The Body of Christ is a remarkable thing. And a little mixing and matching of traditions and Christian cultures can shake and wake and invigorate us in remarkable ways … if we are open to it.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV)
This past weekend, I had the privilege of visiting a church that is very different from the one we usually attend. Our church is very simple in service and structure, in décor and decorum. This other congregation meets in a much more ornate and old-fashioned edifice and follows a long-lasting liturgical arrangement that follows the high church calendar for each week of the year. Instead of wearing neatly pressed khakis and crisp button-down shirts, the clergy members don glistening vestments.
And did I mention they had a wonderful choir? (Our church has a worship team, which generally includes about a half a dozen singers and musicians. They are gifted and serve well. But, oh. I love a good choir.)
Upon entering the sanctuary, I gazed at the gorgeous woodwork and the remarkable stained glass windows, which pictured Jesus and His 12 apostles in action. I found this incredibly stirring.
As the service progressed, I must admit I struggled a bit to keep up with the sitting and kneeling and standing and the juggling of the pew Bible and prayer book. But the words struck me, again and again.
The printed confession, which we read aloud, was spot-on and convicting. The pastoral response, recounting God’s great grace, soothed my soul. In the end, I was most impacted by the recitation of the Apostle’s Creed.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
*This didn’t happen to be a Catholic church, although perhaps it could have been. Generically, the word “catholic” means diverse, varied, and universal.
The order of worship also included the Lord’s Prayer. Another highlight was the Passing of the Peace, perhaps the most casual portion of the rather formal proceedings. Although we’ve attended our current church for more than two years now, I was amazed to find that more people (by the dozen) greeted me than ever do in our home congregation. I cannot remember shaking so many hands in one setting.
Surely, this church visiting experience brought back sweet memories of my childhood in church, as I was raised in a congregation that visited these classic Christian contents weekly. In the past few decades, I’ve mostly attended churches that rarely included them. It’s not that these churches didn’t embrace the meanings of them. They simply focused on other means of expression.
But the richness of truth in tradition was not lost on me this week.
I began pondering how many times I recited the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and even familiar Bible passages robotically, rather than meaningfully.
Cross-pollination can be healthy sometimes, I think.
Technically, cross-pollination occurs when two plants share genetic content to produce altered offspring. It cannot occur between species, only between two varieties of the same species. Beans can cross-pollinate with beans, but not with Brussels sprouts.
In the church, this happens when different denominations mix and bless one another.
I was blessed to catch a little glimpse of what that feels like. And I look forward to an eternity of it someday, when all our tenets and traditions are swallowed in fully revealed truth. For we will see Him as He is and know as we are known and worship in full spirit and understanding.
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, NIV)
Graphic title from public domain artwork
Stained Glass Window – public domain
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