Thursday, July 20, 2006

All good things must come to an end!

In just one short week, Robyn, William and I will be leaving the great state of South Carolina, and the Holy City of Charleston to head back to Sewanee. Before doing so, we will make a pass through Thomasville, Georgia, where we will be meeting with many of the parishioners of All Saints' Parish. Robyn and I had a great meeting with The Rev. Rick Buechner at the end of June, and he would like us to come visit Thomasville before heading back to Sewanee. So next Thursday, we will have both cars loaded up, and head south to Georgia. After spending 4 days in Thomasville, it's off to the Holy Mountain for one more year of seminary. I know that God has great things in store for us.

The experience at St. Philip's has been wonderful. We have benefited from a great staff and clergy. I have seen a great deal that will help me in my future ministry, and I wish that words could adequately express my gratitude for this opportunity. I can't thank David+ enough for thinking of me last fall when he put the bug in my ear to come to Charleston for the summer.

I was excited to have the opportunity to preach once while I was here. I also had the opportunity to facilitate an adult education offering utilizing Nicky Gumbel's book A Life Worth Living. This book is a follow-up to the Alpha program, and I highly recommend it as a Christian Ed. program in other parishes.

I pray that my last year at seminary is rich and rewarding. I know that as I take bold stands for the orthodox faith, that God will be standing beside me, giving me the words to say. It is going to be a year of challenges and opportunities, but I know that the rewards will be unimaginable.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

News from the Low Country

It is a joy and privilege for me to serve on staff at St. Philip's Church in Charleston. I am working with wonderful men and women of this parish, and trying to make the most of this learning experience. We are enjoying nice accommodations for the months of June and July from two different parishioners who have graciously opened their homes to Robyn, William and me. We are thankful that God has blessed us with two families who were willing to take in strangers for a month each.

The worship is glorious and Spirit-filled. I look forward to hearing the Gospel preached from the other priests on staff, and make my contribution on July 9. My first week teaching Sunday school was well received as we began to explore Paul's letter to the Philippians using Nicky Gumbel's book, A Life Worth Living. I look forward to seeing where our discussion leads us.

Robyn and William have been exploring Charleston and making sure to hit the beach on a real regular basis. They are settling into a routine, and are enjoying their time here as well.

Thank God the sand gnats have decided to subside a bit, and have not greeted us yet. We know all about them from our Brunswick days, and would just as soon never see them again! More to follow...
Collect for Trinity Sunday (BCP, p. 186)

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

Our true faith as Christians is found in the recognition that we must believe in the redeeming work done by Jesus Christ on the cross. Taking that one step further though, we must also believe that the same person who became Man, took sin upon Himself, died so that we will never die, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, is in fact God. Not some 'other.' Not something less than God, but rather, Jesus is God. The Spirit of God who dwells with us today is in the same manner God as the first and second persons are.

No words can adequately explain something that our human vocabulary is incapable of mastering. We can only do what Archbishop Cranmer asks in the first part of the petition - for true faith through grace. He does not ask God to give us a blueprint for the Trinity in terms that we can understand. He left the Trinity a mystery, and so should we. He left it in a way that only faith can do it justice.

I pray for that faith every day, and I believe in the Unity of the Trinity - leaving the full comprehension for the day when I can see and understand face-to-face!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I know I am due for a new post, but I've been wrapping up end-of-semester papers and getting ready to go to Charleston, SC for the summer working as an intern at St. Philip's Church. What a wonderful place to spend the summer with the family, work in a solidly orthodox parish, in a great diocese, and ride through the storm of General Convention 2006.

I pray that the Holy Spirit moves throughout Columbus, and that our church will recognize and repent of its wayward teaching and actions. I can do no more than hold the delegates up in prayer and let the Lord work in their hearts and minds. That is what we are all called to do.

More updates to come as the summer progresses!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Collect for the Day of the Resurrection (BCP, p. 163)

Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

I think it is most interesting that the collect for Easter Sunday asks God to put into our minds good desires. Why would Cranmer talk about something that seems so simple in principle, but is so hard to accomplish in practice? Perhaps it is because it is just as much a part of the resurrection story as anything else, and it is a part of our response to the empty tomb. We still recognize that we are incapable on our own to do these good desires, but through God's help we might strive to make this a reality.

The special grace that is God's gift to us was bought on the hard wood of the cross. The good desires that we are to strive for should represent our sense of thanksgiving for the grace that God bestows upon each and every one of us. Of course, I am not speaking of good works and desires as something that buys or earns us anything. For there is nothing that we can do in this life to earn or warrant God's grace. It is purely out of thanksgiving and joy that we strive for those good desires on this side of eternity.

May our thanks and praise be offered to our Risen Lord and Saviour, who paid the price for our everlasting freedom.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ Jesus our Lord is risen from the dead!
May we offer him our undying praise and thanksgiving! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Collects for Good Friday (BCP, p. 156 &157)

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all who know thee not as thou art revealed in the Gospel of thy Son. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy fold, that they may be made one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

On this most holy day, there is very little that needs to be said after praying the three collects appointed for today. May we all reflect upon our journey as Christians as we remember the Way of the Cross that Jesus walked on our behalf. Thanks be to Almighty God for that gracious gift that we can neither repay, nor truly comprehend. We can only offer our praise and thanksgiving for the joys that are found by being sheep of his fold.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Collect for the Sunday next before Easter, Commonly Called Palm Sunday (BCP, p. 134)

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus took on our flesh. When he took that flesh upon himself, he subjected himself to the same trials, tribulations, temptations, and struggles that we endure. He did so in perfection, the way that we were intended to live before the fall. He did so even to his death, in great humility, on trumped up charges all in the name of love.

We are commanded to adopt that same humility as we live out our own lives. In so doing, we might obtain that glory, that Jesus bought and paid for with his life, death, and resurrection. Thanks be to God for that so costly a gift. May this Holy Week allow us to reflect upon the same.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Commonly Called Passion Sunday (BCP, p. 132)

We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all glory and honour, world without end. Amen.

As we pray this collect on Passion Sunday and approach the final week in Lent, prior to entering Holy Week, we seek two petitions. We ask that God govern us, and then preserve us in both body and soul. There is a calling into submission to the Creator of all things. There is a price to pay if we allow God to govern our lives. It means that we must pick up our crosses daily and follow Him. That is what allowing God to govern our lives looks like.

In doing so, we are preserved for all eternity, in body now here on earth, and in soul in union with Him. Living within these two entities we can rejoice in the mercy of Almighty God.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 130)

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We have already passed the mid-way point in our Lenten journey, but Archbishop Cranmer is not letting us off the hook too soon. We are to always be mindful that it is only through the unmerited, benevolent grace of God that we are not punished as we deserve. Even when trying my best to serve God in all things, and in all ways, I still manage to foul things up. Human nature at its absolute best!

I thank God that I have the unlimited opportunity to ask for His forgiveness, and know that it is complete. I can seek strength in my daily fight against evil and Satan, and know that it will be given me. I trust in that grace, and I live in the comfort of knowing my conscience can be relieved.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

450 Years Ago Today!

O Almighty God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of all thy Saints, and especially of thy servant Thomas Cranmer, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we, with them, attain to thine eternal joy; through him who is the author and finisher of our faith, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 258)

On this day in Oxford, England, Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake for his defense of the reformed Catholic faith in the Church of England. His position as a supporter of reform, and opposition to the reign of Queen Mary led to his imprisonment and later martyrdom.

His contributions to the Anglican Church are almost unsurpassed by anyone in the fact that his work in developing the Book of Common Prayer 1549 & 1552 are the benchmark standards for our liturgy to this day. Even though much of his work has changed over the past 400+ years, many of his collects (in traditional language), and the form and structure of Morning and Evening Prayer remain somewhat in tact from what he first proposed.

Even though Cranmer has critics on both sides of the aisle, mainly due to his Eucharistic theology, one cannot ignore his contributions in encouraging large quantities of scripture to be read as an integral part of the liturgy, and that those readings, and the liturgy itself, were to be read and heard in the common tongue.

Whatever one thinks of Cranmer and his theology, it is with joy that we celebrate his life, and the life he gave in defense of the faith. One cannot help but respect someone who stays firm in their convictions, even to the point of death. Here is the quotation from Cranmer as he breathed his last, "...forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for if I may come to the fire, it shall first be burned." (Book of Occasional Services 2000, p. 399)

In joyful thanksgiving for The Most Rev. Thomas Cranmer (July 2, 1489 - March 21, 1556)
Archbishop of Canterbury March 30, 1533 - February 14, 1556
Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 128)

We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defense against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The image of God Almighty stretching out His right hand to be our defense against our enemies is a most awe inspiring thing to comprehend. It is almost incomprehensible to fathom that all assaults of evil can be totally defeated from only one hand of God. After preaching on Romans 7 last Sunday, it is all I can do to put up a fight against Satan and his devils with my whole body, and I am fighting a losing proposition when I do it on my own. God's power is so awesome to behold that His right hand is the only defense that we need. My problem is sinking back into my own defenses and thinking that it is flesh that can withhold these attacks. It clearly is more than I can humanly do on my own.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 127)

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth the Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Boy, do we ever need to hear a collect such as this one! How many times do we hear in our semi-pelagian world that we can do anything that we set our mind to, and that we can change our lives if we just listen to what Oprah and Dr. Phil have in store for us.

Cranmer knew right from the beginning that St. Paul was right on when he said that he couldn't figure out what was going on. He was doing everything he wasn't supposed to be doing, and he wasn't doing the things that he knew in his heart he ought. What was the problem? He was a saint for crying out loud! If he couldn't get it, how on earth are we going to?

We are going to get it by doing exactly what the petition section of this collect begs. We are going to cry out for mercy to the Almighty for His protection against all assaults of the enemy, both to our body and to our soul. We pray that no adversity happens to our bodies and he even goes so far as to beg for double protection from attacks against the soul: those things which will both hurt and assault.

We can do nothing of ourselves to help ourselves. I am sure living proof of that. However, I know from where my help comes, and it comes from calling upon the Blessed Name of our Lord.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Would Cranmer recognize (or better yet acknowledge) the 1979 Prayer Book?

I think that the climate in which we find ourselves, this is a fair question. I also think a follow-up question would also be in order. What agendas did the framers of the '79 book bring to the table as they drafted a revised Book of Common Prayer?

To address the original question, I think we must first look at what Cranmer was doing and what his intentions were in the composition of the 1549 and 1552 BCP's. First and foremost, the Church of England was striving to have the liturgy and the Bible in the vernacular for all Christians. The bulk of the 1549 Book was a fairly close translation of the Sarum Rite into English. The 1552 revision was certainly a move in a much more Protestant direction than 1549, but it still retained the common shape of 1549. There was one service of Morning Prayer, one service of Evening Prayer and one form for the Order for Holy Communion. There was not a buffet line of choices of Eucharistic Prayers for the Minister's choosing.

Was this intentional, or was he just keeping with what he had? I firmly believe that this was clearly intentional. Cranmer's concept of 'common prayer' was something that he felt was a crucial component of our Anglican style of worship. When Christians prayed they prayed as a communion of believers, lifting a unified voice toward heaven.

In Episcopal Churches across this country today, there is nothing less than a cacophony of prayer that may or may not be lifted to God alone. Even within our National Cathedral at the installation of the Samuel Lloyd as Dean, the Liturgy of the Word contained a reading from the Quran. There is no way that anything within the rubrics of any versions of the Book of Common Prayer that Cranmer would have authored or supported would have allowed for atrocities such as this.

We have desperately slipped into murky waters if this is even remotely possible. This was obviously deemed acceptable by the Bishop of Washington since he was the presider at the service. I realize I am not saying anything special by thinking that +Chane would do anything that resembled orthodoxy. How did we come so far? This seems unfathomable to me.

Where do we go from here?

There are clearly some things within the '79 book that were good additions. I definitely like the fact that the printed liturgies for Ash Wednesday ('28 does have a service, but I do like the self-contained liturgy for this day as seen in the '79 book), Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are there for our use. A very nice addition is the service for the Reconciliation of the Penitent. The addition of the service of Compline is also welcomed in my humble opinion.

Where is '79 flawed?

The catechism is abysmal, especially the 10 Commandments. How anyone bought off on those, I'll never know. The complete removal of penitence and the nature of sin within the Daily Office and Eucharist. The move toward a gender inclusive Psalter has changed the meaning of some altogether. See Psalm 1 and Peter Toon's argument:

Also, the use of "inclusive language"” in the translation of the Psalter so as to make women of a particular political outlook feel at home in using it. Thus the "man-centered"” nature of the psalms is toned down and modified. However, when the word "“man" is changed to "“they"” (as in Psalm 1), the traditional use of the Psalter as the prayer of the Church in and with Christ, united to him as the Head of the Body, and as the prayer of Jesus Christ within His Body, becomes impossible for, according to the Fathers, the "“man"” in Psalm 1 (as elsewhere) is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. To pray the Psalms as the Church has prayed them over the centuries, the text must read, "Blessed is the Man"not "“Happy are they."” The inspired text, as God has given it to be written down, is already inclusive of every faithful human being, man or woman.

I know that some people believe that the 1979 Prayer Book is a done deal, and why is anyone still talking about this? I for one think that as Anglicanism in North America begins to take on a new shape true, honest, and orthodox thought needs to be taken into accout regarding a new Book of Common Prayer. I believe as Christian believers in the Anglican Tradition we have an obligation to look at our history and iron out a liturgy that will stand a new test of time like our forerunner the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

There is a very good reason that this is still the official Prayer Book for the Church of England and everything else is contained within their Alternative Service Book. I would strongly advocte keeping the traditional language component as a centerpiece, but also a carefully crafted liturgy in contemporary language for those parishes who chose that style for their mode of worship. An enlarged Catechism similar to 1979, but orthodox this time around, and a Psalter that would still make King David proud!

These are just a few items on my mind as I type this post. I know there are more things to discuss, but I save room for your suggestions.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Collect for the First Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 125.)

O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

This collect is one offered to Jesus and not to the Father out of thanksgiving for his example to pray and fast for ministry. It is the same thing that we all must undertake as Christians. In all four Gospel accounts, Jesus begins his earthly ministry by first being baptized, then fasting and praying, and being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. That sounds pretty familiar!

The stage has been set for us. When we are regenerated by the waters of our baptism, we are a new person in the Body of Christ. Our lives thereafter are ones which must be lived in prayer and fasting so that we can withstand the trials and temptations that Satan places in our path. These 40 days of Lent serve as a reminder that just because we move into a period of time of introspection and discipline, we never truly move out of Lent for the remaining 300+ days of the year. We are going to remain tempted as humans, and therefore, still need our weapons sharpened and honed for the battle against the Evil One.

It is the joy of serving a Resurrected Lord and Savior that we know that the Evil One has been defeated once and for all. We can face those battles that lie ahead for us all in peace knowing that Christ is there to fight along side of us, and will bandage our wounds with his shed Body and Blood.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Collect appointed for Ash Wednesday (BCP, p. 124.)

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

May the blessings that can come from a Holy Lent be upon us all. As we pray this collect during the 40 days of preparation for Easter, we are to remind ourselves of our sinfulness and brokeness, and that we are incapable of changing ourselves without help. For our help comes only from Almighty God.

Grace and peace to those who seek to prepare their hearts and minds for the joys that await us with the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. It is in the preparation that we are allowed into the depths of the Paschal Mystery.