Saturday, November 21, 2015


Tomorrow, we will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday (or "The Reign of Christ the King")! - It is the last Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Christian year. It is also the Sunday just prior to our entering into the holy season of Advent.
The observance of Christ the King Sunday is really a relatively new celebration. It was originally instituted by Pius XI, Bishop of Rome, for celebration on the last Sunday of October. However, after Vatican II, it was moved to its current location on the Christian calendar. 
Incidentally, no less than +N.T. Wright, has argued that Ascension Sunday is the proper celebration of Christ the King, rather than the creation of this relatively new celebration.  -  Nevertheless, I think that this setting, in addition to Ascension Sunday, has much to offer the Church.  An example of which can be seen in the lectionary readings; especially the Gospel reading, which is taken from John 18:33-37.  -  Jesus' contrast between the citizens of His Kingdom and those of the kingdoms of this world is especially timely given our age of terrorism, military responses and the refugee crisis. 

In honor of Christ the King Sunday, find, below, a copy of Charles Wesley's great hymn, “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.”  -  The hymn will be printed as it appears in the Sing to the Lord (Nazarene) hymnal and most other hymnals.  (It seems that The United Methodist Hymnal includes some rather strange editorial changes in verses 1 and 4; changes that seem not to make sense.  The predecessor hymnal, The Methodist Hymnal, retains the hymn as appears elsewhere.)

It is also interesting (and puzzling) that this hymn does not seem to appear in volume 7 of The Works of John Wesley: A Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists.  If it had, perhaps light may have been shed as to why the UMC hymnal changed the text.

Nevertheless, here follows the hymn!

Rejoice, the Lord Is King

1. Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing, And triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!
2. Jesus, the Savior, reigns, The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains, He took His seat above.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!
3. His kingdom cannot fail; He rules o'er earth and heav'n.
The keys of death and hell Are to our Jesus giv'n.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!
4. Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord, the Judge, shall come
And take His servants up To their eternal home.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!
This Sunday (and every day!) may we all rejoice and worship Christ our King, not only with our lips but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service, and by walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days (cf., "A General Thanksgiving," BCP). - May all glory be to God the Father, Christ our King, and the Holy Spirit! Amen!
This post relied on previous posts on this same topic.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Christian's Attitude About the Issue of Immigration: A Nazarene Episcopal Perspective

Last Thursday, November 12, I received a "Pursuing . . . The Way of Holiness" email from the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene.  "Pursuing . . . The Way of Holiness"  is a newsletter that features episcopal statements, thoughts, words of inspiration, etc. from our various general superintendents.  This particular one was adapted from a Holiness Today article from May/June of 2012. 

The article is important as we hear political candidates debate concerning what to do with our "undocumented" or "illegal" immigrants in the United States.  Added to this is the refugee crisis that we and especially those in Europe face.  -  I think that it is important to note that this article was emailed just before the terrorist attacks in Paris.  That horrific event admittedly adds another dimension to the discussion.  Nevertheless, I think that this is a very good reminder and example of how our faith shapes our actions and attitudes in this world.  It is also noteworthy that this article was not written as a reaction to the current immigrant debates, but rather was originally published in 2012.

This coming Sunday is Christ the King Sunday.  I expect to be preaching from the Gospel lectionary passage where Jesus is being questioned by Pilate.  I find the contrast to be striking when comparing some of the rather . . . enthusiastic comments by some Christians on Facebook concerning France's military retaliation for the terrorist attacks, and the equally enthusiastic calls for U.S. action, over against Jesus' words in response to Pilate.  There, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." 

It seems to me that, as those who are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have to determine how that citizenship influences how we act as citizens of the United States.  While I think that there should be space to think through and debate what our government's actions ought to be concerning terrorism, I also think that an attitude consistent with the Kingdom of God should at least squelch the kind of "all in," enthusiastic calls for "nuking them" and "bombing them to the stone age."  -  I would note that when Dietrich Bonhoeffer participated in the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, he did not do so with the kind of enthusiasm I hear from some of my sisters and brothers.  Even though he concluded that he needed to be a part of the plan to kill Hitler, he did so knowing that he was taking guilt upon himself.  He said, "Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace."

++ Jerry D. Porter
The article by our general superintendent, the Rev'd. Dr. Jerry D. Porter, brings the "Kingdom attitude" to bear on the issue of immigration. 

Since the email indicated that the article was "used with permission," and since it did not allow Facebook sharing, I am not copying it, here.  Nevertheless I encourage you to follow the link to its original source.  The Immigrant Among Us

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Great Wesley Hymn

This past Sunday, we sang the following Wesley hymn.  Amazingly, it is not found in "The United Methodist Hymnal," though it was in the previous "The Methodist Hymnal."  (What in the world would cause the editors/compilers of the most recent United Methodist hymnal to leave this one out??!!).  -  Thankfully, it still appears in the Nazarene hymnal, "Sing to the Lord."  -  In any case, we sang it at both my United Methodist and my Nazarene churches.

It is a powerful hymn!  May God use it in speaking words of assurance to you!

Arise, My Soul, Arise
1. Arise, my soul, arise.
Shake off thy guilty fears.
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written on His hands.
2.   He ever lives above
For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead.
His blood atoned for all our race
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
3.  Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary.
They pour effectual prayers;
They strongly plead for me.
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry.
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,
"Nor let that ransomed sinner die."
4.  The Father hears Him pray,
His dear Anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of His Son.
His Spirit answers to the blood,
Hi Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.
5.  My God is reconciled;
His pard'ning voice I hear.
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And, "Father, Abba, Father," cry.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Role of Women in Ministry in the Church of the Nazarene

It is a debate in some parts of Christ's Church.  In other parts of the Church, it is settled; some on one side, and others on the other side.  It is the question of women in holy orders. 

Rome and Constantinople have said that the presbyterate is for men only.  The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Synod, along with Southern Baptists are very "Roman Catholic" on this matter (Sorry, I couldn't help it!).  They agree with the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. 

One church that I have a great appreciation and affinity toward, the Anglican Church in North America, is in the midst of an ongoing discernment period, as to whether they will ordain women, or not, and, if so, to what orders.  Currently, there are parts of the ACNA that do not ordain women; parts that ordain them to the diaconate, only; and, parts that ordain them to the presbyterate.  Nowhere in the ACNA do women serve in the episcopate.

However, those churches in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition have settled that question, long ago.  In fact, even main-line Methodism eventually came to agree, wholeheartedly.  My denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, has ordained women since even before our official denominational organization.  That is, all of our primary parent churches ordained women from the beginning.

Recently, one of our general superintendents presented a video in which he provides a very important episcopal reminder about the role of women in ministry in the Church of the Nazarene.  I encourage you to watch this video by the Rev'd. Dr. Jesse C. Middendorf, general superintendent, emeritus.

Jesse Midenddorf on acceptability of women in ministry from Church of the Nazarene on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Increasingly Amazing: Our Understanding of Christian Baptism

Not too long ago, on my Facebook profile page, I posted a quote from Galatians.  I often will post a verse (sometimes several) of Scripture from that morning or evening's time praying the Daily Office.  On that particular day, I quoted Galatians 3:27-28.  It reads:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

After posting that verse, I commented on my own post.  I said, "When one has a sacramental view of baptism, and one is consistently faced with passages of Scripture like this one, it becomes increasingly amazing to hear the claim that baptism is ONLY a personal testimony of what God has previously down in one's life."  -  Isn't that true?

Perhaps it is connected to my post, below, from
June 30th.  There I gave a challenge to look up all of the passages that one can find in the New Testament about Christian baptism.  And then, in one column, list all of the scriptures that indicate that baptism is "simply our testimony" of what God has already done by faith, prior to our being baptized.  In a second column, list all of the texts that you can find that seem to indicate that there is "more" going on in baptism.

It seems to me that these verses in Galatians 3 would fit, clearly in the "second column."  There is no indication that baptism is about a testimony.  However, we are said to be "baptized into Christ," and, as such, we "have clothed [our]selves with Christ."  Further, this has resulted in a change in our relationship with others.

Please understand, this is not to say that there is no element of testimony in baptism.  Certainly, for the person who has come to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, who has not previously been baptized, their baptism will be a part of their testimony of what Christ has already done in their lives by grace through faith.  -  Even so, that is a secondary element in their baptism.  It is first and foremost God's testimony of accepting them, and God is, even then, at work by grace through the holy sacrament.

Further, in the West, we like to pin things down as to the exact moment, before which the person was not "saved," but after which they were "saved."  -  I like to ask the question:  If a person responds to an altar call to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, but before they make it to the altar to pray, they are struck by lightening and killed, will they make it to heaven?  They didn't quite make it to the altar, and they didn't pray "the prayer."  However, they did respond to the call, and had determined to pray "the prayer."  -  If they hadn't been struck by lightening, we would have said they "got saved" when they prayed, so were they eternally lost?  -  We like to pin down the exact moment.

However, what we often find in Scripture is that baptism seems to be the very act of faith.In any case, it seems clear in this passage that baptism is NOT viewed as just a personal testimony of what God has previously down in one's life.

What other verses about Christian baptism reinforce this same conclusion?

Faith Or Good Works? - A Brief Excerpt

Here is a brief excerpt from this past Sunday's sermon, "Faith or Good Works?"  -  The sermon text was James 2:1-17.  (To hear the entire sermon, click here.)

Our sisters and brothers from the three historically black Methodist denominations (with whom we are in partnership through the World Methodist Council) have called upon the Church to focus this Sunday on ending racism. How does our faith work through love to end racism? - All over the news are stories about refuges from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, fleeing to other countries across Europe. How does our faith work through love to address this humanitarian need? 

We are in the midst of a political season, and issues that for Christians should go beyond politics confront us. How does our faith work through love when it comes to immigration in the U.S.? How does our faith work through love in the midst of the changing face of our nation surrounding marriage laws? How does our faith work through love when it comes to the lives of the unborn? - Our response; our actions; our political decisions, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, must be informed, not just by a political party, or political ideology, or by conservative talk radio, or by the liberal media, but rather, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, our responses; our actions; our political decisions must be informed and formed by our faith working through love.

Our faith working through love certainly includes our spiritual disciplines, our devotions, our involvement in the church, our sharing our faith with others, but, as St. James points out, it also includes our response to those who are hurt, who are in pain, who are in need all around us. - Folks, Wesley says this faith working through love is “all inward and outward holiness.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Significance of Baptism & Communion: A Biblical & Sacramental Challenge

I have been reading the second edition of Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church, by Robert Webber & Lester Ruth.  -  I have read Webber's original volume at least twice and resonated with it greatly.  In fact, I have often identified myself using this very title.  I am an "Evangelical on the Canterbury Trail."  -  Well, that has to be defined a bit, of course.  I really prefer "Wesleyan" to "Evangelical," but most of us in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition have identified with the larger Evangelical sub-culture.  And, then, to be on the "Canterbury Trail," for me, has not meant that I have migrated to a different, Anglican denomination.  Rather, while I have explored many Anglican jurisdictions and, in many ways, feel home in them, nevertheless, I have worked to help my own Wesleyan denomination discover and own John Wesley's "Anglicanism" for themselves.

Well, after discovering that Lester Ruth revised Webber's book (why it wasn't on my radar earlier, I don't know!), I purchased the second edition.  I was interested to see what Lester did with it, since he was my mentor and primary professor during my doctoral studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.  -  I finally got around to reading it!

What I discovered is that the first section, Webber's story, did not involve much of any changes.  However, the middle section, which includes the "stories of other pilgrims," was completely new.  That is to say, all of the old stories were jettisoned, and new stories from new "pilgrims" were added.

Perhaps it was because I made such a connection with the original edition, but, by and large, I have been disappointed with the replacements.  Now, that is not to say that I haven't gained some good insights, or that there haven't been a number of quote worthy lines and paragraphs.  In fact, this blog comes from one of those stories, as you will see in my challenge, below.  -  Still, I have to admit, the first edition struck home for me in a way that this one has not.  (Though, it was good to hear from a former Methodist from Asbury!)

I have not yet begun the third section of the book.  This section is new to this edition as well.  It is called, "The Canterbury Trail and Today's Churches."  I am really hopeful for this section.  I suspect, this third section of the book will determine whether I would conduct a future small group study using the second edition or stick to the first one.

Having said all of that, I found a part of the story of Bill & Linda Richardson to be . . . well, obvious!  And yet, not so obvious for me to have come up with this challenge, before!  That is, I have alluded to this kind of thing, but I have never simply challenged people to take up a simple study like Linda did, concerning the Lord's Supper.

She wrote that, in her Baptist background, she had always been taught that "the Lord's Supper was simply a remembrance of what Jesus had done on the cross."  -  My guess is that many Nazarenes (and others in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition) have, unfortunately, been taught the same thing.  But during a Bible study, a friend shared a very different perspective on the Holy Communion.  -  She continued:

That led me to do a personal study from scripture that was really quite simple.  I took a yellow tablet and drew a line down the center.  One side was titled "A remembrance" and the other side "More."  I proceeded to read through the New Testament; on the left I listed scriptures that pointed to communion being simply a remembrance, and on the right I wrote down those scriptures that seemed to indicate that communion was "more."

He conclusion?  "I had only two scriptures listed on the left side and a full column on the right.  It was the beginning of a shift in my thinking about the Lord's Supper toward a more sacramental view . . ."

How simple! 

And, so, that's my challenge!  Except I want to expand it to include both sacraments.  You see, not only have many been taught that the Holy Communion is "simply a remembrance of what Jesus had done on the cross," but I think that most of those folks have also been taught that baptism is simply our testimony of what God has already done in our lives by faith.  -  So, I want to put forth the challenge that Linda Richardson took up.  -  Take a paper (it doesn't have to be yellow!), and list in one column all of the scripture texts you can find in the New Testament that point to Communion as being "simply a remembrance."  In a second column, list all of the texts that you can find in the New Testament that seem to indicate that there is "more."

Do the same for baptism.  (For this, I mean, Christian baptism; not John the Baptist's baptism).  In one column, list all of the scriptures that indicate that baptism is "simply our testimony" of what God has already done by faith, prior to our being baptized.  In a second column, list all of the texts that you can find that seem to indicate that there is "more" going on in baptism.

May God's Spirit speak to you through the Word, as you take up this challenge!  -  And I would love to hear your results, so consider posting a comment, below!