Archive for the ‘Andy Langford’ Tag

God and Country–God First and Foremost   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

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Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I spun off this weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

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Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

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Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/devotion-for-independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

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The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)   11 comments

Above:  Logo of The United Methodist Church

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The United Methodist Church (1968-) descends immediately from The Methodist Church (1939-1968) and The Evangelical United Brethren Church (1946-1968), both products of mergers of older denominations with roots in the 1700s.  Methodism began as a revival movement within The Church of England, and so inherited part of the Prayer Book tradition.  John Wesley, a lifelong member of the See of Canterbury, abridged the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into the Sunday Service, which the first U.S. General Conference adopted in 1784.  Yet the General Conference of 1792 all but threw away the Sunday Service, under the pressures of revivalism and frontier realities.  And Holy Communion, which Wesley advised taking as often as possible, even daily, became in infrequent practice–perhaps once every three months.

The history of U.S. Methodism tells of increasing gentility during the Victorian Era, hence the proliferation of impressive church buildings in towns and cities.  (Presbyterians did much the same, by the way.)  And more formality in worship followed within such structures.  Yet the old ways persisted in many quarters.  Nevertheless, there was enough support for reclaiming a measure of Methodism’s Anglican heritage to warrant the beginning of the process of creating (in 1940-1944) The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945).  Just in case one was especially livid and/or oblivious to disclaimers, the title page contained the phrase,

FOR VOLUNTARY AND OPTIONAL USE.

Meanwhile, the new Evangelical United Brethren Church published its first Book of Ritual in 1952.  Subsequent editions followed in 1955 and 1959.  And the church’s 1957 Hymnal contained prayers for various topics and occasions.  These special prayers did not replicate material from any edition of The Book of Ritual.  (I have copies of all four books, by the way.)

As the two denominations neared their 1968 merger The Methodist Church, with EUB input, prepared its 1965 Book of Worship for Church and Home (this time without any disclaimer on the title page) and Methodist Hymnal (later The Book of Hymns.)  [The United Methodist Church, by the way, had two official hymnals during its earliest years; the EUB Hymnal was only eleven years old in 1968.  And I have early 1970s official United Methodist magazines which refer to the two official hymnals.]  The 1965 Methodist Hymnal/Book of Hymns, like its 1905 and 1935 predecessors, contained communion rituals based on the one from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  Any practicing Episcopalian of the time would have known, based on the 1928 Prayer Book in use at the time, what to do next.  I recall that, when I first encountered Holy Eucharist Rite I from the 1979 Prayer Book, I knew what to do next because of the old Methodist rituals.

All that said, I had the misfortune to grow up in United Methodist congregations which followed the old frontier pattern, including quarterly Holy Communion.  This did not satisfy me, for I was developing a form of piety centered on that sacrament.  By the time I had joined the See of Canterbury The United Methodist Church was trying to reclaim its

strong Wesleyan eucharistic tradition.

–Andy Langford, Blueprints for Worship:  A User’s Guide for United Methodist Congregations (Abingdon Press, 1993, page 42)

That word seems not to have reached the United Methodist congregations in the South Georgia Conference with which I had contact through late 2010, however.

The United Methodist Hymnal:  Book of United Methodist Worship (1989) and The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) stress the centrality of Holy Communion, but the language of the modern rite is sadly uninspiring.  It has all the lack of appeal of too-old bread.  Although both volumes–companions, for the Book of Worship refers one to the Hymnal frequently–introduce forms for morning and evening prayer, the language there is likewise unsatisfactory.  And the less I write about the Compline analog in the Book of Worship, the better.  Modern English liturgies can be graceful; witness The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989).  I also find the Irish Book of Common Prayer (2004) quite impressive and poetic.  So there is no excuse for the bad modern English of these United Methodist rituals.

On the other hand, the 1992 Book of Worship contains much that is useful.  One finds, for example, resources for Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday and for a Quinceanara; the denomination has become more diverse and racially progressive since 1965.  The healing prayers seem as if they would be helpful in the presence of another person–such as a member of the clergy–or alone.  The topics of these prayers range from AIDS to divorce to addiction.  Of course, one would have to remove the Book of Worship from the church office for that to happen.

Therein lies the main problem:  the Book of Worship is not in the pews, except perhaps here and there.  Almost all United Methodists to whom I have mentioned the book learned of its existence from me.  Low Church inertia has been the rule in U.S. Methodism since the late 1700s, and I do not know that this fact will ever change.  When, in 1792, the General Conference all but threw away Wesley’s Sunday Service, it set a bad pattern into motion.  As Frederick A. Norwood wrote in The Story of American Methodism (Abingdon Press, 1974, page 229):

Although forms were later provided, the damage was done.

The editions of The Book of Worship and The Book of Ritual  have been noble attempts to do liturgy properly, but, if nobody follows one, one is not a leader; one is merely taking a walk.  And, if relatively few people follow….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT IRANAEUS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF RANDOLPH ROYALL CLAIBORNE, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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