“We must save our gods”

In church on Palm Sunday, our pastor gave another powerful sermon, with a great missionary story:

“Where are their gods? . . . Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!”  [Deuteronomy 32:37-38]

Those are the words of God through Moses to the people of Israel on the border of the Promised Land about the gods of the Canaanites. They reminded me of a story I once heard from a missionary who visited my church in New York. He was working somewhere in the far east, I don’t remember exactly where, when an earthquake struck. The people, of course, were very frightened and running out of their houses. But then, he said, something very strange happened. They started rushing back into their crumbling, tottering houses. He couldn’t figure out why, so he stopped one of the people and asked what was going on. And this was the answer he got: We have to save our gods. They were risking their lives to save their gods which were sitting on the shelves and altars of their collapsing homes.

What a starkly different picture we hear today and this Holy Week. The one, true God doesn’t need saving – we are the ones who need saving! And it is the one, true God who rushes into our crumbling, tottering world to save us. [Read more...]

Bach’s “Passion” as online meditation

Bach is among the very greatest of Christian artists, and his “St. Matthew Passion” is considered one of his greatest works.  It is an oratorio, something like an opera, that sets to music Matthew’s account of the crucifixion of Christ (Chapters 26-27), with soloists singing the lines of the various characters and magnificent choral music, all punctuated with Bach’s rendition of Lenten hymns (many of which we still sing today) and remarkable verse by Bach himself responding to Christ’s sacrifice.

My colleague Steve McCollum alerted me to an online resource that makes this masterpiece of musical devotion accessible online:  Oregon Bach Festival » Digital Bach Project » St. Matthew Passion.  It gives the English translation, as well as the Biblical sources and the dramatic script, for each line as the oratorio unfolds.  Click the link, then when you see the painting of St. Matthew, hit the play button.  It’s divided into five 30-minute segments, which makes it an excellent Holy Week devotion.  [Read more...]

Have an unglorious Passiontide

This is the week before Holy Week, a part of the church year known as Passiontide.  Contrary to those who think that liturgical worship is the same old thing every week, the liturgy, while following the same structure, actually changes each week, with different Bible readings and collects, and it features meaningful variations according to the church year.  Sunday, our pastor explained and put into effect worship customs for Passiontide that I never knew about before.  [Read more...]

What pastors do

Last Sunday at church, in addition to receiving Holy Communion as we do every week, we baptized a child and sent off one of our members to seminary.  Our pastor gave a sermon on the readings for the day–Jeremiah 16, Luke 13,  and Philippians 3–and tied them into all of those events.  You should read the whole sermon, but what he said about the life and calling of a pastor deserves to become a classic. [Read more...]

Rejecting Christ’s sacrifice

Liberal Catholic intellectual Garry Wills has a new book out entitled Why Priests?:  A Failed Tradition in which he makes the rather un-Catholic argument that Jesus institute the priesthood.  But he goes farther, giving a Catholic version of what many mainline Protestants and even some supposed evangelicals are saying:  That Christ was not sacrificed for our sins. [Read more...]

At the still point of the turning world

From Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

via Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot.

(“The still point of the turning world” is from Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the Four Quartets.)

What is Eliot saying about the Word?  about the Word in an age of unbelief?  What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent?


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