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.)