Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Feast of Saint Nicholas

Today, December 6, we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas.  -  Yes, St. Nicholas, as in St. Nick, or Santa Claus, as he has come to be known.  Of course, much of the image of Santa Claus these days makes no reference to the true Santa (Saint) Claus (Nicholas).  Nevertheless, Santa has his origin in this Saint of the Church, who was a real bishop of the Church in the fourth century.

A number of years ago, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly did a story about the good bishop.  I first saw it posted on the Sacramental Nazarenes Facebook page (a few years back).  I thought I would share it with the readers of this blog.



There is much more to the story of St. Nicholas, of course, including the claim that he was involved with the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 (though the early lists of bishops present at the council do not include his name).  There's the story of his defending orthodoxy and punching Arius.  And speaking of "Ho, ho, ho," there is his insistence on the word "homoousios" rather than "homoiousios" (see the extra "i" in the latter?).  You see, the latter means that Jesus is "of a similar substance" with the Father, while the former means that He is "of the same substance."  It was "homoousios" that made its way into orthodoxy and the creed we confess on Sundays.  Jesus is not just like God.  Jesus is fully divine.  -  And so, if you want to know if the guy in the red suit is the real St. Nick, just ask him the question found in this meme:




I also want to recommend a book for parents who's children are getting close to "that age."  It is a book written by Harold Myra and illustrated by Jane Kurisu, titled "Santa Are You for Real?"  It was published in 1997 by Tommy Nelson (the children's imprint for Thomas Nelson, Inc.).  -  My wife and I read this book to both of our children as they were growing-up, and we have recommended it to other parents over the years. 

Finally, as an aside for my fellow Sci-Fi nerds, it has been pointed out that, according to this icon, below, it may well be that Santa Claus is really a Klingon and possibly an ancestor to Lieutenant Commander Worf!  I'll let you be the judge!  -  Just in case, and in good Klingon fashion, on this Feast of St. Nicholas I wish you all Qapla'!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Return of My Prayer Beads

During a Pastors' Continuing Education Retreat in 2006, I took the opportunity to make a set of Anglican Prayer Beads.  (For more information on Anglican Prayer Beads, their design and how to use them, click here.)  -  I was introduced to these beads through my (then) sisters and brothers in the Order of St. Luke.  (I was a member of the OSL for several years.)  -  You can read that story in my 2007 article, “Wesleyan-Holiness Prayers with Beads," published in OSL's Sacramental Life (19.3).

During the creation of my prayer beads, I also created a set of prayers that fit nicely with my Wesleyan-Holiness theological tradition.  Thus, the title of the article!  (I've printed those prayers, below.)

The truth is, though I do still occasionally pray those prayers with my beads, more often than not, I have reverted to more traditional prayers.  So, I pray the Jesus Prayer with the weeks (the little round beads): "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me (a sinner)."  And, for the cruciform beads (the four larger beads), I pray the Trisagion, "Holy God,  Holy and Mighty,  Holy and Immortal One, Have mercy upon us."


The prayers have been very helpful.  I would often pray while driving from place to place.  They help to bring focus upon the Lord and His grace.  They also bring a sense of calm and peace in God's presence.  -  Like Morning and Evening Prayer, they have been a means of grace for me.

However, sometime back, the strand broke!  I think it became brittle, since I usually keep the beads in the car where they will get considerably hot and considerably cold, depending on the weather.  -  I've gone quite a while without them, and I have missed them!

So, today (Thanksgiving Day), I finally took time to re-string and repair my beads.  -  I am so glad to have them back!  Just having them in my hand becomes a prayer, and, of course, I'm looking forward to actually praying with them!

For those who would like to pray using the "Wesleyan-Holiness prayers," I have printed them, below.  For those who would like to use the more traditional prayers, I have included them, above.  (The prayers other than the weeks & cruciform prayers remain the same.)  -  May God's blessings be upon all who decide to take up the discipline of praying with Anglican Prayer Beads!

The Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Invitatory Bead
O God make speed to save us,
O Lord make haste to help us,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

The Cruciform Beads
“The Collect of Purity”
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
The Weeks
May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; (and may your whole spirit, and soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.)*
He who calls you is faithful, and He will do this.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; my version)

The Last time through:
The Invitatory Bead
The Lord’s Prayer

The Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

___________________________________________________________________________________
*Some may wish to leave off the parenthetical part for the sake of brevity.  (I usually do.) 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Feast of Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis

According to For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations (Second Edition), edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson, November 22 is the day we remember C.S. Lewis.  The following was written by O. French Ball:

C.S. Lewis, scholar, teacher, writer, philosopher, debater, and reluctant Christian, was born in Belfast, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) in an ostensibly Protestant home.  Educated in England, the young Lewis disavowed the faith into which he had been baptized, becoming, so he thought, an atheist.  He remained in England most of his life, studying and teaching at Oxford, and later accepting an appointment as professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge.  Lewis is best known in America as the author of a series of children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia, and a science fiction trilogy, all reflecting his journey into the Christian faith.

Lewis' life was characterized by a kind of angst that always placed before him a vision of the unattainable.  In his book The Weight of Glory he began using the German word Sehnsucht (longing, hunger) to describe this feeling.(320)  He eventually began to understand Sehnsucht as a longing for God.  In 1929 he "admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."(321)  He discovered that his longing was no longer pointless, but was leading him God-ward.  He came to believe that Sehnsucht is characteristic of all humans - a vision of something attainable only in another realm or on another plane of existence.

Lewis' life was lived surrounded by scholars and academics.  He was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien; together, with several other friends, they formed a society they called the "Inklings," a society of "persons of ink" - that is, writers - who hadn't an inkling of what they were doing.  Apparently this was a very congenial and boisterous group.  In 1956 Lewis, up until that time a confirmed bachelor, married an American woman, Joy Davidman Gresham, a Jew by birth, who had converted to Christianity partly through Lewis' writing.  Based on Lewis' appreciation for double meanings of words, one wonders whether the title of his 1955 book, Surprised by Joy, was in any way influenced by meeting his future wife.  Their happiness was cut short by her death, on July 13, 1960, of bone cancer.  Lewis never fully recovered his own strength following Joy's illness and death.

Lewis' death, in 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination, that same day, of President John F. Kennedy.  Writer Aldous Huxley also died that day.

In addition to his popular writings, Lewis was known, particularly in England, for his theological works.  A debater by inclination and training, he never tired of questioning his life, his faith, and his environment.  His work is an example of the Christian faith examined through the intellect and imagination of one of the giants of twentieth century.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
320.  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 12.
321.   Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,  
          1955), 237.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Collect for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy household the
Church in continual godliness; that through
thy protection it may be free from all adversities,
and devoutly given to serve thee in good works,
 to the glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

The Feast Day of Phineas F. Bresee


 
Today is the commemoration of Phineas F. Bresee, principle founder of the Church of the Nazarene.  As a means of celebration, the Heartland Church invited others from our zone to join them, last night, to watch the movie, Phineas F. Bresee: Pastor to the People, newly produced for the Church of the Nazarene.

Prior to watching the movie, I read to them the hagiography for Bresee published in For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations, Second Edition.  The book was published by the Order of Saint Luke and edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson.  I was privileged to have written the piece on Bresee.

Below is the hagiography, followed by the prayer for the occasion (the prayer was written by Daniel Taylor Benedict, Jr):

Phineas Franklin Bresee was born to Phineas and Susan Brown Bresee in Franklin, NY, on December 31, 1838.  At 16, Bresee experienced his own "warmed heart" through a personal faith in Christ.  Soon thereafter, he sensed a call to ministry and was granted a Methodist exhorter's license.  He was ordained a deacon in 1859 and an elder two years later.(301)

In 1867, in Chariton, Iowa, Bresee "entered into the blessing of entire sanctification."(302)  Bresee had been struggling with doubt.  The altar call after his sermon that night produced only one seeker; Bresee, himself.  ". . . [A]s I cried to [the Lord] that night, he seemed to open heaven on me, and gave me . . . the baptism with the Holy Ghost . . . it not only took away my tendencies to worldliness, anger and pride, but it also removed the doubt."(303)  That experience of Christian Perfection would have a huge impact on Breese's ministry.

Bresee served rural charges, and then large, urban churches in Iowa(304) and, after 1883, Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA.  He was appointed presiding elder in West Des Moines (1864)(305) and in Los Angeles.(306)  Further, Bresee served as a delegate to multiple General Conferences.(307)


Me, behind Bresee's pulpit with
my Bresee bobble head
Education was important to Bresee, as was seen by his serving on the board of Simpson College(308) and the University of Southern California.(309)  Later, Bresee became the president of Pacific Bible College (now Point Loma Nazarene University).(310)

By the mid-1890's, Bresee's commitment to the message of holiness led to his role as vice president of the National Holiness Association (NHA).  The experience of holiness also brought a passion for the poor.  The Church's first miracle after baptism with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was upon a beggar, and so, Bresee reasoned, the priority of a Holy Ghost-baptized church ought to be the poor.(311)  This passion led him to withdraw from the MEC's appointive system in 1894 to serve with the Peniel Mission.  However, while away, preaching for the NHA, Bresee was ousted from the Mission.  he was now left without the Mission or a MEC appointment.(312)

Thus, at the request of a number of southern California's Holiness people, the Church of the Nazarene was organized on October 20, 1895 as a "Christian work, especially evangelistic and city mission work, and the spreading of the doctrine and experience of Christian holiness."(313)  Bresee was the general superintendent of a growing holiness denomination.  A series of mergers with other regional holiness groups established the church as a national denomination in 1908 at Pilot Point, TX.(314)

Bresee served as the denomination's senior general superintendent until his death on November 13, 1915.  He left behind his wife, Maria, six children, and what would become the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Holiness wing of Methodism.

Common Prayer for Pastors, Bishops and Abbatial Leaders

Gracious God, our Shepherd, we thank you for raising up Phineas Bresee as bishop and pastor in your church.  Remembering his faithfulness and care, fill all shepherds of your church with truth in doctrine, fidelity in Word and Sacrament, and boldness and vision in leading the people, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and forever.  Amen.
__________________________________________________________
301 Ingersol, Stan. Nazarene Roots: Pastors, Prophets, Revivalists & Reformers. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 2009. p. 87-88.

302 Bangs, Carl. Phineas F. Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement, and the Church of the Nazarene. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 1995. p. 71-73, 77.

303 Girvin, E.A. Phineas F. Bresee: A Prince in Israel. Kansas City, MO. Nazarene Publishing House. 1916. p. 50-52.

304 Ingersol. p. 88.

305 Kostlevy, William C., Ed. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement. Lanham, Maryland, and London. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 28-29.

306 Bangs. p. 286.

307 Ingersol. p. 88-89.

308 Ibid. p. 88.

309 Kostlevy. p. 29.

310 Ingersol. p. 91

311 Ibid. p. 88-89.

312 Kostlevy. p. 29.

313 Bangs. p. 195-196.

314 Kostlevy. p. 29.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Are Nazarenes Protestant? The Wesleyan Position of Catholic and Reformed

In a post, below, you will find a video from Seedbed by Dr. Larry Wood where he explains the place of John Wesley in the Protestant Reformation.  -  In a post on Facebook, my friend and colleague, the Rev'd. Tom Miles, made a post about how he explains to his students (at Nazarene Theological Seminary) that we really are NOT Protestant.

Below, I will post his comment in its entirety.  I will follow that up by a few additional comments.  (I would note, here, that I love that he ends his comments by using one of my favorite quotes from the late +Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse.)  -  Here is Tom's post:

***
Protestant?


Is the Church of the Nazarene a Protestant denomination? Well, for starters, there is little doubt that the vast majority of pastors and laypersons in our churches would readily affirm that we are indeed Protestants. To the extent that self-identification counts for something, it would seem that we are Protestants.

I would suggest that the answer depends upon one's definition of "Protestant." There is a fairly popular and widespread understanding that "Protestants" are those branches of western Christianity that broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church during the sixteenth century. If one's definition of "Protestant" is "any western Christian church that is not Roman Catholic," then churches in the Wesleyan theological tradition are certainly "Protestant" denominations.

But I would argue that we ought to consider a more carefully nuanced definition of "Protestant." For one thing, the sixteenth-century Protestants split with the Roman Catholic Church because they were "protesting" something. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other leading Protestant reformers were protesting what they understood to be theological errors regarding salvation and Christian epistemology within the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England, on the other hand, broke with Rome because Henry VIII was upset over the pope's refusal to grant him an annulment--hardly the same kind of "protest" that the Protestant reformers were making.

Unlike the continental Protestant traditions, which embarked on a thorough theological revisioning from the outset, articulating careful theological delineations between themselves and the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England vacillated between Roman Catholic and Protestant sympathies for a few years before eventually settling on a middle course that rejected "extreme" positions of both the Protestants and the Roman Catholics in favor of a via media that is often summarized as "neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but both catholic and reformed."

Historically, our heritage lies in the Wesleyan Evangelical Revival that took place in England during the eighteenth century. Both John and Charles Wesley insisted that the Methodist movement was a revival within the Church of England and was to remain in the Church of England. They urged the Methodists to continue to attend worship at their local Church of England parish, where they would also be able to receive the Lord's Supper; in fact, the Wesleys were careful to use "lay preachers" who were not ordained (and therefore could not offer the sacraments) for Methodist society meetings and evangelical preaching--which meant that, by the Wesleys' intentional design, the Methodists had to rely on the Church of England for the sacraments. Furthermore, Methodist society meetings were not to be scheduled at times that would conflict with services in the local Church of England parish. Thus, during the Wesleys' lifetimes, the Methodists were not a "church" because they had no ordained ministers of their own. Unlike the Dissenters and Independent churches that flourished in England as protesters against the established Church of England, both John and Charles Wesley were committed to the Church of England and understood their movement to be thoroughly Anglican--even if their intentions of keeping the Methodist movement within the ecclesiastical boundaries of the Church of England were eventually ignored after their deaths. The Wesleys' emphasis on the interior spiritual life--especially the doctrine of Christian perfection--was influenced by previous Anglican writers, including William Law and Jeremy Taylor.

Theologically, the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene are based very closely on the Methodists' Articles of Religion, which are in turn an abridgement (by John Wesley himself) of the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Many of the key theological terms and turns of phrases in our Articles of Faith can be traced back to the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles. Some congregations in the Church of the Nazarene base their worship services on the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer, and a few congregations actually use the Book of Common Prayer in worship. Many of the rites contained in The Church Rituals Handbook (put together in 1997 by Jesse Middendorf, published by Nazarene Publishing House) are adapted from the Book of Common Prayer. Although our Article of Faith on entire sanctification has no parallel in the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Wesleys' understanding of Christian perfection (as noted previously) was deeply influenced by Anglican writers William Law (particularly his books A Practical Treatise Upon Christian Perfection and A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life) and Jeremy Taylor (whose books The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying were especially influential). The deep catholicity expressed in the opening paragraph of the Manual's "Historical Statement" likewise reflects the Church of the Nazarene's deep Anglican roots.

Given both our historical roots and our theological roots, the Wesleyan tradition is unquestionably Anglican.

From where Anglicans stand in the "middle way" between Roman Catholics and Protestants, there are "extremes" on both sides that Anglicans wish to avoid. On the Roman Catholic side, for example, we reject the insistence that the Bishop of Rome--the pope--has primacy as the spiritual leader of all of God's Church, and we reject the doctrine that papal teachings ex cathedra are infallible. On the Protestant side, we are best off avoiding the overemphasis on sola scriptura, which dismisses the role of the "tradition of the Church" and, when taken to its ultimate conclusion, seems inevitably to lead to fundamentalistic approaches to Scripture. This, it seems to me, is the fatal flaw of Protestantism.

On the positive side, we have been enriched by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. From the Roman Catholics we get our deep respect for the tradition of the Church (as enunciated in the opening paragraph of the Manual's "Historical Statement"), a high view of the role of sacraments, and an appreciation for our general superintendents as "bishops" in the Church--and not merely political leaders who campaign for election (as is the case in many Protestant denominations). From the Protestants we gain our strong emphasis on the importance of the "new birth" as well as the vital spirituality that the Pietists encouraged.

"It is time the Church of Jesus Christ overcame the disjunctions created by the 16th-century Reformation. What is called for is the 'evangelical catholicism' of John Wesley's 'middle way' in which the two historic Christian traditions were synthesized. In this synthesis the English Reformer not only recovered for the Church a viable doctrine of holiness but also pointed the way to a scriptural view and practice of the sacraments that is both apostolic and catholic." --William M. Greathouse, former General Superintendent, Church of the Nazarene, in "Foreword" to Rob L. Staples, Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality.

***


I think that Tom did a great job expressing this position!

 A couple of additional considerations came up in our subsequent conversation.  -  First, Tom pointed out that the Manual for the Church of the Nazarene nowhere identifies us as Protestants.  In fact, that term was replaced by the term Christian in 2005 (where it was situated in a section in the Appendix).  -  Nevertheless, it seems that those who handle the denominational website (and perhaps, too, I think in the "Nazarene Essentials" and "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism" editions of Holiness Today) do identify us as Protestant.  Of course, it must be pointed out that the two HT volumes are expected to make changes over time.  Perhaps, especially as the latter volume changes when the new Manual comes out, it could make this change in wording (if, indeed, it is actually referenced in that volume!).  It should also be pointed out that neither the website, nor HT carry the authority of the Manual.

Second, Tom points out that the "Historical Statement" in the Manual starts with the early church and catholicity, and then immediately moves in the second paragraph to the Wesleys and Methodism--without even giving a tip of the hat to the Protestant reformers.

Third, I would like to see the fact that Wesley, himself, in his context, identifies himself (and Anglicanism) as Protestant over against the Church of Rome.  I believe that this could be addressed, but I have not seen it specifically taken up.

Fourth, I pointed out that the World Methodist Council, of which the Church of the Nazarene is a member denomination, uses the terminology of "evangelical, catholic and reformed," which points to the Anglican via media.
Finally, I want to express my thanks to Rev'd. Miles for graciously agreeing to allow me to post his comments on my blog!

John Wesley and the Protestant Reformation

Today is Reformation Sunday and, indeed, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  But, where do we Wesleyan Christians fit in the larger picture of the Reformation?

In the following video from Seedbed, Dr. Larry Wood explains the place of John Wesley in the Protestant Reformation.