Liturgy Lesson: June 13, 2021
Call to Worship: Psalm 9:1-11
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (#311)
Confession of Sin: 1 Peter 1:13-19 and Agnus Dei (Jesus, Lamb of God)
Assurance of Pardon: 1 Peter 2:21-25
Hymn of Assurance: My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone
Reading of the Word: Matthew 5:43-48; 7:12-14
Sermon: “Trust the One Who Judges Justly,” Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: My Song is Love Unknown (#182); My Jesus, I Love Thee (#648)
Closing Hymn: Across the Lands
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness;
the nourishment of mind with His truth;
the purifying of imagination by His Beauty;
the opening of the heart to His love;
the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration,
the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable
and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness
which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”
– William Temple (1881-1944)
How did we get to the place where we devote an entire month to one of the seven deadly sins? If June is for Pride, then how about we ascribe Lust to the month of July? More fittingly, we could make December “Greed month” and reserve Sloth for August. In all fairness, I’m certain the choice of the word “Pride” was based on its more contemporary egoistic meaning, and that “self-worth and satisfaction month” just wasn’t market-friendly. Nonetheless, the word is laden with moral meaning, and throughout most of human history, pride was not a thing to be celebrated.
“Pride” month is a symptom of an amnesic culture that has forgotten the Word of God, and consequently the meaning of words themselves. We have exchanged the Logos (“God is love”) for logos (“Love is love”). The loss of divine reason means a decline in reason, and the created order deteriorates into chaotic disorder. When you forget revelation, you get revolution. This latest cultural coup is propelled forward by a new Babel of invented terms (cisheteropatriarchy anyone?) which deconstruct meaning and re-define what it means to be human. The poets—chief guardians of words—warned us. Here is Yeats:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
When man places himself at the center of the universe, things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Scripture is especially clear that pride is not benign. Proverbs 16:18 tells us “Pride goes before destruction.” We have all heard the stories of Satan’s downfall. Lucifer, in his pride, aspired to the throne of Heaven, but was cast out. As such, pride is the devil’s most prominent trait. It has been called the father of all sins, the ultimate one from which all others arise. Here is C.S. Lewis writing in Mere Christianity:
“Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
The great Christian preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards said “remember that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ; it was the first sin that ever was, and lies lowest in the foundation of Satan’s whole building, and is the most difficultly rooted out.”
Perhaps you don’t really read poetry, theology, or the Bible, and Yeats or King Solomon or Lewis or Edwards are not sufficient enough counsel. Okay, how about a blurb from the internet? After all, this is the new digital discipler that guides and shapes us. Here is Wikipedia:
“Pride (superbia in Latin) is often considered to be the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins. Out of the seven, it is the most angelical, or demonic. It is also thought to be the source of the other capital sins. Also known as hubris, or futility, it is identified as dangerously corrupt selfishness, the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of other people.”
Pride, as historically defined, has been a theme in great literature. In Dante’s Inferno (14th c.), the lowest circle of Hell is reserved for pride. The punishment for these proud souls was to have a heavy stone hung around their necks so that their heads were always bowed in submission. Dante, who defined pride as “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour,” confessed that this was his chief besetting sin. Consequently, his masterpiece is an extended autobiographical allegory, where pride is the first sin his soul must contend with on its journey to Heaven.
Even past politicians have confessed the dangers of pride. Benjamin Franklin said “In reality there is, perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history. For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” Joseph Addison, the British poet, playwright, and politician states that “There is no passion that steals into the heart more imperceptibly and covers itself under more disguises than pride.”
One would think that all this gathered wisdom would give us pause. The warning signs have been there all along the highway of human history. “Danger: Hazardous cliff.” But we won’t slow down or stop, and we dare not yield, not for others, and certainly not for God. We must press on and keep going if we are to stay on the right side of history. The old ways be damned. We are liberating humanity from all its restrictions. Man was made to be like God, and so we shall be. Morality and meaning must be made anew in this long march toward progress. Of this we are proud.
If Dante were alive today, he would tell us that we are quickly sliding backwards down the concentric circles of hell. “Questo non è progresso” (this is not progress), he would say. Indeed, it is not.
What then shall we do? How shall we remain faithful in a perpetually proud culture that puffs out its chest at the Creator? Well, first we must confess our complicity. Even as I write this, I recognize it could be a mere act of pride. I have stood on my Christian pedestal and established my moral superiority by accurately analyzing the problems in the culture beneath me. Lord have mercy. I, too, am infected with the sin of pride, and I cannot save myself. I am hellbent on my own glory and need the daily mercies of God to rescue me from sinking in this quicksand. The more I struggle to save myself, the deeper I fall.
But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. While we were dead in our sins, he died for us, that we might live for him. And so, we stave off the dragon of pride by fostering a life of grateful worship. Not just Sunday morning, but every hour of every day. We continually look to Christ, the perfect model of humility, and we take this passage as our life’s credo:
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from His love, any participation in the Spirit, we pray to be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:1-11)
Worship is the antidote to pride. It re-calibrates our hearts away from ourselves and back toward God. It lifts up Christ, the Son, and acknowledges His rightful, supreme place in the universe. His gravity draws all, and in Him our worlds find a secure orbit. The center can now hold.
So, from here on out I’m establishing a new summer tradition for the Christian Church. For us, June is Praise Month. Rainbows will be reclaimed as signifiers of God’s covenant with us, beautiful symbols of His steadfast love. And just as the rainbow colors reflect the sunlight, so too shall our redeemed lives be a prism of praise for His glory. We will go forth and radiate His love into a dark world. Are your hearts not enchanted by His beauty, and enraptured by His love? Are you not set free from the prison of pride by surrendering the whole of yourself to His purposes? Then let all this be gathered up in constant adoration, and let it be the total remedy for that self-centered pride that is central to our original sin. In Christ, you are set free! Happy Praise month!
Doxology (“Praise God from whom all blessings flow”)
Text: Thomas Ken (1709)
Tune: Lasst Uns Erfreuen, based on 17th-century German Folk Melody
As Christians, all our days should be doxological (giving praise to God)! So I’d like to explore the one song that is central to all our liturgies: the doxology! The word “doxology” comes from two separate Greek words meaning “glory” and “saying.” Literally, it means “to speak praise.” Certain passages in Scripture are often considered short hymns or doxologies. For example…
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 1:3)
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)
“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Tim. 6:16)
In our church tradition, the doxology is Trinitarian. If you spend much time with a Christian hymnal, you will encounter numerous “doxological” final verses to the hymns. These frequently give praise to each member of the Trinity. One of the finest examples of this practice is from the greatest hymn writer of the early church, St. Ambrose. Here is how he finishes his great hymn “Splendor of God’s Glory Bright:”
All praise to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore.
There are countless other doxologies throughout church history, but the one that we sing every Sunday&mndash;the one that begins with “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”—is now a standard doxology in the modern English-speaking churches of the west. This text was written by Thomas Ken, who was an Anglican Bishop in the late 17th century. Ken spent much of his life in Winchester, serving both the Cathedral and the College, and was committed to enriching the spiritual lives of his students. In 1674 he published A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College. In this manual he encouraged his readers to “be sure to sing the Morning and Evening Hymn in your chamber devoutly.” Contained in the collection of hymns were three that shared the same ending. They hymns entitled “Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun,” “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night,” and “My God, I Now from Sleep Awake” all began the final stanza with the same words: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” This “doxology” we sing today was the closing stanza for each of these three hymns. In a later edition, Ken changed “Praise him above y’Angelick Host” to “Praise him above, ye heavenly host,” and the final form was cemented. Here is his entire “Morning Hymn.” It is one of my favorites to read in its entirety before I start my daily work.
Awake, my soul! and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise
To pay thy morning sacrifice.
Wake and lift up thyself, my heart;
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.
All praise to Thee who safe has kept.
And hast refreshed me while I slept:
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake,
I may of endless life partake.
Lord! I my vows to thee renew:
Scatter my sins as morning dew;
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.
Direct, control, suggest this day
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In thy sole glory may unite.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow:
Praise Him, all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
AMEN! This doxology is set to many tunes, the most famous being “Old 100th.” Others are “Duke Street,” “Lasst uns erfreuen,” and “The Eighth Tune” by Thomas Tallis. My personal favorite is “Lasst uns erfreuen,” but the one we use most frequently is “Old 100th.” This is the iconic tune we are all most familiar with and the one we will sing on Sunday. If we had Praise month parades, then this tune would be our anthem. Keep it in your hearts and let it be a perpetual outpouring, not only this month, but the rest of your days.