Saturday, July 07, 2007

Elements of Reformed Worship

June 2001

Elements of Reformed Worship


As God's people gather for worship, through Scripture or song, we focus our attention on God and away from ourselves.

Worshipers today, like the prophet Isaiah, cannot come into the presence of our holy God without realizing our own sinfulness. When we confess, we do so for ourselves and for the church as a whole.

Scripture calls us to confession; Scripture also assures us of God's inestimable love.

Before attempting to listen for the Word of God, we pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit to open our ears to hear and our hearts to receive what God is saying to us through Scripture and interpretation.

The Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, comes from the pages of Scripture. Interpretation of God's Word comes through Spirit-inspired speech, drama, music, dance, or other forms of communication.

Part of our response to the living Word is Spirit-prompted prayer, possible in many varied forms and formats.

Our greatest rejoicing can come only around the Table of the Lord as we share in communion with Christ and with God's people. When that is not possible, offering of ourselves and of our tangible gifts can be a beginning response to the Word.

True Worship
When the liturgy of the church is concluded, our true worship begins. Everything we know about God teaches us that true worship, lifestyle evangelism, is an intentional living of each day in prayer and mission, in our home, our work, our study, our recreation: glorifying and enjoying God forever.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

On that which relates to the notions of Election, Predestination, Soteriology, Salvation

“Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ” affirms the Saving Lordship of Jesus Christ in unmistakable declarations:

Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord, and all people everywhere are called to place their faith, hope, and love in him. No one is saved by virtue of inherent goodness or admirable living, for “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” [Ephesians 2:8]. No one is saved apart from God’s gracious redemption in Jesus Christ. Yet we do not presume to limit the sovereign freedom of “God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:4]. Thus, we neither restrict the grace of God to those who profess explicit faith in Christ nor assume that all people are saved regardless of faith. Grace, love, and communion belong to God, and are not ours to determine. [lines 155-168]

This statement has received deep appreciation and approval throughout the PCUSA, clearly proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Reformed understanding of salvation.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On the Notion(s) of Separation vs. "Boundaries"

Some parents in the congregation have recently been having a conversation regarding the need for youth ministry not only to the young folks in the ["un-churched"] community around us, but also [and especially?] to the ["churched"] youth within our member families' fellowship(s). One parent spoke about the need for "separation" in the duties of a church youth leader between their responsibilities to devote time in ministry to member youth in the congregation vs. their time spent volunteering with Young Life and elsewhere in the larger community. The question begs itself--How does one do this with integrity for the missional calling of the Lord upon us in ministry together without showing favoritism to any particular group(s) with whom we are called to minister? Upon further reflection on this, the following thoughts recently came to mind:

...rather than using the word “separation” in our conversation(s), the word “boundaries” might be more useful to our dialogue on the topic of “Young Life vs. Youth Group”. A “boundary” for me connotes a more facilitating sense of flexibility and permeability in material for membranes that may provide for a more gracious definition. The word “bounds” implies an indication of limits and an acknowledgement of one’s own [human] limitations in the larger context of God’s boundlessly amazing grace. I am, myself, continually working on the challenges of my own “boundary issues” toward a healthier integrative balancing act between the work of ministry and personal home and family life in the Lord. As such, I wonder whether there may be a healthier approach to this--a truth that would help free us to be true to ourselves in our sense of God's call upon us to missional ministry. The way, the truth, and the life in the Spirit of Jesus Who would lead us in wholeness, integrity, health, wellness, peace -- SHALOM -- as we live the life we are meant to enjoy for God's glory and not just for our own good, but the good of others--all of us together.

Following is a quote from a poet/philosopher from the previous century which for me provides further insight on this matter:

May 4
Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupation?
Who can spread his hours before him, saying,
“This is for my God and this for myself;
this for my soul and this other for my body”?
All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
— Kahlil Gibran

And also, a somewhat related quote from a much earlier century:

May 8The Christian prays in every situation, in his walks for recreation, in his dealings with others, in silence, in reading, in all rational pursuits. — Clement of Alexandria

Friday, April 27, 2007

Arise, come away....

Song of Songs 2:10-13
My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's all about... Who....

March 26 — The great weakness of North American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting in on the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. And the more there is of us, the less there is of God.

Quotations for March are excerpts selected from Eugene Peterson’s letters to a friend collected in The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends (Zondervan, 1998)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Pastoral PerspectiveOn The Word Written Life

This past weekend I had the honor and privilege of rooting for my nephew, Aaron Michael Snoberger at the statewide tournament for high school wrestling competitions in Huntington, West Virginia. As a senior, Aaron had ranked fourth in the state among high school students in his weight class prior to Ash Wednesday.

Now, upon this past first weekend in this season of Lent, I am proud to share with you as his uncle that at Saturday’s final matches, he won third place in the whole state of W.Va. I cannot express to you enough what a thrilling rush it was to root for him and his teammates as well as other wrestlers against very formidable opponents. I marveled at how each of these young people struggled on those mats through the process of working due diligence toward victory, doing their best to succeed, even in the face of some interim defeats. Their perseverance and determination leading up to the concentrated intensity of three two-minute rounds for a maximum of six minutes in those circles was something to behold. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ own wrestling with the devil through three rounds of temptations going back and forth with the Word of God as He exhibited for us what it means to live and embody The Word Written Life.

Amidst the resounding rumbles and loud shouts of parents, families, and communities, they were cheering them on with strength, vigor and vitality to encourage and empower them in their journey through the ring. It was, for me, an image of what we are supposed to be about in our mission as Christian families and communities in the body of Christ, enjoying the experience of being there, rooting for each other, encouraging each other’s growth and development for ministry, praying in support of one another in the journey of faith to the glory of God. This is what many among us are endeavoring and encouraged to do this spring season in our Lenten Life Together through the mission and ministry of small groups.

Well, as I stood there shouting from the top of my lungs, almost losing my voice last week, it seemed as though I could well imagine what it might have been like for the Son of Man to have His heavenly Father urging Him on right there from the stands in the distance, as near to Him in Spirit as Aaron’s dad, Bill was, pulling for his son throughout the trying times of the contest of his time.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus spent about six weeks – forty days, in the desert to be in communion with God and to reflect upon his upcoming ministry. While there, the devil confronted Jesus. This reminds us that goodness is not the same as innocence. Goodness is realized following an experience of struggling with evil. It is in the testing of such trials and temptations that the power and glory of Christ endures and overcomes by God’s Word and Spirit.

Beloved, we have been given an invitation to experience through a season of preparation in Lent the blessings of The Word Written Life. Jesus knew His Father and God’s Word written by the Holy Spirit intimately enough to apply effectively in time of need when faced with the devil’s temptations. He knew enough to recognize, discern, distinguish and differentiate truth from falsehood when Scripture was being misused and/or misapplied by the enemy. The value of the training He received and exercised earlier in life equipped, enabled and empowered Him to intuitively employ techniques against His opponent in a tough and trying situation. It was by training in his nature with the leading and power of the Holy Spirit to engage in spiritual warfare using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In this Lenten season, I encourage you to join with others in Christian community over six weeks of fellowship in a small group. Let us discover The Word Written Life in our experience of life together.

In Christ,
Pastor Rex

Year C 2007 February 25
Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Friday, February 16, 2007

Christian PerspectivesOn the Business of Busy-ness
This article was submitted for publication in The Courier-Times newspaper and is adapted from a posting on the blog

In “Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life” internationally renowned author, priest, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen wrote:

One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy.
We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep.... The strange thing, however, is that it is very hard not to be busy. Being busy has become a status symbol.[1]

If being busy has indeed become a status symbol, I wonder why at times, when I keep finding myself saying it. The casual conversation at the supermarket or when you meet someone at Wal-Mart can go something like this: “Hi! How are you?” “Oh, fine. Really busy these days.” “Busy enough keeping busy, huh?!?” And so goes the next sort of repartee one might encounter on any given day at the store. Busy, busy, busy. Even on my personal web site at I have a brief bit on this:

Come on by and say, "Hello!"
In the context of today's culture in which it seems our society is ever all the more marked by busy-ness, and as one who is being continually challenged in my pastoral vocation to be pastorally accessible, I invite you to come by and visit my blog site and/or web site, chat for a bit over a warm cup, a bite to eat, and/or a brief virtual byte over the net. Of course, if you are actually physically in the area, please feel free to stop by the church office and say, "Hello!" in person yourself! I am one who enjoys taking interest in how God is working in others' lives, drawing people into a deeper experience of the Lord's power and presence for God's glory and our good. So, come on by and say, "Hello!" ("You've got mail!") My aim/msn/yahoo instant messenger/messaging screenname is: rexespiritu

It appears as though being busy is just the way it is these days. But something in me seems to want to throw up at the idea of resigning myself to some godforsaken state of trans-conscious nirvana in which the business of busy-ness, if you will, winds up robbing me of the life that God intends for us in Christ. As another quote attributed to the same work of Henri Nouwen goes:

Jesus wants us to move from the “many things” to the “one necessary thing.” It is important for us to realize that Jesus in no way wants us to leave our many-faceted world. Rather, he wants us to live in it, firmly rooted in the center of all things. Jesus does not speak about a change in activities, a change in contacts, or even a change of pace. He speaks about a change of heart. This change of heart makes everything different, even while everything appears to be the same.[2]

As I found myself preaching a few Sundays ago, I was realizing anew myself that this is a process which involves a paradigm shift not just in our doing, but more importantly in our very being. The Word of God proclaims through us in Christ the good news of the Gospel that says to the world around us, “Look and see!!! I AM making all things new!” And indeed many among us are continually experiencing the truth of this Word authored by the Holy Spirit of God being written anew in our life together at this special time and place called New Castle in Henry County, Indiana. If we were to “take time to stop and smell the roses,” so to speak, even in the midst of being snowbound, we may well appreciate where and when the Lord God has put us for such a time and place as this.

I do not want to take for granted the uncommon gift and service of such a column as this in and through which ministers are given an opportunity to be published in The Courier-Times from week to week as a public forum for the free expression of ideas with a Christian perspective. As such, I thank God for all those who preside over and work at this publication. And I praise the Lord for the gift of this community in which we serve one another in life together. Dear ones, Let us not be too busy to taste and see it – That the Lord is good indeed and that God’s love continues to endure among us.

In Christ,

Pastor Rex Espiritu


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

January 23
Listen my people,
mark each word.
I begin with a story,
I speak of mysteries
welling up from ancient depths,
heard and known from our elders.
We must not hide
this story from our children
but tell the mighty works
and all the wonders of God.
Psalm 78:1-4

January 19 — Christian nurture is not a hobby; it is not designed for the naturally religious; it is not made for those who are making sense already. No, it is for those who have lost their way, for those who are desperate because they cannot put everything together and make their lives truly worthy. — Paul Holmer, Making Christian Sense