Need As Our Glory

Eating is one of the enormous mysteries of life, and one of the greatest aspects of this mystery is how readily we drift into assuming how ordinary it is. But there is nothing ordinary about eating at all—not even with non-sacramental eating. How is it possible for life to be sustained by this means?

As food grows up out of the earth, we see it gather nutrients from the environment—inorganic matter is transformed into organic matter. And then, as the food is tended by a farmer and harvested, and fed to us, the food is transformed from a lower organic order to a higher organic order. You are what you eat, but this is not a materialist dictum, but rather a glorious mystery—God is transforming the world, and He uses the instrument of eating.

He does the same kind of thing in the realm of the covenants. As we eat, we grow. As we grow and mature, our eating does not become less necessary, but rather more obviously important. We never mature past the point of needing food. An eighty year old man looks to his breakfast just as a new born infant does. Maturity is sustained by food, and maturity never matures beyond food. This is because we are creatures, and God has created the world in an interdependent way. We come here to this Table as a needy people, and this is not our shame. It is our glory. We are His people, and He feeds us.

The Apostles” Creed

As a congregation we have been discussing this for some time, and we have been using it in worship in our evensong service. The intent all along has been to incorporate a congregational confession of faith into our weekly service of worship. This morning we begin with the Apostles’ Creed.

This creed is ancient and was used in the early church as the confession that was recited by those receiving baptism. You are a baptized congregation of God’s people, and it is fitting and right that you declare your faith with them, in the glad recognition that it is the same faith. Sects and movements come and go, but the faith built upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ cannot be overthrown. After we confess our sins, and are forgiven, it is our great privilege to confess our faith.

As you do, the point is not to memorize it so you can rattle it off without thinking about it. That is how the Gentiles pray, who think they will be heard through much chatter. Rather, the point is to memorize it so that each time you confess your faith, your thoughts are taken up to the great God who gave His Son for us. In this respect it is like memorizing the steps of a dance so that you might dance with someone you love. This is not mindless repetition; rather, it is the repetition of life.

Neither is this given to us so that we might mumble it. We are not asking you to stand on your chair and shout it, but I would much prefer that to the listlessness of recitation that perhaps some of you grew up with. Are these things true? Are these things so? If so, then speak as though speaking to the entire world—for you are. Speak so that all Moscow can hear—for they can.

But if you do not believe these things to be true, then what is the point of being here at all? The Christian faith encompasses everything, the claims of Christ are total, and there is never any way to respectably split the difference between His lordship and the claims of the world. So then, when we confess our faith together, speak in the presence of all heaven and earth.

The Centrality of Puritan Symbolism

“For the Puritan, however, the world in which he lived was symbolic. Things meant . . . Puritan poets saw symbols in the Bible and the world. From these sources they derived not only most of their symbols, but the symbolic method itself, the lens through which they perceived and expressed their own experience. Not ornaments retrospectively imposed upon a simple narration, the Puritan’s symbols were central to their writings because they were central to their lives” (Daly, pp. 30-31).

Margarine of the Arts

“Based on his study of twenty-one world civilizations—ranging from ancient Rome to imperial China, from Babylon to the Aztecs—Toynbee found that societies in disintegration suffer a kind of ‘schism of the soul.’ They are seldom simply overrun by some other civilization. Rather, they commit a kind of cultural suicide. Disintegrating societies, he says, have several characteristics. They fall into a sense of abandon, ‘a state of mind that accepts antinomianism—consciously or unconsciously, in theory or in practice, as a substitute for creativeness” (Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times, p. 44).

A False Dilemma

“Of course this should not be taken as anything like approval of any form of sacerdotalism. But if a man is going to base his worship around ceremonies and traditions of human devising, then it makes far better sense, humanly speaking, to opt for the traditions that were invented in the fourth century, as opposed to those traditions which were invented in Dallas in the early seventies. But of course this is a false dilemma” (Mother Kirk, p. 29).

The Ancient Respectability of the Accuser

“Words, too, form a crowd; countless, they swirl about the head of the victim, gathering to deliver the coup de grace. The three series of speeches are like volleys of arrows aimed at the enemy of God. The accusations descend on Job like so many adversaries, intent upon the destruction of tyhe some friend. Their hostile speeches are not merely an image of collective violence, they are a form of active participation in it. Job is well aware of this, and denounces the verbal dismemberment to which he is subjected. The three friends crush me with their speeches, and pulverize him with words (19:2)” (Girard, Job, p. 26).

With Boisterous Psalms

Minister: Lift up your hearts!

Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!

 

O come, let sing before the Lord;

     Let us offer raucous praise

     To the Rock of our salvation.

 

Let us come into His presence with thanks,

     And sing boisterous psalms to Him.

For He is a great God,

      And greater in majesty than all the other gods.

 

His hands are beneath the deepest mines;

     The strength of mountain ranges belongs to Him.

The ocean is His, because He made it,

     And He with His hands formed all the dry land.

 

So let us worship and bow down;

     Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God, and we are His flock,

     Dwelling in His pastures.

 

If you hear His voice calling to you,

     Do not harden your heart,

     The way we did in the provocation,

     The way we did in the wilderness,

     The way we heeded the temptation.

 

When our fathers provoked Him, and saw His response.

     Forty years we wandered under the grief of God,

 

He said we were a people that veered off in their heart,

     And did not know His ways.

And this is why He said, in His wrath,

     That our fathers would not enter rest.

Psalm 95

And so, gracious Father, we worship You now through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end, amen.

Courtships Are Interesting

Because of how God made the world, with the marriage of His Son to the Church central to the story He was going to tell, and His determination to picture this in every human marriage, the fact is settled that courtships are therefore interesting. But we are sometimes too interested, or, in another way of saying the same thing, we are interested in the wrong way. And because of this, we rush ahead.

Once there was a young woman who came home from church one day, and she had a question for her father. “Dad,” she said, “you know how Cindy’s father gave John permission to court her?”

“Yes,” he said. “I heard about that one. Which was, in my mind, the first sign of trouble. Why would I know about that?”

“Well, I was standing with Cindy after church, and three of the older church ladies came up and effusively congratulated her. Cindy was really embarrassed, I could tell. But I couldn’t tell what was wrong with it—they were all really sweet.”

“So you are asking what the problem was, if there was one?”

“Right.”

“Well, I suppose John has been getting himself congratulated too?”

“Oh, yes. Even more.”

“Suppose John came up to me and said that he had mailed off his application to Harvard Law School. Would I respond with congratulations?”

“Well, no, because he didn’t get in yet. And just between us, he wouldn’t get in either.”

“And if he filed the papers at city hall to enter the race for mayor?”

“Well, the same. He just filed. He didn’t win anything.”

“So it is with this. Courtship rightly understood is an application, and congratulations are not in order. The people involved are deciding what they are going to do, but nobody has done anything yet.”

“Thanks, Dad. That makes sense.”

“But there is one other thing. Then there are those ‘courting’ couples who are for all intents and purposes engaged. They are emotionally entangled and committed, and when standing around after church, she is all over him like ivy on the garden wall. You can congratulate people like that all you want. Somebody is getting something, and so that somebody should be congratulated. Couples like that can’t have it both ways—the social protections of not having decided and the emotional comfort of having decided.”