Saturday, July 4, 2015


“You mean to tell me they changed the Hymnal too?!??”

That was my friend Christopher’s response. I had just showed him something he hadn’t seen before: The Hymnal 1982. And just before that, he’d shown me his beloved copy of … Hymnal 1940. I kind of laughed at him. And called him Rip Van Christopher. It had been so long since he’d been to church that he ‘missed the memo’ on all the changes after the adoption of the 1979 prayer book.

Rip Van… was actually kind of appropriate. Just imagine how Christopher would have felt if he’d gone to sleep, beloved prayer book and hymnal in hand, in 1770 or so, and woke up in 1790.


The response would be shock – anguish – even disgust. Certainly disorientation.

Not immediately – but once they got to the prayers of the people – and the prayer for the King was replaced by a prayer for the President. President? What’s that? Some kind of meeting facilitator? Is there a whiteboard in the house? Some group-process newsprint? What is going on!!?

Change happens from time to time. Even in the church.

But every once in awhile there comes a time of change. Even to the hymnal. Or the prayer book…

In the summer of 1776 the pastor of Christ Church, Philadelphia, I am told, got the news from down the street, from the building now called Independence Hall:

“When in the Course of human events…”

And so he took out his pen and his prayer book and found the places in the prayers where the sovereign and the royal family were mentioned, and he struck out “king” and wrote “president”… so I am told.

As Massey Shepherd put it, “At the time of the American Revolution the English Book of 1662 was in use, of course, in all the Anglican churches in the colonies. The success of the Revolution necessitated changes in the prayers for civil rulers…” (OAPBC, xx)

What a shock it would have been to a man reared on the prayer book of 1662 – and its strong foundation in an established church of England. And now only just over a hundred years later, with the memory of King Charles’ head and the ghost of Bonnie Prince Charlie thought safely laid to rest, there was an upheaval – a revolution.

From now on, no established church at all – not yours or mine.

We can only imagine …

… Imagine a world when something new was coming into being, and something old was lost.

Maybe it isn’t that hard after all. Not this summer...

Sometimes we lose something precious – and sometimes, when we realize what we are going to say good-bye to, we are glad to see it go. It could be a practice – or it could be an attitude. It could be a prejudice – or an unexamined presumption.

No matter.

Time to let it go.

In times of great change, Herb O’Driscoll once said, we can be mourners of the past or midwives of the future.

We are in the midst of change. Today – and all our lives.

Sometimes like my friend Christopher the change comes as a shock, the cherished object suddenly an heirloom of a past. A past we hardly knew as past.

Disbelief? Comic incredulity on our faces… but it’s gone.

How are we to live now?

Imagine him coming home, the son of Mary, coming home to Nazareth. We all know him, the carpenter. We know his brothers – name four – and his sisters. We know the little house where he grew up, the stone across the door, the Roman pavement out front where he’d play in the street, as a little boy. And now he says the world is about to change – he, of all people.

Where did he get all this?

What he says to us is worse yet – outrageous!

Repent – and repent means turning. Change your ways.

This repentance will not be televised, or announced in the town square. It will begin within you.

It will go beyond you. It will gather thousands to riverbank and hillside. To hear him of all people proclaim the good news.

Good news, my friends, is not always welcome.

That is certainly the case with Jesus, that day in his hometown.

He even wisecracked – in response to their incredulity – with the commonplace, a prophet is not without honor except in his own country.

And he had brought the message home. They did not know him as a prophet. They did not know him as a messenger of God. They knew him as a little boy, and as a man handy with his hands.

But now those hands were at other work than carpentry. They healed the sick with a touch. They cast out demons. They carried the good news with them of the coming of the kingdom of God.

It goes beyond “strike out king and write president”. There is more going on than replacing one George (the Third) with another (Washington). It is a whole new way of being.

Strike out self and write Messiah. Strike out empire and write Shalom. Strike out sin and judgment and write love and grace. War – and write peace.

Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Acceptance – and welcome – of the stranger, and of yourself.

Where there was no trust – most of the people of Nazareth that day Jesus came home – there was no healing. Only where there was trust – where people believed in him enough to come to him – did Jesus do any healing work that day. From there, however, he went on – and took disciples, students, with him.

We know that to them he gave authority – and they carried on the work in his name.

Out there in the villages they found belief, and trust, and hope – not everywhere – and they brought healing, cast out fear, and said the words of hope, and of change.

Change – turn – repent. And believe. And know that the kingdom has come among you. Peace be with you. Shalom.

Friedrich Schleiermacher somewhere defines religion as a sense of absolute dependence, that is, dependence on God (the absolute!) and that is good news, that is liberty, and true independence.

In his service is perfect freedom. Because we are dependent absolutely on him there is no need for fear of earthly powers. The prophets could speak out knowing the one they spoke for was their only security (truly the only one there is).

Because the Lord is my shepherd, my shepherd-king, I need fear no principality or power. Despite all his wanderings and all his torments and all his protests – boasts as he calls them – of these humiliations as qualifications for his apostleship, Paul knows his one true home is in Christ. That is where his safety is.

That is why power is made perfect in weakness. Sheltering in the cleft of the rock that is faith, clinging to that solidity that is paradoxical weakness, we are empowered – and free.

And so we celebrate our Independence Day. We celebrate independence from not only the sovereign of Great Britain or some other empire, but independence – liberation – from the kingdom of anxiety that would hold us in its sway.

And in that perfect freedom we too can go out into the world, taking no credit to ourselves for our security, but understanding that every step we take we are in the presence and power and under the mercy of the living God.

“Take no staff for the journey.” – I used to like this one. I thought it meant being independent, stepping out in faith. Kind of like a long-distance hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail. Or – always relying on “the kindness of strangers” – like the guy who wants a free ticket to a Dead show, holding up a sign that says, “I need a miracle.”

But take no bread, no money, no spare tunic – it does not mean taking a plunge like a bungee jumper hoping God will hold you up – or extraordinary coincidence.

It means acknowledging your dependence, accepting your weakness, admitting your need – and your connectedness.

You are not alone. Not any more, not if you have brothers and sisters in faith. Not alone – if you have an awareness that in your weakness is an openness to the strength of God.
“It is when we accept our weakness that the power of Christ is best able to dwell in us.” (Brinton, 120) God does not call the equipped; God equips the willing.

“My grace is sufficient for you...” … And in fact our dependence is absolute. In a sense that is what religion is – recognition of our dependence… on the Absolute.

We are so used to Self-Reliance, to trying to be independent. “Take care of yourself,” we say – when it is not ultimately possible. For a while, you can ride the range alone – but where are you going? Why are you out there in the first place?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So power comes through the indwelling of God. My own power is nothing – my weakness is no more than a gift.

I am made whole in his brokenness. I am made strong when I accept that I am weak indeed, save for his grace. Amazing grace.

We have to be humble before one being – the ultimate one – and be grace receivers. It’s so much easier to hold on to pride as a grace giver – but we have nothing to give that we have not first received – and we have received no gift that we are not to pass on. 
The gifts we receive from the hand of Jesus are not to cherish, hold onto, or brag about. 

They are to use – and ultimately they become gifts in the giving. The gifts from God are gifts for others. (The church is only the church if it is for others.
The disciples, the first students of rabbi Jesus, fanned out among the villages on his mission – to call for repentance (that is, turning), to heal, to cast out – and perfect love casts out fear – to proclaim in word and deed the coming-in kingdom of God.
In all they do in those early days – casting out, healing, and preaching – they are heralding something new. As they were sent out, we are sent, too, into God’s world, to live and proclaim and be the good news. A change is coming. And it is good.
We are called to respond by a complete change of heart – of direction.
Good news is not always welcome, but whether it is received or not, be faithful in the giving. Speak the good news, but even more, be the good news. 
Then having done your work as if everything depended on you, leave the rest to God. (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)


Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 1979)

"... thy kingdom come..." click on: Herbert O’Driscoll – 10:30 Service January 31, 2010

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17-18)

“The common element in all religious affections, and thus the essence of piety, is this: the consciousness of our absolute dependence, i.e. the feeling of dependence on God.”  Schleiermacher, Friedrich. D.M. Baillie (Translator). The Christian Faith in Outline. 1831. accessed July 2, 2015. Pastor Stephen Springer of Dove of Peace Lutheran Church, Tucson, provided this definition from memory during text study last week; the reference verifies his recollection.

Henri G. Brinton, New Proclamation, Year B, 2009. Easter to Christ the King. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009. 120.

Massey H. Shepherd, Jr. The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1950. xx.

1. Sufficient grace. 2. Absolute dependence. 3. Self-reliance (we try to take care of ourselves, but “we are all beggars”). We are receivers of grace, of God’s hospitality. 

"God equips the willing" adage courtesy Lance Ousley.

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