Friday, October 16, 2009

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

Today we celebrate Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1556).

Cranmer was the major force in the English Reformation, and the person to whom thanks is due (in Christ!) for the Book of Common Prayer (in its variety of forms). Cranmer was primarily responsible for the very first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and its first revision in 1552. In his development of the BCP, Cranmer followed closely the medieval forms of worship, especially the Old Sarum rites.

The 1662 BCP, which is still in use in the Church of England, as well as other Anglican churches, and which is considered the standard by which all other Prayer Books are gaged, was a revision of Cranmer's previous work.

In the preface to his own edition of the 1662 BCP (viz., The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America), John Wesley says, "I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it, not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree."

Thomas Cranmer was born in Aslockton, Nottinghamshire on July 2, 1489. He earned his B.A., M.A. & a Fellowship from Jesus College, Cambridge, and became a Doctor of Divinity, a lecturer in the same school. Cranmer was highly influenced by the Lutheran reformers. King Henry the Eighth, with confirmation from the Pope, appointed Cranmer to the See of Canterbury, and he was consecrated Archbishop on March 30, 1533.

When Queen Mary the First took the throne, as a staunch Roman Catholic, she had Cranmer arrested. On March 21, 1556, Thomas Cranmer, along with other church leaders, was burned at the stake.

Today, in honor of Thomas Cranmer, I varied my normal practice (i.e., the use of Wesley's Sunday Service), and prayed Matins ( i.e., Morning Prayer) and the Litany using Arthur James' 1999 printing of The First English Prayer Book.

Thomas Cranmer has and continues to influence countless Christians in their spiritual formation and lives through the Book of Common Prayer.

For more information on Thomas Cranmer, I commend to you the Episcopal Church's Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 1997 and the "Introduction" to James' printing of The First English Prayer Book. You can also read the article I posted on this blog, last year by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"O God, What Offering Shall I Give?"

This hymn, by Joachim Lange, translated by John Wesley, was part of my Morning Prayer time, today. Verse five says:

Lord, arm me with They Spirit's might,
Since I am called by Thy great name.
In Thee let all my thoughts unite;
Of all my works be Thou the aim.
Thy love attend me all my days,
And my sole business be Thy praise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

God's Sure Guidance

During this morning's Morning Prayer, I sang Captain of Israel's Host, and Guide. The second verse (of two!) reminded me much of God's call to Abram to head out to a land that God "will show you."

I found it both ironic and timely when placed next to the line in this morning's Psalm that prayed, "May [the LORD] grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill all your plans" (Ps. 20:4).

My prayer is that, if anyone reading this blog is facing a future which is uncertain, or if you are confused about your situation, or if your direction is unclear, that these words from Charles Wesley might be, for you, the voice of the Lord:

By Thy unerring Spirit led.
We shall not in the desert stray;
We shall not full direction need,
Nor miss our providential way;
As far from danger as from fear
While love, almighty love, is near.
(Italics mine.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Boundless Love of Jesus

A part of my praying Morning Prayer today included this absolutely wonderful hymn by Paul Gerhardt, translated by John Wesley, and included in Wesley Hymns (compiled by Ken Bible, Lillenas P.):

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

1. Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No tho't can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart to Thee
And reign without a rival there.
Thine wholly, Thine alone, I am;
Be Thou alone my constant flame.

2. O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
O may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown.
Strange flames far from my heart remove;
My ev'ry act, word, thought, be love.

3. O Love, how cheering is Thy ray!
All pain before Thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow melt away
Where'er Thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek but Thee!

4. In suff'ring be Thy love my peace;
In weakness be Thy love my pow'r;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died!

Methodists, Lutherans & Catholics Celebrate Justification

According to an article by the United Methodist News Service (here), Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics are gathering today in Chicago to celebrate the landmark signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on Oct. 1, 1999.

This historic agreement was immediately hailed by the World Methodist Council. A statement declaring fundamental agreement between Methodists and the Lutheran-Catholic statement was drafted by the Rev'd. Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, British Methodist and Professor of Christian Theology at Duke, and United Methodist Bishop Walter Klaiber and circulated twice to all WMC denominations. After a unanimous vote by the World Methodist Council, including delegates from all seven denominational members in the U.S. (viz., AME, AMEZ, CME, Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodist, UMC & The Wesleyan Church), the statement was signed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Methodist Council at a meeting of the WMC in Seoul on July 23, 2006.

I attempted to put together a joint service with local Roman Catholics & Lutherans last year, during the Week of Christian Unity. We were looking forward to a time of representatives speaking of the Joint Declaration from each of the three perspectives, followed by a joint service of prayer. - Unfortunately, some internal issues caused us to back off of the plans at that time. Now, with the issues surrounding this years Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, plans to put together such a service locally are, once again, in question.

Concerning the Chicago meeting, it seems that the United Methodist Church has taken upon themselves the sole mantel of Methodism. Perhaps it is simply a matter of denominational reporting. - I hope. - Or, perhaps it is simply an outflow of the new full communion agreement between the UMC & the ELCA. Whatever the case, it would be truly unfortunate if the other six U.S. denominational members of the World Methodist Council were not included in the celebration. After all, the agreement, while likely officially endorsed by the UMC, nevertheless, was an agreement between the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Methodist Council.

This gathering, and the historic agreement, is worth celebrating by all who are apart of the RCC or any member of the LWF or WMC denominations.