Sacrifice Is Good For Us

In the previous post, we looked at the call to sacrifice, primarily using Romans 12:1 as our jumping off point:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

So we know we’re called to do it, but we often don’t think it’s a good idea to sacrifice. Sacrifice is often a burden and we do it out of some kind of inner guilt trip.

altarBut sacrifice is actually good for us. It’s something that’s in our best interests, as strange as that may sound. That sounds strange to us because freedom is one of our gods. Because sacrificing something means giving up doing something we want to do…surely that can’t be a good thing, right?

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The Call to Sacrifice

With raising support for my upcoming church planting residency, I’ve been thinking and talking more about sacrifice recently. I’m calling people to sacrifice and we’re sacrificing in new ways. What does that call to sacrifice really look like, what does it really mean?

Romans 12:1 says this:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

cathedral altar

Cathedral Altar

We are a sacrifice. And not just once, but continually, this is how we worship God. I heard a quote the other day that said the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keep crawling off the altar. A living sacrifice is one that requires constant attention.But do we even get what a sacrifice is? For us rich people living in the first world, we often think sacrifice is what we do with the overflow. After we’ve had our fill, if there’s something left over, we will give it away. We’ll call it a sacrifice then feel good about ourselves. But that’s not a sacrifice at all. Continue reading

Intro to Worship Class

Arts and TheologyFor the past 10 weeks I’ve been teaching an introduction to a theology of worship class at my church, Orlando Grace Church. I’ve cleverly named the class Introduction to a Theology of Worship. The whole class is available online, through my resources page.

I wanted to teach on worship by using as many art forms as I could: dance, painting, installation, music, etc. I also wanted to use as many instances of contemporary art as possible, hopefully creating an awareness of contemporary art that I think the church, in general, has lost (much to the detriment of the church’s mission, not to mention richness in devotional or everyday life, but that’s another topic).
Some of the artists whose work I used as metaphors and parables: John Tavener, James Turell, Soweto Gospel Choir, Bill Monroe, Makoto Fujimura, Georges Rouault, John Cage, Philip Glass, Wendell Berry, Gregory King, Mark Rothko, Lauren Shea Little, J.S. Bach, Thomas Tallis, James MacMillan, Olivier Messiaen, and some of my stuff. For a full list of the artists and their work, see the art referenced page.

The class attempted to follow a certain order: starting with God, talking about the Trinity, God’s transcendence and immanence. Immanence led to a week on creation, which led to speaking about humanity. Because we can’t understand humanity apart from God, that led us to the topic of the Incarnation, which lends itself to the cross. From there, we talked about the resurrection’s meaning on the Christian life: sanctification. We then took a step back to consider our context: our tradition, our church history, the importance of creeds and confessions, as well as looking at how to interact with those around us now. We ended the class with a discussion on eschatology, the in-breaking of the future into our present.

I’ve made available my notes, slides, reading list, and art referenced. It’s broken down week by week, or you can download it all in one shot. For those of you who care to look at it, I hope it’s helpful!

An Introduction to a Theology of Worship

Arts and TheologyFrom September to the end of November, I’ll be teaching a class at Orlando Grace: An Introduction to a Theology of Worship. My goal is to teach about the history of redemption using mainly systematic categories, and using many different forms of art to teach or illuminate the material. My hope in doing so will lead to a greater appreciation of God’s manifold grace and our response (worship), understanding that this grace comes in more forms than letters on a page or sermons on a Sunday. I’m not discounting those two forms (we would all be lost without them), but just trying to shed some light in an area where Protestants fear to tread: the arts. Especially the visual arts and most especially the contemporary visual arts.

Stained Glass Window with ChristThe overall scope of the 12 week class will hopefully look something like this: starting with God, the Trinity and its transcendence and immanence, moving to creation. Then looking at man, his dignity and his depravity, then moving to the Incarnation of Christ, then to the cross, then to sanctification, or the life of the believer. After that, we’ll look at more environmental aspects: our history (from the early church to the reformation to now), creeds and confessions, and maybe do some clean-up on contemporary issues. We’ll then (hopefully) finish up on the future of worship, aspects of eschatology in our daily lives.

As I go, I’ll be making all my information available to whoever wants it: my Keynote slides, notes, a recommended reading list, and a list of artists mentioned along with their work and links to further information.

It will be listed under the ‘Resources‘ tab up top or by visiting here.

A Capella and the Trinity

Arts and TheologyThis past Sunday at Orlando Grace (which is in process of a new website, by the way), I did what was most uncomfortable for me. I did an a capella service (or acapella?). No instruments. Not even other voices. Just me and a hymnal. At first it was scary, but I think it turned out well.

My reasoning for this is not just to do something different (although that is good, too), but was to demonstrate certain aspects of the Trinity and to a lesser degree, affirm the use and importance of music itself in a church service. I didn’t even get to the fact that our bodies are instruments, but maybe that’s for some other week.

So I am standing there in front of the congregation, my guitar now ripped from my iron fists of fear, with nothing but a music stand and microphone. Technically, I was afraid of not starting on the right note, which would make the rest of the song too high or too low. I may have erred on the low side, but it didn’t seem to be much of a distraction. Theologically what I was trying to get across was this (and the confession we picked affirmed this as well): Our God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons.

There is a unity that comes with diversity. And this is a unity in the great sense of the word, not the political correct flavored version. The Trinity’s unity, in one sense comes from the very fact that they are different. And this is the basis of our relationships with one another. We can be unified in our diversity. Christianity is not something that, once it is a part of you, you must become like everyone else. It is not in its nature to be dehumanizing. In fact, it is the opposite! Christianity affirms our differences, our different personalities, giftings, etc., and says we are united because of the uniqueness. We can be one and many at the same time.

And this is where the a capella idea came in. The total sound of the congregation when singing something like Holy, Holy, Holy can be classified as one and many at the same time and space. There is one overall sound and there are many voices. And the overall sound would be something different if one person was not there. I would go so far to say it requires diversity to be unified. That would be the difference between being the same and being unified. We need each other in order to make one sound. This is made all the more clear when people sing different parts and harmonize with each other. This is also something we don’t get to hear when other instruments are in the sound field.

Our church, like may others, projects the words to the songs on a screen so we don’t have to print out song sheets each week. The projector is great, but I think something is lost in that. When all we see is text (like on a screen) we forget the music itself means something. At least a hymnal has notes associated with the words so we can see that a corporate worship song is music plus text. A corporate worship song is not just text. And when we forget about the music, I think we lose out on what the music itself has to teach us, just one of those lessons being unity and diversity.