Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Worship and Bow Down

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
Ps 95:4-6 

There is movement here. The psalm opens with the initial joy of praising God, and that praise leads to a realization of God's greatness. And so in Psalm 95:6 we move from worship, to bowing, to kneeling—for if God is the One who holds the seas and owns the mountains, then who are we that we might be invited into his presence?

Bowing and kneeling do not of necessity mean confession of sin. But as we'll see in subsequent verses of this psalm, that is probably what's called for here.

Who am I, Lord, that you would call me into your presence? Thank you for the joy in my heart, but help me cleanse my heart as well, that it may be a fit sanctuary for your praise; in Jesus' Name, who taught me to pray...

Monday, October 15, 2018

As Soon as the Doors Open!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!   
Ps 95:2-3
The psalmist doesn't really just say, "Let us come." The verb here isn't the same one that's found in the first verse. This verb is נְקַדְּמָה, which is a form of קדם—a word that is used elsewhere to mean precede, or hasten. It's as though this verse says, Let's see if we can be the first ones at church this morning, or Let's get there as soon as the doors open! It's clear here that worship isn't a chore, and attending it isn't an obligation, but a privilege. It seems that it doesn't matter what hymns the pastor has picked—they're all favorites.

I thank you, God, that you've given me a church to go to, a way to get there, a voice to lift up your praise, and sisters and brothers to sing along with; in the Name of him who taught me to pray...

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Worship Wars: How One Church Bridged the Gap

UCC Series VI

When I shared with you about our European roots, one of the things I talked about was how the teachings of John Calvin spread throughout Europe, and from there to America. One of the places where Calvinism came to be espoused was Germany. While most of Protestant Germany remained Lutheran, there were certain portions—some sizable, others quite small—that adopted the Reformed faith. And sometimes in the midst of Lutheran strongholds there were Reformed (or Calvinist) minorities. One guy who ministered in such places in the 1600’s was a pastor named Joachim Neander. He’s famous for two things.

Prayer After A(nother) Hurricane

Forgive us, Lord, when we laugh at our ancestors.
In their naïveté,
they believed that they were somehow the cause of natural disasters—
that if only they had changed their way of life,
bad things wouldn’t have been visited upon them.
Believing this to be untrue,
we live as though the earth existed only to provide the rich with resources,
as though you had not made us stewards of your creation.
We pump billions of gallons of water from beneath the earth
in order to extract more oil and gas,
and then wonder why there are earthquakes
in places where they hadn’t existed before.
We fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases,
increasing the planet’s temperatures,
and then wonder why storms are more severe now

A Sunday Psalm

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  
Ps 95:1

This verse comes up on a Sunday this year, and I like that, because Psalm 95 is very much a Sunday psalm (regardless of how it ends). What the psalmist enjoins, we cannot do in private, regardless of how spiritual we think we are. Faith is not just a matter of study or private prayer or having good intentions. As often as not, it means coming together with other people of faith.

This psalm which calls God's people into a worshiping community reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, in which he states that:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Rhetorical Question

Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who contrive mischief by statute?
Ps 94:20 

Since כִּסֵּא means throne and not ruler, I think the Hebrew of today's verse could be rendered this way: Can the throne of woes—where injustice is crafted into law—partner with you? And that's a question we really need to be asking right now. Under cover of darkness and hidden deep in unrelated legislation, our leaders contrive to strip the needy of what little they have in order to reward their rich benefactors. Though this might be what legislators have done for centuries, in our country those doing it claim not only that they're doing God's will, but that their opponents are God's enemies.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Día de la Raza, Part 2

Su sangre es del color de un nuevo amanecer.
The civil observance of what Americans call Columbus Day was this past Monday. But we all know that today is the day Columbus supposedly "discovered" America. As I said on Monday, Latin Americans don't celebrate Columbus' discovery of a land that had already been inhabited by humans for thousands of years, but the people that came together on that day. To celebrate the civil observance, I posted Ekhymosis' Raza: "Blanco, negro, mestizo, indio y mulato es igual."

Today, on October 12, I'm sharing a different take on the same theme. Bacilos' Cuestión de Madera has long been a favorite song of mine, and as its writer and lead singer states in his introduction during this live performance in Italy, it's about racism not against Latin Americans, but among Latin Americans. It opens (1:04) by telling the story in the first person of entering a restaurant: 

In Life and in Death

Calvin said that "believers are conscious of two very different states of mind. On the one hand, they are afflicted and distressed with various fears and anxieties; on the other, there is a secret joy communicated to them from above." I think there's a great deal of truth in this statement—and it's the kind of truth that non-believers might find either amusing or disingenuous. How can we acknowledge all the suffering and evil in the world, all the while talking about the goodness of God?