Monthly Archives: August 2013

That they might lovely be

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Over on Twitter this morning, Charles Hawkins (@Parish_Parson) shared an article by Rowan Williams on Augustine and the Psalms. It’s a typically dense read, but well worth attempting on this feast day.

Williams says that “the psalms represent the unifying of the divine and the human voice in Christ.”

What is distinctive about any hermeneutic of the Psalms is that singing them is quite simply and literally an appropriation of Christ’s life, in history and eternity. And, from this act of appropriation, the church as a whole is revealed as the community where humanity is allowed full scope to say what it is, in terms of its failure and pain, so that it may fully become what it is created to be, the multiple echo of the Word’s response to the Father. “Do not hear anything spoken in the person of Christ as if it had nothing to do with you who are members of the Body of Christ” (Enarrat. Ps. 143.1).

He goes on to say that “the singing of the psalms becomes the most immediate routine means of identifying with the voice of Christ. And that identification carries implications for the kind of mutual relation that concretely defines the life of the church.”

What we try to do in the Daily Office as we sing or recite the psalms morning and evening, day after day, is to more and more become the Body of Christ, in which one member cannot say to the other “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12).

The more there is love, the more suffering at the lovelessness of others in the church (Enarrat. Ps. 98.13, referring to Paul in 2 Cor 11). But such love is precisely what we have to offer the loveless within the Body; thus the cost must be borne.

Here Williams’ words call to mind the hymn by Samuel Crossman:

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.

This love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13) is precisely the bond of our unity as the Body of Christ, the unity we pray for in the Collect appointed for this week:

Grant, O merciful God, that your people, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 232)

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For the extension of God’s kingdom

Charles Chapman Grafton

 

Today in the Diocese of Fond du Lac we observe the feast day of one of our “local saints.”

Charles Chapman Grafton was the second Bishop of Fond du Lac, a noted Anglo-Catholic, and an ardent ecumenist. He was also one of the founding members of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.

In between a Commission on Ministry meeting this morning and a dinner at my church this evening, I look forward to attending today’s Grafton commemoration at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac.

Since I was driving early this morning, I listened to Morning Prayer from the CD Singing the Daily Office by the SSJE community. At the Cathedral this afternoon, we will say Evening Prayer according to the Prayer Book of 1789, which Grafton would have used throughout most of his life.

Far from being an antiquarian curiosity, Grafton’s life speaks to me about the importance of both discipline and ecumenism — qualities vital to the Church’s life today, as always.

Collect of the Day

Loving God, you called Charles Chapman Grafton to be a bishop in your Church and endowed him with a burning zeal for souls: Grant that, following his example, we may ever live for the extension of your kingdom, that your glory may be the chief end of our lives, your will the law of our conduct, your love the motive of our actions, and Christ’s life the model and mold of our own; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, throughout all ages. Amen.

Having our share in Jesus

Jesus washing disciples' feet

Jesus washing disciples’ feet

“Then all the people of Israel came to the king, and said to him, ‘Why have our kindred the people of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?’ All the people of Judah answered the people of Israel, ‘Because the king is near of kin to us. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?’ But the people of Israel answered the people of Judah, ‘We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?’ But the words of the people of Judah were fiercer than the words of the people of Israel.” (2 Samuel 19:42-43)

Who can lay claim to more of the king’s favor?

That’s what the people of Judah and the people of Israel are arguing about.

It sure seems like David is favoring the people of Judah, even though they represent just two tribes. The people of Israel, comprising 10 of the 12 tribes, are put out and demand their majority share.

Seems perfectly sensible.

However, my mind flashed on the word “share” and its place in a pivotal story about another king, the Son of David.

“And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’” (John 13:2-8)

Having our share in Jesus means receiving from him the lesson he wants us to learn, following him in the way he shows us — serving others and laying down our lives.

Having our share does not mean getting more, but giving more.

A Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

So teach us to number our days

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So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. 
(Psalm 90:12)

In the context of Psalm 90, and in popular usage, this verse recalls us to a sense of our mortality. “Numbering our days” means understanding that we don’t have long to live and we should make every day count.

“Numbering our days” has stuck with me this week for a different reason, though.

In the context of the Daily Office, the ancient Jewish and Christian pattern of prayer in the morning and evening, we “number our days” in a very particular way.

I’ve been reflecting (especially since a great conversation over coffee on Wednesday with a clergy colleague) on how the Daily Office builds an awareness in us of a different “numbering,” a different way of organizing time.

The rhythm of morning and evening prayer includes collects (BCP 98-99, 123) that give shape to our weekly reflections, especially on Fridays (Jesus’ passion and death), Saturdays (God’s creative activity and our Sabbath rest), and Sundays (Christ’s victory over death and sin).

The offices also help attune us to the seasons of the Church Year, which have their own emphases and lead us through regular cycles of reflecting on Christ’s incarnation (Christmas) and his resurrection (Easter). There’s also a good long stretch of plain old “ordinary time” all summer long.

I sometimes wonder whether we Christians can regain a sense of our own sacred calendar in the face of the advertising onslaught of Back to School, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Memorial Day and July 4th.

“Numbering our days” according to the Christian calendar might be one gentle witness to the countercultural Gospel we proclaim and to the Son of Man, Lord even of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), whom we follow.

Them I know … but who are you?

St. Paul and Jesus

St. Paul and Jesus

Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:13-15)

Who are you?

Would you be recognized as a follower of Jesus (not just by evil spirits, but by anybody you meet)?

When you talk about your faith, are you talking about an abstraction or are you talking about someone you know?

You don’t have to be perfect, that’s for sure — just look at David, featured in our Old Testament reading this morning in the act of committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed.

However, you do have to be known by God, and you have to do what God’s followers do — repent.

Knowing God and being known, just like any friendship, means putting in the time. That’s largely what we are doing when we pray the Daily Offices — spending face time with God.

Coming face to face with the living God, especially as we meet him in Jesus, highlights our sinfulness and leads us to want to change.

David will be confronted by Nathan, the prophet of God, in tomorrow morning’s reading, and he will repent of his sin.

Saul, whose early ministry was to persecute Christians, repented after he began to know the risen Jesus. In a complete turnaround (which is basically what repenting means), his new ministry under the new name of Paul was to help establish new churches.

Who are you?

Are you a friend of God?

Are you putting in the time and making the changes that your friendship requires?

Lose Yourself to Dance

Then David said to Michal, the daughter of Saul:

Here, take my shirt
and just go ‘head and wipe off all the
sweat, sweat, sweat …
Lose yourself to dance! (2 Sam. 6:21-22, paraphrased)

And Paul said, “So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s … Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister, or why do you despise your brother or sister? Lose yourself to dance!” (Romans 14:7-10, paraphrased).