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Archive for March, 2009

Words of Invitation

AN INVITATION

The table of bread and wine is now to be made ready.
It is the table of company with Jesus,
And all who love him.
It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world,
With whom Jesus identified himself.
It is the table of communion with the earth,
In which Christ became incarnate.

So come to this table,
You who have much faith
And you who would like to have more;
You who have been here often
And you who have not been for a long time;
You who have tried to follow Jesus,
And you who have failed;
Come.
It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.

– Iona Abbey Worship Book

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Priest is a strong and lovely word. There is no lovelier or sweeter name on earth. It is much better to hear that Christ is called ‘Priest,’ than Lord, or any other name. Priesthood is a spiritual power which means no other than that the priest steps forth, and takes all the iniquities of the people upon himself as though they were his very own. He intercedes with God for them and receives from Him the Word with which he can comfort and help the people…. He offered Himself once for all, so that He is Himself both Priest and Sacrifice and the Altar is the Cross. No more precious sacrifice could He offer to God than He gave Himself to be slain and consumed in the fire of love. That is the true sacrifice.

— Exposition of Genesis XIV (Day by Day, p. 151)

h/t Fr. Weedon

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From Torrance, p. 256: The powerful closing words of Incarnation: The Person and Life of Jesus Christ:

The depths of that [Jesus becoming a curse for us] are quite incomprehensible, especially when we realize that sin contains at its very heart and constitution as sin the divine wrath. By taking upon himself human guilt, Christ places himself at the very point where God’s Goodness, God’s holy majesty, resists sin. Jesus entered into that very situation where man’s being is menaced and threatened by annihilation through separation from God, and yet held in existence by the very fact of the divine judgment against it. And so by entering into the very situation where all the divine majesty is directed against the sinner in his and her sin, the Son of God, it might well be said, ‘hazarded’ and ‘staked’ his very existence and being in order to take all that fearful tension and judgment upon himself in order to save us.

Christ’s salvation is of such a kind that it expresses the ultimate reality of guilt and exposes it in all its stark actuality. It exposes it in terms of the wrath of God but at the same time manifests in the midst of it all the infinite and overwhelming love of God, and enacts the union of God and man in a union and communion that nothing can undo. In forgiveness Jesus Christ offers himself on behalf of and in place of the sinner, and the gulf of human sin guilt is spanned, but in throwing a bridge over the abyss, the depth and breadth of it are made even more evident. That is why Golgotha casts such a dark shadow over the world. That is why the cross unmasks the inhumanity of man, at once exposing sin and guilt and dealing with them at their worst – in mankind’s ultimate attack upon God in Jesus Christ – in God’s attack of love upon the inhumanity of mankind – and out of the heart of that there come two words that reveal the infinite guilt of humanity and the infinite love of God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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Christianity is not the only faith with an executed founder, or even an executed founder who is claimed to be still alive. It is the relationship of this to the incarnation that makes the Christian claim unique. We claim that it was the incarnate God who was executed, and whose risen body lives again. It is the fact that it is the incarnate God who suffers on the cross that is so significant about the cross. Otherwise it is just yet another good person executed. But instead it is God entering into the depths of our life that sounds the invitation for us to enter into the heights of God’s life.

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We have been called to heal wounds, reunite what has fallen apart, and bring home those who have lost their way.

~St. Francis of Assisi

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I’ve been thinking about the significance of worship space, lately. In the past, I’ve attended services in Jewis synagogues, Baptist churches, warehouses, storefront malls, elementary school gymsn, outdoor chapels, and more. The presence of God and the people gathered for worship are the essential components of what’s needed for a worship service. However, just because the physical space where worship happens is secondary to the gathering of the faithful in the presence of God, it does not mean that space is unimportant or does not play a role.

resurrection_small

I think of the Orthodox churches I’ve visited. The walls covered in icons unfold the narrative of God, opening up dimensions and layers beyond our wildest ideas. I’m thinking particularly of the icon of the Resurrection.  In it Jesus is coming forth from the tomb, standing on the gates of Hell, holding Adam and Eve by the hand as he emerges in his resurrected glory. So this icon becomes a point of instruction, a visual aid to illustrate a deep reality of our redemption.

Worship space, or sacred space, can be used to visually illustrate and unpack theological and spiritual realities.

leightonbromswold02

As an example, Leighton Bromswold, the church where George Herbert served as parson, the Welsh priest/poet had identical canopied ambos constructed to serve as both pulpit and lectern (pictured left). The power of architecture to communicate! By doing this, he emphasized that preaching and prayer were on equal footing in worship and Christian life.

What a powerful way to think about worship space. Every detail has theological and spiritual significance. Every moment in the church is a teaching moment, not only through the audible words spoken and heard but also in the lay of the place.

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Tension

…we are dealing with the love of God who is both affection and demand, both mystery and accessibility. These tensions run right through so much: a Christian Gospel which is all affection and no demand is flabby, whereas one which is all demand and no affection is exclusive. Similarly, a God who is all mystery and no accessibility may be deeply religious, but cuts no ice with the world as we know it; and a God who is all accessibility can easily become the creation of the latest trend.

~ Bishop Kenneth Stevenson, The Mystery of Baptism in the Anglican Tradition, p. 69.

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