Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eucharistic Ponderings and Proclamations

Is this poor morsel,
  The Flesh of He who opened Himself
  To the suffering of the Cross?
Is this parched wheat,
  The banqueting food of the eternal festival
  Of the Resurrected Groom in His Kingdom?
Is this fermented juice,
  The life stream dripped
  Unto cruel cross and dry ground?
Is this Cup
  The time and eternity drink
  Of earth and Heaven made one?
I believe, I believe
  His Flesh is Food indeed - The Bread of Heaven
  His Cup is Drink indeed - The Blood of Christ
I believe, I believe.
  Lord, help me in my unbelief..

LORD, have mercy,   Brian+

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Church, the Eucharist, and living the Scriptures

"The Church is the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is the Church"  Fr. Steven Freeman of Glory to God for All Things.

Fr. Freeman is writing a wonderful series on Christianity and Post-modernism. The following quote relates to how we can only understand the Scriptures within the life and particularly in the worship of the Church.  Much to think about here.

The Church should not be seen as an institution, a business or a club, or an organization existing through the centuries, managing history. Some “Churches” in the West may very well fit this description, but they are not “Church” in the proper sense of the word. The Church is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is the Church. The people, members of the Body of Christ, are those assembled in the liturgy (and in its continual life beyond the immediate assembly itself). That the Church reads is patently part of its liturgical life. What is considered canon, authoritative, is that which is read in the liturgy. The Church not only reads the Scriptures, it prays and enacts the Scriptures. It sings the Scriptures and interprets them in the embodied life of praise and thanksgiving to God. “Bible study,” and such notions, outside of the worshipping Church are akin to nonsense. There can be no study of the Scripture for the sake of the Scripture (or simply for the sake of learning). This would be similar to discussing (ad nauseum) the lyrics of a song whose music you never hear and whose tune you never sing.
The Scripture is the song of God, both sung to the Church by God and sung to God by the Church. In the life that is that song, the Church is continually conformed to the image of Christ. This is the Church’s liturgy (and God’s liturgy), the song of the image of God.
The life that is the continual liturgy is the Christ-conforming life of the believer in union with others within the Body of Christ sharing in the one Spirit. The Scriptures are not a source or reference-book for that Christ-conforming life, they are part of that life itself.  SEE HERE

LORD have mercy,  Brian+

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Contemplation and Liturgy

In his recent address to the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, our Archbishop Rowan Williams said,

"Contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them.  To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit.  To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly.  It is a deeply revolutionary matter."

This echos much of what I have posted in recent weeks.  Contemplative worship, which has the characteristic of predictable words and actions, forces the worshiper into the work of alert reflection and focused listening.  The constant renewal of liturgy, to capture the imagination of the dulled worshiper plays into the self-oriented passions that are the vanguard of consumer-marketing models.  The contemplative worship that Williams is speaking of is counter-intuitive to much of what has passed as lively worship, or relevant worship. We need to help people understand the dulling nature of the contemporary world, which on the surface appears to be exciting and energizing, but actually robs us of the very things that helps make disciples out of worshipers.  And we need to help people understand and encounter what Rowan Williams is saying, which in my opinion is that contemplative worship, that which appears to contemporaries as as dull and uninspiring on the surface, is actually life giving, life enhancing, and life energizing, because it enables the human heart to connect with the heart of God.

Lord have mercy,  Brian+

A recent post by Brian Owen at his blog Creedal Christianity speaks to this need for contemplative worship through the words of C.S. Lewis:

see  C. S. Lewis: "An Entreaty for Permanence and Uniformity" in Worship  HERE

 Lord have mercy,  Brian+

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Church is called to live love, not sell it.

"It is not a case of build it and they will come: it is a case of live it and they will come. We are one with the One; it is He who calls each and every man woman and child to His Son, it is the Spirit who mystically tugs at the inner place of all and the all can respond or not.

Let the Church live the life of the body, let it worship, let it come to the altar and partake of the Sacraments, that mystical union with the One beyond our knowing, beyond our knowledge. Let the Church set aside its debate and arguments over things that add nothing but divide and destroy the soul and despair the Spirit.

Forget the marketing, forget the mail drops, forget the 'relevancy' and instead of going out and contending with the Spirit for souls become a place where people can come in and know they have found home. Find rest. Find Love manifest by the love of others.

A Sunday morning (if it is a Sunday morning that is prescribed) should be a place of soaking of refueling of being reborn time and time again, of union not division, of embracing those who attend not counting those who are not, of trusting in God to bring about his will not wondering what must be done to fill the pews or the coffers because God has failed to do so (in our eyes).

The Church is called to live love, not sell it."  
George Dunning

This comment was inspired by a post at Creedal Christian's Bryan Owen  
called, "The Church is only the Church insofar as it offers the Sacraments with meek heart and due reverence" 

In particular Mr Owan was commenting on a post from  Fr. Robert Hendrickson titled, "The Church which is His Body: On Restructuring, the Episcopate, and the Sacraments"

Fr. Robert makes a very, very important comment:

“….she said, “well you are a sacramental priest – so that makes sense for you. We need to be thinking of other ways to be priests too.” I could not disagree more.
The Church is only the Church insofar as it offers the Sacraments with meek heart and due reverence. It seems to me that in the conversations about restructuring the Church, or a missional Church, or the many other ways we can imagine the Church changing that we are losing the simple fact that we first and foremost offer the Sacraments. If one visits the Episcopal Church’s website and clicks on “What We Do” you will not find the Sacraments. They are certainly listed under “What we Believe” but they are not just what we believe – they are what we do, who we are, how we are meant to be, and what we are called to be more of.
We are initiated in baptism, fed in the Eucharist, express our devotion in confirmation, find forgiveness in confession, seek healing in anointing, embrace love in marriage, and some seek new forms of service in ordination. The sacraments walk us through the life cycle, drawing us to God and back to God and home to God. They are the foundation of ministry and unify the faithful in grace. The administration of the Sacraments cannot be unwoven from our pastoral function, nor from our teaching function, nor from social justice for it is through them that we are healed, united, and learn of God’s mercies.”

This couples well with an article I read about how modern approaches to worship are failing.     See my post called, DE-NEWING WORSHIP

Do we not have to be true to who we are as the Church?  If it is the Eucharist that defines us, forms us, renews us, and sends us, then shouldn't we be embracing the Eucharistic worship for all we are worth? 

LORD have mercy,  Brian+ 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

De-newing Worship

Once upon a time our faith thrived in a non-Christian empire. It took less than 300 years for 11 scared dudes to take over the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. How did they do it? Where we have opted for a relevant, homogenously grouped, segregated, attractional professionalized model; the early church did it with a  multi-ethnic, multi-social class, seeker INsensitive church. Worship was filled with sacrament and symbol. It engaged the believing community in the Christian narrative. This worship was so God-directed and insider-shaping that in the early church non-Christians were asked to leave the building before communion! With what effect? From that fellowship of the transformed, the church went out to the highways and byways loving and serving the least, last and lost. In that body of Christ, Christians shared their faith with Romans 1:16 boldness, served the poor with abandon, fed widows and took orphans into their homes. The world noticed. We went to them in love rather than invited them to our event.  Matt Marino

Read the entire article titled: What is so uncool about 'cool' churches Unintended Consequences: How the “relevant” church and segregating youth is killing Christianity.  HERE

 I believe we have some serious rethinking to do regarding how and why we worship.

 LORD have mercy,  Brian+

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spirituality as Hobby - The Importance of Tithing

The thought that spirituality without tithing reduces such pursuits to mere 'hobby' is quite sobering.  This will be quite a challenge to most of us Anglicans. 

LORD have mercy.  Brian+

"For most, the word “offering” immediately invokes the image of “money.” This is not incorrect, even if it is limited. Money can certainly be an “offering,” but our thoughts on the subject probably miss the point. Money indeed has a sacramental character (as does all of creation). In  a modern culture, money is something of a sacrament of all of our activity. As Christ Himself noted, it remains the primary means by which we may know the heart (Matt 6:21). Interest in spiritual things by those who do not practice “tithing” (returning to God a tenth of what we receive) can easily become an exercise in vanity. The failure to give alms generously (as in the tithe) can reduce spiritual activity to the level of a hobby. In this matter, the Orthodox differ in no wise from the non-Orthodox. Our culture is deeply enslaved by Mammon. Moderns are deeply suspicious of all things having to do with money. We see greed everywhere around us (except within ourselves)."               

Fr. Stephen Freeman from his posting on "Life in a Sacramental World." found HERE

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Christianity: Personhood vs Individualism

“Ever since the Enlightenment, people have assumed that to be a person is to be an individual, one who is defined by separateness from others, by categories of “I” and “not-I.”  Here we return to the primal experience of our infant, who smiles at her mother even before the discovery of her own hand – we are, in the first place, persons because we are towards others, not over and against them.”  From Ecstasy and Intimacy, by Edith Humphrey

Here we can see the chaos of defining human rights from the framework of individuals rather than persons; here we can see the angst of the youth trying to define themselves "over and against" the other; here we can see the tragedy of being alone, yet surrounded by people.

Personhood, not individualism is the heritage of Christianity, revealed by the Trinity, the Divine Community of Persons that are perfectly 'towards' the Other.  We are invited into the fulness of this life, of this personship that is the heritage of humanity being made in the image and likeness of God.  Thus Jesus says, "Love your neighbour as yourself," and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," revealing your personhood of being 'toward' the other.

Lord have mercy,  Brian+ 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Christian Spirituality and the Incarnation

"Christian spirituality is the study and experience of what happens when the Holy Spirit meets the human spirit.   This definition is not meant to exclude God’s contact with the entire person, including the body.  Indeed, Christian spirituality is profoundly incarnational, since that meeting-place between spirit and Spirit, that holy tryst, finds its example par excellence – indeed, its proto-type and its cause – in Jesus, the God-Man.  Our Christian story is the marvelous drama of a “holy tryst” – a holy meeting in which God, through His very own love, brings humanity (spirit, soul, body) to Himself.  …Let us not hope to find a spiritual life unconnected to that one tangible, wondrous place in which perfect God and perfect humanity are joined.  In observing the tendencies of the contemporary search for spirituality, we must beware of that wrongheaded quest  for “religious experience without faith…a religion of pure experience.”  (Dupre and Wiseman, p23) .  Such a quest recently has been proposed to the troubled Anglican faith community by Bishop Michael Ingham, who, in his Mansions of the Spirit, cautiously valorized an “esoteric” search for that  mystical experimental point beyond doctrine where “all faiths meet” (pp.119-23).  But to do this is to place that One from whom are all things and in whom all things converge in a subordinate position; it is to miss the staggering import of the unique and revolutionary Incarnation of God the Son.  It is to worship experience, and not that One from whom all experience flows."   

Edith Humphrey, Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit meets the Human Spirit, pp17-18

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holy, Holy, Holy,...what?

I followed the recent changes to the Roman Missal with some interest.  This was in part because I read that one blogger said the new missal wording brought the Roman Catholic English translation more in line with the English wording in the Book of Common Prayer:  “And with your spirit,” and “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.”  I think that the Roman Catholics can be excused for messing up after the fervor of excitement resulting from Vatican Two.  But I am not sure as much grace should be accorded to the avant garde liturgists of Anglican stripe who somehow deemed the Roman mistranslations (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might) needed to be incorporated into the Anglican liturgies under the premise of ecumenism.  And that is the only reason I can seem to find for the corruption of the Sanctus.  An excellent article on the mistranslation of the Sanctus in the Roman Missal after Vatican Two, and the importance of correcting it, from a Roman Catholic priest can be found here: 

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I cannot read Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, but I can read the Scriptures.  And in those Scriptures, if the translators of the KJV, ASB, RSV, etc  are correct, then the scriptural source for opening of the Sanctus, Isaiah 6.3 is “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts.  This is a far cry from the rather inaccurate translation of “God of power and might.”  

Two things stand out for me. 

One is the thought that for the sake ecumenical uniformity we are willing to almost unthinkingly depart from our own rich heritage, a heritage well rooted in the ancient Church.  Secondly, we are willing to disengage the Scriptural witness from our liturgy, which seems to be a most un-Anglican thing to do.  I can cite other examples of this disengagement of the use in Scripture for our worship such as one bishop here in Canada who has authorized a ‘special rite’ wherein the proclamation of the Word actually allows for the opting of an appropriate secular reading to be used instead of an appropriate Scripture reading.   Imagine having a part of the service called “the proclamation of the Word,” and not having any Scripture read.  But I digress. 

The point I want to make here is that we have clearly made a mistake in allowing Ecumenical fervor to sway us in embracing erroneous wordings in our divine Eucharistic liturgy.  Comments on the adoption of the Ecumenical Lectionary (The Revised Common Lectionary) might also fall into this category.  Let’s be honest here, if we were truly interested in embracing ecumenical relations with the Romans and the Greeks then there are many innovations we simply should not have embraced so quickly.  By all appearances we have wanted to eat our cake and have it too, and we know that that does not work.  Instead, I feel that we have lost much of our Anglican Identity, which is directly tied to our liturgy.

I am left with the following question: Within the Anglican milieu, how does one ‘back up’ once a mistake is realized?  The Romans, with their hierarchy of authority were able to very easily redact their liturgy.  We Anglicans appear to entirely lack any mechanism for this.  I fear it is up to our ‘chief liturgical officers,’ and again I fear few really don’t seem to care.

To this sad reflection I invite my readers to have a look at the idea being brought to the forefront recently for the need of a “New Oxford Movement, “ by a priest in Ireland blogging under the heading Catholicity and Covenant.  The post is called, “a Retrieval of Riches – the potential of a New Oxford Movement.”  

I like to call it, “the de-newal of Anglican Liturgy.”  Done right, such a de-newal, such a new Oxford movement, might just bring us back to the most holy God, in truly holy worship where we joyfully declare with the angels and archangels, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory!!

Lord have Mercy,  Brian

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Missing in Action - The Prayer of Humble Access

W E do not presume to come to this thy Table,
O merciful Lord, Trusting in our own
righteousness, But in thy manifold and great
mercies. We are not worthy So much as to gather
up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the
same Lord, Whose property is always to have
mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, So to
eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, And to
drink his Blood, That our sinful bodies may be
made clean by his Body, And our souls washed
through his most precious Blood, And that we
may evermore dwell in him, And he in us. Amen.

The Prayer of Humble Access in the Book of Common Prayer

I have been reading the book, "Grand Entrance," by Edith Humphrey, who reminds us that all worship, but especially the worship of the community in the Eucharist, is a grand entrance into the Heaven/Earth presence of God the Almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Such an entrance calls for humility and preparation by the entire community.  Reflecting upon the Tridentine liturgy (pre-Vatican 2) she says,

“The action of entering by the way of the Lord is complimented by the idea of God’s entrance into the human realm, a dynamic we have seen everywhere in both Western and Eastern liturgies.  Especially prominent in this regard is the prayer of humble welcome, said by both the priest and the faithful prior to the reception of communion.  “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof:  But only say the word and my soul will be healed.”  This prayer, based on the humility of the gentile centurion, may be considered as a Western cousin to the Eastern prayer of reception, which looks to the  faith of the thief upon the cross: “Like the thief I will confess you, Remember me, O Lord.”  It is also paralleled, in both reverence and its intent, by the Anglican “prayer of humble access,” framed by Cranmer on the basis of several of the preparatory Sarum prayers: “We do not presume to come to this thy table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own goodness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.”  The people identify themselves, in these three related prayers, with examples of the faithful from history who have come from marginal backgrounds but who have been received by the deep love of Christ.”

From “Grand Entrance; Worship on Earth as in Heaven,” by Edith Humphrey (p. 120)

We are missing this reminder of Godly approach to the mysteries of the Sacrament in our Book of Alternative Services.  At least I miss it!  I wonder who thought we didn't need this humble reminder? 

Lord have mercy,  Brian+

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Whose Service is Perfect Freedom

The other day I say an impressive sight:  a man walking with his dog, but no leash was evident.  It was impressive because there were plenty of distractions, both people and cars.  Yet here was this rather remarkable dog walking along stride for stride with his owner.  They came to the busy corner (and yes there is a busy street corner in Gander – it was there while waiting for the left turn arrow that I observed the man with his dog) and the dog looked up at the man to see what he was going to do, noticed he was going to take the turn, and without missing a beat turned and continued on.  Remarkable.  

I felt that the dog was devoted to (‘loved’) his owner and was intent on staying with him, while the owner must have felt pride and joy in the trustworthy companion.  They were free with each other, enjoying each other.  The sight immediately reminded me of a phrase in the second collect of Morning Prayer, “…whose service is perfect freedom.”   

A few years ago I was attending a provincial synod where a professor from our theological college was appointed to lead the morning Bible Study.  She asked the group of bishops, clergy, and laity, “Why do we serve God?”  My first and enduring reaction was, “How could an Anglican not know the answer to that question?”  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t explore why serving God IS perfect freedom, or how not serving God enslaves us, but the professor continued with some rambling prose that in my opinion missed the mark, speaking about the trendy social justice themes of current Anglican bent.  The answer, the truth of the Scriptures has been presented to us for generations in the great contemplative rhythm of Anglican worship, “Whose service is perfect freedom.”    I wish that I had seen that beautiful mutt walking WITH its master prior to the meeting.  It would have been an excellent analogy.  As I recall, Jesus did not call his disciples friends until they had exemplified significant devotion and obedience.

O GOD, who art the author of peace and lover of concord,
in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life,
whose service is perfect freedom:
Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies;
that we, surely trusting in thy defence,
may not fear the power of any adversaries;
through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

LORD have Mercy,  Brian+

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Faith - Growing up

A Prayer for Children
Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray the LORD my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake;
I pray the LORD my soul to take.  

A Prayer for Adults
O LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
who at this evening hour didst rest in the sepulchre,
and didst thereby sanctify the grave to be a bed of hope to thy people:
Make us so to abound in sorrow for our sins,
which were the cause of thy passion,
that when our bodies lie in the dust,
our souls may live with thee;
who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end. Amen.  
                   From the Compline service BCP

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Resurrection Faith

A farmer’s donkey fell into a well. The farmer was thinking that it would be less expensive to bury the donkey there, than to bring him up. He invited some of his neighbors, and they started shoveling soil into the well. In the beginning, the donkey let out loud cries. But then he quieted down. A miraculous thing happened: Every time they shoveled soil in the well, the donkey was coming further up. At the end, he came out of the well. The moral of the story is : The more that dirt is thrown our way, the more we are supposed to rise! Thanks to Again and Again

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We Long To Inhabit Worship

“I didn’t get anything out of this morning’s meeting . . . that song . . . her sermon” is not a refrain that I have heard often in the Orthodox context.

There is, of course, a just retort to such complaints: “The question is—what did you put into it?” The corrective is all very well and good. After all, one of the definitions of liturgy is that it refers to people’s (laos) work (ergon)—laosurgy. However, this counterresponse (“What did you put into the worship?”), though a helpful corrective, leaves us trapped in the same world of thought: worship, we assume, is something that people perform, and so it asks to be evaluated. We are to judge its success, according to aesthetics, or theology, or relevance, or utility, or arnestness, or effort. But there is something in our heart that yearns for more than this evaluative approach to worship. Prompted by God’s own Spirit, we long to be taken out of ourselves, even out of our role as judge. We long to inhabit worship instead of treating it as an object. We long to meet with the One who is the lover of each one of us and of the whole Church, his bride. We look to rejoice as God’s glory fills the temple. Such a meeting surely takes place only at God’s initiative, and not because of our creative, emotive, or practical interventions.

By Edith Humphrey, Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven,

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Pedagogy of Daily Prayer

I came across this absolutely wonderful video by Bishop Anthony Burton, former bishop in Canada, now rector of a parish in the United States. In it he speaks of the benefits of the spiritual system (pedagogy) of daily prayer as found in the Book of Common Prayer. It is Part 1. I'll post part 2 as soon as it comes out. If you are interested in developing your spiritual discipleship, this video is almost a must for you to watch and pray about.

Found Here

Blessings, Brian+

PS Of course, here in Canada, our BCP is the 1962 version.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pedagogy and the Anglican Way

When I was studying for an Education Degree I was required to take several methodology courses. These courses were designed to help the teacher understand and use methods for teaching specific courses. Drawing on understandings of the cognitive development of the students, and moving from the concrete to the abstract, the teacher would lead and help students discover ‘new’ knowledge. The use of a methodology, or a pedagogy, is evident in sports. A good coach devises the practice routine to develop and improve the individual skills and the team skills. The coach sets the pedagogy for the team, and those teams that rise to their best are those in which the individual members understand their part in being the best that they can be as a player, and their role within the framework of the team.
It should be self-evident that those coaches or teachers that do not have a strong pedagogy, or have a confused pedagogy, will not bring out the best in their ‘disciples.’ This I believe is part of what has happened to the Anglican Way. It has been forgotten among many of us clergy and bishops, and thus the people of the church that the Anglican Way is a pedagogy for the development of the individual Christian and corporate body towards holiness. This individual and corporate holiness is the hallmark of a healthy fellowship in Christ.
One brief example should help make this point clear. Part of the Anglican Way that develops a strong koinoni, united fellowship in Christ, is the use of a deliberate daily lectionary. This lectionary exists in both the BCP and the BAS (Book of Alternative Services) though they are different (koinonia Konfusion). The deliberate use of a daily lectionary helps the individual have a focused and systematic approach to reading the Bible, and that systematic reading is well incorporated within the seasons and worship of the Church, thus developing a strong koinonia.
Many of us clergy and laity have taken a very protestant and individualistic approach to private prayer as if it does not have an impact on the koinonia of the Church. I believe we Anglicans need to garner a deeper understanding of the pedagogy of the Anglican Way, for I feel it would help strengthen our faith and unity.

I shall write at a later time on other aspects of the pedagogy of the Anglican Way as I understand it.

Comments are welcomed.

Blessings, Brian+

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What is it I love when I love you?

“What is it I love when I love you? Not the beauty of a body nor the comeliness of time, nor the luster of the light pleasing to the eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all manner of songs, nor the fragrance of all flowers, ointments and spices, not manna and honey, nor limbs welcome to the embrace of the flesh – I do not love these when I love my God. And yet it is a kind of light, a kind of voice, a kind of fragrance, a kind of food, a kind of embrace, when I love my God, who is the light, voice, fragrance, food, embrace of inner man, where there shines into the soul that which no place can contain, and there sounds forth that which time cannot end, where there is fragrance which no breeze disperses, taste which eating does not make less, and a clinging together which fulfillment does not terminate. It is this that I love when I love my God.”

St. Augustine, Confessions