Collect for Christ the King Sunday

The feast of Christ the King ends the Christian liturgical year. I love the collect for this Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Here are the Bishops I was Looking For

Recently, I asked who the bishop might be who would step forward to defend our church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality? Apparently, there are 12 of them in Africa.

We are deeply saddened that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church in favor of social and cultural practices that have no scriptural basis for acceptance in Christian worship and conduct. Yet they continue to attempt to persuade members of the Church to incorporate these practices as an accepted code of conduct within global United Methodism.

As leaders of the church in Africa, we call upon all United Methodists, Bishops, clergy and Laity to an unreserved commitment to the Holy Bible as the primary authority for faith and practice in the church. We call upon all members throughout the connection to adopt practices consistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. We submit to the teachings of Scripture that God designed marriage to be between man and woman, and the procreation of children is a blessing from God (Gen. 2:24-25; Psalm 127:3-5). Scripture also teaches that all persons are sexual beings, whether or not they are married.

However, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant bond of a faithful monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and not within same-sex unions or polygamy. The Christian marriage covenant is holy, sacred, and consecrated by God and is expressed in shared fidelity between one man and one woman for life. In this vein, we denounce all forms of sexual exploitation, including fornication, adultery, sexual commercialization, slavery, abuse, polygamy, etc.

As shepherds of God’s flock, we covenant to be in ministry with those of our members who adopt practices that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

A Military Promotion Ceremony Prayer

Almighty God,

As we gather to celebrate the promotion of Joe Smith to captain in the U.S. Army, our hearts are filled with happiness for him and his for family. You have prepared Joe for this day and blessed him with this special trust. Remembering that to whom much is given, much is required, we ask you to direct his steps and give him the strength to carry out these new responsibilities. Endow him with the spirit of wisdom and justice, so that through his leadership, you might bless our Army, our nation and our world. For the sake of your holy name. Amen.

(Some of the phrasing, I am sure, has been shaped by prayers I have heard and read along the way.)

Remembering Saints and Veterans

November 1, 2015
Revelation 7:9-7

I appreciate your pastor’s kind invitation to lead you in worship this morning. When he issued the invitation, he suggested that I might touch on both All Saints Day – which is today – and because I am an Army chaplain – on Veterans Day, which takes place ten days from now. That’s quite a task, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Today, as the church of Jesus Christ, we remember the saints who came before us. For most of us, the saints we remember today are the ones closest at hand: parents or grand-parents, pastors, teachers, friends and mentors in Christian fellowship.

One of the most significant contributions of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that all of God’s people are saints, declared righteous and set apart for God’s purposes not by the heroism or praiseworthiness of their own actions and choices, but solely by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

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On Christ our Eternal Priest

Hebrews 7:23-28 belongs to a section of the letter that begins at 6:19 and continues through 10:25. In this part of the epistle, the author extols the virtue of Jesus as a new kind of priest, one who offers a new kind of sacrifice in a new kind of temple.

Jesus is the perfect, holy and unstained priest whose life and work continue forever. Death cannot defeat him. In fact, in offering himself up to death, Jesus made a unique, unrepeatable and fully sufficient sacrifice for the sins of God’s people. God exalted him above the heavens where he lives to make intercession for all those who draw near to him.

For years, I was oblivious to how the Letter to the Hebrews describes a liturgical reality. True, Jesus fulfills and obviates the need for the first covenant’s earthly temple, priesthood and sacrifices. Jesus’s death and resurrection, however, don’t simply internalize and spiritualize the realities symbolized in Israel’s worship. In a very real sense, they move the locus of that worship from a hill in Jerusalem to the temple in heaven. The earthly tabernacle is merely a shadow or a copy of the heavenly one.

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A Christian pastor in Caesar's army