Released from the Law (Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 7)

7:1 “Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.  3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. “

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

This is the way of deliverance appointed by Our Redeemer through the salvation He has provided in His Beloved Son, JESUS!

True liberty is found only in Christ. This deliverance from the power and condemnation of sin, is what Christ was sent into the world that first Christmas to accomplish. This is the heart of the New Testament faith and the center of Saint Paul’s preaching and teaching. (see “Imitating the Incarnation” by Benjamin Warfield)

A Christmas gift: the best interpretation I have found on what I believe is the heart of Saint Paul’s life of faith & teaching. “The Apostles’ Doctrine of The Atonement” by George Smeaton (1870). (commenting on Romans chapter 6, pages 161-167)

Older posts on “The Abolition of Death” (2009) and “Understanding Saint Paul” (2008)

20th Century Prophet that captures the theme of Death in his Biblical ethics: William Stringfellow

A Christmas Day Essay

What does Christmas mean to me personally? Actually today is not really more significant as a day in the calendar than any other except for the fact that it allows many Christians to concentrate on one day out of all the others and focus on that day when The Christ actually came into this world in human flesh.

That is what the whole Christmas season means to me this year; a focus on the first Advent of Christ and I have been engaged in that for some time. For me it really is a case of Holy Obsession! Being possessed in my spirit by this great event in world history. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, being astonished in utter awe:

Great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the

flesh…seen by angels, preached

among the nations, believed on in

the world, received up in glory!  

( first letter to Timothy, chapter 3)

By considering what the Biblical narrative tells us about this “great mystery”, including the details of the event itself beginning with the announcements to Mary and Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem, the political context, the ancient promises to Israel fulfilled, and all that follows.

I am still learning the discipline required to not get lost on any of the details, such as the baby and his mother, as important as that is. But by keeping my obsession centered on Jesus Christ and the entire revelation of Him as it unfolds in the Biblical story from beginning to end. Certain selected Christmas music really enhances my obsession at Christmas, another reason why I love the Advent Season. Besides my all time favorite, which is to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this season (at least once), there are certain others that have become very special.

Several years ago my daughter gave us a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. Of all the wonderful songs on that album, my favorite has become their version of “The Holy City”. I remember my dear Mother singing this song in Church more than once. The text is based on a ‘dream so fair’ that contains three different scenes. The first, is the glad occasion of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the children sing Hosannah or what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. The second scene is a very somber one which ends in the “shadow of a cross”. The final vision is of the New Jerusalem, the eternal vision of John’s Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Listen to the music and see if you can sense the same “holy obsession” that I do on this Christmas day, 2010. And may I wish all those in the weblog family, a very obsessed Christmas!

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

My favorite interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.

Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 1

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Related post: Read the First Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, 25 Dec. 2005

The Jewish Festival of Lights begins tonight at sundown and as I wish my Jewish friends a very Happy Hanukkah, I can’t help from thinking that here too is a perfect remembrance of the first Christmas.

Similar to my last post, in appreciating another faith tradition, I have little trouble in having my own Christian faith strengthened. For what was the Messianic Hope looked for when the darkness of sin and the Roman occupation seemed so hopeless? Was it not the faith that what God Himself had promised His people, He would one day give?

And then it happened-The Light of The World became human flesh and was announced by a brilliant light in the East. As I listened to a wonderful explanation of the Festival of Lights this a.m. on NPR, I was transported back in the Biblical narrative to that moment.

The word ‘anamnesis‘ perfectly describes for me now, not only the “Sacraments” of the Church that are so important to the Christian faith, but also the Advent season with all it’s expectation and joy. In fact, I happen to have a book out on my desk called, “Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (1983 edition) and what I find in the description of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, pretty well sums up what I am remembering (recollecting, reminiscing) as I celebrate Advent.

” Christ instituted the Eucharist, sacrament of His body and blood with its focus on the cross and resurrection, as the anamnesis of the whole of God’s reconciling action in Him. Christ Himself with all He has accomplished for us and for all creation…is present in this anamnesis as is  also the foretaste of His Parousia and the consumation of the Kingdom.

The anamnesis in which Christ acts through the joyful celebration of His Church thus includes this representation and anticipation. It is not only a calling to mind of what is past, or its significance. It is the Church’s effective proclamation of God’s mighty acts. By this communion with Christ the Church participates in that reality.” (page 205)

 

2012 UPDATE the Festival of Lights began on December, 8, 2012.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had a great conversation with one of my daughters-in-law. She was sharing how she had been enabled to expand her horizons to some of the world’s great faith traditions and what she was seeing is pretty close to what E4Unity sees.

As a Christian already in the spirit of the Advent season, we can appreciate a vision like this one more than most because we believe that The God of Jesus Christ is at work in all the great traditions so we expect to find evidences meant to point to the greatest of all Divine revelations in human form. Now that He has come into this world, we see Him as the fulfillment of prophecies such as this with very little difficulty.

So, this one’s for you Liz. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Related post- The Global-Worship-Wave

Third Sunday of Advent.  

(Lectionary readings only)     

While joyous expectation has been a motif in the epistle lesson every week so far, all of this week’s readings include that motif in one way or another. The Latin name of the Sunday, “Gaudete Sunday,” comes from the beginning of the reading from Philippians in this lectionary year — “Rejoice!” This text, and the association of the readings with joy, marks the reason some traditions have marked this Sunday with pink or rose colored paraments, vestments and a candle in the Advent wreath (though that’s a much later tradition) rather than purple or blue.  

Zephaniah 3: 14-20: The prophet leads the singing of a new and almost raucously joyful psalm of thanksgiving. God has delivered the people from exile, will protect them from present and future enemies, and promises to make the name of this people renowned and praised everywhere on earth. That’s something to sing and shout about!

How will you help your congregation experience the “raucous joy” of this reading in worship today? Is reading it enough? Or might you be called to use it as a kind of launching pad for praise? How will you help your congregation “Rejoice and exult with all [their] heart” with this text?

Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6: One joyous song leads into another. This one is often called “The First Song of Isaiah.” 

Philippians 4:4-7:  Paul reminds the congregation that in and through all challenges that may face as a community, from within or without, they can and should rejoice in Christ who is near and offer prayers and thanksgivings without anxiety. As they do these things, they will experience the peace of God sustaining them.

How does joyous praise help you and your congregation “let go and let God” in prayer and in daily life? What happens when you do this? How will you continue to help your congregation to do that in worship today –in praise, in prayers, and around the Lord’s Table?

Luke 3: 7-18: The people grow in joyous expectation because John announces a way out of “viperhood.” They could practice their lives differently. These new practices could help even those with “problematic” careers begin producing good fruit. The baptism they would receive from John would be the effective pledge of God’s forgiveness as they turned away from their former ways of life. In offering such teaching and baptism, John is clear that he’s not the messiah. There is one to come who baptizes with Spirit and unquenchable fire. 

Where have you seen the clarity of coming judgment help people take bold steps to live differently and so rejoice? How will you help your congregation get ready to experience even these hard words as reasons for rejoicing today?

(comments from www.gbod.org)

Getting ready for Next Sunday of Advent.

I hope some of you celebrated the first Sunday of Advent in your worship today. I was in a service where the Lectionary readings were not read as such, however the reading and the message was from the first twenty-five verses of Luke’s Gospel, chapter 1. This actually fits in with the emphasis for Second Sunday of Advent, so I thought I would go ahead and get up the Scriptures as we look forward to next week.

Announcing the Promised Messenger

Second Sunday of Advent (Dec.6) Announcing the Messenger of the Covenant!

 

Malachi 3:1-4 – The Prophet’s vision

Luke 1:68-79. – The Song of Zachariah

Philippians 1:3-11. – The Desired Result

Luke 3:1-6. – John the Baptist

Where do you typically look for “way-showers?” Where do you typically find the real ones?Luke locates the ministry of John the Baptist historically within the timelines of the Roman Empire and theologically in the prophecy of Isaiah: The winding and difficult pathways between Babylon and Jerusalem were about to be turned into a straight and level highway for returning exiles so that all could witness God’s salvation. John announced this message, and more besides (which we’ll see and hear next week) in a ministry that took him up and down the Jordan River valley. In so doing, he sought out a fairly remote wilderness area inhabited by forgotten people and “little” people rather than the “bright lights” of Jerusalem, fulfilling in this way his father Zechariah’s song.

Paul gives joyous thanks for his partnership with the church in Philippi. The graciousness and power he has experienced with them gives him every confidence that God will finish God’s work in them to present them blameless on the day of the return of Christ, “having produced the harvest of righteousness” (verse 11). Paul’s “end-time” hope for them, and by extension for all Christians, is for all of them, as God’s people, to “serve God in holiness and righteousness all their days,” a living sign of the Promised One in their midst.

How is the “messianic” harvest of righteousness being cultivated, cared for, and gathered in where you are?

Zechariah’s song identifies John the Baptizer as the foretold messenger of the Lord with a substantially broader mission than fixing the ritual anomalies and the broken spirituality in the priesthood Malachi had identified. A descendent of David was coming who would re-constitute whole people and save them from their enemies so they could worship and serve God in holiness and righteousness all their days. The ministry of the way-shower would prepare the “mighty Savior’s” way by calling for repentance and announcing forgiveness of sins to all, even those in “darkness and the shadow of death.”

 A century or more after the restoration of the city and the temple in Jerusalem, the word of the Lord through the prophet declares the coming of “my messenger” (Malachi, in Hebrew) who would radically purify the temple priesthood. How and where are clergy and lay leaders being purified where you are?

(comments from The General Board of Disciplehip of the UMC)

Alternate Christmas music series.

Here’s another of my favorite pieces associated with Christmas. It has a simple melody that tends to get into your head as it did mine when I heard it featured in the movie “Empire of the Sun“. My favorite version is from a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. I don’t have the english words from that album which really carry the message I’m focusing on: The Cosmic event of this present age. (I’ll try to find the words- meanwhile enjoy the beautiful Welsh version by Katherine Jenkins)

Empire of The Sun version (Japanese-Umi Yukaba)

Alternative music great for Advent.

One of the things that has occured to me as I get ready to celebrate the most joyous season of the Christian Year, is that there is some incredible music out there that we may not think of as “Christmas” music but in terms of the uniqueness and finality of the Incarnation is just perfect. Here’s just one example from Michael Card

“You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.”   (One final Word from the album “Joy in the Journey”)

The song captures the essence of the event and is indeed most fitting for Advent. Michael is a very talented artist not only in writing verse but in the music as well . His songs are laced with Biblical themes and characters such as Mary and Joseph. His well known Immanuel is another song perfect for Advent. These songs for me capture the true spirit of the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Listen to the title song from JOY in the JOURNEY.