Okay, so I was going to leave this in three parts, but "C" was long enough to justifiy a "D." Next time we really are getting to "Dirty," because that's the one I haven't written yet. This section is a bridge, if you will - the conclusion of Religion and the beginning of Dirty. No, I'm not explaining the title.
So, thus far I have maintained that:
1. God has ordained religion and wishes such fulfilled, not abolished (Sermon on the Mount).
2. God has defined religion as feeding widows and orphans and keeping oneself unstained from the world (James 2), which translates into promoting justice and righteousness (Micah 6.8) and keeping the two greatest commands (Leviticus 19.18; Deuteronomy 6.4; Luke 10.38-42).
3. God has specified the manner in which we are to worship him.
4. God has specified the manner in which we carry out religion.
That said, the narrative, historical accounts of the Old Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, and the four Gospels of Jesus, are meant to demonstrate God's applications of the principles found in the aforementioned Law.
The Prophets and the Apostles, then, largely acted in similar fashion to Jesus explaining the parables to the disciples (on occasion).
None of this abolition nonsense.
Remember: God spoke through the Law and the Prophets, then sent his Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1), who now sits at the right hand of the Father as our mediator and who has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the seal of our redemption and our counsel regarding this enormous thing called the Way of Christ.
And the Son of God never intended for to become spiritual anarchists. In fact, most of the time these men of God had to keep reminding everyone that there's a right and wrong way to do just about everything. We love Paul's passage on freedom in the Spirit, but not so much the next section where he talks about submission and obedience to that same Spirit.
The poor First Century church - predominantly Jewish with a few Gentiles running around who were even more clueless than their Jewish counterparts regarding how this thing played out - had lots of problems. That's why the New Testament exists. (Thought-cookie complements of my pastor.) They didn't do it all right. They were running for their lives, in survival mode, and they were dealing with racism, elitism, idolatry, and all kinds of warped perversions that, if we made the full list, would sound eerily like the same human depravity history dares record.
The point is: If they weren't doing it right, and the apostles had to correct them (rather sternly, I might add), then that means they were doing it wrong.
Yes, that was my stroke of genius for the day. 0=)
And so what I see today is not a new thing, but rather the same old thing wearing new clothes - what the believers in the first generations of our faith struggled with then is the same we face today. Never, ever rip Christianity into a historical vacuum - otherwise you by default render such faith, such heritage, such inheritance, utterly meaningless. (But that's another post.)
Remember: The Law is not evil. Without the Law, we do not know what sin is, and we have neither a need for a Savior, nor any knowledge of good and evil. The greater the sin, the greater the grace. Where there is no Law there is no transgression. The Law is our tutor, our overseer, our guide. The Law is a description of the ways of God. His nature, his character.
And thus such is beautiful. True, the Law can only condemn, never save. The one who dutifully keeps the Law is not rewarded for simply doing what he must - rather, the one who goes above and beyond the call of mere duty is rewarded.
Still, the Law remains.
Do I think God means for us to keep all the dietary and ritualistic shadows of the Law? No, the Jerusalem Council (headed by James, I might add) took care of that. But I think the Law should be studied on account of the principles behind them. The Mosaic Law tells much about what holiness and righteousness should look like.
Priests - The priests stand between God and man and behave as mediator and intercessor, praying day and night and offering sacrifice and praise, offering council and healing and justice. Now, stay with me, here: Peter calls us "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people" set apart that we might "show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Peter 2?) They were teachers, physicians, musicians, caretakers of the tabernacle/temple, advisors, and more. Many times they were also judge, jury, and executioner as well. These are not to be confused with prophets, who largely were not priests or even Levites.
Levites - The tribe from which the priests came. They could do most of the things the priests could, and their purpose was primarily to enable the priests to do their jobs without hindrance.
Governmental/Civil Law - The manner in which a ruler provided justice and righteousness, also the manner in which we are to treat others.
Dietary Law - I'm of the mind that what affects the body affects the spirit, and vice versa. Furthermore, since we think better in word pictures, images, and Story, I think this was largely a two-fold device. One, Jews didn't have a lot of the sanitation problems others had as a result of the kosher diet. Two, this not only showed the wisdom, provision, and protection of God, it also displayed the metaphor of the people of God manifesting submission to God and manifesting Paul's principle that some things we do not do despite our freedom to do so.
In other words, I highly doubt there's anything inherently wrong with cooking a goat in its mother's milk. However, you could take a larger principle behind it: It's rather sadistic to kill a child before its mother, then drain her blood and roast the child in it.
Forgive that word picture.... 0=)
A less graphic example: There is nothing inherently wrong with an alchoholic beverage. However, I don't drink (aside from my primary reason of despising the stuff) largely because of the potential to cause myself or another to sin. (Yes, I have grounds for that -- But now isn't the place for further exposition; this is long enough.)
The point being: We just don't do that.
Laws of Cleanliness - Again, my understanding is that we are set apart by God for a specific purpose. As a result, sometimes we just don't do things. Other times, we do them, but then we must go and, in essence, purge ourselves. The purification (or consecration) process can happen an indefinite number of times, you'll see, in the Mosaic Law. Post-Crucifixion, however, that manifests itself in the single, ongoing, post-salvation (or rather, it begins at salvation) work of sanctification in a life.
Laws of Worship - Like it or not, God told us, among my pastor's 'party or die' quip, that there is a way in which to worship. Priests underwent consecration rites. Levites were split into three clans, each having their own specific role. One clan was to tend the tabernacle (later temple) and nothing else. One handled the things inside the holy of holies, and nothing else. The third group was given a divine command to pick up instruments, sing, dance, and make music.
Furthermore, God ordained that no man should come without a gift to bring to the altar. Now we translate this into the 'living sacrifice.' The principle becomes that WE, not grain or drink, are the sacrifice - as we come before the throne of grace with fear and trembling and with confidence and humility. We 'lift up holy hands and pure hearts,' and souls we yield to no other. We relinquish the thing in our hands and present ourselves before the Almighty.
(Sidenote: Paul calls himself a drink offering. The pouring out of drink - I'm forgetting the exact ingredients - over the altar was essentially a gift to God - it is not the same as an atonement offering, for which Christ was our sacrifice in place of a bull or ram. Wave/fellowship and free will offerings could be brought at any time to the priest to sacrifice to God, and this is what I mean here. I am not putting people in place of the atoning sacrifice or sin offering - which is what the bit with Jacob, Isaac, and the ram were implying.)
Yes, there are variations. I doubt David stripping off his robe was commonplace. I personally consider my choice in clothing part of my preparation to attending the corporate gathering of believers (namely, can I sit or kneel without being uncomfortable or immodest?). For you it's likely something else. But that's beside the point.
Clean hands. Pure hearts. Justice. Mercy. Set apart. Priestly.
The high priest - If we are the priestly order, Jesus is our high priest, and we serve both under and with him. Rather than the yearly sacrifice, Jesus presented himself once before the mercy seat (aka throne of grace) and sat down at the right hand of the Father, where he is and intercedes on our behalf.
Israel - Many people have their own ideas on Israel. I submit they remain the chosen nation of God, and that those who are of Abraham are those who are his by faith (as Hebrews' author and Jesus and Paul state). It seems accurate to say that Israel was called out of the world, and we are called both from the world and from Israel. This is where the bit on being grafted into the olive tree comes in. In case anyone was curious, the wild branch is anyone not Jewish.
"Okay, okay, but what does this have to do with my hatred for all things 'religious.' Your definition, Kaci, I like, but everyone else doesn't see it that way."
First, I highly doubt even the world confuses the occupation of a priest with a truly righteous man. Second, I once more fall upon a literary example. I recently read Donita Paul's (and you will hear me rave about her, because I happen to think she may have surpassed Narnia with her DragonKeeper books). One of the characters poses the following to another: "Suppose someone steals your clothes, robs someone, comes back, and returns your clothes to you. When the authorities come, you say you aren't that person, but they don't believe you." His point being that the true followers of Wulder do not behave in such ways or do such things.
So you're burned out and mad at 'instituted religion.' Bah humbug. I'm mad at the government, but I ain't promoting anarchy. And as much as I hate red tape, that tape protects me. As much as I hate traffic, I'm not complaining over the construction work that leaves me better off than before. And I may not like street signs, but they get me where I need to be. I may not like having to manually turn my lights on and off, but it's for my own safety (and so my car doesn't die).
Here's the thing: I think we'll all agree that it doesn't actually matter what color the sanctuary carpet is. But I think we might agree that it shouldn't be drawing attention away from the worship of God. I think we'll agree that order is required whenever you put a large number of people in one place. There really isn't a right way to do it, although some are more efficient than others.
I think we'll agree that some Bible translations are superior to others, that there are tenents of our faith we cannot back down from, and that maybe one person keeping us all on the same key singing mostly the right notes of the same song isn't such a bad idea.
I think guys in suits or jeans helping the late people find seats and getting us offering plates (bags, boxes, whatever) in an orderly fashion isn't a bad thing. I think your ritual for getting your heart properly positioned toward the Father isn't a bad thing - whatever it may be.
I think setting aside time to read and study Scripture, to pray, to reflect and meditate, is invaluable. I think our hearts breaking over people trapped in darkness is appropriate. I happen to think I can sing a hymn a cappella as easily as I can sing a contemporary litany. I happen to think that if covering my head is a sign of reverence, so be it. And I happen to think KJV is not of the devil, nor God's gift to man. (Please no puns.)
I happen to think that rebellion is intolerable and that bitterness, strife, and envy have no place -- on either side of the Schism.
Here's the thing: Which is better on the Sabbath, to save a life or destroy it? Or, even, which is better, to abolish the Law or fulfill it?
Another thing: By the measure in which you judge, so you will also be judged. You who find a priest ostracizing a troubled teenager atrocious, do you yourself ostracize the priest?
I get it. The church is messy. Unfortunately, "If men were angels, government would not be necessary" (The Federalist Papers).
Law, order, and goodness are not evil. Please let me stress this. If a law is ungodly, then respond to it. That doesn't mean we go about becoming the very things we hate.
25 August 2008
Observations of a Church Brat: Religious. (D)
Labels: *Journey - Sons and Daughters (Understanding Name and Inheritance 2008+), Observations of a Church Brat