Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Reconciliation of a Penitent

The purpose of confessing our sins is to receive absolution and the assurance that God loves us and forgives us. The Anglican Church has a rite similar to the Confessional. Indeed, some Anglican church-buildings have confessional boxes.

There are various ways to receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The most familiar are the General Confession (aka – Confession and Absolution [pg. 191, BAS]) and Baptism. We also have prayers for forgiveness as one of the petition in the Prayers of the People. The Lord’s Prayer also asks, “forgive us our sins (trespasses).” And we teach that the simple act of receiving Communion is an act of penitence.

We mustn’t forget our personal prayer is perhaps the most effective way of receiving absolution. Simply saying, “God, forgive me!” And it doesn’t even really need to be with words, it could be a thought or a feeling. It is in that moment that we are to be assured that God does forgive us. Period!

Then there’s the Reconciliation of a Penitent, an act of confession made to a priest. The instructions say that confessions may be made at any time and in any suitable place. But I have found that it can take place in my office, people’s living rooms, in hospital rooms, at a funeral home, at the mall and even in a taxi cab.

The liturgy for the Reconciliation of a Penitent (Page 167 BAS) is for all who desire it and is not restricted to time of sickness. The service is private. Absolution is restoration to full fellowship in the Church. The priest declares the forgiveness which Christ commanded.

On April 11, 2017, (Tuesday in Holy Week) the chapel will be open and I will hear confession from 1 – 3 in the afternoon and 7 – 9 in the evening. Come in if the door is open and don’t linger afterwards. The service ends with a request that the penitent: Go in peace, and pray for me a sinner.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One ringy dingy... two ringy dingy

The great comedian Lily Tomlin got a lot of laughs with the words, “One ringy dingy... two ringy dingy.” And with such gems as, “have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?” Countless people laughed at her character Ernestine, the telephone operator (myself included).

Ernestine was just a cog in a big wheel known as the Bell Telephone Company (later AT&T) and her acerbic wit reflected how many people felt about such a large monopoly as Ma Bell. Even the colloquial name of Ma Bell was hardly affectionate, but spoke to the company’s great intrusion into American and Canadian homes. We all laughed as Ernestine said, “We're the phone company. We don't care; we don't have to.”

Ma Bell is probably not the first or only time that motherhood is used in negative sense. Usually, motherhood is used positively and with reverence and respect. As it should be. Like Mothering Sunday, which is next Sunday (March 26) the forth Sunday of Lent (smack dab in the middle of Lent, kind of).

Some parishes do rather elaborate celebrations on Mothering Sunday with parties and cake, and some even elect a mother of the day. Originally, Mothering Sunday was a time to remember and pray for Mother Church. Often, if it was possible, people cancelled their own worship service to attend worship in the Mother Church, the Cathedral. Eventually, it because a time for people to return home, to attend their home Church, and to visit their mothers. This is widely believed to be the forerunner of today’s Mother’s Day. My mother, who grew up with Mothering Sunday and not Mother’s Day would expect (prefer) a card or call from me on Mothering Sunday. To be safe, I call her both days.

It is important to keep, as best as we can, our Lenten discipline, but let that include opportunities for parties and celebrations. And if that means celebrating our mothers, or Mother Church, then so be it.

One more Lily Tomlin-ism, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When I Survey…

It would have been unbearable for the Early Christians to adorn their homes, houses of worship or their pecs with the image of a cross. Public executions, including crucifixions, were all too common and grotesque to be used as decoration. A simple image of a fish on a door or lintel was all that was necessary to indicate to a traveling follower of the Way that this place was a place where Christians were welcomed.

Yet for us today the cross has become a symbol of hope. We feel comforted by the image of a cross. It has been transformed from a tool of torture and the power of the state, to a symbol of the transforming power of God’s love.

One of the over 700 hymns that Isaac Watts wrote was, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” It was published in 1707 and remains popular today. Watts writes in the hymn of what happened there, upon that cross, “where the young Prince of Glory died.” He writes of the great irony of the cross, where “such love and sorrow meet.” And that this powerful tool of death has been transformed into an even more powerful symbol of love, “love so amazing, so divine.”

As Jesus was denied food, water, shelter, and friends for forty days in the wilderness we will often use the season of Lent to deny ourselves some of the pleasures of life. For example, in Church, we will deny ourselves the singing of “alleluias.” And we veil the cross the sits at the front of St. Paul’s Church, above the altar for the same reason, denying ourselves (temporarily) the joy of surveying “the wondrous cross.”

On Easter morning, we will gather for worship with the cross unveiled and singing as many “alleluias” as humanly possible, because what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, “demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Food, Faith and Fortune

In Matthew’s Gospel (4:1-11) there is a wonderfully insightful story about the temptation of Jesus. It should be acknowledged that each of the temptation are things Jesus wants. It makes sense really, for one can hardly be tempted with undesirable things.

First, Jesus is offered food, to turn stones into bread. Such a temptation would not only satisfy the hunger of someone who’s fasted for forty days, but would satisfy the hunger of anyone, and everyone, who’s hungry. Jesus wants us to have our “daily bread,” the very stuff that sustains our bodies. However, he wants these things on his own terms, and not be made to worship anyone but the one, true God.

Secondly, Jesus is offered faith, to be placed at the very top of the temple and have all creatures worship him. Such a temptation would, or so the promise goes, put Jesus at the centre of all worship. Jesus wants us to worship God “in spirit and truth.” (John 4.24) However, he wants this on his own terms.

Lastly, Jesus is offered fortune, all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus, no doubt, desires that our political life also be directed by his teachings and rule. Jesus wants, “thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.” However, the terms offered to him are too much to bear.

So, what are the terms Jesus wants? Well, God simply wants genuine friends, and that is the only reason for there to be a creation at all. Friendship that is forced or without alternative is hardly genuine. We must enter that friendship with God of our own free will, without trickery or threat. The boldface lie in Matthew’s Gospel is that food, faith and fortune are the devils to give. They are not. Generosity with the bounty of the earth’s resources are ours to give. The worship (and friendship) of God in spirit and truth are ours to give. The fortune of our collective wealth and power are ours to give. All of this, our food, faith and fortune are what Jesus wants, but not for his own glory, but for the glory of God, our creator and the One who first loved us.