In Christ There Is No East or West

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts ev’rywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden chord
Close binding all mankind.

Join hands then, children of the faith,
Whate’er your race may be;
Who serves my Father as a child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet South and North:
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

WORDS: John Oxenham
MUSIC: Alexander R. Reinagle
ST.PETER
8.6.8.6 (CM.)

 

Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

“Taste and see that the LORD is good.”

Doing some research on Psalm 34:8-10, I came across this comment by the venerable OT commentator, Franz Delitzsch:

Tasting (γεύσασθαι, Hebr. 6:4f., 1 Pet. 2:3) stands before seeing; for spiritual experience leads to spiritual perception or knowledge, and not vice versâ. Nisi gustaveris, says Bernard, non videbis. David is desirous that others also should experience what he has experienced in order that they may come to know what he has come to know, viz., the goodness of God.

What’s really interesting is what he says in the footnote:

On account of this v. 9, Γεύσασθε καὶ ἴδετε, κ. τ. λ., Ps. 33 (34) was the Communion Psalm of the early church, Constit. Apost. viii. 13, Cyril, Catech. Myst. v. 17.

This has important implications for how the church in general and Christians in particular use and experience the sacraments. So often we flip it the other way around: we think that seeing (knowing, understanding) necessarily precedes experiencing (tasting, enjoying).

The reality is that God provides us and surrounds us with the experience of his love and goodness, long before we ‘get it.’

Published in: on July 5, 2016 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Hughes Oliphant Old (1933-2016)

Today the church on earth has lost one of her best. Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, minister of the Word and Sacraments, finished his earthly sojourn this morning and departed to be with his Lord at the age of 83. Old was arguably one of the most prolific and outstanding patristics and reformed liturgical scholars of our time. While he is probably best known for his prodigious 7-volume magnum opus, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church and Worship that is Reformed According to the Scriptures, he always insisted that his less famous book, Themes and Variations for a Christian Doxology: Some Thoughts on the Theology of Worship, is seminal for understanding everything else that he has written.

His death is also a great personal loss to me. As one of my teachers, Dr. Old became a dear mentor and friend. When I was his student many years ago, he honoured me by inviting me to be his personal assistant for the duration of the course, on account of his debilitating blindness. This meant that I was privileged, among other things, to drive him around, read aloud for him, and join him for meals at his favourite local restaurants. With this privilege came the rare opportunity to have extended conversations with him.

A couple years ago, after many years of trying to get together again, he invited me to spend a week with him and his wife at his home in Vermont. They were superb and generous hosts, far beyond what I expected or deserved. We spent time editing a volume that he was working on at the time, talking about my recent dissertation, listening to the music of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck with which he was deeply fascinated and asked me to research and write about for him, and even visiting nearby Northampton, Massachusetts where Jonathan Edwards had once ministered. During his periods of rest, I had full access to his large, well-stocked library and his huge collection of musical recordings. I was again deeply impressed by his humble piety, his brilliant and encyclopaedic mind and his immense wisdom; but most of all by his deep love for the Lord God and his church.

We had planned and hoped to work on a writing and conference project together, but my wife’s cancer diagnosis several months later prevented me from following through. Since my wife’s health is more stable, I had hoped to take up contact with Dr. Old soon again to reassess our plans. God clearly had another plan in mind.

There’s no doubt in my mind that he deeply cherished his final act of public ministry last month: the baptism of his first grandchild. Now he may enjoy the reality that baptism signifies: to be alive with Christ!

Hughes Oliphant Old has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). Farewell, brother! Until we meet again.

IMG_1883

 

 

 

Published in: on May 24, 2016 at 11:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Worship as Glory-Cloud

The church in song should sound like the glory-cloud that it is—the sound of many waters, a great voice that breaks the cedars of Lebanon, a sound that strikes fear in our enemies.

Peter J. Leithart, From Silence to Song (Canon Press, 2003), 121.

Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Worship

Worship is the work of the Holy Spirit
in the body of Christ
to the glory of the Father.

–Hughes Oliphant Old, scattered throughout all his writings.

 

Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Is Christian worship dialogue?

Not according to Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old:

Reformed worship is not to be understood in terms of a dialectic between God’s Word and man’s response. The early Reformed theologians did not understand worship as dialogue. They were not interested in any form of worship that suggested that God spoke his lines and then men spoke their lines. They did not think of God as being on one side of the altar and men on the other. The sermon was understood as the Word of God. It was Christ who fed his people at his table. Through prayers and psalms the Holy Spirit spoke in and through the church.
The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship (1970), 341.

 

Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

A Biblical Theology of Prayer

According to one of my teachers Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, in his monumental Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church (Tolle Lege Press, 2013):

From the standpoint of a biblical theology of prayer two things should be said: (1) Recount the story of God’s saving acts, as we find them in Psalms 78, 105, and 136, and (2) dedicate our lives to his service in recognition of his grace.

He’s commenting here on the Thanksgiving Prayer or Prayer of Dedication, as he calls it, in Calvin’s communion liturgy. For those of us who’ve grown up on the liturgical forms inherited from the Reformation, this rings true. Old provides a translation of this Lord’s Supper thanksgiving prayer formulated by Calvin:

Heavenly Father, we return to you our prayers and eternal thanks, that you have prospered us with such manifold blessings. You have lifted us up from our poverty and futility and brought us into the communion of your Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour. For our sake you offered him up to death and even now you have given him to us for our food and nourishment.

Now grant us also this further blessing, that we not ever be allowed to forget these things, but have them engraven upon our hearts. Grant that we grow and diligently increase in the faith; that we abound in all kinds of good works. Grant that we live out our whole lives in the exaltation of your glory and the edification of our neighbour, through the same Jesus Christ your Son, who in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns eternally with you, O Father. Amen.

 

 

 

60th Anniversary Meditation & Prayer

I was requested to publish this from our 60th Anniversary Celebration. SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, honourable guests, neighbours, friends,

I was asked to focus on the last decade of Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church, the better part of which I’ve been privileged to serve here. It’s impossible to cover everything, so I will just highlight a few of the great things God has done for us that make us so happy.

Psalm 126 talks about how God’s people at that time “were like those who dreamed.” God has done great things for us in Christ, and when that happens, all sorts of other things happen that only seem possible in a dream. That has been true for us, by God’s grace, over the past decade. I won’t get into all the delightful exegetical details of this beautiful Bible passage. That’s for another time. For the purposes of tonight’s celebration, I just want to highlight a few of our own dreams as a church.

One of our biggest dreams as a church, a dream that is coming true every day for us, is the mission work God has allowed us to do over the past decade. In 2004, setting up theological training in our overseas mission field was just a dream. Today it is a reality. Many church leaders are being trained and churches planted, and through them thousands of others are being reached with the gospel and provided with rich and sound biblical teaching. Many souls are coming to Christ; many others are coming to greater maturity in Christ.

The dream of being a light and witness of Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, has always been alive and well in this church. Ever since the first decade of our existence. I’ll share with you just one way I know that is a fact: the red-roofed church donation box in the foyer. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you take a look at it later. It’s on a table in the foyer, right by the front entrance.

'The red-roofed church,' one of the first donation boxes, prominently displaying in Dutch and English:  "Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). God's call to mission and evangelism remains a high priority 60 years later.

‘The red-roofed church,’ one of the first donation boxes, prominently displaying in Dutch and English: “Preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). God’s call to mission and evangelism remains a high priority 60 years later.

So what’s so special about this red-roofed church? Well, displayed prominently with white letters on the red roof, both in Dutch and in English is this text from Mark 16:15:  “Preach the gospel to every creature!” More about that on Sunday afternoon.

This model-scale church building is where members placed their tithes in the early years of this church. I would imagine that a big part of the dream at that time was to gather enough money to build a church.

It’s obvious that even as they were saving up for their own house of worship, though, those early church members and their leaders—some of whom are represented here tonight, either in person or by their offspring—they saw the importance of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into the world. Their dream was to be a light for Christ in the world. And that dream hasn’t died. It is still alive and well, and we desire to continue carrying the torch that ignited that dream.

We desire to be used by God to make that dream a reality. God has his ways of making seemingly impossible dreams come true, and we plan to hold on to that dream by God’s grace and in obedience to his call.

Just think about this: The church of Jesus Christ is the most ethnically diverse body of people anywhere in the world. I have it on reliable authority that the city of Surrey, which had Cloverdale as its first town centre, is one of the most ethnically and socially diverse cities in Canada. This is also reflected, to a degree, among us.

Back in the first decade, the church membership list consisted mostly of Dutch-European names, most of them either beginning with Van or Vander, or ending with Veld or Hof or Horst—names and families that are still well-known and deeply cherished among us.

Six decades later, however, our church family mosaic has become even richer and more diverse. Family names like Li and Wu, Chang and Zhang and Dong, Jubenvill and Diack, Lazzara and Hansen, Shei and Burongo and Kalombo have become just as familiar and dear to us. Our church family now has a beautiful blend of many different nationalities.

Our hope and prayer is that our ethnic diversity will continue to grow richer as the years pass, and as God continues to bring all the nations of the earth to Jesus. We were like those who dreamed. Let’s stay that way. Let’s continue to hold God’s Word high, and be obedient to his call, as a church in the world, as a church that belongs to the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

PRAYER

Gracious Father, for the joy of being your people,for a gracious sense of your favour in the past, your goodness in the present, and your promises for the future, we give thanks to you, through the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you, O Father, that so often in this building, and whenever and wherever this your congregation has gathered over the past 60 years, you have been present with us, and spoken your word to us through the reading and the preaching of the gospel.

That among us the waters of baptism have continued to flow—for the forgiveness of our sins in the blood of Jesus, and for a rich welcome into your eternal kingdom.

That among us the bread of life, which is Jesus Christ, has continued to nourish our bodies and souls for eternal life.

We pray, as you are the God who knows our past, and who sees us now, and has planned our future, that as you lead us into another decade of church life, we may have a sense that our past is bathed in your pardoning grace, that our present is held by your strong hand, and that our glorious future in Jesus Christ and his eternal kingdom has been once and for all secured.

For the many gifts that you have distributed among us, many of which have been on beautiful display this evening, we give you thanks.

For the fellowship and love of Jesus Christ and his Spirit that binds us together,as brothers and sisters, as families,as a variety of people brought together as one in Christ, we give you thanks.

For the friendship and love of those who have joined and greeted us tonight,
as neighbours, as friends, as past members and leaders among us, as charter members, we give you thanks.

Give us, both as people and as a church, wills that bow happily to you, affections that rise in love towards you, and lives that more and more please you.

Bless this church. And through us be pleased to bless this city, this province, this land, this world.

All for Jesus, for the sake his kingdom, for your glory, through your mighty Spirit.

To you, O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end.

AMEN.

N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms

Those who love the biblical psalms will want to reach for N.T. Wright’s The Case for the PsalmsHere are some highlights I couldn’t wait to share:

By all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church’s original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy.

There is a temptation to act

as though the Psalms are the problem, and we should try to fit them into our world. Actually, again and again it is we, muddled and puzzled and half-believing, who are the problem; and the question is more how we can find our way into their world, into the faith and hope that shine out in one psalm after another.

And here’s a great one on Christian liturgy:

Good liturgy, whether formal or informal, ought never to be simply a corporate emoting session, however “Christian,” but a fresh and awed attempt to inhabit the great unceasing liturgy that is going on all the time in the heavenly realms. (That’s what those great chapters, Revelation 4 and 5, are all about.) The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent nonpsalmic “worship” based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoiled child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy.

It only gets better:

The Psalms, I want to suggest here, are songs and poems that help us not just to understand this most ancient and relevant worldview but actually to inhabit and celebrate it–this worldview in which, contrary to most modern assumptions, God’s time and ours overlap and intersect, God’s space and ours overlap and interlock, and even (this is the really startling one, of course) the sheer material world of God’s creation is infused, suffused, and flooded with God’s own life and love and glory.

Speaking about the symbolism of Gothic cathedrals, those “great vaulted spaces, soaring high above ordinary human capacities,” Wright says:

When we sing, the sound made even by small-scale earthbound creatures such as us rings around the rafters that we cannot otherwise reach.

And later this:

Sing these songs, and they will renew you from head to toe, from heart to mind. Pray these poems, and they will sustain you on the long, hard but exhilarating road of Christian discipleship.

I think you’ve probably figured out why I’m so thrilled about this book. If you don’t have it, get it and share it, or borrow it. Wright has a way of putting into words what you may have known or experienced for a long time but were never quite able to put into words. And of helping you go beyond.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Pentecost

The Christian Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost tomorrow! Pentecost, Jesus’ outpouring of his Holy Spirit upon his church, 10 days after his ascension to his heavenly throne, is as necessary for our salvation as his incarnation (Christmas), and his death and resurrection (Easter). The Holy Spirit, after all, is our connection with Jesus, the one who gives us a share in Christ and all his benefits (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 20). Here are some Old and New Testament Bible readings worth contemplating: Numbers 11:24-29; Joel 2:15-32; John 14:15-18; Acts 2:1-21 [the account of Pentecost]; Ephesians 5:1-20.

I wish everyone a joyful and Spirit-filled Pentecost feast, which overflows in a Spirit-filled life!

 

Numbers 11:24–29

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

Joel 2:15–32

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,

declare a holy fast,

call a sacred assembly.

16 Gather the people,

consecrate the assembly;

bring together the elders,

gather the children,

those nursing at the breast.

Let the bridegroom leave his room

and the bride her chamber.

17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,

weep between the temple porch and the altar.

Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord.

Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,

a byword among the nations.

Why should they say among the peoples,

‘Where is their God?’ ”

The Lord’s Answer

18 Then the Lord will be jealous for his land

and take pity on his people.

19 The Lord will reply to them:

“I am sending you grain, new wine and oil,

enough to satisfy you fully;

never again will I make you

an object of scorn to the nations.

20 “I will drive the northern army far from you,

pushing it into a parched and barren land,

with its front columns going into the eastern sea

and those in the rear into the western sea.

And its stench will go up;

its smell will rise.”

Surely he has done great things.

21 Be not afraid, O land;

be glad and rejoice.

Surely the Lord has done great things.

22 Be not afraid, O wild animals,

for the open pastures are becoming green.

The trees are bearing their fruit;

the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.

23 Be glad, O people of Zion,

rejoice in the Lord your God,

for he has given you

the autumn rains in righteousness.

He sends you abundant showers,

both autumn and spring rains, as before.

24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;

the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

the great locust and the young locust,

the other locusts and the locust swarm—

my great army that I sent among you.

26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,

and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has worked wonders for you;

never again will my people be shamed.

27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,

that I am the Lord your God,

and that there is no other;

never again will my people be shamed.

The Day of the Lord

28 “And afterward,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your old men will dream dreams,

your young men will see visions.

29 Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

30 I will show wonders in the heavens

and on the earth,

blood and fire and billows of smoke.

31 The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

32 And everyone who calls

on the name of the Lord will be saved;

for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem

there will be deliverance,

as the Lord has said,

among the survivors

whom the Lord calls.

 

John 14:15–18 

15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Acts 2:1–21

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “ ‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

18 Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in the heaven above

and signs on the earth below,

blood and fire and billows of smoke.

20 The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

21 And everyone who calls

on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

 

Ephesians 5:1–20

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.