Hearing the Music

in trials

A Centrifugal Life in a Centripetal World

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For those of you that can remember your physics you will recall that the difference between centrifugal and centripetal force is the direction of the force. Centrifugal force takes place along the radius of the circle from the center outwards. Centripetal force is the opposite, also taking place along the radius of the circle, but from the outer ring of the radius towards the center.

Recent events have made for a naturally centripetal world. We are staying home with a relatively small number of people. For many of us our world has shrunk to family, media, books, games and an occasional trip to the store. Phone, Zoom, and FaceTime keep us a little more outward focused, but it is hard to maintain those contacts as time drags on.

The psalmist knew the interplay between the centripetal and the centrifugal. For instance in Psalm 51 David is intensely introspective and reflective for much of the psalm, a force directed toward its center. But toward the end of the psalm David is resolved to teach transgressors the ways of the Lord (13) and open his mouth to declare the praises of the Lord (15). The force is moving away. In Psalm 34 David again recalls a time that was intensely focused on the immediate needs of affliction. But upon coming out of that time he is inviting others to “bless the Lord with him”, “taste and see that the Lord is good”, “come, O children, and listen”. David is moving away from the center, overflowing with what he has discovered. As you read the psalms and other scriptures I am sure you will notice this same pattern.

And so I ask myself, what will this look like for me? First, am I learning what God would have me learn during this centripetal time? Are my roots sunk deep into the streams of the Lord? Am I drawing from Him? Is my soul being filled? Then second, am I ready to be unleashed? The sons of Korah in Psalm 42 remember “how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise (4).” It is this hope that buttresses his soul even while downcast, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him (11).” My friends these 5 weeks have been long, but they will end. May the Lord do a work in our hearts that cannot be contained!

Sunday we will begin a new series, a study of the life of Elijah. Elijah appeared as one in the midst of darkness. One writer described the spiritual situation in Israel this way, “Every light had been extinguished, every voice of divine testimony was hushed. Spiritual death was spread over everything, and it looked as though Satan had indeed obtained Mastery of the situation.” But the Lord knows what his people need and he will not abandon them to themselves. I can’t wait to meet his servant Elijah, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand …”

 

Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

Living Well

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My guess is that you are feeling the pinch of another 3 weeks in this stay at home mode!! I know in the VM household the introverts have had just about enough of the extroverts and the extroverts are acting more like dogs than humans.

One of the things that I have heard is that we are living in unprecedented times.Of course that is not exactly true.As hard as this curtailing of freedom has been, I have been encouraged by folks like Richard Baxter, who, when he was asked in the mid 1600’s whether it was right for a magistrate to restrict worship, replied like this, "If the magistrate for a greater good, (as the common safety,) forbid church-assemblies in a time of pestilence, assault of enemies, or fire, or the like necessity, it is a duty to obey him.” They too faced pestilence and closure. What encourages me is that our world has been through this before, the church has been through this before, God knows and he will deliver us in His time!

In the meantime how shall we live? Once again I turn to church history, this time to Augustine. He was asked directly how shall we live in hard times? He replied thus, “People speak of hard times. Let us live well and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times.” What he is saying is that we are not determined by what is outside of us, but rather what is inside. Surely something like Psalm 1 must be in his heart and mind. In Christ we are like trees planted by streams of water so that both in season and out of season we draw strength from Him. Let us draw strength from Him and times shall be good.

And what declares Augustine right more than Easter? The blessed day on which all of history turns. The day in which when we celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave. Tetelestai. It is finished!We know that neither COVID-19, social distancing, loneliness, economic hardship, nor another day in the house with that annoying extrovert can ever separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus.

 

Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

A Journey Through My Mind

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How are you doing 3 weeks or so into these strange times? In my own reflection it is still a bit surreal, but enough time has passed that I am seeing some things emerge that I thought I would share in a series of random observations. So welcome to the way my mind works!

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It is great to be able to connect with folks via websites, Facebook, InstaLive, Zoom, Slack chats, etc… It is awesome to see and hear folks, study, pray, laugh, cry, all of it. I really am so grateful for these platforms and will continue to use them. On the other hand I am struggling with feeling the inadequacy of these digital connections. I miss the handshakes and the hugs (wait, did I just say that ?!). I hate the way the device keeps alerting me that I have something else to check or do; something waiting. I feel like I can’t disconnect from this virtual world. Help!

I am learning a lot. Will I remember? I am learning a lot during this forced quarantine. As I alluded to above I am learning the inadequacies of virtual communication versus the real thing. I am again appreciating the joy of playing a live game with my kids and having unhurried time (oh yeah, we’ve got time!) to do it. I have been reminded that though the markets fall and entertainment options fade, though I am social distanced from my neighbor and we can’t gather for worship; God is ever present. He is my rock and refuge. All these other things that have been so important can never be a substitute for the real thing. I am sure you could add your own “learnings” to this list. The question is, will I remember when the quarantine is over? Will I remember these lessons or go running right back to the distractions and substitutes that I leaned on prior to COVID? God please help me remember!

I love God’s people! I have been so encouraged by the ways that people have shown out to help one another, reach out to others, continue to support ministries, etc… It has been a great reminder that the people are the church! The church does not consist of its programs or buildings. The church is not the staff or its officers. All of these things are good, but ultimately the church is the people of God, following Jesus the best that they can. Let us keep our eyes on the Savior while we worship in our homes or over Zoom, encourage one another with cards and calls, and continue to be the church during these troubled times.

It is going to be a weird Holy Week. Finally, it is going to be a weird Holy Week. For Sunday we have provided a Home Worship Guide that takes us to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19). You are going to need to provide the palms! Our Maundy Thursday/Good Friday reflections will be less communal than normal. Once again we will provide a Home Worship Guide complete with teaching. Ordinarily we would look forward to celebrating the Lord’s Supper together but obviously that is out. Some have asked about doing the Lord’s Supper virtually. While I am not overly judgmental with those who have chosen to go that route, I do believe that our physical presence together is intrinsic to the celebration, and as one person put it there are times in our life that we are called to “fast and not feast”. Also don’t forget that you can tune in to the community Good Friday service that I will be participating from 12-3 over the radio WFUR 102.9, or via live stream at 12:15.

What about Easter you ask? We are still working on fine tuning some plans, So stay tuned. But be assured Covid or no Covid, gathering or not gathering; Easter will come! He is Risen!

 

Photo by USGS on Unsplash

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