Over this Christmas weekend I’ve racked up a lot of “pew time.” I’m not saying the amount of time one spends in a pew has any correlation to ones holiness or degree of being saved! However I’ve had the opportunity to experience several different forms of worship this weekend that have been quite enlightening and refreshing. Of course I attended Faith’s Christmas Eve service and traditional Sunday worship; unfortunately I missed our contemporary worship. I have also been attending our 12 Days of Christmas Prayer devotionals. All of these worship experiences have been wonderful, spiritual, and fulfilling! But probably the most eye opening was my attending two Catholic Masses with my brother who has been visiting this Christmas.
Now I have attended Mass with my brother before when he’s visited, but this visit included two Masses within 48 hours. You may or may not know that I grew up Catholic and had drifted away from “the Church” after I left home; until Faith Church found me. However, attending Mass twice within 48 hours along with the recent tension we’ve had at Faith over our style of worship put these visits in an entirely different light.
There was very little in the Mass in the way of word, action, or song that I could not accept or rejoice in as a fellow Christian! Oh, I had to watch myself with “trespasses” rather than “debts”, and who could argue about kneeling in the presence of the Lord? I did have to deal with some personal baggage when it came to making the “Sign of the Cross.” But that was only dealing with my personal issues from leaving the church in the first place and recognizing my trouble with that sign was a remnant of rebellion that has no place in my life anymore. I did have to deal with the fact that I was not welcome at the Communion Table along with some theological differences about exactly what Communion means. But I recognize those issues are as much theirs as they are mine and that in the Glory After that will all be cleared up. In the meantime I can be a polite guest and respect their customs. And I can tell you I experienced Communion just as much as they did!
All this just drives home to me even more what a waste it is to argue over differences in worship styles! We are called to celebrate our relationship with the Lord in worship. There are ways of celebrating that are unique to each of us. But we are also called to celebrate each other’s relationship with the Lord. As the PC(USA) Book of Order (G-4.0401) states: “Thus the fellowship of Christians as it gathers for worship and orders its corporate life will display a rich variety of form, practice, language, program, nurture, and service to suit culture and need.” We should respect each others choices and rejoice in the Lord “all ways”.
When I joined Faith I made a statement to the congregation that I had found a relationship with Jesus and that I could have gone back to reconcile myself with the Roman Catholic Church. But I also said that I felt I needed to stay at Faith where I was surrounded by the love of the people that had brought me into that relationship to continue to grow. That statement has been tested in recent years, and a couple more times in the past, but it still holds. It holds because Faith Church is bound together by the love of Christ! Faith Church, by grace, always seems to re-find that core truth; even if sometimes it takes a while longer. As long as Faith Church remembers and rests on the rock of Christ’s love it will thrive. There will surely be pieces of baggage we’ll need to deal with but I am looking forward to rebuilding upon that foundational rock in the coming year!