Sunday, December 18, 2011

Memorable lines in a sermon

From this morning's excellent (encouraging, inspiring, moving, pointing to God's power in our lives) sermon, I can just about report word for word these lines:

The rugby rules of life,

Always feed your backs,

Never go down the blindside on your own,

When in trouble, always kick for touch.

Worth thinking about why I can recall these so well. Here is my thinking:

- I am interested in rugby and could relate to each rule.

- A connection was made between 'rugby' and 'life' which made me listen intently ('what has the game to do with real life?' was the curiosity value in this part of the sermon).

- Just three rules (four and I might not remember them all!)

- The last rule has a lovely touch of humour: the rule applied on the rugby field is excellent; the rule applied to life is questionable as it sounds like being advised to run away from a problem, or to hand it over to someone else to deal with. The difference between the two contexts provides both subtle humour and food for thought: thinking about this rule meant ending this exercise in listening in the same frame of intensity as at the beginning.

I could over analyse this! But the point for preachers is straightforward: we can find words to say things in such a way that they are memorable and we can avoid doing that with the effect that our words are less effective.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ten Steps To Better Preaching

Couldn't say this better than it is said here. So read it and do it!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The liturgy of Jesus

Prompted by an excellent post at Liturgy, itself stimulated by other posts on the internet, I have been thinking a little about worship and where we are going in our services as Anglicans, given that we do indeed want to achieve a lot from our liturgies: advance in mission, teaching the faith, mini-parish meetings (as sometimes our "notices" become), incorporating families (perhaps especially aiming at children, at youth, at young adults, at parents), evolving ourselves into deeper alignment with Anglicanism or (sub-)consciously moving away from that form of Christian life, as well as, lest we clergy forget, collecting the offertories to maintain stipend payments, dispensing pieces of paper, themselves sent by church and para-church officials with ambitions about what they will achieve from our congregations, building fellowship, offering hospitality. Quite a list! Oh, and had better mention the aim of worshipping God.

Rather than slate or promote this or these aims beside worshipping God, I think it useful to reflect a little on what a liturgy of Jesus might look like, i.e. if he were both the vicar and the chair of the worship committee.

We could think, for instance, of the way in which Jesus was at ease among groups and crowds of people, readily imbibed food and offered hospitality, never lost an opportunity to teach, often looked up to the Father to praise and to pray, quoted Scriptures frequently, often the Psalms, was regular at the synagogue, and at temple festivities.

Which makes me think whether one question about liturgy is wrongly framed: rather than ask whether we expect too much of liturgy, could we be expecting too little of ourselves as a fellowship of believers?

That is, make liturgy the reason primarily why we gather together, then tack various things on to the liturgy, then we may grumble that we are losing sight of what liturgy is primarily about.

What if we met together Sunday by Sunday (indeed more frequently than that) because we think meeting together is important in its own right. Then in the course of our meeting together we could talk, discuss, eat, drink, plan, prepare for other activities, and, yes, intentionally worship God through liturgy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bosco Peters' extraordinarily helpful e-NZPB page

Bosco Peters' is offering anyone who goes to this link the possibility of downloading important parts of NZPB electronically. The digital NZPB is slowly coming into being. It is grace on Bosco's part to offer this to the church; but the grace rests, in this instance, on a lot of work.

Deo gratia!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who to vote for this coming election: a sermon

Just occasionally I will publish a sermon here which I have written and preached. On the two passages in this morning's readings, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46,  I used the following as my text. Some aspects of it will only make sense to Kiwis who have followed the news re our forthcoming election and our post-quake struggles in Christchurch.

From Ezekiel, let me re read a few words: v. 16 “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”

And from Matthew I want to re read a few words: v. 35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me ... Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers you did it to me.”

What is at the heart of God’s message to us? What is God’s will for the world?

Justice, could be one word to sum it up. Justice and mercy, would be three words to put it in a phrase.

The gospel, the good message is that justice is possible. It can happen in life, not just in our dreams.

First, God shows mercy to us in Jesus Christ and forgives all our debts to God.

Secondly, God creates us to be a new people of justice.

Christians carry with them the story of God from Ezekiel: our God is merciful and works for justice.

Our hearts beat with the simple challenge of Jesus: someone is hungry, we feed them, thirsty we give them a drink, strange we welcome them, naked clothe them, sick we visit and in prison we go to them. The least significant is Christ in our midst.

Or that’s the way things should be.

Justice is a hot subject. Work for justice in the church and people are liable to look sideways at you; wonder if you are one of those left-wing types, or, these days, a greenie. Yet no one says we have no business with justice, that we should have nothing to do with works of mercy.

Mike Coleman is one of our priests. He is trying to give voice to the folk in the red zone. Their quest is for justice and for mercy from our government.

Jolyon White is one of our deacons. This week he has been in the news. Quite a few people, as far as I can tell, are mad with him.

His particular protest has been referred to the police by the Electoral Commission. Whatever we feel about what has happened, Jolyon’s heart beats for justice, his protest asks whether a brighter future for New Zealand is a just future or not.

In less than a week we vote in our election. It feels like a strange election to me.

A cup of tea seems to have dominated it.

Winston Peters might prove that resurrection can happen in this life.

But these are distractions.

Our votes are choices we make as Christians.

With today’s passages in mind dare we cast them in the interest of ourselves?

Dare we cast them in order to make sure our lives are better?

Of course not.

We can only vote for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.

We can only vote for those who will work with the grain of God’s shepherd heart

A heart which seeks the lost, the strayed, the injured and the weak.

Which party,

who is the prime minister,

what are the policies which will make our country strong in order to support the weak,

which will make our country healthy so we can bind up the injured,

which will make our country a safe haven for the lost?

That is our question this week.

If we are not ‘stirred up’ on this ‘stir up Sunday’ we should be stirred up.

Stirred up knowing that when Christ comes again he comes as judge,

yet right now he is in our midst

as the one who is hungry (200000 children below the poverty line),

who is thirsty (we have issues about the quality of our water),

who is alien (we have refugees struggling to settle here),

who is naked (well we had a naked rugby star in the news this week but what a lost young man he seems to be),

who is sick (we will know many).

and who is in prison (still many there though we can be thankful the numbers are falling).

This Saturday let’s vote for Christ!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The eucharist as a seamless robe of words and movements, i.e. ...

... do not, repeat NOT, put any instructions between the Great Thanksgiving//Breaking of Bread and Distribution of the Elements.

So many do this!?!?

Instructions for a meal take place before the meal not during it.

The profound fellowship with our Lord during Holy Communion is brought through the interplay of word and action, of Word and Sacrament. To intrude into the middle of the sequence instructions about wine or juice, chalice or small cups, standing to the left or moving to the right should be anathema!

Instruct (if required) before the Great Thanksgiving and let the great prayer and reenactment of the Lord's Supper be a seamless robe of words and movements.

No instructions in the middle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Never comment, never draw attention to yourself

If I could control the world of worship leading, here are two things I would control (after inventing a means of making worship leaders do what I programmed them to do):

(1) Never comment on stuff happening before or during leading (like, "I have lost my notes so I do not know where I am" or "It hasn't been a very good week, the choir had a bad practice on Thursday night so tonight will be a bit problematic.")

(2) Apart from introducing oneself by name, never draw attention to oneself while being the leader (like, "It's my first time leading tonight" or "I am feeling a bit nervous.")

Of course another way forward here is for me not to be in control and not to invent the means to programme leaders to do what I want them to do, rather, worship leaders take responsibility for not doing these two things!

Positively: "Just lead, and lead people to God."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Transitions are more important than you think

If I were Robbie Deans and (another big "if"), if it was timely to have a review with the Australian players this morning about how the game went last night - I can imagine they just want to get on the plane and go home - then I would talk about 'transitions' in the game. For instance, the transition at the beginning, from nothing happening to the first interaction between players and the ball: Quade Cooper kicked off in the first second and got it wrong because he kicked the ball out on the full, handing the initiative over to the All Blacks.

But we can say similar things about liturgy, in which 'transitions' are crucial to the flow of the service.

The obvious transitions in the eucharist are at the beginning, the Peace and at the end. The less obvious transitions are from sermon to intercessions, and from breaking of the bread to the post-communion.

Rather than me say how I think these transitions should go, I encourage constant review of how transitions in your services are going. In particular, I note that some transitions are handled the same way, week after week after week, so that the transitions become embedded traditions in the liturgical life of the parish. If the transitions are, in fact, not done well, then it can become quite difficult to improve them because , like any tradition, such transitions can be all but impossible to change.

Here are some review questions:

Do the transitions serve visitors and strangers in our midst well? Transitions can be moments for 'in house' stuff (chat, jokes, notices with first names of people to see after the service) which may be brilliant for the regulars and unnerving for visitors.

Do the transitions serve God and our worship of God well? Transitions can be (so to speak) secular moments in a sacred space. For example, a notice about how to receive communion may intrude into the moment prior to receiving communion as the culmination of the grand narrative of salvation recited in the Great Thanksgiving.

Do the transitions serve the dynamics of the service well? A long transition, for instance, can destroy the flow of the service, especially if the next movement in the service does not 'pick up' the service.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quality and quantity

Getting our worship services right is a huge challenge. There is the challenge of this coming Sunday, who will preachk, preside, pray, read, distribute and so forth. Oh, and the crack organist is away so what are we going to do for an alternative? CDs again? There is also the challenge of the longer term, say, the next 52 Sundays - the next year ahead. We could lurch from week to week filling in gaps on the roster, or perhaps we are blessed with many helping hands leaving us with the question whether across a whole year we are growing and developing the quality of what we are doing? Then there is a much greater question in terms of time: what about ten years from now, what will be happening in our church?

In some ways the last question is the one which most interests me, and perhaps I have the luxury of thinking about it because I am not a vicar and thus not worried about next Sunday's worship! But that ten years from now question should be thought about sometimes, I suggest, by vicars and priests-in-charge. After all there may be some things now which could begin to change in order to be ready for ten years ahead.

If some changes are not happening now, then ten years from now you can be sure there will be some big changes! Some congregations will not exist. Some will be confronted with a new vicar or priest-in-charge pushing for tumultuous change. Some will be staring a rather large maintenance bill in the face, or may be gulping at the size of the funds which need to be raised to bring their church interior into a new age.

Evolution or revolution? If we are not evolving our worship now, are we bequeathing revolution to those who come after us?

I started off thinking about 'quality and quantity' and have ended up thinking about 'evolution and revolution.' I think the relationship is that we can overlook the importance of quantity in seeking quality (in some cases the quality of our worship keeps numbers static), so a future revolution may be needed in order to resurrect a congregation. Yet, conversely, we can be enamoured by quantity and overlook the importance of working on quality. Without quality even the largest congregations can decline. So evolution is about holding concern for quality and quantity hand in hand.

But then I could be wrong!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Common Worship article

Just appearing in print in Anglican Taonga is this.

Evolution or Revolution

I was struck yesterday by experiences which raised for me the question whether change in worship style is best achieved by evolution (i.e. gradual, incremental change) or by revolution (i.e. instant, dramatic, global change)?

I guess the answer is probably that in some contexts evolution works well, and in other contexts revolution works well.

In the background to my mentioning this question is that in some places there is an associated question: does the situation provide the time for evolution to take place or must revolution occur before the church doors are shut?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Introduction to Preaching

On Wednesday night I am offering an Introduction to Preaching night at Theology House. I am realising that on the one hand I want to simplify preaching as much as possible so that the training is not confusing and on the other hand as I think about what the key ingredients are in the preparation and performance of a sermon I find there are many aspects to be considered!

Here are two quick ideas:

(1) There are three stages to a good sermon: first Preparation and last Performance with the second stage being the Transition between Preparation and Performance. The trap we often fall into is failing to get the second stage right.

(2) A good sermon delivers a message thus the key question in preparing a sermon is, What is my message?

Monday, August 15, 2011

What are we confirming in Confirmation?

Looking like an ordination without robes and a baptism without water, confirmation is an intriguing mix of ceremonies. It involves those being confirmed saying things about faith and commitment which are similar if not the same as said at a baptism. But no water is involved. It involves the bishop laying her hands on the candidates and praying for the Spirit of God to strengthen them with “gifts of grace”. But no one is ordained as a deacon or priest – no one becomes a “Rev”!

In other words there are two sides to the coin of confirmation. On one side faith and commitment are confirmed through the candidates stating what they believe and what they will do as followers of Christ. On the other side the work of the God’s Spirit which was begun within the candidates at their baptism is confirmed through the bishop laying her hands on them. In each case, the profession of faith (e.g. 1 Timothy 6:12) and the laying on of hands (e.g. 2 Timothy 1:6) are ancient Christian actions which are carried on as a living tradition in the practice of our faith.

If that deals with the question of ‘What are we confirming in confirmation?’ what about the question, ‘Who is confirmed?’ The answer to that question is anyone who wishes to make a public profession of their faith and commitment to God and to be strengthened in God’s service through the laying on of hands by their bishop. Many then want to ask ‘What age can people be confirmed?’ Some churches confirm very young people. For several decades now the wisdom of our Anglican church is that we think young adulthood is the appropriate earliest age to be confirmed (without defining that to a specific number of years). Anyone of any age beyond that is most welcome for confirmation.

What do you think? That is three hundred or so words for a small article in a parish magazine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Ms of Mary

Am preaching on Mary today at a 'matronal' festival. These "m"s emerge from my preparation as being associated with Mary:

Mediator, Model, Moral Standard, Mother of Jesus, Magnifier of God.

Not all these words, I will suggest, should apply to the reality of Mary's contribution to the gospel and to salvation.

There is another "m" which is then important to consider: Mary's God is the God of Mercy.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Get a projector

Quite a lot of paper is involved in quite a few services these days (I am finding): newssheet, servicesheet, hymnsheet, and perhaps an additional sheet of paper promoting something or providing the music for a special song. All understandable. All individually helpful but together ... could they be just a little confusing?

There is an alternative available in many instances, but, acknowledged, not in all places. A laptop-and-projector can cut down considerably on the bits of paper required to run a modern service. They are complicated to run (yes) and things can go wrong (not too often). But they sure do simplify things if projection can take place in our churches or halls.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Uniqueness of Sermons?

Are sermons unique in our world today? Where else do we have opportunity for one person to expect a group to listen to a talk and, conversely, for a group to gather willingly to submit to the thoughts and ideas of one person? OK - I see those answers coming: Rotary dinners, school prize-givings. But are they not single focused? We would expect the speaker to concentrate on (say) their area of specialty or the immediate context ('the school and its successful past year'). In a sermon the preacher is free to range widely, from heaven to earth, around the globe, from subject to subject. Jesus is Lord of all, so his Word potentially on any given Sunday may speak to any topic under the sun.

The sermons I heard yesterday reminded me of another aspect of sermons, which, again, is possibly unique today: the preacher has opportunity to explore a range of possibilities in how her or his context is communicated. Literary flourishes, rhetorical strategies, tonal changes, theory and testimony, principles and pragmatics. As a listener we may have the experience of hearing the simple truths of the gospel expressed in the richest of imaginative language and illustrated by profoundly deep stories.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Neither Policeman Nor Examiner

I quite enjoy visiting church services in the Diocese of Christchurch which I have not been to before. It gives me an opportunity to experience for myself what is happening 'on the ground' in terms of content, structure, length, and leadership of services. It also keeps my eyes open to the diversity of services on offer across the Diocese.

One thing I am conscious of is that my presence in a service will be interpreted as some kind of inspection, perhaps as a 'liturgical policeman' (warrants for arrest issued afterwards if a word is out of place) or a 'worship examiner' (marks out of 10 given for the performance). No!! I go to experience, to understand why the service is done in the way it is (as best I can), and to be continually challenged in my role as a trainer and educator.

Yesterday I was at three services in three different parishes, only one of which involved me in a role (preacher and presider, as it happened). All three were different. Each was well put together and each had an integrity to it, honed out of different parish histories. Each reflected different worshipping traditions within the Anglican church. In the course of the day I experienced three different kinds of church music, each, to my mind, representing different generational tastes.

Funny thing, the age profiles of each service corresponded to the music genre present in the service.

In sum: if you want to grow a youth service, get a bass guitar.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gospel notes for Sunday 3rd July 2011

Yesterday I delivered some material to one of our archdeaconries on the gospel reading (RCL) for Sunday 3rd July. It may be of interest to you, especially if you are preparing a sermon for that day. The context here is Christchurch city, battered and bruised as it is.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (Gospel for Sunday 3rd July, 2011)

11:16 “To what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another,

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’

11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’

11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

[Deuteronomy 21:20, ‘They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard”.’ Matthew’s Greek for ‘glutton and drunk’ is not same as Septuagint for ‘glutton and drunkard.]

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children.

11:26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will (lit. ‘for so it pleased you well’).

11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him.

11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

(NET: )

This passage is very difficult (e.g. around meaning of ‘wisdom’, how wisdom is acquired, Johannine character of 11:25-27, play on rabbinical and Christian discipleship in 11:28-30, meaning of ‘rest’ (is it our ‘peace and tranquillity while snoozing in the sun on a sunny January holiday’?). Suggest looking up a good commentary. Theology House has a few.

One difficulty is presented by the lectionary itself: why has 11:20-24 been omitted? Looks like a case of “difficult passage, better leave it out.” This kind of thing is ‘rough justice’ on the theological ability of the biblical writer. In this case Matthew connects 11:16-19 with 20-24 via the theme of works: God’s sending of Jesus into the world is ‘wisdom’ which is justified by its deeds or works (ergon); these works include mighty or powerful works (dynameis) of Jesus, so powerful that people should be repenting. What are our congregations missing by not hearing the whole passage?

Matthew the theologian works some authentic Jesus material differently to Luke (compare with Luke 7:31-35; 10:12-15; 10:21-22; and no comparable passage for Matthew 11:28-30), his skill and thematic interests as a theologian being betrayed by his sequencing of material and words which constitute the glue joining sections together.

Another theme worked through by Matthew is sonship. In the first passage Jesus the Son of Man speaks of himself being derided by ‘this generation’. But the language is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 21:20, in a passage about how parents are to deal with a wayward son. Ironically, whether ‘the Son of Man’ or ‘the Son of God’, Jesus is not recognised as such. In fact the opposite: he is derided with the language used of a bad son. Bad sons are recognised by their bad deeds. The generation of Jesus do not see the deeds of Jesus for what they are: deeds proving God’s wisdom is true. Rightly, Jesus the good Son addresses God as Father (11:25, 26, 27).

Wisdom is another theme Matthew is concerned with (11:19, 25, 29). Is wisdom – true, divine wisdom – received through revelation or through rabbinical learning? Revelation seems paramount, not only setting aside learning through study with rabbis (the ‘wise and intelligent’) but also judging the inanities of the crowds making their populist judgments of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Yet at the end of the passage, Jesus’ yoke is a rabbinical image: his disciples will learn from him, like other rabbis’ disciples. However Jesus continues to set himself apart: he is gentle and humble, his yoke is light and his load is easy to bear. But that means that ...

‘rest’ here is not refreshment and recreation, rather it is the result of effective learning from the true Wisdom: their souls will not be heavy burdened and weary from the demands of the Law but enjoying the peace of a mind which knows God’s will. Note the contrast between the light yoke of Jesus and the heavy demands of the Pharisees in the next chapter, Matthew 12.

Eugene Peterson’s The Message captures this understanding of ‘rest’ well in this translation:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Which brings us back to sonship. When Jesus bids his disciples to take his yoke which is to walk closely beside him and learn from him what relationship is immediately behind this relationship? The Father – Son relationship described in 11:27. As the Son has been yoked to the Father, yielding complete knowledge, so disciples will know the Son and thus the Father (all of which is much expanded on in John’s Gospel).

All very interesting (with much more untouched here) but what is our message going to be when we preach on this reading?

What single theme might our words on July 3rd cohere around in a tight, focused message? There are several themes here.

From this passage what application(s) could we make to our communities around us, battered and bruised as we are?

My suggested answers to these questions

(1) Is Christchurch a city under judgement? Whether we take a view on the earthquakes themselves being acts of judgement, we are a city being tested for what makes us tick, what our allegiances are, and where our deepest values lie. There are some signs of more people coming to church. Are people turning to Christ in repentance and faith? Is there a vague upturn of religiosity and sentiment?

(2) Jesus is the centre. Every part of this passage (including the omitted passage in 11:20-24) turns on Jesus. Jesus is always looking for those who belong to him, who understand him, who come to him because he is the way, the truth and the life.

(3) The pressure of the earthquakes is immense. The challenges for many are overwhelming. We have lost our familiar treasures. Yet Jesus offers the incomparable treasure of knowing the Father through the Son (in the power of the Spirit). It is all that matters.

(4) +Kelvin Wright ( ): empty church buildings in Otago and Southland as testimony to a former way of doing things. Our ‘core business’ is personal transformation. Those buildings were once important to that ‘business’. Now they are not. But the ‘core business’ remains the same. What do we need to do to ‘grow the business’ in today’s environment?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our faith on Trinity Sunday

Lost from NZPB is this treasure of the BCP, itself a treasure of the church of the ages, the Athanasian Creed. Let's dust it off on this most suitable of days for its recitation.

Quicunque vult

WHOSOEVER will be saved : before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith.

Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled : without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the Catholick Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

Neither confounding the Persons : nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son : and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one : the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son : and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate : and the Holy Ghost uncreate.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible : and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal : and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals : but one eternal.

As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated : but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty : and the Holy Ghost Almighty.

And yet they are not three Almighties : but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God : and the Holy Ghost is God.

And yet they are not three Gods : but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord : and the Holy Ghost Lord.

And yet not three Lords : but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord;

So are we forbidden by the Catholick Religion : to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none : neither created, nor begotten.

The Son is of the Father alone : not made, nor created, but begotten.

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son : neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons : one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other : none is greater, or less than another;

But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together : and co-equal.

So that in all things, as is aforesaid : the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved : must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation : that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess : that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds : and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;

Perfect God and perfect Man : of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead : and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood;

Who, although he be God and Man : yet he is not two, but one Christ;

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh : but by taking of the Manhood into God;

One altogether; not by confusion of Substance : but by unity of Person.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man : so God and Man is one Christ;

Who suffered for our salvation : descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty : from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.

At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies : and shall give account for their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting : and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

This is the Catholick Faith : which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and every shall be: world without end. Amen.

Did anyone recite it in church today?

Monday, June 13, 2011

How Long Should a Service Be?

This simple question has a complex answer. I am prompted to think about it a little by my preaching in a church yesterday with three services, each of differing time lengths. While I think my third delivery of the sermon was a little longer than than the first two, overall my sermon was pretty average in delivery time, and on these three occasions didn't contribute to any undue lengthening of the services (all of which, as far as I could tell, actually kept to their planned, and customary length).

(1) There is an unstated lower limit to length! Let's face it, most people going to a mid-morning Sunday service would be puzzled if not grizzly if they were out of the church within half-an-hour. While we mostly (in my experience) talk about services being too long, it is possible for a service to be too short.

(2) When people plan services there is often an associated plan re the time (whether stated or not). If the service then takes too short or too long a time, review of the service, in the light of the plan, can lead to improved planning.

(3) Context is a significant constraint on time. If, say, there are three services on a Sunday morning, 8 am, 9 am, and 10.30 am, and some time gap between services is sought, then the first two services are likely to be constrained to 45 minutes and 60 minutes respectively. Sunday lunch is still a desirable meal, especially for hungry children and teenagers, so the constraint on the 10.30 am service will be different. What is a reasonable time for a family to get away from church in time for lunch? The above sentences presume a single centre parish. There would be other constraints in a parish where each of three services is in a different location.

(4) Personal comfort is a constraint. For what time span for a service can we reasonably expect people to engage? Expectation will vary with age and stage. Mid-week services, for example, often with 95%+ participation by people aged over 75 years, are rightly among the shortest services we hold. Young students, enjoying lots of music and a mentally-demanding Bible exposition may be very happy to come to an evening service that lasts one and a half to two hours. I suggest we do well to think about what would be comfortable for a newcomer, as well as the comfort level for regular worshippers. In some circumstances I have noticed congregational numbers dropping when service length has not been constrained.

(5) Consistency is a factor. Again, speaking from experience, and taking a hypothetical "8 am, 9 am and 10.30 am" set of services, consistency helps in several ways. Consistently tightly held deadlines for the first two services is a great help to those setting up and assisting in leading the following service. A third service in the morning is not under quite the same constraint: it could vary a little in length from week to week, but normally people appreciate knowing that they will be able to choose to leave the building between (say) 11.40 and 11.45 am.

But all this involves another set of questions: how long should the individual parts of each service take ...!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fine tuning preaching

Unfortunately I have lent the book onwards but a biography of John Stott has a very useful section on reviewing sermons. In my faulty memory these were the useful questions asked What was the message? (What message did I think I preached, What message did you hear?) and How did the message come across? (Did it patronise? Was it too simple, too clever? Was your attention held?).

A "PS" question I would add, just to check, is, Was there one and only one message? It is interesting listening to a sermon and to notice (as the hearer) that something has changed or shifted in the sermon. What has happened (I say to myself)? Ah, yes, a new message has begun (i.e. a new subject, topic or theme is being attended to). Let's say that great preachers do not do this, but good preachers notice when they do this and rescue the sermon but quickly leaving the new message, returning to the actual message for the day, and concluding promptly!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Worship, Mission, Love

Quick thought re worship, mission and love. Sometimes in discussions about priorities of the church we end up with a 'worship is the most important thing' conclusion, and sometimes it is 'mission is the most important thing.'

Both are good conclusions to reach and if it was a competition between 'worship' and 'mission' it might be declared a dead heat.

Recently I have been thinking about something else and I have realised that it may be the connecting link between the two. That something else is divine love. What do we have to offer the world? The gospel of divine love: God loves the world. What is worship? Responding to God's love for us with our love sent back to God.

Mission and worship are connected inextricably in this vision. A world looking at a congregation worshipping God should 'see the love.' A congregation going out into the world goes to demonstrate God's love. Worship and mission are not in a competition, unless it is the competition to give out and give away as much love as possible.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting to grips with Anglican eucharistic liturgy

Tonight I speak with a group of worship leaders in a parish. I have experienced their regular Sunday worship and feel there are no particular problems to address - far from it, they do everything well. It is tempting to say "You do not need me; I won't come."

So what might one say in such a meeting? First, I am going to ask questions of the group as to whether they have anything they want to raise with me. If there are problems they wish to tackle it would be better if we do before the meeting is over. Secondly, I am going to talk a little about the "inner structure" of our most used Anglican eucharistic liturgy, "page 404." (In doing so I will acknowledge the fact that some of my greatest development in learning about liturgy has been through my conversations with Bosco Peters over the years.)

What is important to me about the inner structure of page 404?

First, the service is not a shopping list to get through, each item ticked on the way. Rather, it is a service with an object, to worship God, and two main parts to it, each designed to draw us closer to God and to enable us to receive blessing from God. Part One is the ministry of the Word, and part two is the ministry of the Sacrament. In the first part we hear the Word of God proclaimed. In the second part we receive the Word of God made visible in the Sacrament of the bread and the wine.

I want to concentrate on the first part tonight, the ministry of the Word. This part has quite a few items so, again, the temptation might be to think that the aim is to get through the series of items, like ticking off items on a shopping list. I am going to propose that we think of this part of the Holy Communion as being about the proclamation of the Word so that we then think about the "items" in it as all related to that proclamation.

The initial items - Greeting, Collect of Purity, Gloria, Commandments, Confession, Absolution prepare us to hear the proclamation and (later) to receive the Sacrament. A few further items, Sentence and Collect draw us closer to hearing God's Word (for instance, by focusing our minds on the theme present in the readings and (hopefully!) in the sermon). Subsequent items of Creed and Intercessions are responses to hearing that Word.

I will also make the point that there is a lovely turning point between the preparation for hearing the Word and the proclamation of the Word when the worship leader and the congregation say,

"The peace of Christ rule in our hearts.
The word of Christ dwell in us richly."

In short, Having confessed our sins, let us hear the Word.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lessons from the Royal Wedding service

There are quite a few lessons to learn from the widely viewed wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Some are obvious, such as do everything well and ensure that is so by appropriate rehearsing. Some are less obvious, such as think deeply, widely and slowly about what music will go well with the occasion (and what will not). Whoever put the music together for this occasion deserves an Oscar.

One lesson to think about is the number of voices it is appropriate to have in the leadership of a service. On this occasion we can all understand that the Dean of the Abbey and the Archbishop of Canterbury needed to have a role. But what with each contributing to the leadership and yet another bishop preaching and another cleric leading the prayers, I am reminded that too many voices can fragment the overall sense of unity and continuity in a service.

But the most important lesson to learn, not just for any wedding, but for any service of worship, is that out of the ordinary staples of worship: liturgy, prayers, reading, sermon, music, ritual an extraordinary, riveting, and (dare I say it in a Christian context) magical event can be created.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

E is for Engagement

A friend reading my preaching 'e's challenged me to do one more, on Engagement.

I quite agree. Engagement might be the most important 'e' preaching word of them all.

I have a message to give. The congregation is open to receiving the message. But will they receive the message? When, perhaps, some are tired, others are distracted (e.g. by an accompanying child, by some anxiety), and others are entranced by something around them - a buzzing fly, a sun-filled stained glass window - what will engage attention so that the message delivered is, more or less, the message received?

I do not think there is a preferred method. Some preachers use humour effectively to retain attention and to reinforce the message. Others tell appropriate illustrative stories, the best of these placing them judiciously into the flow of the sermon. Within the story tellers are those who engage best through autobiography, others through biography (i.e. the stories of other people), and others through other kinds of stories drawn from history, nature and sport (how the war was won, how ants co-operate, how to develop a winning frame of mind). It will help if the Bible is mentioned! Often the text for the day is engaging in its own right - a dramatic episode from Israel's history, a might miracle of Jesus, a parable with a sting in its tail.

Let me stop there for now. In doing so I exemplify one further aspect of engagement: speaking for less rather than more time. The most engaging material has a time limit on it. Go beyond that limit and engagement will cease.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another "E" of Preaching: one to avoid

Here is another "E" in preaching: Explanation.

I suggest this "E" word is one to try to avoid as much as possible.

Explanations tend to give information and contribute little to transformation. Within a sermon explanations are a sidetrack down which the sermon heads, away from the main point of the sermon. By 'sidetrack' I mean: a state into which the hearers are led from which they might not come back. In my case I will probably have fallen asleep during the explanation!

'Explanation' includes explaining how the sermon came to be written, why the topic was chosen, what got in the way of its steady progress during the week of preparation. Do not do this. The sermon's purpose is to point people to the God of Jesus Christ, not to the autobiography of the preacher.

'Explanation' includes explaining technical matters. These could be matters within the biblical text itself such as what a Pharisee was, or where Pergamum is, or how big a mustard tree grows. Sometimes these explanations contribute to the impact of the point of the sermon and thus should be made, but even then, concisely! An example might be the degradation of the prodigal son in Luke 15: tending pigs was not what good Jewish boys did (or do, to this day).

Technical matters could also be about life as it is related to the biblical text. Peace and justice in this world is threatened by the decisions of world powers. A little explanation, a few illustrations will underline this point ... but please, literally "for God's sake", for the sake of drawing hearers towards God, and not towards the complexities of politicians' lives, be as brief, as concise as possible.

A third possibility re technical matters in sermons can be 'the theology of X'. Perhaps the biblical text is about the work of the Spirit in our lives. We feel a need to distinguish between that work in terms of 'gifts of the Spirit' and of 'fruit of the Spirit.' Well there are many gifts and many kinds of fruit. We could get a long way from the central point we wish to make very quickly with explanations about 'gifts' and 'fruit'. Here advice might not only be, as above, to be brief and concise in the explanation, it might also be to ask ourselves the question, "Is the feeling I have that I need to make some distinction between the Spirit's gifts and fruit a feeling which I need to act on?" That is, might there be another way to talk about how the Spirit works in our lives? There will be other opportunities to talk about the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit.

Take care when the text of our sermons has the character of 'explanation.'

PS Take even greater care when  we start ad libbing explanations. They are so difficult to bring to a quick ending.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The "E"s of Preaching

Some e-words to think about when considering how to preach well.

Exegesis: drawing out from the text what it is saying.

Exposition: saying what the text means for us today.

Evangelism: ensuring the good news of Jesus Christ is part of (even the whole of) our sermon.

Essay: the kind of sermon to avoid. Some longer sermons have the feel of an essay and suffer accordingly. A sermon should be more like a blog post, letter to the editor, or message on a postcard than like an essay.

Enthusiasm: sermons are not just words, they are convictions communicated through words; let our enthusiasm for what we believe be expressed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It is not what you say but how you say it that is remembered

If the title of the post is true about conversational speech it is not necessarily true about preaching. People do remember some things we say in sermons. Content matters, keep working on it! But how we say things does matter. Cheerfulness, good humour, a smile will be remembered .. as will a judgmental tone, shouting, negativity towards others, sarcasm and the like.

How do we want to be remembered as preachers?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thinking about the National Memorial Service today

It's a big thing to organise a service such as we had in Christchurch today. I imagine that the organisers (whom I know included Dean Peter Beck and Bishop Victoria Matthews but others the number, experience and Christian commitment of whom I have no idea) had quite a lot to discuss because there were quite a few parts to the service.

I guess some of the music fell into place fairly easily (Amazing Grace, Pie Jesu, Whakaria Mai (How Great Thou Art), God Save the Queen, God Defend New Zealand) and once Dave Dobbyn comes ino the picture then Loyal is the song for him to sing. Sometimes our music choices are straightforward.

Likewise the speakers were straightforward (a Maori elder, the PM, Prince William, the Mayor, the Leader of the Opposition, Bishop Victoria). Ditto for us.

Trickier, I imagine, were other elements: which readings and who to read? who to pray and how many prayers? what symbolic actions and who to perform them? How to do everything to make the service complete and how to invite a range of people so all sectors of Christchurch society were represented. Sometimes we have these challenges for parish services. The bishop is coming for an annual (combined) service ... which readers and intercessors to ask representing the different congregations, generations and genders in the parish?

Something worked really well that the organisers had no control over: the weather was brilliant for an outside service. Some parishes in Christchurch are having a few outdoor services these days and the weather hasn't always been brilliant.

Final note: something I missed at the end of today's service. There was no clear and definite signal that the service had ended. In our services these days, even our most informal ones, 'the Dismissal' is said. Not only do we leave the service with great words, we know the service has ended!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quick reflection on worship amidst tragedy

Just one thought re worshipping in the midst of tragedy - since the 22nd February 2011 earthquake here in Christchurch, NZ ... stick to the book.

We are all well meaning, and we want to do the very best we can with helpful words and caring made up prayers and so on. But it is so hard to get words right. My experience is not your experience. My intense conviction that God did not send the earthquake may not be your intense conviction (not because you believe God sends earthquakes punitively or maliciously, but because you believe God is in charge of everything and so earthquake (somehow) fit in with God's purposes).

So it has struck me that if we can bear to gather to worship together in the midst of tragedy then the simplest words to use might be the familiar words of liturgy. Such words are not specifically designed to meet us in our hour of tragic need so they are not condemned if they do not directly help us. Being familiar, such words do not require much listening effort on our part. They can wash over us and seep inside us.

We can take time to think about what to say as our wise contribution to talking about these grave matters. A month or a year from now might be the best time to speak. In the meantime, stick to the book!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Preaching with the Waiapu Academy

From Bosco Peters's blog I learn something I pass on to readers here.

Rev Dr Howard Pilgrim, theological educator and academic leader within the Diocese of Waiapu, is providing (RCL) preaching resources via the web.

Link here.

From that site you go to a picture of the gospel text with verbal commentary by Howard Pilgrim.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting Jesus out of the Bible into Life Today

What I am about to write may not work every Sunday!

Yesterday, the gospel reading, Matthew 5:13-20, had a certain complexity: the lovely and inspiring images of salt and light combined with a potentially very complicated set of verses on the law (complicated, e.g., in relation to explaining grace and faith). What to do?

It happened that I wrote one sermon, then another. I think what drove me to ditch the first was that it led into the complexity of the verses about Jesus' fulfilling the law without making a good relevant connection to our lives today.

The helpful idea which came to mind - thank you Lord - was to begin the sermon by asking what Jesus might have said were he at Waitangi yesterday or walking about in Tahrir Square, Cairo, where thousands of protestors have been gathering through the last week or so. That led me to suggest Jesus might have talked about the law first (connecting the law of Moses as a recipe for a just, healthy and godly society, with the respective situations of Aotearoa NZ and Egypt in which not everything is just, healthy or godly), and then about being salt and light.

The simple device of asking what Jesus might say in today's situation helped enormously with moving from the gospel passage as an academic challenge (what does salt of the earth mean, what is light of the world all about, why does Jesus say what he says about the law) to the gospel as a living word for today.

If a key to great sermons is telling stories (Bible stories, real life today stories) then one possibility, as happened yesterday, is to tell the Bible story as though it is happening today: if Jesus were in situation X, then, on the basis of our gospel reading, he would say Y.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Readings Fiasco

I and only I am solely responsible for the following, which I report as a reminder of the importance of not taking everything at face value and of checking and re-checking information.

Looking up my lectionary in my Parson's Pocket Book (an English sourced annual diary-cum-note-taking-cum-lectionary-resource) I came up with readings for yesterday's sermon at a church which had graciously invited me. (Relevant explanation: I chose to go with the 'ordinary' readings rather than the 'extraordinary' = Presentation of Jesus readings).

Error #1: I accepted that the lectionary is the same the world over and looked forward to preaching on John 2:1-11. But it turned out (through conversation with a colleague who has a different diary but also with English based lectionary readings) that John 2:1-11 is not the reading set down in our NZ Lectionary (i.e. Matthew 5:1-12). It further turns out, as Bosco Peters' confirms, that nowhere else in the world has this particular C of E reading!! OK. I preceded to prepare a message with good content.

Error #2: when it came time for the OT reading I noticed that the reading was from 1 Kings 7:8-16. The reading should have been 1 Kings 17:8-16. But, you guessed it, on checking my emails, it was me who had sent 1 Kings 7:8-16. No, double-checking then, on my part. (Further, to make matters worse, after discovering the discrepancy between 1 John 2:1-11 and Matthew 5:1-12, I had confirmed that the readings were to be as I had sent them.) Fortunately I was able, impromptu, to make something of the 1 Kings 7 reading in relation to my 'main text', John 2:1-11.

I have learned some lessons this weekend!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Preacher know thyself, thy temptations, and thy hobby horses

I preached today for the first time for several weeks (and for the first of a sequence of invitations in the next few weeks).

I leave it to the congregation concerned to appraise the actual sermon they heard, and God is my judge for what I delivered. Here I want to reflect on how I got to what was preached. I found as I was working on the sermon that I was doing something I often do in sermon preparation. It goes something like this:

(a) oh, I see X (within the overall course of the sermon) is a potential problem in respect of offering some thinking which is logically secure and pastorally responsible. (Often X is an aspect of the problem of suffering).
(b) what if a more than averagely learned, or more than ordinarily expected sufferer of life's tragedies is present?
(c) I had better make sure I say something sensible and sensitive in respect of X.
(d) oh, and I see that a related problem, Y, needs to be mentioned as well,
(e) Let me see ... First, ... Second, ... then this means (a) .... then, (b) ....
(f) Is this becoming too complicated? A long-winded complicated argument for the listeners to follow? Are those eyes of the congregation glazing over in my imagination as I think about delivering the sermon tomorrow?

I won't tell you when I felt that (f) was definitely in view, or when I determined that a fairly substantial change would and should be made to what I had prepared, but it was fairly late in the process of preparation.

My temptation, you see, is to become convoluted. It is all in a good cause (trying to honour the integrity of people's intellectual curiosity and/or pastoral needs). But (experience has often shown me) it is not good overall. Too many of the congregation are lost to the message when I give into the temptation and a complex sermon results.

What is your temptation as a preacher?  What do you need to discipline out of your sermon during the preparation stage?

Monday, January 17, 2011

You can tell when the hard yards have been done

Listening to an excellent sermon yesterday morning I appreciated very much that some hard work had gone into its preparation. There was simply too much detail in the explanation of the main scriptural passage for this sermon to be anything other than a well prepared one.

Incidentally by 'detail' I do not mean 'lots of information, ultimately tedious to have to listen to as it was listed for us.' Not at all: another sign of the hard work in preparation was the way in which the detail was presented. Not too much, not too little. Relevant to the passage, interesting to the congregation. Conveyed with a light touch. A minor rather than a major part of the sermon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A wider perspective on worship

Readers - I know of at least two of you, thank you - may be pleased to know that I was back at church this morning. No earthquake swarms and no travelling exigencies (see post below). A fine service it was and just what I like: a plain, standard, no frills (and no spills) Anglican eucharistic liturgy. But I got to thinking during the service.

There is a very wide church scene in Christchurch, NZ. Many Anglican churches, with varying attendances and varying commitments to a plain, standard, no frills Anglican eucharistic liturgy; many fine Catholic churches, some with very high attendances; some strong Presbyterian and Methodist churches (but diminishing numbers of the latter); but the prize for attendance and vibrancy, I believe, goes to a number of independent, or quasi-independent churches which, by all accounts, are pentecostal-cum-evangelical in flavour. And whatever goes on their services, I am certain it is not a plain, standard, no frills Anglican eucharistic liturgy.

Thinking about this, it is no surprise that a variety of worship preferences exists in our society of many flavours and fashions (think the multitude of sports and recreations one can participate in these days compared to forty years ago; or the options in careers, to say nothing of the wisdom that says each and everyone of us will have five careers in our lifetime). Whatever the virtues of sound Anglican liturgy properly performed, in the remainder of my lifetime it is unlikely to assume some kind of dominance in worship among Christians in NZ. I certainly hope its role grows stronger than what it is, and I imagine that such growth would be accompanied by continued growth in the Roman Catholic church in NZ. But will the dominant 'bloc' of larger churches in Christchurch be Anglican/Roman Catholic in my lifetime? I suspect not.

So my thinking continued along this line: what does it mean to be Anglican in respect of worship, living in communities such as Christchurch where some clear and strong voting with their feet is taking worshippers in large numbers to pentecostal-cum-evangelical independent or quasi-independent churches? Is the most important thing the 'Anglican liturgy'? Should we broaden our style of worship services and develop the content of our liturgies to better capture the imagination of worshipping Christians? Some in our midst, of course, are already doing this (with, I hasten to observe, mixed success as measured by attendance; also, I hasten to add, in many cases with a clear sense of using the flexibility of worship style and content available according to our formularies and canons).

The answer to my last question may mean that the most important thing about being Anglican is that it is an inclusive church of the people (think back to the church of Cranmer and co being self-consciously the Church of England, meaning all England). To this aim 'Anglican liturgy' may take second place.

Much can be discussed here. Is a church of the people necessarily a church which compromises liturgical principles handed down through the ages? In the long term will a church with sound liturgy be more inclusive of more people because it will last longer. There are churches in Christchurch, after all, which seem to have great numbers today but were not even in existence 30+ years ago when I were a lad: will they still be with us in 30 years time? (They might be: one of the largest churches in Christchurch when I left as a young adult remains the largest church today).

A final thing I thought about: in yesterday's paper a young, energetic couple were pictured in a church advertisement, as pastors of one of the growing independent churches. The husband is the son of a vicar. I do not know all the reasons why this pastor is not a vicar himself. But it does make me wonder whether we ought to be a church with enough width to incorporate him into our college of presbyters. Perhaps God is working on that :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Liturgical Hopes for 2011

I have actually had two Sundays in a row not going to church. Scandalous, I know. In weak defence I proffer 'earthquake swarm' and 'travelling exigencies' as reasons for not making it to corporate worship in a building unlikely to fall on my head :) But perhaps, from time to time, a few Sundays away from liturgies reminds me of what liturgies offer. In this case, I have missed the rhythm and order which Sunday liturgies contribute to my life and the life of my family. Then there is the missing factor of the special confrontation liturgy in a corporate setting offers: in the midst of God's people, God is present in a special manner which confronts me with how I am living my life. This past week, I realise, I have lived committing sin and omitting obedience (thankfully liturgy offers confession and absolution). I have not been as attentive as I might to Scripture through my personal reading (thankfully liturgy offers proclamation of God's Word through reading Scripture and preaching). And, certainly, my mind has not thought of all things which could be given thanks for and prayed for (thankfully liturgy offers opportunity for thanksgiving and intercession).

Where the liturgy is a eucharist then there is also opportunity for that which otherwise I am forbidden to experience alone: the symbolic participation in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through bread and wine in shared feast of thankful memory of Christ dying for the sins of the whole world.

My liturgical hopes for 2011 are simple: let me and others in Christ's body meet with the living God together through what we do and say. And may what is said and done, especially by the leaders of liturgy not (even 'NOT') inhibit that meeting!