Hearing the Music

Our Greatest Problem. Our Greatest Hope.

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What would you say is the greatest problem that humanity faces? Is it the lingering effects of the pandemic? Race relations in the US? Greed of the upper class? Sexual confusion or aberration? Lack of respect for life, both at its inception as well as at its end? All of these are legitimate, grief inducing challenges for humanity, challenges that need to be seen and responded to through the lens of God's word. BUT they are not our greatest problem. Humanity's greatest problem, through the ages and across cultures, is that we as people cannot live up to the holiness of God. We cannot qualify as righteous in his sight outside of divine intervention. Our crisis, as the apostle puts it, is that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:8,9), having failed to meet the standard for righteousness (Romans 3:23). This is the truth that binds humanity together, rich, poor, black, white, brown, young, old, no exceptions.

Which leads us to our greatest hope. God, who is rich in mercy, has provided a solution. God, who helps the helpless, has opened a door, provided a way. What we could never do on our own he has done through the work of Jesus. Our souls were dead, but through his finished work they can be revived! Reviving the soul, translated in the ESV as “give me life,” is specifically mentioned in eleven verses in Psalm 119, verses 25, 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 149, 154, 156, and 159. Understanding our need and God's provision will be our focus for this week. 

What about all those other problems that we mentioned at the start of this reflection? They are real too. Do we just ignore them? Of course not, but we have to start at the beginning in order to make sense of our world. 

For instance, I recently came across a quote that captures the very real, ongoing sense of loss and grief that many feel with respect to the pandemic. It is a powerful quote that caused me to remember that many in our CC community, as well as our greater GR community, are sharing this perspective: "Even if a person has survived the pandemic, people they love are dead, [life is] permanently altered, .... Now, staring down the oft-invoked 'return to normalcy,' I don’t know how to metabolize such a towering sense of collective grief, and one that’s infused practically everything I’ve ever known" (Molly Osberg). What I realized is that outside of God's word, outside of the greater story of life, death and soul revival I do not know how to offer hope to these deep wells of grief. Promise of a vaccine cannot match this grief. A "return to normalcy" sounds empty. But life in the Son, peace and purpose that is secured by our Creator, there is true hope. Of course there are practicalities that need to be navigated, but our hope is secure. 

 

Photo by Nicolas Peyrol on Unsplash

Sweet Authority

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 A quick perusal of current headlines will invariably find articles and stories working through issues of immigration, right to die, violence done against minorities, transgender rights, efforts to create human/chimpanzee embryos and a whole lot more. As Christians, how do we make sense of our place in this world? How do we interact with those whose framework for viewing the world is vastly different than ours? How do we avoid being conformed to the ideals of this current age? 

As we seek a way forward, a couple of truths stand out. First, we need transformed hearts and transformed characters. If we seek for answers on our own, without the Spirit of God to guide and help us along the way, we will only add our foolishness to the foolishness of the world. Second, the ancient, reliable Word of God is said to be "sweeter than honey" with a power to meet humanity at its point of greatest need. It is the Word of our Creator that has the wisdom to shape our lives for the flourishing for which he created us. It is the Word of our King that is authoritative, binding us as his people to live in his way. In the Word of God the one who calls us his friend and our brother reveals to us his heart. It is in his Word that we find the sweet authority that we need.

Over the next several weeks we will be looking through the lens of Psalm 119 to behold the beauty of the Word of God. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible with every single one of it's 176 verses extolling the virtues of the scriptures. In this psalm we see how God's Word rejoices the heart, makes wise the simple, revives the soul, brings comfort in affliction, lays a path for purity, and holds forth justice for the oppressed. We will be taking each of these themes in their turn. This week, Pastor Addison will help us see that when we come to the Word, we come to the very heart of God. 

The very opening to the Psalter lays out the path for the blessed life. Blessed is the one whose "delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2). May we all grow in our delight of the Word!

 

Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli on Unsplash

Anti-Cancel Culture

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The idea that we live in a "cancel culture" has been circulating for the last 5-8 years. According to Wikipedia "Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to have been 'cancelled'." Most frequently folks are cancelled because the opinions they express are deemed wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate by a group of people. In popular culture we see over and over how people make mistakes, get caught and are cancelled. We also see groups call out people for ideas contrary to their own. Depending on the power or influence of the group calling you out you could be cancelled. The prevalence of cancel culture has contributed widely to the polarization of society that we experience today politically, culturally and religiously. Cancel culture has infiltrated the church as well. We see leaders or fellow church members mess up and they are cancelled. If some one doesn't hold the same theological views that we do, they are cancelled*. Values like listening, empathy, healthy disagreement and forgiveness do not thrive in a cancel culture.

That is why I am so drawn to the anti-cancel culture that Jesus inaugurates and that we will be looking at this Sunday in John 21. If anyone deserved to be cancelled it was Peter. Peter, who boasted of his superiority to the other brothers (Mark 14:29), who completely missed the humble way in which Jesus was bringing his kingdom (John 18:10,11), who denied he even knew Jesus - with imprecations (Mark 14:71,72). Surely he would be cancelled. But Jesus doesn't think like that. Jesus doesn't think like us. He knows Peter. He loves Peter. He pursues Peter from the very moment of his resurrection (Mark 16:7). He restores Peter, gives him back his dignity, gives him a task to do and something worth dying for. My cancel culture weary psyche can't wait to dive into this with you on Sunday!

 

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