Monday, December 20, 2010

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

I was asked to lead our Communion service for yesterday. As I reflected on the lectionary readings, a passage kept popping up in my head: Revelation 19. It reads:

4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
“Amen, Hallelujah!”
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both great and small!”
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Pastor, forgive me, I've sinned."

I preface by saying that parts of the penance/reconciliation/confessional practices are skewed in some bodies of faith, however I pose the discussion that there could be benefits to encourage a more one-on-one pastor/parishioner relationship and accessibility when it comes to accountability and sin. While we may not consider this a ‘sacrament’ initially, is it not a ‘means of grace’?
I’ve been to confession. I’ve experienced the preparation of taking a good examination of my thoughts, words, deeds, and faith practices. I’ve experienced the anxiety of having to make the car ride to the church thirty minutes before service starts and wait to see that dreaded light turn green so that I can go in and make a contrite confession of my shortcomings, mess ups, sins, and struggles. I’ve also experienced the freedom that comes from a called minister of God listening carefully, without judgment, and express his/her sorrow with me and encourage me to pray a prayer of repentance to our God and go and sin no more. I’ve heard the words, ‘You are absolved from you sins, go in peace and penance to our Lord and your brother and sisters in the faith’. I’ve been reminded that my shortcomings, mess ups, sins, and struggles not only effect me, but they also effect the body. I’ve participated in the ‘sacrament of reconciliation’ both face-to-face and even behind those funny little screens. And it was wonderful! But why?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Worship Music

Joseph beat me to the punch on my usual Thursday post! Ya snooze, ya lose, I guess (plus, he's 5 hours ahead of us in the UK!).  In the interest of consistency, I'm double-dipping a bit - this is a revision of a note I posted on facebook a week or two ago.  Many churches - especially those that use primarily contemporary worship music - struggle to know what to sing in congregational worship during the Advent season.

From my totally subjective perspective,** here is a list of 13 contemporary/popular worship songs that aren't traditional Christmas/Advent songs - they're mostly songs that are sung throughout the year - but that I think are particularly appropriate during the season of Advent (and brief annotations as to why)...and I leave it to you to let me know what I've left off, or what I am mistaken to include...Perhaps this list helps, or at least provokes some discussion and other (better!) ideas...
  • Here I am to Worship - "light of the world, you stepped down into darkness...humbly you came to the earth you created / all for love's sake became poor" - skip the bridge during Advent, though (" see my sin upon that cross") - or maybe all the just doesn't fit the rest of the song, thematically, as someone recently pointed out to me.
  • Hosanna (Praise is Rising) - I think Palm Sunday songs are great for Advent. When we cry "Hosanna!" we are saying, literally "God save us!"
  • Mighty to Save - "everyone needs...a Savior / the hope of of salvation" - I don't even mind changing "we're singing for the glory of the RISEN King" to "NEWBORN King" during Advent/Christmas...but that's your call. (That it's #1 on the CCLI charts might or might not speak to its merit, in your opinion...)
  • Love Came Down - awesome new song by Brian Johnson - can be played acoustically (like we did today) or as a rock song. "Love came down and rescued me / Love came down and let me free."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Baptism and Ecclesiology

I ran across an excellent quote today and I thought I would share it. It seems poignant in light of our recent discussions about baptism/infant baptism and ecclesiology. The quote comes from an article titled, 'The Sacraments in Early American Methodism' and it refers to a possible explanation of how the sacraments lost their significance/meaning/importance (?) for the emerging American Methodists in particular, and 'evangelicals' or 'revivalists' in general. It states,

'How significant can the sacrament [of baptism] have been in the absence of any developed sense of church?'

This sentence was published in 1957 and it refers to a problem that existed in the early 1800s. And it could have been written about many churches today. When will we (remnants of Methodism and the revival movement of the 19th century) learn that ecclesiology is important?


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fingernails On A Chalkboard

Before reading this entry please take a few seconds to watch this video clip, make sure to turn the sound up.

These next five words, this next phrase elicits the same "fingernail on a chalkboard" response from me every time I hear it. Are you ready? Here it is.

Helpful Inspiration of Social Worship--insert chalkboard sound at high volume

These five words come from the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene and can be found in our Membership Covenant. These five words make up the bulk of our theology of worship. When bringing people into the church, when inviting them to speak covenanting words of membership, the best we can come up with, as to the the purpose and priority of worship is, for its Helpful Inspiration.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Joseph's Baptism

Sunday was a major milestone not only in Joseph's life, and the life of our family, but in the life of Xenia Naz as well.  It may have been the first infant baptism ever at my church, and certainly the first one done like this.

I ended up tweaking a few things in the final version of the liturgy under the advisement of our assistant District Superintendent, who is presently serving as our interim pastor.  He was remarkably supportive of all this, and did a fantastic job "setting up" the baptism. (You can listen to his comments/explanation during the first 5-6 min of his sermon from Sunday - although I encourage you to listen to the whole thing - it is masterful....and he invokes Rob Staples, so bonus points for that!)

All in all, it was wonderful.  Immediately after the service, I found myself in several conversations, most of which were of the "so-we-actually-do-that?" variety...and not in an offended or concerned (heh) sense, but more arising from intrigue/fascination/curiosity.  The most thorough discussion I had was with a woman with a Catholic background who sings in my choir.  Her elementary-age daughter was baptized in the Catholic church, and I think she just genuinely wanted to know whether that baptism was valid...legit...sufficient.  I told her: absolutely.

Also, let the record show that my dad did a exceptional job officiating, especially in a "scripted" context that is a bit outside his comfort zone.  Events like this remind me and Gloria what a means of grace our family is.  And although I teased my dad a bit about dousing Joseph six times (correct me if I'm wrong: I think this was a "sextuple affusion"...?) instead of the traditional three, I have to agree with my friend Jeremy's comment: "Make that grace as visible as possible." Amen.

How would a ritual like this fly at your church?  What about the church you grew up in?

(If you'd like a .doc version of the liturgy so you can use/amend it, email me.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

D.I.Y. Communion

In my area I have noticed an interesting and somewhat disturbing trend of "Do It Yourself Communion." For example, a local non-denominational church posted in the local paper, "On the first Friday of every month, the _______ Church will be open from 9:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m. with prepackaged bread and juice available throughout that time. Whenever it is convenient for you feel free to pop in, and take Communion or take it with you, and take some home to your family as well."

(I have seen similar statements coming from Nazarene Churches as well, so please don't think I am picking on this particular church, their statement just reminded me of this practice. )

So here are my questions:

What would motivate us to serve communion this way?
What if anything about this statement should disturb us?
What does this statements say about the ecclesiology of the participating local church?
What does it say about their understanding of Communion?
What role does a sacramental versus an ordinance understanding play in "D.I.Y. Communion"?
How is this similar/dissimilar to home communion?
What would you tell a member of your congregation who proposed that your church participate in something similar?

I look forward to learning from your responses.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Wreath

Advent has begun. I trust you all have had a great first Sunday of this season.

My wife and I moved to our town in June. She got a job at the Nazarene Church here as part-time pastor alongside the full-time pastor. I was taken on as a one-day-a-week/unpaid deacon. In one of our recent meetings we decided that I would be in charge of the Advent wreath for this year. I thought about using whatever the church had on hand, but I figured, 'You know what, why not just make one.'

So I did (pictured above). I cut pine branches and holly branches and cedar-looking branches and put them together around a circle-shaped 'oasis'. The symbolism of the different foliage is significant, so we took the first part of the service to have a liturgy explaining and sanctifying the making of the Advent wreath. We were happy to find that after the service, many of the congregation complimented the 'new' Advent wreath and appreciated the explanation.

In light of this, I wonder how many of our congregations know what the Advent wreath means? Do any of you take time to explain the meaning of all the elements and not just the candles? I had only participated in a service like this a couple of times and found it to be a really positive experience for our largely 'liturgically deprived' congregation.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blog Profile: Advent Longings

Quick resource post at the start of advent - follow Pastors Jon Twitchell, Jeremy Scott and others on their Advent Longings blog. They are providing resources for local churches to journey through the Advent season together.  Join in!  Thanks to all the contributors for their efforts!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Service of Infant Baptism

This Sunday (Advent 1a) our son Joseph, who just turned one on Wednesday, will receive the sacrament of baptism.  Gloria and I are thrilled that the timing worked out so that our family from both sides is able to be present.  (Our now-3-yr-old Andrew was baptized at St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, so none of our family were able to share in the service.)  My dad, a Nazarene elder and pastor from Nashville, TN, is in town to officiate my cousin's wedding on Saturday, so he'll be able to preside over his grandson's baptism on Sunday as well, which is about as perfect a solution we could ever come up with in this time of pastoral transition at Xenia Naz.

I thought I'd share the liturgy I've put together for the service.  I value your feedback and welcome you to use it, adapt it, share it or rewrite it as you find useful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Protestant Crucifix

A few years ago I came across a term that I had never heard before. A 17th century Protestant writer, Daniel Brevint, described the communion table as a 'Protestant Crucifix'. It made me think a lot about the words we use when we describe what we do at the Eucharistic Table. The writer sought to provoke the reader to think of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.

In response to this theme of sacrifice and the altar as the Protestant Crucifix, Charles Wesley penned the following hymn:

Would the Saviour of mankind
Without His people die?
No, to Him we all are join'd
As more than standers by.
Freely as the Victim came
To the altar of His cross,
We attend the slaughter'd Lamb,
And suffer for His cause.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Words When Serving Communion

What do you say to the recipient when you serve communion?  When you offer the bread?  The cup?

Many liturgies include specific instructions for what the minister should say, such as:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nazarenes: "Memorial" or "Real Presence"?

I was at a CEU seminar the other day with Dr. Henry Spalding, provost at MVNU, and previous professor of theology/philosophy at ENC, TNU and NTS. I asked a question about the spectrum of understandings regarding the sacraments present in the denomination. His answer was long and quite good. Two comments in particular stood out, but we shall address them one at a time:

"There is no way anyone can read anything but a memorialist view in what our Articles of Faith actually say."

That comment was a little surprising to me. Is it possible to see in our AoF's a real presence theology? Is it possible to see anything but a memorialist theology? His comment really got me thinking.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Advent and Christmas practices

Two more Sundays to Advent 1. In anticipation of this time of anticipation, I wanted to get some ideas about singing during the Advent season.

Advent and Christmas have been high-jacked by consumer culture. The shops are already being transformed into Christmas shopping Meccas, the shoppers are receiving leaflets in the mail advertising Black Friday, and the children are being bombarded with toy advertisements during Dora the Explorer and the Backyardigans. Once the shopping commences, the shoppers are enveloped with Christmas songs, 'I'll be home for Christmas', 'I'm dreaming of a White Christmas', even 'Joy to the World'.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Disposing" of the Elements

In an effort to keep my promise to add content more regularly and revitalize the conversation 'round these parts, I was looking back through old posts. I knew there were at least a few instances where I had an idea for what I thought would be a good topic to post about, and created a draft but never finished and published it.  This was one, but I hadn't even begun writing it - just had a title! (weird, I know.)

I think it's a good thing to bat around, though - certainly something we have had some discussion about at Xenia Naz: what to do with the elements - the cup in particular - after communion?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

New Domain, New Look, Slightly New Ethos

It's been almost four months since I said I was "coming out of retirement" on facilitating this blog, and sadly, this is my first post since then.  Guilt overwhelms me.  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Not sure what's motivated me to get back on it tonight...perhaps it's because I've been messing around with domain purchase/registration and getting a couple of other websites (TBA) set up too...or perhaps it's because I know I'm about to get flamed by our "concerned" friends for this video, so I figure, why not get back into the blogging about sacraments and liturgy, since that's just the sort of "evidence" the CNs will capitalize on to brand me "emergent" (which continues to baffle and befuddle me - yes, BOTH baffle AND befuddle...)??

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Take Comfort In Rituals

Has anyone else seen this at Starbucks? It really makes one wonder how a coffee shop can figure it out but a church can not.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Theology (and Practice) of Ordination

Thanks to everyone who offered wisdom and guidance regarding the question of “pulpit supply” in churches that practice weekly Word & Table. I have thought much about what each of you has said. It seems, however, that I have inadvertently raised a much bigger issue – one that is appropriate to be discussed on a Sacramental-Nazarene blog. That issue is, of course, our theology and practice of holy orders.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Filling the Pulpit

So I need a little advice. We are going to begin speeding up our transition to weekly Eucharist. I will be starting a sermon series entitled "The Ways We Worship" the last Sunday of August. I will be basing it off Lester Ruth's article "A Rose By Any Other Name" which attempts to categorize protestant worship. Among other things, he notes that people tend to experience God in one of three ways: music, preaching, communion. The first week I will introduce the idea, and then I will spend three weeks each with songs in scripture (Mary's Song, Zechariah's Song, Simeon's Song), sermons in scripture (Peter @ Pentecost, Stephen @ the Sanhedrin, Paul @ Areopagus), and The Lord's Supper in scripture (institution, means of grace, frequency). I will then conclude the series on Christ the King with a sermon titled "The Worship of God and the Mission of God" that will tie in each of the three ways we worship with the great commission. We will be celebrating Holy Communion weekly from All Saints through Epiphany... and hopefully beyond.

Anyway, one thing has been going through my mind lately is a practical question. What do I do when I am gone for a Sunday?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coming Out of Retirement...

Hey Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant once sang, "it's been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time."  Or as Pink Floyd, reverb-drenched and melancholy, once asked: "Hello...?  Is there anybody in there...?  Just [comment] if you can hear me!  Is there anyone home?"

Okay, enough with the classic rock references.  This is meant to be an update, and a bit of a "help me figure out what the next step should be" kind of deal.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Way of the Cross Power Point Download

I was given this link by a friend at OSL. It is a very well done powerpoint (fully animated) presentation of the Way of the Cross from the UMC book of Worship. I adapted it some (added prayers with each station and at the beginning) and am going to loop it during open prayer time in our church on Friday evenings. If you like it, navigate over to the website and drop the pastor a word of thanks for all his hard work.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Morning Prayer Model of Worship

I have been doing this pastoring thing for 4 years now. When I came here, I was convinced that I was going to shape worship into the four-fold pattern that is all the rage in liturgical renewal. I knew I would have a tough time especially with the "Table" portion of the service. We are now at the place where we celebrate the Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month plus the major holy days. Occasionally we celebrate twice in a row (last we was the 1st and this week is Transfiguration). Rarely we get 3 celebrations in a row. I am enjoying our progress.

But my frustration continues to be with attempting to do 4-fold without doing the Table. I know many enjoy coming up with creative substitutes for the Lord's Supper, but for me there is no substitute. Either we do it or we don't. There's no having our cake and eating it too. Trying to make things 4-fold when they weren't just felt contrived and fake. So I began reading and thinking. Starting with 1 Advent we transitioned from 4-fold or Word & Table pattern to patterning our worship after Morning Prayer in the BCP. It is a loose adaptation, but I have found it to be very functional - especially on Sundays when the Holy Communion is not celebrated. Our pattern is now: (1) Confession; (2) Psalm; (3) Lessons; (4) Creed; (5) Prayers; (6) Benediction. When we celebrate communion we simply add the communion service between the prayers and the benediction just as you would if you were doing morning prayer with communion. So, here is our service for Transfiguration (it will take about 75 minutes):

The Confession
• Greeting/Welcome

LEADER: The Lord , our God, is holy.
PEOPLE: Come let us adore him.

• Confession/Pardon (for confession we do a moment of silence)
• Peace

The Psalm
• Opening Hymn: Let it Rise (ABS2 – 13): as written
• Psalm 99

LEADER: Open our lips, O Lord.
PEOPLE: And our mouths shall proclaim your praise.

LEADER: Praise the Lord our God and worship at his footstool.
PEOPLE: For the Lord our God is holy.
LEADER: The Lord is king.
PEOPLE: Let the peoples tremble!
LEADER: He sits enthroned upon the cherubim;
PEOPLE: Let the earth quake!
LEADER: The Lord is great in Zion. He is exalted over all the prophets
PEOPLE: Let them praise your great and awesome name.
LEADER: Mighty King, you love justice, you have established equity;
PEOPLE: You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
LEADER: Praise the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain.
PEOPLE: For the Lord our God is holy.

LEADER: Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
PEOPLE: As it was in the beginning, is now , and will be forever. Amen.

• Invocation
• Praise Medley

I See the Lord (MSPW – 31): as written
O Worship the King (STL – 64): 1,2,4
Glory in the Highest (ABS3 – 76): as written

The Lessons
• Prayer of Illumination:
• 1st Lesson: 2 Corinthians 3.12-4.2 & Children’s Sermon
• 2nd Lesson: Exodus 34.5-8, 29-35 & Anthem
• 3rd Lesson: Luke 9.28-43 & Sermon

The Creed (STL – 8)

The Prayers
• Prayer Medley:

Shine, Jesus, Shine (ABS – 120): v. 1, chorus, v. 3, chorus
Love Divine All Loves Excelling (STL – 507): 1,2,4
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (STL – 327): chorus only

• The Collect (ALL)

ALL: All Glorious God, who before the passion of your only-begotten son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Give us, as we bask in the light of his glory, the strength to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

• The Intercessions (PASTOR)
• The Lord’s Prayer (ALL)
• The Offering

The Holy Communion (for communion we do the full Eucharistic liturgy)

The Benediction
• Announcements
• Sending & Blessing
• Closing Hymn: Glory Be to God the Father (STL – 16): 1,4