Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiness Denominational Leaders Meet to Strengthen Ties

The article, below, comes from the Nazarene Communications Network website, which apparently picked it up from The Wesleyan Church:


Holiness denomination leaders meet to strengthen ties

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lenexa, Kansas

Superintendents, presidents, and bishops of 10 denominations and holiness bodies met for a two-day summit in Lenexa, Kansas, to discover ways to spread scriptural holiness and remain committed to the message in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition.

The Church of the Nazarene's Board of General Superintendents hosted the annual meeting of the Wesleyan Leaders Summit, December 3-4 at the Global Ministry Center.

Several task forces were appointed by this year's summit members to do follow-up work on topics of mutual concern, including development of an online, digital holiness classics library; procedures to allow for easier transfer of ministerial personnel and credentials for ministers in good standing between member bodies; statements for possible joint releases that address pressing social and moral issues; and cooperative scheduling of Holiness Summits (grassroots-led, regional events to encourage holiness evangelism and revival).

A subcommittee also was appointed to develop proposals for a voluntary global Wesleyan alliance that could foster greater cooperation and synergy among like-minded church bodies worldwide.

Wesleyan Leaders Summit representatives gather annually for professional enrichment, fellowship, sharing best practices, discussion of cultural trends and current issues impacting their ministries, and informal networking to encourage greater interdenominational cooperation.

Executives at this year's summit included representatives of the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, The Salvation Army, Church of God Ministries, Inc., The Missionary Church, the Churches of Christ in Christian Union, the Church of Christ Holiness (USA), the Congregational Methodist Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and The Wesleyan Church.

Additional leaders from the Evangelical Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church, and the International Fellowship of Bible Churches anticipated attending, but were unable to do so at the last minute. The next Wesleyan Leaders Summit is scheduled for December 2-3, 2011, in Circleville, Ohio.
 --Board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church Communications

-------------------------------

In reading the article, above, I would note that all but (possibly) three of the denominations listed were members of the Christian Holiness Partnership, which seems to no longer be a functioning organization. The denominations that were not CHP members include the Church of Christ, Holiness (USA), which seems to primarily be an African-American denomination; the Methodist Protestant Church (those who did not join in the 1968 union that formed the United Methodist Church); and the Church of God Ministries, Inc. I'm not sure who this latter denomination is (thus the "possibly," above). If it is the Church of God (Anderson), it is unusual that it was not listed as "Anderson." On the other hand, if it is not the CoGA, then it is unusual that they were not at the meeting.

I find several items in this article to be interesting, and I look forward to hearing about future developments. 

Among the things that I find greatly interest is the exploration of a "global Wesleyan alliance." This, I'm guessing would take the place of the national Christian Holiness Partnership. However, it will be important to pay attention to whatever terminology any future organization would use. These are obviously not the only "Wesleyan" denominations. Also considered Wesleyan denominations are such groups as the United Methodist Church, the AME, AMEZ & CME, none of which were involved in this meeting. For that matter, one can look at the World Methodist Council, itself, noting that three of the denominations in this meeting are members of the WMC. If one is simply looking for a global Wesleyan alliance, there it is! 

However, what we have here are "Wesleyan-Holiness" denominations, and that is the alliance we are looking at.  That is important, because some of these groups would not identify, at all, with a group like the World Methodist Council.  In fact, the "Wesleyan" identity of some of the Wesleyan-holiness denominations seems to be focused only on the doctrine of Entire Sanctification.  Therefore, the term "Wesleyan-Holiness" would be much more fitting for such an alliance.
In general, I wish that there were talks of merger more than "alliances" (which will come as no surprise to those who have read my blog). However, I admit, when it comes to mergers, I would be in favor of merging with those who share and strengthen the Church of the Nazarene's Methodist identity, and I would be less excited about merger with those who would dilute that identity. - Still such a "global alliance" would be an exciting development, and any attempt at strengthening cooperation is always a good thing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Greetings from the Board of General Superintendents of The Wesleyan Church

The following Christmas Greeting from the Board of General Superintendents of The Wesleyan Church was found on their denominational website, here:

BGS Christmas Greeting



Dec. 17, 2010


The Board of General Superintendents extends its prayerful best wishes to you at this joyful season of the year. As you take time to enjoy the special relationships you have with family and friends, remember the very essence of the Christmas story is a Heavenly Father reaching out to us through His Son so that we could have a personal relationship with Him. What an awesome gift and privilege! As you celebrate the Savior’s birth may you experience anew the transforming power of His hope and holiness. You will be in our thoughts and prayers during this season and throughout the New Year.


Board of General Superintendents    


Thomas E. Armiger


Jerry G. Pence


Jo Anne Lyon

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Cassock, Surplice and Preaching Bands

The following is from the fifteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Cassock, Surplice, and Preaching Bands - These vestments are more closely related to the type of vestments that John Wesley wore during worship.

The cassock is a black neck-to-ankle attire that, at one time, were the ordinary street clothes for clergy. It may be worn (without the clerical collar) by lay persons taking part in worship.

As “street clothes,” the cassock is covered by the surplice (SUR.plis). The white surplice is a medieval version of the alb. (You will recall that the alb was the subject of the first in this series.) The white surplice/alb recalls the practice of Christians in the first century, when they clothed those emerging from the waters of baptism with a white tunic or alb. Therefore, the surplice/alb is a reminder of our baptism, a symbol of purity and a symbol of the resurrection. Again, just as with the regular alb, the cassock and surplice may be worn by clergy and (without the clerical collar or stoles) by lay persons leading worship.

Preaching Bands or tabs are white starched neckwear in the shape of an inverted V worn with a cassock by preachers. Eventually, the two bands were said, by some, to represent the law and the gospel, or the Old and New Testaments. (All of John Wesley’s portraits depict him wearing the clerical collar and preaching bands).

The cassock, surplice, stoles and preaching bands are traditional Anglican vestments (though those in other traditions wear them as well). As a priest in the Church of England, this would have been John Wesley’s attire during worship, thus, it is also appropriate attire for Methodists.

———————
Information gathered from the following resources:

Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cambridge/Boston, MA. Cowley Publications. 2000.

Advent Greetings from the Nazarene Board of General Superintendents

The following "Advent Greetings" from the Board of General Superintendents (i.e., Bishops) of the Church of the Nazarene was found on the Nazarene denominational website, here:


The gift of the Son of God wrapped in flesh confounds our minds with the inexplicable mystery of Immanuel: God with us. The Christ who came to walk our sod, experience our humanity, offer himself for our sins, and grant us eternal life calls us to share the hope of Advent. Throughout this season of celebration, we declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest.” In eager anticipation of His Second Advent, we embody this hope that compels us to dedicate ourselves anew to the mission of making Christlike disciples in the nations. Your generous giving to support this mission in 156 world areas honors Immanuel. Thank you for joining in proclaiming to the world the Christ child who brings salvation.


The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 2, 6).


The Board of General Superintendents


Eugénio R. Duarte             Jerry D. Porter

David W. Graves             Stan A. Toler
Jesse C. Middendorf         J . K. Warrick
 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nazarenes Pass the Two Million Mark

According to the recent report of statistics for 2010 by General Secretary, the Rev'd. Dr. David P. Wilson, the Church of the Nazarene has now passed the 2 million mark for total members!

The article can be read, here.

The report did not indicate the exact number of full members.  Nor did the report indicate the growth of Nazarene membership in the U.S.A.

However, passing the 2 million mark for total members and the fact that the denomination continues to grow are reasons to give thanks to the Lord!

The Problem of Perfectionism?

Earlier this month, I read an article on Anglican Mainstream entitled The Problem of Perfectionism.  It was written by Michael Jensen and originally appeared at Sydney Anglicans.  -  I regularly read Anglican Mainstream and, as one ordained in the Church of the Nazarene (a Wesleyan-holiness expression of Methodism), this article caught my attention.

However, as I read the article, and then especially as I read the comments on the Sydney site, I must say that I was quite disappointed.  Both, the article, itself, and the comments demonstrated only a cursory (mis)understanding of Wesley's teachings.

(I should say, before I go any further, this post is not a defence of the group at Sydney University.  If the understanding of the group put forth in the article is correct [and there is a question, here, because it is clear that Wesley is misunderstood], then they, too, strayed from Wesley's teaching of Scripture.  -  And now, to continue . . .)

It was even more amazing how Jensen identified, "among the descendants of perfectionist teaching," only two, viz., the Keswick Movement and Pentecostalism.  Neither of these two movements, as movements, have followed Wesley's teachings (though there are certain of the Pentecostal-Holiness denominations that have, indeed, sought to stay true to Wesley on perfectionist issues.).  It is quite reasonable to include in such an article various expressions of perfectionist groups, but if one wishes to invoke John Wesley's teachings, one would expect some mention of the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement within the larger Methodist tradition.

Beyond the absence of Wesley's descendants in the article are the misunderstandings found in the article, as well as (and especially) in the comments.  Many of these comments are the very kind of things that Wesley spent much of his life correcting.

For example, Wesley never argued for a "sinless" perfection.  Also, though Wesley did talk of a willful transgression of a known law of God being the definition of sin "properly so called," he also taught that those "sins improperly so called," nevertheless still remained in need of the atoning work of the blood of Christ.  He retained in the liturgies sent to the Methodists in North America the corporate confessions of sins, as well as the Lord's Prayer with it's petition for forgiveness.  Still, he felt that there is Scriptural warrant for talking about a difference between such  "involuntary transgressions" or "sins of ignorance" and those that are willful transgressions of a known law of God.

What, I suppose, was most disappointing was the implication of the posting of this article on Anglican Mainstream.  That implication is that the Conservative/Orthodox Anglican movement (as represented by Anglican Mainstream) has rejected Wesleyanism as a viable expression of Conservative/Orthodox Anglicanism.

Let me simply express that what Wesley talked about as Christian Perfection is nothing other than the "perfection" to which we are called in Matthew 5:48.  Read in its context, it becomes clear that it is a call to love our neighbors, even those who are enemies, even as God loves.  In other words, the perfectionism that Wesley spoke of was a fulfilment of the Great Commandment; to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself.   It is the "perfect love that drives out fear," which St. John talks about in 1 John 4:18. 

It is not the absolute or angelic perfection that St. Paul denies having attained in Philippians 3:12, but it is the "perfection" or "maturity" (same Greek root word in verse 12 & 15) that St. Paul does claim in verse 15. 

Let me be clear.  It is NOT a love or "maturity" or "perfection" which we can attain on our own, but it only comes to us as a gift of the grace of God. 

It is, as St. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."  And, again, in his benediction, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and HE will do this" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-4, NRSV, emphasis mine).

It is nothing more than the love of God so filling us.

And, if my reading of the implications of this post appearing on Anglican Mainstream is correct, it is especially disappointing, because the essence of Wesley's teaching on Christian Perfection is the very thing found in prayer prayed by every faithful Anglican as they gather each Lord's Day:

"Almighty God, unto 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 thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

I believe it was Phineas Bresee, primary founder of the Church of the Nazarene, who asked the Episcopalians why it should seem strange that the Nazarenes claimed that God answers the very prayer that they pray each week.

It seems to me that, contrary to the implications found on Anglican Mainstream, Wesley was quite true to his Anglicanism in his teaching about the Scriptural doctrine of Christian Perfection.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: The Sign of the Cross

The following is from the fourteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Sign of the Cross - this topic was brought up in our worship class, and I thought I might cover it in this series.

Often times, the use of the sign of the cross is thought (by those who are not used to using it) to be . . . Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics do, of course, use the sign of the cross, but so do others (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Orthodox, etc.). In fact, you may occasionally even see United Methodists using the sign of the cross!

The sign of the cross is done in a few different ways. There is the signing of one’s self (forehead, breast, left shoulder, then right shoulder). This is simply a devotional expression of faith in Christ and our redemption through the cross of Christ. It is often done when the Holy Trinity is invoked, or when one is receiving the Holy Sacrament of Communion.

The pastor may make the sign of the cross over the Holy Sacraments during consecration and over the people of God during the Trinitarian benediction or blessing.

Ashes are used to “sign” our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. When anointing with oil, the sign of the cross is used. John Wesley instructed that infants be “signed” with the cross on their foreheads during baptism. This use of the sign of the cross, at least, is quite “Methodist.”

Finally, people in liturgical churches make the sign of the cross on their forehead, mouth and heart when the gospel is announced. By this, they are saying, “May the gospel be in my mind, upon my lips, and in my heart.”

The sign of the cross really is not just a Roman Catholic thing. It is a devotional act that many Christians in many denominations (even some Methodists!) may find to be a meaningful, devotional expression of faith.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: X-mas

The following is from the thirteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:


Today’s insert is going to stray a bit from the others in this series. The others have focused on sights or experiences within the sanctuary or the worship service (thus the title). This edition will start with a symbol that was talked about on last week’s insert about the Chrismons, and then focus on a related topic of the season.

The Chi-Rho - The Χ with the Ρ in the center forms a symbol of Christ using two Greek letters. The X is the Greek letter, Chi, and the P is the Greek letter, Rho. They are the first two letters of the Greek word Χρίστου, or in English, Christ. - Sometimes you will see the letter Ι (iota) with the Χ which are the first letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus and Christ.

Knowing about these symbols helps us to understand why sometimes people refer to Christmas using the “shorthand” form of X-mas. It really is not an attempt to “x-out” Christ from Christmas. Rather, it is an abbreviation for Christmas using a chrismon, if you will; the symbol for Christ.

I am in full favor of the idea of making sure we keep Christ in Christmas, but I am not all that concerned about whether people use the Greek initial when writing the word.
Instead, I would suggest two ways for us to “keep Christ in Christmas.” First, let us observe the holy season of Advent as a time to prepare ourselves spiritually for celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Second, keep the “mas(s)” in Christmas(s). Mass is not a term that we Protestants typically use. However, it is a word that basically refers to the worship service of Holy Communion. If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, be sure to faithfully gather with the Church around the Table of the Lord on Christmas (or, in our case, Christmas Eve).

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Advent & Advent Wreath

The following is from the twelfth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Advent - Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It continues until the beginning of the Christmas season, at sundown on Christmas Eve.

Advent means coming. The season proclaims the comings of the Christ - whose birth we prepare to celebrate, who comes continually in Word and Spirit, and whose return we anticipate. Each year Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings.

The Advent Wreath is a wonderful part of the sanctuary during the Advent season, as well as a wonderful part of family worship throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The Advent wreath originated during the Renaissance. The circle of evergreen branches is a symbol of everlasting life for two reasons. First, the use of evergreens symbolize everlasting life. Second, the circle, which has no end, symbolizes eternity.

Four candles (one for each Sunday before Christmas) encircle the Christ candle. Purple is most often used for three of the four candles (the first, second and fourth candles). Purple is a color of both penitence and royalty. Pink or rose is often used on the third Sunday to represent joy. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the Christ candle is lit. It remains lit throughout the Christmas season, which begins on Christmas (or Christmas Eve) and lasts for twelve days, until Epiphany on January 6. White, a joyous and festive color, represents the purity of the Christ Child.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Procession

The following is the eleventh installment in my bulletin insert series:


Procession - Sometimes the procession at the start of worship is seen by some as a neat or impressive “high church” way of getting the choir to the choir loft. However, such a view completely misses what the procession is really all about.

To quote Robert Webber, “A procession is an act of movement in worship by a group of people for the sake of all. In the Entrance, the procession symbolizes the entire congregation coming before the Lord.”

When we see a procession at the beginning of worship, we are not supposed to be looking at particular people. We are not supposed to be “impressed.” Rather, we are supposed to be caught up with the fact that we are all entering into the very presence of God (into the presence of Christ our King!) in order to worship our God with all that is in us.

The general order of a procession would be:

- The crucifer or cross bearer. (We are all supposed to follow Christ who is symbolized by the cross.)

- The acolytes (The light, also symbolizes Christ, the Light of the world.)

- Banner carriers

- Scripture readers (who may carry a Bible or Gospel book).

- The choir

- Clergy

The procession is supposed to produce a spirit of joyful anticipation as we enter to worship before the presence of our Lord.

—————
Information was gathered from the following resources:

Webber, Robert. Ed. The Complete Library of Christian Worship. Vol. 3, The Renewal of Sunday Worship. Star Song P. Nashville, TN 1993.

Monday, November 15, 2010

N.T. Wright & Our Call Unto Holiness

So often people are looking for acceptance.  The great good news is that in Christ we are accepted by God.  However, so often people do not desire to change.  They want to be accepted by God, but they do not want to follow Christ.  They want God's love, but they do not want God's interference; they do not want the glorious, transforming freedom offered to us by God's grace through faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I was making my regular check of certain blogs, I ran across the quote below from Bishop N.T. Wright.  I found it on my friend, Fr. James Gibson's blog, Sanctus.  He, it appears, found it at Creedal Christian.  There, it was cited as having come from + N.T. Wright's, "Communion and Koinonia: Pauline Reflections on Tolerance and Boundaries."

As a "holiness preacher," I found this quote to be spot on!


"It is one of the most important principles of biblical ethics, and one trampled in the mud again and again in contemporary debate: that God's grace meets us where we are, but God's grace, thank God, does not leave us where we are; that God accepts us as we are, but that God's grace, thank God, is always a transforming acceptance, so that in God's very act of loving us and wooing our answering love we are being changed; and, more dramatically, in baptism and all that it means we are actually dying and rising, leaving one whole way of life and entering upon a wholly different one."

Not only is our life changed at our time of conversion, as our baptism so dramatically proclaims, but as Christians, we are, by the grace of God, "Called Unto Holiness!"  God so desires to sanctify us through and through that we might actually reflect the divine image.  In other words, God really desires to answer our prayer when we pray:

"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 Christ our Lord.  Amen."   -  Praise be to God!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Stained Glass I

The following is from the tenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Stained Glass Symbols I - There are eight different symbols in the nine windows in the sanctuary.


The Stone Tablets with Roman Numerals I - X represent the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 10:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The first four set forth the duties of a holy people to a holy God; and the last six assert the ethical duties of people to their neighbors.

The Wheat symbolizes the Bread of Life, who is Jesus (Mark 14:22). When paired with the chalice or grapes, it also symbolizes the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

The Lily is a symbol of Easter and immortality. The lily is pictured in the center of the front and the back of the sanctuary. Located, as the front window is, behind the cross, we are reminded of Christ’s death and resurrection for us.

The Chalice (cup) in the front of the sanctuary and the Grapes in the back are symbols of the Blood of Christ and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

The Keys stand for the Keys of Kingdom of Heaven. They often are seen as a symbol of St. Peter, upon whose confession of Jesus as “. . . the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . .“ (cf., Matthew 16:13-19).

The Anchor (Cross) is the symbol of Christian Hope (cf., Hebrews 6:19).

The Cross and Crown symbolize both Christ our King, as well as the reward of the “crown of life” for the faithful who have trusted in Christ as Savior (cf., Revelation 2:10).
—————

Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room. 1962.

W.T. Purkiser, Ed. Exploring the Old Testament. NPH.

Whittemore, Carroll E., Ed. Symbols of the Church. (Revised Ed.). Abingdon P. 1987.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Colors

The following is the nineth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Liturgical Colors - Throughout the year, the Church uses colors to symbolically express various emphases of the Christian seasons. You will notice the colors of the pastor’s stoles will change according to the Christian season and so, too, will the colors of the various paraments (the altar cloth, etc.). These colors are based on historic and common ecumenical traditions.

The Christian year contains two cycles: Christmas (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany) and Easter (Lent/Easter/Pentecost). Each of these cycles contains a preparatory season symbolized by the color purple and a festival season symbolized by the color white, followed by an ordinary time of growth symbolized by the color green. The basic colors, then, are as follows:

Purple is the color both of penitence and royalty, and is used during Advent and Lent.

White (and also gold) are joyous and festive colors and are used during the Christmas and Easter Seasons and on other festive days such as Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration, Trinity, All Saints, and Christ the King.

Green is the color of growth and is used in the Seasons after Epiphany and after Pentecost, except when special days call for white or red.

Red is the color of fire, symbolizing the Holy Spirit and is used on the Day of Pentecost and at other times when the work of the Holy Spirit is being emphasized. Red may also symbolize the blood of Christ and is often used during Holy Week. Red is also an appropriate color for evangelistic/revival services and for ordinations and consecrations.
—————

Information gathered from the following resources:

Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church. Nashville, Abingdon P. 1984.


The United Methodist Book of Worship.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Peace

The following is the eighth installment of my bulletin insert series:


Passing the Peace - Most churches have a time of welcome and greeting. Sometimes the Passing of the Peace is “mixed up” with that time as a part of that time. However, the Passing of the Peace is really intended to be an act in worship that is distinct from such a time of welcome and greeting.

The Passing of the Peace usually concludes the “Service of the Word” and prepares us for the “Service of the Table/Thanksgiving.”

Usually, the pastor will say, “The Peace of the Lord be always with you” (or something similar), and the people will respond by saying, “And also with you.” We are then encouraged to share the peace of Christ with those around us. In doing so, people often say, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” or, “Peace be with you,” or simply, “Peace.”

This is not a simple greeting among friends, but rather a gift of God’s own peace passed from one to another. We are praying and speaking the blessings of God’s peace to each other.

This peace is the shalom of God. It is peace with God, with others, with all of God’s creation, and peace in ourselves. It is the wholeness that comes from God alone, through Jesus Christ, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

This also means that it is a time when we are called to be reconciled to our sisters and brothers, just as Jesus said in Matthew 5:24.

In Passing the Peace to one another, we are speaking a fresh and anew that which Christ said to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”
—————

Information gathered from the following resources:

Lang, Jovian P., OFM. Dictionary of the Liturgy. New York. Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1989.

Webber, Robert.  Various works.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: The Four-fold Pattern of Worship

The following is the seventh installment of my bulletin insert series.  It reflects the teaching series I have been leading at our local church and the changes taking place in the structure of our worship services:

Four-fold Pattern of Worship - Today, you will notice a bit of restructuring in our service of worship. As we go along there will continue to be some adjustments and developments.

However, those who have been in the Worship Study will recognize the structure as the basic, historic four-fold pattern of worship. We Enter to Worship, Hear & Respond to God’s Word, and having heard and responded to God’s Word, we Give Thanks to the Lord (especially around the Table), and, finally, we Depart to Serve.

This pattern helps to meet John Wesley’s criteria for authentic Christian worship: 1.) It is derived from Scripture. 2.) It is reasonable; mirroring our relationship with God. 3.) It is in continuity with the practices of the Early Church and connects us with Christians throughout the ages, and 4.) it helps us to better experience God’s presence and identity.

It has been said that “One can study the history of worship from the early church to the present and discover, without exception, that Sunday worship has always been characterized by these four acts.”

In addition, page #2 of The United Methodist Hymnal shows that this is the very pattern of worship recommended for United Methodists. In fact, every UM elder has vowed to uphold the liturgy of the church which is expressed in this basic pattern.

—————

Information gathered from the works of Robert Webber and my own works (my doctoral studies and dissertation, as well as my recent article in The Wesleyan Theological Journal.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Sanctuary Lamp / Eternal Light

The following is the sixth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Sanctuary Lamp - The sanctuary lamp is the name given to a candle (or electric light bulb) suspended from the ceiling or mounted on the wall near the Lord’s table. The lamp constantly burns throughout the week and, therefore, is also referred to as the “Eternal Light.”

This type of candle/lamp originates from Roman Catholic Eucharistic theology. In the Roman Catholic Church it is believed, based on Aristotle’s distinction between substance and accidents, that the substance of bread and wine, while still appearing (the accidents) to be bread and wine, has actually been transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. This is a doctrine called transubstantiation. Thus, for Roman Catholics, the sanctuary lamp indicates that Christ is eternally present in the reserved sacrament.

Wesleyans in general, and United Methodists in particular, while affirming the “real presence” of Christ in the sacrament, do not agree with the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Neither do they practice “reserving” the sacrament. Rather, in Untied Methodist usage, the sanctuary lamp signifies Christ’s presence in the church.

It is always important to remember, on the one hand, God does not dwell in houses made with human hands (Acts 7:48). In fact, we, as the people of God, the Church, are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22), and Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). On the other hand, this place has been consecrated and sanctified as a holy place wherein we gather to worship our God. And like Solomon’s Temple of old, we have asked that God’s “eyes may be open night and day toward this house . . .” (I Kings 8:27-30). Thus, the eternal light is a reminder to us that we do not gather alone, but rather, God is in this place.

(As a bit of a footnote:  How ironic is it when this [the above] is the bulletin insert for the very Sunday that the electrical light bulb just happens to burn out!  -  I had to explain that just because the light represents Christ's presence, it doesn't mean that He's not here when the bulb is burned out; Christ doesn't reside in the light bulb!)
—————

Information gathered from the following resources:

Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church. Nashville, Abingdon P. 1984.

Staples, Rob L. Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality. Kansas City, MO. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 1991.  (BTW, I highly recommend this book!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Stoles

The following is the fifth installment of my bulletin insert series: 


Stoles - Often times you will see clergy wearing stoles in worship. Stoles are long narrow bands of fabric. Usually, the stoles are in the liturgical color of the season or day based upon the Christian year. (More will be said about the Christian Calendar and the symbol of colors in a later insert.). Sometimes they have various symbols embroidered on them.

Stoles may be worn over robes, albs, or cassocks & surplices. (More about the cassock and surplice in a later insert.) They are worn by those who have been ordained as a deacon or an elder (presbyter/priest). Since Bishops are also elders, they, too, wear stoles in worship.

However, the way in which deacons and elders wear their stoles is different. Deacons traditionally wear their stoles over their left shoulder like a sash. It is then connected under the right arm. Elders (including Bishops) wear their stoles around the neck with the ends hanging down the front and just below knees.

Whereas robes, albs and even cassocks & surplices may be worn by any of the baptized, clergy and laity, alike, liturgical stoles are visible signs that one has been called by God and ordained to lead the community of faith in the sacramental life of the Church. The stole represents the “yoke of Christ” which the elder has assumed by virtue of his/her ordination.

—————

Information gathered from the following resources:
 
Collins, Ken.  http://www.kencollins.com/  
 
Hickman, Hoyt L.  United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church.  Nashville. Abingdon P. 1984.
 
Lang, Jovian P., OFM.  Dictionary of the Liturgy.  New York. Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1989.
 
Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cambridge/Boston, MA. Cowley Publications. 2000.
 
Wilson, Frank E. An Outline of Christian Symbolism. New York. Morehouse-Gorham Co. 1938.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Alpha, Omega, and IHS

The following is the fourth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Α Ω / IHS - Each of these letters can be found in variuos places in the sanctuary and the church. For example, the Α Ω are seen on the children’s altar/table and the one in Calvary Chapel. IHS is also seen on both, as well as the clothes under the flower vases in the sanctuary. IHS is often seen on crosses. But what do these letters mean?

Well, first, they are Greek letters. The Α Ω are the letters, alpha and omega. They corospond to the sounds made by the English A and long O. However, in terms of placement in the alphabet, they corospond to the English A and Z. That is, they constitute the first and last letters of the alphabet.

That is significant, because in the Book of the Revelation Jesus says, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8); and “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13). Thus, these letters are symbols of Christ who is the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

IHS are letters that are sometimes mistakenly thought to mean “In His Service.” However, these letters are the Greek letters iota, eta, and sigma. They are also shown as IHC (the “C” being an older form of sigma), or sometimes with a “Σ” (the contemporary form of sigma) . Sometimes there is a horozontal line above the letters indicating that they are an abbreviation. Often, when shown in lowercase, the “h” is used to form a cross. These three letters are the first three letters (as well as the first two and last letter) in the Greek spelling of JESUS (IHCOYC, or IHSOYS, or ΙΗΣΟΥΣ). Thus, they are an abbreviation for Jesus.

—————

Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room. 1962.

Whittemore, Carroll E., Ed. Symbols of the Church. (Revised Ed.). Abingdon P. 1987.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Altar/Eucharistic Candles

The following is the third installment of my bulletin insert series:

Altar/Eucharistic Candles - We are blessed to have our acolytes, Sydney Bensing, Chase & Drew Braden, and Matthew Stepp (well trained by Lois Ketterer!) adding to our worship of God each Sunday. But, what is behind their lighting of the candles? Is there any meaning to their actions?

Originally, candles were used in order to provide light in a world without electrical lighting. However, the two altar candles have remained to this day with a rich symbolism.

First, within the place of Christian worship, all candles primarily symbolize Christ who is the Light of the World. Thus, anytime candles are lit in the sanctuary, we are reminded that Christ is present with us.

The two altar candles symbolize Christ in a special way. They symbolize the fact that Christ is fully God and fully man. As Article II of the Articles of Religion states: “. . . two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided.” Thus, we have two altar candles.

Not only is it significant that the altar candles are lit at the beginning of worship, symbolizing Christ’s presence with us, but also the way in which they are extinguished at the end of the service is quite significant. Our acolytes always re-light the lighter before extinguishing the candles. They then recess out with the flame. This reminds of two things. First, Christ goes with us, when we leave this building. Second, we are called to carry the Light of Christ into the World . Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), but in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world!” - May Christ shine through us in our world!

—————

Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle McGee. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room.  1962.

Stafford, Thomas A.  Within the Chancel. New York. Nashville. Abingdon P. MCMLV.

Wilson, Bishop Frank E. An Outline of Christian Symbolism. New York. Morehouse-Gorham Co. 1938.

Tolkien & the Holy Sacrament

Are you a Tolkien fan?  Are you passionate about the Sacraments?  -  Then you might enjoy reading J.R.R. Tolkien's comments on the Sacrament found at Rev'd. Daniel McLain Hixon's blog, Gloria Deo .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Clergy Shirt/ Clerical Collar

The following is the second installment of my bulletin insert series:


Clergy Shirt/Clerical Collar - Interestingly, a number of people identify the clergy shirt or clerical collar as being Roman Catholic. In fact, it is worn by a number of pastors in a number of denominations: Episcopal/Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, and United Methodist, just to name a few. The association with Roman Catholics may be due to the requirement of priests and to the sheer number of Roman Catholics.

Actually, the clerical collar, as we know it, was of Protestant origin. It was invented by the Rev’d. Dr. Donald McLeod of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics did not adopt them until later, in the 19th Century.

Clergy shirts come in two basic forms. The full neck-band shirt and the collar tab (the little rectangular, white tab in the very front of the neck). The traditional color for the clergy shirt is black, though other colors are worn. The purple or reddish-purple shirts are usually reserved for bishops.

I tend to wear a clergy shirt when acting in an “official” pastoral role. I do so for a few reasons. First, whenever anyone sees a pastor in a clerical shirt, their thoughts immediately are turned to Christ and/or the Church. It becomes an instant witness in our world of Christ and our call to follow Him. Second, it provides an opportunity for ministry which otherwise would likely not happen. People have/do stop me, when I am dressed as a pastor, in order to talk with me, or to have me pray with them, or to seek spiritual guidance. Third, it identifies my role as a spiritual one, rather than that of a business CEO. And, of course, it is quite Wesleyan! I have yet to see a picture of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, without the 18th Century version of a clerical collar!

—————-

Information gathered from the following resources:

Collins, Ken.  http://www,kencollins.com/

McCarter, Julius. "Collared: Why I Wear What I Wear," Sacramental Life. Vol. XIX, Number 3, Summer 2007. OSL

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Alb

This Sunday I will begin a series of short bulletin inserts on the various sights and sounds, etc. that we encounter in the sanctuary (at Centenary UMC).  I thought that I would post that series on my blog (with some slight modifications, given the difference in setting).  -  Please understand, this series involves short (bulletin insert size) articles intended primarily for the congregation at Centenary.  They are not nearly as detailed or technical as they might otherwise be.

The following (with those aforementioned modifications) is my first installment:


After talking a bit, I thought that writing a series of short articles as bulletin inserts on the various sights and sounds, etc. that we encounter in the sanctuary might prove to be interesting and perhaps even deepen our experience of worship.

I have heard that some are puzzled by my “robe,” so I thought I would begin the series with that. It is called an:  Alb - An alb is a full-length white tunic, often gathered at the waist by a rope cincture. Some albs include a hood.

In the first century, the tunic was the first article of clothing to be put on in the morning. During the first four centuries of the Church, people were baptized in the nude. (While I’m usually all in favor of being in continuity with the ancient Church . . . I do think we should “pass” on a revival of that particular practice!) Anyway, when they emerged from the water, they were immediately clothed with a white tunic or alb. Therefore, the alb is a reminder of our baptism, a symbol of purity and a symbol of the resurrection.

Anyone leading in worship, clergy or lay, may wear an alb. In fact, I’m not the only one who wears an alb at Centenary. The white “robes” that our younger acolytes wear are actually called “cottas” (KAHT.teh) and are a version of the alb. (I’ll write another article about that and another version called a surplice (SUR.plis) in the future.)

The alb is considered a very ecumenical vestment. It conforms to the practice of the ancient Church. It was the attire of Jesus. And it is the particular attire officially recommended for pastors by the United Methodist Church. (Plus, my alb was far less expensive than most preaching/academic gowns/robes!)

—————-

Information was gathered from the following resources:

Lang, Jovian P. Dictionary of the Liturgy. Catholic Book Publishing Co. New York. 1989.

Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cowley Publications. Cambridge/Boston MA. 2000.

Collins, Ken.  http://www.kencollins.com/

Stephen Hawking and the Existence of God

I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.  I am a pastor; theologian in residence (if you will) at Centenary United Methodist Church.  Not being a scientist keeps me out of trouble, sometimes.  At other times, the fact that I won't pretend to be a scientist may get me into some trouble.

Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, is a scientist and has played one on TV, as well.  I have to admit, I thought it was quite cool when Stephen Hawking played himself in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Descent, Part I.  In that episode, Commander Data played a game of poker (thanks to the holodeck) with Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking.  While the other two were (of course!) played by actors, Stephen Hawking was really Stephen Hawking.

You know, while I do think it is cool that Hawking takes time to step out of the scientist role in order to "play a scientist on TV," he would likely do well to refrain from attempting to play a serious theologian.  Certainly, everyone is welcome to their own theological beliefs and opinions.  They are welcome to promote them as they wish.  However, in attempting to "do theology" in a way that is supposed to be received on the same level as his scientific writings, Hawking finds himself well over his head.  -  He does not seem to realize this, but ask a theologian, or even one who, like myself, is a reader of theologians, and it becomes clear.

This isn't an attempt to slam Hawking.  I like him, especially since he was on Star Trek!  Rather, this post was prompted by an article I read from Mail Online by Professor John Lennex.  I really only wanted to point readers of my blog to his article.  I find it refreshing in that it exposes the false dichotomy that many atheistic scientist, on the one hand, and many fundamentalist Christians, on the other hand, like to promote.  I find that promotion of war between science and religion to be completely out of place for Christians.

As I said, I like Hawking . . . and I like Star Trek!  I would like to see the two together again.  But for now, I would commend to you Professor Lennex's article, "As a scientist I'm certain Stephen Hawking is wrong.  You can't explain the universe without God."  You can find the article by clicking here.

Another interesting article found at the same source provides ++Rowen Williams' (Archbishop of Canterbury) dismissive response, as well as comments from other religious leaders.  It can be found, here.

Live long and prosper!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Congratulations to the Rev'd. Dr. Garry D. Pate!

Yesterday, following a wonderful service of worship at our own church, Centenary UMC, we had the great pleasure of joining with those at my home church, Christ's Community Church of the Nazarene, in celebrating the 30 years of pastoral ministry of the Rev'd. Dr. Garry D. Pate and his wife, Carolyn.  Dr. Pate was, at our recent District Assembly, elected District Superintendent of the Southwest Indiana District of the Church of the Nazarene.  August 22 was his last Sunday as pastor at Christ's Community, before beginning his new role in ministry.  -  After 30 years at Christ's Community, this will be a huge change for Dr. Pate and for the church, but we are trusting God for both, as they journey on with the Lord.

Two Sunday's ago, Pastor Pate showed up at Centenary to visit and support me in my new assignment!  It was a very happy surprise.  Prior to his election, he had told me that he might stop in to see me sometime during the month of August, but I did not know that he would be able to take a vacation Sunday like that, after his new election.

Suffice it to say, I was very glad to be in the area and able to join in his celebration at Christ's Community!  (By the way, for those who are still confused by my current status, please see, below.)

Part of the celebration/farewell, included presenting to the Pate's a large scrapbook (assembled by Anita Tate), wherein individuals had placed pictures, cards, letters, memories, etc.  -  I am thankful to Anita for including me as she invited people to participate in this project, and I wanted to go one step further by posting on my blog the entry I made in the scrapbook.  -  It is as follows:

Everywhere I go, when speaking of Garry Pate, I refer to him as “my pastor.” - I remember, as a young teenager, the first thing that impressed me about Pastor Pate was his professional appearance. Pastor Pate’s appearance and manner engendered respect, not only for him, but also for the ministry. - That stuck with me as I sought to follow my own call to ministry.


Of course, there is so much more to Pastor Pate than professionalism. He is a genuine caring and supportive pastor. That genuine support has followed me from my days as a teenager to this day. I owe Pastor Pate so much. He has been there for me during critical times and times of major transition. I still have, both the coffee mug (which only holds tea!) with my name on it that he gave to me at my high school graduation back in 1987, and the pen with my name on it he gave to me when I graduated from Trevecca. Again, when I was ordained an elder, he was there with a card of congratulations. And when I was working on my doctoral dissertation, Pastor Pate consented to be my Field Mentor.

Pastor Pate allowed me to not only preach at “Eastside,” but also to serve two summers during college as Youth Pastor (the first, assisting Brent Poe; the second, on my own).

Upon my graduation from seminary, when I had sent my resume to our new District Superintendent, Pastor Pate asked if I had heard anything. I said, “No, but I have been told I probably won’t unless I call him.” He responded, “That’s probably true . . . Would you like for me to call him?” - The next day I received a call from the district office to interview at my first church!

After arriving back on the district, Dr. Pate appointed me on the District Sunday School Ministries Board, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he was influential in some of my other district appointments.

Over the years Pastor Pate has always been a person I could go to to discuss various issues and decisions. He has been my pastor, mentor, and friend, and I am so happy for him in his election to the district superintendency for the Southwest Indiana District. If he had to leave Christ’s Community, there could not have been a better way to do so.

May God’s richest blessings be with him and Carolyn as they journey into this new phase of ministry!

______________________________________

For those still trying to figure out my current status:  My membership and orders remain in the Church of the Nazarene.  Thus, Dr. Pate is my D.S.  My status with the Church of the Nazarene is "Special Assignment/Interdenominational."

At the same time, I am very pleased to be the new pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in New Albany, IN.  Thus. Rev'd. Charlie Wilfong is my D.S.  My status with the United Methodist Church is "Other Fellowship/Denomination."

I am quite comfortable being identified simply as "Methodist," in as much as I am ordained in the Church of the Nazarene (a Wesleyan-holiness expression of Methodism, and a member denomination of the World Methodist Council), and I am a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  On the other hand, I'm also comfortable being identified as "Wesleyan/Anglican" (which really amounts to the same thing!)!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Charles Wesley & The Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition at Duke Divinity School

The following, exciting information comes from an email to a Wesleyan theological discussion group from Randy Maddox.  Typically, those emails are kept confidential, but, in this case, I think the information is intended to be shared:

The Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition at Duke Divinity School is pleased to announce the launch of a major page on our website.

The link to this page, which is devoted to transcripts of all surviving verse that Charles Wesley left in manuscript at his death can be found on this main page:

http://divinity.duke.edu/initiatives-centers/cswt/wesley-texts

When conjoined with the page launched earlier, giving verse that Charles Wesley published during his lifetime, this constitutes the first unified setting in which scholars and others have access to ALL of Charles Wesley’s surviving verse. The website will remain free access, so you are encouraged to use it in classes, etc. You are welcome to download the pdf files to your own computer (if you download the full set you can put them in one folder for search purposes). We simply ask that you observe the citation guidelines.

If you have downloaded transcripts of the published verse offered earlier, you might want to download updated files, as we have made a few corrections and added footnotes to identify which hymns have surviving manuscript drafts available.

If you have made an earlier link to a site, note the slightly changed address above, resulting from a redesign of the entire Divinity School website.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sermons Online

Just a quick post to let you know:  If you are interested in listening to one of my sermons, they are now online at our church's website.  The Centenary United Methodist Church website is located here.  And the sermons are found here.

I'm not guaranteeing they are any good, mind you, but they are available for listening.  And, of course, any good there is from God; the rest is from me.

In the future, I will be listing Centenary's website on my sidebar and updating the sidebar information a bit.

Keep coming back.  By September, I hope to be making regular posts.

Friday, August 6, 2010

First Sunday

We are still in the process of moving!  We are trying to wait patiently to close on our house.  I confess, it is taking longer than I had hoped.  Nevertheless, God has provided for us a place to live for the time being (thanks mom!), and God has provided a place for our "stuff" while we are waiting to move (thanks to our Grace Church family!).

I am also trying to become acclimated to our new church.  So, as you can see, I am not quite in a position to begin making regular posts to my blog.  -  I am thankful to all who have continued to follow the blog and to check in from time to time.

One of the members of our new church gave me these pictures taken last Sunday; our first Sunday at Centenary.  I thought that I would at least take time to share these.  -  And offer this invitation:  Anyone in the New Albany, Indiana area is always welcome to worship with us at Centenary United Methodist Church, 309 E. Spring Street!  Sunday School is at 9:00 AM, and Worship is at 10:00 AM.

I am looking forward to finally getting settled!  Then, I plan to make much more regular posts.  -  I have a number of things in mind!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Moving

Just wanted to give a quick word to the followers of this blog:  I really have had a number of topics I've wanted to touch on, recently.  However, we are currently in the process of packing and trying to get moved.  Since the home that we are moving to is not quite complete, and we have not yet closed, I'm not sure when we will be finished with this moving process.  I can say, my first Sunday at my new assignment will be August 1.

Please, keep checking back.  I hope to be posting on a more regular/consistent basis, once we get settled.

Thank you!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Primitive Christianity

In his letter "To Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury, and our Brethren in North-America," which accompanied his The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, John Wesley wrote, "They [American Methodists] are now at full liberty, simply to follow the Scriptures and the primitive church."  Wesley understood Methodism to be "the religion of the primitive church" (Works 3:586).  Elsewhere, Wesley spoke of the primitive church and expressed his desire that we always be imitators of theirs.

For Wesley, as I discuss in my dissertation and in my article in the upcoming Wesleyan Theological Journal, the primitive Church refers primarily to the Church of the New Testament through the first three Christian centuries.  From this, however, the term can be expanded, at times, in some circumstances, to include the fourth and even fifth Christian centuries (e.g., the Nicene formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity) (Campbell, John Wesley and Christian Antiquity, 25).

In fact, Wesley comments:  "The esteeming the writings of the first three centuries, not equally with, but next to, the Scriptures, never carried any man yet into dangerous errors, nor probably ever will.  But it has brought many out of dangerous errors . . ." (Works 3rd ed. 10:14).

During today's Morning Prayer, I sang Charles Wesley's hymn on Primitive Christianity.  The hymn, as presented in Wesley's Works is divided into two parts.  A number of the verses struck a chord with me, and I would like to share some of them.

Part I

1. Happy the souls that first believed,
To Jesus and each other cleaved,
Joined by the unction from above
In mystic fellowship of love.

2. Meek, simple followers of the Lamb,
They lived, and spake, and thought the same,
They joyfully conspired to raise
Their ceaseless sacrifice of praise.

3. With grace abundantly endued,
A pure, believing multitude,
They all were of one heart and soul,
And only love inspired the whole.

4. O what an age of golden days!
O what a choice, peculiar race!
Washed in the Lamb's all-cleansing blood,
Anointed kings and priests to God!

The rest of the hymn goes on to look for those same true followers of Christ in Wesley's own day, and he declares their true, genuine mark to be love.  The second part of the hymn, especially, pleads that God would pour out God's own love and holiness and so fill the Church of his day so that "In them . . . all mankind [might] behold How Christians lived in days of old."

I join with the Wesleys as they sing about the primitive Church, "O might my lot be cast with these."

10. Lord, if I now thy drawings feel,
And ask according to thy will,
Confirm the prayer, the seal impart,
And speak the answer to my heart.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

John Wesley's Conversation With "The Headman of the Choctaw Indians"

Today, I was reading John Wesley's Journal entry for Thursday, July 1, 1736.  At that time, Wesley was in Georgia.  I found his entry interesting on a few a number of ways: Historically; Wesley's approach to Native Americans; the Native American's spirituality; Wesley's approach to the Scriptures; Signs of Prevenient Grace; and (interestingly enough) the issue of abortion, from a Native American perspective, no less.

Here is, in part, Wesley's entry:

Thursday, July 1.  The Indians had an audience, and another on Saturday, when Chigilly, their headman, dined with Mr. Oglethorpe.  After dinner I asked the grey-headed old man what he thought he was made for.  He said, 'He that is above knows what he made us for.  We know nothing.  We are in the dark.  But white men know much.  And yet white men build great houses, as if they were to live for ever.  But white men can't live for ever. In a little time white men will be dust as well as I.'  I told him, 'If red men will learn the Good Book, they may know as much as white men.  But neither we nor you can understand that book unless we are taught, by him that is above; and he will not teach unless you avoid what you already know is not good.'  He answered, 'I believer that; he will not teach us while our hearts are not white.  And our men do what they know is not good.  They kill their own children.  And our women do what they know is not good.  They kill the child before it is born.  Therefore he that is above does not send us the Good Book.'

Thursday, June 24, 2010

+N.T. Wright and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

James Gibson posted the video, below, on his blog, Sanctus.  He picked it up from Chip Altman's blog.  I thought it would be interesting for the readers of this blog.

The video presents Bishop N.T. Wright speaking about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Second Trailer For The New Wesley Movie

Here is a copy of the second trailer for the new Wesley movie.  It has been posted on Wesleyan Arminian since the end of May.  Of course the movie website can be found here.

I think it looks pretty good, but you can judge it for yourself.

I have been disappointed that it seems that it will not be playing anywhere near where I live.  Per the website, I did try to contact them about playing it in my area, but I did not receive a response.  It would be cool to see it on the big screen, but if that isn't going to happen anytime soon, I hope they get it to DVD soon.

If you've not yet seen it, take a look and tell me what you think.  -  Or better yet, if you've seen the movie, what did you think about it?



On a different note, I ran across a recent (2008) DVD on Wesley that I purchased and played at church for Aldersgate.  Previously, I have shown J. Arthur Rank's classic, 1954, John Wesley.  It is, obviously, quite dated, but I think it is good for any good Wesleyan/Methodist to have. 


However, I recently ran across Encounters with John Wesley.  It was "filmed on location at the New Room, Bristol, the oldest Methodist chapel in the world and at Charles Wesley's House, also in Bristol."  It stars Mark Topping as John Wesley.  The DVD is 89 minutes long, but that is broken up between the "Encounters With John Wesley" docudrama, and four Wesley sermons.  Also included is an interview with Mark Topping and a quick look at The New Room.


It should be noted that the sermons are abbreviated adaptations of the actual text, and one of them is a Charles Wesley sermon.

During our Aldersgate service, we sang and prayed, as usual, then we used the sermon time (actually, I think I allotted 35 minutes) to play the "Encounters" portion of the DVD, plus one sermon.  -  I thought it worked out nicely.

I doubt that it will be in the same category as the new movie (which the trailer, above highlights), but I would recommend the DVD for all Wesleyan/Methodist pastors.  It can be purchased through a number of venues, including Gateway Films Vision Video.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader"

The trailer for "Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader'" has just been released.  The movie is scheduled to be released in December.

Here's hoping that the movie is as good as the first one and much better than the second one! (Not that the second movie was bad, as a movie; it just betrayed the story and spirit of the book in significant ways.)

At any rate, after wondering for a long time how to include a video on my blog (!), I am excited to be able to provide for you the new trailer for The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader'!


Chronicles Of Narnia 3

More information about the upcoming movie can be found here

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A New Post? It's a Miracle!

Yes, it's been forever since I have posted.  -  I was involved in a CPE (Hospital Chaplaincy program) that really took more time and energy than I expected.  Actually, I'm involved in year-end reports, right now.  However, I sang the following hymn during Morning Prayer, today, and I wanted to share:

Forth in Thy Name

Forth in Thy name, O Lord, i go,
My daily labor to pursue,
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.

The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.

Give me to bear Thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray;
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to Thy glorious day;

For Thee delightfully employ
Whate'er Thy bounteous grace hath giv'n;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to heaven.

-  Charles Wesley

Friday, April 2, 2010

One Last Good Friday Hymn

O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done?

O love divine, what hast Thou done?
Th'immortal God hath died for me!
The Father's co-eternal Son
Bore all my sins upon the tree;
Th'immortal God for me hath died
My Lord, my Love is crucified

Behold Him, all ye that pass by,
The bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Maker died
And say, was ever grief like His?
come, feel with me His blood applied;
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

Is crucified for me and you,
To bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true;
Ye all are bought with Jesus' blood.
Pardon for all flows from His side;
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

The let us sit beneath His Cross
And gladly catch the healing stream.
All things for Him account but loss
And give up all our hearts to Him.
Of nothing think or speak beside:
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

(Charles Wesley)

Another Good Friday Hymn

'Tis Finished! The Messiah Dies

'Tis finished! The Messiah dies,
Cut off for sins, but not His own.
Accomplished is the sacrifice;
The great redeeming work is done.

The veil is rent in Christ alone;
The living way to Heav'n is seen;
The middle wall is broken down,
And all mankind may enter in.

The reign of sin and death is o'er,
And all may live from sin set free.
Satan hath lost his mortal power;
'Tis swallowed up in victory.

(Charles Wesley)

A Good Friday Hymn

Would Jesus Have the Sinner Die?

Would Jesus have the sinner die?
Why hangs He then on yonder tree?
What means that strange, expiring cry?
Sinners, He prays for you and me:
"Forgive them, Father, O forgive!
They know not that by Me they live!"

Adam descended from above
Our loss of Eden to retrieve,
Great God of universal love,
If all the world through Thee may live,
In us a quick'ning Spirit be,
And witness Thou hast died for me.

Thou loving, all-atoning Lamb,
Thee - by Thy painful agony,
Thy sweat of blood, Thy grief and shame,
Thy Cross and passion on the tree,
Thy precious death and life - I pray:
Take all, take all my sins away.

O let me kiss Thy bleeding feet,
And bathe and wash them with my tears!
The story of Thy love repeat
In ev'ry drooping sinner's ears,
That all may hear the quick'ning sound,
Since I, e'en I, have mercy found.

O let Thy love my heart constrain!
Thy love for ev'ry sinner free,
That ev'ry fallen soul of man
May taste the grace that found out me;
That all mankind with me may prove
Thy sov'reign, everlasting love.


(Charles Wesley)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Wonderful Morning Hymn

I have switched my source for Wesley hymns for the Daily Office. I am currently using a little booklet (almost pamphlet) entitled, Hymn Poems of Charles Wesley For Reading and Singing, issued by Tidings, Headquarters for Evangelistic Materials, Nashville 5, Tenn. (I'm guessing they no longer exist, but I could very well be wrong.) This little booklet can fit in one's shirt pocket while only "peeking out" about 1 1/2 inches.

Some of the hymns are abbreviated in terms of the number of verses, and a few appear to have been edited ever-so-slightly, or have simply appeared with slight wording variations. For an obvious example, And Can It Be? retains only three verses, and the last line of the first verse says, "That thou, my Lord (rather than God) shouldst die for me? - Despite these infrequent irritations, I have otherwise found this to be a wonderful little booklet.

This morning I sang an absolutely wonderful morning hymn. It is as follows:

Forth in Thy Name

Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labor to pursue,
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.

The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.

Give me to bear Thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray;
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to Thy glorious day;

For Thee delightfully employ
Whate'er Thy bounteous grace hath giv'n;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to heaven.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Charles Wesley and the Wesleyan Approach to Scripture

During Morning Prayer, I sang Charles Wesley's, Come, Holy Ghost, our Hearts Inspire (as printed in Hymn Poems of Charles Wesley for Reading and Singing, issued by Tidings). The second verse of this hymn provides a good example of how Wesleyan Christians approach the Scriptures.

Wesleyan Christians are not fundamentalists. We are not overly concerned about the "inerrancy of the original manuscripts." Rather, we are concerned about the sufficiency and/or the authority of Scripture. We believe that the written Word (the Bible) points us to the living Word (Jesus). We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Scripture, but also that the Holy Spirit inspires the Word afresh and anew to our hearts in order to shape our lives.

Charles Wesley writes:


Come, Holy Ghost, for moved by Thee
The prophets wrote and spoke;
Unlock the truth, Thyself the key,
Unseal the sacred book.



Friday, March 5, 2010

Slowly But Surely; "Official" Sacramental Progress For The Church Of The Nazarene

This week I received my copy of the new 2009-2013 Manual (the Nazarene Book of Discipline). The new Manual, with all that was enacted by last summer's General Assembly, became official for the denomination as of the first of this month.

I realize that I covered many of the resolutions during the time leading up to and shortly following the General Assembly. In fact, I wrote several resolutions. (They can be viewed, here.) However, with the new Manual now in the hands of pastors and laity, I wanted to highlight two changes about which I am quite excited.

The first highlight comes under "The core duties of a pastor," at 413.9. It now states:

"To administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper at least once a quarter. Pastors are encouraged to move toward a more frequent celebration of this means of grace. . . ." (Emphasis mine, indicating the new material.)

Now, for those who read my blog building up to the Assembly, you have seen this language before. It comes from, and is a result of, my resolution. You may also recall that much of the material in the resolution was amended out. (The full resolution may be viewed, here.)

I confess that I am disappointed that the full resolution was not adopted. However, I am quite happy that the new sentence has been added, and I would highlight two important aspects of the new sentence:

First, the General Assembly and the Manual now officially encourage pastors to a more frequent celebration of the sacrament. Most of the readers of this blog know that the Church of the Nazarene inherited the frontier practices of early Methodism. John Wesley ordained for American in order to provide the sacraments for American Methodists. He instructed elders to celebrate the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. However, the number of clergy and the distance between churches on each circuit necessitated each congregation receiving the sacrament on a quarterly basis. That unfortunate accident of history became the norm for most in the Methodist tradition, including the Church of the Nazarene. However, now, the Manual has encouraged pastors to move toward a more frequent celebration! - It is no place near a call to a celebration every Lord's Day, but it is a sure step forward. As such, it is reason to celebrate!

(As an interesting aside, through 1923, the Manual included the following concluding sentence in the Article on the Lord's Supper: "Of the obligation to partake of the privileges of this Sacrament as often as we may be providentially permitted, there can be no doubt." I don't have a full collection of Manuals, so I don't know exactly when or why the sentence was dropped, but it does not appear in the 1936 Manual.)

The second aspect that I would like to highlight is the use of the term means of grace in reference to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Now, that might seem obvious (and really it is!), however, it is interesting to note that that language has, thus far, (at least as far as I can recall) only been used in one other place in the Manual. That is found in our "The Covenant of Christian Character" (formerly known as "The General Rules"). At that point, reference was made to ". . . the means of grace, including the public worship of God . . . the ministry of the Word . . . the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-30) . . ." Now, it is significant that the General Rules listed the sacrament of the Lord's Supper as a means of grace, in as much as the General Rules are not just a part of the Manual, but also a part of the Constitution, itself.

Above, I said that this identification should be obvious. We have, after all, consistently referred to Baptism and the Lord's Supper as, not just ordinances, but as sacraments. The term sacrament, in a Wesley context (and the Church of the Nazarene is a Wesleyan context) means something! Further, we have been identified as a "means of grace" tradition in various places, including the book, Articles of Faith, which Nazarene Publishing House put out to explain the Articles. The various systematic theologies produced in the denomination, including the officially sanctioned Grace, Faith and Holiness by H. Ray Dunning, also identify the sacraments as means of grace. And, of course, Rob Staples' Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments In Wesleyan Spirituality thoroughly identifies the Wesleyan understanding of the sacraments.

Nevertheless, it can be easily demonstrated that our Articles of Faith on the sacraments are the weakest (sacramentally speaking) of the three largest Wesleyan(Methodist) - holiness denominations (viz., the Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, and the Free Methodist Church; though the Church of God, Anderson is a larger holiness church, their theology of the sacraments is foreign to the Methodist understanding). Though the Lord's Supper is identified as a sacrament in the Article, if taken out of it's Wesleyan context, one might argue that it is memorialist. Of course, even so, as my Sacramental Theology professor once said of the Article, "Certainly I believe it. I believe at least that much!" (paraphrased from memory).

So, it becomes a reason to celebrate any time the Manual makes explicit that the sacraments are "means of grace."

That leads to the second highlight I wanted to cover. The new (extensively re-worked) Article on "Christian Holiness and Entire Sanctification" includes these added words at its conclusion, "Participating in the means of grace, especially the fellowship, disciplines, and sacraments of the Church, believers grow in grace and in wholehearted love to God and neighbor" (emphasis mine).

This is the first time an Article of Faith has identified the sacraments as "means of grace," and as a means of growing in grace and holiness. Again, as I have stated, this language would not be surprising to any informed Nazarene. There would be no reason, whatsoever, to even bat an eye at it. It goes without saying, that is what we believe. The problem is, it has gone without saying within the Articles of Faith, all of this time. Finally, in the Article on Sanctification (if not in the Articles on the sacraments!), we do say it!

This may be grounds for working on a resolution for next quadrennium to include more explicit language within the two Articles on the sacraments. However, one always has to be cautious about such things, because one never knows what kind of amendments to the resolutions might be offered and passed. We could end up far worse off!

There were, of course, disappointing things at the General Assembly, but in light of these positive moves, I am rejoicing for our slowly but surely "official" sacramental progress! - Thanks be to God!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coming Soon . . . I Promise (But Please Don't Hold Me To It!)

Well, recently I started two articles and had planned a third. However, time has gotten away from me, and I finished none of them! One of the two was celebrating the recent Feast Day for John Wesley (OSL) and the Feast Day for John and Charles Wesley (TEC). (The article was supposed to not only honor the Wesley brothers, but also explain the reason for the two days.) - I really hate that I didn't get that one out on time!

I had also planned to write an article in honor of my college Systematic Theology professor, H. Ray Dunning. Trevecca Nazarene University (my college) recently celebrated a day honoring Dr. Dunning, and I had the great joy of being able to attend. - I still hope to get this article written, even if it is a bit late.

The other article is a response to an article written by a classical Anglican on the subject of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. My response addresses the fact that he really does not understand the Methodist view of the Eucharist. - That one, too, I hope to complete. (Since his article was written some time back, I don't feel pressed to respond right away, but I had hoped to have finished it shortly after discovering his article.)

So, I apologize to my readers for getting so far behind!

However, know that I do have a couple of articles in the works. Additionally, since I have, this week, received my new Manual (The Nazarene version of the Book of Discipline), I WILL post an article, tomorrow, entitled: Slowly But Surely; "Official" Sacramental Progress For the Church of the Nazarene. - I WILL . .. I hope!