Truth Is The Word

Month: March 2015

Passover – The Last Supper

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As I write this post, Easter weekend is in just a few days’ time and I am busy preparing for a simple Passover re-creation we are doing on Thursday night. I don’t like the word ‘Easter’ at all as it evokes pagan images of bunnies and hot-cross buns and tends to undermine the powerful truths of Passover. I would rather call Good Friday ‘Crucifixion Friday’ and Easter Sunday ‘Resurrection Sunday’.

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In ancient Jewish tradition, each day started the previous evening at 6 pm, so Crucifixion Friday starts on Thursday evening. Most scholars believe, as I do, that the Last Supper was an adaptation of the usual Passover meal celebrated from 6 pm on Thursday evening – so this is why we have our re-creation service at that time on that day.

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The Passover meal was a happy occasion as families gathered together to remember with joy and gratitude how God had saved their ancestors from Pharaoh so long ago. They ate lamb, drank red wine, sang, and celebrated. Yet, in the midst of all the merriment were solemn remembrances enshrined in time-honored traditions.

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The five cups of wine they drank had significant names – the Cup of Sanctification, the Cup of Instruction, the Cup of Praise, and lastly, Elijah’s Cup. Yes I know, that’s only four cups – the third cup drunk was the most significant of all, the Cup of Redemption. This was shared among the gathered family just after a special piece of unleavened bread called the Afikoman was eaten. The Afikoman and the Cup of Redemption; the two elements of what we now know as Communion, the Lords Supper, or Eucharist.

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Earlier in the Passover meal process the father of the family had picked up three pieces of unleavened bread. He handed out two of these pieces to be eaten, but the middle one received very different treatment. The father took that piece, broke it in half, wrapped it carefully in a linen napkin, and then placed it under a pillow. This broken, swathed, and hidden piece of unleavened bread was known as the Afikoman. Why is the middle piece of three broken? There doesn’t seem to be any reasonable answer to that in Jewish tradition. They regard the three pieces of bread as representing the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – but what have they to do with the original Passover, and why is poor Isaac chosen to be broken, and then buried? Christian doctrine does, of course, have a solution; the three pieces represent the Triune Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the second piece is broken just as the second personage of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, was ‘broken’ on the cross of Calvary and his body wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb.

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When Jesus celebrated Passover for the last time with his disciples, he took the Afikoman, ‘gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me”’(Luke 22:19). Luke’s Gospel account continues with the words; ‘In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”’. The cup that Jesus was holding in his hands was the 3rd cup of Passover, the Cup of Redemption. It is clear from his words that Jesus was fully aware of what he was doing, how he was fulfilling the promises of Passover, and that he would shortly become the sacrificial lamb itself.

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There is so much more to tell concerning this marvelous meal, still celebrated by religious Jews every year, and by Christians as Communion many times during the year. I wrote an article a while ago giving some other insights and you can find it at https://truthistheword.com/the-last-supper/

Be truly blessed this Passover time

The Musician

The fourth and final part of the Guitar Venture series

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In the previous three posts I have written much about the guitar and almost nothing about the musician who plays it. A great looking, fine sounding, and wonderfully playable guitar will, despite its considerable attributes, still sound terrible in the hands of an untrained, clumsy and passionless player.

There is a well-known poem by Myra Brooks Welch about an instrument in the hands of a maestro, and I want to play a verbal variation on that theme, but first, here is the poem itself:

The Old Violin

Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.

I have likened the church to a guitar in the previous post and so now I want to extend the analogy to include us as individuals, and replace Myra’s violin with a guitar. My classical guitar is complete now yet I still attend to it almost every day. I tune it and retune it because nylon strings stretch a lot and are also susceptible in changes in humidity. I polish it and deal with any blemishes or scratches I spot. I have even lowered its action and adjusted its intonation twice since getting back from the Guitar Venture. But of course I do more than all this… I play it, and the more I play it the better it sounds and the more of a musician I become.

We are made in the image of God, His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) to be His representatives and do His work in the world. Like a guitar in the hands of a master musician together we make music that has the potential of changing the tune of the whole world. The church, of which we are part, is like an orchestra of guitar players, and Jesus is the conductor. We collaborate with Him in writing variations on His master script and we strum and pluck the instruments of our talents, time, and resources. And all the while we keep an eye on the conductor and an ear open to the melodies of our fellow musicians.

A fine guitar without a fine guitarist is just an ornament or an exhibit. A fine guitar in the hands of a fine musician is a delight to both see and hear. An orchestra of fine musicians under the direction of a master conductor is a miracle of cooperation, interdependence, and glorious melody.

I suppose, given the theme of these posts, I had better end the series with a fine

Same Sex Marriage

This article was published in Conspectus, the peer-reviewed journal of the South African Theological Seminary.

The paper deals with same-sex marriage from a Biblical Christian perspective. It is not a treatise on homosexuality from either a Biblical or sociological point of view. The article deals with homosexuality, per se, only in as much as is necessary to examine the question of the Biblical Christian stance concerning same-sex marriage.

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The article starts with a brief overview of the South African civil legal history of same-sex ‘marriage’ partnerships leading up to the current ruling by the Constitutional Court. The debate then starts with the Biblical definition of marriage before mining down to the two main arguments in favour of same-sex marriage and the homosexuality that underpins it – the appeal to the concepts of justice and love. Only then does the focus turn to the Biblical prohibitions concerning homosexual activity.

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The second part of the article deals briefly with implications for church life, firstly from the perspective of how the church approaches same-sex marriage in general society, and then from the perspective of those within, or seeking to join, the church.

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Click here for the full article

Read

Part 3 Some lessons learned from the Guitar Venture experience

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I enjoyed most of the 16 days experience of building a classical guitar, but I confess that I was tense to the point of near-fear during parts of it. However neither enjoyment nor stress prevented me from drawing some important life-lessons from the experience.

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My first observation is one to which I have already alluded in a previous post – all parts work together. In the case of a guitar, its form, sound, and playability depend on the harmonious interaction of many parts and forces. If the sound-board is too thick then the tone will be seriously affected; if the neck is inclined at the wrong angle then playing the instrument will be difficult, and so on. Yet, each element in itself also needs the cooperation of other components in order to function properly. It’s not just the inclination of the neck that affects playability; the fret positions, the scale length, the string tension, the bridge and the nut heights, all work together to produce a playable guitar. Just so with the church. In First Corinthians chapter 12 Paul has much to write about this, especially in the section that starts with the words, ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.’ (Verses 12 & 13), and ends with, ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it’ (Verse 27). The church was designed to be more organic than organisational and organisms are interdependent in all their parts. When we lose sight of this then we miss an essential essence of church life. My Guitar Venture experience reminded me of this important truth.

I would summarise my second observation as; ‘Get it right and fix it now rather than attempting to compensate for it later’. If the early measurements are off by even a fraction of a millimetre in the early stages of construction then many things go pear-shaped later on. For instance, the centre line that runs down the guitar from headstock to bottom of the bout, is hugely important. If this line is off then the form will look wrong and the sound and playability could be seriously impaired. It is far easier and less costly, at every level, to fix a deviant centre line by redrawing it correctly right at the outset. In church life a similar principle applies. In over three decades of church leadership experience I have learned the painful lesson that problems need to addressed decisively when they occur and not later. I remember, for instance, a pianist we once had who played like she was in a carnival and treated the congregation as naughty children who were not getting into the spirit of the performance as they should. I tried to encourage her to tone down, explaining that perhaps the people were not yet where she was musically. This only made her try even harder and we moved from carnival to a beerhall ambience! Eventually I just had to tell her to stop performing and bullying the congregation. Her response was “Why didn’t you just say how you felt months ago. You have made me look like a fool!”… and she left the church.

By far the most significant lesson for me from the guitar building experience was … well let me first ask a question: How can a 67 year old man, with no wood-working knowledge or skill, and with two arthritic hands build a beautiful looking, sounding, and playing classical guitar in 16 days? I asked Luigi a similar question before enrolling on the course and his answer went along the lines of; “If you really want to do it and are prepared to work hard at it then I will ensure that you succeed.” Will + effort + a master craftsman. And he was right! Now in the Christian life we work with the master craftsman of all master craftsmen – the Lord Jesus Christ. He has all the knowledge and skills needed to create anything He wants. Using the guitar analogy one last time, He has the construction diagram, He knows what the instrument needs to look like, He has insight into all the difficult parts of the process and each critical step that needs to be taken. If we are truly ‘working’ with Him in whatever we do in life then can He not successfully guide and aid us through what needs to be achieved? The answer has to be… yes! But there are two provisions – we need to really want to achieve and we must be prepared to give it 110% persevering effort.

One final lesson that impacted me greatly. During the first week of the Guitar Venture I was so focused on the task that I didn’t adequately recognise the people I was with. Each day of that first week took so much concentration and energy focus that I got a little ‘lost’ in the process. I realised this on the evening of day seven and I was saddened by the realisation. That that night I prayed; “Please forgive me Lord for not caring enough for the people you have put me with that I haven’t even prayed to you about them. I will do that every day from now on Lord… and please give me opportunities to speak to them about you.” From the very next day on I did indeed have opportunities to speak about faith in Jesus Christ, and I still pray for the people I met down in George. I have observed this work fixation syndrome playing out so many times in my life and in what I observe in others. The job becomes more important than the people involved. The ‘ministry’ takes prominence over those who are supposed to be the recipients of the ministry. And the results of this wrong focus are sometimes devastating. Pastors burn out and leave church ministry, wives divorce work-obsessed husbands, and human relationships crack and fall apart like a badly made guitar subjected to excessive heat.

I hope you have benefited from these insights gleaned from the experience of building a guitar, for I certainly have. But there is one final post still to come… so please keep reading and commenting.

Part 2 – Process and Principles of creating a classical guitar

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It is hard to describe my 16 day experience of building the guitar of my dreams – a once in a life-time experience will have to do.

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It started at 08h00 on a Tuesday morning. Three men, all over 60, committed to building a guitar and eager to accomplish this. The other two were very experienced carpenters but I was not – let’s say I knew that a chisel had a sharp end and a handle but I had no idea how to use it, and that sort of summarises my knowledge and skill level.

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We started with a clean work station on which lay several pieces of wood. Indian Rosewood for back and sides, Engelmann Spruce for top, African Mahogany for neck, and lengths of spruce for the internal support struts. And so it began.

The raw materials on day one
The raw materials on Day One

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It would be tedious for many if I described the whole process from start to finish but if you are interested in this then you can follow the day-by-day summary and photographs on the Guitar Venture facebook page (scroll down to view each days progress). Let me rather write about some of the things that struck me as interesting in the actual construction of the instrument. In my next post I will write about some of the life lessons I learned from the experience.

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It became obvious very early on that precision is a key issue in guitar construction. Everything is measured to within 1 mm or less and every join has to be a precise. All the parts fitted so snugly that it seemed that the glue we applied was just a belt-and-braces precaution. But precision was also important to ensure that the instrument was properly aligned and centred. Inaccuracy in the early parts of construction yields instability, lack of symmetry and playability issues later on.

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As the guitar slowly came together another key concept immerged – all the parts play a role in producing form, sound, and playability. The beautiful female form of the classical guitar is not just in its obviously curved body. The neck too is sculpted and smoothly curved. Inside the sound box are a couple of dozen struts, each of which is carved into curving tapers and rounded edges. If I had understood this from the start I would have named my guitar ‘Lady P’ and not ‘Dr Peppler’ (My wife Pat would have liked that I think). The finished product is of course an instrument designed to be played but it also something very beautiful.

The Dr Peppler handmade classical guitar

The sound that the instrument produces, its ‘voice’, also depends on many influences. The woods used are called tone woods because they have the characteristics that produce good clean sounds. The Engelmann Spruce top vibrates when the strings are plucked, the Rosewood back and sides reflect the sound back and out of the sound hole. The strutting attached to the inside of the top channels the sound and forms it, and even the neck vibrates in resonance with the notes produced. Any residual glue inside the sound box will impede the flow of sound. The strings, the struts, the neck, the top, the sides, and back all play a role; all the musician has to do is to initiate and order the sounds produced.

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I also learned that even the wood itself has a definite tone. Tap the soundboard before it is built into the body and it rings with a discernible note. My guitar sounded a clear C below middle C. There is a lot of debate about the significance of the ‘tap tone’ but the fact remains that the wood itself ‘sings’.

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Playability is also determined by a combination of several things. The fretboard must be angled slightly above the line from head (nut) to 12th fret. Each of the frets must be spaced down the fretboard to very precise measurements and they must be of exactly equal height. The bridge must be located at precisely the scale length (645 mm in my case) from the nut. The saddle must be just high enough to produce a clearance of between 3.5 and 4 mm between the 6th string and the 12th fret. The slots cut into the nut for the strings must be the right uniform depth. If all of these are correctly formed and positioned then the guitar will be a pleasure to play; if they are not then the guitar might sound OK but be hard to play.

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I was surprised and intrigued by the complexity of the guitar and by the degree of craft and workmanship that goes into its construction. You can view a pdf of the powerpoint presentation The Conception and birth of the Dr Peppler Classical Guitar.

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In my next post I want to explore some of the spiritual applications and life-related lessons that surfaced for me during the 150 hours construction process.

Read

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.