Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Selected Statements on Liturgical Worship

Church bodies that believe that the direct indwelling and experience of the Holy Spirit is to be sought independent of the Word and Holy Sacraments will be inclined to reject liturgical texts, music, and ceremony in favor of more ecstatic and emotional worship forms.

Wherever the pure gospel comes, there the great liturgy of the true church revives.  The Liturgy is important because the Gospel is important.

If worship is primarily something that we do, then we can never be certain we did enough.  Law questions ask, did people grow closer to Jesus?  Stronger in their faith?  This leads to additional questions.  How close is close enough?  How strong is strong enough?

There is also the assumption with this way of thinking that Jesus is to be found somewhere in the heart, and that the way to find Him is to feel His presence.  [This] leads to despair or arrogance and hypocrisy.  This is law worship.

Gospel worship works the other way.  In law worship, we bring our obedience and praise to God.  In Gospel worship, we bring our sin and sinfulness, and God brings His Gifts to us.

God is truly present in His Word and Body and Blood, forgiving sins, saving, sustaining, sanctifying, and strengthening our faith in Christ.  Rather, faith knows that Jesus is not just somehow close to us.  His own Words enter our ears and hearts, and the very Body and Blood of the Son of God are brought to our lips and mouths.  There is no need to get closer than this.

Timothy Quill, “Liturgical Worship,” Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views

HT: Josh Brisby

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Lamb Dies; The Lion Prevails

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep.  Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”  (Rev 5:5)

We read in Genesis that this lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, when the patriarch Jacob says, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; you have lain down and slept, and have risen up again as a lion, and as a lion’s whelp.” [Gen 49:8-9].  For He is called a lion for the overcoming of death, but for the suffering for men He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.  But because He overcame death, and anticipated the duty of the executioner, He was called as it were slain.  He therefore opens and seals again the testament, which He Himself had sealed.  The lawgiver Moses intimating this, that it behooved Him to be sealed and concealed, even to the advent of His passion, veiled his face, and so spoke to the people, showing that the words of his announcement were veiled even to the advent of His time.  For he himself, when he had read to the people, having taken the wool purpled with the blood of the calf, with water sprinkled the whole people, saying, “This is the blood of His testament who has purified you” [Ex 24:7-8].  It should therefore be observed that the Man is accurately announced, and that all things combine into one.  For it is not sufficient that that law is spoken of, but it is named as a testament.  For no law is called a testament, nor is anything else called a testament except what people make who are about to die.  And whatever is within the testament is sealed, even to the day of the testator’s death.  Therefore it is with reason that it is only sealed by the Lamb slain, who, as it were a lion, has broken death in pieces, and has fulfilled what had been foretold.  And He has delivered man, that is, the flesh, from death, and has received as a possession the substance of the dying person, that is, of the human members that as by one body all men had fallen under the obligation of its death, also by one body all believers should be born again unto life, and rise again.  Reasonably, therefore, His face is opened and unveiled to Moses, and therefore He is called Apocalypse, Revelation.  For now His book is unsealed—now the offered victims are perceived—now the fabrication of the priestly anointing oil; moreover the testimonies are openly understood.

Victorinus of Petovium, Commentary on the Apocalypse

Friday, August 19, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  (Phil 2:14-16 NKJV)

We ought to understand what is the force and meaning of this saying, for the word may suit the leader, but the effectual work suits the king.  And accordingly, as one who looks for the arrival of his king strives to be able to present all who are under his charge as obedient and ready and estimable and lovely and faithful, and not less also as blameless and abounding in all that is good, so that he may himself get commendation from the king and be deemed by him to be worthy of greater honors as having rightly governed the province which was entrusted to his administration, so also does the blessed Paul give us to understand our position when he uses these words: “That you may be as lights in this world, holding the word of life for my glory against the day of Christ.”  For the meaning of this saying is, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He comes, will see that his doctrine has proved profitable in us, and that, finding that he, the apostle, has not run in vain, neither labored in vain, He will bestow on him the crown of recompense.  And again, in the same epistle, he also warns us not to mind earthly things, and tells us that we ought to have our conversation in heaven, from which also we look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ

Archelaus of Caschar, Disputation with Manes 38

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Entirely Righteous and Holy

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lᴏʀᴅ.”  (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

What I have hitherto and constantly taught concerning this I know not how to change in the least, namely, that by faith, as St. Peter says, we acquire a new and clean heart, and God will and does account us entirely righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our Mediator.  And although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it.

And such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sins is followed by good works.  And what there is still sinful or imperfect also in them shall not be accounted as sin or defect, for Christ's sake.  The entire man, both as to his person and his works, is declared to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us and spread over us in Christ.  Therefore we cannot boast of many merits and works, if they are viewed apart from grace and mercy, but as it is written, 1 Cor. 1:31: He who glories, let him glory in the Lᴏʀᴅ, namely, that he has a gracious God.  For thus all is well.  We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true.

Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles Part III, Article XIII

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Potpourri Post

I have been saving some miscellaneous items to pass along, so without further ado …

The first item comes from Dr. Michael J. Kruger at Canon Fodder.  He has begun a series entitled “Taking Back Christianese.”  He has just three posts in the series—the first an introduction.  As an aside, I regularly read Dr. Kruger’s posts and highly recommend them.

Hymn-writing is not dead as evidenced by Pastor Chris Thoma who posted three of his own works at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  They are “O, Lazarus, Come Out,” “The King Has Invited, Who Then Shall Refuse,” and “Mighty Lord, O Faithful Shepherd.”  With continued meat and potatoes being produced by men such as this, why do we clamor after the cotton candy found in popular Christian music for our worship?

Speaking of worship, Jonathan Aigner has a great post entitled “Why WOULD Anyone Sing in Church These Days?”  Aigner follows the devolution of worship from the historic liturgy to the modern stage performance.  I liked his three concluding points:
  • Do music that is meant to be sung, and in a way that encourages healthy, hearty singing.
  • Stop the Hillsongization of congregational singing.
  • Recognize that singing is, in and of itself, a sacred duty.
Bosco Peters picks up on that post in “The Day Church Singing Stopped,” agreeing with Aigner’s thesis.  I mention this post, because there is one well-stated comment that should be highlighted:
Mainstream popular music depends on a principle of planned obsolescence: a song is big hit for a short time and is then quickly replaced by the next big hit.  Within this environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the power of tradition.  There’s no musical experience quite as powerful (for an adult, that is) as singing a hymn that you’ve heard and sung since childhood.  All those moments of singing the same hymn begin to pile up and create layers of meaning and emotion.  I pity the congregation that abandons that kind of experience in pursuit of newness.
This is most certainly true (to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther).  If you want the next generation to fall away, feed the flock with whatever is fleeting.  However, if you want to leave a Christian legacy, build with what endures.

Lastly, I offer a post by Alexei Sargeant that asks the question, “Where has all the dark Christian music gone?”  He compares the “happy-clappy” music of the Christian industry with stanzas mixing hope with finality found in “O God Our Help in Ages Past” by Isaac Watts.  The author is Roman Catholic, so I disagree with some of his comments, but I want to note one paragraph:
The message, however, is not one of despair, though it paints a shadowy picture of earthly life.  It’s an admonishment to remember the transience of all things save God.  He and He alone is “our eternal home”—to everything else we say, this too shall pass.  For the poor and poor in spirit, it’s actually a comforting message. We feel ill at ease in the world because the world is not where our hearts should rest.  Psalm 90, the basis of the song, travels from fearful awe (“We are consumed by your anger/ and terrified by your indignation”) to a hopeful plea (“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,/ for as many years as we have seen trouble./ May your deeds be shown to your servants,/ your splendor to their children”).  It’s a psalm for all seasons, following a winter believer towards a dream of spring.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Promised Presence

Yesterday I heard some good teaching on Haggai 1 that related how God works to build His holy place through willing participants in the building process.  The final point point came from verse 14, which relates that the Lord stirred up the spirits of the politician, the priest, and the people.
And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people.  And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.  (Hag. 1:14)
And what stirred everybody to the work of rebuilding the temple?  Was it the blueprints?  Was it the short-term and long-term visions cast by the production team?  Was it a rousing speech delivering a message that we can accomplish anything if we work together?  No, it was something more deeply powerful than these:
Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”  (Hag. 1:13)
The stirring came through the prophet—the Word of the Lord.  There was no viability study, no big promotion, and no splashy beginning with speeches, banners, and music.  Haggai had delivered a blistering message to the people for having nice houses while letting the house of God was in ruins.  As a result, the people feared because they were condemned, realizing what they had done and not done.  After the Law had done its work, Haggai followed up with Grace—God’s blessing and encouragement through His promised presence.

Many times we believers get discouraged or negligent in the work given to us.  We place our own wants and needs before those of our Lord and our neighbor.  May we be quick to remind one another of our vocations as believers in light of our certain hope
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Heb. 10:23-25)