Fit for the King

The God whom we meet in worship and whom we serve in all of our lives is the risen ascended, exalted, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ who reigns over all, and this ought to produce confident peace, joyful hope, and powerful purpose in all that Christians do as we “set our minds on things that are above: where our life is hidden with Christ in god (Col 3:1).  In the specific context of corporate worship, it implies that public liturgy must maintain elements of grandeur and majesty fitting for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, for the one who calls us and leads us in worship is none other than the resurrected and ascended Lord of glory that John sees in his apocalyptic vision (Rev 1:12-20).

—Michael A. Farley, “Jesus’ Ascension and Christian Worship,” 2

The Life of the Church

After the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the conception, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we find the ‘other Paraclete’ (John 14:16) given to the apostles (John 20:22-3), the ‘Promise of the Father’ (Luke 24:29; Acts 1:4-5) made good at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21; see also 33).  Henceforward the Holy Spirit will be the Life of the church, itself the ‘first fruits’ of God’s new creation (James 1:18) and an instrument in God’s hands for the achievement of God’s purposes among humankind.  The Holy Spirit works from the very beginning to constitute and compose the church and its members, coming to them and abiding in them corporately and individually, starting to transform them in the direction of God’s kingdom and enabling them to bear witness to the gospel for the sake of its extension.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, “The Holy Spirit,” in ed. Colin E. Gunton, The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine (Cambridge Companions to Religion), 284

The Spirit in Us

Believers call upon God in prayer as ‘Abba! Father!’ because the Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into their hearts (Gal. 4:6).  Believers bear ‘fruit’ because the eschatological age has dawned and the Spirit has been poured out upon them (Isa. 32:15; Gal. 5:22-23).  Even the suffering of believers at the hand of the world signifies that ‘the Spirit of glory and of God rests’ upon them (1 Pet. 4:14).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

Glorifying the Son

Who, then, is the Spirit according to John? He is the one who descends from the Father upon the Son that he might flow through the Son to all who believe, bringing forgiveness and renewal, life and light. His coming signals the replacement of God’s former dwelling in tabernacle and temple with the triune indwelling of the children of God. His role is to confirm believers’ interest in the Son, and thus in the Father as well, and to continue the mission given by the Father to the Son through the church in the world. The Spirit effects all these things ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (14: 13 NASB).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

Ascended as God and Man

Against our attempts to make the resurrection a ghost party, like a wisp of fog on hot tea, Jesus appears among us with “real wounds,” shows us that resurrection is a matter of flesh and bones, of broiled fish and honeycomb.

His wounded body, a body that yet eats, a body of flesh and bones—flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone—now ascends into what it means to be God in eternity, forever taking with his embodied self all the good and hard memories of what it means to be human.

As the human who exists beyond the touch of death, whose scarred and resurrected body is our death’s antidote, as the everlasting human who remembers all our faces, the ascending Jesus keeps his promise to raise us with him—a promise he makes as the first born of a new creation and as God.

And it it this wounded God with human memories whose rule of resurrection overcomes death, whose rule of forgiveness overcomes sin, whose rule of welcome overcomes estrangement.

—Father Kenneth Tanner, https://www.facebook.com/kenneth.tanner

For Us and with Us

Because the Father receives His death and His life on our behalf, Jesus’ ascension signifies that we, too, have access to the Father in heaven (Heb 10:19-25), and from that privileged position, Jesus leads us in every act of worship. He is ultimate liturgist (Heb 8:2), preacher (Heb 2:12a; Rom 10:14), singer (Heb 2:12b), intercessor (Heb 7:25; Rom 8:34), and table host (Heb 13:9b-10; 1 Cor 10:16). As James Torrance has written, our worship is “the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father,” for our worship is mediated and perfected by the incarnate Son of God who continually offers perfect worship to the Father for us and with us.

—Michael A. Farley, “Jesus’ Ascension and Christian Worship,” 2-3

Our Ascended High Priest

Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father not only as king but also as high priest. The whole book of Hebrews centers on this great reality. As the priest in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus fulfills and surpasses all of the functions of the Aaronic priesthood (Heb 7–10). He has gone into the heavenly tabernacle with His own blood as the final and ultimate priest bearing the final and ultimate sacrifice of His own life. Because the Father receives His death and His life on our behalf, Jesus’ ascension signifies that we, too, have access to the Father in heaven (Heb 10:19-25).

—Michael A. Farley, “Jesus’ Ascension and Christian Worship,” 2-3

Ascended to Serve

The ascension is the foundation of the Bible’s theology of worship. Jesus’ ascension means that He is not only the God and King whom we worship but also the human high priest who leads worship for us and in us through the presence and power of his Spirit. In worship, we experience the union of heaven and earth made tangible and explicit in the concrete actions of worship through which Jesus promises to serve us.

—Michael A. Farley, “Jesus’ Ascension and Christian Worship,” 3

Alive!

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing His praise
      Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
      With Him mayst rise:
That, as His death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
      With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound His name,
      Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
      Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
      And multiplied;
O let Thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with His sweet art.

—George Herbert , “Easter” (1633)

Holy Saturday

Today a grave holds Him
who holds creation in the palm of His hand.
A stone covers Him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to Your saving work,
by which You have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

——from a matins hymn for Holy Saturday (Orthodox Church)

The Lord of Life Is Dead

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.

But Sunday….is….coming.

—W. A. Criswell

Why is Good Friday Good?

Although Catholics and Protestant in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.” This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church,  96

Assumed and Healed

St. Gregory of Nazianzus is known for his saying “that which He has not assumed, He has not healed.”  The converse is true, of course—what God the Son has “assumed” or taken upon himself in His Incarnation, all of that which is truly human, is healed, and so transformed. This includes our worship.

—Edith Humphrey, Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven, 68

When Eternity Played by the Calendar

Almighty and Eternal God,
infinite and holy,
whose being genius cannot fathom,
whose works galaxies cannot contain.

Before You we gratefully come, celebrating the day
when You, the Almighty, did not count omnipotence a thing to be grasped,
when Eternity played by the calendar,
when Infinity was checked by gravity,
when Holiness mixed it up with sinners,
when the Creator of intergalactic space
became a body
and moved into our neighborhood.

Today we revel in the revelation
that we who were light-years distant
have been drawn to You as breath in lungs,
that we who had lost touch
can now feel the wounds in Your hands and feet,
brushing up against the holy body that bore the sins of the world,
and the cold flesh that, soon enough, turned warm and whole,
and soon enough, made all things new.

We, like the shepherds in the field,
like the women at the tomb,
are astonished,
trembling in wonder
and in fear.

If all this is true,
if a love like this
is the blood that courses through all reality,
behold, all things are new.

On our better days, Lord, we long to be transformed
by the wonder.
But most days, we are scared to death to be changed,
even by love.

Yet it is not to the bold that you have come,
Only to the trembling
And not to the wise,
But only to the foolish.

Give us ears to hear the glad tidings of great joy,
and lungs to sing with exuberant praise,
and legs to dance spritely around the strawy trough
that cradled the Love
who redeems the cosmos.

Amen.

—Mark Galli, http://www.christianitytoday.com/behemoth/2014/issue-12/when-eternity-played-by-calendar.html

 

Come and Stand Amazed

Come and stand amazed, you people, see how God is reconciled!
See His plans of love accomplished, see His gift, this newborn child.

See the Mighty, weak and tender, see the Word who now is mute.
See the Sovereign without splendor, see the Fullness destitute;
the Beloved, whom we covet, in a state of low repute.

See how humankind received Him; see Him wrapped in swaddling bands,
Who as Lord of all creation rules the wind by His commands.

See him lying in a manger without sign of reasoning;
Word of God to flesh surrendered, He is wisdom’s crown, our King.
See how tender our Defender at whose birth the angels sing.

O Lord Jesus, God incarnate, who assumed this humble form,
Counsel me and let my wishes to Your perfect will conform.

Light of life, dispel my darkness, let Your frailty strengthen me;
Let Your meekness give me boldness, let Your burden set me free;
Let Your sadness give me gladness, let Your death be life for me. Amen.

—Calvin Seerveld (Worship Sourcebook 469)