Saturday, 2 December 2017

Good News! Help is On the Way—Today’s By the Way column for the Medicine Hat News

Kim Jong Un has just claimed “nuclear completion,” whatever that means, after North Korea tested its latest missile. Today’s equivalent of sabres continue to be noisily rattled and brandished around the globe. Women and children continue to be victimized, trafficked and abused on an industrial scale. Thousands die trying to cross the Mediterranean to find a better life. Another celebrity’s head has just rolled for “inappropriate sexual behaviour,” Matt Lauer at NBC this time. The gaunt spectre of starvation hangs over too many human beings. Despite the best intentions of good-hearted people, much of our world remains lost and weary. 

We need help. The good news is, help is on its way. 

Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent, the first of the four Sundays in the liturgical church calendar, reminding us that Jesus is coming again in great glory one day and to wake up and make sure we’re ready when he does. O yes, and to prepare our hearts for another merrily holy Christmas while we’re waiting. Hope, faith, joy and peace are the four bright, hopeful themes to set us up for that. 

Christianity, however, is about real people living real lives in a real world. So it is not surprising that there is another set of Advent themes to go with them—the Four Last Things; death, judgement, heaven and hell—which reflect the more sobering realities I listed above

Those themes are not just religious pessimism, darkness and gloom. They are real. We all experience them. Death comes to us all, anywhere from the moment of conception to ripe old age. Advent helps us to be ready for it. We all consider certain people (other than ourselves) are deserving of a healthy dose of God’s judgement. In the meantime, we do a pretty good job of judging one another—even, I’m ashamed to admit, in the church. Wouldn’t hurt to let Advent help to avoid that, too. Hell? Surely a loving God couldn’t even imagine such a thing. Yet, Jesus spoke of it often. While we wait, there is such a thing as hell on earth. Far too many people experience it. Even in Canadian homes. Advent helps us avoid going there. Heaven? Sounds good. Certainly better than the alternative. Worth making the Advent effort to be ready to go there when the time comes. 

Just as they all go together in a real Advent—hope, death, faith, judgement, joy, heaven, peace and hell—so they go together in a real life. That’s why the Advent journey through history and Scripture to a Saviour is so valuable. It reminds us of the Advent, presence and eventual return of someone with the power to both save us from those dark realities and fill us with peace and joy of heaven itself. Jesus. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Litany: the Holy Spirit in the Prayer Book—Part 9

From the Fall 2017 edition of Anglicans for Renewal Canada magazine. Subscribe to a print or digital version here

On page 30 of our Book of Common Prayer (BCP) you will find THE LITANY which is five pages of prayerful goodness. If ever there was a prayer that covers all the bases, that prays up one side and down the other of the Christian life, it is THE LITANY, “Which may be sung or said before the Holy Communion;” according to the BCP rubrics, “or after the Creed at Morning or Evening Prayer, instead of the remaining part of the Service; or as a separate service, with Hymns, a Psalm, a Lesson, the Creed, and a Sermon, at the discretion of the Minister.” I’m sad to say, other than using it (there is a Book of Alternative Services version, too—p138) as the Intercessions or Prayers of the People on the First Sundays of Lent and Advent on a few occasions, I’ve never experienced or used THE LITANY in that way, or as the rubrics also require, “The Litany should always be used at least once a month on a Sunday, and is commended for use on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Rogation Days.”

The first reference to the Holy Ghost in THE LITANY comes in the opening thoroughly Trinitarian invocation of Divine Mercy upon us all. 

O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful: have mercy upon us.

Indeed! It is the Holy Spirit, the promised Helper, Comforter, Advocate and Guide who sanctifies—sets apart, makes holy—and is an agent of God’s great mercy. How does he sanctify us? He teaches us all things and brings to our remembrance all that Jesus said (John 14.26) The more we learn and remember, the holier we can be. 

We do need to engage, however. Some people can do it extemporaneously. They are able to worship, read Scripture daily and to pray, Holy Spirit led, in such a way as to cover all the necessary bases and without focussing too much on their own concerns and biases. I’m not one of them. I need some form of Prayer Book and lectionary framework to take me out of myself and into the vast and divine reaches of the sanctification that only comes from the barely apprehensible mystery who is the Triune God. Using that framework the Holy Spirit exposes me to all of Scripture, not just the pieces I enjoy and he teaches me and brings Jesus to my remembrance throughout because there is the reading from one of the gospels every single day. I know how easy it would be for me to miss him if I were to run down the bunny trails of my own self absorption. 

And so, having invoked the glorious Trinity, we pray that God will not remember our sins, nor those of our forefathers, and that we will be spared their toxic effects. It would be easy to slide on by the reference to our forefathers as being a mere antiquated formality. But it is one of the many brilliant details to be found in Prayer Book prayer and very much worth a pause. Almost all of us labour to some extent under the toxic effects of the sin of our families of origin—generational sin, some call it—such as idolatry, sexual sin, rebellion, addictions, broken relationships. I know I do. And I know that I, unwittingly, have passed that toxicity on to my children. THE LITANY reminds me to pray for The LORD, in his mercy, to defuse any sinful effects coming down through my family which entangle me and that I may be passing on to my children—thus enabling the Holy Spirit's sanctifying and life-giving work.  

We then prayerfully recite the things that The Father did to deliver us (p31) including 

By thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; by thy sending of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was sent to fill us with all the fullness of God as he teaches and reminds us of Jesus and as he helps and empowers us to be faithful, effective witnesses of the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit was sent by The Father and so are we. In THE LITANY we also pray:

To send forth labourers into thy harvest; to prosper their work by thy Holy Spirit; to make thy saving health known unto all nations; and to hasten thy kingdom, 
We beseech thee, good Lord. (BCP, p32)

Be honest. Who still prays that regularly? Yet Jesus himself  exhorts his disciples to pray it and to pray it earnestly (Mt 9.37, Lk 10.2). There is work to be done and a key component of that work is to pray a prayer that Jesus specifically called his disciples to pray. The faithful, regular and frequent use of such tools for prayer provided by the Prayer Books as THE LITANY is a good way of getting the job done. And if we pray what Jesus asks us to pray in this way, will our Heavenly Father not give the Holy Spirit to prosper our work, make his saving health and faith known to the nations and hasten the coming of his kingdom (Lk 11.13)? 

The good news is that LORD promises not to leave us helpless orphans in this endeavour. THE LITANY invokes his good grace:

To give to all thy people increase of grace, to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, 
We beseech thee, good Lord. (BCP, p33)

“Thy people” is us. His Church. God’s grace, says James Ryle, is his empowering presence to be who he made us to be and to do what he calls us to do. Dallas Willard writes that God’s grace enables us to do things that we are not able to do on our own—things like pray and read the Scriptures every day, to hear them with the ears of our hearts, receive them with that pure affection (a lovely prayer book phrase), and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5.22)—surely the very best way to make the Father’s saving health known to all nations and to hasten the coming of his kingdom!

As THE LITANY draws to a close we ask The LORD to forgive those who wish us harm and, 

To give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligence, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, to amend our lives according to thy holy Word.
We beseech thee, good Lord. (BCP, p34)

Sin, negligence and ignorances—not much can escape that matrix. More grace. More Holy Spirit. To amend our lives according to God’s living-and-active (Heb 4.12), not-going-back-to-him-empty, accomplishing-his-purpose, succeeding-in-the-things-for-which-he-sent-it (Isa 55.11) and holy Word. 

What we’re praying for in all the above is for the Holy Spirit to be made manifest—made obvious, demonstrated—as the faithful are sanctified; as all come to know that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father; as the work of the harvest labourers prospers; and as the fruit of the Spirit and grace abound. 

And all for building up the church (1 Cor 14.12). Amen. 


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Common Prayer: Medicine Hat Catholics and Lutherans Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation—an Homily

Jesus must be the first word out of my mouth as I speak to you this afternoon—Jesus, the first and living Word—capital W (John 1.1), the Name above all Names (Phil 2.9). Jesus is our shared Saviour and Lord. Jesus is our shared imperative, our distinctive, our centre. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the life, our hope, our peace, our salvation, and, as we were just reminded in the reading from John 15, our true vine (John 15.1) in to which we were all grafted in our baptism (another thing we share, by the way). Let’s worship him…

O Come Let Us Adore Him
We’ll give You all the glory
For You Alone are Worthy. 

The Reformation. Picture, if you will, a 500 year old theological minefield, dotted here and there with great names and events, great joys and accomplishments, great sorrows and tragedies. And a little group of Catholics and Lutherans gather here on the edge of it here in Medicine Hat and say to each other, “Who will venture out onto that minefield to speak to us on November the 12th?” I know, let’s send an Anglican! Anglicans are expert at navigating through theological minefields. They’re so polite! And, if he is unfortunate enough to step on one of those mines, none us will be hurt and we won’t have to be mad at each other. So, here I am. 

I am honoured beyond words to have been asked to address you in name of Jesus, our shared Lord and Saviour—you are both parental denominations for us Anglicans. Catholic and Protestant. We like to think we Anglicans got the best of both your worlds. You guys went at it for a time, we joined in here and there depending on Henry VIII’s marital status at the the time, and whether the Queen was Mary or Elizabeth, (that was the conflict part of the journey) then, after the dust had settled, we moved in and helped ourselves to your best bits. And we Anglicans have been, as some have said (rather unkindly, I thought) loving Jesus with a slightly superior attitude ever since. We consider ourselves to be Catholic, only English Catholic rather than Roman Catholic. And Protestant—Thomas Cranmer drew, too, from Luther and the other reformers when he composed our Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The via media—middle way between Catholicism and Lutheranism—Queen Elizabeth I called us. 

I’m not going to talk about the conflict part of the Reformation this afternoon. It happened. There was goodness in it and there was not. Whenever the Spirit moves, so do the World, the flesh and the devil, usually in opposition and mayhem. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has and will continue to redeem it in the power of the Holy Spirit—that we are here this afternoon working on bringing communion out of the conflict attests to that. 

I’m more concerned about what we do now, 500 years later. How shall we know Jesus more clearly, love Jesus more dearly and follow Jesus more nearly here and now, in the time and place the vinegrower chose to place us—Catholics, Lutherans, (and I’m going to include Anglicans and all the rest)—followers and worshippers of Jesus all—divided and yet, one.

Jesus tells us. Even in the few verses I read from John, chapter 15, there is much to mark, learn and inwardly digest. First, this reminder: Jesus is the True Vine (John 15.1). There can only one True Vine—sola vinea. In other words, through Jesus come all the nutrients we need to stay alive as Church and individuals. That’s good. I like that. And I like the image of God the Father as the vinegrower that comes with it, I can picture him wandering through the vineyard with his watering can, (not bothering to pull the weeds, of course, the Bible says they should be left until the final harvest)—the breeze of the Holy Spirit riffling his hair, the leaves on the vines gently swaying—a lovely pastoral image—Lutherans and Catholics all together in the sunshine being lovingly tended and looked after. 

As the butterflies flutter and the bees buzz, Jesus continues, 
My Father removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. (V2)
Here’s where we venture out on to that minefield I mentioned earlier. Did Jesus have denominations in mind when he used the branches image? Some Catholics thought for a while (maybe some still do) that, because of the Reformation, us Protestants were “removed” from the true vine—and some Protestants thought the same of them. It’s got to stop! Removal didn’t, and won’t, happen because, and as long as, we’re still on the Jesus vine—despite our differences—and we’re still bearing fruit, not as much as the vinegrower would like, perhaps, but bearing. Which brings me to where I have take another step in that minefield.   

Pruning—the root of the Greek word here refers to pruning and cleansing. There has been and there will continue to be pruning—often with sharp things which can seem unreasonably painful at the time. But we all need it. The abundant life which comes to us through Jesus, the one true vine, comes so we will bear fruit in witness and service. That’s the point of the true vine having branches like us. 

What’s fruit for? Reproduction. How does that work? Fruit is usually sweet and a delight to the eyes (Gen 3.6). Why? So people and animals will eat it and the seeds will be distributed so new plants will grow and more fruit produced (No need to go further with that idea just now). Our Father , the vinegrower, wants us to be sweet and tasty so the people around us will be drawn to taste and see how good the LORD is (1 Peter 2.3). How do we get sweet and tasty? 

“Abide in me,” Jesus said, “as I abide in you.” Abide—remain; stay; reside; wait for; continue to exist; keep on—in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus is the essence of the post-conflict communion upon which you’re working. We’re none of us sweet enough on our own. For, 
4 …Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
How shall we abide in Jesus, so? 

We present ourselves to be fed from the one true vine at Holy Eucharist. Regularly and frequently. That’s something we all do. I’m sorry we’ve painted ourselves into some awkward corners which prevent us from doing that together—for now. The day will come. We’ll either work it out, or the LORD will make it happen miraculously. 

We, all of us, have rich traditions of daily prayer and Bible reading. All we have to do is use them. Take hold of that which it truly life (1 Tim 6.19)! Savour the sweetness of our Saviour in Scripture and prayer! That is our life-line through which we abide in and feed on Jesus, the one true vine, and are sweetened up for the sake of those around us. Worship, read and pray for unity, for winsome and irresistible witness and for service that is sweet and shining with the light of Jesus. 

Do it as individuals—from now on to mark this anniversary, or for Advent and Lent. Do it in community. Like this. There are other stirrings, too. I was at a gathering at Victory Lutheran on a Tuesday evening a couple of weeks ago where a group of Lutherans, Catholics, Pentecostals and an Anglican prayed for revival and reformation in our city. 

Another thing. In your, and our, common witness, service and growling unity, I think we all need to be more intentional about using his name, Jesus. In this post-Christendom, post-modern age, we can no longer just let the name of Jesus be implied in what we say and do. There is power in it. We need to develop the habit of using his name, Jesus, in our lives and conversations, to wield it as what it is, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph 6.17). 

You might have to work at it at first. A good place to start could be to prepare an answer for the time when someone asks you why you go to mass? Think up a response which uses his name. For example, “I meet Jesus there and he feeds me.” Consider how you could turn that into an invitation. Why do you bother reading the Bible someone might ask? “Because, just like Martin Luther said, ‘the Bible is the cradle in which Christ is laid.’ The Bible brings Jesus to me.” Why would you bother shoveling my driveway? “Because Jesus loves you and I follow him.” If you’re really brave, you can add, “If you’d like to know more about Jesus, I’d love to have you come to church with me as my guest!”

The thing is, you have all you need. Your abiding in Jesus, the one true vine, happens in and draws on a wonderful, long, rich, tradition of faithful saints—giants of the Christian faith—running all the way back to Jesus himself. Men and women of deep prayer and simplicity, mystics, martyrs, people of great learning. Feed on Jesus through them. Allow his sweetness to infuse and transform you, but don’t just sit there. Bear witness. Find ways to serve and bless. 

Finally, something Bishop Henry, the last Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary told us Anglican clergy at a conference once. “If you’re saved, inform your face!” As you bear your common witness and serve others, smile! Jesus is the best news in the world. 

And now I will finish as I began, with the one who is our one true vine, without whom we can do nothing, the one with the sweetest and the most beautiful Name there ever was. Jesus. 


Saturday, 11 November 2017

Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day—Mark Knopfler (H/T Bob Oldfield’s YouTube channel). Lovely.

Lives lost and found, messed up. Grief, well-being and woe. The best and the worst of times.

World War II (we number them—may we never get to III) brought my parents together—Canadian and Kiwi. So, my life and the lives of our children and grandchildren are a product of it.


Saturday, 4 November 2017

FOR THE COMMON GOOD: Exlploring 1 Corinthians

This is the first of a new series which appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Anglicans for Renewal magazine. Both digital and print subscriptions are available here

There’s something about Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians. You’ve probably all heard people describe how the Bible lit up for them when they came to living, saving Christian faith. It lit up for me thirty-five years ago when I re-upped for Christianity. After thirteen years of lapsed backslidden-ness (is that even a word?) that ran from university, half a degree, the beginnings of a career in television, through courtship, marriage, parenthood, and emigrating from New Zealand to Canada, I decided to have another go with Jesus. I can’t remember why, exactly. And I can’t remember why one of the first parts of the Bible I read was 1 Corinthians. What I do remember is that I was living in Calgary with Judy, my wife of some fifteen years, and two kids, Kate and Anthony, and I was working as a Producer/Director for ACCESS Network, a provincial maker and broadcaster of educational television programs. And I remember thinking as I read Paul's descriptions of the Corinth of his day, “This is just like Calgary!” Except for the television. Mind you, if Paul was doing his thing today, he’d probably be on it and all over social media, too. But I digress.  

Fast forward to 2017 and 1 Corinthians still helps keep this retired septuagenarian priest in the warm embrace and the bright winged glow of the Holy Spirit. As The LORD leads us together through this new series, I hope that you, too, will come to enjoy more of that same warm glow. But more than that, I’m tapping the keys with my ARM Canada Board Chairman hat on now, 1 Corinthians is an excellent foundational manual for charismatics. Not only does it list and describe most of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it places them in the context of real-life Christian living with all the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, conflict and mystery that go with it. I believe it is a book that does, indeed, contribute to the common good of charismatic Christians and the whole Church. 

In my seminary days, when I was to write a paper on a book of the Bible, I was always to begin with an outline, a summary of the what the book covers, a series of headings. It helped to give a sense of what the book is about. The headings in my Bible (ESV) do the same. They give a sense what was going on in Corinth, of real-life in the Church of the day and give us a bird’s eye view of the letter. Now, resist the temptation to just skim over this list. Look at it carefully. It exposes the book’s structure and framework nicely. 

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

Proclaiming Christ Crucified

Divisions in the Church

The Ministry of Apostles

Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

Lawsuits Against Believers
Flee Sexual Immorality

Principles for Marriage
Live As You Are Called
The Unmarried and the Widowed

Food Offered to Idols

Paul Surrenders His Rights

Warning Against Idolatry

Do All to the Glory of God
Head Coverings
The Lord’s Supper

Spiritual Gifts
One Body with Many Members

The Way of Love

Prophecy and Tongues
Orderly Worship

The Resurrection of Christ
The Resurrection of the Dead
The Resurrection Body
Mystery and Victory

The Collection for the Saints
Plans for Travel
Final Instructions

I believe that there is nothing in the Scriptures by accident. God, the Holy Spirit, inspired Paul to write what he wrote to the Corinthians. He also inspired the order in which each section is appears. With this in mind, it is fascinating to explore this 1 Corinthians list. 

I’ve come to think of Chapters 12-14 as ground zero for how to do charismatic and Church. It intrigues me after preaching at so many weddings, that Chapter 13, the “love chapter,” is really not primarily about weddings and marriage in its context at all. It’s about how to operate in the charismatic gifts properly. I am also fascinated by they way these chapters are bracketed by—before; The Lord’s Supper and, after; that great, inspired, exposition of the Resurrection in Chapter 15. Why did God arrange them so? It certainly works for us Anglicans. We are to do our charismatic ministry in the context of the Holy Eucharist and as witnesses of the Resurrection. They go together. 

But along with these grand, agreeable themes of Eucharist and Resurrection chapters 12-14 are also bracketed by some more awkward and mundane, practical matters of which we twenty-first century readers must make sense. Just before the words of Jesus himself in The Lord’s Supper we find Paul dictating whose head should be covered, or not, when they prophesy and with what hair style. How are we to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest that (BAS, p391) and live it out? And, even more vexing, before the wonders of the Resurrection in chapter 15 we find Paul’s prohibition of women speaking in churches. What do we Anglican charismatics do with what Paul writes about what women can and cannot do in church? Heads covered, or not? Hair short, or long? Seen, but not heard? How does any of this contribute to the common good? 

We’ll spend some time exploring these and other matters as they arise in 1 Corinthians in future issues of Anglicans for Renewal. In the meantime, get your Bible out and explore 1 Corinthians for yourself. Better still, get together with some friends to pray and try and discern what God was up to when he prompted St Paul to write what he wrote in the order he wrote it.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Jesus Comforts His Disciples: a Short Memorial Service Homily with Reference to Isa 61.1-3, Ro 8.31-39 and John 14.1-6—for Dave Hoose

Jesus Comforts His Disciples is the section heading for that passage Al just read from John 14. Don’t let your hearts be troubled, he said to them knowing that they’d soon be mourning and grieving and confused and feeling lost without him. Trust in God, my Father and yours, and trust in me. 

He’s saying the same to us this afternoon through all the Scripture passages we’ve heard. When we hear Isaiah’s words in the passage Liz read, we hear Jesus and we hear about him. Jesus was The One sent to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort all who mourn and to provide for those who grieve (Isa 61.1-3). So when Jesus says don’t let your hearts be troubled, he’s behaving like The One Isaiah was inspired to write about. And the Psalmist has words of comfort, too:
The Lord himself watches over you!” (Ps 121.5)
They are God-given and eternal words of comfort. 

So were Paul’s words in the passage from Romans that Deb read. 
Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Ro 8.34)
That means Jesus himself was praying for Dave as he went through all he suffered as his health declined, and for Mary and Stephen and Auralyn, and for us as we go through times like this. That’s stretching it a bit you might say! How can he be praying for all of us and billions of other people besides and all at once? Because he is raised to life and glorified and at the very right hand of God the Father in the Glory of Holy Trinity which means he now transcends time and space and mere numbers—the things that keep us so tethered to and entangled with the things of earth. He can now be to Dave and Mary and all the rest of us as if you and I were the only person on earth. 

It’s a mystery, but not to be dismissed because of that since 
Mystery is not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend. (Eugene Peterson in The Unnecessary Pastor, Eerdman’s, 2000, quoting Denis Covington, Salvation on Sand Mountain, New York: Addison-Wesley, 1995, pp. 203-4). 
Paul goes on…
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Ro 8.35)
…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro 8.38-39)
Not even death can separate us! Compelling words of comfort inspired by and from Jesus himself. There are more in the Gospel reading. Trust me, he says, because 
In my Father’s house are many rooms. (John 14.2)
Trust me, because
…if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. (John 14.2)
Here I can’t help thinking that Dave would probably have to be restrained from immediately helping Jesus prepare by embarking on some sort of renovation project in his room, sitting cross legged on the floor or in other people’s rooms around him. Dave was a man who, I discovered when he was clearing out his garage to move to the island, owned 16 tape measures! There was never any question that Dave could measure up!  

Above all, Dave was a man who loved Jesus. 

Trust me also, said Jesus, because when it is time, 
I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14.3)
Can you imagine? Taken to be where Jesus is. Comforting words, indeed. Jesus goes on…
You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14.4)
Dave did. Mary does. Thomas, that’s Doubting Thomas in the Gospel passage, didn’t at first. And in this, the comforting words of Jesus gently, but pointedly, bring us to, and remind us of, the most important decision we ever have to make in our lives. It has to do with what happens when we die. Where has Dave gone? Where do we go from here? Do I know the way to the place Jesus is talking about? Some of us do. Some of us knew once but have forgotten about it or grown careless and have set off down some other paths looking for a better way. Some of us find it hard to admit it when we’re lost and we don’t know where we’re going. Us guys, they say, tend to be particularly reluctant to ask for directions. But Thomas wasn’t afraid to ask, God bless him. 
Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way? (John 14.5) 
Trust me, Jesus says, when I tell you that
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14.6)
Well that’s a bit narrow, you might say. Exclusive. Yes, but so is the Father’s love for each of us as it is expressed in this one man, Jesus. Not so much narrow, as exclusively and wonderfully focussed—from which, as we heard in Romans 8, nothing can separate us. Nothing. So, really! Says Jesus. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. (John 14.1)

In closing. Here’s a home truth about Jesus. What's The Way to that home place with all the rooms Jesus has gone on ahead to prepare? "I am" he says. I am also The Truth and The Life (John 14.6). Since Jesus rose from the dead and was taken into heaven, his heart still beats here on earth—in his body, the Christian Church. The only way to one of those rooms runs through it, his truth is proclaimed and celebrated in it, his life fills it to the brim with light and love and Dave Hoose worshipped and found his way in it. I know he hopes that all of us will also trust in Jesus and do the same. 


Thursday, 17 August 2017

FROM GLORY TO GLORY: the Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books Part VIII

My goodness! It's been a while since I've posted here. I've been neglecting things. Alas. What follows is from the Summer 2017 edition of Anglicans for Renewal Canada magazine. Subscribe to a print or digital version here

Today, I suspect most of us Anglicans are "to" timers. We're living in the "to" between the glorys as we await the Holy Spirit's transformation from "glory to glory" about which St Paul wrote (2 Cor 3.18). The glory of the revivals and awakenings involving people like David Watson, Dennis and Rita Bennet and Terry Fulham in the 70s and 80s and which brought ARM Canada into being have subsided. Just as in the days of Eli and Samuel, we now live in days when the "word of the Lord" is rare and there are few visions (1 Sam 3.1) in the North American Anglican world, at least. We await another visitation, another awakening, to draw hundreds and thousands of Anglicans into another outpouring of the Spirit where folk will flock to our services and gatherings hungry and thirsty for more of the LORD simply because his presence is so palpable and obvious in healings and changed lives. 

While we wait I am convinced that the Daily Divine Offices in our prayer books are excellent and indispensable tools with which to pray for that next visitation. For example, I've counted over 400 references to the Holy Spirit in The Book of Alternative Services (BAS). To watch for them as we pray the Divine Office individually or in groups, and as we come upon them, pause and pray for a new outpouring of God's glory across our church would be a good, faithful way to pray us all from glory to glory.

The Service of Light and Evening Prayer in the BAS begin, as usual, with Trinitarian praise and worship in the ancient chant "O Gracious Light":
Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (pp 61 & 66)
The Thanksgiving prayers (pp 62-65) are evocative words for thankful worship. Notice the prayers composed for the seasons of the church year. Notice also who is the giver of the Holy Spirit (p62), what the results of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are (p63), and the anointing love and renewed life which are bestowed by the Holy Spirit (pp 64 & 65). 

The Advent and Resurrection thanksgivings are particularly focussed for praying from "to" to new glory and revival. Pray that "the outpouring of his Spirit" will, indeed, "open our blindness to the glory of his presence. Strengthen us in our weakness. Support us in our stumbling efforts to do your will and free our tongues to sing your praise" (p63) and will renew our "life in the Spirit of the risen Lord" (p65). 

Don't be afraid to make the prayers your own. For example, when praying the Psalms by myself, I'll often change them to address God in the second person and, therefore, more directly. 

Use the words of the office to prompt silent reflection, extemporaneous prayer, praise or worship. If you're praying in a group, give yourselves permission to pause and pray in to words and phrases that light up for you. Pause to give glory to God. Take a few moments to worship in song. 

The BAS Morning and Evening Prayer rubrics (or directions) state "The readings may be followed by silence, a canticle, a responsory, an anthem or other music, or a hymn. A combination of these responses may be appropriate." (pp 51 & 68)

Canticles are helpful resources for Holy Spirit glory to glory prayer. Canticles are Scripture fashioned into hymns or chants for worship. They are used as worshipful responses after the readings in Morning and Evening Prayer. The Book of Alternative Services provides 27 canticles for the Divine Office with several suggestions as to how they might be used (p72). The canticle, "You Are God" (p94)—known as the Te Deum in The Book of Common Prayer—provides the encouraging reminder that we are not alone in this business of worship and prayer. The Holy Spirit, himself, is our advocate and guide—with the sighs too deep for words (Ro 8.28), about which St Paul wrote. 

"These alternative introductory responses," state the rubrics (or directions) in the BAS, "may be used at the beginning of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer instead of O God, make speed to save us, etc., and O Lord, I call to you, etc. On weekdays they may replace all that precedes the Psalm." (p96)

Introductory Response 4 for Repentance gives us the sobering reminder that the Holy Spirit can be taken from us. Good spiritual hygiene by honest self-examination, confession and repentance is key for a healthy spiritual life. Evan Roberts' first requirement for those praying for what was to become known as the Welsh Revival was to confess all known sin and renounce any doubtful habit. Sin cuts us off from the power of the Holy Spirit. It's as simple as that. 

Responsories are verses from Scripture arranged as anthems to be said or sung by a soloist and choir, or leader and congregation, or group. They provide a repetitive pause for worshipful reflection on what has just been heard in a lesson. Some are keyed to particular seasons. 

Responsory 12, entitled "The Holy Spirit–Thanksgiving" (p108) is another good glory to glory prayer invoking the Holy Spirit:
You send forth your Spirit, O Lord; * you renew the face of the earth.
One of the ways in which the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ sends out his Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth is through faithful Anglicans who choose to worship him as they pray the Divine Office of the Church day in and day out, no matter what.