because one was offered finally without blemish. We have the proclaimed Word. We have the fellowship of the saints.

The Book of Hebrews tells the story

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I like tradition.

I attend Adult Formation Classes at the Catholic Church, and one Sunday, a Divinity professor from Vanderbilt (and of that particular parish) was discussing Holy Orders and Communion.

The professor was discussing how the Catholic Church does not believe in women behind the pulpit.

The Church also believes that wine must be used in communion. The professor was emotional about this point.

Out of a crowd of many, I spoke up and asked, "Why can't grape juice be used in communion?"

The crowd was hushed as if nobody ever heard this question before.

The professor adamantly responded, "Because Jesus used wine! That's why."

Hmmmm. That made sense to me.

So I thought to myself, "What would the Protestant church that I attend think if I brought a small bottle of wine for communion?"

I'm being serious.

James said...

Awe, we lack it sometimes.

Pastor Dan,

Please don’t miss read me here; I am asking to learn, not to challenge. Our pattern of worship has of course changed so much, I doubt Paul would know he was in “church” should he fall into a service today. However, that is not to say we don’t worship God as to who He is.

Here is the rub. My mitzvot for 2010, to learn as much about Jewish Rabbis of old and what they still teach. This has been very enlightening as to learning such teaching as Nasi / Rabbi Hillel, who taught everything you need to know you can learn while standing on one foot, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Also, the teaching of Rabbi Roth of the 19th century, “to be in Awe of G-D, you must know G-D”. Then turning to the Catholic Church, a great source of learning, seeing all the symbolisms and ritual. This makes one wonder when we read such statement as,

“Nowhere in the New Testament did God say, “Forget about all that stuff.””

Hebrews 10:19 (NKJV)
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,

Are we to bring incense back into worship, should bells ring when our earthly priest holds the host up to heaven?

Hebrews 10:20 (NKJV)
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

I don’t mean any of this with disrespect, as you are one of the few men of God I hold in trust to do your best to be my Shepard.

I could expand on a number of questions, but as I know you have limited time, let me push it into one short question.

Have we moved so far from true north in worship that we have taken our focus off God, and placed it on worship?

Your thoughts are of great influence to me.

I do miss that feeling when I come to worship being struck with “AWE” for we are standing on Holy Ground.

Standing in awe of your wisdom in these matters,

Antonia (Toni) said...

In response to Ms. Kelly Jay -- SPEECHLESS