Thursday, September 17, 2020

The General Thanksgiving in the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer

 Rt. Rev. Edward Reynolds

The only possible path to being restored to a right relationship with God is through our faith that Jesus Christ has indeed done it for us.  In terms of our redemption from our fallen and sinful human nature, Christ did for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves.  All that is left is for us to do is receive the gift and be thankful.  

Thankfulness is, therefore, a central tenant of the Christian experience, and this is reflected throughout our Anglican Book of Common Prayer.   A prayer that has been a favorite of mine from my very young years is The General Thanksgiving found in the Daily Office (daily prayers).  This is a prayer composed by the Rt. Rev. Edward Reynolds, then Bishop of Norwich, first included in the BCP in its 1662 revision.  The Puritans in the Church of England at the time had complained that there were not enough prayers of praise and thanksgiving in the Prayer Book.  Here is Bishop Reynold's response:

The General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks 
for all your goodness and loving-kindness 
to us and to all whom you have made.  
We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for your immeasurable love 
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; 
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.  
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, 
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, 
not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, 
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Being Christian in Today’s Non-Christian Culture

 Originally published in the Sunday bulletin of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, 2019

At the founding of this nation, the dominant moral and ethical framework from which the American society drew its norms, behaviors, and even its laws, was the Protestant Christian Worldview.  Those times are gone.  Multi-cultural Secular Humanism is now the dominant moral/ethical framework.  Some would even say it is the dominant “religion” in America today. 

 There is no reason, however, for pessimism or hand-wringing.  God is in charge.  He is still growing His Church and using her to carry out His purposes.  With the cultural, moral and ethical shift in America comes opportunities for the Church to be what she was commissioned to be by Christ, which is a light in a dark world and the source of “Good News” for a people who desperately need to hear it. 

 Christianity has always flourished as a minority worldview.  At the center of the Christian Faith is the mandate to love people right where they are and to care about both the present and future of those who live and believe differently from us.   Jesus always did!  We do not need to agree with worldviews that are contrary to God’s truths nor “hide our light under a bushel” when it comes affirming the truths of the Kingdom.   Jesus never did!  And our calling is not to be politically correct. Jesus never was! 

 We should not expect Christianity to be easy.  It never has been.  This is very true today because the dominant American culture is not moving in the direction of openness and tolerance of the Christian Worldview; it is moving in the other direction.     

Your thoughts?
Father Rob

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Originally published in the Sunday bulletin of the 
Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, 7th Sunday after the Epiphany, 2019.  

Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, explores our understanding of the Christian life as a pilgrimage.  The Christian pilgrimage is the Holy Spirit placing our feet on the path that leads to the Father, a journey made possible through the person and work of Christ who has opened the door to heaven for us and the Holy Spirit of Christ who walks the journey with us.  Jesus tells us that He will show us the way; in fact, He tells us that He is the Way; that is, the path back home to the Father.  In John 14:5-6, Thomas says to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  Jesus says to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  So central was this reality to the early Christians that they were called "The People of the Way” (Acts 9:2, Acts 24:14). 

Our traditional worship space through the ages has reflected this idea of being a people on the way to the Father.  As we enter the church, the first thing we encounter is the Baptismal Font.  It is here that we are born again by water and the Spirit into the Family of God, dying to the world back outside the door through which we came, and being born anew as children of the Kingdom of God.  The center isle of the nave is our path from the font to the throne room of God, symbolized by the Altar and Cross at the front of the church.  Our journey up the isle is supported by our church family on either side, by the Word of God read and preached from the podium, and the Lord’s Table from which we receive strength and nourishment for the journey.  The Lord’s Table also reminds us that we do indeed have a place at the great banquet feast of the Lamb at the end of our pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage suggest movement.  The Christian pilgrimage is pressing forward with obedience and perseverance into the Christian life, always focused in the same direction.  Paul expresses this in his letters: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12);” and “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).” The author of Hebrews also writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

Growing in the knowledge, love and service of our Lord is not optional for Christian pilgrims such as ourselvesThe Christian journey is neither easy nor is it at times politically correct, and it always requires a “Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” 

Soli Deo Gloria, Father Rob

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Bitter Fruit of Modernism

If we want to be Christ to our culture, we need to better understand our culture.  Edwin Lutzer in his book, The Church in Babylon, writes about our culture today becoming infected and bitterly altered by Modernism and Secularism.  He outlines three sources of the moral and spiritual disarray and the consequences we are seeing from them.  He calls these consequences “bitter fruit:”  

1.    The bitter fruit of the sexual revolution- From a Christian perspective on sexuality, Western Civilization is in open rebellion.  Like many revolutions, there are consequences and causalities, such as stable biological families, the sacredness of life both born and pre-born, the divine beauty and integrity of life-long, monogamous marital relationships, the virtues of a life sacrificially lived for others rather than for instant self-gratification, and then, finally, loss of God’s moral absolutes in the face of man-made relativism. 


2.   The bitter fruit of the technology revolution- Television and instant media have proven to be allies the sexual revolution.  Technology has been a blessing in many ways, but it requires the exercise of Godly virtues to counter its poisonous fruit.  

3.  The bitter fruit of the anti-Christian revolution- Secularism has grown intolerant of the Christian worldview.  Alasdair MacIntyre writes in his book, After Virtue, that Western Civilization has lost its ethical and virtuous moorings.  It is up to the Church to carry the virtues of Godly living through these spiritually dark times and throw a lifeline to those who want to join us. 

To God be the Glory, Father Rob

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Friendship Evangelism

    A comfortable Christianity is one focused our own needs and our own personal relationship with Christ, but a more challenging and often less comfortable Christianity is one focused on someone else’s needs.  Chief among everyone’s needs, whether one know it or not, is to discover and appropriate a saving and healing relationship with God through Christ.  We all know someone for whom this need has not yet been met.   

    A very natural way to be the agent for meeting this need in someone’s life is simply to come alongside that person in mutual love, care and concern, becoming their confidant and soulmate, discovering the often hidden needs in their life, and meeting those needs as the Lord leads and equips you to do so.   A person’s deepest need, however, is not going to be met through friendship with you, but through friendship with God.   

    Someone somewhere along the way dubbed Friendship Evangelism, which is making a friend, being a friend, and introducing your friend to Christ.  (This should sound familiar to all those who have been involved in a "3-Day" Movement in the Church, such as Cursillo.)  Friendship Evangelism is active and personal.   Personal relationships, personal witness, and personal invitations to “Come and See” grow God’s Kingdom.   

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Centrality of Eucharistic Worship in God's Church [posted on facebook 7/28/20]

From the weekly bulletin 3-17-19 of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity 
    Throughout the ages, Christ's followers have gathered to hear God speak through Scripture, praise Him in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, offer prayers of petition and thanksgivings, and of course, participate with Him in the Lord’s Supper, obeying Jesus' commandment to "do this in remembrance of me."    

    The liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, however, is more than remembering; it is participating in this event in the present.  As surely as Jesus was present with his disciples 2000 years ago, Jesus is present with us at our celebration of that event.  Jesus promised us that He would be present.  Christ is not only with us the Lord's Supper, He is touching us, nourishing us, blessing us and changing us as we gather around His Table. 

  The liturgy of the Lord’s Supper is known by various names, but in our tradition it is most commonly known as The Holy Eucharist.  Eucharisto is a Greek word meaning Thanksgiving, and if you understand Christianity at all, you know that we indeed have much for which to be.  The word Liturgy from it Greek root means, “Work of the People;" so, in the Eucharist Liturgy we are not observers of worship, we are doers of worship.

    Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper infuses new meaning in another table celebration, the Jewish Passover Meal.  Passover is a remembrance of the deliverance of God’s people from the Angel of death and into a new life of hope and promise.  In the Eucharist we celebrate the reality that Christ is our Passover.  Through Christ, death passes us over and we are given new life in Him.  We eat the broken bread and share the common cup as a sign of our unity in faith and belief under this reality.  The Eucharist is God's family gathered around God’s table, a reality that last forever.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Lure of Liturgical and Sacramental Worship [posted on Facebook 7-26-20]

From Lent 3, 2019  bulletin, the Church of the Holy Trinity, North Augusta, SC
Liturgical/Sacramental worship seems to be very different from that of fellow churches around us who are worshiping in other ways and in other traditions. The fact is, however, liturgical worship is by far the dominant style of Christian worship in the world today, and it has been so throughout the 2000-year history of the Church.  Being situated in the Protestant Bible Belt as we are, this fact often does not seem obvious. 

What has sustained this type of worship over countless generations?  A fellow Presbyter in our diocese, the Rev. Winfield Bevins, has written a book (Ever Ancient, Ever New, Zondervan, 2019) which focuses on the appeal of the liturgical and sacramental, particularly among many young Christians today.  His book is well worth reading, but I will mention a few points he makes that resonate with me: 

·   Liturgical and Sacramental worship is holistic- whole Bible; whole community; whole person- body, mind and spirit.  It is participatory- worship is not just something that is to be observed from the pew or something which someone else is doing for us.

·   It facilitates a sense of mystery and transcendence, and pulls us away from our focus on ourselves toward a focus on God and his presence among us.

·   It meets our desire for historical rootedness.

·   Liturgical worship connects us to the broader church through common worship that dates back to the earliest Christians.

·    Sacramental worship is Biblically faithful.

·   It anchors us in the Apostolic Faith that has been codified in not only the Bible, but in  our historic liturgies.

This is, of course, not to slight other ways of worshiping which obviously feed our spirits and glorify God, but  liturgical/sacramental worship has blessed Christians for almost 2000 year now, and it blesses us today.
                                                                                   Father Rob