Biblical Messages

CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: The first nowell

The English love their carols expounding on the weather, even though it’s not likely that the Holy Land was under a snow squall watch at the time of the Nativity.  Based on Luke 2.8-20 and Philippians 2.5-11, you can listen to the meaning of “The first nowell” by clicking below.

Once again, video technology failed us, so there is no link to Facebook Live.  We’ll try again next week.

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Encouragement From The Word

Pedal point

Yesterday morning, I was listening to a favourite piece of music.  It was J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 547, what I know as the 9/8 prelude and fugue, even though the fugue is in cut time.  (Okay, you baroque nerds, I know you’re out thereimg_3991:  calm down.)  There are several things that strike me about the piece, one of which is the conclusion of the fugue, which has a very long pedal point in it, extending the better part of the last 7 measures.

For those of you who are not baroque nerds (I’m guessing that’s the majority…), let me describe a pedal point from a layman’s/amateur organist’s perspective.  It’s a long note carried in the bass (lowest) line of the music, creating some tension while the higher parts do their ‘thing’, but you just know it’s going to be resolved before too awfully long.  Organists like pedal points, because it gives their feet a brief rest on one note!  Maybe Bach wrote so many pedal points because, as an organist, he knew his feet needed a break.

When I think of a pedal point, I think of something deeply foundational.  In music, any number of weird things can happen, but people’s ears will always assume the bass line is right.  So even though bass musicians (whether on a bass guitar, an upright bass, pedals on an organ, or even a bass singer) don’t usually have the melody, their part is foundational to the whole piece.

In the life of faith, foundations always matter, but at this time of year, foundational things are highlighted.  One of the experiences I remember very clearly from my trip to the Holy Land three years ago was a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  Walking through the old church, filled with scaffolding and Greek Orthodox lighting and candles, we moved to a place under the chancel, to a cavern where a spot is marked, believed to be the very place where Jesus was born.  What was there?  Bedrock.  Foundational stuff.

Amid the bells and whistles and shiny things of the season, remember the foundational matters – the bass line, the bedrock – of our faith:  “When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross….  [A]t the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.7b-8, 10-11, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

It will rub off

A show on television that I enjoy watching is “Canada’s Worst Driver”.  Frankly, in my books, anything Andrew Younghusband touches turns to gold, because he has such a great sense of humour, but also a way of being poignant when the need arises.

If you’ve not watched the show, the producers accept nominees from across the country of individuals who are deemed to be especially dangerous to the motoring public.  The producers narrow the field to eight candidates, who check themselves in to the “Driver Rehabilitation Centre”, at the old airport in Dunnville, Ontario.  From there, they are assessed and taught a variety of both driving and coping skills, in the hope that they will be rehabilitated.  Along with driving instructors, a therapist is also part of the rehab team.

The therapist is going to earn her keep this season.  One young woman from Edmonton who was nominated was deemed to be the most dangerous driver they’ve ever had on the show.  When the crew went to film her biographical sketch, they said they wouldn’t get in a car with her again.  That’s a pretty serious claim, if you consider the bad drivers who have been on this show before!

Her skills are astounding:  running through stop signs and red lights without even looking; texting and driving; passing on a double line; aggressive driving…and the list goes on.

What’s most troubling about this young woman is that she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what she does.  As host Younghusband said to her, “That is the driving of a horrible person.”  He wasn’t suggesting she was a horrible person; he was saying that her driving was that of a horrible person.  It’s like she was a different person behind the wheel.  She was someone who owned the world, who acted like society had to bow to her every wish.  She’s going to require some pretty heavy-duty psychological aid through this season, and I hope she (and all the other candidates) get the rehabilitation they need so they can carry on normally in the future.

When I told this story to a friend, who operates a railway locomotive, he recounted a story of a trucker that hit his train, claiming he believed he didn’t need to stop for trains.

Doesn’t it just make you want to shake your head?  I hope so!

While some will deem this a generational thing, in my experience, it’s not limited to a generation.  This sense of entitlement may be an epidemic.  Whether it’s by how we raise our kids, or how we treat store clerks, or how we treat other drivers, our responsibility as followers of Jesus in the midst of this challenge is to live like our Leader.  Ponder these words from the apostle Paul, who early in the life of the Christian church penned this truth about the Lord Jesus:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

    he did not think of equality with God

    as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

    he took the humble position of a slave

    and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

    he humbled himself in obedience to God

    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

    and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2.5-11, NLT).

Let this be true for us.  It will rub off.

Biblical Messages

THE MISSING PEACE: Peace with your theology

A lot of us are not very clear about what we believe, or why we believe it.  Sometimes, when we belong to a particular church or even community organization, it may be assumed we believe certain things when we’re not even aware of them or sure that we believe them.

The church needs to be composed of those who grow in understanding what they believe and why they believe it. That’s why it’s important to teach and preach about theology.  If we buy what we believe – if we put our money where our mouth is, theologically – we will be better equipped disciples of Jesus.

This message, based on Philippians 2.1-11, can be heard here:

Encouragement From The Word

What will you be remembered for?

Dave Nichol died yesterday.  You may or  may not know who he was, but you will probably know something he developed.  You’ll likely even recognize his handwriting.

Dave Nichol was the guy hired by the President of Loblaws grocery store chain to do product development.  And the line he famous developed lives on today, in everything from chocolate chip cookies to online banking:  President’s Choice.

So well known was Nichol’s handwriting, featured on President’s Choice products, that he used it when he created his own beer when he left Loblaws.Presidents-Choice-store-logo-design

Not a lot of people know Dave Nichol’s name.  But a lot of people do recognize his ‘signature’.

What about us?  Even if we don’t have a household name, what will people think of when they remember us?  You might not develop anything famous that gets sold in grocery stores.  But among your friends and acquaintances, you will be remembered for something.  What will it be?  What do you want to be remembered for?

Considering this sort of introspective question is a bit like writing your own death notice.  If you’ve ever pondered that, you know what’s involved.  If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want people to remember about you?  What will have been your ‘signature’?

Think about Jesus.  He’s remembered for his death and resurrection, of course, but if we scratch beneath that surface, we see the motive that sent him to the cross:  self-giving love.

Take a few moments, and read the following passage slowly, perhaps more than once.  When the apostle Paul wrote it, he may have been quoting one of the earliest hymns of the Christian church.  What he was quoting wasn’t just good theology (and it is); he was citing something that could have been Jesus’ death notice in the Jerusalem Post back in the day, had it existed.  (Of course, they’d have had to print the resurrection story three days later!)  Ponder this as Jesus’ ‘signature’, what he would be remembered for:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God 
as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
  When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names, 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.  (Philippians 2.5-11, NLT)

You may not die for many.  You may not rise from the dead.  But will you be remembered for the same kind of self-giving love for which Jesus was remembered?