Maundy Thursday

This past Thursday my wife and I attended a Maundy Thursday Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate and really enjoyed the service. The architecture of the Basilica was absolutely stunning.

 

In the Gospel of John 13:1-17 we find the example of Christ washing the feet of His disciples. This example was lived out in front of the altar during the Mass.

“Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that heJesus_washing_Peters_feet1.jpg should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And when supper was done, (the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him,) Knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and goeth to God; He riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments, and having taken a towel, girded himself. After that, he putteth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to him: Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered, and said to him: What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith to him: Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me. Simon Peter saith to him: Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all. For he knew who he was that would betray him; therefore he said: You are not all clean. Then after he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, being set down again, he said to them: Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. Amen, amen I say to you: The servant is not greater than his lord; neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them.”

The Mass with Procession of the Sacrament was powerful and moving. As the incense washed over us we sang “Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium,” a hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).

st. thomas.jpg

Tell, tongue, the mystery
of the glorious Body
and of the precious Blood,
which, for the price of the world,
the fruit of a noble Womb,
the King of the Nations poured forth.

Given to us, born for us,
from the untouched Virgin,
and dwelt in the world
after the seed of the Word had been scattered.
His inhabiting ended the delays
with wonderful order.

On the night of the Last Supper,
reclining with His brethren,
once the Law had been fully observed
with the prescribed foods,
as food to the crowd of Twelve
He gives Himself with His hands.

The Word as Flesh makes true bread
into flesh by a word
and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ.
And if sense is deficient
to strengthen a sincere heart
Faith alone suffices.

Therefore, the great Sacrament
let us reverence, prostrate:
and let the old Covenant
give way to a new rite.
Let faith stand forth as substitute
for defect of the senses.

To the Begetter and the Begotten
be praise and jubilation,
greeting, honour, strength also
and blessing.
To the One who proceeds from Both
be equal praise.
Amen, Alleluia.

By now it’s safe to say I am no longer a Baptist…no longer Reformed. What am I? I am a Christian who is searching, seeking and finding Christ where He may be found and that is in the liturgy of the word, in Holy Communion, where Christ literally is.

Our Lord said, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.” John 6

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!

jm

Wisdom from the book of Sirach

holy wisdom

Holy Wisdom

The author of the Wisdom of Sirach is Jesus ben Sirach who was a Jewish scribe writing

somewhere around 200 to 174 before the time of our Lord. The book was written in Hebrew but no copies of the original exist. Only Greek copies. The 39 Articles of Religion, a Reformed Anglican confession of faith, gives us a list of books that,

“(as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…”

This list of books includes the Wisdom of Sirach sometimes referred to by its older name Ecclesiasticus. Honestly, this is one of my favourite books to read from as it offers clear, straight forward advice grounded in the revelation of God. Richard Baxter wrote, “A Christian Directory,” in which he offers sage Christian advice. I consider this book in the same vain, it is a support to religion, but not of Divine inspiration.

All quotations are taken from the text of the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint aka The Orthodox Study Bible.

Grace

“My son, accomplish your works with gentlness, And you will be loved by people the Lord accepts. The greater you are, the more humble you must be, And you will find grace before the Lord.” 3.17-18 SAAS

“A man without grace is like a story told at the wrong time; It will continue on the lips of the ignorant.” 20.19 SAAS

“There is an astute man who is a teacher of many, But is useless to his own soul. A man who devises words craftily will be hated. This man will go hungry, For grace was not given to him from the Lord, Because he is destitute of all wisdom.” 37.19-21 SAAS

The Incarnation

“To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed? And who has come to know her great deeds? There is one who is wise and is feared exceedingly. He who sits upon His throne. The Lord Himself created wisdom. He saw and numbered her And poured her out on all His works.” 1.5-7 SAAS

Humility

“If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, And the Lord will supply it to you. For the feat of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and instruction, And His good pleasure is faith and gentleness. Do not disobey the fear of the Lord, And do not come to Him with a divided heart. Do not be a hypocrite in the sight of men, And be careful with your lips. Do not exalt yourself, lest you fall And bring dishonor to your soul. The Lord shall reveal your secrets, And in the midst of the assembly He will strike you down, Because you did not come in the fear of the Lord, And your heart was full of deceit.” 1.23-27 SAAS

“The greater you are, the more humble you must be, And you will find grace before the Lord.” 3.18 SAAS

“Forgive wrong done you by your neighbor; Then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” 28.2 SAAS

“The prayer of a humble man passes through the clouds, And he will not be comforted until it reaches the Lord;” 35.17 SAAS

Praise and Glory to God

“Fill Zion with the celebration of Your divine virtue And Your people with Your glory. Give testimony to what You created in the beginning And raise up the prophecies spoken in Your name.” 36.13-14 SAAS

“The Lord did not enable His saints To describe all His wonders, Which the Lord Almighty established That the universe might be established in His glory. He traced out the abyss and the human heart And understands their craftiness; For the Most High possesses all knowledge And sees into the signs of an age.” 42.17-18 SAAS

Prayer

“O Lord, Father and Master of my life,
Do not leave me to their counsel,
Nor let me fall because of them.
Who will set whips over my thoughts
And the discipline of wisdom over my heart,

So they may not spare me in my  errors,

Nor neglect me in my sins?
Lest my mistakes be multiplied
And my sins abound,
Then I would not fall before my adversaries,

And my enemy would not rejoice over me.

O Lord, Father and the God of my life,
do not give me haughty eyes,
But turn me away from evil desire.
Do not let gluttony or lust overcome me,
Nor give me up to a shameless sou.” 23.1-6 SAAS

Yours in the Lord,

jm

The Life of God in the Soul of Man

lifeofgodsoulofman

Some quotes to entice you.

Correct orthodox or religious opinion is not true religion: 

“…I must regret that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means ;  some placing it in the Understanding, in Orthodox Notions and Opinions, and all the account they can give of their Religion, is that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have join’d themselves to one of those many Sects whereunto Christendom is most unhappily divided .”

Works are not true religion:

“Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances, if they live peaceably with their Neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of Worship, frequenting the Church, or their Closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the Poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves.”

Emotional responses are not true religion:

“Others again put all Religion in the affections, in rapturous heats, and ecstatic devotion, and all they aim at, is to pray with passion, and think of Heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind, and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian Graces.”

True religion is:

“…Religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it, will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it.  They know by experience that true Religion is an Union of the Soul with God, a real participation of the Divine Nature, the very Image of God drawn upon the Soul, or in the Apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us.  Briefly, I know not how the nature of Religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it a Divine Life ;  and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first how it is called a Life, and then how it is termed Divine.”

True religion is based in a relationship:

AGAIN, Religion may be designed by the name of Life, because it is an inward, free, and self-moving principle, and those who have made progress in it, are not acted only by external Motives, driven merely by threatenings, nor bribed by promises, nor constrain’d by Laws ;  but are powerfully inclined to that which is good, and delight in the performance of it :  The love which a Pious man carries to God, and goodness, is not so much by virtue of a Command enjoining him so to do, as by a new Nature instructing and prompting him to it ;  nor doth he pay his devotions, as an unavoidable tribute only to appease the Divine Justice, or quiet his clamorous Conscience ;  but those Religious exercises are the proper emanations of the divine life, the natural employments of the new-born Soul.

He prays and gives thanks, and repents, not only because these things are commanded, but rather because he is sensible of his wants, and of the Divine goodness, and of the folly and misery of a sinful life ;  his charity is not forced, nor his alms extorted from him, his love makes him willing to give ;  and though there were no outward obligation, his heart would devise liberal things.  Injustice or intemperance, and all other vices, are as contrary to his temper, and constitution, as the basest actions are to the most generous spirit, and impudence and scurrility to those who are naturally modest :  so that I may well say with St. JohnWhosoever is born of God doth not commit sin :  for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. Though holy and religious persons do much eye the Law of God, and have a great regard unto it, yet is it not so much the sanction of the Law, as its reasonableness, and purity and goodness which doth prevail with them ;  they account it excellent and desirable in its self, and that in keeping of it there is great reward :  and that Divine Love wherewith they are acted, makes them become a Law unto themselves.”

To read the work it can be found online at: https://www.anglican.net/works/henry-scougal-the-life-of-god-in-the-soul-of-man-1677/

Evensong

You have to admit Evensong is a beautiful form of prayer! Evening Prayer or vespers is the daily evening service of Bible readings and prayers prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve really missed liturgical worship but I’m lucky in a way, the Baptist church I attend is almost 200 years old, and still uses a very old order of worship.

Maybe I’ll visit the local Anglican parish this weekend for communion.

Conservative Churches More Likely to Grow

Re-blog from the Anglican Journal

Theologically conservative churches more likely to grow, study finds

A soon-to-be-published study of churches in southern Ontario suggests that theologically conservative churches are more likely to grow. Photo: Stester/Shutterstock
A soon-to-be-published study of churches in southern Ontario suggests that theologically conservative churches are more likely to grow. Photo: Stester/Shutterstock

In a study whose results he says will probably be controversial, a Canadian professor contends that theologically conservative mainline Protestant churches are more likely to grow while their liberal counterparts decline.

“It is clear that theological conservatism plays a role in distinguishing growing from declining mainline Protestant churches,” concludes Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy, a paper to be published this month in the Review of Religious Research, an American scholarly journal.

The paper’s authors state that by “conservative,” they mean views that are typically held by conservative Protestants, such as a high regard for the authority of the Bible, a literal belief in teachings such as the deity and resurrection of Christ, and a belief that Christianity is true to the exclusion of other religions.

The article summarizes the results of a recent study done of 22 churches in southern Ontario, drawn from the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada. Seeking to identify the possible reasons for growth and decline among mainline Protestant churches, the authors looked at both churches that had gained and lost congregants over the previous 10 years. It surveyed 2,255 regular attendants and 29 clergy on their theological views, religious practices and other matters; the study also involved interviews of clergy and selected congregants.

Lead author David Haskell, professor of religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, and his team compared the survey results with whether the churches had been growing and declining, and identified a number of trends.

The features they found that tended to be most associated with growing churches, according to the paper, were, in order of importance: how churches used contemporary worship; their emphasis on youth programs; the theological conservatism of the clergy; and the theological conservatism of the parishioners.

Although theological conservatism actually came third and fourth on this list, the paper describes its importance as a predictor of church growth as the “most notable result” to emerge from the study. This, Haskell says, is because the authors conclude from the interviews they conducted that the first two factors were in some sense underlain by the second two.

The evangelical nature of conservative Protestant theology seemed to enjoin on these clergy and parishioners, he says, an unusually high desire to adopt practices—such as contemporary worship and youth programs—deemed more likely to attract new people.

“These people are willing to modify their services, be innovative in both their worship and in their youth programs because they are inspired by their doctrine to do so,” Haskell says. “If it means guitars and drums in church, then that’s going to happen. If it means a youth group that does paintball and then Bible study, then that’s going to happen.”

The survey found that both congregants and clergy of growing churches tended to score highly on a questionnaire intended to gauge their theological conservatism. For example, asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb,” 93 per cent of clergy and 83 per cent of parishioners from growing churches agreed, versus 56 per cent of clergy and 67 per cent of parishioners from declining churches. Asked to respond to the statement, “The beliefs of the Christian faith need to change over time to stay relevant,” 69 per cent of clergy from shrinking churches agreed, compared to zero per cent of clergy from growing churches.


David Haskell, professor of religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University and the author of Theology Matters. Photo: Contributed


Haskell’s paper acknowledges a 2014 report based on an 18-month survey of Church of England members, which claimed that theological orientation or “churchmanship” was an essentially insignificant predictor of church growth or decline. That paper argued that the prioritization of growth by clergy, a sense of clear mission and purpose among the congregation and an openness to change were more strongly associated with growing churches. But the Church of England study, Haskell says, suffered from some key flaws. Instead of surveying a large number of congregants, for example, it relied on answers posed only to a small number of “key informants.” And instead of attempting to gauge theological orientation by asking questions on specific points of belief, it asked respondents to locate where they stood on three scales—catholic vs. evangelical, liberal vs. conservative and charismatic vs. non-charismatic—a less reliable method, he says.

According to figures released this fall, the Church of England lost more than 100,000 regular worshippers over the past decade.

Even apart from the results of his study, Haskell says those who deny that church growth is linked to theological conservatism should ask themselves why evangelical churches have been growing in recent decades while mainline Protestant ones have been declining.

“You can say it’s not the theology, but you’d better be able to tell me what it is,” he says.

Dean Peter Elliott, of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, says the study will likely affect people differently depending on the assumptions they hold about the importance of congregation growth versus other factors, such as truth in church teaching and preaching.

Elliott sees in the theological conservatism presented in the study an emphasis on clarity and simplicity—traits that are likely to appeal to people but often come at the expense of deeper understanding, he says. He hopes the study won’t sway church leaders toward more simplistic teaching in a bid to fill pews.

“I don’t doubt their research, but where that leads me is asking the question, ‘So what?’ ” he says. “I worry sometimes that studies like this can be dispiriting to those of us for whom our practice of Christianity moves more in the gray areas rather than black and white, and that acknowledges the complexity of theological questions and invites thoughtful engagement with the Christian way rather than a sort of blind obedience.”

Christ Church Cathedral, often regarded as a liberal church, has seen its congregation grow significantly over the past 20 years, he says. Elliott attributes this growth at least partly to its liberal theology. People are drawn to Christ Church, he says, because it encourages “thoughtful engagement” with Christianity. “I think people feel that their intellects are respected—that their Christian journeys are ongoing through a life,” he says.

Canon Barry Parker, rector of St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto—one of the growing churches that took part in the study—says he wasn’t surprised to learn of its results. They seem to support what he’s seen in Anglican and other churches in North America, he says.

Parker says St. Paul’s Bloor Street is theologically conservative in terms of its adherence to creeds and other historic elements of the faith, though not necessarily conservative in its application of ministry.

The conservativism of his church, Parker says, has more to do with focusing on what’s essential in the Christian message than providing clarity and simplicity for their own sake. People are drawn to this emphasis on the historic teachings of the church because they’re seeking sustenance from timeless truths, he says.

“I know some people criticize us, saying people want black or white in this chaotic age, but my experience is very different,” he says. “I think people are looking for hope, and meaning, and purpose—those three particular things—and they want it with content. They want to know that what they can believe can stand the test of time, and the test of life.”

Lectionary

I’ve started using the Revised Common Lectionary – it’s been a good experience. I still prefer reading a couple of chapters but have decided to try the lectionary for a while and I’ll admit, it’s been a positive experience so far and recommend trying it. It’s nice to walk into a church service being fed on scripture for a week in advanced on the theological themes being brought to mind during the worship service.

Here’s a quote highlighting 6 points or reasons for using a lectionary from Reformed Church in America :

THE REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY

The Revised Common Lectionary harmonizes the major variants of the three-year lectionary used in North America, bringing to church-goers across the continent the same Scripture passages each week.

The lectionary has several advantages:

1. It covers a great breadth of Scripture–the whole counsel of God.

2. It provides a sequence from week to week (frequently from the New Testament).

3. It relates the gospel of the New Testament to its Old Testament antecedents (including an appropriate Psalter passage).

4. It follows the Christian year, with its focus on Christ.

5. It speaks to the persons and work of the Trinity.

6. It protects the congregation from a narrow preoccupation with the New Testament to the exclusion of the Old Testament.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Insights into Anglicanism

Michael P. Jensen is the author of Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology and (with Tom Frame) Defining Convictions and Decisive Commitments–The Thirty-Nine Articles in Contemporary Anglicanism. He is the rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point, in Sydney, Australia.st mark icon

1. Since the arrival of Christianity in Britain in the 3rd century, British Christianity has had a distinct flavor and independence of spirit, and was frequently in tension with Roman Catholicism. The Britons were evangelized by Irish missionary monks, and it wasn’t until the 7th century that the Roman church established its authority over Christianity in the British Isles, at the Synod of Whitby. But tensions continued until the 16th century.

2. The break with Rome in the 16th century had political causes, but also saw the emergence of an evangelical theology. The Church of England was not just a church of protest against the pope’s authority and his interference in English affairs. It was also a church that adopted a distinctly evangelical theology. The English Reformation cannot be reduced to the marital strife of Henry VIII.

3. Anglicanism is Reformed. The theology of the founding documents of the Anglican church—the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion—expresses a theology in keeping with the Reformed theology of the Swiss and South German Reformation. It is neither Lutheran, nor simply Calvinist, though it resonates with many of Calvin’s thoughts.

4. Scripture is the supreme authority in Anglicanism. Article VI, “Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation,” puts it this way:

Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

In Anglicanism, Scripture alone is supreme as the saving Word of God. Reason and tradition play an auxiliary role. This was the view of divines like Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker. There is a popular myth that Anglicanism views reason, tradition, and Scripture as a three-legged stool of authorities, but it is quite false.

5. Justification by faith alone is at the heart of Anglican soteriology. In its liturgy, its view of the sacraments, in its founding documents, and in the mind of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the Church of England holds that works do not save and cannot save a person. Only the blood of Jesus Christ is effective to save.

6. In Anglican thought, the sacraments are “effectual signs” received by faith. For Anglicans, the sacraments—the Lord’s Supper and baptism—do not convey grace in an automatic sense, or by a grace adhering to the objects used in them.

7. The Anglican liturgy—best encapsulated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—is designed to soak the congregation in the Scriptures, and to remind them of the priority of grace in the Christian life. There is grace on every page—it is not only the heart of Anglican theology, it is the heart of Anglican spirituality.

8. Anglicanism is a missionary faith, and has sponsored global missions since the 18th century. The sending and funding of missionaries to the far reaches of the globe to preach the gospel has been a constant feature of Anglican life, although this has happened through the various voluntary mission agencies as much as through official channels.

9. Global Anglicanism is more African and Asian than it is English and American. The center of contemporary Anglicanism is found in places like Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. In these places there are burgeoning Anglican churches, and a great deal of evangelism and church planting. There are strong Anglican churches too in Asia and elsewhere. Noticeably, where liberal theology has become dominant in Anglicanism—mainly in the “first world”—Anglicanism is rapidly shrinking, and is possibly only a generation from its demise.