I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Mission

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My favorite quotes from Peter Leithart’s Theopolitan Mission:

The principle of ministry in the church is simple: “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor 14:26). This is the rule: Do everything you do to complete Christ’s body. (39)

Macedonians make a koinonia contribution to poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26). As Paul sees it, they don’t throw money at a problem from a distance. Rather, their generous gifts overcome distance, joining Macedonian Gentiles and Jerusalem Jews in one fellowship of the Spirit. Material gifts have a quasi-sacramental power to join the members of the church into one body. (50)

A church isn’t carrying out the mission of Jesus if it doesn’t gather on the Lord’s Day at a common table. (54)

Conflict is no accident, nor is it avoidable. Suffering is the only path into the kingdom, an inevitable part of mission. (71)

Like the ark, the church receives and preserves the treasures of the world (Rev 21:24) so they can be purged, transfigured, and brought out again to adorn creation. As worlds collapse, the world’s riches are kept safe in the ark of the church. All things are gathered into the church so that all things can disembark into a new creation. Noah performs this magic only once, but Jesus does it continuously. Treasures flow continuously into the ark of Christendom. The church has received the treasures of Greek and Roman art, philosophy, and politics, to purify them and bring them to fulfillment. It will plunder the gold of China, Japan, and India, of the Masai and Zulu, of Arabia and Iraq and Afghanistan. Treasures from the city of man enter the city of God so they can return to the city of man, renewed. The city of man enters the ark of God so it can become more perfectly what it’s supposed to be, more perfectly an image of heavenly Jerusalem.

The church pilots the world. What happens in the holy church guides what happens outside. If the church is unfaithful, leaves her first love, and turns to false teachers, Jesus will move the lampstand and abandon the house (Rev 2-3). If the church keeps her lamps burning, continuously supplied by the oil of the Spirit, the world will be full of light. (79)

I wonder sometimes if any of my international colleagues are secret brothers and sisters.

Transformed by the Eucharist, our making is freed from pure utility and functionality. Utility is good. A woodworker makes tables for meals, weavers make cloth for clothing, metalworkers make wires for electricity and rebar to strengthen walls. All these forms of making have practical ends. But when we make in order to offer our fruit to God in praise, we transcend mere usefulness. The cobbler doesn’t just cover bare feet; he cobbles for the glory of God. At the same time, the sanctuary frees us from the sterile circularity of making for its own sake, the effete snobbery of “art for art’s sake.” Making Eucharistically, a craftsman makes for God. “Art for art’s sake” is a sign of decadence. It’s a symptom of the decay of liturgy. (88-89)

A flood is coming. It’s already sweeping away the world as we know it. The world we know will be submerged as the Lord turns the world upside down and gives it a sharp shake (Hag 2:6-7).

It’s not the end of everything. Creation will survive, and civilization will be reborn. Jesus will steer the ark of his church through the storm. As the clouds gather, as the thunder begins to roll, as the deluge crashes down, we’re called to continue the often-imperceptible work of building the ark of Jesus. With our lives scripted by the Scriptures that reveal the Christ, we cling to the apostolic gospel, gather to break bread, share our material and Spiritual gifts, offer a continuous sacrifice of prayer and song. We preach the good news in false churches and public squares, endure the rage of the mob, suffer with Jesus so we may share His glory. We confront idols and demons and call all men from darkness to light, from Satan to the living God (Acts 26:18). In the Last Adam, we’re made right-makers, grateful makers whose making is an act of worship. Some will slip, lizard-like, into palaces (Prov 30:28) and gain a hearing before Prime Ministers and Presidents.

As we do these things, we preserve the treasures of the past and, by the alchemy of the Spirit, transfigure ancient treasures into new. When the storm is over and the flood waters recede, we’ll have and be the seeds of a new creation. We’ll flow like living water to fertilize the wasteland.

If you’re a Christian, that’s what you’re doing. Your life may not look like a big deal. You’re kind to your neighbors, serve your brothers and sisters in church, gather each week to receive God’s Word and God’s Bread. You train and teach your children as disciples; you love your husband or wife. You’re an honest and productive employee, an attentive employer, an entrepreneur or bureaucrat in a well-established institution. You do and make, but no one notices. . . .

You feel invisible, but that’s an optical illusion. You’re participating in the biggest project imaginable. You’re joining with millions of others to build the self-building ark of Jesus. Through your witness and labor, a new world is taking form. You’re fighting the battle of the ages. You’re constructing the city of God among the cities of men in order to transform the cities of men to become more like the city of God. Nothing is small in the kingdom of Jesus.

There’s nothing to fear. We live in joy and expectant hope. Jesus is in the boat, and He calms the seas. The Carpenter of Nazareth will pilot his ark until it rests on a new Ararat, a new Eden, the garden-city where the river of life flows. (100-101)

Written by Scott Moonen

June 4, 2021 at 10:19 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-19)

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It took me over nine months, but I’ve finished The Gulag Archipelago. Some quotes from the end of Volume 3:

Let us put it generally: if a regime is immoral, its subjects are free from all obligations to it. (Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 3, 394)

A fish does not campaign against fisheries—it only tries to slip through the mesh. (452)

But then, only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career. (455)

All you freedom–loving “left–wing” thinkers in the West! You left laborites! You progressive American, German, and French students! As far as you are concerned, none of this amounts to much. As far as you are concerned, this whole book of mine is a waste of effort. You may suddenly understand it all someday—but only when you yourselves hear “hands behind your backs there!” and step ashore on our Archipelago (518)

Kings multiply kingship:

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25, NKJV)

So do deacons multiply deaconship:

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:5–6, NKJV)

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. . . . (Acts 8:26–28, NKJV)

By contrast, rulers that stifle their people are cutting off their own arms:

​In a multitude of people is a king’s honor,​​
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.​ (Proverbs 14:28, NKJV)

Daniel’s behavior under the decree of Darius (Daniel 6) is calculated specifically to avoid even the public appearance of breaking covenant with God. If someone spied on our front doors for the past year, what would they see? Could they convict us of faithfulness to worship God?

In the ark of the covenant were hidden some of God’s treasures: his ten words, heavenly bread, and Aaron’s rod of authority. Access to God and his treasures was restricted:

Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. (1 Samuel 6:19, NKJV)

It is hard to forget the corresponding scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Today it is God’s church where his treasures are hidden. In a sense, these treasures are available to all who approach humbly, but there is still a great judgment upon those who treat the ark of the church without such humility. Zechariah captures this dichotomy dramatically. Everyone stands in one relation or another to the new Jerusalem:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16–19, NKJV)

But as long as it is today there is still an opportunity:

Fill their faces with shame,​
That they may seek Your name, O LORD. (Psalm 83:16, NKJV)

The Mars Hill Audio Journal volume 150 was recently released. Myers interviews David Smith on the use of technology. David observes that “technology is making it easier for us to communicate at a distance and harder for us to communicate when we’re close to each other.”

I worked at Kmart:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 7, 2021 at 9:41 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-17)

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Some quotes from Peter Leithart at this weekend’s conference on worship:

There is no worship anywhere in the Bible without food. . . .

The angels who continually sing the sanctus will be happy to have us join in for awhile. . . .

. . . sweet smelling sound . . .

The produce of the land is just as much bread from heaven as manna. . . .

The pathway to kingship is by learning to sing in order to bear bold witness.

James Jordan identifies the resurrection of Ezekiel 37 as a corporate resurrection, and furthermore links it with God’s judgment in Ezekiel 6. It is therefore a much more complex picture of God’s dealings with his church far more than a picture of individual salvation:

The four winds are the human expression of the great Wind of the Spirit; in Hebrew, “spirit” is “breath.” Ezekiel, writing at the same time as Jeremiah, speaks of the four winds in his famous resurrection chapter, Ezekiel 37. There the nation of Israel is pictured as dead corpses scattered all over the valleys below the idolatrous high places. “Can these bones live,” Ezekiel is asked? “Not just any bones, but the bones of the apostates, the idolaters, that God Himself has scattered (Ezekiel 6). Can they live? This passage does not deal with individual resurrection but with the resurrection and restoration of apostate, idolatrous Israel as God’s priest to the nations. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones, that the Breath (Spirit) of God should come upon them. Specifically, Ezekiel is told to say, “Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” In other words, Israel will not be restored by some mysterious blast of the Spirit that comes from the clear blue sky. She will be restored when the righteous people, especially the prophets, bring the Spirit to her. It will be the four winds, God’s holy people, who restore Israel after the exile is over. This is a prediction of the events in Zechariah that we have just looked at.

David comments that worship ought not to cost him nothing:

Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. (2 Samuel 24:24, NKJV)

Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.” So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place. (1 Chronicles 21:24–25)

It is not surprising that someone would have multiple names; think of any Russian literature. And the supposed numerical discrepancy here seems easily explained by the fact that Chronicles must record David’s purchase of the entire property rather than just the floor and oxen. But what really strikes me about these verses is the thought that we must always be bringing fresh worship and tribute to God. There is a sense in which we must always be working, not only so that we may eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but so that we have actual firstfruits to offer to God.

Although the Lord’s supper is primarily a meal served by Jesus to his bride, I’ve also suggested that we can think of it as a meal presented by the bride to her husband (out of the fullness of his own bounty). There are a few points of evidence for this: first, the entire sacrificial system consisted of savory meals offered to God. Second, memorials in particular are directed to reminding God more than ourselves. Third, grain offerings are invitations to God to visit and inspect his bride. Of course, everything God’s bride offers to him is representative her offering herself, a living sacrifice.

I told you that EDR systems ought to be treated cautiously: Critical cloud bug in VMware Carbon Black.

Some complexity and scale is inescapable, though it ought to involve a loose rather than a tight coupling. In order to scale a group or operation beyond a certain point, it is necessary to delegate responsibility. Delegation presents an opportunity for anxiety, because it means that there are areas of your operation that are outside of your direct knowledge or control. Someone may do something less efficient, different, or outright wrong! But the upside is that they can also be fruitful beyond you, and they may even counterbalance your own mistakes and blind spots. Non-anxious leadership—leadership that multiplies maturity and leadership—has the opportunity to multiply fruitfulness.

Aaron Renn has interesting reflections on the metaphors we use for social scenarios, including race relations. His metaphor of a dysfunctional family is helpful. However, it occurs to me that there is a very specific way in which the tort analogy actually comes back to bite those who are advancing it. Sowell has shown that the liberal project bears significant responsibility for poverty and fatherlessness in the West, by creating immense systems of perverse incentive. Thus: it is the liberal project that owes reparations. I propose we auction off all government agencies and projects created in the last century, pay off debt first, reparations second, and consider the case closed.

For a few years now we have been spraying Talstar insecticide in our yard to deal with mosquitoes, and it was effective. This year, with bees, we are trying an alternate approach, although we may need to step up our indoor treatments as the Talstar also seemed to help with creepy crawlies! Years ago we installed bat houses on the side of our house:

It took three years for the bats to discover it, but they have flourished there now for several years. In spite of that, the Talstar was definitely necessary. This year we are adding the DynaTrap insect trap together with some Octenol attractant. So far it has caught a lot of bugs and very few bees, and I haven’t gotten many mosquito bites. We’ve had dry weather, though, after a long wet season, so I’m not sure we can claim victory over the mosquitoes yet.

Written by Scott Moonen

April 25, 2021 at 8:33 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-15)

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More Schmemann:

It sounds like a paradox, but the basic religion that is being preached and accepted as the only means of overcoming secularism is in reality a surrender to secularism. This surrender can take place—and actually does—in all Christian confessions . . . . For the surrender consists not in giving up creeds, traditions, symbols and customs (of all this the secular man, tired of his functional office, is sometimes extremely fond), but in accepting the very function of religion in terms of promoting the secular value of help, be it help in character building bpeace of mind, or assurance of eternal salvation. It is in this “key” that religion is preached to, and accepted by, millions and millions of average believers today. . . . But if this is religion, its decline will continue . . . (109)

The Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom—not because she possesses divinely instituted acts called “sacraments,” but because first of all she is the possibility given to man to see in and through this world the “world to come,” to see and to “live” it in Christ. It is only when in the darkness of this world we discern that Christ has already “filled all things with Himself” that these things, whatever they may be, are revealed and given to us full of meaning and beauty. A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him. And this joy transforms all his human plans and programs, decisions and actions, making all his mission the sacrament of the world’s return to Him who is the life of the world. (113)

Other choice quotes from the upcoming conference readings:

Order is an outward thing. Be it as good as it may, it can fall into misuse. Then it is no longer order but disorder. So no Order has any intrinsic worth of its own, as hitherto the Popish Order has been thought to have. But all order has its life, worth, strength, and virtue in right use; else it is worthless and fit for nothing. God’s Spirit and grace be with us all. Amen. (Luther, “The German Mass and Order of Divine Service”)

We also had to read Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry:

Baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as “re–baptism” must be avoided. (4)

Churches which have insisted on a particular form of baptism or which have had serious questions about the authenticity of other churches’ sacraments and ministries have at times required persons coming from other church traditions to be baptized before being received into full communicant membership. As the churches come to fuller mutual understanding and acceptance of one another and enter into closer relationships in witness and service, they will want to refrain from any practice which might call into question the sacramental integrity of other churches or which might diminish the unrepeatability of the sacrament of baptism. (5)

In order to overcome their differences, believer baptists and those who practise infant baptism should reconsider certain aspects of their practices. The first may seek to express more visibly the fact that children are placed under the protection of God’s grace. The latter must guard themselves against the practice of apparently indiscriminate baptism and take more seriously their responsibility for the nurture of baptized children to mature commitment to Christ. (6)

This reminds me of Poythress’s very helpful article, “Indifferentism and Rigorism.”

Calvin has an interesting take on God’s exercising his sovereignty in the world by means of angels. From his commentary on Ezekiel 1:

. . . it seems to me sufficiently plain, that God signifies angelic inspiration by the four cherubim, and extends it to the four regions of the earth. Now:, as it is equally clear that no creature moves by itself, but that all motions are by the secret, instinct of God, therefore each cherub has four heads, as if it were said that angels administer God’s empire not in one part of the world only, but everywhere; and next, that all creatures are so impelled as if they were joined together with angels themselves. . . . Since, then, there exists no fixed condition of the world, but continual changes are discerned, the Prophet joins the wheels to the angels, as if he would assert that no changes occur by chance, but depend upon some agency, viz., that of angels; not that they move things by their inherent power, but because they are, as we have said, God’s hands. . . . [T]he Stoics fancied that fate arose from what they called a connection of causes. But God here teaches his people far otherwise, viz., that the changes of the world are so connected together, that all motion depends upon the angels, whom he guides according to his will.

In biblical theology, the eye is often the source of light. This potentially sheds light on exposing the works of darkness:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:​

​​“Awake, you who sleep,
​​Arise from the dead,
​​And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:8–14, NKJV)

The King James Version instead uses “reprove.” The eyes are not just a source of light but the organs of judgment. Instead of merely speaking, the eyes declare.

Does your world view deny to the government the possibility of evangelical obedience?

Written by Scott Moonen

April 9, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-14)

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O sacred Heel sore wounded!

Part of the assigned reading for the upcoming Theopolis regional course on worship is Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. Searching for an audiobook, I was pleased to find that Ken Myers recorded it recently! Peter Leithart says that he rereads this book regularly. Speaking of re–reads, Doug Wilson places That Hideous Strength high on his own list.

Some choice quotes from Schmemann:

Sunday therefore was not a “sacred” day to be “observed” apart from all other days and opposed to them. It did not interrupt time with a “timeless” mystical ecstasy. It was not a “break” in an otherwise meaningless sequence of days and nights. By remaining one of the ordinary days, and yet by revealing itself through the Eucharist as the eighth and first day, it gave all days their true meaning. (52)

“There is but one sadness,” said Leon Bloy, “that of not being a saint.” (54)

This brings to mind James Jordan’s great statement that a saint is someone who has sanctuary access, access to the feast.

We are not “nice” Christians come apart from the ugly world. If we do not stand precisely as representatives of this world, as indeed the world itself, if we do not bear the whole burden of this day, our “piety” may still be pious, but it is not Christian. (61)

Schmemann makes much of the fixed day, the statu die. This makes me reflect on Paul’s sermon in Athens somewhat differently:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31, NKJV)

There are layers to the day of the Lord. The church’s worship on the day of the Lord is simultaneously an announcement of the judgment of the world and a visitation of that Lord to his house, but also a temporary suspension of full judgment thanks to the priestly intercessory ministry of the church. But God’s bride calls upon him both for mercy and judgment, and God will not humor hardened hearts indefinitely:

At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!” Then Esther answered and said, “My petition and request is this: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, then let the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.” (Esther 5:6–8, NKJV)

Nathan Zekveld helpfully asks: are we instituting new purity laws, writing that, “As a pastor, I have seen increasingly that people need in-person worship and contact.”

​This people honors Me with their lips,
​​But their heart is far from Me.
​And in vain they worship Me,
​​Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7, Matthew 15, Isaiah 29)

Similar comments from a Russian Orthodox priest:

In Scripture, hiding one’s face always means, shame, distrust, unfavorable position, division and separation. Our Loving God has invited us to the feast, and if we come to the Lord’s Supper with fear that He will infect us with any kind of disease, and we demonstrate it by wearing a mask, we will insult Him in front of everyone.

I appreciated J. D. Vance’s recounting of his conversion and Mark Horne’s reflections on kingship and the crown of thorns.

James Jordan reminds us that God’s ways are higher than our ways:

Christ has created a heavenly host, and “host” means “army,” to accomplish His purpose of transforming the world. That army does not consist only of “sharp young single men and women.” Nor does it consist only of ostensibly “epistemologically self-conscious thoroughly Reformed theonomic postmillennialists.” This army includes mentally retarded people, feeble old people, hurt people, suicidal people, weak people, sinful people, people with minds warped by error, and much, much more. To the human eye, this army is not much to look at. It doesn’t look very tough compared to the kind of militant activism the communist party can sometimes command. It may not measure up to Douglas Hyde’s Dedication and Leadership, and it may not conform to the latest standards of “discipleship.” It is, however, the only army God has ever called into being. All the rest are only substitutes and counterfeits.

Last Saturday we were surprised to find one of our hives swarming, less than a month after installing it from nucleus! Asher did an outstanding job capturing it, and now we have a third hive. This week we scrambled to get them well established as well as preparing to give our other hives some more elbow room.

Which meant assembling many of these:

Written by Scott Moonen

April 2, 2021 at 3:04 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-10)

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Ezra pulls out his own hair at intermarriage with unbelievers:

When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.” So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. (Ezra 2:1–3, NKJV)

But Nehemiah pulls out other men’s hair:

In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. (Nehemiah 13:23–25, NKJV)

There actually is an occurrence of six hundred sixty-six in the Bible apart from Solomon’s gold (1 Kings 10, 2 Chronicles 9) and John’s land beast (Revelation 13):

Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city. . . the people of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six. . . (Ezra 2:1–13, NKJV)

Interestingly, some of Nehemiah’s numbers differ slightly from Ezra’s, and he counts six hundred sixty-seven sons of Adonikam. The numbers are similar enough that it is unlikely they are arrived at by completely different means (e.g., excluding and including women, or excluding and including males under or over a certain age). It seems to me that they must reflect numberings at different times.

Why is it that Asaph only perceives the destiny of the wicked in the sanctuary?

Behold, these are the wicked.
And always carefree, they increase wealth.
Surely, in vain I kept my heart pure,
And washed my hands in innocence.
Yes, I was plagued all day long
And my punishment arrived every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus”;
Behold, the generation of Your children I should have betrayed!
When I pondered to understand this,
It was oppressive to my eyes.
Until I cam into the sanctuary of the Mighty One;
There I perceived their destiny. (Psalm 73:12–17, James Jordan)

I think he perceives this in part because worship is warfare and in part because worship takes place in the heavens, in the future.

We should not be surprised that the wicked seem to outnumber and overwhelm the righteous. God is not limited by numbers. Micaiah was one prophet against four hundred (2 Chronicles 18). Solomon found one man among a thousand (Ecclesiastes 7). If God’s church is faithful, then five shall chase a hundred, a hundred put ten thousand to flight (Leviticus 26), and one shall chase a thousand (Joshua 23).

This was outstanding:

And this was touching and thought provoking. Pray for Peterson:

Charlotte and Asher have kept chickens for a few years, and we’ve been brainstorming how we can expand that. Asher settled on bee keeping and has been learning and strategizing for awhile. We took a class with our county bee keeping association this winter, and this week we set up our first two hives!

Written by Scott Moonen

March 6, 2021 at 6:50 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-9)

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Some reflections inspired by Leithart, Meyers, and Roberts’ conversation “What is a Prophet“—Every visionary house of God is a blueprint from God that guides the work and worship of his people. We naturally think of this with the plans for the tabernacle that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 26:30) and the plans David received from God for the temple (1 Chronicles 28:19); there was a physical building to be built in order for worship to begin. But this is equally true of Ezekiel’s visionary temple (a picture of God’s church in the return from exile) and John’s visionary temple (a picture of God’s church in the new covenant), even though these temples do not have a direct physical manifestation. God gave these visions to Ezekiel and to John not merely to inspire his people to trust and marvel at the work he would do in these new covenants, but to instruct his people in the work that they must do; they are simultaneously prophecy and commission. Returning to Ezekiel 43:

“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them. This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:10–12, NKJV)

Thus: if the church’s worship does not immanentize the book of Revelation, then we ought to be ashamed.

It is also fascinating to think that the way a nation and church treats its prophets is how God will ultimately treat that nation, unless it repents. If you throw faithful pastors into prison, then you are surely destined for bondage.

The evil will bow before the good,​​
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous. (Proverbs 14:19, NKJV)

From this week’s To the Word reading:

Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”So the LORD struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. (2 Chronicles 14:9–12)

Apropos being snatched from a snare, our church submitted this contribution to the Psalm 124 project. As Revelation shows us, worship is warfare!

It is well known that no such bricolage is complete without an impromptu aerial edition:

Silencing the enemy and avenger!

Girard anticipated by several centuries:

We believe and confess that Jesus Christ,
in whom the law is fulfilled,
has by his shed blood
put an end to every other shedding of blood,
which anyone might do or wish to do
in order to atone or satisfy for sins. (Belgic Confession, Article 34)

If ever there was proof that the emperor had no clothes:

Written by Scott Moonen

February 26, 2021 at 5:38 pm

The Lost Supper

with 3 comments

I recently read, and greatly appreciated, Matthew Colvin‘s book The Lost Supper. Colvin builds his understanding of the Lord’s supper on a thesis earlier offered by Robert Eisler and David Daube. He summarizes the puzzle he is seeking to unlock with an opening quote from Daube:

“Jesus could not at the same time have introduced both the general idea of eating a cake of unleavened bread as the Messiah and the specific identification of that cake with himself. That is just not how rites come into being.” This is an important difference between [Daube’s] view and most Christian understandings of the eucharist and Last Supper: many Christians have a view of the effect of Jesus’ words of institution that actually renders them incomprehensible to the disciples in the Upper Room. (Colvin, 37)

Colvin and Daube are not arguing that we must backdate the modern Seder into the first century. But they are arguing—compellingly—that the first century Passover must have had Messianic echoes that reverberate today in both the Eucharist and the Seder. Colvin summarizes his conclusion as follows:

Thus, as we also found in the case of the words over the bread, we discover that Jesus’ words about the wine are more concerned with using the Passover to speak to his disciples about his own impending death and its significance within Israel’s story than they were about explaining the metaphysical relation of the bread and wine to his body and blood. His words over the bread identify himself as Israel’s Messiah; his words over the cup are a way of indicating that he will offer himself as a sacrifice, a new Passover lamb to accomplish a new Exodus; and that this will bring about the coming Kingdom of God. Messiah, new Exodus, and coming Kingdom: this is a deeply Jewish set of meanings for these rituals, full of the themes that were on every mind and heart at Passover. Jesus in the Last Supper is doing what we should expect for a Jewish Messiah’s last meal with his disciples; he is doing exactly what Jews have always done with the food and drink of the Passover: make them tell the story of God and Israel—past, present, and future—and by ritual participation inscribe themselves in that story, in those events. (Colvin, 92)

This idea that a ritual is a removal from time, a participation in both the past and future, is key to Colvin’s understanding. He quotes Alastair Roberts:

Much as in the case of a Passover meal, a memorial of a past deliverance anticipates future salvation and each repetition re-establishes us within musical cycles of memory and hope. It repeatedly stabilizes us by restoring us to Christ’s decisive, once-for-all, action in the past, and destabilizes us by exposing us to the fecundity of the future that this action opened. It ties together founding action with the anticipation of final judgment. (Colvin, 82, quoting Alastair Roberts, A Musical Case for Typological Realism)

Colvin rejects mere real presence in favor of robust participation:

Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on Passover, far from culminating in a sacramental “real presence,” begins with presence and moves from presence to something higher. The disciples have Jesus “present”—sitting in front of their eyes—but they still do not understand who he is or how they are to relate to him. . . .

In [Luke’s] narrative, the presence of Christ is not effected by the eating of the bread (still less by “consecration” of it); indeed, the resurrected Jesus appeared and was bodily present to his disciples on the road to Emmaus only in order to bring about the disciples’ participation in his new life, which is the life of the renewed Israel, the climax and fulfillment of Israel’s story. The goal is participation, not “presence.” (Colvin, 97-98)

Colvin’s project is very similar to that of Leithart with baptism: he understands the spiritual activity of the Lord’s supper to run along thoroughly corporate, social, and physical lines. It is a bodily activity as well as a mental one:

According to the Westminster Larger Catechism’s formulations, it is a positively daunting feat of reverence and emotions, requiring 14 different mental acts beforehand, another 13 during the Supper, and another 7 if they judge themselves to have partaken successfully, or 5 if unsuccessfully! Astonishingly, the Westminster Divines do not actually state that those “that receive the sacrament” must eat and drink the bread and wine. Every action specified in Q. 174 (as well as those in Q. 171 and 175) is something Christians do with their minds. By contrast, all of the commands of Jesus concerning the Supper—”take, eat, drink, do this”—are things that Christians do with their bodies. (Colvin, 100)

Thus, for Colvin, failure to discern the body is not a cerebral but rather a thoroughly public and corporate and social matter, consistent with much of the rest of 1 Corinthians:

The form this condemnation took is also the same as in the Exodus: supernaturally inflicted death. “Because of this [failure to draw the boundaries of the people of God properly], many among you are weak and sick and some are asleep [i.e. dead].” (11:30) If we are looking for a mechanism by which the eucharist operates, I submit that we have found it here: the communal meal, as an acted sharing in the salvific sacrificial death of the Messiah, marks the people of God as the ones who are to be spared God’s deadly judgment, leaving those outside the Christian community exposed to that wrath. It is inflicted by God’s own power.

This modus operandi should look familiar to us. In Exodus 11:4-7, YHWH announces that the Passover will work the same way. . . . The discrimen, the means by which this difference [between the Egyptians and Israel] is marked, is the ritual meal itself. (Colvin, 128)

The supper therefore naturally functions as a memorial to God rather than a mere reminder to ourselves:

Was Israel also commanded to remember? To be sure, and all the rituals of Passover to this day are aimed at inscribing the Exodus indelibly in the consciousness of every Jewish child. Yet in Egypt, it was not the Israelites’ consciousness, but the Lord’s response to his own commanded memorial (zeker) that effected salvation for the Israelites and destruction for their enemies. In Paul’s understanding, the eucharist operates not by the followers of Jesus thinking about it, but because it marks them as the people defined by Jesus’ sacrificial death, which God remembers and honors and to which he responds with action in history. (Colvin, 133)

All of this is simply a function of how meals work:

Paul’s arguments by analogy with pagan sacrifices (1 Cor. 10:20) and with Jewish sacrifices in the Temple (1 Cor. 10:19) are only possible if the eucharist works the way other meals work. What is special about it is not the way it connects its participants to a person, but the person to whom it connects them. (Colvin, 137)

Thus, the supper is a participation-communion-koinonia, side by side with all of God’s people, both in the past events of the crucifixion and resurrection, but also in our future resurrection and glorification. But this is only a specific instance of what happens throughout the entire service of covenant renewal worship. On the Lord’s day, together with all the Lord’s people, we really are caught up out of time and into the heavens. The bread and wine that we consume are heavenly–spiritual bread and wine; not just a foretaste of the coming feast, but an actual distribution of it. And all this is precisely what it means to worship in Spirit (John 4, Revelation 1).

Colvin closes with helpful practical thoughts on the Lord’s supper today. I largely agree with him, although I think that treating the supper as a feast should not lead us to make much of a common cup. He does not take up a critique of the pious notion of withdrawing oneself temporarily from the supper as a kind of contrition, but I think his principles warrant against that powerfully.

I’ve argued previously for real presence along several lines, but I take greatly to heart Colvin’s charge to think in terms of participation-communion-koiononia rather than mere presence.

However, my friend Randy also cautions that we have a sure hope even if bread and wine are taken away from us:

But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

Incidentally, as part of his argument, Colvin also makes a fascinating point about the Lord’s prayer. He argues that the entire prayer has an eschatological bent, including the petition for bread:

[This word] is thus “the coming bread,” the eschatological bread. . . . Thus, the force of the word is to make the petition a request for “the bread of tomorrow” or the eschatological bread. (Colvin, 57-58)

Written by Scott Moonen

January 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm

Do this

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John Barach writes:

The (Admittedly Oversimplistic) History of the Lord’s Supper:

Jesus: “Do this….”
The Church: “Let’s try this instead.”

Examples:

Jesus: “Sit down.” (The Greek indicates reclining, normal festal posture.)
The Church: “Let’s kneel.” Or: “Let’s stand.”

Jesus: Two prayers of thanksgiving, one for the bread, one for the wine.
The Church: One prayer.

Jesus: Giving thanks (which is what “blessed” means).
The Church: Petition, asking God to do something.

Jesus: Everyone eats the bread first. Only then is the wine handed out.
The Church: Some people start drinking wine before others have had bread.

Jesus: Wine.
The Church: No wine. For centuries, church members get communion in one kind (bread) only. But today, wine gets replaced with grape juice.

Jesus: Everyone eats the bread first. Only then is the wine handed out.
Someone: “Hey! I know! Let’s DIP the bread in the wine!”

Scripture: Feast.
The Church: “Let’s make it mournful and sad. Maybe make the building dark.”

Scripture: Feast.
The Church: “Let’s teach everyone to close their eyes and think their own thoughts as if they were all alone in the building.”

Scripture: Break bread on the first day.
The Church: “Let’s not do it very often.”

Jesus passed around the bread and the wine so that, say, the bread went to John and then to Peter and then to Judas and then to Levi and so on.
The Church: Every member must receive from the hand of the pastor.

See also: The Lord’s table

Written by Scott Moonen

December 27, 2020 at 6:29 am

Worship is warfare (6)

with 2 comments

This event from David’s life is striking:

But the Philistines went up again,
and spread out in the Valley of the Shades.
So David inquired of YHWH,
and he said:
You are not to go up;
lead [your men] around, behind them,
and come at them in front of the balsam-trees.
And let it be:
when you hear the sound of marching on the tops of the balsam-trees, then you are to act-decisively,
for then YHWH will go out before you, to strike down the camp of the Philistines. (2 Samuel 5:22–24, Everett Fox)

I wanted to find a connection to balsam or mulberry trees in the New Testament but can’t think of one. However, apart from Chronicles, the only other place this word for balsam trees appears is in Psalm 84, as the Valley of Baca:

How lovely Your dwellings, O LORD of armies!
My being longed, even languished, for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh sing gladness to the living God.
Even the bird has found a home, and the swallow a nest for itself,
that puts its fledglings by Your altars, LORD of armies, my king and my God.
Happy are those who dwell in your house, they will ever praise You.

Happy the folk whose strength is in You, the highways in their heart,
Who pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it into a spring—yes, the early rain cloaks it with blessings.
They go from rampart to rampart, they appear before God in Zion.
LORD, God of armies, hear my prayer. Hearken, O God of Jacob.

Our shield, O God, see, and regard Your anointed one’s face
For better one day in Your courts than a thousand I have chosen,
standing on the threshold in the house of my God, than living in the tents of wickedness.
For a sun and shield is the LORD, God is grace and glory.
The LORD grants, He does not withhold bounty to those who go blameless.
O LORD of armies, happy the man who trusts in You. (Psalm 84, Robert Alter)

When the happy folk of Yahweh of armies go up to his house to worship him, this is a marching through the balsam trees.

See also: Worship is warfare (5), etc.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm