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A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

Grant, O Almighty God, that as thy blessed Son Jesus Christ at his first advent came to seek and to save that which was lost, so at his second and glorious appearing he may find in us the fruits of the redemption which he wrought; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end.

Posted in Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved….Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore

Psalm 16:7-8;11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Atlantic) Peter Wehner–The Moral Universe of Timothy Keller: A conversation with the evangelical pastor and theologian

My final question to Keller during our phone interview was his take on the spiritual temperature of the nation. What sorts of yearnings does he see and sense, and how can Christianity, properly understood, speak to those yearnings?

“I think the perplexity I see is that people want to have a foundation for making moral statements, but at the same time, they want to be free, and so they want to talk about the fact that all moral statements are culturally constructed,” he told me. “And so when somebody pushes a little bit on their life, they’d say, ‘All truth and all fact, all facts and all moral statements, are culturally constructed.’”

As Keller pointed out, they’re creating, at least philosophically, a kind of relativism, though of course no one actually lives like a relativist. All except sociopaths believe in certain deep truths about right and wrong, human nature, justice and a good life. “What we need is a non-oppressive moral absolute,” in Keller’s words. “We need moral absolutes that don’t turn the bearers of those moral absolutes into oppressors themselves.”

Keller concluded our conversation with a sentence that summarizes his consequential life: “I actually think the Christian faith has got all the resources you need.”

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

The Episcopal Diocese Of Fort Worth V. The Episcopal Church Case as Heard before the Texas Supreme Court Today

Read it all and you may watch the whole video also (a little over 43 1/2 minutes). You may also find the case documents here.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

(Saint Philip’s, Charleston SC) Amy Watson Smith–Letting Go During This Advent Season

Take the time to read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Advent, Parish Ministry, Theology

(Sightings) Richard A. Rosengarten–The Achievement of David Tracy

Readers of theology know that much of its best work today can be categorized as “contextual,” meaning that it explicitly references a theme or location or correlative: examples (illustrative, by no means exhaustive) include “political theology,” or “Asian theology,” or “theology and/of disability.” The variety of this specificity of reference also indexes a shared felt pressure that has obdurate yet conflicting sources. On the one hand, it is clear that what has anchored theology in the past—its basis in a version of the Christian tradition of thought and practice—is no longer tenable. Theologians who do their work contextually have the intellectual humility to recognize this and seek appropriate ways to circumscribe their talk about God. On the other, a significant subset of scholars in other fields, whether associated with the study of religion (philosophers of religion such as Paul Griffiths or Jean-Luc Marion, ethicists such as Jeffrey Stout or Stanley Hauerwas, biblical scholars such as N.T. Wright) or in the humanities and social sciences (literary critics such as Harold Bloom, historians such as Mark Noll or George Marsden, sociologists such as Christian Smith) do not hesitate to offer comparatively general, supra-contextual theological claims.

David Tracy anticipated all of this, indeed has been working with both considerable care and ever-increasing precision to address it. Tracy’s first major statement, Blessed Rage for Order, established an extraordinary compass of reference for the theologian. Taken together its pages and its notes afforded a primer not only in the major theological debates of the moment, but in cognate conversations in philosophy, historiography, and literary criticism. Nothing in the world of meaning-making, Tracy there taught us, is foreign to the theologian. His second major work, The Analogical Imagination, worked from this resolve—impressive for both its capaciousness and its sympathy—toward the claim that a fully engaged theology must cultivate a mutually critical correlation. Tracy’s argument in this book was and remains in broad sympathy with the impulse of his contextualist successors: namely, that it is the case at once that theology can change the world, and that the world can change theology. To engage the world theologically is to make theology worldly. As Diana Ross and the Supremes sang, “it’s a game of give and take.”

Read it all.

Posted in Theology

(Wordwise Hymns) Robert Cottrill on the hymn ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee’

…with more technical subjects, getting an overview can assist us in keeping the details straight. It can give us mental hooks to hang specific facts on, so we can recall them, and make use of them in an orderly and effective way.

There’s a sense in which many of the hymns of the church can do likewise, serving as summaries of biblical truth. There are Trinitarian hymns, for example, that teach us things about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Or take a simple gospel song such as At Calvary, which gives a clear and compelling explanation of God’s plan of salvation, and how to receive it.

Ray Palmer gave us another simple song like that in 1830. It’s a prayer hymn, still appreciated for its clear message and a singable tune. Lowell Mason, who provided the tune, told Pastor Palmer:

“You may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of My Faith Looks Up to Thee.”

He was right. The four stanzas teach us about four aspects of the Christian life, and they can be identified with four key words.

Salvation
Eternal salvation is found in Christ alone, called the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29). It is through faith in Him and His Calvary work that we are saved (Jn. 3:16).

CH-1) My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Saviour divine!
Now hear me while I pray,
Take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day
Be wholly Thine!….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

([London] Times) Rowan Williams–Step back from election chaos: the world is crying out for stability and dignity

In our response to and involvement in the election campaign, as in our actual voting, we should be prepared to look at these global realities as much as our domestic troubles – simply because there is no middle or long term security for us that is not also a secure future for the entire global neighbourhood. And so we need to recognise that planning has to be long-term and patient: the assurances of decisive, transforming action overnight are fantasies – though they are fantasies very much in tune with our feverishly short-term culture and all those pressures that make politics more and more a matter of advertising and entertainment.

Grown-up planning and negotiating take time. We have good reason to be sceptical of reckless promises. Churchill famously promised his electorate ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ – confident that the public he was addressing were strong and adult enough to see that a comprehensive victory would take time and would cost a great deal.

Who are the politicians who take the electorate that seriously? Who genuinely think that there is in this country a capacity for shared heroism in pursuing victory over what seems a massive, sluggish but inexorable destructiveness at work in the world economy, and victory over the deeply ingrained habits that still drive our ludicrous levels of resource consumption in the developed world?

Well, they don’t seem in abundant supply. But the national community is surely still capable of vision.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Rowan Williams, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

For His Feast Day–Clement of Alexandria: To the Newly Baptized

Cultivate quietness in word, quietness in deed, likewise in speech and gait; and avoid impetuous eagerness. For then the mind will remain steady, and will not be agitated by your eagerness and so become weak and of narrow discernment and see darkly; nor will it be worsted by gluttony, worsted by boiling rage, worsted by the other passions, lying a ready prey to them. For the mind, seated on high on a quiet thrown looking intently towards God, must control the passions. By no means be swept away by temper in bursts of anger, nor be sluggish in speaking, nor all nervousness in movement; so that your quitness may be adorned by good proportion and your bearing may appear something divine and sacred. Guard also against the signs of arrogance, a haughty bearing, a lofty head, a dainty and high-treading footstep.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Church History

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Clement of Alexandria

O Lord, who didst call thy servant Clement of Alexandria from the errors of ancient philosophy that he might learn and teach the saving Gospel of Christ: Turn thy Church from the conceits of worldly wisdom and, by the Spirit of truth, guide it into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Gelasian Sacramentary

Make us, we beseech thee, O Lord our God, watchful and heedful in awaiting the coming of thy Son Christ our Lord; that when he shall come and knock, he shall find us not sleeping in sin, but awake and rejoicing in his praises; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

–2 Peter 3:11-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Yorkshire Post Letters) Our churches are very much open for business says the Bishop of Ripon

From: The Right Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon.

BARRY Ewbank asks (The Yorkshire Post, November 30) “how do we come to a decision as to which churches stay open and which ones close?” Church buildings are both a blessing and a burden to local communities, yet at a fundamental level, and particularly so in rural contexts, these buildings represent a profound commitment to place.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A Recent TEC Liturgy called the Way of Love up North used by the Presiding Bishop and gathering at Northern Center at Northern Michigan University this Fall

Read it all (from the long line of should-have-already-been-posted material).

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop

(TMA) Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Australia to resign

Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier is to resign in March as Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia after almost six years in the role. Dr Freier is to remain Archbishop of Melbourne, a post he took up in December 2006.

The shock announcement from the Primate’s office on 25 November said Dr Freier would step down on 31 March 2020, before his term was due to expire, and would not seek re-election. He would have been eligible to seek a three-year extension as Primate.

No reason was offered for Archbishop Freier’s decision.

Dr Freier wrote to all Australian Anglican bishops on 25 November to say he would not accept a further term, and that he would conclude on 31 March to allow his successor to prepare for the next General Synod (national parliament) of the Church in Maroochydore, Queensland, from 31 May to 5 June next year.

He had been due to chair the synod.

“I am hopeful that my early advice to you will enable a smooth transition to be made,” he wrote to the bishops.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia

(Economist) Could Sudan’s revolution end the conflict in Darfur?

Sudan has been at war almost without interruption since its independence from Britain in 1956. For years an Arab-dominated Islamist government battled rebels from the Christian and animist south. Perhaps 2m people died in these wars before South Sudan was recognised in 2011 as Africa’s newest country.

In 2003 armed groups began a rebellion in Darfur, a relatively prosperous region the size of Spain where black African locals complained that the government in Khartoum was oppressing them. In response, Mr Bashir armed nomadic Arab cattle-herders, turning them into the Janjaweed, a horse-mounted militia that was unleashed upon black farmers with such savagery that in 2010 the International Criminal Court (icc) indicted Mr Bashir on charges of genocide.

Many of those who were chased from their homes languish in camps near towns like el-Fasher or in neighbouring Chad. Their lands are occupied by armed Arab tribes that the victims still call the Janjaweed. Abdulrazig Abdallah, an elder in el-Fasher, says four people from his camp were killed in early September when they ventured to their farms for the harvest. Such incidents are commonplace.

The new government has declared a ceasefire with rebels, which even the most recalcitrant seem to be observing. “This time both sides are serious,” says a un official. Rebel leaders have been invited back from exile. And the government has markedly improved access for humanitarian organisations and journalists.

Read it all.

Posted in --North Sudan, --South Sudan, Africa, Sudan, Violence

(CEN) Historic Anglican theological college, St John’s, Nottingham, is set to close in 2020

One of the leading theological colleges, St John’s, Nottingham, is to close. In a statement this week the College said that at a meeting of their Council on 11 November, future options were ‘prayerfully considered’ and it was agreed that the operation of the current configuration of St John’s is no longer financially viable.

The process of closure is to begin immediately, although several ‘significant’ aspects of their ministry will continue through partner institutions. Established as the London College of Divinity in 1863, it was during the term of Michael Green as Principal that it moved to Nottingham in 1970. The name was also legally changed to St John’s with the move.

From its move to Bramcote, Nottingham, the College developed and diversified its ministry under the successive leadership of Michael Green, Robin Nixon, Colin Buchanan, Anthony Thiselton, John Goldingay, Christina Baxter and David Hilborn as Principals.

With the closure imminent, the Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission announced recently that it will move to Leicester and merge with iCYM to continue its work. The specialist Library resources (which amounts to around 10,000 books) will also be gifted to iCYM in Leicester.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Seminary / Theological Education

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust

Over the last 10 years, however — and again, I acknowledge that this is impressionistic — I think we have reached a third phase in liberal attitudes toward marriage, a new outworking of cultural individualism that may eventually render the nuanced liberalism my colleague describes obsolete.

This new phase is incomplete and contested, and it includes elements — in #MeToo feminism, especially — whose ultimate valence could theoretically be congenial to cultural conservatives. But in general the emerging progressivism seems hostile not only to anything tainted by conservative religion or gender essentialism but to any idea of sexual or reproductive normativity, period, outside a bureaucratically supervised definition of “consent.” And it’s therefore disinclined to regard lifelong monogamy as anything more than one choice among many, one script to play with or abandon, one way of being whose decline should not necessarily be mourned, and whose still-outsize cultural power probably requires further deconstruction to be anything more than a patriarchal holdover, a prison and a trap.

The combination of forces that have produced this ideological shift is somewhat murky — it follows a general turn leftward on social issues after the early 2000s, a further weakening of traditional religion, the cultural ripples from Obergefell v. Hodges, the increasing political polarization of the sexes and, of course, the so-called Great Awokening.

But it does not feel like a coincidence that the new phase tracks with the recent decline in childbearing. If the new liberal hostility to marriage-as-normative-institution is not one of the ideological causes of our latest post-familial ratchet, it is at least a post facto ideological excuse, in which the frequent prestige-media pitches for polyamory or open marriages or escaping gender norms entirely are there to reassure people who might otherwise desire a little more normativity (and a few more children) in their lives, that it’s all cool because they’re in the vanguard of a revolution.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(MW) Fewer Americans are donating to charity — and it may have nothing to do with money

Fewer Americans are giving money to charity, and their relationship with God may have something to do with it.

The share of U.S. adults who donated to charity dropped significantly between 2000 and 2016, according to an analysis released this month from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable.

By 2016, just over half — 53% — of Americans gave money to charity, down from 66% in 2000. That figure held mostly steady until the Great Recession. Then it started to drop off and took a dive after 2010, said report co-author Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School.

The decline amounts to 20 million fewer households donating to charity in 2016 (the most recent year for which data was available) versus 2000, researchers said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology, Stewardship

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John of Damascus

Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by thy servant John of Damascus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Bishop William Walsham How

O Almighty Father, fountain of light and salvation, we adore thine infinite goodness in sending thy only begotten Son into the world that, believing in him, we may not perish but have everlasting life; and we pray thee that, through the grace of his first advent to save the world, we may be made ready to meet him at his second advent to judge the world; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.

–2 Peter 3:8-10

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Barna) What Young Adults Say Is Missing from Church

Just over half of 18–35-year-old Christians surveyed for The Connected Generation study (54%) attend church at least once a month, including one-third (33%) who are in the pews once a week or more. Three in 10 (30%) attend less frequently. A small group of Christians (10%) says they used to go to church, but no longer do.

Despite their fairly consistent presence in the pews, almost half of Christians (44%) say that attending church is not an essential part of their faith. Practicing Christians, defined in part by their regular attendance, are less likely to feel this way, though one-fifth in this group (21%) still agrees. But even if belonging to a community of worship isn’t always seen as essential, young Christians who attend church point to many reasons their participation may be fruitful, most of which pertain to personal spiritual development.

About six in 10 Christians in this study say they participate in their community of worship to grow in their faith (63%) and learn about God (61%). These two options are by far the top responses, though other main motivations also relate to learning, such as receiving relevant teachings (40%), wisdom for how to live faithfully (39%) or wisdom for applying scriptures (35%). This desire for spiritual instruction persists even though four in 10 Christians in this age group (39%) say they have already learned most of what they need to know about faith, and nearly half (47%) say church teachings have flaws or gaps.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology, Young Adults

(SA) “We are struggling to make room” – Gospel growth in Western Sydney

“[Berala’s] been a provisional parish for at least 50 years,” rector the Rev Mike Doyle informed the Synod. Yet, despite this long struggle, God has been faithful – working alongside the parish as members sought to share the gospel.

It hasn’t been an easy task. As the demographic of Berala changes, so must the evangelism strategy. According to the 2016 Census, 79.1 per cent of Berala’s population speaks a language other than English at home. To accommodate this, and ensure the parish is proactively connecting with the community, Berala hosts international food nights, and provides multilingual services and Bible study groups in languages other than English. These efforts have resulted in many baptised as they come to know Christ plus a thriving kids’ and youth ministry.

Mr Doyle also said that Berala aims to begin a second service next March catering more to younger people, and continue to “make followers of Jesus and bring about growth in our members’ relationships with God and each other”. He hopes, in time, this will “raise leaders from within those languages and cultures” in the local community, so that the gospel can spread more easily without fear of miscommunication.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia

(CT) The First Christian: Mary’s preeminent example as a Christ follower neither began or ended at Christmas.

Once upon a time, the Virgin Mary pervaded the life and thought of the Western world. Her presence was so expansive, in fact, that even European fairy tales acknowledged her status. Take Cinderella. An abusive stepmother was still the cause of Cinderella’s impoverished conditions, but in one of the earliest tellings of the tale, she knew the one to call upon was the Virgin Mary. In no time at all, Cinderella’s hunger was resolved, and a prince was proposing. By replacing the Virgin Mary with a Fairy Godmother, the story of Cinderella was successfully secularized for today without disenchanting it. But it’s not just fairy tales that have stripped Mary from a well-loved story. She’s missing from The Story, too.

It’s not that Protestants have entirely forgotten Mary. At this time of year, the mother of Jesus gets some attention. But Mary is not a Christmas figure to be stored away like the manger and the Star of Bethlehem until next year. She played an extraordinary role throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, from the Annunciation to the day of Pentecost. By overlooking the roles she played throughout Jesus’ ministry, we may think that we are protecting Protestantism from falling into old “Catholic” habits of elevating her beyond what Scripture declares about her. But there’s nothing “Protestant” about neglecting what Scripture does say about her—and about the other women named by the New Testament writers.

Before Easter this year, I (Jennifer) stepped out of my comfort zone and preached a sermon at a church on the women named in Luke 8, who traveled with Jesus and financially supported his ministry. In one sense, it was an obvious choice for a sermon. I wanted the congregation to know who the women of Luke 8 were before they met them again at the tomb on Easter. After all, every single Gospel account mentions that women were the first witnesses to the risen Christ. And there is no better evidence of the truth of the Christian claim that Christ truly, bodily resurrected than the fact that the Gospel writers absurdly and consistently base it on the testimony of women during a time when a woman’s testimony was legally worthless. Still, I was uncertain about how a sermon with this kind of focus would be received. Afterward, I had just a swarm of people saying to me that they had never even heard of these women before. They told me that while they had heard sermons focusing on a number of biblical characters other than Jesus, they had never heard a single Sunday morning sermon focused on a woman. And this was in a congregation that’s part of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination that takes pride in its inclusion of women into all areas of ministry! As I officiated communion afterward, a line of women softly whispered to me “thank you,” some with tears in their eyes. Women have a hunger to know that women were faithful and active participants in Jesus’ ministry. They were not just recipients of his miracles. Not just people shown love and respect, but people transformed by Jesus for new life as participants and witnesses in his ministry.

Numerous women are named in Scripture as supporters and participants in Jesus’ ministry. Many more are named as co-workers with Paul. These women are not entirely forgotten by Protestant churches today, but when we tell the stories of Priscilla, Phoebe, Susanna, Chloe, Junia, or the many other women of Scripture, we almost always reserve that focus for the women’s retreat. The whole testimony of Scripture is for the whole church—both men and women. What would it mean for men in the pews to think about the examples of women not as particular “women’s stories” but as universal Christian exemplars? Women in our churches have long had to learn special listening and application skills as they considered the many examples of men following Jesus. It is the normative filter for women in the pew. What if the tables were turned to better reflect the practice of the Bible? What if the New Testament writers didn’t just name female disciples to show women that they too can participate in Jesus’ work? What if the New Testament writers also intended men to learn from women how to follow Jesus? What if Mary, the Mother of God, is for men too?

Read it all.

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NBC) College Football Player Saves Young Girl’s Life With Bone Marrow Donation

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Sports

(The Conversation) Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves

Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.”

Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman remain fearless, even when she came face to face with many challenges.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(NYT) The Class of 2000 ‘Could Have Been Anything’ Until the Opioid Crisis Hit

The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers.

But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties.

Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them.

In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Education, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth

(Church Times) Sister Teresa White on Advent–The love lies in the waiting

If we are not too tense or worried, waiting can give us the opportunity to see and hear and feel things that we are often too preoccupied to notice. As our vision sharpens, our eyes may be opened to the plight of someone in need; as our hearing is refined, we may hear the unspoken cry of a lonely soul. As we wait, often caught up in painful, incomprehensible, and messy situations, we may perceive something of the beauty given us — the love, the music, the laughter of life. The flickering flame of hope can light up unforeseen pathways, even in what seems to be a lifeless landscape; through hope, we may be able to discern a distant shape or a glow in the surrounding darkness. Psalm 30 reminds us that “joy comes in the morning”, as fresh hope brings welcome relief after a night of tears and anguish.

Advent is a time of waiting and promise, a time of longing and anticipation. But the quality of this waiting is not edgy and anxious; it is hope-filled, and quietly joyful. Waiting — being prepared to wait — indicates some measure of love, or caring, or interest; after all, we don’t usually spend much of our time waiting for something or someone of little or no concern to us.

A short passage from the Letter of St James, which regularly appears in the lectionary at this time of year, encourages us to be patient, and patience is born of hope. “Be patient”, James writes, “until the Lord’s coming.” And he engagingly adds, “Do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon.”

We know that Love is coming, and trust that Love will truly come; so we wait in joyful hope — a hope that is renewed, when, year after year, “we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing lovely songs of hope and promise” (Karl Rahner, The Eternal Year).

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Francis Xavier

Loving God, who didst call Francis Xavier to lead many in India and Japan to know Jesus Christ as their Redeemer: Bring us to the new life of glory promised to all who follow in the Way; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer