Daily Archives: May 24, 2015
“Since God has put His work into your weak hands, look not for long ease here: You must feel the full weight of your calling: a weak man with a strong God.”
–Lady Culross to John Livingston of the Scottish Covenanters as cited in Ruth Bell Graham, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait (Grand Rapdis: Baker, 2008), p.110, and used by yours truly in this morning’s Pentecost sermon
Among the many friends I have had who have now entered the larger life, several were poets. They were more than fashioners of words ”“ they were first the hearers of words. Francis Hall Ford was a parishioner in St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Mission in Chattanooga, which I had a small share in founding. She and her family had years before entered Orthodoxy through the Greek Church. In later years she split her time between little St. Tikhon’s in Chattanooga and St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas where her daughter, Katie, now lives. Katie has been kind enough to share some of her mother’s poetry. With her permission I share it here. As for Frances (whom I knew better by her Orthodox name, Kassiane) may her memory be eternal!
May we ourselves hear what the poets hear, and with such sounds echo the treasure of God in our world. A good feast to you.
Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Living God,
you breathe in us
on all that is inadequate and fragile.
You make living water spring even
from our hurts themselves. And
through you, the valley of tears
becomes a place of wellsprings.
So, in an inner life
with neither beginning nor end,
your continual presence
makes new freshenss break through
–Brother Roger of TaizÃ© (1915-2005) as cited in Prayers Encircling the World: An International Anthology (London: SPCK, 1998), page 71
[At Pentecost Peter] intendeth to prove…that the Church can be repaired by no other means, saving only by the giving of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, forasmuch as they did all hope that the restoring drew near, he accuseth them of sluggishness, because they do not once think upon the way and means thereof. And when the prophet saith, “I will pour out,” it is, without all question, that he meant by this word to note the great abundance of the Spirit….when God will briefly promise salvation to his people, he affirmeth that he will give them his Spirit. Hereupon it followeth that we can obtain no good things until we have the Spirit given us.
–Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
Our attitude to our fallen nature should be one of ruthless repudiation. For ”˜those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires’ (Gal. 5:24). That is, we have taken this evil, slimy, slippery thing called ”˜the flesh’ and nailed it to the cross. This was our initial repentance. Crucifixion is dramatic imagery for our uncompromising rejection of all known evil. Crucifixion does not lead to a quick or easy death; it is an execution of lingering pain. Yet it is decisive; there is no possibility of escaping from it.
Our attitude to the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is to be one of unconditional surrender. Paul uses several expressions for this. We are to ”˜live by the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:16, 18. 25). That is, we are to allow him his rightful sovereignty over us, and follow his righteous promptings.
Thus both our repudiation of the flesh and our surrender to the Spirit need to be repeated daily, however decisive our original repudiation and surrender may have been. In Jesus’ words, we are to ”˜take up (our) cross daily’ and follow him (Lk 9:23). We are also to go on being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), as we open our personality to him daily. Both our repudiation and our surrender are also to be worked out in disciplined habits of life. It is those who ”˜sow to the Spirit’ (Gal. 6:8) who reap the fruit of the Spirit. And to ”˜sow to the Spirit’ means to cultivate the things of the Spirit, for example, by our wise use of the Lord’s Day, the discipline of our daily prayer and Bible reading, our regular worship and attendance at the Lord’s Supper, our Christian friendships and our involvement in Christian service. An inflexible principle of all God’s dealings, both in the material and in the moral realm, is that we reap what we sow. The rule is invariable. It cannot be changed, for ”˜God cannot be mocked’ (Gal. 6:7). We must not therefore be surprised if we do not reap the fruit of the Spirit when all the time we are sowing to the flesh. Did we think we could cheat or fool God?
—Authentic Christianity (Nottingham, IVP, 1995)
O Holy Spirit of God, who didst descend upon our Lord Christ at the river Jordan, and upon the disciples at the feast of Pentecost: Have mercy upon us, we beseech thee, and by thy divine fire enlighten our minds and purify our hearts; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
–Saint Nerses of Clajes (4th century Persian Bishop and Martyr)
…in an odd way, I suspect that is the way it is supposed to work – namely, that the Spirit is quite good at catching us unaware. The Spirit is, as Pentecostals remind us, no tame Spirit. Rather, the Spirit is full of unanticipated surprises….
Stephen Pickard ends his book with reflections on the current state of the church in what were once presumed to be Christian cultures. It is no secret that the church has rapidly lost its standing in those cultures, leading, at least according to Pickard, to two equally disastrous strategies. One alternative Pickard characterizes as the “fast-asleep church,” which he associates with churches that continue to rely on the general presumption that religion is a “good thing” so nothing about the church needs to change. The other strategy he characterizes as the “frenetic church,” which he describes as the attempt to force new life into a dying church by meeting consumer demand. He doubts either response to the loss of the church’s status will be successful. Each in their own way fail to rely on the Holy Spirit.
Pickard proposes an alternative understanding he calls “the slow church.” We are a culture of speed, but Pickard draws on the example of monasticism to argue that the work of the Spirit is work for the long haul. It is the work of Holy Saturday in which patience and perseverance are made possible and required. Pickard refuses any suggestion that a slow church is a church that no longer has passion for justice and change, but the change sought is not that of solutions that do not last. Rather, it is the kind of church that makes possible companionship in a world based on isolation. The Spirit rests on our bodies making us capable of friendship.
I call attention to Pickard’s account of what it would mean for the church to be a slow church, because I am confident that is pointing the church to where the Spirit is leading us.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
[Today]…is Wesley Day when Methodists across the globe mark the anniversary of the day in 1738 when their founder John Wesley underwent a deep spiritual experience.
In London, Wesley’s Chapel on City Road ”” the “Mother Church of World Methodism” ”” will be holding a day of commemorations, including prayers round his tomb, while in chapels and churches across the country a host of special services will be taking place.
An Anglican clergyman, John Wesley had lived a devout life ”” visiting prisoners, studying the Bible, praying, living simply and even travelling to America to be a missionary ”” but on May 24 something happened that changed him. That evening he went (“unwillingly” as he admitted in his journal) to a meeting of Christians on Aldersgate Street, near St Paul’s Cathedral, where someone read aloud Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ.
Wesley recorded in his journal how, as he listened, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Read it all (subscription required).
O Almighty God, who hast fulfilled thy word of promise, and from thy heavenly throne hast poured out upon thy Church the gift of the Holy Spirit: Open our hearts, we pray thee, to receive the fullness of his grace and power; that our lives may be strengthened for the service of thy kingdom, and our souls be conformed more and more to the image of thy Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
”˜And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.’
My dear brothers and sisters,
Grace and peace to you at Pentecost as we rejoice in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
This is my first pastoral letter since the meeting of the GAFCON Primates Council last month and I continue to thank God for the gracious leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. We reaffirmed our commitment to see biblical truth restored to the heart of the life of the Communion and agreed a range of measures to develop our work with communications and theological education being given priority. All this we seek to do in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.
One of the great lessons of the East African Revival was that a genuine movement of the Spirit will impress on our hearts that the Scriptures really are the inspired and authoritative Word of God. We cannot separate the Spirit from the Spirit-inspired Scriptures. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to enable Christians to grow in biblical holiness and to equip them with gifts to build up the church in a hostile world. It is therefore a tragedy when Christian leaders whose minds have been captured by the spirit of the age commend the values of the world to the Church and claim they are led by the Spirit of God.
This is the challenge we face. On the day of Pentecost, Peter’s preaching makes clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to those who repent, but the continuing crisis of the Anglican Communion has come about through a failure to call to repentance those who are systematically grieving the Holy Spirit by claiming that what Scripture calls sexual immorality is in fact new truth revealed by the Spirit.
Since GAFCON began in 2008 with our historic gathering in Jerusalem, the place of Pentecost, I have been convinced that we are caught up in a transforming movement of the Spirit of God. Despite our lack of institutional resources, this movement has grown and the Holy Spirit is using us to gather the Anglican Communion in a unique and unprecedented way…
Anglican war chaplains saw terrible things on the Western Front in the First World War and many were hailed as heroes for ministering to dying men amid the shell fire and machinegun bullets in no man’s land. They returned to their pulpits with a righteous anger to change their church and British society.
Linda Parker’s wide-ranging book, Shellshocked Prophets: Former Anglican Army Chaplains in Interwar Britain, tells the story of this brave band of Anglican clergyman ”” who were awarded around 250 Military Crosses between them ”” and then helped to transform the church. “Given the changes that occurred in the Church of England institutionally, liturgically and in its attitudes to a rapidly changing society, it is important that the role of former chaplains should be examined and their significance analysed,” says Dr Parker, herself the daughter of a former Territorial Army chaplain.
A harbinger of social change in the church was the Industrial Christian Fellowship founded by the Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, MC,in 1919 to encourage Christians to relate their faith to their working lives. As chief “missioner”, Studdert Kennedy travelled the country evangelising in factories, mines and canteens, and gathered about him a team of other ex-war chaplains.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., who helped establish the internationally known Spoleto Festival USA in South Carolina nearly four decades ago, took a final bow Friday as he opened his last festival.
It was Riley who helped persuade the late composer Gian Carlo Menotti to establish the performing arts festival in Charleston as a companion to the composer’s Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.
Riley has opened every festival now for 39 years. Friday’s was his last because Riley, who has served as mayor longer than anyone else in Charleston’s 345-year history, retires at the end of the year. This year’s festival continues through June 7.
“There is nothing like the Spoleto Festival USA in the world, and for everyone who participates, when the festival is over, they are changed,” Riley told the hundreds gathered in front of Charleston City Hal