Author Topic: Does It Really Matter?  (Read 5850 times)

ptmccain

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Does It Really Matter?
« on: July 28, 2007, 07:50:51 AM »
How often have we all heard it said: "It doesn't matter where I worship, or how I worship. All paths lead to the same god." Martin Luther faced this same attitude and here was how he responded to it:

God through Moses had issued a most rigorous prohibition against the impudence of inventing new forms of worship, as when He says: “You shall not offer in every place but at the place which the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name and make His habitation there; thither you shall go, and thither you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices” (cf. Deut. 12:4–6). At that time the place appointed for worship was the temple at Jerusalem. The ark of the covenant was there, and G had promised that He would speak from the mercy seat to draw the people away from the diversity of idols to a united worship of God, to which He wanted to gather all together, if not in bodily presence and external works, at least in heart and prayer, if any were too far away from this place.

But the false prophets used to fight against this viewpoint and say: “God is everywhere; therefore He can be adored and worshiped in every place, both in Bethel as well as on any other mountain.” They did not have regard for the commandment of God. For when God fixes a certain manner and designates a certain place for His worship, it must not be said: “Wherever I will worship God, it will be pleasing to Him if only I do it in a godly and devoted manner,” or, “I shall make offerings to Him wherever it pleases me.” Isaiah, for example, censures this madness very severely, saying (Is. 57:5): “You burn with lust … under every green tree.” The Turks and Jews are accustomed to speak in this manner today, claiming that they are able to serve God outside of the unity of faith and the church of Christ. Mohammed claims that anyone is saved in his own religion if he prays, if he gives alms, if he does other good works. It is not necessary for him to be a Christian or that he should be in the unity of Christ and the church. In the papacy also all corners were occupied with chapels, convents, and idolatry of every kind.

Therefore Hosea cries: “This example of Jacob by no means confirms your idolatry. He did, indeed, struggle with the angel, but you should have remembered that the Lord God of hosts led Israel out of Egypt through the prophet. But where is this God to be [Vol. 6, Page 128] found? Where has He made a memorial for His name? Where is this memorial? Where the ark of the covenant is” (cf. Ex. 20:24).

This is true, indeed, that God is not bound, neither to Jerusalem nor to any other place, and that He is able to save also elsewhere. No one will deny this. But try it and see what you will get! If you invent forms of worship according to your own judgment, you will be in danger of God’s wrath. By His almighty power God could save the human race without Christ, without Baptism, and without the Word of the Gospel. He could have illuminated men’s hearts inwardly through the Holy Spirit and forgiven their sins without the ministry of the Word and of ministers. But it was not His will to do so. And God very strictly prohibited all erring forms of devotion and worship.

When hypocrites say: “Whatever is done with good intention is pleasing to God,” those self-chosen devotions are to be condemned, and men should be reminded that they should direct their eyes where God has revealed Himself. We must not say: “Paul preached at Rome, therefore Christ is there. James is buried at Compostela in Spain, therefore God should be worshiped there by the invocation of Saint James.” By no means! Yet many miracles are performed there? My reply is that God abominates and condemns all erring thoughts outside the one and only revelation made in the Word and sacraments, to which He wished to gather us and in which He wished to include us. For this reason Christ sent His disciples with this command: “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20), and “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). He wants us to be gathered in connection with the Word and Baptism as by a sure and infallible sign because He wants to save us and help us, just as He promised He would listen at the mercy seat among the people of Israel.

If you want to be absolved from your sins in this manner, go to your pastor, or to your brother and neighbor if your pastor cannot hear you; he has the command to absolve you and comfort you. Do not invent a special absolution for yourself. If you want to receive the Lord’s Supper, go to the assembly of the church and the public congregation and receive it there. Do not devise a special administration and use of the sacraments. For God does not want us to go astray in our own self-chosen works or speculations, and so He gathers us together and encloses us within the limits of the Word so that we are not tossed about by every kind of doctrine (cf. Eph. 4:14).

This happened to us under the papacy when we despised Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the remission of sins and made pilgrimages meanwhile to Saint James, Borne, and Jerusalem, as though God were not present in all the churches and congregations which have His Word and sacraments. Finally, there was an infinite variety of sects and orders, each of which had its peculiar, segregated ritual in distinction from the ritual and ordinance of God. Nor could those innumerable forms of fornication, as Holy Scripture calls them, be prevented except by casting off our own works. So God wants all these things to be removed, and He sets forth His Word, which says: “Here you shall adore, worship, and make offerings. In the Word, in the Lord’s Supper, and in Baptism you have the remission of sins. With these you will have to be satisfied if you wish to be saved.”

Martin Luther, vol. 6, Luther's Works, Vol. 6  : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works, 6:127 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1970).

EENGELBRECHT

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2007, 09:23:57 AM »
Give us some application for this, Paul. Where do you see this fitting with:

Relationships to non-Christians
Relationships with Christians

In Christ,
EE

ptmccain

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2007, 10:23:28 AM »
Application?  Huh? You think that this old 16th century stuff is relevant for today? Radical thought.

Some immediate thoughts do come to mind.

(A) It does matter where we worship and how we worship.

(B) Top priority is finding the Lord where He has promised to be found: in the Gospel purely preached and Sacraments rightly administered.

(C) Worship with non-Christians is out of the question.

Those are some of my initial thoughts. Yours?

EENGELBRECHT

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2007, 07:25:10 PM »
When hypocrites say: “Whatever is done with good intention is pleasing to God,” those self-chosen devotions are to be condemned, and men should be reminded that they should direct their eyes where God has revealed Himself.

These words from Luther were quite striking to me. Sort of "It's the thought that counts," as we say it today when we want to get fuzzy about things.

In Christ,
EE

SCPO

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2007, 03:14:14 PM »

(C) Worship with non-Christians is out of the question.

Those are some of my initial thoughts. Yours?

     Pastor McCain...please clarify bullet C.  Are suggesting that we should not allow non-Christians to join us in worship?   Or, is this bullet centered along the lines of Christian's attending a non-Christian worship?

Regards,

Senior

ptmccain

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2007, 03:37:06 PM »
Are suggesting that we should not allow non-Christians to join us in worship?

>>>No, of course not, in which case they are invited to worship with us, but we are not joining them in their religious rites and ceremonies.

Or, is this bullet centered along the lines of Christian's attending a non-Christian worship?

>>>>Yes.


Charles_Austin

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2007, 04:13:49 PM »
Someone writes:
Pastor McCain...please clarify bullet C.  Are suggesting that we should not allow non-Christians to join us in worship?   Or, is this bullet centered along the lines of Christian's attending a non-Christian worship?

I ponder:
If a Christian attends and worships, isn't his or her worship Christian?

Mike Bennett

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2007, 04:21:59 PM »
Someone writes:
Pastor McCain...please clarify bullet C.  Are suggesting that we should not allow non-Christians to join us in worship?   Or, is this bullet centered along the lines of Christian's attending a non-Christian worship?

I ponder:
If a Christian attends and worships, isn't his or her worship Christian?

Hmm.  Trying to think along with you here.  In Christian worship we hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  In what non-Christian worship setting would a Christian expect to receive those things, so that (s)he could be said to have engaged in Christian worship? 

Mike Bennett
“What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”  2 Kings 9:22

Charles_Austin

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2007, 04:29:29 PM »
Mike Bennett writes:
In Christian worship we hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. 

I comment:
Not always. Sometimes we just sing and pray. Sometimes we hear readings from scripture and readings from other things. Sometimes we just praise God. Sometimes we just stand around a tree, a campfire, a flagpole, a site of historical significance or an accident scene and do whatever people do at such times. And sometimes all the people around the tree, campfire, flagpole, site of historical significance or accident scene are not all Christian. Sometimes - (LC-MS-ers cover your ears!) - they aren't even all Lutheran.

ptmccain

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2007, 04:50:19 PM »
I'm sorry that apparently I have not been sufficiently clear. I am saying that Christians are not to attend and participate in the rites and ceremonies of non-Christian worship functions/services/events, etc. I have nothing further to add, other than to refer readers to this great quote from Martin Luther that I shared elsewhere a few days ago:

God through Moses had issued a most rigorous prohibition against the impudence of inventing new forms of worship, as when He says: “You shall not offer in every place but at the place which the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name and make His habitation there; thither you shall go, and thither you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices” (cf. Deut. 12:4–6). At that time the place appointed for worship was the temple at Jerusalem. The ark of the covenant was there, and God had promised that He would speak from the mercy seat to draw the people away from the diversity of idols to a united worship of God, to which He wanted to gather all together, if not in bodily presence and external works, at least in heart and prayer, if any were too far away from this place.

But the false prophets used to fight against this viewpoint and say: “God is everywhere; therefore He can be adored and worshiped in every place, both in Bethel as well as on any other mountain.” They did not have regard for the commandment of God. For when God fixes a certain manner and designates a certain place for His worship, it must not be said: “Wherever I will worship God, it will be pleasing to Him if only I do it in a godly and devoted manner,” or, “I shall make offerings to Him wherever it pleases me.” Isaiah, for example, censures this madness very severely, saying (Is. 57:5): “You burn with lust … under every green tree.” The Turks and Jews are accustomed to speak in this manner today, claiming that they are able to serve God outside of the unity of faith and the church of Christ. Mohammed claims that anyone is saved in his own religion if he prays, if he gives alms, if he does other good works. It is not necessary for him to be a Christian or that he should be in the unity of Christ and the church. In the papacy also all corners were occupied with chapels, convents, and idolatry of every kind.

Therefore Hosea cries: “This example of Jacob by no means confirms your idolatry. He did, indeed, struggle with the angel, but you should have remembered that the Lord God of hosts led Israel out of Egypt through the prophet. But where is this God to be [Vol. 6, Page 128] found? Where has He made a memorial for His name? Where is this memorial? Where the ark of the covenant is” (cf. Ex. 20:24).

This is true, indeed, that God is not bound, neither to Jerusalem nor to any other place, and that He is able to save also elsewhere. No one will deny this. But try it and see what you will get! If you invent forms of worship according to your own judgment, you will be in danger of God’s wrath. By His almighty power God could save the human race without Christ, without Baptism, and without the Word of the Gospel. He could have illuminated men’s hearts inwardly through the Holy Spirit and forgiven their sins without the ministry of the Word and of ministers. But it was not His will to do so. And God very strictly prohibited all erring forms of devotion and worship.

When hypocrites say: “Whatever is done with good intention is pleasing to God,” those self-chosen devotions are to be condemned, and men should be reminded that they should direct their eyes where God has revealed Himself. We must not say: “Paul preached at Rome, therefore Christ is there. James is buried at Compostela in Spain, therefore God should be worshiped there by the invocation of Saint James.” By no means! Yet many miracles are performed there? My reply is that God abominates and condemns all erring thoughts outside the one and only revelation made in the Word and sacraments, to which He wished to gather us and in which He wished to include us. For this reason Christ sent His disciples with this command: “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20), and “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). He wants us to be gathered in connection with the Word and Baptism as by a sure and infallible sign because He wants to save us and help us, just as He promised He would listen at the mercy seat among the people of Israel.

If you want to be absolved from your sins in this manner, go to your pastor, or to your brother and neighbor if your pastor cannot hear you; he has the command to absolve you and comfort you. Do not invent a special absolution for yourself. If you want to receive the Lord’s Supper, go to the assembly of the church and the public congregation and receive it there. Do not devise a special administration and use of the sacraments. For God does not want us to go astray in our own self-chosen works or speculations, and so He gathers us together and encloses us within the limits of the Word so that we are not tossed about by every kind of doctrine (cf. Eph. 4:14).

This happened to us under the papacy when we despised Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the remission of sins and made pilgrimages meanwhile to Saint James, Borne, and Jerusalem, as though God were not present in all the churches and congregations which have His Word and sacraments. Finally, there was an infinite variety of sects and orders, each of which had its peculiar, segregated ritual in distinction from the ritual and ordinance of God. Nor could those innumerable forms of fornication, as Holy Scripture calls them, be prevented except by casting off our own works. So God wants all these things to be removed, and He sets forth His Word, which says: “Here you shall adore, worship, and make offerings. In the Word, in the Lord’s Supper, and in Baptism you have the remission of sins. With these you will have to be satisfied if you wish to be saved.”
Martin Luther, vol. 6, Luther's Works, Vol. 6  : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works, 6:127 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1970).
« Last Edit: July 31, 2007, 05:11:18 PM by ptmccain »

Charles_Austin

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2007, 04:59:15 PM »
Father Martin seems to be speaking primarily of the mass and of how we receive forgiveness of sins and of how he saw the mass trashed by the church of his time.

So when a terrible event happens, whether the death of a community leader or an attack on the whole community, and people gather to mourn and share the suffering, and I am there, praying to the triune God in the name of Jesus; but in the next pew or on the podium are people who may have another view of God, then I am wrong to be there? Even if by being there I have a chance to witness to Jesus Christ? Could that be so wrong? Could anybody really be mad at me for that?

Mike Bennett

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2007, 05:02:44 PM »
Mike Bennett writes:
In Christian worship we hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. 

I comment:
Not always. Sometimes we just sing and pray. Sometimes we hear readings from scripture and readings from other things. Sometimes we just praise God. Sometimes we just stand around a tree, a campfire, a flagpole, a site of historical significance or an accident scene and do whatever people do at such times. And sometimes all the people around the tree, campfire, flagpole, site of historical significance or accident scene are not all Christian. Sometimes - (LC-MS-ers cover your ears!) - they aren't even all Lutheran.

Well, in the Daily Office we don't receive the Body and Blood - I'll give you that.  But we do hear the Word, sing Psalms, and pray to the Most Holy Trinity.  I've played in a woodwind ensemble in a unitarian assembly, and the morning's talk was thought-provoking but not Christian.  I've been in synagogues several times - for a Bat Mitzvah, a funeral, and (my favorite) Purim.  I honored the young woman featured in the first, grieved for the old man mourned in the second, and enthusiastically dis'ed Haman in the third, before going downstairs for very good holiday pastries.  But no Christian worship there.  

Mike Bennett
“What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”  2 Kings 9:22

Charles_Austin

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2007, 05:34:41 PM »
Mike Bennett write (re being in synagogues):
 I honored the young woman featured in the first, grieved for the old man mourned in the second, and enthusiastically dis'ed Haman in the third, before going downstairs for very good holiday pastries.  But no Christian worship there. 

I comment:
I've been there, too. But I sneaked in some prayers to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and Jesus). No, it wasn't "Christian worship," but neither was it nothing.

Mike Bennett

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2007, 06:10:07 PM »
Mike Bennett write (re being in synagogues):
 I honored the young woman featured in the first, grieved for the old man mourned in the second, and enthusiastically dis'ed Haman in the third, before going downstairs for very good holiday pastries.  But no Christian worship there. 

I comment:
I've been there, too. But I sneaked in some prayers to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and Jesus). No, it wasn't "Christian worship," but neither was it nothing.

You and I know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of Jesus.  I quite agree that what's done in the synagogue isn't "nothing."  I think it's further from "nothing" than any non-Christian place of worship I know.  I'd overlooked that I heartily joined in the Psalms when I went to sit shiva (sp?) one evening for the old boy whose funeral I'd attended.  I expect that gets me on the wrong side of the line Pr McCain refers to (that's a speculation of fact, not a snide comment) but I can say I'd be very uncomfortable with the notion of joining in any part of "worship" at, say, the unitarian fellowship.  I'd bow my head during prayer in courtesy, but would not pray.  (Does that sound like a stubborn little kid or what?)

Mike Bennett
“What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”  2 Kings 9:22

Charles_Austin

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Re: Does It Really Matter?
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2007, 06:36:58 PM »
Mike Bennett writes:
I can say I'd be very uncomfortable with the notion of joining in any part of "worship" at, say, the unitarian fellowship.  I'd bow my head during prayer in courtesy, but would not pray.

I comment:
Let me get this straight. If I am surrounded (fully? partially? in the same room with?) those "others," God doesn't hear my prayers? How do they do that? Keep God from hearing my prayers in a place like that? Or if I think those "others" are not even praying to the "real" God, how is it that my prayers are unheard and useless?