Monday, September 17, 2018

Proper Prayers for RCL Proper 25B (23 September 2018)

RCL Proper 25B
Sunday between 18 and 24 September

Proverbs 31.10-31; Psalm 1; James 3.13-4.13, 7-8a; Mark 9.30-37

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth, and ourselves in your image. Teach us to discern your hand in all your works and to serve you with reverence and thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 381]
or
O God, our teacher and guide, you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children. Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition, so that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 48 alt.]
or
O God, protector of the poor and defender of the just:  give us wisdom from above, so that we may find in your servant Jesus the pattern of true discipleship and persevere in following him, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.  Amen. [Liturgy Task Force 2016, 93]
or
O God, who draws near to us and whose nature is revealed in lordship laid aside: give us grace to welcome you in the child and in the outcast; in the name of Jesus Christ, who humbled himself so that we might know eternal life.  Amen.  [Liturgy Task Force 2016, 94]
or
God of unsearchable mystery and light, your weakness is greater than our strength, your foolishness brings all our cleverness to naught, your gentleness confounds the power we would claim.  You call first to be last and last to be first, servant to be leader and ruler to be underling of all.  Pour into our hearts the wisdom of your Word and Spirit, so that we may know your purpose and live to your glory.  Amen.  [Revised Lectionary Prayers 2002, 190 alt.]

Prayer over the Gifts

God of power, the glory of your works fills us with wonder and awe.  Accept our offering this day, and help us to live in peace and harmony with all your creation, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 382]
or
God of mercy and grace, the eyes of all wait upon you, and you open your hand in blessing.  Fill us with good things at your table, so that we may come to the help of all in need, through Jesus Christ, our redeemer and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 64 alt.]
or
Merciful God, as grains of wheat scattered upon the hills were gathered together to become one bread, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours is the glory through Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 64]
or
Holy God, gracious and merciful, you bring forth food from the earth and nourish your whole creation.  Turn our hearts toward those who hunger in any way, so that all may know your care; and prepare us now to feast on the bread of life, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107 alt.]
or
God of all creation, all you have made is good, and your love endures forever.  You bring forth bread from the earth and fruit from the vine.  Nourish us with these gifts, so that we might be for the world signs of your gracious presence in Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107 alt.]
or
Blessed are you, O God, maker of all things.  Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts:  our selves, our time and our possessions.  Use us and what we have gathered in feeding the world with your love, through the one who gave himself for us, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107 alt.]

Prayer after Communion

Ruler of the universe, all creation yearns for its fulfilment in your Son.  May we who have shared in holy things grow into maturity in him.  This we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 381]
or
Gracious God, in this meal you have drawn us to your heart, and nourished us at your table with food and drink, the body and blood of Christ.  Now send us forth to be your people in the world, and to proclaim your truth this day and evermore, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 65]
or
O God, our life, our strength, our food, we give you thanks for sustaining us with the body and blood of your Son.  By your Holy Spirit, enliven us to be his body in the world, so that more and more we will give you praise and serve your earth and its many peoples, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 65 alt.]
or
We give you thanks, almighty God, that you have refreshed us through the healing power of this gift of life.  In your mercy, strengthen us through this gift, in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
O God, we give you thanks that you have set before us this feast, the body and blood of your Son.  By your Spirit strengthen us to serve all in need and to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, through Jesus Christ our Lord.     Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
God of abundance, with this bread of life and cup of salvation you have united us with Christ, making us one with all your people.  Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, so that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ, our Lord.     Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114 alt.]

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Way of the Cross Is the Way of Wisdom: Reflections on Mark 8.27-38 (RCL Proper 24B, 16 September 2018)

The Way of the Cross Is the Way of Wisdom
Reflections on Mark 8.27-38

RCL Proper 24B
16 September 2018

Holy Trinity Cathedral
New Westminster BC


            8.27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”  30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

            31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  32He said all this quite openly.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

            34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?  38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

            Early in my career at Vancouver School of Theology I decided that I would cheerfully make myself available to the media.  Some of my colleagues kept their distance, but I realized that certain Christian voices dominated the media and I felt strongly that other voices needed to be heard.  So, it was in that spirit that I responded to a telephone call from a reporter with the Globe and Mail.
            He was writing an article on the use of the Bible in contemporary English and what it meant that fewer and fewer people were encountering the Bible as literature in secondary and post-secondary education.  In the main I agreed with him and said that I wished more people encountered all the scriptures of the major religious traditions, even if only in small installments.  But what really bothered me, I said, was the misuse of the Bible in contemporary English.  Let me give you a few examples.
            Have you ever heard someone say, ‘Money is the root of all evil’?  It’s a saying taken from 1 Timothy.  What the text actually says is this:  ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’[1]  As important as money is in our lives, it is a means by which we achieve particular purposes.  So money, in and of itself, is not the ‘root of all evil’.  But when it becomes something that we love, something to which we give our very selves, body and soul, then it becomes a source of ‘many pains’. By failing to quote the biblical text accurately, we lose the opportunity to explore our attitudes toward money and, in the exploring, learn how we might use our financial resources well as faithful disciples of Jesus.
            Have you ever heard someone say, ‘Do not grieve’?  I have heard people say this before and after funerals.  I have actually heard someone say that grieving is not something Christians do.  Once again, this misunderstanding comes from failing to hear the whole text from 1 Thessalonians:  ‘But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.’ [2]  It is truly Christian to grieve the death of a loved one, but we do not grieve ‘as others do who have no hope’.  Our grief is tempered by our hope that death is not God’s last word.  God’s last word is life.  Our faith leads us to believe that, as painful as death is, as wrenching a separation from our loved ones death is, it is life, life eternal, that awaits us. When we do not hear the whole text, we do not have the opportunity to look closely at what we believe and how that faith shapes our lives in the here and now as well as in the world to come.
            All this leads me to one of the more misunderstood texts in the New Testament. It is a text that has been used to encourage people to endure oppression and injustice in silence.  It is a text that has been used to exhort women to remain in abusive relationships.  It is a text that has been warped out of its context:  ‘[Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ [3]  I am sure that you have all been told, at one time or another, that someone or something is ‘the cross you have to bear’.  It’s often what someone says to us when we are in an unsatisfactory situation, perhaps even one that seems unbearable.
            Friends, we have to look at this text closely and understand both what the ‘way of the cross’ is and what it is not.  Suffering injustice or abuse or harassment or discrimination without resistance is not a Christian virtue.  The way of the cross is a way of sacrifice and sacrifice is not about loss but about the choice to be Christ-like, even it means taking risks.  The word ‘sacrifice’, after all, does not mean ‘giving something up’; it means ‘making something holy by offering it to God’. The way of the cross may mean self-denial, but it is self-denial for a purpose.  That purpose is making Christ present in the midst of suffering as well as joy, in the midst of failure as well as success, in the midst of criticism as well as praise.  It is a way made known to us both by the crucifixion and by Jesus’ righteous anger when he chastises those who have turned God’s temple into the first-century equivalent of a shabby shopping mall.
            When we take up the cross of Christ in our baptism and when we renew our commitment to this way of life each time we celebrate a baptism and each time we receive communion, we choose to make this present moment holy by offering it to God. To be sure we often go through our daily lives unmindful of the opportunities to use our time, our talent and our treasure wisely, so that God’s new creation can be experienced by others.  This is why we gather Sunday after Sunday to renew ourselves.
            For me the gathering of the Christian people can be compared to an old-fashioned charcoal barbeque.  If you start a charcoal fire and then scatter the coals, the fire burns cooler and burns out faster than if you keep the coals close together.  It’s counterintuitive, but the hotter and closely-packed charcoal becomes a powerful tool of transformation.  Each Sunday we gather and together we are ‘strangely warmed’ by Word and Sacrament.  We are empowered to become more self-giving in our relationships, our work, our daily lives in the wider community.
            Taking up the cross is what we do as Christians.  We take up the cross in our choices to act justly.  We take up the cross in our choices to love our neighbours as God has loved us.  We take up the cross in our choices to choose the humility of stewardship rather than the arrogance of thoughtless and meaningless consumption.  And in taking up the cross we make holy the present and participate in God’s work of renewing the creation and restoring right relationships.
            The way of the cross is the way of wisdom.  It cries out in the streets and public squares of our time just as surely as it cried out in the time of Jesus.  Its demands are rebuffed by those trapped by their love of acquiring more and more things.  The knowledge it offers seems obscure to those who do not live as we live in the hope of a world restored and liberated by the good news of God in Jesus.  To those who choose this way and who listen to its wisdom it the way of the cross offers the freedom of perfect service and the fullness of life, not just in the future, but in the here and now.
            Even as we celebrate this eucharist the wisdom of God reveals itself in the voice of Wisdom in the streets, in the words of Jesus to his disciples and in James’ plea for self-control and careful speech.  This wisdom invites us all ‘ . . . by the mercies of God, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ [4]  So let us hear what the Spirit is saying to us, the disciples of Christ, the followers of the Way, so that this moment and each moment to come may be made holy -- for our sakes and for the sake of all creation.


[1]1 Timothy 6.10 (New Revised Standard Version).

[2]1 Thessalonians 4.13 (New Revised Standard Version).

[3]Mark 8.34 (New Revised Standard Version).

[4]Romans 12.1-2 (New Revised Standard Version).

Monday, September 10, 2018

Proper Prayers for RCL Proper 24B (16 September 2018)

RCL Proper 24B
Sunday between 11 and 17 September

Proverbs 1.20-33; Psalm 19 or Wisdom of Solomon 7.26-8.1; James 3.1-12; Mark 8.27-38

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you call your Church to witness that in Christ we are reconciled to you.  Help us so to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may turn to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 380]
or
O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation, and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives.  Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn form the lure of evil, take up our cross, and follow your Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 47]
or
Unite us, O God, in acknowledging Jesus as the Christ.  Give us strength to take up his cross and courage to lose our lives for his sake; for we ask this in his name, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.  Amen.  [Liturgy Task Force 2016, 93]
or
Wisdom of God, from the street corners and at the entrances to the city you proclaim the way of life and of death.  Grant us wisdom to recognize your Messiah, so that following in the way of the cross, we may know the way of life and glory; in the name of Christ we pray.  Amen. [Liturgy Task Force 2016, 93]
or
Scandalous God, you suffer our will to power, the narrowness of our faith:  lead us on the path of loos where empires tremble and terror yields to wisdom’s cry and the open hands of love; through Jesus Christ, the crucified Lord.  Amen.  [Prayers for an Inclusive Church 2009, 70]

Prayer over the Gifts

Holy God, accept all we offer you this day.  May we who are reconciled at this table bring wholeness to our broken world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 380]
or
God of mercy and grace, the eyes of all wait upon you, and you open your hand in blessing.  Fill us with good things at your table, so that we may come to the help of all in need, through Jesus Christ, our redeemer and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 64 alt.]
or
Merciful God, as grains of wheat scattered upon the hills were gathered together to become one bread, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours is the glory through Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 64]
or
Holy God, gracious and merciful, you bring forth food from the earth and nourish your whole creation.  Turn our hearts toward those who hunger in any way, so that all may know your care; and prepare us now to feast on the bread of life, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107 alt.]
or
God of all creation, all you have made is good, and your love endures forever.  You bring forth bread from the earth and fruit from the vine.  Nourish us with these gifts, so that we might be for the world signs of your gracious presence in Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107 alt.]
or
Blessed are you, O God, maker of all things.  Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts:  our selves, our time and our possessions.  Use us and what we have gathered in feeding the world with your love, through the one who gave himself for us, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107 alt.]

Prayer after Communion

God of peace, in this eucharist we have been reconciled to you and to our neighbours. May we who have been nourished by holy things always gave the courage to forgive.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen. [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 381]
or
Gracious God, in this meal you have drawn us to your heart, and nourished us at your table with food and drink, the body and blood of Christ.  Now send us forth to be your people in the world, and to proclaim your truth this day and evermore, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 65]
or
O God, our life, our strength, our food, we give you thanks for sustaining us with the body and blood of your Son.  By your Holy Spirit, enliven us to be his body in the world, so that more and more we will give you praise and serve your earth and its many peoples, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 65 alt.]
or
We give you thanks, almighty God, that you have refreshed us through the healing power of this gift of life.  In your mercy, strengthen us through this gift, in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
O God, we give you thanks that you have set before us this feast, the body and blood of your Son.  By your Spirit strengthen us to serve all in need and to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, through Jesus Christ our Lord.     Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
God of abundance, with this bread of life and cup of salvation you have united us with Christ, making us one with all your people.  Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, so that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ, our Lord.     Amen. [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114 alt.]


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Call Us by Our Name: Reflections on Mark 7.24-37 (RCL Proper 23B, 9 September 2018)

Call Us by Our Name
Reflections on Mark 7.24-37

RCL Proper 23B
9 September 2018

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Mark 7.24-37

            7.24From there [Jesus] set out and went away to the region of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there.  Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.  26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.  She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go — the demon has left your daughter.”  30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
            
            31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.  32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.  33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.  34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.  36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.  37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

            Some years ago I travelled to England to attend a conference.  As I went through immigration at Heathrow, the young immigration officer looked carefully at my Canadian passport.  ‘So,’ she said, ‘you were born here in the United Kingdom.’  ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘my mother is English, my father American and I now live in Canada where I’ve chosen to live permanently.’  ‘Well,’ she said, ‘welcome home.’  Her smile and warm welcome was a gift after what had been a particularly long flight that had not been as pleasant as I hoped it might have been.  It was only when I picked up my luggage from the carousel that I realized what had just happened.  A young Muslim woman wearing a hijab and speaking with a metropolitan London accent had just welcomed me ‘home’.  I remember saying to myself, ‘Well, home isn’t what it used to be!’

            When Jesus and his disciples were on their missionary journeys throughout what we know call Israel and Palestine, they frequently had experiences which could have led them to say something similar to what I said to myself at Heathrow. The ancient kingdom of Solomon, reaching to the Euphrates River in the north, to the Jordan River in the east, to the Sinai in the west and to the Red Sea in the south, was now broken into small princedoms.  Some of these princedoms were ruled by princes or kings who were marginally Jewish.  Others were under the control of non-Jewish Semitic rulers.  But the real power lay in the hands of the Roman governor.

            In today’s gospel Jesus and his disciples are travelling near the ancient port city of Tyre in the northwest corner of the Roman province.  Many Gentile settlers have moved from the city into the border areas and it’s likely that there were many conflicts between the Gentile settlers and the ‘people of the land’, Semitic communities both Jewish and non-Jewish.  Why Jesus is in this area is not entirely clear; he has thus far made clear that his ministry is to the Jewish people.  But here he is and here he has an encounter with this Syro-Phoenician woman.

            Let me be clear about some key aspects of this story.  The first is Jesus’ dismissive attitude towards her and the insult he levels at her.  While there may have been people in Jesus’ time who had pet dogs, dogs were, for the most part, tolerated at best.  If they were working dogs, then they were valuable, but for the most part they were not warmly regarded.  Jesus responds to this woman’s request as the average Jewish male of his time would. She’s a Gentile.  She’s a woman.  She’s an immigrant putting pressure on the local population.  Jesus has no obligation to help her and every cultural and religious reason to put considerable distance between her and him.

            It shocks us to have such a story and there are many Christian writers who try to sugar-coat what Jesus says by suggesting that Jesus is just trying to test her faith or by reminding us that Jesus, as Son of God, knew what he was going to do and that this is all some divine morality play.  I don’t buy it.  If we have learned anything about Jesus, it’s that he is a Jew of his time and Mark, our oldest canonical gospel, is not afraid to show us this side of Jesus.

            But what is remarkable is that the woman doesn’t back down.  Perhaps she’s desperate and is willing to put everything on the line to help her daughter.  Perhaps she’s fed up with Jewish arrogance and wants to put this Jewish rabbi in his place.  Who knows? But what we do know is this:  she is the first person in Mark’s gospel to call Jesus ‘Lord’.  

            Now in the English translation we use here the word ‘Lord’ is hidden behind the word ‘Sir’.  In the Greek original of Mark’s gospel the word used is ‘Kyrios’.  True, it’s a common form of address in the world of Jesus’ time, but here, in this challenging encounter, we cannot ignore the implication of a Gentile, immigrant woman calling Jesus ‘Lord’, something no one else has done, even his closest disciples.

            And with this word she snags Jesus.  She knows who he is.  She knows what authority he has been given.  She knows that he needs to be reminded of who he is and what he is called to do.

            Friends, we are living through significant changes in the communities in which we live.    It’s not just here in the Lower Mainland that cultural and ethnic diversity has made its mark.  The small city of Morden, Manitoba has doubled in size over the last decade as a growing number of immigrants from India and elsewhere have found meaningful work as well as a place to call home.  A growing number of our neighbours identify themselves as ‘non-religious’ and other religious communities are eager to purchase redundant church buildings for their own use.

            It is tempting to react as Jesus reacted to the Syro-Phoenician woman --- a knee-jerk anger and dismissal of those who represent change.  But just as she addressed Jesus and reminded him of who he is --- the Lord --- so many of our neighbours address us and remind us of who we are --- Christians, disciples of Jesus, followers of the Way.  My late colleague, David Lochhead, was a pioneer in Buddhist-Christian dialogue.  At one conference David was trying to minimize the distinctiveness of the Christian tradition in order to engage his Buddhist colleagues, it was his Buddhist colleagues who told him that they needed him to be a Christian for true dialogue to occur.

            It is precisely in such a changing and challenging context as ours that our non-Christian neighbours need us to be who we are, a community who, as Archbishop William Temple once said, exist primarily for its ‘non-members’.  We are a people for the ‘other’, however we describe the ‘other’, whomever we consider the ‘other’.  Just as Jesus came to serve not to be served, so do we, as his disciples, ‘ . . . seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbour as [ourselves]’. [1]  One of the more powerful acts of witness undertaken by Christians during the centuries of persecution was our care for the widowed and orphaned, for the poor and homeless, for those who were imprisoned and those who had no helper. Some, because of our actions, chose to join us as disciples, but our service, our caring for others, was an end in itself not a means.

Let us pray.
O God, you have called us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown and by voices we may have wanted to ignore.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but knowing that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus the Christ, whom we call Lord.  Amen. [2]


[1]The Book of Alternative Services1985, 159.

[2]Evangelical Lutheran Worship2006, 317 alt.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Proper Prayers for RCL Proper 23B (9 September 2018)

RCL Proper 23B

Sunday between 4 and 10 September 


Proverbs 22.1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125; James 2.1-10, (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7.24-37


Collect


Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, so that richly bearing the fruit of good works, we may by you be richly rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services  1985, 378]
or
Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform sickness into health and death into life.  Open us to the power of your presence, ad make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the whole world, through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen. [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 47]
or
God of power and compassion, in Christ you reveal your will to heal and to save.  Open our ears to your redeeming word and move our hearts by the strength of your love, so that our every word and work may proclaim Jesus as Messiah, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.  Amen.  [Liturgy Task Force 2016, 92]
or
Maker of us all, you call us to love our neighbours as ourselves and teach us that faith without works is dead.  Open us to the ministries that lie before us, where faith and the needs of our neighbour come together in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  Amen. [Liturgy Task Force 2016, 92]
or
Lord of the changing, you help us find our voice so that we might find our faith: we praise you for the Gentile woman who answered back the Son of God; release us from the crowds which command our silence and free our tongues to demand from you the healing of the earth; through Jesus Christ, the opener of the gate.  Amen.  [Prayers for an Inclusive Church 2009, 69]

Prayer over the Gifts


Great and holy God, accept our offering of labour and love.  May we bring you true and spiritual worship and be one with you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 379]
or
Holy God, gracious and merciful, you bring forth food from the earth and nourish your whole creation.  Turn our hearts toward those who hunger in any way, that all may know your care; and prepare us now to feast on the bread of life, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107]
or
God of all creation, all you have made is good, and your love endures forever.  You bring forth bread from the earth and fruit from the vine.  Nourish us with these gifts, that we might be for the world signs of your gracious presence in Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107]
or
Blessed are you, O God, maker of all things.  Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts:  our selves, our time, and our possessions.  Use us, and what we have gathered, in feeding the world with your love, through the one who gave himself for us, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 107]
or 
God of mercy and grace, the eyes of all wait upon you, and you open your hand in blessing.  Fill us with good things at your table, that we may come to the help of all in need, through Jesus Christ, our redeemer and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 64]
or
Merciful God, as grains of wheat scattered upon the hills were gathered together to become one bread, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours is the glory through Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 64]

Prayer after Communion


Father, your word and sacrament give us food and life.  May we who have shared in holy things bear fruit to your honour and glory, in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 379]
or
Gracious God, we thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.  May we, who share his body, live his risen life; we, who drink his cup, bring life to others; we, whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world.  Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so that we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  [The Book of Alternative Services 1985, 214-215]
or
We give you thanks, almighty God, that you have refreshed us through the healing power of this gift of life.  In your mercy, strengthen us through this gift, in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
O God, we give you thanks that you have set before us this feast, the body and blood of your Son.  By your Spirit strengthen us to serve all in need and to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
God of abundance, with this bread of life and cup of salvation you have united us with Christ, making us one with all your people.  Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 114]
or
Gracious God, in this meal you have drawn us to your heart, and nourished us at your table with food and drink, the body and blood of Christ.  Now send us forth to be your people in the world, and to proclaim your truth this day and evermore, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 65]
or
O God, our life, our strength, our food, we give you thanks for sustaining us with the body and blood of your Son.  By your Holy Spirit, enliven us to be his body in the world, that/so that more and more we will give you praise and serve your earth and its many peoples, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, 65]

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Be Doers of the Word: Reflections on James 1.17-27 (RCL Proper 22B, 2 September 2018)

Be Doers of the Word
Reflections on James 1.17-27

RCL Proper 22B
2 September 2018

Holy Trinity Cathedral

James 1.17-27

                  1.17Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  18In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

                  19You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.  21Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

                  22But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  25But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act — they will be blessed in their doing.

                  26If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.  27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

            When I was twelve years old, I learned that not all Christians think alike. I shared with some friends that I was beginning preparation for confirmation.  A couple of them asked me what confirmation was.  I gave them my twelve-year-old interpretation:  ‘Confirmation is when I publically promise to keep the vows made by my godparents on my behalf at my baptism.’  One of my friends, who came from the Baptist tradition, was not impressed.  ‘No one should be baptized,’ he said, ‘unless they can say for themselves that they believe that Jesus is their Lord and Saviour.’

            Although I knew that there were different Christian churches, it had never occurred to me that what they believed and what they did was so different from what we Anglicans did.  For the first time I experienced the divisions that exist between Christian traditions, some of which are really minor, others more significant.  Later in life, after I had been ordained, I became more involved in the dialogues between Lutherans and Anglicans, both in the United States and Canada.  In some of the conversations we would keep a chalk board or some newsprint in the room, so that we could keep track of the words we used that our conversation partners did not understand.  Fortunately, our commitment was to work towards a common understanding and the removal of obstacles that kept us from more visible unity.

            What my twelve-year-old Baptist friend expressed was a view shared by various Christian groups.  In order to belong to the Christian community, you must first confess your belief in what that particular tradition teaches and then behave in a way that is consistent with that belief.  Diana Butler Bass, an American writer, calls this the ‘Believe – Behave – Belong’ model of how someone becomes a Christian.

            As a life-long Anglican I had been raised with a different model.  We baptize infants and young children, trusting that their parents and godparents and congregation will share their faith as the child grows.  There was never a time in my life that I did not doubt that I ‘belonged’ to the church. True, in those days, children did not receive communion, but I never felt excluded from the life of the congregation.  I learned how to live as a Christian in the Anglican tradition and then, when I was old enough, I was expected to take up the mantle of faith and live as an adult member of the community.  Our model was and continues to be ‘Belong – Behave – Believe’.

            More importantly, when we say ‘believe’, we are saying more than ‘a declaration of assent in certain doctrines and teachings’.  We invite people to ‘believe’ in the root sense of the word.  Our English word ‘believe’ has its roots in the Germanic verb ‘lieben’, ‘to love’.  To ‘believe’ is more than ‘head knowledge’; to ‘believe’ is to be in love with the God who is revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth and whose Spirit continues to lead us, to comfort us and to challenge us.  

            To belong to the Christian community is to choose to love what the community loves: justice, kindness, humility.  To belong to the Christian community is to choose to love this motley crew of people, young and old, women and men, foolish and wise, dependable and undependable, who come Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year, to say:  ‘We believe, we hold dear what God holds dear.’  And Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year, we practice how to behave --- not in order to belong but in order to grow in love.

            But one thing is certain:  we belong. We belong because every human being belongs to the family of the children of God.  We belong because we need each other to become more fully the person God intends us to become.  We belong whether or not we fully understand what are sometimes called the ‘mysteries’ of faith.  

            We are all trying to be Christians.  We are all trying to fulfill our baptismal promises, whether they were made for us or whether we made them for ourselves.  We are all trying to fall deeper and deeper in love with God, the Lover of all creation, with Jesus, the Beloved of God who shows us the way, with the Spirit, the Love that unites us, as obstinate and as questioning as we may be. 

            I believe that the writer of the Letter of James shares this model of how one becomes more fully Christian.  We belong to the community before we come to believe fully what the community values. For James ‘right action’ --- orthopraxis--- is the way we come to ‘right praise and worship’ --- orthodoxy.  We learn what it means to be a Christian by practicing discipleship through our service, our worship, our evangelism, our education and our pastoral care.  If the truth be told, none of us ever truly comes to the fullness of belief because none of us, in this life, ever “ . . . (loves) God with all (our) heart, with all (our) soul, with all (our) mind, and with all (our) strength” nor do we fully “love (our) neighbour as (ourselves).”  Martin Luther, although not a great fan of the Letter of James, understood this well. When asked if he were a Christian, Luther is said to have replied, ‘No, but I’m trying to be.’

            I’m trying to be as well, as I know all of you are.  The good news is that this is all God expects of us, trying to behave, in each moment, in every day, to love this world as God loves it, to love ourselves as God loves us, to love others as God loves them.  Love, after all, is the choice we make to be Christ in any given moment and it is in this community of faith, here we all belong, that we have ample opportunity to practice.  For it is in the belonging that we learn how to behave and it is in the behaving that we learn to believe.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Suggested Liturgical Elements for Use on the Sundays from September through November 2018

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, 2 September 2018, we will be using several new liturgical elements to express the second part of Ordinary Time in Year B.  Perhaps you will find them helpful in the worship life of your own congregation.

Greeting


The Presider greets the Community, saying,

May the strength of God,
and the compassion of Christ
and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit
be with you.
And also with you. [1]

The Great Thanksgiving


The Presider says or sings,

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; 
you are the source of light and life for all your creation, 
you made us in your own image, 
and call us to new life in Jesus Christ our Saviour.  
Therefore we praise you, 
joining our voices to proclaim the glory of your name. [2]

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.

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal:  
you we praise and glorify, you we worship and adore.  
You formed the earth from chaos; you encircled the globe with air; 
you created fire for warmth and light; you nourish the lands with water.  
You moulded us in your image, and with mercy higher than the mountains, 
with grace deeper than the seas, you blessed the Israelites 
and cherished them as your own.  
So that we might be adopted to live in your Spirit,
you called to us through the life and death of Jesus.

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.

Together as the body of Christ, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  
Christ has died. Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

With this bread and cup we remember your Son, 
the first-born of your new creation.  
We remember his life lived for others, 
and his death and resurrection, 
which renews the face of the earth.  
We await his coming, 
when, with the world made perfect through your wisdom, 
all our sins and sorrows will be no more.

Holy God, holy and merciful, holy and compassionate, 
send upon us and this meal your Holy Spirit, 
whose breath revives us for life, whose fire rouses us to love.  
Enfold in your arms all who share this holy food.  
Nurture in us the fruits of the Spirit, 
so that we may be a living tree, sharing your bounty with all the world.

Holy and benevolent God, receive our praise and petitions, 
as Jesus received the cry of the needy, 
and fill us with your blessing, 
until, needy no longer and bound to you in love, 
we feast forever in the triumph of the Lamb:  
through whom all glory and honour is yours, 
O God, O Living One, with the Holy Spirit, 
in your holy church, now and for ever.  Amen[3]

The Invitation to Communion


The Presider says,

This is the table of the Lord.
It is made ready for those who want to know and love God more.
Come whether you have much faith or little.
Come whether you have been here long or have just arrived.
Come whether you are confident or have questions.
Come because it is Christ who invites you,
for these are the gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God. [4]

The Blessing


The Presider blesses the Community, saying,

May the power of God sustain you.
May the wisdom of the Word enlighten you.
May the mercy of the Holy Spirit united you.
And the blessing of God,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be with you and remain with you always.  Amen. [5]



[1]The Rev’d Richard Geoffrey Leggett, August 2018.

[2]The Book of Alternative Services1985, 218.

[3]Evangelical Lutheran Worship2006, 67 alt.

[4]Adapted from existing invitation in use at Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Westminster BC.

[5]Adapted from ‘A prayer of Catherine of Siena’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship2006, 87 alt.