Wednesday, 16 July 2014

OF Things Liturgical

The following is part of a discussion on with a friend on Facebook concerning the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services in the Anglican Church of Canada
Desmond — thank you for your thoughtful and extensive comments.  There is some in what you write that I agree and some with which I disagree.  I believe language and symbols such as passing the peace are important.  They are integral to the Anglican worship and symbolic of much more.  There is a great deal more to what the two services — if we take just the Communion or the Eucharist in both prayer books.  The things that are emphasized in each service are quite different but there are similarities.
The BAS does differ from the traditional Anglican service in both form and content.   However, in part it is a matter of emphasis rather than stark differences.  The BAS does emphasize the communal nature of worship opening with the gathering of the community — when two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name he is there — and the emphasis on community continues.  The BAS does have an emphasis on US but there is that element in the BCP.  The confession is communal, ‘We acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness’.  The creed in the BCP is ‘I believe’ however, the BAS uses most frequently the Apostles creed with ’I believe’.  There is also the Nicene Creed in the BAS which is communal.  However, you can hardly call that a modernization as the Council of Nicea was rather a long time ago.

 Certainly agree with you that there is a downplaying of repentance in the BAS which is unfortunate in my mind and theology.  We all have the need for repentance and come to the communion rail as sinners and in need of God’s grace.   Perhaps this is another case of emphasis as we are all created in God’s image and God declared it very good.  We have been expelled from the Garden which I take as a myth in the best sense.  However, that is not because of original sin in the Augustine sense.  We needed to rebel against God if we were develop as fully human beings but this did, of necessity, leads to a separation from God.  What would humanity be like if it has remained in the Garden?   This is non-traditional theology which I readily admit.  We do need to repent our separation from God which is inevitable because of our human nature and mostly because our egos see us as the center of our being rather than God.

This brings us to the crucial issue of scripture and how you understand it and what you/we believe.  I believe that contrary to what you declare we must look at the direction of scripture and of Jesus’ message rather than the specifics of different passages.  What you say is logical but I don’t believe that logic has priority for Jesus or for God’s interaction with people.  To perhaps be illogical and take one passage to support this I turn to Paul.  As Paul says to the Church in Corinth, ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (KJV).  If we are to live in true charity with our neighbours and ourselves we will be following Jesus commandment to love one another.   I turn to Jesus and the woman caught in sin about to be stoned.  None of us is without sin.  However, he does say go and sin no more which is often held up as the last word against same-sex-blessing.  We are to turn back and repent.  However, there is another approach of Jesus which is presented in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The father does not wait for the son to give his well-rehearsed speech of repentance.   The father accepts the son as he celebrates the reunion.  He does not say you may come back home but sin no more.  He accepts him unconditionally.  The question for me is how are we to live in love and charity with our neighbours? 
The BAS does present things in what could be called a logical fashion.  There is little mystery in what has been presented which is part of the problem with the liturgy.  As my wife Lorna noted it tries to pin down God as good and gracious and loving and only that.  But there is little of the mystery of God which is essential as we try to understand God.  This is beyond our abilities as finite human creatures.  I want to conclude with a quote from Richard Rohr:

For me, it really comes down to this: the individuals I know who are most genuinely happy and also fruitful for the world invariably relate to God in a way that is deeply personal, intimate, and almost conversational. Yet these same persons would be the first to admit and recognize that their personal God is also transpersonal and sometimes impersonal, and “the one in whom we all live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and, finally, beyond all names for God. God is humbly recognized as beyond any of our attempts to domesticate, understand, or control the Mystery. All names for God are “in vain.”
That is I believe not logical and it cannot be as God is beyond our logic.  For me that is the mystery of God. 


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