Monday, January 27, 2014

An Ordo for the Presentation of Christ (2 February 2014)

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
2 February 2014

The Gathering of the Community

Processional Hymn

‘From East to West, from Shore to Shore’  Common Praise #155 vv. 1, 2, 7

Introductory Responses

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.
May all the earth be filled with the glory of God.

Light has sprung up for the righteous,
and joyful gladness for those who are true-hearted.

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to God’s people on earth.

Hymn of Praise

Gloria in excelsis by Rupert Laing


Let us pray.

God of Anna and Simeon,
whose law makes known the gift of life,
whose love exposes our hardness of heart:
by your Spirit, may we receive your faithful word to Gentile and Jew
and know your reconciling presence offered for all the world;
through Jesus Christ, the Light and Glory of God.  Amen.  [i]

The Proclamation of the Word

First Reading

A Reading from the prophet Malachi (3.1-4).

            See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.  The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight — indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.  But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

            For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

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

The Psalm

‘Holy Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place’  Common Praise #498

Second Reading

A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (2.14-18).

            Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.  For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

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

The Gradual Hymn

‘Lord, Let Your Servant Go in Peace’  Common Praise #266

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (2.22-40).
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

            When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the  Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

            Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

            And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

            There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty- four.  She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.  At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

            When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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

The Sermon

An Affirmation of Faith

The Deacon leads the Community in the Affirmation of Faith.

Do you believe and trust in God, the Holy One of Israel,
source of all being and life,
the one for whom and in whom we exist?
We believe and trust in the Holy One.

Do you believe and trust in God, the Word incarnate,
who took our human nature,
died for us and rose again?
We believe and trust in the Word.

Do you believe and trust in God, the Power of the Most High,
who gives life to the people of God
and makes Christ known in the world?
We believe and trust in the Power of the Most High.

This is the faith of the church.  This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen. [ii]

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings

The Exchange of the Peace

May the peace of Christ be always with you.
And also with you.

The Holy Communion

The Offertory Hymn

‘Lord Christ, We Praise Your Sacrifice’  Common Praise #633 (sung to #442)

Prayer over the Gifts

Creator of light,
accept the joyful offering of your Church,
and grant that your Word may shine in us
as the light that lightens every nation.
We ask this in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [iii]

Thanksgiving at the Table

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Blessed are you, gracious God,
creator of heaven and earth,
because in the mystery of the Word made flesh
you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts,
to give knowledge of salvation
in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now with angels and archangels
and the whole company of heaven,
we lift our voices
to proclaim the glory of your name. [iv]

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. [v]

Holy One, the beginning and the end, the giver of life:
Blessed are you for the birth of creation.
Blessed are you in the darkness and in the light.
Blessed are you for your promise to your people.
Blessed are you for the prophets’ hopes and dreams.
Blessed are you for Mary and Joseph’s openness to your will.
Blessed are you for your Son, Jesus, the Word made flesh.

In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take and eat; this is my body given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
and gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.
Do this for the remembrance of me.

[Therefore let] us proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

With this bread and cup we remember
your Word dwelling among us, full of grace and truth.
We remember our new birth in his death and resurrection.
We look with hope for his coming.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Holy God, we long for your Spirit.
Come among us.  Bless this meal.
May your Word take flesh in us.
Awaken your people.  Fill us with your light.
Bring the gift of peace on earth.
Come, Holy Spirit.

All praise and glory are yours, Holy One of Israel,
Word of God incarnate, Power of the Most High,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen. [vi]

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. [vii]

The Breaking of the Bread

We break the bread of life,
and that life is the light of the world
God here among us,
light in the midst of us,
bring us to light and life.

The gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.

The Communion

Communion Hymn

‘Love Came Down at Christmas’  Common Praise #131

The Sending Forth of the Community

Blessing of the Candles

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

Blessed are you, God of steadfast love,
You sent your Word to be the dawn of redemption and
to scatter the darkness of sin and despair from our path.
We join your servants Anna and Simeon
in giving thanks for the freedom Christ brings.
May we who offer these candles
become vessels of his light
so that all the world may glory in the splendour of your peace.
Blessed are you, O God,
who gives us light in our darkness.  Amen.

The candles are distributed to the members of the congregation.  These candles may be taken home and lit during the evening meal.

Prayer after Communion

God for whom we wait,
you fulfilled the hope of Simeon
and gladdened the heart of Anna,
who together welcomed the Messiah.
Complete in us your perfect will,
that we in Christ may share in your reign of peace and justice;
for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.

Glory to God,
whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

Closing Hymn

‘Spirit, Come, Dispel Our Sadness’  Common Praise #252 (sung to #223)


The Deacon or Assisting Minister sends the Community forth, saying,

Go forth to reveal Christ in the world.
Thanks be to God.

[i] Steven Shakespeare, Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009), 9.

[ii] Common Worship (2000), 144 alt.

[iii] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 401 alt.

[iv] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 220.

[v] ‘Carol Mass’ by Rupert Lang.

[vi] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 110.

[vii] Common Worship #744.

Vancouver Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue

On Sunday the 26th of January more than 80 clergy and laity gathered at Saint Helen's Roman Catholic Parish in Burnaby for the first of three sessions entitled 'Meet Your Relatives:  Grassroots Ecumenism'.  This event has arisen after the clergy of the Archdiocese of Vancouver (Roman Catholic) and the Diocese of New Westminster (Anglican) met for a study day two years ago.  The ecumenical officers and committees of the two dioceses were charged with crafting an event for laity and clergy to build upon the success of the clergy day.

After an opening liturgy and refreshments, Dr Christophe Potworowski Professor of Theology at Pacific Redeemer College in Langley and the Rev'd Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett, Rector of Saint Faith's Anglican Church (Vancouver) and Professor Emeritus of Liturgical Studies at Vancouver School of Theology shared their reflections on ecumenism as friendship.  Dr Potworowski and Dr Leggett have been meeting for the past several months for lunch to become friends and to begin to discuss both what unites Anglicans and Roman Catholics, what is distinctive about our traditions and what issues continue to divide the two traditions.  Their conversations have been based on 'Growing Together in Unity and Mission', a statement of the international Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

After a half-hour conversation moderated by Ms Anne Larochelle of the Ecumenical and Multi-Faith Unit of the Diocese of New Westminster, an opportunity was given for each table to participate in a conversation by responding to three questions:

  • What attracted you to attend this gathering?
  • What was the most important thing you heard today?  Why?
  • What questions have arisen for you?

Ms Marjeta Bobnar, ecumenical officer of the Archdiocese, and Archdeacon Grant Rodgers, ecumenical officer of the Diocese, brought the gathering to close with the announcement that the second session will be held on Sunday, the 23rd of March 2014, from 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m.  The probable location will be Holy Trinity Cathedral (Anglican) in New Westminster.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Walk as Children of Light

RCL Epiphany 3A
26 January 2014

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

       In the autumn of 1997 I travelled to the Solomon Islands to spend six weeks as a visiting lecturer in liturgy.  The then Archbishop of Melanesia, Ellison Pogo, had met me two years earlier while he was taking a sabbatical and studying liturgy at Vancouver School of Theology.  So, towards the end of September of 1997, I flew from Vancouver to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, via Honolulu, Sydney and Brisbane, a journey that lasted thirty-six hours and took me back at least one century.

       I arrived in the early morning hours at the airport in Honiara.  From the airport I was whisked away in almost total darkness to Kohimara, some thirty-five kilometres from Honiara, where the theological college is located.  We sped through villages and bounced on gravel roads with only the headlights of the truck to guide us.  By the time we arrived at the college, I was totally disoriented, exhausted and not a little bit frightened.

       This was my introduction to the Solomon Islands.  The sun rises at six in the morning and sets at six in the evening.  Dawn and twilight last but a half an hour or less.  Most electrical power is provided by diesel generators, so most communities ration fuel and provide only two, maybe three, hours of electrical power after sunset.

       If you have lived most if not all of your life in the western world where electricity flows like air and where there is rarely ever anything like true darkness, even at night, then it might be hard to imagine nights in the Solomon Islands.  The stars of the southern skies are brilliant without the competition of what some scientists call the ‘light pollution’ of modern cities.  Moonlight is bright enough to read by and to cast shadows that rival those cast by sunlight.

       Not only is the night dark, but it is quiet.  Small sounds are magnified in the darkness and I remember feeling very small, quite vulnerable surrounded by the jungle that stood only a few metres from the boundaries of the theological college.

       Human beings have a ‘love-hate’ with darkness.  On the one hand, darkness can be a time of rest and renewal.  When we watch films, the theatre is darkened, not only to help us see the film more clearly, but to create an atmosphere where it is easier for our imaginations to participate in the story unfolding before us on the screen.

       But on the other hand, darkness has always seemed to be a place of danger.  Many of us leave lights on in our homes even as we sleep, whether inside to guide us if we awake or outside to deter those who might disturb the security of hour homes.  Those of us who live in cities know that night-time safety means walking on well-lit streets and driving on roads that are clearly illuminated.  Most of us have had the experience of calming a child fearful of the dark or, perhaps, have always had such a fear ourselves.  When I am at home, for example, our bedroom is kept quite dark, but when I travel alone, I prefer a bit more light at night than Paula does.

       For the people to whom Isaiah speaks in today’s familiar passage, darkness was more than a condition of light.  The darkness in which they lived was the threat of hostile neighbouring powers who coveted the access to the Mediterranean Sea and trade routes to Egypt and beyond that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah enjoyed.  By the time of Isaiah the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrian Empire and the southern kingdom of Judah was being threatened with annexation.

       We can almost hear the people asking the priests in the Temple:  ‘Where is God?  Are we not the chosen people?  Do we not have a covenant with the Holy One?’  When the priests provide no answer, it falls to the prophets such as Isaiah to discern what God is doing in the affairs of their times.  What Isaiah offers is the assurance of a future despite the darkness of the present.  Scholars debate whether Isaiah’s word indicate that God has already acted on behalf of the people or whether these words are a promise for a future intervention, but what is clear is that God will act to bring light into the darkness.  God promises that a leader will arise who will bring justice and righteousness to secure God’s reign for ever and ever.

       While the people of Judah heard these words as a promise of a new king who would drive away the Assyrians, Christians have heard these words as a promise of the coming of the Messiah whom we believe Jesus of Nazareth to be.  For this reason this passage is one of those read at Christmas as we celebrate the coming of Christ into the darkness of our night.  It is no accident that we celebrate the nativity on the 25th of December which, in the ancient world, was the day of the winter solstice.  The growing darkness of winter gives way to the growing light of spring and the promise of new life in our fields and flocks.

       All of us long for light in our darkness.  In our times and in our society darkness takes many forms: 

  • the darkness of growing old without the resources to live with dignity;
  • the darkness of having no secure place to call ‘home’;
  • the darkness of living under various forms of oppression, some economic, some racist, some violent;
  • the darkness of suffering from chronic illnesses of the body, the mind and the soul.

       Into those darknesses God promises to bring light, the light of the compassionate and passionate love made known to us in Jesus Christ.  It is a compassion that embraces us and a passion that ‘will not let us go.’  It is a compassion and a passion that is self-giving.  It is a compassion and a passion, however, that is not limited to the person of Jesus of Nazareth and the promise of eternal life in the future.

       In our baptismal liturgy we give a light to the newly-baptized with the words:  ‘Receive the light of Christ, to show that you have passed from darkness to light.’ [1]  As that light is given, you and I join in saying, ‘Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’ [2]  The light that entered into the world at the birth of Christ shines into the darknesses of our world each time the hungry are fed, the naked clothed and those who are imprisoned either in body, mind or spirit are liberated by the actions of those in whom the light of Christ dwells.

       In the autumn of 1986 Paula and I found ourselves beset by pressures that we could not have foreseen.  David, our oldest, was born at the end of September with a cleft lip and palate, a condition which made it difficult for him to feed and which meant at least two surgeries in the first year of his life.  I had begun the preparations for my doctoral examinations, four months of research to prepare for my written and oral examinations in February of 1987.  Unexpectedly I received a call from Vancouver asking me if I would consider applying for a teaching appointment in liturgy.  In the four months from September to December we experienced the birth of our oldest child, Paula’s recovery from childbirth, the struggle to carve out time to study, two trips to Vancouver and one trip to Denver for David’s first surgery.  We were exhausted and fragile.

       One late night, probably in November or early December, David would not sleep.  Paula was exhausted and so I paced the floors of our small house trying to comfort David and lull him into sleep.  More than an hour passed as I wandered the halls, but David would not settle.  The physical darkness of the night became a mental darkness.  I remember thinking that, if I were to drop David on the floor and perhaps silence him, it might be thought of as an accident.  The memory of that night is etched on my mind; since then I have never been surprised by the darkness that can seize the minds and hearts of human beings.  I have been to the brink of that chasm.

       Into the darkness of that night came a bright beam of light:  I knew that I needed only call David’s godparents, Paul and Sarah Tracy.  They lived no more than ten minutes away and they would come immediately and without question if I called them.  Within minutes I would know the brightness of their wisdom, their compassion and two more pairs of parental arms to care for David.  That knowledge, that light, cast the darkness away.  I went to the rocking chair and, slowly, rhythmically, David and I entered into God’s peace, surrounded by the light cast by the community of faith to which we both belonged.  I was not alone; David was not alone; Paula was not alone; we were not alone.

       I do not know what darknesses you may have experienced or may even experience in the present time.  Those darknesses seem so deep, so impenetrable, that we lose hope.  But we are not alone.  We are not left in the darkness without the compassionate and passionate love of God made known to us in the person of Christ embodied in our families, our friends and our neighbours.  Those who have received the light of Christ in baptism are God’s agents, lamps in the ‘dark night of the soul’.

       When I was in seminary, I fell in love with a particular prayer which was said several times during the week at evening prayer:  ‘Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.  Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.  Amen.’ [3] 

       My sisters and brothers, we share with the angels this ministry of presence in the darknesses of our world.  May God’s grace enable to fulfill this ministry with the confidence that darkness cannot overcome the light of Christ.  May God’s grace give us courage to reach out for this light when we ourselves are besieged by the powers of the dark.  Jesus Christ is the light of the world, a light no darkness can extinguish, because it is borne in the hearts, minds, souls and strength of countless disciples who are unafraid of the dark.  Amen.

[1] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 160.

[2] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 160.

[3] The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 124.