Human

photo credit: Ilana Panich-Linsman for the New York Times

The tragedies in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas have brought us all to tears, and in light of events like these, a psalm like this can come off as trite, meaningless, or perhaps even escapist and cruel.

But in fact this passage has much to teach us about our humanness—what we’re here for, why we hurt so much, and whether there is any hope that the darkness will not win.

Title: Human

Text: Psalm 148

Overview

  • praise
  • confounded
  • being human

Resources

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New Song: Light of the World

design by Ottoman Creative Group

Our church’s theme for 2016 is Light of the World. It stems from the remarkable promise in Isaiah 49 made by the Lord to his Servant:

5 And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—6 he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and to bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” 7 This is what the LORD says—the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

That was our text for the first Sunday of the year, and it set our course to consider Christ as the Light of the world, and how by union with him we have become the light of the world.

This line of thinking inspired me to write a song for our congregation, one that stretched from the light of creation (2 Corinthians 4.6) to the light of the Christ (John 8.12) to the light of God’s people (Matthew 5.14–16). Here are the lyrics:

1
Light of the world, You spoke a word into the darkness.
Glory of God came bursting forth in radiant brilliance.
Chaos ruling the gloom—You broke it with Your mighty voice!

Refrain
Lord Jesus, You are the Light that brings life to everyone.
We trust in You—You’re God’s one and only Son.
Bid our darkness flee away, usher in the glorious day.
You are the Light, Light of the world.

2
Light of the world, You are the Word, sent into darkness,
Living the life we failed to live with love and with justice.
Hated, nailed, and left to die, You rose again, the Prince of Life!

Refrain

Bridge
Gospel light dawns, once blind eyes now can see.
We all share in the Kingdom Christ died to redeem.
O Lord, shine Your face on us that You may be known.
Let the nations be glad and in Christ sing for joy!

3
Light of the world, You made us light, shining in darkness,
Flooding the night with rays of hope, exposing injustice,
One with Christ the Son of God, renewed by Holy Spirit power!

Refrain

Ending
We are Your light, Light of the world.
You are the Light, Light of the world.

We’re still learning it as a congregation, but you can listen to our latest attempt to sing it here. This isn’t a professional recording; I offer it so you can catch what it sounds like.

If you like it, you can download the audio by clicking here. And if you think this song would serve your church, you can download the sheet music here. I ask only that you observe standard copyright laws in your use.

Many people had a hand in this finished product, and I am extremely grateful to each one. I note especially:

  • Steven Mann, our worship director, who consulted with me throughout this long process. His musicianship made this song significantly better, and the audio you hear in the link above is his arrangement of the song. Thank you, Steve, for your help—and especially for telling me to rewrite the bridge.
  • Chris Anderson, Timothy Durey, Joshua McCarnan, Joel Mosier, Jonathan Matias, and Garrett Lee, who took time out of their busy pastoral schedules to share substantive comments about and adjustments to the lyrics.
  • David Harris, professor of music at Summit University, whose enthusiasm for this project inspired me to finish well, and who listened critically to an early version of the tune and offered helpful suggestions.
  • the Imel family, my in-laws, who must have heard a thousand variations of this tune in their Ottawa, Illinois home during Christmas break. Thanks for patiently enduring my endless tinkering.
  • Kimberly, my partner in life and the author of one critical line of this song. All my love.
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The Potter and the Clay

image courtesy of bev gore

image courtesy of bev gore

Last week’s passage was hard-hitting because it hit us where it hurts—our self-righteousness. Nevertheless, though Isaiah exposed that at length in chapter 63, he’s not done yet. You see, we’re so good at deceiving ourselves that we can acknowledge self-righteousness and still not really go deep enough.

If all we’re willing to do is say “I’m not all I should be,” we haven’t gone deep enough. If we go further and acknowledge specific sins, we still haven’t gone deep enough. That’s why Isaiah continues his analysis of our self-righteousness in chapter 64, because the issue is not just individual sins, but what lies beneath.

And the four images he uses to describe what lies in our hearts are as disturbing as they are vivid.

Title: The Potter and the Clay

Text: Isaiah 63.15–64.12

Overview

  • what lies beneath
  • what lies ahead
  • what lay in the mind of God

Resources

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Christus Victor

All our talk recently about shalom—the world as it ought to be—threatens to drown out a very important point. The threats to human flourishing exist not only on the macro level, but on the micro as well. And if it is true that the world is not all that it should be, it is equally true that neither are God’s people. And that is a very dangerous reality, for much evil has been unleashed in the name of God by those who claim to be the people of God.

photo courtesy of izquotes

photo courtesy of izquotes

That’s why Isaiah 63–64 are so important to Isaiah’s prophecy of the world to come, and our place in it now. The prophet confronts an age-old problem—self-righteousness—and analyzes it in shocking terms. He does this not to make us hopeless, but humble, and ultimately to point us all to the Redeemer.

Title: Christus Victor

Text: Isaiah 63.1–14

Overview

  • redemption
  • rebellion
  • alone

Resources

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God’s Delight

In a recent oped in the New York Times, Dr. Jarle Breivik, a professor of medicine at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of Oslo, argues provocatively that “we won’t cure cancer.” The three-time doctor who has spent his life studying the development of human cancers argues, “We are essentially temporary cell colonies evolved to relay life to the next generation, and as long as we are human, there will always be another cancer.”

Now if that is true, then why should anyone do cancer research? And more to the point for us who are believers, why should Christians do cancer research—or, for that matter, care about education or public policy or the arts? Do we have a good answer to that question?

Today’s passage points the way.

Title: God’s Delight

Text: Isaiah 62

Overview

  • earthiness
  • oneness
  • grace
  • joy

Resources

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