Tag Archives: Lent

Avoid stupid controversies

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)

Nathanael might have been reading Philip’s status update on Facebook, for all we can tell. His reply sure sounds like the snarky comments we post when we read something we don’t agree with.

The dismissive behavior we display on Facebook and Twitter is really nothing new; in the second-century letter to Titus (c. 110 AD) we hear the writer’s strong warning to Christians against the kind of behavior we engage in so often, a verse worth memorizing because it stands the test of time.

Avoid stupid controversies … (Titus 3:9)

But why? The writer expands on his idea. “Avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

Worthless

Arguing about stupid Episcopal Church controversies, trying to prove a point by citing the canons, stirring up partisan passion about how misguided the leaders at 815 are, debating who’s right and who’s wrong — none of these things communicate the inspiring truth about what God is doing in the world.

And it’s not just our internal church controversies that are stupid.

You don’t have to have an opinion about every story, every commentary on the evening news. You don’t even have to watch the news.

Your compelling evidence, exhaustively cited, won’t change the mind of that guy on Twitter. Besides which, no one wants to read your 57 nested tweets on the same subject (unless it’s #AddAWordRuinAMovie or #LentMadness).

Your dismissive comments on Facebook about Obama or Bush, gun control or transgender rights, Palestine or Israel, Guy Fieri or Anthony Bourdain — and your obsessive sharing of political posts (left or right) do not change anyone’s mind.

Usually, they just make you look like a jerk.

Unprofitable

Not only is it a waste of time to engage in stupid controversies, it doesn’t actually help.

How does your arguing reflect the God we Christians worship, who hates nothing he has made and forgives the sins of all who are penitent (BCP 264)?

How do your opinions demonstrate your “new and contrite heart” and the humility of one who remembers “that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”?

How does your evidence against someone point to the God of all mercy and the “perfect remission and forgiveness” he offers for everyone?

How do your dismissive comments acknowledge your own “wretchedness”?

Pro tip: They don’t. Srsly.

Eager, not anxious

On Saturday mornings, we pray “that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of [God’s] sanctuary” (BCP 99).

We are anxious about so many things, and the news cycle and social media feed that anxiety. We feel like we have to be up-to-date, have to weigh in, have to have an opinion on everything.

What if we were instead eager for one thing?

What if we were eager to rest in God’s grace, so freely given to us, so freely shared with everyone?

What if we were eager to share that grace ourselves?

What if instead of arguing, we tried listening? Instead of offering opinions, we shared experiences? Instead of listing the evidence against, we tried hearing the evidence for? Instead of dismissing, we tried admitting?

What if we admitted other people into the rest we share? What if we admitted them into the sanctuary?

What if, instead of Nathanael’s snarky “Can anything good come from there?” we offered our humble invitation: “Come and see”?

Advertisements

Out of the depths

74585-From-the-bottom-of-the-well_view

 

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

I’m not sure these were the exact words Joseph said to himself as he looked up from the bottom of the pit his brothers had thrown him into (Genesis 37:12-24).

It’s kind of strange that they’re the words we say (Canticle 13) right after we read that lesson from Genesis at Morning Prayer today.

But it’s also kind of appropriate, this juxtaposition between the bottom of the pit and God’s glory, especially during the season of Lent.

Lent makes us mindful how far we are from the glory God intends for us.

Lent reminds us in Paul’s words that “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).

This particular Lent reminds me, as I work the steps in my recovery process, that I “could not manage [my] own [life]; that probably no human power could have relieved [my problem]; that God could and would if He were sought” (Big Book 60).

The collect we usually read on Tuesday mornings also feels especially appropriate when we consider God’s goodness — God’s choosing us — in the face of our own sin and the predicaments we find ourselves in.

A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

Step Four on Ash Wednesday

genuflect

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

(Psalm 32:5-6)

A couple of weeks ago my AA sponsor and I knelt together as I prayed that God would “relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do his will … and take away my difficulties, that my victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life” (Big Book 63).

This prayer of abandonment to God’s will is what AA calls Step Three and what the Book of Common Prayer calls in the Ash Wednesday liturgy “a right beginning of our repentance, and a mark of our mortal nature” (BCP 265).

Today Lent begins, and for me a very particular process of self-examination and repentance.

I have reached the point in my recovery where it’s time to begin Step Four — to conduct a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of myself — and then to take Step Five, to admit to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.

Though I have been in the Church all my life, I am beginning to understand for myself the wisdom of traditional practices like Confession, what the Book of Common Prayer calls Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP 447). We need at times to write down what we’ve done wrong, to say it out loud to another person, and to hear from them our Lord’s assurance of forgiveness.

Lent is a particularly appropriate time for this hard and holy work, and I am embracing it gladly as my main observance this year.

And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart,
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
(Canticle 14, BCP 91)

Whatever you may decide to do to mark this Lent, I invite you to take it seriously but joyfully.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer (BCP 265).

Daily Office Basics

Daily Office Basics

The Daily Office Anchor Society will be actual, not just virtual, in February.

Join me on Saturday, February 15 from 8:30 to noon at St. Thomas Church, 226 Washington Street, Menasha WI 54952 for a program on Daily Office Basics.

Many Christians choose to observe Lent with “special acts of discipline or self-denial” such as praying Morning or Evening Prayer.

On February 15, you will not only learn how to pray the Church’s daily offices but you will also receive a variety of resources to help you navigate what may be an unfamiliar or confusing practice. We will have plenty of time for questions and sharing with each other.

We will enjoy coffee and light refreshments at 8:30 am and begin with Morning Prayer at 9 am. The program will conclude promptly at noon.

Beginning the Office

Prefer Nothing to Christ

Yesterday we prepared to say the Office by finding our place in the Book of Common Prayer and marking various places in the prayer book and Bible for easy reference.

Today we will begin the Office, looking at the opening sentences, the Confession of Sin, the Invitatory and Psalter.

Tomorrow we will look at the Lessons and Canticles, and the next day at the Prayers.

Where to begin?

The proper beginning of Morning Prayer is the opening sentences on BCP 80: “Lord, open our lips. / And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

At Evening Prayer (and other offices throughout the day), the opening sentences are “O God, make speed to save us. / O Lord, make haste to help us.” (BCP 117).

You’ll notice, though, that there are several pages of material printed before those opening sentences. You may choose to begin the Office with a seasonal sentence from Scripture and/or the Confession of Sin.

Seasonal Sentences

Look at BCP 75-78. You’ll see four pages of Scripture verses chosen to fit the seasons of the Church Year.

You might choose to begin the Office with one of these sentences in order to give your prayers the “flavor” of the season. This is especially helpful to distinguish seasons like Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, from the long “ordinary” seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost.

Since it’s Advent now, you might choose to begin with “Watch, for you do not know when the master of the house will come …” (BCP 75). Over the next four weeks, you might change it up a little by using one of the other two choices.

Confession of Sin

Look at BCP 79. The italics at the very top of the page are called rubrics. They are directions telling you what to do next.

In this case, the rubrics say, The following Confession of Sin may be said; or the Office may continue at once with “Lord, open our lips” (BCP 79).

“May” is an important word in the rubrics, and it means what it says. You don’t have to say the Confession every time you say the Office; you may say it.

Many people who say both Morning and Evening Prayer choose to say the Confession only in the evening.

In this somewhat more penitential season of Advent, and certainly in the season of Lent, it may seem right to say the Confession at every Office. Again, the choice helps us focus on the season of the Church Year and its emphases.

At any rate, if you’re saying the Office alone, you can omit the introduction to the Confession and simply start, “Most merciful God …”

When you say the absolution at the top of BCP 80, change the pronouns from “you” to “us” — you’ll see the rubrics there to remind you.

The Invitatory and Psalter

Everything we’ve said so far is optional, remember. You could simply begin the Office here on BCP 80 with “Lord, open our lips.”

It’s customary to make a sign of the cross with your thumb over your lips when you say “Lord, open our lips” at Morning Prayer and to make the regular sign of the cross at the sentence “O God, make speed to save us” at the other offices.

Here’s how it goes:

Lord, + open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Alelluia.

Pause here for breath while we talk about …

The Invitatory Psalm

The Office begins with a selection from the Psalter, which you looked up in the Daily Office Lectionary and marked with a bookmark. Before you say those Psalms, however, you say the Invitatory (or opening) Psalm.

There are two Invitatory Psalms, called Venite and Jubilate after the first word of the Psalm in Latin: “Come” and “Be joyful,” respectively.

Because the Venite is commonly used all the time as the Invitatory, you might like to use the Jubilate during Advent and Lent, just to set the season apart a little. There’s also a special canticle called Pascha nostrum, or “Christ our Passover,” that’s meant for use during Easter.

Again you’ll notice some optional material on BCP 80-82 before the Invitatory Psalms are printed. These are antiphons, or refrains, which you may use in order to give a seasonal flavor to the Venite or Jubilate, which you say every day.

So today, saying the Jubilate might go something like this:

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.

The Psalm or Psalms Appointed

The Office continues with the Psalms appointed for the morning or evening.

You may say the “Glory to the Father” at the end of all the Psalms, or at the end of each individual Psalm.

Before you turn to the Psalms, though, let me suggest that you refer to the Table of Canticles that you printed out from the Resources page and taped here at BCP 84. Move your Morning Prayer bookmark or ribbon to mark the canticle assigned to follow the first reading.

Today is Monday, for example, so Canticle 9 is appointed to follow the OT reading.

IMG_0008

If you take a moment now to mark it, you can read the Psalms, then turn directly to the OT lesson, then when you come back here, you can continue on with the Office very smoothly.

What you’re doing with your Morning Prayer bookmark or ribbon is holding your place in the service as you turn to the other resources you need for the Office: the Psalms, the Scripture readings, the Collects and other prayers.

We’ll look in more detail at the Lessons and the Canticles tomorrow morning.

Until then, I hope the Office is beginning to feel a bit more manageable. Every blessing!

Merciful promise beyond all measure

genuflectOne of the niceties of the Daily Office during Lent is that Canticle 14: A Song of Penitence is appointed to be read on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings and on Monday evenings.

See the canticle itself on BCP 90, the table of when canticles are to be read on BCP 144, and handy versions of the tables to place in your prayer book on the Resources page of this blog.

Canticle 14 comes from the Prayer of Manasseh, one of the books in the Apocrypha. These are books which were in the Hebrew Scriptures around the time of Christ and used by Christians from the beginning.

The apocryphal books still commonly appear interleaved among the Old Testament books in Roman Catholic Bibles. In some Protestant Bibles, they are separated into a section called the Apocrypha and located between the Old and New Testaments. In most Protestant Bibles today, however, they are omitted entirely.

But I digress.

The reason I like this canticle so much is what it teaches us about penitence during this season of Lent.

All things quake with fear at your presence;
they tremble because of your power.
But your merciful promise is beyond all measure;
it surpasses all that our minds can fathom.

The God who “made the heavens and the earth, with all their vast array” is the “same Lord whose property is always to have mercy” (BCP 337). The character of God is goodness toward God’s creation.

The loveliest line in the canticle comes next:

And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart,
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and I know my wickedness only too well.

Consciousness of God’s grace comes with a consciousness of our own sinfulness. It is entirely appropriate for us to “bend the knee of our heart.” However, our sin is not the point, and dwelling on (or wallowing in) our sin is not what God desires.

For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent,
and in me you will show forth your goodness.
Unworthy as I am, you will save me,
in accordance with your great mercy,
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.

What a wonderful prayer to make four times a week during Lent! What a wonderful witness to the world, our repentance and our praise of God’s goodness.

The prayer book rubrics drily note that the Canticle is suitable for “other penitential occasions,” too. I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the Canticle or reading the Prayer of Manasseh, bending the knee of your heart, and then praising God for “merciful promise beyond all measure.”