THE CALL | Matthew 19:14–15 [ESV]
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.
Father, all human life bares your image and is a blessing, but we treat some as more important than others. We value each other for our utility, beauty, skill, or entertainment and we treat children as tiresome distractions from our ambitious desires. We neglect the elderly and pretend that we ourselves will never age. We rise up early and go to bed late in order to advance our careers just a little bit more; we are building our own kingdoms where only the strong can survive. Jesus, teach us to welcome the children, elderly, and marginalized into our lives. Holy Spirit, help us to rely on your promises and live within your kingdom, a kingdom of love and rest. Amen.
ASSURANCE | Matthew 7:24–27 [ESV]
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
SING: Gloria Patri
Glory be to the Father
And to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning
Is now and ever shall be world without end
Read: Psalm 68
2nd Reading: Ephesians 4:7-12
"Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary— the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines..." (Ps 68:24-25)
Everyone loves a parade, especially in Pittsburgh. Greenfield (where I live) has a long tradition of Christmas parades that people take very seriously. But the greatest occasion for parades in our city is after a championship by one of our sports teams. In 2005, I had recently moved to Pittsburgh and after the Steelers won their first Superbowl in over 25 years, people poured into the streets. I drove downtown with my father, and we marveled at the overflowing joy found in the long-awaited victory. Cars streamed down the streets in an informal, disorganized procession as other fans cheered and waved towels on the sides of the road. People were not really going anywhere or doing anything. They just formed their own parade and continued the celebration until late into the night.
Psalm 68 captures the imagery of a victory parade after a great battle has been one. The opening scene is one of contrasting perspectives on God's victory. "The wicked shall perish before God! But the righteous shall be glad;" (vs.2-3.) Rejoicing at God's judgment over his enemies can seem foreign to modern ears. But anyone who has experienced the pain and fear of oppression knows the joy of being delivered. When victorious armies came home from battle, all of the people would celebrate with wild abandon, because they knew that they had been spared from conquest.
God's identity as the protector of the weak and as the defender of his people is celebrated (v.5-6), then God himself appears at the head of the victory parade (v.7.) Further references to the chariots of God (v.17) continue the image, then the rest of the procession comes into view. The singers provide the accompanying music, and some of the tribes are listed as following God in his triumphant celebration (v.24-27) Of course, there are many aspects of our modern-day parades which are quite different, but I find drawing this comparison helps to stimulate my appreciation for the celebratory aspects of this psalm.
One interesting twist on the victory parade was expounded by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesian Church. It would be expected for ancient kings to bring home spoil from war when they were successful. The image of a conquering king leading prisoners of war and bring home spoil from his success is found in verse 18: "You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men." Paul takes this concept and applies it to Jesus and the Church. He pictures Jesus as being victorious over death and Satan's kingdom. The ascension of Jesus was for Paul something of a victory parade, but rather than taking the prisoners of war with him, he is releasing prisoners and rather than collecting tribute, he is pouring out grace from the abundance of his bounty. Quoting Ps 68:18, Paul wrote that Jesus ascended on high and gave gifts to the church - particularly, he gives the gift of people. Humans who have been freed from the kingdom of darkness are brought into God's kingdom through the redeeming power of the blood of Christ. Then some of these former prisoners are given back to the church to be a blessing for ministry. Church leaders, including pastors, teachers, and evangelists are given to the church as a gift. They are designed to help build up the church into maturity.
To tweak the parade image a little more, Jesus is pouring out blessing on his subjects... the same way Santa and his elves throw candy to the eager children in the Christmas parade. The victory parade of Jesus not only showcases the power of Jesus, but it becomes an occasion for Jesus to bless the church with gifts that bring real transformation.
LECTIO DIVINA | Psalm 127
We memorize things we value. The brain has an incredible ability to remove information that we don’t need. As we make an effort to memorize the Psalms, the beginning of each week seeks to establish the value of God's Word in our hearts before we view it as information to be remembered. Read more about the Lectio Divina HERE.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever,
Genesis 1:28 [ESV]
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
City Reformed Presbyterian Church
The 90 Days project is a collaborative effort of many church leaders. Matt Koerber and Daniel Snoke have taken lead roles, with others helping to write daily devotionals.