Spoken Word: If He Didn’t / But He Did

This past weekend, we finished our year-long study of 1 Corinthians.  Because we studied Ch 15 ever Easter, we skipped it now.  However, I wrote a spoken word piece paraphrasing the chapter.  We had three actors read it at the top of our service to provide continuity in our study and to lead us into Holy Communion.

Here is my attempt to give a new voice to 1 Corinthians 15:12-28.

IF HE DIDN’T/BUT HE DID

If some say Christ rose, how can you say, “no”?

If he didn’t rise, then Christ is still brought low.

If he didn’t rise, it doesn’t matter what we believe or say.

Even more, we are liars, for we preach, “Jesus, The Way”.

If he didn’t rise, the dead will stay dead.

If he didn’t rise, Christ lies on his tomb’s bed.

And if he didn’t rise, your faith is empty, you’re full of sin,

And those who have already been…

…are lost.

If only for now we hope in Christ, we’re pathetic…

…and we too are lost.

But

Christ has risen, he is the first who, in death, sleep.

For since a man damned us, a man will also raise us.

For since Adam killed us, so our Christ must

give us life, but him first then you and me.

And in the end, with all power and authority,

defeating all dominions with his final breath,

He hands the Father a kingdom, defeating even death.

Then the Father, who put everything under the Son,

will have His will done.

And the Son, will put everything under the Father

so we will see God is our history’s author.

Praise our God, three-in-one.

All glory to Christ, the Risen one.

“Theology is the North Pole and art the South Pole of the Christian Life. Theology is the study of what God does and says; art is what people say and do in the entire context of what God says and does…. You can’t have one without the other…’”

-Eugene Peterson 1932-2018

[The end of the service] is more than a signal that the time of worship is over. It is the beginning of service in the world. . . . [We] need to give careful thought to the words and actions that send God’s people into the world.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Worship Is Singing

If you know me, you know that I believe all of life is worship, but singing is also worship! Think about it, besides 50 commands to sing, the Bible would be a lot thinner without any singing or songs in it. So let’s talk…why do believers sing?

New Song: Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)

One of the goals of our worship is to tell and retell the story of Jesus.  It’s not an original idea.  This is what the first disciples of Jesus did 2,000 years ago.  It’s also what Christians were doing way back in 1910.  In fact, the lyrics for our new song, Glorious Day,  are taken from the hymn “One Day” by John Wilbur Chapman, composed in 1910.  It’s the same retelling of the glorious gospel.

And, in God’s grace, there is more than one glorious day.  There is everyday (including right now!) that heaven is full of praise.  There is the day Jesus was born.  There is the day he died to save us.  There is the day he rose from the grave and there is the day he is coming again.  For all those days we sing, “Oh, glorious day!”

But, jumping in, where do we read about the praise of heaven?  I’m glad you asked!  Isaiah 6:2-4 says,

Above [the LORD] were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  

And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

That is what happened the day Isaiah showed up in heaven, but we assume that has been, is now and will be happening until eternity!  But then the bad news…

Vs1: One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be

Sin ruined everything.  I think that it’s important to remember that sin is a heart issue that we all struggle with and it manifests itself outwardly in all our actions.  That is why the Bible says this:

There is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.  My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. -Psalm 38:3b-4

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. -Psalm 51:5

We are all infected and impure with sin.  When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. -Isaiah 64:6 NLT

But the song continues with the good news (it almost reads like a creed, doesn’t it!)…

Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin 
Dwelt among men, my example is He

CH: Living, He loved me (John 3:16John 15:912Galatians 2:20)
Dying, He saved me John 3:17John 10:11
Buried, He carried my sins far away Psalm 103:12Isaiah 43:25Isaiah 44:22Micah 7:19Romans 6:6-7
Rising, He justified freely forever Romans 3:21-26Romans 4:25Romans 8:3-4
One day He’s coming John 14:1-3Acts 1:9-111 Thessalonians 4:16Revelation 22:12, 20
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

As you can see, there is almost too much scripture to list to fit it all in.  This song basically tells the story of redemption from beginning to end.  It answers the question, “But what is the rest of the story?!?”  It does that by continuing with Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and 2nd coming!

Vs 2: One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He

Vs 3: One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore

Vs 4: One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved Ones, bringing
A glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine

So which day was more glorious?  The day Jesus was born?  The day he died for the sins of the world?  The day he rose victorious?  Or everyday that heaven is filled with God’s praises?  I’m don’t know.  But it makes me want to sing with believers from all of history…

Oh, Glorious day, Oh, Glorious day.

Creating Art Helps Us Become More Like God

When we create art, we become co-creators with God. We also help people see the beautiful world God made in a new way.

Coming Home with A Song

Sometimes, coming back to a song you love feels like going home.  And…sometimes, it is.

I grew up singing the hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.  And this Sunday, we come back to that beautiful prayer as we study the prophet Samuel setting up a stone he calls “ebenezer”.  It sounds like a weird word, and it is, because it comes from the Hebrew and was originally two words.  But in English, it sounds like some old man’s name.

[Sidenote:  Actually, it was.  One of my ancestors was named “Ebenezer”.  Ebenezer Ward fought in the Civil War with a Black regiment after living and sharing the gospel in their communities.]

So for me, singing this song not only feels like coming home to my childhood, but it also our eternal home.  The word “come” is what we see in scripture as the word “maranatha” or “come quickly, Lord Jesus”.  Early Christians who were persecuted for the faith would whisper this word to each other when they met because they were looking forward to the coming of Christ.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace

I also love the second line.  “Tune my heart to sing thy grace”.  When my guitar is just slightly out of tune, everything is sour.  Multiple times, we’ve finished a music practice and someone will say, “We really need to tune!”.  And our lives are like that too.  The difference is, we need God himself to tune us back to his perfect pitch.  God, tune our hearts…

Then in in verse two, we hit that funny, old-man-name word, “ebenezer”.  The cool part of the song is that it interprets the meaning of the word in the second line…

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come

God has brought us this far in life…and it’s only by his grace.  That is what “ebenezer” means.  Do you have an “ebenezer” in your life?  Something…anything, that reminds you of God’s faithfulness…do you have an “ebenezer”?  Because that is one of the answers to the tendency of our heart to wander.  As the song says…

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love

That is the tendency of every sinful heart.  We are prone to wander.  And Lord, I feel it.  Don’t you?  But the “maranatha” end of the song points us to heaven

here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

God, the author and finisher of our faith, is preparing us for his heavenly courts above.  All we can offer, in faith, is our heart, trusting that he will bring us home.

Maranatha.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Speak Lord, I’m Listening…

I talk too much and listen too little.  It’s always been a struggle for me.

Proverbs says to speak before listening is a folly and shame (18:3) and let me tell you, I’ve lived it.  Even now, as a guy in mid-life, I struggle to listen because I like the sound of my own voice.  But as I’ve reflected on it, I don’t think I’m alone.  We have one sided conversations all the time.  We wait until the other person stops talking so we can say our piece.  (SIDENOTE:  That is not a real conversation. 😉  That’s a monologue!)

But my namesake, the prophet Samuel, was able to listen, at least in the story we have of him as a boy.  He hears a voice in the middle of the night.  And that might have seemed a bit creepy, right?  So he runs to the adult, Eli, and asks him if he was calling.  Like most adults who get awakened by young children in the middle of the night, Eli groaned and said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”  It happened a second time and this time, Eli, who probably felt like he had just fallen back to sleep, said, “I did not call; go back and lie down!” (emphasis mine!).  The third time, Eli figures out what is going on and tells the small boy to say one line:  ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

What strikes me now, is that Eli and Samuel know who they are speaking too and their place in the conversation.  They are speaking to the Lord.  The Mighty One.  The God who speaks and summons.  They are the servants who listen and respond.

I want to be more like Samuel.  So I put together this short “found poem” from the psalms to help me remember to listen first and speak later…

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,

speaks and summons the earth

from the rising of the sun to where it sets.

From Zion, perfect in beauty,

God shines forth.

Our God comes

and will not be silent

One thing God has spoken,

    two things I have heard:

“Power belongs to you, God,

    and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”

I will listen to what God the Lord says;

he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—

but let them not turn to folly.

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

-from 1 Samuel 3:9, Psalm 50, 62, 85

New Song: Jesus

This is a classic Chris Tomlin song…he pulls metaphors from all over the Bible and arranges them in one song.  This song is no different, but the singular focus of the song is Jesus.  Only Jesus.  It starts by framing the cosmic struggle we are caught up in.  It is “older than the ages”, but we look forward to the promises that are “yet to come” while living in the reality of Jesus who was born of a virgin, as a descendent of mother Eve.

There are multiple scriptures I will reference throughout the song, but I think it’s best to start at the Fall when the whole story starts.  Satan tempts the woman and the man who disobey God and fall from the perfect design for their lives.  And God makes a promise that is fulfilled in Jesus who came, died on a cross and who is still yet to come…God says,

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15

V1: There is a truth older than the ages 
There is a promise of things yet to come 
There is one born for our salvation 

Jesus

We move onto the promises that we see in the book of Isaiah that look forward to the coming of Jesus…but, it uses present tense to remind us that these things are still true for us today.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. -Isaiah 60:20

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. –Isaiah 9:7

The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…-Isaiah 61:1

V2: There is a light that overwhelms the darkness 
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us

Jesus, Jesus

Speaking of Jesus, the chorus moves onto specific stories of Jesus from scripture…

…He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake…They cried out…Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” -Mark 6:48b-50

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. -Mark 4:39

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” -Daniel 3:25

Ch: Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me

That last line is fascinating because it happened back in the OT before Jesus was born!  We understand this to be a “theophany” or a time that Jesus appeared as Jesus before he was born and before we knew him as Jesus.  He appeared in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, protecting them from the flames, and looking like “a son of the gods”.

But hold on!  We aren’t done with the chorus yet!  The second half shifts to speak about Jesus in metaphors…

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. -Rev 5:5

…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors…with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. -1 Peter 1:18b-19

For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. -Job 5:18

He roars like a lion
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands

Jesus 

The third verse takes all of that scripture and applies it to our lives.  This is the beauty of the song and one of the goals of the believer.  We are to understand that this book, the Bible, isn’t just a history book.  It isn’t just a manual for living.  It is a story that we are invited to claim as our own.  These characters from the Bible are part of your family…my family…and Jesus calls you to help write the story of His expanding Kingdom NOW, even in trouble, storms and the night.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. -Psalm 42:8

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. -Luke 8:24

V3: There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages

He is Jesus, Jesus

…These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! -Jude 25

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19:14

Br: Messiah
My Savior
There is power in Your name
You’re my rock and my Redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name

This bridge takes the song and condenses it down to a simple declaration of faith.  He is the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer…who, you ask?  Jesus.