Elder Hale Ordination

We are pleased to announce that at this year’s CREC Council, Elder Derek Hale passed his oral ordination exam. This was the last in a series of exams and training by Tyndale Presbytery which he has undergone over the past year. On December 10, he will be ordained and installed into the office of minister of Trinity Covenant Church by fellow ministers and elders in the CREC. Give thanks to the Lord as He builds His church!

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Rigney on enjoying God’s creation

rigneyIf divine glory really is in creation, then ought we not linger in creation? Instead of blowing through the earthly pleasure at 90 mph, shouldn’t we slow to a stroll and take in as much of creation as we can? Isn’t hurrying through on our way to praise of God the equivalent of applauding after the first three notes of a symphony? Wouldn’t it be better to attentively listen to the entire score and then let applause come thundering out of us (or perhaps be hushed into silence by the wonder of it all)? Shouldn’t we linger over creation (even loiter), not as a way of avoiding God but as a way of knowing him and enjoying him for fully?

Creation is a message, an invitation to be drawn into the divine life, the ecstatic vibrance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As [C.S.] Lewis says, “We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.” How closely, then, are we listening?

—Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, pp. 70-71. The Lewis quote here is from his sermon “The Weight of Glory.”

Bonhoeffer on the Psalms

Dietrich Bonhoeffer“In many churches psalms are read or sung every Sunday, or even daily, according to the regular pattern. These churches have preserved for themselves a priceless treasure, for only with daily use does one become immersed in that divine prayerbook. With only occasional reading these prayers are too overwhelming for us in thought and power, so that we again and again turn to lighter fare. But whoever has begun to pray the Psalter earnestly and regularly will ‘soon take leave’ of those other light and personal ‘little devotional prayers and say: Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which I find in the Psalter. Anything else tastes too cold and too hard’ (Luther).

“Where we no longer pray the Psalms in our churches, we must take the Psalter that much more into our daily morning and evening worship. Every day we should read and pray several psalms, if possible with others, so that we read through this book repeatedly during the year and continue to delve into it ever more deeply. We also ought not to select psalms at our own discretion, exhibiting disrespect to the prayerbook of the Bible and thinking that we know better than even God does what we should pray. In the early church it was nothing unusual to know ‘the entire David’ by heart. In one eastern church this was a prerequisite for an ecclesiastical office. The church father Jerome says that in his time one could hear the Psalms being sung in the fields and gardens. The Psalter filled the life of early Christianity. But more important than all of that is that Jesus died on the cross with words from the Psalms on his lips.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 5: Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, pp. 161-62.

Westermeyer on why congregations sing

“But why do we sing at all? What’s wrong with speech alone? Isn’t that enough? Singing a text surely doesn’t alter the content, does it? What more is there?

“A number of issues that relate these questions need to be sorted out. First, let us acknowledge that only our modern world would even think of asking why we sing. As I indicated in the last chapter, primitive peoples did not regard music as the extra that we do. Until prone and Low Mass in the medieval West and parts of especially Zwinglian Protestantism or Quaker worship thereafter, worship was always sung. Even today Jewish synagogues, Eastern Orthodox churches, and many other worshiping communities treat music as intrinsic to their worship.

“Once we have asked the question our modern western tendency is to answer it by saying that, before there were microphones, the reason for singing was to amplify the voice so it could be heard better. As Frank Senn has pointed out, singing has inevitably accompanied worship in both large and small spaces, where amplification would be needed and where it would not be needed: amplification is obviously necessary and perhaps tangentially related, but it is not a primary reason for singing in worship.

“The real reasons for singing are far more profound. One reason is that singing, like nothing else, binds together a corporate gathering. Leaders of nonviolent marches know of and use music’s tremendous power. They use music not only because it gives a group a common physical response, but because in the process it also creates a psychosocial unity. Dictators, including Adolf Hitler, have been highly aware of music’s potentials. They have used music’s power for deadly demonic ends, which need to serve as a solemn warning to all of us in the church. If we do not use music well, tyrants will fill the vacuum and use it for devious purposes. But music can be used positively for the common good and for an incredible shalom. People do not think this out logically. They simply yearn to sing when they gather for worship and know how right it is to sing after they have done it. The psalmist, the poet-musician, gives them the voice they yearn for.

“Music also aids the memory. A text that has been sung will be remembered long after one spoken. This mnemonic capacity of music is related not only to the corporate binding power of music, but to its value over time. Music helps the memory at the moment the worshiping community assembles, and it is one of the primary vehicles for remembering across time, from gathering to gathering, and between gatherings. The sounds of a given hymn, sung weeks or months apart, are ways to remember and live different parts of the story. The sounds of Christmas are different from the sounds of Easter or Pentecost. And sound is part of our individual stories, from birth to death. At old age and death we remember sounds from childhood and youth, which is why it is so important to have sounds we can grow into rather than out of.

“Joy inevitably breaks into song. Speech alone cannot carry its hilarity. The physical equipment we used to laugh is the physical equipment we use to sing. From laughter to song is a small step. To praise God, the highest form of joy, is to make music. Song cannot be avoided. The language of joy and praise is the language of song. The repeated Alleluia, “Praise Yah,” which frames each of Psalms 146-150 at the end of the Psalter is inherently musical.

“The same can be said for sorrow, the opposite of joy. Sorrow also inevitably breaks into song. Speech alone cannot carry its moan. The physical equipment we used to cry is also the physical equipment we use to sing. From mourning to song is but a small step. To cry out to God in lament, the deepest form of sorrow, is to make music. The language of sorrow and lament is the language of song. The cry “Miserere” of Psalm 51 is inherently musical.

“Music is also the means to interpret a text. At one level interpretation gives rise to sing-song formulas like the call of a horse race or the call of the auctioneer, which increase in pitch level and melody, in tempo, and in dynamic and rhythmic intensity as the excitement grows. At a much more profound level this gives rise to the cantillation of readings by a Jewish cantor and the ecstatic cries of an African-American preacher–which also increase as the excitement grows. In these latter examples the call of God to proclaim and interpret the word is at work. Call-response patterns inevitably arise from this: the call of the cantor and the preacher cannot be imagined without the responses of their congregations. These call-response patterns are inherently musical. They are virtual certainties in any worshiping community, unless, of course, they are artificially blocked.

“All the elements we have noted–binding together, memory, joy, lament, and proclamation–find their locus and make sense in the context of a worshiping community. Memory, joy, and lament can, of course, be imagined individually, but apart from a group of persons in the worshiping matrix they quickly lose their meaning, which does not mean that there are no individual singers in worship. Individuals and groups each sing alone, the whole community sings together, and dialogues take place between individuals and the whole community or between groups, depending on the nature of the song to be sung.”

Paul Westermeyer, Te Deum: The Church and Music, pp. 27-29.

“Nobody is dying” and that is the problem

“May my living be grace to those behind me.”

—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living

Few things strike fear into the heart of a pastor or elder like a cryptic email/text request for a meeting. “I really need to meet with you in person as soon as possible. It is quite urgent. Please reply as soon as you get this message. If not sooner.”

I have received a few such emails during my time in ministry and I have learned to try to take my thoughts captive at such a moment because, although the person sending me the text is in need of something in a hurry, the bottom line is that I do not know what that something is and I can only make the situation worse if I give in to my temptation to worry.

I will almost always follow up a vague request for a meeting with something along the lines of, “That’s fine. Anything urgent I need to know about prior to our meeting?” The response back from people almost always begins with something like, “Well, nobody is dying or anything. But the situation is serious and I/we need counsel in dealing with it.”

Oftentimes when I finally do meet up with the sender of the cryptic email/text I discover that the situation is indeed serious, but not in the way that they think. Frequently I discover that, indeed, nobody is dying and that is the deeper issue that is driving the crisis. Nobody is dying to their own desires and felt needs. Nobody is dying…and that is often the root of the problem.

Process-of-the-Cross

If the life of Jesus teaches us anything, it teaches that the way of Christian obedience often involves dying to self and living for others. Jesus taught us that the way of life is the way of loss:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 22:37-39)

It means willingly letting go of things so that others may prosper:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:5-7)

It means dying for others even when those others aren’t worthy of the benefits of your dying.

[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

Of course, the objection arises, “Doesn’t acting in this manner make one a doormat for others to walk all over?” In a specific sense, acting in this manner does make one a doormat for others. However, consider the function of a doormat. It is placed at the front door of a home so that all who enter a house might do so with clean feet. The function of a doormat is to cleanse something else.

This dovetails beautifully with the mission of Jesus during his life. He exhorted all who labored and were heavy laden to come to Him for rest. In His presence they would find rest for their souls because His yoke was easy and His burden was light (Matt. 11:28-30). We do well when we imitate our Lord in giving our lives selflessly for others so that they might find an antidote for weariness and rest for their souls.

In the economy of God’s wisdom, a house full of people “dying” is actually the healthiest of houses. Conversely, a house full of people “not dying” is a house that is in the throes of the death rattle. May God grant us strong, healthy homes full of men, women, and children that are all dying on a regular basis.

“Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain-they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter. With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years in the US (subtracting eight hours a day for sleep), I have around 250,00 conscious hours remaining to me in which I could be smiling or scowling, rejoicing in my life, in this race, in this story, or moaning and complaining about my troubles. I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end.”

—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living