Saturday, 13 February 2016

Leaning Into Lent: Day 4—Heart Smart Leaning

“You are from dust,” I was told on Ash Wednesday, “and to dust you shall return.” Of the earth. Earthy. Mortal. A sinner from my mother’s womb. Not only that. Today’s St James Devotional Guide (http://www.fsj.org/new/devotional-guide.php) Jeremiah reading reminds me that I have one of these:
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? [Jer 17.9 (ESV)]
Deceitful above all things, sick, incomprehensible, yet it is that, all of with which, I am to love the Lord my God. It must be possible.

How?

…by believing this opening prayer of thanksgiving in Evening Prayer:
In the darkness of our sin you have shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.
…and whenever the shining in my heart is dulled by deceitfulness so I find my belief wavering, that I remember this from the Psalm for Evening Prayer:
When my heart became embittered
and I was pierced to the quick,
I was but foolish and ignorant;
I was like a brute beast in your presence.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand. (Ps 73.21-23—in Evening Prayer according to the Church of England Daily Prayer app—https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/id818491760)
I am always with him. Applying my soul, strength and mind to observing a hearty and Holy Lent systematically and with discipline can only draw me closer and make this a true statement:
Upon you have I leaned from my birth,
when you drew me from my mother’s womb; •
my praise shall be always of you. (Ps 71.6—in CofE Morning Prayer)
I just need to keep leaning in the right direction and on the right person. After all, it is good for me to draw near to God (Ps 73.28).

Friday, 12 February 2016

Leaning Into Lent: Day 3—Facing into Delight

Morning Prayer this morning:
…judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. [Psalm 7:8 (ESV)]
Well, that’s me hooped for a start. If I am to be judged for my own righteousness and according to my own integrity or innocence I am lost. It’s Jesus’ righteousness, integrity and innocence that saves me. I must lean on him. That’s what Holy Lents are for. To make sure I’m leaning in the right direction. I either lean into Jesus and am saved or I fall over.

In Jeremiah’s day, most people leaned away.
You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward. [Jeremiah 15:6 (ESV)]
…and they fell over into disaster and exile. Most people in our world still lean away from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus. They do so out of fear, ignorance, simple carelessness, or wilful resistance. I, also, can lose my balance and lean away by giving in to this disordered appetite or that. Instead of growing and moving closer to Jesus, I go backwards, listing to one side or the other.

The reading and meditating on the Word of God part of Holy Lent observation is particularly helpful for keep me upright and heading in the right direction. It also a joy:
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts. [Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV)]
Leaning into a Holy Lent keeps me facing into delight.


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Leaning Into Lent: Day 2—Lord Jesus Think on Me

The introduction to the Church of England Common Worship Evening Prayer for Lent includes a hymn by the wonderfully named “George the Sinner.” The opening line of each verse is
Lord Jesus, think on me. 
I’d never thought of Jesus thinking on me. I’ve just realized I’ve been stuck in the idea of me having to all the thinking on him. What would Jesus think about when he thinks on me, or you?

John 17 is what first came to my mind. That’s Jesus’ high priestly prayer for you and me, the people God the Father had given him. He prays that the Father will keep us in his name (v11), we may have the joy of Jesus fulfilled in ourselves (v13), we are kept from the evil one (v15), we may all be one (v21) and that, when the time comes, we may be with Jesus, where he is, to see his glory (v24). There are five good things Jesus thinks on me and you. Watch for others in your Holy Lenten reading and meditating on the Word of God.

How is Jesus able to think on so many of us? Because he is God which means he is omnipresent, that is, he is everywhere at the same time. Not only that, he is omniscient, in other words, he knows everything—past, present and future.  Jesus is also omnipotent, or all powerful. Those three attributes mean that Jesus can be fully present to everyone, everywhere, all the time. Sometimes I wish he would make his presence more obvious to me more often.

I hope Jesus’ thoughts on me are pleasant ones. Observing a Holy Lent will help me with that.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Leaning Into Lent: Day 1

Rather than giving up something for Lent, or leaning away from something I enjoy, this year I thought I might lean in to some things and write about them instead—in particular, things that light up in my daily prayers and Bible reading, or anything else that the Holy Spirit lights up for me.

First, you should know my sources. I’ll be leaning in to Daily Prayer from the Church of England, except that I am using the St James Daily Devotional Guide as my lectionary. It’s likely there’ll be other sources as I lean this way and that this Lent.

Two things for today:

A Hell of a Way to Start the Day

So said a Benedictine monk once about reading Jeremiah at the beginning of the day which is what Jude and I are doing in Morning Prayer just now. God is not happy with his people.
Thus says the Lord concerning this people:
“They have loved to wander thus;
they have not restrained their feet;
therefore the Lord does not accept them;
now he will remember their iniquity
and punish their sins.” [Jeremiah 14:10 (ESV)]
“They have not restrained their feet” is what caught my attention. Sometimes God requires that we restrain ourselves from heading in certain directions.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [Galatians 5:16–17 (ESV)]
The self examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, reading and meditating on the Word of God of a Holy Lent are all designed to help us identify our disordered desires. With God’s help, we can then restrain our feet, walk by the Spirit and lean well away from the danger.

My Heart Has Knees

Morning Prayer in my CofE app this morning has a canticle (a hymn, psalm or other song of praise taken from biblical or holy texts other than the Psalms) from the Prayer of Manasseh in the Apocrypha:
The sins I have committed against you •
are more in number than the sands of the sea.
I am not worthy to look up to the height of heaven, •
because of the multitude of my iniquities.
And now I bend the knee of my heart before you, •
imploring your kindness upon me.
I have sinned, O God, I have sinned, •
and I acknowledge my transgressions.
I’ve always found Manasseh’s prayer moving. I was delighted to discover that my heart has knees as well as eyes (Eph 1.18)! It makes perfect sense to bend them and lean in to the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ in grateful penitence.

Goodness and Fruitfulness—Good Fruit: Healthy Living in the Spirit (Part 4)

The following appears in the Winter 2015 issue of Anglicans for Renewal magazine. 

This is the fourth in our series on the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22). Fruit is important to ARM and to the Church because it is sweet and tasty, spiritually nutritious, refreshing, and it makes Jesus present to the people among whom we live and move and have our being.

Jesus says some pointed things about fruit in John 15. Branches that do not bear it are thrown away and burned. Branches that do bear fruit are pruned so they’ll bear more. Branches cannot bear fruit on their own. Fruit bearing is only possible when a branch abides in Jesus because “Apart from me,” he says, “you can do nothing.” (John 15.5) “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and
so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) Jesus is all about glorifying his Father, so fruit bearing must be very important.

Some people think Jesus is talking about new believers when he refers to fruit. Others think he had our Gal 5.22 Fruit of the Spirit in mind. For example, devotional writer, Andrew Murray, thought that “the essential idea of fruit is that it is the silent, natural, restful produce of our inner life.” That sounds like Fruit of the Spirit to me. Fruit of the Spirit fruit is the practical expression of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. This fruit will attract people to Jesus. Fruit is good which ever way you look at it.
Goodness and faithfulness, our focus this time, are no exception.

Goodness

Fruit of the Spirit goodness "may be thought of both as an uprightness of soul and as an action reaching out to others to do good even when it is not deserved." It is Fruit of the Spirit love in action. It is generous and kind. It means "working for the benefit of others, not oneself" (ESV Study Bible, p2255).

In God's Kingdom, however, goodness is much more than mere good deeds. Fruit of the Spirit goodness reminds me of that wonderful scene in Exodus, chapter 33, where Moses, overwhelmed by his calling and task, asks God to show him His glory. "And the Lord said to Moses, 'This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name. …I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’'" (Ex 33.17-19)

When we are this kind of good people get a Holy glimpse of the Father's goodness passing by as His Name is proclaimed in glory . What could be richer than that?

Faithfulness

Fruit of the Spirit faithfulness is "consistently doing what one says one will do” (ESV Study Bible, p2255). It is "that which makes a person one on whom others can rely. It is "the quality which renders a person trustworthy or reliable, like the faithful servant in Luke 16:10–12." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol 2, p609)

That servant is in the parable about the dishonest manager; the one who is faithful and honest in very little, in much and especially with wealth. Alas. Could it be that a sign of genuine silent, (super)natural, restful produce of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence as Fruit of the Spirit faithfulness is accurate tithing and generous offerings? After all, "If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?" (Lk16.11)

With what other things, little and much, are we called to be faithful? Our Baptismal vows and covenant are a good place to start. We constantly turn to Jesus as our Saviour, trusting in his grace and love, obeying him as Lord, continuing regularly and frequently in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers of our worshipping parish communities, resisting evil, repenting, returning, proclaiming, seeking and serving, loving, striving for justice, peace and dignity—and all as consistent, trustworthy, reliable followers of Jesus.

Being faithful to marriage vows by loving, comforting, honouring, and protecting one another is enhanced when the faithfulness is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit kind.
When we are this kind of faithful our relationships with God and the people around us are strengthened and enriched.

When goodness and faithfulness, along with all the other Fruit of the Spirit, are the silent, (super)natural, restful produce of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence in us, the Father is well glorified and we prove ourselves to be disciples of Jesus.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Giving Lent a Bit of a Polish: a Short Homily for the Last Sunday after Epiphany—with Reference to Ex 34:29–35; 2 Cor 3:12– 4:2; Lk 9:28–43

Jesus with a changed face in dazzling white in our gospel reading. Notice what he was doing when it happened—praying (Lk 9.29). Then there was glory as Moses and Elijah appeared (Lk 9.31). Peter and others went from “weighed down with sleep” to awake (Lk 9.32) and seeing the glory of Jesus himself, alone (Lk 9.36). Want to see Jesus and his glory? Wake up and pray.

Being weighed down with spiritual or literal sleep aren’t the only things which can keep us from seeing Jesus in his glory. Paul also tells us of a veil which can lie over our minds and which can be set aside only in Jesus (2 Cor 3.14) when we turn to him (2 Cor 3.16). It’s a veil made of a hardened mind (2 Cor 3.14) which keeps us from seeing the glory of the Lord.

What hardens minds? Jesus mentions a couple of things in verse 41 of the gospel: faithlessness and perversity. Paul writes about shameful things that we hide in the Epistle (2 Cor 4.2). Not to mention resentment, unforgiveness, sexual immorality, anger, the desire for revenge, pride, a life bereft of worship, bitterness, envy, unbelief, prayerlessness, selfishness—the list goes on. A mind-hardened veil can develop into an oppressive and spiritually suffocating and blindfold which, as Paul writes a little later in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4, veils the gospel and blinds “the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4.3-4). That kind of veil keeps goodness out.

Then we have Moses with his shiny face, shining so bright people were afraid to go near him (Ex 34.30), so bright he thought it best to wear a veil so the people wouldn’t be alarmed at the sight of him (Ex 34.33 & 35). Why was Moses’ face so shiny? Because he’d been talking to God (Ex 34.29). Want to have a shiny face? Talk to God. It works for shining up hearts, minds and souls, too.

Lent starts Wednesday. The perfect time to work on that. Why not lift the veils in our lives and use them to give Lent a bit of a polish this year—so we can shine a bit brighter? Let me remind you of what constitutes a hardened-mind veil lifting, face shining, holy Lent.

Self-Examination

How shiny is the face I present to Jesus and the people around me? How shiny is my heart and mind and soul with the light of the gospel of the glory of Jesus (2 Cor 4.4). How much of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ am I reflecting? (2 Cor 4.6)

Penitence

Are there any sinful behaviours I need to bring into the light of confession and repentance this Lent? I know how good I can be at my heart and mind hardened dance of the seven veils to avoid being honest about my sin.

Fasting

To give my depending on the Lord a bit of a polish. Am I trying to find glory in what I eat or consume? Or is my consumption weighing me down with spiritual sleep? Fasting pushes the reset button.

Almsgiving

Who needs some extra shine in their lives? There are many, many people who are living in the veiled shadows of poverty and need. A generous Lenten gift from someone like you or me could shine with the glory of the Lord in someone’s poverty veiled heart?

Reading and Meditating on the Word of God

Do something systematic this Lent. The Bible wakes us up. It turns us to Jesus. It softens minds and hearts and lifts veils. When we read the Bible we are hearing God’s very voice. Such hearing makes us shine. (If need to remind yourself of that list. It's on page 282 of the BAS.)

Want to get out from behind the veil and see the glory of the Lord? Want to shine as you are transformed from one glory to another? Wake up, observe a Holy Lent, talk to God in prayer and turn to Jesus (1 Cor 3.16). Then, as our minds and faces are unveiled, we get to see the glory of the Lord himself as we are being transformed “from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (1 Cor 3.18)

And we will see the face of Jesus.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Holy Spirit in the Anglican Prayer Books: Part Two



This was published in the Winter 2015 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries magazine.

Last time I began working through our prayer books looking for references to the Holy Spirit in our foundational documents, rubrics and liturgies. If those of us who are interested in charismatic renewal were to pay closer attention to them and to pray into them, I wonder if The LORD might bless us with an awakening and some times of refreshing?

The first appearance in The Book of Alternative Services is in the Gloria at the beginning of Morning Prayer: "Lord, open our lips," we pray as the scene is set for worship, "And our mouth shall proclaim your praise. O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen." (p47) It's a fitting start. God, the Holy Spirit, is glorified and our worship is well directed as we open our lips and proclaim his praise. As often as possible, I like to make words like those among the first I utter each day. 

Decently and In Order
Some think prayer for the Holy Spirit's activity and presence needs to be extemporaneous and loud with wind and fire. That's good for extroverted folk and those who feel called to pray that way, but there are Spirit filled introverts (like me) who want to see the Church revived, too. 

I fear many of us have come to consider the Anglican daily prayer liturgies as spiritless prayer—routine, dry, by rote and empty. Not so. If they feel empty, it's because we are, not the liturgy. Our job is fill them by praying them anyway, at whatever volume, without losing heart (Lk18.1).

Whatever our style, the Biblical call is to pray without ceasing (1The5.17) which the daily offices encourage and for which they provide a trustworthy framework allowing things to "be done decently and in order." (1Co14.40)

Day by day we bless you
We praise your name for ever
(Te Deum Laudamus—A Song of the Church)

Learning the Ropes
Morning, Midday, Evening, Night prayer, Compline and all our liturgies are the Holy Scriptures set to prayer; living, active and sharp (Hebrews 4.12). Why not pray them as prayer to the Holy Spirit for the revival of the Church? Who knows? Might the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be moved in his grace and mercy to pour out his Spirit again if ordinary Anglicans like you and me were to faithfully, consistently and systematically pray the offices with revival in mind? If nothing else it would focus us.



My mind is often disarrayed with concerns for all manner of issues and tragedies. All I have to do is take hold of the rope, watch for the Holy Spirit in the service (and in the lectionary readings of the day), pause when I notice them, pray into the reference or verse and let it take me to the place where I "daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more" (The Book of Alternative Services, p628). You can do it, too. We don't have to be clever, articulate, creative or feel particularly holy. All we have to do is take hold of the rope. 

Alleluia! The Spirit of the Lord renews the face of the earth: 
O come, let us worship.
(Pentecost Invitatory, BAS, p48)

Believing
The next reference to the Holy Spirit in the BAS comes in The Apostles Creed for Morning Prayer. 

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit 
and born of the Virgin Mary. 
I believe in the Holy Spirit. (p52)

Jesus was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. This is a basic tenet of our faith. We are to believe it. Believing that the Holy Spirit is who the Bible says he is, did what the Bible says he did and does what the Bible says he is still able to do is an important part of life and ministry in the Spirit. 

"Do not fear, only believe," Jesus said just before he took the little dead girl by the hand and said, "Child arise!" (Lk8.50-56) And she did. Believe. Pray that The LORD will take you and me and our church by the hand, too, saying, "Child arise!" so we will. 

Fellowship
Finally Morning (and Evening) Prayer comes to a close with reference to the Holy Spirit in the Grace. Our farewell to The LORD and to one another comes with these words: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen." (BAS, p55)

God's grace, that is his empowering presence to be who he made us to be and to do what he calls us to do, comes through Jesus. So does his love. The warm comfort, fire and power of the Holy Spirit comes in fellowship, that is, in a holy and friendly association with him. Those who share his interests grow from glory to glory through daily, systematic, unceasing prayer. 

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing 
through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (BAS, p55)