Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books: Part 5 in the Fall 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal

Getting good at something means being prepared to do it over and over again, to the point of boredom and then beyond. Practice makes perfect, the saying goes. Musicians do it. Dancers, basketball players and golfers do it. Olympians do it—endlessly (as I write they are competing in Rio). Practising the faith is no exception.

Praying needs repetition. Holy Scripture requires it. Jesus told the parable of the Persistent Widow to the effect that we ought always to pray and not lose heart (Lk 18.1). Be constant in prayer (Ro 12.12), Paul adds, continuing steadfastly (Col 4.2), without ceasing (1 Thes 5.17) and at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6.18). This is exactly what our prayer books are designed to do for us. Praying the offices keeps our praying constant, continuing, ceaseless, repeatedly and in the Spirit.

Needing It

Consider this versicle (isn’t that a lovely word—like something tasty and on a stick) and response in The Book of Common Prayer, THE ORDER FOR MORNING and EVENING PRAYER DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR both, for example:
O God, make clean our hearts within us; And take not thy Holy Spirit from us (p11 & 23).
Two things to note about this prayer. First, I am reminded that God can take and has taken his Spirit away from someone with whom he is displeased; King Saul for example (1 Sam 16.14). If Saul, the Lord's anointed, was capable of acting in ways that brought about such dire consequences, so am I.

Second, I need the Holy Spirit. So do you. The Prayer Books turn our need into a prayer. So I pray, earnestly, and ask God not to take the Holy Spirit from me so that he will keep me on track and warn me when I'm following too much the devices and desires of my own heart (BCP, p4 & 19).

A Prayer for the Queen’ s Majesty

King Saul needed the Holy Spirit, you and I need the Holy Spirit, so does the Queen. "Replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit," we pray, "that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts" (BCP, p12).

What is the grace of the Holy Spirit and why would Queen Elizabeth need it? Grace is God’s empowering presence to be who he made her to be and to do what he calls her to do. Queen Elizabeth has been a royal and faithful witness for God and the Church throughout her long reign. By association, we can pray the same Holy Spirit replenishment for our federal, provincial and local governments, all of whom govern on her behalf.

I like and frequently pray the alternative Prayer for the Queen and the Commonwealth that follows. Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, I can add my heartfelt “Amen!” to the prayer for those “set in authority under her; that they may order all things in wisdom, righteousness, and peace, to the honour of thy holy Name, and the good of thy Church and people.” It covers all the bases. When God’s holy Name is honoured, good things happen for the Church and all people, whoever they are and whatever they believe, whether they know it, or not.

And speaking of people…

A Prayer for the Clergy and People

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: Send down upon our Bishops and Clergy, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ (BCP, p13).
There it is again. The healthful Spirit of grace which empowers you along with the Bishops and Clergy to be who he made us to be and to do what he calls us to do. That healthful Spirit comes with Gifts and Fruit—Gifts which empower us to be more than we know how to be and do more than we know how to do, and Fruit for the good of all.

A Prayer for all Conditions of Men (and Women)

More especially we pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. (BCP, p14)
If we want our Church to enjoy a “good estate” it needs to be guided and governed by the good and Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, remind us of all that Jesus said (John 14.26), bear witness about Jesus (John 15.26) and convict us concerning sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16.8). The Holy Spirit will guide and govern us as to what’s what with Jesus.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not only, or even mainly, about spectacular manifestations of the Spirit—miracles, signs and wonders—although they can be fun and fruitful, it is about ordinary Christians (including Anglican ones) like you and me just knuckling down in worship, prayer and service to be who God made us to be and to do what he calls us to do. Day after day after day. Amen.

I write what I write in the spirit of the following:

A General Thanksgiving 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, To whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen. (BCP, p15)

2 Corinthians 13. 14.

THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen. (BCP, p15)


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Call to Pray and Fast for the Church on Saturday 26 November

A few weeks ago, Fraser Lawton, Bishop of Athabasca and Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada board member, sent the following email message:
While attending the recent gathering of the Global South,  it occurred to me that this might be a good time to call people across the country to prayer.  We do spend time talking together about the situation in Canada, about possible responses, in encouraging one another, etc.  I was reminded…that this is all also a spiritual battle, and we also need to engage at that level.  I do know that people are praying.  However, I thought it would be good to have a specific day when as many as possible could join together. …I am hoping…that November 26 be a day of fasting and prayer for the Anglican Church.  That is the last day of the Christian year, and we can enter the new one in this place of prayer." 
As  a St Barnabas parishioner and the Chairman of Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada, I've decided to answer Bishop Fraser's call to fasting and prayer for the Anglican Church of Canada on that day.

I've arranged to be in the church from noon to 430pm on Saturday the 26th to lead worship in song and prayer.

Please consider answering Bishop Fraser's call to pray, to fast from one or more meals that day and to join me in the church on Saturday afternoon if even for a short time.

In the meantime, please remember the Anglican Church of Canada, in your prayers this week. This prayer is a good to pray for our church:
For the Church Universal. 
MOST gracious God, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth; in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where any thing is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is in want, furnish it; where it is divided and rent asunder, make it whole again; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p39)
Here are some additional prayer points by Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada's Jane Jones for the Anglican Communion Alliance:

Prayer Bulletin #2 November 14, 2016

2 Chronicles 17:6 

His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.

Father, like Jehoshaphat may we be so devoted to your ways in our lives and our churches that we remove the high places and idols which hinder our becoming more like You.  We ask you to reveal them to us; remove the blinders from our eyes where we are blind to them.  Give us courage to face those things and strength to deal with them.

Just as Jehoshaphat sent out teachers to instruct the people, we ask that godly teachers will be in every pulpit to teach the truth of the Word so that all may hear and all may know Your ways and Your perfect will.  We ask that Your favour will rest upon them so that the word will be received.  May your word go forth from them like a hammer and break in pieces the rock of the most stubborn resistance.  May Your word of truth burn like a fire to ignite our church with revival fires.
Jeremiah 23:29.

2 Chronicles 20:3-4 (ESV) 3 

Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

Lord, like Jehoshaphat we have enemies that are coming against us and we are gathering in this fast to seek Your face, coming boldly to Your throne of grace for help in time of need.  We ask for strategies and prayers that will bring a revival of Your truth and cause the enemy to flee.  Help us to remember that in You we have victory and show us clearly how to enforce that victory.

Pray Psalm 51 for the church - a prayer of cleansing and pardon

Cleanse my Heart - a prayer by John Wesley

O Saviour of the world, God of Gods, light of light, you who are the brightness of your Father's glory, the express image of his person; you who have destroyed the power of the devil, who have overcome death, "who sits at the right hand of the Father"; you will speedily come down in your Father's glory to judge all men according to their works. Be my light and my peace; destroy the power of the devil in me, and make me a new creature. You who cast seven devils out of Mary Magdalene, cast out of my heart all corrupt affections.

You who raised Lazarus from the dead, raise me from the death of sin. You who cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, and gave sight to the blind, heal the diseases of my soul; open my eyes, and fix them singly on the prize of my high calling, and cleanse my heart from every desire but that of advancing your glory


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Five Alive: To Each—from the Fall 2016 Issue of Anglicans for Renewal Magazine

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This is the second part of "Five Alive," a series of short articles on five of Paul’s key points on the who, how and why of the Gifts of the Spirit in his first letter to the Corinthians. I’m calling them

1. Not Lacking
2. To Each
3. The Importance of Being Earnest
4. Church Building
5. A More Excellent Way

The Lord didn’t want the Corinthian Christians, or us, to be uninformed concerning spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12.1). We, at ARM Canada, don’t want Canadian Anglican Christians to be uninformed, either. We want you to know that our church, too, can be blessed with all kinds of Holy Spirit prompted gifts, service and activities, all empowered by God and in everyone (1 Cor 12.4-6).

Note that God doesn’t just empower clergy, or just the super spiritual people, or just men or just women or just people in large parishes. The empowering is for all of us. Even ordinary Anglicans. You are part of God’s all encompassing, amazingly graced “everyone.” So am I.

To Each

Not only are we not lacking any spiritual gifts (1 Cor 1.7), “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12.7). There are no exceptions. The word “each” means every one of two or more people. God himself has given you and empowered you for at least one, but most likely more, Gifts of the Spirit—Gifts divinely designed to work uniquely in and through you so those around you will experience the goodness of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“What gifts?” you might ask? The “manifestation” Gifts Paul lists in Corinthians 12 are a good place to start:

1. utterance (or word) of wisdom
2. utterance (or word) of knowledge
3. faith
4. healing
5. working miracles
6. prophecy
7. discernment of (or distinguishing between) spirits
8. tongues
9. interpretation of tongues.

At least one of these must be available and intended for each of us. The Lord apportions to each one as he wills (1 Cor 12.11)—to one this, to another that.

Did you know Anglicans pray and prophesy in tongues today? Did you know that there are real Anglican prophets? Did you know that Anglicans get words of knowledge and wisdom? Did you know that Anglicans sometimes pray for people and they are healed? Of course you do, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this magazine.

My first experience of one of those gifts that I recognized was when I received a gift of one of the various kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12.10). I had prayed for the gift and asked others to pray for me with varying degrees of intensity for two years before it was finally granted. I didn’t have any idea of what I should do with it or how to use it. I just had read about it and I thought it would be nice to have. One day, in his mercy, God let me have it. It was not an obviously spectacular moment. There were no flashing lights or falling to the floor. Something fluent began and I believe my prayer has been richer ever since.

Which gift(s) has he given you? Have you ever asked? It’s not selfish to ask because when the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are shown in you and me it will always be for the common good. The common good aways comes from and leads to Jesus which means it also always comes from and leads to his Church—his body with us on earth for now.

Have you ever tried the gift(s) the Father has given you out? Does the he have more for you?

If you would like to know more about the gifts and to experience them in your own life and parish contact our office to enquire about having an ARM Canada team come to do an event in your area.


Friday, 18 November 2016

Notes on a Sermon I Don't Have to Preach on the RCL Readings for The Last Sunday after Pentecost: the Reign of Christ the King—with reference to Col 1.11-20 and Lk 23.33-43

I decided to read the readings for next Sunday each day in Evening Prayer this week. It was part of my pattern of prayerful sermon preparation before I retired. I thought I'd do it again even though I'm not preaching this Sunday just to see what lights up.

This is what I saw. There's a lovely and evocative parallel pattern and energy between the Epistle from Colossians (1:11-20) and the Gospel (Lk 23.33-43). The verses seem to build on each other in contrast and irony: light and darkness, victory and defeat, worship and mockery, glory and abuse, life and death. See how they weave together:
Col 1:12 The Father…has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  
Lk 23:33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  
And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  
36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”  
17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  
18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  
42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 
Striking. It could be a Canticle for Lent and Good Friday.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

I Vote for Jesus: By the Way column for The Medicine Hat News

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13.8) 
Just so, when the "impossible" happened and the world shifted on Election Day last Tuesday with Donald J Trump becoming the United States' President Elect, Jesus remained the same. When all manner of kingdoms, republics and empires have risen and fallen through history Jesus was the same. Despite all attempts to reinterpret his teaching, appropriate him as a political ally, or to stamp him, his church and teaching out of the public sphere, Jesus and his Church remains. More of the same.

I didn't enjoy the campaign. Not many did. Nasty. Character assassination was its defining theme. There was very little God or neighbour loving language. Our last federal election was not much better. Now the same pundits and pollsters who, from the primaries all the way to Election Day, consistently predicted Hillary Clinton's success and Donald Trump's failure are predicting dark things in the future. Their lack of accuracy before the election does not bode well for their post-election predictions. I take it all with a substantial grain of salt. Instead, rather than succumbing to fear, dark thoughts and despondency, I will generously apply the kind of salt and light which comes from never changing, totally reliable Jesus. That which makes my life and future tasty and bright will be a blessing to those with whom I live and move and have my being whatever their political stripe.

"Democracy is the worst form of Government," said Winston Churchill in Parliament in 1947, "except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…" The trouble is there are winners and losers and fifty percent plus one of the people can get to tell the others what to do. There always seem to be irregularities, angry, hurtful words, belligerence and  sometimes even war—the terrible cost of which we remembered yesterday.

A recent Tweet reminded me that Christians worship and follow One who lost the only "democratic vote" in the New Testament to the criminal Barrabas. That loss was painful, too. Nasty and deadly. There were falsehoods and character assassination then, too. Jesus was unjustly condemned to death and executed by the political powers of his day. Yet they are gone and he remains—the same as ever.

Salty, light filled, active faith in Jesus who is the same last Tuesday, yesterday, today and forever is the best thing to carry us safely through nastiness, character assassination, elections, winning, losing and regime changes.

I vote for more of the same—Jesus.


Thursday, 13 October 2016

From the ARM Chair in the Fall 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal magazine

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General Synod 2016

If ever there was time when Anglicans needed the  manifestations of the Spirit given to each of us for the common good (1 Cor 12.7), it is now. That a two thirds majority of General Synod (GS) of the church we serve made the first step towards amending our Marriage Canon to open the way for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage to include people of the same sex is a momentous and divisive move. We will need the full complement of Gifts (1 Cor 12.8-11) and Fruits (Gal 5.22-23) of the Holy Spirit in action as we worship, pray and act through the years to come.

ARM Canada was there in Toronto for GS 2106. Board members Jane Jones, Roger Spack and I took turns hosting our display table (although Roger did the lion's share as well as coordinating with Alison Stortz, ARM Canada's most excellent Administrator and Editor of this publication, to pick up and drop off our attractive and informative display board as he passed through the railway station in Ottawa). We also helped the Anglican Communion Alliance team. ARM Canada Board Members, the Ven Perry Cooper, and new ARM Family Ministries coordinator, the Rev John VanStone, were also present as members of Synod.

Personally, I found the GS decision very disappointing although I was not surprised. It would be easy to be discouraged, but then I remind myself that Jesus promised not to leave us orphaned and to send a Helper (no less than the mighty Holy Spirit we ARM Canada people are always banging on about) to be with us forever, "even the Spirit of truth" (John 14.16-18). I take hope in that.

So we at ARM Canada will continue to to offer times of refreshing so God’s people may be empowered by the Holy Spirit through teaching, equipping and fellowship in the love of Jesus. (Acts 3:19-21) as we pray for God’s truth to prevail in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Fruitfulness Following

I am also encouraged to hear what the Lord is doing among our Lutheran brothers and sisters. The ARM Canada board connected with Oasis Canada (formerly Lutheran Renewal Canada) during our prayer retreat last January. Medicine Hat Pastor and Oasis Canada Director, Jim Bredeson, has recently returned from renewal meetings in Sweden where the Oasis Movement “seeks to promote healthy spiritual renewal rooted in the Word as well as being balanced and sensitive to the Holy Spirit with fruitfulness following.” I was delighted to see that there was an Anglican connection there, too. Andrew Watson, the Bishop of Guildford in England, was one of the key speakers at the conference.

ARM Canada promotes healthy spiritual renewal rooted in the Word, too. We look forward to praying and working with our Lutheran friends to bring it about in Canada.  I hope you will find Pastor Jim’s recap on the Swedish meeting as encouraging as I did.


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Getting to Yes: a Short Funeral Homily with Reference to Prov 3.5, Ro 8.28-39, 1 Cor 2.7-11, 2 Cor 1.19-22, Phil 3.13-14 and Rev 21.6-11—for Suzanne Shust

Jesus is here. This is his church, his body on earth for now. This Jesus "died for us and was raised to life for us," Elizabeth Murphy read just a few moments ago, "and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us." (Ro 8.34) Jesus died for Suzanne, was raised to life for her and was pleading for her all through her life and illness. Suzanne knew it, even when she was struggling with having to die before she was ready. Suzanne wanted you and I to hear it because she carefully chose the readings for this service. These readings are what amounts to her understanding of what has happened to her and are also her message of hope to us.

First was "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding." (Pr3.5) Suzanne's favourite verse. A good word—it was for Suzanne and it is for us now—as we try to make sense of hard times like this.

Here's something in which we can choose to trust on a day like this, for example, whether we understand what's going on around us or not. From Romans 8. Nothing can ever separate us from Christ's love. Nothing. Not trouble, calamity, persecution, hunger, destitution, danger, cancer—not even death (Ro 8.35). No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 8.39).

I'll be honest. That's not always easy to believe. It wasn't easy for Suzanne at times—when she was in pain, when she was having to come to terms with her grief and disappointment over all the things she had hoped for but which were not to be. It's not easy for us who share her disappointment and grief. It just seems so unfair. Even if I'm not separated from the love God that is revealed in Jesus, things can feel pretty awful. And yet, trust in the Lord, Suzanne would say, rather than leaning my own so limited understanding, especially when my efforts to understand are so skewed by how rotten I may be feeling when I'm sick or when I'm grieving at times like this.

Trust in the Lord especially because, as Margo read from the passage Suzanne chose from 1 Corinthians, all God's promises find their Yes in Jesus. If we're trusting in the Lord with as much of our hearts as we can and not leaning too much on our own understanding (or feelings) then those promised Yes's remain and work through cancer, grief and the Romans 8 list—trouble, calamity and danger, and all the rest.

"Well, it sure doesn't seem to work like that in my experience." I might respond."Suzanne's illness and death don't feel very promising to me."

"Trust in the Lord anyway," says Suzanne in the verses she chose for us to hear this afternoon—and I can also hear her tone and see the expression on her face as she says it–you know the look I'm talking about. "I wasn't separated from God's love and promises revealed and fulfilled in Jesus—and nothing can separate you either. So focus on this one thing," she says to us through the verses she chose from Paul's letter to the Philippians (3.13-14), "Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead. Don't give up, press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling you!"

Jesus was key as far as Suzanne was concerned. Here are some more things about that Jesus in the readings we heard that Suzanne must want you and me to know or remember:

  • Jesus is God's son (Ro 8.24, 2 Cor 1.19)
  • Jesus is our glorious Lord (1 Cor 2.8)
  • Jesus does not waver between Yes and No (2 Cor 1.19)
  • Jesus always does what he says (2 Cor 1.19)
  • The more we love God the more we become like Jesus (Ro 8.29)
  • Overwhelming victory is ours through Jesus, who loved us (Ro 8.37)—victory over what? Sin and death, for a start. Many people also report that faith in Jesus also gave them victories over sickness and addictions. 

Suzanne is now enjoying that ultimate victory. Because she trusted in Jesus she now dwells in one of those promised rooms Jesus went on ahead to prepare for her (John 14.2-3) and that we heard about at the beginning of the service. So we don't have to worry about Suzanne any more.

What about us who are left behind? The trick is not to miss out on the promises or reject them in our grief and anger or because we're letting our failure to explain or understand things that are beyond us drown out any trusting in the Lord. There were times in Suzanne's life when she could easily have given up on God and rejected him, not the least of which was during these last sixteen months. But she didn't. Suzanne really rocked apparently. Not only did she show great strength of character and great faith, she showed that she really did trust in the Lord with as much of her heart as she could manage. Sure she struggled with her own understanding and what to make of her situation and I'm sure she had some pointed words with the Lord over it. But in the end, she trusted in the Lord and she continued saying Yes to Jesus and all the promises he embodies. I believe she chose these readings in the hope that you and I will do the same.

In a moment you and I, too, will have the opportunity to say Yes to Jesus as we pray the Apostle's Creed together. For many of us it will be Yes again, for some of you it may be Yes for the first time in a long time, or the first time ever. Saying such a Yes would be a good way to honour Suzanne's memory, to express your trust in the LORD who made her and her children, was present all through her illness and loves her still. Saying such a Yes and meaning it would also place you safe and sound in all the Yes's God promised in Jesus.