Church Write-Up: Ritual, the Soul, and Different Emphases

Here are some items from this morning’s church activities and also Wednesday’s adult Bible study.

A. Wednesday’s adult Bible study and the pastor’s sermon this morning revolved around the story and prayer of Simeon in Luke 2:21-35. The pastor likened Simeon’s blessing of Jesus in the Temple with the Eucharist. God came to the Temple in Luke 2:21-35, and God comes to the Eucharist in, with, and under the bread and the wine. This is a Lutheran church.

B. The pastor’s youth message and sermon this morning used Simeon’s statement about Jesus being a light to the Gentiles to talk about light. Light shines on the masks that we wear, casting shadows. It confronts our notion that we are doing all right in terms of the Christian life, but it also fills the hole in our hearts terms of our desires for meaning and ritual. The pastor talked about Groundhog’s Day and how people get up early in the morning to seek guidance from a scared groundhog. He lamented that parents do not take their children to church in the name of letting the children decide for themselves what to believe, but the result is the kids are not exposed to Christianity, and the world pushes them into its values. They may still have a desire for ritual and meaning, but they seek it in Groundhog’s Day.

C. The Sunday School class that I am attending is using John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping. Ortberg told the story about how he was becoming renowned, successful, and respected in his church life, but he felt that his internal life was lagging behind. He corresponded with Dallas Willard and hoped that Willard’s prominence would boost his own prominence. Upon meeting Willard, Ortberg was surprised at how Willard was fully present to him, listening to him even when the phone was ringing. He learned from Willard about the soul. According to Ortberg, the soul is not merely consciousness but is what provides coherence to the various facets of us—-thoughts, feeling, body, appetites—-making me me and you you. The soul can be healthy and balanced or unhealthy and out of balance. A significant stumblingblock to the soul is hurry, which flows from worry. When we slow down, we can connect with God, become more at ease, and be more present to others. Another problem is that society has moved from a focus on family and society to a focus on the self, and the self cannot bear the weight people place on it, resulting in depression.

D. The pastor on Wednesday addressed the apparent contradictions between Luke and Matthew. Luke wants to feature the highlights of Jesus’s life and growth and thus talks about his circumcision as a baby: the point here is that Jesus kept the law on our behalf and thus was our Savior. Matthew’s point is that Jesus fulfilled Israel’s history, so he presents Jesus coming out of Egypt, as Israel did.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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