Friday, May 26, 2017

The Abyss of Love: Thoughts on John 17.1-11 (RCL Easter 7A)

The Abyss of Love
Thoughts on John 17.1-11

RCL Easter 7A
28 May 2017

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

                  17.1 When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you.  2 You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give eternal life to everyone you gave him.  3 This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.  4 I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  5 Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created.
                  6 “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  8 This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them. They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

                  9 “[I am] praying for them.  [I am] not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours.  10 Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them.  11 [I am] no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as [I am] coming to you.  Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one."  (John 17.1-11 in Common English Bible)

            In the mid-nineteenth century a rising theologian at King's College London published a collection of essays that led to his dismissal from the College.  What drew the ire of some influential members of the Church of England was the careful distinction he made between the words 'everlasting' and 'eternal'.

            This theologian's name was Frederick Denison Maurice and he was a thorough disciple of John the evangelist.  Maurice pointed out that 'everlasting' is a quantitative adjective meaning 'without end' or 'unending duration'.  'Eternal', on the other hand, is a qualitative adjective meaning 'beyond time' or 'timeless'.

            'Everlasting' is the adjective you and I use when we are involved in an unpleasant experience of some sort or another.  We cannot see any end and we may even fall into a degree of despair.  'Eternal', on the other hand, is the adjective we use when we find ourselves experiencing something joyful, something that speaks to our very soul.  We may even say, 'Time just flew by.'

            In Maurice's mind too many of his contemporaries were threatening people 'everlasting punishment' if they failed to live up to various moral standards of behaviour, such as deference to one's social superiors.  Maurice believed that they should be encouraging people with the promises of God's 'eternal love', so that they could become who they really as God intended them to be.  He wrote

            "I ask no one to pronounce, for I dare not pronounce myself, what are the real possibilities of resistance in a human being to the loving will of God.  There are times when they seem to me --- thinking of myself more than others --- almost infinite.  But I know that there is something which must be infinite.  I am obliged to believe in an abyss of love which is deeper than the abyss of death:  I dare not lose faith in that love.  I sink into death, eternal death, if I do.  I must feel that this love is encompassing the universe.  More about it I cannot know.  But God knows.  I leave myself and all to Him."  Theological Essays, 4th ed. (1881), 405-406

            This past week a young man walked into a public space and detonated a bomb which killed more than twenty people, most of whom were as young as the bomber himself.  At the end of the week ten armed men stopped a bus in the Egyptian desert, boarded it and gunned down a number of Christians who were on their way to a monastery in the desert.  While we await the conclusion of the investigation in Manchester and the actions of the Egyptian government, there is one thing that can be said.  This young man in Manchester and the attackers in Egypt had fallen into an abyss of eternal death created by a false and cruel imitation of genuine Islam, a faith that teaches submission to God, Allah, who is compassionate, who is merciful and who is forgiving.

            The abyss of love in which Maurice trusted and the abyss of death into which those I have mentioned fell are not future states of being.  These are abysses that are before us in our everyday lives.  They are choices we face at many points in our workplaces, our homes and our neighbourhoods.  The eternal life that Jesus speaks of in today's gospel is " . . . a life shaped by the knowledge of God as revealed in Jesus" (The New Interpreter's Study Bible).  It is a quality of life revealed in how the disciples of Jesus live their lives in a world often obsessed with paths that lead only to the abyss of eternal death:  racism, religious persecution, terrorism and the de-humanization of those considered to be 'different' or 'heretical' or 'infidels'.

            We know that we live in a society where there are voices that advocate paths other than the one we now walk with Jesus of Nazareth.  But these voices are out of tune with the song of love God has put into our hearts as followers of Christ.  These are times when the disciples of Christ need to raise our voices and sing our song in harmony with our sisters and brothers of every nation and race, of every time and place.

            We need to sing confidently to draw our neighbours and others from the edges of the abyss of death to which some folk seem drawn as a moth is drawn to an open flame.  We sing our song each time we do justice in an unjust world, each time we show kindness in an unkind world, each time we walk humbly with God in an often arrogant and selfish consumer-oriented world.

            There is an abyss of love which is deeper than the abyss of death.  This love is encompassing the universe despite the resistance of some souls to its embrace.  To that love let us pledge our faith and in that love let us live --- not just in the future but right now, right here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Prayers for Manchester

With the tragic attack in Manchester filling the news, let us offer our prayers for all who are affected by this violent act.

Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, deal gracious with the families of the injured and dead in Manchester and for the survivors.  Surround them with your love, so that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Let us offer our prayers for peace.

O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace.  Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to all people of faith, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through  your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Let us offer our prayers for the emergency services.

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of the emergency services at home and abroad.  defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Let us offer our prayers for those who perpetrate acts of violence.

O God, the Lord of all, your Son commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for them.  Lead us from prejudice to truth; deliver us from hatred, cruelty and revenge; and enable us to stand before you, reconciled through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

An Ordo for Easter 7: Ascension Sunday (28 May 2017)

On Sunday, the 28th of May, St. Faith's welcomes the Rev'd Peter Smyth, 
Vancouver Chaplain of Mission to Seafarers, who will preach at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter
28 May 2017

The Gathering of the Community

Gathering Music


Opening Hymn

‘O Laughing Light, O First-Born of Creation’  Common Praise #18 (sung to #17)

Introductory Responses

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

May his grace and peace be with you.
May he fill our hearts with joy.

The Hymn of Praise

‘Glory, in the Highest Glory’  Common Praise #366

The Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

O God of glory,
your Son Jesus Christ ascended to glory at your side.
Bring us together in Christ,
so that all may be drawn into your bountiful dwelling
where with Christ and the Spirit you live united in love and joy.  Amen. [i]

The Proclamation of the Word

The First Reading

A reading from the prophet Isaiah (45.1-7).

            45.1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him — and the gates shall not be closed:  2 I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.  4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.  5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god.  I arm you, though you do not know me, 6 so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.  7 I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.

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

The Psalm

Psalm 21 from Songs for the Holy One.

Refrain (sung twice):  Gracious God, may your peace dwell in our hearts.

The king rejoices in your power, O God;
            in your victory how greatly he exults!
You gave him his heart’s desire,
            have not denied his request.
You bless him with prosperity,
            set a golden crown on his head.
He asked life of you.  You gave it!
            Gave endless days forever!

Refrain:  Gracious God, may your peace dwell in our hearts.

Great is his glory because of your victory;
            splendour and majesty you have bestowed upon him.
Eternal blessings have you bestowed on him;
            you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
The king indeed trusts the Holy One;
            through God’s love and loyalty he shall be unshaken.

Refrain:  Gracious God, may your peace dwell in our hearts.

Your hand will discover all your enemies,
            your strong hand all who hate you.
In your anger you will make them a blazing furnace,
            in rage, engulf them make fire consume them.
You will destroy their offspring from the earth,
            their descendants from all humanity.
They devised evil against you,
            hatched plots they could not fulfill.
You put them to flight
            with your bow aimed at their faces.
Arise, Holy One, with your might.
            We will chant and sing of your great power.

Refrain:  Gracious God, may your peace dwell in our hearts.

The Second Reading

A reading from the First Letter of Peter (4.12-14; 5.6-11).

            4.12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.  14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

            5.6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.  7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.  8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.  9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.  10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.  11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

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

Hymn before the Gospel

‘Alleluia’  Common Praise #715 (‘Alleluia’ refrain only)

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (17.1-11).
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            17.1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.  5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

            6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.  They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.  10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.  11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.  Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

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

Hymn after the Gospel

‘Alleluia’  Common Praise #715 (‘Alleluia’ refrain only)

The Homily

The Nicene Creed

Let us confess our faith, as we say,

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings

The Exchange of the Peace

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

The Holy Communion

Offertory Hymn

‘Come, O God of All the Earth’  Common Praise #589 (sung with cantor)

Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Blessed are you, O God, ruler of heaven and earth.
Day be day you shower us with blessings.
As you have raised us to new life in Christ,
give us glad and generous hearts,
ready to praise you and to respond to those in need,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [ii]

The 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.

It is indeed right, our duty and our joy, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to you, almighty and merciful God, for the glorious resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the true Paschal Lamb who gave himself to take away our sin, who in dying has destroyed death, and in rising has brought us to eternal life.  And so, with Mary Magdalene and Peter and all the witnesses of the resurrection, with earth and sea and all their creatures, and with angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

You are holy, you are whole. 
You are always ever more
than we ever understand.
You are always at hand.
Blessed are you coming near.
Blessed are you coming here
to your church in wine and bread,
raised from soil, raised from dead.

You are holy,
you are wholeness,
you are present. 
Let the cosmos praise you, Lord!

Sing hosanna in the highest! 
Sing hosanna!  Sing hosanna to our God! [iii]

Blessed are you, O God of the universe.  Your mercy is everlasting and your faithfulness endures from age to age.

Praise to you for creating the heavens and the earth.  Praise to you for saving the earth from the waters of the flood.  Praise to you for bringing the Israelites safely through the sea.  Praise to you for leading your people through the wilderness to the land of milk and honey.  Praise to you for the words and deeds of Jesus, your anointed one.  Praise to you for the death and resurrection of Christ.  Praise to you for your Spirit poured out on all nations.

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.

With this bread and cup we remember our Lord’s passover from death to life as we proclaim the mystery of faith:  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

O God of resurrection and new life:  Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts of bread and wine.  Bless this feast.  Grace our table with your presence.  Come, Holy Spirit.

Reveal yourself to us in the breaking of the bread.  Raise us up as the body of Christ for the world.  Breathe new life into us.  Send us forth, burning with justice, peace, and love.  Come, Holy Spirit.

With the ever-blessed virgin Mary, blessed Joseph, blessed Faith and your holy ones of all times and places, with the earth and all its creatures, with sun and moon and stars, we praise you, O God, blessed and holy Trinity, now and forever.  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 Breaking of the Bread

Lord, we died with you on the cross.
Now we are raised to new life.
We were buried in your tomb.
Now we share in your resurrection.
Live in us, that we may live in you.

These are the gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.


The Hymn after Communion

‘Restore in Us, O Lord’  Common Praise #178

The Sending Forth of the Community

Prayer after Communion

Let us pray.

Life-giving God,
in the mystery of Christ’s resurrection
you send light to conquer darkness,
water to give new life,
and the bread of life to nourish your people.
Send us forth as witnesses to your Son’s resurrection,
so that we may show your glory to all the world,
through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.  Amen. [vi]

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

‘He Came Down’  Common Praise #368


The Deacon sends the Community forth with an appropriate Dismissal.

[i] Liturgy Task Force (2016), 26.

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

[iii] Evangelical Lutheran Worship #525.

[iv] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 111.

[v] Songs for a Gospel People #12.

[vi] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 65.