I’m grieving right now.
I’m grieving for the world.
I’m grieving for the United States.
I’m grieving for the people of El Paso and Dayton and countless other cities where too many people have lost their lives because we, in America, are addicted to our guns and our violence. I’m also grieving for the first responders.
These brave men and women give so selflessly of themselves to serve their communities. They suffer more than most of you reading this post will ever know. Many of them suffer in silence. Many of them drown their suffering in alcohol or pills or sex or suicide or whatever they can find to dull the pain.
I know they do this. I know because I did it.
Here’s the thing. Humans weren’t made for this. We weren’t made to murder each other. We weren’t made to take lives, including our own, through violence or any other means. How do I know this? Because I am a Christian and I believe God’s Word.
In the beginning, God created. He created all things that existed and He created mankind. He created mankind in His own image, to model and show the world what He was like. And when He had created mankind, He said it was “very good.” If you’ve never read the story or have never really reflected on it or just want to read it again, I invite you to read Genesis 1-3.
But something went wrong.
We chose. Adam chose. Mankind chose to turn our backs on our good Creator and go it our own way. Our pride drove us to make a decision that has proven to be catastrophic for the world. We chose disobedience over obedience. We chose our own will over God’s will. We chose our own way over God’s way. And sin entered the world.
Now look where we are.
We murder and slander and scream and eradicate and destroy and crush our fellow man and the world that God has created that He called good. We flounder around searching for answers to our own problems and yet turn our eyes and hearts away from the very person that can and has and will answer every question that we have, every answer we seek.
Here’s the reality. There are no answers to our problems in America or in the world without the person of Jesus Christ.
Education can’t be the answer. We’ve tried that. We are the most educated and advanced society the world has ever known. Yet, murder and suicide and assaults and vitriol and racism have never been more rampant. We are so busy shouting at each other and accusing one another and pointing fingers that we cannot see the forest for the trees. If education could solve our problems, we would not see racism and all the other problems we see.
Tolerance can’t be the answer. We’ve tried that. Only our so-called tolerance isn’t really tolerance. We are only tolerant of those who are like us, who agree with us. And so our shouting and biting words tear us apart.
There are no answers to our problems apart from the person of Jesus Christ.
While we grieve (rightly so) and demand change (also rightly so), let’s also not forget that there is very real human collateral damage here. Children are dying. Teenagers are dying. Adults are dying. First responders and soldiers suffer within their own hearts and minds the fall out of having to deal with constant death and depravity.
There are no answers to our problems apart from the person of Jesus Christ. It is only in Him that we will find the peace with ourselves and one another that we so desperately need and crave. So while we have our debates about gun control, racism and many other things, let us hear again the words of our Saviour.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
A Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer):
O God, you made us in your own image, and you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!
When I began my journey into the liturgical church, many referred to it as “walking the Canterbury trail.” While this isn’t a bad way to express it, I’ve recently come to a place and position that would push back gently on this expression. I have not been walking the Canterbury trail; I have been walking the path of the Church.
Let me unpack that a little. Basically what I’m saying is that liturgical worship did not begin with the Canterbury trail. Liturgical worship has been part of the worship of God’s people since He has set apart a people for Himself. If you doubt that, I submit to you that you have not read carefully enough what we would call the Old Testament.
Throughout the details that God gives to His people of how they are to approach and worship Him, He gives strict liturgical practices they are to follow. Those practices were not for the gathered worship assembly only by the way. Those liturgical practices were for all aspects of their lives. God laid out the rhythm of their lives based on feasts and harvests and on and on. In other words, God’s people were told to live all their lives by a certain pattern of time and way of life based on what God said, not what they decided. This is the point, by the way, of the Church calendar.
This is critically important for us to understand in the Church today. We don’t get to make this up as we go along. The worship of God, indeed how we are to live our very lives, is dictated by the One who gave us life.
We are far too individualistic in our approach and attitude toward our lives and our worship. We are far too worried about what we feel or what we want, what is “relevant” or what “resonates” with us. I even had an Anglican priest whom I know say to me that the “tools of Anglicanism” worked best for him and that’s why he was Anglican. He said that if it ever stopped working, he’d just walk away.
Let’s just stop and think about that for a second. This is the problem in the Church today. We think God’s prescriptions of how His people are to live are “tools” that, if they work for us are to be used but if not, they are to be discarded.
The hubris of this is astounding and so very sad.
As I have walked deeper into this way of living with the Church and walking with God, I have found a peace that is hard to describe. I have begun to drink from a very deep well of very ancient wisdom and I have found it to be wonderful, profound and life-changing. I have begun to worry less about my own self interests and desires and am learning to submit.
This is a dirty word to most of us: Submit.
We don’t want to submit to our government, our boss, the laws of our country. We most certainly don’t want to submit to one another or to a priest or bishop or even the authority of God’s Word or of His Church. We are in very grave danger spiritually when we refuse to submit.
In this I have discovered very great freedom. In submitting to the authority of God’s Word and His Church, I have found so much peace. I don’t feel like I have to worry so much now about my preferences or whether I like or don’t like something ‘cause it ain’t about me.
Guess what? It’s not about you either.
I was once the pastor of a church here in Nashville. It was a non denominational Acts 29 church. As their pastor, I was firmly convinced of the need for us as a congregation to submit to the teachings of and the worship of the Church. So we began to install liturgical worship and I began to have teaching sessions on the liturgy; what it meant, its history and the Scripture references where the source could be found.
A question from one of the members was asked. The question was along these lines: “This seems like a lot.” That part was more a statement of their personal feelings but nevertheless…”Can’t we shorten this? Can we contextualize this?”
My response was probably perceived as being impertinent or snarky. I said, “I do not have the authority, nor do you, to change what the Church has been saying to God in worship for the better part of 2000 years.”
Our pride is dangerous.
Our pride has infected the Church.
We need to repent and pray and submit to the Church. I’m not suggesting that we just accept what is taught blindly. I’m saying that, if the teaching of the Church lines up with what the Scriptures have to say (our ultimate authority) then we need to swallow our pride and preference and submit.
In our submission to God’s Word and His Church, we will find a depth that we have longed for and a peace that passes our own understanding. And maybe, just maybe we will find, in that submission, great freedom.
Soli Deo Gloria!