Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Commemoration of James Arminius

Today, October 19, is the "feast day" (the commemoration) of James Arminius . . . at least for those in the Methodist tradition who are following For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations.*Actually, interestingly enough, Arminius was not a part of the original edition of this book.  Calvin, on the other hand, was in that book.  To be fair, Calvin is a part of the established calendar of Feasts for The Episcopal Church, upon which Methodists would naturally draw.  Nevertheless, I found this omission odd given that we Wesleyans are Arminian! 
 
I argued that point back when the second edition was being put together.  Consequently, I was asked to write the hagiography for Arminius.  (At the time, I was still a member of the Order of St. Luke.)  What follows is the hagiography that appears in For All the Saints.  -  I invite you to join with me in commemoration of James Arminius!**
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Jacob (or James) Arminius, Dutch pastor and theologian, was born the son of Harmon and Elborch Jacobsz in Oudewater, Holland in 1559. He received his early education at Utrecht. In 1575, Arminius' mother and siblings were killed during the Spanish massacre of Oudewater.  Through the generosity of friends, Arminnius was able to study at the University of Marburg and, from 1576 to 1581, at the University of Leyden.  Through the support of the Merchants' Guild of Amsterdam, Arminius went on to Geneva where he studied under Theodore Beza from 1582 to 1586, including a year at Basel.  Returning to the Netherlands in 1587, he began a fifteen-year pastorate in Amsterdam.  There he was ordained in 1588.  In 1603 he received his doctor's degree from Leyden and became the university's professor of theology.
 
When the United Netherlands (Dutch Republic) became independent, Calvinism became the official state religion.  However, Arminius could not accept the popular predestination position.  Instead, he attempted to modify Calvinism so that God could not be viewed as the author of sin and so that human choice might be safeguarded.  Arminius, facing much opposition, was reluctant to express anti-Calvinistic views, but, as time went on, he was accused for what he refused to say and write.

Arminius urged the government officials to call a national synod so that he might openly present his positions.  However, in 1609 he became ill and died, nine years before the synod was called.  The year following his death, Arminius' followers presented a Remonstrance over against the five points of Calvinism.  They "held that Christ died for all men [sic], that salvation is by faith alone, that those who believe are saved, that those who reject God's grace are lost, and that God does not elect particular individuals for either outcome."
 
Arminius taught that Christ is the object of God's decree.  The predestination of individuals is conditional, depending upon their acceptance or rejection of Christ.  In other words, God, according to divine foreknowledge, has predetermined to save all who place their faith in Christ and continue in that faith.
 
Although condemned by those of a Calvinist persuasion at the Synod of Dort in 1618, Arminian teaching has, nevertheless, gained permanent standing in John Wesley and the Wesley/Methodist tradition.
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The suggested collect for the day is as follows:

God our Teacher, from whom comes all true knowledge: So bind your words to our lives and write them on the tablets of our hearts, that we may not be swayed by false winds; and grant us faithful guides like your servant James Arminius, that our path to you be made straight  and sure through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
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*This is the second edition, edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson. Order of Saint Luke P. 2013.
**Cf., the article as found in the book for all citations.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Collect for the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace
to withstand the temptations of the world, the
flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and
minds to follow thee, the only God, through Jesus
Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels


Today, September 29, is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.  Here is short video that I posted on Facebook about this Feast Day.




Today's Collect, as found in the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 1997 is as follows:

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Sacramental Nature of Baptism

It caught me by surprise!  I didn't realize that I was that far along, but, during Morning Prayer, I finished singing through Wesley Hymns (edited by Ken Bible), once again. 

The last hymn in the book is wonderful.  It is a baptismal hymn, and it, of course, expresses a very Wesleyan understanding of holy baptism as a sacrament.  In fact, it does such a good job, I think I will quote it during my upcoming workshop on the Sacraments for the Southwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene.  It fits very nicely with our new Article of Faith on Baptism.

What this hymn does is remind Wesleyan Christians (especially Evangelical ones) that we are not quite like many of our "Evangelical" sisters and brothers when it comes to our understanding of the sacraments.  Instead, we stand in line with our Methodist and Anglican forefathers, back to the Ancient and New Testament Church.

Many of our Evangelical sisters and brothers (e.g., Baptists), view holy baptism (and holy communion) as a mere ordinance.  (I say mere, because ordinances they surely are.  Even the hymn uses that term.  However, they are not merely so.)  As a mere ordinance, our sisters and brothers of these traditions view baptism as something that, while commanded by Christ, is exclusively understood to be a testimony by the one being baptized concerning what Christ has done in his/her life by faith.  (The very sad and frustrating thing is, as I have been trying to help my son find a good church home while in college at Olivet Nazarene University, I have just recently read a website statement on baptism from a NAZARENE CHURCH that echoes this very Baptist, i.e., non-Nazarene/non-Wesleyan, understanding of baptism!)

We Wesleyans would affirm that, when a convert is being baptized, s/he is, indeed, testifying to what Christ has done in her/his life by faith . . . BUT we believe that this testimony is secondary.  Along with our forefathers in the faith, we believe that holy baptism is primarily God's work.  That is to say, we believe that baptism is not just an ordinance.  It is also a sacrament.  Whether the one being baptized is an infant or an adult convert, when we come to the waters of baptism with faith in Christ, God is present and at work.  Further, as the hymn makes clear, we believe that the whole of the Holy Trinity is at work in this sacrament.

Charles Wesley says it so well:
 

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

1. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
In solemn pow'r come down!
Present with Thy heav'nly host,
Thine ordinance to crown,
See a sinful soul of earth!
Bless to him the cleansing flood!
Plunge him, by a second birth,
Into the depths of God.

2. Let the promised inward grace
Accompany the sign;
On this newborn soul impress
The character divine!
Father, all Thy name reveal;
Jesus, all Thy name impart;
Holy Ghost, renew and dwell
Forever in his heart!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

WAS Election Results

The Wesleyan-Anglican Society has recently held its annual elections, and the results are in!  Congratulations to the following officers of the Society:


VICE PRESIDENT: 
 
Daniel McLain Hixon
Daniel McLain Hixon was confirmed in the United Methodist Church, then attended a number of different churches before finding his way back to the UMC by way of The Episcopal Church and the liturgy.  He is, now, an ordained elder in the UMC and serves as the pastor of Saint Francisville UMC.  Daniel has a B.A. in Political Science from LSU and an M.Div. from Southern Methodist University.  He enjoys reading, hiking, and travelling.  In addition, Daniel writes his own blog, Gloria Deo.
 
SECRETARY / TREASURER:
 Joe Foltz
Joe Foltz is an elder in the Church of the Nazarene and the pastor of Olive Hill Church of the Nazarene in Kentucky. He came to Kentucky after serving congregations in Missouri and Michigan. While in Missouri, Joe also served in the General Secretary’s office at the Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene and a Masters of Divinity from Nazarene Theological Seminary. Joe has presented papers at the meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society and has been published in Holiness Today, Folio, and Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.  Joe and his wife Audra have two sons, James and Jonathan.  -  Joe maintains his own website, here.
 
PROMOTION OFFICER:
Brent Neely
Brent D. Neely is the pastor of the Cape Elizabeth Church of the Nazarene in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  He has a BA in Christian
Ministry with a minor in Biblical Languages from Eastern Nazarene College, and an M.Div and Certificate in Spiritual Formation from Nazarene Theological Society. He enjoys graphic design, website design, and other forms of art that invites the viewer to connect with something beyond themselves. He also enjoys connecting and meeting up with others and hearing the stories of how God has worked in their lives.  -  Brent blogs at this site.
 
Additionally, I was re-elected as President of the Society.  -  My bio for the election read as follows:
Todd Stepp is an elder in the Church of the Nazarene, currently serving as Senior pastor at Heartland Church of the Nazarene (Floyds Knobs, IN) and Main Street United Methodist Church (New Albany, IN).  Additionally, he is scheduled to begin serving as an Adjunct Professor of Worship (online) at Wesley Seminary, Indiana Wesleyan University, this Fall.  Todd has a B.A. in Religion from Trevecca Nazarene University, an M.Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. in Worship and Preaching from Asbury Theological Seminary.  He is the founding President of the Wesleyan-Anglican Society, serves on the Oversight Committee of the Wesleyan Liturgical Society and as a member of the Worship and Liturgy Committee on the World Methodist Council.  Todd has presented on worship for the Wesleyan Theological Society and provided workshops in the area of Wesleyan Worship for local, district, regional, national and global events.  He has been published in the Wesleyan Theological Journal, Sacramental Life, For All the Saints, and Holiness Today.  Todd and his wife, Bobbie have a daughter, Sarah Hendrick, married to Dakota, and a son, Matt, who is a freshman Music Ministries major at Olivet Nazarene University, this Fall.

The members of the Society also voted to reduce the membership dues to $10 for full members and $5 for student members.  (The WAS website is currently being updated, and we expect that these changes will be reflected on the site, soon.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Deus Misereatur

For those who pray Evening Prayer using John Wesley's The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, the response to the New Testament lesson is Psalm 67, also known as the Deus misereatur.  (For those who use other forms of the Book of Common Prayer, this is one of the choices for the New Testament response, but in Wesley's brevity, he did not provide multiple choices!)

Since my pattern has been to read through the Old and New Testaments, along with the Psalms, during Morning and Evening Prayer without following a lectionary, there have been times when I end up reading the very Psalm that I would otherwise use for a response to the Old or New Testament lesson.  This morning, however, I read the 67th Psalm (which I will read as a response in Evening Prayer).

One of the striking things, when this happens, is the difference in language between Wesley's Prayer Book and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (which is what I usually use).  And so, I thought I would post both versions on my blog.  -  For what it's worth, I would confess that, while I pray using Wesley's Prayer Book, if I were to hold a public service, I almost always would use a modern English version (e.g., the new ACNA texts).  The problem with that is the desire at a couple of points to make the kind of editing changes that Wesley made when providing The Sunday Service for the Methodist people.

Here are the two versions of the Psalm.  First will be the version as it appears in the Office of Evening Prayer in The Sunday Service:

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and shew us the light of his countenance, and be merciful unto us.
That thy way may be known upon earth; thy saving health among all nations.
Let the people praise thee, O God: yea, let all the people praise thee.
O let the nations rejoice and be glad; for thou shalt judge the folk righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.
Let the people praise thee, O God: yea, let all the people praise thee.
Then shall the earth bring forth her increase; and God, even our own God, shall give us his blessing.
God shall bless us: and all the ends of the world shall fear him.

And now, the version found in the NRSV.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

 
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be:
world without end.
Amen.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Few Thoughts from Today's Morning Prayer

I just wanted to share a few (random?) thoughts that came to me during the praying of Morning Prayer, today.  These are just a few things that stood out to me as I read, sang, and prayed.

The first came during my reading of the New Testament passage.  I have not been following any lectionary for Morning and Evening Prayer.  I have simply been reading through the Old and New Testaments.  This morning I was reading through the final two chapters of the Book of Acts.  The story follows St. Paul's (stormy) journey to Rome. 

In chapter 27, Paul is trying to encourage those on board the ship that God has promised them no loss of life.  The thing that caught my attention, though, was the wording that St. Paul uses in verse 23.  There he says, "For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship . . ." (NRSV).  -  What a perspective!  It seems to me that it is more than simply declaring that God is our God.  Rather, he is, in a very practical way, acknowledging what he says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a, "Or do you not know that . . . you are not your own? For you were bought with a price . . ."  -  It is a powerful thing to say, ". . . the God to whom I belong!"

A second thing that caught my attention came while praying the General Thanksgiving.  In that prayer are these powerful words: "And we beseech thee, give us that sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we may show forth they praise not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to they service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days . . ." (emphasis added).  The prayer is that we show forth thanks and praise to God, not only in our words, but we give thanks and praise by walking before God in holiness and righteousness every day of our lives.

A final thing that caught my attention was seen in the final hymn.  The hymn is #147 in Ken Bible's Wesley Hymns.  It is titled, "Author of Life Divine."  It is a Eucharistic hymn, and the first verse says:

 
Author of Life divine
Who hast a table spread,
Furnished with mystic wine
And everlasting bread,
Preserve the life Thyself hast giv'n,
And feed and train us up for heav'n.
 
These three things have been ideas to ponder and words upon which to meditate.  -  May God use them to draw us closer to God and to make us more like Christ.