“We’re On A Mission From God”

Lent may be a good time for this discourse…

“If you live today, you breath in nihilism … it’s the gas you breathe. If I hadn’t had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.”
― Flannery O’Connor

I have not read Dr. Thomas Howard’s book “Evangelical is not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament.” A Goodreads description about the book piqued my interest.

After reading the brief synopsis and a thread of comments about the book, I would have to say that I have perhaps made a similar journey away from formal Evangelicalism. My reasons may be similar to Howard’s, but, as mentioned, I haven’t read his book.

My own journey began with seeking wisdom and authentic Christianity. In my thirties I would find a wellspring of wisdom and a dose of ‘real’ Christianity from reading the works of Saint Teresa of Avila and some of the church fathers.

In 1984 I came across “A Life of Prayer” by St. Teresa of Avila. The book, the abridged edition out of Multnomah Press copyright 1983, was one in a series of “Classics of Faith and Devotion.”

The preface, written by Dr. James Houston a University Lecturer at Oxford University and later Chancellor of Regent College, notes that “The goal for the reader of these books is not to seek information. Instead, these volumes teach one about living wisely…Nor are these books “how-to” kits or texts…They guide us to “be” authentic, and not necessarily help us to promote more professional activities.” But I am ahead of myself.

“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”
― Flannery O’Connor

I would like to share some of my journey, a condensed version, from formal Evangelicalism to Anglicanism with you. Where to begin? I’ll start like many of those who commented on Howard’s book: I was born and raised in an Evangelical Christian home.

While my parents were attending Moody Bible Institute as married students I was born. Voilà! Orbiting in such a universe my life rotated around daily Scripture reading, teaching and preaching. The ‘Word’ was heard it everywhere in my world – our small apartments.

The Word resounded from a tiny Zenith radio tuned to MBI’s flagship station WMBI. My mother had the radio tuned in and turned on every day while she worked around the house, prepared meals and changed you know who.

My earliest remembrances of the WMBI were of Aunt Theresa Worman and the KYB club (Know Your Bible Club). Through this and many other radio programs I would became bathed in Sola Scriptura at a very early age.

Later, along with my younger siblings, all of us sitting around the dinner table, my mother would read a chapter out of the book of Proverbs after each meal. And, often a missionary story as well. I also memorized tons of Scripture for Sunday School memorization contests.

With such an influx of spiritual truth each of us kids would become instilled with a desire to become missionaries or pastors or ministry involved from our earliest ages. For me, as I would later surmise, seeking wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding would be my life’s journey. I had to have the Truth – REALITY – and the discernment to know the Truth when I found it. I prayed for wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding every day.

Like my parents before me I attended Moody Bible Institute, in the ‘70s. I mainly studied Christian Education, music (I play the trumpet), Old and New Testament Scriptures and Koine (New Testament) Greek.

In my required first Personal Evangelism course I was taught that Catholicism was a cult just as Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism are cults. It would be years before I eradicated that thinking from my head. In the mean time, though, I felt pretty proud of myself being an in the ‘know’ “Protestant.” I found out later that this smugness was a two-way street.

“Smugness is the Great Catholic Sin.”
― Flannery O’Connor

Now, after all of the jumbled background I’ve laid out here, let’s get back to the reason I ‘switched’ turf. Reading would play an important role in my ‘change.’

St. Teresa, a Catholic, wrote mainly about prayer and the inner life with God. Her work is filled with imagery, primarily three images:

There is the Journey or Pilgrimage of the soul: the coming home to the Truth, to the Presence.

There is the image of the Castle representing the wholeness of the soul where “His Majesty” dwells. As James M. Houston’s Editor’s Note points out: “For it is God’s presence within the soul of man that gives it such spaciousness and delight. How contrastive is Kafka’s Castle with its fearful absence of the landlord depicting not only the absence of the earthly father of the novelist, but also Kafka’s alienation from God.”
The soul St. Teresa depicts “is the domicile of His majesty.”

Water is the third image. Here Teresa refers to prayer. She will talk about water’s scarcity during the journey and water from a deep well of meditation, water as a conduit or viaduct poured into us as joy or as fresh rain, replenishing the parched soul.

Another image, one that I use often in prayer, is the garden of the soul. I’ll talk about this more in another post.

To put it mildly, back in the day, I wasn’t hearing anything like the above from the preachers or from the ‘Christian’ radio or from…Christians. What I was hearing, every single Sunday in E-Free (The Evangelical Free church) was that if you wanted to trust Jesus as your Savior or if you wanted to rededicate your life for the umptee-umph time to the Lord then raise your hand, walk down the aisle and kneel.

It seemed to me that people just wanted to relive their rebirth experience, perhaps vicariously through someone else. But, please don’t ask those in attendance to drink or eat anything but milk. The meat of the word was left on the side. After many years of this diet I hungered for more solid food.

And what I hungered for was the Eucharist. Not all the parading up and down the aisles.

The Evangelical Free church (E-Free Church) I attended would ‘celebrate’ communion once a month, like an after thought, like something you put on the calendar and can’t forget to do. Saving souls, replaying the salvation message tape over and over again every Sunday, selling hell fire insurance and eternal life real estate was the bottom line. That, and making ever bigger buildings to house wider aisles to accommodate the walking recycled.

Am I being polemical? Absolutely, as my Lord would be.

“I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”
― Flannery O’Connor

Now, there are churches called “Seeker Churches!” What in the world?

When I was involved in the Jesus People Movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s we would hold Jesus Rallies at public high school auditoriums. This was evangelization.

There would be worship music and Street-wise Preachers. We’d invite our high school friends. Many would come to belief in Christ. We would immediately baptize them in a pond nearby. One of them was my best friend Carl.

Today churches are trying to play culture catch-up and it’s a fool’s errand.

Three point sermons? Nope. Sermons as centerpiece of Sunday morning ‘service’. Nope

The church, the ekklesia, the called out ones, are to be fed, ministered to and to minister to one another: gifts, giving, koinonia, and NOT “let’s watch a Jesus flick this morning” or “let’s listen to a raging sermon that really tells someone off” or “You really need my homiletics to get you through the next week.” No.

The church is to gather to worship as One Body the Triune God. The church universal, with those in prison, with those hurting and alone, comes together to feed on HIM. THEN, the church, fed, recharged, goes out into the world to seek the lost. Evangelization is life after Eucharist.

I chose to go to an Anglican church because the Lord had placed in my heart, since day one, the need to receive His REAL Presence through the sacrament. Yes, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me. He is the one saying “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” I wanted the Wisdom of God dwelling in me. I need this bread and drink every week, at the very least. Come Lord Jesus.

Yes, I need the liturgy. I am a Romantic-Rationalist. I need to hear the Common Book prayers read aloud and the scriptures read aloud. I need the formal hymns AND the folk songs of the church (I listen to David Crowder at home). I need the formality, the ritual, the pomp and circumstance, the expectation of His Presence leading up to the Eucharist.

Everything that happens within the liturgy points to the Eucharist – The Great Thanksgiving. That is exactly why I attend an Anglican church – exalting His Majestic REAL Presence with us.

There is beauty in the liturgical season colors, the stained glass windows. There is beauty in the spoken prayers and Scripture. There is beauty in the truth of the hymns.

I need beauty wherever and whenever I can find it. We all do. Beauty reveals the Godhead. Beauty reveals the love of God towards us.

And yet, even though most of my spiritual needs (of gift and giver) are met at the Anglican Church, the Body of Christ can be so much more than this. The corporate church has become the church corporate – worldly configured and less Christ-centric dynamism. Think personally involved house-to-house koinonia-laying–on-of-hands-prayer and not sit-back-and-let government (or church) do “social justice.”

I have started several threads in this post. I can’t follow all of them here. Read Saint Teresa’s “A Life of Prayer.” Read the church fathers. Read Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Read N.T. Wright’s “How God Became King”. Read Dr. Luke’s The Acts of the Apostles.  Become His Church as Followers of the Way. Feed on Him in your hearts by faith and with Thanksgiving.

“You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it. ”
― Flannery O’Connor

***
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

Flannery O’Connor on the Eucharist and Church History

 

***

American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2012: Gingrich-Daniels

“I simply can’t imagine a society that is radically secular or anti-religious that is nonetheless able to sustain liberty and human dignity in any meaningful way,” says Daniel J. Mahoney, author of The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order: Defending Democracy against Its Modern Enemies and Immoderate Friends.

“Precisely because Gingrich is right about the moral crisis the country is facing — millions of lives and entire communities destroyed by drugs, alcohol, gangs, and violence — there is a moral imperative for him to fill the leadership vacuum and address the growing devastation.” Arianna Huffington, Why Newt Must Run, The Weekly Standard, 1995 (h/t Legal Insurrection)

The video below provides a great opportunity to become familiar with Newt Gingrich. I suggest watching the complete video. Of special interest to me is the segment starting at 27:51 regarding his moral character, his family background, his promotion of wisdom, his Christianity and his discovery of the power of the Eucharist.

Andre Dubus

       “…my belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist is simple: without touch, God is a monologue, an idea, a philosophy; he must touch and be touched, the tongue on flesh, and that touch is the result of the monologues, the idea, the philosophies which led to faith; but in the instant of the touch there is no place for thinking, for talking; the silent touch affirms all that, and goes deeper: it affirms the mysteries of love and mortality.”   On Charon’s Wharf

 “For ritual allows those who cannot will themselves out of the secular to perform the spiritual, as dancing allows the tongue-tied man a ceremony of love.”   A Father’s Story

        “Short story writers simply do what human beings have always done. They write stories because they have to; because they cannot rest until they have tried as hard as they can to write the stories. They cannot rest because they are human, and all of us need to speak into the silence of mortality, to interrupt and ever so briefly stop that quiet flow, and with stories try to understand at least some of it.”   Into the Silence

                 “Very early, I understood that women were required to be other than what they were.”  Of Robin Hood and Womanhood

Tantum Ergo

“When Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being “in Christ” or of Christ being “in them” this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them: that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts –that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body. And perhaps that explains one or two things. It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by the bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion…There is no good in trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.” C. S. Lewis

I will never understand why the Bible/Baptist churches teach that the communion wafer and grape juice are just symbols or tokens of Christ’s sacrifice and not the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. It is these same churches that preach that Christ dwells within the believer. Why cannot that same Christ dwell in the bread and wine?

The Holy Spirit came down as a dove. And, God moved His people with a cloud and pillar of fire. Manna. The burning bush. The Temple. These all were obviously physical manifestations that required the eyes of faith to rightly see that God was in them. The same applies to the bread and wine.

“But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.””

St John (6:32-58)

“Well, if [the Eucharist] is just a symbol, to hell with it.”–Flannery O’Connor, when discussing Catholicism with writer Mary McCarthy

(Flannery) “O’Connor was often critical of what she considered Protestant shortcomings. “A Protestant habit is to condemn the Church for being authoritarian and then blame her for not being authoritarian enough”. She had a healthy respect for fundamentalist Protestants, and she was alarmed at the liberal theology she heard coming from some Protestant camps. “One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so and that religion is our own sweet invention”. She understood the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. “What people don’t realize,” she wrote to Louise Abbot, “is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross”.”From this web page.

Read more.

Remain in Me

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”  Jesus

As a student attending Moody Bible Institute back in 1971, I had heard things that I carried with me up until just a few years ago:  A Personal Evangelism teacher, Mr. W., taught us that among the cults stood the Catholic Church.  The’70s was a time when Biblical inerrancy claims and cult exposure was at a height.  The Jesus People movement had forced the gospel out into the open, onto the street level where it mingled with drug addicts, hippies and street people.  I was there in the sixties to witness this and to later hear Mr. W’s rants about Catholicism.

 At Moody, for one hour each Tuesday and Thursday, Mr. W. would ‘expose’ the cults and brandish Catholicism as far from the truth.  Among fellow students, teachers and parents, the message often became “We Bible backers are on the right track.  We have the truth.  We do not have the relics of Catholicism; we are modern, progressive and Protestant.  We are free ‘churchers’.  We know better.” Contempt for the Catholic Church and it teachings about Mary, transubstantiation, the saints, etc. was common among my among many Free Church people at the time.  I heard many sermons elevating the Free Church and the Bible Church above the Catholic Church. 

 The following year at Moody Mr. W. was gone.  It may have been that the school’s board decided the Mr. W went too far in his denunciation of the Catholic Church.  But, sadly, the damage had been done to many students who had heard him teach. They walked away with an ‘enlightened attitude’ towards the Catholic Church.  The Catholics would need the Truth as they knew it ‘should’ be.

 This ingrained belligerent attitude was heard the other day, December 28 th, 2009, on the train from Chicago to Wheaton. I was sitting with a woman friend talking about Christmas.  She was showing me her family Christmas pictures on her laptop. While we were talking, a young man that my friend knew sat in front of us.  Half turned, he sat speaking with us through out the hour long ride.  At one point he related a story about his neighbor two houses over.  With a snarl he called them the “Evangelical Christian neighbors.”  He met these neighbors on the sidewalk in front of an elderly couple’s house, the couple’s house situated between their houses  The young man said that these ‘Christian’ neighbors had done nothing to help the older couple.  In fact, the older couple called on him instead of asking for their help.  It was what the young man said next that sickened me:  “The Evangelical neighbors told me that they could help this elderly Catholic couple by getting them on the right track and making them Bible believing Christians.”  I was shocked and deeply saddened.  What I had heard at Moody some forty years earlier was replaying right in front of me:  the sad, sickening superiority of Baptist and Bible church believers towards others.  This type of contempt in these churches isn’t always so blatant but it exists in the everyday language of evangelicalism, so much so that many people are defensive against the Gospel as promulgated by these ‘better-than-thou” Christians.

 I started attending an Anglican church a few years ago.  Throughout my life I have desired the Eucharist on a regular basis.  The Bible/Baptist Churches have sanctioned communion to a once-a-month gathering instead of as often as believers are together in one place. These same churches have also stated that communion is only a remembrance of the Lord’s death and nothing more.  The understanding is that this communion is the exact opposite of the communion offered by the Catholic Church or transubstantiation.  This, among other things, means you are Protestant.  The implication being that the Baptists/ Biblers are in a better, more knowledgeable place than the Catholics. You have left behind the archaic and apostate teachings of the Catholic Church.  You are smarter, more modern than …

 I made decision to abide in Christ a few years ago when I started attending the Anglican Church.  I wanted to go deeper with my life in Christ.  And, I didn’t want another romantic relationship to further confuse and block my efforts.  I wanted to know Christ and to be known by Him.  My understanding of the Eucharist brings me to that place.  The Eucharist, the Thanksgiving, the bread and wine, are the REAL food and drink of life, (not the actual physical body of the Lord but the REAL Presence of the Lord).  I meet the Lord each time I partake of the bread and wine.  That is why I am so eager to go to my church and partake in the Eucharist. This REAL Food and Drink has changed my life more than any education, more than the miles of aisle walking, more than any worship or praise song. I have become more REAL and at the same time less like the world.  I know now that Christ carries a sword and carries the lamb.  He is divisive and unifying.  The longer I walk with him and meet him at the Eucharist the more I become like Him.  The more I am able to speak to others in His voice.

 Lastly, you may remain in Christ or you may not.  You have that choice.

 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”  Jesus

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved