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“You have the right…”

Fellow Christians:

You DO NOT have the right perform “a special” on Sunday morning.
You DO NOT have the right to be invited to that leadership meeting even though you know you are very leader-like.
You DO NOT have the right to be recognized for your wonderful service this year with the <whatever>.
You DO NOT have the right to be on the worship team, ministry team, etc.
You DO NOT have the right to be invited to “the Joneses” after church this Sunday - or next Sunday, even though they consistently invite other people in your congregation.
You DO NOT have the right to be in that clique with all of those recognized “spiritual” types.
You DO NOT have the right to have the right of freedom of religion, or of speech, or even to vote.
You DO NOT have the right to be “offended”… ever.

You DO have the right to be persecuted.
You DO have the right to forgive those who persecute or offend you (knowingly or not).

Enjoy your new found freedoms, because truly, in those two rights, you will find an amazing amount of freedom.

However, I also plead to “the Joneses” and the rest in the words of Jesus, The Word of God:

  • “woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:7)
  • “and they devoted themselves to…the fellowship…and were together, and had all things in common… and broke bread from house to house” (Acts 2:42-47)
  • “And those [members] of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness.” (1 Corinthians 12:23)
  • “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake…” (Matthew 5:11)
  • “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:44-46)
  • “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
  • “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Let us love each other, trying not to offend, forgiving those that do (even if they don’t ask or think they’re wrong), and be hospitable and selfless in all that we have - drawing closer and closer into complete unity - so that the world will believe.


Comment from Nick Weisenfels
Time: July 11, 2007, 10:48 am

Yeah. I think that we really miss the entire point of Church in general. It’s not a social club. Fellowsip is of course an important part of our make-up as human beings, and even something that we need, as we were created by God, and in His image as relational creatures. But the ultimate point of Chruch, as you seem to be pointing out, is that we go there to worship, not to compare new shoes or whatever.

It’s not about “What is in this for ME?”….I think of the many people who leave a Church because they “just aren’t getting anything out of it anymore…” It’s about “How can I be in this for God?” We go to Church to worship God in community, because we were created for this very purpose and to undertake worship in this very way. You know, “Do not forsake the gatering of youselves together.”

However, I think we probably disagree about the meaning and context of this verse:

“and they devoted themselves to…the fellowship…and were together, and had all things in common… and broke bread from house to house” (Acts 2:42-47)

But I also think that’s a much longer doscussion than we have space for right here. Basically, we (the Orthodox) see this verse as a reference to the communion services, before there were Christian Churches that were seperate from the synagogue. As in, for the very early Christian community, those who believed, still all being Jews at this early point, would attend synagogue on the Sabbath, and then on Sunday they would hold the communion service (or, the breaking of the bread) in their homes on Sunday.

Comment from Aaron
Time: July 17, 2007, 4:26 pm

Hey Nick. I wasn’t thinking so much of the “social club” aspect of Christianity, but more so along the lines of the second thing you mentioned: “What’s in this for me.” And that somehow we think we have “a right” to have an enjoyable, self-fulfilling “church experience” - though I guess those two mentalities definitely go hand-in-hand. Although there are a lot of people who have knowingly separated themselves from the social club aspect, but still feel like they need to be entertained and/or honored in some way.

As far as Acts 2, “sur - prise, sur - prise”. We probably do not disagree as much as you think. I, too, believe that the reference to “breaking of bread” referred to the sacrament (excuse the religious jargon) or remembering Christ via the Lord’s Supper. If you were thinking that I was taking it strictly as “having meals together”, then HA HA, you were wrong. ;}

However, I do think that part of being “devoted to the fellowship”, and the fact that they were meeting “daily” from “house to house”, along with Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 11 would elude to the fact that this was more than simply some bread and wine, eat, drink, complete - but that they were actually partaking of a meal that would be adequate to feed any hungry that were present… and that they were spending a lot of quality time with each other joining together as Family.

I didn’t understand your mention of “the communion services, before there were Christian Churches that were separate from the synagogue”, though. Are you saying that possibly entire jewish synagogues became believers in Jesus as Messiah, and began partaking in communion in the context of this fully jewish gathering - “in rememberance of Jesus”? I know bread and wine play a part in other jewish feasts and meals, but, other than the marriage ritual of signing contract and presenting the bride price, I don’t know of any where “the cup” are partaken of in what could be considered a “communion service”. So, please let me know (non-sarcastically), cause I am very fascinated by such church & jewish history.

Comment from Nick Weisenfels
Time: July 17, 2007, 11:21 pm

By the way, it doesn’t say they met together to break bread daily. It says they met in the temple daily:

“And they, CONTINUING DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD IN THE TEMPLE, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,”

And you are right about the fellowship being more than just bread and wine. It was at first a larger meal, much like the passover meal, and the bread and wine were the central part. There is actually early Christian artwork depicting the communion service, and most of it shows several people stiing aroung a table with a lot of food, just like the well known depictions of the Last Supper.

Interestingly, another long-standing tradition of the Orthodox Church (meaning for at least a thousand years) is to have what we call an “agape meal” or a love feast, after every sunday service. Actually, in America it has come to be called “Coffee Hour”, but we attend Church, recieve Communion, and then all head over to the hall for a bunch of great food. Every Sunday. Sometimes we go to someone’s house and have it. This is a worldwide Orthodox thing, not just something we do at our local church.

( I would also be happy to explain why this feast part historically got seperated from the actual communion service, if you’re interested.)

Comment from Aaron
Time: July 18, 2007, 11:27 am

I have long taken the stand that this passage did NOT mean that EVERYONE always met daily, as some “First Century Church” folks have tried to insist as being the “right way to do church” in recent years. But I also do not believe that “the church” was limiting its gatherings (especially from house-to-house) to certian religious service times or models.

We also see other references to the need for, and praise for, saints (especially mature believers) for being hospitable.

What are we conversing about again? hehe…

Do we agree that The Church should be devoted to each other, and that said devotion should include the gathering of themselves in both hospitable (i.e. family, social, relational) gatherings as well as gatherings for the sake of prayer, observing sacraments, receiving & sharing teachings, words, revelations, etc? Did I just add to the conversation? hehe.

So yeah, let’s have dinner some time soon. ;}

Comment from Nick Weisenfels
Time: July 18, 2007, 11:55 am

Yes, we certainly agree that the church should serve many different purposes. The difference, I think, is how those purposes are carried out. Orthodoxy (and Catholicism, and probably the Anglican Church as well) does not function in the sense that we all gather on Sunday and just anybody in the congregation can get up and share a revelation or whatever. The Worship follows a basically fixed model, as I mentioned earlier, based on a combination of the Synagogue service and the Communion service. No one other than an ordained priest (and one who is in obedience with the Bishop) is allowed to serve in the alter, preach sermons, etc…

However, the sermons aren’t so much a teaching as in protestant churches. They are usually a reflection on the Gospel reading for the day, or, if there is a particular Saint being celebrated, the Priest will discuss the life of that Saint. Practically all of the teaching occurs outside of the service, in classes topically oriented towards specific concepts. For example, Father John has recently been doing a class on the Orthodox view on the Book of Revelation. But, worldwide, these teaching sessions are reserved for times outside of worship, because we believe that worship and teaching are seperate, and the model for worship has been handed down to us to be carried out in a specific way. The services are intended to be for Worship and communion with Christ our God…not for teaching.

And as for the community aspect and the spiritual parenthood/fathership aspect which you mention, I sort of discussed those in other posts. We are very close as a community, as we have the “agape meal” after every Sunday service (as do almost all Orth. Churches across the world). But this is not the only thing needed for community, and community is a more dofficult thing to do, as not everyone always gets along in any church, as you know.

All that being said, the Orthodox Church is actually much more locally minded in it’s comunity than the Catholic Church is, for example. There is not a “Pope” in the Orth. Church. We believe that the Church exists in it’s fullness anywhere the faithful are gathered around their Bishop and are in Obedience to his wishes.

Saint Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (ordained probably by the Apostle Peter, somewhere circa 55-57 AD, by the way) stated it this way in his writings:

“Be obedient to your Bishop as you would be obedient to the Lord Himself.”

And in another writing he states: (paraphrased)

“The order of the hierarchy of faithful in obedience to their priests who are in turn obedient to their Bishiops are like a well made harp, finely tuned and making sweet music that is well-pleasing to the Lord.”

The Orthodox Church worldwide is held in unity by her beliefs, not as much by her jurisdictional authority. For example, the Partiarch of Constantinople is sort of considered to be the first and greatest primate of the Orthodox Church, but we in America are not under his authority, because he is not our Archbishop. We are, however, part of one and the same Church as his because of our Doctrinal identity.

So there’s another ridiculously long post for you. Sorry, it’s a detalied subject.

Comment from Aaron
Time: July 18, 2007, 5:58 pm

Interesting that you mention the separation between your “worship times” and your “teaching times”. I had this same conversation years ago with Clayton Scott and other elders at Grace Covenent Church in Alma on several occassions - mostly during times of prayer and contemplation about how to make sure we were really doing our corporate gatherings in a way pleasing to the Lord.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say from the pulpit while transitioning from a worship time to a teaching time, “let’s stay in an attitude of worship”… and it never works. So, my thought was that we should consider separating the two. Let’s spend time communing with the Lord via prayer and worship, and meditating/contemplating on His word in one gathering. And then in another, maybe do a little bit of worship & prayer to “prepare the way” and get a focus, but spend the bulk of the time on the Word and the revelations of the saints, and the equipping of the Ephesians 4 ministers.

I definitely think there is a time and a place for those in Ephesians 4 “offices” to have some unadulterated teaching time, but, I would have to disagree with the Orthodox approach and the approach of most Protestants in not allowing any believer who has a revelation to “share” (which I believe is quite different than “teaching”).

I do think that this is a practice that has to be cultivated and governed closely - and that it should not be attempted in an arena where the recognized Ephesians 4 office “teachers, pastors, apostles, prophets, and/or evangelists” aren’t present to be able to bring correction, direction, etc.

What’s the scripture about not allowing a brother with deceptive/perverse doctrine to teach? And there’s several exhortations from Paul where he’s warning/rebuking churches who have let people with incorrect doctrines or motives teach.

I think 1 Corinthians 14:26 seems to be clearly expressing the practice of allowing people in the assembly to share. But a lot of congregations don’t practice this because they are afraid that if any false or distorted doctrines come out, that they won’t be able to do enough “damage control”… and I think that’s because there’s “community with a little ‘c’ present”, but not “Family with a big ‘F’”.

NOTE: Robin and I are not Orthodox - but our wonderful friends Nick and Jessica are - and we love and value their input and their knowledge, because they are definitely people who are “studying to show themselves approved”. Bless you guys!

Comment from Robin
Time: July 19, 2007, 7:33 am

Man, you two have a lot to say.

Comment from Aaron
Time: July 19, 2007, 1:04 pm

You should see all the dialogue via e-mail that didn’t get posted here… It’s good stuff. hehe.

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