Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Maundy Thursday is always an interesting Feast Day for me, especially growing up a Roman Catholic background. In that particular tradition, the emphasis for today is placed on the institution of the Lord’s Supper…..celebrating the fact that Jesus took ordinary things, and transformed them so that we might never be without His presence.

But gathering around the table has a greater significance than being fed for our own benefit. In sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord with others, we are united in a spiritual bond that cannot be broken. A bond which makes us not only fellow human beings…..but brothers and sisters who find ourselves in relationship with one another.

I don’t know about you……but I DEFINITELY know some folks in Churchland that I don’t particularly enjoy. Personalities clash, differences of opinion arise, and in some cases, that schism can manifest itself in fighting, arguments, and seeing that person as “somebody else….someone I don’t have to interact with”

Holy Thursday challenges us to sit with others that we don’t enjoy or get along with. Don’t forget: Even Judas was able to share in this sacred meal. 😉

As we enter into the Three Great Days heading towards the Resurrection, may we come to see ourselves in the stories of Scripture, and recognize that we are called to enter into God’s presence….. even when the images are gruesome and ones that we would rather ignore……It is only through suffering, service, and fellowship with sinners that the Paschal mystery can really happen. +

The Word Made Flesh: Making Worship Available To the Senses

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I have been thinking of doing this post for a while……but now I finally have the time to sit and write it. 🙂

A few weeks back I attended a night of Hymns and Anthems @ the cathedral here in London. During that performance, something happened which left an indelible impression on my soul.

For those who have never been to a hymns and anthems concert, they are quite unique. The event is organized as a sort of back and forth between the choir and the audience. The congregation is urged to sing along to familiar worship songs, and then invited to listen to choral and instrumental pieces…. Rather like a musical conversation.

Anyhoo, about half-way through the show, the conductor of the Fanshawe Chorus invited those of CRC background to sing a traditional Dutch hymn.

I kid you not when I say that well over 30 people flooded the chancel and altar where the chorus was assembled. Voices from all sides–trained and untrained–burst into worship:

Translation: Glory to God in the Highest. Peace be on earth. Amen.

Granted, it may be that I was struck so profoundly by this because my girlfriend was raised Dutch Reformed…a denomination that has incredible faith and devotion attached to it…..but I think it has more to do with the fact that I was reminded of something more fundamental.

The act of worship is not supposed to be completely intellectual…..and–contrary to what most Anglicans would have us believe by their actions–it is most definitely *not* supposed to consist of having your head buried in a liturgical book like so:

Maybe it’s because I grew up RC and learned the liturgy by rote…..but it never made sense to me to concentrate so heavily on the words. That is only one aspect of worship.

There are all kinds of ways in which the worship of the Church seeks to engage the whole body:

Sight:

Smell:

Touch (the kiss of peace):

Hearing :

and of course Taste:

I realize that not all of you who read this blog may be sacramental….and yet it seems to me that to short-change any of the senses in worship is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the Incarnation.

We stand on the cusp of Advent…a season where we contemplate the coming of Christ….not just in the spiritual sense, but in a real and bodily way.

Jesus Christ is living proof that our God is a messy God. A loving community of Three Persons, One God….that literally puts hands into the mud and molds man out of clay…..a Father, Son and Spirit who literally get down and dirty….all so that we might be saved and lifted up. 🙂

The next time you are at a worship service of any kind…..Look around you…..try to find the ways in which different communities try and engage all of the senses. Senses that the Christ-child has made holy by his immanent arrival.

To look with intention about how we live, breathe and move in the Spirit is to make our faith more than words and intellectual assent. It is Incarnational theology lived out…..it is a resurrection people finding their heritage, and a way of life that involves God in every part of our well-being…..whether in body, spirit or mind. +

Evening Prayer: April 8th

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Psalms: 107:1-32
Gospel: <a href="John 6:52-59
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter letter of St. Athanasius

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink (John 6:53-54)

This is the third straight day we have had readings about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I want to draw your attention to a nuance in the Greek that makes tonight’s passage especially striking.

The word translated as “eat” in this passage, is actually a much more specific verb in the Greek. In its proper context, the sentence reads more like this.

“Very truly, I tell you, unless you munch the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who munch on my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day….”

In fact, it was this text that caused so much confusion in the ancient world. Romans thought that Christians were cannibals! 😛

While Christian theology has many different understandings of what it means to eat the flesh and drink the blood of our Lord…this mystery has been worked out most thoroughly and intentionally in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

I could never hope to cover Eucharistic theology in one blog post; entire volumes have been written on the subject! But the very fact that Jesus uses such an intense verb to describe Eternal life I think leads us to a few interesting conclusions.

One is that living the faith is an *earthy* and lived experience. It is something that requires we get our hands dirty…..and to quite literally take a bite out of life.

Related to this idea is that our Christian heritage is an Incarnational heritage. At the heart of the Church’s salvific identity, there is a fundamental conviction that God and earth are united. One cannot be separated from the other…and that we experience God in the everyday things of life.

As Anglicans, we have held on to this sacramental understanding. In which the bread and wine are an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace.

We come to the Lord’s table in the assurance and hope that even though the bread and the wine seem completely ordinary (and even tasteless if you use styrofoam wafers)…they are actually something completely transcendant. The Bread is the Flesh of Christ…… to make our flesh clean…..to remind us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, the Wine is the Blood of Christ…..to cleanse our souls…and to remind us that any inner turmoil we are experiencing will be calmed by the still, small voice of the Spirit.

As we go to receive the Sacrament Sunday by Sunday….God is making a statement. God declares that we are a forgiven people…..a new creation….beloved children. ❤

In response, we unite our voices in prayer and praise for the way in which God has saved all of Creation through his Son…..May we always feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving. +

Morning Prayer: 3rd Sunday in Lent (March 27th)

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Psalm: 93, 96
Old Testament: Jeremiah 6:9-15
New Testament: 1 Cor 6:12-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple* of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (Romans 6:19-20)

One thing that I find kind of shocking in the wording here is that Paul tells us that we have been bought. This seems to fly in the face of virtually every modern sensibility. Generally, in North America, we don’t tend to think of any human being as property that can be purchased or sold. Didn’t abolition rid us of that???

While that might hold true for us, the society in which Paul found himself was working out of a very different mindset. Wealthy individuals could own vast tracts of land and countless numbers of slaves. We must not forget that the original authors of the text, didn’t necessarily intend to speak to a 21st century audience.

With all of that said….look at some of the implications of what Paul says. If we are not our own person…..if we don’t have full ownership rights. who does????

The answer (as is so often the case in Churchland) is Jesus ;).

In our baptismal right, after the candidate has been cleansed with water, we mark them with holy oil saying:

I sign you with the cross, and mark you as Christ’s own forever.

It is Jesus himself who adopts us as his own. We are bought by his Blood to be saved from our sins, and given a visible sign of that promise in baptism.

One of the things that I have learned in the past few years is that living the Christian life is about slowly realizing this call. That our bodies and minds are not to be used lightly…but rather to be respected, loved, and nurtured. It is to be nurtured because it is not simply our individual needs that need to be satisfied, and we are not the only ones with a stake in our actions.

God too is affected by the way in which we take care of ourselves in all aspects of life; physically, emotionally and spirituality. We are the hands and feet of God in this frail world…let us take that responsibility seriously. 🙂 +

Evening Prayer: Ash Wednesday (March 9th)

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Psalms: 102, 130
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a letter to the Corinthians by St. Clement

Le Penitente by Pietro Rotari

 

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities. (Psalm 130:7-8)

The whole point of observing fasting periods is not so much self-deprivation as it is about hope and re-orientation. As we journey towards the Cross, lost in the desert of sound, sight, smell, taste and touch…… we long for something that is real

That’s not to say that the five senses are bad…..after all, we are a Church that believes in the essential goodness of the body which has been redeemed through Christ.

At the same time, there is a temptation to become to reliant on the body…on instant gratification, and the raw rush of emotion.

Lent seeks to get past that….by subduing the flesh (or additionally, things which are causing us to be lazy, stressed, or spiteful) room is made to contemplate the Spirit….to let Christ take his throne in the hearts of each of us.

Take some time in these next weeks and months to listen to what the Spirit–our advocate and guide–is saying to the Church in and through us. After all, we are all members of the one body of the faithful.

May we all, in the name of the LORD observe a Holy Lent and wander hand-in-hand with our Saviour….trusting in his great mercy towards us. +

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