Sunday, June 29, 2014

Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Today we remember with solemn thanks two apostles and martyrs of the New Testament Church: Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

I think that we get a wonderful perspective on the lives of these two paragons of the Early Church from the Saint-of-the-Day e-mails from

Peter (d. 64?). St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.

The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.

And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).

But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.

He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b).

Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17).

Paul (d. 64?). If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.

Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.

Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise.

In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.

We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: "It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father's revelation. I, not you, build my Church." Paul's experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.

The Collect for Saint Peter's Day from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:
ALMIGHTY God, who through your Son Jesus Christ gave to your holy apostle Peter many excellent gifts, and earnestly commanded him to feed your flock; Make all Bishops and Pastors diligent in preaching your Holy Word and your people faithful in following the same, so that they may receive the crown of eternal glory; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: 2Peter 1.1-2; John 21.15-17; 1Peter 5.3-4) 

So as we celebrate this Lord's Day, each Sunday lauded as a mini-Easter, may we focus on the Holy Trinity: the Father who created us, the Son who died and rose again for us, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. And may we also remember and emulate the saints who have trod the Pilgrim Pathway before us, especially Saint Peter and Saint Paul. 
Have a blessed day!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday, Father's Day, Anniversary, and Quotes for the Week

Partially from the Archives....

The Sunday following Pentecost/Whitsunday is the celebration of the Holy Trinity. Trinity Sunday is a celebration of just one day, and the liturgical color is white, symbolizing the purity and sinlessness of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now that the Holy Spirit has arrived on the scene to complete the Trinity, Ordinary Time shall begin starting next week, stretching over twenty-some weeks to Advent in late November to early December. Nearly half of the Church Year consists of Ordinary Time for which the liturgical color is green, symbolizing the continual growth of our faith as we follow Christ and endeavor to become more like Jesus. During Ordinary Time, the weeks are counted as being "after Trinity": the First Sunday after Trinity, the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, etc.

But today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The website Church Year explains:
Trinity Sunday, officially "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity," is one of the few feasts of the Christian Year that celebrates a reality and doctrine rather than an event or person. On Trinity Sunday we remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, and lasts only one day, which is symbolic of the unity of the Trinity. The Eastern Churches have no tradition of Trinity Sunday, arguing that they celebrate the Trinity every Sunday. Westerners do as well, although they set aside a special feast day for the purpose.

The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

For the Epistle today, the 1928 BCP requires the reading of the fourth chapter of Revelation; you may read it here in the English Standard Version: Revelation 4 ESV.

The Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday is written in the third chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the first verse through the fifteenth. You may read it here, again in the ESV: John 3:1-15 ESV.

Today is also the Feast of Title for two churches in the San Diego area, both of which have removed themselves from the liberal San Diego Episcopal Diocese and have put themselves under the authority of Biblical leadership: Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach (part of the city of San Diego) and Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in Alpine, thirty miles east of San Diego. I have been attending weekday healing services led by Father Keith Acker when he was Rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church and also after he and his church left the Diocese and reformed as Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity which is now part of the Reformed Episcopal Church. So blessings to both churches on their Feast of Title!

So today we give special thanks to our Lord who is realized in three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although we praise God for the Trinity each and every day of the year, this day we celebrate it more than usual, remembering His gracious goodness, His lovingkindness, and His everfaithful mercy. In the words of the Gloria Patri, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Here's the Collect for Trinity Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who gave grace to your people to proclaim the true Faith, acknowledging the glory of the eternal Trinity and, by the power of your Divine Majesty, worshiping One God; Keep us standing firm in this Faith and always defend us from danger; Who lives and rules, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Also, I wanted to share a couple of quotations on The Trinity...which are not easy to find, by the way. But I think I like these words from an Anglican who started the Holiness movement:

"Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God."      
~John Wesley

And one more quotation, this time from a friend of mine, a former missionary to East Asia (China) who shall remain nameless to protect her identity:

"Because of the cross, everything is redeemable."

Today is also Father's Day as well, so I wish all fathers, including my own and the wonderful father of our children, a wonderful and special day!!

In addition, today is also my and Keith's 29th wedding anniversary!! We plan to enjoy being home today and then to go to the Fair later this week. So to further celebrate our anniversary, I post this Collect today from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

GRACIOUS God, who consecrates the covenant of marriage to represent the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church; We ask your continued blessed on your servants, Keith and myself, that, as husband and wife, [we] may continue to love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, so that [our] home may always be a haven of blessing and peace; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (References: Malachi 2.14-15; Ephesians 5.25, 28, 32; Colossians 3.18-19.)

So on this very special day in so many ways, I wish you all a blessed Father's Day and Trinity Sunday as Ordinary Time begins once more....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

News on 20th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea

"The Greek" Amphitheater at Point Loma Nazarene University, home of The Writers' Symposium by the Sea.

Point Loma Nazarene University will host its 20th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea in late February. The amazing writers who have attended and shared their thoughts on the craft of writing over the last two decades have been phenomenal: Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Philip Yancey, Kathleen Norris, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Eugene Peterson, Calvin Miller, and other journalists, novelists, poets, bloggers, and non-fiction writers, both Christian and secular. A good number of videos of past featured writers at the Symposium are available via UCSD-TV's Writer's Symposium page. 

The news was just released that to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Writer's Symposium by the SeaDean Nelson (my former creative writing professor and later my kindly office mate when I taught there) will be having a conversation with Joyce Carol Oates. The announcement with details may be seen here if you scroll down a bit (and ignore the "19th Annual" heading): Joyce Carol Oates at Writer's Symposium.

Dean has outdone himself in obtaining such a major figure in American literature to celebrate the Symposium's 20th anniversary. I am so thrilled that Joyce Carol Oates will be coming on February 26

Tickets will go on sale in November, and I'll be one of the first in the virtual queue. Meanwhile, I have a copy of a small book I snatched from the library shelves last week to read (once I finish teaching Romeo & Juliet at Brave Writer this Friday!): First Love. It's a small, illustrated Gothic novelette, and I'm very much looking forward to perusing it as my first book on my Summer Reading List. 

The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council's Writer's Workshop is hoping to host another of our popular Write-Ins next month to coincide with July's Camp NaNoWriMo  so that we can enjoy coffee, tea, treats, and a few bursts of creative conversation while we tap away on our keyboards or scratch away in our notebooks for a few hours, usually from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. As soon as we have a date cleared with the Pine Valley Library for the use of their Community Room, I'll post the date here on this blog and on the MECAC Writer's Workshop website.

Happy Writing, Everyone!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost: The Joy and Comfort of the Holy Spirit

A repost from the Archives as I frantically attempt to keep up with my wonderful Brave Writer students in our discussions of Romeo and Juliet...

I just do not understand something. Why don't evangelical churches celebrate Pentecost? Scripture tells is that the Gift Jesus promised His disciples has arrived: the Holy Spirit! We read Christ's promise in the 14th chapter of the Gospel According to Saint John, beginning at the 15th verse:

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.... 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you....(ESV)"
Then on the Feast of the Pentecost, with Jerusalem filled with Jews from around the known world, Christ fulfilled his promise fifty days after His Resurrection. We read in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles:

"2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested [1] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.' 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?' 13 But others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine'” (ESV).
Peter then preaches to the astounded visitors to Jerusalem (also in Act 2), quoting the prophecy of Joel hundreds of years past as well as passages from the Psalms of David while also relating what he and the other disciples witnessed of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as well as the many sightings of Christ following His resurrection from the dead until His ascension to the right hand of the Living God. Peter concludes:

"32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" (Acts 2, ESV).
And then we read the response of the crowd listening to Peter:

"37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' 38 And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.' 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, 'Save yourselves from this crooked generation.' 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2, ESV).
The events of this Pentecost were simply incredible, and it is from this amazing Gift of the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit of God, that the Gospel of Christ first began to spread and the Church first began to form. Why evangelical churches do not celebrate Pentecost is a mystery to me. It always lands on a Sunday and thus it can be easily celebrated with Scripture readings, with praise songs and hymns about the Holy Spirit, with sermons grounded in the Holy Spirit, and perhaps even with baptisms since approximately 3,000 people were baptized and added to the Church on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection in Acts 2. Pentecost is a Biblical holy day, and we can celebrate it Biblically, too, with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart[s]" (Ephesians 5:19, ESV).

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, one of the Collects (collective or public prayers) for Pentecost reads thus:

"Almighty and most merciful God, grant, we beseech thee, that by the indwelling of thy Holy Spirit, we may be enlightened and strengthened for thy service ; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen."
And the Book of Common Prayer 2011's Collect for Pentecost (also in the sidebar of this blog):

"O GOD, you teach the hearts of your faithful people by sending us the light of your Holy Spirit; By your Spirit, give us right judgment in all things, so that we may rejoice forever in his holy comfort; Through the victory of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and rules with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen." (References: John 14.26; Acts 2.1-4; Philippians 1.9-10; Acts 9.31)

The Anglican Church has an interesting name for Pentecost: Whitsunday which comes from the white garments worn by those who are baptized this day, just as over 3,000 people were baptized on that first Pentecost in Acts 2. In the above hyperlink to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry of "Whitsunday," an interesting fact is given:

"Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:8 probably refers to the Jewish feast. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday; besides it was so closely bound up with Easter that it appears to be not much more than the termination of Paschal tide [Eastertide]."
So why is this important Biblical Holy Day, celebrated from the very earliest days of the Christian Church, hardly mentioned in evangelical churches, including my own? I don't know. I simply don't get it. But I pray that the evangelical churches will indeed start to celebrate Biblical Holy Days more and more in the future, pulling on the rich, 2,000-year heritage of Pentecost/Whitsunday.

Wishing you a blessed Pentecost,


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