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.