Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Holy Spirit in The Prayer Books: Part 7-—Midday Prayer and the Scandal of Particularity

The seventh in the Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books series in the Spring 2017 issue of Anglicans for Renewal:

Tucked away in between Morning and Evening Prayer in both The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and The Book of Alternative Services (BAS) are PRAYERS AT MID-DAY (BCP p16, BAS p56). Brief, to the point, and with an evangelistic missional focus—an excellent three minute act of worship and prayer for middle of the day (Ps 55.17). As usual, the work of the Holy Spirit is woven into this short liturgy.


In the BCP, the Holy Spirit is the One in whose name we pray and "who livest and reignest" with the Father and our BLESSED and ALMIGHTY Saviour "ever one God, world without end. Amen."


In the BAS the Holy Spirit features prominently in the first of the suggested passages of scripture:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal 5.22, 23a, 25; BAS p57) 
An excellent mid-day reminder to ask myself by whom, or what, I'm living and walking that day. "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit," Paul reminds us, "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" (Gal 5.17). Opposed to each other! Living and walking by the flesh—by my preferences, appetites and ambitions—is opposed to living and walking by the Holy Spirit. I'm not necessarily supposed to get to do what I want. Neither are you. Praying the Prayer Book liturgies will lead and guide us into living and walking in the Holy Spirit, Sunday by Sunday, day by day, morning, noon and night. (For more on the Fruit of the Spirit, see the series of five articles in previous issues of Anglicans for Renewal from Spring 2015 to Spring 2016 or at GENEralities—

And then, "Heavenly Father," we pray, "send your Holy Spirit into our hearts to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth" (BAS, p58). The Father sends him, just as we declare in the Nicene Creed, to comfort, defend and lead. If ever there was a time when we Canadian Anglicans need defending from error and leading into truth it is now. Worth praying every noon hour, methinks.

The Scandal of Particularity 

Next come two prayers which appear in both books asking that "all the peoples of the earth may look to you (Blessed Saviour) and be saved," that all the world would be filled with radiance of our Almighty Saviour's glory and "that all nations may come and worship you." Amen! And there we have what past Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, wrote that theologians call "the scandal of particularity."
That is, Christianity makes the bold claim that Jesus Christ is so incomparable that we meet God fully in Him. In this particular man, God is known. This does not mean, of course, that God cannot be know in other faiths. Mainstream Christianity treats other religions with respect and allows that God can be known and is known by men and women of non-Christian faiths. We do not deny that in the higher religions of mankind there are glimpses of the divine. But we cannot shift from the conviction that is as old as the New Testament: that God is revealed fully and finally in the person of Jesus Christ. We know how infuriating and arrogant such a claim must seem to those who sincerely believe that in their scriptures and in their worship God is found and experienced. But we have to say with Paul as he preached to the adherents of other faiths in Athens: "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you" (Acts 17.23). This is the scandal of particularity with which we must live. Christina's cannot yield this un-negotiable element in their faith. We believe that the God of the universe longs to reveal Himself and He does so in many different ways and forms, through religion, through reason, art, and human intelligence, but each and every one of these ways is limited. Only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can God be fully known, worshipped and obeyed." (The Most Reverend George Carey, "Archbishop's Voice," The Anglican Digest, Pentecost 1992, p62)
Very much worth praying for. Daily. Our world needs to filled with that radiance more and more every day. By living and walking prayerfully in the power of the Holy Spirit with the help of such Canadian Anglican treasures as Mid-Day Prayer we are comforted, defended and led into the wonder and scandalous particularity who is our Blessed and Almighty Saviour, Jesus.


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