OAdonai

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (The sign of the cross should be made in remembrance of your baptism)

O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai, come and redeem us with an outstretched arm. Amen.

The Magnificat

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Readings for the Evening: 

Psalms 106

Exodus 3:1-6

Acts 7:20-36

Matthew 7:24-29

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,the power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.  Amen.

Personal Prayers and Petitions

Silence

Blessed are You, Sovereign Lord, Just and True.  To You be praise and glory forever!  Of old you spoke through the mouth of Your prophets,  but in our days, You speak through Your Son, Whom You have appointed the Heir of All Things.  Grant us, Your people, to walk in His light, that we may be found ready and watching when He comes again in glory and judgment, for You are our light and our salvation. Amen.

The Lord Almighty build our faith on the foundation of the prophets, and fulfill our hope in the birth and return of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Lord, be pleased to deliver us.  O God, make haste to help us.   Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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Westminster Cathedral, London

Thanks to Chaplain Mike at Internetmonk for sharing the Evangelii Gaudium, an exhortation recently released by Pope Francis.  I’m digesting this treatise a bit at a time, and wanted to share with y’all a portion on the preaching of  homilies.  In reading this, I find it to not only be a lesson to pastors or priests, but to anyone who teaches or shares the Gospel, as well.  Take the word homily out wherever it might appear in the text below, and substitute words and phrases like “sermon”, “Sunday School lesson”, “small group discussion”, or even “conversation about faith”, and there are valuable lessons for all of us found here.  There are some strong points made here for those of us who are called to teach, preach, and evangelize, a few of which are summarized below:

The homily is a  point of connection between a pastor and the listeners, as well as a point of connection between a listener and God.

+ The homily should have a three-fold effect: an encouraging experience of the Holy Spirit; consolation through the hearing of God’s Word; and the renewal and growth of the listener.

+ The homily should not be treated as an educational tool, breaking down Scripture into a math equation or formulaic matter, but as a conversation between God and His people, reminding them of the covenant nature of the relationship He offers, and the amazing salvation story of Christ. 

+ The homily should be an effective bridge for the listeners to cross from their pews to participation in the Eucharist.

+ In order to deliver an effective homily, the speaker must understand the wants, needs, failures, joys, heartaches, successes, and dreams of the listeners; in short, they must understand the culture of the congregation.

+ The homily shouldn’t be boring as all get-out, but feeding the listeners’ appetite for entertainment should never be be the ultimate goal.

+ Keep it short.  You may have the ability to deliver a captivating two hour sermon, but if the people are truly listening (AKA, not snoring), it may be an indication that they are more enamored with you and your speaking ability than the content of what you are actually saying.

+ God is our Father, and the Church is our mother.  The Church represents God, and the pastor/priest/teacher/evangelist represents the Church.  Our homilies should have the quality of a loving, encouraging, correcting, strengthening, compassionate parent speaking to her children.

+ The homily you deliver should be much more than a routine lesson.  It should come from a heart set on fire by the preparation of it.  Every word should matter to you.  If you’re connected to the words you speak on behalf of God on a heart level, then it opens the door of the listeners’ hearts to what Christ has to say.

+  In the homily, the listener is embraced securely, the way an innocent child is embraced by the Father; and as children who have grown older, made poor choices at times, but are still lovingly received and embraced by their Abba Daddy.  A good sermon will always find balance between living out the promises of our baptismal covenant, and living in the grace of God: It reminds us of what God has done for us, and what He’s going to do.

All that being said, here’s some wisdom from Pope Francis…

Let us now look at preaching within the liturgy, which calls for serious consideration by pastors. I will dwell in particular, and even somewhat meticulously, on the homily and its preparation, since so many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry, and we cannot simply ignore them. The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case. The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth.

136. Let us renew our confidence in preaching, based on the conviction that it is God who seeks to reach out to others through the preacher, and that he displays his power through human words. Saint Paul speaks forcefully about the need to preach, since the Lord desires to reach other people by means of our word (cf. Rom 10:14-17). By his words our Lord won over the hearts of the people; they came to hear him from all parts (cf. Mk 1:45); they were amazed at his teachings (cf. Mk 6:2), and they sensed that he spoke to them as one with authority (cf. Mk 1:27). By their words the apostles, whom Christ established “to be with him and to be sent out to preach” (Mk 3:14), brought all nations to the bosom of the Church (cf. Mt 16:15.20).

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William and Rebecca VanDoodewaard wrote that Young Evangelicals are Getting High on their blog, The Christian Pundit; my friend from the world wide inter-web, Fr. Matt Marino, wrote about the phenomenon on his blog, The Gospel Side, in posts entitled What’s so Uncool about Cool Church and Solving the Millennial Catastrophe; and most famously, Rachel Held Evans, who is fast becoming the voice of young, restless, evangelicalism, wrote about it in a commentary entitled Why Millenials are Leaving the Church for CNN’s Belief Blog, and in her own blog with the post 15 Reasons I Returned to Church.

All of these posts have a common theme: Young adults are leaving contemporary, seeker-friendly church settings for a spiritual setting that they feel has more depth and substance. I wrote about the future of the American Church a while back in a post entitled Return to Liturgical Practices: Here to Stay? and The Evangelical Response to Growth in Orthodox Denominations, making some predictions, particularly stating that I believed that worship was going to have a more sacramental/liturgical/historical flavor over the next twenty years.

I agree with what the VanDoodewaards, Fr. Matt, and Rachel Held Evans are saying, not because I’ve studied the statistics…although the stats do back up the idea that millennials are seeking out deeper spiritual waters, and finding them in liturgical settings. I agree because I’ve seen it in practice. I see it in myself, and in others I know. I read and taught the CEO, John Maxwell model of “doing church” and the Andy Stanley “Seven Checkpoints” method for “doing Christianity” for years, but it was Robert Webber’s “The Younger Evangelicals” that spoke to my heart. He saw this coming 30 years ago, but the church growth consultants and Christian leadership gurus looked the other way, and ignored his voice, in favor of selling a neatly packaged, palatable, systematic, comfortable brand of worship that was designed to entertain us.

Many people have come to know Christ because of the post-modern, seeker friendly brand of Christianity. I won’t argue that. I fear that many have also made an idol of music, building programs, and the “bigger is better”, numbers-driven mindset. The SBC became so concerned with the idea that it’s the packaging that matters most, they even changed their name, now calling their organization “Great Commission Baptists”. In recent years, they’ve developed an idea called “church-replanting”, where they take a failing church, change its name, get a younger pastor who doesn’t tuck his shirt in and wears that microphone thing like Usher that runs from his mouth to his ear, even though we can hear him just fine without amplification, and call it “re-imagining church”. The message is, “We’re not church for old people. We’re young, hip, and we get you. We look like you, talk like you, and we’re not stuck in the red hymnal from 1978. But we’re not doing Beer and Hymns, okay? Don’t push it too much.”

The problem here is, what will the Church do when the fads change? Shift again? As we exit the era of bleached blond spiky haired youth pastors, worship dance, and song leaders prescribing our emotions to us during the slow song portion of their set, and we enter into “the next big thing”, where we throw out our outdated projectors and video screens in favor of a 2D or 3D absentee pastor, church via Tumblr, or worship twerking (I haven’t seen it, but I promise you, there is a youth pastor out there who is thinking about it…), are we going where we should be as the Church, or are we missing the point altogether?

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