It Is Finished

The Savior meant that the satisfaction which He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once and for all and forever—by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the Tree. There was the cup, Hell was in it, the Savior drank it—not a sip and then a pause—not a draught and then a ceasing. He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people. The great ten-thronged whip of the Law was worn out upon His back. There is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition—there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God.

Sheathed is your sword, O Justice! Silenced is your thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs and pains and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own Beloved and “it is finished.”

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Humiliation and Exaltation

The cross proclaims both the humiliation of God through the act of taking on human flesh and the exaltation of God through the resurrection of the Incarnate and Crucified One. The mystery of humiliation-exaltation can be understood best only in reverse. In terms of Jesus: Without the Resurrection, Good Friday commemorates simply the death of a martyr, a noble but tragic figure; and Christmas is simply the birth of this same ill-fated teacher. The birth, ministry and death of Jesus must be understood in light of the resurrection or the understanding will be greatly diminished. It is no accident that the observance of Christian time, the day and the week and the year, is grounded in and organized around the resurrection celebration.

—Laurence Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 27-28

Good Friday

Tread softly around the cross, for Jesus is dead. Repeat the refrain in hushed and softened tones: the Lord of life is dead.

The infuriated mob that cried for His crucifixion gradually disperses; He is dead.

And the passersby who stop just to see Him go on their way; He is dead.

The Pharisees, rubbing their hands in self-congratulation, go back to the city; He is dead.

The centurion assigned the task of executing Him makes his official report to the Roman procurator, “He is dead.”

And Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus of the Sanhedrin go personally to Pontius Pilate and beg of the Roman governor His body, because He is dead.

Mary His mother and the women with her are bowed in sobs and in tears; He is dead.

And the eleven apostles, like frightened sheep, crawl into eleven shadows to hide, and they cry, “He is dead!”

Wherever His disciples meet, in an upper room, or on a lonely road, or behind closed doors, or in hiding places, the same refrain is sadly heard, “He is dead. He is in a tomb; they have sealed the grave and set a guard; He is dead.”

Simon Peter, the rock, is a rock no longer.

And James and John, the sons of thunder, are sons of thunder no longer.

And Simon the Zealot is a zealot no longer.

He is dead, and the hope of the world has perished with Him.

Then, then, then…

—W. A. Criswell

Our Mighty Substitute

But we must not be content with a vague general belief that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of His passion.

We may follow him all through, from the bar of Pilate to the minute of His death, and see Him at every step as our mighty substitute, our representative, our head, our surety, our proxy—the divine friend who undertook to stand in our place and, by the priceless merit of His sufferings, to purchase our redemption.

Was He flogged? It was done so that “by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Was He condemned, though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty.

Did He wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory.

Washe stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness.

Was He mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed.

Was He reckoned a criminal, and counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin.

Was He declared unable to save himself? It was done so that He might be able to save others to the uttermost.

Did He die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

—J. C. Ryle, “The Sufferings of Christ” in Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross: Experiencing The Passion and Power of Easter

Obstacles to Adoration

C. S. Lewis identifies several things that keep us from adoration.

The first is inattention. How easy it is to be caught up into the whirl of life and miss the overtures of Divine Love.

A second obstacle is the wrong kind of attention. We see a sunset and are drawn into analysis rather than doxology.

A third obstacle to adoration is greed. Instead of simply enjoying pleasures, we demand more pleasures.

Lewis mentions one more obstruction: conceit. When conceit takes over, the focus is once again on how wonderful we are—which is why it so effectively severs the cords of adoration.

—Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 85-87

No Fan of Church Music! (2)

The first and most solid conclusion which (for me) emerges is that both musical parties, the High Brows and the Low, assume far too easily the spiritual value of the music they want. Neither the greatest excellence of a trained performance from the choir, nor the heartiest and most enthusiastic bellowing from the pews, must be taken to signify that any specifically religious activity is going on. It may be so, or it may not.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” in Christian Reflections, 96

 

 

No Fan of Church Music!

What we want to know is whether untrained communal singing is in itself any more edifying than other popular pleasures. And of this I, for one, am still wholly unconvinced. I have often heard this noise; I have sometimes contributed to it. I do not yet seem to have found any evidence that the physical and emotional exhilaration which it produces is necessarily, or often, of any religious relevance. What I, like many other laymen, chiefly desire in church are fewer, better, and shorter hymns; especially fewer.

The case for abolishing all Church Music whatever thus seems to me far stronger than the case for abolishing the difficult work of the trained choir and retaining the lusty roar of the congregation. Whatever doubts I feel about the spiritual value of the first I feel at least equally about the spiritual value of the second.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” in Christian Reflections, 96

 

Church Music as a Means of Grace

There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God. The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense. But where the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste—there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.

These highly general reflections will not, I fear, be of much practical use to any priest or organist in devising a working compromise for a particular church. The most they can hope to do is to suggest that the problem is never a merely musical one. Where both the choir and the congregation are spiritually on the right road no insurmountable difficulties will occur. Discrepancies of taste and capacity will, indeed, provide matter for mutual charity and humility.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” in Christian Reflections, 96-97

Against Novelty

Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not dancing but only learning to dance. A good show is a show you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were most unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself, and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was ‘for what does it serve?’ “Tis mad idolatry makes the service greater than the god.”

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question, “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion to waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was “Feed my sheep” not “Try experiments on my rats,” or even, “Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit.

—C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 13

Appetite for God

I want to stress what I think that we (or at least I) need more [than instruction about sacrifice]; the joy and delight in God which meet us in the Psalms, however loosely or closely, in this or that instance, they may be connected with the Temple. This is the living centre of Judaism. These poets knew far less reason than we for loving God.  They did not know that He offered them eternal joy; still less that He would die to win it for them. Yet they express a longing for Him, for His mere presence, which comes only to the best Christians or to Christians in their best moments. They long to live all their days in the Temple so that they may constantly see “the fair beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27,4). Their longing to go up to Jerusalem and “appear before the presence of God” is like a physical thirst (42). From Jerusalem His presence flashes out “in perfect beauty” (50,2). Lacking that encounter with Him, their souls are parched like a waterless countryside (63,2). They crave to be “satisfied with the pleasures” of His house (65,4). Only there can they be at ease, like a bird in the nest (84,3).  One day of those “pleasures” is better than a lifetime spent elsewhere (10).

I have rather—though the expression may seem harsh to some—call this the “appetite for God” than the “love of God”. . . . It has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical, desire.

—C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 50-51

The Obedience of Worship

Throughout the Bible it is emphasized that true worship is obedient worship. It is not the costliness of the equipment or the majesty of the surroundings or the dignity of the ceremonial or the beauty of the music or the elegance of the language that commends our worship to God, but simply its obedience. 

—C. E. B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958):397

How We Use the English Word “Worship”

We may distinguish three uses of the word “worship”; (i) to denote a particular element of what is generally referred to as worship, namely, adoration; (ii) to denote generally the public worship of the religious community gathered together and also the private religious exercises of the family and the individual; and (iii), in a still wider sense, to denote the whole life of the community or of the individual viewed as service of God.

—C.E.B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action: The Biblical Concept of Worship,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958), 387

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

The custom in some traditions of the congregation standing during the reading of the sermon-text can be a salutary reminder of the fact that here above all the church expects to hear the voice of its Lord and therefore here above all its full attention is required.

—C.E.B. Cranfield. “Divine and Human Action: The Biblical Concept of Worship,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958), 392

Jesus Himself

That which is received in the Sacraments is not something other than that which is received in the Word, though it is received in a different way; for both in Word and Sacraments it is Jesus Christ Himself who comes to us. 

—C.E.B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action: The Biblical Concept of Worship,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958), 395