Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Good Friday Hymns & Three Prayers

As we observe the sacrifice and crucifixion of our Lord in order to take away our sin and redeem us, I commend the following two Wesley hymns followed by the prayers for Good Friday from the Book of Common Prayer.

 
Would Jesus Have the Sinner Die?
 
Would Jesus have the sinner die?
Why hangs He then on yonder tree?
What means that strange, expiring cry?
Sinners, He prays for you and me:
"Forgive them, Father, O forgive!
They know not that by Me they live!"
 
Adam descended from above
Our loss of Eden to retrieve,
Great God of universal love,
If all the world through Thee may live,
In us a quick'ning Spirit be,
And witness Thou hast died for me.
 
Thou loving, all-atoning Lamb,
Thee - by Thy painful agony,
Thy sweat of blood, Thy grief and shame,
Thy Cross and passion on the tree,
Thy precious death and life - I pray:
Take all, take all my sins away.
 
O let me kiss Thy bleeding feet,
And bathe and wash them with my tears!
The story of Thy love repeat
In ev'ry drooping sinner's ears,
That all may hear the quick'ning sound,
Since I, e'en I, have mercy found.
 
O let Thy love my heart constrain!
Thy love for ev'ry sinner free,
That ev'ry fallen soul of man
May taste the grace that found out me;
That all mankind with me may prove
Thy sov'reign, everlasting love
 
************************************
 
O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done?
 
O love divine, what hast Thou done?
Th'immortal God hath died for me!
The Father's co-eternal Son
Bore all my sins upon the tree;
Th'immortal God for me hath died
My Lord, my Love is crucified
 
Behold Him, all ye that pass by,
The bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Maker died
And say, was ever grief like His?
come, feel with me His blood applied;
My Lord, my Love is crucified.
 
Is crucified for me and you,
To bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true;
Ye all are bought with Jesus' blood.
Pardon for all flows from His side;
My Lord, my Love is crucified.
 
The let us sit beneath His Cross
And gladly catch the healing stream.
All things for Him account but loss
And give up all our hearts to Him.
Of nothing think or speak beside:
My Lord, my Love is crucified.
 
********************************************
 
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.
 
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.
 
O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted, and live; Have mercy upon all who know thee not as thou art revealed in the Gospel of thy Son, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of they Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.
 
Epistle:  Hebrews 10:1-25
 
Gospel: John 19:1-37

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday.  The term Maundy comes from the Latin, mandatum novarum, which means, "a new commandment."  It is a reference to John 13:34-35, where Jesus says to His disciples, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (NRSV)  -  This, of course, takes place on the Thursday prior to Jesus' crucifixion.  It is in the larger context of Jesus washing the disciples' feet.

This is also the time when our Lord instituted the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper.  This sacrament is known by a number of names emphasizing various aspects of the sacrament. 

It is referred to as Holy Communion.  The Greek word, here, is koinonia.  It is a word that speaks of fellowship, communion, participation and sharing.  In connection with the sacrament we find it in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, where St. Paul says, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing (NRSV) / participation (NIV) / communion (KJV) in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."  -  And so, in the sacrament, more than just remembering what Christ has done (though we certainly do that), we really and truly commune with the blood and body of Christ.  -  Verse 17 indicates we also have fellowship around the Table with our sisters and brothers in Christ.  As the invitation in the Nazarene ritual indicates, ". . . we are one, at one table with the Lord."

The sacrament is also often referred to as the Eucharist.  This term will be familiar to most who read this blog, but for many in evangelical circles, this is often an unfamiliar term.  It is, therefore, treated with suspicion by some and outright condemnation by still others!  Nevertheless, such suspicions (and certainly condemnations!) can be put aside when we realize that this term, unlike the others, is actually found in all four New Testament accounts of the Last Supper (Matt. 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20; and 1 Cor. 11:23-26).  You see, the Greek word eucharistein simply means "to be thankful."  The sacrament, and the major prayer for it in the liturgy is understood as "the Great Thanksgiving."  -  Jesus took, gave thanks, (broke the bread), and gave the sacramental elements to the disciples.

The New Testament also refers to the sacrament by simply speaking of "the breaking of the bread."  For example, in Acts 2:42 we hear those famous words, "(The disciples) devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers."  -  Unfortunately, many have misunderstood this to mean nothing more than the disciples committing themselves to having pot luck meals together, when, instead, what is being referred to is the holy sacrament.

This raises the point that the New Testament Church was committed to the sacrament of Holy Communion.  "Day by day," Luke tells us (in Acts 2:46), ". . . they spent much time together in the temple . . ." (Service of the Word), and ". . . they broke bread from house to house . . ." (Service of the Table).  St. Paul chastises the Church at Corinth when he says, "When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper" (1 Cor. 11:20).  In other words, when they come together it was supposed to be to eat the Lord's Supper.  -  Such seems to be the apostle's understanding of Jesus' instructions.  Such is the pattern of the New Testament Church.  It is the pattern of the Early Church.  It is the pattern of the Church throughout the ages.  And, for us Wesleyans, it was our spiritual forefather's instruction that we should celebrate the sacrament every Lord's Day.

Why?  -  Is it because of some legalistic command?  Do we have to do it like that?  Won't it lose it's specialness?  -  No, no, no!  That's missing the point altogether!  -  Instead, we gather at the Table of the Lord, when we gather together in the name of the Lord, because He has explicitly promised to meet us at the Table!  It is at the Table that we have the explicit promise of communing/sharing/participating in the body and blood of our Lord!  God's grace is poured out to us through this holy gift!  -  Thanks be to God!

"Listen" to the wonderful words of this Wesley Eucharistic Hymn:

1. Glory to Him who freely spent
His blood, that we might live,
And through this choicest instrument
Doth all His blessings give.
 
2. Fasting He doth, and hearing bless,
And prayer can much avail,
Good vessels all to draw the grace
Out of salvation's well.
 
3. But none, like this mysterious rite
Which dying mercy gave,
Can draw forth all His promised might
And all His will to save.
 
4. This is the richest legacy
Thou hast on man bestow'd:
Here chiefly, Lord, we feed on Thee,
And drink Thy precious blood.
 
5. Here all Thy blessings we receive,
Here all Thy gifts are given,
To those that would in Thee believe,
Pardon, and grace, and heaven.
 
6. Thus may we still in Thee be blest,
Till all from earth remove,
And share with Thee the marriage feast,
And drink the wine above.


Thanks be to our God!
 
___________________________________
(This article originally appeared in 2012)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Reflection on Easter from the World Methodist Council



One of the deepest convictions of the Easter story is; Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.
The Easter message is that of unlimited, boundless grace, victory, joy and hope because in Christ’s resurrection death has been overcome.

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, death is described as, “The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns”. (Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1) Christians however believe that one did return and his name is Jesus, the Christ.

The story of Jesus would have been nothing more than an occasional point of reference of an inspirational teacher, a charismatic figure or martyr if it had simply ended with the crucifixion but Jesus defeated death and rose from the grave on the third day. For this reason we are people of the resurrection. We are a people who know that we cannot have Easter without Good Friday. We cannot have Christ without a cross which is a symbol of a compassionate, loving God who identifies with human suffering. The cross is God’s instrument of salvation. No other faith speaks of a suffering God who opposes injustice and oppression.

Theologians like J├╝rgen Moltmann (The Crucified God), James Cone (God of the Oppressed), Kazoh Kitamori (The Pain of God), Maria Pilar Aquino (Our Cry for Life) Mercy Odduyoye (Beads and Strands) and Allan Boesak (Farewell to Innocence) who all lived through their own modern day Golgotha’s in their various countries. Their scholarship bear eloquent testimony to this suffering God who is the hope and salvation of the world.

Throughout history, God uses human beings, the signet of God’s creation to continue the healing and transforming ministry of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

It is my sincere prayer that we will all know the hope, joy and peace of Easter.

Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.

Happy Easter.

Ivan Abrahams
General Secretary, World Methodist Council
 
(The reflection, above, was originally sent via email from the WMC)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Easter Greetings from the Nazarene General Superintendents

The Rev'd. Dr. David Graves, one of the six general superintendents (bishops) of the Church of the Nazarene, brings Easter greetings on behalf of the Board of General Superintendents.



Here, also, is a written Easter Greeting from the BGS:  "Celebrate the Resurrection."

2014 Annual Report of the Board of General Superintendents


For those who may have missed it (and who are interested!), the Rev'd. Dr. David Busic, general superintendent (bishop) in the Church of the Nazarene, on behalf of the Board of General Superintendents, presented their annual report to the General Board on February 23, 2014.  The report was titled, "For Such A Time As This," and it can be viewed, here.

Or, if one would prefer, you can listen to the audio of the report:





Friday, April 4, 2014

Every Bridge Is Burned Behind Me

I share the following refrain from one of the hymns that was a part of Morning Prayer, today:

 
Every Bridge Is Burned Behind Me
 
Strengthen all the ties that bind me
Closer, closer, Lord, to Thee.
Ev'ry bridge is burned behind me;
Thine I evermore will be
 
(Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922)

The National Association of Evangelicals Meet at Nazarene Global Ministry Center

The Nazarene Communications Network recently reported that the the National Association of Evangelicals recently held its spring meeting at the Church of the Nazarene's Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas.

"It was a tremendous privilege for us to host the NAE Board of Director meetings," said David P. Wilson, general secretary for the Church of the Nazarene. "We work very closely on issues relative to the evangelical church."

The NAE represents more than 45,000 churches from 40 denominations and serves a constituency of millions.*

"Historically, the Church of the Nazarene has played a significant role in the association," Wilson said. "People at the GMC put their best foot forward. The members that attended were impressed with the hospitality and with the facility."

Due to the size of the gathering, one of the plenary sessions was reportedly hosted by College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas.

During the meeting, Wilson gave an overview of the Church of the Nazarene. He was elected as a member-at-large and a member of the Executive Committee. As the current chair of the Board of General Superintendents, David W. Graves serves as the denominational representative.

Since 1942, the NAE has spoken as a united voice for millions of U.S. evangelicals who take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. According to the NAE website, the group brings together Calvinist, Arminian, Wesleyan, Anabaptist, and Charismatic traditions and holds "a commitment to dynamic unity that works toward a vision of all things made new, of all God's people reconciled, and of a lost world saved."

The Church of the Nazarene has been an NAE member since 1984.
--General Secretary's Office
_____________________________________________________________________________________
* It was reported in the original article, which can be read, here, that "The Church of the Nazarene is the second largest denomination in the association."  However, I don't know how they are figuring that, unless we are using our international numbers compared to everyone else's nation numbers.  I believe that the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland), both listed as NAE members, are larger than Nazarenes when comparing the national numbers of each (and when comparing our international numbers, as well).  The Foursquare Church, joins them in out-distancing us internationally.