|If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!|
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
9 For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods. 10 Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked. 11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. (Psalm 97:9-12)
Altars, Candles, and Crosses – which of these symbolic articles may be out of place in the worship of the Church? Consider your response carefully before answering.
Just a few years ago, a clergy friend of mine who happened to be Baptist, visited my office. He wanted to have a look at our small sanctuary. When he saw the cross and candles on the Table, he complained we were too much like the Roman Catholic Church. I asked why? He said it was because we had candles and a cross on the altar, and the altar was the central article of furniture (with the pulpit off to the right side facing out). When I asked him if he had an altar in his church, he responded, “Of course we do have – we are a Baptist church!” “What is the purpose of the altar?” I asked. He replied, “It is for serving the Lord’s Supper.”
The minister had unwittingly talked himself into losing the argument. There is no “ALTAR” in Anglican Churches of the English Reformation tradition – only a Lord’s Table. The term Altar is in no rubric of the traditional Book of Common Prayer (1662, 1928, or other Commonwealth Prayer Books). But the furniture from which the Lord’s Supper is served is called the Table of the Lord. The Rubric immediately preceding the Prayer of Humble Access (prior to partaking of the Lord’s Supper) reads, like many other of the rubrics, “¶ Then shall the Priest, kneeling down at the Lord's Table, say in the name of all them that shall receive the Communion this Prayer following.” Why is this reference to the Table (instead of Altar) important?
In language, precise meanings are important. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the definition of an altar is “a place, especially a raised platform, where sacrifices and offerings are made to a god, an ancestor, etc.” It goes on to offer a popular definition that is not consistent with biblical claims, i.e. that “the Communion Table is sometimes referred to as an altar in some churches.” That sometimes reference would be incorrect and misleading. Always in Scripture, an altar is a place of offering sacrifices. In reading the justification for calling the Lord’s Table an Altar in the apostate 1979 Book of Common Prayer is that it “means the same thing as Lord’s Table” Altar in no way bears the same meaning as Table. We have the Lord’s Table to partake of the Holy Communion of the Lord just as He shared with his apostles at the Last Supper. That was a TABLE and not an ALTAR. The loose theology of the modern Anglo-Roman churches derive from the Oxford Movement emendations that proposed a return to Roman Catholic worship. We do partake of that Table with the Lord with His Spiritual Presence, but the wine and bread are not magically transformed into the actual and physical blood and body of our Lord as the utterance of the ‘sacerdotalist’ priest suggests. So, we have no altar as my Baptist friend has because it represents the error of Rome. Actually, he does not have an altar either.
Next, seeking to ‘justify himself, he critiqued our use of CANDLES on the Lord’s Table. Candles are symbols of Light, and Light is symbolic of our Lord Jesus Christ. I explained to my friend that we have candles on either side of the Lord’s Table. On the strong side (left side facing Table) is the Gospel Candle representing the immutable Gospel of Jesus Christ going forth in the midst of our worship. It is for this reason that the Gospel text is read from that same side of the chancel (or sanctuary). On the other side of the Table is the Epistle candle representing the apostolic light of the early church. The symbols remind and inform spiritual truths to our worshippers. The clergyman said, “Yes, but those resemble the Catholic Church and the “altar of the mass.’ I responded that the Roman Catholic Church also recites the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed. Did he consider those unbiblical? He had no immediate response and I did not, out of courtesy, press the point. But I did remind my friend of the words of the Lord in the Book of Revelations: 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Rev 2:5-6) Just out of pure meanness, I reminded the preacher we in the Anglican Church still have our candles! (smile)
OK, maybe I could convince the man of the Table and Candles, but wasn’t the CROSS going a bit too far? It depends on in what manner you consider the cross. If you look upon it as an object of worship, that would not be appropriate; but as a reminder of the sacrifice that our Lord made for us, and in our stead, is quite proper. My friend thought it was too showy to be placed right at the central place of the sanctuary. I asked if he had not placed a cross at the very pinnacle (steeple) of his church? Yes, but that was different. Why was it there, I asked? “It is to reveal to all passersby that we are a Christian Church” was his answer. That is commendable of him to say so. The cross on the steeple announces the Lord’s sacrifice to all without, but the cross on the Lord’s Table INSIDE reminds every worshipper of the sacrifice Christ made for them. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt 18:20) The cross reminds us of the Spiritual Presence of Christ. It also represents a borrowed grave from which Christ arose. It is not a crucifix, still bearing the body of Christ, but an empty CROSS symbolizing the once and for all sacrifice Christ made for us. He is no longer to be sacrificed, but has arisen and sits today on the right hand of God.
The symbols of our faith are important. As the churches gradually dispense with the symbols that have been our ancient stones of remembrance, faith is cheapened and less meaningful. Christ used symbols constantly in teaching a people whose minds were incapable of comprehending the greater spiritual meaning of which He spoke. He used terms such as pearls, mustard seeds, dragnets, fish, and many others – even crosses that we must take up daily to follow Him. The Apostle Paul reminds us of various natures of vessels: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Tim 2:20-21) If Christ and the Apostles used such symbols to remind us of spiritual truths, why cannot an apostolic church do the same?
It seems to me that, like those of the time of Christ, our people have no comprehension of spiritual truths, and they have no symbols to assist their ignorance of them.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
|If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!|
17 Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: 18 Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, 19 Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: 20 Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; 21 And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; 22 And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23 And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them. (Jeremiah 32:17-23)
It may be true that every man’s heart burns with the love and beauty of his native soil, but America is, without any shadow of doubt, one of the most beautiful and majestic lands in the world. It is rich is soil, in minerals, in mountain grandeur and desert solitude. The land is divided, not by barriers, but rather by lush rivers and valleys. What a blessed gift God has placed in the hands of those who came here seeking to worship God in the manner of their own consciences and without government interference. What a great sacrifice those first pilgrims made, and what unknown dangers they confronted, in launching out on the high seas to America. They were not seeking a government subsidy, but a security FROM government.
The author, Katherine Lee Bates, first penned the poem (which became the lyrics to our hymn) and published it on the 4th of July of 1895. She was inspired to write it after a visit to Pike’s Peak. The music, Materna, was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey in 1892. During my elementary school years beginning in 1950, America the Beautiful could be sung in its entirety by every public school student in America. It is amazing how rapidly our memories decline from those things meaningful and attach to those of trivial interests.
America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain;
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control,
Thy liberty in law.
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain; For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea. Just consider the beauty and security of the land to which God has made us heirs. We are a land of unwalled cities in which the people dwell at peace and in security. And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates. Ezek 38:11 (KJV) We have been protected by the God of Grace and His Providence over these two centuries of our founding; but our memories are fleeting. We have forgotten the purpose of our founding as a nation. We have grown fat with pleasures and merchandise, and have forgotten the verse that follows that cited above: 12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. (Ezek 38:12) The prophetic words of Abraham Lincoln seem more cogent now than ever before: America need not fear the enemy from without. He will never be able to drink from the Ohio River unless we allow it. No, the greater danger will come from within when men forget the principles of justice and liberty upon which the nation was founded. We have lived a happy and prosperous life in America, but we have, over the past few decades, forgotten the blood of patriots spilled for our liberties, and the God of our Nativity.
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, Till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine. The strength of America has been a faith in God underlined with a love of the Liberty that only God can provide. The liberating strife to which Ms. Bates refers is that blood shed on battlefields everywhere in defense of liberty and freedom. Such liberty does not derive from the beneficence of governments, but is a grant of God alone. When America forgets that principle – and they seem to be on the verge of forgetting – our freedom becomes subject to extinction. Political Correctness has inhibited one of the freedoms granted by God and supported in our founding documents, Freedom of Expression – not only by word, but also in worship. The blood of heroes has watered the landscape of America and insured our continued freedoms. It is truly the love of freedom that has made us a great nation. The embodiment of American virtue has been that love of freedom that considers no one truly free until every man, woman, and child is free. Christian faith has been the foundation of that virtue. The Christian religion is based on love and faith, not compulsion at the point of the sword wielded by some fanatical imam or potentate. God has refined our gold in the furnace of bloody contests and patriotic zeal. If we have progress at all in America, it must come as a result of that single virtue of Christian love.
O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law. A drift into the abyss of socialism and totalitarianism will only accelerate the demise of a Godly nation. We already witness the ruinous effects of policies that attempt to adjudicate personal responsibility and impose an unmerited ‘right’ for all desires social and material. If we are to be a Godly people, we must bear a vision and foresight similar to that of our national emblem, the Bald Eagle, who makes his dwelling in the highest parts of the earth. He sees prey from miles above the earth. He labors daily for his bread, and eats only what he kills himself. But we, instead, have rather taken on the nature of the oyster that makes its dwelling in the filthy beds of the sea. He labors for nothing, yet he opens his shell and consumes whatever refuse falls within. That is the best description of socialism that my mind can contemplate. Godly people have far vision to see the consequences of their actions. We have lost that vision in America. Those alabaster cities of America have become contaminated with sin and drugs, and every vile sexual sin. Our youth are subjected to odorous influences but our elders and politicians seem to care little so long as the political payoffs are made on time. Do not misunderstand: I do not believe America is a lost cause, but I do believe that it is high time for us to awaken from our drunken stupor and get a hold on our wayward behavior; allow God (not government) to mend our wounds and failures; place equal application of Godly law at the zenith of political power; and resort to self-control, rather than onerous legislation to dictate our ways and manners. Then perhaps we will return to the beautiful land our Forefathers established on this continent.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
|The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!|
Happy Sunday after Ascension Day. The AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
This week's report covers Ascension Day as well as Sunday after Ascension Day.
There are really great sermons today from Bishops Jerry, Roy and Dennis, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan. They all cover different ground from differing perspectives, so you will not be disappointed at all.
As every week, there are a lot of people who need your prayer. Start with giving thanks with Kurt and his family for Friday's permanent pacemaker implant. Kurt is the miracle bionic man now! Then work on to Shamu for healing and strength, then Jimmy, Mary and Michael, each of whom need your prayers to drive the cancer from their bodies and help for trust in God for them and their families.
This coming Monday is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those members of our Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice, without whose sacrifice we would not be free. This is not a day to thank a veteran, probably it is the only day of the year that it is not the day for that. All veterans heard the country’s call and answered. They were not those who would not hear. But, those of us here today are the fortunate ones, for whatever reason we made it back. In my case after 30 years and two weeks of military service with the Navy and Air Force, thirty-five percent of the people I flew with did not make it back one way or the other. They are the ones we remember today, they paid the entire bill for our freedom. Well, maybe not all the cost.
When we think of Memorial Day, we remember the young men and women who since the beginning of this great nation answered the call of freedom when our country was in peril, rode into battle and did not return. We honor those who lost their lives in training, transit and combat. But, we often forget the families they left behind; mothers, fathers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Each of them bore a portion of the cost of freedom. This cost is not a one shot deal. Those who remain behind pay every day of their time left here on earth. The cost of freedom is high, very high. It is just cheaper than not being free. But, it is payable on demand.
I do not know how many ways to say it, but FREEDOM IS NOT FREE; it is the most costly commodity on this earth, except for not being free. That costs more.
It seems to me that Memorial Day is one of the saddest days of our year. This is not because of the cost to our country, in particular the families who remain behind, though that cost is huge. The reason the day so sad is that the people have absolutely no feeling for the cost of the freedom they value so little today.
Our country is free today because when our freedom has been threatened by those who would overturn our way of life, patriots stepped forward to take action against our country’s foes. They put their lives on the line that we might be free. Tomorrow on Memorial Day, we remember those whose lives were given, whose families paid the price for our freedom today. They did not give their lives for anything but freedom. If you ascribe their motives to other motives, you do so at your own peril.
Hundreds of thousands have given their future and the futures of their families’ for ours. Charge your glass, raise it high. Drink to them. Give thanks to God for their patriotism and steadfast courage.
A final note to each of you veterans reading this report, each of you stepped forward when the country called. You heard the call others could not.
We are the lucky ones, we are here. We must never forget the cost of freedom, dearly paid by those who have gone before us.
To my fellow veterans, I thank each of you for stepping forward and I am grateful you are all here with me to remember.
Church of the Faithful Centurion
|If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!|
The Sunday after Ascension Day.
GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us un-to the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Collect for Ascension Day, found on Page 177, is also read due to the rubric:
The Collect for The Ascension Day.
RANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave.