On Princeton and Worship

My friend, Paul Feiler, got a five-minute standing ovation at Princeton Seminary. He is a Ph.D. candidate there and has a teaching fellowship. He was asked to give the final lecture on the book of Revelation to a class of 200 students.

Princeton Seminary is not noted for the spiritual warmth of its classes. But Paul decided to help these students see that there is more to Biblical Studies than academic gamesmanship. He used enough trade language to fix his credibility (like, “Apocalyptic literature is born out of the dual concerns of soteriology and theodicy.”). But then he asked the young biblical critics, “What will you say in the hospital room when your dying parishioner all of a sudden smiles and says, 'I see Jesus; I hear the choir of heaven’? Will you say, ‘Oh, that’s just a mental construct from your subconscious wish-fulfillment?’ Or will you say, ‘We know that the idea of heaven first arose in the inter-testamental period through the influence of Iranian speculation’?”

Paul showed them that they had better keep the reality of death fixed over every book they read and paper they write. He broke through the academic gamesmanship. And it was so refreshing for the students that they gave a standing ovation. Paul was so moved he left the hall in tears. A historic moment at Princeton Seminary!

My heart’s desire for Bethlehem is that we might become a people known for our sense of ultimate reality. I want people to visit Bethlehem and say, “Those people seem to take their worship so seriously. They seem to be so aware of God. They seem to be living on the brink of something infinite. Nobody seems to be playing church or going through motions. You get the impression this could be their last time together before they die. You have the feeling something awesome is at stake.”

O that our worship might come alive with the incredible presence of the living Christ! Pray that God might free us all from worship games. Come to meet the living God! These are precious days together at Bethlehem. None of us knows when it will be our last Sunday in the house of the Lord. Drink deep in worship. Picture yourself on the brink of eternity. Space falls away infinitely before you. And you say, “I see Jesus! I see Jesus! The choir of heaven! The choir of heaven!”

Loving to worship with you,

Pastor John

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