Tuesday, December 29, 2009


So, I assume we all made it through Advent and Christmas, and are gearing up for the first Sunday of the new year. If your church is anything like mine, you probably had to tolerate some of the incessant tendencies to bypass Advent and "jump the gun" straight on to Christmas. Examples from my congregation include the pressure to sing Christmas songs - especially "Joy to the World" and the two best-known "angel" songs - during Advent, and, despite my strong urging, the placement of the Christ-child in the manger by the decorating committee, such that the Messiah has seemingly come beginning on Advent 1 (and yet we sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" each week, without anyone noticing the disparity).

Still, I must say we do pretty well with the Advent readings and candle-lighting, and our Pastor preaches us through Advent well. And we do a bang-up job (in my humble opinion) with Christmas Eve, which for my third year here was effectively lessons and carols without it necessarily being named thus.

With the exception of our choir musical and children's program (held on Advent 3 and 4 respectively), which inevitably skip ahead, primarily due to available material, we did pretty well. And this year, I didn't even hear that much about song selection during Advent - perhaps my Pastor did and merely shielded me from it - which I have in the past: "Why aren't we singing Christmas songs?!?" ("We will.") "When?!?" ("Christmas Eve, and at least the two Sundays following.") [blank stare]

All that to ask, well, two things I suppose: 1) how'd it go for you in your local context?, and 2) how will you observe Epiphany (if at all)?

I ask because I gather that many of our churches are doing much better (and increasingly so) at observing Advent/Christmas, and even Lent/Holy Week/Easter/Pentecost, which is a move toward better observance of the liturgical calendar that we should celebrate.

But I also gather that holy days like Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, All Saints, and Trinity Sunday (etc) will be a much longer time coming. I'm not sure if it's just ignorance (in which case, we have some teaching to do) or actually resistance (in which case we have some teaching AND some persuading to do) that I sense. Chime in with your thoughts. Grace and peace!

Friday, December 11, 2009

What Is A Sacrament Anyway?

Since the last General Assembly, we have talked here about collaborating to make some sacramental resolutions for the next General Assembly. Accordingly, I have been contemplating what resolutions we could make. This week I have encountered twice the claim that Nazarenes believe a sacrament is "an outward sign of an inward grace." This appeared in Dr. McGonigle's response in the new edition of Holiness Today, and in a curriculum piece I was examining for my youth group. I know this definition comes from the Book of Common Prayer, as Dr. McGonigle points out, but it is greatly shortened from what the BCP says. It leaves out what most of us would argue is the most important part, "and the means by which we receive the same."

I began looking to find out where the manual defines a sacrament. The Articles of Faith on Baptism and the Lord's Supper both affirm that the respective acts are indeed sacraments, but no where is there a definition of a sacrament. It occurred to me that perhaps this would be a great place to start for a group that calls themselves sacramental. How about a resolution to define what the Church of the Nazarene believes a sacrament is. I image a new article of faith to precede the articles on Baptism and The Lord's Supper, but perhaps that is not the best avenue. What do you all think? How do you define a sacrament?

"The Church of the Nazarene believes a sacrament to be an outward sign of an inward grace and the means by which we receive the same. Accordingly, a sacrament is both an act by which we remember, celebrate, memorialize, and proclaim the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and future return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time is the ordinary means by which God extends to the recipient the grace provided to the world in the life, death, resurrection and return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in two sacraments, ordained by Christ himself: Baptism and The Lord's Supper."