Devotional


John of PatmosA hymn for this Sunday, when it will be sung in public for the first time at the Heinz Chapel, University of Pittsburgh. The tune will be ‘Holy Manna’, although any 8787D tune should work. Feel free to use it, as long as you use the copyright line as printed below.

Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,
Jesus, risen from the dead.
Of all earthly kings the ruler,
Yet He suffered in our stead:
Here to You Who loved completely
praise we sing and worship give,
By Your blood from sin You freed us,
Now in You we freely live.

Jesus Christ, High Priest, ordaining
us Your priestly kingdom now,
Priests to God Your loving Father,
Use us, though we know not how.
For to You is all the glory,  
All dominion of all men,
To Your will both now and ever
we give gladly our ‘amen’.

Jesus Christ is soon returning,
See Him with the clouds descend.
Every eye on earth will see Him,
All pretences then must end.
All who pierced Him, all who mocked Him,
All the earthly tribes will wail,
See at last their idols broken,
See their earthly kingdoms fail.

Jesus, Alpha and Omega,
First and Last and all between!
He Who is and was and will be,
God most mighty to redeem!
God most holy, holy, holy,
God the everlasting Son,
God the Spirit in us moving,
God, eternal Three in One!

Words: John of Patmos, 1st century AD (Revelation 1.4–8, 4.8); metrical setting © Philip Wainwright (2013); tune: Holy Manna

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glastonbury timWhen it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.  Matthew 27.57–61

Traditionally, Joseph’s role in the story of Jesus has been understood simply as the fulfilment of prophecy: he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53.9). But we might expect ‘making his grave with the rich’ to have a significance of its own—if it was only that a rich man would be involved, what would be the purpose of the prophecy? Perhaps more important than Joseph’s wealth is his discipleship. He has listened to Jesus’s teaching, and unlike the leading disciples, who drift away in despair, disappointed in their hope, he takes the body of Jesus, and puts it in the place prepared for his own dead body. In the Greek, ‘his own’ is emphasised. A nice bit of teaching, right up there with Jeremiah buying the field or Hosea marrying the whore: Jesus died in my place. Makes all attempts to put it into words seem very clumsy indeed.

And so the proclamation of salvation begins, even before the resurrection is known, outside the corridors of ecclesiastical power. Alleluia!

I can’t remember where I picked this one up, and I don’t know who wrote it, but it’s a great hymn for this coming Sunday. I suggest the tune Nyland, which is No 655 in the 1982 Hymnal.

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of knowing Thy presence all our days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness before Thy glorious face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, O Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

And I make the organist add ‘Amen’ whether he likes it or not! It is a sung prayer, after all…

With Thanksgiving Vespers at hand this evening, I briefly considered reading an old time sermon for tonight.  A quick Google search with the words “Anglican, Episcopal, sermon, Thanksgiving” yielded this interesting tidbit from Absalom Jones at Project Canterbury.  It seems especially apropos considering the OT Reading in the Lectionary for Thanksgiving Day.

There are many chains that human sinfulness places into the hands of Satan, whereby we are made slaves.  It can be the literal slavery of Israel or the African diaspora in America.  It can be the figurative slavery of drugs and alchohol, codependent relationships, or a broken sexuality.  Yet I am reminded of the chorus of an old Gospel song, “Jesus breaks every fetter.  Jesus breaks every fetter.  Jesus breaks every fetter, and He sets me free.”  Let us give thanks to the God who rescues us from shackles both without and within.  He who the Son sets free is “free indeed” (John 8:36).

Most Episcopalians know Isaiah 31.15, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength’ from the healing service in the Book of Occasional Services, where it implies ‘there, there, calm down, everything will be all right’.

Dick Lucas puts the verse back in context and discovers a serious warning to the church in a recent sermon at St Helen’s Bishopsgate, in London. Download and listen to an MP3 of the sermon here, free.

19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:19-25)

I occasionally wander over to episcopalcafe.com to see what those with whom I typically disagree are saying.  I typically find the theological posts a mixed bag, but perhaps worth engaging in a conversation.  Then I begin to read the comments, and after a good many “hurray for how enlightened we are” posts, I decide a reply would be ill-advised.  Their blog’s purpose is intended as a support for likeminded individuals, not as an open forum for debate.  And while I might have a valid point to consider, that is not the forum in which to present it.  To do so would weaken any potential witness I might have in a different venue and to essentially destroy any credibility that I genuinely care for them.

Then I wander over to covenant-communion.net and interact with those who with whom I tend to have more in common, and we engage in lively debate.  Occasionally we step on each other’s toes, but most of us go out of our way to ensure what we are saying is presented winsomely, yet not skirting around the passion we have for our convictions.  The blog is intended to be an open forum, but has occasionally attracted a few people who have been ill-equipped in reining in their more caustic comments, and sadly a few people who may have once been open to hearing opposing viewpoints have disengaged.  So the system is imperfect, but the intentionality is there.

Then I wander over to standfirminfaith.com, where I once contributed comments some years ago, but have since found to be more of a fan club for those who want to stick it to TEC than as a source of news and pointed commentary and debate over how best to address the current crisis in the Anglican Communion and its fall-out as it once was intended.  For me to defend staying in TEC, but to do so without some hidden agenda to buck against the system in ways that I find to be counterproductive to the Gospel, is not really welcome in that environment.

Evangelicals have convictions about Scripture, Christ, evangelism, and truth that demand a hearing.  Yet we are also instructed to share those convictions in ways that demonstrate those convictions have indeed changed us in demosntrable ways.  This past Sunday’s lectionary reading in Galatians on the fruit of the Spirit reminds us that there is a standard of Christian character that God is producing in us.  We admire prophets and preachers who warn the world of sin and its just consequences.  But we must remember that Jesus is not in the business of breaking bruised reeds, either.  So to show an awareness of one’s words and contexts for sharing the truth of the Gospel is mandatory if we hope to gain a hearing, whether in the Church or the world at large.  It also shows that not only our minds are being sanctified by the truth of the Word in our beliefs, but that our hearts are being sanctified as seen by the fruit of the Spirit in our actions and words.

Gracious Father, grant by your Spirit that we may always show charity in our conversations about the truth of your sacrificial love to us through Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

A dying man writes to dying men

Mark Ashton, whose death we reported last week, wrote a book about life since he was diagnosed with cancer that is a real corker. It’s called On my way to heaven: Facing death with Christ, and costs about $3, depending on the exchange rate the day you buy. Here are some extracts:

‘God has done all things well, and I believe He is doing this thing well too. He is taking me back to Himself when I have all my faculties, when I am still active in ministry, when my family have reached independence with their own spouses and careers, and when my wife still has the energy and vitality to face a new life-stage…

‘I can now see that much of what I have striven for and much of what I have allowed to fill my life these 40 years have been of dubious value. I am not now going to gain any further reputation or achieve anything more of significance, and I realise how little that matters. As I start to clear up my effects, I recognise how I have allowed them to clutter my life and how little I have actually needed them…

‘While physical things spoil and go dim, spiritual things grow brighter and clearer. I see my sin very clearly. I see how much it still controls my life. I think how little time I have got left to make further progress against my pride, my irritability, my grumpiness, my selfishness. I need to keep short accounts now, because I may never have time to make amends or apology in this life…

‘The Bible speaks to me with ever greater authority and relevance. Each day as I open it, God speaks straight into my heart by his Word. And it tells me of what lies beyond this life. I can see the end of life. It looms over the horizon, and I am encouraged to think it will not now be long before I am there.’

Not on Amazon, but you can order a copy here.

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