Walking as Jesus Walked

Having the Mind of Christ

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Prayer

Glory to the Father, who has woven garments of glory for the resurrection.

Worship to the Son, who was clothed in them at his rising.

Thanksgiving to the Spirit, who keeps them for all the saints.  Amen.

Syrian Orthodox Church

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday Prayer

Merciful and everliving God, Creator of heaven and earth, the crucified body of your Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy day.  Grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day and rise in newness of life, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Scripture

"Being found in human form, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Philippians 2:8-11

Good Friday Invocations

Lord, you have delivered us by your sacrifice:  Help us to live by your new and eternal covenant.

We accept this day as your gift to us:  Let us follow you in newness of life.

Through the blood and water flowing from your side:  Pour out the light of the Spirit upon us.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

O God, by the example of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, you taught us the greatness of true humility, and call us to watch with him in his passion.  Give us grace to serve one another in all lowliness, and to enter into the fellowship of his suffering; in his name and for his sake.  Amen.

W. E. Orchard

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday Prayer

Lord, remember all who live the Christian life:  Show them the light of your face.

Uphold all who serve you in the ministry:  Give them the strength of your Holy Spirit.

Fill the hearts of your people with joy and peace:  Answer all their needs.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Invocation on Tuesday

Strengthen in us, Lord, our love for you today:  Lead us to the truth.

We offer our needs to you:  Take to yourself our cares and hopes.

Lord Jesus, we pray for all who suffer:  Show them your compassion through us.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Prayers for Holy Week

For my devotion time I use the The Glenstal Book of Prayer.  Here is the evening prayer for Monday.

Lord Jesus, grant that the whole world may be saved:  Bring all people to the knowledge of your truth.

Lord, in your kindness be with the poor and weak:  Bring them the help of your comfort.

Lord, bring your healing to the sick:  Give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Church or Movement?

For as long as I have been a United Methodist pastor there has been ongoing conversation about whether or not the United Methodist Church is a church or movement.  Again and again, I have heard references as to how and why we should become a movement:  "That's what Wesley launched:  a movement, not a church!"  "If we can only recapture the movement..."  I can even recall a bishop who made such a claim:  "We are not really a church but a movement."

I find this kind of rhetoric fanciful.  I also wonder if it reflects a deeper unwillingness to come to grips with our doctrine and polity as United Methodist, or as Albert Outler observed, that as United Methodists we really do not want to have an "ecclesiology" because we simply have not had to deal with it:  i.e., we really don't want to deal with the kind of accountability 'being the church' implies.  We have been so good at putting our eggs in the 'movement' basket that we keep kicking the ecclesial can down the road, saying things and doing things with little to no understanding about what it means to be 'church.'  Hence, we have little awareness of our own discipline or doctrine.  Persons can believe what they want!  Or, at least, that's what I am told...

That may sound crass, but I don't think it is far from the truth.  In addition, even if we were to become a movement again, it still wouldn't solve our problems with doctrine, discipline, and polity.  I don't think Wesley stopped doing the hard work of spiritual direction and doctrinal formation in the midst of revival without the ecclesial mechanisms of authority and accountability in place.  In fact, the whole Wesleyan movement could not be sustained if it didn't have the ecclesial marks or ways of identifying it!  That's part of what is so contested today among Wesleyans and Methodists:  What makes us unique?  We don't seem to know.

The whole conversation about whether we are a movement or a church is non-starter, at least for me; it has become another way to avoid the kind of theological work we need to be doing as the Church.  We can only pray that the Spirit will move us in that direction.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Methodism as Protest

Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology: From the Fathers to Feminism

I have been rereading parts of William J. Abraham's Canon and Criterion and found a section in the last chapter on the "Canonical Heritage and Epistemology" helpful with respect to the breakdown of the Protestant tradition in general and the United Methodist Church in particular.  Abraham notes how Anglicans and United Methodists sought to develop an epistemology which combined an appeal to Scripture, tradition, reason and experience and how this epistemology constituted a kind of "scissors-and-paste" epistemology which tends to displace the canonical heritage of the church.  Unity is now thus sought in the church through commitments to particular kinds of epistemologies, which means that the consequences to doctrinal commitments are predictable:  our respective traditions are now a constellation of doctrinal parties at odds with each other.  Abraham notes how combining ecclesial canons and epistemic concepts has not been helpful or successful.  It has ultimately been damaging of a spiritual point of view (p. 474).

In addition, it has been damaging of other Western forms of Christianity, most notably Protestantism:  focusing on Scripture as a criterion rather than a means of grace has meant that the deep and rich canonical heritage of the church has been displaced.  This is why Pietism, early Methodism, and Pentecostalism may represent an "underworld of protest" which has sought to return to a soteriological view of Scriptures (p. 474), thus getting beyond a purely "cognitive approach" to the Christian faith, thereby providing wisdom unto salvation and insights into life in the Spirit (p. 474).

There is more to Abraham's thesis, of course.  But as I reflect on the soteriological importance of Scripture as a means of grace I am reminded of the importance of the Holy Spirit in leading us into the life of God.  Simply developing one more theory of knowing how we know to gain certainty seems to take the life of the Spirit right out of us, putting us at odds with where that same Spirit is leading us to serve and proclaim Christ.  Maybe we can begin to see Methodism as a protest against those attempts to suffocate the life-giving love of God.  Maybe this is what Wesley was practicing and proclaiming.

Friday, April 1, 2011

EUB Tradition: Alive and Well?

Methodist and Pietist: Retrieving the Evangelical United Brethren Tradition

I have been enjoying reading a new collection of essays on the Evangelical United Brethren tradition edited by Jason Vickers of Steven O'Malley.  The essays bring to light the uniqueness of the EUB heritage and the ways it could inform the present discussions of ministry and theology in the United Methodist Church.  As a person whose own family comes out of the EUB and United Brethen in Christ traditions, it has been interesting to note the nuances and contours of these streams of the Evanglical piety.

A very intriguing essay by Tyrone Inbody sets the tone for what has been a big problem in UM theology and practice:  ecclesiology.  Inbody rightly, in my opion, puts forth how the EUB and Methodist Episcopal churches had two very different ecclesiologies:  whereas "for Asbury the church was the conference, the annual quarterly conference, and the General Conference, where preachers were sent to, not called to, the local congregation was an expression of the conference; for Otterbein ministry began with the local congregation and built up from there" (p. 89).  Inbody points out how "these recessive genes" in the EUB tradition continue to persist in the contemporary United Methodist Church and how they bring to light a kind of "downside" of this "inheritance":  there is simply an "unresolved tension" between the essentially Reformed and Anabaptist ecclesiology and polity of the United Brethren and the Anglican-Episcopal ecclesiology of the The Methodist Episcopal Church" (p. 89).

Later Inbody astutely states that "While the Constitution [of the United Methodist Church] still asserts the annual conference as the basic body of the church, many current practices suggest that the local church is the basic body" (p. 91).  This change is certainly a result of American populism, but it is also a strain in the ecclesiology and polity of the United Brethren.  The creation of an ordained order without sacramental authority (deacon in full connection) and a nonordained order with sacramental authority (local pastor) are indicative of this shift (p. 91).

Inbody's work, and the whole collection of essays and articles in this volume, looks at how the EUB tradition may still serve as a theological resource in the re-shaping of the United Methodist Church in the 21st century. 

I can only wonder what my ancestors would say to such a situation.  In 1968 my grandparents did not look favorably upon the "merger"; they felt as if they were being swallowed up.  Now, forty years later, the EUB heritage may still have something important to say about who United Methodists are and what they can still be. 


Uniqueness of Place

The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford

I have just received a copy of Wendell Berry's The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford.  I have had a hard time putting it down.  What I like is how Berry deals with Williams' poetry exploring how Williams adapts to and deals with the 'local.'  This is important, especially with respect to pastoral ministry and praxis:  as pastors how do we adapt to the local cultures of our congregations, investigating and exploring their uniqueness?  I wonder, too, what this means when it comes to itineracy:  in moving from place to place do we miss the distinct character of place?