Friday, September 27, 2013

We all go in the hole...

Yesterday morning I had the privilege and honor of serving as a casket bearer for the earthly remains of my friend and fellow elder’s father.

The man who was being laid to rest was Dr. Robert Reymond. Dr. Reymond was an effective and brilliant pastor, author, professor, and theologian. Among Reformed churches especially, Dr. Reymond was a giant in modern times. His magnum opus is his excellently crafted Systematic Theology. His students uniformly declare him one of the most brilliant men they have ever known. I will always view it an honor to have carried Dr. Reymond’s casket to his final resting place, knowing his body and soul will some day be reunited.

Here is a picture of the freshly covered grave of Dr. Robert Reymond. A memorial stone will be placed there soon.

Please also notice the grave to the left. It’s older, but only by a couple years. The man who’s body lies under that site was a year older than Dr. Reymond, but died a little over two years ago. Yes, that’s my father’s gravesite.

So it is that my father’s body and Dr. Reymond’s lie close together, eventually to be reanimated and restored when our Lord Jesus has the trumpet sound for the great resurrection of the dead.

After people left the graveside committal service, I stood next to the site with my dear brother and new co-laborer in the gospel ministry at Redeemer, Jake Tassy. Jake knew my father as we were growing up. I am confident the Lord ordained the prayers of Jake and his family to move my father toward Christ and salvation. I think it struck Jake and I, the irony of what was before us.

My father was a common man. He was a blue collar worker born to a Sicilian sulfur miner turned Pennsylvania coal miner. My father worked on the railroad and later in the shipping area for the local Buffalo newspaper. He was a union man, unrefined, but wise about the world. There his body lays.

Dr. Reymond was born in Alabama and typified a southern, educated, gentleman. He went on to earn multiple degrees and become a true scholar, teacher, preacher and churchman. I believe time will test his many writings and sermons and find them worthy of timeless consideration.

In a brief moment of silence looking at the gravesites, standing there with my friend; Jake said- “Look at that- a common man from Buffalo and celebrated, famous theologian- they both go in the hole”.

So true. We all “go in the hole” folks. No one escapes, unless Jesus returns first.

It behooves each of us to be sure of where we go, after our bodies go in the hole.  There is only one way to know for sure.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

-  Jesus, recorded in John 5:24

One last trot to the mound...

Last night in New York was historic.

The greatest closer in the history of baseball- a man who has treated the game, his teammates, and the fans, with dignity and class- trotted out to the mound at Yankee stadium for the last time.

Modern sports are suffering from a huge deficit in character and class.  Hopefully young athletes are paying attention to Mariano Rivera and it rubs off.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What modern worship songs will withstand the test of time?


I have many of the new "worship" songs on on my Itunes play list.  I'm not a curmudgeon when it comes to contemporary music.  I admit despising the making of a genre called "Praise and Worship" music, but that's for another post.

I think it is demonstrable that a given generation's hymnody or worship music sheds considerable light on the theological condition of the Church in that era.  I think it is also true that certain songs withstand the test of time because of their dynamic quality.  To become a true treasure for the ages, a song must combine sound biblical theology (yes, I realize this feature alone should be the stuff of a hundred posts), a tune that is singable for a congregation (have you ever seen a modern congregation try to actually sing some of the songs the worship team sings?), a Godward focus (even when it's a prayer for personal growth or blessing), and a timeless sense of relevance.

Thinking about these things, allow me to wonder aloud-

I wonder which of the following "worship" songs will be around in 100 years?

Since the first song, by Charles Wesley, has been sung by congregations for 250 years, I'm guessing it will still be sung 100 years from now. I wonder if the second song, by David Crowder, will likewise withstand the test of time?

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past; Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last. 

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing. (there are two more profound verses) 

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree...bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me 

And oh, how He loves us, oh oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all (repeated 46 times)

I know this will draw fire, but I just can't imagine Christians singing the second song 100 years from now.  If I can't figure out what the first sentence is meant to convey, I doubt someone in 2113 will.  Seriously and objectively- compare the lyrical depth and profundity of these two songs and you can see why one will be sung by Christians until Jesus returns and the other, very likely, for just a few more years.

Spare me all the "this song really makes me worship" responses.  Also, there's no need to get all hot and bothered because I may have seemed to diss modern "praise" music.  I'm just saying the Crowder song here will not last long because it doesn't have the qualities of a song that will endure.  I am not arguing that the song doesn't give some Christians the warm fuzzies and make them want to raise their hands.  It's perfectly within the Christian liberty of pastors and "worship leaders" to utilize most of these modern songs (some, however, are so poor theologically, they shouldn't be used...see my earlier comment about hymnody revealing the state of a given church's theology).  I further understand the need for each generation to contribute it's voice to the body of worship music building since Christ's First Advent.  I am not suggesting that my way is the only way. Charles Wesley's hymn is far better than Crowder's, but Chuck wrote many bombs also. We don't sing hundreds of Wesley's hymns, because they didn't withstand the test of time.  I doubt highly that Crowder's song here and the majority of Christian Radio's play list will be playing in 20 years let alone a century from now.  Interestingly, K-Love's play list looks like the Sunday morning repertoire of many modern worship teams.

Using this one example, I only mean to point out, if the Lord tarries, the Church of a hundred years from now will likely wonder what we were thinking.