Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy Drei Koenigs Tage!

Though (obviously) there weren’t necessarily drei, and they really weren’t koenigs.

Yesterday I got round to putting my skis on. Familiar runs – Mannlichen a couple of times, then over to Kleine Sceidegg, and down to Wengen. Nice to feel my legs working, and some semblance of technique in place. Perhaps a fastest first day, and certainly a safe one. I started with the bit at the top of the red at Mannlichen which always scares me – it rolls as well as falls, and it’s the combination of the two angles on the slope which gets me. But it was remarkably fine, and good to do first.

Back in Wengen, I bumped into Christoph and Claire Ebbinghaus. They had been in church on Sunday evening, and Christoph had recognised me from leading worship at one of the Wycliffe/Regents Summer Schools a few years back in Oxford. He pastors a Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland, and after hot chocolate at Rocks Cafe, we then all walked across the valley from Grutschalp to Murren. Beautiful, but cold! It was lovely to chat of our fellowships, and our vision for what God has called us to be a part of. I think his people are blessed to have him and Claire lead them through these days.

On Sunday evening, on the pretext of thinking about the Wise Men who worshipped the infant Jesus, I had preached on Romans 12.1-2 (six verses less than I had set Stewart Franklin, though of course he had the option to settle on what he liked; I really only touched on Romans 12.1) as a way of defining worship. Funny, every time I come back to Romans I see something new. First time I did a long teaching session on Romans at St Catherine’s I found my great exposition of Righteousness (right relationship with God); second time, I found its rightful counter-weight in a balanced understanding of Sin (the broken relationship, and the things of brokenness that come from it). And in an almost throw-away line on Sunday night I suddenly encapsulated the core of all that teaching into three words: sin, righteousness, and the thing that enables the journey between the two – sacrifice.

Sacrifice, not as in giving something up – a theology of loss; nor as in appeasing an angry God in order to make him happy (like the prophets of Baal tried to do); but rather sacrifice as in the Old Testament understanding of “lifting up” the best of creation to the Creator in order to demonstrate that the greatest things of this world are nothing in comparison with knowing him. We hold the things of the broken order up to the God of restoration, and in this healing act of worship, this sacrifice, there is a sign of the Sacrifice that will bring the healing of all. “I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people unto myself.”

What mercy! And, in view of such mercy, Paul urges us (Romans 12.1) to offer our whole lives, not just a restricted part, a restricted understanding, a limited selection of acts or songs or deeds as an ongoing and living sacrifice: Christ has written the hymn, and we are called to sing it. This is worship that makes sense: not loss, not appeasement (what travesty), but singing Christ’s salvation’s song after him.

And perhaps our worship too may draw others to the life that is therefore more and more?

Today is really quite cold. Not much skiing for me. But here are some snowflakes on my jacket sleeve. Thought you might like something gratuitously pretty!