You’ve Been Invited To A Birthday Party

Have you ever noticed the lack of regal pagentry in American Protestant churches?  I understand and agree with the fear of  symbolism becoming empty tradition, but I wish we wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  I’m aware that there are plenty of both Catholic and Protestant churches who use beautiful symbolism to celebrate different holy days.  But this lovely practice has  never been part of the tapestry of my spiritual formation.  In case you have recently joined my journey toward epiphany, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a liturgical calander.  It’s been interesting as a non-denominational evangelical dare I say Pentacostal, to explore what the church fathers thought as important rembrances throughout our year.  Pentacost is no exception.

Pentacost is generally recognized as the time when the believers in Christ met in the Upper Room, (historically thought to be the same room as the Last Supper), to wait for the promise of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  After the Ascension, Jesus had promised that He would not leave His followers alone, but would send a Comforter.  The disciples gathered in the Upper Room to wait for the promised Comforter. 

Acts 2

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

This was a very pivotal, and historical moment for the early Church.  After this portion of Scripture, Peter preached to the people in Jerusalem and many came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God that day. 

My quest was to find out how the church has continued to memorialize this date throughout history.

So, for those of you who are like me and didn’t know what Pentacost was beyond Acts 2, here are some facts.

  • To the Western Church, (as opposed to the Eastern Orthodox Church), Pentacost is considered the Birthday of the Church.
  • Western Churches (both the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations) use the color red to symbolize this holy day.
  • Eastern Churches use the color green.
  • Red flowers are often brought into the church to celebrate a newness of life.
  • The early Church used this date as the most common Baptismal date on the Church calendar.
  • The dove is also used as  a symbol.
  • In Italy rose petals are often tossed over the congregants from the balconies.
  • In some more casual Protestant churches red balloons are dropped as a celebration for the birth of the church.
  • The Scriptures are often read in several languages in order to commemorate the disciples speaking with other tongues.

I find it ironic that most Pentacostal churches do not celebrate Pentacost, seeing that the doctrines which define them as different from others are foundationally based on that first Pentacost.  I would personally love to see a  movement towards implementing some of the ancient and meaningful practices into our services. 

What are your thoughts?  Does your church celebrate Pentacost?  Can you share ways in which they do?

The Journey of Obedience

In my Journey Towards Epiphany, I am seeking to have Christ revealed to me in everyday life.  Christ reveals Himself to many in Scripture, beginning with shepherds and wisemen.  It is interesting in this Christ-revelation how both the simple minded and the wise are included.

He then reveals Himself to a man and woman at the temple, a prophet and prophetess, fishermen and tax collectors, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.  What’s the reoccuring ingredient in all these people?  I supposed one could be that they were looking for something MORE, even if before His revelation they were not aware of the fact.

This is good news for me, because I am definitely looking for more.  It has always been my hearts cry to have more of God.  In reading through the Book of Common Prayer last night, my Gospel reading was from John 14 in the Amplified Version of the Bible.

21The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]

Could it be, that when I feel far from Him, it is time for me to climb to a new level of obedience?  What are these commands?  Seeing that Jesus boiled them down to two, they would be: to Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind, and to Love my neighbor as myself.

The longer I walk this walk with Him, the more I realize that this truly is a real journey, very much like the one Christian makes in Pilgrim’s Progress.  Until my journey closes, I will have new challenges and new levels of commitment and obedience . How can I say that I really believe in God, if I won’t obey Him?  Obedience is a statement of faith, overcoming the doubts of the world, and sometimes even greater, the doubts of the human mind.

So I guess my question to the Lord today is, “Lord what act of obedience will unlock the gate towards a greater revelation of You today?”

I’m going to be meditating about these things today.  Because after all, my determined purpose is that I may know Him, and it seems as though obedience is one way to accomplish that.

The Divine Dinner Party, Pt.1

As part of my study of all things symbolic, I have been partaking in Communion daily.  I use the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer for the Eucharist.   So I’ve had three months to be meditating on the Lord’s Supper, but lately, I’ve been wanting to go deeper.  So here I plunge.

Preparation and Anticipation

Jesus knew that He was about to leave his Disciples, and He was looking forward to an evening alone with them (as well as His betrayer).  In fact in Luke 22:15, He said,

15And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

Simply put, he was looking forward to sharing a meal with them.  Everything He had left to say to them had to be said that night.  Everything He wanted to reiterate had to be gone over before the end of this dinner.  It had to be a night to remember.  Jesus actually went to a lot of trouble for this dinner party.  He gave the Disciples very exact instructions.  (Luke 22:8-13) And He planned some very extraordinary activities for the evening.

Next:  The Last Supper – A Night To Remember

What Does The Book of Common Prayer Have In Common With a Hallmark Card?

Surprisingly, I am still finding quite a bit of life while reading the same prayers everyday. This is a new experience for me, and although I know that as I communicate with God that it is more about relationship than it is about ritual, I also believe that there are times in our lives in which we embrace relationship through ritual.

For instance, a wedding is a symbolic ritual which brings forth a new relationship. Two individuals become one. I can see how reading through any book, whether it be the Book of Common Prayer or the Prayers That Avail Much, can either bless or hinder a person. If this is the only form of communication I have with God, it resembles a Hallmark card to which I only sign my name. I let someone else say what I need to or feel like saying. However, if I write a love letter to someone expressing my feelings in my own words, they may not be worthy of a greeting card, but they are treasured as sincere.

So I guess one of the things I’ve found on my journey of liturgy is that liturgy is fine, but I need to add my own personal message before signing off. Otherwise, I’ve handed God a cheap greeting card.

A Prayer For Today

O God, the King eternal, who dividest the day from the night and turnest the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep thy law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done thy will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when the night cometh, rejoice to give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. – the Book of Common Prayer

Jesus in the Wilderness – A Garden of Eden Do-over

This week in my Book of Common Prayer reading I’ve been inspired by a thought. I’m not sure why I never thought of it before, because it’s pretty obvious.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Spit it out!” by now. Adam was given a test of temptation in the Garden of Eden. He had everything necessary to win his battle. He had the audible voice of God reminding him that he and Eve could partake of every tree in the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There was so much generosity in that statement, and yet the Deceiver used it to confuse man into rebellion.

God intended man to live in peace and harmony with Him forever. But He wanted it to be our choice, not forced. Unfortunately, we chose poorly. The Father responded responsibly. He allowed us to make the choice to turn from Him, so He needed to provide a way for man to make a choice to turn to Him. In order to accomplish this task, He needed another Adam. An Adam who would this time say no to the temptations that the Devil would bring his way.

We know from scripture that Jesus was referred to as the second Adam.  So the time Jesus spent in the Wilderness was kind of a Garden of Eden do-over.  Adam and Eve were tempted with a fruit.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Ge. 3:6

First she was tempted with desire for the fruit.  It looked good.  Jesus was tempted to eat bread after fasting for forty days.  He was hungry.

Next, the story tells us that she saw that the fruit was desirable for gaining wisdom.  She wanted to be like God.  Not a bad endeavor.  After all, aren’t we called to be like Jesus?  The problem here is that God said that she was already like Him.  She and Adam were created in His image.  They were taking the serpent’s word above God’s.  Jesus was also tempted in this way when He was shown the whole world and Satan said he’d give it to Jesus if He would just worship him.  The truth is that all of the world already belonged to the Father, and therefore it belonged to Jesus as well.

Jesus was tempted in all ways, and yet He successfully warded off the enemy by using God’s Word.  He was the second Adam.  He succeeded and brought life again to the human race.  I don’t know why but I never made the connection between Jesus’ wilderness experience and the Garden of Eden before.

Prayer

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted of Satan:  Make speed to help thy servants who are assaulted by manifold temptations; and, as thou knowest their several infirmities, let each one find thee mighty to save; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. amen.

The Book of Common Prayer

From Desert to Dessert

I am fasting bread and dairy products during Lent.  It is true I am killing two birds with one stone, because I am suspicious that I am allergic to one or both of these items.  However, one of the things I’ve been meditating on is that Jesus is the Bread of Life.  When I crave a crusty, cavernous, buttery slice of Italian bread, I remind myself that He is my satisfaction and delight, not a chunk of bread. No easy feat for a bread lover like myself.

I find it interesting that during the first week of Lent the Book of Common Prayer has the saint meditating on this as well.  One of the first Lenten Scriptures I studied was in Deut. 8.

“And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognize and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

God guides us through desert times where there is no bread in sight.  He feeds us with something that we don’t recognize, and many times don’t care for.  During these times we learn to depend on Him and cling to His Word more than anything.  It is in a time such as this that we taste and see that the Lord is good.  It is in times like these that we go from desert to dessert.  From dry and hungry moments when we cry out,”God, Where are you?” to moments when we hold manna in our hands and question, “What is this?” to at last the moment when we sigh, “Ah, this is sweeter than the honeycomb!”

No matter where you are on this journey towards epiphany, enjoy the ride.  When it’s all over and you look back at your desert experiences, you’ll see His hand the entire way.  The whole time He was only preparing a fabulous dessert to enjoy at the end of the day!

Feast on God’s Word!

Ash Wednesday: What is it?

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent season (more to come on Lent soon).  It is a day to remind us of our need of a Savior for the remission of our sins.  The ashes signify two things.  One, a feeling of sorrow, as when various Biblical characters adorned themselves with sackcloth and ashes.  The sorrow on this day would be our fallen state and how it has separated us from God.  The other is to remind us of our mortality.  That we came from ashes and to ashes (or dust) we will return.

The entire idea of Ash Wednesday is to set apart a day in which the opportunity for true repentance can come to the believer.  I John 1:9 is one of the common finishing scriptures for an Ash Wednesday service.  “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”

Contrary to popular belief, Ash Wednesday isn’t only celebrated by Catholics and Anglicans.  Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians also observe Ash Wednesday.  Many Christians may feel that there is unnecessary emphasis on the sinful nature of the believer during this observance.  That may be so, but also consider the fact that the American church very rarely meditates on true repentance and our need for a Savior based on our sinful nature.

Here is a prayer commonly spoken at an Anglican service from the Book of Common Prayer for an Ash Wednesday service.  Notice the contrite and broken language, and the acknowledgment of how empty and religious things can become once they become religion with no understanding.  This is from the 1689 version of the Book of Common Prayer.

BRETHREN, this time of Lent upon which we are now entered was, by the Ancient Church, observed very religiously, and set apart; all men examining themselves for true fasting, and for the due preparation of all persons for the worthy receiving the Communion at Easter, and was of good use till superstition corrupted it, when all the fasting of this season came to be placed in a distinction of meats, upon which an undue value was set; and instead of men’s humbling themselves before God, and mourning for their sins and turning to God with all their hearts, and bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance, Auricular Confession, together with Outward Penances, were the things mainly insisted on. But in order to the rectifying these abuses, and returning to the ancient practice, you must know that fasting is of no value, but as it is joined with prayer, and the afflicting of our souls before God. Nor does it consist in the distinction of meats, but in such a restraint of bodily appetites as disposes the mind more for prayer. Nor are fasting, prayer, or our sorrowing for sin, of any value in the sight of God, but as they tend to work in us true repentance; which is a real change both of our heart and life by which we become assured of God’s love and favour to us; since by this only we can certainly know that God has forgiven our sins, if we ourselves do truly forsake them. But in order to your understanding aright the necessity of fasting and prayer, I shall set before you good and evil, life and death, blessing and cursing, in the words of God himself, who cannot lie, and in whom there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning. I shall read to you both some of the blessings of the Gospel, as also some of the heavy denunciations of God’s wrath, that are set down in the New Testament: that in these you may see both the blessedness to which our Saviour calls us, as also the dreadful judgments of God against impenitent sinners; and that by these you may be warned to flee from the wrath which is to come, and to lay hold on eternal life.

 

Hope this helps…

What do C S Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle and Desmond Tutu Have in Common?

In the past few years, it seems everything I’ve read has an Anglican connection.  From C.S.Lewis, famous apologist, author and professor, to Madeleine L’Engle, author of Newberry Award winning A Wrinkle in Time, to the endearing Father Tim character in Jan Karon’s Mitford series.

These authors mention The Book of Common Prayer, and Morning and Evening prayers regularly in their writings.  It made me curious.  Being raised in the Salvation Army (similar to Methodist doctrine), and then moving to a Pentacostal upbringing and now landing in what my pastor likes to call a Bapticostal church, the mysticicism of a “high church” order and liturgy has always intrigued me.  After all, what is the difference between reading the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer everyday and reading the Prayers That Avail Much?

I wondered what style of daily disciplines C S Lewis, George Whitefield and George Washington used to enhance their spiritual growth.  Thus began my journey.  A journey towards epiphany. A journey which I am now including you if you are interested.  Because my determined purpose is that I may know Him…

Our christmas tree

This was my very first post here, and though the methods may have changed, the quest is still the same. This year, I will be adding a new tradition to my celebration of advent. I will be going through the devotional that dear Ann has written. I will be doing this primarily alone, even though it is written as a family devotional..although I will be sharing weekly with my Neighborhood Bible Study. Won’t you join me? The devotional is free and available here.