Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Seeing and Hearing Jesus

(John 14:8-9) Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father;

We have assembled together this morning to worship God. And the surest way to do so truly and rightly, is to seek, apprehend, know and adore Him as revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.

And the good news is that in faithful, Lord’s Day assemblies of the saints, revelations of Jesus Christ abound! Monday through Saturday we remain individual and diverse members of Christ’s body, but on Sunday morning, in the assembly, the many diverse members are gloriously fitted together in order to display and make knowable the goodness and glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. In the assembly we see Jesus, and seeing him we see the Father.

Jesus is the Word. He is the eternal logos of the Father. Therefore, when we hear God’s Word read, sung, preached and prayed in the assembly, we are not merely hearing about Jesus. We are hearing Jesus. And hearing Jesus, we hear the Father. This morning as the Gospel portion of God’s Word is read from amidst the congregation, we will all stand together as we recall and celebrate the Word of God (Jesus) who came to us in human form 2000 years ago, and the Spirit of Christ who dwells in our midst today. Jesus was, and is, Immanuel, God with us.

Near the close of our worship service, we will sit and sup with the Lord at His Table. According to Jesus, the bread that we eat and the wine that we drink are his body and his blood. Although we deny that Christ is physically present in the elements, we most heartily affirm that he is really and truly present. Present to bless, encourage, love and bestow nothing less than his very self. And knowing and receiving Jesus in the bread and wine, we know and receive the Father and are filled afresh and anew with the Holy Spirit.

True worship brings us before God in the face of Jesus. And face to face with God in Christ, we are transformed into his likeness by the power of the Holy Spirit. So…Come let us worship the Lord together!

Temple-esque Worship

(Hebrews 8:5) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

A few chapters later in the book of Hebrews the author teaches us that the New Covenant church gathers to worship God, not on Mount Sinai, but rather on “Mount Zion…the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” The whole book of Hebrews is a multifaceted declaration that the earthly types and shadows of the Old Covenant have been replaced by the heavenly realities of the New. But note the close relationship between Old and New Covenant worship. The author of Hebrews tells us that the Old Covenant patterns and forms of worship, revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, were based upon the patterns and forms of heavenly worship; worship taking place in the immediate presence of God.

In other words, the Tabernacle and its ceremonies were earthly sketches of heavenly substance; earthly figures of heavenly actualities; earthly shadows of heavenly protocols. It was the relation of portrait to person, or sculpture to model. The earthly forms were not the heavenly realities, but in their striking similarity revealed much about heavenly worship. And that was precisely God’s intent all along: To train His people for heavenly worship via the earthly forms that closely resembled it.

Following the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, the Old Covenant earthly forms gave way to the New Covenant heavenly forms after which they were patterned. In a very important sense, New Covenant worship, because it is heavenly worship, is older than Old Covenant worship. Strange, yes? New Covenant worship dispenses with, by fulfilling the forms that Moses was given on the Mount, and embraces the heavenly realities of which the Mosaic forms were only a shadow. And that is why the historical liturgies of the church of Jesus Christ are, we might say, Tabernacle or Temple-esque. Because if Old Covenant earthly worship was patterned after heavenly worship, and New Covenant worship is heavenly worship, then New Covenant worship must needs manifest meaningful similarity to Old Covenant worship. Again, think: sketch and reality, portrait and real person.

First century Jewish Christians evidenced their distain for heavenly worship by clinging to the Old Covenant forms and patterns. Modern Christians tend to evidence their distain for heavenly worship by conceiving and clinging to liturgies that bear little or no resemblance to Old Covenant forms and patterns (which, again, were themselves based upon the heavenly forms and patterns.)

But God has a better way for His people: Simple, robust, heartfelt, un-hypocritical, joyous, reverent, submissive, active, sensate, bodily, antiphonal worship, according to the pattern revealed to us on the Mount. So…Come let us worship the Lord together!