The Church’s One Foundation — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: John 5:24-27
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

1 Corinthians 3:11
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Church’s One Foundation — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

Controversy! Accusations! Divisive leaders!

No, not a reference to today’s headlines, but to a schism in the Church of England in the 1860s. Popular Bishop John William Colenso of Natal, South Africa raised the ire of many of his colleagues with controversial theological stances.

Colenso faced criticism shortly after his appointment, when he allowed polygamists to be baptized by the church without requiring them to divorce their multiple wives. Later, his writings and views on the authorship and historicity of some Old Testament books elicited protest from his more orthodox contemporaries.

The most vocal opposition came from another South African Bishop, Robert Gray of Cape Town. Gray went so far as to appeal to have Colenso removed from his post and even excommunicated. Colenso was removed but later reinstated by a judicial committee, which lead to a split in the South African church.

Meanwhile, in Oxford, England, Samuel John Stone was a young minister serving in a poor parish. Concerned by the division in the church in South Africa, Stone also recognized that his own congregants did not possess a full understanding of the basic tenets of their faith.

Inspired by a desire to bring clarity and unity, Stone wrote Lyra Fidelium: Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Included in this collection was the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” which references the church in South Africa.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed.

“The Church’s One Foundation” is Stone’s attempt to expound upon article nine of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy Catholic (i.e. universal) Church, the communion of saints.” 

As the hymn proclaims, the Church is founded upon Jesus Christ and him alone. The Church was inaugurated by the blood sacrifice and ultimate resurrection of Jesus. The Church is of Christ, for Christ, and belongs to Christ.

The season of Lent is an opportunity for the Church and for all Christians to examine our allegiances. To whom do we owe our existence? To whom do we give our loyalty?

The Church’s witness has been compromised by our misguided devotion to personalities, politics, and pariahs. To be a faithful voice of truth and love in the world, we must recover our singular dedication to Jesus Christ. We must return to our one true foundation.

The church’s one Foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord.
She is His new creation,
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride.
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.


Music: The Church’s One Foundation by Indelible Grace Music
Lyrics: “The Church’s One Foundation” lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 26 (Listen – 4:18)
John 5 (Listen – 5:42)

Read more about Solus Christus
For nothing can ever replace Jesus, nothing can ever exceed Jesus, and nothing is ever needed in addition to Jesus.

Read more about There is a Fountain Filled with Blood
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though as vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Complaint to Commission—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jon Polk, Hong Kong
We have sadly become so conditioned to take sides on every issue, attempting to discredit those who disagree with us, that we easily forget that God loves the “other” just as much as us. Paul identifies his audience as “former sinners” because he remembers his own past and the grace of God that saved him. May our faith never make us so smug and self-righteous that we forget how God rescued us out of the pit of mud and mire (Psalm 40). As Christians, we must remember that every human bears the image of God and that no one is beyond the reach of God’s saving grace. 

Originally published, September 4, 2019, based on readings from 1 Samuel 28 & 1 Corinthians 9.

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 9.1
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?

Reflection: Complaint to Commission—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

In his book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, Russell Moore relates a rebuke he received and took to heart. Moore and several others were discussing a topic that often arises among pastors and even among laypersons—the pitiful state of the church. Moore asked rhetorically if there was any hope for the future of Christian witness.

Many believers may have despondent questions regarding this topic that bring our spirits low.
Isn’t it terrible how leaders with no scruples are staining the church’s reputation?
Isn’t it terrible how church attendance is such a low priority for so-called “believers?”
Isn’t it terrible how many young leaders are apostatizing and publically leaving the faith?

Complaining can turn into unspiritual grumbling but it can also initiate lament in our lives and communities. To spur our thinking in the right direction, we sometimes need a wise answer to our complaining questions.

Theologian, Carl F. Henry was listening to Dr. Moore’s conversation and responded to Moore’s question:

“Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic. Of course, there is hope for the next generation of the church. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current Christian subculture. They’re probably still pagans. Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles? Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, once an agnostic professor, or a Charles Colson, once Richard Nixon’s hatchet man, to lead the twentieth-century church? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors of the faith.” 

It would be difficult to find a New Testament city more akin to our culture than Corinth. Our culture is equally pagan, sinful, and damaging. Paul’s long and passionate letters to the Corinthians show his own struggles, complaints, and problems with the church and its witness there. Paul also shows us how to go beyond complaint to the cure our culture needs—the gospel. 

These believers, who were formerly sinners of every kind, were dear to Paul’s heart. As we work to transform our culture with the gospel, the sinners around us must be dear to our hearts as well. 

We must be their apostle. The work of making disciples is not given only to the clergy. It is the calling and command to every believer. The disciples to lead the next generation of the church may be those we have yet to reach.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. — Psalm 13.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 50 (Listen – 8:42)
Psalm 28-29 (Listen – 2:41)

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Read more about Blessed is the One :: A Guided Prayer
We are not blameless. We are not righteous.
When we honestly and humbly look in our hearts we find wickedness there.

The Last Shall be First—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 15.3-10
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.

1 Timothy 6.17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 

Reflection: The Last Shall be First—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

Paul’s analogy, translated “born unnaturally,” could be interpreted to mean an abortion or miscarriage. It is similar in meaning to the Hebrew word Job uses in Job 3.16 to wish he had never been born. Paul was not aborted but rather reborn—resurrected by Jesus as a new person. Paul’s intention seems to be to humble himself, making himself as unimportant as possible.

Paul describes himself as the “last” to see the risen Jesus and the least of the apostles but he became much more than that. By word count he is unquestionably the first, especially of epistles which contain explanations of the theological meaning of the gospel resurrection accounts.

Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15 relates to us one of the earliest bits of writing about the resurrection. In verses 3-5, Paul is passing on what he learned from others about the resurrection appearances of Jesus. This text is a rhythmic format in Greek which scholars (including Gary Habermas, whose video discussing this we shared earlier in the week.) believe indicates it was written as early as one to two years after the cross and was intended as an easily memorizable early creed or lesson. 

This statement of faith in the resurrection could have been memorized and shared by some of the very families which Paul had been putting in chains prior to his conversion. 

If we believe the New Testament, then much of its message hinges on appearances and visions of Jesus. It is an important detail that these visions are not simply taken at face value in the text. The disciples and the authorities doubt them, test them, hear them over and over, and reconcile them with scripture. Paul, before experiencing an appearance of Jesus, tortured and murdered others for believing them.

In Paul’s day, women and children were not to be believed. So Jesus comes to the women first. Scholars and theologians were believed to see the scriptures clearly. So Jesus blinds Paul, one of the most brilliant theologians of his day.

We must flip many of our assumptions to enter the gospel story. To be mature we must believe as children. To be a part of the family we must admit we are outsiders. To gain riches of spiritual insight we must admit we are poor, blind, and naked.

Following Paul’s example, only by putting ourselves last, can we put Jesus first and take hold of “the life that is truly life.”

*For information on the historical evidence of the consistency and reliability of the gospel message, see this video from scholar, Gary Habermas — 1:20

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 4 (Listen – 2:18)
1 Timothy 6 (Listen -3:16)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 5 (Listen – 2:50), 2 Timothy 1 (Listen -2:37)
Ecclesiastes 6 (Listen – 1:44), 2 Timothy 2 (Listen -3:17)

Read more about Angelic Visions Require Childlike Faith
If we read the Bible, and if what we read has anything to do with what we believe, then we have no choice but to take angels seriously.

Read more about Gospel Faith or Garbage Faith
Once he met Christ, Paul realized everything prior was waste, rubbish, by comparison.

Lent is a Community Project

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 13.9-12
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Matthew 5.48
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection: Lent is a Community Project
By John Tillman

C.S. Lewis says, “‘Be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas,…Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.” Lewis continues:

“You must realize from the outset that the goal towards which he is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except yourself, can prevent him from taking you to that goal.”

“Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone. As we say, “I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.” And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.”

But the Spirit of Christ will not settle for making us feel better about ourselves.
If Lent is only a reduction in consumption, we have failed to be nourished by it.
If Lent is only lost weight we have lost the weight of its importance.
If Lent is only valuable for fleshly improvements we achieve, we have failed to value what we could gain.

Lent is not conquering one or two sins or habits we find annoying about ourselves. The fasting in Lent is a community project we engage in as a partnership between us, the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s body, the Church. Its goal is a part of our ever-increasing pursuit of Christ’s prayer that we be perfected in him.

“Make no mistake,” he says, “If you let me, I will make you perfect. You have free will and, if you chose, you can push me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my father can say without reservation that he is well pleased with you, as he said he was well pleased with me.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen -2:21)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen -2:23)

Read more about Mirrors and Sanctification
May we follow the example of these women to transform our use of technology for spiritual purposes.

Read more about More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
We cannot do “more and more” of the things Christ calls us to without doing “less and less” of some other things.

Where Would the Body Be?

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 12:19-20, 24b-26
If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Reflection: Where Would the Body Be?
By Jon Polk

Ever stubbed your pinky toe? Or hit your funny bone? There’s nothing funny about it. It hurts! Even the seemingly most insignificant, minuscule, overlooked parts of our body let us know when they are in extreme pain.

The human body is one of the most complex systems in existence, with 206 bones, over 650 muscles, almost 8 pounds of skin, and numerous ligaments, veins, and arteries. Intricate complexity, yet with remarkable unity.

It is no surprise that Paul utilizes the image of the body as a metaphor for the Church. After all, it was a common ancient image to describe systems and structures. However, body imagery had mainly been used to emphasize and enforce hierarchical social structures, ensuring that each person was kept in their proper place.

Paul’s view of the Church as a body is the exact opposite. Diversity and interdependence of body parts reinforce equality in God’s kingdom. The supposed weaker parts are just as important as the ones that tend to receive more attention.

In his commentary on this passage, Richard Hays writes

“The body is internally differentiated in accordance with the design of God; without such differentiation, the body would be grotesque and helpless, all eye or all ear. For that reason, no member of the body (church) should ever think that he or she is worthless or unimportant.”

Many of our relationships are functional or transactional. What can the hand do for me? Why is the eye not working properly? Foot, why can’t you keep us stable?

The parts (people) that appear to do more, tend to get more attention. And the lesser parts (people) are overlooked. The ear wants to be an eye. The big toe wants to be the heart. We believe the lies that we’re not good enough or important enough to be used by the body.

That’s not how God intends his body to be. Through Christ, we share in one another’s lives. We work for the good of all, not just for our own selfish desires. In God’s design, when the body of Christ is functioning properly, we share burdens and we share joys. In God’s body, every part needs the others.

“How can the hand say to the eye, “I don’t need you, I’ll get by without you.”
How can the eye say to the hand, “I don’t need your touch, you don’t understand what I do.”
Ain’t no use in foolin’ ourselves, you need me and I need you.”
            (“I Need You”, John Cox – Live Performance; Album – “Sunny Day”)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart. — Psalm 32.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 25-26 (Listen -1:52)
1 Corinthians 12 (Listen -4:25)

Read more about Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer
May your prayer for us be fulfilled, Jesus…”I pray for those who will believe…that all of them may be one”

Read more about Hearts God Moves :: Epiphany
One of the gifts of Christ is that we become a part of Epiphany—Christ’s manifestation—as we fulfill our role in the body of Christ.

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