Originally posted 4/26/2008, some revisions 9/25/2016
Much of the problems that occur in today’s Church stem from varying degrees of legalism. While legalism is found in the Bible, it’s often hard to pinpoint it in a modern-day context. Legalistic thinking doesn’t belong to the realm of any particular group. It can also afflict individuals in groups not known for legalism. (Christians who act as though one’s entire Christian walk hinges upon involvement in certain ministries come to mind).
All Christian groups have time-honored traditions that are important to them. Some have distinctives in how they dress or their behavior. These aren’t bad things in and of themselves. It’s when they’re treated as though one’s salvation hinges on them that they become a problem.
The Pharisees, a Jewish group of Jesus’ day, kept the laws of the Torah and also added their own traditions to the observance of the Law. A lot of these traditions lead to legalism, as faithful observance of the Law typically entailed following the extra traditions in addition to what was directly commanded in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Jesus had several clashes with the Pharisees over such things as healing on the Sabbath, which the Pharisees believed was unscriptural. However, Jesus pointed out that the Law allowed for one to rescue an animal that had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:11-13) It seems that the issue wasn’t abstaining completely from all work, just what wasn’t necessary. This is an example of how Scripture can be misinterpreted to end up being more about rules than relationship.
At the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15, a conflict arose between those who thought that Gentiles had to formally convert to Judaism and keep the Law to become Christians, and those who thought that the Law was only given to the Jewish people. This was probably the first case of legalism within the Church. The first group expected more of Christians entering the Church than God did.
In the end, legalism occurs when the trappings and rules become more important than why the traditions are kept. It’s very easy to lose sight of why traditions are kept, and focus solely on keeping them. This is what we must avoid.
It would be nice if Christians of multiple parishes or denominations came together for more than just interdenominational Lenten studies and similar activities (nothing wrong with these, but it seems that’s often the only time churches can organize such things). Here’s an idea: how about hosting choral evensong services?
Not familar with this term? It’s a form of the evening prayer service in the BCP that is primarily chanted or sung.
I was somewhat inspired by this idea after regularly prayed Evening Prayer on Fridays with the help of The Daily Office’s Video Evensong service. It’s a real treat that blends traditional and contemporary music.
Here are several reasons that such a service can be a good idea:
- Many congregations have no choir or one with few members – combining choirs provides more chances to sing beautiful worship music
- If some contemporary music is incorporated, it gives church musicians a chance to use their talents
- Depending on the time of year and location, the service might be a good one to hold outdoors
I’ll be posting a suggested outline that people may want to use as a resource on The Liturgical Christianity Portal blog (which is not going anywhere, but more on that later) soon.
Various groups over the years have seen themselves as a “peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9), a designation that applies to Christians as a whole. For many of us of the Episcopalian persuasion, others see us as peculiar according to the dictionary definition.
A recent visitor to my Liturigical Christianity Portal blog’s Facebook page shared her struggles as an Episcopalian in a largely non-Episcopalian area. Much of what she said resonated with me in my own experiences.
Some things I’ve learned while living in the proverbial “Bible Belt”:
- Many people simply want to convert you because you’re not part of their sect – It’s unlikely you will make any headway in such cases unless they accept that others can be saved. Pray to show the light of Christ in your interactions with them.
- Others, because of theological differences, may see traditional practices as lacking in light of the personal conversion experiences favored by evangelicals – This can be an opportunity to explain our practices, and how they bring others closer to God. Realization that Jesus never manadated sinners’ prayers or altar calls, and that these are based on certain historic traditions, may lead to a better understanding of the role of traditions.
- At the end of the day, what unites Christians is more important than what divides us. – There is, after all, one hope of our calling that were are called to (Ephesians 4:4). Keeping our focus on Christ, where it belongs, can help bring about a more unified Body.
Maybe our evangelism needs to be more like this famous man’s and less like some of today’s “teachers”
Colossians 4:5 – 6 has some of the wisest advice in Scripture, situated within a chapter that many overlook because of its directives that apply to another culture. However, there is some wisdom for this day and age that you should bear in mind when reading.
The Church in its infancy struggled with the role of marginalized groups, such as women, Gentile believers, and slaves. Admidst this, the earliest followers had to figure out how to best reach out to people in a way that united, rather than divided.
Many people today use little, if any, discretion in their dealings with each other. This holds true not only for religious beliefs, but also for politics and other idealogy-based beliefs.
It’s unfortunately easier for people to shout out or shut out ideas they don’t like than appreciate the fact that the other person has their own “story” that has influenced their beliefs. This doesn’t mean we must accept everyone’s beliefs as truth, but that we should season our words with salt in order to approach others.
Think about it, why are you more likely to listen to? One that constantly tells you you’re wrong, evil, headed to eternal separation from God, etc. for disagreeing, or one that respects where you’re coming from and tries to understand?
Preaching the Gospel for Christians is often about having doors opened that would otherwise be closed. We need to strive to make sure the door remains open for us, rather than acting in a way that makes non-believers shut us out.
Remember the old adage about how God gave us two ears but only one mouth. Maybe this is so we can listen more and use our talk more responsibly.
When we hear the Gospel reading from Luke 24:1-12, we hear one of the phrases in Scripture that is so important, yet so overlooked: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” There is so much faith and hope in these words!
These words are true not only for Jesus, but for us. Yet, why do we, in so many cases, keep looking for those whom God has called into God’s nearer presence, as though the grave/columbarium/wherever is the end of the story? For all those who have been baptized into, lived and died in God’s fellowship, it’s not the end by a long shot.
It’s often said that death brings out the worst in people. Things often change for the worse in a family after losing one of their members, and some of the turmoil is caused by common beliefs that aren’t truly Scriptural, but people insist on clinging to just the same.
Grief is difficult, and often compounded by guilt and mourning what could have been. When family members somehow feel as though following every final wish to the letter is absolutely sacrosanct, the focus shifts away from the Christian hope and onto death.
Maybe if we were to focus on what God did for us through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we could allow ourselves to step away from the tomb and into a fuller, more abundant life. Here are a couple of thoughts for your consideration:
- Do not stand at my grave and weep.
- I am not there; I do not sleep.
- I am a thousand winds that blow.
- I am the diamond glints on snow.
- I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
- I am the gentle autumn rain.
- When you awaken in the morning’s hush
- I am the swift uplifting rush
- Of quiet birds in circled flight.
- I am the soft stars that shine at night.
- Do not stand at my grave and cry;
- I am not there; I did not die. – Mary Frye
From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, re: the Burial Office
The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the
resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be
The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that
“neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else
in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ
Jesus our Lord.”
This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love
we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted
by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we
rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord,
we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.
Kit, requires a family caregiver but landlady won’t let her daughter move in PreciousSavior37@aol.com
Gary, in ICU after a motorcycle accident Reply to his dad firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please pray for wanda steel dhe has a mass on her brain and the family has to make a decision to have sergery or not. Please call out her name when you pray for her and the family. She is at metro in cleaveland.
Pleade pray for the Ramos family as the youngest daughter glotia found her mother dead. The parents were divorce and the mother was a drug addict.
Thsnk God for your prayers for paul, they seems to be working, his attude is different yesterday and today. keep pray for his salvation. From Email:email@example.com
Please pray for Jen she is feeling pains in her hands please pray for complete healing and restoration of all nerves.
Please pray for healing for dave and daryl
Pleease pray for healing hip replacement.
Please pray for justin to stay sober, he has been sober for 8 months.from prayer link
This week, we pray for Tom, an employee at a corrections facility:
“I am just asking for prayer for myself. I am a officer at a state prison and want to help these people learn and get back on their feet. But, like many other prisons, we don’t have the support of management when it comes to enforcing rules. As much as I want to help them learn, they do need to be held accountable for their actions. It has been a struggle recently in how I have treated them based on my frustrations with management.
“I just need prayer that I keep treating the inmates fairly and not let my frustration with management affect my days.”
MY FRIEND Lance Hendrix went to EMERGENCY BECAUSE HE WAS BLOATED REAL BAD FOR DAYS. HE had a HERNIA OPERATION and for BOWEL BLOCKAGE. HIS email is firstname.lastname@example.org. LET HIM KNOW YOU ARE PRAYING FOR HIM.
Chuck Steel had a STROKE THEN AFTER GETTING OUT OF THE HOSPITAL HIS WIFE BROUGHT HIM TO TONIGHT’S BIBLESTUDY. HE STILL CAN’T TALK and IS NUMB ON ONE SIDE. BUT WE ALL PRAYED FOR and LAID HANDS ON HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD BLESS YOU. Wayne
Huan Lu, healing
I haven’t posted any answered FAQs in awhile, and have an unaddressed one that I think is worth sharing.
Q. I know of a Catholic family that recently lost a lapsed Episcopalian family member and did not call for an Episcopal priest to do last rites so far as I know. This has caused some friction with another family member who felt that they intentionally denied their loved one last rites because they were more concerned about keeping their relative’s spirits up and seemed to think a pastoral visit would needlessly depress them. Even though the deceased Episcopalian was not devout, did their relatives have the right to refuse to call a priest, if that is in fact what they did?
A. In short – no, the only person that would have had the right to refuse the sacrament of healing (which is what the service commonly known as last rites is) was the deceased themselves. Even if they were lapsed, they would still have access to the sacraments as a baptized member. There are a lot of misconceptions about “last rites” as performed in the TEC, namely that it is drawn-out, requires a last confession, has to be done only when death is imminent, or can be done after death – none of which are true.
It’s entirely possible that the family, because of the difference in denominations, did not see the sacrament of healing, as performed in the Episcopal Church, as being as valid as or similar to their own. I’ve provided some general info below that anyone can use as a helpful reference that hopefully answers questions.
The healing service only takes a few minutes, and any family members present are welcome to join in the prayers. Although the church member MAY make a confession, it is not required and, indeed, in our church, the general confession is sufficient. The sick or dying person receives the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, and may receive communion if they are able to, as can baptized family members or friends present who want to. Should a priest arrive after death, a different set of prayers for the person’s soul and comfort of the family is performed. Rather than dragging a person down and depressing them, it can serve to give a person hope and somewhat of a sense of refreshment. If this family did deny their loved one this sacrament, they all missed out on a true gift and blessing from God.
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