Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Feast of Christ the King

This Sunday we will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday (or "The Reign of Christ the King")! - It is the last Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Christian year. It is also the Sunday just prior to our entering into the holy season of Advent.
The observance of Christ the King Sunday is really a relatively new celebration. It was originally instituted by Pius XI, Bishop of Rome, for celebration on the last Sunday of October. However, after Vatican II, it was moved to its current location on the Christian calendar. 
Incidentally, no less than +N.T. Wright, has argued that Ascension Sunday is the proper celebration of Christ the King, rather than the creation of this relatively new celebration.  -  Nevertheless, I think that this setting, in addition to Ascension Sunday, has much to offer the Church.  An example of which can be seen in the lectionary readings; especially the Gospel reading.  -  Now, most of the readers of this blog will be familiar with the lectionary, but, if you are in a setting that is not using the lectionary, I would encourage you to take a look at Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 1:68-79 (serving as the Psalm response); Colossians 1:11-20; and Luke 23:33-43.  -  We will be focusing on the Gospel reading, but we will get there by first taking a look at the passage from Paul's letter to the Colossians.   

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

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

Nevertheless, here follows the hymn!

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Episcopal Call for Philippines Assistance Through the Church of the Nazarene

Below is a video featuring the Rev'd. Dr. J. K. Warrick, General Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, asking for help for the Philippines following the devastating storm.  For more information about the devastation, what the Church of the Nazarene is doing, and how you can offer assistance, go to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.  -  Please give and continue to pray for those in the Philippines.

Council of Bishops Respond to Rogue Bishop's Actions

Today, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have issued a statement concerning the actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert who, on October 26, in Cedar Point, Alabama, conducted a ceremony of celebration of "marriage" between two men.  Prior to taking this action, Bishop Talbert was urged by the jurisdictional bishop of the North Alabama Conference, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, along with the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops, not to take this action.

Bishop Talbert chose not to comply, and, instead, chose to break covenant with the United Methodist Church by ignoring the clear stance of the Book of Discipline, which he was sworn to uphold.

Having prayerfully considered this issue, the Council of Bishops issued a statement which included a request that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett file a complaint.  Such complaint, one would expect, would bring Bishop Talbert to a church trial.

Frankly, though I think the Council of Bishops have taken the correct action, consistent with the Book of Discipline, I am disappointed in the overall statement from the Council of Bishops.  Rather than using this opportunity to talk about the position of the United Methodist Church concerning sexual matters, and the reasons for those positions, including the consistent gospel tension expressed in the position, the bishops chose, instead, to speak about the diversity and lack of consensus within the denomination.

Bishop Michael Coyner (my bishop, as I serve within the United Methodist Church) said, “I was pleased that our Council of Bishops took a careful and prayerful look at the events surrounding the action of Bishop Talbert to celebrate a same-gender marriage in the state of Alabama against the request of the resident Bishop and the Executive Committee of the Council that he not do so. After deep discussion, hearing from all sides, and engaging in Christian conferencing with one another, the Council took the only action which was legally possible for us. Now it is in the hands of the processes outlined by our Book of Discipline, and that is the appropriate and official locus of the next steps.”

Again, I am a bit disappointed with Bishop Coyner's statement that, "the Council took the only action which was legally possible for us."  -  It sounds very much like, "We didn't want to do this, but our hands were tied, so we had to, legally."  This, again, rather than taking the opportunity to talk about the consistent position of the denomination and how Bishop Talbert's actions have led to this unfortunate situation.

The full statement from the Council of Bishops can be read, here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

+Justin Cantuar on Baptism

Here is a video of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, talking about baptism.  The occasion for the video is the christening of Prince George, but the video is being used to promote baptism, in general, and the family of the Church.

I originally discovered the video on the blog site of Lee Adams, who is a part of the Wesleyan/Anglican Facebook group.  (The Wesleyan/Anglican Facebook group has become the primary "face" of the Wesleyan-Anglican Society.)  Of course, the video, along with others, can also be viewed at the website for the Archbishop of Canterbury.  -  But, for your convenience, you can simply view it, below!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Few Quotes from Tom Noble

I just finished reading Holy Trinity: Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting by T. A. Noble, Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon.  -  Thomas Noble is Professor of Theology at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO (where I did my M.Div., though he was not teaching there when I attended).  He is also Senior Research Fellow in Theology at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester, UK, and recently served as the president of the Wesleyan Theological Society.

The book is a part of the Didsbury Lecture Series.  These lectures are given annually at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester.  Dr. Noble notes, at the beginning, that "since the Church of the Nazarene stands in the Wesleyan tradition, and is . . . a member of the World Methodist Council, we decided to call the series the 'Didsbury Lectures' to commemorate the former Methodist Didsbury College.  -  Five of the first ten Didsbury lecturers were Methodists" (xi).  (Incidentally, as I look back through the list of lecturers, I note that two of my former seminary professors were included in the list, as were some other well known names like I. Howard Marshall, C.K. Barrett, J.D.G. Dunn, and then there was the Rt. Rev'd N.T. Wright in 2005.)

In the book, Noble grounds the doctrine of Christian Perfection in the Holy Trinity, and he clearly shows how Wesley inherited the doctrine from the Church Fathers.

But, for the purpose of the is post, I simply wanted to highlight a few quotes found in the last few pages of the book; quotes that focus us on worship, liturgy and the sacraments.

In talking about the essential nature of corporate holiness Noble says:
     Even Wesley's preaching on Christian holiness concentrates on the individual, but it was the warm fellowship of what were significantly called Methodist "Societies" that were the matrix of holy love which produced genuine Methodist saints.  And his revival of the ancient "love feast" (the agape), along with his strong emphasis on the importance of the Lord's Supper, which is after all not just a "Eucharist" (Thanksgiving), but "Holy Communion" (hagia koinonia), was at the heart of his creative organization of the Methodist Societies.  Too many of Wesley's heirs have lost that focus, being influenced by a "low church" suspicion of liturgy, but a recovery of the church as the matrix for Christian holiness will necessarily include a rediscovery of the centrality of the sacraments (221).

(To which I give a hearty, "Amen!")

Speaking of the mission of God and the Church, Noble says:

     The missio Dei is not the End.  Or to put that another way, the End will end the mission.  Continuing the missio Dei is not the ultimate purpose of God and so mission is not the ultimate purpose of the church.  At the End, the eschaton, the end of "the present evil age" (Galatians 1:4), the mission Dei will end.  It will be completed.  That is vitally important because it means that while mission is an integral and essential part of the nature of the church in this age, it is not what ultimately makes the church to be the church.  The church will still be the church, the body of Christ, in the age to come.  The salvation of the world through the missio Dei is therefore the penultimate purpose of the church, but the ultimate purpose of the church is the glory of God (222).

He goes on to say, "That implies then that the ultimate purpose of the church - the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church - is the worship of the Triune God.  That will be the life of the church in the age to come, and that is the heart of the raison d'eter of the church today" (222).

A little later, Noble, thinking of Marva Dawns work in A Royal "Waste" of Time, says that worship "is done not to gain anything, or achieve anything, or win anything, or produce anything.  It is simply the sheer joy of participating in the loving relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, knowing that in doing so, we are united with all the human persons redeemed to be part of that eternal joyous fellowship" (223).

It is exciting to see how Noble demonstrates the essential nature of our sacramental worship for the doctrine of Christian Perfection.  This is yet another positive sign of liturgical/sacramental awakening and renewal for those who stand in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition!

Noble concludes his book by quoting Charles Wesley's hymn of "ecstatic Trinitarian worship":

Father of everlasting grace,
Thy goodness and Thy truth we praise;
Thy goodness and Thy truth we prove;
Thou has, in honour of Thy Son,
The gift unspeakable sent down,
The Spirit of life, and power, and love.
Send us the Spirit of Thy Son,
To make the depths of Godhead known,
To make us share the life divine;
Send Him the sprinkled blood to apply,
Send him our souls to sanctify,
And show and seal us ever Thine.
So shall we pray, and never cease,
So shall we thankfully confess,
Thy wisdom, truth, and power, and love;
With joy unspeakable adore,
And bless and praise Thee evermore,
And serve Thee with Thy hosts above.
Till, added to that heavenly choir,
We raise our songs of triumph higher,
And praise Thee in a bolder strain,
Out-soar the first-born seraph's flight,
And sing, with all our friends in light,
Thy everlasting love to man.

Friday, November 8, 2013

For Those Walking the Ancient Path: Devotional Sharing

This morning, as I prayed Morning Prayer, I read two passages of Scripture that struck me.  They struck me enough that I quoted both on my Facebook profile. 

The first was the Psalm I read today: Psalm 139, and in particular verses 23-24.  In the New Revised Standard Version the Psalm reads, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there s any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

I also read in Jeremiah.  There, the verse that stood out to me was the 16th verse of chapter 6: "Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."

Now, it may seem obvious why the latter verse would stand out to me.  After all, I think of myself as one who tries, by the grace of God, to walk in the "Ancient Path."  This blog and the Wesleyan-Anglican Society are expressions of that call back to the ancient path.  More specifically is the call to what the late Robert Webber has called "Ancient-Future" worship.

Recent conversations I have had with others have proven to be difficult.  They have caused me some struggles, and these passages in my prayers this morning have been very helpful, comforting and affirming for me.

Following the morning Office, I continued my personal prayers and went to re-read and re-pray those verses from the 139th Psalm.  What I noticed in the footnotes of my NRSV was that the part that says, "and lead me in the way everlasting," can be rendered "and lead me in the ancient way!"  Further, the footnoted said to compare it with Jeremiah 6:16, the very passage that I had also read, this morning!

Now, I readily confess, I do not have anything Hebrew or any commentaries on hand to check out the suggested translation (they are in my other study).  However, I found new insight into the familiar verses of the Psalm, and I found these passages to be (as I said) very helpful, comforting and affirming.

My prayer is that my sharing this may be helpful, comforting and affirming to other sisters and brothers who, like me, are seeking to follow Christ on the Ancient Path by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  -   To God be the glory!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Article on the Eucharistic Presence of Christ

I like to try to point readers of this blog toward good articles covering liturgical/sacramental or Wesleyan topics.  Recently, on the Wesleyan/Anglican Facebook page, Matt O'Reilly drew our attention to an article that he posted on his blog.  His article is titled, "Eucharist and Presence: Embracing Mystery, Finding Joy," and it can be found, here.

I recommend the article as expressing a Wesleyan approach to . . . Eucharist and presence!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

All Saints'

Yesterday was All Saints' Day.  Thus, I'm a little late with this post, but, since many Protestant churches transfer All Saints' Day to the following Sunday and observe All Saints' on Sunday, I thought I would go ahead and post!  (Plus, I did post an article on All Hallow's Eve, so that's not too bad!)

As The United Methodist Book of Worship reminds us, "All Saints (November 1 or the first Sunday in November) is a day of remembrance for the saints, with the New Testament meaning of all Christian people of every time and place.  We celebrate the communion of saints as we remember the dead, both of the Church universal and of our local congregations.  For this reason, the names of persons in the congregation who have died during the past year may be solemnly read as a Response to the Word."

Since, All Saints' is not only a recognition of death, but also a celebration of life through the Resurrection, all of the paraments, banners & stoles are white, which is the joyful and festive color used at Christmas and Easter.

All Saints' was a favorite of John Wesley's.  He mentioned it four times in his journal.  On All Saints' in 1748, Wesley said, "Being All-Saints' day, we had a solemn assembly at the chapel; as I cannot but observe, we have had on this very day, for several years.  Surely, 'right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!'"  In 1756 Wesley says, "November 1, was a day of triumphant joy, as All-Saints' Day generally is.  How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!"  In 1767, he included in his journal the following comments: "Being All-Saints' Day, (a festival I dearly love,) I could not but observe the admirable propriety with which the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for the day are suited to each other." 

The Collect for the day from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (which would be the Pray Book Wesley used) reads as follows (and I would encourage all to pray):

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
The Epistle was Revelation 7:2-12.  The Gospel was Matthew 5:1-12.  -  I would encourage you to read these Scripture lessons.
The year prior to this entry, Wesley wrote, "'God, who hath knit together his elect in one communion and fellowship,' gave us a solemn season at West-Street (as usual) in praising him for all his Saints.  On this day in particular, I commonly find the truth of these words:
The Church triumphant in his love,
Their mighty joys we know;
They praise the Lamb in hymns above,
And we in hymns below."
That is the second verse of Charles Wesley's "Happy the Souls to Jesus Joined."  Unfortunately, that hymn is not found in either The United Methodist Hymnal, nor the Nazarene's Sing to the Lord hymnal.  Three verses of it did appear in the older The Methodist Hymnal.  The four verses, below, were taken from the Wesley Hymns book, compiled by Ken Bible and published by Lillenas Publishing Company (Nazarene):
1.) Happy the souls to Jesus joined
And saved by grace alone.
Walking in all Thy ways they find
Their heaven on earth begun.
2.) The Church triumphant in Thy love,
Their mighty joys we know;
They sing the Lamb in hymns above,
And we in hymns below.
3.) Thee in Thy glorious realm they praise,
And bow before Thy throne;
We in the kingdom of Thy grace;
The kingdoms are but one.
4.) The holy to the holiest leads;
From thence our spirits rise.
He that in all Thy statutes treads
Shall meet Thee in the skies.
Since the hymn is in common meter, it can be sung to a number of familiar tunes, not the least of which is Wesley's "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (Azmon).  We will be singing it this Sunday to Land of Rest (which is the tune that the Nazarene hymnal uses for Wesley's "All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord").
It is unfortunate that more of our churches do not have an All Saints' Day service on November 1, no matter the day on which it falls.  However, with the transference that most Protestant churches do, to the following Sunday, All Saints' becomes a major focus during the primary service of worship. 
May God be praised for all of His saints who have finished their course and have become for us such a great cloud of witnesses!
The Journal entries were taken from the Jackson edition of Wesley's Works.