Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

February 12, 2008

Again I Quote #6

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 9:54 pm

O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you.  Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!  For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.  I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,  like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.  You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.  Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah  You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;  my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you.  Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah  Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?  Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?  But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.  O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?  Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.  Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.  They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.  You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

Psalm 88


February 8, 2008

Again I Quote #5

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 1:11 pm

“When his wife wept loudly he comforted her, ‘Think where she is going. She’ll get along all right. Flesh is flesh, spirit is spirit. Children don’t argue. They believe what they’re told. All things are simple for children. They die without anxiety, complaint or fear of death, and they have little physical pain, as if they were falling asleep’.

“When the illness of his daughter became graver he said, ‘I love her very much. But if it is your will to take her, dear God, I shall be glad to know that she is with you.’ Afterward,he said to his daughter, who was lying in bed, ‘Dear Magdalene, my little daughter, you would be glad to stay here with me, your father. Are you also glad to go to your Father, in heaven?’ The sick girl replied, ‘Yes, dear father, as God wills.’ The father said, ‘You dear little girl. [Then he turned away from her and said] ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I love her very much. But if this flesh is so strong, what must the spirit be?’ Among other things, he then said, ‘In the last thousand years God has given to no bishop such great gifts as he has given to me (for one should boast of God’s gifts). I’m angry with myself that I am unable to rejoice from my heart and be thankful to God, though at times I do sing a little song and thank God. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (in the genitive singular and not the nominative plural).

“When his daughter was in the agony of death, he fell on his knees before the bed, and weeping bitterly, prayed that God might will to save her. Thus she gave up the ghost in the arms of her father. Her mother was in the same room, but farther from the bed on account of her grief. It was after the ninth hour on the Wednesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity in the year 1542.

“Often he repeated the words given above, ‘I’d like to keep my daughter because I love her very much, if only our Lord God would let me, however, His will be done. Truly nothing better can happen to her, nothing better.’ While she was still living he often said to her, ‘Dear daughter you have another Father in heaven. You are going to go to him.’ His friend [PM] said to him, ‘The feelings of parents are a likeness of divinty impressed upon the human character. If the love of God for the human race is as great as the love of parents for their children, then it is truly great and ardent.’

“When his dead daughter had been placed in the coffin, he said, ‘You dear little Lena, how well it has worked out for you.’ He looked at her and said, ‘Ah, dear child, to think that you must be raised up and will shine like the stars, yes, like the sun.’

“The coffin would not hold her, and he said, ‘The little bed is too small for her.’ He said, ‘I am joyful in spirit but I am sad according to the flesh. The flesh doesn’t take kindly to this. The separation caused by death troubles me above measure. It is strange to know that she is surely at peace and that she is surely at peace and is well off there, very well off, and yet to grieve so much.’

“When people came to escort the funeral and friends spoke to him according to custom and expressed to him their sympathy, he said, ‘You should be pleased. I have sent a saint to heaven – yes a living saint. Would that our death might be like this. Such a death I would take this very hour.’ The people said, ‘Yes this is quite true. Yet everybody would like to hold on to what is his.’ He replied, ‘Flesh is flesh and blood is blood. I am happy that she is safely out of it. There is no sorrow except that of the flesh.’ Again, turning to others, he said, ‘Do not be sorrowful. I have sent a saint to heaven. In fact, I have sent two of them.’

“When she was buried, he said, ‘There is a resurrection of the flesh.’

“When he returned home from the funeral, he said, ‘My daughter is now fitted out in body and soul. We Christians now have nothing to complain about. We know that it should and must be so, for we are altogether certain about eternal life.’ Thereupon, he consoled himself by saying, ‘I am very glad to give my daughter to our Lord God. According to the flesh I would gladly have had her, but since he has taken her away, I am thankful to him.’

Martin Luther in Table Talk

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February 7, 2008

Again I Quote #4

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 10:11 pm

“My dear friends, come here to grieve with this stooped father at the grave of his beloved child, I know you are not come with the intention of seeing a reed shaken by the wind. But what you find is in truth only an old stalk, which yet does not break even from this gust of wind that has suddenly struck him from on high, out of the blue. Thus it is. For a happy household, cared for and spared by Heaven for twenty years, I have God to thank; for a much longer pursuit of my vocation, accompanied by undeserved blessings; for a great abundance of joys and sorrows, which in my calling and as a sympathetic friend, I have lived through with others. Many a heavy cloud has passed over my life; yet what has come from without, faith has surmounted, and what from within love has recompensed. But now, this one blow, the first of its kind, has shaken my life to its roots.

. . . . .

“This charge, important above all others for the remainder of my life, to which my heart clung to full of love, is now ineradicably stricken through; the friendly, refreshing picture of life is suddenly destroyed; and all the hopes that rested upon him lie here and shall be buried with this coffin. What should I say?

“There is one consolation, with which many faithful Christians soothe themselves in such a case, which already many beloved, friendly voices have spoken to me in these days, and which is not to be simply dismissed, for it grows out of a correct assessment of human weakness. Namely, it is the consolation that children who are taken away young are in fact delivered from all the dangers and temptations of this life and are early rescued into the sure Haven. And this boy would certainly not have been spared these dangers. But, in fact, this consolation does not want to take with me, I being the way I am. Regarding this world as I always do, as a world that is glorified through the life of the Redeemer and hallowed through the efficacy of his Spirit to an unending development of all that is good and Godly; wishing, as I always have, to be nothing but a servant of this divine Word in a joyful spirit and sense; why then should I not have believed that the blessings of the Christian community would be confirmed in my child as well, and that through Christian upbringing, an imperishable seed would have been planted in him? Why should I not have trusted in the merciful preservation of God for him as well, even if he stumbled? Why should I not have trusted securely that nothing would be able to tear him out of the hand of the Lord and Savior to whom he was dedicated, and whom he had already begun to love with his childlike heart.

“Thus I stand here, then, with my comfort and my hope alone in the Word of Scripture, modest and yet so rich. ‘It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but when it shall appear, we shall see him as he is.’ And in the powerful prayer of the Lord ‘Father, I would that where I am, they also may be whom thou hast given me.’ Supported by these strong beliefs, then, and borne along by a childlike submission, I say from my heart, the Lord has given him: the name of the Lord be praised, that he gave him to me; that he granted to this child a life, which, even though short, was yet glad and bright and warmed by the loving breath of his grace; that he has so truly watched over and guided him that now with his cherished remembrance nothing bitter is mixed.

“Now, thou God who art love, let me not only resign myself to thy omnipotence, not only submit to thy impenetrable wisdom, but also know thy fatherly love. Make even this grievous trial a new blessing for me in my vocation. For me and all of mine let this communal pain become wherever possible a new bond of still more intimate love, and let it issue in a new apprehension of thy Spirit in all my household. Grant that even this grave hour may become a blessing for all who are gathered here. Let us all more and more mature to that wisdom which, looking beyond the void, sees and loves only the eternal in all things earthly and perishable, and in all thy decrees finds thy peace as well, and eternal life, to which through faith we are delivered out of death. Amen.”

Friederich Schleiermacher – Graveside sermon on the death of his son.

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January 29, 2008

Again I quote #3:

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 8:37 pm

Psalm 34:1-9 OF DAVID, WHEN HE CHANGED HIS BEHAVIOR BEFORE ABIMELECH, SO THAT HE DROVE HIM OUT, AND HE WENT AWAY. I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“As almost all of you know, a week ago last Monday night, driving in a terrible storm, my son Alexander – who to his friends was a real day-brightener, and to his family ‘Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky’ – my twenty-four-year-old Alexander, who enjoyed beating his old man in every game and in every race beat his father to the grave.

“Among the healing flood of letters that followed his death was one carrying this wonderful quote from the end of Hemmingway’s Farewell to Arms: ‘The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.’ My own broken heart is mending, and largely thanks to so many of you, my dear parishioners; for if in the last week I have re-learned one lesson, it is that love not only begets love, it transmits strength.

“When a person dies, there are many things that can be said, and there is at least one thing that should never be said. The night after Alex died I was sitting in the living room of my sister’s house outside of Boston, when the front door opened and in came a nice looking middle aged woman carrying about eighteen quiches. When she saw me she shook her head, then headed for the kitchen saying sadly over her shoulder, ‘I just don’t understand the will of God.’ Instantly I was up and in hot pursuit, swarming all over her. ‘I’ll say you don’t, lady.’ I said. I continued, ‘Do you think it was the will of God that Alex never fixed that lousy windshield wiper of his, that he was probably driving too fast in such a storm, that he probably had a couple of frosties too many? Do you think it is in God’s will that there are no street lights along that stretch of road, and no guard rail separating the road from Boston harbor?’

“For some reason nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around the world with his finger on triggers, his fist around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead set against all unnatural deaths. And Christ spent an inordinate amount of time delivering people from paralysis, insanity, leprosy, and muteness. Which is not to say that there are no nature-caused deaths, deaths that are untimely and slow and pain-ridden, which for that reason raise unanswerable questions, and even the specter of a Cosmic Sadist – yes, even an Eternal Vivisector. But violent deaths, such as the one that Alex died – to understand those is a piece of cake. As his younger brother put it simply, standing at the head of the casket at the Boston funeral, ‘You blew it, buddy. You blew it.’ The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is it is the will of God. Never do we know enough to say that. My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.

“I mentioned the healing flood of letters. Some of the very best, and easily the worst, came from fellow reverends, a few of whom proved they knew their Bibles better than the human condition. I know all the right biblical passages, including ‘Blessed are those who mourn,’ and my faith is no house of cards; these passages are true, I know. But the point is this: While the words of the Bible are true, grief renders them unreal. The reality of grief is the absence of God – ‘My God, my God why has thou forsaken me?’ The reality of grief is the solitude of pain, the feeling that your heart is in pieces, your mind’s a blank, that ‘there is no joy the world can give like that it takes away.’

“That’s why immediately after such a tragedy people must come to your rescue, people who only want to hold your hand, not to quote anybody or even say anything, people who simply bring food and flowers, people who sign letters simply, ‘your broken hearted sister.’ In other words, in my intense grief I felt some of my fellow reverends were using comforting words of scripture for self-promotion, to pretty up a situation whose bleakness they simply couldn’t face. But like God herself, scripture isn’t around for anyone’s protection, just for everyone’s unending support.

“And that’s what hundreds of you understood so beautifully. You gave me what God gives all of us – minimum protection, maximum support. I swear to you I wouldn’t be standing here were I not upheld.

“After the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis said, ‘They say,” the coward dies many times”; so does the beloved. Didn’t the eagle find a fresh liver to tear in Prometheus every time it dined?’

“When parents die, as did my mother last month, they take with them a large portion of the past. But when children die, they take away the future as well. That is what makes the valley of the shadow of death seem so incredibly dark and unending. In a prideful way it would be easier to walk the valley alone, nobly, head held high, instead of – as we must – marching as the latest recruit in the world’s army of the bereaved.

“Still there is much by way of consolation. Because there are no rankling unanswered questions, and because Alex and I simply adored each other, the wound for me is deep, but clean. I know how lucky I am! I also know that this day-brightener of a son wouldn’t wish to held close by grief (nor, for that matter would the meanest of our beloved departed), and that, interestingly enough, when I mourn Alex least I see him best.

“Another consolation, of course, will be the learning – which better be good, given the price. But it’s a fact: few of us are naturally profound; we have to be forced down.

“And of course I know even when pain is deep, that God is good. ‘My God, my God why has thou forsaken me?’ Yes, but at least, ‘My God, my God’; and the psalm only begins that way, it doesn’t end that way. As the grief that once seemed unbearable begins to turn to bearable sorrow, the truths in the ‘right’ biblical passages are beginning, once again, to take hold. ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall strengthen thee.’; ‘Weeping shall endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’; ‘Lord, by thy favor thou has made my mountain to stand strong’; ‘for thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling’; ‘In this word ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

“And finally I know that when Alex beat me to the grave, the finish line was not Boston Harbor in the middle of the night. If a week ago last Monday a light went out, it was because, for him at least, the Dawn had come.

“So I shall – so let us all – seek consolation in that love which never dies, and find peace in that dazzling grace that always is.”

William Sloane Coffin – Alex’s Death – a Eulogy Sermon 1982.

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January 24, 2008

Again I Quote:

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 10:34 pm

“A friend remarked after the funeral that what he had seen there was the endurance of faith. He added that this was the message of the book of Job. And I think he was right about both.

“The only thing that angered me in what people had offered was a small book someone gave me written by a father whose son had also been killed in a mountaineering accident. The writer said that in his church on the Sunday before his son’s death, they read Psalm 18. He now interprets verse 36 as speaking to him:

‘Thou didst give a wide place for my steps under me,and my foot did not slip.’

“His son’s foot had not slipped. God had shaken the mountain. God had decided that it was time for him to come home.

“I find this pious attitude deaf to the message of the Christian gospel. Death is here understood as a normal instrument of God’s dealing with us. ‘You there have lived out the years I’ve planned for you, so I’ll just shake the mountain a bit. All of you there, I’ll send some starlings into the engine of your plane. And as for you there, a stroke while running will do just nicely.’

“The Bible instead speaks of God’s overcoming death. Paul calls it the last great enemy to be overcome. God is appalled by death. My pain over my son’s death is shared by his pain over my son’s death. And, yes, I share in his pain over his son’s death.

“Seeing God as the agent of death is one way of fitting into a rational pattern God, ourselves and death. There are other ways. One of these has been explained in a book by Rabbi Kushner: God too is pained by death, more even than you and I are, but there’s nothing much he can do about it.

“I cannot fit all together by saying, ‘He did it,’ but neither can I do so by saying, ‘There was nothing he could do about it.’ I cannot fit it together at all. I can only, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric’s death. To live without the answer is precarious. It’s hard to keep one’s footing.

“Job’s friends cried out to him their answer. ‘God did it, Job; he was the agent of your children’s death. He did it because of some wickedness in you; he did it to punish you. Nothing indeed in your public life would seem to merit such retribution; it must be then something in your private inner life. Tell us what it is, Job. Confess.’

“The writer of Job refuses to say that God views the lives of children as cats-o’-nine-tails with which to lacerate parents.

“I have no explanation. I can do nothing else than endure in the face of this deepest and most painful of mysteries. I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, and resurrecter of Jesus Christ. I also believe that my son’s life was cut off in its prime. I cannot fit these pieces together. I am at a loss. I have read the theodicies produced to justify the ways of God to man. I find them unconvincing. To the most agonizing questions I have ever asked I do not know the answer. I do not know why God would watch him fall. I do not know why God would watch me wounded. I cannot even guess.

“C.S. Lewis, writing about the death of his wife, was plainly angry with God. He, Lewis, deserved something better than to be treated so shabbily. I am not angry but baffled and hurt. My wound is an unanswered question. The wounds of all humanity are an unanswered question.

“I am at an impasse, and you, O God, have brought me here. From my earliest days, I heard of you. From my earliest days, I believed in you. I shared in the life of your people; in their prayers, in their work, in their songs, in their listening for your speech, in their watching for your presence. For me your yoke was easy. On me your presence smiled.

“Noon has darkened. As fast as she could say, ‘He’s dead,’ the light dimmed. And where are you in this darkness? I learned to spy you in the light. Here in this darkness, I cannot find you. If I had never looked for you, or looked but never found, I would not feel this pain of your absence. Or is it not absence in which I dwell but your elusive troubling presence?

“Will my eyes adjust to this darkness? Will I find you in the dark – not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness? Has anyone ever found you there? Did they love what they saw? And are there songs for singing when the light has gone dim? The songs I learned were all of praise and thanksgiving and repentance. Or in the dark, is it best to wait in silence?”

Nicholas Wolterstorff – Lament for a Son pgs 66-69

January 22, 2008

And I quote:

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 10:33 pm

“But there are difficulties. ‘Where is she now?’ That is, in what place is she at the present time? If she is not a body, she is in no place at all. And “the present time” is a date or a point in our time series. But unless she is proceeding at sixty seconds per minute along this same timeline that all we living people travel by, what does now mean? If the dead are not in time, or not in our sort of time, is there any clear difference, when we speak of them, between was and is and will be?

“Kind people have said to me, ‘She is with God.’ In one sense that is most certain. She is, like God, most incomprehensible and unimaginable.

“But I find that this question, however important it may be in itself, is not after all very important in relation to grief. Suppose that the earthly lives she and I shared for a few years are in reality only the basis for, or prelude to, or earthly appearance of, two unimaginable, super cosmic, eternal somethings. Those somethings could be pictured as spheres or globes. Where the plane of nature cuts through them – that is, in earthly life – they appear as two circles. Two circles that touched. But those two circles, above all at the point at which they touched, are the very thing I am mourning for, homesick for, famished for. You tell me, ‘she goes on.’ But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. But I know that this is impossible. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the heartbreaking commonplace. On any view whatever, to say ‘she is dead’ is to say ‘all that is gone.’ It is a part of the past. And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where ‘the former things have passed away.’

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

“Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore’, pictured in entirely earthly terms. But all that is unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the spiritualists bait their hook! ‘Things on this side are not so different after all.’ There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

“And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.

“Others have said, ‘Do not mourn like those that have no hope.’ It astonishes me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters. What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ A comfort to the God-aimed eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her daughter on her knees, or bathe her, or tell her a story, or plan for her future, or see her children.”

-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed pgs 26-30.

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December 19, 2007

More on the RPW.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 11:12 pm

In this post I am filling in a huge hole in the RPW discussion that I started last go ’round. To overlook this aspect of the RPW would result in stripping the RPW entirely of its secondary – but vital – point. Heretofore, and especially at Blogorrhea where the topic comes up in the discussion of singing exclusive psalmody vs. singing uninspired hymns, the RPW has been vilified as the biggest rip-off ever foisted on the church. The critique is that it is a hair-brained idea being advanced by a bunch of Pharasaical killjoys.

There is beautiful irony in that criticism. The reason for the irony is found in the impetus that revived the RPW in the first place. Here is a little historical background.

Very briefly, we have the Reformation to thank for the RPW. The reformers took issue with the worship practices in the Roman church. Specifically, they objected to the mass and its attendant theology. It was John Knox and particularly his mentor, John Calvin, who took objection to the re-sacrifice of Christ and the kneeling before the “host” that was mandated in Roman “worship” services. In addition to the theological error of rejecting the once-for-all-time nature of the atonement that is clearly spelled out in Hebrews, they charged the Roman church with inventing worship practices that were nowhere mandated in the Bible. They supported their position exegetically by the belief that in church we must only do that which God has commanded us to do in scripture. (As we have seen).

The hallmarks of the pharisees were two-fold. First, they tended to miss the point of the law – love of God and of neighbor. But secondly, and exactly to the point of the RPW, they added to the law. This is exactly what the RPW guards against. The point that is missing in RPW discussions up to now is that Calvin was just as much grieved that the Roman authorities were forcing the masses to participate in the abominable mass , as he was grieved by the Roman doctrines. He saw the Roman church running roughshod over the Christian liberty that worshipers have.

So, what’s the point? The point is that the RPW is not pharisaical oppression against Christian liberty, it protects Christian liberty. This point may be lost on those Christian organizations that operate on the laissez faire principle. But in those groups that apply the third mark of a true church, namely Church discipline, the RPW is a key foundation. How so? Well, the Bible says “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Here is a focal point of church discipline. Ruling elders make rules. That is, they determine what will be done in church worship. If they say that in worship, we will now – to take an extreme example – institute the practice that we express our response to the Lord by slow dancing to some nice dreamy romantic mood music; and in this dance, your partner will be Jesus; you will be embracing the Lord Jesus as you dance around the sanctuary, the people will have to do it. More on point, if the ruling elders say “from now on we will all kneel at the rail during the Lord’s supper as we bow in homage to the King’s Hawaiian bread”, this too we are obligated to do. You see, one of the tenets of Reformed worship is unity. There are to be no individuals “doing their own thing”. We all are in one accord. The membership is thus protected from this type of abomination – hypothetical in the first case but very real in the second case – by the RPW. The membership can appeal to the dictum that our consciences may be bound only by what God has commanded to take place in worship. Anything added to that is Pharisaism. The ruling elders in a church that subscribes to the RPW are pledging to the membership that such a thing will not happen. Discipline is only warranted – in the context of worship – by a refusal to participate in what is commanded by God to be done in worship.

So, you see that this discussion is not just a theoretical hand waving suitable for blog-fights. It is actually a real operating by-law in the constitution of the church that practices church membership and church discipline with the attendant binding of conscience on those members. (See WCF chapter 21.)

Hopefully, you can see that the RPW is a good thing. Just exactly what those things are that God has commanded to be done in Christian worship is another equally important discussion. But here you can see why you should actually champion the RPW. It is a very good thing. In fact, in the church that upholds church discipline it is a mandatory principle. Of course, in para-church organizations, all bets are off. There the dictum “if it feels good, do it” seems to carry the day. This promotes a lack of unity and thus reflects the absence of the third mark of the church.

December 9, 2007

Has God really said?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 2:12 pm

I’m late checking in here with my next installment. The debate has come and gone. I may touch on that later but this is the promised installment that provides scriptural support for the RPW.

I noticed from some quarters the notion that the RPW is merely one opinion among several options. This position is an inevitable result of fallen man trying to interpret scripture. I’m not really all that comfortable with the idea of us creatures bringing judgments against scripture. Ideally, scripture should be the one bringing judgments against us. It should be the one interpreting us, our thoughts, and our deeds.

Nevertheless, I promised a defense of the RPW so here it is. The first word in the acronym is ‘regulative’. To me, having to defend the idea that God regulates worship is somewhat crazy. Of course he makes rules. That’s what the covenant lord does. We as covenant servants don’t make rules. We are called to obey them. The second word in the acronym is ‘principle’. I don’t much like this word here because it seems to imply the idea that we can’t really find any actual rules so we are going to have to settle for a principle that we, if we’re lucky, can cobble together from scripture. Of course, the third word in the acronym is ‘worship’. The weakness here is that it seems to suggest that we need to be reminded that God’s rights of rule making extend to worship, as if somehow this is an afterthought. Maybe it was not really God’s primary consideration in his rule making and we have to extend his rights to regulate things into the domain of worship.

The fundamental texts that the whole notion of RPW hang on are these:

Genesis 3:1-7 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Here we see that our primary sin is adding to or subtracting from the word of God. This is our tendency. God adds to this with later clear rules in this regard:

Deuteronomy 4:1-3 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal-peor, for the LORD your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor.”

See Numbers 25 to note that the context for these words is formal corporate worship as performed by God’s chosen people.

As if to remind us that this is no mere principle that somehow expired in the Church age, the spirit gives us this as well:

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

So here we find the exact bookend matching the one in Genesis 3. Do not add or subtract from the word of God. There is continuity across the ages irrespective of the discontinuities that do obtain as the Israelite theocracy was dissolved and the mysteries of the bride of Christ – the church – take full flower in history prior to the consummation.

I have considered that the prescriptions provided in Hebrews “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence [boldness] to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, . . . .” might suggest that rules for worship are laid aside. (It’s the old “we are under grace not under law argument). But I maintain that this verse in no way alters the terms – rules – of worship but changes the basis upon which we may approach God. We are confident that even though God is still a consuming fire (v.27) we no longer have to remain outside of his presence depending on the high priest alone to make the yearly entrance behind the curtain. This is made clear by the writer’s reference to the rules and punishments for laying aside the laws of Moses (v. 28).

The new and living way may be thought of by some to refer to new “ways” of worship. But that is not what it means. The word “way” is odos – the Greek for road or path or journey. It is in fact a covenantal term referring to the covenantal practice of following after our covenant Lord. It was inaugurated in Genesis 15 where the theophanic presence of Christ the Lord made his way between the pieces of the slain animals. As covenant servants we are obligated to make our way following in his footsteps in covenant allegiance and obedience to the great suzerain. This is now an actual possibility for us in the new covenant, whereas before it was possible – typologically – only for the high priest.

That’s enough for now. My next installment will take up some of the thorny questions that do arise when discussing this important matter.

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October 26, 2007

All Rise.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 10:10 pm

This post and those that follow serve as an introduction to the upcoming debate to be held Dec 1, 2007 at RubeRad’s Hoagies and Stogies event. The debate topic that will be discussed is whether or not it is permissible to sing hymns in Christian congregational worship or whether only Psalms should be sung.

I am happy to be the father of the organizer of this event and as such he has invited me to lunch with himself and the two gentlemen who will be debating. At that lunch I will be able to ask some questions in advance of the debate.

I expect to ask questions regarding the exact nature of Christian worship. In this regard I suspect that at least one, possibly both debaters see essential Christian congregational worship as covenant creatures responding to God in the context of a courtroom scene. Here the creator judge enumerates in no uncertain terms the crimes that we his creatures have committed. We respond by uttering the only thing possible: yes we are guilty of these crimes. The creator judge then assumes the role of redeemer God wherein he offers the pardon of the gospel in Jesus Christ. We then respond with praise and thanksgiving as we accept this blessed offer.

I also expect to ask questions regarding the Regulative Principle of Worship since that topic is certainly germane to the debate itself. I am also pretty sure that both debaters adhere to the RPW. The RPW can be thought of as the sola scriptura principle as applied to worship. What it says is this: We must do in worship exactly and only that which God has commanded us to do in scripture. This is opposed to the usual way of looking at it: We may do in worship anything as long as God has not forbidden it in scripture.

The courtroom (notice I do not consider this a metaphor – it is a courtroom) very appropriately forms the bedrock for the RPW. What guilty criminal would waltz into court expecting to call the shots – essentially dictating to the judge what forms of worship he must endure while we do our thing in his presence. No. There are strict rules for how we behave in court in the presence of the king.

My next post will come out in a few days and in it I will detail where these ideas come from and will also provide scriptural support for the RPW.

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October 23, 2007

Head East Young Man — No, Wait — Make that West.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 2:51 pm

There was absolutely nothing that the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) could have done over the last 48 hours (Sunday 10/21/07 and Monday 10/22/07) to solve the problems that confronted us. We were threatened by yet another massive firestorm here in San Diego County. If you saw the reports you will know that 300+ homes were burned out in Rancho Bernardo. If you go to Google maps and enter 11517 Danza Circle (a burned down house I chose randomly) and zoom out a little until you can see this location and Poway Lake at the same time you will see that our house in RB is two miles from the 300 burned out RB homes and 3 miles from the burned out homes near Poway Lake.(We are just to the right of the Bernardo Heights Country Club). We are also three miles from the path of the fire that went from San Pasqual Valley under US 15 south of Lake Hodges and resulted in the RB fires.

When they started evacuating the hospital a mile from our house, I happily starting loading up my car with our stuff. (Let me interject here that I like my stuff a lot. I am quite unembarrassed to say that my golf clubs got left behind but my stereo system – sans speakers – and my computer data fit into the car nicely.) Never once did I remorsefully reflect on Thoreau’s admonition to never accumulate more stuff than you can carry on your back. Deborah loaded up her car too. We never agreed on where it was we were going to evacuate to although we received several offers. She jammed her computer, all her photo albums, negatives, slides – dating back to 1972, a few knick knacks, a suitcase and 2 cases of water and snacks.

One thing for sure I learned during this episode is that my pastor is really doing his job. We got 5 phone calls from him making sure we were OK. (90% of our church actually was evacuated from their homes – see my comments on numbers below).

The Cedar Fire in October 25 of 2003, which brought flames to within 1/2 mile of our house in Poway, burned 280,000 acres and destroyed 2,200 houses and killed 15, is now supposedly taking a back seat to these current fires WRT overall severity. Current reports of 400,000 acres burned indicate that this assessment is true.

I don’t remember being glued to a TV four years ago watching the local news reporting of the status of the fires. But this time, I had nothing else to do. So, here I am to blog what I found out about our local newscasters.

1. Some day there may be actual coordination between entities news reporting the news. As it stands right now, they make totally independent reports. This makes for a great deal of innefficiency. I would like to see a station be assigned to a specific fire, rather than the present case in which each station tries to cover everything. I doubt I will ever see this idea put into practice.

2. The reporters don’t really know the territory. This results in some pretty goofy mistakes that local residents, who are the ones that actually need correct info, pick up on immediately and are left scratching their heads.

3. Reporters don’t know East from West. We heard this all the time. It drove me crazy.

4. Verbal reports either from the faces behind the desks or on the street would be overlaid on videos that didn’t match what was being reported.

5. Videos that were gratuitously displayed just because. I would like to see every video labelled with time and location. (This would help eliminate running and re-running old shots that they tend to put up just because they want so bad to show houses burning to the ground).

6. Anecdotal stories that just waste time. We want information not sentimental interviews with folks  about how they got their cat out alive. Speaking of cats, we’ve got a lot of animals in SoCal. So, the authorities have to expend an enormous amount of effort to deal with horse evacuations.

7. Numbers. You’ve probably heard that there have been 900,000 people evacuated (that figure may include the Malibu area, but they like to play games with statistics so one can’t really tell). I personally don’t believe it, but I may be wrong. First of all, that would mean that there are, for example, 900 shelters that each can hold 1000 people. (I am ignoring however many people may have checked into hotels in safe areas. Every motel and hotel in San Diego safe areas have NO VACANCY signs out front.) Qualcomm stadium alone is only housing 9000 people (at press time). I have seen lists of shelters go by for three days and I can state that I have seen at most MAYBE 50 shelters opened up few of which can hold 1000 people. I think what they are really claiming is that the populations of the areas evacuated totals 900,000 people.  Secondly, we are just two of the many folks that ignored the evacuation order. This morning I drove through our old Poway neighborhood that was one of those told to evacuate, and I could see no evidence at all that anyone left.

Many of my regular readers might agree with my findings since they live here too. What do you think? Tell us how you saved your cat.

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