Monday, May 20, 2013

Music and Jesus: The Perfect Mix of Creation and Salvation, Rock on!

Ok, I'm a baby boomer. I get it. I grew up with rock 'n roll. A friend of mine still puts the classic rock station on the radio when he picks me up and we head out for a coffee or a cigar.

My friends and I would attend an average 10 concerts a summer after we graduated from high school. It was our very own little summer concert tour. If you've ever attended a live rock show, you know the thrill, the excitement, the fun. My favorite rock concert always has been and will be Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. I saw Springsteen  4 times.

If you're going to do something, do it right.

My dad raised me in true blue collar fashion. He would always tell me, "if you're going to do something, do it right." When it comes to music, it fits there as well. When "Bruce" puts on a show, it was incredible. It was the whole package, the heart felt music, the rough voice, the audience participation, the lights, the saxophone solos by "Clarence." His shows lasted 3.5 - 4 hours. He does Rock, right. That's why he's a classic.

Luther and Bruce - Music and Message

You're kidding me. Only a Lutheran Pastor would put Martin Luther, the church's classic, number one reformer, in the same phrase as the Boss (Springsteen's nickname). Luther understood the power of music, the importance of songs/hymns, and the gift it is from creation (Listen to two musical giants, Schalk and Bouman on the gift of music. 30 second clips).

Christianity gets music in church as well as Springsteen gets rock 'n roll. Of music, Luther wrote,
Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. The devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God. 
Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music.
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.
Youth should be taught this art... for it makes fine skillful people
Our Savior has a wonderful history of music. However, notice how music is used in the church. Like everything in church, it serves Christ. It is a treasure that is next to the Word. Whatever music is used in church it must only be the scaffold that supports God's word, the proclamation of law and gospel.

Church Music Reflects the Words of God.

Music is the second most important thing in church. Lutherans believe that the most important thing is faithfulness to God's Word. God calls us to repentance for our sin. He then calls us into His holy presence to receive forgiveness that Jesus earned for us. No instrument, can get in the way of the message. The music will never be elevated or louder than the Word.

Bruce is no Luther

That's the difference between Bruce and Luther - between church and a great rock concert. Those of us who can appreciate great musical entertainment, even rock, know that when we go to hear the Boss and the band "rock it out," it is about the music! The music creates the mood, the atmosphere; the fun that goes with enjoying a rock show. The audience "gets into it" because of the music. The words aren't really that important.

However, in the church, music's purpose is not the music, the fun, the atmosphere. In church, music is
the unseen marriage of created gifts that bear the holy Word of God. Music in church is the humble servant that prepares the feast of the life saving body and blood of Jesus to be given to the festal saints. The music only reflects the theology of the Lord. In turn, we give thanks for the gifts the Lord gives. The music brings Jesus into our presence so that He may save us with Cup of the New Testament.

In other words, let Springsteen do his thing and give us a great show. Let Christ's Bride prepare the banquet so that we may hear, taste, and sing the holy words that God gave to us - in order to say back to him. The former is 62 years old and when he dies so does his music and shows. When Jesus died, the music of His Bride was empowered to sing forever because He rose from the dead. The Bride's music implants the Word into our very being unto life everlasting.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Up Up and Away - What is Ascension?

I'm showing my age - again. When I think of Ascension, my silly little mind thinks of the Fifth Dimension song, "Up Up and Away in my Beautiful Balloon." Or, with my kids, the movie Up was a big hit.

Up is always a something that fascinates us, probably because gravity keeps us down.

Easter's celebration highlights Jesus' life as divine and human. The miracle of the Ascension is a revelation of Christ's power as God, but it reveals the company of heaven in His humanity.

Forty days after Easter, Christ went up to heaven by His own will and power (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51 Acts 1). According to Acts, it seems that the Ascension took place on Mount Olivet.

Jesus Himself spoke of His Ascension (John 6:63; 20:17). 

Ascension and You!
Ascension is point in Christ's life where He says goodbye to the physical world as you and I see it. The person, Jesus Christ, in His humanity and divinity assume the power and glory of the eternal God. 

The eternal gift of God in the Ascension is that Jesus in His humanity is everywhere, all-powerful, the sovereign God who is not in heaven, but is the God that is even above the heavens. Being beyond the glory of heaven places the God-man in the authority only reserved for God as the creator.

His Ascension catapults him into the God-man who not only is above all, but more importantly for us poor sinners, is with us in our sinful miserable world that He may suffer with us as God and man. He does not, in His humanity, stay in heaven!

The power and glory of the Ascension is what places Him back into service here on earth in the Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. His Ascension as the personal God-man Jesus is exactly why Lutheran s believe the true body and blood is in the Lord's Supper. His humanity is not in heaven, rather, because He is God, His humanity is where God is and wills to be. God Himself, for our salvation, commits himself to be in the Word, Baptism, and Lord's Supper. 

The Ascension unites heaven on earth. He does not take us to heaven, rather, He brings eternity above all power to earth.

He Ascends so that He might be here in His fullness! Thanks be to God for Jesus' full presence in our lives and the life of the Church. He Ascends that forgiveness flows from water, word, bread, and wine in the same mystery of the Word becomes flesh.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lutherans Know How to Party - Festivities in the Church

The victorious season of Easter is an ongoing party in Christ's Church. Lutherans know how to  party. It isn't wrong to have fun or a good time.

Did you realize that the lives of believers in the Old and New Testament revolved around the important parties of the year? They celebrated and threw a party - called a festival/feast - every chance they could.

Parties are not frivolous or just an opportunity to have fun. Rather, they happen because something needs to be celebrated and remembered. 

We all remember the importance of our family parties that surround our birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. The feasts we love are all prompted by very important events in life that need to be remembered.
The OT festivities revolved around things that God did to protect and care for His people.

The Seventh Day

The first and most important festival that was held was... wait for it... the day that God rested (Gen. 2:3), yes, the Sabbath. Remembering the seventh day (Ex. 31:17) of the week celebrates the gift of creation. It's the one that got everything started - literally. Later, it was used to remember that God delivered the children of Israel from Egypt's slavery (Dt. 5:12-14). It was also the day that the priests would replace the "bread of presence" in the temple (Lev. 24:8). We remember the bread in the temple because God provides for every need through creation.

This is the Feast of Victory...

Remembering the resurrection with celebrations of Christ's life continues today as the New Testament church rejoices in God's continued work on earth. This is how God saves His people, how He rescues us in the midst of a sinful/evil world.

However, the Lutheran party is not only remembering God's work for us from the past, but it is the present work of God for us in our lives and where He gathers us. While we are gathered in His presence in both Word and Sacrament, He gives us the life giving bread and wine from heaven, His body and blood. The feast in which we participate is a holy one that unites heaven and earth.