I am hardly a high-church type of person, although I spent the first seven years of my life in a place full of chant-y rituals, clerical robes, and passing the communion cup. That church, sadly, was a dead and cold place, and my parents left seeking Christ’s face in a church elsewhere. From then on, I have been fed and nourished in a series of Bible-based denominational and non-denominational Bodies.
In Bible College, I met my first Anglican friend. In a curious pendulum swing from our parents and pastors of our youth, a lot of young Christians I encountered were devotedly interested in higher-church denominations, attending Anglican, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches in droves and talking incessantly about Christ using Catholic-sounding words like “sacraments” and “liturgy.”
Since then, I’ve had a lot of “Hmm” moments, examining Scripture and thinking. I recognize that being a higher-church denomination does not mean equivalence of the zombie “church” I spent my early childhood attending, but I’ve noticed some parallels that have left me questioning.
To the Anglican believers I have met: we have our doctrinal differences, and I pray and look forward to having constructive conversations with you. The purpose of this article, though, is to say I am thankful for you, because you are my brothers and sisters, and because God is using you in my faith walk, teaching me lessons that I haven’t quite received from anywhere else. Here is what I’m starting to learn:
1). Have a more sacramental worldview (AKA, conform to Scripture’s reality). Before anyone is scared away, what I mean by this is simply understanding and viewing the world as described in Colossians 1–rightly, with Christ at the center, with all things made for him and through him. I find too often a factual deadness and compartmentalization in the way some believers view the world, as if sacred and secular never meet or are even divisible in the first place. Scripture describes all of the universe as the creation of God, with Christ reigning and coming back to remake everything soon. Why, then, do we treat everyday life as somehow separate from the spiritual realities Scripture puts forth? Why do we live as though Jesus Christ is not the center of all life, that the semblances of beauty or order or delight or love in the world are not blessings out-flowing from him, or worse, exist completely apart from him? I think many of us need to pray earnestly to have the Spirit open our eyes to the wonder and sacredness of our world, the world Christ has made and sustains and entered into on our behalf, the world he is coming back to subdue in totality to his lordship any day now.
2). Jesus Christ is beautiful. Why does Jesus seem so boring and lame, dry and stale in many of our sermons and youth groups? He is the most beautiful One, full of majesty and splendor in his life and words and character as the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15, Heb 1:3-4). Jesus teaches us that God himself is beautiful–perfect, desirable, complete–in his law, his person, his works. He is the standard by which we should measure all beauty. How many of us ponder the beauty of Jesus Christ?
3). Make more room for mystery. I am much more comfortable in an explainable world where I can put God in a box, but alas (and thankfully!) God is infinitely greater and un-graspable. Sometimes our church experience makes us feel like everything about God can be known and is easy, but there is mystery to him that keep him transcendent and God. Where is our reverence, our quietness in his presence, at his holiness? He has revealed everything we need to know about him in Scripture, through Christ, but his ways are also not ours and he is high and lofty above us (Isa 55:8-9). I balk at the unknowable and un-boxable, but embracing more of God’s mystery in how he works, why, and the bigness of him has helped me trust him more. I appreciate the devotion and reverence of my higher-churched friends toward our Creator.
4). It’s all about being in relationship with God. This is what ought to define us–that we are known, loved, and united to our God through Jesus Christ. Wow, that’s pretty serious, and in fact, should alter our entire worldview to see life in a more sacred, worshipful way. Just beginning to comprehend our union with Christ (Eph 1:1-11) should cause us to live our lives in more Christianly ways, seeing reality the way the Word defines it!
I’m grateful for how God uses agents, in this case believers with whom I disagree on some levels, to teach me and shape me. Most importantly, my desire is to remain obedient as the Lord sharpens and deepens my love and faith in him using whomever he so desires.
Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear.