Traditionalism (3)

Tradition hands on from one generation to another those things found useful. Tradition doesn’t attempt to suppress new experience or insight. Tradition is a treasury of experience from which we may draw for our benefit. Traditionalism, on the other hand, is rigid and exclusive, insisting on conformity even when no one any longer remembers what value a practice is meant to represent. Tradition is a gift of earlier generations.  Traditionalism is narrow and oppressive—not a gift, but an imposition. People’s negative associations with tradition may be based on their revulsion against traditionalism. Traditionalism gives tradition a bad name–unfairly, and unfortunately. Scorn for traditionalism may encourage indifference to precious things we might learn to value from tradition.

—Ronald P. Byars, Christian Worship: Glorifying and Enjoying God, p. 20

Traditionalism (2)

The Church on the whole has been tenaciously conservative through the ages, rightly stressing the eternal and immutable Gospel over against the passing fashions of men. But the quality of eternity and immutability has often been transferred from the Gospel itself to the forms in which it is expressed and modes of worship have drawn to themselves sacrosanctity which, although valuable and understandable, is hardly to be justified.

—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):67

 

Eastertide

The Great 50 Days [after Easter] (originally called the Pentecost) were at first far more important than the 40 days of Lent. It is perplexing why modern Christians concentrate on Lent, the season of sorrow, rather than on Easter, the season of joy. Augustine tells us, “These days after the Lord’s resurrection form a period, not of labor, but of peace and joy. That is why there is no fasting, and we pray standing, which is a sign of resurrection. This practice is observed at the altar on all Sundays, and the Alleluia is sung, to indicate that our future occupation is to be no other than the praise of God.”

—James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship, 61-62

Resurrection (5)

[Lewis had just addressed his correspondent’s concern for the troubles of the world] Tomorrow [Easter] we shall celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Christ. I shall be remembering you in the Holy Communion. Away with tears and fears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heaven. So it would be impious to call ourselves “miserable.”  On the contrary, Man is a creature whom the Angels—were they capable of envy—would envy.  Let us lift up our hearts! 

—C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter of March 27, 1948

Resurrection (4)

He who hung the earth is hanging.
He who fixed the heavens in place has been fixed in place.
He who laid the foundations of the universe has been laid on a tree.
The master has been profaned.
God has been murdered…

But He rose up from the dead
and mounted up to the heights of heaven.
When the Lord hath clothed Himself with humanity,
and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer,
and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned,
and had been judged for the sake of the condemned,
and had been buried for the sake of the one who had been buried,
He rose up from the dead,
and cried with a loud voice,
“Who is it that contends with me?
Let him stand in opposition to me.
I set the condemned man free;
I gave the dead man life;
I raised up one who had been entombed.
Who is my opponent?
I am the Christ
I am the one who destroyed death,
and triumphed over the enemy,
and trampled Hades underfoot,
and bound the strong one,
and carried off humanity
to the heights of heaven.”
“It is I,” says the Christ.

—Melito of Sardis (ca. A.D. 195), Easter sermon

Resurrection (3)

Easter preceded by Lent is the primary annual cycle of the calendar; secondary to it is Christmas preceded by Advent. This is true both theologically and historically. It is the resurrection that interprets the birth of Jesus. Apart from the resurrection, Jesus has no more claim upon us than Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Anwar Sadat: He was simply one among many good leaders who managed to meet an unjust death. This theological assertion is buttressed by historical facts: (1) What is presumably the oldest of the four Gospels pays no attention whatever to the birth of Jesus, beginning instead with the account of His baptism; and Paul makes only passing references to Jesus’ birth (as in Galatians 4:4 and Philippians 2:7). Only later did Matthew and Luke attach enough importance to the nativity to comment upon it extensively. (2) Even more significant: Although the resurrection was observed liturgically in the church from its very inception, the earliest recorded liturgical observance of Christmas Day falls well into the fourth century.

—Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 49-50

Resurrection (2)

Easter puts Jesus’ life in a whole new light. Apart from Easter I would think it a tragedy that Jesus died young after a few short years of ministry. What a waste for him to leave so soon, having affected so few people in such a small part of the world! Yet, viewing that same life through the lens of Easter, I see that was Jesus’ plan all along. He stayed just long enough to gather around him followers who could carry the message to others. Killing Jesus, says Walter Wink, was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it.

—Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 226

Resurrection

In many respects I would find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes Him dangerous. Because of Easter I have to listen to His extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from His sayings. Moreover, Easter means He must be loose out there somewhere. Like the disciples, I never know where Jesus might turn up, how He might speak to me, what He might ask of me. As Frederick Buechner says, Easter means “we can never nail Him down, not even if the nails we use are real and the thing we nail Him to is a cross.”

—Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 225

Every Easter Is a Great Sunday!

For Christians Sunday is the chief festival occasion of the faith. About this there is much misunderstanding. Many active Christians would say that Christmas is their chief festival. Closer to the mark, but still missing it, are those who would say that Easter Day is the principal feast of the church. What is amiss about such assessments? Simply this: No observance that occurs only once a year can connote the continuing work of God in daily life. Therefore the chief festival occurs weekly, and from it all else is derived, including those annual festivities that may be more visible and certainly are the more popular cultural occasions.

It has become a maxim of late that “every Sunday is a little Easter.” But it would be more accurate to say that “every Easter is a great Sunday.”

Laurence Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 44,54

Holy Saturday

Today a grave holds him
who holds creation in the palm of his hand.
A stone covers him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to your saving work,
by which you have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday

Why do we call this Friday “Good”?

Although Catholics and Protestants in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.”

This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 96

First Things First

Before there was a command to love God, there was the revelation, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  There is no truth, no validity in our worship if the one we worship is not the true and living Creator and Redeemer.

—Garry D. Nation, “The Essentials of Worship: Toward a Biblical Theology of Worship,” Journal of the American Academy of Ministry 5.3 & 4 (Winter-Spring 1997): 6-7

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is often thought of as simply one form of prayer. Yet it underlies every form. Praise is always a thankful response for God’s grace. Confession gratefully presumes God’s acceptance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Intercession asks for others what one has thankfully received for oneself. Petitionary prayer is but a grateful response to God’s mercies in the past. (Psalm 75:1; 92:1; 105:1-5; 106:1-2; 107:1-9; 136; Phil. 4:6; Col. 3:16-17)

—Donald Stake

God Acts

In the economy of the gospel, everything is turned upside down—including and perhaps especially our worship. Theologically our worship is not what we do. It’s what God does from the past in the present toward an explosive future. In the Word God in Christ addresses us. At the table God in Christ is the host.  In our worship God comes to us as God promises. God takes what appear to be our actions, turns them upside down, and acts.

—Paul Westermeyer

Holy Week

Mounting opposition:

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him by stealth and kill him. (Mark 14:1)

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. (Mark 14:10)

In that context:

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. (Mark 14:3)

“There Jesus was, in a dark and desolate land; and lo! out of the heart of a woman, a spring of fresh water sprung for the thirsty Christ! He valued it.”

—G. Campbell Morgan