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Whatever Happened to Christian Salutations?

Whatever Happened to Christian Salutations?

I have always been intrigued by the lack of formalized salutations in the Christian world. Christians greet one another with no distinct language. Muslims, Jews, and others each have greetings that communicates their vision for the world. But whatever happened to a distinctly Christian salutation? I am not asking to restore King James English to letter writing; those days are behind us. But I am asking for some type of formality in exchanges and greetings. Christians can replace “bye” with “The Lord bless you.” They can greet each other with “The Lord be with you” instead of “How are you?”

The type of salutation we use in our worship service is actually a reflection of the common greeting of the Church in their day-to-day activities. It is taken from Ruth four where Boaz greets his workers with “The Lord be with you.” It is not merely reserved for the formal gathering. We use it also in our “passing of the peace” during the Eucharistic meal. But why can we not take it a step further and use it in e-mail exchanges or personal greetings? You can set up your signature on Gmail with something like “The Lord be with you” at the end of every e-mail. Rosenstack-Huessy says that greetings orient the speaker and hearer to the same environment. Christians need to be oriented to the same peace often.

This may seem trivial to some, but I argue that for Christendom to succeed we need to restore a Christian grammar to our day-to-day conversation and interactions. Colossians says that our speech needs to be seasoned with salt. Part of this saltiness means re-orienting ourselves with a distinct vocabulary. The apostle Paul was naturally fond of this type of interaction. He began most of his letters with a salutation. For Paul, when Christians meet or engage one another they are not meeting on neutral territory, they are meeting on holy ground. They are image-bearers engaging one another in common discourse; common, but also sacred. Everything we say and do as Christians carry a sacredness to it. This sacredness, I believe, needs to be translated into our day to day greetings and interactions.

Parents can begin very early to cultivate these practices with their little ones. They can greet them in the morning with peace and put them in bed with God’s peace.

We need to consider carefully the implications of what we say and how we say it. God has given us some principles on how our speech is to be carried out. As ambassadors, we have an opportunity to greet one another in a love that binds us together and in a union that cannot be severed. Peace be with you.

The Eucharist

The Eucharist

I have been reading through Alexander Schmemann’s The EucharistThe book is just a delightful read through the lens of Schmemann’s “unorthodox” view of Eastern Orthodoxy. At one time he takes to task the Orthodox Church for having separated the priest from the people. He argues that certain priests have become like soldiers keeping the people from participating in the assembly. At another time he argues that the Church serves to unite the people of God, not divide; a concern Schmemann has with the prevailing “clericalism.”

Schmemann writes with a somewhat evangelical zeal against his own, which is reason for the intense distaste “pure” orthodox converts have for him. But the most delightful part is when he delves into the nature of the Church. He observes that we come to worship not for individual prayer, but to “assemble together as the Church.” The assembly itself is a holy constitution, and in that the first liturgical act.

In his chapter on The Sacrament of the Assembly, Schmemann deals with the holy office of the minister (priest). He observes that the minister wears white because it is the garment of the baptized. By wearing white he is representing all the baptized in the community. When we enter into the house of God we are entering “clothed in the garments of new creation.”

John Knox on Baptism

John Knox on Baptism

The Reformed world spins in all sorts of un-sacramental circles. In a recent post dealing with the Federal Vision, one writer observed that baptism does nothing to the recipient, but to point him to something greater. A well-known Reformed thinker has begun to use the phrase “baptism brings an individual into the shadow of the covenant.” All of this language serves to stay away from what many in the Reformed tradition, even the majority of reformational confessions have stated all along, namely that baptism accomplishes something. It is effectual. Baptism effectually brings an individual into a corporate reality. That reality brings then various benefits and blessings to the recipient. a

There are particular branches within the Reformed world that de-stresses the effectual nature of baptism. But one must also affirm without a shadow of a doubt that the Reformational expression has by and large emphasized the profound union that exists between baptism and covenant blessings. Baptism is not simply the exposure to blessings, but the experience of blessings.

John Knox, considered one of the fathers of Presbyterianism expresses this most powerfully in the Scots Confession of 1560:

We utterly condemn the vanity of those who affirm the sacraments to be nothing else than naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by Baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered and remitted, and also that in the Supper rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us that he becomes the very nourishment and food for our souls.

If Knox is to be used as a paragon of Presbyterian orthodoxy, then this statement will certainly appear frightening to those who have become accustomed to de-emphasizing the efficacy of the sacraments. ((Steve Wilkins offers some of these quotes here)) But yet these quotes can be multiplied.

If we are Reformed, then we need to come to terms with the high view of the sacraments that are prevalent in the historical Reformed faith. To act as if the early reformers imbibed some form of middle-of-the-road covenantalism is dishonest to history, and particularly to our Reformed forefathers.

  1. We could discuss paedocommunion here, but my point is a more general one  (back)
John Frame and the Definition of Theology

John Frame and the Definition of Theology

One of my most cherished moments in seminary was to be exposed to John Frame’s definition of theology. For Frame, theology was defined as “the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life.” a This definition is helpful because “Theology is thus freed from any false intellectualism or academicism. It is able to use scientific methods and academic knowledge where they are helpful, but it can also speak in nonacademic ways, as Scripture itself does – exhorting, questioning, telling parables, fashioning allegories and poems and proverbs and songs, expressing love, joy, patience . . . the list is without limit.”

I have since used this definition again and again and have learned to appreciate it even more as a pastor. Contrary to pietism, the Spirit does not implant in us an application, rather theology is applicable and needs to be made applicable by pastors and parishioners. It is also freeing to consider this definition in light of the theological illiteracy in our day. Certainly we wish to see the church grow in biblical knowledge, but this definition means that a pastor can instruct even the newest convert in the way he ought to live.

Frame’s definition accentuates the pastoral task in that it calls pastors to ask consistently How Now Shall We Then Live? In this sense, as Frame has argued elsewhere, unless theology is practically applied it has not become true theology. On the other hand, the one doing theology must first understand it before applying it. We have seen our share of faulty applications in the realm of the home and the church. Therefore, to properly grasp this definition one needs to be familiar with theology. David’s battle with Goliath was more than a remarkable example for how we can overcome difficulties in our lives, but also how God can use the weak to defeat the strong, and how a nation needs to put their trust in God, rather than chariots. There are individual and corporate obligations involved in that simple narrative.

Theology prepares us to ascend with our Lord, and in that reign we can learn to apply this rulership in all areas of life.

Another dimension to this conversation is that in applying our theology we become ambassadors for our theology. When our lives are poorly lived out we do shame to our theology. When sins are left un-confessed we are asserting that our theology does not have an answer for sin, or that it is flexible toward certain sins.  Theology needs to be lived out consistently, and when it is not, we need to confess that is has not been consistent.

Theology is life and life is theological.

  1. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 81.  (back)
Eucharistic Meditation on Chaos and Order

Eucharistic Meditation on Chaos and Order

We live in a day of chaos. Paul never intended for the Christian to live in this way. For Paul, thanksgiving was central to the Christian expectation. Thanksgiving arranged the world in an orderly fashion. The good life was a life of gratitude. And such opportunity for thanksgiving is given to us in this meal. As Irenaeus once wrote: “where the Church is, there is the Holy Spirit and the fullness of grace.” a In this gathering, we taste of the fullness of grace as we commune with one another and give thanks to the God from whom all blessings flow.

  1. Quoted in The Eucharist by Alexader Schmemann, 10.  (back)
Lots of Resources for Psalm-Singing (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs)

Lots of Resources for Psalm-Singing (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs)

My article entitled 10 Reasons Why You Should Sing the Psalms received a lot of attention and several days later it is still on the front page of The Christian Post. I am grateful for all the e-mails I received from pastors and parishioners alike seeking to benefit from the psalms for their own spiritual edification and the maturation of their own congregation.

In order to provide those resources to a broader audience, I will list many of them here and hope to update them occasionally.

I’d encourage you to visit the Genevan Psalter website. It will provide music and lyrics and a host of links to articles on the Genevan Psalter. This is my favorite Psalter.

You may also wish to visit this site, which will give you some ideas and a general introduction to psalm singing.

Another way to benefit from sung psalms is to simply start listening to psalms on your ipod or computer. For a more contemporary rendition of the Psalms, this CD by Greg Wilbur with Psalms and Hymns published by Ligonier is quite good. Nathan Clark George has done some beautiful versions of the Psalms with guitar accompaniments.

If you want to listen to some beautiful Scottish Psalmody, go here on Groove Shark.

One indispensable selection of psalms put into music is from a dear brother, Jamie Soles ( a CREC elder). Jamie has a wonderful gift of bringing psalms into easy and memorable tunes for children, but I confess I listen to them myself often.A great hymnal to get you started is Psalms for Singing. You can find audio samples on-line. You can also purchase the Cantus Christi, which is a Psalter-Hymnal. The Cantus includes about 75 psalms of the 150 (with several chants).  If you would like to hear some of the psalms sung and harmonized, you can purchase this CD. You can also find samples of some of the Psalms on the Cantus Christi:

Psalm 117 – Youtube

Psalm 98 – Youtube (Christ Church, Moscow, ID)

Psalm 148, Psalm-Roar – Youtube

Psalm 42, Audio Only (sung at Providence)

Psalm 45, taught and sung at Providence

Psalm 22 (audio only, Psalm-Roar)

Psalm 122 (Youtube, Christ Church)

Finally, for an award-winning website with more information on the Psalms and psalm-singing than you will ever need has been compiled by the saints of Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham, AL.  called The Psalm Project.

NOTE: If you find any additional resources, please let me know.


New Posts

New Posts

The Christian Post was kind to publish my article “10 Reasons to Sing the Psalms.” I have since received several e-mail from folks around the country inquiring about how to go about singing the psalms. I am pleased to see a major evangelical on-line presence publishing such a piece.

Over at the Kuyperian Commentary’s beautiful new website, I have a new article entitled “Is the Christian Divorce Rate Really 50%?” Go ahead and take a look. And if you have not already done so, please subscribe to receive updates daily.

Mission and the World; opening introduction for our Lord’s Day Service

Mission and the World; opening introduction for our Lord’s Day Service

Grace, mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are at a unique stage in history; a stage when the world is now being exposed to the Gospel as fast as hitting the refresh button on your computer screen. We have today in our congregation someone who is developing software to facilitate the job of Bible translation, or as I call it “the modern gift of tongues.”

We have with us our speaker this morning, Rev. Blake Purcell, who has invested his life in the training and equipping of God’s people and the proclaiming of the reign of King Jesus in Eurasia, and who has served with zeal in what the Apostle Paul calls the “defense and confirmation of the Gospel.”

This morning we have the opportunity in worship, Sunday School, and later this evening to expand our world to see what God is doing in the world.

We have the opportunity to hear what one missiologist referred to as the “social continuation of the incarnation;” the work of the gospel going forth and continuing what began at Pentecost.

I pray that you will have ears to hear Pastor Blake Purcell, but beyond that, to be caught up into the vision of the kingdom of God.

Let us pray:

Father, Son, and Spirit, apart from your work, we are all dead and incapable of uttering an intelligible word, but by your grace you have enabled us to speak words of wisdom; words of gospel transformation; words of life. Hear us when we pray and beseech you to change the hearts of the lost and bring them into your everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm-Roar, Psalm 40, Traditional Irish Melody (Fingal)

Psalm-Roar, Psalm 40, Traditional Irish Melody (Fingal)

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” (Psalm 40:16 ESV)

Introduction to Psalm-Roar

Introduction to Psalm-Roar

The Lord be with you.

The Church has sung the psalms for the first 1,800 years of her existence, but by the end of the 19th century it had become largely absent in churches. In the last forty years there has been a powerful movement that has sought to restore the Psalter to a place of honor once again in the body of Christ.

What we are doing tonight is joining many others in this psalm-revival and making our communities more aware of what it means to sing God’s 150 spiritual songs.

This evening, we have 11 selections. These psalms vary from lament and exaltation, and all point to and portray Jesus Christ, who is our Shepherd and in Him we will not want.

The tunes used tonight are simple tunes. The pianist will play through each of them before we sing them, which will provide us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with them in case you have not sung these before. We hope you enjoy these psalms, and we pray God will be delighted with our praise.

Let us pray:

O God of heaven, you have called us out darkness into the kingdom of light; and in this light we find your songs to heal and restore our weary souls. Be pleased with our singing and bring down principalities and power through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.