Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday, the Beginning of Lent

For Christians, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty day (not counting Sundays) season of Lent. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians.

Most churches that observe the season of lent will mark their worship space with somber colors such as purple or ash gray and rough-textured cloth as most appropriate symbols.

Ash Wednesday provides us with the opportunity to confront our own mortality and to confess our sin before God within the community of faith. The form and content of the Ash Wednesday Service focuses on the themes of sin and death, but it does so within the context of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship, and the Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful and tangible way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation.

May we all be drawn closer to God and made more like Christ by God's grace during this Lenten journey to the cross and resurrection.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Such as These Belong the Kingdom of God

This morning, during Morning Prayer, I read the Gospel passage from Mark (in my new Wesley Study Bible!) that included this story:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16, NRSV)

I have not yet had the opportunity to post about an incident that took place on the first Sunday of February, but this passage a Scripture gives me a great opportunity to do so, now.

The local Church where I serve has the practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist on the first Sunday of each month. During the February celebration, when I came to serve the Bread to one family, the mother indicated that her (not quite 18-month old, I think) daughter, Alice, would not be receiving that morning. (I'm not sure why that was the case on that particular morning. I baptized her shortly after she was born, and I have served her at the Lord's Table before. Nevertheless, instead of serving her the Sacrament . . .) I laid my hand on her head and invoked the Lord's blessing upon her and went on.

Well, as it turns out, the little girl's grandmother was in charge of taking care of the remaining Eucharist elements (in the case of the wine, my local Parish uses grape-juice, as do most present-day Wesleyan denominations). Alice came to where here grandmother was taking care of the juice, following worship. Her grandmother thought that she simply wanted a drink of juice, so she gave Alice some juice (apparently in one of the individual Communion cups).

To here surprise, Alice took the cup of juice just outside the room to the altar-rail of the church. Placed it on the altar-rail, and after a moment of (prayer?!), partook of the Blood of Christ our Lord. - And that is, indeed, what I believe to have happened! - Oh, some people may think that such action was simply "cute," but I completely disagree. This was not simply cute; this was Christ taking little Alice in His arms, just as He did the little children in Mark 10.

Oh, such is not to discount the importance of the Words of Institution, the larger Great Thanksgiving prayers, or the priestly role of the celebrant. In fact, I believe, though I'm not sure, that the "juice" was a part of that which was sacramentally consecrated, earlier. (I'll not go into that, at this point.) But whether it was or not, God's grace is in no way limited by even the normal pattern passed on to us by our Lord. God is free to act however God chooses, and it seems to me that this instance with little Alice fits very nicely with Jesus' recorded actions in Mark 10.

To such as these belong the Kingdom of God, and so too, the Kingdom Feast! - Praise be to God!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Papers for the Wesleyan Theological Society

By way of an update of my WTS post, below: My paper, as well as a number of other papers to be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society can be found at the WTS website by clicking here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Sad Loss for the Church of the Nazarene

Nazarene Communications Network is reporting that on the evening of Sunday, February 1, 2009 General Superintendent Emeritus, the Rev'd. Dr. John A. Knight died in his sleep.

Dr. Knight served the Church of the Nazarene as a General Superintendent for 16 years, and up until his retirement in 2001, he had served in ministry for 50 years. In addition to having served the denomination in the episcopal role, Dr. Knight ministered as a pastor, a member of the teaching faculty of a number of our schools, president of two of our colleges, editor of the Herald of Holiness (now Holiness Today), and authored eight books.

Dr. Knight earned his undergraduate degree at Bethany-Peniel College (now Southern Nazarene University), his M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, his Bachelor of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

The death of John Knight is a great loss for the Church of the Nazarene. Nevertheless, we are confident of his triumphant in Christ!

May God's grace & strength be with the Knight family.


The NCN article can be read, here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Methodists & Anglicans

Among all of the news in the Anglican world (and there is a lot: from the AMiA Winter Conference; the TAC/RC developments; the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Alexandria, etc.), there comes some news that is a little closer to home for those of us who are a part of World Methodist Council denominations (including us Nazarenes! ).

The United Methodist News Service is reporting on the meeting of the new Anglican-Methodist International Commission on for Unity in Mission. - According to the Rev'd. W. Douglas Mills, an executive with the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the new group “will look for ways to cooperate in mission, in evangelism, in service.” But, it should be clear, although the United Methodist Church is heavily involved in these discussions, this is not merely a UMC-Anglican discussion. This is a WMC-Anglican discussion and deals with Methodism and Anglicanism internationally.

That very fact speaks to one of the complications between Methodists and Anglicans, internationally. Unlike the Anglican communion, the structure of Methodist denominations can vary from country to country. The Rev'd. George Freeman, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, explains, “Within the Methodist-Wesleyan family, we have a variety of expressions of how we do church. We’re not uniform in our governance.” Nevertheless, the hope is that the commission can identify geographic areas “where there are regional understandings and covenants” between Methodists and Anglicans, and it can study those documents to see how they might be applied elsewhere.

The next meeting is scheduled for February 2010 in the United Kingdom, and the Right Rev'd. C. Franklin Brookhart, Episcopal bishop of Montana, expressed hope that the commission’s work “will result in at least a much closer sharing of mission around the world. Ideally, I would look for full communion between the two bodies” (almost certainly speaking more specifically about TEC & the UMC, which have been working toward full communion).
The pictures & primary content of this post was taken from the above mentioned article by the United Methodist News Service. The article can be read in its entirety, here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The New Wesley Study Bible

Bishop Will Willimon has a very nice post on his blog, A Peculiar Prophet, introducing the new Wesley Study Bible.

I have to admit, I am quite excited about this new study Bible. In fact, I pre-ordered one for my wife and for myself, shortly after I heard about it, and just received them, today!

One of the things that excites me is the scope of contributors. They are representative of the whole scope of the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition in the United States; from United Methodism, to the three historically African-American Methodist denominations, to several Wesleyan-Holiness denominations. - In other words, this is not a study Bible produced only by those denominations that make up the Christian Holiness Partnership (as was the case with two previous study Bibles*), nor is it produced exclusively by denominational members of the World Methodist Council. Rather, there are those who are members of both groups and those who are exclusively members of one or the other.

Further, this study Bible includes scholarly notes, as well as practical, pastoral notes.

The Bible is available from Cokesbury this month, and can be ordered by clicking here.


* The two study Bibles referred to are:

The Wesley Bible, NKJV, 1990 &

The Reflecting God Study Bible, NIV, 2000.

The new study Bible will be in the NRSV.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Open Invitation to the Meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society

To any and all who may be interested, the 44th annual meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society will take place on March 5-7 at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana.

The Wesleyan Theological Society was organized in 1965. The Society's mission is to encourage the exchange of information and perspectives among Wesleyan-Holiness theologians, stimulate scholarship among younger theologians and pastors, convene an academically rich and inspiring annual meeting of members, and publish a scholarly journal. The Society is interdenominational in membership, made up of scholars from across the Wesleyan/Methodist spectrum.

This year's theme is "All the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge: The Centrality of Christ." Keynote lecturers include biblical scholar I. Howard Marshal and theologian Bruce McCormack.

Marshall is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Honorary Research Professor at the University of Aberdeen. He has written or edited dozens of books, including New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel. Marshall’s WTS address is titled, “Where Are We Now? New Testament Christology Today.”

McCormack is Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an expert on Karl Barth’s theology and one of his recent books is Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives. McCormack’s conference address will answer the question in his lecture title, “Why Should Theology be Christo-centric?”

In addition, and quite significant from this blogger's point of view, I will be presenting a paper entitled "Authentic Christian Worship: Discovering Wesley's Criteria" during the first session on Friday morning (March 6).

More information about the Society can be found by clicking on the link on the sidebar, or by simply clicking, here. Specific information, including registration information can be found here. And the full schedule for this year's meeting can be found here.