First Presbyterian Church Blog

Tuesday, April 11—The Need for Atonement

Atonement—it’s a word we don’t use in everyday language that represents the recompense that is given to make amends for a wrong-doing or injury. Conceptually, atonement is a form of rebalancing after the disruption of a relationship; a payment of equal value is given to the person who has been negatively impacted by a wrongful action in order to settle the score.
 
We learn at a young age that we need to apologize when we do something that hurts another person. Apologies represent the simplest form of atonement, and they are socially acceptable ways to offset relatively minor infractions; however, apologies generally are believed to be insufficient in situations were more serious damage is done.
 
Mankind has developed complex laws to systematize atonement in society. These regulations define the degree of “wrongness” and assign seemingly appropriate levels of reparation. Of course, views regarding the effectiveness of these legal approaches vary widely and are influenced by many situational factors. In countless real-life cases, the injured person firmly believes that no amount or form of payment ever could provide sufficient penance for the offense that had been committed.
 
So now, stop and consider the theological implications of atonement. The offended party is God—our creator, who is sovereign over all of mankind and the world around us. He sees all and knows all. He is love incarnate, but He also is the law-giver and judge. He is so holy that every minor misstep we make must seem enormous to Him, generating huge rifts in our relationship with Him. Furthermore, our day-in and day-out repetition of sinful acts causes the wall between God and us to grow progressively thicker and higher—ultimately becoming insurmountable.
 
As the Bible tells us in Isaiah 59:1-2. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Revised Standard Version)
 
Clearly, there is no payment we could make that would satisfy the wrongs we have done to God—no way that we ever could atone for our sins and rebalance our relationship with the almighty. If we accept this reality, we are faced with the message that the Bible tells us in so many ways. Fortunately, as we begin to remember Christ’s walk to the cross and His resurrection, we already know how this horrifying truth was converted into a new beginning for each of us—not through our own efforts but through the sacrificial atonement God granted to us through the death of His son, Jesus Christ.
 
Paul said it so well in Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Revised Standard Version)
 

Prayer Suggestion

Use this standard prayer of confession to open your hearts and minds in order to obtain a deeper understanding of your need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then, add your own personal confessions.
 
“Eternal God, our judge and redeemer, we confess that we have tried to hide from you, for we have done wrong. We have lived for ourselves, and apart from you. We have turned from our neighbors, and refused to bear the burdens of others. We have ignored the pain of the world, and passed by the hungry, the poor, and the oppressed. In your great mercy forgive our sins and free us from selfishness, that we may choose your will and obey your commandments; through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
 
Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 54.


Our Stories: Michael Artime

 
Michael Artime grew up in Belleville, Illinois, a half hour from St. Louis, before moving to Spokane in order to be a college professor at Whitworth. He received his job offer one week before he got married, so his wife Tiffany stayed in grad school in St. Louis while he moved in January. In May, she graduated and was required to complete a one-year internship in order to finish her Ph.D. Fortunately, she was assigned to the WSU counseling center—although that was still a 90-minute daily commute each way. Tiffany obtained a tenure-track position at St. Martin’s in Lacey, and then it was Michael’s turn to commute; he lived half a week in Lacey and half a week in Spokane before he moved over the pass permanently when he began part-time instruction work at UPS and TCC. Finally, Michael got a position as a visiting professor at PLU. A series of retirements and sabbaticals will keep him there for the next three years, and he certainly hopes to continue on at PLU afterward.
 
At Whitworth, integrating faith into the classroom was mandatory. He feels that this required him to “open up a space for a conversation about the way that people understood faith as it relates to an issue.” His job during that time was not to convince his students, but to “encourage them to ask questions about themselves that they might not otherwise ask.” At PLU, his desire is to live out his principles for his students, “modeling constructive dialogue and religious tolerance” while “providing information to students to guide them in figuring out the answers to some of these really big questions.”
 
As a political scientist, Michael acknowledges that we live in a divisive age, and he has some suggestions for how Christians can engage with society.
  • First, Christians cannot ignore what is going on and not talk about it. They have an obligation to know what is happening in the world.
  • Second, Christians need to approach politics with humility.
  • Third, too often the church avoids asking “What does the Bible say about this issue” and instead asks “Which party is more ‘Christian’?” For example, Michael points out that the Bible is pretty explicit about what our obligation is to the most vulnerable populations—specifically immigrants, refugees, the homeless, and the widows. Sometimes that means we have to be uncomfortable and unsafe in order to reach out to those people, but we are putting our faith into action at those times.
Michael adds, “When I see images of people fleeing horrendous situations, I think the church cannot turn its back on them. The church needs to get involved. It’s easy to be content with just casting your ballot or donating money. In reality, there are organizations throughout the community here that need volunteers; they need people to go and assist in some of these efforts. That’s the type of church that we should want to be. The world is watching us, so what do we want them to see? Hopefully, they will see a group of people that cares deeply about vulnerable populations.”


Interview with Jesús Gomez, Composer of New Requiem Premiering in Tacoma on Good Friday, April 14

At 7:00 pm on Good Friday, April 14, Tacoma’s First Presbyterian Church will host the world premiere of a new Requiem composed by Jesús Gomez. Gomez graduated from PLU in choral conducting and is now teaching choral music at Glacier View Jr. High as well as serving as a worship intern at First Presbyterian Church. His Requiem will be heard as part of a Good Friday communion service, and it will be performed by chancel choir, chancel singers, chamber orchestra, and pipe organ. Gomez recently described how he came to write his Requiem and what he hopes people will take away from it.
 

Q. What is a Requiem?

Gomez: The Requiem is one of the most significant texts in choral history. It is the mass for the dead, and has been set by composers from as far back as a thousand years ago, and by all the greatest composers since (choral composers who did not write for the Church is a fairly recent phenomenon— beginning roughly 150 years ago).
 

Q. What are the various parts of a Requiem?

Gomez: Musical settings of the Requiem Mass normally contain seven parts: Introit, Kyrie, Sequence, Offertory, Sanctus (and Benedictus), Agnus Dei, and Communion. Each of these serves a very specific purpose, and each is connected to the other within the context of the liturgy.
 

Q. What inspired you to write this particular Requiem?

Gomez: I first had the idea to write a Requiem in November of 2015, as I was at a national convention for the National Choral Conductor’s Organization. It was during that conference that word came streaming in that there had been a terror attack in Paris, and my friends and I looked on in horror as the casualty count continued to rise throughout the day. Experiencing true grief and devastation at world events for the first time in my adult life, I responded by setting a French text—Priez Pour Paix (pray for peace).
 
As the ensuing year unfolded—with terror attacks throughout the world (but very prominently in France, Istanbul, and very recently in the U.K.), school shootings on both college and K-12 campuses, and the rise in “us-against-them” rhetoric on a global scale—I became increasingly distressed. It seemed to me that our world was coming unglued, and that every day brought a new death to mourn or yet another injustice to be broken over. I found my prayers turning from whispered requests for violence to desperate cries for mercy—for a simple respite from the seemingly never-ending store of tragedy.
 
It was this time last year that I wrote the “Sanctus,” and over the course of the next six months, the rest of the Requiem came to me: sometimes bit-by-bit in a struggle for every note, and sometimes in almost overwhelming waves of inspiration.
 

Q. Can you walk us through what the various parts of the Requiem mean?

Gomez: For me, this Requiem tells the story of a Christian who struggles to reconcile the failings of the world he or she lives in—the death and destruction and hatred we seem to be so surrounded by—with the perfection of Christ.

The first half of the work is filled with angst, grief, and doubt. We begin in the Introit (“grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them”), which is a depiction of how often attempt to mask our grief by saying the right things and “putting on” a stoic face in public. It is appropriately solemn, a little haunting, and purposefully lacks drama. The Kyrie, however (“Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”), is a cry for mercy: the constant dissonance and shape of the lines is meant to represent the rising and falling of uncontrollable sobbing.
 
Next follows the Sequence. In a typical Requiem mass, the Sequence is a fiery, dramatic work (the first two words, “dies irae,” mean “day of wrath”). It is a text about God’s wrath and judgement on the wicked, and the fearful trembling of all those who bear witness to it. I did not set this traditional Sequence for two reasons: first, my response to tragedy is grief, not anger. I do not easily identify with the fiery imagery of the text, so it would not have been an honest setting. More importantly, to tell the story I wanted to tell, I needed to make a switch in tone here. Therefore, I compiled three smaller texts—O Vos Omnes (“all you who pass along the way, see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow”), Ave Verum Corpus (a text about Jesus’ death on the cross), and Adoramus Te, Christe (“We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee: for by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world”). O Vos Omnes is the final piece with “crying” imagery, while Ave Verum Corpus and Adoramus Te move the focus to the cross, and the wonderful tragedy that occurred upon it.
 
The Offertory pleads, “Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, liberate the souls of all the departed from the pains of hell and from the deep pit”—refocusing on the idea that it is Jesus who brings hope of eternal life in the presence of God. This is followed by the Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”), where we rest in the holiness of God, and take refuge in His perfection, despite everything going on around us. Next, the Agnus Dei, is a hybrid of texts from both the regular Mass and the Requiem Mass to create a progression (“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world… have mercy on us; grant them rest; grant us peace”). This encapsulates the story of the Requiem—from crying for mercy, to mourning the dead, to finding peace.
 
Finally, Communio leads us directly into communion with a request for God to shine His eternal light on them. It concludes with the same words with which we began—“grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.” This time, it is in a major key, signaling the hope we cling to in Jesus, but ends with the carrillons ringing seven times on the fifth note of the scale, which represents the idea that while we have hope, the promise of peace is not yet fully realized—spurring us on to work fervently in expectation of that most elusive promise.
 

Q. What do you hope the Requiem will mean to others?

Gomez: I am praying that God will use it to bring a message of peace to those who enter feeling the weight of living in this imperfect world pressing in on them.



FPC Work Party

FPC WORK PARTY                                                                                                                                                                                 Saturday, April 8th 9:00am-1:00pm

We need volunteers!!! Everyone is invited to help with a variety of jobs around the church.

Please bring garden tools and gloves if you have them. Rain or shine. Morning snacks will be provided. Call Jerry Heath 253-537-7980 for more info.



FPC Gleanings Fundraiser

FPC GLEANINGS FUNDRAISER

Wednesday, May 10th 6:00pm Dinner & Entertainment

Join us in Fellowship Hall for the 2017 Gleanings Fundraiser.
Tickets are $5.00 per person or $15.00 per family. Tickets available at the door.                  

 



EASTER MEMORIAL TULIPS

THIS SUNDAY IS THE FINAL DAY TO PURCHASE YOUR TULIP

Remember your loved ones this Easter with the purchase of an Easter tulip. The tulips will beautify our Sanctuary. Our Deacons and volunteers willdeliver the tulips to our shut-in members. The cost is $13.00 each.

To order, use an envelope in the pew pockets, clearly print the name of your loved one on the envelope along with your name; enclose cash or check and place it in the offering plate or take to the church office.

THIS SUNDAY is the last day to purchase your tulip and have your loved ones name appear in the bulletin in time for Easter.

 



Town Hall Meeting at FPC

TOWN HALL MEETING 

Sunday, April 23rd at 9:15am in Fellowship Hall

Over the past two years, we have made a commitment to being a church that cares about the people outside of our walls. While that is a great goal, we feel that we could be more effective in striving towards this goal if we were more specific about which people we feel especially called to reach as a church.

Come to the Town Hall meeting to find out more. Coffee, juice, and treats will be provided.

 

 



Easter Morning at FPC

EASTER SUNDAY BREAKFAST & SERVICE

Sunday, April 16th  Breakfast at 9:00am & Service at 10:30am

Please join us in Fellowship Hall for a free Easter breakfast followed by our Easter service in the Sanctuary at 10:30am.Celebrate the Resurrection at FPC Tacoma’s festive Easter Sunday celebration featuring our Chancel Choir, praise team, Lindsey Bell Choir, chamber orchestra, and pipe organ. Plus, Pastor Eric will be preaching a special Easter message.  

Members & Regular Attenders                                                                                                                                                            
For all able bodied members and regular attenders, we are asking you to park on the outer edges of church in order to leave room in the parking lot for our elderly folks and new visitors on Easter morning, Thank you!

 

 



Good Friday Events at FPC

GOOD FRIDAY OPEN HOUSE FOR PRAYER

Friday, April 14th 12:00pm-3:00pm Sanctuary

Come for meditation and prayer in our cathedral-like sanctuary. Drop in for a few minutes or a few hours. This has been a powerful time for connecting with God one-on-one, which draws people from throughout our neighborhood.

 

GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM & COMMUNION SERVICE

Friday, April 14th 7:00pm Sanctuary

This year’s Good Friday service will be a reflective evening of worship as we experience the premiere of Jesús Gomez’s Requiem. This powerful and beautiful work has been written for our Chancel Singers, Chancel Choir,  Chamber Orchestra, and Organ. Jesús, who has been our worship intern for two years, has graduated from PLU in choral conducting and is now teaching choral music at Glacier View Jr. High.

In the context of the this ancient liturgical form, we will receive communion together. Pastor Eric will share devotional thoughts and familiar passion hymns will also be sung. Prepare for a thrilling Easter celebration by experiencing the rich musical heritage of a Requiem written for Good Friday.

 



World Premiere of Good Friday Requiem on April 14

Join us for the premiere of a new Requiem by Jesús Gomez on Good Friday, April 14 at 7:00 pm in the historic cathedral-like Sanctuary of Tacoma’s First Presbyterian Church. The Requiem will be performed by chancel choir, chancel singers, chamber orchestra, and pipe organ as part of a Good Friday service featuring Holy Communion and a special message. This event is FREE and open to all.



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