Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bishop’s Note: December 13, 2018 – 2019 BCP The Nicene Creed

Bishop Eric Menees

In our examination of the service of Holy Eucharist in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer last week, we looked at the role of the Sermon in the service.

This week we examine our response to the sermon – the Nicene Creed. This is how it is presented in the prayer book. Note the red lettering. These are “Rubrics” or directions to those leading the worship as well as the participants. According to the dictionary, a rubric is: “ru·bric … a heading on a document. 2. a direction in a liturgical book as to how a church service should be conducted. 3. a statement of purpose or function.”

The Nicene Creed
On Sundays, other Major Feast Days, and other times as appointed, all stand to recite the Nicene Creed, the Celebrant first saying
Let us confess our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed:
Celebrant And People
We believe in one God,
     the Father, the Almighty,
     maker of heaven and earth,
     of all that is, visible and invisible.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
     the only-begotten 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,
     was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and 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],
     who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
     who 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 phrase “and the Son” (Latin filioque) is not in the original Greek text. See the resolution of the College of Bishops concerning the filioque in Documentary Foundations.

We respond to the preaching of the Word of God with our confession of faith. Our confession of faith is a proclamation of our identity. At best, this is seen as an oddity by the world around us and, at worst, it is seen by the world as threatening. This is because the world is constantly encouraging the individual to define themselves based upon their own terms and not a common faith and understanding of who we are as creatures of God!

The Nicene Creed was established in the fourth century at the Council of Nicaea and built upon the Apostles Creed, which dated back one hundred years previous. The Creed bound the people of God together as the Church-catholic in a common understanding of who God is and who we are as His creatures. Prior to the Emperor Constantine’s conversion, this statement of faith was very threatening to the Roman Empire because it bound people of many different languages, tribes, and nations together in a way that the Roman Emperor was never able to accomplish.

The Nicene Creed is grounded in the biblical narrative and, for this reason, in some denominations the creed is becoming increasingly optional because they are unable to affirm the truth of the biblical story.
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Creed and the unity it brings to Christians across the denominational spectrum.

I pray that your worship on the third Sunday of Advent is especially blessed.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Bishop’s Note: December 6, 2018 – 2019 BCP The Sermon

Bishop Eric Menees

Last week, in the Bishop’s Note, we looked at the scheduled readings of the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and Gospel over a three-year cycle known as the Lectionary. Immediately following the reading of the Word of God is the Sermon. During public worship a sermon must follow the reading of the word – without exception.

Archbishop Cranmer, arguably the father of Anglicanism, defined a Church, in Article 19 of the Articles of Religion (also known as the 39 Articles) as: “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.”

“The Pure Word of God is preached” … the sermon is an essential part of being a church and an essential aspect of ministry for deacons, priests and bishops. The purpose of the sermon is to train and equip the people of God to live lives that reflect their identity in Christ as the adopted children of God (John 1:12), new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), and disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28: 19).

Because this is such an important and sacred duty, clergy are tasked to give their very best to their sermon preparation. Sermon preparation is not to be left to the last minute or undertaken without serious prayer and study of God’s Word. On average, I would guess that I spend 20 minutes of preparation for every minute of sermon preached. Underscoring the importance of sermon preparation is the biblical promise that those of us who teach the Word of God will be held to a higher standard by God (James 3:1).

A point about the length of sermons: While in college and seminary, well-meaning parishioners would give me preaching advice long before I stepped into the pulpit. “If you can’t say it in 10 minutes, it’s not worth saying.” As a student intern, I tried to adhere to that maxim until, in seminary, my preaching professor told us that the idea of keeping a sermon to 10 minutes harkened back to a time with the entire congregation spent an hour in Sunday School prior to the service and the sermon was meant to be a capstone to the Sunday School lesson. However, following WWII, Sunday School attendance began to wane to the point where it was essentially abandoned. Children’s Sunday school was moved to the 20-30 minutes during the Liturgy of the Word, and Adult Sunday School was moved to a Rector’s Forum between services — which would be sparsely attended — with topics that were all over the map. So, then it became clear that to be serious about our responsibility in teaching the Word of God, a 10-minute sermon would be the bare minimum length of a sermon as opposed to the maximum. As one friend of mine said: “Sermonettes are for Christianettes.” If we are serious about our faith and serious about preaching the “pure Word of God,” then both the preacher and the disciple need to be serious about sermons.

I pray you all a truly bless Advent!