What I Would Have Said If I Had More Time

What I Would Have Said If I Had More Time

Every single Sunday, I leave more unsaid that I could ever possibly say about the passage in front of us. My hope, at the end of the day, is that the single aim of the Spirit of God when He authored that passage would be true in us. From Revelation 4 and 5 that aim is that we would sing the songs of heaven into each other’s hearts, because worship changes everything.

And yet, there were several topics touched on in the passage that I would have loved to speak to if I had more time.

I would have said more about the sabbath, Lord’s day, worship.
The call to join the heavenly song is the first vision God gives to the suffering churches of Asia Minor. That is, before He gives them practical advise on how to stay strong in the midst of worldly opposition, He calls them to stop and worship. This sounds just like the original Sabbath day of Genesis 2, doesn’t it? Do you remember what we said about that day?

We said that the goal of creation is the rest of the sabbath day. God created at the universe as the majestic theater for meeting with His people. We said that the rest has become our basic rhythm because God has already finished His work of both creation and redemption, you are His people in this place. That second part – redemption – is where the last day of the week turns to the first day of the week. What began in creation has been renewed in redemption. We now gather as God’s people on the day that celebrates resurrection and leads us to the last thing w said about sabbath rest and worship. We said, regarding Genesis 2:1-3, that we continue in patterns of worship because there remains a future rest for the people of God on that day when all things will be made right. Between now and then, we gather as God’s people, on the Lord’s day, so that the good news of what Jesus has done and the certainty of what He will do can launch us out into the world for good.

Very specifically, if I had more time, I would have said that God’s pattern has always been to prioritize the day of worship as a means for shaping the hearts of His people.

I would have said more about pragmatism.
Now, what about that practical advise? Are we against being practical? No, but we are against pragmatism. Pragmatism is that belief that the truth of an idea can be measured by its success or its practical application.

It is better for us to understand truth as starting with God. God has spoken truth to us in the Bible, so truth is revelation before it is practical. For this reason, we gather every Sunday, open the Bible to the place we left off the previous week in order to hear what God has to say and then ask how we might apply it to our lives.

With that said, believing and living into God’s true revelation will always be the way that brings about the best in our lives and in the lives of the people we touch. God’s way will always be best, the most pragmatic – it will lead people to flourish.

And it will often confront our cultural understanding of success. In that sense, it is impractical. In Sunday’s passage, the call to worship together even before I try to fix the problem is presently impractical, but in the long run it will transform both us and the world. It will transform us by transforming our imaginations.

So, I would have said that Sunday worship is divinely pragmatic, but not in the way that the world counts as successful.

I would have said more about singing and imagination.
When we sing truth, we join in with reality. I mean both in the lyrics and in the musical forms itself. It use to be said that music was good, beautiful and true when it resonated with reality, with the universe as God created it. Now we say that music is good if it resonates with my personal experience or emotions at the time. That is quite a dramatical shriveling of views. Actually, that is pragmatic and probably accounts for much of the loss of the rich experience of sabbath worship.

We are learning to sing the songs of heaven. We have the words from the scriptures and have asked our musicians to think, pray and lead us in the tunes that best harmonize our hearts with those lyrics. The music of heaven transforms our imagination. The old poet John Milton once said,

For if such a holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled Vanity
Will stricken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And hell itself with pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering Day.

He goes on in the poem to tie the songs of the “one day” to the songs of creation and to the songs that accompanied the baby born in a manger.

What I am trying to say is that the songs we sing in sabbath worship are transforming our imaginations and transformed imaginations will transform our lives and our world. Why? Because if the best world that I can imagine is one in which a rising economic tide raising all boats, then I will live into that economic vision. However, if the songs of heaven have trained our hearts (imaginations) to sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” and “Worthy are you because you were slain and purchased for God men from every tribe, tongue, and nation,” if this is our vision of the good life, then we will be a community of people living towards a world wide healing of nations and we will seek to bring it about by the good news that the Lamb was slain and by our laying down our lives in kind.

That is what I would have said if I had more time: our Sunday, sabbath, rituals of singing together impractically heals the world. See you next Sunday.

Your Pastor,