I’ve been thinking a lot about liturgy lately. Ever since my trip to Israel, my thoughts keep turning toward liturgy. Could it be the bible is right?
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverb 22:6
I was raised a Roman Catholic. There is a lot of liturgy in the Catholic church. As a child, I hated it. All the ‘stand-up, sit-down, kneel, genuflect’ used to drive me bananas! I never understood why we had to do all that. Now, as an adult looking back on it and starting to research Judaism, it makes more sense. Perhaps there wasn’t enough ‘training up’ when I was young. I don’t think my parents understood it either. It was just what you did.
As a young adult I left the Catholic church and eventually ended up in the Episcopal church. Here, there was still a lot of liturgy, but most of it was explained to me. It enriched the worship service, giving reverence to the Creator of the Universe.
Unfortunately churches are made up of human beings, and there was a massive church fight over the leadership. I hung in there for a while, but in the end left the church and wandered for quite some time without a church home.
After many years, I became part of Calvary Chapel, a non-denominational church, and then Community Christian, also non-denominational – though I’d have to say these ‘non-denominational’ are really denominations (or as they might be referred to in Judaism of the second temple period, as sects of the Christian church.)
As I started attending a Messianic congregation, I noticed that the sanctuary had a tabernacle, eternal light, and a bimah which I associated with a pulpit. As I delved into the Judaic roots of our Christian faith, it made sense that our liturgical churches would have some of the same basic furnishings as a synagogue. After all, Judaism and Christianity were once the same religion.
I’ve been reading James Pyles’ blog and comments as often as I can. James and I have some differing views on some subjects, but I always enjoy looking at things from his perspective. Several times the subject of how Gentiles should follow Torah comes up. One of his readers talked about not having a way to do this. That comment has nagged at me.
You see, the one thing I have learned by following James’ blog is that Judaism and Christianity grew up in opposition to each other. During the time of the apostles, they were worshiping together in the Temple and in synagogues. The Gentiles of their day could go to the Temple (while it stood) and offer sacrifice (though not enter into places Jews could go). There came a point in time where the Jews who didn’t accept Yeshua as Messiah and those that did split. (We must remember that the original church was made up of mostly Jews).
Once they split, their doctrine grew in opposition to each other – doctrine that would keep people trained in their beliefs. So Rabbinic Judaism and Roman/Orthodox Christianity were diametrically opposed. Yet, as I mentioned above, when we look at their places of worship, we see a lot of similarities.
But it’s not only the places of worship. As I said, I joined the Episcopal Church as an adult and there learned much about the faith. Episcopalians use the Book of Common Prayer for their weekly and festival services. As I was talking to the Lord about trying to learn how to use the Siddur for my daily prayer time, He nudged me to pick up the Book of Common Prayer. Now I’ve got to tell you that I’ve downsized many times since leaving the Episcopal church. But in all the times I scaled back my many books, I never got rid of this one.
So I picked up the book and realized they have a morning and evening prayer service, much like the morning and evening prayers found in the Siddur. Imagine that!
There are several things in there that I don’t feel comfortable with, but if someone was looking for a place to start the practice of morning and evening prayers, this might be a good place to start. And it’s made by Gentiles, for Gentiles, so it wouldn’t be an offense to our Messianic brothers and sisters who feel we shouldn’t be practicing the Jewish faith as Jews do.
One final note I’d like to make on this subject. A friend of mine often attends synagogues for special teachings by visiting rabbis. At one such event, a gentleman asked him where he davens (prays). The man knew he was a Gentile, but it didn’t matter. He invited my friend to join his group in the morning. The location was far from my friend’s home, but he would liked to have gone. However, he realized he didn’t know how. And this has started him on a quest to learn how.
I also intend to learn how to use the Siddur for morning and evening prayers, because my spiritual dad was ecumenically minded. And there is one thing I am sure of – he trained me up to be the same way. Wouldn’t it be a great first step to bringing these two faiths back together if we can simply start by praying together?