July 18, 2013
Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman.
Who are they?
Many have labeled Trayvon and George: Victim and Murderer. Attacker and Self-Defender. And much worse labels, on both accounts.
Many have tried to use the tragedy of Trayvon’s death and the sensation of George’s trial to advance one societal narrative or another.
But who are they?
Trayvon and George are not labels. They are not representatives of a class. They are not representatives of a race or a group.
They are individuals. With birthdays and classmates and friends. With plans and longings and desires. With mothers and fathers and siblings.
They are individuals – made in the image of God for the glory of God.
One of them is dead at the age of 17.
The other receives numerous death threats daily at the age of 29. He is “free.” But he and his family are in hiding.
How can we respond biblically to Trayvon’s death, to George’s trial and acquittal?
There is much we might say:
- “Try to see the events through the eyes of Trayvon’s mother, on the one hand, or George’s wife, on the other.”
- “Put away hatred; if you see Trayvon or George as representative of your enemies, love them and pray for them.”
- “Weep that 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African-American parents still must warn their sons about how to behave when followed by police.”
Let me instead offer ideas for prayer: Pairs of praise and cries to the God of the universe, thanking Him on the one hand, and beseeching Him on the other:
- Praise God that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not one of us must be cut off from God the Father, but whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life;
- And pray to God that He might use this tragedy in the lives of George, and George’s family, and Trayvon’s family so that they might see Him, know Him, and love Him.
- Praise God that we live in a country where we don’t let our justice system become the vehicle for political show trials;
- And pray to God that the inequities that exist in our justice system would be removed.
- Praise God for the “reasonable doubt” standard – and thus that we would rather set nine guilty free than wrongly convict one innocent;
- And pray to God that those nevertheless wrongly convicted would be cleared, and those wrongly set free would face genuine justice; furthermore, pray that we as a country might be united in seeing the wisdom in this standard, even when justice may not have been done in a specific case.
- Praise God that in the five decades since Martin Luther King, Jr penned these words – “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty” – we have seen genuine advances in racial equality and racial harmony;
- And pray to God that the remaining, significant dark clouds of racial prejudice will finally pass away, and the fog of misunderstanding that still hovers over our fear-drenched communities will truly lift.
- Praise God that, as a country, we trust the constitutional process governing politics and law more than we trust individual political parties, elected officials, or popular demagogues;
- And pray to God that that trust- so rare in history, so rare even around the world today – would survive and grow and spread.
- Finally, praise God that in Christ “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11);
- And pray to God that the church in general, and DGCC in particular, might live out this reality, displaying that unity with Christ across ethnic differences in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
July 12, 2013
Ed Conrad, Kevin Wang and I have had the privilege this week of studying the book of Hebrews under Dr D.A. Carson. Among other great themes, Hebrews pictures Jesus as our great High Priest. Meditate on these ideas, summarized in the first section, fleshed out in selections from Hebrews in the second, and versified by Michael Bruce in the third.
In becoming man Jesus took on our frailty, and faced weakness and temptation like us. A person suffering from cancer knows that a cancer survivor can identify with his or her pain; just so, we can know that Jesus identifies with our temptations, our weaknesses, our frailty. And He, as our High Priest, by one sacrifice of His own body, makes perfect forever those who come to Him by faith. Furthermore, He always lives to make intercession for us when we fail. So may we hold fast to the confession of our certain hope – and boldly approach God the Father, knowing that because of our High Priest, He will receive us with mercy and grace, enabling us to endure to the end and thus to be saved.
Hebrews 7:23 – 8:2 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
Hebrews 10:11-18 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
By Michael Bruce (1764) – written at the age of 18
Where high the heavenly temple stands,
the house of God not made with hands,
a great High Priest our nature wears,
the Guardian of mankind appears.
He, who for men their surety stood,
and poured on earth his precious blood,
pursues in heaven his mighty plan,
the Savior and the Friend of man.
Though now ascended up on high,
he bends on earth a brother’s eye;
partaker of the human name,
he knows the frailty of our frame.
Our fellow-sufferer yet retains
a fellow feeling of our pains;
and still remembers in the skies
his tears, his agonies and cries.
In every pang that rends the heart
the Man of Sorrows had a part;
he sympathizes with our grief,
and to the sufferer sends relief.
With boldness therefore at the throne
let us make all our sorrows known;
and ask the aid of heavenly power
to help us in the evil hour.
July 6, 2013
From Isaac Watts’ “Shepherds, Rejoice!” (1709) – his rendition of the appearing of the angels to the shepherds in Luke 2. I expect to quote these lines in tomorrow’s sermon on Matthew 12:15-50:
Lord, and shall angels have their songs,
And men no tunes to raise?
O, may we lose our useless tongues
When they forget to praise!
Glory to God that reigns above,
That pitied us forlorn!
We join to sing our Maker’s love,
For there’s a Savior born.
July 3, 2013
Sunday we sang the Indelible Grace version of “Upon a Life I Have Not Lived.” The original version was written by Horatius Bonar in 1881 as a communion hymn. The entire poem, containing a number of additional stanzas, is below. You can see the complete volume of his richly theological communion hymns at this link.
On merit not my own I stand;
On doings which I have not done,
Merit beyond what I can claim,
Doings more perfect than my own.
Upon a life I have not lived,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, Another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.
Not on the tears which I have shed:
Not on the sorrows I have known,
Another’s tears, Another’s griefs,
On them I rest, on them alone.
Jesus, O Son of God, I build
On what Thy cross has done for me;
There both my death and life I read,
My guilt, my pardon there I see.
Lord, I believe; oh deal with me
As one who has Thy word believed!
I take the gift, Lord look on me
As one who has Thy gift received.
I taste the love the gift contains,
I clasp the pardon which it brings,
And pass up to the living source
Above, whence all this fullness springs.
Here at Thy feast, I grasp the pledge
Which life eternal to me seals,
Here in the bread and wine I read
The grace and peace Thy death reveals.
O fullness of the eternal grace,
O wonders past all wondering!
Here in the hall of love and song,
We sing the praises of our King.