Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Contrast : Clarity

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis past Sunday morning I experienced a moment of utter contrast that lead to total clarity of what attitude I should strive to attain as a Christian. The contrast came in two parts, the first in our bible class, and the second in the sermon during worship.

The first moment, in our class, came in response to what one person was expressing. We have been studying worship (the forms, the whys, what scripture and history say and don't say) and on Sunday we were discussing music in the worship. We drifted to a discussion of the importance of words in the songs we sing, and one older man in the class commented on the words in a song that we often sing. The first verse of this song says "Father, we love you, we worship and adore you," the second verve repeats with Jesus replacing Father, and the third with Spirit. He commented that he does not sing the third verse, because he does not find a scriptural command or example of giving worship to the Spirit, only to the Father and the Son. As he said this, I heard a lady behind me mutter in a very disparaging tone (and not quite under her breath) "Oh, come on, you've got to be kidding me" and her husband reply (in the same manner) "I can't believe it".

The second moment was at the start of the sermon. It was said to honor a very sick man who has been a pillar of faith in this congregation for decades. It was told how, when the eldership was discussing the possibility of building a new worship center around 15 years ago, this man had vocally lead the group that felt a new building project unnecessary. When the elders finally decided that they were going ahead with the project, they came to him and said that if the church were to remain unified he would have to now lead in the going forward of the project. His response was simple: "Of course."

Humility. Selflessness in the name of unity. Loving a brother strongly, despite total disagreement.

Condescension. Arrogance in the confidence that you are right and your brother wrong. Marginalizing a brother because you disagree with him.

It all was so clear. I'm glad for the reminder of which I should be.

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Anne said...

No matter where you worship there always seems to be a lack of unity. Where do you worship?

P.S. I love that song!

euphrony said...

The older man in the second example I love to death. He may disagree with you vehemently on some point of practice or scripture (and he has with me) and he will argue it out six ways from Sunday. But he manages to do so in the most loving, unifying manner that you do not get upset with him because you know, I mean really know, that he only wants both you and him to come closer to God.

The couple in the first example, well, they frustrate me. On one hand, they can be like this - very closed to hearing other peoples thoughts and having a "my way or the highway" attitude. But then, they also try to do so much. They have started a counseling center for people in and out of the church who need help, and they set a sliding payscale (you pay what you can) and cover the rest by raising donations or out of their own pocket.

We go to Bammel church of Christ, by the way.

Douglas said...

Loved the second example. It is such a good illustration of humility and (in a sense) obedience. He sounds like a very wise man.

The first example is a tough one to find balance on. On the one hand, the response of the couple who rolled their eyes and was dismissive is obviously unloving and unChristlike. At the same time, such a misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit goes to the core of the Trinity and the Christian conception of who God is. One of the primary tasks of the early church other than surviving was distinguishing between orthodoxy and heresy and most of the heresies were a denial of the Trinity in one way or another. As the Nicene Creed says, "with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified." Even today, the Trinity is one of the biggest dividing lines between orthodox Christianity and what Walter Martin/Hank Hannegraf would call the kingdom of the cults.

At the same time, I remember thinking and doing the exact same thing as a teenager. Worshiping the Holy Spirit seemed unnatural to me, and I sometimes refrained from singing verses of songs in which this was done. Even today, I don't see how a conclusive and binding case can be made for worship of the Holy Spirit from a sola scriptura point of view. My guess is that if the guy has come to that conclusion, then he probably has read and thought a great deal more on the subject than the average person. Most people who attend church on Sunday morning accept the idea of worshiping the Holy Spirit with very little examination. If I were to accept the idea that Scripture alone is the sole infallible means of knowing doctrine, then I too could easily end up taking the same heretical position as that man (and have done so in the past).


Anne said...

That is a mighty big congregation. I worship at Oldham Woods church of Christ

euphrony said...

He is, indeed, a very wise man. I have talked with him and, on occasion, had a theological disagreement with him. He will listen to you, but he may be unyielding in his opinion. But, never at all will he make you think that it is a personal conflict, that he no longer loves you, or that he doesn't respect you or want to talk to you. He, in his quiet way, always lets you know he loves you honestly - no faking here. Now is a sad moment; he is in ICU, having suffered from a series of serious illnesses within a couple of days and then having his heart stop beating for several minutes. They have yet to be able to determine neurological damage. I am profoundly glad to have had this man as a model in my life, and pray that I can learn more from him.

The Holy Spirit, in general, is (I believe) grossly misunderstood among most Christians. Most can come to grips with the Spirit as part of the Trinity, as a comforter and counselor. But, beyond that, what? I taught a class at out church 18 months ago on the Spirit - who the Spirit is, what the Spirit's role is and how He acts in our lives - in hopes that people might start thinking a little more about the Spirit. This question came up then (about worshiping the Spirit). From a sola scriptura perspective, I can chase my tail forever and not find an answer on this: no direct command to worship the Spirit, but no real direct opportunity either. The Spirit is part of the Trinity (which even for someone who has given it much thought can still leave one scratching their head in confusion over how God is three in one) and as God should be worshiped. Round and round, you can argue for and against worship of the Spirit in a dozen ways.

I worship Jehovah who, consistently throughout the Old Testament, is called "God" in the plural of the Hebrew, not the singular. If God refers to Himself in plural, then I worship the whole nature of God - including the Spirit. To me, though, it is important that I have considered this: that I actually think and pray and listen to what God is telling me (us) and not to simply accept the thoughts of others. I believe that one of the things God really wants us to do is question Him - he never called us to check our brains at the door, as some detractors would have the world believe - but just be sure to listen to Him for answers.

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