Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sacred Meal

Our culture longs for community. It is more disconnected than ever, both emotionally and relationally. Churches don't often help the matter. That's a sad truth, because that means they're not performing one of their chief purposes. Fortunately, I think we are slowly moving away from the civic institution to the spiritual community. It may take generations, but the evangelical church will be rebuilt from the ground up.

This problem is acknowledged by Nora Gallagher in her work, The Sacred Meal. It is another volume in the Ancient Practices series, edited by Phyllis Tickle and published by Thomas Nelson. Gallagher, in my opinion correctly, identifies Communion as the central act of community in the Church.

I cannot tell you how important I think works like this are, not because I agree with every theological point. In fact, I have more than a few theological disagreements with this author. That doesn't matter. Orthodoxy has never come to a consensus on the sacred meal. We shouldn't be turned off by those who disagree with us.

This book is timely because evangelicals don't grasp the importance of communion, whether they believe in the real physical presence or only remembrance. The supper, when held in high esteem, brings renewal, both communally and individually.

The church where I grew up observed communion, or the "Lord's Supper," every quarter. They would say otherwise, but it was basically for the heck of it, because Jesus said we had to do it. In my opinion, that's completely ridiculous. This is a solemn privilege, not just a constraint. Communion is something we get to do. We don't need to do it every week, but this business of observing it only occasionally completely misses the point.

Additionally, ancient practices really speak to us. They come from a simpler time not bound so much by clock and schedule. They can lead us to a place when we are completely in the moment. That's the only place we can meet God. In a time when so many have completely lost a sense of spiritual reality, we can gain so much from rediscovering these traditions and their original significance.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

ancient practices: yes, please

My newest review in the Thomas Nelson Blogger Book Review program is by a Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister. It is called The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life and it is from "The Ancient Practices Series" which encourages Christians to draw upon the

It is not that I agree with Chittister at every detail, but that I strongly believe modern Christianity yearns for connection with the long tradition of faith and the freedom that is found in liturgy. Our church is fragmented and segregated by a pervasive pragmatism and hyperactive stimulus. We need the devotion and discipline Chittister outlines in this book.

When we participate in the practices of the liturgical year, our hearts participate in the life of Christ. We are connected more deeply with all who have heard His voice throughout the ages. A wholehearted, yearly revisiting of this cycle renews us, increases our faith and brings us face to face with the love of Christ and can make us more like him.

The framework of the liturgical year can actually bring us to the place in which we can meet Christ. Chittister gets this right. Exactly right. You will not find many specific ideas and methods, but that's not the point. If you're like me and were raised in a tradition that had little use for the richness of historical Christian faith, this book is for you. You need it, even if you don't think you do.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finding Purpose Behind Our Pain

Finding Purpose Behind Our Pain: Uncover the Hidden Potential in Life's Most Common Struggles by Drs. Paul Meyer and David Henderson is intended to be a motivational work. Its purpose is to encourage those experiencing pain or struggling with past hurt to turn their struggles around into something positive.

The book isn't bad, although I feel some of their Biblical application is far-fetched and out of context. It is a positive, encouraging work on a very practical level. It is important for everyone to realize that their pain, whatever its cause, can be an impetus for significant personal growth. This is invaluable truth.

I didn't feel that the book went beyond a superficial level, though. Our pain is a reflection of a deeper condition within us and is a direct result of the fall. I never felt like this was well addressed.

As someone who has experienced very deep emotional and mental anguish, I don't think this book would have helped me during my recovery. It doesn't help someone identify the source of their pain, nor does it really give helpful strategy for moving out of struggle.

This first must be addressed before a person can view their hurts as positive.