Skip to main content

Sunday, November 29 2020

This is #37 in Crossing the Threshold series.

I am going to try and wrap things up for the series Crossing the Threshold by weaving narrative (story) back into worship. Just as a brief reminder, in the first part of the series I took you on a journey into the world of story; specifically the story which is known at all times and in all places as the Hero Journey. I proposed that the reason this story is mythic in scope and touches peoples hearts is because it is God’s eternal story of his son Jesus Christ.* Then we diverged and went into a whole section on the what, who, why, and how of Christian worship and now we are going to put the two parts, story and practice, together to try and recapture a truth which has been lost. It is a truth which can transform your worship, your life, and call you into a much larger story…but in order for this to happen you will need your imagination.

Imagination is something which is seriously lacking in Christianity as it is so often practiced in a sacred/secular split world. I want to recommend a lecture given by Kevin Vanhoozer entitled In Bright Shadow: C.S.Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship. Don’t let the title scare you …it is wonderful and can be found on the internet and on You Tube. One of the many quotes I liked in this paper (I printed all 28 pages off to save) is: “Where Reason excels in taking things apart and analyzing individual pieces, the imagination perceives the whole of which the pieces are a part. Imagination is the organ of discerning meaningful patterns. It is the power of insight, that Eureka moment when all the parts fall into place, transforming what would otherwise be an incoherent jumble into a meaningful whole.”

 Ever since the 18th century “Enlightenment” reason has excelled taking apart the Bible, making the 66 books individual pieces…you know “Bible stories” not a story. There is no qualm now about taking verses out of chapters and using them for inspirational posters or bumper stickers in which they lose their entire context and meaning. Worship services have also been broken down into pieces and parts which can be rearranged and changed by every new pastor. It is no wonder then, most people are unable to see the world in biblical terms and often find their faith waning.

What we need is a “baptism of imagination” (C.S. Lewis’ term). We need not only to see the whole story to which all of the pieces are a part, we need a way to enter and embody the story. To prepare for the journey it might be good to stop and pray asking the Lord to baptize your imagination!

*Ecclesiastes 3:11

Posted by: AT 11:16 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, November 19 2020

This is #36 in Crossing the Threshold series.

Years ago I was involved with a prayer group for a Christian school. Every year before the year began the school held what could be described as a holy convocation; administrators, teachers and families would come together to consecrate the year to the Lord. The headmaster would cast his vision for the year and principles and teachers would share what they hoped would spiritually take place in their respective schools and classes. Last but certainly not least everyone would unite in prayer.

However a day came when a new headmaster arrived. He was a godly man I have no doubt but it seems that no one told him about the convocation. So a “back to school” festival was planned, which looked more like a picnic and trade show. Tables were set up in the gym where every club and sport was represented. Teachers were in the classrooms so parents could visit and see where their child would be. The campus was filled with people but no one was connected; each was doing their own thing. From that day the school took a different turn. Something precious and powerful had been lost.

I tell that story to illustrate how much the true meaning of Christian worship has been lost over the years. The whole concept of leaving the world and entering the Kingdom as I shared in the last post has disappeared. Most church goers if they were told that truth today might well say “What Kingdom”? But I have to say that the loss of the Sacramental portion of the service and its meaning is to me the greatest loss by far.

I am not getting into Catholic verses Protestants debates over what takes place in the Lord’s Supper, as I have already recommended N.T. Wright’s wonderful book The Meal Jesus Gave Us which discusses the Eucharist in great detail and a balanced way. What I want to share which has been lost is that it is at this point in the service of worship that the church enters into heaven. The Sursum Corda is the Latin meaning of “Lift up your hearts” the salutation offered by the minister to the congregation; with their response being “we lift them up to the Lord”. As Simon Chan writes in Liturgical Theology; “In this dialogue the liturgical journey reaches another critical point. The Sursum Corda signals the church’s ascension to heaven” (pg142).

After being gathered out of the world and immersed in the whole story by the word portion of the service (sermon, scripture reading, creed, and prayers of the people) the individuals have been shaped into a corporate body. The body of Christ now ascends into heaven to be united with him, sitting down at his table to share in the life of the New Creation to come.

As Galadriel spoke in the opening lines of the Lord of the Rings……. “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost”.

Posted by: AT 10:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, November 17 2020

This is #35 in the Crossing the Threhold series.

Most people reading this have probably seen at one time or another Disney's movie The Lion King. The opening scenes of the movie are both memorable and powerful; the music is stirring and the scenes are beautiful but I want to suggest there is much more going on as Circle of Life plays than meets the eye. If we look “along and through" rather than “at” as C.S.Lewis would say (Meditation in a Tool Shed) we are being given a glimpse of the first chapter of Genesis where God is creating the heaven and the earth and filling it with all “kinds” of beautiful things. The crown of creation of course comes on the sixth day when God says “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” He gives to Adam and Eve the role of royal (king) priests over His creation; they are His image bearers. Can you not see now how they might have been held up before all of creation by God their Father as young Simba was by his?

What on earth does this have to do with “going to church”? Well everything! As Simon Chan writes in Liturgical Theology “the first act of worship is the act of going to church” (pg.130). The people of God are leaving not just their homes and their work; they are leaving this world and entering the Kingdom of God. If you have ever attended a liturgical church where there is a procession up the aisle of choir and robed ministers with a priest, vicar, or pastor at the end you are once again seeing a re-enactment of the opening lines of the story. We are the first fruits of the New Creation and as such we are being gathered out of the world to enter His courts “joining with the hosts of heaven to sing praises to the One who sits on the throne” (LT pg130). God the Father is holding up His Son the Anointed One (Messiah) for all to come and worship Him. He is the one True King to whom all of creation gives glory honor and praise…..this is quite simply the meaning of “going to church”.

Posted by: AT 09:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, November 14 2020

This is #34 in Crossing the Threshold series.

Ok what did I mean by that last sentence about leaving the earthly dimension and entering the heavenly realm? I think the best way to explain this and to open eyes to the beauty of Christian worship is to take you to a little island in the heart of Paris. Right in the middle of the Seine river are two small islands, with the largest one holding the most glorious chapel built in the 13thc. by King Louis IX to house his collection of Passion relics.

Sainte-Chapelle ( Holy Chapel) has two chambers; a lower chamber built for the King’s household and an upper chamber where the relics were kept and the King himself worshipped. Today one enters the lower level first, it is a beautiful room having a dark blue ceiling with gold stars and golden arches, giving one the feeling of being on earth and looking up at the night sky. There are small windows letting in limited light which adds to the impression of being “underground”.  In the corner  is a small staircase which leads to the upper chamber and when one “ascends” and comes into the King’s chapel it is difficult not to gasp. Actually there is a holy hush in the room as people file in and sit transfixed by the incredible stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle.

What King Louis was trying to capture in his masterpiece was the “New Jerusalem” coming down, described by John in Revelation 21 and 22. The windows sparkle like jewels when the light shines through and the twelve pillars of the apostles are all meant to give one the feeling of having entered  the heavenly city. Yes, Sainte-Chapelle proclaims heaven and earth have been reunited in Christ; he is the staircase, the gate, the door, the ladder whatever metaphor you want to use to say that in him one can now ascend into the very throne room of God ( Hebrews 4:16).

Look up some images of Sainte-Chapelle’s lower and upper chambers as an exercise of your imagination. We will go back to “ going to church” in the next post, but it might be good at this point to pause and give thanks to our glorious God for all he has done in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Posted by: AT 02:56 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, November 13 2020

This is #33 in Crossing the Threshold series.

The church is a called out community of people who belong to one another because they belong to the God we know in and through Jesus Christ. They are the recapitulation of Edenic “royal priests” created to offer “right praise” (meaning of orthodox) and then reflect the image of their Creator back into the creation. In other words they are to be actors in God’s story; the one he is writing, producing and starring in, a story going forward, a living story.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:24 NASB)

In Acts 2:42 we see the four part basic pattern or “liturgy” that will extend throughout the church’s history ….gathering, word, sacrament, and sending. A called out people responding to the revelation of the incarnate God in Christ Jesus gather out of the world to come to worship him (offer right praise). The service consists of two parts hearing of the word (apostle’s teaching) and sacrament, (the fellowship of the breaking of bread). At the end they are not dismissed they are sent forth to be the image bearers of their God and King to reflect his glory into the world (Christian means “little Christ”) and to tell other the “good news”.

Word and sacrament were always meant to be held together for they are indispensable to each other. The word portion; reading the scriptures, sermon, creed celebrate the whole salvation story of who God is. The Sacrament portion (Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass) is the means by which the church proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes (I Cor. 11:26). Word is how our minds are transformed, sacrament is something we do with our bodies and doing it says it like a kiss or a handshake. I highly recommend N.T. Wright little books The Meal Jesus Gave Us for those who want a greater understanding of the importance of sacrament.

I am including a link here to the quotes I used in the talk on the early church pattern and would encourage anyone who is interested to listen to the talk. As we will see in the next few posts “going to church” was never just an intellectual exercise or religious thing to do. It was and is a leaving of the earthly dimension and an entrance into the heavenly dimension/realm.

Posted by: AT 10:21 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, November 11 2020

This is #32 in The Crossing the Threshold series.

I came to the end of my notes on Crossing the Threshold but not the end of the class! I actually left off at the very climax of the story. So I am going to briefly explain the last few lessons and hope that if you have followed along thus far you will take the time to listen to the talks located under Crossing the Threshold on the Teaching page.

The Early Church Pattern (Part One)

We have learned thus far what worship is (a response to a revelation), and who is to be worshipped; the Triune God made know in Jesus Christ. We have also looked at the why of worship; it is what we were originally created for and the means by which we are restored as image bearers, royal priests, and true human beings. We want to examine next the how of worship; how does this transformation take place. For that we must look to the early church pattern, but before we do let’s understand where we are in God’s story.

God’s Glory has returned to dwell with his people and even though his own did not receive him and end up crucifying him, death cannot contain him for in him was life and that life was the light of all mankind ( John 1:4). With Jesus’ victory over death the new creation begins in him and for all those who enter into union with him what’s true of their King becomes true of his people. At their baptism they die to the old creation that is fading away and are raised not just as a new creation but as new creation (II Cor.5:17), meaning their very existence is part of the new creation which is now beginning. They are reflectors of his glory, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very own possession (I Peter 2:9). God’s Genesis “project” disrupted by the “Fall” is now going forth in a way that can never be disrupted for Jesus Christ has all authority and is on the throne in heaven. He will exercise dominion over creation as the Last Adam through his body the church. Heaven and Earth have been united, never to be separated again.

Posted by: AT 10:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Share this page
Add to favorites

Content on this is site copyright © 2009-2023 Leslie Hand. All rights reserved.

Site Powered By
    Streamwerx - Site Builder Pro
    Online web site design