Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shining with the Glory of God That Is Within Us: Confession

RCL Lent 2C
24 February 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Genesis 15.1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3.17-4.1; Luke 13.31-35

            When the average Canadian hears the word, ‘confess’, it is likely that she or he thinks of one of two things.  On the one hand, he or she may think we are talking about an admission f wrong-doing on the part of an accused criminal or a disgraced politician.  On the other hand, he or she may think we are talking about a religious rite in which a penitent sinner shares with a priest those deeds and thoughts which have separated the penitent from God and from her or his neighbours, family and friends.

            Either of these thoughts would be a fair interpretation of the meaning of the word, ‘confess’.  There is, however, yet one more meaning of the word.  To ‘confess’ also means to declare one’s faith in a person or an idea.  Every ‘Amen’ we speak at the end of a prayer is just such a confession of faith in the One to whom we address our prayers.

            Believe it or not, our reading from Genesis is about a confession of faith, God’s faith in Abram and Abram’s faith in God.  Abram has followed the call of God to leave hearth and kin to travel to an unknown land to obtain an as yet unfulfilled promise.

            One more time God reiterates the promise, but this time Abram dares to ask God for some sort of assurance that the promise will actually bear fruit.  “I am old,” Abram says, “and my only heir is an adopted servant.  How will I know that your promise will be fulfilled?”

            To demonstrate good faith, God joins Abram in a grisly covenant sacrifice.  Animals are cut in two and, in the form of a burning light, God passes between the separated carcasses.  By passing between them, God says, in so many words, “If I do not fulfill this promise, then may I be cut in half just as these animals have been cut in half.”  With this confession of faith made by God to Abram, Abram journeys on, his journey a confession of his faith in that God, the unseen God who bids him travel into a still unrealized future.

            Prayer often takes the form of adoration, but it also takes the form of a two-fold confession:  we affirm our faith in the God who commits God’s very self to us and we acknowledge that we have often failed to live our commitment to God.

            It is easy to overlook the Psalms we recite in worship, but they are often such two-fold confessions of faith.  This morning we prayed these words:  “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom then shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?”  This is a prayer, a prayer confession our faith in a God who enables us to face any challenge, even the challenge of acknowledging our sins and our failures to commend the faith that is within us.

            If the God in whom we believe is our light and salvation, our strength, then we need not fear speaking aloud the secretes of our hearts, the darkness that sometimes overshadows us, the angry thoughts and actions that separate us from the love of God and from the love of our family and friends.

            If the Lord is indeed our light and salvation, our strength, then we need not fear to speak, in prayer, the hardness of our hearts, the coldness of our dealings with others, the moments of envy and jealousy that sometimes grip us.

            The prayer of confession does not begin with words of sin but with words of hope and trust in the Holy One who is always more ready to forgive than we are to confess.  But these words of hope and trust must needs be followed by words of courageous honesty, the recognition that we are more often the wrong-doer than the wronged.

            Whether these courageous words are spoken in confidence to a trusted friend or advisor or whether these words are spoken in the privacy of personal prayer, God who is faithful and compassionate hears and forgives.  burdens are laid aside and we discover new sources of strength to become who we truly are.

            And just as the faces of Moses and Jesus shone with the glory of God, so our faces will shine, revealing the life of God within us.  Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shining with the Glory of God That Is in Us: Adoration

The First Sunday of Lent
17 February 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Shining with the Glory of God That Is in Us:  Adoration

Deuteronomy 26.1-11; Psalm 91.1-2, 9-16; Romans 10.8b-13; Luke 4.1-13

            On this Sunday over the course of almost five centuries Anglican Christians have heard the familiar story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  Generations of preachers have warned their congregations of the dangers of the devil’s temptations and have, no doubt, occasionally equated the diabolic temptations with the preacher’s own favourite social ills:  coffee, smoking, women’s liberation, and the list goes on.
            This is not a tack I am going to take with you on this Sunday.  Rather I want all of us to focus on one part of Jesus’ conversation with the tempter as this conversation is told by Luke:  “Then the devil led him up and showed [Jesus] in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And the devil said to him, ‘To you will I give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’  Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’” [i] 
            Jesus could just as well have said, “Adore the Lord your God, and serve only him.”  Both worship and prayer have as their starting point ‘adoration’, an English word with roots in the Latin word ‘to pray’ or ‘to speak’.  To adore someone or something means ‘to pray to’ or ‘to speak to’ that person or thing.  It is unfortunate that our use of the word ‘adore’ has undergone a devaluation over the years.
            Words do undergo changes, both in meaning and in use.  For example, an Englishman or woman writing in the eighteenth century about their first visit to the Pyramids or some other marvel of human construction might say, “I have just seen an awful monstrosity of mediocrity.”  If you or I were to read those words today, we might think that our eighteenth-century writer was saying that the Pyramids were a horrible parody of substandard construction.  But to our friend in the past, the words meant that he or she had just witness an awe-inspiring demonstration of human balance and design.
            Just as the language of everyday communication has undergone change, so, too, has the language of prayer changed over the course of the last two hundred years.  Prayers that had meaning for our ancestors do not have the same significance for us; in fact, some ancient prayers are almost off-putting and prevent contemporary believers and seekers from praying to or speaking to the God whose love is made known to in creation and in Jesus of Nazareth.
            A little more than two weeks ago I was in Toronto with five of my colleagues from the Liturgy Task Force of the Anglican Church of Canada.  We spent three days reading the Scriptures and reading prayers composed by Christians from various traditions throughout the world, both Anglican and non-Anglican.  Our task is to develop a series of prayers that work well with the three-year lectionary we use here in Canada.
            But what we were really listening for in the prayers we read were words that we believed would help us pray to God, speak to God, words that have meaning for us as Christians living in the twenty-first century in Canada.  There were prayers we did not choose:  literate, theologically correct, true to the Christian tradition but not our words or images that spoke to our place in time and space.  Adoration, praying to and speaking to God, requires our words, our images, our cadences.
            Almost every Monday morning I arrive to a quiet office and I sit down to plan the worship service for the coming Sunday or holy day.  I have the work done by our music planning team of Sally Baker, Ruben Federizon, Walter Herring and Eleanor Phillips, who meet with me once a month or so to choose music for this congregation to sing.  I have the worship resources of the Anglican Church, whether in Canada or elsewhere, and of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  I look at the prayers prepared by the Consultation on Common Texts, an ecumenical group, who were responsible for the lectionary we use.  With all these around me I ponder what will help us adore God, pray to and speak to God.  And then I start working, in the hope that I have listened well to all the voices, in the hope that I have found ways to deepen our connection with the living God.
            If someone comes up to me after worship and says, “That hymn spoke to me,” or “I really liked that prayer,” or “I have never really heard God addressed that way,” then I rejoice.  I rejoice because someone has found a new way to pray to God, to speak to the God who is always more willing to listen than we are to speak.  I rejoice because someone may have heard God spoken to or spoken of in new way that may banish old hurts or old fears.  I rejoice because in that moment, whether a moment of song or a moment of prayer, there was a conversation between the God who loves us more than we can imagine and the seeker who wants to know that she or he is beloved.
            But adoration is not limited to our formal acts of worship.  Adoration comes when you and I abandon our fears of saying the wrong thing to God and simply speak to God in the words our times and our experiences have given us to give.  I wish that my paternal grandfather, a professional gambler, had learned to speak to God as one who took a risk in creating the world and who continues to take risks by entrusting to us the care of that world.  I wish that my maternal grandfather, a labourer all his life, had learned to speak to God as one who laboured to bring all that is, seen and unseen, into existence and who continues to labour in us and through us to bring about God’s purposes for all creation.  But neither of my grandfathers were ever encouraged to do so; they were taught to believe in a God who could only be addressed by a limited number of nouns, adjectives and verbs.
            My sisters and brothers, every human being is called to adore God.  God does not wait for us to have the right words before God begins the conversation; God only waits for our own words.  And the good news is that those words are in each one of us; they are in us to give voice to, to speak them and begin the conversation.  May you and I wait no longer; may we speak to our God and experience the welcome.
            And then, like Moses and Jesus, shall our faces shine with the glory of God.  Amen.

[i] Luke 4.3-8.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Evening Prayer

evening Prayer for Lent
From Ash Wednesday to the Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Gathering of the Community

Introductory Responses

Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
A light no darkness can extinguish.
Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Then the Thanksgiving for the Light may be said or sung.

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, the shepherd of Israel,
their pillar of cloud by day, their pillar of fire by night.
In these forty days you lead us into the desert of repentance
that in this pilgrimage of prayer we might learn to be your people once more.
In fasting and service you bring us back to your heart.
You open our eyes to your presence in the world
and you free our hands to lead others to the radiant splendour of your mercy.
Be with us in the journey days for without you we are lost and will perish.
To you alone be dominion and glory, for ever and ever.  Amen. [i]

Evening Prayer continues with the Psalm of the Day.

The Proclamation of the Word of God

The Psalm

A Psalm from the Daily Office Lectionary, the Weekday Eucharistic Lectionary or the Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings is said or sung.  The following short list of Psalms may be used. 

Sundays           Psalm 86
Mondays          Psalm 34
Tuesdays          Psalm 138
Wednesdays     Psalm 79
Thursdays        Psalm 50
Fridays             Psalm 130
Saturdays         Psalm 81

After the Psalm, Evening Prayer continues with the Reading.

The Reading

A Reading from the Daily Office Lectionary, the Weekday Eucharistic Lectionary or the Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings is said or sung.  The following short list of Readings may be used.

Sundays           Luke 9.18-25
Mondays          Matthew 9.14-17
Tuesdays          Luke 5.27-32
Wednesdays     Matthew 6.7-15
Thursdays        Luke 11.29-32
Fridays             Matthew 7.7-12
Saturdays         Matthew 5.43-48

After a period of silent reflection one of the following may be said.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.
Holy Word, Holy Wisdom.
Thanks be to God.

After the Reading, Evening Prayer continues the Responsory or the Canticle or both.  If two Readings are read, then the Responsory follows the first Reading and the Canticle the second.

The Responsory

The Responsory is said or sung.

Forsake me not, O Lord;
be not far from me, O my God.
Forsake me not, O Lord;
be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,
O Lord of my salvation.
Be not far from me, O my God.

Remember your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
Be not far from me, O my God.

Glory to God, Source of all being, eternal Word and Holy Spirit.
Forsake me not, O Lord;
be not far from me, O my God. [iv]

Evening Prayer continues [with the second Reading or] the Canticle or an Affirmation of Faith.

The Canticle

‘The Song of Mary’ or one of the seasonal canticles, ‘The Song of Christ’s Glory’ or ‘A Song of the Wilderness’, may be said or sung.

The Song of Mary (Luke 1.46-55)
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
            my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for you, Lord, have looked with favour
            on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
            you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
            and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you,
            from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm
            and scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
            and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things
            and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid of your servant Israel,
            to remember the promise of mercy,
the promise made to our forebears,
            to Abraham and his children for ever.


The Song of Christ’s Glory (Philippians 2.5-11)
Christ Jesus was in the form of God, *
            but he did not cling to equality with God.
He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, *
            and was born in our human likeness.
Being found in human form he humbled himself, *
            and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him, *
            and bestowed on him the name above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, *
            in heaven and on earth and under the earth;
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, *
            to the glory of God the Father. [v]


A Song of Repentance (1 John 1.5-9)
This is the message we have heard
from Christ and proclaim to you: *
            that God is light,
            in whom there is no darkness at all.
If we say that have fellowship with God
while we walk in darkness, *
            we lie and do not do what is true.
But if we walk in the light as God is in the light, *
            we have fellowship with one another.
And the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, *
            cleanses us from all our sins.
If we say we have no sin, *
            we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, *
            the One who is faithful and just will forgive us
            and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [vi]

Evening Prayer continues with an Affirmation of Faith or the Litany.

Affirmation of Faith

Either The Apostles’ Creed or the ‘Hear, O Israel’ may be said or sung.

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.  Amen. [vii]


Hear, O Israel
Hear, O Israel,
the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

This is the first and the great commandment.
The second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.

There is no commandment greater than these.

Evening Prayer continues with the Litany.

The Prayers of the Community

The Litany

The Litany is said or sung.

Let us offer our prayers to God saying, “Shepherd of Israel, hear and have mercy.”

For the church, that all who have found and all who seek God’s promise in the waters of baptism may enter gladly into the testing time of Lent, Shepherd of Israel, hear and have mercy.

For our world, that all living creatures may find goodness on the earth, our home, Shepherd of Israel, hear and have mercy.

For deliverance, that in the wastelands made by our greed and indifference we may fast from evil and grow hungry for justice, Shepherd of Israel, hear and have mercy.

For the sick and needy, that we may care for them and remember those who are in any need or trouble, Shepherd of Israel, hear and have mercy. [viii]

Additional intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings may be offered in silence or aloud.  After a period of silence either the Collect of the Day or one of the following Collects may be said or sung.

Lent 1
God of our salvation, your bow in the clouds proclaims your covenant with every living creature.  Teach us your paths and lead us in your truth, that by your Holy Spirit, we may remember our baptismal vows and be keepers of your trust with earth and its inhabitants.  Amen. [ix]

Lent 2
God of Sarah and Abraham, long ago you embraced your people in covenant and promised them your blessing.  Strengthen us in faith, that, with your disciples of every age, we may proclaim your deliverance in Jesus Christ to generations yet unborn.  Amen. [x]

Lent 3
God of infinite goodness, throughout the ages you have persevered in claiming and reclaiming your people.  Renew for us your call to repentance, surround us with witnesses to aid us on our journey, and grant us the time to fashion our lives anew, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen. [xi]

Lent 4
Eternal Lover of our wayward race, we praise you for your ever-open door.  You open your arms to accept us even before we turn to meet your welcome; you invite us to forgiveness even before our hearts are softened to repentance.  Hold before us the image of our humanity made new, that we may live in Jesus Christ, the model and the pioneer of your new creation.  Amen. [xii]

Evening Prayer continues with the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer

Gathering our prayers and praises into one,
let us pray as our Saviour taught us,
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.

Evening Prayer continues with the Dismissal.

The Sending Forth of the Community

The Dismissal

Let us bless the Lord who forgives our sins.
Thanks be to God.

Evening Prayer may conclude with the following Sentence.

Look with your compassion upon us, O Lord, so that we may learn to know you more fully and to serve you with a more perfect will.  Amen. [xiii]

All liturgical texts are taken from The Book of Alternative Services unless otherwise noted and may have been emended for more inclusive language.

[i] From Praise God in Song (1979) as published in The Book of Alternative Service (1985), 64.

[ii] Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), 67.

[iii] Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), 67-69.

[iv] Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), 241, 247 alt.

[v] Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), 619.

[vi] Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005), 625.

[vii] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 105.

[viii] Intercessions for the Christian People (1990), 93 alt.

[ix] Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 79.

[x] Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 81.

[xi] Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 83 alt.

[xii] Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 85 alt.

[xiii] The Book of Occasional Services (2003), 26 alt.