Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ordination Announcement

God willing
George, Area Bishop of York-Simcoe
will ordain

Daniel Francis Graves

to the
Sacred Order of Priests
Christ’s Holy Catholic Church

on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Sunday, January 13th, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.

Holy Trinity Anglican Church
140 Brooke Street, Thornhill, ON L4J 1Y9

Your prayers and presence are requested

Reception to follow in the auditorium.

Clergy: Red Stoles

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reading the Bible – Part I: The Daily Office Lectionary as a Tool.

Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
-- The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent (Book of Common Prayer).

When I was in seminary, our dean was fond of reminding us that Anglicans read more Scripture than most other Christians. For those who follow the daily pattern of Morning and Evening prayer as set forth in the prayer book or any of our alternative forms, this is likely true. I think that a truer statement might be that Anglicans have opportunity to read more Scripture than most other Christians. In the parish I meet those who are deeply devoted to daily reading of Scripture and prayer. However, I also meet many who are deeply confused about how to approach the Bible, much less read it. This confusion often leads to embarrassment. Recently, in the parish, we have had some frank discussions in which several courageous individuals have expressed their confusion and embarrassment over how to approach the Bible and have asked for help.

First, there are many things that we may learn from the Bible, but as Christians we should hold fast to this important interpretive principle, that Bible contains God’s gracious self-disclosure of the Incarnate Word. This to say that in the written word we meet the Incarnate Word, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should approach Scripture with an expectation that we will meet our Lord. Of course, not every experience of reading Scripture will be a rapturous encounter. There is much to confuse us, sidetrack us, and much for us to misinterpret. However, as important as it is to understand Scripture, we must first cultivate the important discipline of reading Scripture. When we make time to read the Bible, we make space for God in our lives. Sometimes God will seem close and sometimes God will seem far, but God is faithful and will nor forsake us. We, too, are called to be faithful and one way in which we can do this is making the space for God through a ritual of daily Bible reading (whether or not the text makes any sense to us at the time!).

Making space for God through daily Bible reading is one thing, but if the Scriptures consistently fail to make any sense to us, our discipline of daily reading will soon fall apart as a meaningless exercise and our opportunity to encounter the Word in the word will be limited. We are blessed in our Anglican Tradition with a program for reading Scripture. Whether it is the intensive annual daily lectionary found in our traditional Book of Common Prayer, or the two-year cycle found in our Book of Alternative Services (in combination with a monthly or two-monthly recitation of the entire Psalter), we have a cycle of readings that makes some sense. During ordinary (that is, non-seasonal) time, readings from the Old Testament, the Epistles and the Gospels are mostly sequential readings through various books of the Bible. Many people begin their Bible reading at the beginning with Genesis, but quickly tire and fatigue after the narrative portions give way to Levitical Laws. The Daily Office lectionary attempts to present sequential pieces of Scripture in a sensible order, that the reader might get a sense of the narrative flow of Scripture, and thus be edified. To be sure, there are tough spots (Amongst my friends who pray the Daily Office, we often lament how difficult some of the latter portions of the Church Year can be through the tedious ramblings of II Kings). For the most part, though, we are able to enter into the narrative flow of both Old and New Testament narratives and lessons and the whole begins to make sense through the parts. During special seasons (Advent, Lent, Christmas/Epiphany, Easter) the sequences of readings tend to reflect the character of the season and allow the reader to begin to experience the change in liturgical time through the reading of Scripture.

It is not simply enough to read Scripture, though. It must be prayed. Again, our Daily Office of Morning and Evening prayer provides the context in which Scripture might be read and prayed. The reading of Scripture is punctuated by the recitation or singing of psalms and canticles. The choice of canticle can help us to highlight the season, and draw out in an emotional way some of the more intellectual concepts that we may have encountered in some of the narrative passages of Scripture. I always think of the readings for the Great Vigil of Easter in this way. At this service we always read the story of the Exodus, as told in narrative fashion, and then, immediately afterward, we sing it in the form of the Song of Miriam. This greatly deepens our understanding of the story at an emotional level. We begin to experience Scripture and not simply read it.

In Morning and Evening Prayer we combine the reading of Scripture with song, with praise, with petition and with periods of silence and meditation. In this context, day-by-day, Scripture begins to come alive for us, it begins to make sense to us, and we begin to feel it and allow it to become part of us and of our story. We encounter the Word in the word and begin to deepen our relationship with the living God who is confined not to the pages of a book but who lives and moves in us and animates our entire being.

Morning and Evening Prayer services can be found in both the Book of Common Prayer (page 1, page 17) and the Book of Alternative Services (page 47, page 61). Both the BCP and BAS contain lectionaries and instructions on how to use them (BCP page xvi, BAS, page 450). Another favourite resource, Celebrating Common Prayer, comes from the Anglican Franciscans and does a good job of highlighting seasonal cadences. Other daily Bible reading programs are available through both the Forward Movement in the United States, and the Bible Reading Fellowship in the U.K.
Next: Some useful tools to help us unlock difficult problems in the text.

Copyright 2007, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed, by any means, either in whole or part without the express written consent of the author.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sleepers Wake!

As we travel toward the longest evening of the year, as we near the shortest day, as darkness covers the face of the earth, St. Paul calls us to wake from our sleep. And as with most of our understanding of the gospel, we learn once again that the Kingdom of God is unlike the kingdoms of this world. As we go about our daily tasks in a world that never sleeps, never rests, in a world of continuous wakefulness, the message, “sleepers wake” sounds strangely counter-intuitive. Are we not already awake? Are we not in need of rest, especially at this most trying and exhausting time of the year? Would not the words of Jesus “come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest,” better suit us at this time? And yet, we remain confronted by the call, “sleepers wake!”

From what sleep are we called to emerge – just what is the slumber we are challenged to shake off? In the days of great darkness, a light arose in the midst of the people of Judea. While under the oppression of a tyrant king, who was a client of an oppressive empire, a new day dawned. In the face of a history of desecration of their holy place, in the loss of their hereditary priesthood, in a period of increasing darkness, a new dawn broke forth. The light shone forth through the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, and has not been able to overcome it. The call of the day was “sleepers awake!” Wake from your fear, wake from your sadness, wake from your cynicism, wake from your apathy, wake from the oppression that robs you of your life. But awake to what? What is it that jars us from our nocturnal existence?

“Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.”

Awake and behold the King of Glory, seated not on a majestic steed but on a humble mule, lowly and unbecoming. Awake, behold the King of Glory passes on his way and all of our dreariness shall be shaken from us. Our salvation draweth nigh, closer now than when we first believed.

Every year at this time we are reminded that our king cometh and we hear the call to awake, prepare for his coming. The old Law is fulfilled perfectly in Christ’s law of love. We hear the call to shake off the works of darkness and behold the dayspring from on high. The darkness, under which we slumber and are enslaved, is penetrated by the light of the world shining forth and drawing us into the light. At this time of year we ask ourselves what are the works of darkness that enslave us? Is it the busyness of the season? Is it the demands of family beyond what we can bear to accommodate? Is it the fear of not being able to “afford” a good Christmas? Is it the fear of being alone and forgotten as the busy world passes us by? The work of darkness that enslaves most of us is the sad truth that while our King cometh unto us, the King of Glory, we simply do not care. It is too easy to remain in the paradoxical slumber of our frenzied but lonely lives – it is too easy to embrace the darkness of apathy.

The people who caught a glimpse of their king that first Palm Sunday, who recognized him as their king, in spite of his lowly estate and the pathetic animal on which he rode; they welcomed him with palms and scattered garments strewed. They beheld their king coming unto them, they beheld the King of Glory and began to cast of the works of darkness, but were suddenly seized by fear and scepticism. “Crucify” was all their breath. And how many of those who shouted loud “Hosanna” stood at the foot of his cross a mere five days later?

Sleepers wake! Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed!

We have been baptized into the light of the new dawn, we have received the light of Christ as we rose from a watery grave, we have become heirs to a new kingdom. Why then, do we choose to return to that sepulchre of slumber. Have we not learned that the grave of death has been become a bed of hope for all people? Have we not risen to new life? Why, then, I ask again, do we choose to stay beneath the cover of darkness? Why do we continue to turn away from our Lord in our midst having once welcomed him with adoring loud hosannas now only to shout “crucify”? Each of us knows the answer in our own hearts. What will it take for you to don a garment of light this Advent season? What will it take for you to stand against the darkness of the season and the darkness of the human betrayal of this holy time? Will you stand against the powers of this world that draw us from the love of God, the love of our Lord so eloquently proclaimed by St. Paul? Will you say to those around you, “Lo, your king cometh unto you?” Will you proclaim not only with your lips but with your lives not the pomp and grandeur of this age but the subversive call to love against all hate? Will you dare to follow that lowly man from Nazareth who began his life in the lowliest of estates and comes to us riding on a lowly mule? Do you dare to cast off your fear, cast off your loneliness, cast of your dreariness and drowsiness and put on a garment of light?

Sleepers wake! The watch are calling! Lo, thy King cometh unto thee.

Follow him, stand with him in the light during this dark season, proclaim him and his love. Love others as he first loved you. Indeed our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. If you put on the garment of light, if you wake from this sleep, if you love as you were first loved, then God’s kingdom has come on earth.