Monthly Archives: January 2010

Renewing the Eucharist — Journey (book review)

A while ago, I read Renewing the Eucharist Volume 1: Journey, (Richard Giles, Nicola Slee, Ann Loades and Mark Ireland; series editor: Stephen Burns, ISBN 978 1 85311 860 9) and wrote a review for Uniting Church Studies. This little book is well worth getting, so I’m reproducing the review here:

I recall arriving in Turku, Finland on a Saturday. Next morning, I decided to go to church and with some difficulty found one with a service at the right time. It was a Lutheran congregation, as they mostly are, on the ground floor of a block of units. I wondered how I’d go—but it was much easier than I thought to feel ‘at home’, even though there was (predictably, obviously) not a word of English spoken.

My way was made smooth because I was familiar with the shape of the liturgy. I knew at every point just where we were in the flow of the service. ‘I’ was part of the ‘we’! We gathered, we received the Word, we shared the Holy Meal and were dismissed. All this was clear, without a word of English being spoken, because of this fourfold shape.

It was with anticipation, then, that I opened the first volume of Renewing the Eucharist, entitled Journey. This little gem of a book plays with the theme of the fourfold shape of the Service of the Lord’s Day:

Gathering
Word
Table
Sending

I write ‘Service of the Lord’s Day’ in good UCA style, but just as I entered the fourfold flow of a Finnish Lutheran service, in this book we enter the shape of the liturgy that forms worshippers in the Church of England and uses Anglican speech forms. Yet we find the Spirit still bestows the Pentecostal gift of understanding.

And little wonder—for this shape is neither Anglican nor Uniting, nor is it registered to any sectarian label. The fourfold shape of the liturgy is a great gift to us all: the earliest record of a congregation at a worship service employing an early form of this shape comes from the pen of Justin Martyr, writing in the Rome of the second century.

GATHERING

We begin by gathering. Richard Giles shows that the shape of the liturgy is the shape of a journey, a pilgrimage, which takes us (if we will go) ‘into the heart of God’.

Fascinatingly, he writes: ‘if we are merely ‘on time’ for the liturgy…we are in fact late. For we have failed to allow time for the essential process of gathering together’. Some people at some times may need to arrive late (and leave early), but it deprives them of participating in essential elements of the liturgy. As Giles says (p. 18),

Gathering is…a springboard [through which the] individual is made ready for worship, to give God worth-ship by first receiving from fellow-worshippers a sense of his or her own worth… Whatever life has thrown our way in the previous days, here…we are known, and cherished, and thereby may be healed. In gathering for worship we come home.

Would that all congregations gathered in this spirit to worship the living God!

WORD

Nicola Slee reminds us that the living Word is more than words. It takes the initiative, it forms us, addresses us; it is the ‘dynamic presence of God’ (p. 36), it is the Sophia Wisdom of God, it has become flesh in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the word is a life rather than a series of propositions. We need to beware domesticating the Word of God to fit our words. To really hear the Word, we both receive it as gift and (p. 40)

do all we can to make space for the word to be spoken, to cultivate the habits and disciplines that will allow the word to be heard: it is up to God, in God’s freedom, to speak as and when God wills.

The text of the Bible may alienate, because it comes mixed up in the messiness of human life. Slee is thankful that Anglicans have never made a simple identification between the Bible and the Word; I breathe a similar prayer of thanks for the guidance given to the Uniting Church by the Basis of Union.

TABLE

Eating together is an everyday activity. It fosters relationship, promotes hospitality and reminds us of our creatureliness. As creatures, we look to the Creator for life; as Christians, we draw on our ancient texts, singing ‘Holy, holy, holy’ and ‘Glory be’ to the triune God. We respond to God’s gracious self-revelation and find that life is ‘sacramented’ (p. 68), even in the midst of failure and shame. In the Lord’s Supper, we are given hospitality by Jesus Christ.

How many sacraments are there? As good heirs of the Reformation, we answer ‘two’. Yet the early Church found sacramental grace in the Lord’s Prayer, making the sign of the cross, a baptismal font, anointing oil… Anne Loades’ work leads me to ask: Are we short-changing ourselves?

SENDING

Mark Ireland writes bracingly of ‘sending’ as mission. He challenges us to include the seeker. He wonders if we should take the service out of the building or have ‘fuzzier’ endings ‘so that worship fuses into mission’ (p. 87). It is not only the Sending that is missional: receiving the Eucharist ‘points us forward to the consummation of God’s purposes’ (p. 88).

It was good to see that Ireland mentions the Word of Mission in reformed liturgies such as Uniting in Worship 2 as one example of an ‘increased emphasis and space [given] to the Sending’ (p. 97). He counsels us not to truncate the Sending and thereby diminish its place as the springboard to mission. He offers some practical ideas to enhance the Sending: for example, moving the Offering to the end of the service, as our offering for the mission of the Church; or passing the Peace at that point, so that people may invite someone they don’t know to after-service coffee.

CONCLUSION

This is a wonderful little book for practitioners of liturgy, leaders of worship and students alike. Stephen Burns’ questions in Appendix 2 make it very useful for worship committees and other small groups.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

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Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

All you need is love


Readings

1 Corinthians 13.1-13
Luke 4.21-30

All you need is love…

So sang The Beatles.

When I was at high school, our RE teacher told us that The Beatles were right: all you need is love. My reaction at the time? I thought he was trying too hard to be trendy.

Now, I think he was right. All you need is love.

The Apostle Paul thought the same. Today, we read 1 Corinthians 13, which has been called the ‘love chapter’:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

How much plainer can Paul be? All you need is love. Love is the first thing, and love is the last. Let’s be clear though—for Paul, ‘love’ is doing loving things, not feeling all lovey and doing nothing. Love is patient, kind, it doesn’t insist on its own way, it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. Imagine if people lived like that? Love in action reflects the nature of God.

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State of the iPad

This is absolutely priceless. It helps to have something to smile about…

Somebody has asked which was more the important event: Barack Obama’s State of the Union address (and yes, it certainly affects us here in Australia) or the launch of the iPad?

Why do we have to choose?

h/t Scott Gunn on Facebook.

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Friday fragments—29.01.10

Vindaloo against Violence

Melbourne has been the scene of violence (sometimes fatal) against Indian people in recent times; it seems that some of these attacks have been racially motivated. Understandably, the Indian community and the Indian nation are very concerned indeed. Mia Northrop has suggested Vindaloo against Violence as a way to show support to the Indian community; simply eat at your local Indian restaurant. It is now spreading to other Australian cities and to other parts of the world. Sounds like a great reason to get a group together!

It’s good to read Peter Cosgrove’s Australia Day address in conjunction with this story. He speaks of the ‘sunshine and shade’ of this nation.

Haiti

Haiti continues to suffer; Collin Hansen looks at the question of theodicy. And have a read of what Debra Dean Murphy says about the suffering God.

Episcopal Cafe outlines the three ‘Rs’ of disasters: Rescue, Recovery, Relief. Very helpful.

I am in awe of the ethic of sharing that exists among the hungry of Haiti.

The scale of the disaster in in Haiti has been due to crippling levels of debt which have inhibited the infrastructure of that country. The World Council of Churches is calling for the debt to be cancelled.

The Colbert Report

I for one am very happy that The Colbert Report has come to ABC 2. If you don’t know anything about Stephen Colbert, have a look here at his best Apple moments, in the light of the iPad release.

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Take one, and lie down?—Apple’s new tablet

The iPad can do many things…

(But it’s not a sanitary napkin!)

For some reviews:

Apple Insider is pretty comprehensive
Here’s the best, and the worst about the iPad

For the record, I’m not promising I won’t want one… Just not sure why yet.

UPDATE: Looks like Australia won’t have iPads till around the middle of the year. Lots of time to think up why I’d ‘need’ one…

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Third Sunday after Epiphany

Members of the Body


Let us pray:

God of justice,
the poor hear the good news, and rejoice;
help us to receive the grace of Christ
and leave the cages of injustice and sin,
to accept the freedom that you alone can give;
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Readings
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

(Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll)

Words interest me a lot. One of the Christmas presents Karen gave me was a couple of books that explored the origins of certain expressions. For example, when a golfer sinks the ball one under par, it’s called a ‘birdie’. Did you know that in the 1800’s the word ‘bird’ was used rather like the way ‘cool’ is today. So a ‘birdie’ was a cool shot.

And if you’re ‘out for a duck’ in cricket you’re out for no runs. That comes from the way a duck’s egg resembles a zero.

And ‘Drongo’ was the name of a racehorse in the 1920s who was often tipped as a winner, but never managed to win a single race.

The way words change their meaning interests me, too. One of the prayers in the old 1611 Book of Common Prayer starts like this:

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings…

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings? What, does that mean prevent us from doing anything? No, it doesn’t. When this prayer was written in the 1500s, ‘prevent us’ meant ‘go before us’. So we might pray

‘Go ahead of us, Lord, in everything we do…’

And that makes so much more sense. To use ‘prevent us, O Lord’ in a prayer these days invites misunderstanding.

But did you notice a word in our reading today from 1 Corinthians that might cause some misunderstanding? It’s here, in 12.27:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Does anyone know which word I’m talking about?

It’s that seemingly-innocent little word ‘members’.

The dictionary says that a ‘member’ is a person belonging to a society or a team. You’re a member of a golf club or the bowls club. You’re a member of Probus or Rotary.

The dictionary also says that an ‘archaic’ meaning of the word ‘member’ is ‘any part or organ of the body’.

This older meaning is the meaning in today’s passage from 1 Corinthians. We are ‘members’ of the body of Christ. We are members in that we are organs, tissues, limbs of a body. We’re that kind of member. Continue reading

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Friday fragments—22.01.10

Euthanasia, Antitheism, Homodoxy, Multitasking and killing in Jesus’ name

A thought-provoking series of cartoons from ASBO Jesus on euthanasia.

Bosco Peters gives a helpful word on the difference between atheism and ‘antitheism’. It fits my experience.

It’s Bosco’s week to draw helpful distinctions. He also compares true orthodoxy, which allows for diversity, with ‘homodoxy’, which desires uniformity of opinion. Being homodox doesn’t make you orthodox.

For ages, I’ve been told I can’t multitask because my second X chromosome is a Y. But multitasking is inefficient and dangerous. Yes, walking and chewing gum is bad for you.

The US military have been using rifles stamped with Bible verses in the Middle East. Could it get much worse? It’s crusading! Update: The firm involved has said it will stop the practice.

‘Shit happens’—a reminder that the ‘god’ of the philosophers is not the God of Christian faith…

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