January 27, 2008

weeping and laughing

I really can't wait to see where our new pastor takes us in the coming months. Our beloved former pastor left us under very painful circumstances, but I praise God that we have not been left shepherdless. Tom is just what this church needs. The text for his sermon this week can be summed up by the phrase "they mourned not neither did they dance." It's the passage where Jesus expresses His frustration and disgust at the blindness and fastidiousness of a generation that despised John when he came in sackcloth and sobriety and condemned Jesus as a drunk and a glutton when He came eating and drinking. But the point Tom particularly wanted to make concerned the children in the market playing together saying "We played the flute, and you did not dance. We played a dirge, and you did not mourn." He compared this to two of the main camps of Christian thought and the ways we completely miss out on the celebration and the mourning called for in the Bible. On one hand are the people who are so consumed by their own sin that mentally they stay curled up on the floor whimpering. Rejoicing has no place in a life so consumed. On the other end are the people who only read the happy psalms and sing the happy songs. The words of the hymn:

Out of the deep I cry,
The woeful deep of sin,
Of evil done in days gone by,
Of evil now within.

would only affront their bliss blinded minds. Then there are the people who refuse to sing either song because it means taking Christ's tune for their refrain instead of their own.

Tom said, and I'm inclined to agree, that our church has sort of got the dirge down. We understand brokenness and grace. That's not to say that we never celebrate but that our bent in our walks with Christ is towards mourning over our sin. It's mourning accompanied by the preaching of an all-encompassing grace for God's elect, but it's still mourning. Tom said that in the coming months he wants us a church to trying having a go at getting the wedding dance down. In our worship and our times of coming to God he wants us to taste the richness of a joyful, exultant life joined intimately to Christ. This doesn't mean that we won't ever think about our sin. It's not one versus the other but rather us as a congregation learned to laugh louder and mourn deeper. As Tom said, ultimately these two things are two sides of the same coin. A Christian mourning his own sinfulness must acknowledge a grace which he did not earn and cannot repay. The depth of our sin reveals that much for forcibly the gravity of Christ's sacrifice and the enormity of His forgiveness and love towards us. But when we are rejoicing and celebrating in our relationship with God, if we are honest, we admit we did nothing to merit a place at the wedding feast and that were it not for God's grace towards us our sins would otherwise have certainly excluded us.

He had a lot more to say, but that's what mainly caught my attention. I look forward to getting to know our new pastor and his family.


TBE said...

What up, Natster!

Love your post. I'm currently doing devotions out of the uber-awesome (when I find out how to do an umlaut in HTML, the world as we know it will NEVER be the same!) Puritan prayer book The Valley of Vision, and I ran across something similar yesterday after having read your blog:

"Holy Lord,
I have sinned times without number,
and been guilty of pride and unbelief,
of failure to find thy mind in thy Word,
of neglect to seek thee in my daily life.
My transgressions and short-comings
present me with a list of accusations,
But I bless thee that they will not stand against me,
for all have been laid on Christ

(from "Confession and Petition, pp. 138-39)

The V.o.V. is wicked awesome, Natster--you should definitely check it out! Something else that I've found really cool is Samuel Rutherford's The Loveliness of Christ, which is a collection of excerpts from some of Rutherford's letters. We're talking rich, rich, God-exalting "red beef and beer" (as C.S. Lewis might say).

Hope you and Alan are doing well, champ!


Natalie said...

My church has often referenced that very book in our times of confession of sins and confession of faith.

I've heard both VoV and Rutherford mentioned a couple of times now. Maybe it's indeed time for me to check them out. Thanks for recommending them.

How's the complete insanity that is gradschool going? I'd like to know you're secret for sticking to it.

If you're ever in Birmingham you and your wife have a standing invitation to dinner. Seriously.

TBE said...

the complete insanity and (at the risk of being crude) nincompoopery inherent in graduate school for english is, most mercifully, coming to an end. (I hope. Desperately.) I plan on foregoing the English PhD and pursuing an MDiv at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando beginning this summer. I just came to the realization that teaching English (even something as cool as theory) just doesn't matter to me as much as teaching the Gospel.

As for how I've managed so far, my secret is quite simple...it beats real work!

Cheers, Natster--good to hear from you!!!