Visions of the New Temple – Ezekiel 40

Today at Evening Prayer we begin the final phase of the book of the Prophet Ezekiel.  I was a bit tired when filming this video, so forgive my facial expressions… covidtide has been difficult on all of us.

As for the content matter itself, the hermeneutic employed here, looking at Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48, is one that applies handily throughout the Old Testament: we’re not simply studying and learning history, but through historical visions we receive insight into the very Gospel of Jesus.

Filling in the Blanks: Joshua

I skipped a Friday post for a Saturday post this week because today (June 13th) is the last consecutive reading from the book of Joshua in Morning Prayer.  After today we skip from chapter 10 to chapter 14, and after that jump all the way to chapter 22 to finish the book from there on.  That’s a lot of skipped material, what’s going on?

The book of Joshua contains a lot of writing that is stereotyped and repetitive, as well as lengthy portions that are essentially maps in prose form.  Think of the first half Joshua as a train: it starts moving very slowly (conquering one town at a time, with specific stories at each encounter), then it speeds up bit by bit as it gives an account of the conquest of the Promise Land in larger and larger pieces.  It is obvious that there is a lot of history that isn’t being handed down here; we get a few specific stories in the beginning and the rest of the territory is basically assumed under Israelite control, with very little description of how things went.

Then in the second half of the book you get some very lengthy descriptions of tribal boundaries.  This is incredibly boring reading for most people, wading through geographic references (mountains, rivers, hills, fortifications) that most of us know little about – and many of which are not even identified with certainty by archaeologists anymore.  But most Bibles today have maps in the back… if you look closely at the one(s) with the early tribal borders then you’re basically looking at a best-guess depiction of what the second half of Joshua is trying to describe.

So yes, all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction, edification, and so forth, but some parts are going to be more useful than other parts.  For the Old Covenant Jew, this was extremely important, outlining when their tribes and families were to inhabit and dwell.  To the Christian, this is almost completely relegated to historical interest.  There are Gospel overtones, of course: the intricate detail God goes into as he “makes a place” for his people in Palestine is a reminder of the intricate detail he goes into now as Jesus “makes a place for us” in the heavenly Jerusalem.

And so, most daily lectionaries omit almost half of the book of Joshua; it’s a lot of reading for very little unique benefit.  But if you do want to take the time to read through the omitted chapters, consider using this Customary’s Midday Prayer Lectionary, which picks up with chapter 11 today and continues through the ten omitted chapters one day at a time.

Sometimes you should change the biblical text

wrw

Now there’s a title that will get just about any serious Christian a little worried… “sometimes we should change the biblical text”?  What mad heresy is this?

So let’s get straight to the Weird Rubric of the week.  It’s on page 737.

When a Lesson begins with a pronoun, the reader should substitute the appropriate noun.

Yeah, so the title of this article is kind of click-bait… the change to the biblical text here is actually just a swapping out of a pronoun with a noun.  For example, today at Morning Prayer we’ve got a Gospel lesson from Luke 22, starting at verse 39.  “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”  This is a great example because you can read the entire paragraph and still never find out who “he” is.  Obviously it’s Jesus; it usually will be in the Gospels.  But sometimes it’s not immediately obvious, so it is prudent (and canonical, or rubrical) to replace the first “he” with “Jesus” so the congregation understands what’s being read.

Some who are especially zealous for the integrity of God’s Word may still not like this, so I should point you to another precedent for this practice.  Bible translators already do this!  In the Greek, the New Testament uses pronouns even more often than we do in English, such that in order to render the text more clearly there are plenty of instances where the Greek text says “he” but the English puts in the person’s name.  For example, slightly earlier in Luke 22, you’ll find verse 33 is a quote from Peter and verse 34 is a quote from Jesus. Now, it’s part of a dialogue, so it’s not too confusing to repeat “he” for both speakers, but it’s more clear to put the names in.  Thus does the ESV.

A similar practice, not directly mentioned in the rubrics of the 2019 Prayer Book, is to omit a proposition or connecting word (such as “therefore” or “for” or “but” or “then”) if one is placed at the beginning of a reading.  The length and contents of a lectionary reading, especially at the Holy Communion, has been evaluated already.  It presents a full and complete thought, such that having a connecting word at the beginning can prove more distracting than helpful.  Yes, these connectors remind us that the passage belongs in a larger context, but that is always going to be the case whether there is such a word there or not.  So it’s usually best to drop such words when found at the top of a reading, to allow the text to stand on its own so the hearers can receive it more easily.  Let the preacher deal with the context if and as necessary.

For the most part, this advice is more pertinent to the readings at Holy Communion than in the Daily Office. This is because the Daily Office Lectionary is continuous – nearly every reading picks up where the previous day’s reading left off.  Connecting words and pronouns are thus less distracting, because the previous chapter or passage has already been heard the day before.  In the service of Holy Communion, we almost never have that advantage; and even when we do, there’ll typically have been a whole week past since the previous contiguous lesson, so having those pronouns replaced will still be a helpful reminder.

If you find this a little tricky to keep track of, consider this instruction on page 716:

The public reading of Scripture in the liturgies of the Church is among the most important features of any act of worship. No one should be admitted to this high privilege who has not thoroughly prepared the passage to be read, so that the lesson can be read with clarity, authority, and understanding.

Make sure you practice at public reading!  A smooth reading experience makes a smooth listening experience possible. Today’s “weird rubric” is there to help you make that happen.

Evening Prayer on the Day of Pentecost

Here’s a little surprise, or bonus, for this evening: I’ve recorded the Daily Office of Evening Prayer for Pentecost evening!

Outline so you can have your books (2019 Prayer Book, ESV Bible, and a Hymnal) ready and follow along:

  • Opening Sentence (BCP 55)
  • Confession of Sin (BCP 41)
  • The Invitatory (BCP 43)
  • Abide with me (Hymnal)
  • Psalm 145 (BCP 461)
  • First Lesson: Acts 2
  • Canticle: Magnificat (BCP 45)
  • Second Lesson: Acts 10:34-end
  • Canticle: Nunc dimittis (BCP 46)
  • Apostles’ Creed (BCP 46)
  • The Prayers (BCP 47)
    • Collect for the Day of Pentecost #1 (BCP 614)
    • Collect for Resurrection Hope (BCP 49)
    • Prayer for Mission #1 (BCP 51)
  • Anthem: Hail thee, festival day (Hymnal)
  • One-minute Reflection
  • Additional Prayers (BCP 675-680)
    • #98 For the Acceptance of Prayer
    • #99 For the Acceptance of Prayer
    • #100 For the Answering of Prayer
    • #108 After Public Worship
    • #115 For the Coming of God’s Kingdom
  • The Great Thanksgiving (BCP 51)
  • Closing Prayers (BCP 52)

3-Step Spirituality in Ezekiel 3

Yes, yes, this is a liturgy blog, not a Bible Study blog, but I’m a pastor, not just a priest, so some crossover is going to be inevitable from time to time.

But, to encourage you to watch this anyway, I actually do use the liturgy as an illustration for the biblical point I was exploring.  If you sometimes struggle to teach your congregation about the liturgy, this may be an example of one way of employing it in your preaching.

Ascension Day – Antecommunion

For Ascension Day under the COVID-19 closure, I thought it would be nice to try something different.  Please forgive the box of kid’s toys in the background, and my hair’s a bit of a mess (I’m taking advantage of social distancing to regrow my hair into a ponytail while nobody has to look at it).  This is a reflection of the simple reality that worshiping at home can be difficult.  Nevertheless, whatever the challenges, the prayers of the Church never cease!

If you want a generic outline for Antecommunion, you can view or download one here: Antecommunion leaflet

The hymn I sang after the Peace (in the place of the Offertory) is See the conqueror mounts in triumph, #151 in the Book of Common Praise 2017.

Evening Prayer Audio: Eve of the Ascension

For a special treat I decided to prepare an audio recording of Evening Prayer today

To follow along, here’s the outline:

  • Opening Sentence: Hebrews 9:24 (BCP 55)
  • Confession through Invitatory (BCP 41-43)
  • Evening Hymn: O blest Creator of the light (2017 hymnal #240)
  • Psalm 104 (BCP 403)
  • OT Lesson: Ecclesiastes 6
  • Canticle: Magnificat (BCP 45)
  • NT Lesson: 3 John
  • Canticle: Nunc Dimittis (BCP 46)
  • The Apostles’ Creed (BCP 46)
  • The Prayers (BCP 47)
    • The Collect of the Day: Ascension Day (BCP 613)
    • Collect for Protection (BCP 50)
    • The 2nd Prayer for Mission (BCP 51)
  • The Anthem: O Jesus, crowned with all reknown (2017 hymnal #148)
  • Homily: Being Rich Is Pointless?
  • Occasional Prayers #48-51 (BCP 660)
  • The General Thanksgiving (BCP 51)
  • The Grace (BCP 53)

Summarizing Eastertide

I know Eastertide is about to shift gears, or even end, depending upon how you understand the bounds of the Easter season, but it’s better late than never… here is the next video in my series on the Church Calendar.

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Definition & Major Themes
  • 05:38 Historical Features
  • 09:06 Walk-through in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 12:40 Daily Office & other features
  • 17:36 A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return

Links for further reading:

The Readings at Compline

The Night Office, usually called Compline, is a pleasant little piece of liturgy that was just too beloved to die.  When the first Prayer Book was released, its adherents were criticized by Papists for having only two daily Offices – Morning/Mattins and Evening Prayer.  Although the Cranmerian genius was to streamline elements of the medieval monastic seven-fold office into two, popular devotional manuals quickly arose to provide people with orders for midday prayer and compline for their own private prayers.  John Cosin is one noteworthy contributor in this area, having re-created all the monastic canonical Hours in a Prayer Book friendly manner.

So in that regard it was no great surprise that eventually they would reappear in an actual Prayer Book.  Both the 1979 and the 2019 Books have Compline, and I think the Church is the richer for it, even though this office has many “redundancies” with Evening Prayer.

Our order for Compline is a bit different from its medieval forebear and its modern Roman counterpart.  Most of the ingredients are the same, but their arrangement has shuffled somewhat.  In particular, the diversity of Scripture readings now offered by Rome’s Liturgy of the Hours and the 2019 Prayer Book alike is something of an innovation on previous tradition.

To my knowledge, the primary reading for Compline, and possible the only one in monastic practice (we’d have to check) is 1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober-minded, be watchful…  But now we have four choices printed in our Prayer Book:

  1. Jeremiah 14:9 You, O Lord, are in the midst of us…
  2. Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden…
  3. Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead…
  4. 1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls…

To these the Additional Directions on page 65 add seven more possibilities:

  1. Isaiah 26:3-4  You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you…
  2. Isaiah 30:15  Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest…
  3. Matthew 6:31-34  Do not be anxious, saying “What shall we eat?…
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”…
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10  God has not destined us for wrath…
  6. 1 Thessalonians 5:23  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you…
  7. Ephesians 4:26-27  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down…

The purpose for these additions is that if Compline is said every day, especially in a group setting, having more readings to draw from may be desired and beneficial.  But it lists these seven as additional options, not the sum total.  That means you can read whatever you want, actually.  But the best advice is this: stick to something very short, and don’t vary it up too much. Compline is meant to be a short devotional time, not a lengthy study of the Scriptures.  Morning and Evening Prayer is where we are primarily meant together around the Bible and listen.  Minor Offices like Compline are supposed to be more prayer-oriented and reflective.

So stick to a small rotation of readings, allowing you or your group to gain familiarity with these verses, and draw deeper from the well of Sacred Scripture during this quiet time of prayer.

If you want a guide to how you might rotate them, this is how I’ve ordered them for the Saint Aelfric Customary.

  • Sunday (Advent through Epiphanytide) – 2 Corinthians 4:6
  • Sunday (Pre-Lent and Lent) – Matthew 11:28-30
  • Sunday (Easter through Trinity) – Hebrews 13:20-21
  • Sunday (after Trinity through Proper 16) – Isaiah 26:3-4
  • Sunday (Proper 17-29) – Isaiah 30:15
  • Monday – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
  • Tuesday – 1 Peter 5:8-9
  • Wednesday – Ephesians 4:26-27
  • Thursday – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
  • Friday – Jeremiah 14:9
  • Saturday – Matthew 6:31-34

What I did was write the extra seven verses onto either side of a piece of paper roughly 4″x4″ and taped it gently onto page 61 so it’s like an extra page of Scripture readings along with the standard four.  That way I don’t need to grab a Bible for Compline, which would be particularly silly and bothersome for just a couple sentences to read, and when I’m angling to go to bed in a few minutes.