Liturgy, Ritual, "Services"...??
Thursday Afternoon, May 24, 2001
Question: My parents were confirmed into the “episcopal church” this year. They have never been happier. There was (and is) a lot of deep, deep hurt there stemming from my younger brother’s rebellion and depression. My mom especially has told me how becoming part of that church has allowed God to do a lot of healing in her. I have only been peripherally involved with this “church,” but it seems to me that those people surely must “love the Lord.” So, I guess my question is: how do you deal with the fact that God appears to help people through the liturgy?
Dear Jay... Fair question, if we are looking at the surface of things, for sure! I know this is an area that is confusing for some, so stay with me here—this is VERY important! The human mind and adrenal glands are quite powerful, and you MUST keep this in mind as you assess things. ONLY JESUS and HIS WAYS and TEACHINGS can be used to “measure” or “weigh” or “evaluate” the value of something “religious.” The fact that someone feels rosy-cheeked and warm all over as they sway to the music or ritual or group dynamics, and their depression is lifted by a dopamine and endorphin secretion—isn’t the real measurement of whether GOD is in it or not. You must surely acknowledge, if you are being unbiased and honest, that transcendental meditation, communing with spirit-guides while listening to crickets and waterfall music, a good massage or chiropractic session, a hypnotist’s silver watch swaying back and forth, the euphoria of “runner’s high,” or $30 worth of Ecstasy...ALL have the same reported effects that you have mentioned with “liturgy.”
Historically, “overcoming depression” has been accomplished by men in many ways. Religion, “the opiate of the people,” has long been used in every culture to salve the conscience and psyche. Human emotion and sentimentalism are NOT to be confused with BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY. Let’s be realistic! All world religions have “something to offer”—or there would not be so many millions of adherents to those religions, from Hare Krishna, to voodoo, to Catholicism, to Islam, to “Moonies,” to New Age, to Buddhism or Taoist thought! BUT, it is SCRIPTURE—the Life and Teachings and WAYS of the Master, Jesus, that define our lives and teachings and ways. And Liturgy is NOT Christian!! Liturgy contradicts and disobeys the teaching of Jesus and the recorded ways of how He lived with His followers then, and therefore NOW!!! (He is RISEN, and the SAME! He is not now changing how He relates to His Followers. Do you really believe He chanted with them, burned incense, did “responsive readings,” sang hymns pre-selected, practiced, and posted, or wore special clothing for a “weekly service”?? Come on now!! : ))
There is nothing more we need to know than the fact that JESUS, the same yesterday, today, and forever has never lived this way. Never. Not then, not now. He cannot and will not—in this Covenant of Reality. He will not endorse again a “shadow of the Reality that is in Christ” ritual—and He and His Apostles have commanded us against such things! God said, “I fear I’ve wasted my time on you!” when you return to those beggarly principles. Your traditions “nullify the very Words of God!” and are, at best, “weaker faith.” Of course, there are good folks scattered in and around such situations, who genuinely desire God with all their hearts, and would change anything, at any personal cost that God desires. They just don’t know anything else. But, as the saying goes, “religion” and “liturgy” are the last refuge of the scoundrel—they are a hiding place for hypocrisy and worldliness. Everyone looks spiritual during a “liturgy”—though every conceivable sin, without repentance, is happening within hours, and no one knows and few care! Leaven is invisible in an environment of clergy, “liturgy,” “services” and the like. “Leaven” is even WELCOME in such environments because they pay good money like everyone else. Because “leaven in the batch” is forbidden by God Almighty, we must not build any environment where we are not doing it GOD’S way: Light, and personal relationships with God, and the Gifts of the Royal Priesthood are always at full Liberty. “When you come together, brothers, everyone has a song, a teaching...!” That is GOD’S Way! The end result of building with externals, such as ritual, liturgy, pre-formatted speech giving and “worship” and the like, is “leaven in the batch.” And this means even the good people are leavened and therefore never can become who God has Designed them to become. (“A LITTLE leaven leavens the WHOLE batch.”) Maybe we ought to avoid that which God has forbidden?
No matter how “good” it feels to our emotions and hurts, “liturgy,” hierarchy, traditions of men, and all...are a placebo—NOT the Real Place Jesus has invited us into! Sure, “The Kingdom is entered through much tribulation”—and it doesn’t always “feel” good. That’s okay! What’s it worth to learn to FLY??!! “Tasting the Powers of the Coming Age”—“Joy inexpressible, full of Glory”—“the Power of an Indestructible Life”—“Rivers of Alive Water gushing from within”!! God’s ways are best. No doubt in my mind! If I were in that environment of “services” and “liturgy” and “religious office and hierarchies,” I’d: 1) love the people; 2) be involved in their daily lives to find out who truly “loves the Light”; 3) be willing to do what God Commanded, “When revelation comes to the second, let the first sit down.” (I would rather obey God than man, and be willing to “pop the bubble” of the “liturgy” and stand up and say something REAL.); 4) pray endlessly and tirelessly for the people and the assigned or hired “leaders.” (Though this is terribly unBiblical, they may be innocently drawn into all that they knew, also.); and 5) be ready to do something different if “leaven in the batch” couldn’t be resolved via deep, daily relationships amongst ALL of the “members” (Heb 3:12-14; Acts 2:42-47) within a reasonable amount of time.
And most of those things, if not all, will start over again at the next “place” you end up at! But, that’s okay too—you never know when you may encounter some who really “love the Light” and want all that God has Desired, and for the “Bride to make herself ready” for the Return of the Groom! May God birth REAL Light-loving, daily-intertwined, Holy expressions of His Son—true Lampstands, en masse! Of course, there is still, and always, Work to do even in these rare environments, but the FATIGUE of the sin, hypocrisy, defensiveness, disconnectedness, contradictions, power plays, cliques, love of the world, and the like...is gone! “From the least to the greatest”—EVERYONE “loves the Light,” “loves the Truth and so is saved.” If it is a TRUE Lampstand, when there is a Foundation in a location—ANYTHING can TRULY be dealt with, to the Praise of His Glory. Where it is only a religious group (whether in a religious facility with or without liturgy, or in a living room with or without liturgy), and not a true Church, a true Lampstand—issues that violate Jesus cannot be dealt with. Perhaps it is your temporary blindness, or theirs, but in a TRUE Lampstand, where everyone “loves the Light”—it CAN be resolved! (In a non-Church, you will be met, instead, with excuses, threats, platitudes, flattery, or be despised. Now, that’s no fun!!)
May He raise up His People, open our eyes, Gift and Equip us, and Sovereignly BUILD HIS CHURCH, in every Nation...“and then the End will come!” Hallelujah!