The church and relevance

Today morning, I read on the BBC the Pope’s plan to text young Catholics when he attends the World Youth Day in Australia in July. About a year ago, they announced plans to build a solar roof on the Sala Nervi. No one can blame the Vatican for not getting with the times. Or can they? Last year, the Pope approved the return of the Latin Mass.

In a Christianity Today article, A Deeper Relevance, Mark Galli seeks to explain why (American) evangelicals are attracted to liturgy. He describes liturgy as “...the prayers, responses, and shape of worship one finds in Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox services…“. While I can’t say that I’d like to have my church services in Latin or Medieval English, he makes a strong point as to how the liturgy is relevant to today’s believer.

Galli quotes Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann who wrote, “The liturgy begins … as a real separation from the world.” The interesting thing is that this was the second time today I read that the Church should be noticeably different from the world. God must be driving a point home in my heart. I digress. Galli goes on by saying that in our search for relevance today, churches end up by targeting a specific group and leaving out the rest. The liturgy, “...draws us into worship that transcends our time and place.” Its purpose is that of enabling people to see God. He writes:

The liturgy, from beginning to end, is not about meeting our needs. The liturgy is about God. It’s not even about God-as-the-fulfiller-of-our-need-for-spiritual-meaning. It’s about God as he is himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is not about our blessedness but his. The liturgy immediately signals that our needs are not nearly as relevant as we imagine. There is something infinitely more worthy of our attention—something, someone, who lies outside the self.

And that is what piqued my interest. From my (undoubtedly limited and flawed) observation, for many church is about having their needs met— be they material, emotional or otherwise. It’s not about glorifying God for Who He is. And I get jaded and/or judgmental, so I’m certainly no better than anyone else.

We all need gentle and constant reminders that we’re on this earth to show forth God’s amazing and infinite grace. And incessantly thank Him for it.

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The Christian subculture

Not too long ago, I was introduced to the Stuff Christians Like blog, via another blog I frequent. Not long before that, a different blog had pointed me to Stuff White People Like. The author of Stuff Christians Like poked fun at himself (and others) in his second post. There seems to be a “Christian” version of everything the world has to offer.

This is the main point journalist Hanna Rosin makes in her Slate article on a book, Rapture Ready!, by Daniel Radosh (hope you got all those names straight). Ms Rosin states:

At this point in history, American evangelicals resemble the Israelites at various dangerous moments in the Old Testament: They are blending into the surrounding heathen culture, and having ever more trouble figuring out where it ends and they begin. In politics, and in business, they’ve mostly gone ahead and joined the existing networks. With pop culture, they’ve instead created their own enormous “parallel universe,” as Daniel Radosh calls it in his rich exploration of the realm, Rapture Ready! A Christian can now buy books, movies, music—and anything else lowbrow to middlebrow—tailor-made for his or her sensibilities. Worried that American popular culture leads people—and especially teenagers—astray, the Christian version is designed to satisfy all the same needs in a cleaner form.

And again:

For faith, the results can be dangerous. A young Christian can get the idea that her religion is a tinny, desperate thing that can’t compete with the secular culture. A Christian friend who’d grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: “Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear,” he wrote. “Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality.”

It is tough being in the world and not of it. I certainly haven’t got it all figured out. I leave you with the Message paraphrase of Romans 12:2– “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”

Idolatry

This is the second post on my reflections on the sermon I heard last Sunday. Seeing as today is Friday, I’m still in time!

The last post was about Samson, one of the Israelite judges. During this time period, the people of God often fell into the sin of idolatry (as well as other things). The 21st-century person of God is more likely to value money, status, fame etc more than a statuette; this we know. The guest preacher (our pastor’s away for a few weeks) put it this way: idolatry is finding your meaning in something other than God.

So far, nothing eye-popping. Then he prefaced what he was about to say by saying that he may offend some present (if he hadn’t done so already). Among the idolaters were those who were in the country illegally, having come in legally and having overstayed their visa. They were in that category because they pinned their hopes for their well-being on being in Italy (as opposed to being in their home country) , instead of putting their hope in God. To use a cliché, the silence was deafening.

I’d never thought of it that way. I thought being a clandestino (the Italian term for an illegal immigrant) was an infraction of moral and legal laws, but not of spiritual ones. Thinking about it, if it isn’t idolatry, then it is in the least an offense to God Almighty. I mean, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps 24:1), nor can we escape His sphere of influence (Ps 139:7-12). It then follows that He can bless you in whichever hemisphere of the globe you find yourself.

Unlike me, the preacher had a personal experience in this matter from which to draw from. His son had to leave the country, leaving his family and home when his visa expired and a request for a permanent stay document wasn’t granted. A cynic may point out that the young man was returning to America, but I shan’t dwell on that. I can only hope that if I’m ever in a similar situation, I will glorify God in my actions.