Friday, October 26, 2012

Hope Is Where You Find It

Off on a little vacation, we connected with relatives on a visit to Florida to see The Mouse. Sunday morning we ventured to a nearby Roman Catholic church, a basilica and shrine, Mary Queen of the Universe Church, just across Route 4 from Disney World.

We’d been there before and returned this time for a number of reasons. On previous occasions the liturgy was well-presented; choral music was outstanding and congregational singing hearty; the congregation reflected wide racial and socio-economic diversity; preaching was thoughtful and insightful; communion was available every Sunday; and the setting is beautiful and speaks of transcendence.

The same was true this time, with some wrinkles: the liturgy was the revised “new” liturgy, which represents a back-tracking to pre-Vatican II. There were laminated cards in many hands to assure worshippers had the papal-correct language to speak.

Communion presented a challenge, as it always does. I listened carefully to the invitation, and responded accordingly. In this church, the congregation of which is virtually only travellers, no prohibition was mentioned about non-Catholics participating. So, I went forward to receive a single wafer, no wine. It seemed incomplete, of course, but I’m convinced that Communion is God’s act and not dependent on nor can be damaged by our actions or lack thereof.

Quite apart from the wrinkles, it was a meaningful worship experience.

The sermon, by the resident priest, had a pastoral tone. His mood was quietly conversational, as though speaking with friends, although he probably knew only a handful of the hundreds there.

He started off addressing the “good Catholics”, commending them for their loyalty to their Church, and for taking the time to attend services when away from home. It was a very affirming and supportive sermon to the faithful. And I wondered how exclusive this was going to be.

About the time I questioned where he was headed, he shifted direction. He told his fellow Roman Catholics that they weren’t the only people in the world who loved God and followed Jesus Christ. Just as he had lauded the Roman Church, he proceeded to press this point home affirming diversity among Christians. It was a very hopeful statement of ecumenism, the kind I have not heard for a long time, from Protestants or Roman Catholics.

The text for the day was from the common Lectionary : Mark 9:38-50. The sermon was a faithful exposition of the text. I was glad to be there to hear it.

I share this hopeful experience because crossing boundaries in order to share in worship is desperately needed. That’s how we learn about the larger church and don’t fool ourselves into believing that our church is all there is, and anything else is not the real thing.

It’s also how we learn about the richness of Christian liturgy. Other traditions teach us history, often our own history that has been forgotten or neglected. For example, when we Presbyterians added prayers following the psalms for the Daily Prayer book, it was thought that we were adopting a Roman Catholic practice. Actually, psalm prayers were standard procedure for Presbyterians in the Old Country centuries ago. Roman Catholics and others carried on a tradition that we had neglected, until recently.

Now is the time to venture outside of our local church boxes and visit one another. Church members can reach out and invite non-Protestant Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends to share worship. Pastors can do the same, and even ask for time off occasionally to worship elsewhere.

When was the last time you worshiped with non-Protestants, non-Christians?

1 comment:

  1. A part of the Jesus Movement in California in the Sixties and early Seventies, I have never stopped worshipping the dear Lord in many denominations, always astonished at the lack of real understanding of Christ as the Revelation and Great I-AM of the Father, Son, and Spirit of God's Eternal Life.

    Jack McKenna '57


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