November 03, 2013

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On Saints and Celebrities Today is All Saints' Day. I used to never think of it that way. It was just the day that Starbucks brings out their red cups. Besides, I, like most Evangelicals, am a little uncomfortable with the idea of saints. After all, nobody's perfect, right? Right. But here's the thing: we can't help but look for people to inspire us, to show us what it looks like to follow Jesus and embrace His Kingdom here and now. So much has been written about our obsession with Christian celebrities. I've contributed to that conversation (with an article in Relevant). But one of the things that has not been said enough is that the way to correct an unhealthy obsession is to look for the healthy desire at its root. The way to heal a distored desire is not to kill it but let it be rightly ordered. Jonathan Edwards, drawing on St. Augustine, said as much in his work on 'religious affections.' So, what does it look like to have our desire for a role model-- for faithful men and women to remember and honor and inspire us-- rightly ordered? This, I think, is where the notion of saints comes in. You see, there are a few differences between saints and celebrities. Saints can't be canonized until they're dead so we can look back over their life as a whole. Christian celebrities can be made through savvy self-branding and high-cost PR firms. Saints are often admired for what they did not have in this world-- their lack of riches, of fame, of acceptance by the world. In fact, the first 'saints' were martyrs. The Church began to recognize and honor them around the turn of the second century. Celebrities, though, are often admired for what they have in this world-- their...
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Why the Church Calendar? I'm not in love with all things old. I don't think then is better than now. I'm not trying to get back to how things were. My journey in learning about the liturgy and the liturgical year is not about nostalgia; it's about spiritual formation. The people who wrote some of the best liturgical prayers-- from John Chrysostom (The Eastern Orthodox's "Divine Liturgy") in the 4th century to Thomas Cranmer in the 17th century (Anglican Book of Common Prayer)-- were passionate followers of Christ and diligent scholars of the Scriptures and of theology. When the seasons of the church calendar-- or the "Christian Year" or the "liturgical year"-- developed, it developed as way to aid in the spiritual formation of those who sought to follow Christ. Easter was the first church-wide event to commerate. (One could say the first Christians began celebrating the resurrection the very next Sunday after Christ's ascension as a "mini-Easter.") Lent was the earliest actual season to develop and be adopted by the church world-wide. It became a common Christian practice in AD 330, shortly after Christianity had been legalized in AD 313 at the Edict of Milan. The other seasons of the Church year (like Pentecost, Advent and Christmas) took shape later. By the High Middle Ages, the Church Year was fully developed, complete with special feast days for certain saints. But why? Why was this developed? Why would anyone today practice these things? To say it simply, the liturgical year was developed as a way to help the spiritual formation of Christians. How does it do that? Here are two main ways: 1. It Centers Us On Christ As Christianity spread, many of the Church's members (and for a time in the early Middle Ages, many of its clergy!) were illiterate and ignorant of...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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