Monday, August 21, 2017

The Eclipse at Asbury

Just had to share these photos taken during today's eclipse at one of my alma maters, Asbury Theological Seminary.

Ancient Paths Sermon Series

While thinking about including a link to the recording of my sermons each week (i.e., introducing each one, since they will all be found at the same link), I thought that I should mention a sermon series that I preached last Summer. 

It is incredibly unique that I would leave off the lectionary during morning worship in order to preach a sermon series.  However, during the Summer of 2016, I did that very thing.  It was a sermon series that, in many ways, expresses the guiding theology and philosophy of ministry for me.  It paints the picture of the kind of Church that I believe God desires.

Another unique aspect of this series (for me) is that it uses one particular verse of Scripture as a kind of launching pad for the entire series.  That verse is one of two verses that I see as "life verses" for me and the ministry to which I believe God has called me.  It is Jeremiah 6:16a, "Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."  (Unfortunately, in one way or another, my experience is that many people respond in the very way recorded in part "b" of that verse.  "But they said, 'We ill not walk in it.'")

In any case, if anyone would want to listen to this seven-part sermon series, you can find them, here.  -  You will find them on the second page, from 26 June - 7 August 2016.

I pray that anyone who chooses to listen to the series may be drawn to travel into the future by way of the ancient paths!

God in Dark Days

This past Sunday, the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, I preached from the Old Testament lesson, Genesis 45:1-15.  It was the latter part of the Joseph story.  My sermon title was "God in Dark Days."  You can listen to the audio of the sermon preached at Heartland Church of the Nazarene by clicking, here.

(Other audio, and some video, recordings of sermons can be found on that same page.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Wesley and the Anglicans" - An Interview on Anglican Radio

Readers of this blog will be interested in a new interview on Anglican Radio (a site that I am just now discovering and look forward to exploring more thoroughly!).  The interviewer is Michael Porter. Michael is the President of Anglican Radio.  The interviewee is the Rev'd. Dr. Ryan N. Danker.  Dr. Danker is a United Methodist who serves as Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity and Methodist Studies at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

The topic of the interview is Dr. Danker's recent book, Wesley and the Anglicans: Political Division
in Early Evangelicalism.

I picked this book up, recently, but I have not yet had the opportunity to read it.  Everything that I have heard, so far, makes it sound like an important read.  In fact, Dr. Ted Campbell says that it is "a must-read for serious students of the Wesleys and Methodist origins" (cf., Promo comment in the front of Danker's book). 

I invite you to take a listen to the interview and consider picking up the book, yourself!

(A special thanks to the Rev'd. Dr. James Gibson for sharing the link to this interview with me!)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

At the Hour of Prayer . . . the Power of God at Work

The liturgical tradition is often characterized by those in the more "free church" tradition, and especially in the Pentecostal or Charismatic traditions, as being lifeless.  They may even quote St. Paul's second letter to Timothy where he refers to those who hold "to the outward form of godliness" but who deny its power.

Now, if I'm honest (and I hope to be!), there is some justification for this characterization in some situations (maybe in many situations).  I recall a parishioner during a former pastorate who came to our church having spent a little time in a local Episcopal Church.  Her response to that church was, "There is so much power in the liturgy!"  - I agree!  After all, I'm Wesleyan-ANGLICAN!  -  "But," she said, "they just don't seem to get it!"  -  I've been there and seen that.  I know exactly what she was talking about. 

Yet, this need not be the case!  In fact, that is a big part of what being a Wesleyan-Anglican is all about.  It is recognizing and promoting the fact that these two aspects are not mutually exclusive.  And in my Scripture reading during Morning Prayer, today, I read a passage that illustrates this quite well.  It is a passage that demonstrates that the Early, New Testament Church was steeped in liturgy as well as filled with the power of God.

The passage comes from Acts 3:1-7 (it continues on, but I'm only going to quote these seven verses):

     One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o'clock
     in the afternoon.  And a man lame from birth was being carried in.  People would lay him
     daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from
     those entering the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he
     asked them for alms.  Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." 
     And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter
     said, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of
     Nazareth, stand up and walk."  And he took him by the right hand and raised him
     up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong (NRSV).

Obviously, this passage could be pointed to as an example of the miraculous power of God at work in and through the apostles.  Certainly, Peter and John would not be counted among those who would deny the power of God.  And, of course, we know that God shows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34).  The truth is, God can still bring miraculous healing, today.  This is not to deny that God sometimes brings healing through the means of medical Science or that God sometimes chooses to wait until a person sees God face to face.  But these latter instances ought not deny that God can heal instantaneously, as well.

However, a point that is sometimes overlooked is that all of this takes place in the context of verse one.  There, again, we read that Peter and John were headed to the temple "at the hour of prayer, at three o'clock in the afternoon."  This was actually one of the three set hours for prayer.  What is important to note is that this "hour of prayer," was not simply about a gathering for individual or extemporaneous prayer.  Rather, these times of prayer included the recital or chanting of psalms, the reading of passages from the Old Testament and the use of canticles.  In other words, these times of prayer included set forms of prayer.  And in fact, it was these hours of prayer that led to what we in the Anglican tradition refer to as the Daily office of Morning and Evening Prayer.

All of this to say, formal, liturgical, corporate forms of prayer are NOT antithetical to the miraculous power of God at work in and through the people of God.  In fact, it can be argued that, contrary to what we often see in the Church of our day, both the form and the power of godliness should go hand in hand.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Depth of Mercy! / Jesus, the Sinner's Friend

Two powerful Charles Wesley hymns:
Depth of Mercy!
Depth of mercy! can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear -
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Now incline me to repent;
Let me now my sins lament;
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.
There for me the Saviour stands,
Holding forth His wounded hands;
God is love! I know, I feel,
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Jesus, the Sinner's Friend
Jesus, the sinner's Friend, to thee,
Lost and undone, for aid I flee,
Weary of earth, myself, and sin:
Open Thine arms, and take me in.
Pity and heal my sinsick soul;
'Tis Thou alone canst make me whole:
Dark, till in me Thine image shine,
And lost, I am, till Thou art mine.
At last I own it cannot be
That I should fit myself for Thee;
Here, then, to Thee I all resign;
Thine is the work, and only Thine.
What shall I say Thy grace to move?
Lord, I am sin, but Thou art love:
I give up every plea beside -
Lord, I am lost, but Thou hast died.

Friday, May 5, 2017

But, O, Thyself Reveal!

I just finished singing through "The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley" during Evening Prayer, last night.  (Some really good stuff there!  I'll have to blog about the Eucharist as a sacrifice, somewhere down the road.)   

This morning, I began singing through "Hymn Poems of Charles Wesley For Reading and Singing."  The second hymn is "Jesus, We Look to Thee."  The last verse of the hymn encapsulates what many of us in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition often long for during our services of worship.  On the one hand, it expresses a conviction of the objective presence of  God with us in worship.  On the other hand, it cries out for the "manifest presence" of the Lord in the midst of the worshipping people of God.

I invite you to sing this, my prayer for Sunday, paying special attention to the final verse:

Jesus, we look to Thee,
Thy promised presence claim;
Thou in the midst of us shalt be,
Assembled in Thy Name:
Thy Name salvation is,
Which here we come to prove;
Thy Name is life, and health, and peace,
And everlasting love.
We meet, the grace to take
Which Thou hast freely given;
We meet on earth for Thy dear sake
That we may meet in heaven.
Present we know Thou art;
But, O, Thyself reveal!
Now, Lord, let ev'ry waiting heart
The mighty comfort feel.