Saturday, 20 August 2016

Faster, Higher, Stronger

This is my By the Way column for The Medicine Hat News today. 

Tomorrow the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will draw to their close in Rio de Janeiro. There have been some wonderful, heart warming surprises as Canadian athletes of which many of us hadn’t even heard before amazed and delighted us all with their grace, achievements, and medal winnings.  There were disappointments, too, and the usual dark media mutterings about venues not being ready on time, doping scandals, corruption and financial struggles that precede every Olympiad.

Faster, Higher, Stronger is the Olympic motto. It's exciting to watch dedicated, highly motivated, finely tuned athletes pushing the limits of human speed, height and strength.

I wonder if Faster, Higher, Stronger could also be a helpful call to the Christian Church. On one level it is. Being quicker with acts of kindness would be good. The Bible encourages us to set our minds on higher things (Colossians 3:2) and to be strong in the faith (Joshua 1:9). As one of our Anglican General Thanksgiving Prayers goes, “We thank you for setting us tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone” (The Book of Alternative Services, p129). Our spiritual muscles are strengthened when we engage in spiritual exercise to overcome life’s obstacles.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” the Bible says (Hebrews 12:1). Does running with endurance always mean running faster, higher, stronger? Not unless that is what “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) means. Running with his kind of endurance seems to me to be more about slower, deeper and a different kind of stronger—slow, deep worship, prayer, Bible reading and relationship building. There may be the occasional sprint, leap and feat of strength, but endurance is for the long haul—eternity.

Running with Jesus endurance will be like the Olympics in some ways. There will be wonderful, heart warming surprises along the way and we’ll meet and run with people who amaze and delight us with their grace and achievements. There will also be disappointments, darkness and cheats. The podium prize will be a robe (Rev 7:9) rather than a medal and eternal life with Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who showed us The Way by running before us so well.

Gene+

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Bright Wings—from Anglicans for Renewal

This was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada magazine—follow the link the ARM Office to subscribe here

This is my first “post” from the ARM Chair. As I write I am gratefully conscious of the faithful chairmen who have gone before; all of whom have led wisely and served well; most recently The Venerable Perry Cooper from Central Newfoundland. The seat has been well warmed.

ARM Board Prayer Retreat

We’ve just finished our second annual ARM Board prayer retreat in Okotoks, Alberta, at which we welcomed our newest member, The Reverend Robert Porter, from the Diocese of Ontario. His arrival dropped the average age of ARM board members by a gratifying decade, or two. Welcome Robert.

Both prayer retreats have been valuable opportunities for the Board to focus on the LORD’s promptings and direction for ARM without having to do any “business.” We deal with that at our monthly board meetings and at our Annual General Meeting, which this year will take place in Miramichi, NB, on Friday, May 13, 2015. This time Board Prayer Co-ordinator, Jane Jones, reminded us that at our last retreat we were given the necessary “keys” (Isa 22.22; Mt 16.19; Rev 3.7) for our ministry, now we need to learn how to use and develop them well so the necessary doors will be opened.

Those keys for ARM are three:

  1. Schools of Renewal Ministry—with Jane Jones responsible for content and curriculum
  2. Missionary Outreach Family Nights—an exciting new intergenerational initiative headed up by ARM Board member, The Reverend John VanStone
  3. Social Media and OnLine Presence—the development of which I am responsible.

We enjoyed two special visits during this retreat. The Reverend Chris Nojonen, of Oasis, formerly Lutheran Renewal Canada, joined us for a few hours to share what they’re up to, pray and talk about ways in which we might work together. The Most Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land and Archbishop of Calgary also joined us over a meal. He and our Episcopal Visitor, The Right Reverend Fraser Lawton, Bishop of Athabasca, gave us some valuable insights on how ARM might serve dioceses and parishes better.

Bright Wings

Personally, apart from the rich time in prayerful and worshipful community, two things have stuck in my mind. One from the day before the retreat, the other, a phrase from a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem that came to mind a few days after. The first, a passage of Scripture from Morning Prayer on the Sunday before the retreat—The Baptism of the Lord—Acts 19.1-7 in which Paul found some disciples in Ephesus, ‘And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 19:2 (ESV) We Anglicans say the words Holy Spirit repeatedly during Sunday worship. But saying it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re hearing what we’re saying and who he is. Holy Spirit can all too easily become liturgical background noise as we follow our habitual well-worn path through the familiar words. ARM exists to help open the ears of Anglican hearts so the Holy Spirit can reclaim his rightful place in the foreground, with the two other persons of the Holy Trinity, so we can be reminded of who the Holy Spirit really is and what he is saying to the church. We want every Anglican to hear clearly that there is, indeed, a Holy Spirit, and to be refreshed and empowered by his presence,
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerald Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur)
We came away from this retreat Holy Spirit refreshed, encouraged and with new God-given avenues to explore.

As we continue to seek new opportunities for refreshing, Holy Spirit filling ministry, we’d like to hear from you. What can we do to help you to hear anew that there is a Holy Spirit who helps, comforts, empowers, guides us into all truth and always glorifies Jesus? We’d like to help you experience the refreshing, bright-winged Holy Spirit in your parish, district, deanery or diocese in a new way. Please email me (kiwirev@gmail.com) with any requests or ideas and we’ll do our best to help.

Gene+

Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books: Part 4

This was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada magazine—follow the link the ARM Office to subscribe here

So far we have seen that the Holy Spirit is truly present and recorded in our foundation documents, in daily prayer, Baptism and Confirmation in both The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and The Book of Alternative Services (BAS). The Holy Spirit brings us God’s love and power. He also sanctifies, regenerates, strengthens, fills, sustains, seals and renews us, more and more, and daily.

Anglican Renewal Ministries (ARM) Canada promotes the Anglican Prayer Book tradition of prayer, both private and corporate. Holy Spirit filled prayer books ensure that all the important devotional bases are covered: confession, worship, intercession, petition and Scripture reading. Holy Spirit filled people, even introverted Anglicans, faithfully and systematically praying the words in Holy Spirit filled and inspired prayer books cannot but be a powerful, spiritual force to be reckoned with. They are The Church of Jesus Christ at prayer.

Absolutely

The Holy Spirit’s power and presence are consistently invoked. Even, for example, in the Prayer of Absolution, in the Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer “DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR” the priest prays that Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, would “grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (The Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Book Centre, 1962, pp 5 & 20). The benefits of true repentance and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives are amazing: the things we do please God, our lives become pure and holy and our final destination is “his eternal joy.” What could be better?

Glory Be…

Then we pray the Lord's Prayer, ask the Lord to open our lips so we can praise him, and to save and help us before giving God glory in a brief declarative statement of worship—a worship “capsule” that can be used anywhere, no matter whether you’re alone or with someone else, even when you don’t have a band or organ handy. It’s like a mini hymn or worship song, only without music:
GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. (BCP, p6)
This deceptively short, but profound, hymn is then repeated after the VENITE and BENEDICTUS in MORNING PRAYER and the MAGNIFICAT and NUNC DIMITTIS in EVENING PRAYER. We respond to inspired words of Holy Scripture with properly Trinitarian worship. The Holy Ghost/Spirit is worshipped and glorified along with the Father and the Son.

It is all too easy to say it routinely and without thinking, of course, just as I am likely to do with my prayer ending amens. It’s one of the dangers of liturgical worship. The words become familiar as we wear our habitual path through them day by day or week by week. They become part of what critics call “empty ritual.” The solution is to fill them by applying my heart every time I read, say or sing them. Worship can be hearty even with no music or in silence. The Helper (John 14.16) himself helps with that.

The BAS has these worship capsules, too. I prefer the BCP version with its “world without end.” It just seems to roll off the tongue more smoothly, but either works. God is verbally worshipped and glorified in Three Persons.

Te Deum 

As we continue through THE ORDER FOR MORNING PRAYER DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR in the BCP, we come to TE DEUM LAUDAMUS and
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee, The Father, of an infinite Majesty; Thine honourable, true, and only Son; Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. (BCP, p8)
Not Scripture, but inspired nonetheless. Sound Trinitarian worship in prose from the fourth century reminding us of how Jesus described the Holy Spirit as Comforter (John 14.16, KJV)—rendered as Advocate, Counsellor or Helper in later translations. This is The One who, indeed,
over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerald Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur
AB Simpson, Canadian preacher, author and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Benjamin_Simpson) described the Holy Spirit as the “mother heart of God.” “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus said, “I will come to you” (John 14.18). Every morning TE DEUM LAUDAMAS reminds me that he didn’t and he has.

Believing It

Among others, the Apostle’s Creed (BCP, pp 10 & 22) calls for two key tenets of belief about the Holy Ghost/Spirit: that Jesus was conceived by him and that we believe in him as the Third Person of the Holy and Eternal Trinity—One God. Again, I prefer the BCP version because it comes every day; rain or shine, feeling spiritual or not, without options, for ever and ever. Amen. I believe it does my soul good to repeat the words so I confess my faith over and over again. What I believe gets into my bones and helps my unbelief (Mk 9.24).

Can it be monotonous? Yes, but monotony has benefits. In “Knit Your Way to a More Prayerful Life,” a wonderful Her.menuetics blog post for Christianity Today magazine, Rachel Marie Stone quotes GK Chesterton who explains why:
Children have abounding vitality… they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. 
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. 
It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. 
Just so, the offices and the liturgy, including The Creed, bear repeating. Lots of it.

Gene+

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Pray for General Synod 2016


The Anglican Church of Canada posted this prayer For General, Provincial, or Diocesan Synods from The Book of Common Prayer on its Twitter feed the other day. "Amen!" pray I. May the all the mind of our Saviour Jesus Christ be fulfilled, indeed, particularly as regards the momentous changes proposed for our Marriage Canon during this Synod. 

I am also praying the first of the two prayers For General, Provincial, or Diocesan Synods which begins on the page before: 
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world: We beseech thee to be present with the General Synod now [or about to be] assembled in thy Name. Save its members from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe so to direct, govern, and sanctify them in their deliberations by thy Holy Spirit, that through thy blessing the Gospel of Christ may be faithfully preached and obeyed, the order and discipline of thy Church maintained, and the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour enlarged and extended. Grant this, we beseech thee, through the merits and mediation of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 42-43)
It seems to me this prayer fleshes out how Jesus' mind for his Church ought to be fulfilled: protected from error, ignorance, pride and prejudice; directed, governed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit of Truth; so the transforming and saving Gospel of Christ can continue to be faithfully preached and obeyed; the Church's order and discipline conserved; and the Kingdom of God properly enlarged and extended. 

Lord, have mercy! Please pray. 

Gene+

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Just Say the Word: thoughts on the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) with reference to JESUS; the First Week of Ordinary Time; 1 Kgs 18.20–39; Gal 1:1–12 and Lk 7:1–10

Jesus is complicated. So is taking him seriously. It involves a lot of coming and going.

Like in the gospel. Ask him to come and heal my servant said the centurion in the gospel (Lk 7.3). So they (the elders) came to Jesus and pleaded with him earnestly to go with them (Lk 7.5-6). And then the centurion said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you.” (Lk 7.6-7) Come, don’t come. I don’t know.

Sounds like what Elijah was talking about. “How long will you go limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him.…And the people did not answer him a word” (1 Kg 18.21)

That kind of thinking seems to have been going on in Paul’s day, too, when you’d think things were fresh and miracles were happening every day. “I am astonished,” he wrote in our Galatians, “that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1.6-7).

Limping along, not sure whether I’m coming or going, needing to be delivered from an evil age (Gal 1.4)—that hasn’t changed. And who’s approval am I seeking? God’s or people’s?

Like I said, Jesus is complicated.

‘If any want to become my followers,” he said in one of my morning prayer readings last week, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?’ Luke 9.22-25

Complicated.

Deny, take up, save, gain, lose. And more! Last Friday, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Luke 6.27b,28

Denying, taking up, saving, gaining, losing, living, dying AND enemies, hate, cursing and abuse. But, Lord!, I don’t want to. I don’t like them. They’re NDPs—Liberals—Conservatives—something-or-other-ophobes. They’re wrong. They’re agents of this evil age, aren’t they? I don't like that bit!

“If you believe what you like in the gospels and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.”
- St. Augustine

Sigh.

And then there was the BCP collect for last week—the one for Trinity Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who hast given unto us thy servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity:
We beseech thee, that this holy faith may evermore be our defence against all adversities; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end.

A true faith, the glory of the eternal Trinity, to worship the Unity—all in the power of the Divine Majesty. Like I said, it’s complicated. Who knows what’s coming and going? Are just two minds enough? You could make a whole bunch of different gospels from that.

Yet it’s FULL of God the Father, and of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit. And it all comes down to this:

But say the word…(Lk 7.7)

Jesus, I choose that opinion. I accept that gospel. Because your word is always truth (Jn 17.17), the truth is in you, Jesus (Eph 4.21) and you ARE the truth (Jn 14.6). Jesus, you ARE the Word (Jn 1.1). Jesus, please just say the word and heal my friend, my neighbour. Jesus, please say the word and keep me pointed in the right direction, no matter how complicated things get, coming or going, always following where you lead.

May the life-giving, on-the-right-track, 24-7, healing, comforting, trustworthy, go-to-in-all-circumstances, day in, day out, Word for us always be Jesus.

Gene+


Saturday, 28 May 2016

It's Good to be Green: By the Way column for The Medicine Hat News

In The Medicine Hat News here

Being green is seen as a great social and environmental virtue these days. Being green, as is often claimed, lessens the effects of global warming—it is a cooling agent. Not only that, being green is now associated with being smart if some websites are any indication—gogreensmart, greenandsmart, smartandgreen—for example. Green is good and to be encouraged.

Being green is good in church land, too. Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday. From now on the year goes green for those of us who worship in liturgical colour according to the Church calendar. I know many folk are uncomfortable with the practice—spirit of religion and all that—but, as a visual person, I really appreciate it. Worship and surroundings are in technicolour. It’s like a map. I can see where I am and it keeps me on track.

Green is for the season we Anglicans call the time after Pentecost (according to the contemporary Canadian calendar), or Ordinary Time (according our mother Church of England and our grandmother Roman Catholic Church). This year it runs for twenty-six Sundays until Advent Sunday November 27th.

The focus through the different colours and seasons of Advent (purple or blue), Christmas (white), Epiphany (green), Lent (purple) and Easter (white) each year is all about Jesus—his advent, birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension.

How I can best respond to the wonder of all that as a worshipper and disciple is the focus of the long green season just begun. Ordinary people like me learn how to become spiritually green and a better follower of Jesus. Green is good, but not necessarily easy.

“It’s not easy being green.” sang Kermit the Frog. “Having to spend each day the colour of leaves. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water—or stars in the sky.”

Being spiritually green is not flashy or sparkly. Some might say it’s monotonous—pretty ordinary and repetitive, actually. But so are my excuses and I need to be reminded of the things I’d rather avoid—repeatedly. Besides, repetition can be good. I keep kissing my wife, for example. Once wasn’t enough. It is worth repeating. Besides, I enjoy it. And I keep practising my guitar playing. The more I practice the better I get at it. Just so with being green in Scripture and worship for half the year.

The fact is our world needs some spiritual climate change. Going greener in our Jesus following and worship is a good way to bring about global warming in a good way.

Gene+


Sunday, 8 May 2016

On Some Mothers I've Known

My Mum was a wonder. So is my wife, our daughter, our daughter-in-law, my sister and so many others…

A couple of previous posts on the subject here and here.

Gene+