Thursday, June 22, 2017

Are the CanRC only ten or twenty years behind the GKv?

Our sister churches in the Netherlands, GKN-Liberated (GKv), recently decided at their General Synod to open the offices of minister, elder, and deacon to the sisters of their congregations. This unfortunate decision will do irreparable damage to their relationships with many of their sister churches worldwide. The GKv is a member church of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC); I cannot imagine that many of the other member churches will be content to let the GKv retain the privileges of membership.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) must be experiencing deja vu. In the mid-1990s the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) opened up the offices in their church to women. This became an issue in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). At that time the CRCNA was a member church of NAPARC, but their opening of ecclesiastical offices to women led to their suspension in 1997. The OPC and the RCUS were already members of NAPARC then. Also, the CRCNA ordination of women was largely the catalyst for the formation of the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA), presently a member of NAPARC.

Are the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC) going to follow the GKv in this? Are we a mere ten or twenty years behind? Historically we have had rather close ties to the GKv. Technically the GKv is a sister church to the CanRC, but realistically, the GKv is our mother. Many of our parents and grandparents were born and bred in its bosom. Will the closeness and the ties be the undoing of the CanRC? Will it be only a few years before we see women in our elders benches and on our pulpits?

Although I have no crystal ball, I think the answer to those questions is No. I say that with some confidence because of which churches we associate with here at home, in North America. Not a one of the twelve other NAPARC churches ordains women. At least one of them (URCNA) formed largely because of the issue, and others (OPC and RCUS) have fought the fight against a liberal hermeneutic on several fronts and, by the grace of God, prevailed for the truth.

Possibly we have an advantage that the GKv does not have. We are in a circle of churches that maintains an explicitly Reformed hermeneutic, a circle that I do not think the GKv has on the European continent.

Let us, as CanRC, be cautious about the company we keep, and let us stay in step with our NAPARC associates.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

An Ascension Hymn: Christ Went up on High

Christ Went up on High far Above the Sky

(Tune: Genevan 47)

1. Christ went up on high far above the sky.
Satan and his realm he had overwhelmed.
As when he was born so on his return
angels praised the Lord, who all things restored.
Him we see no more yet we him adore
for he rules as King over everything.
2. Christ our nature shared and our pain endured.
He bore all our guilt and his blood was spilt.
He was crucified; as a man he died,
but he rose again evermore to reign.
He, both God and man, sits on heaven's throne.
There he for us pleads, always intercedes.
3. When he did ascend he gave this command:
"You must go and teach, fearlessly must preach
the good news of me and my victory.
In God's triune Name baptize those I claim.
They who will believe shall new life receive.
Cleansed from all their sin they'll be born again."
4. From the Father's throne Christ supplies his own.
He pours out his grace from that heavenly place.
He the Spirit sends who on us descends.
He's our Comforter, our great Counsellor.
Praise the Trinity for his majesty!
Praise the Lord our God! Spread his fame abroad!
George van Popta, 2017.
This ascension hymn is based on a liturgical sequence written by Adam of St. Victor (died 1177). I set it to the Genevan tune for Psalm 47 because Psalm 47 is an ascension Psalm.
You can hear it here:

Friday, June 09, 2017

King Hezekiah's Prayer of Thanksgiving

Hezekiah's Prayer of Thanksgiving

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery
Isaiah 38:10-20

1. It seemed to me my life was at an end:
"Must I now through the gates of death descend?
Will I be robbed of my remaining years?"
I cried to God as I shed many tears.
I said, "I will not see the LORD again,
no more my friends and neighbours entertain."
Though not yet old I felt the end approaching.
I wept and called out to my God, lamenting.

2. Just like a shepherd will collapse his tent
so did I think my days were all but spent.
Or as a weaver's cloth is rolled away
so did my sickness cause me to decay.
I have been cut away from off the loom
and all that's left is swept up with a broom.
Throughout the night I waited for the morning
to no avail despite my patient longing.

3. For like a lion he broke all my bones.
I'm like a mourning dove that only moans
or like a swift or thrush that quickly flees
and seeks its safety in among the trees.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the sky.
I'm troubled, LORD, please help me lest I die.
Throughout the night I waited for the morning
to no avail despite my patient longing.

4. What shall I say? I'm at a loss for words.
What I've experienced came from God, the LORD.
I will walk humbly my remaining years
because of all my anguish and my tears.
Lord, by such things do men and women live;
my spirit, too, finds life in what you give.
Restored to health I was not left to perish.
God let me live! His love and grace I cherish.

5. You kept me from destruction's yawning pit
and you forgave my wrongs, you did acquit
me of my guilt and all my wickedness.
I praise you for your lasting faithfulness.
You cast my sins and evil far away.
behind your back, far from the light of day.
Death and the grave you never hear exulting.
Only the living praise God, as I'm doing.

6.O parents, tell your children, let them know
about this God who saves us from all woe.
Tell them about his love and faithfulness.
Ensure they know about his gentleness.
The LORD will save me and we'll sing his praise
with harp and lyre exulting all our days.
In God's own temple we will all be singing.
From us, his people, psalms and hymns are ringing.

I set this canticle to the tune of Genevan 49 since the contents of Psalm 49 and of Hezekiah's prayer are so similar. Please see here for the arrangement. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

O Come now Holy Spirit -- Another Pentecost prayer

O Come now Holy Spirit

1. O come now Holy Spirit,
send forth Your heav’nly light,
resplendent, without limit,
in all its radiance, bright.
Come, Helper of the needy
who gives to us His gifts.
Fill us with shining glory
as You our hearts uplift.

2. You are the great Consoler,
sweet Guest of hurting souls,
the gracious Intercessor,
whose comfort we extol.
Give rest, when we are weary,
restrain us when we stray,
and guide us ever gently
in this life’s tearful way.

3. O blessed Light from heaven,
our darkened hearts now fill
with every grace that’s given
to make us do God’s will.
Without Your intervention
in us there is no health
for vile is the intention
of everyone on earth.

4. Wash all that is corrupted,
drench everything scorched dry,
heal all those who are wounded,
with grace do them supply.
Bend that which is unbending,
warm all that has grown cold,
correct all who are erring –
do not Your love withhold.

5. You are the sev’nfold Spirit
on whom we do rely
to bless us with the merit
of Christ our Lord on high.
Give comfort to your people,
and save us at the end.
Grant us the joy eternal
when we to heav’n ascend.

Trans. of Veni Sancte Spiritus (c. 13th cent.)
Set to music here.

Friday, June 02, 2017

For Pentecost

O Come, Creator Spirit, Come

O come, Creator Spirit, come;
visit our souls, make them your home.
Come with your grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which you have made.
O gift of God, yours is the name
of Comforter who to us came,
the spring of life, the flame, the love,
the sweet anointing from above.
You, sev’nfold gift, by whom we stand,
You finger of God’s own right hand,
the Father’s promise sent to teach
the tongue a rich and heavenly speech.
Enlighten us with light divine;
may in our hearts your love now shine.
And grant our flesh, which is so frail,
Your mighty strength which does not fail.
Drive far from us the enemy;
give us your peace continually.
Then, as you lead us day by day,
we will avoid the sinful way.
Through you may we the Father know;
true knowledge of the Son bestow.
And you – the Spirit, they outpour –
may all trust you forevermore.
Praise God the Father, and the Son –
who once was dead but rose again –
and praise the Helper Christ did send,
forevermore, world without end.

Translation of the 9th century Veni Creator Spiritus