Archive for January, 2007

Breviary Envy

During my Clinical Pastoral Education stint at the University of Kentucky, I had the pleasure of working with three Catholic seminarians. They were great guys and as different as you can possibly imagine. Yet, one thing they held in common was a large black book called a Breviary. As you may know, the Breviary is a book used to pray the Divine Hours. It contains the Psalter, prayers, scripture, excerpts from the lives of Saints, and so on. Well, as a good United Methodist I had what I like to call “Breviary Envy.” We don’t really have something like that, with the exception of the materials from the Order of Saint Luke, and we are certainly under no orders to pray the Divine Hours.

Even though I had this envy, I never purchased any of the Catholic Breviaries. Maybe I felt like it would be too “Catholic,” or some Protestant sentiment like that. However, a few months ago I heard about The Anglican Breviary, and thought that would be something a good Wesley-honoring United Methodist can get a little more excited about! Perhaps having Anglican on the cover would give me a good Protestant excuse to pray the Ave, Maria! So I went to Daniel Lula’s website and began to check it out.

From 1916 to 1955, scholars laboriously translated the Anglican Breviary, but according to Lula, it fell out of favor as early as the 60s due to modernizing trends. As he puts it:

By the early to mid 1990s, the Anglican Breviary was all but extinct. Apart from the quiet recitation of Tridentine Catholic priests and religious, a few devoted Anglo-Catholics, and those students of Gregorian Chant, the historic Daily Office had virtually perished in the Western Church.

Once again citing from Lula’s website, he decided to keep the Breviary in print through organizing a reprint,

In early 1998, I first considered the possibility of organizing a private reprint of the Anglican Breviary. Believing that only such a move could save this great liturgical work for future generations, I commissioned the reprint, taking the example of the Breviary’s original creators in trusting God to bless the enterprise. The response has been overwhelming, and by early 2001 a second reprint was necessary. I am committed to keeping the Breviary in print in perpetuity, and to assisting all those who wish to learn to recite the historic Divine Office to do so.

As formidiable as the Anglican Breviary is, I look forward to using it as a tool to deepen and enrich my prayer life. I don’t plan on using it exclusively at this point, but I do plan on becoming familiar with it and learning from the depth of Christian Tradition that is contained therein.

January 29, 2007 at 6:20 pm 4 comments

N.T. Wright, Just War, and Iraq

Here is an excellent article by N.T. Wright on just war and Iraq. I’d be curious to know what you think.

January 29, 2007 at 11:41 am 1 comment

Miles of Support for Bush Library

Check out this article by SMU faculty member Rebekah Miles on the Bush library at SMU. I don’t know where most people fall in this debate, but she certainly offers the perspective that you can disagree with Bush’s policies and still support the library being at SMU.

January 26, 2007 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

New Book on the Virgin Mary

Strange HeavenI just had a great surprise waiting on me when I got home today. Since I participated in the “street team” for Scot McKnight’s The Real Mary, I recieved a copy of Strange Heaven: The Virgin Mary as Woman, Mother, Disciple, and Advocate by Jon M. Sweeney. This is the first gift I’ve ever recieved from a publishing company, and I really look forward to reading it. Hopefully I can make a few comments about it on the blog.

January 26, 2007 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Christian Preaching as a Traditioned Practice

The third chapter of Christian Preaching: A Trinitarian Theology of Proclamation touches on the importance of seeing preaching as a traditioned practice. According to Pasquarello, our preaching should drink deeply from the wells of Tradition and look to those who have exhibited faithfulness throughout their lives. Here a citation of John Henry Newman summarizes the point, “…we must trust persons, namely those who by long acquaintance with their subject have a right to judge (p. 68).” In other words, we need to look to those who have proven faithful and examine their thought and preaching in order to more fully express the Gospel message. However, while doing this we can’t ignore their context. Preaching, if it is to be faithful, is contextual even when modeling content after those faithful saints who have gone on before. Pasquarello continues,

“Much of the perceived ‘deadness,’ ‘staleness,’ and ‘irrelevance’ of contemporary Christianity is arguable related to a deep loss of memory and constitutive practices, a lack of freshness, vitality, and personal knowledge that is the fruit of a common life shared in God’s presence, shaped by God’s Word, sustained by God’s Spirit (p. 69).”

I would add that this is a great call for those of us who are living ministry within a post-modern paradigm. In a post-Christian world, we don’t need less Scripture a la the pragmatic evangelicals (to us a designation borrowed from Robert Webber) in order to relate to those who are unchurched. Instead, we need more Scripture to resurrect our identity as people of the Story of God. Our preaching will then follow the narrative of God’s Word and be shaped in ways that correspond to the great Christian preaching throughout our common history.

Furthermore, if we are to be the preachers God has called us to be we need to understand the communal aspects of preaching that extend beyond the community of the living,

“To become a preacher of the Word, then, is to be transformed into a certain kind of person for service within a distinctive community. It is to be made part of the history of a practice and a bearer of its tradition. It is to acquire the intellectual and moral skills necessary for stewardship of the gospel and its gifts, which we have received through the work of the Spirit and the witness of the saints.”

If this is true, and I believe it is, we need to immerse ourselves in the great preachers of the Christian Tradition. John Chrysostom, Hildegaard of Bingen, and Augustine should probably occupy a place next to our commentaries and Bibles when preparing sermons. This is a reason I’m so excited about Brazos Press’ new series found here. I have the first release by Jaroslav Pelikan, and look forward to using this as a rich resource for preaching. Through these and similar works, we are able to get a rich sense of the tradition on particular texts and provide a spiritual and theological depth to our preaching that we would otherwise be unable to provide.

Is preaching this way difficult? Yes, it’s a vocation. I pray we can press on toward the goal to be faithful stewards of God’s Word.

January 23, 2007 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment

Christian Preaching as a Theological Practice

In the second chapter of Christian Preaching: A Trinitarian Theology of Proclamation Pasquarello speaks of preaching as a practice (in the McIntyrian sense) that is theological. He borrows heavily from Augustine’s De doctrina christiana and suggests that preaching is a theological and spiritual journey for the preacher. Preaching is therefore an act that begins in prayer and ends in praise (p. 39). In spite of modernity’s push to seperate the two, Pasquarello sees preaching being a central point where the theological disciplines can be reconnected with the study of doctrine and Scripture all in the ecclesial setting from which they should naturally arise.

Pasquarello exhorts the preacher to reject forms of preaching and teaching that reduce the message of Scripture to rules, ideals, and points. Instead, he argues for a very Barthian reclamation of a full-bodied expression of the mystery of Christ narrated from the overarching story of Scripture. “Christian speech must resist the urge to close and finish what is said (p. 47).” This makes me think of a post by Beth Quick, a MethoBlogger, some time ago. She said she often failed to follow Adam Hamilton’s advice on giving concrete actions during the sermon. Perhaps Beth is more faithful to the theological vision of Scripture that Pasquarello offers and is more responsive to God’s ongoing narrative of grace in the world. Then again, I struggle too with appealing to popular sensibilities and would prefer giving more pragmatic sermons. Yet, Pasquarello goes on to quote Willimon who wrote, “To use the church’s worship for any purpose other than the glorification of God is to abuse worship…Utilitarianism remains the greatest temptation in American Christian worship… (p. 48).” Preaching as a theological practice means moving away from human-centered activity to preaching as a God-centered activity.

This is a challenging vision and gives us much to think about prayerfully.

January 22, 2007 at 1:37 pm Leave a comment

Icy, Icy, Icy

Whew! It has been a long week. I have several parishoners who have been without power since last Friday. Even though we’ve been without water and electricity off and on, it hasn’t been too bad for us. We have a four year old daughter and a one year old son, so that is a true blessing. Hopefully I’ll get back to posting more regularly on the things I’m reading since that’s about all I’ve been able to do in between driving and calling around checking on my folks. Have a blessed feast of St. Fabian! Check out his story for an crazy example of the Holy Spirit calling a layperson into ministry…as the Pope!

January 20, 2007 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

Christian Preaching

PasquarelloI just recieved a new book that I’m very excited about. Christian Preaching: A Trinitarian Theology of Proclamation, written by my preaching professor Dr. Mike Pasquarello, is an attempt to change the subject of preaching from ourselves to the Triune God (p. 10). Pasquarello believes that, “…much popular, pragmatic preaching reduces the church’s affirmation of the creating and redeeming activity of the Trinity to manageable size by focusing on and offering principles to apply, rules to follow, and things to do.” He continues, “This approach is essentially a form of ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’ that places the sovereign self at the center of salvation, church, and world rather than the Triune God (p. 9).”

Pasquarello believes that many of the technique oriented approaches to preaching puts the emphasis on the wrong subject. Instead of new ideas and pragmatic methods, he suggests we preachers need, “for our lives and the lives of those to whom we preach to be more truthfully located within the gospel – the life, work, and speech of the Triune God (pp. 10-11).”

These points do not make one the most popular preaching professor when facing a bunch of folks training for the weekly grind of a ministry involving preaching! Most of my classes with Dr. Pasquarello had at least a student or two who were pretty frustrated because they wanted techniques, methods, and “stuff” that works. If it’s technique you want, there is no shortage of books out there for you to read, but there are very few modern works that seek to ground preaching in the Triune life of God. I really am looking forward to reading this book, and hope to interact with it here on the blog as I read along.

January 16, 2007 at 9:41 pm 2 comments

Christian Birds?

BirdsEven the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

We have birds who have built a nest in the light on the front porch of our church, and it really reminds me of this passage from the Psalter. However, I’m afraid that these two little guys eating at my feeder are house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus). At least, that’s what I think they are. I would be happy to be corrected by any ornithologists out there. We’re all praying the ice storm in Oklahoma passes quickly and doesn’t cause the same damage as the ice storm of 2000.

January 13, 2007 at 10:25 pm Leave a comment

Leadership and the Next Generation.

Gavin Richardson has an interesting post on the number of Generation X’ers in leadership positions in the UMC over at the MethoBlog. I think he and Andrew Thompson have some excellent points. Thompson writes,

The annual conference is the most distinctive mark of our polity. When undertaken in true Wesleyan fashion, it’s a place where connectional ministry really happens. The worship, fellowship and celebration of ministry can be a rejuvenating experience. It’s a place to learn firsthand what it means to be a Methodist. But anyone who has attended an annual conference knows that the top-heaviness of the church is reflected in the average age of delegates. The predominant hair color within the bar has a decidedly gray tint. Does it have to be that way? How might annual conference change if churches began electing delegates under the age of 40? What would be the impact if large churches-who send multiple delegates-would make sure to include at least one 20-something?

I have one observation to add to this. When do we have our conferences? During the middle of the day for the most part (ours starts on Sunday evening and ends on Thursday). How many young leaders can take off from college, work, or raising a family to spend a week at Annual Conference? Sure, some can. Yet, most folks have limited vacation time and would rather spend it with their families. I’d like to know the percentage of lay delegates to Annual Conference who are retired.

Perhaps the way to go is to shorten Annual Conference, a la Bishop Willimon and the North Alabama Conference. Of course, I love the networking and connection with other pastors that takes place over the week-long conference. So, I’d think we’d have to supplement our connection through other avenues, such as spiritual retreats for clergy.

Further, let’s get young clergy involved in leadership early on. Last I checked, there is not a minimum age for bishops, is there? Surely we have some dynamic young pastors out there who could provide leadership on a larger level than the Young Adult Task-force or some such entity.

Anyway, these are good questions Gavin and Andrew. Keep asking them!

January 12, 2007 at 2:03 pm 1 comment

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