Archive for the 'Book of Common Prayer' Category

The war on Halloween. Really?

October 31, 2014

I follow the headlines. Sometimes that is all I can take.Now is rather late in the game to find out that me and my Satanic buddies have been trying to destroy Halloween. Take it from me, getting rid of Christmas has been a full-time job. This is a shocker.

Just in case some of you still do not understand the Lynch humor, that first paragraph is intended in a sarcastic way. It is what is technically referred to as a “joke,” and I am going someplace with it.

Actually, Halloween has been in trouble for quite a while. In fact, the only real use it seems to serve in neopagan America is to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. The biggest problem, of course, is the threat of poisoned candy. While this is nearly impossible, we are such hopeless frady-cats that children must be shielded from all possible risk. I am told that kids do not go freely from house to house. Things have changed a lot. It is a shame to lose such a fun and playful date.

The real enemy is November 1, but hardly anybody observes All Saints Day. This year the “red-letter” day falls on Sunday, but even liturgical churches like mine will probably not say a single collect or sing a verse of “For All the Saints.” They forget, if they ever knew.

UPDATE: I have erred and fallen short. Of course, All Saints Day is on November 1 which fell on Saturday. The Anglican church I attend did indeed recall the day on Sunday morning and even sang “For All the Saints” with the Gospel readings. I was wrong in fact and by failing to have sufficient faith in my fellow man.Mea culpa.

All Saints Day surpasses the modern idea of spirituality. On November 1, we remember flesh and blood humans, just like ourselves, who struggled with the forces of darkness. The day celebrates holy people who now stand in the blessed perfect light of the Triune God. There is nothing abstract about it. Real people in the presence of the Creator God The Church Triumphant.

Here is the Collect.

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through* Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Robin Williams, suicide and Hell #robinwilliams #suicide

August 12, 2014

Two close friends have committed suicide, so this is no theoretical conversation to be conducted over cigars and Brandy. The wounds are still very raw. Knowing that I can never “recover” from another’s final act of desperation has taught me the depth of suffering that must be experienced by those who end their own lives.

Our society takes questions concerning life too lightly and suicide is generally seen as one more private decision for which each private and sovereign individual has exclusive responsibility. If that is the way you see it, no amount of argument is likely to prevail against so mighty a fortress. Before I give this to you straight, let me urge you to read every last word. This is no easy thing and I do not approach it lightly, nor in the spirit of judgment.

Suicide is a grave public sin. It is an offense against God’s generosity and an insult to those whom we should hold dear. According to the authoritative 1662 edition of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, those who have laid violent hands upon themselves are not to receive the public funeral service of the church which is due believers. Such persons are denied burial in a church graveyard. When I was in first grade (1956?), the parent of a fellow student died. There was never another word said, but I learned later that the secrecy surrounding this death was because it involved suicide. There was once a very strong public attitude opposing this awful act, but we have changed.

You are probably saying right now that you are mighty pleased that our attitudes are much more enlightened and that we are not bound by the cruelty of a previous time. You are, to some extent, correct in your understanding. Let’s walk through this and sort things out.

The Prayer Book editors were correct to put a high sanction against the taking of one’s own life. They did not know it all, however. There are real facts concerning mental illness that are known and understood. To sanction a formerly depressed member makes as much sense as punishing somebody for having diabetes. There is a pastoral issue at work here and things will get a little dicey. Somebody who is known by his clergyman to be under a doctor’s care, getting therapy or taking drugs is plainly ill and entitled to the public rites accorded to those who are joined to the Body of Christ. While that probably does not apply to Mr. Williams public profession (I am deliberately being excessively generous), It could. His medical situation certainly tells us that the decision-making process was not working correctly.

Murder-suicide is another area and you can probably imagine how one might want to escape responsibility for taking life. No person who has done such a thing should receive a funeral or burial by the church. How can one say that the departed is laid to rest “in sure and certain hope” of the resurrection, except that they do not believe the words in the first place. Let us be clear that a minister may conduct services designed to comfort family and friends of non-believers and those who have committed serious public sins, but they should not pretend that the deceased is a believer or commended “in sure and certain hope.” As the church enters a difficult phase, it is most necessary to publicly profess the apostolic faith and to maintain integrity.

No matter Robin Williams’ attitude toward God, the Lord above is full of grace and mercy. None of us are fit to judge another person.

“The Good Wife” and life’s sudden changes #goodwife

March 25, 2014

Among the many unwholesome habits that drag my soul down to the depths, television gluttony is near the top. It is a moral cesspool, and open sewer of depravity. If you have not pulled Sunday’s episode up for viewing, stop here. Major spoilers to follow.

There is HGTV, Hell’s Kitchen, Survivor, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, and maybe next year it might be time for Chicago radio! Ah, but that was back in the day! The Good Wife seems to be culturally hip, even featuring an openly bi-sexual character. The mythical attorneys and their clients live in a make-believe world of privilege and power. The heroine, Alicia Floric played by Julianna Margulies, is constantly faced with personal reinvention and extreme multitasking.

The writers have put together plots which are often wrapped up in ways that we would not expect and the humans are very human. This part, it seems to me, is the most appealing aspect of the series. Nobody turns out to be completely good or bad. Just like in “real life,” they are all a misshapen fallen mix of various qualities.

The scenes around the break-up of Lockhart-Gardner are classic suspense. The scripts are typically fresh and devoid of cliché, and so it was with the demise of Will Gardner. From another court room, we hear shots, many shots, ring out as Will’s client faces his own uncertain future. It all comes down to a shoeless corpse in a draped area of a hospital emergency room. No matter that it was an expensive shoe and the corpse is impeccably attired for the day’s work. The perfectly tied knot would be the last knot for the named partner. The expensive shirt is now nothing but evidence. Life thrives brilliantly one moment and is ungraciously extinguished in the next.

The Book of Common Prayer petitions, “Make us, we beseech Thee, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life.” (1928, 316) While entirely fictional, Will Gardner’s life was certainly short, but he had no idea what uncertainty might await. A missing shoe says it all. Perhaps unknowingly, the writers have focused on an essential part of understanding our own lives. We are not in control.

Faithful Christians are reminded of the last four things; death, judgment, heaven and hell. Mr. Gardner, being the product of an active imagination, faces none of the above, but each is a sure future of our final encounter. Christians believe that there is a personal judgment immediately after death. If there is not an element of dread involved here, you have not been thinking about it.

If this were a moment for blowing dust of the volumes of books with page upon page of lined columns and each infraction noted with date, time, and place, each one of us would be damned. Ps. 130 cries out to God that, he he marks our inequities, no one can stand. God is not the head bookkeeper, unless you insist on it. Followers of Jesus depend on grace, that is God’s unearned favor. Judgment involves faithfulness in following Jesus. It is a measure of the required cross carrying. The judgment recorded in Matt 25 revolves solely around our recognition of Jesus in fellow human beings. Following Christ is not about rule keeping, but allowing our lives to be so completely altered that rules become unnecessary.

The Great Litany of the Anglican tradition pleads,

  From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death,
Good Lord, deliver us.
(1928, 54)

The Sacred Page: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Thoughts on the Sunday Readings

January 31, 2014

Sunday is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Commonly Called The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin. In the traditional observance, this day has precedence over the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. Since probably neither of the two Anglican churches in Little Rock will be celebrating this liturgical event, you might well wonder, why bother?

Of course, it’s not a heaven-or-hell kind of thing, but the church calendar has a particular richness that instructs the believer in the Christian faith. It is the old Anglican idea of lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief. This is one way liturgy teaches theology. It cannot go without saying that good liturgy teaches good theology, and poorly conceived liturgy teaches poorly conceived theology. My Roman Catholic neighbors do a better job of presenting liturgy.

John Bergsma over at the “Sacred Page” blog has a comprehensive commentary on the feast day. He is a Roman Catholic scholar, but his lengthy essay contains nothing offensive. The readings in the Roman Missal turn out to be the same as the traditional Anglican lectionary. Dr. Bergsma’s excellent piece does suffer from a small imperfection in the biblical citation of Luke 2:22. (A PhD theologian makes a typographical error! Thank you, Lord!) Read it all at the link below.

The Sacred Page: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Thoughts on the Sunday Readings.

Epiphany, in the tradition of the ancient church

January 6, 2014

Back in the day, it was one of the primary jobs of the Patriarch of Alexandria to announce the date of Easter. The entire liturgical year hangs on knowing the date of Easter and it was announced to the world from Alexandria, along with other important dates.

You may think the Mayan calendar was scary, but the 1928 Book of Common Prayer listing of dates for Easter ended in 2013. Those of us who follow the old Daily Office lectionary are often perplexed, so here is the straight dope for 2014.

There are five Sundays after Epiphany.

Septuagesima Sunday is February 23, 2014.

Ash Wednesday is March 5.

Easter is April 20.

There are 23 Sundays after Trinity.

The First Sunday of Advent is November 30, 2014.

I hope I don’t end up being arrested for impersonating the Patriarch of Alexandria.

Commemorating the Circumcision of Christ

January 1, 2014

Ouch! It is such an unpopular topic that the Circumcision has just about disappeared from the various liturgical calendars. Roman Catholics started getting nervous about it back in the 60s. Until 1960, the General Roman calendar gave 1 January as the Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord and the Octave of the Nativity. Since 1969, the General Roman Calendar marks January 1 as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, referring to it also as the Octave of the Nativity. Pope Paul VI designated the day as a World Day of Peace in 1974.

Nobody wants to think about pain and shedding blood, but that is the purpose for which our Savior became fully human. Another equally unpopular idea is that of law, under which Jesus was placed by the cutting of his flesh. This important date, properly recalled, reminds us that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. In other words, we have a Savior who can save. He can enter the Holiest place with his own innocent blood.

But that is a fairly gruesome thought and hardly in keeping with all of this peace on earth stuff. The traditional church calendar observed by Anglicans for centuries gives one a number of hard knocks. We remember Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, on December 26. Now, that is a pretty hard kick in the teeth. Two days later, the genocidal ravings of Herod the Great are brought to mind in the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Top it all off with the pain and bloodshed of circumcision, and this is not exactly the most perfect holiday season ever!

The reality into which the church seeks to lead Christian believers is that God has come to a fallen world. This is a place of rejection, wrongful death, abuse of authority, death to those least deserving, and the ceremonial pain associated with inclusion into the covenant of God’s law. This is the world of Jesus’ birth. Into such a flawed land of inequity, a loving God took upon himself the work of restoring mankind to a previous harmonious relationship with Himself.

The sign of circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of the covenant relationship established through Abraham’s faith. That is how we approach Jesus. There is the matter of belief and that is backed up with the change of our hearts and behavior.

When Jesus arrived, things begin to change. Pagan star gazers are moved by who-knows-what (might it be the Holy Spirit?) to leave home (Persia?) and look for a newly born monarch – a game changer. To all the right thinking religious people, that bunch of superstitious astrologers and intellectual star gazers would have been the absolute last people God would have chosen to inform of his pending miraculous arrival, but there we have it. Christ is not only king to the supposed right kind of people, but to all people who will follow his way.

Shepherds would not have made it into the temple, because their profession made them ritually impure.This class of ne’re-do-wells is not permitted to testify in court and the gook folks, for the most part, keep shepherds at arm’s length. God on High, however, has different plans and sends angels to tell the news of a Savior to such men and women out in the fields of Bethlehem. No angel stopped off at Herod’s opulent palace, or even to the homes of religious leaders. The Lord Almighty specializes in making the weak strong.

Jesus overcame a world where Satan pushes back by killing a faithful servant such as Stephen. Jesus lived among real grief and the humiliation of an occupying army. He joined the real world of weeping parents and placed himself under the law which he had inspired. Our salvation was not achieved by a magic act or somebody who excluded himself from suffering.

Now that Jesus has come, pagans are invited to meet the King, no-counts  are no longer automatically rejected, and God’s people are beginning to occupy the earth. This does not mean that believers run the show, or that they are intended to be in charge just now. We trust in God’s faithfulness and look for a better world where Jesus will rule with just the right measure of justice and mercy. He is truly worthy.

Another cycle of the church year is almost here

November 24, 2013

This Sunday is the final week on the liturgical calendar. For Roman Catholics, and some others, this is Christ the King Sunday. When I was a child, this was celebrated a bit earlier in the fall and in Mobile there was a parade through downtown. We called it a “procession” All the grade schools, high schools, and bands marched along with groups from each parish. It was a gentle “in your face” for the majority Baptist population. They needed it.

The idea of taking a week in liturgical time came earlier in the 20th century and was a papal initiative. It was a much-needed corrective to rising tides of excessive nationalism. The thought was to remind Christians that Jesus Christ is our reigning King in heaven now, and soon coming King on earth, trumping all human governments and nations. That is such a good idea that I am almost persuaded to allow it in the private Anglican world in which only I have ever dwelt. I am not quite there, and today is the Sunday next before Advent. The Collect is one of the finest in the cycle of prayer and evokes quite an image.

STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranky traditionalists like me plan their daily scripture readings and prayers around one of the many lectionaries. The American version of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer has two such arrangements; one from 1928 and the other from 1945. You can see both on the “Great Books” site.

My own reading program is typically based on the 1945, even though it has been rightly criticized for excluding passages dealing with anything unpleasant. It also makes a generous use of so-called apocryphal books. I correct this by looking ahead for the week and expanding the selections, where necessary. There are several fine Bible translations that include the necessary apocryphal books. The Church of England 1662 lectionary is good, as are many others. The Cradle of Prayer has texts and recordings for traditionalists (a bit dry for my taste but still useful).

If it is essential that you read the Daily Office (that’s what it is called) of Morning and Evening Prayer on your smartphone or other electronic device, The Mission of St. Claire has, so far as I can tell, the only game in town. Here is the link.  It is from the Episcopal Church (TEC). It is based on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and has a little less Old Testament content and a tiny hint of politics . It’s still a good resource if you must load it on an electronic device.

Interested in Celtic practices? Try the Newumbria Community, I am really starting to like it! It includes a beautiful and short service for Compline (late evening) and other wonderful prayers and readings.

This blog contains two essays on the practical aspects of using the 1945 Daily Office Lectionary revision in the ’28 Book of Common Prayer. The Devotional use and specific instructions on how to use the 1945 lectionary may seem a little cumbersome at first, but the intention is to give you the use of a valuable spiritual tool and to take some of the mystery out of it.

This blog also features a four-part series of recorded lessons dealing with the church year. It is titled “Living in Sacred Time.” If you will search the contents (upper left hand column) you will be richly rewarded! The church calendar is a sound framework for the rythmn of prayer in a busy life.

For All Saints Day

October 31, 2013

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through* Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 29; A day for Michael and all Angels

September 27, 2013

While many Anglican churches will pass by the observance of St. Michael and Angels on Sunday September 29, Michaelmas, as it is sometimes known, is an old and hallowed observance. It is even part of the court calendar in many jurisdictions. The fall term of the United States Supreme Court begins on the first Monday in October, shortly after Michaelmas. Gabriel and Michael at the two angels named in the Protestant canon, but the apocryphal books also name Raphael and Uriel.

Christians have a special advantage in recognizing the unseen realm through which we wander. Paul warns that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12 ESV). The Epistle reading for today also deals with conflict, but this time the armies are made up of heavenly beings.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev 12:7-12)

The text does not say exactly what caused the heavenly war, but it would not be unjustified to suggest that Satanic pride was at the center. We learn on Heb 1, for example, that there is a divine plan to place human beings over angels in the heavenly order. For the Evil One, this elevation of such disgusting two-legged creatures must have been the ultimate slap in the face. Michael and his angels have a different view altogether, one that stands in awe of divine wisdom. This is not a blind brainless submission, but a deeply help trust that, whatever plans may be conceived by the Almighty, they are always altogether good.

The holiness of heaven and the grimy self-aggrandizement of ego cannot live peaceably together, so there was a celestial housecleaning in which Satan and all his followers were cast out. It was an eviction in which the forces of wickedness were utterly removed. Good news for the heavenly courts. Not such good news for the residents of planet earth.

It is bad enough that the old serpent deceives the world with his pleasant sounding words. Oh, no. Don’t worry about that fruit. You’re not going to die. That was the beginning of falsehood. Having flat-out lied to our first parents, the demonic forces continue their plans to ruin humanity by their unceasing accusations. The forces of darkness take full advantage of a fallen nature to thwart God’s loving plan for the creatures he made in his own image and likeness. There was a time when the fallen angels enjoyed a close relationship with the Eternal, but the resistance has ended all that, and Jesus has won the final victory over death, sin and Satan.

But now things have gotten even worse for mankind. It is a fearful thing to know that we are wrestling with supernatural beings who are well aware of their final condemnation. The plots of Satan and his angelic followers are rotten, desperate and disrespectful acts against the divine majesty.

This is exactly why Paul instructs believers to put on the full armor of Christ (Eph 6). Christians must be able to stand against the forces of Saran. Our Coptic brothers in Egypt, and Christians throughout the Middle East, are courageously taking on the enemy today. How are they doing? Headlines can be misleading. John correctly observes, “they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Conquered? Absolutely.

The armies of wickedness are subdued by an act of Divine-human cooperation. It is the blood of the Lamb that subdues the ancient accuser, and it is joined to the patient lives of Christian people who trust in God’s word and live by the gospel truth. It is the believer living out the inspired word of God, knowledge of the Creator’s purposes joined with actions to bring one closer to the Almighty.

When the Lamb was laid in a tomb, it seemed that his life and ministry were for nothing and the worldly powers had won the day, as they so often do. All of the disciples, except John, ran for cover. Pilate slept sound while Mary and the followers of the Anointed One doubtless passed a sleepless night. Throughout a careful reading of scripture we see how God makes strength out of weakness, and that is exactly the case with Jesus and the Christan martyrs who have followed his lead.

So what? As believers, we have an understanding of creation that is hidden from those who do not know Christ. The created order, every aspect of it, is good. All of the angels were created as powerful invisible agents of the loving and covenant-keeping God. Every one of them was good until a number of them began to rebel against The Lord’s plan for mankind. They know their fate already, and so do we.

And the other angels? “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14) They are our powerful unseen servants, doing our work and God’s. They are sent, and therefore under orders, from the heavenly throne. to look after the’s elect. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that the righteous angels are most useful in helping us stand against the spiritual forces of evil. This is a little insight into our cooperation with the Living God. The angels are part of God’s eternal plan to bring us into close relationship with Himself. We are not alone.

EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer p. 251)

Who stole Ascension Thursday?

May 8, 2013

In fairness, one probably cannot lay blame for the liturgical neglect of Holy Thursday at the grave of Gregory Dix. Modern “reformers” have, however, done much harm. Those of us who worship in the tradition of the church understand that belief  is molded by prayer; lex orandi, lex credendi. Modern revisionists have been hard at work reshaping the minds of unsuspecting lay people.

The old practice of the church locates the observance in accord with the biblical text, 40 days after the resurrection. This is a Thursday. It is a central feast of the church that brings completion to the Easter cycle. Jesus is crucified and laid in a tomb, from which he is raised incorruptible and the first of a new kind of humanity. This talk about a literal bodily resurrection is most obnoxious to the supposedly enlightened mind.  The notion that the glorified body of the Savior is taken into the heavenly realms brings the Easter narrative to fulfillment. It is a period at the end of a theological sentence. Full stop.

The Lord has risen indeed and is now enthroned on high and ever intercedes for his people. As a Thursday observance, the Ascension stands on its own in the church’s timekeeping. Moved to Sunday, it is just another weekly observance, and much less troubling to those who doubt the salvation of the cross, the actual resurrection, and the Ascension into heavenly glory.Well I mean, who would believe such a story anyway?

The traditional collect for Ascension Thursday also contains one of the coolest words  in the Book of Common Prayer.  How many times in your life will  you get to use the word “thither?” The collect is a wonderful snap shot of our own union with  the ascended Christ. Don’t forget Ascension Thursday.