Friday, July 18, 2008

the rite of covenant

About a week ago, I began a short series of posts explaining how our church in Madrid utilizes a series of rites of passage that were practiced in the ancient church but have long since fallen into disuse among the contemporary church.

Whenever I have mentioned this to others, they are often curious as to the content of these rites of passage.

In this short 4-post series, I am including the text of the liturgies of the three rites of passage we observe in hopes that, by reading the liturgy, you may gain some insight as to the nature and purpose of each particular rite of passage.

The first is the rite of conversion. It is a rite of passage that simply serves to confirm an individual's decision to follow Jesus.

The second (today's) is the rite of covenant. Simply put, this rite of passage celebrates the initial steps of growth the young disciple has taken as they move towards greater Christian maturity. It falls between the rite of conversion and the rite of baptism, because it is intended to be a rite of passage "along the way."

Having said that, we have also used this rite of passage for those who have been believers all their lives, but have not really learned to appropriate certain basic sources of discipleship yet. Namely, the "sources" are three: church, worship, and Scripture. In particular, I have found that the first two are often misunderstood and neglected even among those who have been Christians for 20 or more years. Because of the way we tend to formulate the "gospel" nowadays, we often give people the impression that you one can be a Christian on one's own. By and large, we have failed to teach the basic idea that Christians are "a part of the family" and "the family needs you and you need the family."

This phase of the maturing disciple's growth intentionally starts with learning about the family of God rather than learning about the practice of meditating on Scripture because the discipline of meditation is more effectively taught and sustained in the context of living with the family of God.

Further, worship is a big focus at this time because, if new believers can learn to truly worship God with their whole heart, a river of spiritual energy will continue to flow, enabling one to sustain Scripture meditation and other Christian disciplines. The Christian life must flow from a life of worship, or it is simply dead religion. This component to which the rite of covenant refers infuses the Christian life with gladness, spontaneity, awe, mystery, beauty and freedom.

So, if you're wondering, "Why are church and worship taught first?" that is why.

To read the text of the liturgy of the rite of covenant, download the PDF from the window below.

The text you will read has been reconstructed by deduction. In other words, we know that a rite of passage was observed in the ancient church marking specific areas of growth, but we do not know the text of the liturgy itself. Knowing this, we have taken the liberty of constructing our own text, and, as you will see, we have tried to put a bit of personality into it, so that the mind of the 21st century can relate to it and so the rite of passage is marked by gladness and even laughter, a true celebration.

Feel free to use or adapt this in your community, if you wish. Once again, I would be grateful for a word from you if you do so. This would enable me to hear how it went, and hear any feedback you have on it.

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