Thursday, August 17, 2017

News and the Kingdom

The world is in turmoil. Last week it looked like the U.S. was on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. This week the news is buzzing with reports of white supremacists marching and violence that flows from that. If you come across this post a few weeks from now, there will probably be some new disaster in the news that has people worried. There is a lot of genuine evil in the world, and it can get overwhelming.

Two days in a row, my devotions have pointed me to verses that seem particularly relevant to all the nonsense that's happening in the world.* Yesterday was Isaiah 9:6-7 "To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”

Now that you, my readers, all have Handel’s Messiah going through your heads, let me point out the themes that he overlooked. We’re talking about a king who establishes a just, righteous government that is never overthrown and establishes peace. The Hebrew concept of peace is much broader than just a cessation of fighting. It refers to wellbeing, flourishing, a state where all is, generally speaking, well.

Today I read Daniel 7:13-14: “The Son of Man will come with the clouds of heaven. In the presence of the Ancient of Days, He will be given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations, and men of every language will worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

This verse isn’t about events that will happen in the future. It’s about Jesus coming into the presence of the Ancient of Days (God the Father) after His ascension to receive authority. Already we see people from all peoples, nations and languages worshipping Him.

Jesus already reigns over our broken world. On a cosmic level, all is well. That doesn’t mean we just sit around and wait for him to act. It means that as we do the work of advancing justice and righteousness, we can be confident that in the end good will triumph.

*The verses were collected by Ken Boa in his book A Journal of Sacred Readings, which I highly recommend.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Welcoming Audrey

I recently had the opportunity to translate at the baptism of a beautiful little girl from China. It was a moving experience, and I wrote about it for our church blog.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

God of Harmony: A Song for David (Spicer)

A song for David, the choirmaster. To “Dives and Lazarus.”*

Sing praises to the Three in One, the God of harmony,
Who makes the universe ring out in varied unity
Join with the music of the stars, the earth, the sea, the air,
For everywhere that beauty shines, His handiwork is there.

Sing praises to our saving Lord who led us through the sea
When waves of sin and hatred raged in dark cacophony.
We sing to Him who split the waves and led us on dry land,
And feeds us in this wilderness with manna from His hand.

Sing praises to the God of love who died our lives to save,
Who tasted all death’s bitterness, lay cold within the grave.
Who shattered death, burst from the tomb. No pow’r could hold him there.
We shout with joy, “He is alive!” The glad news we declare.

Sing praises to the Lamb who rules the universe in might.
Who will return, restore His world, set all creation right.
Though flesh may fail and life may flee and death may close our eyes,
He will breathe life into dead bones; our song again shall rise.

* David Spicer, the choir director at the church I grew up in, passed away last week. He was a genius, the musical equivalent of the architect of a Gothic cathedral in Europe. He crafted the accompaniments of every hymn he played to convey the message of the lyrics. On many Sundays he improvised incredible, intricate medleys of every hymn and anthem we sang during the service, often using these as an introduction to the Doxology. He conducted choirs with professionally trained singers but also children’s choirs. In addition to teaching me music theory and singing techniques, he encouraged me in my faith profoundly. He was also the first person to ask me to write a hymn. He asked for words that could be sung to a tune called “Dives and Lazarus.” I wrote a hymn to that tune then, and he praised the result so much that I just kept writing hymns. Even after I had moved away, he often asked me if I was still writing them. I can think of no better way to honor Mr. Spicer than to write a hymn in his memory to the first and only specific tune he requested lyrics for.