Granddaddy

More than once on this blog, I’ve given written attention to a man admired by many:  my Granddaddy Ritchie.  His character, leadership, and personal influence are still remembered well by many around the country.  He was a persistent advocate for quality and depth in both words and music during congregational assemblies.  Here is a pic of Granddaddy in his prime, leading worship during Harding’s chapel in the 1950s.

image

A year before he died, the extended family had gathered for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary, and I’d been honored with the opportunity to arrange a medley of some the songs Granddaddy performed in recital (and also in the home for his grandchildren on occasion).  Last week, I unearthed the pencil/pen score and parts, produced long before music software was available.  The medley, scored for four of us cousins to play on brass instruments, included excerpts from about a dozen songs, including “None but the Lonely Heart,” “Loch Lomond,” Little Boy Blue,” “The Big Bass Viol,” “Three for Jack,” and  “Ol’ Man River,” a selection for which Granddaddy is remembered.

This day would have been his 111th birthday, and I think I might just dig up a cassette tape of that brass quartet to mark the day.  My prayer-song Lord, I Want To See, was later written in Granddaddy’s memory.

On other April 25ths during the past few years, I’ve also mentioned him, most notably in the postcript to this heavy post #1000 on exegesis of John 9, but also here, in November of 2018, just after he’d been honored by Harding University through an endowed chair.  Although he had directed Harding’s chorus for a time, from what I’ve gathered, he was perhaps even better regarded for leading the Monday evening “PE” (Personal Evangelism) meetings and for leading evangelistic campaigns during college breaks.  In his efforts to lead souls toward Jesus, and to encourage others to do the same, songs and poetry played a role.  My uncle Ed (the second of four children) wrote a fine hymn, later published in the widely used hymnal Praise for the Lord.  Here is a recording of my extended family singing it (stanzas 1 and 4 here; opens in a new tab) in 1992.  The final stanza is a prayer Granddaddy used often:

Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me,
And help me nobly do my part to win that soul for Thee.

The temple(s)

You may be doing much better than I am during this semi-quarantine.  Taking one aspect:  although I’m normally a pretty good juggler and prioritizer, the mere thought of managing and juggling and dealing actually contributes to my sense of being overwhelmed.  This post may not be all that coherent.


This week, as in the last several, I have been caused to think a great deal about Israel’s temple(s) in Jerusalem.

I learned a few years ago to think newly about the so-called cleansing of the temple, told variously in John 2, Mark 11, Matthew 21, and Luke 19.  There’s something about this temple that Jesus was engaging with, to be sure.

My son and I have watched this 3-minute video more than once.  I am watching it again now as I revise this paragraph, and I’ll return to it in the future.  As emphasized in the video, many have connected temple symbolism to aspects of creation/Eden seen in Genesis 2-3.  It’s important to “see” the Israel’s temple and to be made newly aware of its place in that people’s identity.


The Jews saw the Temple as everlasting. 

(Well, it wasn’t.  Not quite, given the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.  But you get the point.)

Jesus (and history) showed the Jews—and all the rest of us—that it was not.  -bc


I recall the fact that GMatthew has the curtain being torn in two.¹  This week, I read of the making of that veil/curtain, in 2 Chronicles 3.  Then I read that N.T. Wright had once drawn a comparison between Jesus/Temple to sheriff/gunfighter in an old western, with the Lord saying, “This town is not big enough for the both of us.”  And I thought, yes, that’s right.

The Luke gospel, I have recently learned, seems to focus intently on the temple, if we take the mere number of occurrences of the word ἱερόν | hieron as our cue.  (It’s hard to limit meandering, but I could move as far away as Ezekiel or Paul’s Romans 12 here.)  The John gospel does something different, as related by N.T. Wright:

Did John then think, in writing a new Genesis, that he was writing a new Temple-theology?

The question answers itself:  of course he did.  The temple is one of the major themes throughout the book, with Jesus himself as the focal point:  hence, in the prologue itself, the decisive verse 14, where the Word became flesh . . . and ‘tabernacled’ in our midst.

N.T. Wright

I wonder if this conceptual play, even conflict, between Jesus and the Temple cult is a particular emphasis of John’s Gospel?  If so, it would explain why the story of clearing the market from the Temple was moved earlier in John’s telling of the story — to set the stage for the battle.

Among my personal mini-troubles during the past week have been varying results with internet stream-conferencing and other communications.  I would give my own recent Zoom meetings a B+ in achieving the desired result with little to no difficulty; some other meetings, a C or D; and a certain string of e-mail and phone conversations, an F.  In light of communication difficulties, might we ask Matthew if he had a struggle to communicate the inexpressible?   If the answer to that question is “yes,” maybe that the most dramatic, poetic way Matthew could find (or the way that was found for him!) to say something truly significant was to say the temple curtain was torn in two.¹  The Jerusalem temple, it seems, was not to be eternal. 

“Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple.  They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.”  ― N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

This post may be an outpouring of incoherent tidbits or a semi-valuable smattering from my backlog ….  I may not be managing or juggling or dealing very well at all, but we can be assured of this:  there is One who is managing and dealing.


¹ Translation note on Matthew 27:51 from the NET Bible, referring to the word translated “curtain”:

The referent of this term, καταπέτασμα (katapetasma), is not entirely clear. It could refer to the curtain separating the holy of holies from the holy place (Josephus, J. W. 5.5.5 [5.219]), or it could refer to one at the entrance of the temple court (Josephus, J. W. 5.5.4 [5.212]).  Many argue that the inner curtain is meant because another term, κάλυμμα (kalumma), is also used for the outer curtain.  Others see a reference to the outer curtain as more likely because of the public nature of this sign.  Either way, the symbolism means that access to God has been opened up. It also pictures a judgment that includes the sacrifices.

Now and three years ago: three on the 24th?

Three years ago, some things were the same as they are now, but some were very different.  Three years ago, technology was different.  (I had a phone and a laptop that were to become obsolete.)  Three years ago, there were different sets of responsibilities but the same general spheres of travel.  So much is different, but some things are the same.  I don’t remember where I was on Christmas Eve day in 2016, but I likely read something in, or about, the scriptures.  I did that this morning, too.  (At least that much is the same.)  In an 80-year-old classic work recommended by a respected scholar, I found this:

“The linkage of baptism with the Spirit is surely pre-Pauline and primitive.  ‘In one Spirit,’ says Paul, speaking as though the Spirit were some sort of fluid, ‘were we all baptized . . . and were made to drink of one Spirit’ (1 Cor. xii. 13).  ‘But ye were washed . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God.’  Here the gift of the Spirit is associated with baptism.”

– A.M. Hunter, Paul and His Predecessors, 81

And associated it is.  The spirit of God is associated with Christian immersion.  80 years later, though, and after centuries of legacy doctrine, the question comes to us:  how many deity-entities are depicted in the above passage?  Even if we could agree on an answer to that question, could we legitimately say that enumeration was Paul’s concern in 1Corinthians 12?  I’d suggest that the capitalization of “Spirit” in five instances above leads readers in a interpretive direction.  On the other hand, the expression “spirit of our God,” with its lower-case “s,” seems to imply that spirit, there, means “essence.”

An inbox impetus this morning led me to find that, three years ago to the day, I posted this:

The notion that Trinity is “at the heart of the Christian faith” is overstated, at best.  “Trinity” is largely, if not entirely, a humanly devised concept and is not espoused in scripture as such.  I prefer to think of God as transcendent and many-faceted, without locking Him in to being “three”—which may be, after all, a mere number suggested for the sake of the limited human mind.

A few questions for those who haven’t ever been challenged to consider Trinitarian formulaism critically:

  1. Where, precisely, is “trinity” found in scripture?
  2. Who gave trinity its capital-letter sense/status?  When?
  3. What role does the odd word “Godhead” play in legacy doctrine?
  4. In scripture, where is the “Holy Spirit” worshipped (or prayed to) as such?
  5. Why do we feel the need to enumerate the aspects or parts of God rather than worship?
  6. What is at stake in either upholding or denying the doctrine of the trinity?  How might we accept the possibility of trinity without codifying it?

Many will be worshipping Jesus intentionally today and tomorrow.  It is unquestionably good to worship the Father, and reasons also abound to give adoring, worshipful attention to Jesus as Teacher, as Example, as Messiah-King, as Lord.  We find worship-filled texts in our scriptures.  There are also extrabiblical references to devotional practices of early Christians.¹  The earliest references do not appear to bolster trinitarian notions, but they absolutely affirm Jesus as God.

Today, as I think back to three years ago, it almost seems as though I was a different person.  Life was entirely different.  Sources of joy and pain were not what they are today.  Some things about life have changed, and I am very different, but God is the same.  Honor to God, then.  Gratitude and praise from men and women, with whom He was pleased to dwell.  Count me among those who worship the Son and the Father intentionally—today and other days.

B. Casey, 12/24/19


¹ Some, including the recently passed Larry Hurtado, have made it their life’s work to uncover and elucidate Christian origins.  Those of us interested in reasoned, supported/supportable faith are indebted to such scholars.

Professing and practicing

A job posting advertises for a new “Assistant Professor of Worship.”  Something about that rubs me the wrong way, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

A few years ago, an associate was working on a doctorate in “worship studies.”  Nothing against that person, but something about that endeavor still chafes me.  Historical and theological studies in an area such as worship will obviously be valuable, but we mustn’t presume that certain historical realities of what has been termed “worship” can be directly correlated to that which pleases God as worship.  Similarly, the realities of church history might throw us off track.  We shouldn’t, for instance, look at two millennia of history and attempt to elicit some sort of average.  It’s not that the average, most common practices should be normative—not without the application of critical analyses, anyway.

I was once accused, in a friendly way, of leading “didactic worship.”  To the extent that I was perceived as practicing, articulating, professing, and fostering worship, I’m pleased with that.  On the other hand, if I were professing principles and procedures, while presenting myself as some sort of connoisseur, I repent.  Far better to worship, to be a worshipper, than to talk, theorize, and study about it.  Put another way:  if “professing” means doing it and advocating for it, great.  I want to be a mouthpiece for genuine worship.  If on the other hand professing means putting on an “expert” hat, getting “tenure,” or actively giving the appearance that one thinks he out-ranks others, count me out.

The notion of studying worship as an academic discipline makes me draw back, concerned that such a pursuit might lead to a false validating of all historical practices.  Yet I do see value in studying just about anything.  The gracious smile of God, shown in accepting sincere worship, is compelling.  Whether a learned professor or a simple, devoted disciple, it’s possible to be a pure worshipper.  Let us all be practicers—doers—of what we profess.

Three years ago: Dad’s communion meditation

On Sunday, October 4, 2015, my dad shared the following communion meditation in the College Church assembly (Searcy, AR).  The words come from various songs and hymns that Dad strung together, and he read this aloud prior to “the Supper.”  I post this now, first, to honor the Christ; and second, to remember my dad’s ways and means.


Jesus is all world to me—My life, my joy, my all.

Tell me the story of Jesus.

“Abba Father, Father, If indeed it may,
Let this cup of anguish Pass from Me, I pray;
Yet, if it must be suffered, By Me, Thine only Son,
Abba, Father, Father, Let thy will be done.”

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble.
Were YOU there when they crucified my Lord?

Upon that cross of Jesus, Mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me.
There behold His agony, Suffered on the bitter tree;

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
We place You on the highest place.

O sacred head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded With thorns Thine only crown;
O make me Thine forever; And, should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never Outlive my love to Thee.

Your only Son no sin to hide, But You have sent Him from your side
To walk upon this guilty sod And to become the Lamb of God.

My sin—O the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;

Amazing love!  How can it be That You, my God, would die for me?

He could have called 10,000 angels, but He died alone, for you and me.

Soon Thou wilt come again:  I shall be happy then, Jesus, my Lord!
Then Thine own face I’ll see; Then I shall like Thee be,
Then evermore with Thee, Jesus, my Lord!

I behold You, my Lord and my King—in You, Jesus, I find ev’ry thing.
And now truly my worship I bring To You and unto You sing.
In beholding the glorious Son, my eyes see the Magnificent One,
And His splendor, as bright as the sun, reveals me: I am undone.

The Supper


Dad passed from this life on November 28, 2017, and I am of the distinct impression that he is experiencing a richer “communion” now.

Mourning and music

From time to time I hear funereal music I wish I had come across during my graduate research.  (Although my cumulative list of funeral marches and lament music was marginally impressive, it was anecdotally developed and limited in scope.)  Once in a while, I also come across others’ related writings.  Below are extracts from an interesting article on mourning practices and singing.  This research may deal only directly with practices in the United Kingdom, but it would seem applicable for most Western countries.

I will now discuss funeral music in some detail because it was the one occasion on which mourners in Britain used to be actively involved in musical performance, but — at least among the majority white population — this is now being rapidly replaced by music consumption.  Funerals in many Western countries have recently become more personal (Garces-Foley and Holcomb, 2005) and/or secular (Walter, 1997), and in the UK one major way this is achieved is by listening to two or three of the deceased’s favourite CD tracks or to a piece of music that in some way captures the deceased’s personality.  This is replacing communal hymn singing.  Singing hymns was once the norm, but recent surveys in the city of Hull (Adamson and Holloway, 2012) and at one London crematorium (Parsons, 2012) indicate hymns now being sung at only a quarter of funerals.  9 (orig. 81)

Religious singing together is being steadily replaced by listening to secular (and occasionally religious) CDs, driven by personalisation and secularisation, but also reflecting the general decline of communal singing in England.  9-10 (orig. 81-82)

Singing together was once the main way in which the whole body of mourners participated in the funeral, engaging together in one of the performing arts to perform words of sorrow and hope.  According to Davies (but he may possibly here be influenced by being Welsh), “Singing is, fundamentally, a community activity which sets group hopes and power over those of the individual.” (Davies, 1997, p. 58)  But with the decline in church attendance and the familiarity with hymns that goes with it, and with the small numbers at many elderly people’s funerals in Britain, many people report finding singing hymns at a funeral to be excruciating, embarrassing and/or tedious (Caswell, 2012).  

. . . the CD capturing the essence of the deceased individual becomes the funeral’s emotional powerhouse.  . . .

In the months and years after the funeral, recorded music can continue to retain powerful associations with the deceased.  I am doubtless not alone in going happily about my business when a track comes on  the radio that reduces me to tears, reminding me of someone I care for who has died, years or even decades ago.  10  (orig. 82)

– Tony Walter, “How People Who Are Dying or Mourning Engage with the Arts, ” © Music and Arts in Action/Tony Walter 2012 | ISSN: 1754-7105 | Page 87. http://musicandartsinaction.net/index.php/maia/article/view/dyingmourning

Various cultures and ethnicities will naturally have various traditions and expectations concerning bereavement, funereal engagement, and mourning.  At my own father’s memorial, I know there were tears, but no wailing occurred, for instance.  Perhaps that is good (we grieved as those with hope), or bad (we were busy and distracted), or indifferent.

There were hymns, however—hymns in the lyrical sense and also a couple in the strictly musical sense.  I had kept my vest-pocket copy of this program in sight in my office for a time (see here) in order to remind me of the life and of the death event.  On the reverse side appears the program order itself.  Here are the titles that feature hymn lyrics (addressed to God in worship/adoration):

God Himself Is With Us *
On Zion’s Glorious Summit *
Jesus, Wonderful Thou Art
I Behold You
Still, Still With Thee
* In both these cases, the initial lyrics are not addressed to God but rather set the stage for direct worship in the latter part of the song: “O Thou Fount of Blessing . . . may I ceaselessly adore Thee” and “Holy, holy, holy Lord! God of hosts, on high adored,” respectively.

There were comments and a prayer of adoration led by three friends of nearly six decades, and the 95-year-old former president of Harding University made comments, as well.  Dad’s brother read Psalm 121.  Songs were led by Dad’s nephew, a brother-in-law, the son of one of the above-mentioned friends, and me.  Recordings were played of my hymn “I Behold You” and my mother’s beautiful song “Silence,” which is about finding God.  In all, six songs were sung congregationally, including “It May Be at Morn,” which I recall that Dad introduced to the Cedars congregation in Delaware when I was young.  This song is not musically a hymn, and the stanzas are introspective, not directly worshipful.  However, in my estimation, the chorus includes one of the top ten expressions of worship in that hymnal:  “O Lord Jesus, how long? . . . Christ returneth!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Amen.”  This is not the material of mourning.  None of this particularly invites sadness, yet there were mixed emotions, remembering my dad as a man who worshipped God with all his heart, and who as a leader encouraged others to do the same for decades.

On the matter of reminiscing through a dead person’s favorite music:  my mother recently found the CDs that Dad had chosen to take on their last trip together.  I will probably always associate Pavarotti’s famed rendition of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” with Dad.  That music brought tears to his eyes many times.  He was also very fond of a championship barbershop quartet’s song “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye.”  (Here is a YouTube recording of the same rendition.)  I suppose one could say this is a song of mourning, but perhaps more, a song of tender memory.  It will bring emotion to just about anyone!  Dad had asked both my sister and me to play that for him during his hospitalization.  Other music Dad chose includes Pachelbel, John Denver, western/pop songs of yesteryear by Sons of the Pioneers, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, which he had loved for more than a half-century.  My mom will always associate many of these selections with her husband of nearly 58 years.

Dad’s Travel CD Choices, Summer 2017

Find other posts on death and dying here, beginning with my father’s death notice here and a tribute to caregivers here.

 

Odd observations for Easter: “God” in the NT

Now would you kindly think nothing odd
About my use of quotes around “God.”

British writer Lynne Truss has aptly proclaimed that “proper punctuation is …  the sign of clear thinking.”  I think I was thinking clearly (this time, at least) when I put quotation marks around “God” in the title of this post.  Here, “God” is a word used as a word, and that usage needs quotation marks, as my father the English teacher taught me.  (I hope that no one clicked out of this post because s/he thought I was going pantheistic or was unsure about whether God figures in prominently in the NT.  Although I will never comprehend God, I don’t think I’m too confused about the referent of the word “God” in the NT.)

Now, to the point and to my higher purpose:  to draw attention to the use of the word “God” in the pages of our New Testaments, following Larry Hurtado, a noted academic and specialist in Christian origins and texts.  Hurtado notes,

The great NT scholar, Nils Dahl, famously wrote an article on “the neglected factor in NT theology,” which was God!  He acutely observed that there were oodles of books on almost every other topic in the NT, but a scant number on “God.”

How interesting that God would be neglected in New Testament theology studies!  In a book of his own, Hurtado attempted to “map the contours” of “God discourse.”  In other words, he inquired how the texts we have appear to refer to God—in the “world full of gods” of the 1st century CE.  As a good biblical and historical scholar, he would attempt to avoid theological presuppositions and worrying about ramifications of anything he might uncover, simply investigating the texts.  In the next excerpt, on one level, Hurtado does deal in theology, but he is primarily making observations based on the textual evidence.

I judge that the discourse about “God” in the NT is “triadic” shaped, with “God” (often further specified as “Father”), Jesus, and the Spirit all prominent.  More specifically, I contend that in the NT writings “God” is so closely linked with Jesus that any adequate discourse about “God” must include adequate reference to Jesus.

I myself don’t find the Spirit nearly as prominent as the other two (see word counts in footnote below¹), or quite as delineated as most find them, although the Spirit is present.  Perhaps Hurtado’s sense of the relative weight of certain passages comes into play here.  The notion that Jesus shares in “divine glory and rule” surely connects to the Kingdom (kingship) of God as well as to the distinctly Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ is God.  While the Holy Spirit of God acts in Acts and appears elsewhere, the story are more about Jesus as teacher, deliverer, and risen Lord and King.

Also, remarkably, the divine Spirit “of God” (or “Holy Spirit”) in some texts is now also identified with reference to Jesus (e.g., Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11; Philippians 1:19; Acts 16:7).  This must surely be a consequence of the NT claim that God has exalted Jesus to share in divine glory and rule.

The discourse about “God” in the NT is triadic in shape, but, interestingly, the worship-pattern (emph. mine  -bc) is dyadic.  That is, “God” and Jesus are invoked, prayed to, reverenced in worship, etc., whereas the Spirit doesn’t figure in the same way.  – L. Hurtado

I’ll bet oodles of evangelical Christians would be surprised at the “dyadic” bit in the last paragraph.  I’m not.  To date, my textual examination in this sphere has not been systematic or in any way scientific, but I’ve found the same absence of examples and suggestions of Spirit-worship.  Years ago, I stopped singing a couple of 3rd stanzas such as “Spirit, We Love You; we worship and adore You.”  I do not seek to downplay the action of God’s Spirit in the world as portrayed in Acts and other places; on the other hand, I do wish to shine a spotlight here on the lack of what we could have been termed a “triadic worship-pattern.”

Find Hurtado’s complete post here, and please feel free to comment here (or there).

Today, tomorrow (Easter Sunday), and beyond, consider Jesus’ willing, intentional, God-ordained sacrifice.  Then consider that God is presented as having raised Jesus, (see Hurtado’s prior post Jesus’ Resurrection: Act of God).  May we worship God the Father and God the Son, all the while seeing such expressions as “Spirit of God,” “Holy Spirit,” and “Spirit of Christ” with new clarity.


¹ Word counts in the NT (based on Greek root-word searches, except where noted):

God—1321
Father—436
Son of God—122
Jesus—911
Christ—536
Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus—224 (Gk. phrase searches)

Total Father/Jesus/Son/Christ references:  >3,200

———–
Spirit (includes other uses of pneuma as breath, wind, etc.)—408
Holy Spirit—23
Spirit of God—3
Spirit of Christ—2
Spirit of His Son—1
Spirit of Jesus (Christ)—2
Spirit of (your) Father—1

Total # of Spirit references:  430 (at least seven of which refer to breath or wind, not deity)

Based on the above, most Christians would assume that there are as many as 415 instances of “Spirit” that refer to a 3rd God-being.  (I do not assume that.)  See for example material presented here:

How would one describe the Indescribable?

Garrett et al on “trinity”

Software will find instances of words near other words.  These stats are interesting, but I don’t suggest that they are the only way to “slice and dice” the verbiage:

  • “Spirit” NEAR (“God” OR “Holy” OR “Jesus” OR “Christ”)—366
  • (“Jesus” OR “Son” OR “Christ”) NEAR “Spirit”—101
  • (“Father” OR “God”) NEAR “Spirit”—150

One must decide for oneself how many different entities are referred to in some passages.  In any event, the “Spirit” references appear far less frequently than Father or Son/Jesus/Christ references.

Allegiance: Boltz, Camp, & Mullins (part 1 of 2)

I think it was during my late teen years that the notion of the Christian believer’s foremost allegiance began to stick with me.  More than once during those years, I read every word of my grandfather’s paper on the Christian and government.¹  In the sub-context of stating a Christ-based unwillingness to serve in the military (but also revealing a broader philosophical stance which I also affirm), Granddaddy wrote, “I will try to be submissive insofar as this submission does not compromise my basic allegiance to Christ.”  Such thinking has been a part of my theological chassis for some time.  Many welders have strengthened the undercarriage, so the allegiance frame is pretty unlikely to break at this point.

Some years later, when I heard Ray Boltz’s² rather unique song “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,” it added a “contemporary Christian” bit of support to my thinking.  A Christian should have one primary allegiance, I knew, and that allegiance should obviously not be to the flag of a country, but Boltz had stated it well in the positive:  Jesus the Lamb was the One to Whom loyalty is due.  I wonder now whether Boltz was responding creatively (either consciously or subconsciously), knowing something was amiss in the popularity of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” which was then more than ten years old and had become the anthem of the U.S. military, beginning in the Gulf War era.

Image result for rich mullins songs album

Also sometime during the 1990s, I had come to the songs of the late Rich Mullins.  Just a couple of days ago, I happened to put one of Mullins’s CDs in my player, as I seem to every couple of months.  The song “If I Stand” has often moved me, through years, filling up my eyes, and it did so again.  It is not the word “allegiance” first that struck me, but a synonym:

There’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment.

Nationalistic patriotism in most people (not all, I understand) has most often struck me as mere sentiment.  One or two good friends have challenged my concept of patriotism, and I do acknowledge that it can be a neutral or even good thing even in the believer’s life.  Still, Mullins’s sentence has stuck with me through the years.  Whatever the inner sentiment of a national patriot, surely loyalty must outlast and outshine the sentiment.  And it is the same for a believer:  it’s not that there is no sentiment; it’s that allegiance to the King must be real and transcendent.

In the song “If I Stand,” Mullins and co-writer Cudworth continued,

The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the giver of all good things.

In internalizing these thoughts sporadically for more than two decades, my own allegiance has been both (a) shown to be the weak thing that it is and (b) impelled forward.  Five songs later on the disc, Mullins offered “My One Thing,” showing once again that he desired to embody a surpassing allegiance:

You’re my one thing!
Save me from those things that might distract me.
Please take them away and purify my heart.
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing,
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone,
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with my one thing!

In 2015, I was introduced by Richard Hughes to the writing of Lee CamImage result for lee camp mere discipleshipp.  First poring over Camp’s Mere Discipleship, I was impressed by his depth and his on-target courage to speak into the fray of modern Christendom, not to mention his skill with written expression.  In the course of this book, Camp depicted worship as allegiance, and I have yet to dive into that connection, but something compels to do so.  Allegiance is a rather massive, compelling ideal.

In part two, I will mention a (relatively) new book by Matthew Bates—Salvation by Allegiance Alone.  I’ll also say some things related to faith and allegiance in Paul’s (old) letter to the Galatians.  Allegiance is a concept with substantial, longstanding history.


¹ Andy T. Ritchie, Jr.’s paper is in the public domain and is reproduced in my book Subjects of the Kingdom. 

² Only in writing this post have I learned that Boltz’s allegiance to his own desires later eclipsed his allegiance to Christ and to his wife.

In this time of year (4)

Worship words for Messiah Jesus on Sunday morning . . .

Jesus, Son of the Father

Verse 1:
We have been with Jesus, believing in His name,
And we have known His saving blood.  We refuse to be the same.

Verse 2:
Ancient words of kingdom spread—confirmed in wonders true.
Life’s Prince was raised Who once was dead—God’s Messiah, giv’n for you.

Verse 3:
Gathered here, devoting all at table, pray’r, and song.
We pledge to heed His loving call; to our LORD they’ll know we belong.

Chorus
Jesus, Son of the Father—risen, ascended, reigning at His right—
We are compelled in worshipping You, Lord.
You’re present both here and in eternal light.

Words and Music by Brian Casey
© 2011 Encounter Music

Lord of All

Lord of All, we come to You with our hearts and our voices.
Now we sing with one accord to the Lord of All.
Alleluia!  Alleluia!
Oh, sing to the Lord of All.


Words and Music by Brian Casey
© 2004 Encounter Music

MWM: technology in hindsight

A book is technological feat, and so is a slide.

My parents have boxes and boxes of slides—not the playground kind, of course, but the photographic kind.  Throughout my growing-up years (yes, this dates me), with the exception of a few ill-fated Polaroid™ shots, they took pics almost entirely with slide film.  The slide proj carouselprojector my family owned was a “stacker” that came with a side-mount contraption into which one could load an entire box or two of slides in one fell swoop.  Carousel-type projectors like the one shown here, much more common, took much more time to load and unload but were less likely to jam.  Slide projectors still exist, and I used one like this carousel projector a few years ago when I wanted to convert some family history pics to digital images for my parents’ 50th anniversary.

As for myself, I didn’t think I owned any slides, but I did find one recently:

worship slide

I had no memory of this item but had saved it in a “worship resources” file.  Before personal computers and PowerPoint, and quite possibly with a desire to supplant overhead projectors, this “Worship Visions” outfit was apparently producing slides with worship song lyrics and marketing them to churches who used projectors.  When my wife saw this slide, she asked, “What is that?  Like a time capsule piece?”  Well, yeah, I guess so.  I’ve never been anywhere where worship slides like this one were used, but I did own some transparencies until about 5 years ago, when I finally came to terms with the need to get rid of them.  (Since then, I’ve met with a group that actually still has an overhead projector, so maybe I should have donated my transparencies instead of making the assumption that they were completely obsolete.)

You know, this “worship slide” technology, in its time, would have been just as likely to contribute to real congregational worship as a transparency or today’s lyrics-only PowerPoint slides.  (Here, I won’t go into the merits of using music notation; I’ve written uber-sufficiently about that elsewhere.)  Every technology is merely a tool to be used, or not.

[This is an installment in the periodic Monday Worship Music series which looks at hymns and other topics related to worship music of the church.]

More than a few quotations (#1400)

1400I realized only a couple of weeks ago that I was approaching post No. 1400¹ on this blog.  One hundred times double the “perfection” number is a nice number, but the sentiments and studies here have been anything but perfect.  I’d like to use this particular milestone post (see below² for other milestones) to share some fine work from other writers I’ve come in contact with recently.  Many of the passages below bear words and thoughts that 1) poetically are my envy and 2) spiritually speak of some of my elusive, unattainable, guiding stars.  I will appeal to many of these again.

Please be inspired . . . or motivated . . . or challenged . . . as you wish.

Of Following the King

Could it be that one’s real duty is not to find the one true highway, but rather to be a certain kind of person—humble, attentive, and obedient—whatever the path one is on?  If “The Way” be in us, John Bunyan once said, then we will always be in The Way, wherever we travel.  – Darryl Tippens, Pilgrim Heart

When “everyone was a Christian,” the means by which “everyone” became a “Christian” was infant baptism….  This practice stood at the heart of the full flowering of the Constantinian church…. For the Anabaptists, baptism represented the point of entrance into a community of faith that had “been taught repentance and the amendment of life.”  Baptism must not serve as a empty symbol of entry into a state-run church; baptism epitomized discipleship, and infant baptism cut out the very heart of the New Testament vision of the practice.  Instead of baptizing culture and calling it ”Christian,” the Anabaptists desired that the church baptize those whose sought to walk in the way of Jesus…. “Faith” required, enabled, and freed one to walk in the way of Christ; baptism without discipleship was thus not Christian baptism.  – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 137-139 (citing also the Schleitheim Confession of the 16th century)

It appears to me, comparing my experience with that of many friends, that once one has seriously enlisted on the side of God and his purpose, considerable spiritual opposition is provoked and encountered. . . .  Should they once begin to embark on real living and to assist in building the Kingdom of God, then the attack begins!  – J.B. Phillips, For This Day (emphasis Phillips’s)

Underneath “the end justifies the means” logic lies the assumption that the way of Christ is simply not a relevant social ethic … society will fall apart, will sink into a spiral of unmitigated violence. … Jesus could not have meant that we take him seriously in the realm of social and political realities—after all, what would happen if everybody did that?!  . . .

Can those who claim Jesus to be divine grant so little authority to this One who showed us what it means to live a human life in accordance with the will of God?  “Hey, be realistic, none of us are Jesus!” it is objected.  But do such objections not overlook the New Testament claim that the people of God, the “body of Christ,” continue the ministry and work of Christ right in the midst of real human history, right in the midst of oppression, injustice, violence, and greed? – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 34, 39 (emphasis Camp’s)

Disciples are called to be peacemakers.  This, however, does not necessarily mean passive disengagement from the world around us.  Our example is our Father who loved the world and gave His Son for it.  This is radical engagement….  -John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come

[A German woman, in reflection on Hitlerian Germany:]  “Don’t you Americans always think that your wars are just?”  Such anecdotes point us to a historical reality:  a lazy use of the just war tradition most often provides rationalization for Christians killing their alleged enemies.   – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 129 (emphasis Camp’s)

Claiming Jesus as Lord results in a particular manner of life, for which Jesus is the authority. – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 125

Of the Kingdom

My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. – Jesus (John 18, NRSV)

The idea of the Kingdom of God, the sovereignty of God, was a conception which was central and basic to the message of Jesus.  He emerged on men with the message that the Kingdom was at hand (Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15).  To preach the Kingdom was an obligation that was laid upon him (Luke 4:43).  It was with the message of the Kingdom that he went through the towns and villages of Galilee (Luke 8:1).  The announcement of the Kingdom was the central element in the teaching of Jesus. . . .   To do the will of God and to be in the Kingdom of God are one and the same thing. – William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus

When Jesus said (Luke 17:20-21) that the Kingdom doesn’t come with observation—that the Kingdom of God is “within” he wasn’t denying external things, he was emphasizing internal things. . . .  What exactly is Christ saying in this verse?  He’s telling us that the reign of God is peculiar. It’s built on self-surrender. – Jim McGuiggan, The Reign of God

What did Jesus talk about after his resurrection?  He appeared to his followers “over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).  This was his subject matter.  – Howard Snyder, Community of the King

Of Worshipping the King

Worship is keeping open the vital connections between man and the source of his spiritual life.  Worship is the road over which the prodigal travels from the wastelands of sin to the Father’s house of plenty.  It is the wire which connects the Christian with the Dynamo of energy and light, and it is the lifeline through which flows the water of life.  Worship is eating, eating bread at the table of God.   – Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., Thou Shalt Worship the Lord Thy God

Two facets of worship are often overlooked.  First and foremost, worship is a matter of allegiance: whom shall we deem worthy of glory, honor, and dominion? – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 120


¹ For the record, a couple of the 1400 posts have been unintentional duplications, and if I were to read through them all now, I’d only be proud of 14% of them.

² Links to other milestone posts:

  • #1300a non-momentous sharing of quotes from C.S. Lewis
  • #1200—a chiastic meditation
  • #1000—John 9’s exegesis and blindness
  • #900—ponderings about God
  • #666—about Revelation (a post I’m not particularly proud of; I’d say things differently now)

A few points

Someone has said that “residue” is what you have when you finish most of something, and then the “res I due” tomorrow.”  This post is the final residue from last fall’s worship series,¹ and I’m “due”ing it today.

~ ~ ~

Cecil Hook was one of the most gracious, gentle spirits one could ever hope to know, and was the author of at least five books.²  Toward the end of each of the later books, he would offer brief, discrete teachings in collections called “Hook’s Points.”  I’m taking that habit as my cue here, offering a few points here about worship and the assembly.

Public and Private

Worship should be both private and public.  Worshippers should participate and experience alone and in groups.

Your church might call the main gathering a “worship assembly” or “corporate worship,” and the gathering probably includes some worship, but it is almost certainly not completely filled with worship activities.  If the strong majority of the public gathering’s activities are not worship per se, it should probably be called something else.  Likewise, your private life may involve some worship, but it is not completely filled with worship.

Those who think corporate worship is overrated or even entirely misconceived may be duly reacting to an overemphasis on the assembly in the scheme of Christian life.³  They may also be inclined toward the idea of “whole-life worship” (a more private concept), which is often rooted in a misguided extrapolation/misguided interpretation of Romans 12:1.

Those who actually think everything in their weekly public gatherings is worship are equally misguided, mistaking centuries of church “worship service” tradition for biblical examples and principles.

Happy and Sad

I once bought into the idea that Sunday mornings were for celebration. I now think that notion is incomplete and inadequate.

Worship leaders, I hope many of you will hear this, if you aren’t already starkly aware of it:  not everyone comes into your assembly feeling glad and worship-filled.  If you start every assembly in a hip-hip-hooray mode and act as if everyone ought to be celebrating all the time, you’re leaving out a lot of people.

Worship is not always celebratory and actually has many faces.  At times, we worship “anyway,” because God is the worthy One.  Among contemporary songs, Fernando Ortega’s “I Will Praise Him Still” approaches worship from this determined, humble, “despite what’s going on” angle.

Music

Worship and “worship music” are not equivalent expressions.  Music doesn’t have the universal appeal that some assume.

There probably was a time when I was just that insistent and insensitive in public leadership, coming across as over-interested in worship music.  Not everyone is that interested, and that’s OK.  At this point, having lived more years, I refuse to equate the musical experience (no matter the style) with worship.  There is much more to worship than music.

Verbal action/noun sense

Worship may not, must not be reduced to any list of “acts” that supposedly fulfill a supposed checklist.  To suggest that the scriptures communicate a group of “five (or six) acts of worship” is to make up something out of thin air.

Although “worship” can be either noun or verb, both can be limiting.  To say “X church has ‘a good worship'” is too noun-ish, n’est-ce pas?  It is truth to say that worship is active in various ways, but reducing it to one or more “acts” may suggest that those actions are always observable, attaining only to a part of the reality.

When I worship, my spirit acts, and my body may act, too. But far be it from me to attempt to come up with a list of “acts” that comprise the whole of worship.  Such a list cannot be written, nor can my worshipping (how’s that for a verbal noun?) ever be sufficient.


¹ If you’re interested in that series but missed it, use this link, and then scroll back a few posts to one of the summary “What Was All That About?” posts.  Material on worship words was presented, as well as resource lists and quotations and a few other goodies.  (Or, wait for the book that will include revised versions of those studies, planned for release in 2-3 months.)

² Hook’s books were titled Free in Christ, Free To Speak, Free as Sons, Free To Change, and Free To Accept.  I was privileged to contribute editorially to the last two and to a major revision of the first.  I wish I had assumed more of Hook’s mantle of grace, not to mention his succinctness in writing!

³ It is my sense that Cecil Hook was among this group.  He did not write much about worship, and when he did, it was more of a disclaimer, a pointer-away-from the over-emphasis on supposed rectitude in assembly worship.  He was, however, very gracious and affirming toward me and my somewhat different views on the nature and place of worship in thought and life.  For more than a quarter-century now, I have emphasized that worship is not by any means bound to Christian assemblies, nor are assemblies (to be) entirely composed of worship activities.  Cecil emphasized more of the horizontal, which I also support, while I have at most points emphasized the vertical.