Jesus Loves Me

One of the things that’s surprised me most about seminary so far is how busy it is. When I share this with friends, they usually just say, “Well, it is grad school!” But still, it’s caught me off guard. Between reading medieval theologians, writing essays, reviewing Greek flashcards, and attending various services, it seems like I have little time to do anything else but study. The busier I get, the easier it is to let my priorities shift. Recently, God has been convicting me of my misplaced priorities through a quote I came across from Karl Barth.

Near the end of his life, Barth, one of the greatest theologians in recent history, was asked to summarize what he had learned over his lifetime of theological study and contemplation. After thinking for a moment, Barth replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” When I read this, I was struck with a pang of guilt. In the busyness of seminary, God’s love was no longer my main focus. Without hardly realizing it, I had begun to care more about my ability to understand the gospel than I cared about the actual message of the gospel. Studying theology is extremely important, but it must always center on and lead to a deeper love of God. If I am not communicating God’s love to others, then my theology is pointless. Barth underst

ood what I had lost sight of: theology is all about God’s love.

With this in mind, God has been reminding me over and over again that theology cannot be separated from worship. Theology, as the study of God, must lead to worship, and our encounter with God in worship must also inform our theology. Worship is not just an important aspect of my spiritual life, but it is an important aspect of my theological studies. After reflecting on this and sharing it with my mentor, he challenged me to begin each day with a hymn of praise in order to start the day by adoring God. My favorite hymn of adoration right now is probably “Praise to the Lord the Almighty,” and so this is the hymn I have been worshipping to the most lately. I’m still pretty groggy when I get up in the mornings, but slowly it is becoming easier to begin with worship!

Thankfully, I am not in this alone. God has surrounded me by loving roommates and classmates who constantly point me to Christ. I am deeply grateful for the way they put up with me and remind me of God’s love. It is humbling to relearn the basics of the faith, but such a blessing to have a God gracious enough to let us do so.

Finally, I will work on posting more pictures soon. I keep forgetting to take pictures when I’m on campus, but I want to show y’all the beautiful place that I am studying. Next week is spring break for me, so I’ll try to post some pictures then. Until then, you are in my prayers.

Prayers for March

Please Pray

  • For me to continue to form meaningful relationships at St. Peter’s as I serve as an intern.
  • That I would remember to find time to rest and to spend time with friends in more ways than just studying.
  • For my summer plans, as I still am figuring out how to best use my break.

Learning the Ropes of Anglicanism

I’ve been back in Birmingham now for two weeks, taking a Jan term class on Anglican Liturgics. This class is essentially an overview of liturgy and worship in the Anglican Church with a focus on the practical rather than the theoretical side of things.

For the last couple of days, this has meant walking through our baptismal liturgy and even “baptizing” dolls so that we can practice and really experience what it would be like to lead this service. I’ve got to say, this has been one of the strangest assignments I’ve had for class so far, yet it has also been very helpful. For one thing, it’s shown me that I need a lot more practice holding babies before I officiate my first real baptism! Apart from that, it was helpful to see how different a service can feel when you’re the one leading it. Growing up in the Anglican Church, I’ve seen plenty of baptisms. I love this service and the way it reminds me of my own baptism. Even more, I love getting to witness peopling entering into the Church of God and committing their lives to Christ. Still, being a participant in the congregation is a very different experience from being the one leading the service. It’s easy as the officiant to get so caught up in “performing” the liturgy correctly that it becomes just that. A performance. Walking through the liturgy several times as the officiant was helpful since it got me familiar enough with the liturgy that I was no longer distracted it. Now, if I were to lead a real baptism service, I don’t believe the liturgy would be a distraction at all, but instead would help guide my thoughts and attention to God in thanksgiving and worship.

Other than walking through these liturgies, we have been comparing our Book of Common Prayer (the BCP) with older versions of the BCP, and even with other Anglican liturgies from England, Kenya, and Australia. These comparisons have given me a much greater appreciation for the prayers written in the BCP and for the way our service is structured. For example, in the 1928 Prayer Book, the Offertory follows immediately after the sermon. After the Offertory are the Prayers of the People, then the prayers leading into the celebration of Communion. The 1979 Prayer Book, however, has moved the Prayers of the People so that the Offertory and the Communion prayers are back to back. With this structure, as we offer ourselves physically through the Offering, we are immediately reminded of how Christ has already offered himself as a perfect offering on our behalf. When we realize this, the Offertory becomes much more meaningful. It is a tangible way we can participate in the offering of Christ. If we are ever tempted to prove our devotion to God through tithing, we are reminded that Christ has already given himself on our behalf. There is nothing we are earning (or losing) through our tithe. Instead, our offering is a free act of worship, giving ourselves over to the One who has given all to us. This is just one of the many beautiful aspects of our Communion liturgy. If you ever have the time, I’d highly recommend taking a moment to really look over the liturgy your church uses on Sunday morning. It’s much easier to engage in worship when you understand the meaning behind what you are praying. Even if you know what the words mean in and of themselves, why are the prayers arranged in the order you find them? What patterns and rhythms do you see in the liturgy? Thinking through these questions can lead to a much deeper love for Sunday mornings.

Apart from classes, I began my internship with St. Peter’s Anglican Church last week. It’s crazy to think this is the fourth Anglican church I have now worked for (although I only worked at the Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul in a very limited capacity). So far, it’s been a good reminder of how much leadership can vary from church to church. As of now, my rector, Rev. Mark Quay, is still trying to decide where he needs me most as an intern. In the mean time, I will be putting together a system for welcoming Newcomers in the church. I would love your prayers as I figure out how to best lead this ministry!

And finally, as this is my first time using this blog, or any blog for that matter, I would love your feedback. I love hearing from you all, and would love to know if there is anything you wish I could include in this blog. I miss you all very much, and look forward to the next time I can see you. Until then, know you are in my prayers.