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.
I am also very excited by the way in which we can see Paul wrestling not only with his Jewish world and its scriptures but also, by clear implication, with philosophical and political issues that were 'out there' at the time. The thing is that for Paul this is all part of the same larger, whole vision of God and God's purposes. Watching how everything comes together is an intellectual treat of the first order - as well as a spiritual and practical challenge to me personally and to the church...
There's a great deal about Roman Catholicism that I basically disagree with. For instance, the doctrine of Mary which... I have studied that stuff and I simply don't think that has any mileage at all biblically, theologically, and I've got some friends who are very disappointed that I say that.
Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.
When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves--that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.
I am convinced that when we bring our griefs and sorrows within the story of God's own grief and sorrow, and allow them to be held there, God is able to bring healing to us ans new possibilities to our lives. That is, of course, what Good Friday and Easter are all about
True worship doesn't put on a show or make a fuss; true worship isn't forced, isn't half-hearted, doesn't keep looking at its watch, doesn't worry what the person in the next pew is doing. True worship is open to God, adoring God, waiting for God, trusting God even in the dark.
Just as many who were brought up to think of God as a bearded old gentleman sitting on a cloud decided that when they stopped believing in such a being they had therefore stopped believing in God, so many who were taught to think of hell as a literal underground location full of worms and fire...decided that when they stopped believing in that, so they stopped believing in hell. The first group decided that because they couldn't believe in childish images of God, they must be atheists. The second decided that because they couldn't believe in childish images of hell,... Read more »
What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.
It shouldn't be difficult, then, to make the transposition at this point into the early Christian vision of Jesus and the Spirit and the way in which the material world is both celebrated and renewed through their work. The Jewish basis for the early Christian patterns of belief and behavior is clear. It is important that God's people are embodied, because God made this world and has no intention of abandoning it. The material of creation is a vessel made to be filled with God's new life and glory, even though the transformation may involve suffering, persecution, and martyrdom.
Art at its best draws attention not only to the way things are but also to the way things will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of G-D as the waters cover the sea. That remains a surprising hope, and perhaps it will be the artists who are best at conveying both the hope and the surprise.
The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent non-psalmic 'worship' based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoiled child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy
Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world ... That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown... Read more »
If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but you’re actually part of the drama which has him as the central character.
For the Deist ... prayer is calling across a void to a distant deity. This lofty figure may or may not be listening. He, or it, may or may not be inclined, or even able, to do very much about us and our world, even if he (or it) wanted to ... all you can do is send off a message, like a marooned sailor scribbling a note and putting it in a bottle, on the off-chance that someone out there might pick it up. That kind of prayer takes a good deal of faith and hope. But it isn't... Read more »
problematic within post-Reformation dogmatics. Is faith something I `do' to earn God's favour, and, if not, what role does it play? Once we release Paul's justification-language from the burden of having to describe `how someone becomes a Christian', however, this is simply no longer a problem. There is no danger of imagining that Christian faith is after all a surrogate `work', let alone a substitute form of moral righteousness. Faith is the badge of covenant membership, not something someone `performs' as a kind of initiation test.
Many of the questions we ask God can't be answered directly, not because God doesn't know the answers but because our questions don't make sense. As C.S. Lewis once pointed out, many of our questions are, from God's point of view, rather like someone asking, "Is yellow square or round?" or "How many hours are there is a mile?
All our language about the future ... is like a set of signposts pointing into a bright mist ... the New Testament image of the future hope of the whole cosmos, grounded in the resurrection of Jesus, gives as coherent a picture as we need or could have of the future that is promised to the whole world, a future in which, under the sovereign and wise rule of the creator God, decay and death will be done away with and a new creation born, to which the present one will stand as mother to child.
He has done it. With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all. A great door has swung open in the cosmos which can never again be shut. It’s the door to the prison where we’ve been kept chained up. We are offered freedom: freedom to experience God’s rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we now have access. In listening to Jesus, we discover whose voice it is that has echoed around the hearts and minds of the human race all along.