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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Four Last Things

As the church year ends and we look forward to the themes of  the Advent season, one sometimes hears mention made of the "Four Last Things": Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. These four themes are a traditional summary of Christian eschatology and are found throughout the Scriptures (a nice collection of passages is found at the site http://www.episcopalnet.org/TRACTS/FourLastThings.html ).

Every person must face the reality of death despite our human reticence to do so. If we are Christians, we know that death has a unique spiritual meaning because it will be followed by the particular judgment of each individual soul and the general judgment of all creation. Although there are some differences of belief as to details and what transpires in the meantime, orthodox Christians agree that ultimately each soul faces either heaven or hell. The four last things tend to be neglected by the worldly Christians of our time, but we need to meditate on them in order to develop a deeper commitment and understanding of Christian spirituality. In the Christian view, our present journey on earth cannot be separated from our final destination.

Friday, November 23, 2012

computer

Having technical difficulties.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Armistice, Remembrance or Veterans' Day- November 11

Of course, 11 November 1918 was the day of the armistice that ended the Great War or World War I. Because of the massive and senseless carnage of that war, the date of the armistice was set aside in a number of countries as a day of remembrance for veterans and victims of that war and of all wars. In current U.S. practice, the focus is on military veterans.It is certainly appropriate that we have special prayers as we honor the sacrifices of military personnel.

From the 1928 American BCP, here is a prayer for the army modified to include all military service:
O Lord God of Hosts, stretch forth, we pray thee, thine almighty arm to strengthen and protect the [military] of our country. Support them in the day of battle, and in the time of peace keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty; and grant that in all things they may serve without reproach; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect for Independence Day also seems appropriate:
O Eternal God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the 1962 Canadian BCP, there is a prayer for those who serve in the Queen's Forces: O Lord of hosts, stretch forth, we pray thee, thine almighty arm to strengthen and protect the Queen's forces in every peril of sea, and land, and air; shelter them in the day of battle, and ever keep them safe from all evil; endue them with loyalty and courage; and grant that in all things they may serve as seeing thee who art invisible; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Also any prayers of thanksgiving for the examples of the departed would be appropriate.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

In light of the American elections, there is a certain mysterious and ironic appropriateness of the Prayer Book Epistle and Gospel for this Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity. The Gospel from St. Matthew tells us to render to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's.  For more on this Gospel, see the post from two years ago (http://bcpanglican.blogspot.com/2010/11/trinity-xxiii.html).

This week, I would focus on the Epistle from Philippians 3:17-21:

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed unto the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.

The Apostle Paul exhorts believers to follow his example centered on the Cross of Christ. Apparently even at that time, there were nominal Christians who were enemies of the crucified Christ and who worshipped their bellies. That is to say, there were supposed Christians whose primary concern was their material well-being and physical comfort. They were willing to compromise the way of the cross in order to pursue an easier earthly existence.
The same problem exists among Christians in our time, especially in western countries. Just look at the recent exit polls on the primary motivation of many supposed Christians voters. Whatever their choice of candidates, the primary motivation is not some high principle but base materialism and freedom for self-gratification, in other words, the god of the belly. Such an approach not only endangers their own souls but also the very nation and society they claim to love.
True Christians must focus on higher values. One of the many meanings of the cross is that loyalty to divine principles is more important than earthly well-being. Like our Lord, Christians must be willing to sacrifice the benefits of earthly life for heavenly purposes. As St. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, "For our citizenship is in heaven."  Although we love our earthly homelands and respect public order, our ultimate loyalty as Christians is to God and His heavenly kingdom. That is where we look for our ultimate values and highest blessings. May we follow our Lord, His Apostles and all true believers in that loyalty.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Eve for Americans

On the eve of elections which could have great impact upon religious freedom, marriage and the right to life of the unborn and the aging, as well as more mundane matters, Christians should be very much in prayer. For Anglicans, the Litany seems especially appropriate. For those going about their daily tasks, repeating the Kyrie or the Jesus Prayer is an option. In addition, we might say the following prayers.

For Our Country (1928 BCP):
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Guidance (1928 BCP):
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly; Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

At the Time of an Election (A Manual for Priests):
O Lord, we beg thee to govern the minds of all who are called at this time to choose faithful persons to serve in the government of this land: that they may exercise their choice as in thy sight, for the welfare of all our people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Expectant Mothers and Babes in the Womb (adapted from several sources):
Almighty God, by whose Providence new life is conceived, look with mercy upon all thy handmaidens who are with child and upon the babes within their wombs. Strengthen them during the months of waiting and growth, and bring them in safety through the time of birth. And grant that each child may increase in wisdom and stature, and grow in thy love and service, until he or she come to thy eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity

Since Trinity XXII this year falls within the octave of All Saints, it is appropriate to continue thinking about that important feast. The following link provides some simple comments-  http://bcpanglican.blogspot.com/2010/10/all-saints-day-1-november.html . For a comment on the Gospel for Trinity XXII from St. Matthew 18, see the post from two years ago-  http://bcpanglican.blogspot.com/2010/10/trinity-xxii.html .

This year my focus is on the Epistle from Philippians 1:3-11:  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

This is a very personal introduction to the letter to the Church at Philippi. St. Paul expresses his personal affection and hope for that church. Yet, it also contains references to several important theological themes-continual prayer, Christian fellowship, growth in good works and understanding, perseverance and others. In particular, I am struck by the final words of the selection- being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Although the Apostle has great personal affection for these Christians, he keeps his focus on God. Christian growth in goodness is not just for the individual's benefit or even for the Church; the fruits of righteousness are primarily for the glory and praise of God. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, the entire life of every believer is meant to become a hymn of praise to the Almighty.