The reason for the title of this post is to point out a very interesting phenomenon I have noticed, particularly after coming back into a more liturgical and structured style of worship. Very often those of us who follow what others quickly call “ritual” are accused of “vain repetitions,” something definitely condemned by Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures. And I agree with the danger.
But I would challenge what is at times meant by this statement. It is not the repetition which is condemned–otherwise even memorizing Scripture would be a sin! And, truth be told, sometimes it is. And singing of worship choruses and hymns, even good “meaty” ones that have strong substance (a whole other topic by the way) would also be an evil waste of time and energy. Only prayer that is extemporaneous and “on the spot” would ever be allowable, even during a wedding or funeral. And just imagine how that might go. Grandma’s funeral might go on for days, prophecy after prophecy, and someone might even get a “word from the Lord” to fast and pray for her to be raised from the dead! A mess indeed.
So the issue is not repetition in and of itself. The challenge therefore is in its motivation and the sometimes lack of heart and understanding behind it. When a “Holy Ghost preacher” thunders in a heaving, gravelled voice “say Amen somebody” and I jump and do so, but only because he says to, and I in fact have no idea what he just said since he interrupted what was in fact a delightful short nap, is that not vain? I think it is. Very much so, in fact.
Yet if I sing “Alleluia” before the reading of the Gospel, the very words of Jesus our Lord and Savior, as we do in each and every Mass, and which many Lutheran and other liturgical brethren do as well, and I do so thoughtfully as a way to prepare my own heart to welcome His Holy Word, my repetition is not vain even though I do it every single time I attend. Again the difference is within my own motive and my openness to hearing the Holy Spirit speak to me through the Word of God. And that can be a huge difference indeed.
In the matter of speaking in tongues, it is much the same. Why are you doing it? Because someone told you to? Or taught you to? Or, as I read from Tim Staples, featured in the first video below, describing on another occasion, those who told you to open your mouth and just talk “baby talk” until the sovereign God decides to take over your mouth? Is it because you heard it on a YouTube video as in the 2nd video below? Or is it honestly and fully flowing from your heart as worship to the mighty and amazing God who you serve? Anything less is vain.
I am not against “tongues.” Not at all. But I am against the atrocities and utter confusion that even well-meaning believers can unwittingly cause to happen by posting such things as you will see here in video # 2. The woman not only speaks in tongues extensively but teaches us how, and then suggests we do so while “cleaning the house.” Can I pray while cleaning–or driving? Indeed. Especially with some of the drivers on the road these days!!!
But is that the best use of a gift that most Pentecostal/charismatic people consider holy, reverent, and sacred, and in many cases (another topic yet) supernatural ? I do not think it generally is. In short there are many ways to “vainly repeat.”
Earlier I wrote an article about my own experience, shortly after returning to the Catholic Church, regarding my own experience within the charismatic renewal within the Church. Since that article I have at times attended wonderful charismatic meetings at times, and do not discount the movement as a whole in any case. But there are limits, and “charismania” should not prevail or be our basis for believing. I refer my own earlier post below for further information and background:
Neither my original post nor this one was written as an attack on charismatics, who arguably are one of the most vibrant and worshipful Christian peoples I know, whether Catholic or Protestant. The movement really did bring a fresh wind of the Spirit into the Christian faith on all levels, including the emphasis on personal worship, commitment to Christ and the sharing of the Gospel with others. And I still have great appreciation for many aspects of it. In short I have not rejected the charisms nor dare I do so.
BUT…misuses do abound. And it is the Holy Spirit who, as 3rd Person of the Holy Trinity, would actually curb those misuses by pointing us to Christ Jesus and the Word of God to balance us. Below are two very different perspectives on this gift, and both from people who I believe are sincere and Christ-seeking. Please watch them each, in order, and then let us know what you think. As always, various opinions are welcome, but please remember that your sisters and brothers on both sides on the topic love our Lord and are attempting to serve Him well. Listen on: