January 27, 2021

Good Works Week II: The Work of the People

Liturgy Sketch

The Work of the People: A Tale of Two Services

And it came to pass that two men died, and their families requested that their funeral services be held in their respective churches. One man was Roman Catholic, the other a member of an evangelical church committed to reformed Protestant doctrine.

In the Catholic church, the congregation with a priest, the family entered the sanctuary in a procession, accompanied the casket to the front of the sanctuary and assisted the priest and lay ministers with placing the white pall upon it. One of the deceased man’s grandchildren served as cantor, leading the congregation in the singing of many hymns and songs throughout the service. Other grandchildren read the Scriptures for the day and one led in singing the Psalm. A member of the family spoke the eulogy. Family members carried the gifts to the altar for communion. The congregation participated throughout the service by singing, giving verbal responses to the readings and prayers, kneeling, standing, and coming forward for communion. Lay assistants helped the priest with the Eucharist, the incense, and other activities in the service. The priest guided the congregation through the liturgy and gave a homily. At the end, the family gathered around the casket, laid their hands on it as the priest commended their loved one into God’s care, and processed out, followed by the congregation from the sanctuary. The service took about an hour.

At the evangelical church, the church that affirms its faith in the priesthood of all believers, four things happened. A musician played a prelude and postlude. A family member read a eulogy. The congregation said the Lord’s Prayer because the family had requested it. And the rest of the service was made up of the minister talking. He introduced the service, read Scripture, prayed, added a eulogy of his own, and preached a message. Between every element he explained what was going to happen or gave instructions or made personal comments. The congregation sat and listened silently for almost all of the service, which took about an hour.

Now I ask you, which of these churches, in reality, has a professional priest whose job is to mediate God’s blessings to the people?

And which church worships God through the work of the people?

For those who are captive shall be free, and those who are free will find themselves enslaved to human traditions.


  1. More to the point, which church has a clergyman that actually does *pastoral* work?

    Try Door #1; Door #2 leads to…nothing much.

  2. My husband’s funeral was a year ago next week. Our close-knit extended family met at the graveside for a short, but meaningful committal service. Then we continued with a memorial service at the long-term care center where my husband passed away. The pastor was the MC who also led the singing, our daughter played the piano for the many favourite hymns sung by all present. Fellow long-term care residents, managers, the CEO himself, and members of our church and members of neighbouring evangelical churches, and many friends attended. Our son read the eulogy. Grandchildren sang a special number. Professors and colleagues, where my husband had taught for 30 years, expressed personal thoughts about their friendship with him as well as shared words of Scripture and encouragement with the family and with those in attendance. Another friend sang a special solo! Prayers and blessings were spoken. Much Scripture was read and a beautiful homily followed. Everyone stayed for a time of refreshment after the main service. An open mike provided for many beautiful thoughts and remembrances. God was worshiped through the priesthood of all believers as the love that flowed to us was palpable and an amazing peace, that can only come from the Holy Spirit, made us all a blessing and encouragement to one another as we go through this valley of grief and sorrow. The whole service and fellowship lasted more than two hours. Other long-term residents expressed how good it was to be in attendance as it reassured them that when their time came, they too would be lovingly remembered! Three months later, at the quarterly memorial service at this home, everyone who had passed away was remembered; their stories shared by staff, families invited, hymns sung, candles lit, Scripture read, Prayers spoken, Devotional shared, fellowship followed. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way and feel truly blessed that God was worshiped and given all the glory for a life well lived.

  3. Patricia says

    Karin wrote: God was worshipped and given all the glory for a life well lived . . . and THAT is the essence of ‘our’ work. It is always about GOD and HIS glory. “Our” work is what GOD is doing in and through us. This is good to keep in mind as we inspect the “fruit” of the workers in our midst. Those who abide in the LORD will indeed bear much fruit for apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) GOOD – GOD = O.

    With this being said, in the examples given, I am wondering: are we looking for GOD’s work here?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Very Christianese.
      Tell me, are you so full of GOD that YOU have Ceased to Exist, leaving only a worship bot?

      • Patricia says

        Forgive me for any offense – I find this perspective frees me from a legalistic performance Christianity and take comfort that God has indeed given us everything we need for life and godliness. Failure isn’t final or fatal.

        • davidbrainerd2 says

          @Patricia, You just contradicted everything you said before. If failure isn’t final or fatal, why does God have to do it all for you? Only if you believe that failure is final and fatal are you afraid of making a mistake and thus leave it all up to God because you know only he can get it perfectly right. Your theology is in outright contradiction to your psychological premises.

    • Robert F says

      Patricia, I have nothing bad to say about the funeral service for Karin’s husband, or those who took comfort in it.

      But there is a way of seeming to glorify God that nevertheless keeps human concerns at the center of all that is done, and that plays on fear in the attempt to manipulate people to faith in Jesus Christ. When this is done in a funeral service, it’s shameful (not saying this is what happened at the funeral for Karin’s husband; from what she describes, it didn’t: but I have seen it done at evangelical funeral services, never at a Roman Catholic funeral service).

      • Patricia says

        Robert, when those “human concerns” are about what we do to “please God” rather than what He has done for us I think we miss the amazing unconditional grace of God. I’m wondering, is it possible for anyone to really be manipulated into faith in Jesus? According to scripture, those who come to faith in Christ are drawn – it is wholly a work of God and yet whosoever will may come . . . this is so humbling to me. When I contemplate the death of Jesus, I often wonder where I might have been: with the crowd yelling “Crucify Him”, in hiding . . . ? I’m sad to say I doubt I would have been found with those at His feet. Knowing my default nature, this makes me even more grateful for His forgiveness and mercy.

        In the examples given by CM, could we choose to see God at work in both? In which scenario are we not participants? Sometimes our worship is active and other times it is passive. Isn’t worship simply our response to the presence of God? Please tell me I am not the only one who has sat in a pew and missed the opportunity to respond in “worship.”

        In the end, what goes on in the soul of the participant is what matters most. Can we quantify that? Try as we want, God alone knows the posture of our hearts before Him. He know my frame . .. I’m good with that.

  4. “(W)hich of these churches, in reality, has a professional priest whose job is to mediate God’s blessings to the people?”


    However, to play the advocatus diabolos, it might be said that there is nothing in theory to prevent a Protestant service from looking like the Catholic one you described. And that the desire to “hand off” things to somebody else who’s a “professional” is a *human* failing, not simply a Catholic – or Protestant – one.

    • Robert F says

      “However, to play the advocatus diabolos, it might be said that there is nothing in theory to prevent a Protestant service from looking like the Catholic one you described.”

      At the Protestant Episcopal church of which I’m member the Burial of the Dead service is always done in the context of the Holy Eucharist, and simple memorial services are never permitted; few, if any, of the elements of the Roman Catholic service mentioned in the above post are missing.

      “And that the desire to ‘hand off’ things to somebody else who’s a “professional” is a *human* failing, not simply a Catholic – or Protestant – one.”

      On the other hand, I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, and attended many funeral services. A good number of them were impersonal and mechanical and by the book in a very cold sort of way, where the priest and servers were active, controlling everything and denying many requests of the family, but the congregation was passive and appearing almost helpless.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      I would expect a Lutheran or Episcopalian funeral to be closer to the Catholic one described in the post than the Evangelical. I think that the contrast being made is not Protestant vs. Catholic but Evangelical vs. non-Evangelical.

      • Robert F says

        Yes, but as Karin’s comment above shows, a free church service can be a work of the people, and as my experience has shown me, a Catholic funeral service can be controlled by top down authority, and not reflect the work of the people. I think there are many instances that must fall outside such a dichotomy.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Ever thought this might be a Good Samaritan analog — showing those Romish Papists getting it right while the Born-Again Bible-Believers drop the ball BAD?

        • Richard Hershberger says

          Oh, absolutely. The liturgy is not a guarantee by any means. It can be done well or it can be done poorly, just like anything else. For that matter, in my experience the odds of having it done well (in general: I’m not talking about funerals in particular) in your average Catholic parish church are pretty low. Your best odds probably are the Episcopalians, followed by the Lutherans.

          That being said, a bad non-liturgical service is far, far worse than a badly done liturgy. A badly done liturgy is a dull hour lost from your life: the Evangelicals were not completely wrong with their critique of “vain repetition.” A bad non-liturgical service can be sheer agony, with no obvious endpoint. The only services I have snuck out a side door have been like this.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Of course. Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican/Episcopal are all Western-rite Liturgical churches.

        Not “Evangelical vs non-Evangelical” but Liturgical vs non-LIturgical.

        • Christiane says

          Dear Headless,
          actually, the Catholic Church has many different liturgical rites within it, all united under the Pope . . . for example, I am Latin rite Roman Catholic, definitely Western tradition; but my godmother was raised in a Catholic Church that is of the Byzantine rite (Eastern tradition), because her family came from the Ukraine. We are both very Catholic, yet from different liturgical backgrounds. My godmother married an American of Italian descent, in the Roman Catholic tradition.

          I think the Church has something like sixteen different liturgical rites. Here are some details:

  5. To echo Patricia (yes, we are two different people!!) a Catholic funeral Mass is still about Christ, the Mass, the Eucharist, and life everlasting for us all. The stories and eulogies are presented at the viewing or wake, and/or at the after-burial party [and in the best of cases, it really is a party!]. They are not appropriate during the Mass, anymore than personal asides from the congregation would be at any OTHER Mass. I know this is weird to those used to the protestant model, but it keeps the focus on our God and our loved ones journey to Him….not the story about the time George caught the big bass and fell out of the boat…..

    At any rate, this post is sure to ruffle some feathers and get some “lively conversation” going!!! I comes down to liturgical focus on the Eucharist being offered to us all as brothers and sisters, versus the intensely personal and subjective acceptance of Christ, and one’s individual walk with Him.

    • Robert F says

      Yes, well this is the difference between Eucharist centered worship, and non-Eucharist centered worship, which is the same whether the service is a funeral or not. The question is: what really is the work of the people, the liturgy?

    • Robert F says

      “The stories and eulogies are presented at the viewing or wake, and/or at the after-burial party…. ”

      In the area of central PA where I live, although funeral directors are frequently used, funeral homes are not (among the reasons are that many cannot afford the cost, and it is not customary in this area to have visitation in a funeral home). At the Lutheran church where my wife works as choir director/organist, the brief viewing/wake is most frequently held in the narthex of the church just before the funeral service.

      When the life of the person is freely celebrated and remembered just outside the sanctuary doors right before the service, it becomes psychologically difficult to justify keeping those memories and celebrations outside the service proper and the sanctuary, as if the life of person is somehow not sacred enough to be included in the most sacred rites. At the church where my wife serves, this strict bifurcation is not observed, and there is much overlap between what is done at the viewing/wake and what is done in the service.

      In addition, although it is a church in the ELCA, a liturgical denomination that promotes frequent celebration of the Eucharist, and although one of the pastors always strongly suggests that families have a funeral Holy Communion, most do not want to have the Eucharist included, because it is not customary for this congregation at funerals, nor is it a weekly habit at Sunday services.

    • Robert F says

      Btw, if I had my druthers, every Sunday service would be a Eucharistic one, and funeral services would be as well, with the focus on God rather than the life of the deceased. The gospel, not the conduct or misconduct of our own lives nor the lies or distortions that are often told about those lives at memorials, is our only hope in life and in death; in the celebration of Eucharist, the gospel is rehearsed and embodied, and the crucified and risen Christ is proclaimed until his coming again: this is the true work, the liturgia, of all God’s people, priest/clergy and laity alike.

      • Robert F says

        Finally, one last thing, having said what I did above, I don’t for a minute believe that a free church funeral, or other, service can’t be Eucharistic, even when it is not centered around the Holy Communion, if the focus is on the gospel, the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and this work of Christ is what is proclaimed and celebrated in the midst of our life and death together. I can only believe that God makes himself very present to such an assembly and work of his people, whether they follow traditional liturgical formats or not.

  6. When I was in college (Disciples of Christ school in Texas), I attended an Episcopal church. One Sunday my evangelical friend came with me. After an hour of what Mike describes — kneeling, standing, responding, singing, serving — she said, “All this ritual is pretty stifling, don’t you think? Now you have to come and see my church.” The next week I went and sat for over an hour and listened to other people sing and talk at me. Honestly, I felt stifled.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Good thing we have options! Good thing God’s allows His church to be creative and reach different people in different ways!

      • The may indeed be wisdom in the scarcity of explicit worship instructions in the New Testament. Often, unfortunately, what actually IS given us is forgotten. For example, which option sings the Psalms? Hardly an auxiliary feature, it is actually prescribed twice in the New Testament.

        You see, we are free to worship as we please, but “as we please” really ought not be the criteria. “Creatively reaching people” is not the mission of the church. Making disciples by baptizing and teaching (catechizing) is the mission. Not all worship forms do this equally, even if all worship forms ca potentially be used for this. Some worship forms can do this not at all, and others will do it no matter what.

        • Most liturgies incorporate psalms, in whole or in part. Typically there will be at least a line or two from a hundred or more of them. Funerals have traditional psalms that are read. Also, most mainline church hymns are full of psalm references.

  7. My father died in January. He was a fundamentalist baptist of the John R. Rice and Sword of the Lord stream. My family are Episcopalians. I have worked inside the church for a number of years and have seen very, very few Baptist funerals. So apparently I didn’t know how Baptists did it. I didn’t realize there was such a cognitive dissonance within the family of God as to focus of a funeral much less the execution of the service.

    I made the funeral the work of the people and blew the sweet young Baptist preacher’s mind. He didn’t know what to do with our hybrid service. He tried in our preservice meeting to wrap his brain around several things: 1. the focus of the service, (What you don’t want anyone talking about Frank? Are you going to give a time for memories? No Dad specifically did not want this.) 2. the use of multiple people (Now I’m only doing the sermon and nothing else? Really?), and 3. the use of congregational singing (You only want one solo and you expect people to sing at a funeral? Yes – and all the verses.) Nice guy way in his fundi box.

    We opened with my husband announcing “I am the resurrection and the life . . . ” through to the Lord be with you from the BCP. We had scripture readings. Old, New, and Gospel – different people reading them. The preacher had a hard time when we asked for a sermon not on dad’s life (as it was a funeral not a memorial service) but focused on the resurrection. He tried. We sang congregationally. We use the ending prayers from the BCP.

    Afterwards, people came up and said that they liked how much scripture was in the service; how they had never been to a funeral with singing like that, and they liked being able to do something celebratory; and how “those poems at the beginning and the end were really powerful”- I’d bit my tongue through most of the comments wanting to say “come to the Episcopal church”, but I couldn’t hold back when life long Southern Baptists not recognizing verses from the Bible.

    I felt a bit schizophrenic Baptist roots but Anglican love. I guess it is true you can not go home and it be the same.

    • Robert F says

      The Episcopal service is so beautiful. In that service, we are given the truth about God, about the work of Jesus Christ, and about who the deceased is, and we are, in that context. Such saving truth-telling about life and death is the wrong place for memorializing, which so often involves exaggeration, distortion and outright lying about the deceased’s life; or else what amounts to bragging about who the deceased was, on those occasions when she really was successful, faithful, kind, etc.

    • Interesting. In most of the evangelical/low-church Protestant funerals I’ve been to in the lower Midwest, there was often so much emphasis on the Gospel (read as: altar-call/decide-right-now/if-you-were-to-die-tonight, etc.) that the identity of the deceased was lost in the mix, and not in the good way that the liturgical services you, Robert F, et al. are describing. Sometimes the dearly departed seemed little more than a prop for an illustrated sermon. (It seems like Michael Spencer once wrote something about this phenomenon in his own milieu.)

      It’s amazing how much mileage really does vary.

      • I swore never to go to a Baptist funeral again after attending my best friend’s. She died suddenly in her early 30’s. Her church’s minister said something along the lines, “well, it is probably a good thing she died when she did. You never know she could have become an adulterer or addicted to drugs or some other reprehensible sin. God saved her from that path.” My husband physically had to hold me in the pew. Then came the altar call and the million verses of Just as I Am. That was it for me. None of that honored Jesus nor spoke of the glory of His love for her.

        • The absolute worst funerals I have been to have been Baptist ones, with a close second being a Catholic funeral (or was it a wake?) where the repeated “Hail Mary’s” made me nearly nauseous. But the Baptist ones take the cake, with their uneducated preachers turning every opportunity into an altar call, seemingly regarding all the attendees as persons to be either saved or rededicated.

          I would probably most like an Eastern Orthodox funeral, though I never attended one when we were Orthodox. Make the occasion both as earthly and as transcendent as possible.

          • If the Hail Mary’s make you nauseous at a RC funeral, why do you think you would like an EO funeral with the prayers to the Theotokos?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Because those prayers would be in Liturgical Greek so she couldn’t understand they’re Hailing Mary?

          • I’ve been EO. The prayers venerating the Theotokos are NOTHING like the ad nauseam repetition of the Hail Marys or the petitions made to Mary during their saying. The EO veneration of the Theotokos does not approach the (to me) Roman Catholic near adoration of Mary, which I and many others find almost idolatrous.

          • And FWIW, I said all my Orthodox prayers, including those to the Theotokos, in Greek, which I understood. That’s still how I say the Lord’s Prayer, and sometimes “O Heavenly King” and the Trisagion.

          • EricW, it sounds like you were at a traditionalist Catholic wake. I can’t imagine all of that happening during the funeral itself, unless the deceased and/or family members were active in the Blue Army (would link to info., but that would put my post in the moderation queue).

          • “I said all my Orthodox prayers, including those to the Theotokos…”

            I assume then you recited this as part of your Orthodox prayers:
            “Rejoice, O Virgin Mother of God! Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you have borne Christ the Savior, the deliverer of our souls”.

            The RC version of this prayer was adapted from the older Orthodox version. I wonder if RC find the icons of the Great Panagia in every Orthodox temple nauseating, and think that the cultural incentive to cross themselves and/or bow (depending on the local tradition) every time the Theotokos is commemorated is idolatrous.

          • My point is that one needs to take into consideration how the Church has inculturated a particular nation. The emphasis on icons is not as great in RC as it is to the EO. Rather, the audible and psychological senses are utilized more. Thus, you will have more audible repetitions to the Virgin Mary than having multiple icons depicted of her. That is their culture. To RC, EO may seem idolatrous if they have not studied the culture and reasons why they have certain postures. This is partly in line with Chaplain Mike’s post today about the work of the people from a liturgical vs. non-liturgical view what these comments are about. Both sides are learning about the cultural incentives of each group in order to make a more educated decision about which church is worshiping God through the work of the people.

          • Aryl, the RCC is highly visual. Granted, they don’t venerate icons in the same way the Orthodox do, and in Catholicism, re alistic depictions of Christ and the saints are fine, whereas the Orthodox took a different path following the Iconoclastic Controversy.

            All that said, go to a church in Italy or Spain and you’ll likely see just as much in the way of imagery (including statuary, which the Orthodox don’t use) as in any Orthodox church. The fact that there’s no iconostasis in most newer Catholic churches makes it a bit less obvious, but still…

          • Numo, you are correct that the RCC is highly visual, and that the iconoclasm in modern RC is a tragedy. Hopefully that changes soon. I was speaking from my own experience in the Byzantine and Latin Rites. However, I believe that the emphasis and the theology behind imagery is going to be different between the two Rites, which isn’t a bad thing.

            It is a dream and goal of mine to go to a cathedral in Italy or Spain, and to one a Byzantine cathedral in Ukraine.

          • *and to a Byzantine cathedral in Ukraine.

            Forgive my typing skills.

          • Aryl, I studied art history in grad school. While by no means an iconoclast, I’m not in quite the same place as you (am Lutheran, fwiw). I like what both rites do, though don’t care for “holy card art” any more than I like Protestant “Sunday school art.”

            I love sculpture, and wish the Orthodox would at least be willing to admit bas reliefs, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen. (And they don’t really *need* it, though I think partly-sculpted icons would be pretty nifty.)

          • I think that some of the loveliest Western religious art was/is stained glass. The best transcends any other medium, for me, at least.

          • Dana Ames says

            Numo, this is late but I hope you see it. There is actually a tradition of carved icons; see here:


            Pageau also writes for Orthodox Arts Journal, for which you can do an Internet search and which you might enjoy.


    • Christiane says

      ” . . . but I couldn’t hold back when life long Southern Baptists not recognizing verses from the Bible ”

      is possible they rely heavily on some parts of the Bible, but barely read other parts, depending on how these verses support or do not support their doctrines ?

      • Exactly.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        In fairness, everybody does this. You can, for example, go a long time using the common lectionary without hearing anything from the minor prophets. Everyone has a canon within the canon. One way to look at the different threads of Christian traditions is by what parts they consider that canon within the canon. The problem arises when people pretend (especially to themselves) that they aren’t doing this. They invariably end up with self-imposed blinders. Look at how many people can tell you how many times they have read the Bible straight through, and yet somehow believe that social justice is not an issue it is concerned with. This takes some powerful compartmentalization!

  8. Isn’t it nice that that there are different styles for different people. Both have pro’s, both have con’s. I appreciate both.

    This post could have just focused on the RCC service, and not bash the other.

    I guess some things are tough to resist. Too bad.

    • It is a parable RDavid, based on many, many different services, and not a description of two actual services. A parable is designed to make a point, not to analyze everything that might be said about the situations it describes.

      • Yes, but your point could have been made by just talking about the positives of the RCC service.

        • But the point involves confronting the evangelical critique of Roman Catholicism and what they believe is the RCC commitment to “dead works,” which in the minds of many evangelicals includes their practice of liturgy. Damaris’ comment on this thread gets the point exactly.

          • I get your point, but think it could have been made without seemingly negative comments about evangelicalism. I think the RCC side of your story speaks for itself, and allows people to consider (or reconsider) their views of it.

          • Rick Ro. says

            I’m kinda with RDavid on this one. The contrast between the two is cast in too much of a “good vs. bad” for my tastes. Jesus can be found in both. Jesus might be absent in both.

            That said, I don’t have to agree with or like all of CM’s writings, either. 😉

            • Parables are designed to have sharp contrasts like this to make a clear point. Please, everyone, take genre into account. I think you know that we can be nuanced around here when it’s called for. In fact I’ve far more often been accused of not having a sharp enough edge.

          • Rick, I think you’re missing something. Jesus can not be absent in either of them: Regardless of your view of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ view is that as often as you do this, you proclaim His death until He returns. The other situation has the Lord’s prayer and scripture read. You can’t keep Christ away where His words are read and his death is proclaimed, no matter how dull, boring, or lifeless it appears. Either is a fitting Christian service.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Miguel, my one counter to your statement is that Jesus CAN be absent if he’s absent in the hearts of those involved. I’m not sure just tossing Jesus’ name around or going through the motions of communion or whatever other “Jesus elements” you bring into something automatically means Jesus is “there”. He’s “absent” if people are just going through the motions. (Truth is, he’s not absent EVER, right? I mean, he’s right here with me now, as I type this. So it’s a figurative “absence” I’m talking about, not literal.)

          • Rick you’re saying that the important way for Christ to be present is in the subjective – our heart’s sincerity for him. I’m saying that it is important that he be there objectively, in the things outside us, which point our wandering hearts back to Him, else there will never be a subjective presence in the first place.

            Christ IS automatically wherever His words are. He IS the incarnate Word. Scripture is the written Word, all of which testifies to the incarnate Word. “Going through the motions” can happen in any type of service. It doesn’t follow that the content and substance of the service is irrelevant so long as the intention is sincere. Where Christ is absent in Word and supper, he will not long remain present in hearts. Hearts longing for Christ delight in being where He is proclaimed.

            You’re right that tossing Jesus’ name around does nothing (which is more a critique of contemporary Christian music than it is of liturgical worship). But where His Gospel is proclaimed, He is there in power with his words, no matter how dull it appears. The Lord’s Supper gives you the Gospel, even if only symbolically. The Lord’s prayer is rich with the Gospel, even if it seems so uninteresting to us at times. Sometimes it is the dull, repetitive motions, when our hearts are anything but focused on the presence of Christ, where Jesus interjects himself into the darkness of our hearts withe light of His Word. I don’t trust any other source of light.

          • Robert F says

            ” The Lord’s Supper gives you the Gospel, even if only symbolically.”

            The Holy Communion proclaims the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus until his coming again. This is true whether the words of institution are used or not, because it happens around the epiclesis, when the Holy Spirit is invoked by the priest/pastor, representing the gathered people of God, as together they re-member Christs passion and death, and look for his presence among them now even as they look forward to his return.

          • Robert F says

            “Truth is, he’s not absent EVER, right? I mean, he’s right here with me now, as I type this. So it’s a figurative ‘absence’ I’m talking about, not literal…”

            If we follow the logic of this far enough, then we have to say that God was not uniquely present in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, that God’s presence in the man Jesus was the same as his omnipresence, and then what becomes of the particularity of Christian faith?

        • So the point at all doesn’t matter, it’s only your dislike of the negative elements that matters. At which point no amount of explaining or persuading will defer you.

          • I think the point is good, and is apparent on its own, without having to bring in the contrast/opposing views by name.

          • Right. “I’m happy to listen to your side, until you disagree with my side and fail to cast it in an equally positive light.” You can’t have the Socratic method and be politically correct. We can either increase knowledge through debate, where mutual criticism refines reasoning, or get our feelings hurt and plug our ears.

          • You assume you know “my side” (I actually have one foot in high liturgy, and one in low).

            You assume I disagree with the point of the post (I don’t. I think it is a great point).

            You assume I don’t want to hear opposing views (I am quite open to listening to other views. That is one of the strengths of this site).

            A lot of assumptions there.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It is a parable RDavid, based on many, many different services, and not a description of two actual services. A parable is designed to make a point, not to analyze everything that might be said about the situations it describes.

        But “When you point at something with your finger, the dog sniffs your finger. To a dog, a finger is a finger and that is that.” — C.S.Lewis

      • Marcus Johnson says

        I’m going with RDavid on this one. Sure, it’s a parable but, as written, it suggests that there are two types of funerals, and I can see how readers can assume they’re being asked to judge one against the other.

        If this parable is meant to be a critique of a criticism within a specific evangelical tradition regarding funeral services in RCC settings, that point could have been made much clearer.

        CM: Also, is there some more evidence that “many evangelicals” critique RCC traditions the way you’re claiming they do? I’m just going off of general anecdotal experience, mind you, but most folks who identify as “evangelical” seem quite accommodating of a wide variance of traditions within many Christian-identified faith traditions (i.e., weddings, funerals, etc.).

        • Rick Ro. says

          Marcus, I’m with you and RDavid on this one, but I’ll try to answer your question to CM from my own perspective. I see RCC bashing within my own church (evangelical). Often times it’s from those who’ve come FROM RCC tradition and openly share the unhealthy aspects of that tradition, and sometimes it’s from folks who have no idea what they’re talking about. So from my perspective, the critique is definitely out there in evangelical circles, some of it warranted, some of it not. It’s interesting to hear it from former RCC folks, though.

          I also have a couple of neighbors and a best friend who are RCC and have enjoyed hearing about RCC stuff from them. While I feel RCC adds too much to the simple gospel message, their focus on Jesus has been very apparent. It makes me feel bad for the unhealthy elements of the RCC faith tradition, for it kinda tarnishes its image. (My opinion.)

        • I hesitate to reply too much to these kinds of comments because parables are intended to speak for themselves and if you have to do much explaining, then, well you haven’t got much of a parable anymore, have you?

          Nevertheless, let me say a couple of things:

          1. I only used the funeral because I see a lot more of these services as a chaplain. The fact that it was a funeral rather than another kind of service does not factor into the meaning of the parable.

          2. I could have used another liturgical tradition but chose RCC because we are talking about faith and good works here this week and the traditional division of opinion on that subject has been between Protestants and Catholics.

          3. The form I used is meant to remind us of Jesus’ parables and to reflect the same kind of divisions Jesus addressed with regard to different parties in Judaism. Funny that I don’t hear this kind of criticism of the way Jesus “painted with a broad brush” with regard to the Pharisees or “sinners” in Israel. His parables could have been subjected to the same kind of over-analysis that some of you are doing here.

          4. The point is simple: the church that has been traditionally criticized as being ruled by priests gives evidence of doing more to advance the priesthood of all believers in its liturgical worship than does the church that claims no priests but still functions as though the minister is one in its way of worshiping.

          There, now that I’ve drained all the life out of my parable, you may proceed.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            1. I only used the funeral because I see a lot more of these services as a chaplain. The fact that it was a funeral rather than another kind of service does not factor into the meaning of the parable.

            Which reflects the uniqueness of your particular faith tradition, in that it does not particularly distinguish between a funeral and other kinds of services. In several other faith traditions, funerals are considered an event serving a function that is wholly separate from the traditional worship service.

            2. I could have used another liturgical tradition but chose RCC because we are talking about faith and good works here this week and the traditional division of opinion on that subject has been between Protestants and Catholics.

            Fair enough. I don’t have a particular problem with you comparing RCC vs. evangelical traditions. It’s only when there is a presumption that one is evaluated against the other that I would get a little concerned.

            3. The form I used is meant to remind us of Jesus’ parables and to reflect the same kind of divisions Jesus addressed with regard to different parties in Judaism. Funny that I don’t hear this kind of criticism of the way Jesus “painted with a broad brush” with regard to the Pharisees or “sinners” in Israel. His parables could have been subjected to the same kind of over-analysis that some of you are doing here.

            No, you won’t hear this kind of criticism regarding the parables Jesus told because a) each parable has enough detail, and the gospel writer gives enough context, so that someone can note the underlying point of the story without a lot of head-scratching and b) between you and Jesus, one of you is the Son of God, the Word Incarnate, and the other is capable of making some well-intentioned errors in the delivery of a message with a good point.

            Also, not that it matters, but folk have been picking Jesus’ parables apart for years, and they have plenty of life still left in them.

            4. The point is simple: the church that has been traditionally criticized as being ruled by priests gives evidence of doing more to advance the priesthood of all believers in its liturgical worship than does the church that claims no priests but still functions as though the minister is one in its way of worshiping.

            I would argue that either church tradition can accomplish that goal; they just manage to do it in different ways. Perhaps the RCC is much more overt in their efforts to advance the priesthood, but there are cultural things at work in that institution that have as much impact as their spiritual imperative.

            5. Not sure what the big deal is about picking apart your story. It’s not like we’re asking you to explain the punchline to a really good joke, just to explain the missing context to a point that is well-intentioned, just not very well delivered.

        • Marcus, I’ve seen a lot of RCC bashing in evangelical churches – often by people who had never set foot in a RCC sanctuary. I had a friend who was RCC who visited with me and the others did not understand how to interact with him especially since he knew just as much scripture as they did. I no longer go to those churches so I don’t know if they still do so today. (Also, this was largely in groups of people in their early-to-mid 20s. We obviously knew everything back then.)

          • I’ve seen not only that, but serious bashing of Protestant liturgical churches – even had it directed toward me personally, when commenting on how I’d felt when attending a particular Lutheran service.

            It’s easier to fault the other guy than own up to our own flaws, generally speaking…

        • that’s OK, chap mike… we believe in the resurrection of the dead, even dead parables.

      • “It is a parable RDavid, based on many, many different services, and not a description of two actual services. A parable is designed to make a point, not to analyze everything that might be said about the situations it describes.”

        Yes, it was written well in parable form. But the point of a parable is to teach a lesson, be it ethical, doctrinal, wisdom, or all of the above. And the most obvious lesson which I derived from it is that a Roman Catholic funeral service has greater merit than an Evangelical service, and especially a Reformed Evangelical service.

        I am a little bothered by the inclusion of the adjective “Reformed.” Although the contrast between Roman Catholic and Evangelical services in the parable merits some merit, I think it would have had greater impact if the word “Reformed” had been left out. Given that only about a third of Evangelical churches consider themselves Reformed (another third lean Arminian and the remainder are somewhere in between, Barna, 2010), it was unnecessary to color it that way.

        But that’s just my opinion. And of course, we’re all biased here, one in this direction and another in that direction.

      • CM….while it ‘might’ have been a ‘parable’ (using a very loose definition of such), the point and intent was clearly to indeed “bash” any custom and tradition that contrasted with the assumed ‘correctness’ of the RC tradition….which, of course, is based on numerous assumptions that create and exacerbate the tensions between the differing paradigms. In my 6+ decades, I’ve attended many funerals of varying stripes (lately, they seem to be much more frequent than weddings!), and, as has been noted, have observed cold, lifeless liturgical services, with priest/vicar AND the congregation mechanistic ally performing the liturgy in a perfunctory fashion…..and many non/RC services that truly celebrated the life of the deceased, as well as expressed the underlying hope/confidence of redemption and eternal life for the deceased, and corresponding comfort for the bereaved. In other words, the so-called ‘parable’ erects an idealistic RC service contrasted with a caricatured ‘evangelical’ service…to establish the rhetorical point that the first was good…and the latter…’not good’.
        In my book, this does a disservice to discerning readers, as well as detracts from the many ‘good’ posts we see from this author.

        • Wow, I’m speechless.

          First, my “intent was clearly to indeed ‘bash’ any custom and tradition that contrasted with the assumed ‘correctness’ of the RC tradition”? You couldn’t be more wrong, I’m afraid.

          Secondly, yes parables do give very general depictions that make one, usually surprising, point — out of a thousand that might be made with analysis. Parables are like proverbs: general statements that make general observations. They are not dogmatic pronouncements of universal truths, nor do they tell anything close to the whole story. They often use broad stereotypes on purpose to make the point.

          My parable is only meant to express a bit of the surprising perspective I’ve gained about comparing different church traditions and what they supposedly represent. I’ve been an evangelical for 40 years now. I know what my fellow evangelicals have thought of Catholic faith and practice and what I have thought too. I’m here to say there’s more to it than that.

          • Mike, unless you just say that “all approaches are equally good, and nobody has a right to say how one might be more good, right and salutary than the other, and it really doesn’t matter how we do our services as long as our hearts are in the right place,” then some people are just going to insist on getting offended. Whoever gets offended first wins.

            But I doubt they’d give your tradition nearly so fair a shake as they demand you give theirs.

          • I don’t think I’ve ever seen you ‘speechless’. I’m amazed!
            You’re correct, a ‘parable’ is a story that usually in intended to make one major point….sometimes one or two correlated points. it is NOT designed to be analyzed to death. I’ve re-read your ‘parable’ once more….and, yes, the point (and, yes, it IS polemic) is that contrary to ‘typical’ non-rc perspective, the rc church (as represented by your idealized service) with her ‘priesthood’ is the one that truly ‘worships God through the work of the people’….as expressed by your idealized, hypothetical service.

            In other words, you’ve taken the very best (and THAT s subjective judgement) elements of what you’ve observed in rc funerals, (or other services), and contrasted that with the very worst (hopefully) you’ve observed in non-liturgical, non-rc services. A tactic that deserves the observation that it was a polemic, biased comparison, designed to make a predetermined point.

            Is there something inherently Godly (or even MORE Godly) in a procession? In the casket being carried in, versus already being at the front of the church? In people muttering perfunctory ‘Lord have mercy’….or, ‘Lord hear our prayer’ on cue, versus respectful ‘amens’? Kneeling and standing in lockstep on cue? Having ‘communion’ versus not…..at a funeral?
            “Lay Assistants’? You mean ‘altar servers’? A young man I know well has been one of those since a child….his reason was that church bored him, and this gave him something to ‘do’. His girlfriend died last year (fragile health conditions lifelong), and he now doesn’t ‘believe’ in God….but still altar serves….when he can’t get out of going to mass at all. Incidentally, he underwent intensive ‘training’ as an altar server….every move and gesture mandated by….who? The PRIEST! THIS is somehow more ‘glorifying’ to God?
            Incense has WHAT to do with God in the New Covenant?
            Now hear me….IF one wants to add all the bells, smells, and whistles, not to mention vestments….it’s a big Universe, and I don’t think God gives a rat’s patootie about it, and neither do I. What I DO object to is the characterization of such as being of more worth than other traditions….they ALL are ‘traditions of man’. Do you honestly think that the hypothetical rc service was any LESS choreographed than the ‘evangelical’ one?

            Now, as a hospice Chaplain (which I seem to recall you are), I imagine that you ‘perform’ many services that lie outside your own tradition, or even your comfort level. You deal with persons whose family wants ‘Christian burial’ for their loved one, regardless of their apparent spiritual standing or lifelong bent…that’s the nature of your job, to offer comfort and service to all, regardless of their belief or lack thereof, right?

            I guess that’s why I found it so surprising that you’d offer such a polemic as this ‘parable’.
            The reality is that you could find many rc services that fit your caricature of the evangelical one….and many, many (in MY experience, at least) Evangelical or non-liturgical services that contain all the ‘relevant’ aspects of ‘body ministry’ as claimed in your rc service.

            Neither example really gives indication of ANYONE’s jub being to “mediate God’s blessings to the people!” That’s NOT the job function I see in the NT church pattern at all.

            However, since you use the term…well, just WHICH organization has a hierarchy….whose claim it is that THEY rule the church….whether priests/bishops, cardinals, or Pope? WHO claims to have the ability to control heaven’s gates? WHO claims the sole ability to exercise his ‘special charism’, using his right thumb and forefinger….to ‘call Jesus down’ into the wafer? Which organization claims that all Mortal sins, at least, to be forgiven, MUST be confessed to their representatives? Which organization claims that she, and she alone, is the TRUE ‘church’….and thus, HER ‘ministers/priests are the true ‘mediators of God’s blessings’ to the people?

            Essentially, your ‘parable’ actually resembles a straw-man argument, which, to me, seems to be negated by a look at the entire picture. It fails to negate the actual reasons why many have concluded that the ‘priesthood’ is a closed elite, and that the ‘faithful’ a lesser order who are to docilely accept what’s told them.

            Do you truly believe that in your example, the priest wasn’t in absolute control of every aspect of the service? No less than the alleged ‘evangelical’ pastor?

            When my Mom passed on in 2011, I was the one who organized the service. She suffered from mental illness all her life, and alienated everyone she came into contact with. She really had no real friends, no family she talked to, and was in a ‘rest’ home. She hadn’t attended church in years….though considered that she was the only one ‘right’ on all theological matters….LOL….so rather than have a ‘pastor’ who didn’t even know her officiate, I got the chaplain from the Home to do so. We met in a banquet room of a restaurant near the Home, and I organized most of what transpired…there was just a few family members and a neighbour there, several got up and gave (under the circumstances) very charitable eulogies, we sang, Scripture was read, and the Chaplain said a few words.
            We didn’t need to ‘lay hands on a casket’….I’d been by her bedside when Mom’s spirit took flight in the middle of the night…and all that was left was the Chrysalis, the shell, abandoned as no longer useful or needed. Her spirit had long since gone…..as indeed has every other person who’s died….long before any ‘ceremony’.

            So…what was the point of the ‘parable’? That an RC priest, who’s entire raison-detre is linked to obedience to an organization based in Rome….is somehow a true advocate of ‘body worship’….while a so-called protestant pastor is the despot, or the singular ‘mediator of God’s blessings’ to HIS flock?

            IF indeed that WAS his attitude (hypothetically)…..all it would indicate was that he’d taken on the attitude of his liturgical counterparts, while IF the (also hypothetical) rc priest actually WAS inclusive (though admitting that he WAS in control of every aspect of HIS service) of the ‘body’…..it in no way negates the attitude and position of HIS organization.

            Thus, I conclude that the ‘parable’ was essentially pointless, except, perhaps, to make a polemic point.

            • Again, Waltg, your over-analysis, leaps of logic, assumptions, and accusations regarding my motives are stunning.

              If you can’t see the simple observation I’m trying to make, I’m sorry.

          • Waltg, you make some strong points in your objection to Roman Catholic theology. However, when it comes to the worship life of a congregation, it is always important to consider how our doxological practices reflect these doctrines (or their antithesis, as is the case in Protestantism). It seems like the point of that parable is that while RC doctrine rejects the priesthood of all believers, these practices seem to speak otherwise. Many of these practices are shared by Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Methodists and Presbyterians, all of which DO embrace the priesthood of all believers. Ironically, many churches who do hold to the priesthood of all believers may need to consider more carefully whether and how their worship practices reflect this doctrine.

            The parable, IMO, illustrates how “lex orandi, lex credendi” can be a double edged sword. Worship is not quite an exact science.

          • tl;dr Waltg

          • “Again, Waltg, your over-analysis, leaps of logic, assumptions, and accusations regarding my motives are stunning.”
            Well, perhaps I DO ‘over-analyze’. I’d rather do that than take a simplistic view of things and buy any story that crosses my path. Leaps of logic? Don’t see that! Assumptions? Again, don’t see that.
            Accusations regarding your motives? Really? Calumniation now too?
            I don’t believe I’ve addressed your motives at all….only YOU know your motives….if anyone. I called it polemics…..because, according to my dictionary, that’s what it is! I did NOT address your motives in positing such, unless you’d make the claim that indeed, you did NOT intend to steer readers to an ‘Evangelical’ answer to the first question, and an RC answer to the second.. I also called it a ‘strawman argument’ IMHO…..once more….I have no idea WHY, so didn’t address or attribute any ‘motives’ in your doing so.

            That being said, I had a full post written to respond…..but I’m simply not into it right now. I haven’t even posted at the debate websites I used to frequent….for some 8 months now. I’m sorry if you took my comments personally, but you must have known that by crafting your ‘story’ in such a fashion, with the ‘either-or’ mentality expressed in your questions, that people would grasp your implication that somehow, inexplicably, the ‘evangelical’ pastor would be the answer to the first question, and, of course, the apparently desired answer to the second would be the rc church. Are you going to claim that I’m mistaken?
            Now…since you said ‘in reality’…..IN REALITY the answer to the first question would be the RC, since the vast majority of Evangelical churches make no claims at possessing a sacerdotal ‘priesthood’ at all, since Jesus had none, the first century churches had none,…but I think you already know that. The only one who meets your criteria would be the RC….since her ‘professional priests’ duty is to ‘mediate God’s blessings to the people’.
            As to the answer to the second one….not nearly enough information is forthcoming, and in any event, requires a judgement of motives….which you apparently decry. The reality is that of all the variety of denominational and non-denominational churches I’ve attended in some 66 years, NONE matches your depiction of that funeral service. How about we add some detail?

            “After the service, virtually the entire congregation followed the procession to the Cemetery, where they stood around the family, supporting them, as more Scripture was read, and a prayer offered to God. The family then sprinkled dirt on the coffin, symbolizing the dirt to dirt, ashes to ashes aspect of our physical, human existence, then they all went back to the church where members of the ‘Body of Christ’ had prepared a tea, with beverages, sandwiches, and desserts, for those who wished to fellowship and express their personal condolences to the family.
            Some members of the ‘Body of Christ’ had prepared meals and frozen them, and gave them to the family, so no one had to worry about cooking for a week or two in the aftermath. Other members of the ‘Body of Christ’ took up a collection to assist with the inevitable bills faced by the family, in the absence of the breadwinner.
            A CPA who was also a member of the ‘Body of Christ’, offered his services (free) to walk them through the process of how to apply for benefits, and what needed to be done…regarding the will, transferring title to property, vehicles, etc.
            The board of elders met the very next day and voted to meet the family’s mortgage and other expenses for the first few months, till they regrouped.”
            Other members of the Body of Christ called periodically, stopped by, asked the family members out for coffee, tea, dinner…..and just listened, cried with them, comforted them…..with none of the platitudes such as , “It was God’s will”….etc”

            “Now I ask you, which of these churches, in reality, has a professional priest whose job is to mediate God’s blessings to the people?
            I’ve already shown that only one ‘in reality’ has a ‘professional priest whose job it is to mediate God’s blessings to the people.’

            NOW answer your question….WHICH church truly worships God through the ‘work of the people’…..and which one is merely bound by ritual and tradition?

            Just a little more information, and perhaps one might be better equipped to answer the question posed….but, of course, that would ruin the conclusion, wouldn’t it?

          • Waltg –

            Earth to earth
            Ashes to ashes
            Dust to dust…

            How interesting that references to liturgical church language and prayed are so common that even you used one, deliberately or not.

            Touche, I think. (Meant joshingly, not in a sarcastic way at all.)

        • Waltg said:

          In other words, the so-called ‘parable’ erects an idealistic RC service contrasted with a caricatured ‘evangelical’ service…to establish the rhetorical point that the first was good…and the latter…’not good’.

          That was my first impression too, but after hearing Chaplain Mike explain repeatedly, repeatedly, that It’s a parable, folks! and that yes, parables do exaggerate to make a point, and that it’s the point that’s relevant, not the caricature, let me suggest this:

          That when Jesus told the parable about the man who went from Jerusalem down to Jericho and who was beaten and robbed, some of his listeners very likely asked him, “What are you saying, that all Samaritans are better than all priests and Levites? Let me tell you, I know a few Samaritans! They’ll steal you blind! And our priest, our priest was so kind to my grandmother when she was dying. How can you say that Samaritans are better than priests???”

          Because that wasn’t what Jesus was saying.

          • Likewise, don’t you think Jesus’ portrayal of the Pharisee and the publican wasn’t overdrawn for effect? How about Lazarus and the rich man? You think he didn’t get hammered by his critics for unfair generalizations?

            Waltg seems to think I have a Jesus-complex when I make comparisons like these, but it’s not Jesus and me that I’m comparing. It’s the type of literature being used.

    • RDavid, I’d be curious to see which of his statements you consider derogatory. I’m just not seeing it.

      • Rick Ro. says

        Miguel, it’s the way CM establishes the two situations, then follows it with two leading questions and a pointed closing statement:

        “Now I ask you, which of these churches, in reality, has a professional priest whose job is to mediate God’s blessings to the people?

        And which church worships God through the work of the people?

        For those who are captive shall be free, and those who are free will find themselves enslaved to human traditions.”

        • There’s a difference between a well merited and articulate critique and “bashing.” Nothing said was unfair. Jesus wouldn’t pass your “no toe stepped on” criteria.

          • Miguel, a fair ‘critique ‘ would not have contrasted a highly idealized ‘liturgical’ service with a caricatured so-called ‘Evangelical’ one, thus, this was at best a polemic, biased ‘story’ clearly designed to slant opinion in a ‘desired’ direction.

            • That’s a pretty good definition of Jesus’ parables, too, Waltg. Of course they are spoken to slant opinion! Of course they are biased! Many of Jesus’ parables were patently offensive to listeners in his audience. They are designed to get attention, surprise, shock, call into question long-held prejudices, and break down walls that resist direct argumentation.

              Your comment is a compliment, though I’m sure you didn’t intend that.

          • True. This isn’t that. I spent over 25 years in Evangelical churches. I don’t see caricature; this is just common experience. You could change many of the details and still have the same bottom line. Also, for liturgical churches, I wouldn’t call that “highly idealized.” You could have all that and still have a ton of issues. It sounds like a typical service in my church, and we are anything but ideal. It’s just how liturgical congregations tend to think and organize around worship.

            How about you engage the point he actually made rather than complaining that his point is “bashing?” If you’re going to complain that this article is slanderous, quote the slander. Show where the line was crossed. “two leading questions and a pointed closing statement” does not qualify as even close to bashing: it is an even-handed rhetorical device. Are you saying that neither situation is close to typical? ‘Cause my experience in nearly 10 years of church work, on both sides of the equation, says otherwise.

          • You beat the same drum Miguel. Maybe, perhaps maybe, someone had a valid experience that is different than your own?

          • I’m sure there’s exceptions to every rule, I’ve seen plenty myself that could go the other way. Nobody is making blanket condemnations here, just observing general tendencies.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Miguel, you asked what statements could be considered derogatory. I simply pointed out the part of CM’s post someone might consider derogatory. If you aren’t able to see how some might view the close of this post as a bit harsh, perhaps a parable that calls into question liturgical practices that ends with two leading questions and a pointed statement would help you see.

          • Rick Ro. says

            BTW…Miguel…sorry if my tone has gotten snippy. I don’t mean to get in a huge argument about this and don’t want to incite divisiveness. In Christ, we are free and we are brothers. Peace!

          • Sorry, Rick, I’m really trying but I just don’t see it. I’d welcome leading statements and critical questions of my own practices, and I do, all the time. It was exactly these sort of things that have led me through several significant paradigm shifts. I let my opinions be challenged, and as a result, have had many of them changed. This just looks to me like people getting offended when their paradigm is challenged. Challenge mine and I’ll show you how to respond with a counter. It’s called debate. When we can’t disagree and argue without getting offended, unity and brotherhood are merely a facade of politeness. When we are allowed to challenge each other, we appeal to the higher principles which unite us as the rationale for how we work out the finer details.

            You still haven’t answered my challenge: Would Jesus measure up to your rhetorical ethics? He did demonstrate incredible skill at dodging questions by cutting to the deeper issue, but he also took sides in some theological debates, saying what is true and what isn’t, even if he found sin in both parties.

          • CM said, ” That’s a pretty good definition of Jesus’ parables, too, Waltg. Of course they are spoken to slant opinion! Of course they are biased! Many of Jesus’ parables were patently offensive to listeners in his audience. They are designed to get attention, surprise, shock, call into question long-held prejudices, and break down walls that resist direct argumentation.”

            Yes, Jesus’ parables WERE designed to ‘slant’ opinion. In what way? Towards truth, HIS TRUTH, transcendent truth! Not merely towards His subjective opinion, or favoured theological bent or twist. So..I see two possibilities here…
            1. Either you REALLY WERE trying to denigrate one ‘tradition’ in favour of your particular favored ‘liturgical’ leanings, and in so doing….criticizing those whose ‘traditions’ differ from yours…..after all, if YOUR ‘parable’ is pointing to absolute ‘truth’, inerrant ‘truth’, transcendent ‘truth’ the same way Jesus’ were, then the views you’re trying to sway people FROM…must be False! (thus, admitting that those taking issue with your ‘parable’ are right after all.
            2. You really CAN’T see the difference between God incarnate’s TRUTH, as He expressed it….and YOUR ‘opinion’ based on a myriad of influences throughout your life.

            Let’s look at the word ‘bias’, shall we?
            “to influence someone’s opinions, decisions, etc. so that they behave or think in an unfair way
            to make something have a special interest or tendency, often in an unfair way”

            Was JESUS telling HIS stories to influence the listeners’ opinions in an UNFAIR way? I highly doubt it….if anything about Scripture is true!
            Do YOUR subjective opinions (or mine, for that matter) carry the same weight….as Jesus’? Are as fully inerrant or infallible or transcendent as HIS were? Do MINE? Rhetorical questions…..MY answer in both cases is…”NO, a thousand times NO!”

            Even at my most obnoxious and arrogant (around 25, I believe), I’ve never confused my errant opinion with Christ’s inerrant proclamation!

            “Your comment is a compliment, though I’m sure you didn’t intend that.”
            Sorry, it’s ONLY a ‘compliment’ IF you spoke with Jesus’ authority, with HIS inerrancy…and, if THAT were the case, I WOULD have intended it as a compliment. Given that you don’t speak such (only the Pope does, right?), then you’re right, I DID NOT intend it as a compliment. I ALSO didn’t intend it as an insult….just an observation.

      • Miguel, you said ” Ironically, many churches who do hold to the priesthood of all believers may need to consider more carefully whether and how their worship practices reflect this doctrine.”

        Precisely, thank you for your kind additions to my remarks.It boils down to the onus on ALL of us to, as Paul put it, ‘examine ourselves’….not only to see if we are ‘in the faith’….but to examine ourselves to see if our actions belie our core beliefs, or vice versa.The sad reality is that few of our churches, liturgical and non liturgical, rcc/eo or non-rc….actually reflect the pattern in the NT for what ‘church’ …or, more accurately, what meetings of THE CHURCH should be, what leadership was/is, etc. Perhaps the closest is some house churches, and some Brethren churches….who have a plurality of elders, and a more pragmatic approach to ‘body ministry’.

        None of this, however, detracts from my objections to the implications of the alleged ‘parable’, and it’s apparent intended meaning.

  9. Yes, but your point could have been made by just talking about the positives of the RCC service.

    • Nope, and your response proves why the negatives were needed.

      • ?

        I said I got his point, but that it could have been made without the negatives.

        That is all.

        • Can’t make a good point devoid of “negatives”, especially in parable form.

          I got CM’s point. It’s valid. I’ve seen plenty of it.

        • There had to be stark, somewhat exaggerated contrast for it to work as a true parable. Has just about everything to do with literary form; I wish that aspect of Biblical texts was emphasized much more in evangelical circles, as it clarifies many apparent paradoxes, etc.

  10. Steve Newell says

    Shouldn’t a Christian funeral service be about the Cross and the Resurrection? The Christian hope is in the resurrection that we have through faith in Christ. We should be finding our comfort in the Gospel since we know that death is not natural (part of God’s original creation) but a result of sin and that Christ has conquered sin and death with his death and resurrection.

    To often, a “Christian funeral” is more of a memorial service where we focus on the life of the person who died and not on the one who gives us life.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I’ve seen it go too far the other way, where the “Christian Funeral” becomes Four Spiritual Laws, Roman Road, and ALTAR CALL. The dead guy in the box becomes only a PowerPoint visual aid for “DO YOU KNOW WHERE *YOU* WILL SPEND ETERNITY?????” Chaplain Mike even did a posting or two on exactly that subject.

      • Simulcast in progress, HUG. My point above.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          With me it was my mother’s funeral, Rose Hills Cemetery, Whittier, CA, first week in July 1975. Only preacher we knew was a twenty-something “elder” in the shepherding cult I was mixed up with at the time. Funeral was basically a standard Altar Call sermon. Looking back it was one of those “What Were We Thinking?” clueless situations, but it wasn’t funny at the time.

      • Robert F says

        My father-in-law’s funeral service, at the independent Baptist church where he had been senior pastor, was just such a hideous affair as you describe, HUG; we were told by the presiding pastor that my father-in-law would have wanted his funeral service to be an occasion when we didn’t worry about or mourn him, since it was certain that he was with Jesus in glory, but instead worried about our own eternal destinies, if we hadn’t already accepted Jesus Christ.

        Having known a thing or two about the secret life of my wife’s father, I thought prayer for the dead, as in the Episcopal and catholic traditions, would have been more than appropriate. But of course, no such prayer was forthcoming in the Baptist funeral liturgy, to the degree that it existed at all as anything but a thrown together assortment of folkish gestures and words covered with a veneer of disjointed Biblical references and frightful end-times doom.

        That is not the confident and reassuring gospel that is conveyed by the Episcopal liturgy, nor the angelic greeting of “Fear not!” found throughout the Bible.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Could have been worse. Ever heard of “Homegoing Celebrations” with preacher-man beaming and everybody SMIIIIIIILING?

    • Yes and no: The death being mourned is hardly inconsequential. Comfort for mourners should be taken from the cross and resurrection, but it’s not just any ordinary worship service. There is pain in the hearts of the bereaved, and thankfulness for the gift of the life that has ended is most certainly appropriate.

      • I’ve just decided: As much as I complain that funeral dirges have gone out of style, at least, ironically, in actual funerals (nobody wants one at their funeral! It’s a FUNERAL for pete’s sake!), and I shall will that all songs sung at MY funeral shall be in minor key, I will provide for one exception: “Now Thank We All Our God.” This is the ultimate funeral song. It IS a funeral song, if you know the back story.

  11. Who is the one that is justified — the one who is proud that their tradition is well-affirmed by this tale, or the one who is humbled and cries out, “May it never be so on my watch, Lord!”?

  12. AndreaBT says

    It seems to me that a funeral can often go how the family asks it to go. I haven’t been to a single Catholic funeral, so I’ll offer that caveat. But I have been to funerals where most of the service is taken up by several people who knew the deceased give eulogies, sometimes in an open mike format (oooh, not liturgical enough?). A funeral is for the living, not the dead. There were burials before Christ, and I don’t remember anything in scripture saying there is a certain way we should conduct funerals, aside from OT laws about ceremonial cleansing. We grieve how we grieve. Every culture is different, and yes, I do think there are “cultures” within denominations, for better or for worse, and to paint RC culture as better or “holier” than evangelical is unfair. I am not RC, and it’s hard for me to identify with evangelicalism much, but the church I usually attend is evangelical, so I may have a bias.

    Let families decide how to plan their deceased loved ones’ funerals. I am attracted to the idea of liturgy, but personally…not at a funeral.

    • I’m with you, Andrea. Funerals are meant to comfort the bereaved as well as to glorify God. The pastor or priest should give a lot of leeway.

      At my father’s funeral, my mother stifled as much emotive expression as she could, seeing death as a crime against nature, and how could God be so cruel? No open discussion, memories except from a close friend of Dad’s, a cousin, my sister and myself. Lots of hymns to fill the time. I broke with the format toward the end by telling a story of Dad’s time in Australia during World War II (the merchant ship he was on holed up in Adelaide waiting repairs for two months) and then I played Waltzing Matilda on the pipe organ (his favorite tune). I think it worked. The congregation started singing about swagmen and billabongs.

      Whatever will comfort people, and especially if it’s to the glory of God.

  13. I recently read, on the L’Abri list, about an interview between Francis Schaeffer and his son Frank, on his deathbed, about 30 years ago. It is now on YouTube. Schaeffer said that when he first went to Switzerland he was “so stupid” he would have asked them to take down the crucifix which hung over his bed, in this presumably Catholic hospital. He also stated. that he now considered himself an Historic Christian rather than an evangelical. I didn’t see this , just heard the talk on cyber chalet. I only bring this up because of the appeared fear of RC ceremonies.

    • It makes sense, given Schaeffer’s early involvement w/the “fundamentals of the faith”-type Presbyterians. I mean, their denomination sent them to Switzerland to evangelize Catholics in the first place, so… (Discussed in Edith’s L’Abri, and elsewhere as well.)

      Swiss L’Abri is in a Protestant canton for a reason…

  14. Parables are dead, aren’t they?

    I wonder how Screwtape Letters would be received if published right now.

  15. Correct me if I’m wrong Chaplain Mike, but this post is about the work of the people illustrating people’s works from a liturgical vs. a non-liturgical setting. I find it intriguing that you choose to use a funeral setting for your parable.

    From a non-liturgical view, the work of the people at a funeral is evident from those who remain alive on earth. Although they commemorate the dead by remembering the past, the reality is that the work of the people is limited to those who attend the service at a particular location in the present. After browsing the comments, it is apparent that a lot of work can be put into a non-liturgical funeral service to give meaning and honor the beloved deceased. But again, it is only the work of those living in the present and attending the service.

    In a liturgical setting, there are not any boundaries to time and space. Those attending a liturgical funeral service with the Eucharist are mystically working with all the angles and the saints in Heaven and with those around the world throughout all of time. It is a large Eucharistic gathering and working of all peoples in this life and the next who all continuously pray and work for each other for the glory of God. This is especially apparent when those in a liturgical gathering pray for the dead and ask the saints in Heaven to pray for the deceased as well. It is a working of an infinitely larger body of people who have a variety of tasks dealing with salvation and worshiping God.

    With all of this in mind, I think the answer to the question, “and which church worships God through the work of the people” is clearer. There is much more at work than just commemorating the dead at the funeral service in a liturgical setting.

    • This seems like a helpful angle to take. It might be fun to see someone flesh out a post on what seems to be the differences in common approaches by laypeople to church services.

      It would seem that liturgical folks see it as “participation” in something bigger, while the non-liturgical would characterize it as an act of “service” for the here and now. Just an observation, might be wrong.

  16. Rick Ro. says

    A church once held a worship service which consisted of listening to a choir from one of the denomination’s universities. There was no sermon. There was no liturgy. There was no breaking of bread, no communion. There was very little congregational participation planned. Prayer time was minimal.

    A person avoided this particular service because this wasn’t their idea of “worship”. The service began and the songs the choir sung, the spirit and energy in which they sang, with the musicianship of the band and orchestra that accompanied them, and the WORDS of the songs they sang…the service was a glimpse of heaven! The congregation shifted from its “observing” mode into a “participating” mode. The focus on God and Jesus in the music and the words and the spirit of those involved was wonderful, and led to clapping and singing and standing in awe of Him. Many, many in attendance felt touched by God and renewed by Jesus. Because the person couldn’t understand how a service that only involved listening to a choir sing could be considered “worship” and thus didn’t attend, this person missed out on one of the most spirit-filled, awesomely worshipful experiences some people have ever witnessed.

    So, was Jesus present, even though this happened in a church that didn’t have any liturgy or communion and the people weren’t attended to by priests?

    (This happened at my church just this past Sunday, by the way. And while I admit to usually finding special choir things like this as “so-so,” this was one of the most engaging, profoundly moving and exhilarating things I’ve experienced.)

    • Yes. It sounds like the choir sang the Gospel. Jesus doesn’t need any particular liturgy (though I wouldn’t go as far as to say this wasn’t one). You can’t keep him out of things like that. We would say that Jesus is present in a unique way, to give you forgiveness, in the Lord’s Supper, but assuming our different beliefs on that issue, I see no reason to not validate your experience as a great expression of Christian worship.

      There is a very important angle to passivity as a form of participation. Not all worship is active: listening to the sermon, for example, is a very important part of worship for which we exhibit very little activity. In British cathedrals, morning and evening prayer are often sung by professional choirs whose lovely sound we wouldn’t dare scar by our own croaking. In those situation (especially with the words of the choir’s song open in front of us in the prayer book), I find it deeply meaningful to participate by praying along with the words (which are 95% psalms and biblical canticles). It especially helps if they are provided for you (or, even if they’re somewhat the same from week to week!).

      That doesn’t mean active forms of participation are irrelevant or unnecessary. I think balance is good: a rhythm of back and forth from active and passive participation. This also helps the attention deficit (like myself) to focus when there isn’t a mind-blowing college level ensemble leading the music.

      I can see why some people are concerned by this. If this became the regular Sunday experience, I might be concerned too. But for special events and occasions, I imagine it must be refreshing. We were once blessed to have one of the Concordia choirs for our service. However, we still had the same worship service we normally do, it was just interspersed with a few of their anthems here and there. If they came with a full program of music to perform, we could have done it during the morning service, but we may also have just scheduled it as an evening concert. It all depends: how important is taking communion to your worship services? For Evangelicals, no need to move the choir to the evening. For sacramental believers, the Supper is too important to dismiss so easily. Catholics and Orthodox would not be allowed to anyways (I think), and Lutherans could seriously fall anywhere on the spectrum (we’re not very consistent). Anglican worship services are already like choir concerts anyways. 😛

      Glad to hear of your experience. Now I really want to know the denomination and ensemble. Jesus is always profoundly present in worship that is all about Him. Sometimes we will even find that engaging, moving, and exhilarating, but when we don’t, that’s ok too. Sometimes getting bored helps us to listen for His voice better.

      • Rick Ro. says

        Northwest Nazarene University choir, visiting our Nazarene church in Kent, WA. And yes…they really were singing the Gospel. The song selection was wonderful. Whoever picked the music (I assume the choir director) should be commended.

        Curiously, a couple of the folks in the choir said the concert the previous evening, at a different church, was kind of “flat,” which I assume means it probably didn’t have the same impact as I felt in our church. Same songs, same people singing, different venue and different “audience.”

  17. The Catholic worship requires an ordained Catholic priest to confect the sacrament…otherwise, no sacrament can be administered (unless there is no ordained priest available).

    The Evangelicals don’t have a sacrament…it is more like a toast, to remember good ol’ Jesus.

    • There are good biblical and historical reasons to reject the sacramental view of the Eucharist. And it is not simply a “toast.” Study the zikkaron prayers.

    • There are plenty of protestant denominations, including the United Methodists (!), who require the elements to be consecrated by ordained clergy to be “valid”.

    • We centrist Lutherans don’t buy into either of those assertions (EricW’s or Eeyore’s).

      The Word carries it’s own authority and validation. And believer can preside over the sacraments. We most often have the pastor do it, for good order. NOT because the pastor has, or is anything special that the average believer isn’t.

      The Scriptures speak to ‘sacramentum’, the oath of faith that is in the Supper. “This IS my body. This IS my blood”. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

      The Lord never commanded that we ‘do’ something wherein He would not be present in it, for us.

      • The Scriptures speak to ‘sacramentum’, the oath of faith that is in the Supper. “This IS my body. This IS my blood”. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

        Where is “sacramentum” or its Koin? Greek equivalent used in the Scriptures with reference to the partaking of the bread and wine for Christ’s anamn?sis?

  18. It’s clear from many of the comments that CM touched a nerve or two with this one. Reminds me a bit of Michael Spencer’s writing, and that’s something I sorely miss. Michael didn’t mince words and didn’t hold back one bit when he thought there was a valid point to be made. If anything, CM is a lot gentler than MS ever was.Stark literary contrast is an element of any parable, and it’s a far cry from gratuitous bashing.

  19. It seems as if we have gone everywhere except the main point of the parable. This isn’t about funerals (much less whether Christ, the deceased, or those still living are the focus of funerals), the Eucharist, particular denominations or Christian bodies, or even Protestant/Roman Catholic. Both of these services had a liturgy. The question is which one, regardless of how these two groups of Christians viewed themselves or each other, truly best made room for the liturgy—the work of the people? It is a good parable that makes a good point.

    • Ric, I love you! Thank you!

      And Miguel, and Damaris, and Ted, etc…

      • Rick Ro. says

        What? Only love for the ones who understand and agree with you? No love for us doubters or nay-sayers?

        Boo-hoo!! I’m going home and taking my toys with me!!


        (Love ya, CM. And Ric. And Miguel, Damaris, Ted, etc.)

        • Well Rick Ro…..if he DOESN’T love YOU…..I guess I know where I stand!!!! sob!

        • Rick, that was a purely emotional exclamation of gratitude for those who got my point.

          I love interacting with those that disagree. I just get frustrated when some people don’t get it and then refuse to move beyond their point and listen to anything else. Sometimes it’s because I’ve communicated poorly. But today I thought the point so simple and clear that it was frustrating to see how the discussion quickly moved into the fog. The sun only broke through a few times.

  20. David Cornwell says

    Judging by the extreme reactions to what seemed to me to be a very simple stories, some toes got stepped on pretty hard. Therefore the screeching.

  21. David Cornwell says

    Which brings to mind a little story. Once a young man was killed in an accident. He had been rebellious, and had caused some severe problems for his parents. He was a relative of a parishioner in a church where I was pastor, therefore my wife and I attended the service. It was in a “Independent Fundamental Bible Baptist Church.” The church was packed. The preacher used the occasion to preach an evangelistic sermon chiefly aimed at adolescents. He admitted the possibility that the boy might have been saved, but it was not a sure thing, because no one seemed to remember for sure. I cannot remember an altar call.

    However at the end of the entire service, he pointed at his wife, sitting dutifully on the front row, and said “wife, get back there” while turning his pointing finger toward the door. That was the benediction. On the way home my wife gave me a stern warning.

    • I have been to so many funeral services where the preacher blew a golden opportunity to preach about what Christ has done for us on the Cross and in our Baptisms (the concrete manifestation of the Cross in our lives).

      It really is quite sad.

    • davidbrainerd2 says

      “…because no one seemed to remember for sure.”

      There’s something to be said for baptism rather than faith alone hogwash right there. Nobody remembers when you “came to faith” but they’d remember if they saw you gettin’ dunked.

    • No man should talk to their wife that way. No man would.

      I’m not even married, and that pisses me off.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        This was IFB.
        They’re Web-famous on all the Spiritual Abuse blogs for their Male Supremacist attitude.

  22. Don’t cave in to these crybabies Chaplain mike a Catholic funeral is more fun than a Baptist wedding

  23. I love coming here. This blog is spiritual, not political.

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