People of the Spirit, worshiping Jesus in all places, at all times

Posts tagged ‘Gospel’

Parish, Mission, Campus

This morning marks the beginning of a new campus ministry endeavor. This is now my 8th academic year as a campus minister. I served in campus ministry as a student, as well, so I’ve been doing this work at Geneva College for over a decade in one form or another. I started it as a Pentecostal who was attending a reformed charismatic congregation, and now continue as a priest in the Church, in the Anglican tradition. There’s a lot of change and adjustment and healing that has occurred in that decade.

One of the fascinating elements of the Anglican tradition is the parish system. There are boundaries and responsibilities that the local church and its clergy have for particular geographical areas. John Wesley and the others of the Anglican clergy working with him got in trouble with several bishops because of the boundary crossing he did in dioceses and parishes alike. But the parish model is a good thing–and the sense of responsibility for ministry that it encourages tends toward the overall health of the Church and congregations.

Campuses occupy an interesting place in that. Historically, universities had their own assigned clergy, and they were not attached to the local parish. Higher education has its traditional notions of its autonomy and it isn’t likely to release that anytime soon. So even in America, even in a day of non-sectarian schools and the emergence of the parachurch, the college campus will brook no outside assignment.

So, I’m a priest in the parish of Ambridge, in the diocese of Pittsburgh. I’m also a campus minister with the Coalition for Christian Outreach, assigned to Geneva College. There’s a local Anglican parish with its own clergy and leadership who have responsibility for ministry in Beaver Falls. So, in bridging these, I have a responsibility for ministry on the campus, and to connect students with the local parish, so far as it is possible. Despite the oddities of organizational boundaries, what we are united by is a common love for Jesus Christ and His gospel of grace. We share a common desire to see students liberated by His absurd love. And we have each been given a place to speak, to honor Christ, and to hear and pray with the community of the campus in our own roles–one as the parish, one as the itinerant. God bless us all, and let us with one voice offer God the praise through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with Him and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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[Worship Practice] 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Dcn. Ben leading a team (vocals, guitar, drums, keyboard)
  • Scripture: Truth (Revelation 3:14-22 and Psalm 16), Dcn. Laura (John 6:56-69)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Everlasting God
  • We Will Feast in the House of Zion
  • Here in Your Presence
  • Before the Throne of God Above

Offertory

  • Lord, Enkindle Me

Communion

  • Refiner’s Fire
  • Lord, I Need You

Dismissal

  • Nothing But the Blood

Collect for the Day

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I read an article recently about things that small churches should do. #5 on that list was that they should start at time, and that waiting for a critical mass to gather to start doesn’t help. I fully believe and support that. I try–I really do–but it’s not something that happens despite all. I vested 10 minutes before service. The music team ceased rehearsal 5 minutes before service. I thought we’d pray and get done on time….but no. Folks scattered, dispersed, conversed, and then I find out that my dear rector has “sabotaged” my efforts by making the clock slow by a few minutes. What can a man do?

We prayed and took our respective places. I welcomed everyone and voiced expectation that we would encounter and hear the Word of God in our worship and invited everyone to engage in that expectation. We proceeded through the Acclamation, Summary of the Law, Confession, Absolution and Comfortable Words smoothly before entering our songs of praise. The worship was preparatory, acknowledging God’s presence, emphasizing the need for hearing God’s Word. Dcn. Ben’s leadership is often pastorally sensitive to the condition of the parish. In the silence afterward, a parishioner read from Colossians about the glory and kingship of Christ as He stands sovereign over all creation. I also had an impression to speak a word of assurance. So, addressing the fear of what might be exposed or brought to light in speaking boldly or giving testimony for Christ, I read from the first few verses of Romans 8, and then picked up the final flourish from “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The Collect for the Day felt like a seal and response to the beginning of our worship.

As we listened to the reading of the Scriptures, prayed the Psalm, and stood hearing the Gospel, the juxtaposition of the letter to the church in Laodicea with the challenge of Jesus to the Twelve to forsake him because of hard teaching highlighted the words of Peter, “Where else will we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Even as Fr. Dennett preached on the realities of our life in America as very much like that in Laodicea–wealth, power, self-confidence, and ease of self-deception to detract us from the love of God in Christ. It was a powerful call to repentance–a reminder that repentance is the substance of our discipleship, and that the love of God to offer forgiveness and hope to all who repent remained constant.

What was experienced by the rest of the parish, I’m not sure of. For myself, I was keenly aware of the lack of holiness, and my presumption in the different ways I’ve tried to reflect holiness–the definite need for repentance. As we concluded the Ministry of the Word with the Creed and the Prayers of the People, that was my work. Fr. Dennett handled the announcements–which were extensive due to an appeal for participation in a healing care group that is starting in the parish and by an interview by one of our seminarians of two Kenyan seminarians about their summers at home, and where they are coming from, and what God is doing in their dioceses. Church of the Savior has long supported and welcomed students from across the globe into their community.

From the offertory into the Ministry of the Table, there was a restless quiet as some members of the parish had a ministry–a community lunch– to prepare for as the service was running long. My sense of responsibility in that is I will do my best, but the Sacrament is to be celebrated and received in reverence. So, there was no hurry in moving through the Holy Communion, and as the parish received, we went through two songs in worship (contrasting to our usual one). To me, the Table was an answer to my repentance, a Word for my hunger and desire for the holiness of God. It was not made or earned or taken by me. It was given freely, graciously, and fully by Christ. And that bread and cup were sufficient. I had no hunger–not even physical hunger–after that. That is the faithfulness of the Jesus who speaks to His Church so constantly and truthfully.

[Worship Practice] 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a team (vocals, guitars, drums)
  • Scripture: Michael (Revelation 2:18-29 and Psalm 78:1-13), Dcn. Laura (John 6:24-35)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Indescribable
  • He is Exalted
  • All Creatures of our God and King
  • Agnus Dei

Offertory

  • More than Conquerors

Communion

  • Glorify Thy Name
  • King of Glory

Dismissal

  • Glorious Day

Collect for the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I must announce that I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that Church of the Savior will always start 5-10 minutes after the hour. Always. What is one to do? Lead as well as we can anyway, seems to be the answer.

“Tired” seemed to be a characteristic for our leadership coming in yesterday morning. In the group was a number of people who certainly have good reasons (new baby, or “flexible schedule” job, or a lot of recent travel or out-of-town people visiting). So, as we prayed before the service, I was conscious of our need for God and grateful for the opportunity for us to acknowledge that He’s the one who does the heavy lifting in our worship anyway. So, we clung to his promises.

I welcomed the congregation with “It is good to be together in the house of the Lord.” I spoke of expectations and, responding to some reading I’ve done recently, rather than speaking of inviting God into what we were doing, I felt it was more truthful to affirm that God has already been present, and had been preparing both the space and us for what He would do in revealing Himself in our midst. We began the service with the usual acclamation, the summary of the Law, confession, absolution and the Comfortable Words before responding with songs of praise.

The Songs of Praise thematically focused on the exaltation and glory of Jesus the King. The awareness of God’s presence that we began with intensified as we declared His kingship, glory, worthiness, power, and grace. Some of us were driven to our knees in adoration of Jesus. It concluded with silence–stillness and worship at the glorious, gracious God we have been delivered by. That silence was only broken to pray our collect for the day, acknowledging again our need for God to act in us in order for anything to happen through us.

The reading of the Scriptures was similarly oriented to acknowledging God’s glory and judgment, and the Gospel story of Jesus’ rebuke of selfish pursuits of God, with the gracious invitation to take of the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Himself, translated that encounter of God’s presence into terms of Law and Gospel. This was a preparation for Stevan’s preaching from the the letter to the Church in Thyatira, a congregation filled with compromise of the heart, but exhortation for the faithful. The Law was heavy for those who were following false teaching, but the Gospel (“I lay no other burden on you!”) was gentle and comforting. Jesus is coming, and thank God, our call to faithfulness is to hold on.

It was difficult to just continue with the Creed at that point. I sometimes feel we need to sit with God’s Word, and allow some kind of spontaneous response, but the nature of the sermon itself, which so effectively communicated Law and Gospel to the individuals and community in our parish, would have had us sitting in silence. Maybe that’s the right response. We continued with the Prayers of the People, announcements (very briefly), and entered offertory and the ministry of the Table. We were blessed to have many of our seminarians returned, and to welcome them at the Table was a joyful occasion.

At the benediction, I felt prompted to give a Scriptural exhortation from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” The assurance of God’s presence among us as we went out felt needful as we departed, so I delivered this Scripture promise and pronounced God’s blessing on the people. “One day He’s coming, oh Glorious Day!”

 

 

 

PS: All this, and we concluded 15 minutes earlier than the congregation is accustomed…God only knows how, because we didn’t cut anything. AND a number of the congregation stayed longer to fellowship and talk following the service.

[Worship Practice] 9th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Martha (Revelation 2:1-11 and Psalm 22:22-31), Dcn. Laura (Mark 6:30-44)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • O Worship the King
  • He Reigns
  • Reign in Me Again
  • It is Well (Through It All)

Offertory

  • Royal Blood

Communion

  • Jesus, All For Jesus

Dismissal

  • O Church Arise

Collect for the Day

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Note: I will have to keep this short as I am writing from my phone. My computer logic board is shorted out so I need to wait before I can get it repaired.

This Sunday marked an important development in the life of Church of the Savior. They have worshipped in the current building for 14 years–and through that time have been rehabbing the building. The work began to slow down after a decade of work and the sanctuary remained unfinished as we worshipped week after week. Through one of my recruits and leaders in the Village Church–now a member of the vestry–and through several prophetic words and praying Scripture (especially Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), the parish set its sights on completing the work of the sanctuary. We raised some funds, had the drywall finished and prepped. This past week, the youth mission team from St. John’s, Franklin, painted the sanctuary walls, including an accent. It’s a tremendous difference and it was very encouraging for the parish to have a worship space that can welcome others more hospitable as we worship God.

Again, true to COTS tradition, we started our pre-worship prayers at 10:01 and began the service at 10:05. The opening dialogues and praise focused us on our unworthy state before the King, and the glorious Kingdom He is making of us anyway. When we finished “Through it All”, one of the music team spontaneously sparked singing the final two verses of “It is Well” (My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought… & And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight…). The reverent silence that followed was restful and confident. It enabled our hearts to be prepared for the collect–one of the Cranmer originals that declares that the primary demonstration of the King’s power is mercy and pity. That collect followed me through the rest of the service, and I wonder if it was on others’ minds as well.

The reading of the Scriptures proceeded as normal and Fr. Dennett preached through the first two letters to the churches in Revelation–highlighting the dangers of putting away our first love and of tribulation and suffering, but that in either case, looking to Jesus–to the King present with his Church and who holds authority over her and is sovereign over the world–is our rescue. There’s no room for legalism in these exhortations.

I offered the recitation or the Creed as a beginning point of repentance or as an anchor (whether you were listening from Ephesus or Smyrna) as we remembered the work of God. The prayers of the people were unusually brief, although there were a number of intercession offered. In announcements, our Junior Warden shared a summary of the mission work of St. John’s and upcoming projects for us.

Repentance and Renewal were both themes of “Royal Blood”, which allowed the sermon to continue through into the ministry of the Table. As we prayed and received the Holy Communion, it was definitely a time of submitting ourselves to the King–receiving from His Table and not trusting our own efforts and works, nor our ability to hang in there. The closing song’s marshaling call to mission was well-received as a result.

[Worship Practice] 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Tom and Kelli leading as small team (vocals, acoustic guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Pat (2 Timothy 3:10-17 and Psalm 119 105-112), Dcn. Laura (Mark 4:26-35)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Our God
  • Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble
  • I See Heaven
  • What a Beautiful Name

Offertory

  • There is a Fountain

Communion

  • O Come to the Altar
  • Lord, I Need You

Dismissal

  • Days of Elijah

Collect for the Day

O Lord, from whom comes all good things; grant us, your humble servants, the inspiration to always think and do those things which are good, and by your merciful guiding we may perform the same; through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.

We are rapidly approaching the close of our series on hearing God. After those of us providing leadership for Sunday morning prayed together, Tom–our music team leader for the day–pointed out that there was this tremendous peace present in the room. He was right. The presence of God’s peace in our midst before we even began to worship, was a reminder of healing, of the fruit of hearing from God, of being a people prepared to worship God. I greeted everyone and called attention to God’s presence and the ways that God was present to move in our lives. We proceeded through the opening confession, dialogues, and songs of praise.

During the time of listening for the Holy Spirit following the songs of praise, I was led to recount Jesus’ first proclamation of the Kingdom in the synagogue from Isaiah 61–especially highlighting the anointing, and that Jesus has shared that anointing with us by baptism. So, God was calling us to walk in that anointing–to preach Good News to the poor, to heal the sick, to set the oppressed free, to liberate the captives, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Fr. Dennett’s sermon focused on hearing God through the commands and insights of Holy Scripture–something we also have by way of the Holy Spirit. Following the Creed and Prayers of the People, we had a testimony delivered by a longtime parishioner, Dan, interviewed by our founding rector, Pastor Joe, which highlighted the mercy of God in revealing himself in the Scriptures and the community of believers hearing the Scriptures. The peace and joy of the testimony resonated with what God had been doing in the service. And that carried through our celebration of Holy Communion and dismissal, as the anointed ones in Christ were sent out.

The Spirit of Christmas is the Spirit of Pentecost

When we say “Spirit” in relationship to Pentecost, there’s a one-track hive mind for that. Of course we’re referring to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead. We’re speaking of the God who pours Herself out on the people of God, loosening their tongues in proclamation, their hearts in love, and their hands in generosity to one another and turning “the Other” into “another.” The Pentecostal Spirit brings forth the Church and reveals the Son of God in her midst.

By contrast, “the Spirit of Christmas” has a delightful ambiguity. Some people mean the core of the celebration: the incarnation of the Son of God. Then there’s those referring to some sense of spirit of generosity, charity, goodwill towards men, yada, yada, yada…and then there’s the lovely tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas (somewhat forgotten in the 21st century), or the three ghosts from A Christmas Carol. The point is, range of meaning here is wild and about as chaotic as your grandmother’s house at Christmas dinner.

But if you pay attention to the appointed readings (and I don’t know a church of any tradition that doesn’t have a liturgical commitment to the Nativity Gospels and the Isaiah predictions of the Son of God’s birth), the Holy Spirit is very much involved in Christmas. We hear the her voice all over the place, inspiring Joseph’s vision and commissioning angelic witnesses. We see the birth of the Son of God, whose conception was accomplished in Mary by the hovering Spirit of God. We see Mary pondering these things that happen in her heart, a gift of the Holy Spirit who causes God’s people to remember His mighty deeds. And, to this day, we see the Spirit of God bringing all these things to our remembrance–to reveal Jesus, to set us to proclaiming, loving, and sharing generously to one another (And making “the Other” into “another”). The Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit of Christmas, grounded in the flesh and blood of the Christ child.

Receive the Holy Spirit

On February 4, the Feast of St. Cornelius the Centurion, Bishop Hobby of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh ordained me a Priest in the Church. The worship of God’s people in the liturgy of Ordination and Eucharist was a holy moment– filled with praise, intercession, Scripture, a tender and bold word from my friend Jonathan Martin, and so much more. Dear friends and family, coaches and mentors, and colleagues in ministry gathered to participate in this sacred moment. There is a great deal about this day that is worthy and fruitful for reflection. But as a catholic Pentecostal, I want to hone in on a particular moment: the consecration of the priest.

In the plot of this liturgy (because every liturgy tells a story), this moment comes beyond the presentation and the ministry of the Word. It follows an exhortation by the bishop and the examination of the ordinand, ensuring their commitment to this calling. Then the congregation calls upon the Holy Spirit to come upon the ordinand by praying the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. Following that, the bishop prays. Then he– and other priests present– lay hands on the one to be ordained and says the following:

Receive the Holy Spirit for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to you by the Imposition of our Hands. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld. Be a faithful minister of God’s holy Word and Sacraments; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

He continues with more prayers for blessing and for effective preaching and teaching. It is a solemn moment, with the Spirit hovering over the people of God to do what the Spirit always does: to give “comfort, life and fire of love.”  The anointing of Priests going all the way back to the apostles, with the imposition of hands calls all the exhortations of the Apostle Paul to Timothy to mind. The charge to announce God’s forgiveness calls to mind John’s picture of the disciples receiving the Spirit after the Resurrection. The Prince of Peace appoints an ambassador.

What mission and ministry look like for this Priest, only God knows, but the need for the ability and willingness given by God alone is evident. Lord, have mercy.