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The Fullness of the Faith

Sir John Suckling

Donald Richmond:

“In too much fullness is some want…” –Sir John Suckling in Chapters into Verse

Over the past number of years I have repeatedly heard Roman Catholics emphasize the “fullness of [Roman] faith.” Within the grossly misguided context of evangelizing other Christians, this emphasis asserts that Roman fullness has something a bit more to offer than other communities of Christian faith. That is, according to these apologists, Rome has what others lack. And, to be clear, this attribution of lack includes every other Christian community and Church —- with, maybe, some accommodation for our Eastern Orthodox brethren. This emphasis upon Roman “fullness” is unabashedly bold, and clearly evidences a seriously un-catholic bias that un-catholicizes any claim to be truly catholic.

However our Roman family is not alone in its assertions. We all, individually and collectively, have our own definition and description of what this fullness must or must not include. We each have our own Shibboleths, our own self-or-ecclesiastically-constructed Babels, which require rigid adherence. Unfortunately, what may not be required is adherence.  Repentance and reconciliation are called for. These Shibboleths include, and may not be restricted to, those Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles which we hold so dear and necessary. To be crystal, fullness is almost entirely determined by the theological “glass” that we have boldly blown for our own purposes.

Sir John Suckling, quoted above, makes an interesting point that directs us to a possibility that I have long-asserted: Sometimes, and more often than not, there can be too much fullness. There is such a thing as being too full. This article posits this position and offers a more reasonable possibility: Less is, in practice, more. And it is this little that should define fullness. When fullness spills beyond the bounds of its original design, as with our Lord’s reference to “new wine in old wineskins,” we no longer have fullness. In such an instance we have flooding, a mess that needs to be cleaned-up and corrected.

What we desperately need is God’s glass and God’s definition of what, within that specific context, fullness actually means, includes and excludes. Of God’s fullness we all want to receive, and not anyone else’s contrivances, even contextually appropriate contrivances appropriate to the time, that have been collected, collated and codified along the way. With the Gospel Greeks, “we would see Jesus” (St. John 12: 21). Often, as with rote rituals, our vision of Jesus Christ is impeded by other things of lesser importance.

To arrive at a reasonable and biblical fullness, a fullness free from excess, there are five priorities we must consider. These will be addressed below.

Fullness is centered upon Jesus Christ as revealed. The good news of the Gospel celebrates the person of Jesus Christ and the plan of redemption that is entirely centered upon what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do. Stated more exactly, Jesus is the program and the plan. In order for us to apprehend this person and plan we must entirely center ourselves within this revelation of God. As has been suggested by Thomas ‘a Kempis, “He who would fully understand the words of Christ, must entirely commit himself to the life of Christ.” Within this broad framework, there is a relationship between the Living Word and the Written Word that must not be over-or-under estimated. And what must not be lost or minimized, and what is crucial to my thesis, is that the centrality of Jesus Christ is not just at the core of the Written Revelation, but, as well, at the core of how we understand this revelation AND ALSO at the very heart of our experience, expression and expectation of this revelation. We have compromised Christ by not appreciating the priorities that guided the experience and expression of the apostolic authors of Written Revelation. This has led to increased separation and not to salvation and sanctification in their most social, communal, implications.

To understand and appreciate what I am proposing we must understand the orientation of the New Testament authors – specifically the four Gospels – and how they approached the Hebrew Bible as they sought to explain how this Old Testament revelation of God revealed Jesus as Messiah. When we study how these New Testament authors resourced the Hebrew Bible we discover that they were highly selective in both their use of texts and in the Text they actually cited. It was the Septuagint they cited, and priority was given to some texts above others —- including not citing some First Testament texts at all. Psalms and Isaiah, as two examples, were repeatedly referenced, while others only minimally or not at all. Only certain Old Testament texts were utilized in order to communicate the Jesus Story, the good news of the Gospel. As such, swaths of Scripture were ignored in order to communicate the overarching purpose of communicating Christ.

What this means for us, and the first step needed in order to define and defend the proper understanding of fullness, is to appreciate that while all of God’s revealed Word is inspired Scripture, there is a primacy of revelation which requires us to capitalize upon certain books or texts and to minimize others. The four Gospels are primary, Acts is secondary, and the Epistles are, fundamentally, commentary almost entirely rooted within the time and the communities to which they were originally intended. To be both brash and blunt, while we must appreciate Paul’s many Epistles, they are not Gospel and they may have minimal relevance to our contemporary setting unless there is an exact match between their intended audience and setting to our own current communities and cultural contexts. They are inspired revelation, but only of a tertiary nature and importance. The story of Jesus is the message, everything else is commentary. Epistles tell us about how this message was to be lived within the varied first century churches. Their relevance is rooted to a particular time, place, community and purpose. When we move beyond that, cherry picking our chosen texts to prove our multitudinous theological positions, we are on dangerous ground. Gospels trump any and every Epistle. Our misunderstanding about fullness is rooted within a misunderstanding of the biblical narrative, and its core message. To gain an appreciation of what fullness actually is and includes, we must embrace the intention of the four Gospels: Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead revealed, and it is his story – not the commentaries about it – to which we must attend. How this relates to our topic of fullness is very simple: If revelation can be prioritized, focusing on who Jesus is and what he taught (and this within the Trinitarian framework the four gospels suggest), then it is entirely reasonable to prioritize other things that enhance this specific message —————— and, at times, minimize those things which do not.

Fullness is concisely communicated in the Acts 2:42 community and is more Petrine than Pauline. The book of Acts is a transitional text that continues to communicate “all that Jesus began to do and teach” AND chronicles how the Christian community began to live that good news. It links us to the Gospel narratives, but also outlines its expansion from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the known world. As such, Acts has primary, secondary and tertiary implications and applications. The Gospel message in Acts is the message, while Peter and Paul’s varied journeys are historic information about how that core communication was carried throughout the Empire and beyond. It expresses how the primitive Christian community, namely Peter and Paul (as well as the first followers of Jesus), were obedient to our Lord’s “GO” directive.

Just after Pentecost, the followers of Jesus began to grow in numbers and in self-understanding. Following Peter’s Pentecost Homily, communicating choice words about Jesus, the community of his followers centered themselves upon four priorities: Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking Bread and Prayer. These must be briefly commented upon. The “Apostolic Teaching,” at that time, was rather restricted. It focused upon Jesus and his salvific ministry. THIS, and THIS ALONE, was (and is!) the Apostolic teaching. There was no Paul. There were no nuanced messages to attract and accommodate and direct communities, Gentile or Jewish, throughout the Empire. There were no Creeds, Councils, Confessions or Articles. There was, within the Christian community, no dangerous development of doctrine. There was only Peter’s first sermon which presented Jesus as Messiah. With credit to Paul, the Apostolic Teaching was, essentially, what he communicated in 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 8. From this essential message, the Apostolic Teaching, a fellowship of love was established that resulted in the Breaking of Bread and prayer. The Jesus Story was the center-point of this unfolding. Theology, per se, did not shape the community. Philosophy did not shape this community. Ideas and ideals did not shape this community. Jesus and his story did! To enjoy true fullness, therefore, this must be the primitive priority we must embrace. There is no program but the person Jesus Christ. From Jesus comes Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking Bread and Prayer.

Fullness, within this primitive Acts 2 community, exists, expands, and is expressed through what is contained in the Vincentian Canon. The Vincentian Canon tells us that what is truly catholic has been believed “everywhere, always and by all.” These are important and instructive words. If we are really interested in the faith that is truly catholic, that is the faith of the Acts 2 community, we must restrict ourselves to the everywhere, always and by all standard of evaluation. And this is highly restrictive and clearly possible to attain and maintain. Some might suggest that this is an impossible standard. They would argue that there was no time when such a framework actually existed. I would heartily disagree. These few words root us to an infant community which was properly centered upon and within the essential of Jesus Christ. Only for a very short time – the infancy of the Jerusalem Christian community – can this everywhere, always and by all standard be seen, met and maintained. This is when Jesus was central. This is where Jesus was central. This was how Jesus was central. They had no New Testament. They had no Paul. They had only minimal expansion after Peter’s Pentecost proclamation. They had Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking Bread and Prayer. These were the everywhere, always and by all standards by which they build a common life of common passion, power and purpose. These must be our essential standard. A truly full faith that is catholic is as simple and as profound as this. As such, fullness is often less, and not more. Apostolic Faith is, therefore, stripped of excess. Could it be that all of our Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Article, possibly appropriate to their time, are little more than factual footnotes?

Fullness limits, if not restricts, Creeds, Councils, Confessions, Articles, and all unnecessary defensive postulations and postures rooted in protective fear. Christians are indebted to the Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles of our faith. I am not sure, and I want to be cautious, that every utterance is the faith as envisioned by the Acts 2 community, however. Moreover, I am not sure that the primitive followers of Jesus would affirm everything communicated within these varied documents. In fact, I am almost entirely sure that they would not do so. Even today, among true followers of Jesus, we do not find entire agreement. In some cases, as with our Coptic and Oriental Orthodox brethren, some of these documents and their dictates have isolated Christian communities for over a thousand years. That is, the Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles were all aimed at defining and defending historically appropriate understandings about the true Faith, but they also ended up creating disruption, disagreement and division. They, at times, say “no” in a manner that is far too strident and reflect highly contextualized conflicts that may have little bearing upon us today.

However, as I am an Anglican clergyman, this indebtedness to history is pronounced and, in some ways, obligatory. This said, however, unlike the perspective of the primitive (Acts 2) followers of Jesus, and as outlined in the Vincentian Canon, these documents are even more provisional than the New Testament Epistles. They are (being very generous) commentaries upon the commentaries communicated by Paul and the other authors outside of the strict Gospel narratives. They are important, at times pertinent, but highly provisional. Let us, all of us, be honest. When we look at Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles there are times when we disregard or discard certain assertions. There is no denomination that gives absolute fidelity to all of these. This is a fact, and numerous examples can be cited. Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles continue to distance followers of Jesus from the primitive experience and expression of the early church for whom Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking Bread and Prayer were essential. How these may have been exported and explained to an expanding Church is a different matter, and certainly worthy of careful and prayerful consideration. But, importantly, integrity calls us to essentials and not to those exaggerations which, in philosophy and in practice, may separate us from the Christian community’s most ancient forms and formulations. To move beyond these primitive frameworks (and I make an exception for the Apostles’ Creed because it briefly summarizes the Bible basics as found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and does include the fundamentals. I think it was Dr. Tim Tennant who referred to this Creed as a succinct summary of basic Bible doctrine.) risks imposing non-essentials upon true followers of Jesus who may enjoy an essential fullness without subscribing to the exaggerated fullness which might be nice but not necessary. True fullness, while not always denying or decrying Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles, will severely limit and restrict their importance —- refusing to impose what is, at best, commentary upon the entire catholic community. Let us remember that things can be far too full and, consequently, become a flooded mess requiring clean-up. The point is Jesus Christ. The Gospels communicate him. The Epistles comment and expand upon these Gospels. The Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles comment upon the commentaries — often excessively expanding upon the primitive functional fullness exhibited in Acts 2: 42.

Fullness must assert no more than the primitive catholicity of the Acts 2: 42 community and assumes the Vincentian Canon as its framework of understanding. Recently I read and reflected upon Norwood’s fine book Reforming Rome: Karl Barth and Vatican II. Among the many excellent points Norwood makes, he draws attention to how Barth increasingly began to think in terms of being an Evangelical Catholic and not in terms of being a Reformed Protestant. This is a productive consideration. In short, if I extrapolate, if we affirm the Acts 2 community, as broadly seen in the Vincentian Canon, we are all catholics if we are followers of Jesus. We are Roman catholic, Anglican catholic, Eastern catholic, Reformed catholic, Protestant catholic. We are, if we affirm what is most essential (primitive Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking Bread and Prayer) common catholics who broadly share a common life for a common purpose. With this, our Creeds, Councils, Confessions and Articles begin to fall away. Roman exaggeration, Protestant resistance, Orthodox culturalism and Anglican (unwise) conciliarism all bow before Jesus and the true catholicity that he encourages —- and the primitive followers of Jesus experienced and expressed.

This does not mean that denominational distinctives are necessarily wrong, but they are simply not needed or binding. If you want to emphasize Tradition, Capital T, please feel free to do so. But do not expect others to cross their “T” as you do. Your “T” does not define everyone’s understanding of Apostolic Teaching.

If you want to say “Transubstantiation,” go ahead and say so. But do not make this the deciding factor in Breaking Bread with others —- most especially when we all believe that Jesus meant Body and Blood when he said Body and Blood.

If you want to say “this is us,” please celebrate your identity. But also please avoid saying, along with this, “and with us wisdom will die” (Job). Others, too, have identities that are entirely Christo-centric and entirely in keeping with the Fellowship of the Acts 2 community. In short, they too enjoy catholic fullness.

If you want to be liturgical and pray the Daily Offices (which I highly commend), please do so. But do not assert that any liturgical stance is incumbent upon all. We need not say that Jesus’ “venerable” hands took up the “chalice” to appreciate that Jesus took…blessed…broke…and gave.

These examples, these philosophic proclivities, are almost endless. They are tedious and tiresome.

If we want to return to what is most needed, to what is truly catholic, let us look to Jesus, to what he “continued to do and teach” through the Acts 2: 42, and to what is communicated through the Vincentian Canon. I am not sure we need more fullness, but am quite certain that less fullness may, in practice, be the only fullness God expects or we need.

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God is the Point of the Gospel

Johnathan Michael Jones:

Selfishness has crept its way into the church over the years and has become detrimental to the point that Western culture has adopted a false gospel: a gospel that makes humankind the center and the point rather than God. I remember a conversation with a friend years ago in which I suggested that God is primarily about his own glory. My friend responded by saying that makes God sound as if he is stuck on himself. My response was, “He is! Who else would he stuck on? You, me, or someone lesser?” God is the point of the gospel; the gospel is not even about humankind at all but solely about God’s glory. Even the story of redemption among his people points to his own glory and pleasure.

Our selfishness is manifested in many ways. A common prayer among many believers, for example, is for God to glorify himself by working through us, i.e. we desire him to work through us more than we desire him to work so that he is glorified. What if he decided to answer our prayer in that regard but to do so through someone else other than us? John Piper has written a book entitled God Is the Gospel. The truth is that we should desire God to work despite us rather than through us. Consider the story of Joseph. Fourteen chapters of Genesis are devoted to this story. It is a story with which many are familiar and a story that teaches valuable lessons; yet, it has become a story that effectively promotes therapeutic moralistic deism in which we gain insights from the text and believe that if we make the right decisions living a decent life, we will be blessed as Joseph was. What is fascinating about the story of Joseph, however, is that while Joseph takes up the most space and is the main character,[1] he is not the point, for that role belongs to Judah. In fact, the reason God placed Joseph in a place of authority through his trials and circumstances was to eventually preserve the life of Judah who likely would have died without the help of his brother. Though Judah is not mentioned as often as Joseph, it was through his line that the Messiah would come. The role for Judah, although seemingly small, was the most important role. For many of us, we would not be okay with that. We pray for God to move but desire him to move so that we receive at least a little recognition. We spend our time ministering and claiming a desire solely for God’s glory as a mask that hides our selfishness.

It is vital that we realize God is the point of the gospel, not us. When we realize how God-centered the gospel is and when our perspective changes, other things in our lives also change. I would like to suggest four aspects that change in our lives when our perspective on the gospel changes.

Our Prayers Change

First, when our perspective on the point of the gospel changes, our prayers subsequently change. We stop treating God as a genie in a bottle and asking for what we want (in our selfishness). We stop praying on the foundation of what we want and begin to pray based on what God desires. Furthermore, our prayers are not even founded upon our good or the good of humanity but rightly the pleasures of God. It is likely, when we consider how we pray, that we realize our prayers are usually selfish, i.e. we pray based on our good more than God’s pleasure and delight; yet, when our delight is rooted in God’s delight, our prayers are subsequently affected. No longer do we pray for God to use us but rather to use us or anyone he chooses. If you want God to use you, ask yourself why. Is it so that he receives glory and pleasure or so that you might be seen, albeit for the supposed glory of Christ. There is surely a fine line between a desire for God to use us and a desire for people to see God using us. When our perspective on the gospel shifts to a solely God-centered and God-exalting gospel, our prayers change.

Our Joy Changes

Our joy also changes, for we find our joy in God’s joy. Even in matchless persecution, sickness, suffering, and even depression, we live with a hope and joy like none other because it is not rooted in circumstances. Often, we can claim the joy of Christ when situations are at least okay. It is difficult to realize God’s joy, however, when circumstances are dire. By joy, I do not intend to imply happiness but rather a supreme satisfaction and delight in God. Joy does not mean freedom from difficulty including sickness, financial trouble, loss of job, legal troubles, or even depression. If joy in Christ meant that life would be absent of these, many Christians over the centuries have been cheated. Joy in Christ does not mean freedom from trials but freedom despite them. Without a proper gospel perspective, circumstances will rule; we will not know the joy of the Lord; and we will continue to see the gospel through the grid of ourselves, thus asking questions like, “God, if you love me, then why did you do this?” Questions such as this are indicative of the wrong perspective on the gospel. God is the point of the gospel, not humanity.

Our Reason for Evangelism Changes

When our perspective on the gospel changes, our reason for evangelism also changes. Prior to my shift in perspective years ago, I believed that I was to preach the gospel so that the lost are saved; this, however, is only a half truth. The gospel is not about people but about God. When our perspective on the gospel changes, we preach out of an abundant joy in the Lord; our overflowing satisfaction in Christ then causes us to declare who he is because we have tasted and seen that he is good (Ps 34:8). Evangelism, thus, becomes about declaring God, not convincing people to trust him. When people see as we have seen, they then trust him. It is not our job to save people. We have no power to do so. It is our job to know God and to make him known. Why does God save people? For his glory. Why did Christ die? For God’s glory. Why do we preach the gospel? For God’s glory, not the salvation of humanity; people’s salvation is a biproduct of declaring God. When we realize that God is the point of the gospel, our selfishness fades away and we declare God because we want people to know who he is, not just receive salvation from hell.

Our Desire for God to Work through Us Changes to a Desire for Him to Work However He Wishes

In our metamorphosis from selfishness to God-centered selflessness, we certainly desire God to work but to work however he wishes and through whomever he wishes. We have the privilege, in the body of Christ, of being used by God. Nevertheless, our desire should not be for God to use us but for him to work in any way he sees fit whether through us or through someone else and whether through our church or another church. As a minister, I openly confess that this is difficult, for I want God to use me in that to which he has called me. A proper gospel perspective, nonetheless, should cause me to seek God’s work and simply do that to which he has called me irrespective of how or even whether he uses me. He has called me so I must go and do as he commands regardless of the outcome. What if his call was as clear as this: “Go and preach, but there will be no visible outcome. You will be tortured; and no one will come to know me, but go.” What would be your response? I dare say that would be difficult for most people. Is not the call of God enough? Should we not go, and should we not preach on the sole basis that he has called? While we should desire God to work, we should not try to dictate how he works. We should seek his glory and simply obey.

Jesus Is Not Only at the Center but Everywhere

It is not uncommon to hear Christians speak of God in terms of capacity in their lives, i.e. he is a number on a priority list, or he is the center of what occurs in their lives. Jesus, however, should not be number one on a priority list; he should be the entire priority list, the first and foremost person and being in every aspect of life. He should not simply be at the center of life but rather everywhere in life: the center, the inside, the outside, the edges, everything. The gospel, the metanarrative of the Bible, and even the message we are to proclaim is not centered around humanity or even the salvation of humanity but around and about triune God himself. Salvation is a God-honoring, God-exalting, and God-glorifying result of the gospel; yet, God himself is the point of the gospel. When we realize this truth, our perspective changes; when our perspective changes, our lives change.

[1] This is not meant to imply that the Joseph accounts are not real.

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Weaving Children and Teens into Worship Leadership

Connie Bull:

Question: How is it that we embrace children professing their faith in Jesus the one who died for them and yet they are not usually included in services where they sing of Christ crucified…or help crush palms into ashes… or where they assist Good Friday in taking away the altar décor and drape the cross in black? Is it that we as adults want to “protect” them from the cruelty that was the crucifixion, or are we preventing the children from participating as a part of the body of Christ and using them for our own enjoyment?

Throughout history, children have been regarded in various ways from warmly to warily.  David Lancy, in his book The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings lists three:  the cherub who is overly romanticized and can do no wrong, the “children should be seen and not heard” chattel idea of children as completely unworthy in the presence of adults, and the suspicious idea of children and teens as so mercurial and unpredictable that they cannot be trusted.  I would add one more way I have seen children and teens treated within the church: as cheerleaders.  We bring them out only at times of the year that are joyful like Advent, Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter so that we can smile and applaud them. We do not necessarily applaud each time an adult reads scripture or sings as if it is a performance and not a participation in God’s message of the day….

Want to read the rest of Connie’s wonderful work? Please click the “Read More” link below.

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Will You Ask the Blessing? Blessing in Spirit and in Truth

Dr. Connie C. Bull:

A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal, and strengthen. –John O’Donohue, Irish poet & priest (1956-2008)

Will you offer the blessing?  We hear this phrase often at mealtime, even perhaps daily. If we pause to consider, though, we realize that blessing is not only connected to meals. Throughout the Bible, blessing is connected to belonging.[1] Our common speech patterns, however, do not imply belonging when we are quick to say “Bless his heart” or “Lord, bless her” when speaking of a personality flaw in someone. Instead, we are covertly lying to hide the disdain we feel under the surface.  Thus, we have twisted the biblical meanings what it is to bless; blessings are to be prayers for deliverance and a “made-new worldview” as we bless in Jesus’ name, our Deliverer.

The Old Testament uses nine different meanings of the term “bless” including greeting/leavetaking in peace, prevailing power over enemies, wisdom, prosperity, benediction, transfer of power, respect, praise, and thanksgiving.  In the New Testament, Christ embodies these, and blesses into belonging both young and old in His ministry. Jesus’ last earthly act was blessing (Luke 24:51)—a ministry for more than church staff, but rather for all Christ’s followers to continue.

[1] Claus Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church, trans. Keith Crim (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 19.

Want to read the rest of Connie’s wonderful work? Please click the “Read More” link below.

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He’s in the Lord’s Army

Audio Resource: His long and distinguished career as a military chaplain helped prepare Brett Travis for a further call to church planting. In this conversation with Dr. Chris Alford, Brett describes a lifetime of service to his country and to the Lord. How did a country kid from the midwest end up being a proponent of Ancient-Future Faith called to pastoral ministry? Join us!

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Talking Ancient-Future Faith with Gary Rushing

Audio Content: Dr. Gary Rushing was the guest on this episode of Ancient-Future Faith. He talked with Host Chris Alford about a life of ministry and how he is using biblical, ancient-future principles in his capacity as a worship pastor in the Methodist Church. Gary has served in a variety of denominations and now has the unique challenge of working in a “high seasonal” church in Florida where the numbers fluctuate by a thousand depending on the time of the year. What a challenge! And what a wonderful pastor he is…. Join us!

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Art, Life, and the Church: Dr. Dianne Collard

Audio Resource: Dr. Dianne Collard was the guest on this edition of Ancient-Future Faith radio. Dianne is a member of the Ancient-Future Faith Network, an author, a sought-after speaker on issues related to the arts and the church, and a great blessing to the many artists she mentors and encourages. Join us for a conversation about her latest goings-on (which include a documentary film and a new arts organization in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

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Celtic Spirituality and Formation

Audio Resource: 

Tracy Balzer (right) was the guest for this edition of Ancient-Future Faith radio. She is the director of Christian Formation at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.  She is the author of Thin Places (Leafwood 2007), A Listening Life (Pinyon, 2011), and Permission to Ponder:  Contemplative Wisdom for the Spiritually Distracted (Leafwood, 2015).  She holds a Master of Ministry degree, is a certified spiritual director and advocate of Celtic spirituality, and is an oblate at the beautiful Subiaco Abbey, also in Arkansas.  Tracy regularly leads pilgrimages and study trips to the British Isles, having a special interest and affection for the Isle of Iona, Scotland.

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Then Shall They See: Meditations for Advent

Long-time AFFN member and contributor Rev. Dr. Donald P. Richmond has written a remarkable set of devotionals for the Advent Season. May it be a great blessing and source of inspiration to you during these days of listening and waiting. 

Thank you, Don, for your ongoing (and precious) contributions to our Network.

Here’s the introduction to the series, and then find the link to the .pdf file for the entire set just below:

 

Then Shall They See: Meditations for Advent

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent, as found in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, encourages us to “readmarklearn…and inwardly digest” holy Scripture. The purpose of these four admonitions, according to the Collect, is to empower the reader to embrace and emulate Christ’s teaching. Reading and reflecting upon Holy Writ, with an honest and open heart, helps us to do this. These simple meditations seek to honor the Collect’s concern.

As in the past, with my other seasonal reflections, there is a process that I encourage you to follow. First, and foremost, read and reflect upon the Lesson of the day. Do not rush the Reading. Do not try to interpret the Reading. Sit before the Reading and let it speak to you. Instead of interpreting it, let the text interpret you.

As well, read and reflect upon the brief commentary that I have written. Engage with what I have suggested by asking questions. Is this how you read the text? Do you interpret this biblical passage in the same way? What are the readings, found in both the biblical text and my commentary, communicating to you? What is God asking you to do, based upon the Scripture provided?

Finally, and importantly, pray the prayer. The prayer, Come Thou, long-expected Jesus, is written in red throughout the meditations and was originally composed as a hymn by Charles Wesley. Although I reference the same prayer each day, if done with devotion it will work its way into our hearts.

May the Christ-Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, incarnate himself ever more richly in our hearts and our lives.

 

Enjoy the entire set of Advent devotionals by clicking here.

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A Conversation with Dr. Rick Asche

Microphone (2)Rick Ache FamilyAudio Content: Dr. Rick Asche, a recent graduate of the Institute for Worship Studies and a long-time pastor, was the guest on this edition of “Ancient-Future Faith,” a radio program sponsored by Epiclesis: An Ancient-Future Faith Community. Rick has served in youth and men’s ministry, as well as a lead pastor, and more recently in junior high ministry in Lincoln, California. He recently accepted a calling to join the pastoral team at Epiclesis as Pastor of Intergenerational Discipleship. In this episode of the radio program, Rick talks generational ministry and its biblical mandates.

Click on the play button in the audio player below to hear the conversation with Rick Asche:

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