Monday, April 23, 2012

Lent Followup

In the interest of full disclosure, I figured I should probably update how Lent finished (besides Easter, which was lovely.)

Halfway through Lent, the medical issue over meat disappeared, so I started eating meat again.  Figured the medical issue was enough to deal with. 

The prayer beads didn't stick either, though I still look at them fondly and it's still the most real praying I've done in years.  (Told you my ADD was bad.)  I think perhaps the bigggest barrier to continuing is finding more prayers to go with the beads than what I can find for free online, and I'm apparently too cheap to just buy a book of them.  Though I haven't checked the library yet...

I didn't mention one of the traditions regarding Lent is that the word "Alleluia" is not spoken during the liturgy.  "Alleluia" means "Praise God"; not that we're not praising God during Lent, but it's an indicator that  Lent is a more solemn time, a less boisterous time. 

I hadn't realized how much of the parts of the liturgy that I love contained alleluias, and missing alleluias also became a part of my Lenten fast this year.

For example: just before the bread and wine is served at Communion, we sing the following song:

The tune is beautiful and simple. When we first started attending and  I learned it, I would find myself humming it through the week and deriving a great deal of comfort from the song.  For me it's still a highlight of the service - especially because as soon as it finishes, we are told that the bread and wine are "the gifts of God for the people of God". And we all know how much I love Communion.

Outside of the Lenten season, the deacon also closes the service saying, "Alleluia, go in peace to love and serve the Lord!" - to which the congregation replies, "Thanks be to God; alleluia, alleluia!"  During Lent, basically the same exchange occurs, except the "alleluia" is omitted.

So joyful and soul-nourishing, these alleluias.  I missed them.

But on Easter, alleluias abounded, and there are more alleluias in the Easter season liturgy than even before Lent.  As proclaimed on Easter, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song."  The Resurrection is our joy.  Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Palm Sunday Part 2

So the first difference in Palm Sunday was a truer reading of Scripture.

The second difference was the focus on how worthy Christ was of being honored in that way.  In order to illustrate that, this video clip was played:

I gotta admit, I was very uncomfortable when this first started.  All kinds of triggers from Fundyland were hitting me - the subtle Southern accent, the incessant alliteration, the way he says "glory" and "love", the hyperbole (though I blush at saying there could be hyperbole about the incomparable Christ)...  I was starting to tense up, sweat, and palpitate a bit.

Fortunately, the video lasted long enough for me to settle down. 

About halfway through, I began to see that despite all these outward cultural similarities to Fundamentalism, he actually wasn't using any guilt at all.  He simply asked if I knew this wonderful, amazing Person.  He didn't stop to press me for the answer, he was too busy telling me about the beautiful Christ.  I saw his sermon as poetry or performance art in a way - it's not intended as a deep theological treatise, it's a celebration. There's a place for that.

And I finally understood how to be happy for someone preaching Christ in a way that I didn't agree with (Philippians 1:18).  It has been so hard sometimes to describe this break from Fundamentalism, to convey the utter wasteland that Fundamentalism is. Frequently I read comments from those still in Fundamentalism saying that objectors should just be happy that Christ is being preached and stop fussing.  But there is a difference between standing against Fundamentalism and standing against something you just dislike, and I can see it better now.  This preaching style I don't personally like all that much.  Some of it is baggage from Fundamentalism, some is just my personality. I might not willingly sit under this style every week  - but I can certainly be ok with someone else who is willing.  Based on this clip, this man loves Christ.  He loves showing who Christ is.  He's not tainting the Gospel with legalism and heterodoxy.  He might be engaging in some social contrivances that I'm not a fan of, but he is preaching Christ.

And for that, I can honestly rejoice.

Monday, April 2, 2012

First Palm Sunday

Yesterday was my first Palm Sunday with real palms.  I didn't quite know what to do with my little piece of palm, but nobody seemed to mind.  That wasn't the truly different part, however.

The really different part was how the Triumphal Entry passage was approached.

Usually, in Fundamentalism, Palm Sunday was a time to talk about the treacherous people of Israel at the time of Christ.  Oh sure, they may have waved their palms and welcomed Christ into Jerusalem, but they didn't really mean it.  Why, just the next week they were yelling to crucify Him.  How fickle those sinners were! Usually, this was accompanied by some sort of guilt trip about how each of us sitting in the pew would have done the same thing given the chance, and we all humbly and maybe sincerely believed that and felt guilty some more.  I don't remember ever spending much time on the beauty and glory of Christ that engendered such an outspoken response from His people.

Yesterday though, it was approached partly from a historical context - the "king" (Caesar) didn't like anybody threatening his authority, and so anybody who did so was eliminated - in this case, the Jewish religious leaders did it for him.

I sat and thought about that for a while.

Ok, the religious leaders did Caesar's dirty work.  Why is that?  They weren't exactly happy about being under Roman rule.  However, under Roman rule, there was no dissent tolerated.  You didn't make a scene, you didn't riot, and you certainly didn't openly proclaim someone else as king. (See Acts 19 for another example.)  You did that, and you had a phalanx of Roman soldiers on your doorstep and your little party was over in a very messy way.

And let's face it, the Romans probably didn't care who started it either.  They would take out whomever was closest, and the Jewish leaders were probably on the "closest" list.  I mean, if those leaders couldn't keep their people under control, they weren't fit to be leaders and should be dispatched along with the rabble as an example, right?

Don't you think the religious leaders took that and ran with it to get rid of Christ?

And don't you think the people maybe went home on Palm Sunday night and had a bit of a panic attack?  I mean, what they had just done was treason. It was the culmination of seeing Christ's ministry, yes.  If they had not done it, the very rocks would have, yes.  But it was still rebellion against a very real and a very powerful enemy.  After the crowd disperses, the realization of just how vulnerable the individual is becomes strong.  And fear drives people to do interesting things.

So I can see the Pharisees whispering around to those people, fanning the flames of fear.  They themselves were afraid.  Afraid of what Caesar would do, afraid of losing their privileged position in society.

Clearly the crowd did mean it.  Christ was worthy of that praise.  But the reality of what they meant made it easy to turn quickly in fear and cry out for this man's crucifixion - better the Romans kill him than a whole lot of us, they reasoned.  It's not a story of guilt, it's a story of human nature. How fear is the opposite of God.

And it's interesting - on the one hand, here Fundamentalism pooh-poohs a clear expression of joy and worship as insincere and shameful.  Yet I remember numerous sermons berating a person for not being joyful and worshipful.  You can't win.  You can't win when you twist scripture.

Hosanna, it wasn't twisted this year.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of Jehovah.