Lord, make us instruments of your peace

The Prayers of the People within the worship at St. Margaret’s in Palm Desert, CA this past Sunday began with the words of a prayer attributed to St. Francis: “Lord, make us instruments of your peace.” The prayers were part of the Service of Remembrance, Reconciliation, and Hope.

View or download the Prayers of the People used on September 11, 2011 at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, CA.

Pray-as-you-go . . . try it . . . like it . . . make it a habit

Have you ever decided to do better at praying daily? Or, pointing the finger at myself, how many times have you determined to pray better, pray more frequently, pray daily, pray always? David Burgdorf recently shared a prayer resource with me that I now share with you. From their website:

Pray-as-you-go is a daily prayer session, designed for use on portable MP3 players, to help you pray whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.

GO TO: Pray-as-you-go . . . daily prayer for your MP3 player.

I encourage you to give it a try. I have found it a beautiful way to slow down, breathe, rest in God, pray. I use the iTunes podcast (accessible through the website).

Be sure to come back and post a comment about your experience with Pray-as-you-go. Come back and share prayer resources you have found and use. Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s pray up a holy storm!

Abba

“You have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:15-16

A prayer for the week

Abba, Father,
in darkness and in light,
in trouble and in joy,
help us to trust your love,
to serve your purpose,
and to praise your name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Isaac and Rebekah: Just a love story?

Genesis 24 fits into the book of Genesis as a whole considering central questions such as whether God’s promise of progeny, land and protection will be realized. In the matriarchal and patriarchal narratives that make up the narrative cycles in the book of Genesis, it is evident that throughout each generation, God’s faithfulness has to be discovered anew. In Genesis 24, it is Isaac who discovers that God was not only faithful to Abraham, but that God’s faithfulness extends to a new generation as well.

The topic of Genesis 24 is the question many young men and women ask when they come of age, and that is where do I get a wife or husband? In the case of Genesis 24 this question is all the more pressing as Isaac needs a wife so that God’s promise of progeny may be fulfilled. In Genesis 25:20 it is said that Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah, in any age, and particularly in that time, quite a late stage to be a bachelor.

This drawn-out account of finding Isaac a wife in the end turns into a love story, when the narrative has a happy ending.  In verse 67 it is said that Isaac married Rebekah, taking her to his mother’s old tent, and thereby instating her as the new matriarch of the clan. Moreover, the events of Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage are nicely joined together when his marriage to Rebekah is said to comfort Isaac after the death of his mother. And most significantly, Isaac is said to love Rebekah — one of the few instances in the Hebrew Bible in which love language is used to describe the relationship between a man and a woman.

So on one level, the account of Isaac finding a wife has a quite secular topic and outcome, suggesting something of the ordinary cycles of life and death that form the backdrop of many of the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs. However, this ordinary story of finding a wife for a sworn bachelor, which takes human experience seriously, is given a religious flavour as the theme of God’s blessing and guidance is introduced as a central part of the narrative.

Julianna Claassens, Associate Professor of Old Testament
University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa
http://tinyurl.com/3n38h29 (click “Alt. 1st Reading” tab)

I believe you will enjoy reading Professor Claassens essay on our Sunday reading from Genesis. Among the questions that come to mind for our consideration:

  • What do you believe about God becoming involved in such human endeavors as “the challenges of finding a suitable life partner or the joy of finding one’s soul mate?”

Clearly we live in a very different time, place, and culture than Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah; in this ancient story, what do you learn:

  • • About being human? About God?
  • • About prayer? About what to expect when you pray?

How is this your story (not just the story of Isaac and Rebekah, long ago and far away)?

Please continue the conversation begun on Sunday morning by leaving a comment.

Praying and believing

Lex orandi, lex credendi

Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translatable as “the law of prayer is the law of belief”) refers to the relationship between worship and belief, and is an ancient Christian principle which provided a measure for developing the ancient Christian creeds, the canon of scripture and other doctrinal matters based on the prayer texts of the Church, that is, the Church’s liturgy. In the Early Church there were about 69 years of liturgical tradition before there was a creed and about 350 years before there was a biblical canon. These liturgical traditions provided the theological framework for establishing the creeds and canon. Source: Wikipedia

If you want to know what a community believes, listen to how it prays; if you want to know what an individual believes, listen to that person pray. This is my version of the meaning of lex orandi, lex credendi. If we assume a community or an individual is going to be honest when speaking to God, then we listen to the prayers and gain insight into belief. Likewise, the more a community or an individual prays in a certain way, the stronger becomes the belief, belief becomes more mature, better articulated; there is a dynamic interchange between mind and heart and faith in the act of praying.

In Anglicanism, the worship of the people of God plays a very distinctive role, being the principal arena not only of supplication and praise but also of theological experimentation and formulation. This relationship of worship and belief is often discussed under the Latin tag, lex orandi, lex credendi—’the law of praying is the law of belief’.  Source: W. Taylor Stevenson in The study of Anglicanism, John E. Booty, Stephen Sykes, Jonathan Knight, p. 187

Lex orandi, lex credendi: A Latin phrase often used in the study of liturgy, it means “the rule of prayer [is] the rule of belief.” The phrase describes the pervasive pastoral reality that habits of prayer shape Christian belief. Official provisions for worship can thus have a determinative role in shaping Christian doctrine. Source: Glossary of Terms maintained by the Episcopal Church

1124 The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]) The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. Source: The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

Throughout our study the group will share the prayers that shape our faith and thereby reveal the faith that shapes our prayers. We invite you to share your prayers with others in this (online) Forum.

The Apostles’ Creed

Listen to the Apostles’ Creed sung by a choir of Tongan youth in the Uniting Church Sydney Australia.

What is the Apostles’ Creed?

The Apostles’ Creed is the ancient creed of Baptism, it is used in the Church’s daily worship to recall our Baptismal Covenant.

An Outline of the Faith: The Book of Common Prayer, p. 852

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

For further reading and reflection

The Symbolum Apostolorum was developed between the second and ninth centuries. It is the most popular creed used in worship by Western Christians. Its central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator. It has been called the Creed of Creeds.
Legend has it that the Apostles wrote this creed on the tenth day after Christ’s ascension into heaven. That is not the case, though the name stuck. However, each of the doctrines found in the creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period. The earliest written version of the creed is perhaps the Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus (ca. A.D. 215). The current form is first found in the writings of Caesarius of Arles (d 542).
The creed was apparently used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Hence it is also known as The Roman Symbol. As in Hippolytus’ version it was given in question and answer format with the baptismal candidates answering in the affirmative that they believed each statement.

Source: http://www.creeds.net/ancient/apostles.htm

Note: the link will take you to a page devoted to the Apostles’ Creed including additional links to the text of the creed in Latin and Greek, historical notes and much more

Bowing and kneeling and standing and sitting, O my

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

What’s in a name?

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.

Sunday’s Questions

  • 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.