RulesFrom time to time people criticise that we discuss liturgical and other church rules here. The word “rule” seems to be enough to get some people going; to get their backs up… Jesus is brought up pretty quickly as a breaker and ignorer of rules… Following rules is also pretty quickly identified with straining out gnats (Jesus again)…

Those who pay attention will actually have noticed that I tend to talk about our “agreements” more than our rules; more about what we have vowed and promised, rather than rules; I’m particularly interested in community, and community spirituality – more commonly known as “common prayer” – and what makes for keeping and enhancing that sense of shared spirituality, community, common prayer…

Certainly, anyone who knows me, or has been here for a while, will realise that I am no rubrical or liturgical fundamentalist – doing something just because the rubric says so, in direct contradiction to any sensible or theological reasoning… I want to explore our inherited tradition, and translate that into our contemporary context, abandoning anything that has ceased to possibly mean anything in that context… Blog posts are generally written with a light touch, and should be read in that manner, read in the most positive light possible (I hope, if there’s any ambiguity). Those who “unlike” the liturgy facebook page because there is too much obsession with rules clearly are not noticing the humour that salts that page and are treating everything as if it is the Law of the Medes and Persians rather than what it actually is – an early morning attempt to stimulate some discussion… and possibly some change and enriching of practice…

If we start with a focus, a goal (let’s say – union with God), we will soon end up with values and principles; disciplines, even, that will help us towards our goal, our focus. And soon, especially if we are doing this as a community, we will have a shared practice, common disciplines, common prayer – if you will. And we will end up with traditions, agreements, and… yes… rules…

I’m not as convinced as some, who are quick to attack liturgical and church rules, that Jesus was against all rules. I think his focus was on the end, the goal, and rules are relativised – especially if rules detract rather than lead to the goal – then Jesus would denounce and break the rule. That is a good reason to discuss rules here. Does this or that particular rule enhance our common life, or detract from our journey into God…

People will say, “that’s hardly a salvation issue”, or “you are making a mountain out of a molehill”, or “God isn’t concerned about such details”… Yes, hardly anything we do or talk about is a salvation issue – what a drab world if we can only talk about things that are a salvation issue. No – it’s not a mountain; no one is saying it is a mountain; it’s a molehill – let’s talk about this molehill, this interesting molehill, and if it doesn’t interest you – that’s fine by us. And no, God doesn’t worry whether we drive on the left or on the right, but it really helps life if we together decide which side we are going to drive on here in this community…

And then there are those who say that it doesn’t really matter whether we do A or B. Good, fine – then let those to whom it does matter be the ones to make the call.

[And we haven’t even got into one person’s gnat being another person’s camel, one person’s mountain being another person’s molehill…]

To be continued…

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