Monthly Archives: November 2006
From the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
We praise and thank you, O God,
for you are without beginning and without end.
Through Christ you are the creator and preserver
of the whole world;
but, above all, you are his God and Father,
the giver of the Spirit,
and the ruler of all that is, seen and unseen.
You made the day for the works of light
and the night for the refreshment of our minds and bodies.
O loving Lord and source of all that is good,
accept our sacrifice of praise.
Through Christ and in the Holy Spirit,
we offer you all glory, honor and worship,
now and for ever. Amen.
Copyright ©1979 by G.I.A. Publications.
My English teachers from my past would be shocked to read the following admission: I like essays. And now to properly nuance that statement: I like reading other people’s essays. Much like short stories, I find essays valuable to read because they often deal with issues in much more concise ways than entire volumes. Also, reading an essay allows me to feel like I can read material in managable chunks, rather than try to read an in-depth analysis and feel guilty that I can only sit through 40-45 pages before I become completely bored with the subject matter.
I’ve been reading a collection of essays on Christian Worship by John D. Witvliet. Dr. Witvliet is the director of the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, MI. He is both a musician and a theologian and is able to wed the two disciplines in his writing. Here is a selection from the essay “Soul Food for the People of God” that is appropriate as we prepare for the Advent season:
Good music can also inoculate us from spiritual disease. Consider the prominent spiritual disease of sentimentality: religious experience as candy-coated happiness and bliss. If we feed our souls a steady diet of musical candy, we will have little spiritual protein to sustain us. This is no more true than at Christmas. Here is a time of year when broken and hurting and grieving people often hurt the most. And yet it is a time of year when we most often serve up rank sentimentality in our music. This can happen as easily with music sung by pop artists as with music sung by English choir boys. Even really good choirs often sing many songs that are lullabies to Jesus or that are about three ships sailing in or about unknown words such as fum or about swinging steeple bells or merry gentlemen not being dismayed — all of which prevent us from focusing on the incomprehensible paradox of the incarnation. When the incarnation does come through, when we do sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” (one of the most theologically profound of all carols) and actually attend to the meaning of the text, our souls are fed with the protein of deep spiritual life.
from “Soul Food for the People of God” in Worship Seeking Understanding by John D. Witvliet, p. 235
As a seminary student, I am required to take courses in preaching – both academic classes and lab classes. After reading several “Christian” responses to last Tuesday’s elections, both those lamenting the loss for the Republicans and those celebrating the victory for the Democrats, I have decided to post an excerpt of a sermon that I preached in class last week.
Have we allowed the things that we know about Jesus, things that we know about the Gospel, to change the way that we live? Does the fact that Jesus has made peace between God and us lead us to try to live peacefully with the people around us? … Do we say that our first allegiance is to Christ but then care more about elections and who controls the House and Senate (and our tax rates) than we do about our brothers and sisters being killed for the high crime of faith in Jesus? Do I preach sermons about putting faith into action and then go home and do none of it?
Great government doesn’t happen when “Christians make their voice heard” for either political party in the United States. Lives are not changed by people who “vote values”. “Culture wars” are not won at the ballot box. Our allegiance isn’t to pundits on the right or on the left (or in the center). We are not allowed to hate George Bush or Nancy Pelosi, Dick Cheney or Howard Dean, Donald Rumsfeld or John Kerry. When Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” he doesn’t follow it up with “because conservatism will triumph in the end” (ala a popular radio host) or with “because we progressives truly understand the kingdom” (ala an outspoken author and magazine publisher). No, Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” The object of faith is Jesus.
10Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.