Thursday, November 28, 2013

N.T. Wright and an Example of Reformed and Evangelical Liturgical Insanity



"In some parts of contemporary Christianity, the Psalms are no longer used in daily and weekly worship. This is so especially at points where there has been a remarkable growth in numbers and energy, not least through the charismatic movements in various denominations. The enormously popular 'worship songs,' some of which use phrases from the Psalms here and there but most of which do not, have largely displaced, for thousands of regular and enthusiastic worshipers, the steady rhythm and deep soul-searching of the Psalms themselves. This, I believe, is a great impoverishment. By all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church's original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy." --N. T. Wright in "The Case for the Psalms"

Just as I suspected, Reformed and Evangelical churches have gone liturgically crazy, and Tom Wright agrees!

Sadly, one of the characteristics of crazy people is that they refuse to listen to wise voices, but only those voices that are self-destructive, and so my guess is that the "dumbing down" of worship will continue, and even worse, the removal of the Lord's voice in the Psalms.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Worship Form that Belies the Gospel Message

We went to a church plant this morning that is near us. We were sent a flyer in the mail and it said that the church believed in the five solas of the Reformation (with which we agree), so we thought we would give it a chance, although I assured my wife we would find a big band up front and at least one or two inane songs.

Of course, I was right. The band was there and the songs were inane, as for example, the line that Christ sets us free to dance! When you come into church at my age, being set free to dance is pretty far down on your list of priorities.

But my real objection to the way this generation is attempting to worship is that the form
 of worship is so far removed from the message of the cross. Jesus instituted the intimacy of a meal and the quiet of learning at his feet. This generation comes into his presence with a musical production and showy entertainment, and then tries to tell us about Christ-like behavior, when the very form of its worship belies and contradicts the message of a crucified Lord.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sabbath and Supper in Luke 6:1-11

I wrote this hymn based on Luke 6:1-11 which brings together the related themes of Sabbath and Supper. It teaches that Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and brought about the eternal Sabbath, which began when he was raised from the dead. The argument that Jesus uses to defend himself against Pharisaical objections, points to himself as the true Son of David, who gives his disciples the bread of the Presence, food that was only to be eaten by the priests on the Sabbath day. Thus, the passage shows that Jesus is the one who by his cleansing blood has created a priesthood of believers, who now have the privilege of eating the holy bread, not on the Sabbath, but on the eighth day, which begins the eternal Sabbath. How privileged we are to eat this bread on the Lord's Day, bread that only the priests of the old covenant were allowed to eat! In the hymn below, "bread" is capitalized as a way of pointing out that the bread we eat as the priesthood of believers is actually Jesus, the bread of heaven.

Come to Eat the Bread Together

Suggested tune: St. Austin (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=153). Meter: 878747. Based on Luke 6:1-11. Words: William Weber, 2013. (after sermon, beginning of worship, communion, Sabbath, Lord's Day, eschatology, already not yet)

v. 1
Come to eat the bread together,
that the Son of David gives.
To His table gladly gather,
eat the Bread that you may live.
Are you hungry
for the heav'nly Bread He gives?

v. 2
Come to Jesus, Lord of Sabbath,
on the day when He was raised.
With His death and resurrection,
He has brought the coming age.
Eat the Manna,
heavenly Food that will sustain.

v. 3
Come to eat the Bread of Presence;
only priests may eat the Bread.
We are priests and we are holy,
by the blood that Jesus shed.
By His body,
broken for us; we are fed.

v. 4
Now, eternal is the Sabbath,
ushered in when Christ was raised.
Jesus, now we come to listen,
on this day to learn Your ways.
Teach and feed us,
so our walk might bring You praise.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reflections on Form and Power in our Worship Together

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

This verse shows how far we have moved away from the apostolic view of worship. Can you imagine any present day Christian saying that the reason we gather together on Sunday is "to break bread," i.e., to partake of the Supper?  I cannot, nor have I ever heard anyone say that, and that is the problem.

The fact that few people see that the Lord's Supper is the way Christ instituted his worship for his church is grievous. "Do this (the meal) in remembrance of me," is how Jesus instituted his worship. He instituted worship, not through teaching, but through a meal, and this is significant in understanding the true nature of what is to happen when we worship our triune God together. Divorce Word and meal, as the church has done for so long, and it leaves the church with a recipe for losing the heavenly presence and power of Christ, and creating malnourished and weakened Christians.

Worship is about sitting at Jesus' feet in order to learn from him, but it goes beyond learning to receiving his grace and life, and this comes through his broken body and shed blood, received by faith. Worship with our fellow Christians, without this eating and drinking, is incomplete, and short circuits our greatest need, which is to receive Jesus' life for our poor and needy souls. Worship is about Word and life, Word and experience, Word and meal, and this is why Jesus wisely instituted his worship by commanding us to eat his meal when we gather together on the first day of the week. 
Teaching without the meal is incomplete because Jesus wants to do more than teach us:  He wants to give us his very life to change and transform us by his power.

But can we have the proper form of worship (Word and meal) without experiencing the power of Christ and the age to come?  Yes, it is possible because of our unbelief.  We can have teaching and the meal and still miss the life and power Jesus wants to transmit to us, through the unbelief of both leaders and laity.  But it seems to me this danger of form without power is exacerbated, not helped, if we ignore the very form of worship our Lord gave us in the words: "Do this in remembrance of me."

O that pastors and elders, churches and denominations, would take these words from our Lord to heart:

"And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes." (Luke 12:42-43)

The "proper time" is defined by Luke in his second book in Acts 20:7. "On the first day of the week" is when pastors are elders are supposed to give their households, i.e., churches, their portion of food.  Blessed are those pastors and elders who do so, and blessed are those Christians who eagerly and gladly eat the portion of food (Word AND meal) they are given on that day! 


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