Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Eucharistic Prayer from Apostolic Sources

Thank You, O Lord God , our Heavenly Father,
For You have richly spread this Table in our midst,
Furnished with the holy bread and wine
Which You, our kindly Maker, provide.

Nothing, Lord, have we to offer as atonement;
Nothing can we win by our own merit.
But You, in Your great love and grace
Provide a full redemption
By the one offering for ever of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
Who by His death in our place
Has fully paid our debt,
Has banished all our wrong,
And has clothed us with His perfect righteousness.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Top Ten Posts of 2014

The most-read posts on the blog in 2014:

1) The Biggest Theological Issues Facing Our Churches Today 
Far and away the most read post of the year. A year later, most of the issues are still issues (although now I might not be so quick to dismiss some of the issues from in the bottom section as not having much impact on our churches.)
Here are a few posts related to one of the issues on the list:
Sacraments Matter (because they're *Gospel* Sacraments!) 
The Words of Institution: Are We Really Breaking Bread

A happily surprising entry at number two. (Always nice when classic theology beats contemporary controversies.)
Also on the subject of lessons we can learn from the Church Fathers:
Charismatics and the Ninth Anathema    
Christ’s Seamless Garment, Our Spotless Robe, and the Unity of the Church
Irenaeus On Revelation, Justification and Jesus
Applying Irenaeus on True and False Pastors and Elders in the Evangelical & Pentecostal World Today

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Heaven One Long Eucharist: Ian Macpherson on Eschatology and the Lord’s Supper

Ian Macpherson is well remembered as one of the greatest preachers of British Pentecostalism in general, and of the Apostolic Church in particular. He was also quite a prolific author, principal of our Bible College in Penygroes, and a hymn writer. And one of Pastor Macpherson’s great interests was the Breaking of Bread. He was so concerned that we have suitable songs to sing around the Lord’s Table that he compiled a new hymnbook – Hymns at the Holy Table – to be used as a supplement to the Redemption Hymnal for the Breaking of Bread service. In fact, he wrote several of the hymns for the new book himself (with several also being included in the New Redemption Hymnal), and through his hymns he teaches us quite a bit about the Lord’s Table.

But one particular line struck me recently. It’s the final line of Macpherson’s hymn ‘Here at our Holy Feast’ (No. 52 in Hymns at the Holy Table): ‘Heaven one long Eucharist.’ The last verse of the hymn speaks of how, in the resurrection, we shall eternally dine with Christ, ending with this description of heaven as one long eucharist.

The description is striking; yet it isn’t a one off in Macpherson’s hymns. Elsewhere he describes how we’ll feed on the Bread of God ‘throughout eternity’ (HHT No. 18, in a verse Macpherson wrote and added to Bonar’s hymn ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’). The Lord’s Supper, then, is an anticipation of the heavenly feast, not only in terms of feasting with Christ, but also in feeding on Christ, the true Bread of God. At the Table we look forward to Christ’s coming, not to bring an end to the Eucharist, but to usher it in in greater fullness. Where now at the Table we have a foretaste of the love and joy of communion with the Trinity:

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Some Favourite New Songs from Church in 2014

As I gave you some old communion songs in the last post, I thought I'd highlight three of the new songs that we learnt as a church this year. They're some of my favourites, but also some that seem to be favourites of quite a few people in the assembly. (They have a few other things in common too, but I'll let you discover that for yourselves.) Click on the arrow under each song title to get the song to play.

Now Why This Fear and Unbelief

Verse 1
Now why this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for us?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Now canceled at the cross?

Jesus, all my trust is in Your blood
Jesus, You’ve rescued us
Through Your great love

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Singing the Lord's Table

Throughout church history, one thing that Christians have continually rediscovered is how the songs we sing help us to learn and understand the faith. I've been thinking about this lately in terms of the Lord's Supper. You see, there aren't really all that many contemporary worship hits about the sacrament, and I think in most places among evangelicals and Pentecostals, in this country at least, we seem to have forgotten most of our old Communion hymns. And at the same time, the Lord's Supper seems to have been largely eclipsed in our practice, our thought, and our devotion. Could the demise of the Communion hymn be linked to our confusion about and de-emphasis of the Supper?

But, the thing is this: it's not all that easy to recover the hymns we've lost. Finding a suitable tune to sing them to which will work in a congregation today isn't always easy if you don't know about how hymn tunes and metres work. So, with that in mind, here's a bit of help: some communion hymns from the British Pentecostal hymnbooks (either from Redemption Hymnal or Hymns at the Holy Table) with a tune that's either still generally familiar enough or simple enough to learn, and all playable on the guitar, so they'll work with a worship group without a piano. The tunes aren't married to the texts (that's rather a new-fangled concept when it comes to hymns anyway), so if you don't like the tune, I've got a few alternative suggestions. The recordings aren't anything great, but they should at least give you an idea of what it should sound like and help you learn the songs.

Of course, this might not be of any interest to anyone, but I was recording the songs for another purpose entirely, so thought it would be worth posting just in case anyone would find it useful. (Although, if any one does find it at all useful, let me know somehow! And if there's a sudden revival of singing communion songs somewhere, that's something I'd really like to know about.)

Click on the hymn title for the audio.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Top 10 Theological Books I read in 2013

Yes, 2013 - I was about to post about my favourite books of 2014 when I discovered this sitting in my drafts which I had never posted, and as the point of these lists is to tell people about good books, I thought I'd go ahead and post it before I get to the books of 2014. (By the way, 2014's version will look quite different.)

So, here goes...

I know it’s a bit late for top 10 book lists. I wasn’t going to write one, but then realised how many great books I’d read last year, so wanted the chance to at least mention a few of them. They weren’t all written in 2013 – that just happens to be when I read them. Any list of favourties is, of course, utterly subjective, so each of the books here is on the list for entirely different reasons. And no, of course I don’t agree with them all (lest anyone be perturbed by the fantastic, yet less than conservative evangelical, theologian who makes it quite high on my list).

Thursday, 25 December 2014


Happy Christmas!
Almighty God, who hast given us thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
(The Collect for Christmas Day)

This is what the Breaking of Bread would have sounded like on Christmas morning in about 1620 (in Germany). And don't be put off by the word 'mass' - Lutherans still used the word, but for a Protestant service of the Lord's Supper, so this is a thoroughly Protestant mass.

(And here's a Prezi with lots of information about Praetorius' mass for Christmas morning, including English translations of the texts.)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

Saviour of the nations, come,
Show yourself, the virgin’s son.
Marvel heaven, wonder earth,
That our God chose such a birth.

Not by human power or seed
Did the woman's womb conceive;
Only by the Spirit's breath
Was the Word of God made flesh.

Mary then was found with child,
Still a virgin, chaste and mild.
God had favored her with grace
To receive the Prince of Peace.

Christ laid down his majesty,
Passed through dark Gethsemane.
Though he left his Father's home,
Christ now sits on God's own throne.

Christ in glory intercede
For your creatures’ suffering need.
Let your resurrecting power
Soon complete the victory hour.

Praise to you, O Lord, we sing.
Praise to Christ, our newborn King!
With the Father, Spirit, one,
Let your lasting kingdom come.

It's become a bit of a tradition for me to post a - perhaps less familiar - hymn of the Incarnation on Christmas Eve. So this year's comes from one of the first hymnwriters of the western church, Ambrose of Milan, mediated via one of the great Reformers, Martin Luther. (The English translation is by Calvin Seerveld.) You can listen to it here (and find a leadsheet here).

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Incarnation: One of the Trinity Suffered in the Flesh

The latest song we’ve introduced in church is our Communion hymn for December. I wanted us to sing it because of how it links Bethlehem and Calvary. The body which we now take is the body which was ‘laid in manger yonder’ and which was ‘broken for our sake’. The Cross isn’t just a free-floating event which somehow brings us salvation, but rather it’s the Cross and Incarnation together; the Cross only saves because it is the Cross of the Incarnate God. And so we sing:
Bethlehem’s Incarnation, Calvary’s bitter Cross,
Wrought for us salvation by Your pain and loss.
The second verse of the hymn makes clear something that’s found in so many of the great hymns of Christmas – that it was God the Son who died on the Cross:
Prince of Glory gracing heav’n ere time began,
Now for us embracing death as Son of Man.
Or, in the famous words of the Scythian Monks ‘one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh.’ This statement of the Scythian Monks (who, for some reason, I always imagine as pirates – I think it must be because they had a terrible propensity for sailing around the Mediterranean on their theological adventures) caused a bit of controversy back when they first articulated it (which is actually what brought about a good bit of their pirate-like sailing around the Mediterranean), but eventually came to be recognised as a succinct phrase which summed up a whole lot of good theology – a simple phrase which articulates the doctrine of the Incarnation: ‘One of the Trinity suffered in the flesh.’

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Have Yourself a Gnostic Little Christmas

Have yourself a gnostic little Christmas
Let your heart be light
The crying, blood and dirt we will keep out of sight.

Have yourself a gnostic little Christmas
Feel wor-ship-ful today
For when we do our troubles they feel miles away.

Think not of sin as in olden days,
Or the Cross we preached of yore.
Wor-ship-ful feelings so dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Turn your eyes away from bread and water,
From God-in-flesh now;
Raise your hands instead into the Spirit's joy.
And have yourself a gnostic little Christmas now!

(Just in case it isn't as obvious as I think, this is complete satire. For some related thoughts, see here.)