If you read this space with any kind of regularity you already know how much I love our church home at First Presbyterian of Brandon. We’re a medium-sized church that is convinced we’re a large church and we’ve pretty-much got ourselves fooled.
Consequently, we enjoy the attendance numbers of congregations more than twice our size and the place is always buzzing with life and activity. You know the loud “hummm” you can hear when you get close enough to high-voltage power lines? Well, that’s what people hear/feel/see when they hang around First Presbyterian. It’s alive; it’s palpable; it’s electric; it’s the Spirit at work.
WORD: Preaching at our church is always both challenging and interesting. Yesterday Rebekah’s message contained a word within The Word that became THE WORD for the morning. That word is “astonishing.”
She preached from both Psalm 60 and Mark 1, and before church Tim (another pastor on staff) said he had no idea how she was possibly going to be able to bring the two texts together.
- Psalm 60 is all about trouble, hard times, and God’s displeasure. But it’s also loaded with hope, restoration, healing, salvation, the banner of truth.
- The Mark reading contains this familiar passage: “When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:21-22)
Rebekah said the notation at the beginning of Psalm 60 caught her attention. The writer suggests the Psalm should be sung “To the tune of The Lily of the Covenant...” And, because of that reminder, she read – and understood – the passage in the context of God’s constant faithfulness to the Covenant.
AMAZING! Jesus came along and also spoke out of the context of that same Covenant. Only when they heard Jesus talking the people could tell that something was qualitatively different. “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! (verse 27)”
Echoing back to the Psalm 60 passage, the King James Version translates verse three as follows, “Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.”
When Jesus came along everyone was amazed at his teaching. Nothing bland or boring; no “blah, blah, blah another sermon…;” no half-measures when it comes to the Good News of the Gospel!
And this is the covenant that we still have; Jesus referred to it as, “The new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you… (Luke 22:20)”
Rebekah drew a very helpful connection between what the Psalmist referred to as, “The wine of astonishment” and the New Covenant offered by Jesus, the one who speaks with an authority that is so astonishing.
ASTONISHING WINE: Tim had been paying attention too (always a good thing when the other pastor is preaching!), and the connection between the two passages was beautifully etched in our corporate experience when we shifted into the communion service. And so, when Tim held up the cup and the bread, he invited all of us to come and to share in “This astonishing wine.”
This is why I always say that Sunday with our faith community is the best possible way to prepare for Monday and the balance of the week.
God’s love in Jesus really is astonishing!
Peace and blessings – DEREK