Friday, July 16, 2010

How Firm a Foundation

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and submission to the Law; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.

The inner logic of the Great Litany moves from praying for deliverance from exterior forces to a recollection of those things God has done for us in Christ. By recalling them, we pray God to deliver us from all adversaries (physical and spiritual) by the interior power of faith in him. Such faith is always a gift from God, something for which we must be profoundly grateful. If that gratitude fades, our faith is at risk.

This portion of the Great Litany has the character of a Creed or summary of the key elements of the Faith. It also recalls passages from the Epistles of St. Paul where the Apostle briefly summarizes the most important events in the life of Christ. These “proto-creeds” would be picked up by other early Christian writers (notably St. Ignatius of Antioch in several of his letters written on his way to martyrdom in Rome), forming the basis of the Creeds we use in worship today.

These petitions in the Litany makes very clear the centrality of historic Christianity in the Anglican faith. Many of the early heresies – and many modern mimics of these dead-ends in aberrant Christianity – obscure the fully human and fully divine nature of Christ with strange, convoluted, or imported ideas. Here, we are shown a Christ who was born into human life with all of its vulnerabilities and limitations, experienced pain, suffering, and death – while at the same time was (and is) the Son of God, bringing the divine into union with the human, rising from the dead and carrying our nature to the very throne of God. We also re-affirm the giving of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, that Spirit always pointing to the authentic Christ and the Faith revealed by the Scriptures as interpreted by the ancient and undivided Church.

This portion of the Litany functions rather like the foundation to a building. On the articles of faith we confess in these two petitions, the entire edifice of Christianity rests. The security and hope we seek in life cannot be had on any other terms but these. All attempts to fashion life on man-made comforts or controls lead to failure and frustration. By recalling what God has done for us in Christ, we are strengthened in the gift of faith. In so doing, we are renewed in confidence, courage, and strength to show forth God's power to love and redeem.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Sunday Bulletin: A Key to Parish Life

Each Sunday St. Timothy’s publishes a service bulletin. This simple 8 ½” x 11” folded sheet of paper provides a great deal of information in a small space. It has a number of purposes:

  1. To provide a “theme” or key to this Sunday’s worship and place in the Liturgical Year. This is achieved by the artwork and/or quote from the Scriptures or other source on the cover.
  2. When opened, a guide to the contents of the Holy Eucharist printed on the left side of the bulletin. Page numbers for relevant sections of the Book of Common Prayer are provided. Sung portions of the liturgy from the Hymnal are indicated by being capitalized. If a special insert containing prayers or music is to be used, this is also noted. This section is likely to be very useful to newcomers or newer members!
  3. On the right side of the bulletin’s inner face is a list of intercessions: those persons or concerns for which we are bidden to pray as a community. While St. Timothy’s has a Prayer Circle that prays for a wide variety of concerns through the week (you may call/e-mail the parish office, speak with the Rector, or contact Prayer Circle Coordinator Barbara Watson if you desire prayers to be added to this list), extremely urgent concerns or particularly significant thanksgivings are listed on the Sunday bulletin. Please add these names to your daily prayers.
  4. On the bottom of the right-side page is a brief list of services/events/observances during the week. Give this section a careful scan to see if something interests you!
  5. On the back of the bulletin are slightly more detailed announcements about parish activities, usually concluding with the parish Mission Statement. This is not institutional “fluff”: it is the tool we use to measure whether plans, goals, and activities are in harmony with our sense of calling from God. Get to know your parish Mission Statement and use it in your own Christian walk through the week.
The bulletin may include a number of inserts on any given Sunday. Most services have a pre-printed Scripture insert to help you follow the lessons read in the service or the content of the sermon. You may want to mark key passages for later study/reflection. There could be an insert with special prayers for this service. Other inserts with details of upcoming activities, worship services, and appeals for supporting a church-related mission opportunity may also be found. As you can see, this is a central way we communicate events in our common life.

Make sure to take your Sunday Bulletin home with you each week. Do not leave it at church to be recycled. It is meant to be used! Put it up on the refrigerator or other visible location at home and consult it often. It will help unlock some unintentional “mysteries” of parish life, and gradually familiarize you with the language, rhythm, and character of the Episcopal way of living out the Gospel.

(Image: Courtesy of The Cartoon Church)