Tuesday, April 07, 2020

But why a donkey?

This past Sunday the church commemorated Palm Sunday, the day our Lord entered Jerusalem with the mission of going to the cross. One of the striking things about Palm Sunday is that our Lord entered the city riding on a donkey. Why a donkey?

The quick answer is that he rode on a donkey to fulfill prophecy. For example, the evangelist Matthew, chapter 21, wrote that Jesus rode on a donkey to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah:

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

And yet we would ask, why a donkey?

When Solomon was anointed as king he rode on King David’s mule. (A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.) 1 Kings 1:33ff tells of this. Why did David have a personal mule? Why did the king not ride a horse? Does not a prancing galloping stallion befit a king better than a mule or donkey?

See the complete Zechariah prophecy:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth. (9:9-10)


Photo taken by a former parishioner
The Prophet Zechariah said that the messianic king would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, but look what this donkey-mounted king would do: he would cut off the chariots, the war horses, and the battle bows, and he would speak peace to the nations. He would rule from sea to sea and from the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth.

You see, horses are animals for war. When it was a time for war the king would ride a horse, but when it was a time of peace the king would ride a donkey. On the last day when Jesus comes in victory and to judge his enemies, he will be astride a horse (Rev. 19), but coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he came to do what had to be done to establish peace. A donkey was the appropriate mount.

Jesus came to establish peace, the peace the angels sang about at his birth. The angels sang, “Peace on earth and goodwill to man.” During his ministry Jesus taught people about being at peace with God. At the end of his ministry he would die on the cross to bring about peace between God and us. Through his death on the cross the warfare has ended.

When we sinned we declared war on God. It was a war that we were going to lose. God would destroy us in the battle we waged against God—if not for Jesus. Jesus came and died for us and in our place. He gave himself as the one atoning sacrifice, and now all is well between God and us. We are at peace.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psa. 20:7).


Sunday, March 22, 2020

How we prayed this morning at Providence-Hamilton & Ancaster Churches


DAY OF PRAYER
2020

As was announced to the whole federation of Canadian Reformed Churches a day of prayer has been proclaimed, a day in which we in unison raise our voices in prayer to our heavenly Father in light of the COVID-19 virus spreading across the world.

There has also been a specific request from our seminary to pray for it and its community in light of the present health crisis.

Before we enter into a time of prayer please listen to these words from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[
b] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Please listen also to Lord’s Day 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism, where we confess what we understand by the providence of God, where we say:

God’s providence is
his almighty and ever present power,
whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so governs them that
        leaf and blade,
        rain and drought,
        fruitful and barren years,
        food and drink,
        health and sickness,
        riches and poverty,
        indeed, all things,
        come to us not by chance
        but by his fatherly hand.

Let us pray:

Lord, at this time in which the whole world is experiencing a health and life crisis due to the COVID-19 virus, we humble ourselves before you and offer to you our prayers, for the world, our communities, our cities, and congregations. We thank you that no matter what goes on in the world, your love and grace are constant. Please calm our hearts and turn our attention to you during this time of prayer.

Lord, first of all we humble ourselves before your great majesty, for we have frequently and grievously sinned against you. We acknowledge that if you were to enter into judgment with us, we would deserve nothing but temporal and eternal death. We are deeply conscious of the fact that we are conceived and born in sin, and that all manner of evil desires against you and our neighbour fill our hearts. We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded us, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden. We all, like sheep, have gone astray and each of us has turned to his own way. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We confess that our transgressions are innumerable, and that we have nothing with which to repay our debt. Therefore we are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes to you in heaven.

Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that you do not desire the death of the sinner, but rather that he should turn to you and live. We know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you from the depths of our hearts, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Have compassion on us and forgive us all our sins for Christ’s sake. Wash us in the pure fountain of his blood, so that we may become clean and white as snow. Cover our nakedness with his righteousness, for the glory of your name. Free our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all stubbornness and rebellion.

Lord, we pray for those who have taken sick, for their full and successful recovery. Be with their family members and give their medical caregivers wisdom, patience, and protection from catching the virus themselves. Pray for elderly persons in long term care homes, and for people with conditions that would increase their risk if they catch the virus. Give them special protection. We pray for your hand of blessing upon the vulnerable and weak. Be with those under quarantine and isolation, be it self or imposed. We pray that the contagion would quickly slow—locally, nationally, and globally.

Lord, guide those who are working on medical answers to the pandemic. We pray for quick, safe, effective, and affordable solutions. Bless researchers working on vaccines and treatments, those who are deciding what work to fund (and at what expense), those who are making hard decisions on regulations governing community activities and travel, to manage the spread of the virus. We pray especially for Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Ford, Mayor Eisenberger, and the coronavirus task forces in our country.

We lift up students in our prayers, that they may be able to continue their educations successfully even if they cannot attend classes. Be with teachers and administrators scrambling to transition to online teaching systems.

Help workers who have to stay home with their children, and those whose incomes are being reduced because of the virus’s effects on commerce. We pray for those whose jobs have been impacted, temporarily suspended, or even discontinued. Allow supply chains to remain open so that shortages may ease. Guide government leaders and the banks in dealing with stresses on the economy.

Lord, we also lift up before you in prayer our seminary. Be with both professors and students as they transition from in-class to online education. Be with the students who continue their studies from home but may feel lonely or shut-in due to the circumstances. Be with the staff who are working diligently to keep everything going, but now through modern technology. We pray for the now-entirely-online visit of a team from the Association for Theological Schools for re-accreditation, which is scheduled for next week. We pray for a good outcome to this process. We pray that everyone may remain healthy and complete the semester well, including the fourth-year students who are wondering how ecclesiastical exams and potential calls will occur under these circumstances. We pray for growth and the refining of faith through this trial.

Lord, grant that we be patient in adversity,
      thankful in prosperity,
      and that with a view to the future
      we may have a firm confidence
      in you, our faithful God and Father,
      that no creature shall separate us
      from your love;
   for all creatures are so completely in your hand
      that without your will
      they cannot so much as move.

We pray for perseverance in the faith, that we may continue to trust in you to provide and that also these events will "work together for good, for those who are called according to your purpose..." (Ro 8:28). We pray that through this time of trial we may become ever more "conformed to the image of your Son" (Ro 8:29), We humbly repent for those times we have taken your goodness and grace for granted and acted as if we did not know you at all. Give us wisdom, patience, and love for the office bearers of the church as they shepherd us in this challenging time in the life of the church. Give wisdom, patience, and love to us all for our interaction with each other as members of the body of Christ Give us openness to see and make use of opportunities to reach out with the love of Christ in our dealings with those outside of our church communities. Grant that during this time of health crisis we may love our neighbours as ourselves and find innovative though concrete ways in which to show that we do love them.

Lord, may we look with zeal to the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ, the moment when he will make all things well, and good, and new. We so look forward to the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, when the first heaven and the first earth will have passed away. When the holy city, New Jerusalem, will come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That beautiful day when we will hear a loud voice from the throne, which will say: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. You, our good, merciful, and gracious God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.”

Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
AMEN



Benediction

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us[a] that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

This tune (Palmetto) was composed by Christiaan Nobels for a hymn I wrote: Praised Be the God of Israel. Arie den Hollander performs it. The five books of the Book of Psalms all close with a doxology. This song is one extended doxology made from the five. Stanzas 1 and 12 are similar but have a significant difference. Stanza 1 calls forth praise from Israel while stanza 12 calls forth praise from all nations. To represent the post-Pentecost singing of the church today, stanza 12 employs the well-known hymnic phrase “Soli Deo Gloria.” The SATB score can be viewed here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Hymn on the Prodigal Son

This is a new hymn tune (Prodigal) composed by Christiaan Nobels for a hymn I wrote: "The Wastrel Son in Distant Land." This hymn is based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. Arie den Hollander performs it. An SATB score can be seen here:

Monday, March 09, 2020

O Come now Holy Spirit

Veni Sancte Spiritus (“Come Holy Spirit”), is usually attributed to either the thirteenth-century Pope Innocent III or to the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, although it has been attributed to others as well. Here is a new English version, lyrics by George van Popta, set to a new tune, Carolina, composed by Christiaan Nobels, and performed by Arie den Hollander. SATB score can be seen here.