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Archive for November, 2009

Our Advent Hope

As we prepare for Christmas, we recall the ardent hope of Israel for its Messiah in the many years leading up to that very first Christmas morning in Bethlehem. Their hope was not unlike ours. We like them are experiencing exiles and dispersions, dashed expectations and shattered dreams. War and violence are still a part of life in this world. Societies are still divided under competing rulers. People are still enslaved: exploited for the sake of power and wealth, trapped in the brokenness of their sins, or both. We are hoping for rescue for ourselves, our families and our world.

 

Into this darkness, come the words of John the Baptist, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” You can imagine some of the people in the scene asking, “Who is this Lord?” It is our Lord! The Lord, Jesus Christ, who is Emmanuel, God with us. It is the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will wipe away every tear, and abolish death. It is the Lord, Jesus Christ, who promises, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev 21:5) What a great hope we have in him!

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Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale.

Every secularized holiday tends to lose the context it had in the liturgical year. Across the nation, even in many churches, Easter has hopped across Lent, Halloween has frightened away All Saints, and New Year’s has drunk up Epiphany. Still, the disappearance of Advent seems especially disturbing–for it’s injured even the secular Christmas season: opening a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas.

– Joseph Bottum, “First Things” 12-2007

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credence

Offertory – Defeating Idols
After receiving God’s great mercy in the forgiveness of our sins, we offer back to him the physical, material gifts that he has given us. In previous times, the people would bring forward as the offering the elements of bread and wine from their own homes to be used for Communion. In our time, it is focused primarily on giving financially. An interesting thing to remember when you give financially is that you are recognizing that all you have is a gift from God. You also make a declarative, enacting statement against the idolatry of money.

Holy Communion

Martin Luther called Holy Communion, “The trysting place.” What a beautiful image of intimacy – God comes near to his people to love them! The Communion or Eucharistic Liturgy is made up of the following sections:

The Sursum Corda – Lift Up Your Hearts

Taken from the father’s prayer at the ancient Seder feast, the Sursum Corda, literally means “lift up your hearts.” In it, we affirm the mystery of the presence of the Lord among us at this moment and literally (by faith) “lift our hearts to the Lord”, bringing our whole selves (our troubles, struggles, sorrows, joys, hopes and love) to the Lord. Indeed, all that we have hoped and longed for is now present in this moment, and “it is right to give him thanks and praise.”

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Proper Preface – Why is it right, and a good a joyful thing?

The preface, in a sense, answers the question, “Why is it a good and joyful thing…?” Because God’s many acts of salvation are exhibited in the various seasons and feast days of the liturgical year, the preface changes accordingly. For example:

Advent:  Because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

Lent: Through Jesus Christ our Lord; who was tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin. By his grace we are able to triumph over every evil, and to live no longer for ourselves alone, but for him who died for us and rose again.

The one we currently use is “Of God the Holy Spirit:” For by water and the Holy Spirit you have made us a new people in Jesus Christ our Lord, to show forth your glory in all the world.

Sanctus – Worship

Sanctus is Latin for Holy.  In Revelation, St. John is given a peek inside the door to the throne room in Heaven and hears the heavenly host singing a song “day and night they never cease to say.” Isaiah also heard this song when he was given a vision of the Lord in Isaiah 6.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Anamnesis – Anti Amnesia

In this section, in the presence of God, we remember all he has done. Anamnesis literally means anti-amnesia, or the loss of forgetting.

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.

Words of Institution

As part of Anamnesis, we are taken to Jesus’ last night with his disciples in the upper room before he was betrayed. The first Lord’s Supper is re-presented before us and made available through the Holy Spirit (at the Epiclesis) by the Lord himself. There are four institution narratives in Scripture (Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25).

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

Oblation – Offering back

To oblate means to offer something in worship or devotion. We literally offer the matter which God has created and we have brought and placed on the table back to him.

We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Epiclesis – Consecration

The Holy Spirit is invoked to sanctify the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ.

Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. AMEN

The Great AMEN

The response to the Eucharistic prayer by the congregation is known as the Great Amen. As the celebration is shared by the presider and the congregation, the Great Amen emphasizes the assent of the people to the words spoken on their behalf by the presider. It is the “people’s prayer” that concludes the Epiclesis. Therefore, it is important that it be a resounding AMEN. In fact, in the Book of Common Prayer, this is the only place where the Amen is in all caps.

Lord’s Prayer

When the disciples observed Jesus’ life, they not only heard him teach and move in power and great authority, they also saw him pray. In Luke 11:1 we read, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” The result of their inquiry was the Lord’s Prayer. Not surprisingly, the Lord’s Prayer occupies an important place in the worship of the Church.

The Breaking of the Bread

This is also known as the Fraction. Taken from this passage in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8:

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;

Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]

The Prayer of Humble Access

From Matthew 15:22-28. … “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” This is one last prayer of purification which acknowledges our unworthiness and God’s great mercy. It asks God to enable us to receive the sacrament as we should.

Most merciful Lord, your love compels us to come in. Our hands were unclean, our hearts were unprepared; we were not fit even to eat the crumbs from under your table. But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation and share your bread with sinners. So cleanse and feed us with the precious body and blood of your Son, that he may live in us and we in him; and that we, with the whole company of Christ, may sit and eat in your kingdom. Amen

The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Mission

We have just experienced a time of intimacy, mystery, reflection and joy. By all rights, our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving, so we collect our prayers together in a final prayer of thanks and praise for the wonderful gift of Christ, renewed to us through the Eucharist service.  We also pray for his sending us out back into the mission field of the world. Having received the spiritual food – the manna – to nourish our lives we are ready to do what he is calling us to do.

Almighty and everliving God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom. And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. To him, to you and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen

Blessing

The ancient practice of blessing is something that existed since earliest times in the Jewish practice of faith when formal benedictions were pronounced by the Aaronic priests. Numbers 6:24-26 embodies one of the most familiar of all benedictions. What makes a blessing special is the authoritative claim in the name by which the authority is given, that is, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the blessing, it’s not an ask. It’s an authoritative declaration. For example, the blessing from the 1549 BCP:

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and the love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: And the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always.

Recessional and Dismissal

After the blessing we sing one more song of praise to the Lord as the cross and the vested representatives of the congregation walk out (they “recess”). This indicates the end of the service and enacts our going out with the cross of Christ before us. he recessional declares that as we head back “into the world” we need to follow Christ in all we do.

Just before we exit, we respond once more as a community in the Dismissal. This is a chance for us to commit ourselves to an active going-out and being the people of God because we are at peace with him.

Now brothers and sisters, go in peace to love and serve the Risen Lord.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Sunday morning is a brief period in our weekly lives. In the service, we meet Jesus in the bread and wine. In our service to him, we meet him in the neighbor, the prisoner, or the stranger. We spend a great deal of time and energy working and performing ordinary and important tasks between Sundays. The service reminds us that God is with us in every aspect of our lives – not only on Sunday morning.

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word

Introduction
There is a tendency in our world to make things as simple as possible; to boil things down to the barest of essentials so they can be easily digested and understood. As we think and discuss worshiping the Triune God through liturgy and encountering him in sacrament, let us not seek to treat this as mere data, content to be digested and mastered. Liturgical theologian Aiden Kavanaugh said, “The liturgy, like the feast, exists not to educate but to seduce people into participating in common activity of the highest order, where one is freed to learn things which cannot be taught.” While there is a lot to learn about liturgical and sacramental worship, let us not miss this chance to open our hearts to the deeper realities of the life (and love) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Entering God’s Presence – The Call to Worship
As we gather each Sunday to worship, we are rightly responding to God’s call to come and encounter his presence through Jesus Christ. We stand and pray antiphonally (responsively) with the congregation to unite our voices in intention for worship. That is, our call to worship is collective: we do it together. In doing so, we join the liturgy – the Public Works of the people of God – so that not one of us is a spectator. We cannot see the responsibility of worship as what “happens up front”. If it is not happening in our chair, in our individual hearts than we can only say we have been to a worship service: we ourselves have not worshipped. And in liturgical worship, we are not meant to go it alone. We are here together to give glory to the Living God as the people of God.

Collect for Purity – “Lord, enable us to do this, despite our weakness and limitations.”
A constant part of the Communion service since the 1549 edition of the BCP, it sets the tone that our time together is purification from sin. The words of the prayer paint the picture of our reality with amazing detail. We live our lives exposed to God – “to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid”. We cannot hide. Therefore, we need his grace and mercy to cleanse us and empty us of impurities (“cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit”), so that we may assume a posture of active engagement in worship rather than one of passive observance or reception. Ultimately, as a worshipping community of Christians we lean on God to enable us to do the very thing that we have gathered to do, worship and love him (“that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy Name”).

Procession – All are Represented
Processions are a normal part of ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and important convocations. Processions have a purpose: an important, special event has now started. However, there is a major difference in the processions we are used to and the procession to begin All Saints’ worship. Most processions are a way to get the important people into the room in order to start the proceedings (e.g., now that the grandparents & parents, the bridesmaids and groomsmen are here, the wedding can begin). But the procession at All Saints is not a time for the important people to get in place.

The understanding of the church from apostolic times has been that those in the procession act as representatives of the entire church. They are carried on the voices of the entire congregation singing the high praises of God. The processional is full ceremony, declaring physically and visually the glory and excitement of what we are all about to do. Everybody is coming to worship.

But that’s not all. Another essential message is communicated when the representatives of the people enter following the Cross. The only way that we are able to give God acceptable worship is through Christ’s death on the Cross. It is there alone that our sins are forgiven and that we are declared righteous before God. Without that confidence we could never dare to be so bold as to march into the presence of God (either personally or through representatives). So we stand in Christ, in grace, cleansed by the blood of our Savior and Lord.

Alleluias – Worship in Music
Since Old Testament times musical worship has played an important role in the worship of God. The Psalms themselves make it abundantly clear how integral music was to the proclamation of the Scriptures. The preface to Psalm 5 is “To the Choirmaster: For the Flutes;” Psalms 120 to 136 are “Songs of Ascent;” many other Psalms are simply “Songs of David .”

At All Saints Church, we utilize the treasure of classic Christian hymnody that exists in our tradition. We almost always open and close our services with abiding hymns that have been celebrated and cherished by the church for many generations. These songs are combined with some contemporary pieces which communicate not only sound doctrine but also deep intimacy with Christ. By drawing on ancient hymnody and contemporary pieces, the music in our worship is textured and dynamic, celebrating our tradition while embracing new authorship and creativity. Admittedly, however, the songs chosen on any given Sunday are really only an apparatus, a means to help accomplish an end. Real worship through song happens in the hearts of each one of us as we praise our Lord when we sing.

Collects – Gathering Our Prayers Together
When it comes to praying, the Book of Common Prayer assumes about us what St. James noted in James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly.” We do not know how to pray as we ought. Despite circumstantial or temporal concerns, the Collects center our prayers on what we need to seek from God from the perspective of his priorities rather than our own.

The origin of the term collecta, while obscure, refers to gathering people together as well as collecting up the petitions of individual members of the congregation into one prayer. The form of Collects is: (a) The address + (b) The acknowledgement + (c) The Petition + (d) The Aspiration + (e) The Pleading

As an example, here is the Collect for Purity:

(a) Almighty God, (b) to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: (c) Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, (d) that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; (e) through Christ our Lord.

The Word – Hearing from God Himself
In Scripture, we hear God’s word. Normally we read three passages – one each from the Old Testament, the New Testament Epistles and the Gospel. Most often at All Saints, the passages are selected by the preacher in order to introduce the text for his message, usually part of a series he has chosen in prayer and study. At times, we follow the lectionary, a cycle of Scripture readings used throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion in weekly services. Whether the passages are chosen by the preacher or taken from the lectionary, one of them will usually form the text for the sermon.  The Gospel is the final reading because in the person of Jesus Christ all of God’s plans have reached their fulfillment.

Sermon – Hearing God’s Word Afresh
The reading and hearing of God’s word and the sermon as response is acknowledging the reality that God is speaking afresh to his people through the Word read and preached. If the Word is taught effectively and clearly, if people’s hearts, souls, minds and wills are engaged, then the church is on the path of fulfilling the mission of the Church, becoming and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Creed – Revealed Truths
For centuries, Christians have recited the Nicene and Apostles creeds during corporate worship to publicly affirm the Apostolic faith. As we join them in his custom we remind ourselves of what we believe as Christians. The Nicene Creed is a powerful document of Trinitarian belief and answers basic questions about the nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It reminds us of the work that each Person of the Trinity has done to rescue us from sin and death.

Born in the furnace of conflict with heretical ideas of God and his personhood and his salvation in Christ, the creeds continue to hold before us the faith that has been handed down from the fathers. In ways the creeds are like a road map. From an accurate map, we can determine the clearest, most direct way to get from one place to another. Then as we travel, we pull out the map to make on-the-spot decisions necessary to keep on the path, we can confirm our choices after we make them and we check our progress along the way. This is especially important whenever the path seems unclear.

The Prayers of the People – Intercession
As we pray the Prayers of the People we reach a point in the service where God’s Word and our world converge in a deep way. That’s why the prayers are located where they are in the service – after the Scripture readings, the sermon, and the confession of faith in the Creed. The Word of God has been spoken. We are responding in faith through prayer.

The Prayers of the People, provide an incredibly comprehensive biblical way to focus our corporate prayers of intercession. When we pray together, we focus on the following areas:

  • The Universal Church, its members and its mission: The apostles always asked their churches to be praying for one another and the mission of God throughout the world (Ephesians 6:18-20).
  • The Nation and all in authority: In 1 Timothy, St. Paul urges prayer on behalf of civil authorities, so that people will enjoy peaceful conditions conducive to giving attention to spiritual growth and pious service (1 Tim 2:1-3).
  • The welfare of the world & The concerns of the local community: Jeremiah instructed the Diaspora – the Jews who were scattered or in exile –to earnestly pray for the welfare of the cities in which they were living all around the world (Jer 29:7).
  • Those who suffer and those in any trouble: St. James commends prayer as a means of healing on behalf of those in the local congregation who are physically ill or struggling with sin (James 5:13-18).

Anglicans have long held to the belief of Lex Orandi, lex Credende (the law of prayer is the law of belief): we pray what we believe and we believe what we pray. God is concerned about all of these above areas of life, though at times it may seem otherwise. Our world is filled with darkness and is need of divine intervention and change. As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that in the Incarnation, God identified himself with this world in a profound way and that things have indeed changed. When we pray, we agree with that change – also known as redemption – and look for his coming kingdom.

Confession & Absolution – Acknowledging Reality and Receiving Mercy
We ask God’s forgiveness for things done and things left undone. Our public confession is a powerful moment when we acknowledge both “things that we have done and things that we have left undone.” The regular discipline of confession and receiving absolution helps us arrive at a more genuine knowledge of ourselves and of God. Regular reflection on our motives and the movements of our hearts, on our behaviors and desires, provide us with the awareness of our own limitations and our need for God’s mercy.

The declaration of absolution which follows, confirms what has happened between each of us and God through Christ.

Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

Private confession is not required in our church. However, for those particularly in need of unburdening themselves of past wrongs, private confession is offered. It can be an especially comforting way to turn from sin and set out on a new path. If you are interested in having a priest hear confession, please contact Steve or David know.

Peace – Enacting Reconciliation
When we’ve been forgiven our sins against God and neighbor, we come to the passing of the peace. We can talk about the idea of the reality of being reconciled to God and neighbor but passing the peace – declaring Christ’s peace – with real people is a physical enactment of the deeper reality. It is an incarnating of what has actually happened. The Peace is also the hinge between the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Table. It is the ultimate response to the hearing of God’s word and the preparation needed to receive the sacrament.

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