The Freedom of Liturgy

Advertisements

Well, Cut Me Up and Place Me on the Altar!

Leviticus 1:3-13

 1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

 3“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

 5Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

10“If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish, 11 and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 12And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, 13but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

In the Levitical sacrifice (Leviticus 1:1-13), particularly the Ascension Offering (incorrectly translated as “Whole Burnt Offering”) the animal was cut up into pieces and arranged a specific way on the altar. Head first was placed on the altar, then after washing, the body second. Now interestingly this corresponds to the pattern of resurrection as recorded for us in the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:23), Christ first (who is the head), and then us, only after we (the body) have received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

As interesting as that is, I want to focus on something a bit more pastoral.

Hebrews 4:12 says,

12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

I believe that what this is alluding to is the cutting up of the Ascension offering. The Ascension offering represented the believer’s whole (total) dedication and complete surrender to God. The sacrificer understood that it was himself, in a symbolic way, being cut up into pieces and arranged on the altar and being consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit and sent up as smoke into the presence of God.

What the author of Hebrews is saying here is, that the knife, or the sword that was used to cut apart the Ascension Offering, now in the New Covenant is to be understood as the Word of God. It is the sword of the Spirit which “cuts us up into pieces”, dividing even our very soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerns even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. It is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit that the minister is to wield on Sunday Mornings in order to “cut up God’s people” and “present them as a living sacrifice to God” “which is our spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

The worshiper then, is to prepare his heart and soul for the cutting that is about to take place. When the Word of God is read, and sang, and preached, and taught, we are all supposed to submit ourselves to the sharp blade of the sword of the Spirit, completely dedicating ourselves to God. We are to heed the word and search our hearts and see where we have fallen short in our duty, and see where we have sinned, and see where we need correction. And in so doing, we repent, and rededicate ourselves to God, being forgiven of our sins.

Let us then with all due diligence place ourselves on the altar, and present our minds  and bodies, souls and spirits, wholly to God, subjecting ourselves to that blade which is sharper than any two edged sword, or flaying knife. For then we make ourselves ready to be consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit on the altar of our hearts and become a sweet smelling savor to our Lord.re his heart and soul for the cutting that is about to take place. When the Word of God is read, and sang, and preached, and taught, we are all supposed to submit ourselves to the sharp blade of the sword of the Spirit, completely dedicating ourselves to God. We are to heed the word and search our hearts and see where we have fallen short in our duty, and see where we have sinned, and see where we need correction. And in so doing, we repent, and rededicate ourselves to God, being forgiven of our sins. Only then can we ascend into the throne room of God as a sweet smelling aroma. If we reject the sharp cutting blade of God’s sword, and by so doing reject the Holy Spirit of God, we will be found to be a sacrifice which is a stench in God’s nostrils.


People Are Good

I hi-jacked this article from Mike Bull’s Blog. It was too good to leave in only one place.

abrahambows

Why People are Good: or Why Idolatry is Adultery

“So [Abraham] lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground…” Genesis 18:2

“Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth.” Genesis 23:7

I’ve finally gotten around to doing the post that was to follow Stuff Is Good.

In his little torpedo of a book, The Liturgy Trap, James Jordan gives a definition of idolatry that is worth the price of the book. Firstly, it is natural that the de-eschatologised churches, (the ones that think they need no death-and-resurrections) contain icons. A church that has already arrived [1] must be able to present the unseen as already-seen:

…seeing God is a good thing, but it is not for now. God tells us not to try and do it until He is ready to let us. We find exactly the same thing in Genesis 1-3, where God said that every tree would be for Adam and Eve to eat, and every tree in the garden is said to be good for food. Thus, the prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge was temporary. [2] Adam and Eve were to develop patience by responding to God’s “NO.” By eating the fruit, they rejected God’s plan for growth and development, and became corrupt. Similarly, sex is good, but we are not to engage in it until we are married.

Now, seeing God face to face is a good thing, and if we are faithful, we shall enjoy the “beatific vision” in the resurrection. But God has clearly and unmistakably said that we are not to attempt to see Him in this world…

God strictly forbids any attempt to make a “form” that connects to Him visually. [3] God will let us see Him when He is ready, and when we are. To set up an icon and say that this gives us a visual revelation of God or of some dimension of God’s heavenly existence is to jump the gun…

We are to be satisfied with the Word because the Word is ultimate. God is Word, but He is not visible. What we shall see is God’s voluntary self-presentation, not God Himself. But God’s Word is not just His voluntary self-representation: it is God Himself. Thus, the visual is always secondary. To insist on the visual is to despise God’s Word, and thus to despise God. Accordingly, those who set up images are said to “hate” God, which means to treat Him practically as second behind something else…

…those who break the Second Word by indulging in visual worship have proven impatient. They have rejected personal maturity, and have destroyed their posterity. But the third and fourth generation, their seed will have become so corrupt that some kind of new Flood will be necessary. Thus, there can be little or no personal or cultural maturity apart from the strict keeping of the Second Word.

This is related to Peter Leithart’s observation that the Spirit brings the saints an awareness of new plunder—people are precious possessions instead of things. [4] The process of death and resurrection brings an awareness of what is truly valuable. Even godless Hollywood movies tell us that on a personal level: ie. some tragedy brings wisdom and a new appreciation of family. So, we should not be bowing to idols, but we should be bowing—to each other:

Jesus said: “It is to your advantage that I go away” (John 16:7). Jesus then explained that the Spirit would come, and verses 8-15 speak of the Spirit’s work in exclusively non-visual terms… At the ascension, we are expressly told that “a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). This removal from sight was followed by the coming of the Spirit. [5]

All of this makes it clear that there is nothing to look at and nothing to bow down to in worship. We are living in an eschatological tension. The real absence of Christ makes us yearn for Him, and gives us something to look forward to. It is a serious mistake to jump the gun by filling the Church with icons that supposedly give a philosophically-realistic look into heaven. It is a serious mistake to pervert the meal into something to look at. It is a serious mistake to say Jesus is as this or that point in the room and bow down to His invisible presence. It is very important that we refuse to bow toward anything in worship…

The content of our worship is only visual at one point: when we are visually aware of one another, aware of the gathered community. Worship in the particular sense only takes place when two or three at least are gathered together… Human beings might be called the visible words of God, though perhaps “fleshly words” might be better. We are words in the sentences of the Divine Book of the Kingdom… The Lord’s Supper is not a visible word but an edible one. Baptism is not a visible word but a tangible one. The only “visible words” are human beings, the images of God made after the likeness of the Word of God Himself. In other words, the only thing to look at in worship is other people.

It certainly is appropriate in worship for the pastor to greet the congregation by bowing to them and saying “The Lord be with you.” In this way, the pastor honours the image of God, the visible words of God, thos he is to serve. Then the congregation should bow to the pastor, saying “And also with you.” Nothing else should be bowed to, however, since nothing else is the visible word of God, the special image of God.

Icon worship replaces the true Bride for a false one:

…iconic worship tends against the development of the community. When we hear the Word of God, someone else must read it aloud to us. This creates a community of at least two people. Icon worship, however, is shrine worship. Thus, both the cathedrals and the lands of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are full of shrines (what the Bible calls “high places”) where people go and talk to saints, who of course never talk back. Such people can never move beyond their own preconceived notions, because their worship involves no confrontation with the challenges of the Word mediated through other living, speaking people.

“When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:29)

“But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’” (Romans 11:4)

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

__________________________________________________
[1] See Revived, Not Arrived.
[2] See Touch Not, Taste Not, Handle Not.
[3] See Graven Words.
[4] Plunder is always Step 5 in the Bible Matrix. See Vile Bodies or Bright Young Things. See also The Glory Are We.
[5] On the parallel between Moses’ and Christ’s ascension from sight, and the idolatry that followed see We Don’t Know What’s Become of Him.