Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Sign of the Cross

Facebook just reminded me of a post I made two years ago.  It is a quote from Scott Hahn's "The Lamb's Supper."  Two weeks ago my sermon focused on the cross, and I made reference to the sign of the cross.  I thought that it would be good to post the Hahn quote here:

Among the early Christians, the sign of the Cross was probably the most universal expression of faith. It appears often in the documents of the period. In most places, the custom was simply to trace the cross upon the forehead. Some writers (such as St. Jerome and St. Augustine) describe Christians tracing the cross on the forehead, then the lips, and then the heart, as . . . just before the reading of the Gospel. Great saints also testify to the tremendous power of the sign.... St. Cyprian of Carthage, in the third century, wrote that "in the. . . Sign of the Cross is all virtue and power. . . . In this Sign of the Cross is salvation for all who are marked on their foreheads" (a reference . . . to Revelation 7:3 and 14:1). . . . St. Athanasius declared that "by the Sign of the Cross all magic is stopped, and all witchcraft brought to nothing." Satan is powerless before the cross of Jesus Christ.
(Scott Hahn, "The Lamb's Supper")

Friday, March 2, 2018

Celebrating the Feast Day for John Wesley

In celebration of the Feast Day for John Wesley, I have published my first video on YouTube!  -  I have seen a few YouTube channels by various clergy, and I have thought that it would be a good idea to put together something from a Wesleyan-Anglican perspective.  -  I'm very new at this, and don't really know what I'm doing technologically!  -  Still being this Feast Day, I wanted to get something recorded.

I hope that you enjoy the video and that you join with me in remembering John Wesley on this day! 

FYI: I made reference in my video to Jordan Cooper and his "Just & Sinner" channel.  He is Lutheran (i.e., not Wesleyan), but I wanted to give a shout out to him as I attempt to start up a Wesley/Anglican channel on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Facebook Discussion Group

For those who have decided to take up the new spiritual discipline of reading one of Wesley's Standard Sermons each week for the 52 weeks of 2018, I have (after some persuasion) set up a closed Facebook group designed as a place to discuss each of the sermons.

Readers of this blog are invited to join the discussion, here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Two Wesley Quotes

In preparation for my taking the 2018 challenge (posted, below), I was reading the "Introduction" to Kenneth Cain Kinghorn's John Wesley on Christian Beliefs: The Standard Sermons in Modern English, Vol. 1, 1-20.  Among the quotable material in the "Introduction" are the following:

"To the best of my knowledge . . . the doctrines we preach are the doctrines of the Church of England; indeed, the fundamental doctrines of the Church, clearly laid down, both in her Prayers, Articles, and Homilies." -  John Wesley.

This quote expresses at least a part of what it means when I talk about being "Wesleyan/Anglican."  This expresses the continuity between Methodism (broadly understood) and Anglicanism.  It expresses the idea that my friend, the Rev'd. Tom Miles, often talks about, viz., that Nazarenes fit in the Anglican tradition.

The second quote follows directly after the one, above:

     Wesley did not see himself as an innovator, but as a transmitter. His position paralleled that of
     Vincent of Lerins (c. 450), who stated only that orthodoxy consists of "what has been believed  
     everywhere, always, and by all." Wesley said to his followers, "I, and all who follow my
     judgment, do vehemently refuse to be distinguished from other men, by any but the common
     principles of Christianity - the plain, old Christianity that I teach, renouncing and detesting all
     other marks of distinction."

This is my own understanding of the role of a theologian and preacher.  It fits nicely with both Thomas Oden and N.T. Wright's position.  Some seek to come up with something "new."  But those of this view seek to proclaim the same old message in new ways.  -  There is a huge difference.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Spiritual Discipline for 2018: 52 Weeks with Wesley

Are you one to make New Year's resolutions?  I have made some in the past.  Some, I've kept.  Others, I've not.  And, there are years that I simply didn't make any such resolutions.

Fr. William Shontz
However, a couple of weeks ago, my Facebook friend and colleague, the Rev'd. William Shontz, priest in the Anglican Church in North America, posted a GREAT idea!  Fr. Shontz is an Anglican who, as his idea will make clear, has been greatly influenced by the Wesley's.

The idea involves a spiritual discipline that is not burdensome.  It is not very time consuming.  In fact, it would be quite easy to accomplish.  And yet, I think it could be profoundly helpful to all those within the Wesleyan tradition.  So, what is the spiritual discipline?

Well, the year is made up of fifty-two weeks.  This number corresponds quite well with (at least the later version of) the number of "Standard Sermons" of John Wesley.  (When the "standard four volumes of sermons" were first published in England, there were forty-four sermons.  However, when published later, there were fifty-three, with the fifty-third being dropped, since it was a more biographical piece, on the death of the Rev'd. George Whitefield.  Thus, fifty-two were counted as "standard.")  -  These fifty-two "Standard Sermons" have been very important for the entire Wesleyan/Methodist family.

As you can undoubtedly guess by now, the proposed spiritual discipline for 2018 is to read through one of the standard 52 sermons each week of the new year. 

Such a discipline, I think, will be very helpful in reminding and grounding Wesleyan pastors of all stripes in our Wesleyan theological tradition.  -  Frankly, I thought it was a great idea!

If, by chance, you do not have a copy of Wesley's "Standard Sermons" (I'll refrain from saying, "Shame on you!"), you can either purchase such (recommended!), or you can simply find (at least 50 of) them (along with a nice introduction) online, here. The two that are missing are "The Good Steward" and "The Reformation of Manners."  If you choose to purchase the sermons, you can even purchase a "modern English" version of the sermons (which contains all 53).  For my part, I think I will read through them in this modern English format this time around.

And so, I want to challenge and encourage all members and friends of the Wesleyan-Anglican Society, all of my Nazarene colleagues, my United Methodist colleagues, and all other Wesleyan/Methodist and Anglican visitors to this blog: join me in (re)reading John Wesley's standard sermons for 2018!

Happy New Year from the World Methodist Council

Some people think that the slide from Sunday, December 31st, into Monday, January 1st, is just a matter of one day over and another begun – and there is some truth in that. For many, however, it is a time to reflect, to remember and to pray.

How was 2017 for you and for those who are part of your life? Were there moments of sadness as well as of joy? Times of challenge as well as of success? Flashes of anger as well as of love? Times when you felt like giving up as well as times when you felt that the whole world was on your side? If so, then you’re very like the rest of us! And it is highly probably that 2018 will be much the same, at least in principle.

Right at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, we are told that the baby Mary is carrying is to be called ‘Immanuel’, ‘God with us.’ And the Gospel concludes with the same thought: ‘Surely, I am with you always’. We are assured that, whatever happens, God is with us.
Being thus assured, it is our responsibility to live courageous and prophetic lives, upholding the Law of Love, speaking for the voiceless, defending the vulnerable, caring for God’s creation. I believe that those are the New Year’s resolutions we need to make, both as individuals and as ‘the people called Methodist.’

As this is being written, we are approaching what would be the 310th birthday of Charles Wesley (December 18th). On one occasion, he wrote a hymn commemorating the day; it has twelve verses and is probably not sung very often. Nevertheless, we are challenged by his thinking as, in personal terms, he moves from one year to another at the same time as we move from one year to another in calendar terms. The final verse is an appropriate prayer of dedication for us all as we commit ourselves to living to God’s praise and glory. I leave it with you and wish you all, wherever you are, every blessing and strength for 2018 and for all that it may bring.

My remnant of days
I spend in his praise,
Who died the whole world to redeem:
Be they many or few,
My days are his due,
They all are devoted to him!
Gillian Kingston
WMC Vice-President

(The above was first posted on the World Methodist Council page, here.)

Christmas Message from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Justin Welby's Christmas message may be read, hear.

Archbishop Welby at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Christmas Message from Archbishop Foley Beach

Archbishop Beach of the ACNA offers the following Christmas message:

Christmas Message from Bishop Trimble

A Christmas message from the UMC Bishop of Indiana:

Christmas Message from the Board of General Superintendents

The episcopal leadership of the Church of the Nazarene offers the following Christmas message:

Merry Christmas from the Board of General Superintendents from Church of the Nazarene on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Feast of Saint Nicholas

Today, December 6, we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas.  -  Yes, St. Nicholas, as in St. Nick, or Santa Claus, as he has come to be known.  Of course, much of the image of Santa Claus these days makes no reference to the true Santa (Saint) Claus (Nicholas).  Nevertheless, Santa has his origin in this Saint of the Church, who was a real bishop of the Church in the fourth century.

A number of years ago, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly did a story about the good bishop.  I first saw it posted on the Sacramental Nazarenes Facebook page (a few years back).  I thought I would share it with the readers of this blog.

There is much more to the story of St. Nicholas, of course, including the claim that he was involved with the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 (though the early lists of bishops present at the council do not include his name).  There's the story of his defending orthodoxy and punching Arius.  And speaking of "Ho, ho, ho," there is his insistence on the word "homoousios" rather than "homoiousios" (see the extra "i" in the latter?).  You see, the latter means that Jesus is "of a similar substance" with the Father, while the former means that He is "of the same substance."  It was "homoousios" that made its way into orthodoxy and the creed we confess on Sundays.  Jesus is not just like God.  Jesus is fully divine.  -  And so, if you want to know if the guy in the red suit is the real St. Nick, just ask him the question found in this meme:

I also want to recommend a book for parents who's children are getting close to "that age."  It is a book written by Harold Myra and illustrated by Jane Kurisu, titled "Santa Are You for Real?"  It was published in 1997 by Tommy Nelson (the children's imprint for Thomas Nelson, Inc.).  -  My wife and I read this book to both of our children as they were growing-up, and we have recommended it to other parents over the years. 

Finally, as an aside for my fellow Sci-Fi nerds, it has been pointed out that, according to this icon, below, it may well be that Santa Claus is really a Klingon and possibly an ancestor to Lieutenant Commander Worf!  I'll let you be the judge!  -  Just in case, and in good Klingon fashion, on this Feast of St. Nicholas I wish you all Qapla'!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Return of My Prayer Beads

During a Pastors' Continuing Education Retreat in 2006, I took the opportunity to make a set of Anglican Prayer Beads.  (For more information on Anglican Prayer Beads, their design and how to use them, click here.)  -  I was introduced to these beads through my (then) sisters and brothers in the Order of St. Luke.  (I was a member of the OSL for several years.)  -  You can read that story in my 2007 article, “Wesleyan-Holiness Prayers with Beads," published in OSL's Sacramental Life (19.3).

During the creation of my prayer beads, I also created a set of prayers that fit nicely with my Wesleyan-Holiness theological tradition.  Thus, the title of the article!  (I've printed those prayers, below.)

The truth is, though I do still occasionally pray those prayers with my beads, more often than not, I have reverted to more traditional prayers.  So, I pray the Jesus Prayer with the weeks (the little round beads): "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me (a sinner)."  And, for the cruciform beads (the four larger beads), I pray the Trisagion, "Holy God,  Holy and Mighty,  Holy and Immortal One, Have mercy upon us."

The prayers have been very helpful.  I would often pray while driving from place to place.  They help to bring focus upon the Lord and His grace.  They also bring a sense of calm and peace in God's presence.  -  Like Morning and Evening Prayer, they have been a means of grace for me.

However, sometime back, the strand broke!  I think it became brittle, since I usually keep the beads in the car where they will get considerably hot and considerably cold, depending on the weather.  -  I've gone quite a while without them, and I have missed them!

So, today (Thanksgiving Day), I finally took time to re-string and repair my beads.  -  I am so glad to have them back!  Just having them in my hand becomes a prayer, and, of course, I'm looking forward to actually praying with them!

For those who would like to pray using the "Wesleyan-Holiness prayers," I have printed them, below.  For those who would like to use the more traditional prayers, I have included them, above.  (The prayers other than the weeks & cruciform prayers remain the same.)  -  May God's blessings be upon all who decide to take up the discipline of praying with Anglican Prayer Beads!

The Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Invitatory Bead
O God make speed to save us,
O Lord make haste to help us,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

The Cruciform Beads
“The Collect of Purity”
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
The Weeks
May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; (and may your whole spirit, and soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.)*
He who calls you is faithful, and He will do this.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; my version)

The Last time through:
The Invitatory Bead
The Lord’s Prayer

The Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

*Some may wish to leave off the parenthetical part for the sake of brevity.  (I usually do.) 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Feast of Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis

According to For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations (Second Edition), edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson, November 22 is the day we remember C.S. Lewis.  The following was written by O. French Ball:

C.S. Lewis, scholar, teacher, writer, philosopher, debater, and reluctant Christian, was born in Belfast, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) in an ostensibly Protestant home.  Educated in England, the young Lewis disavowed the faith into which he had been baptized, becoming, so he thought, an atheist.  He remained in England most of his life, studying and teaching at Oxford, and later accepting an appointment as professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge.  Lewis is best known in America as the author of a series of children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia, and a science fiction trilogy, all reflecting his journey into the Christian faith.

Lewis' life was characterized by a kind of angst that always placed before him a vision of the unattainable.  In his book The Weight of Glory he began using the German word Sehnsucht (longing, hunger) to describe this feeling.(320)  He eventually began to understand Sehnsucht as a longing for God.  In 1929 he "admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."(321)  He discovered that his longing was no longer pointless, but was leading him God-ward.  He came to believe that Sehnsucht is characteristic of all humans - a vision of something attainable only in another realm or on another plane of existence.

Lewis' life was lived surrounded by scholars and academics.  He was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien; together, with several other friends, they formed a society they called the "Inklings," a society of "persons of ink" - that is, writers - who hadn't an inkling of what they were doing.  Apparently this was a very congenial and boisterous group.  In 1956 Lewis, up until that time a confirmed bachelor, married an American woman, Joy Davidman Gresham, a Jew by birth, who had converted to Christianity partly through Lewis' writing.  Based on Lewis' appreciation for double meanings of words, one wonders whether the title of his 1955 book, Surprised by Joy, was in any way influenced by meeting his future wife.  Their happiness was cut short by her death, on July 13, 1960, of bone cancer.  Lewis never fully recovered his own strength following Joy's illness and death.

Lewis' death, in 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination, that same day, of President John F. Kennedy.  Writer Aldous Huxley also died that day.

In addition to his popular writings, Lewis was known, particularly in England, for his theological works.  A debater by inclination and training, he never tired of questioning his life, his faith, and his environment.  His work is an example of the Christian faith examined through the intellect and imagination of one of the giants of twentieth century.
320.  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 12.
321.   Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,  
          1955), 237.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Collect for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy household the
Church in continual godliness; that through
thy protection it may be free from all adversities,
and devoutly given to serve thee in good works,
 to the glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The Feast Day of Phineas F. Bresee

Today is the commemoration of Phineas F. Bresee, principle founder of the Church of the Nazarene.  As a means of celebration, the Heartland Church invited others from our zone to join them, last night, to watch the movie, Phineas F. Bresee: Pastor to the People, newly produced for the Church of the Nazarene.

Prior to watching the movie, I read to them the hagiography for Bresee published in For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations, Second Edition.  The book was published by the Order of Saint Luke and edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson.  I was privileged to have written the piece on Bresee.

Below is the hagiography, followed by the prayer for the occasion (the prayer was written by Daniel Taylor Benedict, Jr):

Phineas Franklin Bresee was born to Phineas and Susan Brown Bresee in Franklin, NY, on December 31, 1838.  At 16, Bresee experienced his own "warmed heart" through a personal faith in Christ.  Soon thereafter, he sensed a call to ministry and was granted a Methodist exhorter's license.  He was ordained a deacon in 1859 and an elder two years later.(301)

In 1867, in Chariton, Iowa, Bresee "entered into the blessing of entire sanctification."(302)  Bresee had been struggling with doubt.  The altar call after his sermon that night produced only one seeker; Bresee, himself.  ". . . [A]s I cried to [the Lord] that night, he seemed to open heaven on me, and gave me . . . the baptism with the Holy Ghost . . . it not only took away my tendencies to worldliness, anger and pride, but it also removed the doubt."(303)  That experience of Christian Perfection would have a huge impact on Breese's ministry.

Bresee served rural charges, and then large, urban churches in Iowa(304) and, after 1883, Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA.  He was appointed presiding elder in West Des Moines (1864)(305) and in Los Angeles.(306)  Further, Bresee served as a delegate to multiple General Conferences.(307)

Me, behind Bresee's pulpit with
my Bresee bobble head
Education was important to Bresee, as was seen by his serving on the board of Simpson College(308) and the University of Southern California.(309)  Later, Bresee became the president of Pacific Bible College (now Point Loma Nazarene University).(310)

By the mid-1890's, Bresee's commitment to the message of holiness led to his role as vice president of the National Holiness Association (NHA).  The experience of holiness also brought a passion for the poor.  The Church's first miracle after baptism with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was upon a beggar, and so, Bresee reasoned, the priority of a Holy Ghost-baptized church ought to be the poor.(311)  This passion led him to withdraw from the MEC's appointive system in 1894 to serve with the Peniel Mission.  However, while away, preaching for the NHA, Bresee was ousted from the Mission.  he was now left without the Mission or a MEC appointment.(312)

Thus, at the request of a number of southern California's Holiness people, the Church of the Nazarene was organized on October 20, 1895 as a "Christian work, especially evangelistic and city mission work, and the spreading of the doctrine and experience of Christian holiness."(313)  Bresee was the general superintendent of a growing holiness denomination.  A series of mergers with other regional holiness groups established the church as a national denomination in 1908 at Pilot Point, TX.(314)

Bresee served as the denomination's senior general superintendent until his death on November 13, 1915.  He left behind his wife, Maria, six children, and what would become the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Holiness wing of Methodism.

Common Prayer for Pastors, Bishops and Abbatial Leaders

Gracious God, our Shepherd, we thank you for raising up Phineas Bresee as bishop and pastor in your church.  Remembering his faithfulness and care, fill all shepherds of your church with truth in doctrine, fidelity in Word and Sacrament, and boldness and vision in leading the people, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and forever.  Amen.
301 Ingersol, Stan. Nazarene Roots: Pastors, Prophets, Revivalists & Reformers. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 2009. p. 87-88.

302 Bangs, Carl. Phineas F. Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement, and the Church of the Nazarene. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 1995. p. 71-73, 77.

303 Girvin, E.A. Phineas F. Bresee: A Prince in Israel. Kansas City, MO. Nazarene Publishing House. 1916. p. 50-52.

304 Ingersol. p. 88.

305 Kostlevy, William C., Ed. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement. Lanham, Maryland, and London. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 28-29.

306 Bangs. p. 286.

307 Ingersol. p. 88-89.

308 Ibid. p. 88.

309 Kostlevy. p. 29.

310 Ingersol. p. 91

311 Ibid. p. 88-89.

312 Kostlevy. p. 29.

313 Bangs. p. 195-196.

314 Kostlevy. p. 29.