Saturday, August 29, 2009

Box Store Religion?? Part III

Why do you go to church? Why go at all? After all, can't you worship God in the woods by yourself? What is so important about attending church? What is the church? Is a building or a group of people? So what's all this about your church building reflecting your theology Richard? Who cares?

Questions like these dog all of us who go to church. What's so important about church attendance? What is supposed to be there that so all fired important? Well, that's what this blog is all about. I'm simply trying to make sense for myself and hopefully for you a purpose for church. Now, before we continue our trek through history please remember, I'm just an ordinary bloke. I don't have a series of degrees posted after my name. I never attended a seminary although I've had Bible College training and a simple Bachelor's degree. But, I have a deep love for truth, God, the Gospel and the Church. I've studied a lot on my own and have years of training in the school of hard knocks. I suppose were I to start all over, I might study to teach somewhere. But at this stage in life, that seems a bit out of my reach.

But, I can think and I think I can write a fairly well. So let's plunge into our study. I left you with a brief study of the Todah sacrifice and Todah Psalms. The sacrifice was primarily given after a major life threatening event and subsequent deliverance, and the Psalm was a song written to describe the deliverance. Let's take a short closer look at the sacrifice. Read Leviticus 7:12-15 again. Notice what is offered. Bread, a lamb slaughtered and oil. The Todah sacrifice would be offered often at home, the priest would sacrifice the lamb and anoint the bread and bring it to the home. This was the custom. And the Todah Psalm would be sung. Of course, the second half of the Psalm points to the ultimate resurrection and deliverance of the soul.

Now, briefly there was one other facet of the Peace Offering in the Jewish tradition. It is called the Passover Sacrifice. Of course, this refers back to the liberation of the Jews from the Egyptian captivity by Moses. But the Passover Sacrifice had some common elements with the Todah Sacrifice. Both used unleavened bread, (Ex. 12:8 and Lev. 7:12. Both were eaten the same day they were offered. Ex 12:10 and Lev. 7:15. The primary difference between the two was the Todah was given by an individual while the Passover was celebrated annually on the same day by the entire nation of Israel. It is the highest practice of the Todah sacrifice in the Old Testament. It had it's own Psalms which are called the "Hallel" Psalms which move from lament to praise.

Now, let's fast forward to the New Testament. Jesus and his disciples are gathering for the annual Passover meal. Remember, Jesus is a Jew. The disciples are Jewish. They worship in the temple and during this Passover season they now come together in an upper room to celebrate the Passover meal together. And Jesus does a remarkable thing. In the midst of Passover, the ultimate expression of Thanksgiving of deliverance, He offers...the Todah sacrifice. In the midst of the national celebration he gives the individual celebration of the Todah, Thanksgiving sacrifice. It is a major statement of his offering of himself as the sacrifice and deliverer of his people. He becomes the Passover Lamb. It's his body which is to be broken. Luke 22:19 And in vs. 20 he announces the New Covenant.

Everything that had been taught and sung in under the Old Covenant in the worship of Israel was now revealed in light of a new understanding. Jesus was saying everything in the old covenant pointed to him. All the writings of the prophets and psalmists now are understood as pointing to him. To understand the old, he is stating, he is the ultimate fulfillment. He is the ultimate sacrifice that lasts for eternity for men's salvation.
If that doesn't give you a Hallelujah chill, you need an infusion of the spirit.

Then Jesus said something extremely important. "Do this in memory of me." Luke 22:19 Don't ever forget his statement. This is the command of Jesus. It is to be a major, major part of our worship. For in this celebration, this Todah combined with the Passover, in context of the "seder" we are given a lesson in the ultimate love of the Father and his Son, Jesus. And for over a 2000 years this still remains important.

One other thing to maybe seal this truth. It's not in the scriptures but the Jewish teacher taught that during the reign of the Messiah, all sacrifices will cease, except for the Todah. The songs of Praise. It is to be a perpetual sacrifice of Praise. A sacrifice given once and only once, for all and is effective for eternity. This is Jesus. He, in the ultimate expression of Todah, given, once and only once for all and permanently effective throughout eternity. He is the perpetual sacrifice, the only sacrifice, once given and effective now and forever. Need I say it again?

I don't want to over look the bread and wine. This was Jesus foretold in the Todah sacrifice and Passover meal. Don't forget that. Remember it. I'm repeating myself, I know. But folks, what is absent from nearly all Protestant services today? The bread and wine. It's been shoved out. It's no longer central. It's an after thought. And yet, it is the most important testament to our faith. It should be front and central in our worship.

When I go to church, I want that to be thrown in my face. I want to be reminded of that great last supper where Christ offered himself as the great Todah sacrifice. The sacrifice of Thanksgiving and Praise for all eternity. The ultimate sacrifice of love.

When they were finished Jesus and the disciples sang the Hillel hymns of the Passover and went out to confront his destiny.

After Jesus' death and resurrection, he appeared to the disciples and others and opened up the scriptures. Then he left us. But on the day of Pentecost he sent the Holy Spirit and the Church was born. What were the marks of that church?

Next time I'll wind up this study with the other half what our church should reflect.

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