Saturday, June 15, 2013
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Friday, June 14, 2013
Sing, Sing a Song
First, off, let’s be clear. Singing is mentioned in Paul’s instructions about worship in a descriptive way and in a prescriptive way, so it’s part of worship. Second, that doesn’t mean from that point on, we can do whatever we want because it’s mentioned in the Bible.
Music is dominating most evangelical worship these days and I, for one, am ready to have less of it in most instances. There’s a serious need for regulation and moderation of music in an atmosphere where many “churches” are becoming more like entertainment venues than any previous conception of worship.
The Lutherans have a solid and reasonable approach to congregational singing. Read what Pr. William Cwirla said in the recent Liturgical Gangsta discussion of the hymnal.
Traditionally, the Lutheran hymnal is the “third book” of Lutheran piety and devotion, next to the Holy Scriptures and the Book of Concord (the Lutheran confessions) which together comprise Lutheran tradition. The hymnal puts into practice what is believed, taught, and confessed from the Holy Scriptures. It is the worship that corresponds our doctrine, the lex orandi of our lex credendi, though not to the same extent as the Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican Church.
In Lutheran churches, hymnals have a quasi-official status and are approved for use by our body of churches. You can see this practice already in the 17th century Lutheran church orders which spelled out in considerable detail what hymns and liturgical materials were to be used in the territorial churches. …I must note by way of â€œtruth in advertisingâ€ that the concept of a normative “hymnal” seems to be waning in some Lutheran congregations. The Lutheran understanding of “adiaphora” (that is, those things neither commanded nor forbidden in the Scriptures) lends to freedom in matters of worship. The influence of American Evangelicalism on Lutheran worship has also been considerable, introducing revival forms of worship not indigenous to Lutheranism. Rare is the Lutheran congregation today that does not offer some kind of non-hymnal based “contemporary service.” This is the on-going tension and struggle in the Lutheran version of the “worship wars.” To what extent are we willing to forego outward unity in worship for the sake of what we perceive to be relevant, contextual, or meaningful to the unchurched? The debate continues.
I have serious doubts that if this age of "feeling good about oneself" people can even get their heads around what is being said here. In a sentence, singing matters too much to be treated like the pop culture treats it. Singing, like iconography, has its roots in memory and illiteracy. It is a way of remembering and story telling that was extraordinarily important when not everyone could read. You might not be able to read scripture, but you could remember lyrics because beat and melody aid memory. It made things real! Hence you see the Hasidim swaying and singing prayers at the Western Wall. Singing makes something a part of you that mere reading and reasoning cannot.In my grandparents’ generation, everyone had their own copy of the hymnal which they brought to church with them as dutifully as Baptists bring their Bibles. The hymnal resided in the home. In my parents’ generation, the hymnal moved to the pew rack in the church. Tomorrow’s hymnal will likely reside on a computer disk, if it indeed exists at all. What effect this will have on Lutheran piety and practice remains to be seen.
Hence it must be done with care and not merely in pursuit of full pews or passing emotion. Fi the sermon is the proclamation of the Word, and requires so much of the pastors time and energy - how can the choice of music that prepares us to receive that Word, and traditionally helps us remember that Word be undertaken with any less care?
church liturgy singing
Bonus Track - Maynard on the Firebird
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Thursday, June 13, 2013
How To Decide
1. Be careful about drift. Sometimes we make poor decisions by drifting along with everyone else, not really thinking through what the group is doing. Far too many of us follow someone else’s lead and then later wonder why on earth they ended up doing something so out of character.
2. Consider where this train is going if you get on board. Perhaps you’ve known a family in which the mom, dad, and kids have a history of making poor decisions. You see their lives at some point and realize that the train has left the station and is going down the tracks. Somewhere along the way, there is going to be a crash. It is only a matter of when and where. Think about where you might end up if you pursue a particular course of action.
3. When faced with a decision that you feel even slightly uneasy about, ask yourself what the wisest person you know would do if he/she were to be faced with the same decision. Do you have a feel for what this person might do?
4. Consider who will be impacted by your decision. Sometimes when we are faced with a decision, we can totally focus on what we want to do. Yet, some decisions impact spouses, children, parents, friends, congregations, and many other people.
5. Pray for wisdom. One lady told me years ago, “I’ve got a right to do whatever I want.” Yet, there are many decisions we make in which the issue is not what we have a right to do. Rather, we need to be thinking about wisdom. What is best in this situation? What is the best thing for me to do?I think I can sum that up in one sentence, "The slippery slope is real." Seemingly innocent decisions today have consequences far beyond today, and often far beyond our immediate circle. Not to mention that even "up close" such decision are a step down a path, they are not a reshuffling of the feet while standing still.
Haste is the enemy of wisdom, as is expediency.
I wonder if we really value wisdom anymore? Especially as the church fights for survival. I am currently reading a book about soldiers in combat. One of the things I note is that the hotter the battle, the more the decision makers get deliberate. Sometimes this is very costly, but typically, over the long haul it makes for better decisions. I do know God is playing a long haul game - the real question is are we?
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
From Whence Glory?
What is your glory? What is it that you value most in life? What is the thing about you that people are most likely to praise? Again I ask: What is your glory? Or, in light of Psalm 3:3, it might be better to ask: Who is your glory?
Living for God's glory doesn't mean that we have to start filling our mouths with religious language. Rather, we make God our glory by seeking to honor him in all that we do. If God is my glory, then I will offer all that I am to him all of the time. I will seek to be faithful so that people might catch a glimpse of God through the window of my life. I will be happiest, not when people say I am great, but when they say God is great.I love that phrase, "catch a glimpse of God through the window of my life." I ran across a post about Christian stuff the other day that discussed "the green room" outside worship. You know, the place where the performers get ready. It made me sad. I do not think a performance is the window of your life. I think that window is how you treat the check out person at the grocery store. Heck, how you treat your spouse.
I don't have evidence for this just yet, but I have the feeling that life is just a performance for so many people anymore and that Christianity is a way to make the performance good. But Christianity is something different - it makes it so goodness is not a performance.
The window of our life is not a stage. It implies someone peeking in when we do not know they are peeking in. That's what God cares about.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
How To Know God
I have never understood or empathized with the view that knowing more about God gets in the way of loving God. And yet there are people who, it seems, build their lives and ministries inside the fog of doctrinal ambiguity.
It has been my conviction, and my experience, for over 40 years that knowing more about God from his inspired, energy-filled word puts more kindling in place so that the Holy Spirit can ignite a greater and greater flame of passion for God in our hearts.I do not know to whom Piper refers, but I am uncomfortable with his statements. I, for one, do not chose a "fog of doctrinal ambiguity." I know very well what I believe, what doctrines I hold and I work hard to develop reasoning and argument for the why's and wherefore's.
But I am most uncomfortable with my desire to think I have it figured out and my tendency to think I no more and better than those that disagree with me. The problem from my perspective is not ambiguity, but certainty. For certainty breeds a lack of humility that is most unbecoming of the follower of Christ.
We must work diligently to understand things doctrinally and intellectually - it is part of learning of God and the more we know of God, the more we love Him. But unwavering and unhumble certainty in our doctrine does strip us of love. One cannot be loving lest on is humble.
As is so often that case, we set at opposition things that are complimentary. The more doctrine I try to figure out, the more I know how much I cannot know and the more humble I become.
certainty humility knowledge
Monday, June 10, 2013
Giving and Giving
I've been reading Taking You Soul to Work by Paul Stevens. In Chapter Eleven, he presents the Ladder of Charitable Giving as articuled by the 12th Century Jewish mystic Maimonides. Nine hundred years later, too many of us have not learned from his important insights. Here is the ladder from the lowest form of charity to the highest form.I note how the recipient of the charity feels indebtedness in that scheme. There are two important points that flow from that. The first is can one ever feel indebted to the government? Since the government takes from us by coercion, it is difficult to feel indebted to it - it is more like "justice" because you are robbing a robbers. There is also, in American at lease, a sense of entitlement to the charity when it is government coerced, since our government is a protector of rights and all.
- A person gives, but only when asked by the poor.
- A person gives, but is glum when giving.
- A person gives cheerfully, but less than he or she should.
- A person gives without being asked, but gives directly to the poor. Now the poor know who gave them help and the giver, too, knows whom he or she benefited.
- A person throws money into the house of someone who is poor. The poor person does not know to whom he or she is indebted, but the donor knows who has been helped.
- A person gives a donation n a certain place and then turns his or her back in order not to know which of the poor has been helped, but the poor person knows to whom he or she is indebted.
- A person gives anonymously to a fund for the poor. Here the poor person does not know to whom he or she is indebted, and the donor does not know who has been helped. But, the highest is this:
- Money is give to prevent another from becoming poor, such as providing him or her with a job, teaching the person a trade, or setting up the person in business. Thus, the recipient will not be forece to the dreadful alternative of holding out a hand for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder.
This is why the whole Robin Hood thing never sat well with me - coercion somehow negates much that is necessary in the cycle of charity. If there is no sense of indebtedness, there is no motivation to get out of the need.
Which leads to my second point. When it comes to discussing God's grace in our salvation we often forget that there is am implied debt that comes with the grace. We preach "unconditional grace," but we forget to remind people that such should still make them feel a sense of indebtedness. This is why the church cannot simply be about preaching salvation - it must also be about building character.
character charity indebtedness salvation