This account of the early Christian monk Pambos’ reaction to an actress is instructive to all of us who struggle to interact with our entertainment culture in a holy way:
This same Pambos, at the desire of Athanasius the bishop, came out of the desert to Alexandria and on beholding an actress there, he wept. When those present asked him why he wept, he replied, ‘Two causes have affected me: one is the destruction of this woman; the other is that I exert myself less to please my God than she does to please obscene characters.’
Socrates Scholasticus, “Ecclesiastical History, Book IV, Chapter 23”, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume 2 (pg. 107).
Socrates Scholasticus concludes his lengthy description of the divisions that abounded in the early church, from the 22nd chapter of his Ecclesiastical History (NPNF II.2):
Let us now return to the subject we were previously treating of, the fact that the Church once divided did not stay with that division, but that those separated were again divided among themselves, taking occasion from the most trivial grounds.
Socrates Scholasticus, “Ecclesiastical History,Book V, Chapter 23″, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. 2 (pgs. 131-134).
The many fractures and splits he details in the paragraphs before this summation were clearly caused by Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, which is why all good Christians should submit to the Pope. How Luther pulled this off so many years before his birth we must credit to the wiles of Satan.
Psalm 111 makes the case that the best way to praise God is to give thanks wholeheartedly surrounded by a congregation of worshipers, because praise grows when it is shared. God is rightly praised for His works of providing food, remembering His covenant, and delivering trustworthy precepts. In addition, God is praised for the way He works: His works are great, full of splendor and majesty, enduring, gracious and merciful, faithful and just, and trustworthy. Everyone who joins together in awe of such a holy and wonderful God shows a good understanding of the fear of Lord, so come to worship today prepared to make His praise endure forever in the company of the upright.
In Psalm 139, the Psalmist marvels at God’s secret work in making new people. Rather than crediting the work of random natural processes, he knows that infants are knitted together by God’s hands. Having had many secrets of the womb revealed by technology should only reinforce our amazement at the Creator’s handiwork as we see things too wonderful for us to fully comprehend. And because God is the one who made us, He knows us completely – our future is an open book that He has written. As you come to God’s house today, worship in wonder and holy fear before the One who made you and knows you.
When God speaks, things happen. In Psalm 147, the psalmist praises God for the power and speed of His word, by which He brings peace to His people, controls the weather, and gives laws and guidance. By giving His word to His covenant people, He shows them His special favor, and this, too, should prompt us to give praise to God. As you come to worship today, prepare your heart to hear this swift and powerful word read, preached, and sung. This is a special privilege given to the Church, so come with ready ears and a mouth full of praise.
When the psalmist of Psalm 148 drafts his choir, he calls on all creation to worship its Creator. Snow and sea serpents, fire and flying things, men and the moon: everything under heaven is exhorted to praise the only one whose majesty is above heaven and earth. The reason the universe was created and still continues to exist is that it might give praise to the God who spoke it into being, and so as you come this morning to worship, let your voice find its proper place among the music of the spheres in exalting the name of the Lord.
As Mary sings her Magnificat, she is particularly delighted in the way God turns things upside down: the mighty are brought low and the humble are lifted up, the hungry are filled and the full are sent away empty, the servants are served. The only thing that isn’t surprising is that God has been faithful to do exactly what He promised to our fathers. This morning as you come to worship, rejoice along with Mary. Be glad that you too have been turned upside down: your stony heart has been replaced by a soft heart, your cursing lips have been healed and now speak praise. You were an orphan and a rebel, and now you are a glad servant of King Jesus, and a beloved child of God.