Monday, November 24, 2014

Collect for the First Sunday in Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which Your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in His glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prayer Appointed for this Week

Proper 28    The Sunday closest to November 16

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with
 You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is a beautiful collect asking the Lord to so work in our hearts that we would love His holy word. It is only in the word that we are privy to the means of salvation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Should the Church Jump Every Time a New Poll is Released Slamming Her for Losing the Millennials?

The contemporary church is fascinated with youth. It is implied that the Church must do whatever it takes to hold on to the ones they have and bring in more. Evangelical pollsters are constantly bombarding the Church with surveys designed to stop the "millennial leakage" (the up and coming generation are referred to as "millennials"). Leaders want to know what can be done to keep more young people in church. So we rush about, panicking, wondering what we did to run off our youth. The problem always seem to fall at the doorstep of the institutional church to come up with some new way of getting the job done.

The experts in church growth are ready with what they believe to be helpful insights that will enable the Church to be more effective and retain more of its precious youth. In my reading, I have discovered many of the "secrets", that if applied, will grab the attention of this group. Here are just a few: we need to be more "authentic", we need to "care for the hurting", we need to "be contemporary and culturally engaged", and my favorite, we need to "make reverse mentoring possible". The rationale for this last piece of advice is because millennials want to be involved in teaching and training now. They don't want to wait until they're because they have so much to offer the Church.

Polls of the sort mentioned above can be helpful, I guess. But when I read these polls and their suggested remedies, I hear men speaking who are confident in their scientific methodologies, but very little is mentioned about the ordinary means of grace. As a pastor I am not a sanctified sociologist, I am a minister of the Gospel. Some men may know how to do this, but I haven't a clue. For me to pursue this approach to ministry would be a total sham. It would lack any true authenticity.

What about the ordinary means? What about preaching the Word, praying for souls, administering the Sacraments? These are the means God has given us to grow a healthy church. These are the things the Holy Spirit has promised to bless. Is it possible, that so-called millennials are leaving the Church precisely because they are tired of being experimented on by practitioners of the latest evangelical fad? It is possible that they are leaving the Church because the sermons they hear are along the lines of those preached by Joel Olsten (a lot of self-help sprinkled with the name of Jesus from time to time)? If that is what the Church has to offer, why attend? It's more cost effective for these youth to just buy the books and download the motivational talks from their favorite website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day...What Can the Righteous Do?

I am voting today, but not because I actually believe anything the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or Independents say they're going to do. Technology allows them to poll us, find out what we think, tell us what we want to hear, then do as they please. Nothing is as it seems. I'm voting because there are issues on the ballot designed to expand the power of the political elite and I'm casting my vote in an effort to slow down the expansion of their power.

Psalm 12:2 captures the climate in which we live, "Everyone lies to his neighbor, their flattering lips speak with deception". But we must remember that humanity will not have the last word. The Lord will arise and protect His people (v.5). But for now, the wicked freely strut about because what is vile (homosexuality, lying, political power, Islam, etc.) is honored among men.

Vote or don't vote, that is your choice. But if you do, please do not think that the kingdom of God will be brought in by your vote. It will be brought in by the power of God.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Prayer Appointed for this Week

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by Your gift that Your faithful people offer You true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain Your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Quote from William Willimon's Proclamation and Theology

"Sometimes we preachers are tempted to play God, to fill up all the gaps between Jesus and our people, to bypass the need for a Holy Spirit, to make Christ too easily available to them, to dumb down discipleship so that anyone can wander in off the street and get it without cost, risk or conversion. We are so desperate to be heard on our own terms, so desperate to find a way to preach the Gospel without recourse to the power of God in the living Christ. But "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1) ought not to be too free in dispensing and disposing the mystery that is Christ. There is no way from here to there, no path from heaven to earth, from death to life, except the one that God makes. We ought to preach in such a way that, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead,  then our sermons are utterly incomprehensible. Faithful sermons require the presence of the Holy Spirit to make them work." pg.83

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It is Time for this Calvinist to Return to Geneva

In 2008 I decided to leave the Presbyterian Church in America and become a part of what was then the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). There were many antecedents leading up to that decision, some theological and some personal. For the last six years I have served as a minister of the Gospel in the Anglican Church, but for various reasons, I have decided I do not belong in Canterbury (Anglicanism), but rather, my theological home rests squarely in Geneva (Reformed Presbyterianism).  Make no mistake, my time in Canterbury has been an extremely beneficial part of my spiritual journey, but I will finish out my ministry in Geneva. Here are few things I've picked up while dwelling in Canterbury that I would like to briefly share.
  1. Anglicanism reminded me that very church is a liturgical church. Liturgy has to do with worship. The liturgy is either good (and teaches sound biblical truths about the nature and work of the God who both creates and redeems), or it is a poor teacher of those things. Anglican liturgy taught me that the most important things about God are His holiness and His covenant faithfulness. Everything else about Him follows from those things. Anglicanism has given me a real love for good liturgy.
  2. Anglicanism taught me the necessity of the people of God gathering weekly at the Table of God to renew our covenant with Him and to be spiritually nourished by the body and blood of our Lord. This has become such a part of my understanding of worship and my own piety that I do not believe I could ever be a part of a congregation that did not celebrate this precious event weekly.
  3. Anglicanism taught me that God loves beauty and precision of language in worship. I have come to appreciate the beauty and power a well written prayer. I love Anglican collects, the Creeds, the written confessions of sin. Anglicanism has taught me that there are people in the Kingdom who can say and pray things so much better than I. And by submitting myself to these written prayers I have learn how to pray more efficiently.
  4. Anglicanism reminded me that humans are not simply brains with legs. As I return to Geneva, I am keenly aware that this is a risk for us in the Reformed tradition, because we place such an emphasis on knowing the truth. And what exactly do I mean by this statement? I mean we run the risk of equating the increase of knowledge with growth in true sanctification. Don’t misunderstand, the way to the heart is through the mind, but knowledge without the work of the Spirit is useless. Anglicanism reminded me that spiritual growth is the work of the Spirit, but it is also intentional. Just like I eat (intentionally, on purpose) three times a day, I should approach my spiritual life intentionally (with discipline) every day. I have experienced this through Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and other spiritual disciplines, including the daily reading of the Psalms.
I was going to write about some things that trouble me about Canterbury, but I have decided against that. I do not wish to leave the impression that Geneva is the only city from which to seek the City of God (the New Jerusalem). It isn't. The only point I'm making by this announcement is that I am leaving Canterbury because I now know for certain, experientially, that I belong in Geneva. The signs have been there for some time and I have been ignoring them. I will miss my friends in Canterbury and I hope to maintain many of those relationships. I know I will see them in the New Jerusalem, the City we're all striving to arrive at safely!