Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

If you called any member of my friend Sarah's family today, he or she would answer the phone with a hearty "He is risen!" The obligatory (and joyful!) response is "He is risen, indeed!"

I love that! He is risen, and it's beautiful to reflect on that truth on this Resurrection Sunday.

My family had a lovely Easter celebration in Savannah, GA, where we've convened for a long weekend. (Taylor and I made a little road trip down from Birmingham.) We attended a service at Independent Presbyterian Church this morning, where the senior pastor is a Gordon-Conwell grad. Lowell Mason, the musician who wrote the music to several famous hymns, including "My Faith Looks Up To Thee" (one that the Walnut Hill band played last weekend at the Strand!) and "The Wondrous Cross" played the organ there back in the 1820s.

Probably my favorite thing about IPC was that the choir loft is in the back of the church, situated in a balcony high above the congregation. It's so powerful to be led into worship from the back of the church--especially when the sung worship includes the Halellujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Needless to say, Mom was in tears!

I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the participation of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10-11

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God

It's Passover, and if I weren't currently touring some of my favorite Southern cities (and people!), I would love to be attending a Seder meal somewhere tonight.

Seder meals--the true Jewish ones--are such instructive celebrations of the heart of God for His people. During the Passover meal, Jewish families impart the history of Israel's redemption to their children through the reenactment of the first Passover. Appropriately, today's Lenten readings include Exodus 12, the Passover story.

And today, on Maundy Thursday and on many other days throughout the life of the Church, Christians reenact Passover through the method given us by Jesus himself, the Lord's Supper. We read in Matthew 25 that it was on the first day of the feast that Jesus invited his twelve closest friends to observe the Passover with him. There in the upper room, Jesus breathed new meaning into the Passover wine and unleavened bread, commanding them to remember him each time they partook of this meal. Still, they did not understand that he was their final Passover Lamb, the one who would remove the barrier of sin forever.

We find in this meal the significance in John the Baptist's remark, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). To a first-century Jew, it would have been remarkable to think that one lamb could absolve the whole world of its sin. R. Kent Hughes points out (in a book excerpt in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross) that during the Passover feast, more than two hundred thousand lambs were slain in Israel. He continues:

"John mentions in [chapter 18] verse 1 that "Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley." A drain ran from the temple altar down to the Kidron ravine to drain away the blood of sacrifices...So when Jesus and his band crossed the Kidron [following the Passover meal and their vigil in Gethsemane], it was red with the blood of sacrifice."

I love the lengths Jesus went to in order to help his disciples understand what was happening.

Since I'm in Birmingham, visiting my baby sister at her new home away from home, Samford University, I went to a Maundy Thursday service tonight at Christ the King Anglican Church, which meets in Beeson Divinity School's beautiful Hodges chapel. I'd never been to a Maundy Thursday service before, but it was a beautiful way to begin Easter weekend--and I loved worshiping with Evangelical Anglicans.

Dr. Lyle Dorset, a Beeson professor and the father at Christ the King, spoke of the way in which the Communion meal ushers in Christ's presence for us. Before we took the bread and wine together, we sang one of my favorite Easter/Communion songs, "Behold the Lamb of God" by Keith and Kristen Getty.

I know this post is getting long, but I have to share these lyrics with you:

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you: drink and remember
He drained death's cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond: and to remember.
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering,
We proclaim: Christ will come again!
And we'll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What a Savior!

Happy Palm Sunday!

I got to be part of something historic last night, as Walnut Hill led our second worship night in the Connecticut Valley, which is also the site of our third campus (launching November 2011). What I've loved about these nights of celebration and preparation is that we have been looking back to how God has worked in New England in the past, even as we seek to be His vessels in what He's up to now. In that spirit, the Walnut Hill worship and arts community has arranged ten hymns originating from New England, setting them to modern music. The hymn resurgence has come to Walnut Hill--needless to say, I am over the moon!

Last night, the team played "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners," aptly timed for Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week. This hymn was only slightly familiar to me when I re-discovered it on Matthew Smith's (from Indelible Grace) EP several years ago. Love it!!

As I think about this hymn and humanity's (my own) need for a Savior, I'm reminded of the Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah, in which Jews celebrate God's giving them His Word. Messianic Jews understand this gift in a really beautiful way, linking it to the coming of Jesus, the Word who has come to dwell within us (i.e. to be written on our hearts as in Jeremiah 31:33). You can read more about this understanding here.

Even non-Messianic Jews say something interesting on Simchat Torah, though. As the Torah scrolls are danced through the aisles, Jewish worshipers cry out "Ana Adonai, hoshia na!" which means, "Oh Lord, save us!" The volative verb hoshia stems from the root yeshua (meaning "salvation."), the Jewish name for Jesus. Wow!

And this is obviously the same Hebrew word from which we derive the Greek Hosanna!

In effect, the people who welcomed Jesus on that first Palm Sunday were enacting a Simchat Torah celebration, declaring Jesus the very Word of God, the hope and salvation of all humanity.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

O LORD, save us...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
Psalm 118:25-26

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bible Studies About Justice

Hey, friends!

My March Bible two-part Bible Study for myMISSIONfulfilled posted a while ago--I just noticed today! The studies are on forced labor and God's heart for justice. Here are links to them individually: Out of Bondage and The Kingdom is Near.

Can I ask a favor of you? Would you read them, and then comment on this post or send me a message with some constructive criticism and feedback? Especially if you're a woman in her 20s or 30s (but even if you're not)...

1.) On a scale of 1-10, how helpful were the articles to you in understanding the Scriptures?
2.) Did the questions provided provoke deep thought, or were they more geared toward "Sunday school answers?"
3.) When you think about getting in the Word, what kinds of resources from a online zine like myMISSIONfulfilled would be helpful to you?
4.) Is there anything that would motivate you to read MMF's Bible studies every month?
5.) Is there anything else you'd like me to know about these particular articles or online Bible studies in general?

Thanks for reading and responding!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lenten Tunes

I'm taking a day off (sigh...I really love these) to recuperate after a weekend away with 30-some girls at the Revolve Tour in Hartford. It was a blast! And even more fun was the epic sleepover we all had in between sessions at a sweet family's home. I love my job!

Today I've been reading and spring cleaning me a nerd, if you wish...listening to Easter tunes! That's right, I have a whole playlist of songs for Easter. We're well past the halfway point in Lent, so I figured now would be a good time to share a few of my favorites!

Since my trusty source for sharing music is no more (RIP, Lala!), you'll have to look these up on iTunes for yourself. Do it! It will get you in the Lenten spirit. (Sorry if that sounds trite. It really will get you thinking about the Cross and the Resurrection and what they mean for us.)

Many are hymns (no apologies here) redone by some of my favorites (Indelible Grace, Red Mountain, Ascend the Hill, etc.). Others are just great, timeless ballads and worship refrains. The list intentionally starts and ends with songs by Andrew Peterson--gosh, I love him. I think his music just hits at the season. (More on the meaning and significance of hosanna as we approach Palm Sunday in a little more than a week!)

Hosanna--Andrew Peterson
Lead Me to the Cross--Hillsong United
How Deep the Father's Love for Us--Philips Craig & Dean
Hallelujah! What a Savior--Ascend the Hill
Nothing but the Blood--Charlie Hall
The Stand--Hillsong United
My Jesus, I Love Thee--Red Mountain Church
God Who Saves--Caedmon's Call
Cling to the Crucified--Indelible Grace (Jeremy Casella)
Behold the Lamb (Communion Song)--Keith and Kristyn Getty
Unto You--Shane Barnard and Shane Everett
Jesus the Lord My Savior Is--Indelible Grace (Sandra McCracken)
Before the Throne of God Above--Dave Hunt
We Love You Jesus--Shane Barnard and Shane Everett
Stronger--Hillsong United
Behold the Lamb of God--Andrew Peterson

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
John 11:25-26

Friday, April 1, 2011

Liturgy for Lent

I've been digging through liturgy for Lent and Easter, looking for things that resonate. I really miss the influence of corporate liturgy on my life (mostly in college at Third Pres and Tikvat Yisrael in Richmond), and Lent seems like a good time to read it aloud in my apartment. I came across this prayer and thought it was beautiful. Hope it encourages you today!

Has its source in you
Creator God
Flows from you like an ocean
into a world as unyielding
as any shoreline cliff
And like the ocean
which batters
and wears away
even the hardest stone
your love persists
finds cracks and inlets
in hardened hearts
flows inside and works a miracle.
Who would think that water
was more powerful than granite
love mightier
than the hardest heart
Thank you, Creator God
for the power of your love