Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Three headed brute

This excerpt from Alexander Maclaren is well done on the futility of "desire".
...Nothing is more certain than that no one will get the satisfaction that his ruling passions promise him, by indulging them. It is very plain that the way never to get what you need and desire, is always to do what you like.
And that for very plain reasons. Because, for one thing, the object only satisfies for a time. Yesterday's food appeased our hunger for the day, but we awake hungry again. And the desires which are not so purely animal have the same characteristic of being stilled for the moment, and of waking more ravenous than ever. "He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again." Because, further, the desire grows and the object of it does not. The fierce longing increases, and, of course, the power of the thing that we pursue to satisfy it decreases in the same proportion. It is a fixed quantity; the appetite is indefinitely expansible.
And so, the longer I go on feeding my desire, the more I long for the food; and the more I long for it, the less taste it has when I get it. It must be more strongly spiced to titillate a jaded palate. And there soon comes to be an end of the possibilities in that direction. A man scarcely tastes his brandy, and has little pleasure in drinking it, but he cannot do without it, and so he gulps it down in bigger and bigger draughts till delirium tremens comes in to finish it. Because, for another thing, after all, these desires are each but a fragment of whole nature, and when one is satisfied another is baying to be fed. The grim brute, like the watchdog of the old mythology, has three heads, and each gaping for honey cakes. And if they were all gorged, there are other longings in men's nature that will not let them rest, and for which all the leeks and onions of Egypt are not food. So long as these are unmet, you "spend your money for that which is not bread, and you labor for that which satisfieth not."
So, we may lay it down as a universal truth, that whoever takes it for his law to do as he likes will not for long like what he does."

Unreasonable and Unseasonable

“They took him even as he was in the ship… and he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow.” Marc 6:36-38

I’m reading a book of sermons by Alexander Mclaren, D.D., and he brings out the point that the reason that Christ was asleep, and sleeps through the storm, is that he is simply exhausted --- “They took him even as he was into the ship.” And many expositors suppose that in the very form of that phrase there is suggested the extreme of weariness and exhaustion which He suffered, after the hard day’s toil. Whether that be so or no, the swiftness of the move to the little boat, although there was nothing in the nature of danger or of imperative duty to hurry them away, and His going on board without a moments preparation, leaving the crowd on the beach, seems most naturally accounted for by supposing that He had come to the last point of physical endurance, and that His frame, worn out by the hard day’s work, needed one thing – rest.
And so, the next thing we see of Him is that, as soon as He gets into the ship He falls fast asleep….. so tired that the storm does not wake Him.

The author goes on to point out that the book of Marc is a book showing Christ’s servant hood. In addition he points out some of the following regarding Christ arduous ministry —

“ The first of them I would suggest is—how distinctly it gives the impression of swift strenuous work. The narrative of Mark is brief and condensed. We feel all through these earlier chapters at all events, the presence of the pressing crowd coming to Him and desiring to be healed. And but a word can be spared for each incident as the story hurries on, trying to keep pace with His rapid service of quick-springing compassion and under laying help. There is one word which is reiterated over and over again in these earlier chapters, remarkably conveying this impression of haste and strenuous work. Mark’s favorite word is “straightway,” “immediately,” “forthwith,” “anon,” which are all translations of one expression. You will find if you glance over the first, second, or third chapters at your leisure, that it comes in at every turn.
Take these instances which strike one’s eye at the moment, “straightway they forsook their nets;” Straightway he entered into the synagogue;” Immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region;” “ Forthwith they entered into the house of Simon’s mother;” “anon, they tell him of her;” “Immediately the fever left her.” And so it goes on through the whole story, a picture of a constant succession of rapid acts of mercy and love. The story seems, as it were, to pant with haste to keep up with him as He moves among men, swift as the sunbeam, and continuous in the out flow of His love as these unceasing rays! “

….We see in Christ, toil that puts aside the claims o physical wants. Twice in this Gospel we read of this. “The multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.” “There were many coming and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”
We see in Christ’s service a love which is at every man’s beck and call, a toil cheerfully rendered at that most unreasonable and unseasonable times. As I said a moment ago, this Gospel makes you feel, as none other of these narratives do, the pressure of that ever-present multitude, the whirling excitement that there was round the calm center. Even in His solitary prayer He is broken in upon by His disciples, with “All men seek for thee,” and without murmur or a pause, He buckles to His work again, and says, “Let us go into the next towns that I may preach there also; for therefore am I sent.”

I was taken by this because I don’t often see the humanity of Christ in such a relatable way. I always thought He slept in the boat undisturbed by the storm because He was so God-like, not that He was so exhausted. I like that.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Worship Narcissism

The following is a post on my Pastor's blog that I think is one of the most insightful thoughts on worship I have read. He quotes Robert Webber, and his thoughts on worship are what I have stumbled and stammered and have not been able to put into words. He has, and they resonate in me and answer many questions I have had. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Avoiding Worship Narcissism
Reading the latest Relevant Magazine Online, I was intrigued by the writer’s recent experience at a nationwide worship event called TheCall. It is a 12 hour fasting and worship experience, happening in various cities this year, for people “serious about encountering God and changing the world.”
And maybe it is a life changing experience. Maybe it is an event different from so many others, where people come for the mountain top adrenaline rush of a stadium rally. But I wonder how much of what we call worship today, in that context, or in most Sunday services, is really worship. Robert Webber, in one of his last books before his death, Divine Embrace, speaks to the “worship narcissism” prevalent in so many gatherings today, where the main attention is given to seeking some transcendent experience. But under the cover of these words, and more than we realize, our focus is much closer to home--on us and our experience--on our story rather than on God and His story, His purpose for us. And here’s how we can tell if it is located in our story: we leave this gathering asking one another—“Did you like the sound?” “Did you sense the presence of God?” “Did the message speak to you?” “Did you like the worship?”
Maybe we should be asking—did God like our worship? But even this question, according to Webber, misses the point. It misunderstands the purpose of worship. Authentic worship is not about approaching God as the object of worship. It is rather about seeing God as the subject of worship. This statement in itself brings me up short for sure. It causes me to stop and ask myself how often I have entered worship with this perspective. Far more than I would like to admit, I have come in as subject. I have come to ask God to participate in my story. I have come with no expectation God is already actively doing something, asking me to get in step with. I have come consumed with my needs, hoping worship does something for me. If I am moved to get the attention off myself and unto God, even here, God is simply a transcendent being to be adored.
Webber’s point is that if God is the object of worship, then worship must proceed from us. We, then, are the subject of this gathering, and in this, the true worship of God is located in me. But if God is the subject of worship, acting in this world, involved with creation, ruling over the heaven and earth, then we gather to do something else. We come to engage in what He is presently doing, God acting through Word and Spirit, song and sacrament. We come to contemplate and celebrate our present union with Him. We enter, not waiting for something to happen, planned in advance by the worship leader. We enter to continue God’s redemptive story, living out our death and resurrection. We step into His present purposes in community, proclaiming and living out the good news, offering our bodies as living sacrifices, which is our “spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1-2).
It was one of my hopes to meet Webber, who was scheduled to teach a doctoral class for our program, until his illness forced him to cancel. There are a lot of things about worship I would have liked to ask. So I am guessing a bit, but in this final writing, where Webber seems to be gathering the fruit of a lifetime of teaching, he is underscoring--that while there is a “bowing down to adore Him” side of worship (proskuneo), it really isn’t worship if it is not first rooted in His story. It is not worship if it does not generate--at the same time--a participation in community—praying, healing, ministering spiritual gifts, mutually releasing the indwelling Spirit to one another, moving out in a corporate way to advance God’s kingdom and continue the work of Jesus. The early church called this leitergeo, (lit. the “work of the people”), a public works term borrowed from the culture of its day, and it too became a term for worship. This is why worship in its earliest form was called “service”. But “service” today means little more than a time of gathering. And if in that gathering, it is reduced to mere verbal response or singing, treating God as merely one who sits in heaven rather than the God who acts in this world, inviting us to get in step with Him and His story as we enter, then no matter the emotion it generated, something besides worship happened.
July 12, 2007 Permalink