Wonders of the Web: The Four Seasons

Tags

, , ,

If this afternoon you wish to enjoy Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece “The Four Seasons” (and who doesn’t?) you’re spoiled for great options.

For single recordings of the entire performance, try this fantastic rendition by the Orchestre International de Geneve, featuring violinist Alexandra Conunova; or, give a listen to the Amsterdam Sinfonietta with Janine Jansen.

For the sequence broken into its four movements, try:

The Netherlands Bach Society, with Shunske Sato (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter)

The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, with Frederieke Saejis (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter)

Here’s an eclectic sequence:

Spring: Too difficult to decide!  Try Frederieke Saejis or Alexandra Conunova (see above)

Summer: The Trondheim Soloists with Mari Samuelsen

Autumn and Winter: Bach Collegium Seoul Orchestra with Shlomo Mintz

Happy listening.

With Us Always

Tags

, , , , , , ,

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, ESV).

            Jesus has declared His authority, and on that basis commissioned His disciples to spread the gospel to the furthest reaches.  His directive ends with these words of supreme encouragement, the perpetual promise of His presence.  The Lord goes with His witnesses, their strength and comfort in all things.

            Our Lord is with us always.  In every situation, we can rely upon His wisdom and might to see us through.  The love shown upon the cross, the power displayed in the resurrection, are abiding realities; for, by faith, the Spirit unites us with the crucified and risen Savior.  May His grace be upon you as you go through your days.

All Authority

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18, ESV).

            When the risen Lord met His disciples at a certain mountain for what we have come to call the Great Commission, He began with these words.  How marvelous, and how vital for Christian mission, that the call to go is grounded in the authority of the Savior to whom we testify.  The Risen One reigns, King over all.  Our commission is backed by the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

            Take heart in the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus.  No obstacle you face is beyond His power, no opposition beyond His authority.  What God calls us to face we can face in His strength, and we need fear nothing as we go about the task given by our Master.

Proclaimed

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47, ESV).

            When the two disciples who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus were telling the others about what had happened, the Lord showed Himself once again (v.36).  He demonstrated to them that he was truly raised and not merely a spirit, that He had “flesh and bones” (vv.37-39), that he could eat (vv.41-42), and then proceeded, as before with the two, to explain His resurrection in the context of the Scriptures.  The disciples are to understand that His death and resurrection were for the salvation of man—for they shall soon be commissioned to proclaim this message near and far.

            Jesus Christ brings the fulness of salvation.  The prophets point forward to Him, the apostles reflect back upon Him; the Scriptures center upon Jesus and what He has done.  In Him we may have life.  Keep your hope and confidence fixed fully upon your risen Savior, and rejoice in the wonderful redeeming mercy of God.

Eyes Opened

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.  And he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:30-32, ESV).

            The two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus had been prevented from recognizing the Lord while they spoke with Him, even as He explained how the Scriptures testified to Him.  Yet at last “their eyes were opened”—when He broke the bread for them.  Think about the significance of that gesture, the symbol of the Last Supper, the fulfillment of Passover in the self-giving of Christ.

            Our relationship with Christ comes in the context of His atoning work.  He who offered Himself for us invites us to know Him in a living relationship; the Risen One is our Savior and Lord, who has accomplished redemption for us in His blood.  Abide in Christ, who gives life to His people.

Proclaiming the Resurrection

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Easter brings us the joyful proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the good news of salvation for all who trust in Him.  The Church is commissioned to share this word, and we must beware the world’s temptation to water down, re-direct, or alter the message.  A couple of prominent politician’s takes on Easter, this year, underline how readily this happens in our culture.

            President Biden gave an opinion piece Religion News Service, ‘Let us recommit ourselves to the lessons of Easter’, notable more for what it neglects than for what it says.  Most significantly, President Biden makes no mention of the resurrection of Jesus Christ—which is quite odd for a supposedly committed Catholic, but explained by the fact that what he really wants to talk about is not Easter but COVID and other national issues.

            “Easter is a time to celebrate the spirit of renewal and the promise of brighter days to come”, he begins, which is true if you supply all of the unspoken context about the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fact that the spirit of renewal is the Holy Spirit, and the cosmic realities of Christian eschatology.  Without that context, such vague words of hope are banal and even deceptive.

            From there he expresses grief regarding the loss of the COVID pandemic, leading to the statement that “the traditions of Holy Week remind us of the journey from sorrow to salvation—that faith, hope and love can lead us out of the darkness and into the light.”  Once again, an allusion to the meaning of Easter that could be stretched to fit the gospel with enough interpretive gymnastics—the three theological virtues characterize the work of the Holy Spirit in the redeemed by their union with Jesus Christ—but, much more likely, point to a vague sub-Christian spirituality whereby we may save ourselves through virtue.  Faith, hope and love do not lead us out of darkness; Jesus Christ, the light of the world, came into our world to lead us out of darkness and bring us life.

            More about COVID follows, pointing to how things are better and calling people to help those in need and get vaccinated.  Towards the end he says, “As we commemorate this holiest of days, let us recommit ourselves to the lessons of Easter.  Let us love and care for our neighbors—as Jesus did, and as we’ve seen so many ordinary, extraordinary people do over the course of this difficult year.”  That is the sole mention of Jesus in the article, a typical liberal reduction of His mission to the moral influence of His compassion.

            Whereas President Biden’s piece is notoriously vague and neglects to mention the resurrection, more directly anti-gospel is a tweet that has gained some notoriety, by Rev. Raphael Warnock, Baptist minister and recently elected Senator.  Warnock tweeted, and since deleted, as reported in the Christian Post:

“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Warnock wrote on Twitter Easter Sunday.  “Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

            That is a direct denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He does not oppose or neglect the resurrection, but he attempts to ‘transcend’ it—to humanistic works-based salvation.  If this is, indeed, Warnock’s belief (one news report claimed to have a source informing them it was written by an assistant), then he is not a Christian.  The message of Easter cannot transcend the resurrection of Christ; it centers upon the resurrection of Christ.  The message of Easter cannot point to salvation by our good works; it is precisely the message of salvation by Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, of His atoning death and vindicatory resurrection.

            Easter is a message of hope, precisely because it is a specific and definite message and precisely because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To make it a humanistic message is to reject the world-shaking significance of what God has done, and tragically miss the offer of forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life.

Marvelous Necessity

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’” (Luke 24:25-26, ESV).

            On the road to Emmaus, the risen Lord appeared to two of His disciples.  They did not know Him at first—the Scripture attributes this to divine agency (v.16)—and so Christ heard from them their confusion about His death and the reports of the resurrection.  How marvelous it must have been to have your confusion corrected by the Lord Himself, who proceeded to describe the Old Testament testimony to His redemptive work (v.27)!

            Marvelous and mysterious is the redemptive plan of God.  It may be hard for us to see, hard to grasp the logic of God’s plan; but that is because of our weakness in faith and understanding.  God is good and gracious, wonderful and wise.  Let us trust Him.  Let us believe what God has spoken, and rejoice in the mysteries of redemption—in the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Wonder of the Cross

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16, ESV).

On Good Friday especially, we ought reflect on the meaning of the cross.  Why did Jesus die?  What did His death accomplish?  What is the message of the atonement?  Only when we will face the awful reality of sin can we grasp the magnitude of Christ’s accomplishment on the cross, and the wonders of the holy-love of God.

I mentioned recent statements by Jory Micah in my last Tuesday Tea-ology, but it has come to my shocked disbelief attention that not everyone drinks tea.  Now, you can watch Tuesday Tea-ology without drinking tea, but, to be on the safe side, I’ll restate the issue.

Jory Micah considers herself a theologian, and she has been intensely criticizing the idea of hell.  This, then, connected with criticism of the orthodox position on the atonement—because the wrath of God and the meaning of the cross are intertwined.  When you deny the wrath of God, you lose the significance of the cross, as Micah demonstrated.

In one tweet, she said:

“Jesus died because the empire murdered Him for standing up for what’s just. God didn’t kill Jesus and Jesus didn’t even “have to” die to inspire many to live for God.”

She makes two statements here, both of them problematic.  In the first place, she asserts that Jesus was executed by the Roman empire because of His stand for justice.  You can see how such a narrative would resonate with contemporary American culture and its fixation on heroic activism; but it has no basis in the biblical record.  The empire appears to have taken no notice of Jesus; the Roman governor is only triangulated into the business of Jesus’ trial because the Jewish leaders lack the authority to arrange an execution, and Pilate only gives in to the demand because of political pressure.

In the second place, she denies the divine purpose in Jesus’ death, but even in doing so reveals that she’s not even thinking in terms of an objective atonement at all.  Jesus’ death wasn’t necessary, she contends, in order for us to have Him as an inspiring example.  No, I suppose not; but, since the purpose of Jesus’ death was so much more than inspiration, the argument is rather toothless.  And, as a matter of fact, Jesus’ death is a prime example of the wonder of God’s love.

Micah also retweeted someone else, with the handle Pope Carmine Naugahyde, who asserted,

“Jesus didn’t die for our sin. He died BECAUSE of it.”

Now, this is, perhaps, closer to the biblical doctrine of the atonement, in that it at least recognizes that Jesus’ death was particularly related to human sin.  But it does so in a way that directly contradicts the true meaning of the cross.  The implication of the statement is that Jesus’ death was the result of human sin, but that His death was not intended to deal with human sin—it was not atonement at all.

But the Scriptures won’t support such anthropocentric exegesis.  There was, indeed, a divine purpose in the death of Christ.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).

“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).

Jesus died for our sins, to take them away, to deal with them.  Dealing with sin meant paying the penalty for sin—suffering, on our behalf, the wrath of God.  That is what He did upon the cross, as the prophet Isaiah foretold:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:).

This is the message of Good Friday.  God, in the vastness of His holy-love, has dealt with our sin.  In the unfolding of the Triune mystery of salvation, we witness the depths of divine love turned upon us: the Father sent the Son, by the Spirit, to bear the wrath of God in our place so that we could receive forgiveness, life, and adoption to sonship unto God. The glory of the atonement can only be grasped by those who acknowledge the holiness of God, the depravity of sin, and the condemnation under which we stand apart from Christ.  Facing the terrible seriousness of our situation, we are able to see the work of Christ and the offer of salvation for what it is: the awesome redeeming majesty of the holy-love of God.