Hosanna

The Passion of Jesus Christ

Hosanna

 

This is the text of Restoration’s Palm Sunday sermon, preached over Zoom, by The Rev. David Hanke.  Hosanna! means ‘save us!’  When the crowds shout Hosanna!  They are asking to be saved.

[8] Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [9] And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” [10] And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” (ESV)

Matthew 21:8–10

Intro and Frame

I want us to start with the shout of Hosanna that greeted Jesus as he arrived in Jerusalem.

With great sincerity, the people wanted to be saved.  “Hosanna!  Save us!”

As the crowd lives the week to come, salvation is the topic that most frequently comes up.  Hosanna will be whispered and shouted and acted out. 

Who will save whom?  And what will salvation be?

Hosanna is the fundamental cry of humanity:  We want to be saved.  We want to be released and delivered.  We want to be rescued, set free, and led by someone else.  The cry of our soul has not changed.  But the object of our hosannas is myriad.

Matthew 26:36-27:54

Can I die without dying?

It starts with Jesus, in the garden.  Jesus begins with his own hosanna.  He’d like to save himself.  

After their last supper, Jesus knew the narrative of saving was put irrevocably in motion.  Judas had dipped his bread and slipped out the back.

As He prayed, Jesus was clear-eyed in his vision and He could feel the coming loss and abandonment deep in His gut.  He asks his Father if he can save himself. 

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.  

3 times.  Jesus was in for the project of salvation.  He was open to being the savior.  But He was asking-  is there a way to save without the physical torture and the crushing abandonment?  Can I die without dying?  

The question lingers in the damp air of Gethsemane.  Jesus strains to hear through the silence.  Can the hosanna be for me?  Can I save myself?  Ultimately he was IN and He drained this hosanna cup to the very bottom.

Almost immediately, Judas comes on the scene, intent to save himself from his decision to follow Jesus.  At some point he had said yes to Jesus, just like the other 12.  Now he was trying to say no-  with a kiss and a ‘change fee’ of 30 silver pieces. 

He is able to escape from ‘friend of Jesus’ to ‘betrayer of Jesus’, but he’s never quite able to get away from himself.  His hosanna is to throw the money back and to throw his life down. 

Not much saved.  Much lost.

The disciples try to save themselves. 

Their hosannas start with a drawn sword.  One of them cuts off the ear of Caiaphas’ servant. 

Jesus rebukes that disciple by saying, I don’t need you to save me with your sword.  Put it away.  If I wanted to be saved, I could ask my Father for 12,000 angels and he would send them.  YOU are not going to save ME and definitely not with that.

Their next hosanna occurs as Jesus is led away:  the disciples, the whole team, tries to save themselves by leaving Jesus, by running away. They fled.  (26:56b) 

Peter would give that hosanna words in the courtyard of the high priest.   “I do not know what you mean.  I do not know the man.  I swear-  I do not know the man.” 

Hosanna by dead sprint, by distance and disassociation.

Caiaphas wants to save his campaign.

Frederick Buechner quote.

Caiaphas’ math was unassailable.  Jesus’ math was atrocious.

Caiaphas’ hosanna was to find false witnesses to accuse Jesus.  And eventually one of the accusations sticks:  ‘This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in 3 days.’  (Matthew 26:60)

This was outrageous to Caiaphas-  Have you no answer to make?? 

Jesus remained silent.  The assumptions they had built about him were given oxygen to grow and death was the judgment.  One would die to save many from Rome.  Caiaphas got his hosanna, kind of.

Pilate wants to save himself from his troubled conscience and the tossing and turning dreams of his wife by offering Barabbas, by pleading the innocence of Jesus, and by washing his hands.  Pilate’s hosanna is to offer the crowd a choice.  A choice that seemed so obvious. 

Yet, when he offers the crowd a choice of who to save, they choose Barabbas. 

It utterly confounds him. 

His wife has told him to have nothing to do with this righteous man. He, himself, has found nothing wrong with Jesus. 

Instead of courageously disagreeing, Pilate actually turns to the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd and asks in bewilderment:  “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”   It is the crowd, our voices thrown in for good measure, that decides he should be crucified.  “Let him be crucified!”

Hosanna for Barabbas.

It was this crowd that had started all this… with their tree branches and cloaks.  Those who shout hosanna will treat him with derision.  Hosanna will take the shape of contemptible scorn.

Those who had shouted hosanna will say, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27: 40

And of course he couldn’t.  He wouldn’t.  He didn’t.

The crowds walk by within a few feet of Jesus, deriding him, wagging their heads, words dripping with mockery.  ‘You talked a big game, Jesus.  You were so pompous.  If you could destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days, can’t you save yourself?’ 

Come down from the cross.  Can’t you hosanna yourself?

No.  I can’t save myself and save you.  Salvation costs.  This is your hosanna, not mine. 

My blood.  My broken body.  My utterly forsaken soul.  My completely abandoned loneliness. 

This is your hosanna, not mine.

Holy Saturday and the Salvation of Christ

As we walk through this week together, I draw your attention to the space between Jesus’ death on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday.  I draw your attention to anticipate Saturday as the culmination of your hosanna.  On Sunday, we will give an Easter shout: Alleluia!  Christ is risen! 

But Saturday is the day for ‘hosanna’ in all its consummation.

My friend, Travis Pickell (WM alum, Falls Church fellow) published an article in CT this month about Holy Saturday called, ‘Before Christ rose, He was dead’.  It presents this argument that Saturday is our hosanna. Saturday confirms to us that Jesus was really dead and defeating death.

Christ the Victor

Maestà – Passion: Descent To Hell, 1308-1311

by Duccio di Buoninsegna

It is on Saturday that Christ was the Victor 

A 4th century monk, Rufinus of Aquileia wrote,

“It is as if a king were to proceed to a prison, and to go in and open the doors, undo the fetters, break in pieces the chains, the bars, and the bolts, and bring forth and set at liberty the prisoners.” 

In the Maestà altarpiece from the 13th Century, Jesus has broken the bronze doors of Hell, He tramples the devil underfoot.  One bishop has written:  that [Saturday reminds us] ‘Christ descended into hell not as the devil’s victim but as Conqueror.’ 

Hosanna!  Christ the Victor!  Death, Hell, the Devil defeated!

It is on Saturday that Christ was the Sufferer

Gregory of Nazianzus, writing in the 4th century, said, ‘What has not been assumed by Christ has not been healed.’  CS Lewis picked up this idea in the mid-20th century when he wrote, ‘Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.’ 

Jesus must experience everything.  All of our humanity.  Our spiritual healing requires that Christ suffer not just biological death but also the agony of death:   When Jesus cried out, ‘My God My God why have you forsaken me?’ it led him to Saturday: the terrible abyss of feeling forsaken and estranged from God.

Every aspect of being human (including death) has been assumed by Christ. 

Hosanna!  Christ the Sufferer.

It is on Saturday that God was most absent and most present. 

The logical end of all of us this comes out in 2 Corinthians 5:19 which says that “God was in Christ- reconciling the world to himself”.  If indeed God is in Christ, God was in Christ even while Christ lay dead in a tomb. 

Hosanna.  God experienced what it is to be dead. 

Travis writes,

‘This (admittedly inconceivable) thought forces us to think at deeper levels yet, of who God is and how God works…  If God was in Christ in the grave, than death cannot be wholly alien to God, and neither can it be wholly alien to the human condition….  Whatever else ‘he descended to the dead’ means, this phrase proclaims that God’s solidarity with the human condition extends at least 6 feet under the earth.  Even in the grave, Jesus is still Immanuel, God with us.’

If God is present in Jesus’ death THAN God is present even when he seems most absent (dead). 

AND In His absence and death, God is doing his most creative and life-giving work. 

Come down from the cross.  Can’t you save yourself?

No.  I can’t hosanna myself and save you. 

Salvation costs.  My blood.  My broken body.  My utterly forsaken soul.  My completely abandoned loneliness.  My death.  My Saturday.  This is your hosanna, not mine.  Amen.

Good Lord Deliver Us

Good Lord Deliver Us

Friends,

I am reproducing the reflection I shared at the beginning of morning prayer last Sunday, March 29.  Many of you have asked about the prayer of deprecation.  Thank you for your interest!

-David

29 March 2020

Good morning!  This week, a friend sent me a reflection from a university president who, like all of us, in this season of coronavirus, is trying to make sense of what is happening and what God is doing in the midst of it.

Interestingly he began by reflecting on a section of The 1662 Book of Common Prayer’s Great Litany. 

You may recall that in 1665, over a quarter of the population of London had died because of the Great Plague.  And in 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed a third of the city and left over 100,000 people homeless-  in just 5 days.  It was catastrophe upon catastophe.  In the midst of that kind of heartache, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s prayer- the litany- would have been so apropos.   

“From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder; and from sudden death…”

Good Lord, deliver us. 

Here is the reflection of Alexander Whitaker, president of King University in Bristol, TN

A deprecation, such as that above, is a prayer to be spared from disaster.  The Latin root means to repel or avoid physical calamity by prayer. We rarely hear the word deprecation in this 16th– and 17th-century sense anymore. 

We rarely pray words like these and if we did, they would probably land far from our most heart-felt concerns… especially before March 2020.

Whitaker goes on to say,

“Many of those things Archbishop Cranmer lists do not particularly frighten us or cause us to seek protection, from God or otherwise—at least not in any regular fashion. Many of the things that once were routine exposures to death, to mortality, are now militated against by experience, by medicine, by technology, or by engineering.

Indeed, the very notion of being “safe” has been so defined downward (at least on many university campuses) it often now for many has little to do with physical safety and preservation, and instead is used to describe protection from unfamiliar ideas, less-than-pleasant words, or trifling inconveniences.  As profoundly silly as that may be, we should probably be thankful that undergraduates have been fretting over pronouns instead of polio.  Such are the blessings of this age that rarely does one have to worry continually about one’s death or that of one’s family and friends. But eventually danger comes to us all, without exception—as does death.

And yet, there is hope.

If one believes in God’s providence there is revealed in these circumstances God’s calling us: to return to him apace, to trust him wholly, and to do his work resolutely.

Our uncertainty draws us to the certainty of our Sovereign and Holy God.

Our fears cause us to seek God’s peace and protection.

Our deep desire that we and others be spared pain rightly prompts our deprecation—one that God desires.

So that is what we gather today to do:  TOGETHER. 

To return to God, to trust Him wholly, and to do the work He has called us to do, resolutely. 

We gather together for the strength of community-  to see faces we love, to see the prayers of others, to know we are not alone. 

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”  [Philippians 1:2]

Asking Hard Questions

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Faith:  abandoned or pursued?

At Restoration this fall we are talking about the questions that trip us up as we walk towards Jesus and his church.  We want to deliberately consider the good and challenging questions that ultimately form the basis for this question:

“Does faith in God make sense for thinking people today?”

Every person currently has an operating answer to that question.

For a lot of people, the answer is ‘no.’  The subtext for that no can be things like:  ‘I am doing fine and I never think about God.”  “I can’t imagine wanting to be a part of something that believes this about this.”  “Um, I’ve met Christians and…  no thanks.”  The no can be active opposition or tacit disinterest.

For a lot of people, the answer is ‘yes’.  But every ‘yes’ is on the other side of processing lots of ‘Nos’ and ‘What about this(es)…’

So we are trying to create opportunities for that question, ‘Does faith in God make sense?’ to keep coming to the surface.  We want you to have strong convictions about your answer-  to have thought it out.  To that end, we are asking 5 difficult questions in our fall sermon series.  These are questions that sometimes make us end up saying, ‘I can’t see how faith in God makes sense.  This question is too hard.’   I am making no promises that we will settle these questions for you, but I am promising that Restoration is a place where you can ask them honestly and without varnish.

I invite you to come each Sunday with your head, heart, maybe a journal, and maybe a friend.

I invite you to actively participate in a small group this fall.  Registration is open and you can sign up here.  The people in your small group will listen to the way you are wrestling with this question.  They will laugh and pray with you.  They will join you in your journey as we walk towards Jesus who is walking towards us.

Here are the questions:

September 8:  Can people really change?  You can hear the audio of this sermon, here.

September 15:  Why does the Bible say different things about men and women?  Why does Christianity seem to give women such a bad deal?  Who needs that?

September 22:  Is Christianity irrational?  Is it reasonable to have faith in God?  Isn’t ‘god’ just a lame way to explain away the things we can’t understand?  “I would rather trust science and stuff I can see than a God whom I can’t.”  

September 29:  Is the Bible pro-slavery?  Why has the Bible been used to prop up institutions of evil and to promote division between ethnicities?  

October 6:  Why is Christianity so intolerant?  Aren’t all religions the same?  Why does Christianity think it is uniquely right?  Why is Christianity so judgy of other people’s behavior?  I should be able to do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone else.  

It will be an interesting few weeks!  I hope you can join us in person on Quincy Street or catch us on the podcast during the week.  Do you have a question that makes you wonder if faith in God makes sense for thinking people today?  I’d love to hear it.  Feel free to comment below.

-David Hanke, Rector

September 8th at Restoration

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As Summer gives way to Autumn

You’ve probably noticed that things become much quieter around here in the summertime.  People — our staff, members, volunteers — are in and out constantly, bouncing between vacations, family reunions, personal retreats…or, maybe all of the above!

On September 8th, our fall season begins and you’ll notice the activity increases around here like bubbles in a cool glass of seltzer.  We don’t want you to miss anything.  So here is what’s coming back after a brief summer hiatus:

APEX

APEX: Isaiah Brooms, our Director of Youth Ministries, has an awesome fall program planned and is looking forward to seeing your middle and high schoolers there on September 8th!  This year, high school and middle school APEX is going to happen at the same time — Sunday nights from 6:30 to 8:30. This will make it easier on parents with kids in both groups and our facility will be bubbling with energy on Sunday nights!  Your kids can’t wait.  Maybe you want to serve as an APEX volunteer?  Sunday nights will be a blast at Resto.  Email Isaiah with any questions.

Kids’ Small Groups

Kid’s small groups will also begin a new year on September 8th at the 9 and 11.  Louise has been hard at work preparing and would love for your child to join a group.  Register your child today!  Even if you have registered your child in a prior year, we ask that you would fill out a fresh form for this coming year (just like you will do for each kid on their first day of school!).  You can always shoot Louise an email with any questions you may have.

The 5pm

It’s back!!  The 5 PM service will return on September 8th.  We are grateful for the space and margin that not having the 5pm created for our staff and volunteers this summer.  Rest and elasticity returned to their souls.  Thank you!  But we are so excited to be back together with our beloved 5pm community.  If you are planning to be mostly at the 5pm this fall, would you let us know?   Have you never been to the 5?  Would you consider trying it for a couple months?  It takes some repetition to see if something new is a good fit.  And it takes a critical mass of people for a community to feel like home.  We would love for 50 households who normally attend the 9 or 11 to alternatively commit to the 5pm for this fall.  “Giving up your seat” at the 9 or 11 creates room for new folks to visit our church.  “Taking a seat” at the 5 brings your friendship, worship, and presence to a beautiful community that loves ending their week-end with the evening hues lighting the Lord’s table. Let us know if you are one of those households that will worship in Autumn at 5.

(Bonus-  if your kid is headed to APEX on Sunday nights, the 5pm is a great way to worship together before they head off to their Youth Small Groups.)

Second Sunday Suppers

That’s right.  You like to eat.  We like to eat.  Let’s eat after the 5pm on Sept 8.  We’ll keep going out on the Second Sunday of every month, after the 5 PM.  Everyone is invited!  Even if you went to the 9 or the 11!  How convenient if your kids are in APEX!  We want you there! Contact Beth for details.

Autumn begins…

We couldn’t be more excited for the fall:  Vision Night (9/10).  Baptisms (9/22).  New to Restoration Dinner (10/1).  Fall Retreat (10/12-13).  It’s all waiting for you…

We’re going to hit the ground running and we hope to see you right alongside us.

 

A 5pm Town Hall Conversation!

sunset Arlington

You are invited!  December 9 at 5pm

Dear Friends,

The 5pm service has always had a special spot in the life of Restoration.  The later time of day and the smaller size offer the possibility of a more intimate worship experience. 

We want to acknowledge that when we launched Incarnation, we sent some of our dear friends and many of our faithful, fellow, 5pm worship go-ers!  When a community chooses to change by multiplying itself in another part of the city, there is an opportunity to take stock and discuss ‘what could be’. 

The staff and clergy would like to have a ‘Town Hall’ meeting at the 5pm on Sunday, December 9.  We want to hear what this particular service means to you and how it is important to your worship of God and your experience of community at Restoration. We also want to hear what you would like the 5pm worship service to be.   

We love being Anglican and leading liturgy that requires ‘the work of the people’ in kneeling, praying out loud, singing, listening, eating, and drinking.  You are already participating in this liturgy by attending the service and many of you are already serving so that the rest of us can participate in the service.  THANK YOU!  There is an opportunity for more people to serve before, during, and after the liturgy.  We can’t do it without you.  So, we’ll be talking about that, too.

Would you mark December 9 on your calendar?  We will have our regular Advent liturgy.  When we get to the ‘sermon part’, we will take some time to talk about our hopes and dreams for the 5pm service, then we will close with Eucharist.  After the blessing, we will roll over to Sunrise Senior Living on Glebe Road to sing carols and hark the herald!

It will be a special evening and I hope to see you there.

-David 

Becoming a trusted spouse.

couple laughing

After talking about 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 on Sunday, I received several questions that all began, ‘How?‘  How do I become a trusted spouse?  If I am not married, how do I find a trusted spouse?  How do I trust my spouse when they have not been trustworthy?

These are such good questions and they reveal such tender places from the one who is asking.  Fear, pain, hurt are regular companions in this life.  Trust is often a choice made ‘in spite of’ and not always ‘because of’.

Learning to trust God so that I can trust my spouse and be trustworthy is a life-long learning process.

So I’d like to offer a few thoughts about trusted spouses as we journey through this week.  Hope you can talk about them with your loved one and with your small group.

Build trust by voluntarily offering yourself.

  1. We would build trust emotionally by volunteering what is going on in our head and heart.  This takes intentionality as you re-enter from the day.  This takes ‘prior work’ to determine what we can volunteer.  You have to consider, ‘what am I feeling and thinking today?’  It is a risk to share a story or anecdote with your spouse.

    For married couples, one of the key friction points each day is moving from a state of being separate (geographically ‘at work’) and transitioning to a state of being together (geographically ‘at home’- for dinner, for the evening, for bed).  That transition requires excellent (your best!) communication.  One way to build trust is to offer as you enter in…  ‘This is what I have been thinking and feeling today.  This person or situation brought me joy or made me angry.  This is when I thought about you or missed you…’  Offering our ’emotional state’ by describing it with words and stories is way to build trust in that transition from separateness to togetherness.

  2. We would build trust spiritually by volunteering what God is teaching us (in prayer, through Bible reading, in our small group and mentoring relationships).  This takes intentionality as you leave for the day…  It can be quick (none of us have a lot of time as we run out the door):  ‘Here is a verse that I read this morning and it encouraged me, disturbed me, convicted me…  Can I pray for your meeting, the pain in your body, the hard conversation you need to have?’

    We all know that it can be chaotic as we ‘leave togetherness’, but taking seconds to communicate that ‘I have talked with God this morning and I am praying for you this day’ builds trust.

    There will be times when you want to talk for a longer period of time about your relationship with God.  Schedule a date!  Put it in the calendar!  Offer to your spouse-  ‘Can I tell you what I have been reading?  Can I share with you what I have been praying?’  I guarantee that they want to hear and I am confident that you sharing it will go a long way to building trust.

  3. We would build trust sexually by voluntarily not pursuing other sexual opportunities  (porn, fantasy, novels, streaming shows).  Decide now and renew your decision regularly to not meet your sexual needs outside of your marriage covenant.

    Instead, talk about those needs with your spouse.  Your  courage to initiate conversation about that topic builds intimacy.  It may not be easy, but it is brave.

    Also, talk about those temptations with your community (thinking of your small group or a few trusted(!) friends).  Being known, understood, and prayed for helps those temptations lose their power.

Build Trust by Fighting Fair

  • Be kind in the midst of conflict. 
  • Resist cursing (Cussing is cursing-  saying things that are intended to do harm.  As opposed to blessing-  saying things that are intended to bring life and goodness). 
  • Resist the urge to insult behaviors or body parts.  You will do damage that endures long after the conflict has ended. 
  • Make ‘I’ statements rather than universal declarations:  ‘I hear you saying…’ rather than ‘you always…’ 
  • Pay attention to body language- i.e. what your body position (and theirs) is communicating.  Your stance, your facial expression, the fold of your arms, and the clench of your fists all communicate…  
  • Listen actively.
  • Be quick to ask for help.  A 3rd person in the room is invaluable to help 2 people hear what the other is saying.  Reach out to your small group leader or to a pastoral staff member.  We have many resources that can help.

Build Trust by Renewing your Covenant

Covenant renewal:  When you get married, you make a solemn covenant with your spouse…  your covenant partner.  As time goes on, there is a need to rekindle the heart and renew the commitment.  There must be an opportunity to recall all that the other person means to you and to give yourself anew.  Sex between a husband and wife is a unique way to do that.  In fact, sex is perhaps the most powerful way to help you give your entire self to another human being.  Sex is God’s appointed way for 2 people to reciprocally say to one another, ‘I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.”  You must not use sex to say anything less… 

So according to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex.  It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy.  But though a marriage covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for the maintenance of the covenant.  It is your covenant renewal service.”

Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Build trust by the way you say no to sex.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again,  so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:5

There will be seasons when sex is not an option for a married couple.  As glorious as it is and as effective as it can be in the renewing of our promises and faithfulness to each other, sometimes it is not possible.

This verse gives simple, clear instruction on the conditions that need to be in place for a season of ‘no sex.’

  • by agreement:  Married couples decide together about sexual frequency or a period of sexual abstinence.  It’s a conversation and not an unforeseen consequence.  It is intended to be a help and not a punishment.
    For the next week or the next month, we are not going to have sex because…”
  1. We have hurt each other. (emotional trust is gone)
  2. It’s not possible physically.  (my body is too tired or my body is not present geographically)
  3. We are fasting so that we can pray about a major decision or for a major breakthrough.
  • For a limited time:  The period of abstinence needs to have an end date.  The goodness of that period is that it gives freedom for other intimacies to develop.  (Can I express love this way since sex is not an option?)

There will be times of abstinence, but they should be chosen by agreement and they should be finite in length.  As soon as possible, it would be good to re-introduce the act of covenant renewal…  for the good of the covenant and the joy of the couple.


Building trust requires our most deliberate and careful work.  May God pour out His grace upon you as you become a trusted spouse.

-David

Why do we sing songs in Spanish?

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Why would we not?

Over the last few months, Restoration has added three or four songs with Spanish lyrics to our canon of music.  Generally, we have chosen one each Sunday and sung it during the offertory.  Some of you have loved doing familiar songs with Spanish lyrics.  Some of you have wondered why this is happening.  Here are three reasons that are informing this practice:

It is Biblical.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7: 9-10

As followers of Jesus who submit to the Scriptures, we have a long-used methodology for determining best practices:  protology and eschatology.  How did things begin (protology)?  How will things end (eschatology)?  As Christians, want to be moving either towards the way things were intended to be or the way things will be.

Revelation 7:9-10 gives a vivid description of the way things will be.  There will be multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual worship of the Lamb who was slain for all peoples.  Consequently, we seek a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual worship service in the present because we know that it is ‘the telos’, ‘the end’, ‘the eschaton’, ‘the goal’ to which we are headed.  Singing a familiar song with Spanish lyrics is a SMALL step towards the rich tapestry of linguistic diversity that we will enjoy in the age to come. 

Similarly, Revelation 19:9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”  The ‘marriage supper of the lamb’ is the telos (the end) to which our current Eucharist points.  We eat a bite of bread and take a sip of wine in anticipation of the FEAST we will enjoy in the age to come.  Our eschatology (FEASTING) determines our present practice (TASTING).

It is kind.

Kind means “having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.”  There are people in our congregation for whom Spanish IS their heart language, their first language.  When we sing familiar songs with Spanish lyrics, there is an ease and comprehension that opens for them that is not available when we only sing songs in English.  As majority English speakers, we extend ourselves to our brothers and sisters whose first language is not English when we sing songs that our less comfortable for us and more comfortable for them.  It is kind.

It represents who we want to be.

According to Statistical Atlas,

“14.1% of the total population living in Arlington County live in households where Spanish is spoken at home.”

According to Data USA,

“Arlington County, VA is home to a population of 223,945 people… The ethnic composition of the population of Arlington… is composed of:

  • 141,107 White residents (63%)
  • 34,629 Hispanic residents (15.5%)  (This is supported by the U.S. Census bureau which puts the population at 15.4% as of July 2016.)
  • 22,085 Asian residents (9.9%)
  • 18,584 Black residents (8.3%)
  • 5,777 Two+ residents (2.58%).

The most common foreign language in Arlington County is Spanish (29,482 speakers).

Restoration wants to love our neighbors and look like our neighborhoods.  We want to welcome anyone who is curious about Jesus and what it means to follow Him as the One who forgives our sins and leads our life.  To that end, we want our liturgy, our music, our volunteer opportunities, and our teaching to be accessible to all of our neighbors in all of our neighborhoods.

Are we there yet?  Not.  Even.  Close.

Can we do it by ourselves?  Never.

We will need to partner with our brothers and sisters in other churches across our region.  We will need to keep looking for the courageous steps that our particular congregation can take.  We will need to embrace uncomfortable.

So the next time you see Spanish lyrics, try this:

  1.  Say a quick prayer of thanks for all the people and households in our neighborhoods who speak Spanish.  We are so glad they are near us.
  2. Choose a language to sing.  We will always put English and Spanish on the slide.  Choose what feels right to sing so that you can worship.  You are worshiping God and he can sort out multiple languages at the same time.  No sweat.
  3. Consider taking a risk from time to time and singing the lyrics that are less familiar to you.
  4. Pray for the people standing around you that they would be the light of Christ to all the peoples in their neighborhoods.

For Me?  Well, so far I have stumbled through my Spanish during those songs.  Every time.  But as I bump along, embracing uncomfortable, I am so grateful that my voice gets drowned out by the volume of others singing next to me.  So grateful that we are a community.  I am so grateful to be in a community that is being kind and welcoming and hospitable.  I am grateful for really small steps that demonstrate trust in God and partnership in his mission.  And I look forward to that gigantic multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual worship of the Lamb in the age to come.

-David

 

The Corinthian Correspondence

 

Writing a Letter

2018

Happy New Year!  Restoration is starting a new sermon series and working our way through St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  Make sure you read the first 2 sections of this post….

Why would you want to do that?  (Don’t you know that it’s long and says true things that lots of people find offensive. #spoileralert)

Well, there are actually several reasons that this book seems really good for who Restoration is at this point in time:

  1. First, I am very grateful for our hard work in Jeremiah all fall.  We got our heads and heart around a big, mildly unfamiliar story.  As we seek to cover all of the Scriptures, it’s a good time to pivot to the New Testament and young churches that were getting started.
  2. It’s been a while since we worked through an epistle (a letter) and a while since we have worked through an entire book from start to finish.  Let’s take that on this year!
  3. The issues they were dealing with in Corinth are raw and connected to the things we are dealing with at Restoration and in our world today:  the foolishness of faith in the Gospel, discerning what is real wisdom and real prosperity, the consequence of identifying ourselves with our leaders (or not), sexual purity, lawsuits, the role of men and women in the church and in the home, spiritual gifts and how the Holy Spirit manifests in our worship, getting drunk at the Eucharist, marriage, not marriage, temptation and idols and rights and eating meat.  As relevant as this morning’s headlines in the Post.
  4. I appreciate that the church in Corinth was young, freshly planted, and messy.  Their questions are good things for Restoration and Incarnation to consider while we are still together (one being about 10 years older than the other…)

Small Groups

As always, we will have 30 small groups starting up with about half of them talking about the passages from 1 Corinthians.  Registration opens on Sunday, January 7 and I hope that everyone who worships with us on Sunday will be actively involved in a Resto small group during the week.  It’s the best place to get to know people, to pray together, and to wrestle through how these truths in the Scripture affect our hustle and bustle life.

Ken Bailey

Feel free to skip this last section, I just want to give a shout out to one of the names you will hear me frequently quote during this series:  Ken Bailey.  He is a preeminent author and scholar in Middle Eastern New Testament Studies.  He teaches in English and Arabic and has written some of the most helpful stuff available for understanding First Century culture.  His book, Paul through Mediterranean Eyes, has been so helpful to my preparation for this series.  The book is almost 600 pages and heavily focused on Hebrew rhetorical style-  so not light reading.  But as appropriate, I will share helpful sections.

I love the way he describes himself:

Every commentator on the Scriptures writes in a context and out of a series of deep commitments.  I am a confessing Christian with a high reverence for the Bible as the inspired Word of God, which I approach with awe and gratitude.  Many of the ideas in this work come out of the non-Western world and have been presented by me in Arabic and in English to numerous audiences around the globe for more than 40 years…  I am writing for native English speakers, but also looking to the new Global South where the majority of the world’s Christians now live.”

His hermeneutical methodology helps us appreciate the logic and coherence of the book.

The view presented in this study is that 1 Corinthians has a carefully designed inner coherence that exhibits amazing precision in composition and admirable grandeur in overall theological concept…  the outline is as precise as any of Paul’s letters and it falls into 5 carefully constructed essays…

  1. The Cross and Christian Unity 1:5-4:16 (Epiphany)
  2. Men and Women in the Human Family 4:17-7:40 (Lent)
  3. Food offered to Idols (Christian and Pagan) 8:1-11:1  (post-Easter)
  4. Men and Women in Worship 11:2-14:40  (Autumn)
  5. The Resurrection 15  (Autumn)

As you look at those 5 essays, we discover that 3 principle ideas were on Paul’s mind as he wrote the letter:

  1. The Cross and Resurrection [1 and 5]
  2. Men and Women in the human family and in worship [2 and 4]
  3. Christians living among pagans:  to identify or not to identify [3]

It is my hope that this letter will increase our love for Jesus and His Church while also filling us with joy and hope as we live in this age and wait for the age to come.

Looking forward to it,

David

Jeremiah

Fences

This past Sunday, I got the opportunity to preach my last sermon in our fall series out of the book of Jeremiah.  Nathan will finish things up on Sunday as we transition into thinking about Advent and the coming of our Rescuer.

At each service, as I approached the end of my message, I got pretty choked up as I realized where Jeremiah ended his years of faithful service.

He was taken by a disobedient remnant of people to Egypt.  Jeremiah didn’t want to go.  God didn’t want them to go.  But, as they had done over and over, they didn’t listen to God’s instruction or God’s words of hope.  The remnant did what they thought would make them feel secure and comfortable.  Entering into the rigor and protection of Egypt seemed so much better than staying in the rubble and chaos of devastated Jerusalem.

Even though God had promised:

If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up…

Jeremiah 42.10

From our human vantage, Jeremiah was the ‘least successful prophet of all time’.  He pleaded with his people, his friends and neighbors, to change their mind and to amend their life.

They didn’t.

The worst happened.

God’s words through Jeremiah didn’t change the trajectory of His people.  It’s hard to see.  It’s harder to read.

Yet, he was able to say…

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Compare that to a prophet like Jonah–  probably ‘the most wildly successful prophet of all time.’  He gets sent to a foreign land, to Nineveh.  He is not happy to go.  He is not happy when he gets there.  He preaches the worst sermon ever.  Over a hundred thousand people change their mind and repent.  He is not happy about that.  And the book ends with him in a funk– grumpy and ticked.  Not happy.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4.1-3

Jeremiah, in his ‘failure’ seems to have gotten something about God that Jonah did not get in his ‘success’.  That realization makes me sober and careful and inspires my prayers for humility.

So why I was so emotional as we came to the end of this series?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. I have loved the hard work that our congregation has done on this book.  Generally, it is an unfamiliar story, really long, and sometimes hard to understand.  Many of you took on the task of reading through the whole book and then studying it faithfully in small groups for 11 weeks.  I am proud of you.  May the Lord increase your love for the Scriptures as you seek Him in new places of the Bible.
  2. I have loved the relevance of this book for the temptations that afflict us all.  We know the problems of idolatry, religious pretense, and superficial experience.  We see the shortcomings and limitations of the society in which we live.  We resist the triumphalism of ‘it will all just get better’ and we resist the despair that might lead us to cocoon ourselves from the wider world.

    No.  Instead, let us lament what is broken and busted.  Let us acknowledge what is not easy to fix and seems slow in coming.  Let us wait in sincere hope for God’s timing and the sure future arrival of the One who will make all things right.  Jeremiah has given us words and images (that linen loincloth!) for what ‘living by faith’ means.

  3. Most personally, we live in a cultural moment that is increasingly dismissive of Jesus and His people–  thinking they have no relevance for the longings and despair that is all around us.  Jeremiah faithfully said what is true–  the very words of God–  yet there was no change.  It is my hope and expectation that myself and our church will be faithful day in and day out to say what is true.  And it is my sincere desire that many people will be transformed, changed, and find the courage to amend their life.

    Maybe.  And maybe not.

    It is a great honor to invite people to stay home and to not run to Egypt.  It might be my highest privilege as a pastor–  to be in the midst of junk and crud and wrong thinking and to get to shine a light and spray a hose and beg people to stay home.  It is a privilege to say over and over, Egypt will disappoint you.  It always has and it will again.  I am grateful for the chance to say it many times in many different ways each week.  I am grateful for all of you who join me in the task of saying the same.  You are good partners in this project of renewal and amendment of life.

But that doesn’t make it easy.  And it definitely carries a truckload of emotion as you watch people make spiritual decisions that affect them and everyone around them.  I am grateful that we are in it together.  This is a beautiful church and we serve a gracious and beautiful God.

Happy Thanksgiving.

-David

Confessions of a Chronic Latecomer

cinnamon-toast-horiz-a-1800

Last week my family was nearly 30 minutes late to church. 30 minutes! We snuck into a pew near the back mid-sermon, and over the next 10 minutes, the empty spaces around us filled up with other latecomers. After the service, over iced coffee and shouting children downstairs, we laughed and poked fun at ourselves and swapped stories of extreme Sunday lateness.

It’s hard to get out the door on a Sunday. My children habitually misplace shoes (and socks, and jeggings, and most importantly, capes). We run out of cereal and thus have to prepare  impossibly complicated and time-consuming breakfasts such as toast. My children suddenly remember they despise toast and collapse in a heap of uncooperative, hangry ennui. We have four people, two of whom are fastidious (read: slow) tooth-brushers, sharing one small bathroom. And without fail, my children realize they urgently need to use said bathroom just as we’re walking out the door. We try to account for the inevitable morning delays, but still, we run late. Often. And honestly? I don’t really even feel bad about it.

Why not? First, because Restoration is a community of genuine grace, a very un-DC-like place were I don’t have to perform or appear perfect or, you know, show up on time. It’s freeing to know I can slide into the pew 15 minutes late and be welcomed wholeheartedly, not shamed or penalized. This atmosphere of grace is why we go to Restoration, and I love it.

Second, I am Sabbath-starved. I am hard-wired for a day of rest, and by the end of the week I’m aching for it. Sunday often feels like the first opportunity to really rest, and I find myself sleeping a little later and moving a little more slowly to revel in the relaxed pace. I could be quicker, more intentional, hustle a bit more to get out the door, but I don’t. On Sundays, I just want to slow down. And I’m okay with that.

But this issue of lateness has been on my mind all week. Because as I was laughing with my fellow latecomers over iced coffee last Sunday, I joked that I wasn’t even sure what happened at the beginning of the service. Let me rephrase that: I’m a church planter and postulant for ordination and I don’t know what happens at the beginning of an Anglican service, because I’ve so rarely made it to church on time. Yeah.

So I looked it up. Guess what happens at the beginning of our service each week? So many beautiful things! Quiet contemplation in the sanctuary before it fills up. A joyful acclamation of blessing. A prayer that our hearts would be open to a God who sees and knows us. A reminder straight from Jesus to love God and our neighbor. A repeated plea for the mercy of God. All of that before we ever sing a note!

***

Every day, I manage to get to school, work, soccer practice, coffee dates, and other events on time. The challenges to doing so are no different from those I face on Sunday. Yet I account for them in my planning so that I can be punctual. I care about performing well, respecting those who depend on me, and avoiding the shame, stress, and inconvenience of running late. As I mentioned above, these motivators don’t work as well for me when it comes to church, where I don’t feel the same pressures.

But what if I were motivated not by pressures and fears, but by a deep hunger for God and for the fullness of corporate worship offered to me on Sunday mornings? What if I entrusted my Sabbath-starved soul to God as the source of true rest, a rest that refreshes far more deeply than shuffling around lazily in my pajamas for a few extra minutes? What if there is a feast that God is lovingly preparing for me in the liturgy every single week, and I’m missing the first course? (Which, I am certain, is better than toast.)

And so, for the next month of Sundays, I’m going to try arriving on time. I may not succeed, and that’s okay; remember that trademark Resto grace I described earlier? But I’m going to try. And in the meantime, I’m going to print this prayer from the beginning of the service and keep it in my car, so that if I’m not physically in church to say it, at least it gets said while en route.

Collect for Purity

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you’re a chronic latecomer like me, maybe you’d like to join me in making this small Sunday shift, just for a month. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I know it’ll better than toast.

– Amy Rowe

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