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.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fourth Sunday after Easter

{Note: the traditional calendar and lectionary refer to this as the "Fourth Sunday after Easter,"  not the "Fifth Sunday of Easter." For those used to the newer calendar/lectionary, this might cause some confusion.}

In reading the propers for this Sunday, I was again struck by the Epistle from St. James 1: 17-21:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Very often we read the Epistle James noting its emphasis on good works. Of course, doing good is an important theme in the epistle, and we can see such an emphasis in the middle of this selection. However, we should notice that the passage starts with an emphasis on gifts from God, especially the "word of truth." Then at the end, we are exhorted to "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save [our] souls." So James is as much about humble dependence on grace and the divine word as the epistles of St. Paul.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Second Sunday after Easter- Good Shepherd Sunday

The Second Sunday after Easter has commonly been known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Both the Epistle from I Peter and the Gospel from St. John refer to Jesus Christ as the great and good shepherd. He has laid down His life and taken it up again for His flock. In other years, I have commented on the Epistle and Gospel; this time, let us note the collect of the day.

Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Although the collect does not use the word "shepherd," it does point out what our Good Shepherd has done and continues to do for us. He has sacrificed Himself, given us an example and can keep giving us grace to follow where He leads. Thanks be to God. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

First Sunday after Easter

The Gospel for the First Sunday after Easter ("Low Sunday") is from St. John 20: 19ff.
The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. 

Here we see that one of the first things that the risen Lord did was to give His disciples authority to forgive sins. Although theologians have discussed and debated exact applications over the years, the basic applications seem fairly straightforward. In a sense, the followers of Christ participate in remitting sins whenever the Gospel of repentance and faith in Christ is proclaimed in word and deed. Anyone who hears the message, acknowledges his/her sin before God and trusts in God's grace in Christ can be forgiven. 

In historic Anglican understanding, this confession and faith can be individual, private between individuals, or public. In the life of the Church, Anglican liturgy has provided for public or communal confession of sin and absolution by the appropriate clergy (bishops and presbyters/priests) in the Daily Offices and at the Eucharist. In the great Exhortation to Communion and in the Visitation of the Sick, Anglican Prayer Books have also encouraged troubled consciences to employ private confession/absolution with a priest.

This Anglican approach seems very pastoral and comforting. It combines the best of what are commonly called "evangelical" and "catholic" approaches. It also fits in with today's Gospel on the power and mission of the risen Lord.

For other approaches to this Sunday's propers and the meaning of the title "Low Sunday," confer the posts for previous years.