Homily

Wedding Homily for Josh and Alice


 
Martin Luther famously said:

There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage.[1]

Luther and Katie’s marriage is legendary.[2] Their marriage is considered the most studied marriage in church history. But what so unique about brother Martin’s marriage? It certainly wasn’t a flawless one, but what was flawless was their union to their Lord. Marriage was not an act of idolatry for Luther; it was an act of worship. Luther believed that marriage was a profound way man and woman expressed their worship of their God.

In every act of communion and co-regency; love and life—marriage is a couple’s environment to train themselves as worship partners in the kingdom of God.

Josh and Alice, marriage is worship; you are forming today a liturgical bond. Marriage is the environment where grace is shown, friendship is strengthened, communion is built, love is shared, and God is adored. In other words, marriage is the environment most fit for a man and a woman to show the world what worship looks like.

This ceremony grounds itself in adoration; because if God is not adored in this institution, this entire mission called marriage has little hope of survival.

And that is why you are here: because you know your mission. You know that marriage from the moment you are declared husband and wife to the end of your days is an institution grounded in worship.

But if marriage is worship, how is this worship practiced? There are many paradigms for worship, but none so concise and splendid as the paradigm of worship itself given to us in Leviticus, the Psalter, and the Book of Revelation.

In the beginning, God calls creation to his presence. He creates it and places under his care. He does the same with you. He creates this relationship and brings it under his care in this ceremony. God has brought you, Josh and Alice, into this sacred ceremony. He has brought you together into this place to make vows before a host of witnesses. He has brought you here to prepare your hearts for worship. This preparation is the culmination of counseling and much wisdom that has imparted to you before this moment and all your days.

But participation in this ceremony requires more than your presence. It requires your confession. Yes, your confession as you enter into this liturgy is one that admits the reality that both of you are in desperate need of your Lord Jesus Christ. You are in desperate need of a Gospel that gives you life! Confess to one another your dependence on the Father as your host, on the Son as your Lord, and on the Spirit as your guide. You make this confession today so you may walk with a pure heart and a humble voice together to the throne of grace the rest of your days.

After being humbled by God, you now walk together to hear the Word proclaimed to you. This word, which I proclaim to you now, is a reminder that your life from now on must always be under the authority of the Word of God. You need to be conquered by it daily; you need to be saturated by its treasures consistently, and you need to be reminded of its truth perpetually. Your song must be the song of the psalmist: “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word!”

The part about worship that is so fascinating is that it is not merely about passive members. You will in a few moments have an opportunity to affirm your deepest longing to make this life of worship together a reality in sickness and health till death. But don’t say these vows only today, repeat them again and again. As C.S. Lewis once said: “Marriage is maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.” Practice worship together in word and deed.

Now, this whole worship experience you are embarking comes to a joyful moment–as there will be thousands throughout your life–when there is food, communion, kisses, wine, and rejoicing. These moments of joy need to be recorded in your memories, so that throughout your life when enemies—however great or small surround you–you will have no doubt that there is a table prepared for you by your gracious Lord.

Now, I know both of you are eager to get this celebration going, but you know that the last element that is missing is your commissioning as you—especially the Bride–will recess in splendor and might at the end of this ceremony.

So as this worship continues, Josh and Alice, go, therefore. Practice worship. Make it a habit. Disciple one another. Remember your baptisms. And the God of all peace will renew you by his grace.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship .., https://www.pinterest.com/misssaralynn11/there-is-no-more-lovely-friendly-and-ch (accessed December 30, 2016).

[2] In Luther’s 54 volumes of theology, he spoke of “marriage” and “matrimony” approximately 2,000 times. To put it simply, Martin Luther, the great Reformer, reflected on marriage more than any other theme in theology.

Lent, Ligon Duncan, and Legalism

Lent, Ligon Duncan, and Legalism

Collin Hansen wrote an article for the Gospel Coalition entitled Should You Cancel Good Friday? which has brought to the attention of many a conversation they have never had before. What is Lent? Why celebrate it?

As a committed Protestant, I am committed to the Church Calendar, not because I want to be a slave to it, but because I am aware of its inevitability. We all follow some calendar. The question is which calendar? I ask that question because Protestantism is grounded in a Trinitarian view of the world. In its best expression it does not isolate ideas; it brings ideas together to form a coherent system.

I suggest that Lent is highly Trinitarian. As the Trinity is a communion of love, so Lent provides a means to express that love to one another in the community. Where sins are confronted and battled, there you find a vigorous Trinitarian community and vision. Lent is service to the community by giving us a season of determined battle against sin for the sake of our neighbors.

It offers a vision of history that undergirds the biblical history and that reflects the normal routines, liturgies, and rituals of human beings. Lent is a form of restructuring our lives. All Christians need a re-structuring of order in their own lives. All Christians need to re-balance and re-form areas where there is disproportionate indifference. We all undergo a Psalmic journey of lamentation and feasting. Lent draws us into this journey.

In essence, Lent reveals the God who suffers in the Person of Jesus Christ. God’s image-bearers are formed from the dust of a fallen Adam to the glorification of the risen Final Adam. To disconnect Lent from the Church Calendar is to disparage history.

It is true we live in the age of an ascended Lord, but this same Lord guides a Church that is still broken, suffering, and healing from brokenness and suffering again and again. The removal of Lent is to proclaim an over-realized eschatology.

It is true that Lent can be abused, and history teaches us that it has. But it is also true, as Luther so memorably stated, “the abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.” So if Lent can be proven to be profitable, then is there a legitimate way to benefit from it without falling into some its former abuses. Protestant Christians are not bound by Romish structures of food or rituals. We use wisdom in forming healthy habits for a Church and individuals while not binding the Church or the individual to a particular habit.

Lent and Wilderness

Lent teaches us that Satan’s gifts are easy to master. They come with first grade instruction manuals. They are made to be mastered quickly and enjoyed rapidly (fornication, drugs, alcohol; various temptations). God’s gifts are a little harder to master. They require self-control and patience. They anticipate spiritual growth; they demand a kingly attitude to grasp kingly wisdom. God’s instructions mean you have to seek others in the community to understand them properly. You have to exercise and express a theology of patience built into a theology of blessings.

In the wilderness, a garden stripped of colors, fruit, and water, Jesus faced the devil again in a re-match. He knew well that temptation had a triumphant history of subtly winning arguments. Jesus wasted no time and rebuked temptation. just like He would do with the demons and the demonic-like religious teachers of the day.

We are not to sit in temptation’s classroom. God already said we are to flee it; to rebuke it with the only source of authority that is permanent and stamped with divine truth.

The Church finds herself in a wilderness scenario. She is stripped of her former glory. But she is destined to journey from glory to glory like her Lord and Master. As in Luke four, we need to sit in Yahweh’s school house. We need to be instructed by the two-edged sword that muzzles the Tempter and tells him to not come back again. He is not welcome and neither are his offers.

Lent offers us a 40 day class on temptations and the glories and rewards of resisting it.

But Why 40 Days?

Lent follows the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. His fasting for 40 days speaks to the evil and the hardness of heart of the Israelites who succumbed to the Serpent’s whispers. So as the Church walks with Jesus from wilderness to Golgotha she re-lives the messianic journey. The 40 days are symbolic for that wilderness testing, and as a result it is chronologically set before the Great Paschal Feast, commonly referred to as Easter.

Should Lent be Observed?

Ligon Duncan and others in the Southern Presbyterian tradition argue that Lent has a history based on merit. Lent was a way to earn something. The Reformation fixed this soteriological error, and therefore Lent is no longer to be observed.

Duncan and others also go on to say that celebrating Easter and Christmas offer no such harm (he also believes that a National Holiday like Thanksgiving is also a uniquely American holiday to be celebrated). There is no doubt Easter and Christmas, and even Thanksgiving–to a lesser degree–offer wonderful benefits. But the question and the opening presupposition is that Lent is not biblical therefore it should not be practiced in the Church. If that is the case, then the question is not whether one day (or Season) is more beneficial than the other, but rather is it explicitly stated in the Bible or not? If the “explicit reference” argument is used, then Duncan will have to conclude that this is faulty reasoning.

I concur with Vance Freeman that “each of his (Duncan’s) reasons for not observing Lent are undercut by the observance of Christmas and Easter.” Mr. Freeman also concludes:

The biggest threat to Christianity today is not the church in Rome, or that Americans are prone to elevate traditional Christian rituals, like Lent, over discipleship. The biggest threat to the church is that our rituals are increasingly only secular ones. We are Americans before we are Christians. Super Bowl Sunday not only competes with the Lord’s Day, it dominants it. And when we relegate the Christian life to a mere facet of our American lives we fall into Moral Therapeutic Deism.

The formation of godly habits is the issue at hand. In other words, is there an adequate time of the year where the Church should have an explicit focus on the cross of Jesus and how that cross must shape our understanding of sin? Is there room for setting aside a season for a cruciform hermeneutic? I believe there is.

As Peter Leithart so ably summarizes:

Lent is a season for taking stock and cleaning house, a time of self-examination, confession and repentance.  But we need to remind ourselves constantly what true repentance looks like.  “Giving up” something for Lent is fine, but you keep Lent best by making war on all the evil habits and sinful desires that prevent you from running the race with patience.

If this is true, then Lent serves an enormously important role in the life of the Christian. Naturally, to quote Luther’s first thesis, “the Christian life is a life of daily repentance.” A faithful understanding of the Lord’s Service provides that for us weekly. However, an extended period where our sins are deeply brought to our attention by the preaching of the Word and prayer (and fasting) are regularly considered, practiced and meditated upon can provide great benefits for all Christians on each Lord’s Day and throughout the week.

The legalism concern is legitimate. We are all tempted to fall into this trap, but it does not have to be so. If we view Lent as a time to additionally focus our attention on mortifying our sins and killing those habits that so easily entangle us, we can then consider the cross in light of the resurrection, not apart from it. If we do so, Lent will become legalism’s greatest enemy and repentance’s best friend.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil

Satan’s gifts are easy to master. They come with first grade instruction manuals. They are made to be mastered quickly and enjoyed rapidly (sex, drugs, alcohol; various temptations). God’s gifts are a little harder to master. They demand self-control and patience. They demand spiritual growth; they demand kingly attitude to grasp kingly wisdom. God’s instructions means you have to seek others in the community to understand them properly.

Howard Hendricks,1924-2013

.The famed professor of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks, died after serving at DTS for more than 60 years. You can hear his last sermon entitled the Ultimate Final.

Among his many publications, Wikipedia lists the following:

Books

Journal Articles

  • “Reaping the Rewards of Senior Ministry.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 157 is 628, 2000. 387-396.
  • “Me, Myself, and My Tomorrows.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 157 is 627, 2000. 259-270.
  • “Rethinking Retirement.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 157 is 626, 2000. 131-140.
  • “The Other Side of the Mountain.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 157 is 625, 2000. 3-14.
  • “Lord, Change My Children’s Father.” Fundamentalist Journal vol 5 is 2, 1986. 51-52.
  • “A Shirt for Timmy : Teaching Children to Pray.” Fundamentalist Journal vol 4 is 11, 1985. 53-54.
  • “The Art of Family Living.” Fundamentalist Journal vol 3 is 9, 1984. 39-41.
  • “Preparing Young People for Christian Marriage.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 128 is , 1971. 245-262.
  • “Review of ‘Leading a Church School.'” Christianity Today vol 13 is , 1969. 31-32.

Memorial Service for Chuck Colson: Dr.Timothy George

I had the great joy of meeting Dr. George in a presbytery meeting some months ago. A close friend of Chuck Colson, Dr. George delivered this moving homily.

Memorial Service Homily

The Death of Death in the Resurrection

A Memorial Service Homily

Friends, in the beginning of time, God sang the world into existence. When there was chaos, darkness, and void, the Spirit of God hovered over creation, the Word came forth as light, and creation began to breathe for the first time. Creation’s first breath was a breath of praise to Yahweh her Creator. Yahweh looked at everything He had created and He said with great delight: “It is Very Good!”

When God created mankind, He knew that His image-bearers were made for glory and honor, and beauty for they would be His holy representatives on earth. They would articulate and express praise, the very thing they were designed to do. Man was created in God’s image not for self-exaltation, but to declare the praises of His Creator. But that loud song of praise in the garden began to fade in Genesis 3. Man became mute. Creation began to revert to its incomplete beginning. But God said: “This will not be!” And He promised that the Great Seed of the woman would become the Great Crusher of evil. He promised that the Word would become flesh and that He would dwell among mankind. To this end the Creator becomes a part of creation; the upholder of the entire universe takes on the grief of humanity.  He now weeps and mourns over death, even the death of a friend named Lazarus. Like Jesus, we do not celebrate death, we mourn in death. We grieve over death, as Jesus grieved. Death is the sting that leaves an indelible mark in the human soul. We grieve today because death overcame a righteous saint who was united to Christ.

And yet…even in the midst of death, Jesus declares: “I am the resurrection and the life!” Death is not the center piece of the furniture of creation. Death lies as a visible piece, but not the central piece. Death, the last enemy exists by God’s command, but it is there in the great house of creation, that death is overcome by the brightness of the King of Life. All things are under His sovereign control. He commands the first breath and the last breath.  He directs and guides the steps of a righteous man, so in the end the Psalmist declares, “Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of his saints.” It was Yahweh who brought life and it is Yahweh who concludes life. But for the saint of God, in Christ, death is not a portal to more death. In Christ, death is a portal to more life.

The promise of redemption, victory, restoration and life is fulfilled when the Son of God stepped on death and crushed it. Helplessly, death looked up only to see the mighty and powerful Son of God come crashing down upon it, and to hear Him declaring with a victory chant, “Where is now your sting; and where is now your victory?” The good news of the Gospel is that this promise of the victorious Christ and His resurrection is our promise if we believe in the eternal Son of God.

For the saint, death is not pointless or fruitless. The life of the saint is a witness and evidence that living is only true living in Christ and dying is only true dying in Christ. The death of the saint is the sure proclamation of the gospel to those who do not believe, because dying in Christ is salvation, but apart from trusting in the risen Lord, death is condemnation. The death of a saint becomes a sure sign that death is dead in the resurrection because Christ has conquered death by overcoming the grave; but it is also a sure sign that at the end of human history, the world will know that death has sung its last refrain, and life will sing a new song forever. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him; may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead. Amen.