Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Hymn that Makes Me Cry (Almost)

This afternoon at church, we sang several amazing songs (including "Be Still, My Soul" by Katharina von Schlegel).  But our closing hymn was the one that almost always brings tears to my eyes (inasmuch as that happens for me): "For All the Saints" by William How.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Allelu ...

Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear their one true Light.
Alleluia, Allelu ...

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia, Allelu ...

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Allelu ...

But lo!  There breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia, Allelu ...

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Alleluia, Allelu ...

More than any other, I want this hymn sung at my funeral (preferably in Christopher Miner's tune, but I'll take Sine Nomine).  If songs about Jesus as Victor get my hands raised and my feet a-stompin', then it is songs about Jesus' faithfulness in leading his church to her eternal bliss in the news heavens and earth that bring a quiver to my lips.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Why We're Not Baptizing Our Children (Yet)

While on the phone with my mom a few weeks ago, she asked us again why we belonged to a Presbyterian church which baptizes infants, but we ourselves have not had our son baptized.*  I hope to explain here why I've chosen this path for our family.  I realize this is a huge issue that cannot be covered in a few paragraphs, but here's my best attempt to briefly explain it.  And I write this with great humility--I am fallible and could be wrong--and with great respect for the Reformed heritage and for my brothers and sisters in Christ at URC and City Church of Richmond.

What is the Presbyterian doctrine?

Presbyterian and Reformed churches see baptism as the equivalent of circumcision, which was applied to children to show their status within the Abrahamic covenant.  Start by reading Genesis 12, 15, and 17 to get a picture of God’s promises to Abraham.

Circumcision was the “sign of the covenant” God gave to Abraham (Genesis 17:11 ESV).  It served as a sign (visible representation) of the covenant relationship between God and Abraham and his offspring.  It was also a seal confirming the reality of this covenant relationship and God’s vow to “be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7; cf. Romans 4:11).  Circumcision signified inner spiritual renewal and cleansing (Isaiah 52:1), as well as the need to live consecrated to God--or else one too would be cursed and “cut off” from life under God’s blessing (Genesis 17:14).  Through bloodshed it prefigured the bloody judgment of Christ that would ultimately earn this spiritual renewal and cleansing for God’s people.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Of Bills and Babies: Hope for Parents Concerned about Money

Good news: Olivia is pregnant with our second child, due in November!

Of course, this leads me to always wonder how on earth we're going to support a second (or someday third, fourth, ... ) child.  This would require some major restructuring of our work situations, child care, etc.  God clearly has something up his sleeve for us in the future.  (Frankly, I hope it's money for a heat pump.  Two hundred dollars per month for heating oil is killer.)

But to still my anxious heart, God has lovingly been reminding me of Psalm 37:25-26 again and again.  Not that I ever intentionally memorized it, but it has somehow come to my memory almost every day for the past few weeks:

I have been young, and now am old,
     yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
     or his children begging for bread.
He is ever lending generously,
     and his children become a blessing.

What a blessing!  To know that somehow, some way, God will always provide for us what we need.  I mean, how many families do you see at Walmart where a single, working mom is towing a whole flock of youngsters?  Sure, God's idea of "what we need" might not intersect with our ideas of comfort or convenience.  But when the goal of our life is the enjoy and glorify our Maker and Sustainer, those "c-words" are only added graces.  So I might not have any clue what our life will someday look like, or how he will provide, but I need to choose to trust that God will be faithful to us and look after our family--better and more lavishly than we could imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9).

You may ask, "Andrew, how do you know you're one of 'the righteous'?"  Fair enough--a good look at my life might reveal a whole lot that isn't close to righteous.  But in the Bible, the "righteous" aren't the perfect people, but those who recognize their sinful brokenness and humbly cling to God and follow his ways the best that they can.  And today that means trusting in Jesus, whose perfect sonship and obedience is credited to everyone who hopes in and follows after him.

For additional thought: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11; Philippians 4:10-20.