Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Beautiful Mind (6)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4:8 TNIV
Think about whatever is admirable.

What is the holiest moment of worship?

Is it exuberant celebration? One of those times when people are on their feet and animated. When the room is filled with spontaneous shouts of "Hallelujah" and "Amen." When people simply cannot contain themselves in celebration of the saving work of their self-sacrificing, risen Lord.

Or is it one of those moments when there is perfect silence. As if the whole congregation is holding its breath in expectancy or absolute humility. Those times when no one dares make a sound because a sense of His presence is obvious to all.

We need not choose between the two. Heaven itself is depicted as embracing both. The question is flawed.

Well then, what is the holiest place of worship?

A quiet temple or a relatively noisy, songbird-filled forest? A silent moment before the table remembering the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus or the noisy splash of the baptistery as someone is buried with Christ Jesus?

Again, the question is skewed. We don't have to choose. God is obviously present in both places.

But.

When an apostle began building a list of things that came to his Spirit-prompted mind as to the things a Christian must fill their mind with, he settled on one word with which to end his list. And he must have selected this word with especially great care for it not only serves as the consummation of his list, but his use of it would come to be the only time this word was ever used in Scripture.

Euphemos.

It's extremely difficult to convey this word's meaning in English. No one word or phrase does the job fully. That's evident from the variety of ways English translators have attempted to interpret it for us. Following are just a few:

Commendable. (NRSV). Admirable (NIV, NLT, NJB). Respected. (NCV) Proper. (CEV) Attractive (REB). Gracious (RSV, NAB). Of good report (KJV, NASB).

And yet as difficult as this word is to translate, we simply must understand it. For as Christians, we must "think about such things." So let's consult some qualified help.

Years ago, James Moulton and George Milligan co-authored a book which attempted to illustrate the way words used in the New Testament were used in everyday life in New Testament times. In commenting on our word here, ephemos, they noted that the word typically had reference to:
". . . the delicacy which guards the lips, that nothing may be expressed in public worship that could disturb devotion or give rise to scandal."
Similarly, the New Testament scholar William Barclay observed that it was:
". . . specially connected with the holy silence at the beginning of a sacrifice in the presence of the gods."
Barclay went on to say that:
"It might not be going to far to say that it describes the things which are fit for God to hear."
Speaking things fit for God to hear. Remaining silent before the sacrifice. Refusing to utter anything that could distract or offend.

That indescribable moment and substance in holy worship when silence says much more than words.

Those are the things with which to fill your mind. Those silent things which speak much more than words. Those are the things that are "admirable." They are the things which make us remember:
"The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20)
God my Father, my mind is a noisy place. In the name of Jesus I pray, hush my mind, and in so doing, fill it with Your presence. Make my mind Your temple, a never-ending place and moment of worship. May I never willfully defile Your holy place or fritter away my time with You there. Amen. And amen.
" . . . whatever is admirable . . . think about such things." Philippians 4:8 TNIV