Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Hymn for Ascensiontide

This is a Latin hymn of unknown origin, translated into English in 1861, according to the BCP.
The fourth verse is most striking:

O Lord most high, eternal King,
By Thee redeemed Thy praise we sing;
The bonds of death are burst by Thee,
And grace has won the victory.

Ascending to the Father’s throne
Thou claim’st the kingdom as Thine own;
Thy days of mortal weakness o’er
All power is Thine forevermore.

To Thee the whole creation now
Shall, in its threefold order, bow,
Of things on earth, and things on high,
And things that underneath us lie.

In awe and wonder angels see
How changed is man’s estate by Thee,
How flesh makes pure as flesh did stain,
And Thou, true God, in flesh dost reign.

Be Thou our Joy, O mighty Lord,
As Thou wilt be our great Reward;
Let all our glory be in Thee
Both now and through eternity.

All praise from every heart and tongue
To Thee, ascended Lord, be sung;
All praise to God the Father be
And Holy Ghost eternally.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Feast Day of St Athanasius

Today is the feast day of St Athanasius in the Western tradition, and I am reminded of how highly T. F. Torrance regarded this Father of the church, particularly for his insistence that the Holy Spirit, like the Son, is homoousios (consubstantial) with the Father. A friend who studied with Torrance in Edinburgh said that Torrance's practice was to set up an icon of Athanasius at the front of the classroom when he lectured, and it became difficult to tell who was speaking--Torrance or Athanasius! (There's a Torrancian/Barthian parable here re: witnessing to what is other than ourselves . . .)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dead or Alive?

Jeff Clarke outlines 4 reasons that he chooses to remain in the Pentecostal tradition. I resonate to a large degree with Jeff's perspectives in his blog postings, particularly his analysis of where the tradition needs to address some serious areas of concern. I can appreciate his 4 reasons for staying, too, but I can't help but wonder, when I read an aside at the end of reason #2, if some of the less-than-positive features of the tradition's shaping influence are peeking through in spite of Jeff's best efforts to set them aside. Specifically, he characterizes a service he attended at a church of another denomination as "dead," as "lifeless and irrelevant."
Here's how I take issue with that bit of Pentecostal baggage:
1. This is irretrievably a subjective judgment. What one person pronounces dead will be seen by another as appropriately sober-minded.
2. What is the assumed opposite of "dead"? (I'm sorely tempted to reference Mad Max in "Princess Bride" here, and fellow fans already know what I mean.) I get the impression that the adjective/antonym is not "alive," in the sense that the Holy Spirit is actively bringing the life of Jesus to the congregated saints, but something more like "lively," which translates as, "I really feel the presence of the Spirit here today." The former is a matter for us to affirm as God's work in and among us, the latter is about the level of our emotional engagement; which of these two is more in line with the otherwise very helpful tenor of Jeff's usual posts? I attempted to make a similar point in a reply to Andrew Gabriel when he spoke of "a living experience of the Spirit."
With Jeff and Andrew, I recognize the value in a truly Pentecost-shaped theology. At the same time, though, I expect that nothing short of a Pentecostal-type miraculous intervention is what it will take to move the tradition to shed some of this kind of baggage. Sadly, I think, features such as the appetite for emotional stimulation are the sorts of things that 20th-century Pentecostalism has "bequeathed" to the wider church, when the bequest could and should have been--and still can be--so much richer.
So, kudos and blessings to scholars like Jeff who are staying. The tradition needs you and your input. May the positive influence of the tradition in your direction be strong and the negative rub-off be minimized through the gracious work of the Spirit, who is--and who makes the church of the Lord Jesus, including its worship services--most certainly alive!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Name of Jesus

At the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess Him King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

Mighty and mysterious in the highest height,
God from everlasting, very light of light:
In the Father’s bosom with the Spirit blest,
Love, in love eternal, rest, in perfect rest.

At His voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders, in their great array.

Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom He came,
Faithfully He bore it, spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death He passed.

Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

Name Him, brothers, name Him, with love strong as death
But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath!
He is God the Savior, He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped, trusted and adored.

In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its light and power.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With His Father’s glory, with His angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon His brow,
And our hearts confess Him King of glory now.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Church and culture

Paula Huston, in an interview with The Other Journal, speaks of monasticism, Lenten disciplines, and community. What struck me is her assertion that
if we are going to be effective witnesses for Christ from within culture, whether as cultural critics or culture shapers, we must be willing to look with a clear eye at the habitual patterns of behavior and thought that dominate our society. If we’re to avoid hypocrisy, however, we must first be willing to turn the same assessing gaze on ourselves.
In a course I'm facilitating, students are reading Timothy Gombis, Eugene Peterson, and Jamie Smith and how they work through the same themes in Ephesians. The assignment on these is due tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to their reflections.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jesus is Lord, and I am not

I just came across Penelopepiscopal's blog, and I followed rabbit trails to this post from two years ago. I really like her closing line, very appropriate for Annunciation Day: " To let go of being in Planning My Life mode long enough to allow oneself to be visited by angels and surprised by joy."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ellen Charry on happiness (and the church)

Ellen Charry says that “all persons are blessed by God to enjoy themselves and their life in him. Believers learn this through the ministrations of the church that orient people toward their proper identity. When believers properly grasp that identity, they should want to become in practice who they are in God by definition” (162, emphasis added).
This is an excellent combination of the personal and the corporate in practical, spiritual theology. I'm instructing a course in Spiritual Disciplines (halfway through) and decided at the outset to focus on just such a combination. (The course used to be two courses--last time I led them, the first focused on personal spiritual formation, the second on the same in the church; this time, since the two courses were reduced to one and also because I think this is a crucial stance, I've worked to make it an exploration of both personal--not individual!--and corporate.)
She goes on, “Christian theology, eager to inculcate humility, has at times failed to encourage the natural skills and strengths humans possess for executing their calling as God’s emissaries in the world. . . . Trust in these may be construed as lack of complete trust in God, as though God and self are in competition. However, the opposite is true: failing to be confident in the freedom and creativity that become skills for building the world betrays distrust in God. Confidence in forwarding God’s purposes for creation advances humility in a robust way, a way that uses the self for the sake of divine enjoyment. Trust in one’s obedience to who one is in God is both properly humble and properly proud to be God’s faithful and successful servant” (163). Again, this fits with what I'm trying to do; the course starts with "our position in Christ" and the final project is a paper on vocation.