MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER
"Concerning spiritual gifts, bretheren, I would not have you ignorant." (1 Corinthians xii. 1.)
Sometimes a particular verse of Scripture almost leaps off the page for us because it addresses our time, place, or circumstances so well. The basic message of this homily was written by Louis Tarsitano and it said so much of what I was thinking that I have reworked it for our use today.
Obviously enough, we have to be careful not to treat the Holy Scriptures as if they were a book of disconnected fortune cookie messages that we can take or leave as we will, or as they strike our fancy. And the best protection against such a fundamental error in reading God’s Word is a lifetime of disciplined, daily study of the Bible, organized to include all of the Scriptures, since all of the Scriptures are the written Word of God.
The Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer are good examples of just this sort of Bible study, that is guided by prayer and grace, and that is why the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" confessed in the Creeds has used forms of Morning and Evening Prayer since the time that the Gospel was first preached. In our Anglican tradition of that one Church of Jesus Christ, the forms of Morning and Evening Prayer that we find in our Book of Common Prayer are the direct descendants, made available in our own native language, of the much earlier forms of the same Daily Offices in which Christians studied and prayed in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
In fact, the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer are included in the Prayer Book precisely because they are "common" to every faithful Church and because they are essential to being a local church that knows and worships the Lord God who reveals himself in the Holy Scriptures by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, by the preaching of his prophets, and by the Gospel of his Son.
Thus, in the Anglican Way of following Jesus Christ, every member of the clergy is obligated as one of the duties of his office and order to follow the discipline of daily Morning and Evening Prayer every day of his life. Likewise, the members of the laity who desire to become full-blooded, three-dimensional, adult, and responsible Christians in their own right are expected to take up the discipline of the Daily Offices in their own lives.
The point of providing Morning and Evening Prayer in the common tongue is not to turn the laity into clergymen, but to give every member of the Church, whatever his or her station in life or vocation, the same opportunity to share in the holy things of God that the clergy have been given, the same opportunity to grow up into the fullness of Jesus Christ.
In the Middle Ages and before the Reformation, the Daily Offices had become an exclusive clerical property. The clergy had taken too much upon themselves, and they had set aside too much for themselves in a sin called "clericalism." Today, however, if the same sin of clericalism appears among us, it is not the result of the clergy’s claiming too much, but of the laity’s claiming too little of their own dignity and opportunity as Christians. The Daily Offices are there, in the Book of Common Prayer, to be used by anyone. Even the instructions on how to use them are provided. Some may think, I don’t have the time or the energy to do Morning or Evening prayer. The Book of Common Prayer has a solution, a shorter form is provided on pages 592 and 593 which will take less than five minutes to read. Others may say I they prefer to listen to someone leading them in Moring and Evening prayer. When we move into our new facility I can offer such an opportunity. In the mean time you can participate online at The Cradle of Prayer. This site even has a smart phone application.
It’s fair to ask, though, what difference all this makes. It makes a big difference, for example, in the everyday life of the Church. The Biblical vocation of the men in holy orders is to preach, to bless, to administer sacraments, to teach and to maintain a faithful spiritual household, all in the Name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Everything else that the Church can or should be doing is the "common" or "shared" vocation of the entire Body of Christ, as God gives each member in particular the grace to serve him with their gifts.
Imagine, then, entire Christian households, parishes, dioceses, national churches, and communions in which the typical member did not think of himself as a kind of "customer" of religion but as an indispensable member of Jesus Christ in particular. Imagine churches, like Grace Anglican Church in which the typical member lives a self-disciplined life of prayer and Scripture study, not to replace his or her other obligations, but in order to make every legitimate human activity an act of praise to God and his instrument for bringing eternal life to the dying world that surrounds us.
When we imagine such things, we are not imagining something new or outlandish. We are imagining the life that is laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. We are imagining the life proclaimed by the prophets and by Jesus in the Gospel. We are imagining the life that our Father in heaven intended for us at our creation. Such a life, then, is a prize beyond value or comparison, because it is a gift of eternal, self-aware, responsible, and productive fellowship with the Living God, beginning the very instant that we take it up with the help of God’s grace.
God offers us the opportunity to take up the courageous life of his prophets and only-begotten Son. HE honors us with his patience and expectations, and we accept the honor of such a calling when we take up a disciplined life in his Son. And the best entrance to God’s Truth and to the life of God’s Truth continues to be the daily order of prayer and Bible study that has been the mark of every faithful and successful local church since the Day of Pentecost.
I will gladly work with anyone who wants to better understand how to introduce morning and evening prayer into their daily routine. And I look forward to us sharing a life of prayer and Scripture study in our new home.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN