Community worship in your own home

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For Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) Dawn Eden features an article written by her mom Rachel in reply to one of Dawn's readers. Like Dawn, Rachel and her husband Ron are Jews who follow Jesus. (You can find links to their accounts of their spiritual journeys on the left-hand side of Dawn's blog.)

Rachel's article deals with replacement theology, the notion that there is no longer any place in God's economy for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Rachel cites numerous passages of scripture, including the 11th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. You really have to stand on your head to read those passages as referring to anything other than the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (And I have seen this done, metaphorically speaking.)

This paragraph particularly impressed me:

I LOVE being Jewish. I grew up with a meaningful, joyous and restful Sabbath. Our family spread a white tablecloth on the table, dined on traditional foods, sang Grace and hymns together. We celebrated all of the Festivals of the Bible; Passover, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot a.k.a. “Pentecost”), and Sukkot (Tabernacles). We built a booth, a Sukkah, and ate in it for eight days. We learned Hebrew from the age of five. When I became a believer, I became a Biblical Hebrew teacher. I love that I can unravel some of the wonderful secrets of the Hebrew Bible because I understand how many of the words are related to each other. And I love sharing these secrets with other believers. My family still celebrates all of the Festivals or Leviticus 23, and we are amazed at the Lord’s fulfillment of each. Most people think that Communion is just about wine and bread memorializing Christ's death on the cross. Yet He Himself is the Paschal (Passover) Lamb, and He told us at that last Seder to "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22, Matthew 26, Mark 14). It makes sense, since He made great preparation for that Seder, and that He wants us to do the entire thing in remembrance of Him.

My college fraternity was founded as a Jewish society, later becoming non-sectarian. Our chapter was about a third Jewish, two-thirds Gentile. Although I had had Jewish friends in high school, it was much different, and fascinating, to observe first hand the variety of ways that these young men practiced their faith. The Jewish guys in the fraternity came from a variety of backgrounds -- from laid-back LA agnostics to strictly observant Long Island Orthodox and the whole spectrum of belief and practice in between. Some kept strictly kosher, cooked meals in their own kitchen, and used separate sets of pots and dishes for meat and dairy. At the other extreme, I saw someone eat ham and cheese on matzoh during Passover. But for all that diversity, everyone observed the principal holidays -- Pesach and Yom Kippur.

After graduation, I attended the weddings of a number of my Jewish fraternity brothers. The ceremonies, the traditions, and the blessings made me wish I had as rich a tradition to draw from, and it sparked an interest in Anglican liturgy, but that tradition doesn't have an equivalent to the Jewish emphasis on family worship, which is evident in the paragraph I quoted above.

We did what we could to tap into some sort of tradition, and it seemed reasonable to draw on the Book of Common Prayer as the common cultural heritage of the Anglosphere, whether or not we were Anglican ourselves. Mikki and I used the ceremony from the 1979 Episcopalian BCP for our wedding ("Dearly beloved" and all that), with the traditional vows, and we even made the Bible Church pastor who presided wear his doctoral robes over his suit, since he refused to wear a cassock. (Had I known better then, I probably would have chosen the traditional version from the 1662 BCP.) Writing your own wedding vows just seems wrong to me -- as if the happy couple were inventing marriage on their own terms, rather than following in the footsteps of the billions of couples who had gone before. (Are the origins of today's marriage debate to be found in sappy self-authored '60s ceremonies?)

From time to time, we tried, in our early married years, to use the BCP evening prayer service for our family worship time, but it was hard to stick with it. At least, the attempts have given me a lasting appreciation for liturgy and the benefit of reading prayers written by others, the sort of thing that was mocked as rote, inauthentic, mere formalism in the Baptist church I grew up in.

Evangelical family worship is pretty much "roll your own", and even if you adopt or develop a satisfactory pattern, there's something missing, because it doesn't connect you with the community of faith. In fact, it sets you apart, because it's unlikely that anyone else is using the same pattern as your family. I appreciated what our pastor did for our church this last Advent -- he wrote and distributed a short home liturgy, which our family used each night to light the Advent candles. (Katherine, then three years old, would break in at the same point each night. As I would read the written prayer which began, "O God, as light comes from this candle," she would stop me and say, "No, Dad, you mean, 'As God's light comes to this candle.'") It was nice to have something that was both theologically sound and prescribed, something that connected us to other church families who were following the same liturgy. We continued to use the Advent service, adapted somewhat, through Christmastide, but ran out of gas when we reached Epiphany -- I was sent out of town for two weeks, and we were without a plan for continuing.

While I greatly appreciate the freedom we have in Christ to observe holidays or not, and to decide how to observe them, there are times I wish I could say we're celebrating in this way because our people have been celebrating in this way for centuries.

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The blogosphere always amazes me. Through my reading of The Corner especially the editor "KLO" linked to Dawn Eden who linked to this post by a Michael Bates. The links between the two a right in between some of the things I think about. Coming... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 25, 2004 12:18 AM.

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