I'm fortunate in that I've grown up in a worshipping tradition which is quite rich musically (and music is very important to me) and has a wonderful resource of hymns from all sorts of different parts of the Church... and to go to church and be able to sing that stuff and listen to a Bach motet or indeed some charismatic choruses.
Many Christians in the evangelical tradition use words like "conversion," "regeneration," "justification," "born-again," etc. all as more or less synonyms to mean "becoming a Christian from cold." In the classic Reformed tradition, the word "justification" is much more fine-tuned than that and has to do with a verdict which is pronounced, rather than with something happening to you in terms of actually being born again. So that I'm actually much closer to some classic Reformed writing on this than some people perhaps realize.
The church isn't simply a collection of isolated individuals ... we need to learn again the lesson that a hand is no less a hand for being part of a larger whole, an entire body. The foot is not diminished in its freedom to be a foot by being part of a body which also contains eyes and ears. In fact, hands and feet are most free to be themselves when they coordinate properly with eyes, ears, and everything else. Cutting them off in an effort to make them truly free, truly themselves, would be truly disastrous.
We can glimpse it in the book of Acts: the method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom. The kingdom…goes out into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, misunderstood, misjudged, vindicated, celebrating: always – as Paul puts it in one of his letters – bearing in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed.
That is what worship is all about. It is the glad shout of praise that arises to God the creator and God the rescuer from the creation that recognizes its maker, the creation that acknowledges the triumph of Jesus the Lamb. That is the worship that is going on in heaven, in God's dimension, all the time. The question we ought to be asking is how best we might join in.
Christian holiness consists not of trying as hard as we can to be good but of learning to live in the new world created by Easter, the new world we publicly entered in our baptism. There are many parts of the world we can't do anything about except pray. But there is one part of the world, one part of physical reality, that we can do something about, and that is the creature each of us call "myself.
the word 'justification' has itself had a chequered career over the course of many centuries of debate. As the major historian of the doctrine has noted, the word has long since ceased to mean, in ecclesial debates, what it meant for Paul himself - which is confusing, since the debates have gone on referring to Paul as though he was in fact talking about what they want to talk about. It is as though the greengrocer treated you to a long discussion of how onions are grown, and how best to cook with them, when what you had asked was... Read more »
For now we see the beauty of God through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now we appreciate only in part, but then we shall affirm and appreciate God, even as the living God has affirmed and appreciated us. So now our tasks are worship, mission, and management, these three; but the greatest of these is worship.
We cannot worship the suffering God today and ignore him tomorrow. We cannot eat and drink the body and blood of the passionate and compassionate God today, and then refuse to live passionately and compassionately tomorrow. If we say or sing, as we so often do, 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit', we thereby commit ourselves, in love, to the work of making his love known to the world that still stands so sorely in need of it. This is not the god the world wants. This is the God the world... Read more »
Good Christian liturgy is friendship in action, love taking thought, the covenant relationship between God and his people not simply discovered and celebrated like the sudden meeting of friends, exciting and worthwhile though that is, but thought through and relished, planned and prepared -- an ultimately better way for the relationship to grow and at the same time a way of demonstrating what the relationship is all about.
the life of Jesus recapitulates key elements in the earlier story of Israel. For a moment, as Jesus stands on the mountain giving the famous sermon, he is Moses. For a moment, answering his critics about his actions on the sabbath, he is David. For a moment, as he calls and names the twelve disciples, he is perhaps Jacob, bringing the twelve patriarchs into the world. For a moment, healing the sick and raising the dead, he is Elijah or Elisha. And so on. In the transfiguration he actually meets Moses and Elijah.
It is central to Christian living that we should celebrate the goodness of creation, ponder its present brokenness, and, insofar as we can, celebrate in advance the healing of the world, the new creation itself. Art, music, literature, dance, theater, and many other expressions of human delight and wisdom, can all be explored in new ways.
I grew up in a church-going family, a very sort of ordinary, middle-of-the-road Anglican family where nobody really talked about personal Christian experience. It was just sort of assumed like an awful lot of things in the 1950's were just sort of taken for granted.
As a newborn baby breathes and cries, so the signs of life in a newborn Christian are faith and repentance, inhaling the love of God and exhaling an initial cry of distress. And at that point what God provides, exactly as for a newborn infant, is the comfort, protection, and nurturing promise of a mother. "If God is our father, the church is our mother." The words are those of the Swiss Reformer John Calvin ... it is as impossible, unnecessary, and undesirable to be a Christian all by yourself as it is to be a newborn baby all by... Read more »
The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world ... The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.