Showing posts with label Ritual. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ritual. Show all posts

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Bridegroom is Here

The Pharisees complained to Jesus about his disciples breaking the Sabbath by plucking and eating heads of grain as they made their way through the fields. If you had asked them why this mattered, they would have replied that they were concerned about the commandments of God. “It’s not lawful,” they said.

But when the people asked Jesus why it was that his disciples did not regularly engage in fasting, they were not asking about commandments or laws, but rather about a widespread, optional religious practice of the day.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

You Could’ve Just Asked

Some people approach God as if he is mechanical rather than personal; as if checking all the right religious boxes will get you what you want out of him, after which you can happily go on your way until the next time you need something.

It’s not specifically a Catholic thing, an Orthodox thing, or a Protestant thing, but it’s definitely a thing. The tendency to view God as a stimulus-response Being on a cosmic scale can infect even the most theoretically-liberated evangelical heart.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Closer Look

I did not grow up with liturgy. The closest thing was probably the occasional corporate reading of scripture from the back of a beat-up hymnbook with a busted spine, where at least you could be sure everyone was looking at the same translation for once.

Agreed, that’s not very close.

The Upper and Nether Millstones

Of course there were always very sincere, older, conservative Christians around who prayed out loud in religious clichés so hackneyed and distinctive you could see them coming several sentences in advance. But that’s not really liturgy either; it’s more like chronic failure of imagination. My brothers and I would mouth these pieties to one another as they rolled off the speaker’s tongue in amusement at our own rather profane cleverness in anticipating them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Baptism and Freedom

Two Sundays ago in a post on biblical symbols and the spiritual realities to which they point, I promised to take a further installment or two to consider the symbolic acts of Christianity. People refer to these meaningful gestures as ceremonies, rituals, rites, sacraments or ordinances. What we call them is not terribly important provided we recognize their value and participate in them.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Symbol Is Not the Point

An ex-evangelical turned Catholic priest named Dwight Longenecker has, in his current religious incarnation, become a fan of ritual and symbolism.

“The most difficult thing for an Evangelical to accept in a conversation about the sacraments is that God actually uses physical means and liturgical ceremonies to dispense his grace and administer salvation. The typical Evangelical is heavily conditioned to dismiss all physical components of religion as useless and distracting ‘man-made traditions.’ ”

Hmm, let me think: Could I be one of Mr. Longenecker’s heavily conditioned, typical evangelicals? Possibly.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Bridegroom is Here

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Best Possible Spot

There is a time-honored tradition in Old Testament oratory of addressing one’s enemies from the safety of a nearby hilltop.

Jotham called out his family’s murderers from Mount Gerazim. The Philistines hurled their insults at the Israelite army on one side of the Valley of Elah from the mountain on the other. Even David appealed to Saul from atop the hill of Hachilah.

Not too bad a strategy, really, before the invention of megaphones and loudspeakers: just stand far enough up and back to avoid the enemy’s arrows and occasional javelin toss while staying close enough to remain audible.

It was the best possible spot, especially if things went south and you had to beat a hasty retreat down the far side of the hill.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Symbol Is Not the Point

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Does Baptism Save?

So, really, DOES baptism save you?

Along with many others, Dwight Longenecker, the ex-evangelical Catholic priest referenced in a previous post, teaches that it is a critical component of salvation:

“In addition to believing and confessing with our lips, we need to be baptized. At the beginning of Romans 6, St. Paul actually explains how we share in the death and new life of Christ: It is through baptism.

The beginning of Romans 6 he says, ‘Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’ ”

On this basis, Catholics teach that faith is not enough for salvation; the ritual of water baptism is a must.

But are they right?

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Symbol Is Not the Point

The most recent version of this post is available here.