Monthly Archives: April 2015

“For the future to be good…”

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and Space-X (among other things), tweeted about some of the things necessary for a “good” future.1

But I don’t think he’s right. Technology doesn’t change human hearts, nor does it eliminate suffering. If history shows us anything, technological advances will only increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The biggest problems we face are not technological hurdles. It’s not that I’m opposed to research, technology, exploration, or discovery. But we deceive ourselves if we think that new technology and scientific discoveries (including medical ones) are automatically advances or progress.

Only God is good. The more of his kingdom that breaks through into our world, the better it will be. The more his will is done in us, the better this world will be. In fact, we don’t need Mr. Musks’s company or any other to provide us with a good future, because we’ve already been guaranteed a perfect one! In the end, all things will be set right. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, every soul will worship God, through his son Jesus Christ our Lord, by the Holy Spirit. Evil, sin, and death will in the end be vanquished, and our future will be perfect as we dwell fully in the presence of the Divine. I was reminded recently that our weekly worship as Christians should be reminding us all of that outlook.

Now if anybody wants to donate a Tesla Model S…well, just leave a comment and I’m sure we can get in touch.

  1. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he doesn’t think electric transport, solar power, and “the missing piece” are sufficient.

Did Christ Over Sinners Weep?

1. Did Christ over sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief,
Burst forth from every eye

Chorus: Behold the Son of God in tears,
The angels wondering see
Hast thou no wonder, O my soul?
He shed those tears for thee!

2. He wept that we might weep,
Might weep over sin and shame
He wept to show His love for us,
And bid us love the same (Chorus)

3. Then tender be our hearts,
Our eyes in sorrow dim
Til every tear from every eye,
Be wiped away by Him (Chorus)

Henry Lyte. Beautiful Indelible Grace arrangement here.

It’s entirely possible I’m “reading” the song wrong, because what I’m about to write is not a theme picked up much in the “notes” visible at the Indelible Grace website linked above. But this song came up in my playlist earlier this Holy Week—I had played a song earlier on the album to test out how well a sound system was working and this followed in sequence—and it really struck a chord in me, particularly:

Did Christ over sinners weep, and shall our cheeks be dry?

Our Lord wept sinners, and won for us eternal life? Do we weep for sinners, or are we too busy waging war? Do we weep for sinners, moved to compassion and love in following our Lord himself, or are we trying to win them to our “team” for our own glory? Do we weep over sinners, or do we lament how difficult unbelievers make life for us? Does the existence of an us/them dichotomy bring us to tears? Christ wept over sinners—what do our cheeks look like? Do we weep for those who remain hopeless apart from Jesus? Do we long—deeply, passionately—for “them” to be included when the Kingdom of Heaven comes in fullness and every tear is wiped away and Death is put away forever? Are we begging God to stir up in our hearts for others the very same love with which he loved us?

The Support of the Past in the Present via the Liturgy

“Prayer open sour eyes, ears, our very pores, to the complete interdependence of ourselves with others and others with ourselves.…In liturgical worship, for example, we feel keenly our dependence on all the other worshippers gone before us, those who fashioned the rituals, the worship-forms, the set prayers. All those in the past support our personal prayers in the present. And our prayers in their turn feed back into the liturgy, imbuing it with a personal immediacy and quickening life.”

—Ann and Barry Unlanov, “Prayer and Personality: Prayer as Primary Speech” in The Study of Spiritualityed. Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold, p.  31. Emphasis added.

Well, yeah, except when all fancy ourselves liturgists and modify the liturgy every week (in the honest pursuit of good contextualization, no doubt). I don’t think Thomas Cranmer would have wanted the Edwardian Prayer Books to remain the canonical standard forever, but neither do I think it helpful for individual churches to construct their own liturgies—differing from one another and shifting weekly. We deprive ourselves of the past and rob our (biological and spiritual) progeny when we do so. And in truth, few of us have improved the words and prayers and actions and ministries of worship when we have done so.

I include myself this exhortation, because I, too, have considered “my” congregation as “my” own liturgical playground. Can we stop messing with the structure, form, and verbal content of our worship all the time?

I do not mean, of course, that we should cease to consider how to adapt what the Church does in the congregation’s God has given us. Nor should we cease to introduce or reintroduce practices that will enrich our common life. I am advocating for conservatism, in a pretty literal sense, though: conserving what has been received (though perhaps a few generations ago) so that it may be loving cared for, nurtured, preserved and presented to the next generation of worshipers.