Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent is Coming!

Well, it’s that time of the year when the church calendar starts over! December 1st is the first Sunday of Advent this year. You may be wondering just what Advent is all about, so I will give a quick explanation!

Advent is the first season of the liturgical year for Christians who follow the church calendar. The word advent come from the Latin word adventuswhich means “coming.” So we call this church season Advent because we are preparing for Jesus’ coming in the flesh at Christmas (not just a day, but an entire season for the church!), which is also called the Feast of the Nativity. The neat thing about this season is that it also reminds us that Jesus is coming back one day to consummate his kingdom here on earth and reveal his glory to all the world. This is one reason why the church calendar celebrates Christ the King Sunday as the final Sunday of the church year, which was last week at the time of this post.

So, Advent serves a double purpose:
  1. A preparation for Christ’s second coming. This is recognized by the readings from the first two Sundays of Advent focusing on Jesus’ teaching about this second coming.
  2. A preparation to celebrate his birth. This is seen in the readings for the third and fourth Sundays that point to some of the prophecies of that first coming as well as Gospel readings that tell the story of things that were happening just before Jesus was born all those years ago.

So, what is our posture for learning and putting these truths into practice for ourselves? One way that we do this is asking ourselves, why did Jesus need to come in the first place? Well, we are all sinners in need of redemption from our sin. And that very sin has infected all of the world, not just people. The whole creation groans under the burden of the curse because of our sin. Thus, Jesus’ coming was for all of creation’s redemption, which includes our own redemption. Through Jesus, everything is put to rights, as N.T. Wright likes to put it. This is very important for us to think about this season.

What does this lead to then? It leads to a time of reflection in our own individual lives about our need for Jesus. I need Jesus continually because I myself am a sinner who is in the wrong with God the Father because of the sin that dwells in me and my own actions. Part of my practice for this season is to remember this and seek God’s mercy remembering that it is in Jesus himself for me! There is a sense of sorrow in this season for my own sin and that leads to a sense of repentance and seeking God to renew our hearts through His Holy Spirit that He has given to us. This is a starting place for us and I will have more to say later.

Come Lord Jesus, come!
(I also posted this on my Tumblr blog in case anyone comes across that and thinks that I ripped someone off...)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Last night our pastorate teaching was on community. It was a hard one for me to focus on because I was taking care of Ike during it and he was not in his snuggly, sit still and relax mood as he usually is when Rach takes care of him.  However, one thing that Steve said caught my attention and has me ruminating a great deal.

He mentioned how community doesn’t really happen until some type of crisis occurs in a group.  He looked at Acts 11 and how it wasn’t until God scattered the church in Jerusalem around that they began accomplishing his work to bring the Gentiles into the church as a group.  You had Peter and others who went out and followed God’s lead and brought non-Jews into the church, but there was not a concerted effort until the church got scattered that they all started to live this kind of faith in front of the Gentiles.

That got me thinking more specifically about individuals and maybe Steve dug into this a bit, I honestly can’t remember because I was so in and out of the teaching last night.  Crisis and tragedy are a catalyst for us as individuals to enter a community of others!  What drives us to depend upon someone else?  Often, we cling to our own ropes so hard that we won’t let go.  We get to the end and somehow weave a bit more onto that end so that we can cling a little longer.  A little crisis here, a little crisis there gets us back to the bottom, but we add a little bit more so that we don’t have to let go just yet.  But then, something huge comes along (and the “huge-ness” of that event varies from person to person) and we finally quit trying to add onto our rope and we let go and fall.

Then we fall and fall and fall.

And fall some more, maybe….

But that bottom hits us hard and we are broken and battered and bruised.  And we wallow there for a while...

But eventually, somehow, we finally open our eyes and discover a bunch of other people gathered around us, reaching out to us to join them.  We think, “Where’d they come from??” Really, they have been there for a while waiting on us to open our eyes long enough to notice them.  These other people are people who have done the same thing too.  They fell down to the bottom of the pit and discovered someone else waiting on them.  What you do then is in many ways up to you.  You can close your eyes again and continue laying there or you can recognize that they want to help you get up, to hear what happened, to sit and listen for a while and when you are ready to share out of their own experience how they got there.  

And something we discover as we listen to them, instead of ourselves, is that Someone else is in the midst of them.  And we find out that He sent them to us to bring us to Himself. 

Yes, at the bottom of that pit with all of those other messed up people, we can find Jesus waiting for us that He might heal us and use us to bring him to other hurting people in that pit.  We get pulled into that community through our own crisis and find ourselves among others who have dealt with one crisis or another.  And in the midst of all of that we find the Church who is the one who brings us to Jesus when we need Him the most.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Confirmation Opportunity

I've gotten the opportunity to teach our youth about the faith in preparation for some of them to be confirmed later this year.  It's a pretty awesome opportunity for me.  I've avoided involvement with youth for a few years now after feeling like I botched everything in my internship during my early seminary career.  I probably didn't do as bad as I feel, but I certainly do as well as I could have for the most part.

Anyway, I've done one class which was more of an introduction to the concept of confirmation.  The one thing that I didn't get to mention was this great quote that AnalogReigns put me on to: We are reborn in baptism for life, and we are confirmed after baptism for strife (quote comes from St. Faustus of Riez, which is printed in the article "Children, Confirmation, and Communion" published in The Anglican Way Summer 2013 issue found here).  However, I think that I captured this concept well in what I said which is posted below:


There are two questions that I want to answer tonight. What is confirmation? Why confirmation? The reason I ask them back to back is that they go together. The what of confirmation gives us the why of confirmation; the why of confirmation gives us the what of confirmation. Really, these two questions are two sides of the same coin.

I’ll start with the first one: Confirmation is a rite, or a ritual, you might say, in which the bishop lays hands on someone and prays for them to receive the strengthening work of the Holy Spirit. The reason the bishop does this is because he is our primary spiritual authority. God has given him charge for our care. The reason that Randy is our priest at King of Kings is because the bishop has delegated aspects of his authority to Randy to provide our immediate pastoral care, but ultimately, that care rests with the bishop. Because that care ultimately rests with the bishop, he retains the care in regard to confirming you. When he confirms you, he is recognizing and blessing your faith and in doing that he seeks God’s mercy to maintain that faith throughout your lives.

So, we have an explanation for what Confirmation is, but why should we submit to confirmation? Why does the bishop seek God’s mercy on our behalf; with regard to our faith? The reason is because it is God who gives you that very faith and thus only God can maintain it. We don’t presume upon God’s grace by acting as though we can do anything we want after God gives us faith. Instead we seek after God’s mercy, always recognizing that in ourselves, left to ourselves, we would always forsake God, but by the Spirit he has given to us. How did God first give us His Spirit? The Holy Spirit was given to us through the Word and Sacrament. Paul says in Romans 10:12-17 that

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Here we see that it is through the hearing and preaching of God’s word that we are enabled to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. We also see though that this salvation is connected to the sacraments as well. In Acts, Peter tells the people to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and the people would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Supper is also referenced as a place where forgiveness of sins is known. There is nothing inherent in the actions in and of themselves, but they are means that God has chosen to work in us. Hence through hearing God’s word and receiving his sacraments, God works faith into us and when we abide in those things, he strengthens and enlivens that faith.

Confirmation is not a sacrament in our church. It is an important even though. In it we acknowledge that the faith we have is a gift of God and being a gift of God, only God can maintain it, only God can preserve our faith that we might persevere in the faith he gave to us. We acknowledge this preservation nearly every week in the Collect of the Day. Listen to them and hear about how we are always asking the Father to keep us in Christ, to fill us with His Spirit that we might forsake sin. For example last weeks collect asked God to graft or put in us love for Him, to nourish us with His goodness and to bring forth the fruit of good works. Today’s collect asked God to grant us to trust him with our whole hearts and tells us that God will never forsake those who boast in his mercy. The psalm that I read to start this spoke of the same things and even confesses that God can give us faith even before we are born! Faith is God’s gift to us and He is the one who keeps us safe in it.

To sum up the what and why of confirmation, I give you this final definition: Confirmation is a recognition not only of a need to publicly acknowledge one's faith, that has been freely given from God, but a deep recognition of one's need for the work of the Holy Spirit, freely given through Word and Sacrament, in one’s life for strength, continuing renewal, and increase in faith that we might never forsake our Lord Jesus.