August 3, 2016
Fact vs Feeling:Reasoning by Emotions
“We hear with our eyes and think with our feelings. Everything is reduced to an image and an emotional reaction and the use of logic usually marks you as a ‘bad’ (or at best misguided) person.”Ravi Zacharius
We live in an emotionally charged “emoji” filled world, where arguing using logic, facts, and premises seem to have become a thing of the past. Logical arguments make you a “bad” person. Who would have thought that, even in the church, arguing a point using God’s Word, would be deemed irrelevant. Such a turn in the tides when not too long ago, people would be passing out “tracts” (writings) on various topics steeped in Holy Scripture. The same format which was used by the Reformers, like Luther, and the Early Church Fathers, like St Augustine, St Gregory and others. It’s amazing how much the Universal Church has evolved since those former days. Instead of an outward focus in Christ, we are becoming more inwardly focused. Could one of the reason be because of the society in which we live? A society that promotes a “me centered” emotional way of being? If so, Zacharius is right- “everything is reduced to an image and an emotional reaction…” One person commented that the debate on the Marriage Canon in the Anglican Church of Canada could have been done via emoji’s, (a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc.,). Now, this reflection was aimed at both sides.
What he quickly noticed, during this 60 minute debate, was the great amounts of personal stories used to convince the faithful to vote with them. Have the Bible, and tradition of the Universal Church lost their places at the center of the Body of Christ? Instead, are we focusing upon “hearing with our eyes and thinking with our feelings” as Zacharius observed? If so, this may explain why there is no attempt to answer Scripture’s challenge anymore in any aspect of the church. Instead, Scripture is overcome by our feelings, and presents no challenge in the face of what we feel to be righteous.
If we resort inwardly to our feelings, instead of outwardly towards Holy Scripture and service to others-enemy and friends; how does this affect our lives as a Community of Faithful Disciples? Ephraim Radner in his book Shadow of the Deeper Realities writes about this very thing: “Only the sacrifice of self for one’s enemy joins together truth and unity both. Another thing, though, that derives from this from an ecclesial point of view is this: the church can never exist as a static entity, nor is its unity ever static. The church’s unity is given in her continual struggle both to be true to its form as a community of enemies in mutual self-sacrifice, and to being taken up, more fundamentally, by God’s own sacrificial embrace in Christ, precisely because she cannot fulfill perfectly her life as such a community. This is closer to a view of the Church as the corporate embodiment of Luther’s notion of “justification by faith.”…Only the sacrifice of self for one’s enemy joins together truth and unity both”
Which I think is the point which is lost in polarities of perspective…As Christians, Jesus calls us to sacrifice ourselves for our enemies (Matt 5:44). But sacrificing, and loving, does not mean agreeing with them! Love does not equal acceptance but, in our emotionally charged world, it does! Is it because we do not want to offend the other, to hurt their feelings? Perhaps, but if a Christian spends their life trying to please the other, who are they serving, Jesus or man? As Disciples, Jesus calls us to stand firm on Him, and to love others as He loves us. And the biggest thing is that we can love others without compromising our convictions! In this day of emotions, may we look outside ourselves to the example that our Good Shepherd gave us. May the Holy Spirit come upon you and give you the words you need to teach others about the way of the Kingdom. May we keep our emotions in check! God Bless.
July 19, 2016
Lord’s Prayer Did You Know?
Our Father who art in heaven.
What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
The First Petition
Hallowed be Thy name.
What does this mean? God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.
How is God’s name kept holy? God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
The Second Petition
Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
The Third Petition
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.
How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.
This is His good and gracious will.
The Fourth Petition
Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
The Fifth Petition
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.
The Sixth Petition
And lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.
The Seventh Petition
But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.* Amen.
What does this mean? This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him.
April 19, 2016
No Creed. No scriptures. No Church?
Within the last twenty years or more, there has been a push in the church to believe that what is traditional is not “relevant” anymore. Some would even argue that it is archaic. This very thinking has led to the creation of new Eucharistic Prayers; statements of faith; and even a new take on the Lord’s Prayer with the goal of making it more “relevant” for the worshiper. Does changing what we recite as a creed, and what we pray actually change what we believe?
Well to give perspectives to those questions, I share with you thoughts from an Anglican Priest in the Diocese of Ottawa-Father Gregor Sneddon.
On Sunday, we will hear Jesus proclaim, “I have told you but you do not believe.” This word “believing” is a tough nut to crack—always confronting us in discussions on the creeds. So often, I hear people complain or dismissing the creeds, “let’s get relevant,” or “how can I say that? Does anyone really believe that stuff?”
What do we mean when we say “We believe?”
I am a child of the Book of Alternative Services (1985), and I remember always being perplexed during the Book of Common Prayer (1962) Communion rite, when immediately following the Gospel and preceding the homily, we hear the recitation of the Nicene Creed. It was not until later that I experienced some inspiration of why this location in the liturgy makes sense.
Frances Young, in The Making of the Creeds, points out that “Christianity is the only major religion to set such store by creeds and doctrines.” The history of the formation of the creeds is rooted in the particular historical reality of a community differentiating itself both from Jew and Gentile, and as empire. The stress on orthodoxy, true or untrue belief, fits for a group struggling to establish itself; and even more so, with often grave or violent consequences, as a ruling power. This is particularly the case for the Johannine community: confessing belief in Christ as the true temple (not the now-destroyed temple referenced in the Feast of the Dedication) in opposition to the wider Jewish community who rejects them.
The creeds, which grew from baptismal preparation into ‘rules of faith’ also served as a way to preserve the central teachings to those who could read. The creeds, in their tri-fold form, teach the basic pillars of the Triune faith, and retain the incarnational truth of flesh and blood. The creeds root the faith in history, not just as a philosophy or metaphor. As the church sought out its own identity and wrestled with the Truth both from its Hebrew roots and the predominant Hellenic culture, the rules of faith were the standards by which truth was vindicated or heresy condemned.
I would also argue that the creeds go hand in hand with scripture. As the rule of faith, they served and continue to serve, as the hermeneutic key to both the old and new testaments, and further, are inseparable from the formation of the New Testament. The letters of Paul are full of borrowed confessional statements and the redactors of the Gospels themselves would have had a reciprocal relationship with these statements. Let us not forget the formation of the canon itself, along with the final version of the Nicene Creed both happened in the late fourth century. This is the gathering point of the universal church that continued to descend into fragmentation from Chalcedon (451 C.E.) onwards. So can we not say “no creeds means no scriptures, no Church?”
Further, I would also suggest that we live in an age of impoverished theology: sacramental, liturgical, spiritual, systematic and otherwise. The same old platonic ideas have found their way back into the mainstream and the radical incarnational claim of Christianity in mainline churches is often, at best, vague. How often do we rightly proclaim Mary as the Mother of God? How often do we hear our leaders so quickly dismissing the mysteries as ‘untrue’ or ‘just a metaphor,’ Jesus as a ‘great teacher among others.’ How often have we heard poems at funerals proclaiming the body is just a shell and the spirit is living with God as He needed another angel?
I think there definitely is a shadow to ‘orthodoxy’ as Frances Young also points out, as it inevitably leads to division. Inclusion and exclusion is a lightning rod for the Church and we are working hard to remove barriers to inclusivity, and rightly so. However, I believe we should retain the creeds as they are, using them intentionally and appropriately, without inventing new ones for the following reasons:
1. They serve as a hermeneutic key, along with the Eucharistic prayers, to the reception of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian tradition as a whole. This avoids both a fundamentalist approach as well as a neo-liberal relativism.
2. They hold before us the ancient holy catholic faith and maintain a commitment to the truths proclaimed by the generations before us, always holding out the mystery of incarnation, salvation and our Triune confession. This is not to affirm a brittle adherence to form, but to root ourselves deeply in the radical claims that make Christians Christian and meet the present without dismissing too quickly what we have received.
3. They give context, a form, a canvas for seekers to wrestle with in approaching the life long journey of conversion and faith. They state boldly the pillars of faith and hold them forward as mystery not to be quickly explained and understood but to be lived into in awe and wonder and to shape one’s life around.
So, I am not puzzled anymore at reciting the creed after the Gospel when attending a BCP service of Communion. I am also not terribly concerned when a creed is not recited during a liturgy, though I notice that I miss it if it is regularly absent. I am, however, deeply concerned when I hear a contemporary version, crafted by a well-meaning presider trying to be ‘relevant.’ We have decided that God must be neatly controlled under the faculty of reason. We debate, conservative or liberal, using the best of science historic analysis to prove our point. Yet, we do such great disservice to the vast holy mystery of revelation and the encounter with the ever blessed Triune God. There is a reason Truth is passed from age to age in story, ritual, music and tradition. The Eschatological reality we call God is not the property of the created. The intellect is merely a limited faculty, from where we may enter into the ocean of divine relationship, which by definition transcends any possible category or definition.
I don’t abandon the rules of sailing when I get into a sailboat. They are there to serve me as I navigate and harness the untamable powers of nature. The creeds are the form in which “belief” is harnessed as we abandon ourselves into the holy mystery of love crucified and risen.
I love Advent! I love it because it is a four week season which prepares us for the coming of our Lord. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio, “to come to,” and refers to the coming of Christ. This refers, first of all, to our celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas; but second, to the coming of Christ in our lives through grace and finally, to His Second Coming at the end of time. During Advent, we are called to spend time in silence, in prayer, in scripture, in fasting, in almsgiving. Advent is basically a mini Lent. Just as with Lent, traditionally, the church is bare during the four weeks of Advent. The reason being is to remind us of the importance of simply emptying ourselves of those things which are distracting us from making room for Jesus in our lives. This of course does not imply that we get rid of everything! It means that we are called to look at our daily routine, and see what we need to change/do differently in order to be aware of God’s presence.
May the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, help you to be open to the many places, and times God comes to you. May you all have a Holy and Blessed Advent. Rev. Melissa+.
He will come like last leaf’s fall/ One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth/ wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost/ One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself/ arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark./One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet/ and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come/will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking/as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
What’s in a name? Pastor/Reverend/Father/Minister??
Names and titles are important in our culture. We have various means of addressing people. Why do we address them? The main reason we do, is out of respect; respect for the office they hold.
The traditions of addressing these offices are pretty standard across the country. For the most part, we address our Family Doctor, or Dentist, using the word “Doctor”. For police officers we address them by using the universal word of “Officer.”
There is even a universal way of addressing the Clergy… “The Reverend.” You will find this title on our Letter of Call, on our new church sign, and any other official document which comes from the Synod Office.
So how is it that we address our Lutheran Clergy as Pastors?
Firstly, we will not find a verse in Holy Scripture which specifically instructs us in how to address the clergy. But, in the Gospel of John there is an image which Our Lord uses to describe Himself-The Good Shepherd (John 10) because He guides the sheep to the Father.
And what is the ministry of the Clergy? The chief ministry of the Clergy is to guide, through Word and Sacrament, the faithful to God, just like a shepherd guides his sheep.
Therefore, the clergy are called to be the “Pastors” (Latin for Shepherd) of God’s faithful people.
You will find this tradition of addressing clergy as Pastors in the Roman Catholic, Evangelical, and Lutheran Churches.
In the Anglican tradition, it becomes a bit more complicated. This is due in nature because Anglicans are both and neither neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. What I mean is that after the Reformation, the Anglican Church retained, to a certain point, its Roman Catholic identity, as well as added on certain aspects of the Reformed Church. The result… the Anglican tradition spans both realms.
Depending on what branch of the church one belongs, will determine how they address their clergy. For the Low Anglicans (more Protestant) the faithful see their Clergy as Ministers, and are addressed as either Reverend or even Mr. or Mrs. Smith.
In the Broad Church, as well as in the Evangelical branch (not many in Canada), Clergy are addressed as Reverend Smith or Pastor Smith.
In the High Anglican (Anglican- Roman Catholic), we address our male Priests as Father Bob, or if the Priest is female- Mother Melanie.
Things do get a bit confusing in the Anglican Church!
Finally, some may be wondering why I am not addressed as Pastor. It is because, while I am amongst you, I wish to maintain some of my Anglican identity, and so I kindly ask to address me using Reverend. But please understand that I will not be offended if you address me as Pastor.
It is just an honor to serve amongst you, whether I am called a Pastor, or Reverend.
May God Bless you as we serve Him together in wisdom and Truth!
WHAT IS SHE WEARING NOW?
The first time I lead a service here at St Paul’s; you would have certainly noticed that during the Service, I wear a bit more than Pastor Terry does. Surprisingly, the reason being is not entirely because we come from two different traditions. During my research into the Lutheran Tradition, I have come across some Lutheran Pastor’s wearing the same vestments as I wear. It does come down to what is your tradition? Everything that I wear is very Traditional and Biblical.
Before I explain each Vestment that I wear, I believe it would help you to know a little about the different Liturgical branches in the Anglican Church. We tend to use terms to identify which branch we belong. High Church-or “Anglo Catholic,” means that the clergy from this branch are more in line with the Liturgical Tradition of the Roman Catholics, prior to Vatican II (1960’s Roman Catholic Liturgical reform). They use very elaborate Liturgies, which are sung, and incense, and lots of kneeling and ceremonious Masses. Worshiping in the tradition the Book of Common Prayer (1962), or The English Missal (1958).
Than we have “The Broad Church” which is the branch of the Anglican Church that is the most dominant, especially here in Canada, and here in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. In this branch, the Liturgical Styles are a bit more relaxed. You will see a few vestments, wearing the same as what Pastor Terry wears at the Traditional Service, to wearing just their clerical shirt and a pair of dress pants, like you see at our Contemporary Service. The Liturgy is less elaborate, and more contemporary. They have the freedom to stray away from both our Traditional Book of Common Prayer (1962) and our Book of Alternative Services (1985), which is similar to the red Lutheran worship book.
In the “Low Church,” the Liturgical Style is more “in tune” with the Puritans-the more Protestant view. Thus the Cleric would be seen wearing a Cassock, Surplus and Stole or Tippet. The Low Church likes to keep things very simple, very Protestant. You will not see candles or hangings/parchments on the Altar (they call it a Table) or Lectern or Pulpit. Worshiping in the tradition of the Book of Common Prayer (1962).
Everything we do during worship gives you an idea of where we stand theologically. And everything is deeply rooted in Holy Scripture. Anglicans believe that there is a sacred relationship between how we worship, and what we believe- Lex orandi, lex credendi (loosely translated as “the law of praying [is] the law of believing”).
The following pictures and short explanations will give you an idea as to what I wear when Celebrating Holy Communion.
The Cassock: vestis talaris “The Ankle Length Garment”
The cassock, is an item of Christian clerical clothing used by the clergy of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Reformed churches, among others. It is related to habit traditionally worn by nuns, monks, and friars.
The cassock derives historically from the tunic that in ancient Rome was worn underneath the toga. In religious services, it has traditionally been worn underneath vestments, such as the alb. Up until the late 1960’s, the cassock was the normal every day wear of the clergy, when it was replaced with a conventional suit, distinguished from lay dress by being generally black and by incorporating a clerical collar.
From time to time one may see Cassocks with an added color. This indicates a position of authority outside regular priestly duties. For example, the color purple (either dark or light purple indicates that the person wearing it is a Bishop.
Neat Fact…On an authentic cassock you will find 39 buttons symbolizing the 39 Articles of Faith.
The Amice: Latin-amictus meaning covering. The Amice, is first placed on my head, in the shape of a hood, before I push it down to rest on my shoulders. This is a linen cloth represents both the linen cloth wherewith in the house of Caiphas the Jews covered Christ’s countenance, bidding Him in mockery: “Prophesy to us, who it is that struck thee?”(Matt 26:68) It is also an image of the helmet of salvation which St. Paul wishes every Christian to be armed with. (Ephesians 6).
It is for this reason that before I lay the amice over my shoulders, I rest it on my head praying: “set on my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation, that I may overcome the assaults of the devil.”
It is only worn by Anglican Priests of the High Church, and Low Church traditions.