Why go to church?

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Timothy Radcliffe, OP. Why Go to Church? The Drama of the Eucharist. New York: Continuum, 2008. 224pp. $16.95.

61vJ7YNS6AL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_I read Timothy Radcliffe’s book Why Go to Church? several years ago (probably 2012) in the company of some Anglicans (of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion). At the time, it felt like entering into a parallel universe where words like “church” and “communion” are used but seem to have different, even deeper, meaning than in common presbyterian parlance. While Radcliffe’s discussion is an interesting one, as a reformed evangelical I arrive at the same answer by a different and route.

Why go to church?

The question is an important one. And one that appears, at least by declines in church attendance across the country, to lack a culturally-compelling answer.

Two things have happened to bring Radcliffe’s question to mind once more. First, I’ve had children. Second, I no longer have regular parish duties.

In light of these new realities I find myself revisiting the question especially in light of what increasingly seems like the thin gruel of low church ecclesiology (which fails, in many respects, is a corruption of the lowest ecclesiological perspectives among the Protestant Reformers).

You might be wondering how having children and lacking parochial responsibilities have helped raised this question. 

First, children have a remarkable theological dexterity when it comes to trying to get out of going to church. Boil their questions down to their essence and you’ll discover that they’re really asking: what can I get a church that I can’t get elsewhere?  Yes, we could read the Bible together at home. Yes, we could take communion together. We could sing hymns. We could invite our small group over. We could do all of these things, to their way of thinking, without going to church.

Second, I’ve had more than a year off since I’ve regularly led worship. It’s amazing the things that seem necessary when you’re paid to do them. When you step into a different season of life it’s an opportunity to reevaluate why you do what you do. It’d be a lie to say that some weekends I don’t feel like going to church. I’ve got a thousand reasons and they’re likely the same as many of yours. No one is paying me to show up anymore–will I still show up?

To answer this simple question I could say that Scripture commands us not to forsake gathering for public worship (Hebrews 10:25). That’s true. I could say “there are no lone ranger Christians.” That’s also true. Let me skip to the end:

Through public worship–through common prayer, through the Word preached, and the sacraments received in faith resting on Christ’s righteousness alone–we receive grace that we cannot receive any other way. Charles Hodge refers to these “means of grace” as “channels” by which the Holy Spirit influences us toward holiness in union with Christ (Systematic Theology, 3:466).

If you want to remain rooted and established in Christ you must receive the grace of public worship. In its absence you will likely fall away from the faith.

 

 

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Who is the real Thomas More?

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John Guy, Thomas More: A Very Brief History. London: SPCK, 2018. 116pp. 

Will the real Thomas More please step forward?

Since the mid-Twentieth Century there have been at least two “Thomas Mores” vying for supremacy in the mind of the reading public. One is the principled, self-assured philosopher-kind of the A Man for All Seasons (1966). The other is the sneering sadistic zealot of Wolf Hall (2009). One is a saint, the other is very much, so to speak, a sinner.

John Guy–Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge–offers an eminently readable history of the enigmatic Thomas More, perhaps one of the most fascinating individuals in English history. In a quick 116 pages (TOC below) he whisks us through More’s life, death, and then explores his legacy and representation in modern literature.

The book begins, as it ought, by exploring some of the internal tensions that More himself seems to have experienced, beginning with his childhood. His story begins in the conflict between his desire for the cloister and his father’s desire for him, the chambers.

As the story unfolds, these two Thomases appear in conflict.

On the one hand, he is the renaissance man capable of writing the jovial, witty Utopia and carrying on a learned correspondence with his friend–that ultimate of renaissance men–Desiderius Erasmus. He is the capable theologian able to, at Henry VIII’s request, pen refutations of Luther’s doctrines. At the same time he appears to be at least savvy enough a politician to become Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and to advance Henry’s agenda.

Without tracing More’s entire life, it seems (in Guy’s estimation) that there was a tipping point. A moment–not necessarily an instant–in which the theologian and author of Utopia won out over the political More. It would lead to his death.

Guy does a wonderful job of unwinding the threads of More’s self and offering a helpful topography of the religious and civil realities of Tudor England. A particularly unique contribution is his treatment of the reception of More in subsequent generations. He includes More’s successors who engaged in a successful campaign to rehabilitate More for a post-reformation society. I heartily commend it.

 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Chronology

Part 1 – The History

  1. Shaping a mind
  2. Utopia
  3. The king’s servant
  4. The dissident

Part 2 – The Legacy

  1. More’s writings
  2. Thomas More in art
  3. Canonization
  4. The lure of fiction

Epilogue

 

 

 

 

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A question to change the world

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Ordinary Time

A simple question can change the world. Sound preposterous doesn’t it? Yet, I’m convinced its true.

Over the last year I’ve taken to asking myself, “is the world a better place for my having done this?” Or, alternately, “do I want to live in a town where people do this?”

A simple example. There are miles of prairie paths and bike trails around our home. These paths inevitably have to cross suburban roads. When I’m tempted not to yield to a walker or runner, I ask: do I want to live in a place where drivers show disregard for legal rights of way?

My answer is: no. I don’t. One day I will be on the path and wanting to cross the street. I’d like people to let me cross as the law allows.

It’s a simple question. There’s nothing remarkable or profound about it. Use it regularly, it can change you and change the world.

 

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Five dimensions of organizational culture

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Navigating organizational culture

Reading Time: 1 minute

When you join an organization, you have a short window of time to adapt to its culture — and too many talented individuals stumble in their new company because they fail to read the cultural tea leaves.

This happens because most organizations don’t explain the cultural rules to newcomers, and new hires are so focused on the job and the new boss that they overlook the rules’ profound influence.

Yet understanding the culture plays a big role in your initial success. Being cognizant of not just what your colleagues do but how they work matters if you want to be effective and be perceived well.

There are five dimensions of culture that have a big impact on your ability to navigate a new job: how your organization values and cultivates relationships, how people tend to communicate, how people make decisions, whether individuals or groups are valued, and how accepting people are of change.

Read the full article here .

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