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, May 19, 2018

Pentecost and Preaching the Gospel

The traditional BCP lesson appointed for the Epistle on Pentecost is from Acts 2:1- 11. It concludes, "we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." What are these Galilean Apostles proclaiming? Although inspired by the Holy Spirit, and although Peter cites Isaiah about pouring out the Spirit, the core message is not about the Holy Spirit; the heart of the proclamation is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A few verses later, Peter makes this clear. In Acts 2: 22-24, he preaches, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." This is the heart of the Gospel, the Christ-centered core of the Christian proclamation.

The proclamation in Acts is consistent with the Prayer Book Gospel for last Sunday. In St. John 15:26, Christ tells the Apostles, "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." The whole point about Pentecost is not about the mechanics of inspiration. And although we honor the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new way, Pentecost is not about the Spirit alone. The point is that the Holy Spirit testifies about and for the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Truth enables Christ's followers to be faithful witnesses to and proclaimers of the Gospel of salvation. How the Spirit came and the variety of gifts bestowed are of interest, but the main issue is that the presence of the Holy Spirit brings faith in and witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ, the divine Word, God the Son.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ascension Day 2018

As I have mentioned before, Ascension Day is a significant but often neglected observance rooted in Scripture. I was heartened to hear its biblical significance mentioned on an evangelical radio station this morning. And the Anglican parish where I assist will observe it with Morning Prayer and two Eucharists, but in general, Ascension is overlloked- even on the following Sunday.

Last year, I discussed several of its meanings (https://bcpanglican.blogspot.com/2017/05/ascension-day.html). Today I am struck by the fact that one purpose of Christ's Ascension was to intercede for us at the Father's right hand. Rogation days have reminded us to pray; Ascension comforts us with a reminder that Christ is always praying for us as He watches over us from heaven.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Christian Prayer- Rogation Sunday

Fifth Sunday after Easter   St. John 16: 24-33
Sermon Notes by the Reverend Dennis Washburn, Ph.D.

In English church tradition, this Sunday has been known as Rogation Sunday. “Rogation” comes from one of the Latin verbs meaning “pray” in St. John 16.
In today’s Gospel from John 16, Christ talks to His disciples about prayer. In John 16:23, Christ promises His followers, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.  In the next verse, He stresses the newness of the situation. “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (ESV) So let us spend a few minutes thinking of Christian prayer.

First, at a basic level, praying to the Father in Christ’s name refers to certain expressions used in our prayers- “in Jesus’ name,” “for Christ’s sake,” “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And the greatest prayer we offer in Jesus’ name is the words which He taught in the Lord’s Prayer. All these words are important in themselves. They are signs of the ways that Christians approach the Almighty.

Secondly, in Biblical tradition, the name is an expression of a person’s essence, identity or spirit. The name is closely related to a person’s character, thoughts, and deeds. So praying in Christ’s name means appealing to the nature and character of the Christ, the redeemer of God’s people. It implies that the merits of Christ will be applied to those who sincerely and faithfully call out in His name.

Thirdly, praying in Christ’s name signifies that we hope to model our thoughts and deeds, indeed all aspects of our lives, upon Christ’s example. Aware of our own sinfulness, in faith we hope to approach the Father with the mind and spirit of Jesus. We seek to pray as our Lord Himself would pray to the Father in our situations. We don’t just ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” but also “How would Jesus pray?”

As Christians, we always pray as members of the Body of Christ. Like our Savior, we must always be ready and willing to pray for the Father’s will to be done. We must subordinate our personal opinions and preferences to the greater divine plan for salvation. When we pray with Christ-like faith in the heavenly Father, then our prayers are most truly offered in Jesus’ name.

Our Lord tells us that God answers prayers that are truly in His name. Yet, even such prayers may not be answered exactly like we imagine or hope. Our personal wishes may not be the best when viewed from the divine light of history and eternity.
In Gethsemane, even Christ offered two kinds of prayers. He preferred to avoid the sufferings of the cross, but He also humbly submitted to the greater divine plan for salvation- “Thy will be done.” And through such a faithful and humble attitude, He overcame the tribulations of this world (Jn. 16:33).

As followers of Christ, our prayers should reflect His perspective. In this life, our preferences are conditioned by our physical circumstances and by our human minds. But despite our situations and trials in this world, we seek to follow Jesus. Despite all our feelings of the moment, we must remain committed to the wise and loving plans of God our heavenly Father; the fulfillment of His will must remain our priority in prayer as in other aspects of life.




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.

Since this is an extra-liturgical devotion, we may adapt it for local use. 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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Lent and Special Devotions

As heirs of the so-called magisterial or moderate Reformation, Anglicans have retained the basics of the church calendar including Lent. We have seen Lent as a useful tradition to encourage repentance, voluntary devotion, and preparation for Easter. At the same time, in Articles of Religion XI, XII, XIV, and XXXIV, Anglicanism has also stressed Christian freedom with regard to human works and traditions. While the Prayer Book has provided general rules about observing Lent since 1662, traditions about fasting, penitence and special devotions must not become legalistic. Such things cannot make us righteous before God. Human traditions cannot earn spiritual merit.

Anglicans and all Christians are called to live in Christian freedom, not as slaves to man-made rules. Christ Himself has the unique and infinite merit needed by all humanity, and through faith in Him, we are set right with God. Lent like every other observance is meant to call us to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. Any special devotions we have during this season do not earn righteousness and must not obscure the work of Christ; they are merely external practices meant to recall us to the central truths of the Gospel.