Worship . . . is meant to celebrate the coming of Christ (Advent); the birth of Christ (Christmas); the manifestation of Christ as the light of the whole world (Epiphany); the impending death of Christ (Lent); the events of his last week (Holy Week); the resurrection (Easter); and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). These are the kairos events for Christians that give meaning and significance to our day-to-day lives in the world.

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

The Unofficial Israel Tour::The House of Caiphas

Jesus most likely spent his last night in this hole under the house of Caiphas, the high priest. Reading Psalm 88, it’s hard not to see it as a prophecy about Jesus’ experience. That night, as the psalm says, darkness was his only friend.

I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle—and reward!

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 6

The Lord is merciful.

He is full of unfailing love.

The Lord hears our cries and hears our prayers.

He takes away our sins.

This is a prayer experience for Lent based on Psalm 6.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 142

I wrote an arrangement of Psalm 142 for my one man musical, DAVID.  The line, “When my spirit grows faint within me / It is you who knows my way” grabbed me. As we continue this season of Lent, I thought this was a good psalm to share.  I recorded it in the desert room of the Botanical Gardens because David wrote it while hiding in a desert cave on the run from Saul.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 130

I recorded this prayer experience in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.  I know it’s a Catholic church and we have some theological differences, but it is a beautiful space and one that has engaging pictures and sculptures.  For example, the sheaf of wheat carved into the alter table that points to Jesus being our “first fruits”.

So as the season of Lent is a time to confess our sins and become more aware of our own mortality, here is a prayer experience based on Psalm 130. For more on this prayer model, click here.

New Song: Resurrecting

As Lent begins and we head towards Easter, we are going to learn a new song called, “Resurrecting”.  I was drawn to this song because of the interesting use of tense in the song’s Bridge.  It presents the idea that not only did Christ rise from the dead, but he is continuing to give us life or, as the song says, continuing to resurrect us.  But, it all starts with Jesus…

Vs1:
The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now
The Savior knelt to wash our feet
Now at His feet we bow
You can see that this verse comes directly from Hebrews 2:9 and Philippians 2:10

…see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…

Vs2:

The One who wore our sin and shame
Now robed in majesty
The radiance of perfect love
Now shines for all to see
What I love about digging into songs is that you get so much more than a lyric writer can fit in the actual song.  Check this out…

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. -Hebrews 1:3

So Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory…like light that radiates from a source and yet isn’t the same as the source…and yet is one with the Father!  AND he is holding everything together while taking away our sin and ascending to the right hand of the Father…crazy deep!  But it doesn’t stop there.  We have victory through the work of Jesus.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Ch:
Your name, Your name
Is victory
All praise, will rise
To Christ, our king 2x
The 2rd verse elaborates on the same theme, but makes it personal.
Vs3:
The fear that held us now gives way
To Him who is our peace
His final breath upon the cross
Is now alive in me
So what is “the fear”?  We find that in the book of Hebrews.  Jesus came to…

free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. -Hebrews 2:15

Br:
By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare Your victory
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me

 The theme of “ashes” in scripture is one of defeat and grief.  We see it in the book of Job when he says,

I am reduced to dust and ashes. -Job 30:19

BUT, in Jesus we have resurrection and life.  Jesus said this himself…

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.-John 11:25

As I said before, notice the change in tense in the word, “resurrection”!  Jesus gave us life and continues to give us life!  He was resurrected from the dead and now he has and will continue to resurrect us…and our response is one of praise…

…thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:57

The last verse takes us to the point of resurrection which made everything possible.  What makes this verse so interesting is the use of the word, “robbed”.  You could say that our God has defeated or swallowed death, but he also took back what Adam had given to Satan, the power of sin and death, so in a sense God has robbed the grave.  God also robbed the power of death in calling us to follow Jesus into his death so that we can find life.  As Paul writes it,

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.-2 Corinthians 4:10

Vs4:
The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
Our God has robbed the grave and he is resurrecting me.

Down & Dirty Theology: Giving Death the Finger

Some of you might remember that I wrote about Troy back in December.  At the time, he was facing terminal cancer.  At the time I wrote,

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else.  He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

I also wrote,

I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

Troy died this week and went to be with Jesus in eternity.  As I reflected on Troy’s life and how to worship in this wilderness, I was reminded of something else I wrote, after my son died.  I want to share it with you as we remember the testimony of Troy Mann and follow his example in walking with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death…

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Life moves on.  I get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time.  I eat my cereal and drive to work just like everyone else.  As I watch the faces of the other drivers, I wonder, “What they are thinking about?”.

The death of a loved one changes us in too many ways to count.  And now as I look again at the faces of the people driving past me on the way work, I realize at least one thing my son’s death has enabled me to do…

It enables me to give death “the finger”.

You might be shocked that I would say that.  But stay with me…at my son’s funeral, we sang Matt Mahr’s song, “Christ is Risen”.  The bridge is taken directly from Paul in 1 Corinthians where he paraphrases Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.  He writes about the resurrection…

THEN THE SAYING THAT IS WRITTEN WILL COME TRUE:                        “DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.”

“WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY?
WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?”

As we sang, Sara and I raised our hands to worship the Lord of Life, but as we did that, I instinctively turned my open hand into a fist.  I wasn’t just praising God, I was insulting sin and death that had taken our son.

I was giving death the finger.

Death might think that it took my son forever.  Death might think that it took Troy forever, but we know that because of Jesus this is temporary.  And as we live now, we are following Paul’s lead in defiantly living in the face of death with tears in our eyes.  Think about it…

Where is death’s power to hurt us?  We believers are dead and then we come back to live again forever.  We are out of death’s reach.  What kind of heat is it packing now?  We can trash-talk it’s power and give the finger to it’s wrath.  And the grave?!?!?! Where is it’s victory?  We used to be it’s prisoners, but now the doors are blown open.  The locks and dead-bolts have been broken.  Our chains are thrown off.  Death has died and captivity is now captive.

I still get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time, just like the other drivers on their way to work every day.  But for me, for us, we can now give death the finger.

Cancer and Resurrection

It’s the beginning of April.  This time every year, as we see both snow and 70 degree temps, I am also thinking about something more than Spring Break.

I’m thinking about cancer.

I was diagnosed with cancer on April 5th over 10 years ago.  I remember getting the news from the ER doctor who walked in after my x-ray and blood work.  I had been in chronic pain for over month and was still feeling it’s bite even with a full dose of Vicodin.

“I’m sorry.  This is the part of my job that I don’t like,” the doctor said, “but you have cancer and it’s extensive.”

I was sure at that moment that I was a dead man walking.  The doctor had just said the “C-word”…malignant cancer spreading to my abdomen and wrapping around my right kidney and main artery in an attempt to squeeze the life out of me.  I could envision the surgeon cutting me open during surgery and surveying my internal organs that now looked like a grey gelatinous mass.  “Sew him up and send him home with morphine,” he’d say, “There’s nothing we can do…”

Cancer.  The word feels like a death sentence, because for so many it is.

chemo chair

But I didn’t die then.  In fact, in a couple hours later another doctor walked into the room.  This doctor was an oncologist and she said, “It’s serious, but we can handle this.”  I had faced death and suddenly I was given…hope.

Death and resurrection.  That is the theme for our church this year as we start a new series called “The End and the Beginning”.  This is also a theme for me. Because of what Jesus did?  Yes.  But also because over 10 years ago, I saw death starring me in the face.  Death.  And resurrection.

And that is also the theme of the next week and a half.  We proclaim life, but also death.  Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Our death and resurrection.  That is the story of our faith.

Jesus died.

Jesus rose again.

Jesus will come again.

And because he did.  We will too.

I remember sneaking in the back of the church service during my 12 weeks of chemo.  My hair had fallen out.  My fingers tingled because of nerve damage.  My blood vessels were burned.  I didn’t have enough strength to talk to people, but I wanted to be in church.  I needed to be in church…surrounded by God’s people singing.  And so I would sing with tears in my eyes.  Despite the pain.  Despite the cancer.

I

Would

Sing.

chemo me

And again, that is what we do.  We sing in the face of pain and death.  This is one of the things it means to be a disciple.  We are made new.  We bear His death and resurrection in our bodies and because of that, we sing.  Jesus died and rose again.

So this weekend, we sing.

This is not the end.

We sing.

LET THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST DWELL AMONG YOU RICHLY…SINGING TO GOD WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS. –COLOSSIANS 3:16