3/31/2009

In Most Places, Most of the Time: 493 words.


Suppose you went to the Eucharist every Sunday. Here are the words you would hear or say consistently throughout the year. (The only exception is I give one version of the Lord’s Prayer.) My guess is that in most Episcopal Churches you would hear these words most of the time.

The only constants are: salutations, amens, glories, and four larger texts– the Nicene Creed, The Sanctus, the Words of Institution, and the Lord’s Prayer, three directly from scripture. There are variants in the forms of salutations, the Prayers of the People, the Eucharistic Prayers and the Post Communion Prayers. The confession and absolution are on occasion omitted. Only these words remain.

In all there are 493 words we consistently hear each Sunday in most places at most times.

Not the sermon, not the scripture or psalms, not the hymns, not prayers of praise, but these few words.

This is what Episcopalians say every Sunday. We say these words again and again. They become part of us.

We are formed by practice. What we say again and again becomes part of us, and while we are able to constantly interpret the words, they have power of their own to make meanings that those who went before and those who come after would also find in those words.

So, explain to me again just why Episcopalians who say these words over and over again are somehow un-Anglican or un-Christian?

And, one might notice, not a single word of exclusion is to be found in these words.



The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray.
Amen.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to__________________.
Glory to you, Lord Christ.

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Christ.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

“Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
“Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

AMEN.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gifts of God for the People of God.

Let us pray.
Thanks be to God.

24 comments:

  1. It is precisely because we say these words every Sunday Mark+ that I find your support for bishop-elect Forrester so strange. It has been the vanity of the Episcopal Church since VGR's consecration that since she "upholds the Creed" there is no ground for the charge of "heresy".

    And yet the Rev. Forrester's articulation of the Trinity conflicts with Nicene Christianity at a foundational level. His words don't even meet the bar of basic theism. The Trinitarian formula articulated in his Trinity Day sermon posted on SF: "Source, Us, and the Spirit who helps us give back to the Source" is far more more akin to a sort of panentheistic Hegelianism than any recognizable form of Creedal Christianity.

    So Mark+, I've asked you on several threads now and you have not answered, how can you support this man's consecration to the office of bishop?

    Matt Kennedy

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  2. Deacon Charlie Perrin31/3/09 1:40 PM

    Oh please, Matt.
    If we can be judged heretical on the basis of words said in sermons on Trinity Sunday there would very few of us left. Sermons are meant not only to teach but to challenge and sometimes provoke as well. Sermons about the Trinity are particularly problematic as we try to explain the unexplainable.
    And not having heard the sermon itself, nor the context in which the words you quoted were spoken, I am not going to condemn the man. And I would suggest that you refrain from doing so yourself, until you have actually spoken to him and asked him to clarify just what he meant by that.
    You might even learn something you didn't know before, just as Nicodemus learned directly from Jesus.

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  3. You know you're among Episcopalians when you say, "May the Force be with you," and everyone replies, "And also with you."

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  4. Even in the most thoroughly policed confessional church, I am sure there are as many different understandings as there are people in the pews. I'm mystified why some people feel so threatened by a variety of views when God, and God alone, knows the truth of it.

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  5. Sometimes I feel sorry for Mark, in the same way I used to feel for Father Jake. Whenever he posts something that might challenge me as an evangelical Anglican, along comes a progressive and undermines it.
    Deacon Perrin in this case takes away the credibility of Mark's claim to creedal orthodoxy in TEC by revealing that he (Charlie) thinks many TEC ministers won't manage a Trinity Sunday sermon that matches the creed.
    Call me old fashioned, and some here will, but if you say the creed, you should preach it as well.
    Obadiah Slope

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  6. Mark, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful post!

    Don't let the clanging cymbals drown out the praise of God that you have so simply and so profoundly lifted up here.

    In the name of the Father Creator (Source), Son Incarnation (Us incarnations), and the Holy Spirit (Spirit who helps us give back to the Source) I bless your mighty work on this blog.

    It is as a spring in the desert for this homeless Episcopalian! And the living waters have filled me to the point that I will refrain from engaging the clanging cymbals.

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  7. This is a good post Mark. I agree with your point that these words are the true essentials - so to speak - of active Episcopal faith life. I do think that a life formed by these words would also become part of the fabric of thought/speech one would hear in the pulpits of the church. It's indeed difficult for me to reconcile the thought/speech of these 493 words with the thought/speech expressed in the Forrester Trinity Sunday sermon. To say so does not come from any desire to hunt for "heretics" - but, following your own excellent point, I think Forrester's sermon suggests someone who however intelligent, kind and open-minded he may certainly be, does not seem to be both informed by and upholding of these same 493 words. I don't think it is asking too much of our bishops that they be pillars which stand upon these words at their base, and uphold them further at their head. Not everyone is called to the episcopate - and even those elected locally in processes of a wide ranging variety are not necessarily to be confirmed by the wider church. We must do better than merely uphold the local particularities of communities when we consider the confirmation of bishops. There is a difference between local and global. As I understood the office of bishop, they are to be organs of unity between both. This is not said from animus, and indeed Mr. Kennedy thinks I am myself a heretic (which like you Mark I don't appreciate or agree with).

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  8. Mark, Yes we all say these words, but are they believed when they are spoken? Remember when +Robinson was quoted, "One day when I was ranting and raving about how much of the Nicene Creed I didn't believe, he [the college chaplain] said 'well, when you're in church, just say the parts of the creed you do agree with. Be silent for the others."

    It is this hypocrisy that I find so appalling in much of the leadership of The Episcopal Church. The Creed defines the basic shape of the historical belief of the Christian Church (the Church Universal) -- the minimum necessary to be considered a Christian. And to be a bishop of the Church, should that not mean that that person should hold and believe the Creed expresses the essence of Christianity?

    I believe it is appropriate to hold a Bishop of the Church to a higher standard of theological reflection than a new believer in the faith. If the Creed is the minimum expression of the Christian faith (in all times and in all places), why must we be subjected to bishops who do not believe what the Church Universal, and let's be honest, the pagan world, holds to be the tenants of Christian belief.

    David Baird

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  9. David...who knows the hearts of people? God alone. About as close as we can get is the sense that a person is without guile, and open to learning again and again from the words what lies behind them.

    I believe we say the words, even the ones we don't particularly think are clear or on the surface of it true, and let them wash over us, and perhaps wash us down. There were years when I was not particularly comfortable with "incarnate from the Virgin Mary." The words wash over me and after a while I found the "other side."

    Watch the "hypocrisy" business. It comes around to smack us when we use it too much.

    "And BTW, as you know, the Creed was not the minimum expression of the Christian faith (in all times and in all places)", not at least until Christianity was the religion of the Empire. Nothing codifies like establishment.

    I do agree we need to hold Bishops to a "higher standard of theological reflection than a new believer in the faith." Do you suppose that perhaps Fr. Forrester is engaged in his sermons in "theological reflection"?

    That would be a good thing. It is not the same as reflecting the Word of God (notice I did not say reflecting 'on'). Theological reflection is at least a step on the way to becoming a window for the Word of God in our midst and beats the hell out of much of what passes for preaching.

    Having preached some bad sermons, I ought to know.

    Thanks for the post.

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  10. Benedictus qui venit is not of course universally used by Anglicans. Sydney considers it an assertion of the Real Presence, and therefore to be shunned. In the same locus, the Lord's Prayer is not to be used after the words of institution, because the same Presence is thus implied (?)
    All this somewhat reduces the 493 words we share - especially if we can't even pray the Lord's Prayer together as part of the Eucharistic action

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  11. Yes we all say these words, but are they believed when they are spoken?

    This again, DavidB?

    I don't speak for Forrester, only myself, but---

    I don't just say the Creed.

    And I don't just believe it!

    I profess the Creed of the God I have faith in.

    "Faith", not "belief": it's about a RELATIONSHIP w/ the triune Holy One, not merely nodding "Uh-huh" to a set of proposed facts.

    Jesus, save us from the orthodites: their god is Too Small!

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  12. Interesting JCF...so in your other relationships do you feel free to completely disregard and undercut what the other person discloses about himself/herself? Does "relationship" mean remaking/reimaging someone to suit your fancy, predispositions, or opinions?

    You seem to want to turn God into your own personal playtoy or dress up doll and call it a relationship.

    Matt Kennedy

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  13. What a mean little person you can be, Mr. Kennedy. JCF said nothing about changing God, but having a relationship with God, while professing "full faith and credit" in the creeds. How orthodox can JCF get? But you presume to know what is in JCF's heart and mind. How presumptuous can you get?

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  14. IT, the suggestion that a Christian's "relationship with God" somehow precludes honor and respect for God's own self-disclosure or that "relationship" might serve as a rationale for undermining God's self-revelation is what ought to offend you.

    Matt Kennedy

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  15. What offends me, Mr Kennedy, and I'll warrant others as well, is (1) your presumption in assuming that you know the mind and the heart of another OR their relationship with God , (2) that you uniquely are in possession of Truth and (3) that you have some authority or imperative to correct all other people from your vast and lofty position since they are clearly wallowing in ignorance for daring to disagree with your interpretations.

    I put it down to the dangerous certainty of youth. One hopes you will learn the wisdom of true humility at some point. In the meantime, you come across as a rather mean little person with a distinct air of sanctimony. And why come over here to simply insult people? Is that what Jesus would do?

    I will never understand Christians.

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  16. You have warrented correctly, IT. I agree with you ten thousand times,'nay 10 thousand times 10 thousand' on all but your kindness in alluding to Mr. Kennedy's youth as an excuse for his certainty. The reason being that I'm not optimistic about one's ability to overcome a fearful and judgemental religious worldview. I rather think it is hard-wired. Either you are able to 'wonder' at the universe everyday, as I try to do ( good and bad alike) and notice the gifts of the spirit and creation, or you are suspicious that someone might be reveling in undeserved love!

    I am reminded (with your comment of Christians) of something my son said to me when he was preparing to go to seminary. I had just watched the movie 'Seven years in Tibet' for the first time and I off-handedly made the remark that I really liked that Dali Lhama(sp?), he seemed more Christ-like than Christ, and my son said, 'no, Mom, he's just more Christ -like than the Christ you read about on that Stand Firm website that you read to your detriment.'

    Heidi Alvey

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  17. Thanks for your generosity IT. JCF drew the false but common reappraising dichotomy between facts about God and faith in God.

    The suggestion that somehow the knowledge God reveals about himself is tangential to a relationship with him is fits well within a framework of thought that sees "reimaging" God as something possible and positive...in fact those who do such things simply repeat the turn from the Creator to the creature Paul discusses in Romans 1--"reimaging" God in their own image, conforming his will and person to their desires and opinions.

    Matt Kennedy

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  18. Mr. Kennedy - "reimaging" God as something possible and positive'...I guess I must confess to you Matt, that my 17 years of Jesuit education have led me down the path of heresy and sin...for I imagine God as both possible and positive... I do not mean to be so flip, but your intrusion on this blog, run by a man who so obviously has committed his life to Christ and who must be so very weary of those who will question his faith, drives me over the edge. Matt , you are more than welcome to spurn those who venture on to your website who do not agree with you, but please do not disgrace those who consider this site as home.

    Heidi Alvey

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  19. Yet, Mr. Kennedy, you constantly draw false dichotomies.

    That the Bible is either all true or all false.

    That revelation to someone a few thousand years ago is inviolable, yet revelation now is the deceit of the Devil.

    That entire change and reformation by "the patriarchs" was God's Will, while change and reformation now is (unless you do it) self-will.

    That there ever was a "faith, once delivered" is an absolute falsity. The faith has constantly been changed and "updated" to the convenience of churchmen over the centuries. The "faith, once delivered" was a reformation of Judaism and became a completely different religion!

    You ask how we know we are not being led astray, but would never think to ask how John Chrysostom, Cranmer, or for that matter, St. Paul knew they were not being led astray, or that we are not being led astray by them.

    Fr. Harris may respect your ministry, but I believe, quite firmly, that you lack both the insight and the self-awareness to be a priest. You certainly teach nothing of worth here. You have great faith in the religion, worship your religion, give your heart and soul to long-dead men, yet show no ability to engage with God. You even try to set the religion's totem of God above any experience of God!

    We see through you, Matt.

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  20. Oh Matt:

    The stuff you get up to, on my day off to visit St. Gregory's Abbey! (Don't worry: it's an Episcopal abbey, and my spiritual director is an Episcopal Benedictine monk, so you can rest assured it's just my "personal playtoy or dress up doll" God I'm trying to grow into)

    I really can't follow your exponentially large leaps o' logic, from my post to your eisegesis of it: can you please tell me the source of your projection?

    Have a blessed Holy Week!

    [Wait: does Kenya do Holy Week? Or is that too Popish for y'all? I can't keep my schismatics straight...]

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  21. As we enter into relationship with God, all that we believe and assert need to be set aside, I think. We have been formed within a culture that for the most part works contrary to the ways of the Kingdom of God. We (liberals, conservatives, fundamentalists, or henotheists) need to be re-formed in our understanding and thinking – transformed by the renewing of our minds. How often do we depend on these present “systems” rather than yielding to the transformative power of God?

    When we say the Creeds in our current place of Christian maturation (formation) and have difficulty understanding or believing the words or concepts, why not begin with an attitude something like, “Even as I say these words I question, Lord help me to believe!” Rather than beginning with an attitude that suggests, “How can I reinterpret these words so that I can say them with integrity?”

    The first example comes from a place of humility believing that I can be of limited understanding; the second example comes from a place of pride in thinking that in my current state I am smart enough to know that the words cannot be true as traditionally understood. I’m all for integrity, believe me, but I need to be aware of my own limitations and know that the Tradition (the essence of the Faith which remains after 2,000 years of persecution and lived experience within a vast array of cultures) has something very import to say to us in these strange days. Can we listen? Can we yield?

    As Holy Week is upon us, we should die to ourselves - even our inability to believe or our thinking that we believe purely.

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  22. But seriously, Matt: prayers for you in Binghamton, on the day of this terrible tragedy. A wacko, a gun, and Jesus weeps...

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  23. OK, my disengagement is at an end. I am deeply troubled by this fetishization of the "Creed" as a necessary part of anything. Why is this set of words given such a magical incantation level of importance?

    A creed, as I have always understood it, is simply a declaration of what one believes or describing one's faith. Subjugating one's own intellect, experiences, and understandings in order to subjugate one's self to someone else's creed is dishonest at best and belittles and demeans the creed at its worst.

    Although the Nicene Creed was developed as a test of orthodoxy and a refutation of current heresies as defined by the Council of Nicea it is not scripture nor did Jesus in any way, shape, or form indicate that it was or ever would be a requirement for salvation or even as a determination of whether one is the "right" kind of Christian.

    This constant harassment of those who might evince even the slightest deviation from "traditional" forms is growing tiresome in the extreme.

    You have created your purity cults and named them ACNA (and hundreds of other acronyms). You, and the GAFCON elite have stated quite clearly what is to be the litmus tests of your orthodoxy. We are not impressed.

    Those of us who don't share your fear of innovation, your hatred of what you don't understand and fear, and the unchartered nature of the winds of the Holy Spirit blowing fresh air throughout the Church to ourselves and our beliefs will continue to innovate, experiment, and change no matter how often you stamp your feet, scream bloody murder, or call us names.

    When your rhetoric causes real harm and damage then you are imperiling your very souls. Mark and Elizabeth Kaeton have both pointed out this week, as we approach our remembrance of Christ's passion, how violent words lead to real violence and actual death.

    You are speaking with forked tongues when you rant about the Nicene Creed, the "faith once delivered" and other such noxious aphorisms while tolerating, if not outright advocating for violence against those with whom you disagree. Enough is enough.

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  24. What JCF said. On this day, I hope Mr Kennedy will be able to find the words to comfort his flock in the face of horror. Gay or straight, atheist or Christian, we all mourn with his commuinty over this senseless, useless act of violence.

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