Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

What Is Man? Homo Adorans

November 16, 2007

The significant thing about life in the Garden is that man is to name things. . . . Now, in the Bible a name is infinitely more than a means to distinguish one thing from another. It reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God’s gift. To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God.

To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it. And in the Bible to bless God is not a “religious” or a “cultic” act, but the very way of life. God blessed the world, blessed man, blessed the seventh day (that is, time), and this means that He filled all that exists with His love and goodness, made all this “very good.” So the only natural (and not “supernatural”) reaction of man, to whom God gave this blessed and sanctified world, is to bless God in return, to thank Him, to see the world as God sees it and – in this act of gratitude and adoration – to know, name and possess the world. All rational, spiritual and other qualities of man, distinguishing him from other creatures, have their focus and ultimate fulfillment in this capacity to bless God, to know, so to speak, the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life. “Homo sapiens.” “homo faber” … yes, but first of all, “homo adorans.” The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God–and by filling the world with his eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him.

Alexander Schmemann, from For the Life of the World

A Feast of Covenant Riches Shared With Us

July 7, 2007

Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to Israel in human flesh. The Messiah of Israel who is Lord of all entered time and history, and it is important to see that He did so in order to embody the people of Israel. Christ Jesus was Himself the new Israel re-enacting the history of redemption in His life and death and resurrection.

Where the nation of Israel failed and veered away from the Lord toward idolatry and immorality and lawlessness, Christ remained utterly loyal and worshipped the Lord His God alone. Where Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea in the Exodus and then failed as God’s covenant people, Christ Jesus passed through the waters of baptism and obeyed God in covenant with Him. God promised Israel that the one who sins will die, and yet God also promised Israel a day of resurrection and vindication. Christ took on the sin of His people and died in their stead, and then rose from the dead as the vindicated true Israel of God. Christ Jesus was the true Israel in the flesh, living out the true life that pleases God and fulfills His law and fleshes out His covenant mercy. When He died, His body, the chosen of God, died with Him, and when He rose, His body, the Israel of God, rose with Him to receive His invincible life.

So, when we look at the life of Jesus, what do we see? What should we expect to see? (more…)

Not My Father

June 21, 2007

I am preparing a series on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and will be preaching through this text beginning the second Sunday in July (DV).  It should take me four weeks, though I could easily take longer.

Before I get to what I want to talk about,  do this… First read the text in Matthew 6 and the other account of Jesus giving these instructions in Luke 11.  After that, go back into the Old Testament and see how often people addressed the Lord with such familiarity.  Note how many times God is referred to as Father let alone My or Our Father.   I will wait…  ‘taint many.

In the opening address I am struck by the first two words of our Lord’s prayer.  When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray He does not say to them, “Pray in this manner:  My Father…”  Rather He says ‘hemon Pater’ (transliterated Greek)  or “Our Father…”  

I wrote a while ago that the Bible was not written to you as a personal lover letter from Jesus to you.  I wrote that it was written for a covenant people.  Here, Jesus brings this point home in telling individuals to address His Father with the plural pronoun ‘our.’ 

Jesus gave a good bit of advice on prayer.  We are to pray persistently (Luke 11:5ff; 18:1-8).  We should pray for our enemies (Matt 5:44). And He tells us to pray with faith etc.  But here in this little section of Scripture (at least in the parallel account in Luke 11) Jesus is answering a specific petition:  “Lord teach us to pray…” 

When we offer up prayers we are not to be like the guys shouting bible versus at people in their four-wheeled, air-conditioned cocoons.  Rather Jesus tells us that we should find a nice quiet closet somewhere (vs 6) to offer our prayers.  Yet in that quiet place we don’t narrow our prayers to fit the walls.  We pray for the body.  Jesus points us to the congregation.  Our Father, give Us, Our bread, Our debts, Our debtors, lead Us not into temptation, deliver Us.  Sure, you are part of OUR and US but you do not make up the total. 

Okay, some of you are thinking, “But Al, Jesus said it would be good to leave 99 to find the one and that there in joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.”  Sure, but the point of that parable was not to show how special You are, rather it shows that the community of the saved is larger than you think.  And that Jesus came to die for sinners who are outside the Holiness Club.  You are part of something larger.  You are part of the people of God. 

We pray the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday at Providence and in so doing we pray not just for ourselves but for the guy and gal sitting next to us.  We should really want their tables set with food, their debts forgiven; then we should be actively forgiving them, and praying that God would deliver us all from temptation and the Devil!  May God grant us grace to see the body as we pray to Him…

Matt 6:9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name. 
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. 
11 Give us this day our daily bread. 
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors. 
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Al sends 

PS… Next I am going to talk about heaven and I will leave you with this quote from C.S. Lewis:

All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it. C S Lewis – The Problem of Pain

Benediction in the Triune Name

April 23, 2007

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The benediction in the Triune name is not a prayer but what Pastor Jeffery Meyers calls “a performative utterance.”

The Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6 is just such a performative utterance. The priest raised his hands and said, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). And then it was added in v. 27, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Moving all the way forward in time to the last days of our Lord on earth in Luke 24:50 we read, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” The Lord Jesus performed this ancient priestly action, this performative utterance, for His disciples as His last act before His ascension.

The benediction which you hear each Lord’s Day contains no magical power, but it is the proclamation, by God’s minister, of God’s grace for you, His people. Let’s remember that during the service of worship that we call covenant renewal, the primary movement is not our coming and serving God but God coming and serving us. God is serving us by ministering His grace to us. He is feeding us with the Bread of life. He is meeting with us to bless us. The benediction is the closing pronouncement of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s blessing on His people, preparing them to go out into the world and mediate His grace and His Word and His gospel to the world, to go back to our homes and our communities with His blessing to live as His special people.

“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Num 6:27). This is something that happened, objectively. It took place each time the priests spoke God’s blessing over the people of God. God’s name was placed on the people; they took His name, something they were not to do in vain, and when they took that name in faith, then they were blessed.

And so it is today. This doesn’t mean that the pastor is a priest. There is nothing special about the man. But there is something special about God blessing His people. When you, God’s people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who are looking to Christ by faith, gather, and when God’s servant stands before you as God’s representative, then something happens. God places His name on His people and blesses them. The name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is indelibly placed on the people of God. With that name on them, they are not the same. They are a peculiar people in the earth.

They have the grace of Jesus Christ resting on them. They have the love of God filling them. They have the communion of the Holy Spirit uniting them. Those are great gifts. Those are realities that shape us into a particular kind of people – a people with a Trinitarian identity, a people with the true God’s blessing for ministry, for the proclamation of the gospel, for lives that adorn the doctrine of God, for lives of truth, beauty and goodness.

Ultimately, we are prepared for the true end of our Christian lives – for being welcomed into the fellowship and love of the Trinity itself.