Dick Hunt's Blog

March 10, 2010

Is There Nothing More?”

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 3:28 pm

Is There Nothing More?”
by Dick Hunt +, March 8th, 2010.

I find the Christian faith gripping and exciting. But when it is just  dragged out as an item of general interest, one idea or opinion among many, I long for something more, something to wrestle with, something unique, something new every day. I heard a story years ago about two elderly Ladies discussing the sermon after the service and the one said to the other, “I wish he would thump the Bible, just once”.   I have been at services in which the Name of our Saviour seems to be just an add on to the theme of the day. Much of the time seems taken up with the announcements which seems to be the agenda for raising funds for paying the bills and keeping the ship afloat.
I have been at  services in which the theme seems to be,  “you folks here are the cream of the crop.  The very  fact that  you are here is proof that you are on the way  to heaven.  Welcome to the club”.  On  one occasion I  said to a Minister, “why did you skip the Prayer of Confession?  He mumbled that  there was a good historical reason for doing so.  I said, “no, there is not”.  And nothing changed because he is in  authority.
The danger and tragedy is that when the leaders speak with uncertain voice, the people under their care remain in ignorance of the Truth of the Gospel, or if they have some understanding of the true Faith, many leave to be fed in a more faithful fellowship in Worship that is vital, gripping, Spirit filled and led with integrity. Years ago, after I conducted a funeral service in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, an avid member of the Baptist  Church in the town remained behind, copiously weeping.  I knew her well and said, “Eva, whatever is the matter”.  She sobbed out , “It was the service,  it was so beautiful,  it  was right out of the Bible,  just beautiful”. Her minister said to me on one occasion, “If you Anglicans ever wake up to what you have, the rest of us will have to join you”.
I empathize with the people who over the past few decades have tried to bring more people to Church by modernizing the language, making it more gender conscious and altering some of the more ancient phraseology.  But in the attempt they have made it so common that much of the vital meaning has been lost.
When I was placed in charge (as a Deacon)  of my first Parish  I attended a meeting of the old revered W.A. as they had a proposal to make. “Would I attend each meeting to conduct a study for them, about twenty minutes”.  I asked them what they would like to study  and they said they would leave that to me.  So I showed up with a stack of Bibles and a stack of the Book of Common Prayer.  Then I asked them again what they would like to study – hands up for the Bible.  No hands went up.  Finally someone said only Baptists study the Bible.  So it was the Prayer Book. A number of them said they knew all about the Prayer Book, having used it all their lives. But I passed out the Prayer Books and asked them to open it at the very first item, the ‘Contents’. That showed them the versatility of the great  tradition of Anglican worship.  And we started to wade through it with some little eagerness.
As they began to understand more clearly what they had been saying down the years, their interest grew and they were reluctant to stop at 20 minutes.  After two years, we were still only into Morning and Evening Prayer. I was not neglecting to teach about the marvelous Communion Service as I preached on the contents regularly and used it in Confirmation Instruction.  There is so much to love and enjoy in Anglican worship from the BCP and so much has been set aside and lost as a result of it’s infequent use in our  Canadian- indeed North American worship.  The B.C.P.  has been called “The Bible Arranged for Public Worship and so it  is.  From cover to cover, more than half of the contents are directly from Holy Scripture.  Morning and Evening Prayer are marvellous opportunities to teach the Faith through the scriptures, prayers,  sermons,  psalms, the old hymns.
I thrill to this day when we sing, however infrequently, the  Te Deum from Morning Prayer, with the great old settings, so Biblical, so deep and heart warming the praise. All the Canticles are truly for today, speaking to the problems of our day – everybody’s day and also for instruction in right behaviour according to the will of our all loving and compassionate Father.  He is the same yesterday today and forever.  ‘All other ground is sinking sand’ in this suffering world.  God alone is to be trusted to help all who turn to Him in penitence, trust and faith.
In my lifetime, during all of which I have been attending Anglican worship, I have rarely been challenged in Public Worship to give my life to Christ. I can empathize with John and Charles Wesley and many  others who have left  the Anglican Church to branch out into the countryside and teach and preach and minister in public places. Another wonderful example of the same obedience is William Booth and the Salvation Army. They were stymied by the heirarchical structure which has too often stood in the way of the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the ringing, searching Word, the Gospel to human hearts and minds down the ages. We stand I am sure at another  such point in history  at which we will have to say , “We must obey God, rather than men”.  (Acts 5:29)
Yet I rejoice and Praise God for the millions of  people down the years who have remained faithful to the Word of God and have not bent  to the temptations of trying to change the the Word  to suit the desires of society and the demands of politicians.  I recall with great joy the old Priest who spoke briefly to us in the dining room of the Seminary in Saskatoon one evening as he said;  “I want  all of you to remember and never forget,  that Jesus said, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.’ ”  His two sons who were studying for the Ordained Ministry were there and were thrilled to hear his words. Some there were who were critical that they didn’t hear something more profound from him. But they simply didn’t get message!
It is so encouraging to know that  in the Anglican Church throughout the world, in which many  more people than in the “developed world” are vibrant Anglican Christians, the Book of Common Prayer is still the form of worship in the language of the people.  At last count, I have observed that in the Book of Alternate Services and another supplementary booklet available for use,   there are now nine Communion services in addition to the Prayer Book Communion service for Parishes that want to use them.  It is called  proliferation. Can it be that the Church in the west is catering to people with itchy ears?  I believe that many Anglicans have not learned the beauty, truth and effectiveness of Worshiping in the world wide manner of our Church down the years. It is time we did! The B.C.P. might need some fine tuning to make the language more acceptable, but we must be sure that it does not alter the meaning of the present book, Bible based as it is.
‘New every morning is the love…’ old Hymn Book, #3.
About forty years ago I was with a fellow member of the Executive Committee of  a Diocese in his car, returning home to my Parish in Williams Lake and he brought up the matter of  repetition in the Prayer Book, with special emphasis on the Te Deum, which he dubbed the ‘Te Deous’.  He was a lifelong C of E chap.  I said, ‘perhaps you don’t understand what the words mean’ and I proceeded to tell him, phrase by phrase the meaning as found in the Bible on which it is based.   He had to admit that  it  did help to undertstand.  Unfortunately, he and his wife fell under the influence of Bishop (name removed)  when he was giving his spiel at Sorrento a few years ago and now they are fully ‘liberated’ and a great thorn in the side of a Parish on Vancouver Island.  So everything Anglican is now Te Deous to them.  It is not only the believers who tend to be verbal and active in their desire to share the Faith.  Those who are unbelievers will not rest until they cause  other people to doubt the Truth as it is in Jesus Christ. We need to teach “the faith once delivered to the Saints’ and do all we can to help them to understand the Life giving Gospel.

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