Welcome to our special day…

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Just in case you can’t join us tomorrow, here is my note of greeting to those who are worshiping with us.

Dear Friends,

I am so glad you joined us today for this special service of Institution.  Over the last 2000 years, the church has regularly and intentionally set aside days like this to give thanks for what God has done, to listen for His direction, and to set apart leaders for the task of shepherding (see Acts 13:1-3).

Today, we give thanks that God called me to be His Rector of our church.  ‘Rector’ is an Anglican term that designates the pastor in charge of a financially self-sustaining parish.  Often, churches will have a clergy team and the Rector is the leader of that team.

We give thanks that God has called together a vestry, which is the team of elders who provide spiritual leadership, financial oversight, and specific annual goals to move us forward in mission.

I am thankful for each of you who are here today:

  • for those who are members of Restoration–  the ones who have gone ‘all in’ and are committed to seeing God grow His Kingdom through our church
  • for those who are curious about Restoration and curious about Jesus who leads us
  • for those who are friends of Restoration–  the ones who have prayed and given to see this day become a reality
  • for my family–  the ones who have nurtured me, stood by me, cheered for me, admonished me, and called me to yield all that I am to the One who holds it all together.

God has given us a ministry of restoration:

“that’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God.”
(2 Corinthians 5:10-11 The Message)

Shall we press on with everything we’ve got?

Submitted to Him,
David

Confirmation: Is it for me?

More than a few folks have asked me, “Do I need to be confirmed?”

The short answer is no.  You don’t need to be confirmed. Jesus never said a word about confirmation. Confirmation doesn’t accomplish, secure, guarantee, or otherwise bolster your salvation. As far as I know, no one’s ever depicted St. Peter standing at the pearly gates with the churches’ confirmation rosters to determine who’s in and who’s out.

But here’s why you might want to be confirmed. Confirmation is a chance for you, as a mature, cognizant, decision-making person, to make a public profession of your faith in Jesus Christ and your decision to live out that faith in the context of this church community. For those of us who were baptized as infants or young children, our parents made promises on our behalf at our baptism—promises to renounce evil, to accept Christ as their savior, and to follow and obey him. Confirmation is our opportunity to take on those promises, and the responsibilities they entail, for ourselves. For those who were baptized as adults (or older children), confirmation is a time to reaffirm your faith and the commitment to the promises you made at your baptism.

And for all of us, through confirmation we are strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit to use our gifts for the building of God’s Kingdom. As part of confirmation, the bishop lays hands on you and prays for you. (You can read the prayers that he’ll use on page 418 in the Book of Common Prayer.) There’s nothing magic about this act. But it is one of the mysterious ways that God chooses to fill us with his grace. While confirmation isn’t mentioned explicitly in Scripture, it does have its roots there. For example, in Acts 8:14-17, the apostles Peter and John go to a group of newly baptized converts and lay hands on them, and they receive the Holy Spirit for the first time.

So, if you have never been confirmed in any denomination, but you are a baptized Christian and you feel like you might want to take this next step in your faith journey, pray about it. Ask God if he is calling you to this step of declaring your faith and to being strengthened to live out that faith as a part of Restoration Anglican Church.

What if you have been confirmed in another denomination? The answer is a little complicated. If you were confirmed in a denomination that has confirmation by bishops (in addition to Anglican, this usually means Lutheran and Catholic), then your confirmation transfers to the Anglican church; you don’t need to be confirmed again, and you will be “received” by the bishop into the Anglican church. If you were confirmed in another denomination, you do need to be confirmed by our bishop. (This was the case with me: I’d been confirmed in the Methodist church as a teenager, but then was confirmed by Bishop Bena as part of my commitment to the Anglican church.)

And if you’ve been confirmed in The Episcopal Church, or CANA, or another Anglican body, you don’t need to be confirmed or received… but the bishop will be happy to pray a prayer of “reaffirmation” for you when he is here!

Thoroughly confused? Feel free to ask questions and comment below; I’ll do my best to answer. And take a look at the service of confirmation in the BCP (pp. 412-419)—you’ll learn a lot about what confirmation is and why we do it!

Confirmation 101

So there’s been a lot of talk at Restoration recently about confirmation. That’s because our bishop, David Bena, will be visiting Restoration on Palm Sunday (April 5), and he’ll be confirming people at that time. This brings up a lot of questions: What is confirmation? Is it for me? Why do I need it? Why would I want it? What am I being confirmed into? If I was confirmed somewhere else, isn’t that good enough? Why does the bishop need to do it? (What’s a bishop?)

Lots of good questions, all worth asking. I’m going to explore some of them here on the blog in the next few days. I hope this will open up thoughts and questions and conversations and prayers about what it means to be on this journey of faith together at Restoration.

So, what is confirmation? One way to answer that question is to say that confirmation is a sacrament in the Anglican church. A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” In other words, something that we can do, say, see, feel, or touch that signals the invisible work that God does by imparting his grace to our hearts. In Anglicanism, we have two main sacraments (the “Sacraments of the Gospel”), which are baptism and the Eucharist; they’re the two that Christ expressly mandated his disciples to follow. There are also five other sacraments, including confirmation. These aren’t necessary for everyone to experience, but they are ways that God communicates his grace to us. (Check out p. 857-861 in the BCP for more on this.)

That’s kind of a general answer. A more specific answer is that confirmation is the rite through which we make a public declaration of our faith in Jesus Christ and are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live out that faith in our lives and in the context of our church community. When the bishop confirms you, he asks you to reaffirm the covenant of your baptism; then he lays hands on you and prays that the Holy Spirit would strengthen, empower, and sustain you. In many ways it’s pretty simple. It’s also very powerful.

At its heart, then, confirmation is a gift and a grace—yet one more way that God provides for us to deepen and strengthen and grow our relationship with our Lord, our savior, our redeemer and friend.

Up next: I’d like to be confirmed, I think I’ve already been confirmed, I’m not sure I want to be confirmed… Figuring out whether confirmation is for you.

In the meantime, please comment and question below!

Pray Day

Yesterday was a great day.

5:57am Lent40– showed up at Restoration for morning prayer.  Ian Hassell lead about 12 of us for 30 minutes in prayer.  Most of the folks were on their way to work.  Most had started the day earlier than normal.  There was silence, there was Scripture, there were sweet prayers for the work and mission of our church.  I was thankful to be ‘one of the congregation’ and to be lead in prayer by another.  Loving Lent40.

7:50–  as is my custom, I arrived 20 minutes late to the weekly Arlington Pastors Prayer Meeting.  About 20 of us pastors meet each Wednesday to pray for each other and the work God is doing through our churches.  I really appreciate these partners in ministry.  And, as is my custom, I left 30 minutes early to pick up Bennett for school…  lovely–  practically calling it in.

9:15  on the road to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA–  I am trying to practice the discipline of setting aside the first Wednesday of the month as an intentional day of prayer.  There are 4 or 5 places in the area where you can do this.  Holy Cross is my favorite.  The drive out Route 7 is beautiful and helps me disengage from DC.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  Setting aside a day for quiet, reflective prayer is a great discipline for anyone who is seeking to follow Jesus in this hectic world.

Here’s what I do:

I read: I usually pack like 15 books because I can’t decide on what to focus.  But I make myself leave 14 of them in the car.  To get around my rule, I brought a few sermons from John Chrysostom (345-407AD) that I had ‘printed out’ and one book, Culture Making by Andy Crouch.  Andy is a former colleague from my InterVarsity days and I have been so challenged by his expansive thoughts on the phrase:  ‘culture is what we make of the world.’  It drives me to prayer, to dream, to imagine, to long for God to use me and Restoration as part of what He is making of the world.  Highly recommend.

I pray: Holy Cross is an Abbey for monks.  At 12:30 they ring the bells for angelus and everyone pauses for private prayer.  At 2, everyone gathers in the chapel for afternoon prayer.  I love joining in to this rhythm.  The prayers give structure, they give companionship to a day of solitude.  I also prayed through the confession from Ash Wednesday again (BCP p. 267).  A good weekly gift during Lent.

I dream: I imagined preaching series for the rest of 2009.  Where is God taking us as a church?  How will he use my words on Sunday morning as part of the journey?  Thinking about a series on rest/sabbath and a series on poverty/wealth.

I write: The third book I bring is my journal.  The best way for me to unload my heart to God is by writing it out.  It gives me focus, structure, and discipline.  It allows me to look back and say–  ‘yep, that’s what is going on.’

I walk: They have about 200 cows, hills, and the Shenandoah river.  Gorgeous.  The cows were loud.

I nap: About 2 hours into it, when I have slown down, when I have gotten still, I get tired.  So I sleep.  God likes that.

Pray With Us: Lent40

Lent starts with our Ash Wednesday service on Feb 25th:  7:30pm at the church.

From Feb 26 until April 3, we will have opportunities for corporate prayer each day of the week, Monday-Friday.  The times will vary by day, but will be the same every week (for example:  every Monday at 8:30pm, every Tuesday at noon, etc).

Check our calendar!

One of the great traditions of the church is a schedule of fixed prayer.  Although there have been as many as 9 ‘offices’ each day, we use 4 daily offices:  morning, noon, evening, and compline (prayers before bed).  During this season of Lent, we are inviting folks in our community to add the spiritual discipline of corporate prayer at fixed times.  Imagine adding a regular 30 minutes of quiet, meditative prayer to your week for 40 days.  How would this choice slow you down?  How would it bring calm?  How would it facilitate a sense of solidarity with others who are seeking to draw near to God in this season?  Speaking from my experience, I know we are rushed, frantic, and often lonely.  Here is a chance to deliberately swing the other way to relaxed, peaceful, and accompanied by friends.

Prayers will be facilitated by a leader and last 30 minutes.  I invite (even challenge!) you to choose at least one day of the week and commit to that corporate prayer time at the church for the season of Lent.  See you there.

Why Restoration?

The Biblical promise that gives me the most hope is that Jesus is coming back as King to restore all things and to reconcile all things to God.  He is bringing a new heavens and a new earth.  In those last days, there will be a judgment and a separation.  Truth will be vindicated.  We will receive beauty for ashes.  The broken will be bound up.  The devastations of many generations shall be repaired.  Tears will go away.  All of the scents and tastes we get of this coming Kingdom (seen in beauty, truth, kindness, grace) will be fully consummated in the fully-disclosed reign of our Sovereign King.  It is a day that demands our lives.  It is a day that is worth our lives.

It is a day to come that instructs our conduct in the present.  In technical words, our eschatology determines our ethics.  What we believe about Jesus’ coming reign determines how we live in this present time.  It affects our materialism, our generosity, our priorities, our relationships, everything.  We are people who live between 2 days (the day of atonement, when Jesus forgave us, set us free, and provided his spirit and the day of consummated restoration, when He comes back).  We are people who live in the constant tension of the already and the not yet.  This tension makes it hard for those on the outside to understand why we live the way we do.  This tension pleads with us to use every ounce of our creativity and drive to implore ‘outside people’ to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).  This tension is why we are planting a new church.

In restoration, we capture our core value–  the Gospel changes everything.  Grace wins, Truth wins.  Love wins.  The sweeping biblical narrative can be summarized by: creation, fall, exile, restoration.  This is the big picture story from Genesis to Revelation.  It is seen in smaller vignettes throughout the Scriptures.  We are a church compelled by God’s project of restoration.

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