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Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Agnus Dei (page 1 of 2)

July 14, 2019 — Agnus Dei

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Today’s Bible reading

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”

They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

He said to them, “Come and see.”

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). – John 1:35-41

 More thoughts for meditation

The Mass in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach is a musical setting of the complete Ordinary of the Latin Mass (“ordinary” means the parts of the liturgy that stay the same every day). Bach’s Mass was never performed in its entirety during his lifetime.

If you read his entry on Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body (July 28), you’ll be reminded that much of Bach’s genius was unappreciated during his lifetime, yet he persisted in offering it. The first documented complete performance of the B Minor Mass took place in 1859 after Bach was “rediscovered.” Since the nineteenth century it has been widely considered one of the greatest compositions in musical history, and today it is frequently performed and recorded.

The work was one of Bach’s last compositions, not completed until 1749, the year before his death. Some say it represents the consecration of a whole life. It was started in 1733 and was not finished for 26 years, after Bach had already gone blind. It is a monumental work containing a synthesis of every stylistic and technical contribution the Cantor of Leipzig made to music. It is also a striking spiritual mixture of the Catholic glorification of and the Lutheran cult of the cross

The “Agnus Dei” was one of the last portions to be added to the Mass Ordinary in the 700’s. It comes from John 1:29 and is often used during communion. The priest again uses the phrase “Lamb of God” when displaying the consecrated Host (or the Host and Chalice) to the people before giving them Holy Communion. He says: “Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt” (Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb).

As you listen, let that phrase be lifted by Bach’s faithful, heartfelt expression of genius. The solo is such an interesting tune, it could be distracting. Maybe the second time you hear it you can feel the mournful complexity and the confident yearning of asking the wounded Lamb for mercy. If you read music, you can be part of the choir!

 Suggestions for action

All the talk of the Book of Revelation this week brings up the subject of judgment and hell. Here is a quote from one of our favorites books: Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace.  In that book Volf reflects on Revelation 19 and helps us sort out  the apparent dichotomy between the God who loves us enough to die for us and the God who will judge us on the last day — the Lamb on the throne.

“The Anabaptist tradition, consistently the most pacifist tradition in the history of the Christian church, has traditionally had no hesitation about speaking of God’s wrath and judgment, and with good reasons. There is no trace of this nonindignant God in the biblical texts, be it Old Testament or New Testament, be it Jesus of Nazareth or John of Patmos. The evildoers who “eat up my people as they eat bread,” says the Psalmist in God’s name, will be put “in great terror” (Psalm 14:5). Why terror? Why not simply reproach? Even better. why not reasoning together? Why not just display “suffering love?” Because the evildoers “are corrupt” and “they do abominable deeds” v.1); they have “gone astray,” they are “perverse” (v. 3). God will judge not because God gives people what they deserve, but because some people refuse to receive what no one deserves; if evildoers experience God’s terror, it will not be because they have done evil, but because they have resisted to the end the powerful lure of the open arms of the crucified Messiah.

If we accept the stubborn irredeemability of some people, do we not end up with an irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of Christian faith? Here the “crucified Messiah” with arms outstretched embracing the “vilest sinner,” there the Rider on the white horse with a sharp sword coming from his mouth to strike down the hopelessly wicked? The patient love of God over against the fury of God’s wrath? Why this polarity? Not because the God of the cross is different from the God of the second coming. After all, the cross is not forgiveness pure and simple, but God’s setting aright the world of injustice and deception. The polarity is there because some human beings refuse to be “set aright.” Those who take divine suffering (the cross) as a display of divine weakness that condones the violator – draw upon themselves divine anger (the sword) that makes an end to their violence. The violence of the Rider on the white horse, I suggest, the symbolic portrayal of the final exclusion of everything that refuses to be redeemed by God’s suffering love. For the sake of the peace of God’s good creation, we can and must affirm this divine anger and this divine violence, while at the same time holding on to the hope that in the end, even the flag bearer will desert the army that desires to make war against the Lamb.

Should not a loving God be patient and keep luring the perpetrator into goodness? That is exactly what God does: God suffers the evildoers through history as God has suffered them on the cross. But how patient should God be? The day of reckoning must come, not because God is too eager to pull the trigger, but because every day of patience in a world of violence means more violence and every postponement of vindication means letting insult accompany injury. “How long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood?” cry out the souls under the altar to the Sovereign Lord (Rev. 6:10). We are uncomfortable with the response which calls on the souls “to rest a little longer until the number should be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed!” (v.11) But the response underlines that God’s patience is costly, not simply for God, but for the innocent. Wanting for the evildoers to reform means letting suffering continue….

Does not the Apocalypse paint a different picture of the end, the one more congruent with its violent imagery of the Rider’s conquest? Is not the last vision dominated by “the throne” (Rev. 22:1) from which earlier “flashes of lightning” and “peals of thunder” were coming (4:5)? Is not the nameless “one seated on the throne” (4:9, 5:1) a perfect projection of the ultimate and incontestable warrior-potentate? If this were so, the Apocalypse would simply mirror the violence of the imperial Rome it had set out to subvert. The most surprising thing about this book is that at the center of the throne, we find the sacrificed Lamb (cf. 5:6, 7:17, 22:1). At the very heart of “the One who sits on the throne” is the cross. The world to come is ruled by the one who on the cross took violence upon himself in order to conquer the enmity and embrace the enemy. The Lamb’s rule is legitimized not by the “sword” but by the “wounds”; the goal of its rule is not to subject but to make people “reign for ever and ever” (22:5). With the Lamb at the center of the throne, the distance between the “throne” and the “subjects” has collapsed in the embrace of the triune God.”

Within the church (particularly Circle of Hope, where we encourage such things) there are people who are resistant to truth, love, morality and service. Our patience with them leads to repentance. We must keep the Lamb on our throne. Our persistent embrace is the flash of lightning upon which we rely. The lure of our relational truth-being and truth-telling is crucial to any change the God-opponents might experience. We might long for “apocalypse now” when it comes to the persistent unbelievers and sin-dealers, but we are constrained to leave that to God’s timing. Let’s meet the end in God’s embrace, embracing. Consider how to embrace today.

If you lead worship among us, what is all this teaching you?

July 13, 2019 — Now behold the Lamb

Image result for scars of jesus

Today’s Bible reading

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:19-23

More thoughts for meditation

One of Kirk Franklin’s Instagram posts received more than 40,000 likes and hundreds of comments. It reads: “One of the reasons why I feel millennials are leaving the Church is because we showed them our scriptures without showing them our scars.” Franklin is worth about $8.5 million at this point, but he is also humble enough to have appeared with his wife on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss how he ended his pornography addiction in 2005. He shows his scars.

Today’s song is one of Franklin’s first well-known songs from 1995 with his choir The Family. This time, the Lamb of God has the distinct resemblance to our reading from Hebrews: the faithful High Priest who enters into sin for us. The “precious Lamb of God” is “born into sin.” Through his work which overcomes sin and death, we are invited to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

As the choir repeats the refrain, singers come up with their own testimonies of how the Lamb of God has entered into their own sin and saved them. We are drawn to have a connection right now: “Thank you! I stand right here is the midst of my tears and claim you to be the Lamb of God.” That is an appropriate response to the  Lamb who entered into our wounds. It is a direct application of today’s reading, isn’t it? “Approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The soloists are singing with assurance, announcing their transformation, washed in the pure water of their tears as well as their baptism.

Suggestions for action

Experience the truth and love of the song and use it for your own declaration of connection and salvation. There is a wonderful sense here, of being saved though scarred, victorious in the midst of suffering.

Now behold the Lamb
(Thank You) the Precious Lamb of God
Born into sin that I may live again
The Precious Lamb of God

Now behold the Lamb
The Precious Lamb of God
(Thank You) born into sin that I may live again
The Precious Lamb of God

Holy is the Lamb
The Precious Lamb of God
Why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know
The Precious Lamb of God

Holy is the Lamb
The Precious Lamb of God
Why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know
The Precious Lamb of God

Now behold the Lamb
The Precious Lamb of God
Born into sin that I may live again
He’s the precious Lamb of God

When I always didn’t do right
I went left, He told me to go right
But I’m standing right here
In the midst of my tears, Lord
I thank You to be the Lamb of God (Holy)

Thank You for the Lamb (thank You for the Lamb of God)
The Precious Lamb of God (You are the Lamb of God)
Because of Your grace
I can finish this race
The Precious Lamb of God (Lamb of God)

Even when I broke, broke Your heart
My sins tore us apart
But I’m standing right here
In the midst of my tears
I claim You to be the Lamb of God

New life can begin (yeah)
(You washed away all my sins)
For You washed away, washed away every one of my sins
(Whom the Son sets free)
Whom the Son sets free, is truly free indeed
I claim You to be the Lamb of God

Now behold the Lamb
The Precious Lamb of God
(Born into) born into sin that I may live again
The Precious Lamb of God

Oh oh oh
Oh oh oh

Why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know (never know)
(Why You love me so)
(Why You love me so)
(I’ll never know)
Why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know
(Lamb, I really never knew)
(I never knew, oh never knew)
(Never knew, no no no)
Why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know
The Precious Lamb of God

Oh oh oh
Oh oh oh
Oh oh oh

why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know (I shall never never never know)
The Precious Lamb of God

Woo!
(Praise Your Holy name, Jesus)
Woohoo!
(We praise Your name, Jesus)
You love me, Jesus
You died for me, Jesus
You shed your blood for me, Jesus on Calvary
Thank you for being born for me, Jesus
Thank You, Jesus
For lovin’ me so
Never never never know
For lovin’ me so, yeah
Thank You for Your blood yeah
Why You love me so, Lord
I shall never know
The Precious Lamb of God

If you lead us in worship, what does the Book of Hebrews and this song teach you?

July 12, 2019 — The victory of the Lamb

Related image

Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, c. 547.

Today’s Bible reading

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” – Revelation 7:9-12

More thoughts for meditation

We are back in the Pentecostal liturgy for today’s song. Kari Jobe’s Revelation Song is played like a statement of allegiance to wake up the world – a rebellion. This time there is jumping – walking and leaping and praising God like the healed man in the Temple that time.

We start with being called into the praise of God’s holiness. Then the team brings it down for a time for meditation on the name Jesus. At the mention of His name there is a magical moment: “Your name alone. Jesus!”  It is a moment for wonder, awestruck wonder. Jesus’ name is power, breath, and living water. We are entering the mystery. Then all heaven breaks loose: cacophony and quite a bit of jumping. These worship leaders are like a cheer-leading squad uniting people on the side of team Jesus.

The repeating theme of the song comes from Revelation 5. Again, we are invited into the scene. We are doing the word and claiming our place among the saved, gathered around the throne where the wounded lamb sits. We are privileged to enter in, regardless of our background, status, disability or emotional/psychological condition. Give it a try.

In 2004, Kari Jobe came into the Christian music spotlight with her performance of this song while she was still attending Christ for the Nations Institute – an innovative Bible College in Dallas. After graduation, Jobe accepted an invitation to serve as associate worship pastor at Gateway Church. Now she lives in Nashville with her new son, tours with her new album and runs online worship with her husband. They have become millionaires.

Suggestions for action

Listen to the song again and let it be a hope song. In Revelation 6, the impatient martyrs resting under the throne of God cried out for justice. In 7:4 the twelve tribes times twelve thousand people per tribe are suffering in battle with the powers of evil, but the seer hears the future being born. In verse 9 he looks and sees a vast international, multi-racial, multi-lingual throng of people so great that no one could count it. It is a bold hope that can see this future from a cave on Patmos where John has been exiled!

We’re patiently impatient. We’re suffering whether we are effectively in the battle or not. But the victory is coming. We are invited to look. In the middle of whatever you face, you are invited to look.

If you help to lead us in worship, what is Kari Jobe and the book of Revelation teaching you?

July 11, 2019 — Behold the Lamb of God

Image result for last supper tattoo

Today’s Bible reading

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” – John 6:52-58

More thoughts for meditation

The last “supper” became the title for the meal Jesus shared with his disciples, carefully noted in every gospel account and summarized as an ongoing observance by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul calls it the “Lord’s Supper” — in the King James Bible of 1611, at least, when light evening meals were called “supper” and the main meal of the day “dinner.” It is also called sitting at “the Lord’s table,” and sharing the “cup of blessing.” It comes to be generally named “communion” or the communion “ceremony/observance” in Protestant churches, since it is the central place where the presence of the Lord is experienced among his people. In the Catholic church it is often called the “Eucharist.” The term “eucharist” derives through Latin back to Greek as the word for “thanksgiving.” The prayer that begins the communion ceremony in the mass begins with “give thanks.” It is the center point of the “mass” (a term derived from the final words of the service: “Go” or “dismissed”).

Today’s song is a well-loved song from the Catholics in the 1980s. It is designed to be beautiful, comforting and peaceful. John’s call to “Behold the agnus Dei” is brought down to a meditative, heartfelt approach to the  elements as presented in the mass. Those who wish will be going up to receive the wafer, those having returned or waiting will be singing. Everyone will will be encouraged to receive the promises of today’s Bible reading. Those who eat will come to know his glory; “the one who eats this bread will live forever.” Imagine yourself participating as you listen. Let Jesus give himself to you.

Suggestions for action

Catholic children have been known to fear cannibalism when the bell rings and the elements are purportedly changed into the actual body of Christ.  But what is happening is a sincere attempt to not turn away from Jesus, as many do in John 6, when he calls us to eat and drink true food. Manna in the desert was a shadowy precursor, however miraculous. It passed into rot. But this manna will never rot in the earth like people who die. Many would like Jesus to just be a good teacher and maybe do a miracle here and there. But this unity in his life and victory over death is what he is actually present to offer. Do you want to sit down at his table? What are you telling your friends and children about Him?

If you lead us in worship, what about communion? Does this song teach you anything? You can find this song on the COH Music Table.

Today is Benedict of Nursia Day! Appreciate his practical innovation and influence at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

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