01 November 2010

The Updated NIV

I did a brief review of the text of the updated NIV over at Bible Gateway. Sorry to say that, based on what I have reviewed (admittedly checking a series of texts that are important to me), this is no improvement.

I have issues with the choices made in the NLT at times, and many of them are the same issues I have with what I see in the new NIV, but the NLT remains far more vibrant for verbal proclamation than does the updated NIV.

Among the oddities I noted was Revelation 22 - where the first section is noted headed up as "Eden Restored". That one caught me off guard. Also, as a complimentarian regarding men's and women's roles, I found the choices made about gendered language to be odd. Psalm 1 ignores the messianic emphasis palced upon it through nearly 1900 years of Christian history by making the reference to "the man" "the one", though it breaks with most other modern translations that do so by keeping the reference to 'the one' in the singular throughout the psalm. An odd choice.

Also odd is Phoebe being called a deacon in Romans 16, when, as I recall (and I don't have the greek in front of me right at the moment to verify this) the form of the word deacon used in that passage is cast in the feminine in the original text.

Genesis 1 and John 1, oddly enough (not that I am objecting, mind you), retains the usage of the term mankind. In fact, in the several passages I reviewed, mankind was universally used. Strange to use this term, which engenders much controversy in liberal circles, while purging gender references from other texts - including ones where the word itself is specifically feminine!

This NIV update appears to me to be an odd cat. I think I'll just stay with the NLT.

30 June 2010

Three Years and Counting!

It was on this day in 2007 that my wife and I stood before God, family, and friends to begin a life-long covenant between one another. In his grace, we have been blessed beyond our wildest imagining. We have a beautiful daughter, Clare, who just turned 8 months old, and we have a life that brings us great joy.

We've also made it through a lot in those three years... from being robbed (via Spain) on the eve of our wedding to mondo-nasty sunburns on our honeymoon, from our apartment burning down to building our house... and yes, through pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting's early days. Yet, for all the stress that may have been present, God's grace and our love has abounded more and more.

All glory to God for his love shown to us; and, to my wife, all my love to you, and happy anniversary!

29 June 2010

No Pledge for Me

Fox News today ran an article about a school district in Massachussets which does not currently sponsor or mandate a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. You can read the article at this link.

Regular visitors to my blog will note my consistent objection to such displays, going back the decision of Indiana governor Mitch Daniels a few years ago to endorse requiring schools in the state to recite the pledge on a daily basis.

As the district in question in the article rightly notes, the Pledge can offend religious believers and thus, it should not be offered. This logic goes quite well with the barring of prayer, even 'voluntary' prayer in public schools. The state has no more right to offend or impose its beliefs on the children who are in the educational system than they have the right to push a particular religion upon anyone. If voluntary school prayer is illegal, than so must be anything that would infringe on the religious liberty of the students in those chairs. The Pledge of Allegiance is one such offensive activity.

As a parent with a young child, I will be facing, together with my wife, the very difficult decision (much sooner than I think!) of what to do about this matter when my child heads off to school. As much as we talk about the 'voluntary' nature of the Pledge, it is anything but - at least in my experience. If everyone else is doing it (since they pretty much are told they have to), the peer pressure to conform can be overwhelming. It is not unheard of for teachers to discipline students who refuse to participate. I recall that, during my own education, not only was memorization mandatory, but that we were actually tested on being able to recite it, as well as being able to sing the National Anthem, and engage in other patriotic activities. During grammar school, our citizenship grade was based 50/50 on how we treated other students and on how we 'respected' our country.

Nation-states deserve respect only on the merit of the concept of Rule of Law, as established in the Scriptures. The proper respect, according to the Word, is to pray for civil leaders, and to follow all just laws, not to afford the state the kind of devotion that should be reserved for God alone. Today, when I think of standing up, placing my hand over my heart, and 'pledging allegiance' to the flag and to the Repubic 'for which it stands', I realize that I was giving the kind of profession of faith in America that I should have reserved for God alone.

So, to this school district, I say "Kudos!", as I at the same time hope that others will follow suit.

21 May 2010

Inseparable Truths: Christ’s Eucharistic Presence is Rooted in the Mystery of the Incarnation

“Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one."
The text you have just read is the infamous “Black Rubric” first placed into the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer in 1552 (the text above is from the 1662 edition). It was not a part of the original submission of the Prayer Book to Parliament, but was added at the last minute. Because it was done in haste, and nobody notified the printers, this particular rubric (rule of conducting the service) was printed in black ink instead of the customary red. The name stuck, and to this day the mention of the Black Rubric to any liturgical student will immediately hearken back to this passage. The name is apt, however, for very different reasons – for it was with the implementation of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer that Anglican Eucharistic theology was forever placed under suspicion by Lutheran and Roman divines, as well as by the Orthodox.

Today, the Black Rubric holds little sway among English churchgoers, or among those who partake of the Anglican patrimony, except in some of the jurisdictions of Anglican heritage which align more closely with the theology of the Genevan Reformation. But with the suggestion that the 1662 could be the baseline liturgy considered in the nascent Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the historic Anglican position concerning the Eucharist is once again coming under a degree of scrutiny, at least in certain quarters.

In keeping with the Black Rubric, Article 28 of the Articles of Religion affirms a rejection of any local presence of Christ’s body and blood, using these words: “The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.”

The classical defense of this position, as explained in the Black Rubric, is tied to the ‘truth of Christ’s natural Body’, which the text says can only be in one place at one time. There is a serious flaw, however, with such an argument, and it is laid out starkly in the twentieth chapter of St. John’s Gospel:
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them…” John 20:19 (ESV)
The disciples are meeting in a closed room, the door is not only shut, it is locked. The text does not say that Jesus spoke to them and that they opened the door. It does not say that Jesus stood at the window and conversed with his followers. It says, simply, that Jesus came and stood among them. This would, it seems, require Jesus to pass through the wall, the door, the roof, or some other structural element of the room where the disciples were meeting. I have, on several occasions in my life, attempted to walk through a door or a wall (usually not on purpose). I have never once been successful. I’ve had the bruised arms and stubbed toes to prove it. My natural body is completely and utterly incapable of walking through a wall and leaving both my body and the wall intact.

The Black Rubric, and indeed much of Reformed Eucharistic theology (as it is practiced, at any rate) misses out on this one key point. Christ’s natural body has been glorified. It has been fundamentally changed, just as our bodies will be fundamentally changed on the Last Great Day. As a result, the limitations on Jesus’ natural body are non-sequitor arguments against a real Eucharistic presence. What limited his natural body has no bearing on his glorified body, and thus on his presence in the Eucharist.

Both the Articles and the Black Rubric hold an element of truth – the very real substances of bread and wine remain in the celebration of the Eucharist. They have to, in fact, for two reasons: first, because St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11 identifies the Sacrament in both terms (bread and wine as well as body and blood), and second – perhaps most importantly – because to deny that Christ can indwell within the Sacrament is to deny the fundamental central truth that sets Christianity apart from every other religion on the face of the planet – the Incarnation itself.

You see, God is omniscient, immortal, immutable, infinite, omnipresent (and a bunch of other big terms!). It is contrary to the nature of God, one would therefore think, for God – or any member of the Godhead – to be otherwise; yet Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became mortal, finite, and located in a specific physical construct at a particular point in the history of our universe. The one whom the whole world could never hope to contain was somehow united with our humanity and born among us in time and in flesh. In the mystery of the Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord, the core of the historic teaching of the Church on the Eucharistic Mystery is found; and we echo it each and every time we recite the Nicene Creed.

In the Creed we confess that Christ is ‘of one essence’ or ‘substance’ with the Father, and that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, becoming man. To behold Jesus, one could not tell that this son of Mary was anything special. Isaiah prophesied that much:

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:1-3 (ESV)
Only once before his death did the physical body of Jesus reveal in any way his Divine nature: at his Transfiguration. Though many external signs pointed to his divinity, and through in him humanity and divinity were united, it was only the brief moment of the Transfiguration when Christ’s glorified nature was revealed to anyone – then to Peter, James, and John. In the wake of the Resurrection, however, the glorified body of Christ, revealed at the Transfiguration, becomes the permanent body of the Savior… and it is of this Body that we receive and of this Blood that we drink in the celebration of our Lord’s Holy Supper.

If we reject the idea that Christ’s body and blood can be made present under the forms of bread and wine, we must – if we are logical – reject the Incarnation itself. For just as it is against the truth of human nature (specifically man’s natural body and blood) to be present in multiple places at once, it is against the truth of God’s divine nature to be limited in time and space. If we reject Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, we reject his incarnation, his redemptive work, and his eternal kingship – as well as our own resurrection and glorification at the last great day.

The ancient faith of the Christian Church can easily be summarized with these words, “This is my body; This is my blood”. Christ has promised that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are his body and blood. If we deny this fundamental truth, we deny the ability to take Christ at his word which, in turn, undermines the totality of Scripture, and leaves us cast adrift and hopeless in a sea of doubt and despair.

One need not adopt Roman theories of Transubstantiation and practices of adoration to receive in the Eucharist the grace, peace, and mercy that God has promised in his Word to all who participate in the Sacrament. One needs to simply accept that Christ is faithful to what he has spoken, and that he will bring it to pass. Indeed, many abuses which were occurring in the Roman Church at the time of the Reformation needed to be addressed and corrected, and the use of the Eucharist was one of them. However, rejecting the Real Presence does not simply reject Transubstantiation… it rejects the Incarnation itself, especially when it is couched in language like the Black Rubric or the text of Article 28.

I encourage all of my Christian brothers and sisters to give serious consideration to what a rejection of the Doctrine of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist does to the rest of our Christology, indeed to the totality of our theology, before persisting in an irrational rejection of one of the most precious comforts afforded to believers, being united with Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Holy Supper.

Indeed, there were many who, even in Christ’s time, could not accept the idea that Christ could give his flesh for food and his blood for drink…

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6: 60-69 (ESV)

13 May 2010

The Solemnity of the Ascension

Today, forty days after the celebration of Pascha, the Church celebrates the Ascension of her Lord to that heavenly realm where we are assured that Christ is making ready a place for us. May this Ascension festival strengthen your faith in the truth, and may the assuring words of the Gospel today give you the hope of everlasting life.

Almighty God, as your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

10 April 2010

Paschaltide Thoughts

As the Lenten experience begins to fade into the rearview mirror, and in its own way the Paschal observance - while far from over - seems to be subsiding, I have a few thoughts to share from my prayer and devotional life in recent weeks.

1) Interfacing with mission is hard. As a Church-planter, seeking to establish an orthodox, catholic congregation, it is hard to know what direction to go with things. Do I plant a traditional congregation or a house church? Do we attempt to find one mission and draw from that population, or interface with multiple missions? How do we most wisely spend the money that we have saved to form a congregation? How do we positively engage the community and spread the message about ourselves when we have no facilities, no amenities, and when the main reason we exist is because there isn't another congregation in the area that really gels with our beliefs? These are ongoing questions that are difficult to answer. Being on our own (locally speaking) presents Kristen and I with many challenges in this department that we have not managed to find answers to. We continue to pray, and we continue to evaluate many different ways to engage our community. We discussed another one tonight. Please, dear reader, pray for our discernment as we seek to bring right teaching, reverent worship, and the faith that can save to our local community.

2) The Internet can be such a virulent place. I am not sure of the exact number, but over the time I have been on Facebook, I have had to block at least a half-dozen folks from posting to my wall and newsfeed. Some folks can just be putridly nasty online, thinking that it's okay and somehow socially acceptable. This was why I endeavored to post a daily reflection during the Lenten season over at Facebook - perhaps my post might be something beyond the pale on someone's news feed in that day. Who knows, perhaps it was even a form of evangelism - after a sort, of course. With the Octave of Pascha winding down, I'm not sure I have the ideas to sustain the postings indefinitely, but a great big thank you to all the positive feedback I got from folks in the process. 

3) I am more amazed day by day at the joys, the challenges, and the experience of fatherhood. I can't begin to tell you how it has enhanced my ministry. I now have a whole new set of experiences to draw on with individuals I meet, either in the hospital or in other ministry settings. Just today I was able to engage an individual on the basis of being a dad - something that, a year ago, was an abstract notion to me. 

4) As amazed as I am by my daughter, my wife just excites me! The passion with which she cares for our family, the love she pours out upon Clare and me (and the pooch!)... it's more than I have a right to ask. Sometimes it's when she comes down the steps carrying a 'sack o' taters' (i.e., Clare) with that smile of hers, and other times its while we are making the bed or changing a diaper or doing something else totally mundane, but it is in those moments that I cannot imagine life and the journey of parenthood without her.

5) I am supremely thankful, for God has blessed me beyond any right or expectation I might or should have. A wonderful wife, a wonderful child, a faith that saves, and a Spirit that strengthens... all on account of a Son who died for me. What comforting things to think of as I prepare to lay down my head. I can never be worthy of the blessings God has shown me... I am saved by his grace; I am preserved by his grace; and I am secure in his grace and filled with his peace.

May your Paschaltide be a blessed one!

04 April 2010

Paschal Greetings

Paschal Greetings from the Lyons Family!

What a blessed Pascha! I hope your day has been as blessed as mine. The day began around 5 AM with a wake up call to be ready for Paschal Matins and Divine Service (i.e., the Easter Vigil with Holy Communion). The Paschal Candle was lit, the Exsultet sung, and several Scripture readings shared with us the promise of the Resurrection. Baptismal vows were renewed, and the Lamb's High Feast was shared (with a version of the Anaphora of Saint Basil, an alternative Eucharistic prayer in our BCP).

Such a beautiful Liturgy... then out for a great brunch at Augustino's, our friend Chef Aaron O'Mara's Italian restaurant on Indy's south side. Talk about delicious (as usual)! Then a nice afternoon nap before supper and then Vespers by the light of the Paschal Candle and the sinking sun. The reading was one of my favorites, the Lukan account of the journey to Emmaus

I pray that your Pascha has been a blessed one.

Christ is risen!
Truly he is risen!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

17 March 2010

For the Second Time this Week, Secular Types Try to Shut Down House Church

For the second time this week, news has hit the airwaves that a house-based religious group is under citation by civic authorities; this time in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The city was in the news about six months ago when they filed to shut down another group; one which was eventually allowed to meet anyway.

From the article: "Kurt J. Keating, the city's code enforcement supervisor, said the city is trying to restrict church services held in private homes, not home Bible studies."

The code enforcement supervisor has clearly voiced the city's intent to violate the right to freely practice religion. 

Now, if the group is attracting thirty or so people every week in the same house, my opinion is that they should probably start meeting in two separate locations or rotating among houses... but to attempt to restrict Church services in a home is patently unconstitutional and a gross violation of human rights.

16 March 2010

Religious Freedom? Really?

A recent FoxNews.com / Associated Press article outlines a battle that is going on between the Oasis of Truth Church in Gilbert, Arizona and the local community. According to the article, the town's code forbids religious meetings of any form in private homes.

As a homeowner and a pastor, this idea makes me laugh so hard, my neighbors will probably call the police to see if anything is wrong.

Freedom of Religion means exactly that. House Churches are doing what they believe is best to follow the example of the ancient Church, meeting in smaller groups in homes, fellowshipping, sharing meals, worshipping, studying the Word of God. No civil authority has the right to ban such assemblies in the United States; nor would any homeowner's association or other 'authoritative' body.

All too often, the justification used to object to such gatherings is that they are loud, obnoxious, or clog side streets not designed for such traffic. In that case, it's time to ban kids birthday parties, family gatherings, and anything else that would cause people to park on streets. People having parties have to keep the volume down and keep it inside. No backyard BBQ when you have your family over. And if your friends are Church friends and you say grace before meals, well, that constitutes a religious practice in an assembly of people whose only relation to you is ecclesiastical (and thus religious). Out with them! Out with them all!

Taxes, Census, House Church discrimination. Boy, it must be springtime in America.

UPDATE: The leadership of the community evidently have a different view of matters than the Zoning Enforcement officer mentioned in the story. The mayor and town manager worshipped with the community this past Sunday, and on Monday put out a press release stating that changes to the zoning code were being expedited. One still wonders why the prohibitions were there to begin with, but praise God for this victory!

13 March 2010

Wonderful, Scriptural "Way of the Cross"

I wish to highly recommend for your consideration a specific new subset of material over at the "Comfortable Words" site, a new version of the Way of the Cross that is completely Biblical in basis and which makes use of prayers from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. You won't be disappointed!


25 February 2010

Mars is Back on the Table

So I wake up this morning to eat my Bran Flakes, and lo-and-behold, we are going to Mars... sorta...

Upon further investigation, it's not so much that there is a plan in place as it is that an 'evolutionary' plan will be put into place to facilitate a Mars mission. In rocketeering terms, the old plan is being replaced by a new plan, one that will probably follow at least some tenants of the basic Constellation profile. I mean, you don't send folks to Mars before you test the life support, radiation shielding, and other critical systems in low earth orbit, high earth orbit, lunar orbit, etc. It would be tantamount to playing a two-year-long game of Russian Roulette, with the lives of astronauts being held to the barrel.

So, now that the Constellation program has been put out of its misery, we have a new program to look forward to... one that, though probably relying on more private enterprise than Constellation, will ultimately - I predict - wind up looking very, very similar. Drop the Lunar Base, perhaps, but otherwise...

I have to wonder if the backlash to killing Constellation was that strong on Capital Hill; the public didn't seem to care (if they even knew what the Constellation program was). If it was, of course, the new question becomes, is this yet another stunt to give NASA's human spaceflight program some token funding for a few years? After all, Mondale wanted to shut NASA down back in the 60's (and could well have done so after the Apollo 1 disaster), arguing that the monies used to fund lunar flights would be better spent on human need at home. Obama strikes me as the heir-apparent to Mondale with regard to such matters, so it comes as an absolute shock to me that he would suggest funding this kind of a program, especially after the review panel he recommended (The Augustine Commission) recommended ditching the program designed to lead to Mars in the first place.

Now, don't get me wrong. While the Constellation program was visionary in some respects, it was a political beast and had as its initial centerpiece a rocket (the Ares I) that suffered from serious doubts in the professional spaceflight communion (as well as among armchair astronauts like me). Nevertheless, I can almost promise you that, shorn of a Moon base, something like Constellation is bound to reappear in Obama's new plan... because its the only logical way to go to Mars.

Above all, those of us concerned with spaceflight must hope that the mission profile is something more than a one-shot publicity stunt. Going, collecting a few rocks, and then blasting back is a useless waste of taxpayer money and NASA's skills. Give a real mission to them, Mr. President... and give them the means to do it. (And hey, if you happen to have to take a couple of billion dollars out of Defense spending to accomplish it, so much the better.) 

23 February 2010

John Calvin on the Eucharist - Suprise!

Compliments of my recuperating bishop, an interesting summary on the part of John Cosin, an Anglican bishop, of the 'Protestant Catholic' teaching on the Lord's Supper... by John Calvin.

Click here to read this brief but interesting collection of Calvin's statements.

Among my favorite snippets:
...we most firmly believe that receiving the signs of the Body, we also certainly receive the Body itself.


We must therefore confess that the inward substance of the Sacrament is joined with the visible sign, so that, as the bread is put into our hand, the Body of Christ is also given to us. This certainly, if there were nothing else, should abundantly satisfy us, that we understand, that Christ, in His Holy Supper, gives us the true and proper substance of His Body and Blood...

Sounds far more Lutheran and Catholic than Zwinglian to me... given my very basic studies of Calvin, I have to admit that reading such quotations suprises me a bit. While I have known there were nuances that divided Calvin and Zwingli over the Eucharist, I always felt that Calvin himself held a much lower view of the Sacraments than it appears he did.

You learn something new every day...

What is the Chief Purpose of the Christian Worship Service?

Rev. Paul McCain, an LCMS pastor, posts the following timely thoughts on the purpose of Christian worship.

What is the Chief Purpose of the Christian Worship Service?

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20 February 2010

Divine Service for the First Sunday of Lent

As observed at St. Boniface Church, Bargersville, Indiana:

Hymn of Praise 
  Trisagion (Hurd)

Collect of the Day
  Almighty God, your blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weakness of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading
  Romans 10: 8b-13 (NLT)

  Psalm 3a from The Book of Psalms for Worship (Tune: Amazing Grace)

Gospel Reading
  Luke 4: 1-13 (NLT)

Offertory Hymn
  The Glory of These Forty Days (Gather Comprehensive II - Hymn 379)

Sanctus (Schubert)

Agnus Dei (Agnus Dei XVIII, Vatican Edition)

Communion Hymn
  Shepherd of Souls (Gather Comprehensive II - Hymn 818)

19 February 2010

CPH's Treasury of Daily Prayer

As many of my readers know, up until early last year, I was practicing in the Syriac Rite before returning to the Western liturgical tradition. As I confessed last July, I am a liturgical junkie and I would call myself today a recovering Liturgical Schitzophrenic. I have settled into using the Book of Common Prayer (albeit an interim edition) of my Synod, with only minimal adaptations (as permitted in the BCP itself). With the beginning of Lent, however, I elected - for my Morning Office, to pick up Concordia's "Treasury of Daily Prayer", which is - in essence - a Lutheran breviary. 

Though I am not a Lutheran, I tend to find that I have more in common with the Lutheran Church than I do with the Reformed or the Latin camps. My faith life is, thus, a synthesis (it seems) of Anglican and Lutheran, with a deep love for the Syriac thrown in for good measure (good thing that there is an option for some Syriac stuff in the BCP, such as Betrothal, the rite for Marriage in the context of a Eucharist, and the option to use the Aramaic Words of Institution from time to time). 

For those looking for a comprehensive, single volume Breviary, TDP is the hands down winner in all but one category. The blasted thing is a brick. it is the same size as my Altar Book of Lutheran Worship and my copy of the LSB Lectionary. You don't need a Bible, Psalter, Hymnal, nothing to use this book. Patristic and Lutheran Confessional documents (as well as Lutheran Confessional writings) are all found within the book. It is an outstanding resource, and I highly recommend it. 

03 February 2010

Interesting Take on the Verba and the Epiclesis

Pastor Peters over at Pastoral Meanderings has put up a post today concerning the use of the Verba, comparing and contrasting Roman, Lutheran, and Reformed (and, to some extent, Eastern) usages of the Lord's Supper.  It is an interesting article worth reading, but I quote a snippet here for consideration:

For Lutherans the Spirit always works through the Word (written, spoken, or visible). Therefore, the words of Christ always include the agency and effect of the Spirit. The Spirit is at work in the presence of Christ's body and blood in the Sacrament because the Spirit works in and through the Word. The Spirit is partner in this Word as He is always partner in the work of the Word (such as creation when the Word speaks and the Spirit effects what the Word proclaims -- working together). In the end this is surely very Trinitarian.
- Pastor Peters
Now, I am still not the biggest fan of having no explicit epiclesis; I believe strongly that the Liturgy needs to catechize people, and confessing our belief that the Holy Spirit descends upon ordinary bread and wine to effect the Sacramental Presence in the context of the worship service only serves to reinforce both that reality, as well as reinforce the entire concept of the Incarnation and the doctrine known as the Hypostatic Union. That being said, Pastor Peters makes an excellent point on the Word of God itself - that it is never devoid of the Spirit when it is rightly proclaimed.

Interesting post!

02 February 2010

Saint Boniface Logo Complete

As we move closer to the first public information meeting for St. Boniface Church, our logos came in today from our graphic designer. All I can say is "WOW!"

The image was designed based on our responses to ten questions from Gange and Associates in Ontario. In short, we told them we wanted something that illustrated the use of the Word of God and the Means of Grace so central to our worship life and to the ancient nature of our beliefs and practices that also illustrated our commitment to bringing those traditions to bear in a contemporary mission field. This was the result... The Cross of Christ as the Source, the Waters of Baptism and the Cup of Communion illustrating our faithful usage of the Sacraments, and the Word of God giving rock-solid proof to and hope for believers.

Our new website went live as well... www.primitivecatholic.org points to it, as does www.sbcjc.org. Check 'em out!

18 January 2010

Lectionary Reflections, Part III

In Part I of this series, I asked a series of three questions. I answered the first to in Part II. In today's article, I intend to reflect on the final question:

3. If the Lectionary is a tool to serve the needs of the People of God, what form should the Lectionary take to ensure that said needs are met?

Part III
Ancient Faith on a Contemporary Mission
When we look back to the writings of the ancient Church, we see -both in Scripture and patristic sources - the idea of the main worship of the local Christian community being focused around the poles of Word and Table. Often, God's Word would be read late into the night on Saturday, with the visiting apostle or the pastor of the local church preaching for a lengthy period of time before the worship moved on to the Table where the Holy Supper was celebrated. As the Liturgy developed more fully, the first portion of the service became known as The Mass of the Catechumens in the Western Church. It was a time of instruction in the Word of God through Scriptural proclamation and preaching. Those preparing for baptism were then dismissed (as were other classes of believers who were not communing) and the Liturgy of the Faithful began.
The term 'catechumens' refers to learners. In the ancient Church it was typically used to refer to the unbaptized... the core word 'catechize' refers to instruction. The 'Mass of the Catechumens' is, thus, the time of instruction that the entire Church should share (yes, Children included! but that's a different topic). We all need ongoing catechesis in the essentials of the faith, and the best way - particularlly in our post-modern era - to provide that ongoing catechesis is to read Scripture in digestible sections, and to discuss thuroughly (at least as thuroughly as our congregation's understanding and tolerance of our preaching will take us) the implications of the Word for both our core doctrines and our modern life.
Neither the traditional one-year or contemporary three-year lectionary offer much in the way to support this ongoing mission, so what, pray tell, is to be done. Well, I wish I had a perfect answer, but instead, the remainder of this article will be dedicated to outlining a vision for what a lectionary could and should be.
The first statement I will make is that there will need to be two separate lectionaries. In reality, there already are in a sense - the readings surrounding the major feasts tend to be rather fixed, and with good reason. So, let's start there.
Use a 1 Year Lectionary Cycle Major Holy Days
At the very minimum, this would encompass 14 separate days:
  • Christmas Day
  • Epiphany
  • Baptism of our Lord
  • Ash Wednesday
  • Palm Sunday
  • Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Holy Saturday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Ascension Day
  • Pentecost Day
  • Trinity Sunday
  • All Saints Day
On these days, the readings are fixed from year to year, or provide minimal variation, generally related to providing parallel accounts of the same event (i.e., the Passion Narratives from the Four Gospels). This makes sense because we are reinforcing a theological principle when we celebrate these festal days.
Make Use of a 3 Year Ordinary Time Lectionary
"But wait!" I hear you saying... "Didn't you just say you don't like that?"  Well, you are right; sorta - I don't like the existant 3 Year Lectionary, but... what if you were driving a convertable? Have I lost you? That's OK. My 3 Year proposal goes like this:
Year A:  Chronological Overview of the Old Testament 
Year B:  Chronological Reading of the Complete Gospels
Year C:  Chronological Reading of the Complete New Testament
In this vision, small, digestible sections of Scripture would be be appointed to be read, allowing the true flavor and content of the Word to be savored. Further, they would be provided chronologically and, in many instances, in parallel. By following the unfolding of the narrative of Scripture in chronological order, we develop a contextualization behind what we are reading, and - I believe - come to a deeper appreciation of the Word and its power throughout the ages.
"Oh, but wait," you say. "Those would be awfully long readings if you were going to try to split them up over 40 or so Sundays..." Who said anything about Sundays? 
Make it a Daily Lectionary
Here is where, honestly, the suggestion may fall apart for many. So be it. During Ordinary Time, the reading assigned for the day is assigned to a specific calendar date. I don't mean "Sunday between January 2 and 8", I mean "January 2". That's right, one reading a day. This has the added benefit of providing the overachiever with three pericopes a day (OT, Gospel, NT) to use at Morning, Midday, and Evening Prayer. It leaves the average family with a single reading of manageable size which they may use at family devotions in the home each day. Families would be advised of what year of the cycle one was in, and then they could read the readings at home (together with all the other families of the congregation), readings which will flow into and out of the Sunday readings at Church (and in a far better way than the RCL Daily Lectionary does).
Now, admittedly, this has one flaw - it only provides one reading for a given day. Well, Calvin preferred the idea of a single reading per day, but the liturgical among us would definately want at least one other reading... such a lectionary proposal fits better with our liturgical needs that way. Oh, but how to manage it.
Provide Suggested Add-On's
One way to handle it would be to add at least a second reading (from the Gospels in years A and C, and from wherever else in year B) that thematically relates to the central (i.e., controlling) reading of the day. To this could be added a Psalm and a Collect, as well as other necessary liturgical add-ons.
Allow for Local Variations
Perhaps, however, it would be best to allow pastors to choose a second reading, a psalm, and a collect to match the reading. Sure, sounds horribly Protestant, but it also sounds like a good idea. Providing the controlling reading mandates a thematic base for the service, and the pastor selects a text that reinforces the theme. Perhaps a text will apply or be recieved better in one congregation than another. Sure, this runs the risk of turning the pastor into a typological theologian, but any thematic lectionary is going to do that anyway, and in our era it is my conviction that people need themes to wrap their minds around, comprehend, and make their own.
Skip Nothing (Well, Almost Nothing)
So, it's the middle of November and the Passion narrative is starting to come around in your daily lectionary. So what? Sure it isn't the right liturgical season for it, but preaching 'out of season' may provide opprutunities to preach that preaching 'in season' does not afford. Yes, I'd find it odd to be preaching about the nativity of Jesus a week after we put away the nativity scenes... but so what.  Alternatively, omit only those items covered in the fixed liturgical seasons (thus the Nativity through Baptism of Christ and the Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost).
This falls apart a bit for the Old Testament. I don't think most folks want to read three years of the Old Testament - those who do will do it for themselves. Provide a survey of the great stories and important concepts of the Old Testament, and make it a good one.
If Observing Liturgical Seasons, Provide Them as Thematic Times
Lent should be penetential. Easter a time of joyful exultation. The daily readings in these seasons, as well as at other times, can take on a different tone and method of selection.
Give Careful Consideration to Saint's Days
While commemorating non-biblical worthies is as simple as a collect in their honor and a biography, the question of how to handle Biblical saints with proper readings is sticky.
My initial thought would be to commemorate them as the reading traditionally assigned to their feast occurs in the Lectionary. (This is my solution for Transfiguration.) The problem is that many of the most significant Christian saints would only get mention in years B and C of the cycle. 
The other option is to simply mark those days out as festal days, give three proper readings and a psalm that unites them, and pick up the Ordinary Time cycle the following day. Thus, if I am commemorating Saint Thomas on July 3rd, I read the Ordinary readings on the 2nd and 4th, with the festal readings on the 3rd.  By my accounting, there would be around 30 festal days to work around. Not perfect, but doable.
Here is a proposal for a serious Lectionary revision:
15 Days, Beginning December 18 and Running Through January 1
These days would be strictly thematic.
Full Propers (Collect and Psalm) Provided
(*One will note that there is no provision for Advent. This would be simple to solve, by simply beginning on December 1st and expaning the thematic readings. I'd argue against it, keeping the week leading up to Christmas as more of an Advent-like time.)
103 Days, Beginning Ash Wednedsay and Running Through Trinity Sunday
(39 Days of Lent, 7 Days of Holy Week, 39 Days of Eastertide, 1 Day of Ascension, 9 Days after Ascension, 1 Day of Pentecost, 6 Days after Pentecost, 1 Day of Trinity Sunday)
These days would be strictly thematic.
Full Propers (Collect and Psalm) Provided
Would suggest reading Job in Lent, as its chronolgical place is sketchy
Would suggest reading Revelation in Paschaltide, as it points towards the ultimate goal
247 Days, Not Counting Any Feasts
(If Keeping Feasts, Approximatley 217 Days, Depending on What Feasts are Selected)
Readings assigned to Calendar Dates
Pastor/Preacher free to choose complimentary readings, psalms, and collects
Pastors could compose their own collects

17 January 2010

Lectionary Disgruntlement

I am, apparently, not the only one who has recently been having some rather disgruntled thoughts about the Lectionary of late.

Jeffrey Tucker over at The New Liturgical Movement writes in opposition to the three-year lectionary system of the Novus Ordo Missae, suggesting a return to the previous annual cycle. The comments on the thread alone are worth reading.

Lauren Porter at Porter's Progress writes about the rise of lectionary preaching in the United Methodist Church and his concerns with the Revised Common Lectionary.

William Weston at Disgruntled Center writes, simply, Ditch the Lectionary.

Very intersting...

I just love this Altar!

What an interesting and inspiring Sanctuary and Altar arrangement, from Jesuskirken in Copenhagen, Denmark. Notice the various saints surrounding the central figure of Christ (above the Cross).

For a full resolution version of this photo, click here.

15 January 2010

Lectionary Reflections, Part II

In Part I of this series, I asked a series of three questions. In today’s article, I intend to reflect on the first two:

1) What is the value of reading four passages of Scripture, two or three of which are ignored, marginalized, or even misappropriated to a specific theme?

2) What good is including such a significant amount of Scripture in the Liturgy of the Church when/if people largely tune it out?

The First Two Questions

Shortly after the interim edition of the Book of Common Prayer of my Synod was released, I got an e-mail from my bishop asking about the connections I saw in the readings for a particular day. To be fair, on that particular day I found the connections to be readily apparent. Yet a few months later, as I sat down to prepare for the coming Sunday’s homily, I read, re-read, and re-re-read the four passages appointed in the proper, to find that I couldn’t put together a cohesive homily on the readings.

Going back to my days as a server, I remember having the idea drilled into me that the homily pertained to the readings. A cardinal sin in homiletics is to start introducing tons of additional readings into the mix. It’s one thing to cite and share portions of other texts, but the pericopes of the Lectionary are present for a purpose – to be preached upon! I always found it odd when I would visit a congregation where the Lectionary was used for the readings, and then the preacher mounted the pulpit and read yet another reading, which had nothing to do with the preceding three or four, and which was to form the basis of his sermon (the only thing more pointless was re-reading the Gospel of the Day a second time before commencing the sermon, but I digress!). I wanted to scream from my pew “Preach what you’ve already read!” but I dutifully held my tongue.

Looking back, I can’t begin to count the number of times I have tried weaving tenuous threads together to form a cohesive homily on the texts, and I have to admit that it is very possible that, in doing so, I have fallen into the trap of crafting God’s Word to suit my thinking. This is an alarming prospect, for if I have misled the flock, I am a thief and a robber… which leads to the dilemma of how to handle lectionary preaching.

The problem is largely non-existent in thematically united times of the Liturgical Year. Certainly it would be difficult to argue that there was a discontinuity of message in the pericopes assigned, for example, to the Paschal Triddum or Ascension Day. But in the large ‘green’ swath of the year – and, to a lesser extent, on the Sundays within the preparatory/celebratory seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter – the discordance between readings become more and more apparent.

The pericopes of the festal times, however, presents another problem – the regular association of specific texts with one another, which often results in the people being exposed to a single aspect of the text itself. Further, it does not allow for the introduction of other texts (perhaps lesser known ones) that serve to equally embrace and enhance the message found in the controlling text (usually the Gospel) for the day.

The result of using disconnected and discordant readings is less than appealing to me from a pastoral perspective. In a post-modern world, Christianity needs to fight the trend to multi-task in the midst of its own worship. Central core messages need to be exposed and explored for the benefit of the people. Many modern Church-goers cannot tell you what their pastor preached about, or what the readings were about, during their Sunday worship service. For some, it is because the pastor meanders between texts, displaying little or no unity, and confusing folks mightily. For others it is a result of a lack of attention. Admittedly, I have had such lack of attention when sitting in a pew. Heck, for that matter, I have had such a lack of attention from time to time when sitting in the pastor’s chair!

While I would strongly argue that abandoning the lectionary altogether is not a tenable solution (in spite of arguments to the contrary, I still believe that the lack of a lectionary allows pastors to cherry-pick favorite texts, much to the detriment of their parishioners), I cannot ignore the fact that neither the historic one-year or the contemporary three-year lectionary systems are optimal ways to present the Word of God in its fullness to God’s people.

14 January 2010

Article Link: Limitations of the Lectionary

In doing some research this evening for my Lectionary series, I came across an interesting article by Walter Sundberg of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. The article, from a 1990 edition of Word and World, is titled "Limitations of the Lectionary", and reinforces some of the same concerns I have with the traditional and contempoary western lectionary. Please note, I don't have the great concern about the typification of the Old Testament that he does, and I think he is treading on thin ice when he says that that Lutherans should be willing to treat the lectionary with 'at least a modicum of suspicion', as the vast history of the Lutheran movement has maintained a lectionary system (except, perhaps, in Pietist circles) of some form, even if not the traditional one.

You can read the article at this link.

Lectionary Reflections, Part 1

Preface to the Series

2010 marks my thirteenth year as a Presbyter of the Church. Since 1997, I have used several different ‘Sunday and Holy Day’ Lectionaries in various congregations and ministries I have served. They include:
  • The Three Year Lectionary of the Novus Ordo Missae
  • The One Year Lectionary of the historic Book of Common Prayer
  • The Local Use Lectionary of the Syriac Rite Church of the Transfiguration
  • The Three Year Lectionary of the LCMS’s Lutheran Service Book
  • The Three Year Lectionary of the RESA’s Interim Book of Common Prayer
In all those years, I have never felt truly comfortable with any of these Lectionaries for a variety of reasons. My pastoral heart has lead me to ask myself why. This series is my attempt to answer some of those questions for myself, and to share those answers with the Christian community at-large. I hope that you, dear reader, will consider offering feedback to my posts and engaging in discussion concerning them.

Historical Overview and Questions to Consider

Since the late 1960’s, there has been a strong movement afoot in Lectionary development and refinement of providing more and more Scripture to the People of God in the context of the Sunday assembly. Not counting motets, hymns, and choral anthems based on Scriptural texts, most Western Christian congregations hear four portions (lections) from the Word of God when they gather – a Psalm, an Old Testament lesson, a reading from the Gospels, and a lesson from the New Testament. This practice is ancient, to be sure, going back to at least the time of Jerome in the West. Fragments of lectionaries used by many ancient Christian luminaries are known to historians and liturgists, and they tell an interesting tale.

Prior to the reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council, only a few denominations included such copious amounts of Scripture on a given Sunday or Holy Day. Most Western Churches had snippets of the Psalms which served as introits, graduals, Alleluia verses, offertory verses, and post-communion chants. The Old Testament was rarely found in the Eucharistic lectionary (which was the default public lectionary, as it was the one most frequently used on Sundays) outside of the eves of Holy Days, and the idea of a multi-year lectionary was more a matter of alternate preaching texts (particularly in the Lutheran and, to a lesser extent, Reformed traditions) than regular liturgical texts.

As a result, most of the Christian west heard (as the Christian east still does) the same lessons on the same Sundays and Holy Days year after year. This certainly has a positive impact in terms of impressing the precious truths found in the lectionary upon the hearts and minds of the faithful, but it left the vast majority of the Biblical narrative on the cutting room floor, so to speak – leaving it for the monks, pastors, and industrious laypersons to peruse and apply the more intensive daily lectionaries to their daily life and personal worship.

The Second Vatican Council rightly acknowledged that this was a wholly unsatisfactory situation, and the framers of the Lectionary of the Novus Ordo rite must at least be given credit for attempting to expose more of the Scripture to the people. Sadly, however, what little cohesiveness existed in the preceding lectionary system seemed to disappear in many respects with the adoption of the new lectionary. While the major feasts retain much that is good and valuable (and thematic), many ordinary Sundays now have readings with no seeming interconnectivity, leading to them being frequently ignored by preachers, and disregarded by the faithful.

This leads to three very striking questions:

1. What is the value of reading four passages of Scripture, two or three of which are ignored, marginalized, or even misappropriated to a specific theme?

2. What good is including such a significant amount of Scripture in the Liturgy of the Church when/if people largely tune it out?

3. If the Lectionary is a tool to serve the needs of the People of God, what form should the Lectionary take to ensure that said needs are met?

In my next post on this topic,
I will explore where so many Lectionaries break down in practical use
for both the people and the preacher.

13 January 2010

Baptismal Portraits

Clare had her baptismal portraits this evening... she's utterly adorable!


07 January 2010

Enjoying the Journey

In the past, I have seen numerous one year Bibles, and have recommended them to those who were in need of a good springboard into the narrative of Scripture. Being a nut for contextualization, of course, I often recommended a Chronological Bible to folks. This year, I am taking my own advice. Separate from the Divine Office, I have decided to read the Scriptures using the One Year Chronological Bible in the NLT translation. While I am fairly certain that I have read the vast majority of the sixty-six books of the common Canon of Scripture, I have to admit that some of the finer details between Leviticus and 2 Kings tend to escape me without returning to the text itself and doing some hunting. Perhaps this won't change that... but it's the first time that I will have made a concerted effort to read Scripture in the order the events occured, which usually helps to jog my mind.

Now, let me be clear, the NLT has some issues when it comes to translating old terminology, but on the whole, it is the most enjoyable translation I have ever read. I also have an NLT Study Bible, which contains the most recent revision of the NLT text - the Second Revised Edition. (I understand that there is a newer NLT chronological one-year Bible out there that uses the Second Revised Edition text, but for the moment, I'll stick with what I have.)

Last night, I finished off the narrative of Issac's marriage to Rebekah... and I'll continue on tonight... but I have so far found the experience to be quite rewarding and refreshing. I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of a Chronological One-Year Bible for your own personal reading, or as the foundation for your daily devotions.

05 January 2010

Interesting Book - Still Relevant Today

I recently came across an outstanding little book at Google Books:

Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association, Volumes 1-4

This book contains articles on the Lutheran Liturgy by various sources, and while the book predates the twentieth century, there is a ton of material there that will bring the history of the Western Liturgy into the eyes of anyone. I especially recommend it to seminary studients, no matter your background.

03 January 2010

My Daughter Makes My Heart Melt

Here is Clare, resplendent in her baptismal gown prepared by her grandmother (who is holding her in this picture). The bonnet is a gift from Dr. Meg Gaffney, a colleague of mine at Wishard.

This has to be the most adorable image of her yet! Doesn't that little face just make your heart melt? It does mine!

01 January 2010

Clare's Baptism

Today our Synod celebrated the Solemnity of the Baptism of our Lord, bringing to a conclusion two weeks of very strong focus upon the incarnation, birth, and early life of our Lord. On this occasion, Bishop Chuck Huckaby joined us here in Bargersville to celebrate with us not simply the Divine Service and to preach the Gospel of Salvation, but he also came to baptize our little Clare.

A wonderful time was had by all... and Clare was adorable in her baptismal gown - made by her loving grandmother. What an amazing day, and an amazingly awesome responsibility that lay ahead - sharing the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ with our little daughter.

Thanks to Bishop Chuck, his lovely wife Renee, Deacon Greg Elsbernd, and all of our family who were able to join us.

Incidentally, this was the first formal service celebrated by Saint Boniface Church, which was offically established today by our Synod, and which I will be serving as Pastor. Please pray for us in the next few months as we begin looking for ways to be responsive to God's call to bring many to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now I Have Seen it All (Until the Next Time!)

Happy New Year! As this message posts, I am preparing for the Baptism of little Clare Adele. Bishop Huckaby and his wife have safely arrived, and we enjoyed a nice dinner with them last night after they got checked-in at their motel. 

Those of you who know me know that I am very liturgically inclined, and while some people get their fill from browsing at Macy's, Target, or Parisian... I get mine from reading Church supply catalogs. During a rather bored moment, I recently discovered one of those things which makes me immediately say, "Now I have seen it all!"  And what prompted my moment of shock? You might think it was the automatic holy water dispenser that recently made news in the fight against H1N1... but you would be wrong.

This time it's - get this - an automatic host dispenser!

Just fill this little puppy up with hosts (it will hold 150 without needing to be refilled) and hand it over to your sacramental ministers to distribute the Body of Christ at lightning speed. I mean, the thing has a trigger to eject the host! (I can just see the Altar Boys playing their own version of paintball in the sacristy before Mass.)

The AHD is avaliable in your choice of gold, silver, or white... and there are accessories avaliable!

Please note, this is most definately NOT an endorsement of this product. Like individual cups and automatic holy water dispensers, it's yet another technological response to the paranoia and fear of getting sick from Communion... which is the food of new life for all who believe.

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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