Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Good Shepherd

Depending on which lectionary one follows, either the Second Sunday after Easter or the Fourth Sunday of Easter focus on the theme of the Good Shepherd. Some reflections on this theme follow.

In St. John 10:11, our Lord boldly proclaims, “I am the good shepherd.”  There are two aspects of Jesus’ claim. 1) Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah-a leader like King David in many ways. 2) By calling Himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth is also moving His claim to another level. In John’s Gospel, “I am” sayings from Jesus are reflections of God’s name in Exodus. Furthermore, Jesus does not merely say “I’m a good shepherd.” He says, “I am the good shepherd.”

God Himself is the Good Shepherd of Israel, and this claim by Jesus is a reflection of Jesus’ unique relationship with God the Father. So Jesus is making a powerful claim. He is both the human Messiah and the divine Son of God. He is the great leader of the chosen people in both ways. 

Jesus cares for God’s flock. He nourishes their souls.  Jesus is not a hired hand who will abandon the sheep in hard times. The sheep recognize Him; they know that He is worthy of their trust. He looks after them even when it hurts Him. He lays down His life for their sakes, and Jesus Christ has the power to take up His life again for the sake of the flock. Even from heaven, He continues to watch over His human flock, intercede for them, and send His Holy Spirit to guide them.

Easter is a season that stresses our hope in Christ, and knowing that Christ is our Good Shepherd highlights such hope in a special way. All too often we are like wandering sheep, but we do have a leader that we can trust. Easter is a celebration and a proclamation of the depth of our Shepherd’s love and of His victorious power. So let us heed Him and have faith in Him. Let us be loyal and stay near our Good Shepherd. Let us accept His guidance and nourish our souls with His spiritual food and drink, with His Word and Sacraments.

Monday, April 09, 2018

First Sunday after Easter- Christ's Peace

The Gospel for Easter I in the BCP (or Easter II  B in the revised 3-year lectionary) is from John 20:19ff. Among other things, it shows the risen Lord Jesus coming to the fearful disciples. He greets them with the words, "Peace be unto you." Of course, this was a common Jewish greeting (shalom alechem). Yet, this common greeting has a special meeting in Eastertide. The risen Lord knew that His disciples had a special need for peace at that time. They were fearful of the Jewish and Roman authorities. They were also fearful and anxious about their relationships with God the Father and His Son the risen Christ. They had not been very wise, brave or faithful during Holy Week. So they needed forgiveness, reconciliation and encouragement. They needed a sense of peace with God. Christ offered them such peace, and then He repeated the words and commissioned them to share His peace with others. Sharing His peace was a special calling of the apostles as ministers of Christ's Church, but iin non-sacramental ways, it was also a calling of every disciple.

This need for Christ's peace still applies to all people for all have sinned and fallen short. Whether clergy, parishioners or un-churched, people need to realize that the risen Lord offers true and eternal peace. And whether we are clergy or laity, we are all called to share this message with others in ways appropriate for our status and abilities. May this Eastertide be a season of Christ's peace for us all!

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Day 2018

St. John 20: 1-10.
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. 
There is so much that can be said about the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the central event in human history. It is the foundation of all Christian theology. It is central in Christian liturgy and celebration. It is the basis of hope. It is the great example of divine love and mercy. All those things and more deserve our attention. Yet, personally, the key is the reaction of the young beloved disciple- "he saw and believed." At that point, he did not understand all the Scriptures or have a developed theology; he simply believed in the living Lord Jesus. On this day, that is where we all need to start. Jesus Christ is risen!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Even

Holy Saturday known in the Prayer Book tradition as Easter Even has always been a low-key day liturgically. It has been a day of rest in commemoration of Christ's time in the tomb and a day of preparation for Easter celebration. From the second century onwards the evening of this Saturday became a vigil of prayers and readings. The rite of kindling new fire, baptizing catechumens, and celebrating the first Eucharist were added after midnight. In 1549, Cranmer simplified matters and eliminated most of the speccial features of Holy Saturday and the Great Vigil. He did retain a Psalm, Epistle and Gospel. The Palm Sunday Collect was expected to be used, and some baptisms were administered. In 1637, the Scottish Book of Common Prayer added a proper collect for Easter Even, possibly prepared by Bishop Cosin. The 1662 BCP included this collect which connects Holy Week-Easter themes with baptism.

Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us. (1928 BCP, The Litany, p. 55)


But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14, KJV)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thursday before Easter, commonly called Maundy Thursday

Although Christians often speculate about various meanings of the Lord's Supper, the basics are beautifully stated in the following two collects.

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen. (1928 BCP, p.152)

Grant, O Father, that when we receive the blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, coming to those holy mysteries in faith, and love, and true repentance, we may receive remission of our sins, and be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (1928 BCP, Offices of Instruction, p. 295)

Thanks be to God for this great and holy gift!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Anglican Stations of the Cross?

During Lent, we often hear of Stations of the Cross- an extra-liturgical way of meditation on the events culminating in Christ's death and burial. The roots of this devotion probably go back to the fourth century AD when Christian pilgrims could appear openly in the streets of Jerusalem during Holy Week. Eventually some of these devotions were carried to other parts of the Christian world, and in the Middle Ages, the Way of the Cross was promoted especially by the Franciscans. Eventually in late medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholicism, the number of stations was set at fourteen. Unfortunately, some of the fourteen traditional stations ( for example, how many times Jesus may have fallen or the existence of Veronica) have little or no Scriptural basis; they seem rather to be products of human imagination. Furthermore, Anglicans and other Protestants have had difficulties with the Roman Catholic emphasis on  the "Hail, Mary." So simplified forms of meditation have been developed.

Many Anglicans and Protestants prefer to use only eight Stations of the Cross, since those are some of the main events recorded in the Gospel accounts. Station 1: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die (John 19:16; Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15), Station 2: Jesus Accepts His Cross (John 19:17), Station 3: Simon Helps Carry the Cross (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21),  Station 4: Jesus Speaks to the Women (Luke 23:27-28), Station 5: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments (Mark 15:24), Station 6: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross (Mark 15:25), Station 7: Jesus Cares for His Mother (John 19:26-27), Station 8: Jesus Dies on the Cross (Mark 15:37; John 19:30).  One could add other Scriptural events such as the scourging of Jesus and His burial.

The devotion could begin with a Scripture sentence or invocation of the Trinity, a collect from Lent or Good Friday, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. Stations could be simple stopping places in a church, parish hall or church yard, or there could be places marked by a cross and/or illustration. At each station, there could be appropriate Scripture verses, a time for silence and one or more prayers; the orthodox Jesus Prayer or the Kyrie might be a good conclusion of each station. One appropriate prayer to use is the Collect for the Monday before Easter from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

After the last station the leader might conclude with the Grace from I Corinthians 13:14