Jesus said, “you know the way to the place where I am going”
Thomas replied, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus said “I am the way….”
We know where we are going: into the reign of God. We know the way. With a lot of patience and steadfast diligence, with a little humor and an unwavering focus, we are followers of the Way (one of the earliest descriptions of “Christians” see Acts 9:2). So what does that mean?
As the week ends try finishing this sentence 5 times “As a follower of the Way I . . . .”
Great Fifty Days of Easter
The feast of Easter is a season of fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost. From early times the Greek word pentecost (fiftieth day) was used also for the whole Paschal season. During this season there is no fasting. The Council of Nicaea (325) directed that Christians are to pray standing. The word “alleluia” (praise the Lord) is said or sung repeatedly, which contrasts sharply with the season of Lent when the alleluia is omitted. The color of liturgical vestments and hangings is white or gold.
Handout p. 1
Often, when someone has spoken or written well, and especially if I agree with what is being said, it is better for me to pass along the wisdom undisturbed (but properly attributed). Rather than tell you what you are about to read, I ask you to read it and think about it and let it be a part of our ongoing conversation.
The source for this extended quotation about posture and prayer: Patricia S. Klein, Worship Without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith, (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2000), pp. 127-130
Those new to the liturgical tradition may be startled by the considerable amount of movement during the service. The uninitiated may perceive no rhyme or reason to the bowing, the standing, the sitting, and the kneeling. Indeed, it may appear to have all the mystery of a secret handshake.
Bowing and kneeling have always been a part of human worship as signs of humility and reverence. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:9-11), he included the words to an early hymn describing Jesus:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is the words “every knee should bow” that acknowledge the posture that Christians assume before their Lord and Savior. It is this hymn as well that provides the key reason for bowing and kneeling: “at the name of Jesus….” During the liturgy, it is at the name of Jesus that heads bow. And. by extension, it is to those things that remind us of him, that worshipers bow or kneel.
There are no penalties for not bowing at the right places during the liturgy. And the only hazard in not kneeling at the right points in the service is a brief moment of standing alone. In general, worshipers pray on their knees, so when it comes time to pray in liturgical services, it’s a pretty good bet people will kneel. (NIV)
To those who come from nonliturgical traditions, bowing and kneeling may seem utterly foreign and even distasteful, enough to keep a person from participating. But all aspects of worship are intended to point the worshiper to Jesus, even things as fundamental as posture. Kneeling recalls the bedtime prayers of childhood and bowing reminds us of the honor ascribed to greatness. Sometimes the body can remember what the mind forgets. And as C. S. Lewis points out, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul. Body and soul are both the better for it.” (1)
bowing. An inclination of the head and body, or just the head. Liturgically, bowing is a sign of supplication and adoration towards God; bowing also can indicate respect or reverence toward a person or thing, or express a greeting. In the Roman Church, the head is bowed
- at the doxology (in which the Holy Trinity is invoked);
- at the name of Jesus, Mary, or the saint of the day; and
- at the consecration of the Eucharist.
Bowing of the body is made
- before the altar, and
- at specified times during the Mass.
In Anglican churches, people may bow
- as the processional cross passes by;
- before the altar;
- at the Name of Jesus;
- at the mention of the Holy Trinity;
- toward the Book of the Gospel
- at the Gloria tibi and the Laus tibi;
- during the creed, at the words describing the Incarnation.
- A bow also is exchanged between the thurifer and those being incensed when incense is used.
genuflect, genuflection, or genuflexion. (Latin, “to bend the knee.”) The act of recognizing the presence of God in the Holy Eucharist by bending the right knee upon entering and leaving the pew while facing the altar.
kneeling. The posture often assumed for private or corporate prayer as an expression of humility before God, reflecting both an attitude of penance and an attitude of adoration.
On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down all the way without haste and hurry, putting your heart into what you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and every time you kneel it will do your soul good. (Romano Guardini) (2)
standing. The posture of respect that worshipers assume for processions, for the reading of the Gospel, the creed, the prayers of the people, from the Presentation of the Gifts through the breaking of the bread, and then at the Prayer after Communion and the recessional.
Standing is the other side of reverence toward God. Kneeling is the side of worship in rest and quietness; standing is the side of vigilance and action. It is the respect of the servant in attendance, of the soldier on duty. (Romano Guardini) (3)
(1) C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1963, 1964), p. 17
(2) Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, (St. Louis, MO: Pio Decimo Press, 1956), p. 20
(3) Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, (St. Louis, MO: Pio Decimo Press, 1956), p. 22
We are limited by time in our Sunday morning gathering. We’re not able to discuss all the readings of the Sunday. Attending to the Spirit our discussions sometimes take us in directions we couldn’t have planned for or predicted.
Resources for reading at a later time, resources to supplement our study, resources tracked down because of the conversation on Sunday morning are often handed out to participants in the forum. This new category “Supplemental Resources” is being created today (5/21/2011) to make this additional material available to you who are participating through this blog.
As often as possible we’ll include the material in the post. Sometimes we will upload a PDF for download. We’ll also do our best to provide a generous supply of links to information we have found helpful in hearing the Spirit.
By clicking on the “Supplemental Resources” link in the title bar you will be taken to those posts which contain only supplemental materials and resources. Likewise, by clicking on the other links you will be taken to posts which contain material for those categories (Year A Readings and General Interest as of 5/21/2011).
Though we use names and titles differently in 2011 CE than in 111 CE they affect us: our emotional state, our responsiveness to the person being introduced or spoken to, and our general “feeling” about the person being addressed, spoken about, or spoken to. This was the thinking behind the Sunday Forum on 15 May 2011.
For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:25
Taking that single verse at the end of the Lesson from 1 Peter we spoke out our “names and titles” of Jesus to one another. It was a lively discussion. Please leave a comment here to any or all of the questions we considered on Sunday. At minimum, answer the questions for yourself.
- How many names/titles do you use when speaking of Jesus?
- How many names/titles do you use for addressing Jesus in prayer?
- Which name do you use most frequently?
- Have you ever thought about this?
- Does it make any difference?
These are just a few of the questions that can be asked based upon a single line, verse 25, in today’s lesson from the First Letter of Peter. To highlight once again the dilemma faced by contemporary translators I offer several translations of the Greek word episkopos used long ago. Try out each translation as a prayer word; each word evokes a different emotion for me. How about you?
King James Version KJV
For ye were as sheep going astray ; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
New Revised Standard Version NRSV
For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
New International Version NIV
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
New American Bible Revised Edition NABRE
For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Contemporary English Version CEV
You had wandered away like sheep. Now you have returned to the one who is your shepherd and protector.
In an article titled “Selection of English Scripture Translations Reaches Biblical Proportions” we are presented with the astounding facts about the lucrative business of printing bibles in English. We’ve come a long way from scribes making copies by hand on papyrus; we’ve come a long way from the Authorized Version of 1611 (aka The King James Version of the Bible). Or have we?
That there are so many bibles to choose from is not entirely good news for those who would order their lives according to the bible wisdom:
“When there is wide divergence among Bible translations, readers have no way of knowing what the original text really says.” [according to Leland Ryken, an English professor at Wheaton College.]
The article about the bible reminds me of a recent article I saw in Wired online: Clive Thompson on How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge. The premise, researched by Stanford Professor Robert Proctor and reported by Clive Thomas is that with increasing (and often conflicting) information society as a whole has become more ignorant of what is true and what is not. Read this article.
While WorkingPreacher.org presents material addressed to preachers the rest of us can benefit from these reflections, too. After all, in an exhortation attributed to St. Francis, we are encouraged to “Preach the Gospel with your whole life, use words if necessary.” As you consider faith and doubt (or skepticism) in the story of Thomas expand your thinking and read the post Faithful Doubt on WorkingPreacher.org. Here is a sample from the article and the link:
So I wonder, Working Preacher, how many of our hearers imagine this to be true: that doubt is not the opposite of faith but an essential ingredient? That hardboiled realism is an asset to vibrant faith? That they can bring their questions and skepticism, as well as their insights and trust, to their Christian lives? That they are among those blessed by Jesus for believing without seeing? And what difference would it make if they knew this? If they saw themselves, that is, like Thomas, as model disciples prepared and blessed for faithful mission in the world? Read the post: WorkingPreacher.org.
Hear what the Spirit is saying is a Sunday Morning Forum at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, CA. All are welcome to attend. The forum begins at 9:00 am in the Meyers Classroom on the lower level of the church. The only prerequisite for participation is a heart open to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.