Monday, April 28, 2008

Isaiah 12:1-6 Sermon post mortem -- the one where he mentions South Park (and then makes us sing loud)

Starting this new tradition for our Sunday worship -- the sermon post-mortem. You can listen to the sunday sermon online (this week is Isaiah Ch 12:1-6). And here I'll dissect, give more backgrounders, links, and invite your discussion. I'll be going linearly through the sermon... jump to what interests you.

John Piper and the preview of end times worship:
In styling this as a preview of end times worship, I make reference to John Piper's statement that the end goal of all church activity is worship. This was one of those unplanned references....I hadn't thought of it during my prep time.... it came to mind in the midst of the sermon. I have an understanding that the Holy Spirit at times operates by dredging things up from the recesses of memory at the opportune time, and thus I have to make a quick discernment on whether this might or might not be the Holy Spirit leading (ie, judge against scriptural teaching, is this timely, is it needful for this congregation at this time). Obviously, in this case, I decided to go with it and use the illustration.

BTW, I came into the office this morning and looked up an exact quote ... right there in the opening sentences of Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever." (pg 11)

If you've never experienced Piper's preaching ... you must hear him firsthand. Here's a brief clip. He challenges me and stretches me as a preacher and a Christian.

While we're on the topic of worship, I wanted to share a few commentary quotes. My analysis of a passage is aided and informed by several commentaries (I'm using about 6 right now for Isaiah) of the most helpful is Ray Ortlund's. (see bio here). He has some wonderfully refreshing ways of capturing Isaiah's message in this passage:
“It is out of our delight in God that we find our prophetic voices. True Christianity isn’t primarily a matter of control; primarily it’s overflowing fullness. That is the triumph of grace.” (120)

“Have you transitioned from being frustrated with a reluctant God who isn’t cooperating with your agenda to being comforted by a God who is lavishing you with grace upon grace? How does anyone turn that corner? By going back to the gospel that made us Christians in the first place.” (120)

“The heart sings when we accept how little it matters that we are in control and how much it matters that God is in control for us, when we discover how little it matters that we are able and how much it suffices that God is able on our behalf.” (122)
That last quote was worth the cover price of the book....

Aspects of Worship: Praise for our Salvation (v1-2)
I linger a bit talking about how our praise shouldn't simply be about the glories of creation, but we're also called to praise for the glories of salvation. I don't mean to denigrate praise for the glories of creation....i'm really into God being praised through creation (Psalm 19). However, we cannot lose the praise of Christ for his distinctive work of salvation ... and thus I lingered on this point.

Aspects of Worship: Joy, the heart of our worship (v3)
Here was the controversial part of the sermon. I talk positively about joy .... and then I use a negative illustration for contrast. I chose for this negative illustration the creators of South Park: Matt Stone and Trey Parker (from a March Rolling Stone interview). I used this extended quote to show the poverty of their cynical worldview"

Parker says: “I spend shockingly little time thinking about real-world stuff…As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got a computer, the internet, an Xbox, and PlayStation 3, so f*** off.” and again “The only way to be more hardcore than everyone else is to tell the people who think they’re the most hardcore that they’re p******, to go up to a tattooed, pierced vegan and say ‘Whatever, you tattooed f******, you’re a pierced f****** and whatever.’ ......That’s hardcore”

Then the article author makes this observation "Like a lot of punks, he’s searching for that one pure thing in life but hasn’t found it yet.”

I quickly discovered that at least one person was highly offended by this illustration. Others were very bemused as to why I was talking about South Park. After the service, I approached the person who was offended to make sure we were OK. That person conveyed to me that South Park was totally offensive and it had no place in worship. We didn't end the conversation on bad terms. This person said their peace and they were OK (as near as I can tell). But plenty of others expressed their not understanding of the illustration.

I was a little confused because I made it clear that it's a negative example ... "It's a foul and profane show". Here's the thing .... I'd rather not talk about such things, but this is indeed the world in which we live. After worship, I spoke with at least 4 men who were under 40, all of whom watched South Park and thought it was hilarious. I really feel like my peers need to hear the worldview of the creators of South Park so they can understand the poverty...indeed the tragedy of that worldview.

And the church needs to hear it .... because if we simply get offended then we play into their game. They're trying to offend. They're trying to show that they don't care that they offend. However, by my perspective, it's easy to offend. Offensiveness doesn't require a lot of imagination....I do it plenty enough myself by accident (and I'm one who hates offending others). So, the only way to counter it is to rise above offendedness. After all, it's not like these guys are some outsider rebels anymore .... they've got a hit show, they're millionaires, for better or worse, they impact the culture a lot more than I do. They don't need me to be offended by them ... they need my pity. Because now that they've got everything they ever wanted, their lives are empty and void. Can you imagine looking at your dying day, thinking back over your legacy and saying "Yeah, I'm proud I created South Park....." It's pathetic....really. Our hearts ought to break for these guys .... for they have it all, and they know not what they're missing.

So I don't mean to dismiss the discomfort that some of our members may have felt. After reflection, I think I understand the discomfort. It's a little like someone showing up to your formal party with dungarees and muddy cowboy boots, only a lot more distasteful. It's like having something lovely (worship) marred by something ugly.

Aspects of worship: Worship carries the message to the nations (v4-6)
I meant to make the connection with the John ch 4 passage with the woman at the well. I mentioned it earlier when talking about the wells of living water. But the end of the story, the woman goes and tells her whole village and many come to faith. The wells of living water imagery goes hand in glove with telling the nations.

Aspects of worship: Worship leads us to break forth in song (v 5-6)
I mention Scott Dudley's presentation at the 2006 PGF conference. Here's a link to the videos available from that conference. The idea that group singing is one of the things that Christians do that baffles folks outside the church "why do you sing?".... and thus we all ought to sing with gusto.

Combox is open for questions, comments, thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria.