Tag Archives: church

A Churchless Cross?

A Churchless Cross?

I recently participated in a one-day pilgrimage that focused on the symbol of the cross. We explored its centrality and importance in Celtic Christianity, and had opportunities to consider our own life of prayer.

It got me thinking about the cross.

It’s a rather ubiquitous symbol, even outside of the church grounds. In fact, in some cases, it’s more prominent outside of churches than in them.

I always cringe when I find a crossless church. I have been in many modern sanctuaries and places of worship where a cross is hard to find, perhaps only represented in silhouette or by the negative space created by some architectural ingenuity. Sitting in my church during this day of reflection, I counted 9 crosses visible from my place in the pews. I was satisfied.

Rightfully Associated - The Cross and the Church

Rightfully Associated – The Cross and the Church

But perhaps even more disturbing should be the presence of a churchless cross. One can easily find necklaces, earrings, t-shirts, paperweights, greeting cards, ornaments, and all manner of paraphernalia displaying a cross. But I wonder: how often are those crosses–and their owners–completely detached from the Church? How often do these crosses exist in isolation, symbols presented with no intention of them actually pointing to anything of substance?

That’s not to say that we can’t use this symbol outside of the churchyard. But do we use it with intentionality, with a desire to be reminded of the heritage, the community, the truth of our faith in Jesus Christ?

Some might say that this display of overt religiosity and intentionality would be offensive. But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? A device for execution redeemed to represent the victorious Christ and majesty of God and presented with firm conviction isn’t likely to be welcomed by the world. But we seem to be trying our hardest to make it so.

We cannot rightfully separate the Cross from the Church. The sacrifice of God without the people of God is void. The people of God without the majesty of God are bereft and hopeless.

Let us hold both the Church and the Cross, the community and the Christ, as intimate aspects of our life and perspective, our worth and our worship.

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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Theology


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Speak Peace

I’m new to the Anglican church.

Although I grew up in a “high church” setting (hymn- & organ-based music, use of liturgy, corporate prayers, etc.), each denomination has its own particulars…as well as its own vocabulary.

Vicar. Rector. Curate. Priest in charge. Reader. Deacon. Diocese. Benefice. Parish. I don’t think I’m very much closer to sorting them all out now compared to a year ago when I first began to attend.

Sitting with our Rector the other day, he was trying to explain some of the differences to me, and I noted that there were a few activities that only ordained Priests/Vicars/Rectors could perform as part of the corporate worship service. Leading the Eucharist (Communion, the Lord’s Supper) was one of them–which I expected.

But there was another one that caught me off guard.

During each service, the Priest speaks a blessing of peace over the congregation, which usually includes the words, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” To which we reply, “And also with you.”

Some people might take umbrage to the idea that ordained clergy appear to have a monopoly on speaking blessings of peace on people. But I don’t think that’s the intent.

Rather, there is an acknowledgement that speaking blessings is a sacred act, an important rite, a powerful engagement. In the same way that we don’t offer communion wafers at movie theaters (unless of course you attend one of those churches that meets in a movie theater), we don’t cast around the blessing of God’s peace either. Rather, it is with intentionality that we offer and receive this blessing.

The Bible talks about Jesus sending people out to do ministry in various communities, and one of the main activities they are to engage in is to speak peace upon arriving at a house. If the residents are welcoming, the blessing of peace remains; but if they reject the ministers, their blessing “returns to them.” After that, they might eventually leave the town, wiping off the dust from their feet as a token of their unwelcome.

Peculiar–their peace returns to them when it is not received. Apparently, Jesus saw the speaking of peace as a very significant activity, a way to tell something fairly instantly about those that you might encounter. Do they welcome a greeting of peace, or do they rebuff it? Do they accept those who “come in peace,” or do they ignore?

Peace is significant, and one of the ways that the Anglican church seems to capture that is by restricting the speaking of this blessing to those who have had some formal training, some ordination as being a proper leader in the Faith.

This doesn’t discourage me from desiring to bless others…I don’t feel it’s taboo for me since I’m not an ordained clergyman. But it does cause me to consider the gravity of the words I might share with others.

We might all benefit from speaking words of peace to one another, but it goes far beyond the throwing up of two fingers in that all-too-familiar “peace sign.” It goes beyond t-shirt slogans like, “Make peace, not war.” And it even goes beyond catchy jingles that ask us to “give peace a chance.”

Far more profoundly, we can look someone in the eye and speak peace to them, uttering words of divine blessing as we ask our heavenly Father to impart to them something that often doesn’t make sense, is far beyond human understanding, and yet so very tell-tale and vital.

During the worship service, after the Rector speaks the words of peace to us, he then invites us to share a sign of God’s peace with those around us. For me, that’s a kiss for my wife and a handshake to everyone within arm’s length…as well as to several who are even beyond my reach! It’s proof that the church isn’t just reinforcing some elitist hierarchy by limiting the speaking of peace to a priestly duty. Rather, he leads us–as a shepherd should–and then empowers us to speak peace to those around us.

Amen. Let it be so.

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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Prayer


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The Work of Children

Today is Trinity Sunday.

In church, they set apart this Sunday to acknowledge the mystery of Who God is as the Three-in-One.

The kids were sent off during the service in order to go outdoors and to look for examples of three-in-one. The most common find was clover: three leaves, but just one plant.

When the children came back in and reported what they had found, the priest was excited and he offered a prayer of thanks for the work that the children had done this morning.

That caught my attention.

Kids playing in the church’s garden looking for symbols of the character and nature of God is work. We often times call it “Sunday School,” but this priest seemed to view it as the kids at the office: doing their work to explore who God is.

How often do we consider our work to be about seeking understanding of the reality of God? How often do we view our work as looking at the world through intentional eyes to see where He is revealing His mystery to us? How often do we invest and exert ourselves on Sunday morning in order to arrive at a meaningful encounter with Truth?

The priest could see all of this in the morning’s activity for the kids. Why does it seem so hard for us to view our own involvement similarly? We have branded Sunday as a day of rest; the idea of doing work–even (especially?) spiritual work–is something that we might write off out of habit alone.

But the priest saw that these children, and their volunteer leaders, had come to accomplish something: they had come to learn, to grow, to see, and to seek…and their labors were acknowledged and praised before the whole congregation.

If that is the work of children, is our work any different? Rather than having mastered the tasks that they are about, we adults rather too often seem to ignore, overlook, or neglect this work.

The word “liturgy”–as in the order of service, readings, etc. that often make up a church worship service–literally means “the work of the people.” Sunday is a time to gather and work. How many of us see it that way? How many of us come and expect to exert ourselves, to labor, to engage actively and intentionally in the words and songs, the standings and sittings, the ritual and relationships?

The work of the children this morning was inspiring to me. Perhaps even more so, the priest’s response to their activity has challenged my perspective. Viewed this way, what is my work? What should it be? And what is the “work” that I am actually doing?

I’ve often heard it said that prayer is work. Perhaps children, and this priest, understand this far better than most of us.

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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Life, Prayer


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