Sunday, 30 August 2009

Christ the key and cornerstone

I've been pondering lately a couple of key critiques, which are actually one. A friend in church said of a children's talk of late, that a Muslim would've been happy with it. My Mum would sometimes critique a service, that a (non-Messianic) Jew would've been happy with it. It may sound extreme rhetoric, but passing over whether or not these critiques were true in those instances, it is the key critique. What does our service, what does the talk, what does our church life, make of Christ? If the good news of Jesus Christ weren't true, would the talk still hold? It shouldn't! The hymn below is a new one to me, and I know I shall enjoy singing it with church this morning!
All praise to Christ, our Lord and King divine,
Yielding His glory in His love’s design,
That in our darkened hearts His grace might shine: Alleluia! Alleluia!

Christ came to us in lowliness of thought;
By Him the outcast and the poor were sought,
And by His death was our redemption bought: Alleluia! Alleluia!

The mind of Christ is as our mind should be –
He was a servant, that we might be free,
Humbling Himself to death on Calvary: Alleluia! Alleluia!

And so we see in God’s great purpose how
Christ has been raised above all creatures now,
And at His name shall every nation bow: Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let every tongue confess with one accord,
in heaven and earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and God the Father be by all adored: Alleluia! Alleluia!

(by F. Bland Tucker, 1938, alt. ©The Church Pension Fund)


Chris said...

What a hymn!

1 Clarification: this applies to the sermon preached as a whole, but not to every part, right? Won't there always be some common (if not neutral) ground?

1 Question: once you've got that distinction between part/whole, how do you decide how big a "part" is - what of a series of talks? What of sections of a talk? What of an evangelistic course? What of a running conversation?

I guess one place where there is a clear set time frame for responsible proclamation would be preaching to the gathered church or the gathered lost. Otherwise, we'd have to say that any articulated thought is not godly if it doesn't glorify Christ to the denigration of false gods at every turn...that alternative seems to me quite unsustainable, quite difficult and not a little bit anal...resting on far too strong an antithesis where there's not just no neutral ground, but no common ground at all.

Peter said...

Any given Church service should point first and foremost to Christ. That doesn't just mean the sermon, but other parts of a Church service as well, indeed the service as a whole should point to Christ.

It would be a distinct failure on our parts to spend time singing songs of praise to God in a service which didn't mention Christ once. It would be a very odd thing if we sang a song in Church which had no real connection to our God.

Similarly, it would be extremely odd (and some, including myself, would say outright wrong) to preach a sermon which did not include Christ. The reason is that our whole lives are wrapped up in Christ, his death and resurrection. If we try to deal with issue without focusing in on Christ as the answer then we have missed the point.

Obviously it's unreasonable to expect every soundbite from a sermon to mention Christ. But if he is not present at all then that is a problem.

étrangère said...

Yes, I should think this applies to the service as a whole. So as I prepared the children's talk for this morning, on marks of a genuine church leader from 1 Thess 2 (it was to tie with a sermon!), I was aware that I couldn't afford that much time to make it explicit that this kind of leadership comes from following the King who serves, so included something of Christ's life in the following kids' song. The trouble comes if you manage a whole service without Christ being explicit, or a service (or church life) which would hang together without Christ: if we are people of the Book, and the Book testifies about Christ, then we've done something very wrong if He doesn't shape what happens when we meet.

Certainly any articulated thought isn't godly if it doesn't glorify Christ to the denigration of false gods at every turn! But that may not have to be spelt out at every turn: it may direct the shape of the conversation and thought. I have been challenged recently in my thinking, of what it means to live showing that Christ is all, and to speak shaped by the fact that Christ is all.