Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- BCP, page 218


Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19;
1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

Back in my days in Luray before I was called to Emmanuel, my Lutheran colleague and I became good friends who frequently met to chat, going across the street to each other's home -- the St. Mark Lutheran's parsonage and Christ Church's rectory. We backed each other up pastorally when either one had to be out of town, we assisted at each other's Good Friday liturgies, took turns hosting the Easter Vigil, and we traded altars and pulpits at least twice a year. He had an edge on me, however -- he had previously spent time in Anglican worship and was familiar with the BCP, while I needed to learn how to celebrate in his church using the Lutheran Book of Worship. I still count the Rev. Nicholas (Nick) Eichelberger a good friend. I am very grateful that Episcopalians and Lutherans can share ordained ministry this way.

(This past Sunday we were blessed to have as our guest preacher The Rev. Dr. Phil Kniss, senior pastor of Park View Mennonite. I had also had the great privilege of preaching in his church between our two English-language services. Our weekly ecumenical Text Study Group led to a number of these pulpit exchanges. The group is organized by my good friend Patty Huffman, retired Lay Pastoral Associate of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church.)

At a conference at Shrine Mont shortly after I came to Emmanuel, I once quipped to the ecumenical officers of both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church (TEC) that, thanks to my experience at St. Mark Lutheran in Luray, I could tell the difference between Lutherans and Episcopalians. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, I said something like this:

Lutherans know right off the bat that they are sinners. When they get in the church, they can never start worship until the Pastor, from the back of the church or at the baptismal font, calls them to Confession. After the Absolution, they are ready to enter into the Presence, and the choir and clergy process into the church singing.
We Episcopalians need a little convincing. We have to sing a few things, hear three readings and a sermon, say the creed and make our prayers before we are ready to allow that we could use some improvement. Then we make our Confession.
We had a good laugh. Nobody disagreed with me.

The truth, of course, is that whatever the order of worship, we Christians are grounded in the reality that (1) God made us as beautiful reflections of the Divine Image and (2) even though our sins of omission and commission have marred the Image, (3) the grace of God made present to us in Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin and restores our relationship with God so that we may leave worship ready to love and serve the Lord.

You'll notice that, in Lent at least, we seem to resemble Lutherans. We start with the Penitential Order (BCP, page 319 at 8 a.m. or page 351 at 10:30 a.m.), which calls us to Confession before the Proper of the Day starts. This is a good practice. We are always in need of renewing our repentance and faith, as the liturgy of Ash Wednesday reminds us (BCP, page 265). I pray that this practice may make us mindful of our need for continuous renewal as well as grateful for the grace of God by which we stand in God's Presence wherever we may go.

Under the Mercy,

Fr. Daniel+

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