Confessions of Sunday School Drop Out: Church Words – what are they talking about?

Matthew 6:1-8

I'm just not that complicated. Really. And I don't think life was intended to be that way either. I think there is a lot of good stuff in the Bible that backs that up too. I've always been more the Tim “the toolman” kind of guy. Grunting and pointing seems to me to be an easier way of going through life. I've got to confess again, just look at one of my favorite hobbies – I go out in the woods and make animal sounds! Like I said, I'm just not that complicated.

And that has always made church a hard place – there always were big words floating around – words that never seemed to come up in every day language but always in the church. When God called me to ministry, I had no idea how many new words that really just seemed to be made up for the sake of causing my ears to burn and turn red when in casual conversation with my more 'learned' religious colleagues.

I have heard and part of conversations that make the HUGE assumption the people know all these words churches use. And I've been in conversations where the idea is put forward that it is EVERYONE ELSES FAULT that they don't know these words or ideas. I don't know any other way to say it – that is wrong and this is my confession.

In some ways, this sermon is a carry over from last week – that we find Jesus addressing the issue of hypocrisy. This time it isn't in adding laws and requirements on those who really want to connect with God. No, this time it is all about the show – on being out front – showing off one's flawless life – about blowing one's horn. Being a Showing off and know-it-all, is NOT a spiritual gift.

So today I'd like to clear the air and pull the curtain back on some of the church words that have made it harder and not easier, more confusing and not clearer, and created more disconnect than connection.

We are a United Methodist Church and we are a Christian church - it is what we call a denomination. A denomination indicates a Christian faith group with a set of common beliefs. Baptists, Lutherans,Roman Catholic, even non-denominational – are all designations of denominations. The Apostle's Creed expresses the basic beliefs of Christianity. Any religious group that doesn't support the Apostle's Creed – would be considered another religion or a cult.

Starting with what is in front of you, your worship guide, I invite you to look at the Apostle's Creed. It is an ancient and I mean ancient document written between 300-400 A.D. Before there were any divisions in the church. It's purpose is to express in the simplest language possible the basic beliefs about the Christian faith.

But in there, are a few things that also have some confusion. First, “suffered under Pontius Pilate” does not relate to a torture device but a person – Pilate was the Roman governor of Jerusalem and oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus. As noted, the term holy catholic church doesn't refer to the Roman Catholic Church but to the universal church – all followers of Jesus. Likewise, the 'communion of saints' refers to all of Jesus' followers. Anyone who faithfully follows Jesus Christ, is considered a saint.

Some churches sing hymns but truth is, a hymn is any poetic composition in honor of God or suitable for use in a church service. In other words, a hymn is a song for God. I confess, I've been around church enough that I mix up words like pews – long benches used in traditional churches with chairs. Some of you may have wondered where the 'Narthex' is in a more traditional church but most of us call it a lobby. Acolytes are never set on fire but traditionally they carry in a flame to light the candle. The role of acolytes are to assist the pastor in worship – I need all the help I can get after all!

In the south, we get lazy with our words. As a kid, I always wondered why it was when the pastor asked for ties and offerings no one ever took their ties off. I was always willing to give my clip-ons away! Traditionally, a tithe is the giving of 10% of ones salary to God through the church. It isn't given without accountability for even at Crossroads we do an audit and have an advisory group that oversees how we continue our mission.

Probably most awkward are the words dealing with Theology, a big word that means the study of God. In this way, it is similar to Biology and there are classes upon classes in college and graduate school that go into depth on the study of God. But at its heart, everything WE do regarding SEEKING God is part of the STUDY of GOD – life is theology.

And now we enter into a whole category of words that get used in church. Words like sin, which is the word to describe the things we do that mess up what God is trying to do in us. Justification refers to how Jesus' death and rising from death to life makes us right with God. Words like Sanctification and Holiness – describe how Jesus makes us more like himself. They are good words – important words.

But Jesus was a master of simplicity He used things like mustard seeds and farmers. He said we are like a woman looking for lost change or like a son who has left home. Even Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament and used a lot of the bigger words said himself in his letter to the church in Corinth and the church here at Crossroads “...the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power (1 Cor 4:20 NASB).”

And when it came to talking about how to tell the story of the never ending promise of God to come into the life of anyone who asks – Jesus took juice and bread. Whether you are used to calling it the Mass, the Eucharist, or Communion – we use it to tell the incredible story of a God who opened the door to heaven and said to us – you don't have to understand it all you just have to believe my son Jesus is who he says he says he is.


Anonymous said...

I love this approach.

I still don't know what a narthex is, though.

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