Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday after Trinity: Vain worship and false doctrine

Opening Sentence
Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." Isaiah 57:15

Commemoration: Columba
O God, who by the preaching of your blessed servant Columba caused the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show our thankfulness to you by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 55

Lessons: Ecclesiastes 5:8-20, Galatians 3:23-4:11, Matthew 15:1-20

Jesus has little patience with the hypocritical Pharisees. They are concerned with outward appearances rather than with genuine faith. Jesus condemns them with the words of Isaiah. Interestingly, this quote makes a connection between worship and doctrine. True worship precedes pure doctrine. Vain worship precedes false doctrine or, as Jesus calls it, "human precepts" or "traditions of men."

Why is there such a dearth of spiritual vitality in many churches today? Much of the time it is blamed on the infiltration of false doctrine. That is only half the picture, however. Vain worship may be a much deeper, more rudimentary problem.

Doctrine is supposed to emerge and be refined by the living experience of the worshiping community. "Orthodox" means, literally, "right glory." It is more a description of proper worship than of proper theology. Bad theology emerges from a community that does not properly worship or, in many cases, from individuals in isolation from the community.

Some of the wildest heresies have come from persons who have forsaken "the organized church" and decided to go it alone. Such persons, however, have often influenced entire communities and led many astray with their individualistic notions. Churches whose worship experience is geared toward the individual are illustrations of the vicious cycle of vain worship and false doctrine. The more false doctrine is reinforced by vain worship, the more entrenched the false doctrine becomes.

Eventually, the whole community will go the way of the Pharisees. "If the blind lead the blind," Jesus warns, "both will fall into a pit."

(JAG)

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