A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Come and See!" A New Hymn Text

Having looked for a hymn specific to the the gospel for 2 Epiphany (Year B), and finding none in the usual sources, I wrote one myself. It fits any tune with the meter 87 87 D; we're using Nettleton (Come Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing) in my parish on Sunday.

1.      When the Baptist saw the Savior
“Lamb of God!” he testified.
His disciples turned to Jesus,
“Teacher, where do you abide?”
“Come and see,” our dear Lord answered;
 “Come and see where faith is found. 
So they went and followed after,                                
Stayed to learn God’s truth profound.                        

2.       Andrew found his brother Simon
“Come with us, the Christ is here!”
Jesus said, “I name you Peter,
Rock of my Church, faith sincere.”
Philip brought his friend Nathanael.
“He is with us! Come and see
Jesus whom the prophets spoke of
Here with us in Galilee.”

3.      Jesus called this son of Israel,
Full of truth and honesty:
“Seeing you beneath the fig tree,
I knew you would follow me.”
“Son of God and King of Israel!”
Cried Nathanael with delight.
“Greater things than this,” said Jesus,
“Will appear before your sight!”

4.      Jesus, may we seek and find you,
May we be where you abide,
And to seek the world’s salvation,
Spread the gospel far and wide.
“Come and see!” Lord, you invite us
To the truth sent from above.
“Come and see!” May we bring others
To your mercy, grace, and love!
                                                -Cynthia J. Hallas

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On Not Getting "Back to the Garden" – Thoughts on the Feast of the Epiphany

Scripture is full of all kinds of stories – intimate and large-scale, joyful and tragic; stories of loss and reclamation, of sinning and redemption; of life and death and then even more abundant life – you name a situation that’s part of the human condition, and you can probably find it somewhere in the Bible. But ultimately the narrative of scripture is story of returning: of finding our way back to God. Ever since Adam and Eve lost their way and found themselves on this side of Eden’s gate; ever since disobedience fractured the creatures’ relationship to the Creator, we have all been on a journey: a long, long journey home by another road.

Most of us like to think we have our life all mapped out - we are IN CONTROL. Then something unforeseen happens: we get the pink slip – or maybe the job promotion - and with either one, life changes for us and for our family. We have retirement all figured out, where we’ll go, what we’ll do - and then the market takes a downturn and we lose money; or a troubling diagnosis comes and rather than traveling, we are forced to spend our time healing - or not – and grieving. We get halfway through a degree program and realize that the career we have had in mind is not how we want to spend our future. The spouse leaves, the grown child moves back home; the list goes on and on. “Best laid plans.” We have all experienced what it’s like to have to take a detour – most of us more than once. The spiritual journey can be like that, too, of course, because for people of faith our spiritual journey is our life journey, encompassing all those twists and turns and detours of career and health and family and financial well-being and relationship. In all of that we trust God to show us the way as we navigate both the rough patches and the good times.

 Matthew tells us that a group of “wise men” – kings, magi, astrologers, whatever they were – saw a moving star in the sky and followed it west toward Jerusalem. Did they come with the intention of worshipping Jesus, or were they simply paying their respects to a future monarch? Did they have a conversion experience when they presented the gifts? Whatever their original intentions, the wise men play a brief yet critical role in the story of Jesus’ infancy. They arrive at their destination, do what they have come to do and once done, prepare to return home - gifts presented, homage paid – with just one quick stop on the way to give that great manipulator King Herod the information he seeks.

And then comes the dream, the angelic vision that arrives in sleep. And it is at that point – where their plan falls apart and reforms itself, where they lose control–that their true journey begins. All their best laid plans could not happen the way they wanted or assumed. And in one phrase, the evangelist encapsulates the whole of the human faith story: they left for their own country by another road.

It’s been pointed out that the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. That means that no matter how hard we try we cannot, in the words of Joni Mitchell, “get ourselves back to the garden.” That path is closed and the gate barred. Humanity will never again achieve that perfection, that peace, that particular communion with God. We lost it, our disobedience caused us to give it up, and we can never get it back. I’m not sure we were ever meant even to try, and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because God has shown us another way home. Eden is gone. The journey home is ongoing. Another destination, our true and final home, beckons us forward where the holy city and the heavenly banquet await us.

Like the magi, we ultimately are not in control of our journey. But the place where we lose control is often the place where we gain the most grace. The Incarnation, the holy and miraculous event, promises us that new path of grace. The magi, those wise men, had seen and experienced that grace in the person of the young child Jesus. As strange as it may sound, the road back to God, the true road home, can only be the way forward. Like the magi, we cannot retrace our steps, but must travel by another road; back home to our own true country, our own true home in God. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Litany for Advent IV

It's customary in the church, beginning on this date each year, to use the so-called "O" Antiphons when praying the canticle Magnificat, or Song of Mary. Each day leading up to Christmas has its own such antiphon, each of which delineates an attribute of the expected Messiah; the best known version is in the hymn "O come, O come, Emmanuel". For this coming Sunday in my parish, I've written Prayers of the People based on these antiphons. The translations are found in many sources. Specific intentions may  be added as desired.

Prayers of the People for Advent IV, based on the “O” Antiphons

O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: hear our prayers for the earth and all of creation. Lead us to be better stewards of the world you have made and given to us, that those who come after us may enjoy its bounty and goodness.
Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Come and save us.

O Adonai, Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: hear our prayers for the church; for __________; for Christians in trouble or danger, and for peace and understanding among the religions of the world.
Come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.
Come and save us.

O Root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: hear our prayers for our nation, our state, our region; for those who govern, especially ______________; for those whose needs are overlooked, and for those who work for justice and reconciliation.
Come deliver us, and tarry not.
Come and save us.

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: open wide the door of healing, and close the doors of suffering. Hear our prayers for _________________________.
Come, and lead forth into wholeness those who are captive to illness, injury, and pain.
Come and save us.

O dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: hear our prayers for the departed, especially _____________, and for those who mourn. You who are the hope of everlasting life and our light amid the darkness of death,
Come, and give us light. 
Come and save us.

O King of the gentiles and their desired One: hear our prayers of thanksgiving for ________________________. Give us thankful hearts; ground our gratitude in humility and service to others.
Come, and deliver us, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
Come and save us.

O Emmanuel, God with us, the expected of the nations and their Savior: hear our prayers for all the people and nations of the world, especially __________________. Lead us into paths of justice and peace, and bring to an end our warring ways and violent inclinations.
Come to save us, O Lord our God.
Come and save us.


A concluding collect (prayer) may be added.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Way of Advent - Stations Eleven and Twelve, and Concluding Prayers

Eleventh Station – John the Baptist Anticipates the Coming of the Christ 
(Mark 1:7-8)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

John proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

V.  Here is the Lamb of God
R.  Who takes away the sin of the world.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.     (Book of Common Prayer, 211)

Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.
               - Martin Luther (after Ambrose of Milan)
               The Hymnal 1982, #54  st. 1



Twelfth Station – The Fulfillment of the Reign of God (Rev. 21:1-4a)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

V.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
R.  See, I am making all things new.

Let us pray. (Silence)

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. (Book of Common Prayer, 236)

Come, O Father’s saving Son,
Who o’er sin the vict’ry won.
Boundless shall your kingdom be;
Grant that we its glories see.
               - Martin Luther (after Ambrose of Milan)
               The Hymnal 1982, #54  st. 4


Concluding Prayers

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 211)

Go in peace.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Way of Advent: Stations Nine and Ten

Ninth Station – The Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:59-63)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed.

V.  You, child, will be called the prophet of the most high
R.  For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, 241)

Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.
                   - Martin Luther (after Ambrose of Milan)
                   The Hymnal 1982, #54  st. 1


Tenth Station – The Annunciation to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-21)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

V.  God has raised up a mighty savior for us
R.  From the house of his servant David.

Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 239)


Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Way of Advent - Stations Seven and Eight

Seventh Station – Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-43)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?

V.  There will be a fulfillment of God’s word;
R.  And blessed is she who believes.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 240)

Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.
            - Martin Luther (after Ambrose of Milan)
            The Hymnal 1982, #54  st. 1

Eighth Station – Mary Echoes God’s Promise to Abraham (Luke 1:46-48, 51-55)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

V.  The Mighty One has done great things for me;
R.  And holy is his name.

Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer, 815)

Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.
  

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Way of Advent - Stations Five and Six

Fifth Station – The Annunciation to Mary (Luke 2:28, 30-32)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.

V.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
R.  And of his kingdom there will be no end.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, 240)

Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.
            - Martin Luther (after Ambrose of Milan)
            The Hymnal 1982, #54  st. 1


Sixth Station – Mary’s Response (Luke 1:38)

Our King and Savior now draws near:
Come among us and save us, we pray.

Mary said, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. Then the angel departed from her.

V.  The child to be born will be holy;
R.  He will be called Son of God.

Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 243)

Savior of the nations, come!
Virgin’s Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, both heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.