How do we live as Christians? What do we seek (or have we found it already)? What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to grow in our knowledge of Him who loves us and sent His Son? I am struggling. I am not sure what the right way is. I am confused and baffled – even mystified. Those kinds of questions and struggles have been on my mind for quite some time. I do not profess to have the answers or even sign posts, but I do confess that I am striving to think, to feel, and to will in terms pleasing to the Holy Trinity.
This article (and those following) is not about some biblical theme per se, but tries to express the struggle of spirituality, worship, glorifying God – in short being a Christian. The bulk of these articles is to raise some questions without necessarily striving for immediate answers. Nor do I wish by raising those questions to imply negative connotations. Yes, I will criticize but criticism is not inherently negative (though the negative side is often stressed). Criticism is seen here as a close analysis and maybe some evaluation on the given topic. But as I said above criticism does not need to be in negative terms only (see for example the field of textual criticism which seeks to find and determine the original phrasing of a work under analysis…this is very positive indeed!).
The tradition I grew up in and am holding as dear is that of the Free Church. I am not entertaining thoughts to diminish or to build down the tradition of my Church (nor of the catholic/universal Church in general), but I am willing to ask questions, to ponder thoughts, and to improve (alter!) my theology if deemed necessary. My theology is that which I believe about God and thus by definition needs alteration in the process of time – if God is He who He claims to be!
The struggle I have been having lately is that of liturgy. You might think “wait there is no liturgy in the Free Church!” In one sense you are right. The Free Church does not have liturgy in a sense a “high” Church setting will practice such, yet the Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines liturgy as “a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted.” In this sense then, all Churches do have some form of liturgy; i.e., a structure in which the Church conducts her service and life.
As I was asked to preach a couple of weeks ago, I had the idea of asking two people from the congregation if they would be willing to read Scripture publicly (public reading of Scripture being an aspect of liturgy) before my “official” sermon began. Both agreed and the public reading of Scripture took place and the concluding words “This is the Word of God” were responded to with “Thanks be to God!” After the service, many people came to thank me for the public reading of Scripture because it reminded them of the tradition they grew up in which such a reading was part of the life of the Church. I also tend to think that such a part in our liturgy binds us to the broader body of Christ!
The Church needs to hear the Word from the One who created in His image and empowers us to hear Him through His life-giving Spirit. In Marva J. Dawn’s “Practiced Theology—Lived Spirituality” (in For All the Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality; edited by Timothy George and Alister McGrath) the author speaks of the crucial element to know the whole metanarrative of Scripture. She insists that “every congregation should give its people a full sense of the whole Bible over the course of a church year” and wonders “Why is it that evangelicals, who claim to be the most Bible-centered, read the least of it in worship?” (p. 144).
This is just one element of themes and struggles to be surfaced. I hope to enter into discussion about such and that we all will live in a manner pleasing to God!