Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Advent Garden for Advent 1 (1 December 2013)

On the First Sunday of Advent Saint Faith's constructs a labyrinth of pine boughs in the Church Hall.  We conduct a Service of Light rather than the usual Eucharist.  At the beginning of the liturgy, people walk the labyrinth and light votive candles along its path.  Here is the rite we have created.  There is no Sermon on this occasion.

The First Sunday of Advent
1 December 2013

The Gathering of the Community

Thanksgiving for the Light

The Deacon begins the liturgy by reading the following.

                  In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light. 

A single candle is lit in the midst of the Advent Garden.  After the candle is lit, the Deacon continues as follows.

And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

The Presider then begins the Thanksgiving for the Light.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
ruler of the universe, creator of light and darkness.
In this holy season,
when the sun’s light is swallowed up
by the growing darkness of the night,
you renew your promise to reveal among us
the splendour of your glory,
enfleshed and visible to us in Jesus Christ your Son.
Through the prophets
you teach us to hope for his reign of peace.
Through the outpouring of his Spirit,
you open our blindness to the glory of his presence.
Strengthen us in our weakness.
Support us in our stumbling efforts to do your will
and free our tongues to sing your praise.
For to you all honour and blessing are due,
now and for ever.  Amen.

After the Thanksgiving the Community is invited to lit their own candles to bring light into the space as they walk the Labyrinth.  During the lighting of the candles appropriate music will be played.  When all are finished, the Hymn is sung.

Hymn of Light

‘God, Whose Almighty Word’  Common Praise #560

Opening Prayer

The Presider leads the Community in the following prayer.

Let us pray.

Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin
to the light of holiness,
so that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen. [i]

The Proclamation of the Word

The First Reading

A Reading from Isaiah (2.1-5).

         The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

         In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.

         Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”  For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

        He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

         O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Psalm

Psalm 122 with refrain from Songs for the Holy One

Refrain (sung twice):  We pray for peace in Jerusalem and in our world.

1 I was glad when they said to me, *
         “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Now our feet are standing *
         within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built as a city *
         that is at unity with itself.

Refrain:  We pray for peace in Jerusalem and in our world.   

4 To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord, *
         the assembly of Israel,
         to praise the name of the Lord.
5 For there are the thrones of judgement, *
         the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
         “May they prosper who love you.

Refrain:  We pray for peace in Jerusalem and in our world.

7 Peace be within your walls *
         and quietness within your towers.
8 For my kindred and companions’ sake, *
         I pray for your prosperity.
9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, *
         I will seek to do you good.”

Refrain:  We pray for peace in Jerusalem and in our world.

The Second Reading

A Reading from Romans (13.11-14).

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.  Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Gradual Hymn

‘La ténèbre n’est point ténèbre’  Common Praise #549 (sung three times in English)

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew (24.36-44).
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

         [Jesus said,] “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.  Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  But understand this:  if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

The Gospel of Christ.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymn of the Day

‘Awake!  Awake!  Fling Off the Night’  Common Praise #599

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings

The appointed person leads the following intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings.

Let us offer our intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings, saying, ‘God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.’
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.

God of peace, transform our instruments of war into instruments of peace so that nations cease to learn war any more.
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.

May the church become more and more a means of grace and peace in the world.
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.

Enlighten all people of good will who seek to cast off the works of darkness so that we may serve others in the name of Christ.
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.

Give us an awareness of those who are need so that we may reach out in love to them.
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.

May we who are assembled here today be clothed in Christ and go forth from here to be his presence in the world.
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation.

Sustain all those for whom we pray with your ever-present love.
God of Jacob, be our light and our salvation. [ii]

Give us ears to hear, O God,
and eyes to watch,
so that we may know your presence in our midst
during this holy season of joy
as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ.  Amen. [iii]

Offertory Hymn

‘Eternal God, Lord of All Space and Time’  Common Praise 3472 (sung to #362)

Prayer over the Gifts

After the Gifts have been collected, the Presider leads the Community in the following prayer.

Let us pray.

God of abundance,
we bring before you the precious fruits of your creation
and with them our very lives.
Teach us patience and hope
as we care for all those in need
until the coming of your Son,
our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [iv]

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught us, let us pray,
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen. [v]

The Sending Forth of the Community

Closing Hymn

‘Singing Songs of Expectation’  Common Praise #536

The Exchange of the Peace

The Deacon sends the Community with these words.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.

The Community exchanges the Peace with one another.

[i] Trial Use Collect for Advent 1 as recommended by the Liturgy Task Force of General Synod.

[ii] Intercessions for the Christian People (1990), 3 alt.

[iii] Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 28.

[iv] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 64.

[v] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 919.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Lord for Our Times

The Reign of Christ
24 November 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
         During my first year of doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame, Paul Bradshaw, then, as now, one of the prominent historians of liturgy, came to give a guest lecture at the University.  At the time I did not know that he was being considered for a teaching position and that the public lecture was part of the interview process.  I would come to know him better in the years to come as one of my professors and a member of my doctoral committee.

         Dr Bradshaw’s lecture was on the use and misuse of early Christian texts in contemporary Christian liturgy.  You need to know that the liturgical movement which gave rise to The Book of Alternative Services was fuelled, in part, by a rediscovery of early Christian liturgical texts.  These texts were understood to be a link with our earliest Christian ancestors and valuable in re-creating the same spirit in us that empowered these first generations.  One such texts is the so-called Phos Hilaron or ‘Evening Hymn’:

O Gracious Light, pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed.  Now as we come to setting of the sun and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, Life-giver, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

I remember when I first heard this hymn in seminary at evening prayer.  I have always been intrigued by the line, ‘and to be glorified through all the worlds.’  It has inspired my imagination of a universe alive with the praise of God.

         It was Dr Bradshaw’s lecture that inspired me to change my thesis topic from a study of contemporary baptismal rites to a study of contemporary Anglican ordination rites.  This inspiration came when Dr Bradshaw pointed out that the American Episcopal prayer for the ordination of a bishop, taken from an ancient text, asked that God send a portion ‘of [God’s] princely power’ upon the one being ordained.  ‘What does it mean,’ asked Dr Bradshaw, ‘for Anglicans living in a democratic republic to ask that their bishops be given “princely power”?  Certainly, this is not what they want.”  I remember pondering this point for some time.  When the time came for me to write my thesis, I found it interesting that when Canadians, who live in a constitutional monarchy, borrowed texts from the United States for the ordination rites, one of the texts that we did not borrow was the American prayer for the ordination of a bishop.  Rather we chose an English prayer with no reference to princely power.  Ironic, don’t you think:  the republicans choose ‘princely power’, the monarchists avoid it.

         So, here we are today, celebrating the feast of the ‘Reign of Christ’, using language and imagery of royalty to describe our teacher, our friend, our rabbi.  Here we are today, celebrating a feast day established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to counteract the power of rising Italian nationalism and calls for further reduction in the power of the Pope in Italy.  At a time when many in our country are calling for the abolition of the Senate, a Canadian version of the House of Lords, and a few are even calling for an end to our relationship with the Crown, we are singing hymns and using prayers that cast Jesus as universal king.

         I find myself returning to Dr Bradshaw’s lecture of so many years ago.  The language of kingship no longer trips easily from our lips, especially the lips of younger Canadians.  Are we in danger of misusing older imagery and thus missing the point of what it means to call Jesus ‘Lord’?  I don’t think so.

         Every time we open the New Testament we are confronted with a story about a teacher, a friend, a prophet whose every action, whose every story, whose every teaching challenges our notions of what it means to exercise power.  Although he is surrounded by people and institutions who are prepared to coerce obedience by force, Jesus always chooses persuasion by word and example.  Although he is surrounded by crowds who are longing for the destruction of the Roman occupation and the overthrow of the petty monarchs who rule, Jesus dares to proclaim a message of forgiveness and reconciliation, a message of passive and peaceful disobedience that later inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

         As he hangs on the cross and is taunted by onlookers and by one of those crucified with him, Jesus does not even respond with words threatening revenge in some future time.  Rather, he speaks words of forgiveness, even despair, and, to the so-called ‘penitent’ thief, words of comfort and promise.  What kind of ‘king’ is this?  What kind of ‘master of the universe’ is this?  Certainly it is not one we recognize from our history books nor from our own experience of those who desire power.

         But, my friends, it is this counter-cultural image of leadership that we so desperately need in our country and our world today.  We do not need to look too far to find leaders who are more interested in partisan advantage than in the common good of the people they serve.  We do not need to look too far to find prominent examples of people who use their popularity or their economic power to build up their own self-images rather than benefit those whose adoration or toil has given them prominence.

         To call Jesus ‘Lord’ is to confess that there is another form of leadership, leadership by self-giving.  The self-giving we see in Jesus does not diminish the one who gives; it reaches out like waves of heat from a fire to warm all who gather around it.  It is leadership that dares to say that the needs of the most vulnerable are more important than the prestige of the privileged.

         I have no illusions about how difficult this kind of leadership is.  G. K. Chesterton, the famous author, once said, “It is not that Christianity has been tried and find wanting; it’s that Christianity has never really been tried.”  Every one of us who bears the sign of the cross on her or his forehead knows that each day, despite our best intentions, we fail to embody the self-giving love that God has shown us in Jesus and that God fills us with by the Holy Spirit. 

        But then there are those glorious moments, like ‘Take a Bite out of Winter’, when we know, we really know, that Christ reigns, that Jesus is our Lord and that all other forms of leadership are pale illusions next to the glory of God.  There are moments when we see someone we know and love rise up from loneliness or despair because of the compassion of another parishioner or perhaps even a total stranger.  And then we know, truly know, that our God is alive and is working among us.

         It no longer matters why the church has a feast called ‘The Reign of Christ’ nor does it matter that we use language taken from ancient models of leadership.  What matters is that we are brought face to face with a God who looks upon us through the eyes of Jesus.  And in this experience, in this faith, we are renewed and recommit ourselves to making the reign of Christ real to all whom we know and among whom we live.  We recommit ourselves to the reign of Christ, the compassionate one, the truthful one, the generous one, in our own lives.  And may it be so.  Amen.