day of prayer

National Day of Prayer, So what?

Thursday, May 1st is a national day of prayer.  So what? Do we really believe this is going to change anything? It might!

I think it depends on the attitude in which we approach this “Day of Prayer”…Do we come willing to accept guidance? Or are we just looking for blessing?

Standish, in his book Becoming a Blessed Church, describes a spiritual affliction. This affliction manifests itself in “little expectation that members will experience and encounter God, or connect what they do to God’s purpose, presence, and power.”

It sounds absurd when put like that, but its true. In our churches we don’t expect to encounter God’s purpose, presence, and power. We pray because we know we are supposed to. We pray because, “Eh, it can’t hurt.” and We pray because we’ve run out of other ideas. We pray because it is a “Day of Prayer.” God save us from this type of praying!

A seminary professor of mine, Father Gabig, described prayer as “wasting time with God.” He did not mean that prayer is a waste of our time. He meant that our prayer is like the time we spend with our families, and our friends, where it doesn’t matter what we do. We just want to spend time together. Prayer begins here, spending time with God. When we spend time with God and in His presence, we become attuned to His purpose, and we unleash His power.

I pray to you now God, may tomorrow be a time when we become attuned as a people, as a church, and as a nation to your presence. May we seek your Purpose for us, rather than merely asking your blessing on our own agenda. And may we allow your Holy Spirit to be at work in us, not just tomorrow, but everyday in our daily life and work. May we, by your grace and power, become a people who pray without ceasing, always seeking your presence, purpose, and power.

If you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for you can check out the Book of Common Prayer’s list of Prayer’s here.

To find Day of Prayer events in your area you can go to the official day of prayer webpage: their event finder can put you in touch with local places to go and pray.

Finally, if you are looking for a way to become more in tune with God’s Purpose, Presence and Power as a Church, or Church leader, I HIGHLY recommend this book: Becoming a Blessed Church Becoming a Blessed Church:  Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and PowerN. Graham Standish; Alban Institute 2004WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Happy Easter or Festival of the Resurrection?

Do you celebrate Easter, or do you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Some would say this is just semantics…but are Easter and the Resurrection the same thing?

This is a tough topic, but I think it must be said. At the Church I attended on Easter we had the Easter Bunny come by and we had an egg hunt for the kiddos. We also had AWESOME music…Handel’s Alleluia Chorus, He is Risen. The Risen Lord Christ was proclaimed in the liturgy and in the word John 20:1- 18…BUT we fell short in one area…

The talking points of the sermon were these :(this is straight out of the bulletin)

Five most common regrets expressed by people
on their death beds:
1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to  myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

After these talking points the priest talked about the gospel. How Mary was so wrapped up in her own worries that she couldn’t see the risen Lord right in front of her.

So what’s the problem here? Everyone was happily nodding along with the points…The central message of the sermon that the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior means that we are to live a happy life without regrets. That is NOT the message of the gospel. It is my contention that when we talk about Easter, we leave room for confusion about what we really are celebrating, and why.

Back to my topic…Easter is the English/Germanic name for the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, see here for more details on the origins of the name Easter. So in theory, because Easter is just another name for the Resurrection feast there is no problem with using it. But in reality there is a deep problem. Easter as a term has lost its theological freight. We no longer associate it with the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We associate it with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. There is nothing wrong with eggs and bunnies. They too have Christian origins, see here. But, rather than supplemental symbols to help us see the fullness of what Easter means for Christians, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies have stolen the show. They have been allowed to overshadow the Resurrection.

My final point for using Festival of the Resurrection, is this. Easter has become just a day. It is a holiday where nominally Christian people post “Happy Easter” or “He is Risen” on their facebook. Yet Easter has no impact on their daily lives. Its a fun family day, but its over by Monday. The candy is all discounted, and the decorations put away until next year. Easter has become synonymous with Resurrection Sunday.

In the Church year Easter is not just a day, it is a season. Eastertide or the Festival of the Resurrection lasts from Easterday until the day of Pentecost. The fullness of the season allows for time not just to remember an event long past, but also remember that this event is ongoing in its consequences for the World. Jesus is the firstfruit of the Resurrection that awaits all in the last day.

Let us recapture the FULLNESS of Easter, not just as a day which somehow makes us feel better about our lives, but as a real celebration of the historical miracle that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life, and that we can have new life in him.

It is my contention that the word “Easter” has lost its theological meaning and significance. We either need to reeducate our people on its true meaning, or stop using it. Either way we cannot allow it to be a veil that distances the hearer from the true meaning of what we are celebrating: Alleluia, Alleluia The Lord is Risen!

An Apology for Ecumenism: Pax Nashotah

St. Mary's Chapel

Inside St. Mary’s Chapel

Ecumenism between the Anglican Church of North America and The Episcopal Church, when rancor abounds.

A firestorm has surrounded my beloved Nashotah House about the invitation of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori. You may ask, so what? What does this invite have to do with apologetics or ecumenism…

Well, Bishop Schori is actively suing members of Nashotah’s Board of trustees, and several faculty lost their priest credentials in the Episcopal Church. She holds some questionable, if not outright heretical theology. So WHY invite her?

The idea was the brainchild of a few students, particularly Deacon Terry Starr, who was told by Schori not to go to Nashotah, because Nashotah taught hate. The invitation was issued to prove her wrong and model Christ’s love. At its heart it is ecumenism at its finest.

Yet the firestorm, and blowback arose because the internet began circulating that she was going to preach, and even celebrate Communion. That is FALSE!

To quote an article from VirtueOnline:

“The thought of her preaching at Nashotah is beyond reasonable, like inviting the fox into the hen house. Hence, two bishops have publically vocalized their disdain and have used their feet to distance themselves from the Wisconsin seminary. As the story continued to unfold, it was learned that in actuality the XXVI Presiding Bishop was not being invited to preach at The House because of her questionable theological stances, her lack luster preaching ability, or her embracing the hot button issues which have divided the church. Instead, after discernment with the Board of Trustees, the three inquiring students and select faculty members with soul searching prayer, Bishop Salmon determined that the prominent Wisconsin seminary could reach out to Katharine Jefferts Schori with the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ being presented in a graceful, non-judgmental loving manner thus graphically showing that her misconceptions and negative opinions about Nashotah House are unfounded. ”

To prove her misconceptions wrong…sounds like apologetics and ecumenism at its finest to me. Sadly, in the firestorm and upheaval, we lost our brother, Deacon Terry Star. He died of a heart attack. To read more about Deacon Starr go here.

I can only say what I believe. Spiritual warfare was ongoing. Ecumenism and apologetics are of God. When we cut off dialogue, we prevent healing.

For this reason I pray…

As I sit, in silent contemplation,

I pray to thee, heal thy nation.

Like branches, grafted on the tree are we.

Yet, trembling and bending, some are breaking free.

Help us now, before we dost prune,

to see thee in them, erst callously we not commune.

Thou art God, and thee alone,

Jesus for all, our cornerstone.

In fertile soil the tree is planted.

Aid our arguments, so that thou art not supplanted.

Faith, Hope and Love, I know these to be true.

For love of Christ, I will dialogue with you.

What do hot coffee lawsuits have to do with apologetics?

What does a “frivolous” lawsuit have to do with apologetics? As it turns out, a lot!

Stella Liebeck spilled 8 ounces of McDonald’s coffee on herself and awarded $2.9 million from a lawsuit. If you’re like me you remember this case well. It was on every talk show and news station, and even Seinfeld and Toby Keith made a joke about it…What a ridiculous, frivolous lawsuit…or was it?

I came across this video from Upworthy, that tells the other side of the case. The side no one heard was that this woman needed skin grafts to cover over burns from super-heated coffee. In the video, John Llewellyn, a Professor of Communication at Wake Forest University had this to say:

“Vey much like urban legends, It is a very compelling story, once everybody decides what is true about something, and the media has been sort of an echo chamber for it, then how do you deal with the fact that they might be wrong.”

This got me thinking about another thing people and the media get wrong: the idea that God is obsolete and Science can explain everything. If you’re like me you’ve heard this repeated, A LOT! But is it really true?

Science has made God obsolete and irrational…

Alister McGrath sets out to challenge this view in his book, Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths. He states that the view of God as obsolete has itself become obsolete. It is a myth founded in rationalism, the idea that you can know everything by reason alone. Yet in our modern and very scientific day we still can’t prove the sun will rise tomorrow, we take it on faith, based on history.

Is faith in God, based on the history of the life of Jesus Christ really any different? The intellectual and media would say, Yes! Faith is irrational! But what if they’ve got it wrong? Just like we were all wrong about poor Stella Liebeck.

So in John Llewellyn’s words, “how do you deal with the fact that they might be wrong?” And the answer is…apologetics. Apologetics does not create faith. “The aim of apologetics is to create an intellectual and imaginative climate favorable to faith; it does not itself create that faith.”[1]

[1] McGrath, Alister E. (2010-12-21). Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths: Building Bridges to Faith Through Apologetics (Kindle Locations 782-783). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.