May 11, 2008 – THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

I read this week that the first generation Church probably continued to celebrate the two feasts with Judaism, Passover and Pentecost. As I have previously blogged, I came to the same conclusion on studying the Apostle Paul. I have to be honest and admit that in 2008, for some reason, I was not aware of this incredible celebration at The Washington National Cathedral. But it is a perfect example of what I believe that the Christian churches should strive to do with other Christians, celebrate their faith, especially on these two occasions.

Of course when the Christian celebrates Passover, the Resurrection must be included as the event which demonstrates God’s approval of the Atonement accomplished by the offering of Christ and the inauguration of the Messianic age. I have been celebrating for weeks now as I have been reading many different posts and tweets from the universal Church. Just this week I got into a discussion on a Newsvine post doing a survey on the resurrection. I think at last viewing 35% believed in a literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus in history-that it really happened; and 65% did not believe for various reasons. The comments that followed got a little heated and it was obvious that the Newsvive community at times can be hostile toward Christianity. I’m used to being in the minority opinion, so even there I was able to celebrate what this means in the life of all Christians and the feast days connected with the Old Order.

In this necessary work of emphasizing unity, there are many discouragements. Perhaps the greatest is from well meaning fellow Christians who say something like, “its a great idea/goal, but definitely not possible”. But the greatest personal satisfaction comes from finding new friends from all the diverse faith traditions which post their celebrations on-line during this season. My rejoicing and delight has been like the light show I missed. Thank you fellow bloggers for renewing my faith and my committment to promoting peace and unity.

See my related post, The Abolition of Death

Lessons for the Lenten season: How shall we then pray?

In my observance of the Lenten season as a time of meditating on the sufferings of Christ that led up to the last week, I have also been focused on the the whole question of Adam’s race in rebellion that necessitated it all. This of course leads me into confessing my own participation in the rebellion which is universal. Learning to pray from this platform is taking me into some interesting requests, not the least of which has to do with renewing my own covenantal vows of the Christian Faith.

Recently I’ve been re-reading a classic book by one of my favorite Puritan writers, John Owen, on beholding the glory of Christ. I mentioned this last year in a post and suggested this is what we are supposed to do in living the Christian life. It can be considered our “reasonable worship” as redeemed people of the New Covenant. In the last few days I ran across a post quoting from this book which I found especially helpful in knowing more specifically how to pray from this same perspective.

“Renewed repentance is seen in fervent prayer. ‘Take words with you. Say to him…’ We must know what we are to pray for. We are to pray for pardon of all iniquity. ‘Take away all iniquity.’ Not one sin must be left to be indulged. We are to pray that God will graciously receive us. ‘Receive us graciously.’ Confession must be made of the sins that caused our backslidings. ‘Assyria will not save us. Nor will we say any more to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” Fleshly confidence and false worship were the two sins that ruined the people, and of these sins God expects a full and free confession so that we may be healed.

“Believers must renew their covenant with God, renouncing all other hopes and expectations, and put their trust and confidence only and wholly in him, for only in God do the fatherless find mercy (14:3). The result of such repentance is praise and thanksgiving: ‘We will offer the sacrifice or our lips’ (14:2). When God heals our backslidings he will communicate his grace to us, to the praise of his own glory…”  (John Owen)

To read the entire post over at ‘Cultivating Epiphanies’ go here.

The Gospel of Christ Crucified

 

A Faithful Minister grapples with the meaning of tragedy. In 1756,  a

Rev.Samuel Davies (1723-1761)

Presbyterian minister was sharing with his congregation in Virginia his conclusions from Scripture after agonizing over the tragic losses in the great earthquake which had struck Lisbon, Portugal in December of 1755.  In 1759 this same Minister, Samuel Davies, would become the 4th President of Princeton University, then known as the College of  New Jersey. His Biblical text:

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!”

Isaiah 24:18-20

There are several blogs as well as an op-ed in the Washington Post that are speaking of this tragedy in 1755 and its effects on philosophers and clergymen alike and suggesting contrasts with the way such news is received today. Basically,  Samuel Davies is representative of Pastors all along the east coast following the time of the Great Awakening (ref. Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”). They openly and clearly spoke of such tragedies as ‘judgments’ of the Providence of God and they got their ideas from their interpretation of the Holy Bible.

Without posting any of the sermon here, I will make the entire sermon available to E4Unity readers and urge you to read it in light of recent tragedies that have come to pass in our world. It also makes a serious read for the true spirit of the Lenten season.

Sermon Lisbon Earthquake

Farewell Sermon, July 1, 1759, to Hanover, Virginia congregation.

Note: Young Samuel Davies is one of a number of outstanding Ministers in Church history who died an ‘early’ death. He was only 37 years old.

 

Using the Lenten season profitably

The Gift of all gifts

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come…for if by the one man’s offence many died, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ…the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord…

(abbreviated from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 5. ESV Bible)

No one understands at once all that is included in God’s Gift to Adam’s sinful race. In fact, I plan to still be unwrapping the gift of Jesus Christ until the day my life on earth ends. The Lenten season for me has become an excellent time of extended meditation on this gift and the far reaching themes it touches- from the beginning in Adam into the eternal age that is even now breaking in-the new heavens and the new earth.

For Lent, I’ll be thinking about the reality of sin and it’s destruction here on earth. I have plenty to mourn about, starting with my own participation in the rebellion & conspiracy against the Creator. This mourning will only end at the crucifixion of the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous son of God.

Did you happen to notice in this critical text, that the Apostle Paul calls the free gift from God to sinners, “the gift of righteousness“? Going back and reading the context of these verses, beginning at Chapter 5, and reading through Chapter 8, I think I will have a deeper unwrapping of the gift. Peace w/ God, access to the presence of the Holy God, and a rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God! (and this will also put suffering in perspective-see chapter 8, verses 18-39).

Slowly unwrapping this “unspeakable gift” has its own reward; through Christ it will strengthen me and enable me to “reign in life” in the midst of this wicked generation together with those “who love God and are called according to His purpose”, and to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.

Speaking of righteousness, see my related post on Psalms 1,2

The conclusion to Lent and to Passover, is the victorious and risen Lamb who has accomplished redemption! Easter is the victory out of suffering and anguish and separation. Celebrate with me the victory of Easter.

Revelation chapter 5: 

6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,

         “Worthy are you to take the scroll
             and to open its seals,
           for you were slain, and by your blood you    ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

A related Easter homily by Robert Hart: The Victory of Easter

Is it not just amazing that we are seeing in the news at this time of Lent, nothing about the universal church retracing the historic steps that led to the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather the latest status of Jerusalem? What was, according to the Biblical narrative, the day of Israel’s glory; the day that her divine calling for the world became a reality?

I submit to you that it was the day the infant Jesus was presented to God in the temple in accordance with the Law of the covenant and by faith in His promises to Israel. I’m thinking now of at least three converging themes on this wednesday: God’s provision of “the seed of the woman”, the person of Mary in this entire story as the “hand-maiden of the Lord”, the inauguration of the promised rule (kingdom) of God on earth, including the promised light to the Gentiles. No one captures this scene (Luke 2:21-35) better than Michael Card in this song , “Now that I’ve held him in my arms”.

If you are unable to view go here.

Related article : The Church’s Relation to Israel by Richard DeRidder

Another take on the True Community that we all are created to long for is represented in this song written and sung by an old favorite, Squire Parsons. There is just one minor adjustment that I would call your attention to, but for me it is an extremely important one; the pictures that were chosen for this video. 

According to the Biblical narrative, one of the essential elements of Jesus Christ identity has to do with his radical reconstitution of major elements of the Old Covenant faith tradition. Such integral factors as the Temple, the Law, the Priesthood, were reinterpreted by Him in such a way to announce that what these elements foreshadowed in the past, He himself was their ultimate fulfillment. This is what caused his most heated conflict with the institutional religious leaders and ultimately led to his crucifixion “outside the camp”. (see Hebrews 13: 12-14)

So when Squire Parsons sings about Beulah land, is he thinking of the old city of Jerusalem in Israel or is he longing for the Jerusalem that is above? The heavenly Zion, the eternal city of God, which is that community that God has prepared to satisfy all our longings. For me, it is obviously the one the Apostle John saw and testified to us about in the penultimate chapter of the Bible.

Overcoming the Myths about unity in the Churches. In 1998 when I began the E4Unity advocacy here in Madison County, Kentucky, I put down eight reasons I was often hearing from Christians why they had neglected the imperative of God. I think it is now time to put that document on this blog and I can’t think of a more opportune time to begin than now.

It has helped me tremendously, to go back to one of the most basic distinctions to be made in reading Scripture; the distinction between the indicative and the imperative voice in the original text. In the great indicatives, God tells us what in fact He has accomplished! All the imperatives that He then requires of us are simply the response of obedient faith in what He has declared to be true- what He declares to be the true and eternal reality in Jesus Christ, His beloved Son. Listen for the imperative statements in this video. Because of blindness and just plain old ignorance of what God has said, great numbers of those in the Churches, including many leaders, continue to deny the imperatives of God, continue to insist that Christian unity is not really important- not really a divine imperative. But unity is number one on the Apostle’s list in Ephesians, chapter four, when he begins to give us God’s imperatives after giving us three chapters of indicatives of what He has accomplished by the death, resurrection, and exaltation of the Christ. Everything we need to know about how to live a life worthy of our calling in Jesus Christ starts with the call to treat one another in such a way as to maintain the unity of the Spirit that He has created for all peoples and nations (Jews & Gentiles). I see no possibility of the Church fulfilling her kingdom mission and her calling on earth without addressing obediently God’s priority. To read my complete lists of urban myths GO HERE.

We have come to the mid-point of our Lenten journey that will lead us to the Cross of The Christ. Remembering the original journey of our Lord to Jerusalem in those final weeks, we can’t help but wonder, “What was in his mind and heart”?

Here is a reading from the Book of Common Prayer for this the fourth Sunday of Lent, taken from Psalm 18.

18:1  “I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me; [1]
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. “

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I have no difficulty at all on this Sunday of 2010 A.D. of envisioning that Scripture passages such as this were the very things that encouraged and strengthend Jesus of Nazareth, the Servant of God, to continue his journey. And I personally am sustained by His Spirit to continue in my own journey.

A matter of life and death

 Following our introduction of hell into the Lenten meditations, I can’t think of a better subject than that of the “provision of love” of the very God who is “angry”; the God who has prepared hell for the devil and his demons.

That in a nutshell is what the Cross of Jesus Christ is all about. That is what we must think of during this concentrated time called Lent. So how does the gift of life that is in Christ alone become ours? Here again, by lifting parts out of the Biblical narrative and out of their natural context, the Church of Jesus Christ continues to debate the “how-to”of escaping hell. This debate is so serious that the very symbol Christ gave us of our unity in Him, continues to be “a thorn in the flesh” to keep the churches from celebrating this sacrament together. And the watching world looks on amazed and amused.

Here is a brief look inside the Anglican discussion. It reminds me of a conference that Touchstone Magazine sponsored in 2001 on our “unity & the divisions” and why they must be sustained.

“In my preaching I have emphasized how much our service of Holy Communion stresses the Gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice, and also of the partaking/communion/fellowship we have with Him by receiving His life-giving Body and Blood. Our service emphasizes that we are celebrating a sacrament “generally necessary to salvation,”1 and that by faithful eating and drinking of it we have eternal life, feeding a future immortality that will be given to us by the Resurrected Christ when he comes on the Last Day. 2 In short, the emphasis of the Holy Communion service in Book of Common Prayer has everything to do with our salvation.” – Robert Hart

Read the full post and discussions,”Because He first Loved Us“.

I love and appreciate the ministry of Robert, but I would humbly submit to him and others, it is exactly because Christ and His Father loved us first that simply cannot remain divided before the watching world; especially over our different understandings/interpretations of the celebration of the Lord’s Table. We cannot and must not insist on the past luxury of remaining with those “just like us”; we must go forward to a “greater loyalty“(see earlier post).