Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Narcissistic Lyrics in the Worship Service

For a long time I have been of the opinion that we should put an end to singing "I" "me" and "my" songs in our worship services. Because the worship service is a dialogue --- God speaks to us and we respond to him --- our response is a form of prayer. Singing in worship together is essentially congregational prayer. Just as a person who leads prayer in a public worship service will almost invariably use "we" "us" and "our" language, the same should be generally true when we sing together.

The fact that our singing is so filled with "I" "me" and "my" songs, strikes me as rather self-exalting, which seems an odd thing when it should be our triune God who ought to be exalted in a worship service. Therefore, when I read these words from James Resseguie's book, Spiritual Landscapes: Images of the Spiritual Life in Luke's Gospel about the testing of Jesus in the wilderness, it was difficult for me not to think of the self-referential nature of our worship services these days. Notice the difference between the devil and Jesus:

"The devil's self-serving point of view feeds ferociously upon an irresolute ego. His self-referential posture is apparent in the tribute to himself.
To you
"I" will give their glory and all this authority
for it has been give over to "me"
and "I" give it to anyone "I" please.
If you, then will worship "me",
It will all be yours (Luke 4:6-7)
Although the passive voice ("it has been given over to me") acknowledges in a roundabout way that God delegates the authority to the devil, he buries this information within a paean to himself. First-person verbs and pronouns exult in the self. In 4:6, for example, the devil begins with "I will give" and closes with "I give." Like a persistent salesperson who is closing an important sale, his speech accentuates what "he" can do for Jesus: "to you" and "to me" are placed in the emphatic position. "'To you' I will give their glory and authority, for "to me" it has been given." His self-regarding posture elevates the material point of view to new heights as the "self" becomes the object of worship.  [As an aside, the relevance of this passage to worship is that the devil is tempting Jesus to worship him.  Thus, we have two contrasting ways of worship: one from the devil and one from Jesus! --Bill]

"By contrast, Jesus' speech is utterly devoid of first-person verbs and pronouns. Whereas the devil is full of himself, so to speak, Jesus is "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1). He repeatedly refers to God, not to the self. With a string of quotations from Scripture, Jesus, unlike the devil, shifts attention from himself to God. In 4:8, from Deuteronomy 6:13: "Worship the Lord your God and serve only him," and in 4:12, he quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." In the single instance where the self might surface, no "I" is found; only a generic reference: ""One" does not live by bread alone." (Luke 4:4)."

I understand that we have inherited many "I" "me" and "my" songs from our spiritual forefathers, and that the spiritual content of many of these hymns is good. Our generation --- the "me generation" built on the philosophy of self-esteem --- has just sort of put this "I" "me" and "my" trend into overdrive. But our spiritual ancestors were not right in everything they did! Jesus, the true worshiper, is a better model for worship than the enemy he defeated!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Amazing Paragraph about Allegorical Interpretation

An amazing paragraph:

"Allegory does not 'prove' anything, nor is it meant to.  The rule that nothing can be argued allegorically from scripture that is not also present literally is as old as Origen.  What it seeks to do is to hold us readers 'still' before Jesus, to disallow the clever reading strategies by which we would avoid Christ in the pages of scripture.  Nor is this quite heavily christological hermeneutic a license for avoiding the particular words and story of the Old Testament.  The Old Testament 'builds up a context, a matrix, in which the mystery of Christ can be incarnated."  Now that Christ has filled this womb, and so this world, with grace, and allowed persons to participate by grace in that divinity which he eternally is, we are given eyes to see his gracious presence not least on every page of scripture, but also throughout the created order.  Allegory is no movement away from the particular events of salvation history into a realm of timeless truth.  It is rather a movement into history: a dogged refusal to allow exegetes to evade the chistological significance with which all history is infused after the incarnation.  The result . . . is a symphony, as the various and quite distinct notes of the full sweep of scripture are joined into the concert of a 'harmonious composition.'" 

--Jason Byasse from his book "Praise Seeking Understanding: Reading the Psalms with Augustine"

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Overcoming False Beliefs that Lead to Lust rather than Love

For those who struggle with lust and strive for sexual purity, these words are extremely helpful:

"In the modern view, the body has been relegated to the realm of subhuman nature.  It may serve as a biological reference point, but it has nothing to say about the human person and the order of human relationships.  Much less does the body say anything about theology---about the nature of the divine mystery and God's love for humanity.  In this view, the person stands over and against his body.  The body does not call him to anything.  It makes no demands on him.  Modern man owns his body like a thing, and, as such, he believes he can do anything he wants with it.  The body and sexuality are then used as tools and a means to selfish pleasure, even profit.  The 'word' (or anti-word) inscribed in the body for modern man is 'self-gratification.'

"St. Paul, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in a sacramental, theological view of the body.  He knows the body 'speaks' a mystical language.  It speaks not only about the truth of the human person as male and female.  It also speaks about the 'great mystery' hidden in God from all eternity.  For St. Paul, the truth about who man is as male and female can only be understood in light of this 'great mystery.'  Recalling God's plan in Genesis for man and woman to join in 'one flesh,' he builds on the analogy of the spousal love of God for Israel and shows the fulfillment of the Old Testament image in Christ's love for the church.  In doing so, he calls man and woman to embrace the sublime vocation inscribed in their bodies from 'the beginning'---to love as God loves.  The Word inscribed in the body in Ephesians 5, therefore, is 'self-donation.'"

 ---from the book, "Theology of the Body Explained," by Christopher West

Key points to know and imbibe: 

1) The body is sacramental in that it points to the great mystery of life.  Like a sacrament, our earthly bodies point to heavenly realities.

2) The triune communion of persons in the trinity is a self-giving communion of love we are called to participate in and can participate in through faith in Christ. 

3) The triune communion of persons in love, inscribed in our bodies as male and female, is a self-giving, sacrificial love we are privileged to imitate.  We imitate his faithful, self-giving love by loving our spouse, if we are married, and our neighbors in faithfulness to our high calling, which God in his marvelous wisdom has written in our very bodies.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chesterton Quote about Original Sin

"Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. . . . They . . . deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it is a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat." ---G. K. Chesterton

Monday, January 26, 2015

Raised to Eat

Luke 8:52-55 (ESV)
52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.
In Jesus we are raised,
and raised so we may eat:
to fellowship, to live with Him,
until in heav'n we meet.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Diseases of the Soul

Psalm 103:3 (ESV)
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
The parallelism of Hebrew poetry is helpful to our understanding. In this verse "iniquity" in line one is compared to "diseases" in line two. Parallelism keeps us from reading "diseases" too literally, since it is being used synonymously with "iniquity." What is in view in the second line of this verse is not physical healing, but the healing of our souls.
Our souls need healing, and our bodily diseases are a sign of the soul's need of healing. Forgiveness is the first step in the healing process of our souls, and it is a continual step, but our souls even as Christians, are in need of further healing from various spiritual diseases. George Horne (1730-1792), in his commentary on this verse recognizes this truth, when he writes:
"The body experiences the melancholy consequences of Adam's offence, and is subject to many infirmities; but the soul is subject to as many. What is pride, but lunacy; what is lust, but a leprosy; what is sloth, but a dead palsy? Perhaps there are spiritual maladies similar to all bodily ones."

Monday, January 12, 2015

An Eschatological/Communion Hymn

I wanted to write one more hymn based on Luke 8:40-56 that caught the eschatological dimension to the text.  This is what I came up with and here is a tune to go with it if you want to sing it (ST. ETHELWALD):

Our Lord will soon return
to wake us from our sleep.
And when His wedding feast arrives,
His supper will we keep.

What joy we then will have,
when we receive that meal.
Our Lord and Savior will return,
and we'll be wholly healed.

For death will be removed,
and scornful men depart.
And Jesus will be all in all,
our portion and our part.

Until then trust the Lord,
and look to Jesus' pow'r.
He gives you life through Word and meal
to keep you 'til that hour.

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