Monday, April 29, 2019

Intercessions - Easter 3C (2019)

Third Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2019

It is recommended that the response to the biddings in the Prayers of the People be sung. A simple, accessible setting for the suggested response is here:

Please provide appropriate acknowledgement and only reproduce for use in your congregation:

"Turn Our Grateful Hearts," text by D. Jay Koyle. Copyright c. 2015, D. Jay Koyle, All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission. Music by Normand L. Blanchard. Copyright c. 2015, Normand L. Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

Even if there is no one is baptized or engaging in an intentional renewal of baptism (including Confirmation, or Reception into the Anglican Communion) in your congregation during the Paschal Triduum or the Season of Easter, you are encouraged to pray for the newly baptized and those renewing their baptismal promises.

The Deacon or Intercessor introduces the Prayers of the People in the following or similar words:

Let us lift our hearts to God, as we sing/say:
“Turn our grateful hearts into lives that bring you praise.”

For the church of Christ throughout the world,
especially The Anglican Church of Kenya,  
and Jackson Ole Sapit, its Primate.
            {allow a time of silent prayer}
That all who are signed by the cross
may perceive the risen Christ at work in their daily labours,
let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

For the newly baptized, especially N.;
{allow a time of silent prayer}
that knowing the Bread of Life at this Table,
they may recognize his presence at every table of their lives,
let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

For those made to suffer for their faith, especially N.;
{allow a time of silent prayer}
that their persecutors may renounce oppression and violence, 
and all of us better perceive the image of God 
in those of every culture, ethnicity, and religion,
let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

For the nations and peoples of the earth, especially N.;
{allow a time of silent prayer}
that those who hold power over others
may be troubled and transformed
by the demands of peace and justice, let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

For those who fish the oceans, seas, and lakes;
{allow a time of silent prayer}
that those whose livelihood depends on boat and net
may be protected and sustained on the waters,
let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

For all afflicted by sickness or need, especially N.;
and for all who grieve, especially those who most keenly miss N.;
{allow a time of silent prayer}
that their mourning may be turned into dancing,
let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

For risky hospitality and confident witness by this congregation;
{allow a time of silent prayer}
that our lives will persuasively testify
Christ has been raised and is alive,
let us lift our hearts to God: (R)

The Presider or Intercessor concludes the Prayers of the People with the following Collect:

O God,
whose risen Christ always surprises us with his presence,
quicken our sight to recognize signs that he is near,
embolden our wills to respond to his voice,
and make us prompt to follow where he leads,
that all people may know the abundance of his blessing
and the whole creation come to voice with us
the praise and honor of his name.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, the risen Savior.  

Detail of “Breakfast at Dawn,” by Mike Meyers

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Preacher’s Study – Easter 3C

The Preacher’s Study

Third Sunday of Easter, Year C

D. Jay Koyle

Acts of the Apostles 9.1-20
Psalm 30
Revelation 5.11-14
John 21.1-19

Preaching plays a pivotal role in raising the church’s sights and summoning it to the place where it might be caught up in God’s renewing activity. Since the first Christian generation, heralds of the good news have given testimony to the risen Savior set loose from the tomb and raised up as Sovereign of the universe. They have declared where he is to be found so others might know his presence and see with new eyes, hear with new ears, speak with new voices and step into the new order instigated by his risen life.

Of course, there is a paradox in this proclamation. For the need to announce where Christ is present arises in large part from the stark experience of his absence. As a popular song by David Haas sings, “We walk by faith, and not by sight…We may not touch his hands and side.” Thus, the privileged task belonging to today’s preachers is also our great challenge. Thankfully, we do not grapple with it alone. It was faced by those who penned the pages of our New Testament, too, and they engage it head on in today’s lections.

One of the great aims of the Gospel first addressed to the beloved disciple’s community, the biblical tome popularly called John, is to fuel the belief of those who have not encountered Christ “in the flesh.” So the Evangelist claims to describe what he has seen and heard. What is more striking, however, is how the beloved disciple is portrayed in the account. This disciple comes to believe not because he hears his name spoken or is given the opportunity to lay eyes and hands on the crucified One who lives. Rather, he first believes simply on the basis of peering into an empty tomb. Gazing upon an absence, he believes. “Blessed are those,” Jesus later announces, “who have not seen and yet believe.”   

Chapter 21 is the coda in which this theme is sounded again. The setting echoes characters, images and incidents found elsewhere in Scripture. There are members of the Twelve who have been featured before: impulsive Peter, concrete Thomas, guileless Nathanael, and the passionate boys of Zebedee. The scene is cast in the recurrent Johannine interplay of darkness and light. There is a miraculous catch of fish resembling the initial calling of the disciples as described in Luke. The Eucharistic overtones of a bread and fish breakfast on the beach resonate with the earlier feedings of multitudes. As happens in other post-Resurrection scenes, we observe devout individuals who are slow to recognize the risen Christ. Again, it is the beloved disciple, without seeing him, who first identifies the Lord; he perceives the risen One on the basis of the haul of fish. It is this and other familiar signs which bring about the perception that the Christ is in their midst.  

This story about the original witnesses of the Resurrection is complemented by the dramatic account of Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. Paul does not see the risen Christ in the flesh. Rather, he comes to recognize him in the very people he has been persecuting. He is embraced by Christ, too, through a man who engages in risky hospitality and confident witness. As a result, the ministry of one of the gospel’s most insightful and effective advocates is launched.

The passage from Revelation provides another vantage point from which to perceive the risen Christ. This song of praise to the Lamb is a political act announcing that it is Jesus who reigns, not Caesar, nor any ruler or system of this world. The hymns of Revelation most likely occur in the middle of oppression. Though they were part of God’s heavenly kingdom, our first ancestors in the faith lived, too, in the earthly kingdom of the Roman Empire, which demanded ultimate allegiance. Thus, they are given a glimpse of all nations, all powers, all creation joining in their liturgical doxology. Christ remains present and, through his Passion and Resurrection, now reigns over all things. Revelation provides a lens, then, through which the tribulations faced by the ancient church could be seen through the sure and certain promises of God.

Today’s stories, like all those of Easter, reveal what happens to people when encountering the risen Christ. They are icons of the ways he may be recognized today.

Here is a Blessing/Benediction that may prove suitable for your 
liturgies this Sunday:

It is suggested that the “Alleluia” response be sung.

Presider:       May your hearts be open to welcome Christ.
Seek his presence and be filled with radiant joy.
Assembly:     Alleluia!

Presider:       May your eyes be open to perceive Christ.
Know his presence in those unseen by the world.
Assembly:     Alleluia!

Presider:       May your lives be open to reveal Christ.
Be his presence and let others see he lives.
Assembly:     Alleluia!

Presider:       May the blessing of the One who feeds and forgives you,
comforts and calls you,
gathers and sends you,
be with you now and always.
Assembly:     Alleluia!

After many years’ experience as a pastor and professor, Jay Koyle serves as Congregational Development Officer for the Diocese of Algoma, and chair of Faith, Worship and Ministry for The Anglican Church of Canada. He is past president of The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, and is featured regularly as a conference speaker in the United States and Canada.

“Early in the Morning,” by Alan Stewart

“Breakfast at Dawn,” by Mike Meyers

“The Conversion of St. Paul,” by Arturo Rodriguez

Friday, April 26, 2019

Preacher’s Study – Easter 2C

The Preacher’s Study

Second Sunday of Easter, Year C

D. Jay Koyle and Sarah Sanderson-Doughty

Acts 5.27-32;
Psalm 118.14-29 or Psalm 150; 
Revelation 1.4-8; 
John 20: 19-31

Four years ago, one of us (Sarah) earned a PhD from Vanderbilt. Her stay in Nashville was a rich and cherished time. However, with a few chapters of the dissertation still to complete, she left the area to pastor a congregation in Indiana. Bursaries, scholarships, and loans only take you so far, after all.

A couple years later, writing now complete, Sarah returned to Vanderbilt for her dissertation defense. She sported a shorter hairstyle than when in Nashville, had been working out and was in better shape, and, of course, was dressed in a business suit and heels, quite different apparel than her typical grad school attire.

People who know her well, people who love her, came into the room and walked right past her as if they’d never met her before.  She called to each by name. Each one did a double take, a jaw drop, and then a “run and embrace.” 

She didn’t realize it, but in appearance at least, she had undergone an extreme makeover in the nearly two years since departing Nashville.  

We recalled the incident as we once again took in scene five of that blockbuster sequel to Luke’s Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles. Watching Peter, we felt something of what Sarah’s student colleagues must have experienced on that defense day.

We are quite familiar with Peter. He features prominently in any version of the Jesus Story, especially those scenes covering the week of Palms to Passion.

Peter blusters with big, brash promises and then runs for cover.  He professes his willingness to die with Jesus until his Lord is a thorn’s distance from death.

However, something is different by the time Acts 5 hits the screen. Peter stands up boldly to the very authorities he claims played a part in Jesus’ death. He bravely disobeys legislation about mixing politics and religion, swearing allegiance to God and God alone.

This is Peter unafraid: extreme makeover, to say the least. 
It’s not just Peter either. All the apostles with him fled, deserted, crumbled when Jesus met his end. Now they’re standing firm together, facing down those with great earthly power, laying claim to greater power, and preaching even when commanded to be silent. 

Extreme makeovers! Peter and the apostles are made over from the inside. They are changed people. New hearts and lives! They have encountered the risen presence of Christ. They have been given, as they make quite plain, the Holy Spirit—God’s own being dwelling inside them. It’s this makeover that has turned them into witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ, who though brutally killed, somehow lives and is exalted, and is on the loose changing lives.  

Extreme makeovers. Changed lives. These are the fruits of walking the Lenten journey and venturing through the Passover waters with Christ. The Great Fifty Days of Easter is prime time for preaching that names such transformation as people today encounter the risen Christ and are gifted with the Spirit.

Of course, preachers must acknowledge the reality that – sometimes with good reason, sometimes not – the notion of lives changing in any substantial way is something many people find hard to swallow. All of us have been issued promises that things will be different from the spouse or parent or child that keeps repeating the same bad behavior.

We perceive a steady stream of politicians that set out to change Washington or Ottawa or City Hall only to end up looking like carbon copies of their predecessors.

We struggle with congregations, perhaps even our own, that want to be vital and grow, but are unwilling to undergo any personal change that might let that happen, or can’t get past the inertia that stymies such renewal.

If we are honest, we can become most cynical about the possibility of change when we look at our own life, when certain habits of heart and mind seem intractable, relentless, permanent.

That’s why preachers need to look around in these Great Fifty Days and lift up the extreme makeovers in our midst – especially the newly baptized – whose changed lives serve as icons of the Paschal Mystery for all of us.

One of us (Jay) remembers speaking of the young person for whom a Maundy Thursday liturgy served as a catalyst for transformation. He was one of those seemingly rare teens who kept “coming to church” on a weekly basis. Still, he felt something was missing in his faith. He perched himself in the back pew and watched as one by one people removed their shoes and made their way to the front to wash one another's feet. Moved to tears, a new insight passed over his lips. “That's it!” he said. “Faith becomes full only when you dare to serve.” He ended inspiring and involving his congregation in his work with homeless individuals in the inner city. Extreme makeovers. Changed lives.

Jay also has spoken of the time a seventeen-year-old stood before the same congregation. It was a Sunday service, one brisk November morning, during the gathering rite of the liturgy. As an inquirer for over a year, the young man had leaned forward in his pew, Sunday after Sunday, marking each sermon’s words with determined attention. As the weeks became months, a growing number of parishioners established a supportive relationship with him, among them some of the other teenagers who uncharacteristically hauled themselves out of bed one Saturday morning a month to load boxes at the food bank, and gathered every other week on Friday evenings for frivolous fun or frank faith-sharing or both. Now, as Advent loomed on the horizon, he was declaring publically his desire to chart a course toward the Font. He asked of the church that he might share with us in hearing God’s word and serving people in need. His request and subsequent passage to baptism yielded renewal not only in him, but also in many others who confessed they did not really realize what we share as church until they “heard that young man ask for it.” Extreme makeovers. Changed lives.

Modern-day Catechumenate pioneer and APLM Council member Robert Brooks tells of a woman he knew in his congregation in Texas. Judy was a catechumen in her late twenties. As part of her catechumenal formation, she joined with others reflecting on the scriptures served up by the lectionary week by week. She also cultivated the practice of Christian service by volunteering in local nursing homes. Quickly, she became so appalled by the conditions she saw in these facilities that she became an advocate for the rights of seniors, testifying before the State legislature and summoning her congregation to take part in what proved to be the successful lobby for reform in the nursing home industry of Texas. As a result, people who would have otherwise been incapacitated or died received a much higher standard of care, and a congregation was called back to the discipleship already theirs through baptism. Extreme makeovers. Changed lives.

As God breathed into the dust of the earth and called forth humanity, so the risen Christ breathes into the dry bones of an unsuspecting church and calls forth a new humanity. Extreme makeovers. Changed lives.

Oh, when we go forth, it is likely people will hardly recognize us at first. Once they do, though, they also will see the risen Christ, the One that gives himself and us for the life of the world.

After many years’ experience as a pastor and professor, Jay serves as Congregational Development Officer for the Diocese of Algoma, and chair of Faith, Worship and Ministry for The Anglican Church of Canada. He is past president of The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, and is featured regularly as a conference speaker across North America.

Sarah Sanderson-Doughty is Pastor and Head of Staff of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Portland, Oregon. She is the author of a recently released book, Words on Being: Sermons 2002-2018, published by Parson’s Porch. Sarah, her husband, Kevin, and their daughter, Caroline, love board games, exploring nature, and sharing great food with people.

“Jesus Appears to Thomas,” by Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz (1990)

“When the day of Pentecost came,” by Mark A. Hewitt, pastel pen, 2012