Prayer for a New Semester

I want to share with you the following prayer, based on Oratio S. Thomae Aquinatis ante studium, which Thomas Aquinas would pray before studying, writing, or preaching. We prayed it responsively before class with Dr. Piotr Malysz at Beeson Divinity School, where the Spring 2016 semester begins tomorrow.
“O God, Creator of all that is,
From the treasures of Your wisdom,
You have arrayed the universe with marvelous order,
And now govern with skill and might.
You are the true fount of light and wisdom.
 
Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
Into the darkened places of our minds;
Disperse from our souls the twofold darkness into which we were born:
Sin and ignorance.
 
Grant to each of us:
Deftness of hand,
Keenness of mind,
Skill in learning,
Subtlety to interpret,
And eloquence in speech.
 
And since you have given us the privilege to share in the loving, healing, reconciling mission of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, in this age and wherever we are,
 
May your Spirit make us wise;
May your Spirit guide us;
May your Spirit renew us;
May your Spirit strengthen us.
 
So that we will be
Strong in faith,
Discerning in proclamation,
Courageous in witness,
Persistent in good deeds.
 
May You guide the beginning of our work,
Direct its progress,
And bring it to completion.
You who bring all that is good to its proper end,
Now prosper the work of our hands.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
 
Amen.”

Sermon: The Challenge of Christmas Light

There are better preachers out there. So, if you’re short on time, go and listen to them! However, if you’ve got 26 minutes to spare, I offer “The Challenge of Christmas Light” to you, and would love to hear your feedback.

I  preached this sermon on December 27, 2015 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Mountain Brook, AL, as we celebrated the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.

My sermon text was that day’s Gospel lesson, 1 John 1:1-9, expanded to include 2:1-2. But I also reference the Old Testament lesson, Exodus 33:18-23.

You can read the sermon manuscript here: The Challenge of Christmas Light Sermon Manuscript.

And you can listen to the audio here (note: it begins just as I finish reading the collect for the Feast of St. John and the collect for the First Sunday after Christmas):

Finally, you can read/listen to my other sermons here.

Grace and peace,

~Josh

 

Falwell, Muslims & the Offense of the Cross

Clear, cruciform thoughts from Tim Gombis:

“The cross is not a personal and private matter between me and God. The cross determines everything for God’s people. It claims our bodies, our communities, our loves and longings, and secures an eternal future for those who cling to it.”

Read the rest here: Falwell, Muslims & the Offense of the Cross

Improvising Church & State

IMPROVISING CHURCH AND STATE: OVERACCEPTING AS A SYNTHESIS OF ANGLICAN AND ANABAPTIST APPROACHES

BY: JOSHUA P. STEELE; NOVEMBER 19, 2015

INTRODUCTION: ACCEPTING, BLOCKING, AND STATUS

From the church’s perspective, is the state a promising offer, or a threatening one? At the risk of breathtaking oversimplification, Anglicans have tended to adopt the former perspective, leading to accommodation, and Anabaptists the latter, resulting in separation.[1] Following Samuel Wells in his theological appropriation of terms from theatrical improvisation, the Anglican tradition has tended to respond to the promising offers (invitations to respond) of the state by accepting – maintaining the premise(s) of the state’s action(s).[2] The historical legacy of the Church of England has given Anglicanism, as Anderson notes, an “inheritance of a strong loyalty to the state and a conservatism that has led the church to promote the status quo more often than it agitates for reform.”[3] This inheritance from the established Church of England has coincided with a dual tendency to adopt a high status (a strategy for getting one’s way), in terms of relative privilege and political optimism, and a low status, in terms of frequent subservience in church-state relations.[4]

However, the Anabaptist tradition has tended to respond to the threatening offers of the state by blocking – undermining the premise(s) of the state’s action(s).[5] For many contemporary Anabaptists, as Joireman summarizes, “[T]he state has the function of ordering the social world, and the church should be the visible witness of believers, the primary affiliation of Christians, and separate from the state.”[6] Passively, blocking the state can be “a choice to shut oneself away and keep oneself unsullied by the world.”[7] Most often, drawing upon their sixteenth-century inheritance of facing persecution from Catholics and Protestants alike, Anabaptists have adopted a low status as somewhat of a fringe movement. Actively, however, blocking can be “a choice to take up arms,” as seen during the (admittedly rare) example of high status Anabaptist opposition during the Münster Rebellion of 1534.[8]

QUESTIONING GIVENS

Continue reading Improvising Church & State

A Crucicentric Credo

(View PDF here.)

“At the centre of Christian faith is the history of Christ.

At the centre of the history of Christ is his passion and his death on the cross.”

~ Jürgen Moltmann[1]

We believe that, during the prefecture of Pontius Pilate, God died on a Roman cross.[2] We also believe that, the third day thereafter, Jesus of Nazareth – the same person who had been crucified – rose again from the dead. How can these things be? How can the immortal, transcendent, omnipotent One come to a weak, immanent end? How can a dead human leave his grave, living?

At this point, we face a crucial choice: between the posited “God” of metaphysical theism and the revealed God of the Christian faith.[3] Should we choose the former, our Christ, canon, and confession are irreducibly docetic – the true “God” is aloof, and merely play-acting, at best. Yet, should we choose the latter, God is irreducibly, ineluctably Triune – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe, we trust that the Triune God is who God has revealed Godself to be. Continue reading A Crucicentric Credo