Worship

Worship is more than the repetitive rituals we do at our churches but another way of carrying out the Great Commission set forth by Jesus Christ.[1] This was not the only class I took this summer.  I had the pleasure of taking Pneumatology and Pre-Modern History.  These classes framed a great deal of my understanding and points throughout the eight weeks.  In my Pre-Modern History class, I focused my paper on the movement of Quietism which ran alongside the Reformation.

Then Pneumatology assisted me in understanding the aspects of the Holy Spirit and how it functioned in our communal worship practices. This summer has been a very difficult summer. I hope through this reflection paper I can show how worship is more than the communal rituals we do but something we must live and breathe for it to have a true impact on the world. I lack sometimes the words to adequately describe the situation so throughout the paper you will find images during the time and previous to get a sense of either joy or emptiness that is felt.

Background of the Summer

To understand the appreciation the class had on me this summer, I will make to what this class has done for me it is important to share what was going on in my world outside of the academic arena. Right after Holy Week, the Bishop relieved our Priest from his duties at our church.  My husband and I had spent four years at the church.  I was an active member of the Vestry, in Alter/Flower Guilds, and a postulant to become a deaconess.  I was going to be the first deaconess set aside for CANA West.We were a traditional church, many of the women wore head coverings. I loved my head coverings I love the traditions it was the first place I can honestly love God. It was this church where I found my love of taking care of people as a servant. The church had supported us through the loss of our children to their mother, they saw my husband I get married. This was our family. Because of everything that had happened my husband decided to leave the church because of the politics that had resulted in less than honorable people being allowed back into the fellowship of the church.

We wondered around for a couple of months looking for a new congregation.  My husband is a former Episcopalian and me being a mutt of Protestant faiths decided he would go back to the Episcopal Church. Finding a church was extremely important because I had to get working on an internship for the Fall to graduate in December. Once we found one it took us less than a month to leave it due to it being a social justice warrior congregation. They were considered a High Mass church but their respect for the worship style was below anything I had ever seen.  For example, couples breastfeeding their child during a homily in front of everyone. No one welcomed us except the priest’s wife. So, we went to find another church.

I had a lady I knew that used to be a member of a group I used to belong to who went to an Episcopal Church.  I decided to go check out their Wednesday Evening Prayer/Holy Communion/Healing service. Everyone was great but was really a low mass type of service.  I decided at least the people were nice and so I asked my husband if we could try going on a Sunday.  He liked the Sunday service. It was radically different from our services at our Anglican Church and even the first Episcopal church we attended. It was a low mass service people sat in a circle around the Holy Table. There was no stained glass and they sang modern songs like ones you can find on KLOVE.

 

My husband decided to fill out a membership form that day and transferred our membership to there. After a couple of weeks, I asked the priest if I could do an internship at the church and he said yes. Excited to have a way to graduate I took hold of the opportunity. However, as excited as that was, I lost something in the transition from the Anglican to the Episcopal Church. I lost my home.  I found Peterson’s and Saliers books impactful.  They identified what was missing and why I miss my old church so much and why I have had problems incorporating myself in the Episcopal Church we currently attend. Peterson discusses individuals who have spent a lifetime in the church and by adding something new and unfamiliar can be like stealing the opportunity to worship away from congregants.[2] Saliers discusses the senses and how a worship service is supposed to resonate with someone on some or all the senses described. I used to have the sense of awe at my church. Saliers mentions that we should have a sense of awe in the presence of God.[3] The essence, the organ, the call and response and the beauty of the vestments and traditions it was the place I wanted to be all the time. The two days I was not at church were too much for my soul to take. I had no problems sitting in the church for hours just to feel the awe and closeness with the Lord.

It had been the one place where my Amazing Grace and I Need Thee Every Hour, sounded beautiful.[4] [5]This is awe. The feeling one feels when God enters a place and individuals feel the need to sing.[6] When words fail they just give utterance. I pray for the opportunity to have the boldness to either sing or share with others about the wonderful grace and love our Lord gives us.[7]

Worship in A New Place Through the Lens of WSHP 527.

Upon being in your class and reading Saliers and Peterson, I began to try to appreciate the differences in worship styles. I tried to open myself to be ok with the low mass concept. However, I just could not replace the sense of awe and delight that the Anglican church provided me. So now I sit in conflict trying to understand what has happened and how can I get it back. We are called to be living blocks that become a royal priesthood where we are to give spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ.[8]

While studying in Pre-Modern History this summer I began looking at the Quietism movement.  Some interesting points about the movement stuck out with me which I think is important to observe.  We all lose our senses at some point and while we search in the dark and suffer a loss we are commanded to continue to worship the Lord as we prepare for the way of ministry.[9]  The joy of the Lord is personal and different for everyone. As worship leaders, we must not just “wing it” when we plan our worship services but make a concerted and prayerful effort to invite the Holy Spirit in.[10]

The bigger question becomes how are we to worship the Lord in his perceived absence?  In all honesty, I can’t answer that question. In the past two years, I have more reasons to wonder and doubt if God is even there. When I started this degree program here at Walden I had no doubt.  I had no fear. Today at this moment I cannot say that. I continue to pray but sometimes I wonder who.  I understand that even in our times God uses the circumstances for his divine will. While I logically understand this, I doubt. Like the centurion, I beat my breast plate and say help me Lord in my unbelief.[11] So I continue, I put one foot in front of the other. If I cannot make the place where I worship the place where I find God, then I need to out and continue to search the world around me.

The week when we were discussing the church calendar I was reading my bible and praying. I have a deep passion for the church calendar. I love how the colors change, how we are always different people each year so while the readings are always the same how we see them is always different. We grow and our church congregations grow so we all move closer to being united with God through Jesus Christ. I had difficulty understanding why students would not appreciate the routine certainty that the church calendar provides.

Then I realized through the reading of Matthew 22, that God’s intention was never for the church to have the number of rules that it does.[12] The rules restrict individuals from being part of the priesthood of all believers. We are all called to minister to the sick and to the poor.   We are all called to read and share the good news. Most importantly we are all called to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ mentions when there are two or more gathered he is there.[13] The holdup becomes when we view that the church should have no ordained priest from the apostolic succession we lose the order and ritual that worship has.

It is not the degree the individual how obtains a degree in ministry is fit for being a preacher but is the calling of God. I often will ask myself as the church struggles to get Millennials into their doorsteps will they continue to be tight about who can administer the sacrament?  I guess it is what theological stance you make on the matter.  Roman Catholics will remain true to their beliefs that only ordained men can perform communion. This is because of the concept of transubstantiation.[14] The individual who performs Holy Communion must be like Christ. Zwingli challenged that idea which became known as the memorialist point of view.[15] The importance of this view is that the believer remembers the sacrifice by Christ and through grace acknowledge the presences of Christ in our hearts so we can share that with others.[16] If the theological mindset is like Zwingli does this mean anyone can perform the worship service of Holy Communion?  If this is the case, is this what will be the end of the theological discussion on the Eucharist?  So, I am left with the thoughts of the Christian faith ever must go underground again, who will perform the Holy Communion service in no priest is available?  This class has made me take a long look at the concept of a priesthood of all believers.

This summer has been challenging. Part of me would love to open my own church separate from any denomination but instead be open to anyone who has been called.  I would use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  We would hold morning and evening prayer every day. We would call the Holy Spirit to fill our worship space. Most importantly though we would love one another. We would have quiet contemplative time where people could come in and just sit to be in God’s presence. At every meal, we would offer up a sacrifice to the Lord and call upon the Holy Spirit to transform our sacrifice into the body and blood of Jesus Christ and to renew our souls. Then there is that part of me still holds faith there is a church that is like that somewhere that is meant for me. A place where they do not sacrifice each other in times of trial but instead lift of their hands to the Lord and worship him.

I have often cried reading the books in this class. Trying to find how the new worship service I experience relates to the senses talked about by Saliers or the importance of the theology of worship talked about by Peterson. To be honest, I am still struggling. As I am two weeks away from starting an internship maybe this is where I can connect with the worship and love of the church. The books have been difficult to read because it continues to drive home what points of worship are important for me and remind me of how God wants me to worship him. The books and discussions we had on the forum boards and even including the worship service visit remind me while visiting and discussing new age forms of worship are interesting I will always be in my heart am orthodox Anglo-Catholic.

Conclusion

So, this summer I am on a less stable footing that I was in the spring. I have been reminded through this class who I am and what I value and crave in a worship service.  I have also been reminded that Worship is not something we do in the confines of four walls and a roof but it is something we take outdoors. Worship is an activity that must be done from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep.  If we are to believe that we carry the love and light of Jesus Christ within ourselves there is no need for doors, walls or a roof. We need people and love.

People and love are important for worship. While worship can be done without anyone present it can be lonely and solitary in nature.  Therefore, finding someone to worship with becomes key to the impact of worship on our day to day life. It has been often said that like Jesus men should lead our households.[17] Our primary place of worship should be in our homes. If we overlook the importance of worship in the home with our families. We miss out on experiencing the awe in living our day in worship and in prayer.[18] Peterson focused a great deal on the mechanics of worship and its impact on the community of the church but failed to address the private individual small group worship that should occur daily with others. The closest an author got to addressing this was Saliers. His descriptions of senses were a personal experience and an individual’s responses to the ritual orthodox traditions of a service as described in Peterson section on sacraments.

This course assisted in defining who I am and what forms of worship are important to me. The daily ritual of writing my ritual practices at the end of the day helped me identify that I am still connecting with the Lord in new ways. While I am still in search for a new home and a new family.  My hope is to find myself continuing my growth and development in various worship styles so I can have a deeper understanding of who I am as a worshiper. So even after this class and after my experience with getting my degree in Practical Theology, I will continue to search for a place where I can call home.  This means I will know what I expect and understand who I am and what I desire in a community of like-minded believers who take the time to worship the Lord together as a community to me.

[1] Matthew 28:16-20

[2] Peterson, Brent D. Created to Worship: Gods Invitation to Become Fully Human. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012. 21.

[3] Saliers, Don E. Worship come to its senses. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. 20.

[4] https://www.spreaker.com/user/8714222/amazing-grace

 

[5] https://www.spreaker.com/user/8714222/i-need-the-every-hour

 

[6] Ibid. 23.

[7] Ephesians 6:19. KJV.

[8] 1 Peter 2:5. KJV.

[9] 2 Corinthians 1:4. KJV

[10] Peterson, Brent D. Created to Worship: Gods Invitation to Become Fully Human. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012. 64-65.

[11] Mark 9:24. KJV.

[12] Matthew 22:36-40. KJV.

[13] Matthew 18:20. KJV.

[14] Peterson, Brent D. Created to Worship: Gods Invitation to Become Fully Human. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012. 176.

[15] Ibid. 177.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ephesians 5:22-24. KJV.

[18] Acts 6:4. KJV.

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What do I believe about the Holy Spirit?

I think it is important to understand a little bit about me before I started this class and where I am now.  Prior to coming to this class, I had been engaged with a local Anglican church here in my town.  We followed the three streams model.  We were the living fire of the Holy Spirit. We spoke in tongues, healed the sick, and was blessed to be given some prophecy. Our Sheppard ensured he protected us and prayed in the Spirit with us.  However about three weeks before the class started, I had to leave the church due to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

I currently attend an Episcopal church which does not understand the traditions of the Anglican church I had come from. However, they do understand the Holy Spirit and understand the most important aspect of the call to ministry, they live and perform the Great Commission.[1]  The truly love one another and those in their community. The exciting part is they are called The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit looks and waits for willing vessels. And it wasn’t until I had found my previous Anglican church had I even heard or been a willing vessel for the Holy Spirit. I did not engage with Bible fanatics prior to joining this church. In all honesty, I rarely prayed and when I did it was something for me or someone I cared about.  I never prayed to the Holy Spirit or Jesus.  I just prayed to God.

In 2013 a survey was done comparing the English against American’s and their belief in the devil.[2] They found that American’s are more likely to believe in possession of the devil and that the devil really exists than the British. This is important to recognize because while oppression can occur for Christians it does not mean we can be possessed.  We cannot be possessed after we are Baptized in the Holy Spirit because we are protected by the blood of Jesus Christ.   Prior to attending that church, I suffered from rapid cycle type two bipolar disorder.  I had spent most of my life hearing voices and being placed on and off medications. On and off medications, I heard voices. Angry vile and evil voices.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Those that believe Satan does not sit in the pews at church are wrong. Satan and his demons sit and church.  They communicate with sinners like us to distract us from our service to the Lord. Therefore, intercessory prayer is so important.  Because although we are baptized Satan is a roaring lion that wanders the earth searching for those for whom he can take.  In our discussion group, we have been discussing back and forth about the concept of Sin in relation to the Holy Spirit.  We talked about sin because of the sacrament of Baptism.  The sacrament of Baptism is when original sin is wiped away and you are received in the family of believers but the Holy Spirit enters your Holy of Holies and provides you with gifts.

I believe that the gifts are not something that is permanently provided to you but is provided as needed for the situation by the Holy Spirit.  Sin limits our capabilities with the gifts. Therefore, the repentance of sin is so important prior to assisting or receiving the gifts from the Holy Spirit.  We are all used in God’s divine plan and what we are called to do varies from situation to situation. So, while the most common experience is the receiving of tongues it is not the only gift.   The Holy Spirit provides us with gifts that let others know the presences of God is there and is involved in the activity.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit used by St. Thomas Aquinas are mentioned in Isaiah 11:2-3.  St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the gifts in his writings Prima secundae and Secunda secundae.[3] He aligns the gifts with virtues. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the gifts for believing in Jesus Christ.[4] In the Bible, the three virtues we are to live in are faith, hope, and charity.[5] As Christians, we desire the virtues to live a virtuous life. These virtues are the theological virtues are faith hope and love. These virtues separated a Christian from the pagan world. Pelser believed that these virtues stemmed from the theological understanding of “human nature, sin, and grace”.[6] There are four cardinal virtues that all individuals can desire and pray for and live in these are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice.  These four virtues can be practiced by anyone and perfect the capacities of the soul.[7]  Therefore there is a total of seven virtues each of these relate to the seven deadly sins.

Seven Deadly Sins Cardinal & Theological Virtues Spiritual Gifts
Spiritual Sins Theological Virtues Intellectual Gifts
Pride Faith Knowledge
Envy Hope Understanding
Wrath Charity Wisdom
Corporal Sins Cardinal Virtues Ethical Gifts
Sloth Prudence Counsel
Greed Temperance Piety
Gluttony Fortitude Fortitude
Lust Justice Fear of the Lord (Wonder)

 

spiritual sins of pride, envy, and wrath.  The spiritual gifts mentioned in Isaiah 11 is a reflection on understanding and identifying the Messiah. Isaiah expresses the hope that the Messiah would be a unique bearer of the Holy Spirit and with the ratifying of the New Age and Covenant that would impart the Holy Spirit upon all of God’s people.[8]

The gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 are gifts brought to the people in the Christian community.  It is an extension of being given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  While the Holy Spirit can reside in our Holies of Holies in our souls, we must confess our sins on a regular basis to ensure we have an untarnished communication path with the Lord. This is not to say that every day we will be able to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must be just waiting and willing vessels although faulty be prepared to do the Lords will although we might not always be called to do great things today we have faith that when our day comes to serve the Lord and do his will, we will be ready and prepared to be the vessel that he uses to ensure his divine plan is fulfilled.

Life and Disconnect from the Holy Spirit

So, as we wait to serve the Lord, life happens. Life is not that easy.  We wander from the path and we obtain and loose gifts. How do we get ourselves back to where we are in harmony with the Holy Spirit? Being human we are prone to sin. Man’s life is full of “vanity, trouble, disappointments, vexations and endless self-dissatisfactions.”[9] We faulty beings not perfect and yet we are blessed with the gift of being able to engage the Holy Spirit. The being, the spark that generates our life, is the breath of God brought by the Holy Spirit.  Owen defends that the cure for our sinful condition is holiness.[10] It is the belief that the image of having God in our souls the Holy Spirit does provide us with an inward peace for our troubled soul. “In the holy soul – the sanctified mind alone – that it composed into an orderly tendency towards the enjoyment of God.”[11]

Life without the Trinity becomes meaningless and pointless. You can literally walk the dessert alone for 40 years.[12] Even as a Christian, with a devout faith we become adults in our Christian faith through trials of the faith. As I write this paper I am experiencing a trial. The way to ordination is a marathon and not a race. As I have suffered the loss of my family and church, I have yet to give up on the faith that the Lord is there to provide for me the tools I need to complete his divine plan. Law writes that if we live in self-denial of those things we indulge on this would bring our mind into exactness which would then lead us to follow the rules of prudence and devotion.[13]

Then the question becomes what does the Lord exactly want from us in this trial?  If we fast, worship, and pray and still feel alone what do we do? The key here is that we must experience the darkness before bringing the light of the world, the Light of the Gospel to others. The darkness is not a time of loneliness but of joy.  Like Job, we must remember that even at the worst times in our lives we must remain faithful and worship the Lord with joy and praise.[14]

The Holy Spirit will provide us with comfort during the storm.  The Holy Spirit gives us gifts that allow ourselves to see the sinful men we are.[15] It provides us with a divine light to examine ourselves. This light in the darkness that surrounds us gives us a path to return to the path of our life in fulfilling God’s divine plan. I would saw that we all follow the same path of the Israelites.  We accept the Lord and then we sin.  He saves us and we sin again. He makes us repent by spending 40 years in the dessert before returning to the Promised Land.  We doubt and have faith.  We sin and repent. However, while we are punished and are lost we are never alone.  Jesus provided his followers the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This gift provides us with comfort in our times of distress to weather the storms of life and come about being a refined vessel for the Lord Jesus Christ.

How to Weather the Storm with the Gift of the Holy Spirit

So far, we have discussed the gifts of the spirit and our separation from the Holy Spirit in our life.  Now as for future ministers we must look at how we are to Weather the Storm of trails that await us in our ministries. As ministers during our postulant period prior to ordination, we will experience storms and trials. Unlike the first Adam, we will not have the Holy Spirit removed from us. However, if we sin and continue to sin without seeking forgiveness and have repentance we will experience the first Adam’s fall. When Adam chose to sin against God and was banished from the Garden, the Holy Spirit was removed from him and became flesh.[16] Sin then consumed the house of the Holy Spirit and we were no longer made in God’s image but the image of our corruption. It is through Baptism we are then reestablished in God’s divine graces.

As ordained ministers, we must remember that unlike the first Adam we are baptized and free from original sin.  We, therefore, have the Holy Spirit to reside in us and provide us with comfort during our trials. As ministers though we are called to stand apart and lead God’s people. This means we must protect our flock from the roaring Lion that walks about seeking souls to devour.[17]  We cannot stand up against the roaring Lion without the Holy Spirit. As ministers, it is our responsibilities to trust in the Lord and meet the roaring Lion face to face and prevent them from being consumed.

Today as the western church membership drops it is time for us to have the Wind of God blown upon us.[18] As ministers, we must remember once we are ordained we are dead to ourselves and alive in Christ. Therefore, we must walk in the way of the Church and although still sinners we must repent continuously to ensure we lead our sheep as an example of how to live a Christian life in today’s day. Failing to follow in the way of the Holy Spirit will lead to darkness in the Church.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, that have taken orders we must remember we are one body in Christ and although we are all different with different creeds and confessions, we still a living sacrifice unto the Lord.[19]

we will forget our personal family.[20] Again, the failure to engage with the Holy Spirit continually can result in the destruction of this family. Wives must find interpersonal engagement through the reading of the Bible, taking devotional time with the Holy Spirit, and having a strong self-esteem. Having these positive attributes ensures a strong relationship in the personal family as ministers and further ensures there is support from family during times in ministry.

Conclusion

A failure to accept the gifts and virtues of the Holy Spirit leads to us falling for the seven deadly sins. Staying pure and remaining faithful ministers to the Word of God is hard.  We not only are responsible for our flock but also for those we engage daily in our walk with God. If we fail to be in tune with the Holy Spirit we allow for the roaring lion to enter our flock and devour the innocent. We are warriors as ministers of God’s word and God’s church. We are the head of two families, our own and the Church we serve. Therefore, listening to the Holy Spirit and using his gifts is a must to ensure the safety of ourselves and others we are called to protect and defend.

Being the wife of a veteran, I can clearly say that although I have never worn the uniform. I respect and honor all those that have and do. As ministers, we are called to wear another uniform. The uniform of the Body of Christ. And like those service members who put on their boots and actively go into harm’s way to protect the values and traditions of our land, we must be so bold to go and protect our flocks from the roaring Lion.  We personally might sustain injuries and loss of life but we will not experience defeat. We have been told that Jesus will return and win a decisive victory in the final battle. As ministers, we must ensure that people hear that word. Our duties are to prepare our flock for the victory to come.  We do this through

“O Priest of God,

Live this Day As though it were your First Day,

Your last Day, and

Your only Day to do the will of God. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biography

Bouchard, C. E. “Recovering The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Moral Theology.” Theological Studies 63, no. 3 (2002): 539-58. doi:10.1177/004056390206300305.

Fee, Gordon D. Baptism in the Holy Spirit: the issue of separability and subsequence. Portland, OR: TREN, 1992.

Law, William. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life; The Spirit of Love. London: SPCK, 1979.

Mcminn, Mark R., R. Allen Lish, Pamela D. Trice, Alicia M. Root, Nicole Gilbert, and Adelene Yap. “Care For Pastors: Learning From Clergy and Their Spouses.” Pastoral Psychology 53, no. 6 (2005): 563-81. doi:10.1007/s11089-005-4821-y.

Omeara, T. F. “Virtues in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas.” Theological Studies 58, no. 2 (1997): 254-285. doi:10.1177/004056399705800203.

Owen, John. John Owen on the Holy Spirit: Pneumatologia. Charleston, SC: Demand Publishing, LLC-Create Space, 2012.

Pelser, Adam. “Virtues and Their Vices.” Edited by Kevin Timpe and Craig A. Boyd. Faith and Philosophy 33, no. 3 (2014): 382-86. doi:10.5840/faithphil201633369.

Rusu, Alexandru. “DEMONS AND EXORCISMS IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC MIND-SET: PROBING THE WESTERN DEMONOLOGICAL MENTALITY.” Revista Romana de Sociologie 27, no. 1/2 (2016): 89-109

Smeaton, George. Doctrine of the Holy spirit. Place of publication not identified: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2016.

Torrey, Reuben Archer. The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit. Place of publication not identified: Project Gutenberg, 2015.

[1] Matthew 28:16-20, KJV.

[2] Alexandru Rusu. “DEMONS AND EXORCISMS IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC MIND-SET: PROBING THE WESTERN DEMONOLOGICAL MENTALITY,”Revista Romana de Sociologie 27, no. 1/2 (2016): 106.

[3] C. E. Bouchard, “Recovering The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Moral Theology,” Theological Studies 63, no. 3 (2002):539, doi:10.1177/004056390206300305.

[4] T. F. Omeara, “Virtues in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas,” Theological Studies 58, no. 2 (1997): 275, doi:10.1177/004056399705800203

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV

[6] Adam Pelser, Virtues and their vices, ed. Kevin Timpe and Craig A. Boyd (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) pg. 26.

[7] Ibid. pg. 15.

[8] Gordon D. Fee, Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence (Portland, OR: TREN, 1992) pg. 92.

[9] John Owen. John Owen on the Holy Spirit: Pneumatologia. (Charleston, SC: Demand Publishing, LLC-Create Space, 2012) pg. 643.

[10] Ibid. pg. 644.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Numbers 32:13, KJV.

[13] William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life; The Spirit of Love (London: SPCK, 1979) pg. 142.

[14] James 1:2-5, NASB.

[15] C. E. Bouchard, “Recovering The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Moral Theology,” Theological Studies 63, no. 3 (2002): pg. 551, doi:10.1177/004056390206300305.

[16] George Smeaton, Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Place of publication not identified: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2016) pg. 15.

[17] 1 Peter 5:8, NASB.

[18] Reuben Archer Torrey, The Person, and Work of The Holy Spirit (Place of publication not identified: Project Gutenberg, 2015) pg. 33.

[19] Romans 12:1-5, NASB.

[20] Mark R. Mcminn et al., “Care For Pastors: Learning From Clergy and Their Spouses,” Pastoral Psychology 53, no. 6 (2005): 566, doi:10.1007/s11089-005-4821-y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonhoeffer

In this blog, I am going to be focusing on Bonhoeffer’s dissertation, Sanctorum Communio. However, before that I am going to discuss Bonhoeffer because I believe in order to understand Sanctorum Communio, one must understand from which Bonhoeffer was at in his spiritual path. The spiritual development and growth in a theologian is just as important as their actual writings.  The reason this is so is that when we contribute to the theological discussion our writings as theologians will often reflect our path unto the point where we are. Sanctorum Communio was the first theological writing.  It was his dissertation he wrote when he only twenty-one when he wrote it.[1]  He wrote other pieces, which also reflect his path at various movements.  This includes Acts and Being, which was after Sanctorum Communio, but he had just begun his “vicariate”.[2]  This was his first writing that was not under the supervision of Academics.  The writing reflects a great deal, of probably what he was going through in his professional life.  He was beginning his ministry but still was working in the way of the academic life. Therefore, he quarrels with transcendental and ontological philosophic ideas.[3]

After attending seminary in New York, he went from being a nationalist to being a pacifist. Taking to heart the Sermon on the Mount.  I believe this is when you see a fire sparked in Bonhoeffer.  He begins to really look and study the bible instead of just studying and understanding what others have said theologically in the bible.  This engagement with the primary text allows him to analyze and add to the discussions of theology.  I believe this is when he starts to develop his own personal confessions in regards to how the church should be and what it is.  He worked within the Confessing Church movement in Germany trying to provide churches with the alternative to being Pro-Nazi.[4] The movement of the Nazi’s was to remove the church from its Jewish Heritage.  It essentially ignored the roots of its faith. This movement of towards being a confessing church separates themselves and the confession at the heart of the church.[5]  Bonhoeffer states in The Confessing Church that essentially the confessing church is the confession to believing in their Lord and being against their Lord’s enemies.[6]  He in this writing was going against the original teachings of his background in the Lutheran Church and was calling for the Christian Church in Germany to stand out and separate from others and remain true to the beliefs of the original church free of political and social influences.

In Sanctorum Communio, Bonhoeffer takes sociological principles and applies them to the concept of Church.  He then struggles with the concept of “the person” in his dissertation.  Bonhoeffer continues on to state that we must study the person and community in the Christian church in order to understand the concept of God.[7] This relationship of community and person is important because during this time Bonhoeffer was a Nationalist, which was preached by the Lutheran Church as being part of God.[8]  I believe he continued this in his writing of Christology in 1933 when he discusses the concept of the Church being a body and about Christ when the “Word became flesh”. [9][10] The idea of speaking about Christ means to keep silent is contrary to Christ teachings.  Christ speaks and declares that he will make the disciples fishers of men.[11] Therefore, part of this proclamation is that they are to speak about Christ and his teachings in order to teach the Gentiles how to worship him and God.  Therefore not to speak about Christ is speaking about Christ is contrary to what Jesus commanded us to do.  However, maybe it is because Mans words fail to encompass the true meaning of what Christ was teaching and therefore silence ensures that we let the Word of God speak for itself.

I believe that a theme that Bonhoeffer struggled with throughout many of his writings was the social nature of man, its identity and how it was reflected in the Church.  Essentially, we are made from God we are created in his image and likeness.  Therefore, the question I struggle with in Sanctorum Communio is the concept of the social nature of the church and God’s need for it.  Is there a social nature in God?  Would you consider the Trinity a social group?  Because we are taught that, there is only one God.  Therefore singular and one.  A group consists of two or more.  Just as Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to spread the Word of God, he sent groups of people out.  God does not have a peer and therefore is single.  Therefore, a social group cannot exist in God.  So is this why God requires and yearns for our interaction with him is because of our ability to create groups and be social?  Surely not. I also struggled with the fact that Bonhoeffer said, “it is in relation to persons and personal community that the concept of God is formed”.[12]  Therefore, what happens if there is no relations to persons or personal community of the church?  Is there no God?  This then ignores Genesis 1-3 which God on his own created the heavens and the earth. There was no one, no persons or community to think up God and create him to create us.  I find this to be a weakness in Bonhoeffer’s early work that he struggled to place the human nature of social groups in the confines of the Supreme Being and the church.  God is independent of social groups and therefore absent of human existence God is always there.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer and De Gruchy John W., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: witness to Jesus Christ (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). P. 7.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. p. 8.

[4] Ibid. p. 20

[5] Ibid. 136

[6] Ibid. p. 141

[7] Ibid. p. 45

[8] Ibid. p. 15

[9] Ibid. p. 17

[10] Ibid.

[11] Matt. 4:19 KJV

[12] Dietrich Bonhoeffer and De Gruchy John W., Dietrich Bonhoeffer: witness to Jesus Christ (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). P. 45.

Authority of Our Creeds and Confessions

Authority is the right to give orders, make final decisions, and enforce individuals to obeying decisions and orders. Often authority is passed down through family lineage or given to one that is tested to meet the qualifications of leadership. As we have discussed in the past creeds and confessions are statements of faith and beliefs that unite individuals together through a proclamation of common ground. The question then becomes where the authority of the creeds and confessions come from? There can be an argument that can be made that the authority comes from the church.

The church developed the creeds and confessions we have today. The churches authority exists because, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven upon the rock that the church is built that hell should never prevail.[1] The church then ordains individuals who are faithful to leadership levels who then become shepherds of flocks. These shepherds unify to determine what the laity actually believe. In the beginning, the authority rested with the Roman Church saying that it was the teacher and mother to every church that existed.[2]  However, after the protestant reformation, The Westminster Confession of Faith states that it is man’s chief end is to glorify God through obedience to the Word of God.[3] Therefore, the protestant church proclaims that authority is the Word of God. Thus, all authority of the creeds and confessions must come from the Word of God. This means that God puts the authority into the creeds and confessionals that the church creates. Then how does the church make a decision on who has the authority on how much pay the electrical company or even what to post on social media?

The Word of God gives guidelines on how individuals should spend their money and how they should act with one another but does not get into the fine details of the everyday life decisions everyone makes. Thus, the relationship must be more direct and personal. Confessions must unit smaller groups while creeds unite many smaller groups together. The authority might be separate but equal. For example, in the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England, was not applicable to those Anglicans that can from Europe to the United States.[4] Thus, American revised the Thirty – Nine articles to better suit the American government and beliefs. While the Church of England and the Anglican Church both follow the authority of the creeds established in the original church the confessionals are different because they are set up to represent the individuals in their community and the life God has provided them. However, this still does not answer the question of the authority to make the day-to-day decisions in our lives that we will confess and believe.

This leaves only one place for the authority to come from in the creeds and confessions. It must reside in the hearts of sheep that sit in the pews. In the Shema, it states “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” These where the word God spoke to Moses to deliver to the people of Israel. It then continues on to instruct people through its generations the prayers and traditions that are found in the Torah.[5] This one line makes a direction connection between you and the Lord. Thus, it becomes a personal investment and understanding making it easy to teach and to understand.[6]  The decisions and actions you take in the day-to-day life must glorify and honor that God is one Lord. So the question then when faced with a decision to make comes does this honor and glorify the one Lord? Therefore, creedal and confessional authority is based on the people that implement them into the church. It is implemented through the organization of church life, regulation of their worship, administer their organization, staff their programs and pay their bills.[7]  Thus, the authority of the creeds and confessions rests on the individuals who implement the ins and outs of the church. Therefore we are each the authority of the creeds and confessions. We guide and instruct ourselves with others like ourselves to serve and honor the Lord.

 

[1] Matthew 16:17-19, KJV.

[2] Pelikan, Jaroslav. Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. 280.

[3] Ibid. 281.

[4] Ibid. 323.

[5] Deuteronomy 6:4-9, KJV.

[6] Pelikan, 331.

[7] Ibid. 245.

The Greatest Gift

In the Gospels, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as he arose from the water as John the Baptist baptized him.[1]  The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove according to all four gospels.  The fact that this occurred during his baptism by John the Baptist in water emphasizes the point of the importance of baptism by water because it is through the water we receive the fire of the Holy Spirit. The acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior allows us to accept the Holy Spirit into our soul.  The act of baptism unites us with Christ. Depending on your denomination, there might be a right of confirmation, which is when you publically announce your acceptance of Jesus Christ and this is when the gifts of the Holy Spirit are inflamed.  While the disciples believed, Jesus to be the Messiah it was not until after the resurrection of Jesus that Pentecost occurred.

Pentecost is a church season and is set aside for the celebration of the transference of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples when Jesus breathed on them.  To receive the Holy Spirit, one must be baptized for the remission of their sins and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[2] As a Christian, we desire this gift because the gift provides us with the possibility of nine separate gifts to assist us in being used in the divine plan of the Lord. These gifts are the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the gift of prophecy, the gift of faith, the gift of healings, the working of miracles, the discerning of spirits, the ability to speak in tongues and the interpretation of those tongues.[3] While no one person has all nine gifts, the gifts are given to us, as the Lord needs them for us to ensure his plan is fulfilled.

These gifts are used to reaffirm Christian believers and to bring new believers to Christ.  As a Christian, we are a willing open vessel from which the Lord to work through to ensure God’s will is done. As Christians, we must be dead in order to live in Christ.[4] Therefore, this means we give up our flesh and earthly desires to become empty vessels that the Lord can use to fulfill his divine plans. The Holy Spirit is not only seen in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament.  When God spoke, it happened.[5] The manner in which things were completed was through the Holy Spirit.  In the Trinity when we discuss the Holy Spirit, it is an important part of the trinity because it is the action-oriented part of Trinity.  Where God and Jesus exist so does, the Holy Spirit performing the actions ensuring the divine will of the three in unison is accomplished.

McGrath describes the Holy Spirit as the wind, breath, and charism.[6]  He uses the wind to describe the Holy Spirit for its strength, uncontrollable nature, and ability to move. The breath is in reference to Adam when he breathed life into him.[7] Therefore, the Spirit lives in us from the time of our creation. However, it is not until Baptism and Confirmation do we receive the full power of the Holy Spirit.  In the beginning, the breath leads us in the direction towards cross and God but we must be quite and listen for its prompting. The charism is the ability to perform tasks that would be impossible which we see as part of the nine gifts that can be given to a believer if they are willing to receive them. McGrath discusses Hippo’s logic about the Holy Spirit in regards to the consensus on the Trinity.[8] The focus of the discussion of the logic is based on the need and importance of love within the Christian life.  Hippo laid out that the greatest gift can give someone is love and the Holy Spirit.  Because of these two great gifts from God, then it could be concluded that the Holy Spirit is love.[9]  The weakness of this argument by Hippo according to McGrath is that the Holy Spirit is like that of a substance that unifies the Father and Son with believers together.[10]  The weakness in placing a description and understanding of what the Holy Spirit is that we describe it with what we know.

Therefore, any description made by man will be inadequate to express the being of the Holy Spirit.  It becomes more complex when unifying what it is with the Trinity. Any attempt to describe how the trinity works together being one of the same beings leads towards modalism, which is the belief that God is one person who has three separate modes in which he engages with individuals.[11] While this mode of thinking helps explain God in a logical manner that can be grasped and understood, it fails to identify God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit as separate unique beings that are three but one. Understanding the greatness and unexplainable nature of the Trinity is key to understanding that our personal relationships with the three Godheads are important as Christians.  The Holy Spirit is the fire that lit up Jeremiah when he would not mention God’s name or speak any more in his name.[12]  God’s word was in his heart and a burning fire shot up his bones and he was weary but he could not hold back God’s words.[13]  We know all are blessed with that fire in our hearts to speak and “just be” for God. The sacraments of baptism and confirmation ensure that the fire is ignited. We receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s will here on earth.  We are made in the image and likeness of God.[14] That image had life breathed into us.[15] This life that has been breathed into us is ignited by the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Like a parent, God gave us life by breathing the Holy Spirit into us to lead us to worship him.

A Christian can see the Holy Spirit today as the ultimate gift from God being shared with us.  This love is like no other love we have ever known in our life.   We are able to display aspects of this love through the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, we are all broken.[16] While broken we are made whole by being united in communion with God and therefore are asked to be a living sacrifice which is transformed so we may be a good, acceptable and perfect for the will of God.[17]  Our brokenness has made us whole and with the flame of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be fishers of men and bring others who are broken, into the body of the Christ, which is one of the greatest gifts one can give to another.[18]

[1] Luke 3:22, Matt. 3:16, John 1:32, Mark 1:10 KJV

[2] Acts 2:38 KJV

[3] 1 Corin. 12:7-11 KJV

[4] Ephe. 4:22-24, Luke 9:23-24 KJV

[5] Gene. 1:3 KJV

[6] McGrath, Alister E., Christian Theology: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 228.

[7] Gene. 2:7 KJV

[8] McGrath, Alister E., Christian Theology: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 251.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. 244-245

[12] Jere. 20:9 KJV

[13] Ibid.

[14] Gene. 1:27 KJV

[15] Gene. 2:7 KJV

[16] Psal. 51 KJV

[17] Roma. 12 KJV

[18] Matt. 4:19 KJV