Tag Archives: church

How to Get Along at Church


In our fast track world, people like instant gratification, or at least quick results. Disappointments can occur if your expectations are too high. You can become disenchanted with people, places and things. This can happen even in the place you go to for rest, renewal and refuge – your place of worship. For simplification of terms, I will call it a church.

As part of a faith-sharing group, I listened to multi-denominations share their expectations and disappointments regarding their Saturday, Sunday or any day of worship.

1} Many of the group did not like the emphasis of the church asking for money. Some of them complained that it was an on-going practice. We all know that worship establishments have bills like the rest of us. They pay electricity, heating and air conditioning, cleaning, taxes, salaries, etc.  Usually the church offers a balance sheet of where the money is going.  If not, offer to be part of the Finance Committee. You will see where it goes and have a voice in how it is distributed. If you are not asked to join, most Finance Committees have an open door policy whereby you can sit in and listen to where the money is going. If they don’t, initiate one by addressing it to the building or church administrator.

2} Closely related to regular collections is the matter of tithing. How much treasure do you tithe? Tithing is explained in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.” The definition of the tithe was very simple and plainly laid out for Israel. They were to gather their harvest and count the tithe out from what they’ve gathered. For instance, if you had 100 apples, you must count them out from one-to-ten, and the tenth one you set aside for the Lord – Leviticus 27:32. Today, many denominations pay heed to the 10% of income for church tithing. And many people complain that they cannot afford that. I am not here to argue church’s expectations of tithes or what you should give. I believe that it is an individual choice – some give more; some give less and it should be a personal, private choice and not made public.  What you give is between you and God no matter how much or how many times you are asked.

3} Some of the group complained of their leader, minister, pastor or priest. They simply did not like him or her. They did not feel (s)he was leading the congregation correctly, said improper things, was insensitive, and many other things. In other words, (s)he was imperfect.  We all are imperfect. Even church leaders.  It is a difficult life for many of these leaders; it is a solitary life, especially if they don’t have partners to share stress with. And there is a lot of work and stress. Besides juggling the church’s expenses, administration, activities and worship programs, the church leader also give counsel, oversees funerals, weddings, christenings, baptisms, etc. etc. They are very busy people and churches are usually short-handed. If you don’t like the leader’s mode of operation, volunteer to do some of the leg work he or she does routinely. We have ministry programs to give communion to hospital or shut-ins, bereavement committees help with funerals; there are countless things you can do to help an overworked religious leader. And they LOVE home-cooked meals AND the company – invite them to dinner; you may see another side of them.

4} Everyone complained about children and small babies at church. Especially the fidgety and wailing variety. I admit that I use to complain about this, too. Religious leaders always welcome children to church – some churches have separate glassed rooms for young ones to prevent disrupting the congregation. My feeling is that children who attend church with their parents from an early age quickly adjust and become part of the church family/community easily and lovingly. It is natural for them to be there with family and most likely will duplicate this faith with their own families someday in the same way.

5} Some of the group complained they did not like the people in their church community; they were too high class, too low-class, too gossipy, and the beat goes on.  We don’t go to church for the people – we go to church for God.

They lament they will go to another church. There are people all around us we may not care for – maybe even in our own families, but we don’t go look for another family. Many times, the dislikes you feel are cosmetic; you may not really know the other people and let’s face it, you don’t have to socialize with them.  You attend church with them, same as attending college or any social gathering. Focus on why you are in church; and don’t focus on the people. You can be friendly and sincere, but you don’t have to live with them. Even Jesus had altercations with his twelve disciples. Peter and James wanted the honor of being on His right and left side in heaven to the consternation of the other ten. Another time, ’An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.”  Jesus didn’t replace them; and he didn’t go to another town looking for 12 different disciples. There will always be church members in ANY church you may not see eye to eye with, but you are there to worship and they are part of the community. Maybe they harbor similar feelings about you. Bloom where you are planted and try to grow in faith with everyone, especially those who are different from you. You are there to worship; not judge your brothers and sisters.

© Marie Coppola Revised February 2015

Ref: McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and last updated 4/21/04 by Bob Beckett English:

 

Faith is Important in Families


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith is defined in Wikipedia as “Faith is hope, belief or trust in an entity or idea that is not based on material proof.”   Martin Luther King, Jr. defines it as:  “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Many persons receive their personal faith in God or a higher power through being handed down through the generations in their families. When family unity is strong or intact, the beliefs of their family and extended family generally follow the next generations’ belief system. Some families believe in ‘let them choose faith themselves when they are older’, but faith is hard to establish without early seeds of planting the basics of what faith is. You can’t just ‘choose’ something you’ve never experienced.   Many people with no faith want to know how to get it or help them get it.   It’s simply opening your heart to acceptance of it.   A blueprint or background helps them understand better.

Whatever the denomination or religious belief the family follows, it usually encompasses rituals, beliefs, and traditions based on reverence, devotion, loyalty to beliefs, good works and lifestyles. There are numerous faiths in our world, and my aim here is to appeal to parents to instill their own faith, or beliefs or good values or morality and ethics to their children. If these virtues are learned as a child, the seeds will be planted and take root.  A conscience will develop to the good or virtues in life and avoid the bad.

How can parents do this?    By teaching them the values they themselves learned as children and share these gifts with their children when they are very young. Talk to your kids about what is right and what is wrong.  Foster friendships with families whose family life you respect and want to imitate.  Take your kids to a place of worship. Children love the unity of sharing faith with family and this unity rewards all family members.

We live in a fast-changing world.  Technology can be a good thing and sometimes it is not. Everything is speeded up; even games. Especially video games. A friend mentioned to me that her grandchildren get bored with movies like Bambi, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp – the Disney Classics, etc. because they are ‘boring’, ‘too slow’, and ‘not exciting.  They have missed  the ‘messages’ these movies taught about loyalty, love, and good vs. evil.

These values need to be taught in the home, but many times, today’s families are fractured; perhaps led by a single parent, or perhaps some families are caught up in endless activities, working and school sports or clubs.

So where do the younger generations learn about morality, ethics, respect, and fair play if everyone is too busy to be role models or teach them?  From Hollywood and pop stars? Our politicians? Who ARE our kids’ role models? Are you?   Do you teach them about spirituality, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, Rules to Live By or any doctrines?   How will they learn to love one another, forgive others, and respect others?   By your example and by your faith.

Where do they learn about bullying, hurting people who they ‘don’t like’ or thinking about violence in the school to get back at someone. Did they ever learn that murder is wrong or revengeful gossiping can hurt people or it isn’t right to publicly insult people on Facebook that some kids have committed suicide?  Or teaching them that wanting and needing every new tech device or latest fad negates thinking about helping someone less fortunate than themselves.  Are they Numero Uno in all they do?  If so, chances are, they always will be,  if they are not taught otherwise.   And that will affect their parents’ future relationships with them.

Most schools don’t teach social skills or moral values. Or how to play fair, love fair or how not to priortize their interests to the detriment of others.

Your house of faith, temple, or churches do teach these values.  Bring your kids to your house of worship. Yes, sometimes  small children get cranky or noisy, but they quickly adapt.  And when they grow up will probably take their own kids. You will reap a bond with your children through your common beliefs and traditions. Your faith will help your family through turbulent times, hardships and personal malfunctions. It is sorely needed today and sorely absent.

Faith brings people and families together. A family that prays together usually stays together. Couples, too. If a person disappoints you, knowing that you share the same faith can bring you close again. If a person deeply loves you, faith can bring you even more the best joy in life you’ve ever had. If you are alone, faith can provide a path and blessings that you never experienced. Faith isn’t a crutch or a substitute – it’s a blessing that will stay with you forever and will multiply.

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” ~Galatians 6:7    Sow some good seeds today and plant them in your children.    They will become the fruits of your labor and you will all  be blessed.

© Marie Coppola   Updated January 2018

 

Why do Catholics get ashes on their forehead?

 

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The Catholic church observes Ash Wednesday, on March 1st this year. The Ash Wednesday observation begins the forty-day season called Lent which precedes the celebration of Easter, Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The Forty Days are symbolically observed by the Church and are followed by the Three Days of the Triduum, from Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and through Easter Sunday.

Ashes are a symbol of penance by the blessing of the Church, and come from a ceremony of past times when Christians who had committed grave faults were given public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop would bless the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, the sinners were turned out of the church because of their sins — and not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday (known today as Holy Thursday) after having won reconciliation by forty days’ penance. This tradition revolved to later Christians, who came to receive ashes out of devotion and to be reminded that we are from dust and to dust we shall return.

The ashes are still made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by incense. They are administered by the priest, deacons and lay ministers on Ash Wednesday in the shape of a cross to foreheads of the church community. They are marked with ashes to remind humble hearts that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

The Teutonic word, Lent, which denotes the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant the spring season. It has been taken from the Anglo-Saxon period translated from the Latin term ‘quadragesima’, meaning the “forty days”

An excerpt taken from Pope Benedict XVI’s meaningful 2009 Lenten message — “For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting. Indeed, Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb, Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter. After the Forty Days, Jesus then began a journey of healing and teaching which would end with his death, Resurrection, and Ascension.

He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. The true fast is thus directed to eating the “true food,” which is to do the Father’s will. “He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry”. {Ref: Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message 2009}.

For this reason, Catholics begin a season of penance, reflection and fasting which is an opportunity for spiritual renewal and self improvement. Some Catholics fast or ‘give up’ in sacrifice something which holds importance to them. For some it can be a habit or a food or a personality trait. Others, instead of ‘giving up’ something may chose to bring additional positive habits into their lives such as charitable good works, being kinder to others, being a Samaritan or refraining from temptations of the world.

Fasting is also an aid to open one’s eyes to the less fortunate of our brothers and sisters. In John’s First Letter, “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?”. Voluntary fasting enables one to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who sacrifices to help his suffering brother.

Ref: Catholic Online; www.Catholic.org; At Home With the Word 2010

Marie Coppola Revised February 2016

Why go to Church? I don’t have time.

 

We live in an ultra-busy world. Technology gets us there faster, enables us to work faster, gives us computers, fax machines, cell phones, our Blackberry, iPods, notebooks – everything is speeded up so we can dance as fast as we can. Sometimes, economically, we have to work 2 jobs or both partners work; life is entangled. We’re all on roller skates. There’s barely enough time to do all we have to do – who has time to give a whole day and put it aside and keep it holy?

Question:  Who has time for faith? How do I get faith? I’d like to have faith, but where and how do you get it?

Answer You can start, get and keep faith by keeping the Sabbath holy.  At the least, most faiths have services for an hour on Saturday or Sunday. This is time for regrouping of family; renewal of faith and refreshment. Keeping the Sabbath sets the pace for a ’day of rest’ be it spending a couple of hours ’together’ and/or awareness of God at least one day of the week. Some of us have to work on the weekends, but there are services during the week – as a day of rest- or at least a sharing of a Scripture over breakfast or dinner or watch a spiritual TV show to ‘keep a day holy’.

Faith begins and grows with God’s Word, the Bible.  Some find Scripture hard to read and understand.  Joining a Bible class may aid you.  For those who get frustrated easily, they can start with a New American Bible or a Good News Bible which is easier to understand.   Sometimes reading the New Testament and/or Jesus’ words, usually in red or bold, is an incentive to pursue the Bible as a whole entity.

Question:  What is Sabbath? 

Answer:   Sabbath is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday.

It is one of the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God.

Question:  Why should we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?

Answer:  Sabbath is a sign in respect for the day during which God rested after having completed Creation in six days (Genesis 2:2-3,  Exodus 20:8).

The Bible tells us it is a weekly day of rest and time of worship.  It is observed in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in several other faiths.

It is true today that many families have broken the tradition of keeping the Sabbath holy.    Many families are Easter/Christmas/Channukah families and do not attend services the rest of the year.   Many churches are attended by mostly seniors and children making rites in their faith, but young people, young mothers and fathers are sorely absent. And once the children finish their rites, they disappear from church with their families.

When folks ask me, ‘how did you get your faith’, or ‘how can I get faith’ – I tell them to attend a church, temple or place of worship.   There are many different denominational churches or temples like there are many people, and it’s important to go to one where there’s a good fit for your beliefs.    Sermons, homilies and services should provide  direction and instructions from the Bible.   Worship communities help bridge the gap between the Bible and today’s world and how we apply it to our lives.

A person or family gets used to church very easily – it becomes a habit or ritual – going as a unit to worship or learn about God and His Word.   Community of church are the people that attend church with you who can be tremendous helpmates in learning about God or sharing in life’s events with you.

He gives us each week of our lives; why not give Him one hour of it?   Bring your mate and family.  Parents: It is the best gift you can give your children.

Try it ~ you’ll like it – and God will bless you.

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Copyright ©  Marie Coppola  Revised November 2016