Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trinity Sunday and Quotations

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 Book of Common Prayer requires the reading of the fourth chapter of Revelation; you may read it here in the English Standard Version: Revelation 4:1-11, 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.

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 (along the coast in the city of San Diego) and Blessed Trinity Anglican Church now in El Cajon. 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 and recently relocated to the SCAIR building on Main Street in downtown El Cajon as Blessed Trinity Anglican Church 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 ever-faithful mercy in, as Dr. Stephen Sammons, our former pastor at Lake Murray Community Church often stated, loving us as we are, yet loving us too much to allow us to remain that way. 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 really 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 from Lake Murray, a former missionary to East Asia who shall remain nameless to protect her identity:

"Because of the cross, everything is redeemable."

Wishing you all a blessed Trinity Sunday as Ordinary Time begins once more....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost: The Arrival of the Holy Spirit

An Eastern Orthodox icon of the Christian Pentecost. This is the Icon of the Descent of theHoly Spirit on the Apostles. At the bottom is an allegorical figure, called Kosmos, which symbolizes the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

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

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....(English Standard Version--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, celebrating the rich, 2,000-year heritage of Pentecost/Whitsunday.

Wishing you a blessed Pentecost,

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Celebrating the Feast of Christ's Ascension

Reprinted from the Archives....

Today is Ascension Day, forty days after Christ's Resurrection, when He gave His final earthly encouragement and directions to His disciples before Ascending to the right hand of the Father. Today's Epistle reading is from Acts 1 in the English Standard Version (ESV):

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 

The Gospel reading relates the same event, also told by Saint Luke at the close of his gospel account:

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)

The Collect for Ascension Day from The Book of Common Prayer 2011 which Father Keith Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity modernized and I helped to edit:   

ALMIGHTY God, as we believe your only eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven; Grant that we may also ascend into heaven in heart and mind until, at the last, we may dwell with him forever; Who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always. Amen.

Father Bosco Peters, an Anglican priest in New Zealand who runs the amazing site, posted a wonderful reflection on Ascension can be read here: Ascension Day.

On Twitter, Father Peters noted that Ascension Day is a holiday in several European countries, such as France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc. Yet we in America hardly even know of this Biblical holy day, at least among American evangelicals. Part of Eastertide which lasts until Pentecost (just ten more days!), Ascension is obviously noted in Scripture as being forty days after Christ's Resurrection. 

This holy day has been celebrated since the early years of the Church, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
The observance of this feast is of great antiquity. Although no documentary evidence of it exists prior to the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine says that it is of Apostolic origin, and he speaks of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time. Frequent mention of it is made in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and in the Constitution of the Apostles. The Pilgrimage of Sylvia (Peregrinatio Etheriae) speaks of the vigil of this feast and of the feast itself, as they were kept in the church built over the grotto in Bethlehem in which Christ was born (Duchesne, Christian Worship, 491-515). It may be that prior to the fifth century the fact narrated in the Gospels was commemorated in conjunction with the feast of Easter or Pentecost.... Representations of the mystery are found in diptychs and frescoes dating as early as the fifth century.
You may read the full article from the Catholic Encyclopedia here: Feast of the Ascension.

I simply don't understand why American evangelical churches do not celebrate these Biblical festivals, or at least Pentecost if not Ascension. Pentecost lands on a Sunday every year, so there's really no excuse not to at least mention it...if not read the Scriptures recounting the gift of the Holy Spirit to the waiting disciples and perhaps even preach on the subject. Yes, every day of our earthly existence should be a celebration of what Christ has done for us, and every Sunday should indeed be a celebration of the Resurrection power and love of Jesus. But noting and celebrating these other Biblical holy days seems like a wonderful idea to me, one in which we can walk in the footsteps of our Risen Lord, glorifying Him Who first loved us.

Enjoy a blessed celebration of Christ's Ascension,

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hymn: "Son of Man and Son of God"

My Prayer Times with The Divine Hours (This photo was taken before the BCP 2011 was completed, so please forgive the 1928 BCP shown here.... ;)

Three times each day I pick up one of the three Divine Hours prayer books edited by Phyllis Tickle. Together, all three take us through the entire year with The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, and The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime.

This series of prayer books contains The Morning Office, The Midday Office, and The Vespers Office for each day. Then each month has a separate section for a week of Compline Prayers that can be prayed for each day of the week throughout the month. Because I pray the Compline from The Book of Common Prayer 2011, the vast majority of the time, I pray The Divine Hours three times each day: before breakfast, before lunch, and before bed.
Image from Amazon
While the Morning and Midday offices contain both a Reading from the Scriptures plus a reading from the Psalms, The Vespers Office usually contains a hymn or poem instead of Readings from the Old or New Testaments. Often these hymns are ancient to the church but very new and fresh to me.

The Vespers Office for last Tuesday had a wonderful old hymn that reads like a poem (as many song lyrics do--we study song lyrics as poems in The Playing with Poetry Workshop at Brave Writer), and I wanted to share it here with all of you. (When I perused a short Wikipedia bio of William Mercer, he is indeed referred to as a poet in the post, so either he wrote this hymn as a protest (as he espoused the Protestant cause during and after the Reformation) or someone else set this poem to music. Either way, the words seemed to sear themselves into my soul....

The Hymn: "Son of Man and Son of God" by William Mercer (d. 1675) 

How bright appears the Morning Star,
With mercy beaming from afar;
The host of heaven rejoices;
          O righteous Branch, O Jesse's Rod!
          You Son of Man and Son of God!
We, too, will lift our voices:
Jesus! Jesus! Holy, holy, yet most lowly,
Please draw near us, Emmanuel, come and hear us.

Though circled by the hosts on high,
He deigned to cast a pitying eye
Upon his helpless creature;
          The whole creation's Head and Lord,
          By highest seraphim adore,
Assumed our very nature;
Jesus, grant us, through your merit, to inherit     
Your salvation hear, O hear, our supplication.

Rejoice, you heavens; O earth, reply;
With praise, you sinners, fill the sky,
For this his Incarnation.
          Incarnate God, put forth your power,
          Ride on, ride on, great Conqueror, 
Till all shall know your salvation.
Let us cry, "Bless the Lord," and again,"Bless the Lord"
Praise be given evermore, by earth and heaven. 

I especially appreciated the internal rhyme, such as "Holy, holy, yet most lowly" and "through your merit, to inherit." I wish that I knew the melody to such a lovely and carefully-crafted poem. 

As long as I'm posting about The Divine Hours, I think I'll post this week's Collect from the BCP 2011:


O LORD, from you all good things come; Grant to us, by your holy inspiration, to think of good things and then accomplish them by your merciful guidance; Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: James 1.17; John 15.5; 2 Corinthians 3.5; Philippians 1.6)

So what are some of your favorite hymns? Leave your answers in the responses. Thanks!!

Wishing you a blessed week in the love and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ,


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