Sunday, March 31, 2013

Our Blind Spot With Regard to Jesus' Kingdom Meal

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:14-18 ESV)

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31 ESV)

And while eating with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; (Acts 1:4 ESV)

And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (Acts 10:39-41 ESV)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread . . . . (Acts 20:7 ESV)

--------------------------------------------

Sometimes we have blind spots when we read God's Word.  I wonder if one of our current blind spots has to do with the nature of the Lord's Supper as a kingdom meal shared with our resurrected King?

Two times, in Luke 22:16 and 18, Jesus says he will next eat with his disciples when his kingdom comes.  Our current tendency is to push these two promises off into the distant future.  But the next time we see Jesus eating and drinking with his disciples is not in the distant future, but three days later on the day of his resurrection.  Should we not put two and two together and see that the resurrection means that his kingdom has come, and that the Lord's Supper is truly a kingdom meal shared with our resurrected King?

And, further, if the Supper is a meal given to us by our resurrected Lord, then should we not want to partake of it each Lord's Day?  How can we not want to eat and drink with our resurrected Lord on his day, the day in which we remember Christ and his resurrection?  How can we dare ignore his command, "Do this in remembrance of me," as we gather weekly in His name?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Song for the Confession of Sins

Kyrie eleison is Latin and means Lord, have mercy.
The hymns I write are not biographical. This one really isn't either, but it reflects my confession of sins and my need of mercy that I feel in my soul today. While our sin is blameworthy and makes us guilty before God, it also wreaks havoc in our souls. Verse 3 tries to speak to the fact that though our sin is our fault, we are also its victims as well as Satan's. The suggested tune is very familiar.



Our Father, in Your Mercy Hear

Suggested tune: OLD HUNDREDTH Praise God from whom all blessings flow (http://www.hymnary.org/text/praise_god_from_whom_all_blessings_ken). Meter: LM. Words: William Weber, 2013.

v. 1
Our Father, in Your mercy hear,
for to Your presence we draw near.
We come as sinners weak and poor,
Your mercies for us ever sure.

v. 2
Forgive our debts or else we die,
our sins have reached unto the sky,
the lusts of flesh and of the eyes,
ingratitude and pride of life.

v. 3
Our enemy the soul afflicts,
deceit and darkness he inflicts.
O Father, may our feet not slip,
renew the Spirit’s fellowship.

v. 4
Forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake,
and may we of His grace partake.
It’s to the fountain that we fly,
which Jesus opened when He died.

v. 5
O Jesus, cleanse us by Your blood,
Your Spirit pour out like a flood.
And may we live no more by sight,
Your Word and will our true delight.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Death of the Psalter and the Death of Our Souls?

This is an interesting quote because of its subtle denunciation of the theory of global warming, even as it makes its main point about the state of Christianity in our generation:
"For the past two millennia, the Psalms have been a vast spiritual hinterland of Christian devotion. It is shrinking fast today, not because of global warming, but nevertheless ultimately from the same causal source --- the secularism of the human spirit, which seeks all satisfactions on this one planet, instead of seeking them from the Creator who made 'heaven and earth.' For over three thousand years, the Psalms have been Israel's prayer book, and the church's source of orthodoxy, as 'truthful praise.'" -- from The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary, Bruce Waltke and James Houston
Where are the Psalms in Christian worship services today? Sadly, they are missing, as is the Old Testament. Waltke and Houston ask this poignant question, "With the contemporary 'death of the Psalter,' are we now seeing also 'the death of the soul'?" While we sing and sing and sing and sing contemporary Christian music in our churches, we are neglecting, as never before, prayer and the public reading of God's Word in our services (1 Timothy 4:13), and more specifically, the Psalms.  Music has become the new sacrament in our worship, despite the fact that only once does Jesus sing with his disciples in the Gospels (Matthew 26:30-31), and despite the fact the early church was devoted, not to singing, but to Word, sacrament, and the prayers/liturgy of the service (Acts:2:42) Jesus instituted with the words, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:191 Corinthians 11:23-26).  While there is a place for singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that exalt, give thanks, and teach about Jesus (Colossians 3:16) in our services, that place is not to be to the exclusion of the regular public reading of Scripture, including the Psalms.  Unless we change, we risk, as Waltke and Houston warn us, not only the death of the Psalter, but also the death, or at the very least, the health of our souls.  May the Lord be merciful and give us wisdom.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A New Communion Hymn

This is a new hymn that would be appropriate for communion or possibly even for the opening of worship on a Sunday where communion was observed.  It is based on Luke 2:6-7:  "And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:6-7 ESV)

The hymn capitalizes on the meaning of the Greek word translated as manger above, which actually means a feeding box or trough for cattle, and also an interpretation of Luke 2:7 by Cyril of Alexandria:
 
"He found humanity reduced to the level of beasts.  Therefore he is placed like feed in a manger, that we, having left behind our carnal desires, might rise up to that . . . which befits human nature.  Whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, yes, his table, we find no longer feed, but the bread from heaven . . . ."
While some might find his interpretation unsound, one does have to ponder why Luke thought it important to tell us that Jesus was laid in a feeding trough.  Add to that the fact that Luke brings the Scriptures table fellowship theme to its apex and culmination, and the interpretation becomes more sound.  Regardless, the content of Cyril's interpretation is orthodox, even if one does not see it flowing from Luke 2:7!
 
 
Our Father, Open Eyes to See

Suggested tune: ORTONVILLE Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=452).  Based on Luke 2:6-7. Meter: CMD.  Words: William Weber, 2013. (after sermon, communion, opening of worship)

v. 1
Our Father, open eyes to see,
Your glory to us show.
Through teaching may our King we see,
and in His meal behold,
and in His meal behold.

v. 2
O Father, feed with heaven’s food,
O give the heav’nly gift.
And give the Spirit to indwell,
our hearts to Jesus lift,
our hearts to Jesus lift.

v. 3
Our hearts are tied to things of earth,
enslaved to things below.
So by the Spirit raise above,
to Him who died and rose,
to Him who died and rose.

V. 4
The Bread from heaven came to us,
placed in a feeding trough.
O feed us with Your life and love,
and we will have enough,
and we will have enough.

v. 5
The man who lives away from You,
no better than a beast.
He feeds on vanity below,
and misses heaven’s feast,
and misses heaven’s feast.

v. 6
How blessed is he who eats the bread,
and drinks the wine You give.
The body and the blood of Christ,
in Him we truly live,
in Him we truly live.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Direction of Our Zeal?


Why is it that many Christians these days (sadly, myself too) remind me more of the zealots, zealous for Jerusalem/Washington D.C., than the apostle Paul suffering for Jesus' name and the kingdom of heaven?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Learning About the Christian Worship Service from Psalm 145

The last few psalms of the Psalter finish in a crescendo of praise.  Psalm 145 begins the crescendo and teaches us much about the Christian worship service.  This is not surprising, because as Peter teaches us:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12)
Psalm 145 is enveloped in praise and thanks.  Praise is found at its beginning, middle, and end:
[145:1] I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
[2] Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.

[10] All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!

[21] My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
The speaker of the Psalm is David, for the ascription of the Psalm tells us that this is "a song of praise, of David."  Ultimately, however, it is David's greater Son whom we hear speaking in this psalm.  Jesus is the true worshiper, whose worship alone is perfect and acceptable to the Father.  Jesus' worship is given to us or imputed to us as part of his righteousness, which covers our sinful nakedness.  Our worship is acceptable only in Him.  Let us learn to worship the Father as we learn from Jesus' worship in this passage!  Let us participate in the worship of Jesus as he leads his people in praise.

The first thing we notice in the worship Jesus gives, is its content.  The glory of the Lord and his works is the theme of worship:
[3] Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
[4] One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
[5] On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
[6] They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
[7] They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
[8] The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
[9] The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
The church's worship is focused on the glory of the Lord and his works, especially as this glory has been revealed in God's greatest work: the gift of his Son, our Lord.  The person and work of Christ take center stage in new covenant worship.  The content of worship is still the glory of God revealed in his works, but now that glory is seen in Jesus Christ, who is the express image of the Father.

Jesus says of his people in verses 6 and 7, "they" shall speak of your awesome deeds and abundant goodness.  Verse 8 reminds us of Exodus 34:6-7:
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
(Exodus 34:6-7)
Moses asked to see the glory of the Lord and this is the Lord's answer to his request: a sermon focused on his mercy and grace against the backdrop of his judgment.  How can we see the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ in our worship services?  After all, he is in heaven and we do not yet see him with our physical eyes!  We must see him by faith, and we see his glory according to Exodus 34:6-7 when we see his grace against the backdrop of sin and judgment.  Jesus' glory is only seen when the message of sin and grace, law and gospel, man's need and God's gracious provision is the content of our worship together.

Jesus' glory is seen when the liturgy of the Word, not just the sermon, but the entire opening part of worship is focused on his person and gracious work against the backdrop of judgment.  From the call to worship, to the confession of sins and assurance of pardon, to the songs of praise and thanks, to the pastoral prayer, to the Old and New Testament readings, all must focus on God and his works, which culminate in the work of his Son.  When this happens, the Spirit can begin to show us the wonder and glory of Christ present among us in our worship.

But we learn more about the worship service as the psalm proceeds:
[10] All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
[11] They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
[12] to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
[13] Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Verse 10 teaches us that Christian worship can be and should be transformational!  The parallelism of verse 10 between the two lines looks like this:
shall give thanks= shall bless
LORD=you
We would expect that the parallel between works in line one of verse 10 might be something like deeds or wondrous works or something similar.  Instead, the parallel of works in line one is saints in line two!  What this kind of Hebrew parallelism teaches us is that the saints are the Lord's work!  As Ephesians 2: 10 puts it, his people are his workmanship.

The kingdom of God is not a matter of mere words, but of power!  This power of God's kingdom and king is experienced in worship.  We do not just hear a sermon, we hear Jesus himself through his written Word and faithful ministers.  We do not just eat a small piece of bread and drink a tiny cup of wine, but we eat and drink spiritually the risen life of our Lord.  In a faithful worship service we are meeting with the risen king who graciously forgives us and changes us through his powerful means of grace: Word and sacrament!

But someone might ask, I see the emphasis on the Lord's glorious presence and his kingdom, but where do you see the meal in this psalm?  After focusing on the content of grace against the backdrop of judgment in verses 1-13, notice what follows:
[14] The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
[15] The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
[16] You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
[17] The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
[18] The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
[19] He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
[20] The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
As Christ's people walk through a world that is not their home, they get weary, so weary that they are falling in verse 14.  O how his people need him!  They need to be preserved (v. 20).  They need to be satisfied (v. 16). They need to be raised up with their Lord and to their Lord (v. 14).  So how does the Lord nourish, strengthen, satisfy, and raise up his weary people?  He raises them to heaven by his Spirit and he feeds them (v. 15-16)!  He gives them their food, and he is their food, the bread that came down from heaven for the life of the world.  As we eat and drink from his table we receive the heavenly gift by faith (Hebrews 6:4-6) and we are strengthened and transformed.  Christ's life becomes our life (Leviticus 17:11, 17:14) and we cannot help but become his new creation!  The power of Jesus' kingdom is not just in words, but also in deeds as Jesus touches and feeds his people in his meal!

O that the crucified and risen Lord might make us wise to see the wisdom in restoring the pattern of table fellowship he gave us!  His glorious presence, his teaching, and his meal make up that pattern, which he instituted when he said, "Do this in remembrance of me."  May we do it, and then stand back to see what the Lord's might choose to do in our midst as his glory is seen and the power of the age to come is experienced by his people, who are the work of his hand.  Amen.










Monday, March 4, 2013

A New Song Based on Zechariah's Song in Luke 1:67-80

[67] And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
            [68] “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
                        for he has visited and redeemed his people
            [69] and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
                        in the house of his servant David,
            [70] as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
            [71] that we should be saved from our enemies
                        and from the hand of all who hate us;
            [72] to show the mercy promised to our fathers
                        and to remember his holy covenant,
            [73] the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
                        [74] that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
            might serve him without fear,
                        [75] in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
            [76] And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
                        for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
            [77] to give knowledge of salvation to his people
                        in the forgiveness of their sins,
            [78] because of the tender mercy of our God,
                        whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
            [79] to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
                        to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
            [80] And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the
wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Bless the Lord, the God of Israel

Suggested tune: HYFRYDOL (http://www.hymnary.org/tune/hyfrydol_prichard).  Meter: 8787D.  Based on Luke 1:67-80. Words: William Weber, 2013. (Praise and thanks, Benedictus, Salvation history, After Sermon)

v. 1
Bless the Lord, the God of Is-rael,
praise Him for His gracious work.
To a world in need of mercy,
Light was dawning in the dark.
Praise the Holy visitation,
God’s beloved Son is sent.
Praise the Son who brings salvation,
praise Him for his kind descent.

v. 2
Blessed the Lord who kept His promise,
helping us through David’s Son.
Jesus has redeemed His people,
on the cross salvation won.
Cov’nant mercies God remembered,
made to Abram long ago.
For our God is tender in mercy,
sent His Son to us below.

v. 3
Blessed the Lord who sent the prophet,
John prepared for Christ the way.
Pointed to the Lord our Savior,
dawning of salvation’s day.
Christ has vanquished death and darkness,
dying, rising for our sake.
Rise and shine on us, Lord Jesus,
may we from our sleep awake.

v. 4
Blessed the Lord who has delivered,
from the hand of enemies.
May we serve You in Your presence,
in Your grace and in Your peace.
Blessed are we to have forgiveness,
free from fear, we walk with You.
Guide our path to You in heaven,
nurtured by Your life anew.

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