Category Archives: Prayer

All Saints Church Reads: Book 1

Our first book is Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance. We will be discussing the first two chapters together this Thursday at 7am in the Upper Room or at 7pm at my house (1 Hampshire Court, Durham.) It is a richly theological book that draws my heart to worship as I read. I pray that it deepens our understanding of God as a triune being and our astonishment and experience of the gospel of grace! It is a book about how our Triune God is at work drawing us into himself. “The Father has given to us the Son and the Spirit to draw us into a life of shared communion—of participating through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father—that we might be drawn in love into the very Trinitarian life of God himself.” It is a deeply worshipful and pastoral book and one that has many echoes of Bishop Steve Breedlove’s sermon on Trinity Sunday just a few weeks ago. Join us tomorrow or at our next book club meeting on July 24th when we discuss the second half of the book.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen

Thomas Kortus

 trinity knot
Here is a short blogpost about the author and the book:

When the Rev Professor James B. Torrance died at the age of 80 in 2003, Christianity Today magazine chose to highlight three areas of his life of service – 1) he was Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at University of Aberdeen in Scotland, 2) he was known as a mentor to other Christian leaders, and 3) he wrote “Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace” (IVP, 1997).

He had also been a family man and a pastor, and whether serving in pastoral ministry, teaching theology, writing, or in mentoring others, Torrance was keen on worship and on discussing in simple but profound language the relationship of grace and the continuing priesthood of Jesus in Trinitarian worship.

It is interesting to note that “Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace” [WCTGG] contains a mere 130 pages, and yet it has gained wide influence in denominations around the globe, as in it Torrance offers a brief but profound discussion of prayer and worship that is Christ-centered, incarnational and Trinitarian. The book is an expanded form of lectures on the theology of worship he gave in Manchester in 1994, and is also from articles he wrote or lectures he gave in different countries in the 70’s and 80’s. It has been pointed out that these themes have struck more of a chord in the last decade or so than they did in some theological circles in the earlier years. With this easy-to-read book Torrance is still helping “mentor” those of us serving in ministries today. Here are some excepts from WCTGG:

There is no more urgent need in our churches today than to recover the Trinitarian nature of grace—that it is by grace alone, through the gift of Jesus Christ in the Spirit that we can enter into and live a life of communion with God our Father.

Worship is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.

The Father has given to us the Son and the Spirit to draw us into a life of shared communion—of participating through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father—that we might be drawn in love into the very Trinitarian life of God himself.

Whatever else our faith is, it is a response to a response already made for us and continually being made for us in Christ, the pioneer of our faith.

In worship we offer ourselves to the Father ‘in the name of Christ’ because he has already in our name made the one true offering to the Father, the offering by which he has sanctified for all time those who come to God by him (Heb 10:10, 14) and because he ever lives to intercede for us in our name.

(Trinitarian worship) means participating in union with Christ, in what he has done for us once and for all, in his self-offering to the Father, in his life and death on the cross. It also means participating in what he is continuing to do for us in the presence of the Father and in his mission from the Father to the world. When we see that ….. (and) that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, ‘the apostle and high priest whom we confess [Heb 3:1], then the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, the ministry of the Spirit, Church and sacraments, our understanding of the kingdom….all unfold from that center.

We are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into the community, the one body of Christ, which confesses faith the in the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which worships the Father through the Son in the Spirit. We are baptized into a life of communion. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is the grammar of this participatory understanding of worship and prayer.

(We need to) return to the ‘forgotten Trinity’ – to an understanding of the Holy Spirit, who delivers us from a narcissistic preoccupation with the self to find our true being in loving communion with God and one another—to hear God’s call to us, in our day, to participate through the Spirit in Christ’s communion with the Father and his mission from the Father to the world—to create in our day a new humanity of persons who find true fulfillment in other-centered communion and service in the kingdom of God.

The first real step on the road to prayer is to recognize that none of us knows how to pray as we ought to. But as we bring our desires to God, we find that we have someone who is praying for us, with us, and in us. Thereby he teaches us to pray and motivate us to pray and to pray in peace to the Lord. Jesus takes our prayers—our feeble, selfish, inarticulate prayers—he cleanses them, makes them his prayers, and in a ‘wonderful exchange’ he makes his prayers our prayers and presents us to the Father as his dear children, crying ‘Abba Father’.

This blog post appeares on Trinitarian Worship: http://trinitarianworship.blogspot.com/2009/10/worship-community-triune-god-of-grace.html

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Pray for those affected by the tornadoes this past weekend

Please join us in praying for the victims and families affected by the tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas. Please also lift up the first responders.

“O merciful Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of thy servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of thy goodness, lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

OK Tornado

Oklahoma-tornado-5-19

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Collect for Holy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

last supper icon

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Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an
instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly
suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior
Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Georges Rouault -Crucifixion

Georges Rouault -Crucifixion

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Collect for Monday of Holy Week

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

 

Jean Marchand Woodcut - LAYING JESUS IN THE TOMB

Jean Marchand Woodcut – LAYING JESUS IN THE TOMB

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SOME WORDS ON FASTING

Fasting

This past Sunday afternoon our 242 group gathered and discussed the discipline of fasting. This was an intentional topic decision in light of the fact that Lent begins in two days. The traditional practices of Lent are threefold: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  We have much to learn about fasting. I pray that this Lent you seek the Spirit’s leading to know how you are being invited to intentionally practice the three historic  Lenten disciplines. I also encourage you to seek out a trusted friend or spiritual director to share your plans with. It is easy to bite off more thn we can chew when it comes to fasting and other disciples… Yes – the pun was intentional. 🙂

Here is a short exhortation written by the former Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church:

Fasting, in our days, has become one of the most neglected spiritual values. Because of misunderstandings regarding the nature of fasting, because of confused and reversed priorities in its use, many of today’s Orthodox Christians fast very little, or disregard fasting altogether.

The Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church which is scheduled to be convened in the near future has placed the problem of fasting as one of the first items on its agenda. It is hoped that through this Council the age-old practice of the Church to use fasting as one of the important means of spiritual growth will regain its proper place in the life of the Church.

Fasting was practiced by the Lord Himself. After prayer and fasting for forty days in the wilderness, the Lord victoriously faced the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:1-­11). The Lord himself asked the disciples to usefasting as an important spiritual weapon to achieve spiritual victories (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37). The example of the Lord was followed by His disciples (Acts 14:23; 27:9; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 6:5, 11:27, etc.). What is fasting? Why is it so important? Why does fasting precede such important feasts such as Easter and Christmas?

The importance of fasting depends on its meaning. Many of the Fathers have written on fasting. Among others, St. Basil has left us with most inspired comments on fasting. St. Basil tells us that fasting is not abstaining from food only; it is first of all, abstaining from sin.  Grounded in the teaching of the Fathers, the Church in its hymnology describes fasting as the mother of chastity and prudence, as the accuser of sin and as the advocate of repentance, the life worthy of angels and the salvation of humans (The Lenten Triodion, trans. Kallistos Ware, London 1978, p. 195). Fasting becomes all of these when observed in the proper spirit.

First of all, fasting is abstinence from food. By detaching us from earthly goods and realities, fasting has a liberating effect on us and makes us worthy of the life of the spirit, a life similar to that of angels. Second, fasting, as abstinence from bad habits and sin, is the mother of Christian virtues, the mother of sound and wholesome thinking; it allows us to establish the proper priority between the material and spiritual, giving priority to the spiritual.

Fasting is the advocate of repentance. Adam and Eve disobeyed God; they refused to fast from the forbidden fruit. They became slaves of their own desires. But now through fasting, through obedience to the rules of the Church regarding the use of spiritual and material goods, we may return to the life in Paradise, a life of communion with God. Thus, fasting is a means of salvation, this salvation being a life we live in accordance with the Divine will, in communion with God.

Because of the liberating effect of fasting, both material and spiritual, the Church has connected fasting with the celebration of the major feasts of our tradition. Easter is, of course, our main feast. It is the “feast of feasts.” It is the feast of our liberation from the bondage of sin, from corrupted nature, from death.   For on that day, through His Resurrection from the dead, Christ has raised us “from death to life, and from earth to heaven” (Resurrection Canon), Christ, “our new Passover,” has taken us away from the land of slavery, sin and death, to the promised land of freedom, bliss and glory; from our sinful condition to resurrected life.

It is most appropriate to prepare for this celebration through a liberating fast, both material and spiritual. This is the profound meaning that fasting takes during the Great Lent. Let us allow ourselves to take advantage of the spiritual riches of the Church. Let us use the precious messianic gifts offered to us through its sacramental life, through its celebrations of the central mysteries of our salvation in Christ. Let us use the spiritual weapons,

“to fight the good fight, to walk the way of fasting, to crush the heads of the invisible dragons, to prove ourselves victorious over sin, and without condemnation to reach our goal of worshiping the Holy Resurrection” (Prayer of the Presanctified Liturgy).

This is the challenge of the Great Lent: to use fasting to obtain the resurrected life, to unite with the Risen Lord. Who could refuse to accept this challenge?

His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh

 

 

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Living Epistle: Andrea C

In the novel The Brothers Karamazov, there’s a scene where a very self-centered character, Mrs. Khokalov, asks a very saintly character for advice about loving other people.  She says that there are moments when she loves mankind so much that she thinks about giving up everything, abandoning her invalid teenager, and running off to kiss the sores of the suffering.  And the elder Zossima replies, “It is good that you should think of these things rather than others…but it would be very nice if you actually performed some good deed.”

Well, if you live with children, maybe you find as I do that one thing you never run out of is obvious opportunities to perform some very tangible good deed for someone else. And every time you do, you are in fact working toward an ideal of immense power and beauty—the Christian ideal of living a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. happy family pic

Please be warned: high ideals ahead.  Low level of attainment of these ideals by the person talking about them.  Nevertheless.  Many people in this world live lives of alienation.  Alienated from God; from other people; from nature; from so many of the good gifts of this life.  But in a home where Christ is present by his Spirit, he himself can replace alienation with peace.  And so our home, and any home, can be a place of real life—of laughter and singing, prayer and praise and God’s word.  It can be a place where people matter—where the poor matter—not a place of luxury that’s bursting with stuff.  It can be a place where people who think Christians are weird are welcome to come in and join our fun, and see up close how weird we really are.

And my husband and I are cherishing an ideal for the childhood of these little people entrusted to our care, that we could give them enough of what’s true and beautiful and good while they live with us to nurture them and strengthen them for their lives ahead—and we hope that in later life whenever they come near a place of alienation, they’ll be homesick for what is true and good, for hope and charity, and in fact for Christ. 19th-century educator Charlotte Mason wrote, “Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads––all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause. …  If a Stuart prince could command such measure of loyalty, what shall we say of ‘the Chief amongst ten thousand, the altogether lovely’?”

But what about bad days?  My sister had a good “bad day” story recently.  She was doing laundry, lovingly sorting and folding so that her two little girls would have clean clothes to wear, and she had stacks of folded clothes all over the living room.  And she asked her normally extremely sweet 3-year-old to take her own little stack of pajamas into her bedroom.  And her 3-year-old looked at her and said, “I’m not helping you clean up your mess!”

I have plenty of bad-day stories of my own, but mine aren’t funny, at least not to me!  But what about really bad days, that truly aren’t funny, or seasons when it seems like our high ideals are nothing but a reproach to us?  What about circumstances that range from imperfect to really very difficult—and imperfect people trying to walk by faith in those circumstances?  I think at those times, but equally at times when we think we’re doing pretty well, thank God that he loves our children, and our neighbors, and this world a lot more than we do.  As parents, we’re called to be letters from Christ to our children, but he’s the one who works in their hearts.  We actually don’t have access.  And he truly does bless our meager efforts, because it’s his letter.  I hope you’ll be as blessed as I’ve ben by the end of the elder Zossima’s words to that self-centered inquirer who wanted to learn to walk in love.

“Never be afraid of your petty selfishness when you try to achieve love, and don’t be too alarmed if you act badly on occasion.  A true act of love, unlike imaginary love, is hard and forbidding.  Imaginary love yearns for an immediate heroic act that is achieved quickly and is seen by everyone.  A true act of love, on the other hand, requires hard work and patience, and, for some, it is a whole way of life.  But I predict that at the very moment when you see despairingly that, despite all your efforts, you have not only failed to come closer to your goal but, indeed, seem even farther from it than ever—at that moment, you will have achieved your goal and will recognize the miraculous power of our Lord, who has always loved you and has secretly guided you all along.”

This reflection was originally shared by Andrea C on Sunday, January 27th at All Saints Church as part of our Living Epistle Series.

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