Archive for February, 2014

Illuminated or Informational Word?

February 16, 2014

Today my 6 year old daughter and I spent some time drawing. For inspiration I pulled out a book on illuminated manuscripts. We looked through pictures of Celtic knot borders, crazy twisted animals, and robed angels. It occurred to me as I flipped through the carpet pages and the various designs embedded and surrounding the text that there is something missing in modern Bibles.

Book of Kells

Book of Kells

There is a lost design element in our modern view of the Scriptures. Whereas the interpretations of the Scripture in previous hand lettered medieval manuscripts were done through color and image, a flare for mystery and highlighting the other worldliness of the Bible, our modern Bibles fill the margins with simply more words. In our thirst for knowledge we are more concerned with useful additional information and only find beauty in typesetting and page layout.

[Even the Genealogy of Christ was worth adding a full page flourish]
— Book of Kells —

Bibles are marketed by the number of notations and study helps or by the scholars behind said study guides. We name the Bibles after the name of the major note-maker (Scofield, Ryrie, Jeremiah, Dake, etc) or the theological mindset behind the features (Orthodox, Wesleyan, Reformation, Charismatic, etc.). We might even market it to a specific sect of believers (Singles, Women, African Americans, Recovering Addicts, etc.).

I love the old manuscripts because monks poured over these words with a different mindset. Their time to hand write each page, to use their talent to accentuate the text anonymously is evident. The biblical words were enough; their joy was to merely highlight it. Their pictures are not historically accurate and sometimes leave more questions than answers. They enveloped the text in mystery and mysterious contorted creatures keeping watch over the God-spell. They adored the word and simply adorned it.

One day I would like to work on a modern illuminated manuscript. I must begin first with the desire to learn to love the text just for what it is. We scholarly types have lowered adornment for a more educational, useful approach to crowding the text with more insight rather than highlight. I think the church today could use a little influx of more text and less opinion; of more embracing mystery and passively receiving the beauty therein. May we all learn in our busy and need-to-know lifestyle to stop and savor the story of our salvation. That is my desire, to see the vivid words of life anew, illuminated, adorned in beauty just as it is.

The 3 Venue Church

February 6, 2014

I believe that Christ and the Early Church set a great example of how worship should look like for the modern church. Many streams of thought in the post-modern era have focused on music, architecture and church ambiance. Some churches are about music, some focus on doing away with pews in order to facilitate a coffee house atmosphere. Many new churches are built without the traditional symbols of sanctuary and creating auditoriums with stages without many liturgical furnishings. The issue we face in honorable worship is the need to cover three needs: a sense of community and fellowship, a reverent God-centered act of divine reconciliation, and biblical teaching. Most churches try to bring all three under one roof for 90 minutes a week. While the intentions are well and good I am not sure that tweaking one building for one service will fulfill the problem that a fully faceted worship requires. I think that there are three types of church meeting venues in the Early Church and thus, three separate styles at play which combine all the aspects of traditional church and post-modern desire for intimate fellowship but in separate veins without distorting either one. These venues were Temple, Synagogue and House. (more…)

Manna, Meanies, Moses, & The Master of the Meal

February 1, 2014

In Exodus 16 the recently freed Israelites are beginning to complain. After a month and a half since their salvation from Egypt the wilderness rescue is becoming stale. Oh the glory of the day of darkness and the great rescue and baptism through the Red Sea were old news.

Image“we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full…you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” (Exodus 16:3)The Passover bread is gone and they come to Moses saying,

Predictably, the congregation blames the human leader. “Moses, get us bread, feed us, we are starving! Our pagan Egyptian masters were better than you!” We servants of God are easy targets and sometimes we forget to whom we are servants. Are we the congregation’s servant or God’s servant? We don’t live to serve the people what they order up, we serve The Lord and He says how, what, and, when we serve His people. It is easy to get rattled by the vocal riffraff. But hear the word of The Lord.

The very next verse Moses hears The Lord. That makes all the difference.Moses is then able to speak to the congregation reminding them of who is the true food dispenser.

“Your complaints are not against us but against The Lord.”  (Exodus 16:8)

Pastors, do not become hasty with the people, they have been fed from crock pots brimming with meat in the pagan world. Its a smorgasbord in the land of sin. Gluttony ran rampant in their previous walk. Now they are called to moderation and simplicity. Manna flakes doesn’t come in cool packaging and Super Bowl ads. The miraculous meal is basic, bland, and well, uncool, with a seriously short shelf life. Don’t think when they complain of the fare that they are complaining to the chef, for it is the supplier and their palette with which they are at odds. You are to be trustworthy in your job, but remember you job is not to rain manna, you just help them see where and how to gather. I know it is hard not to take it personally, but the one truly offended is the master and financier of the feast. Keep pointing the way, the desert air will eventually have them hunting either for the true sustenance from above or they will give up and return to their glutton-based life of sin. Friends, remember it is not the Pastor who you are to blame when you go away hungry on Sunday. We preachers declare where and when the manna will be, the manna given by God. Preachers direct you to the Living Bread. Our Father in Heaven provides it. Listen to the preacher for instructions, yes, lest you end up with a bunch of maggoty bread. But remember, you are fed by God and in the feeding I mean you are provided the opportunity to obtain it; it is your responsibility to gather and prepare at the appointed time.

The world offers up sin on a silver platter. Pastors, we offer an eternal life sustaining meal. Church, do not neglect the real food for a fancy dish of death. Pastors, offer the living bread broken for them. Help them see it and follow the instructions for life. Help them come to the table. Do not take umbrage if they walk away. Do not think you are the Master of the feast. Do not take credit. Remind them it is the Lord’s gift they are presented with. Don’t sugar coat it. And do willingly give it away to hungry sin saturated souls who are in need of real food for their sullen souls. God even gives to the complainers, which might even be you, oh pastor. Freely received, freely give.

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