Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Seven - The Dance of Marriage

My lovely wife and I celebrated eleven years of marriage with a quiet dinner last Friday evening at a local winery’s restaurant. As we reflected thankfully on God’s faithfulness to us over the years, we were also saddened to think of friends and acquaintances whose marriages have been damaged or even destroyed in the last decade. We are so grateful for God’s grace in our marriage that has helped deepen our love and commitment.

As I speak with peers, co-workers and even fellow Christians, I am surprised by how frequently people are willing to ignore teachings about proper roles in marriage and thus set themselves up for disappointment at best, frustration and grief at worst.

I have recently been quite taken with the writings of Robert Farrar Capon (whose cookbook, The Supper of the Lamb, I highly recommend). He is theologically suspect at times, but he has a clear gift for finding poetic analogies for Biblical truth. I’ll end this entry with a quotation from his 1965 book on marriage “Bed and Board” that I think gives a beautiful image of roles in marriage:

"The reason the headship of the husband is so violently objected to is that it is misunderstood…There are no second-class citizens in the New Jerusalem. It is husbands and wives that are unequal. In marriage…they enter into a relationship of superior to inferior—of head to body. And the difference there is not one of worth, ability or intelligence, but of role. It is functional, not organic. It is based on the exigencies of the Dance, not on a judgment as to talent. In the ballet, in any intricate dance, one dancer leads, the other follows. Not because one is better (he may or may not be), but because that is his part. Our mistake, here as elsewhere, is to think the equality and diversity are irreconcilable. The common notion of equality is based on the image of the march. In a parade, really unequal beings are dressed alike, given guns of identical length, trained to hold them at the same angle, and ordered to keep step with a fixed beat. But it is not the parade that is true to life; it is the dance. There you have real equals assigned unequal roles in order that each may achieve his individual perfection in the whole. Nothing is less personal than a parade; nothing more so than a dance. It is the choice image of fulfillment through function, and it comes very close to the heart of the Trinity. Marriage is a hierarchical game played by co-equal persons. Keep that paradox and you move in the freedom of the Dance; alter it, and you grow weary with marching."

May all our marriages be lived in the freedom and glory of the Dance!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Four - Sabbath Worship

I recently read the book “With Reverence and Awe” by D.G. Hart and John Muether. It is an unapologetically Reformed book on corporate worship within the church, and while I can’t unequivocally recommend it, they challenged my thinking in a number of areas, and articulated more clearly than I could have some things I have thought for a while.

One thing that I really appreciated was the chapter on “The Holy Day of Worship”. They begin by saying the rhythm of corporate worship is important; the regular observation of, and preparation for, Sunday worship is an important part of our Christian growth. They continue by saying that we often treat our corporate worship indifferently because we treat Sundays indifferently. The general thrust of their argument is this:

The decline in sabbath-keeping (Note – I prefer the term “Celebrating the Lord’s Day”) and the current unrest and confusion about worship are related. They assert there are two main reasons for this. First, as many churches have become increasingly focused on particular demographics and offered numerous programs to meet felt needs, Sunday worship services have become just one more program, instead of a centre of church life.

Second, the domination of evangelicalism by revivalism (as opposed to revival. See “Evangelicalism Divided” by the always-insightful Iain Murray for a balanced and wide-ranging look at this subject) in the past fifty years has created a thirst for “mountain top” experiences and a consequent distain for the regular cadence of celebrating Sundays by worshipping with God’s people. Without this regular, consistent feeding and nourishment, believers can become spiritually bulimic.

They devote much of the rest of the chapter to offering a Biblical defense for these views as well as how to correct the situation. I will post some more of their comments next week.

It served as a reminder to me of the importance of devoting our Sundays to the Lord, and planning ahead so that we can celebrate Sundays. We try to use Saturday to bring the week to an end and prepare spiritually and physically for Sunday.

All our lives are to be lived to the glory of God and offered as a spiritual sacrifice of worship, but let us not neglect the special and unique blessings that accrue to believers who faithfully devote themselves to keeping Sunday holy. May our Sundays be holy, “set apart”, to help our worship of our holy God be holy as well.