Ashes to Ashes (Intensive Workshop)


Colorado Anglican Intensive
The Prayerbook in Life
Fr. Phil Eberhart

     (click for audio)

Introduction

This workshop section is on the pastoral offices and services in the BCP.  There is one that is dealing with Marriage, led by Fr. Theron Walker.

This one is on Death and Dying - helping people to move through those very difficult and tender times in life.  But I want to begin first at a familiar place in your prayer book.  How many of you have ever been to the Ash Wednesday service at noon or in the evening?  Turn to page 265 in your BCP.  We begin here because this is where "ashes" begin for us in our lives. In the Prayer book spirituality there is a rhythm and flow that moves us along and forms us in what Anglican Divine, Jeremy Taylor called "Holy Living and Holy Dying." 

    Look at the bottom of the page on 265.  What is it that the priest says over you on Ash Wednesday - as he puts ashes on your forehead?  "You are dust and to dust you shall return."  So we will remember that life here is temporary, and marred.  And that to live it successfully and victoriously we need to live it with a view to those facts. 

Reconciliation of a Penitent
In your prayerbook, please turn to page 447.

I want to touch for a moment on the service of Reconciliation we find here.

One of the ways that people prepare for dying and, we believe, should periodically engage in for right living ... is saying we're "sorry!"  The rites you have here in the Book of Common Prayer, give us a form for doing the work of repentance, with another person.  James invites us to "confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (Jas 4:16)

It's commonly assumed, because of Roman Catholic practice, that this service can only be done in private and with a priest.  Though that is the normative form provided, if you look at your books on pages 448 and 452, there is provision for you to use this and to pronounce forgiveness as a believer for another.

The reason I mention this is that I want to push the ministry of Reconciliation "down and out!"  Down to every person in the pew and OUT the door!  This tool should go out the door with you every Sunday.  You have the equipment to be, as Paul says, an "ambassador of reconciliation."  

James tells us in the same verse, that the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

That is what I want to introduce you to this morning, is effectual and fervent prayers -- right here in our prayerbook!

In fact, right now, I want you to find someone you do not know.  Sit down, face to face -  Greet each other with your first name.  Turn to page 449 in the BCP - Form Two.  Everyone read the first prayer together:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
    in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions only too well,
    and my sin is ever before me.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
    have mercy upon us.

Now the person facing the door is the 1st Penitent --  all of you together say the next line:

Penitent      Pray for me, a sinner.

And the person facing them says:

May God in his love enlighten your heart, that you may
remember in truth all your sins and his unfailing mercy. 
Amen.

All say together:

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

John 3:16
God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,
to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. 

Now, in the presence of Christ, and of me, his minister,
confess your sins with a humble and obedient heart to
Almighty God, our Creator and our Redeemer.

All together:

Holy God, heavenly Father, you formed me from the dust in
your image and likeness, and redeemed me from sin and
death by the cross of your Son Jesus Christ.  Through the
water of baptism you clothed me with the shining garment of
his righteousness, and established me among your children in
your kingdom.  But I have squandered the inheritance of your
saints, and have wandered far in a land that is waste.

Especially, I confess to you and to the Church  .  .  .




All may confess what comes to mind - 2 minutes each.

Therefore, O Lord, from these and all other sins I cannot
now remember, I turn to you in sorrow and repentance. 
Receive me again into the arms of your mercy, and restore me
to the blessed company of your faithful people; through him
in whom you have redeemed the world, your Son our Savior
Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Will you turn again to Christ as your Lord?

Penitent      I will.

Priest

Do you, then, forgive those who have sinned against you?

Penitent      I forgive them.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself to be sacrificed
for us to the Father, forgives your sins by the grace of the
Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and
are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus
our Lord.  Go in peace.  The Lord has put away all your sins.

Penitent      Thanks be to God.
=============================================

Now, how many of you "felt" something during that little exercise?
Part of what I want to get across is the dynamic power of God in these pages and that the Holy Spirit is not ashamed to work through these effectual, fervent prayers!

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Ministering to the Sick and Dying

Now let's talk about the fun stuff:  death and dying, funerals and helping people to find words, when there are no words.

First of all, it is important for me to say to you, that any prayers that are offered in these times should be chosen with care and offered in humility and with patience for the bereaved.  Most of the time, just being WITH people in this time is significant, so DO NOT charge in or barge in with prayerbook in hand as a formula for some one.

Turn to page 453 - Ministration to the Sick
How many of you have ever prayed for someone's healing?   Did you ever struggle for words?  

Dogear Page 456!
write down the prayers and memorize them if you need to!

Does anyone carry Holy Oil with them?
Page 456!

Now note pages 458 - 461
Here are prayers for specific needs: 
sickness, for getting well, for a child, before an operation, for strength and confidence; for sanctification of illness; for health of body and soul...

Let's say that one together:

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God
the Holy Spirit give you strength.  May God the holy and
undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring
you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns
for ever and ever.  Amen.

Obviously there is much more that goes into a complete ministry of healing in a church - training, apprenticeship, experience.  But we have the basics here for anyone to offer a "safe" prayer for someone - on the way, at the office, or even at a restaurant.   These words have power and get people's attention!

=========================

Turn to Pg 462 -  Prayers at the Time of Death

Have any of you been present with someone at the moment of death?

As a priest, I want to say that I've come to view this as one of the highest privileges and most holy moments I've ever been a party to.  

This is what is known popularly as "last rites."

It can be done with a family, before death, in preparation, or it can be done privately, immediately after death. Usually people in the pew don't get these calls or want to get these calls.  This is why we priests get the big bucks!! Right!!

Let's just thumb through for a moment:

There is a Litany -  that is, a responsive prayer, that can be said by a minister and by the family present.

NOTE:  if you use this, transfer it to a sheet or several half sheets and run it off, so as to make it available for those participating. A stack of prayerbooks are a bit out of the question in this setting.

The Litany is followed by the Kyrie and the Lord's Prayer said together.  A closing prayer is offered for deliverance, freedom and rest for the dying person.  Stop there!  If the prayers are being said with the family at the dying persons bed side, this is where you stop.

The next prayer is a "Commendation" said at the time of death.
Let's say the Commendation together:

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;
In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;
In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you.
May your rest be this day in peace,
    and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.


Please note that the Commendation is a declaration, not a prayer.  
A prayer of commendation follows it at the top of 465.

Other prayers are written here for a family gathering before the funeral, such as a viewing or a family prayer time. There are also prayers for receiving a body into the church, at the time before the funeral.

Anglican practice is for the casket to be closed during the funeral and covered with a Pall - a liturgical covering that drapes almost to the floor.
================

The Burial Office / Service

Now turn with me to page 491 - Burial Office, Rite 2

The service can be tailored to suit the family, from a simple memorial service with 1 reading, simple music and prayers, to a full Eucharistic Celebration, with favorite songs and a full list of readings.  It depends on the life of the person and the nature of the needs of the family.  There is no RIGHT way.  

It is a service of Resurrection in our Anglican tradition.  Let's look at the service quickly ...

Opening anthems begin at the back of the church or funeral chapel. 
If a casket it used, it processes with the priest.  Two forms are offered for use.

Look with me at the prayers on 493
There are three prayers to choose from,  take a minute and read through them quietly. ...

How are they different?  Make three columns and contrast these prayer with some brief descriptive words...

         1                                                  2                                     3
    -------------                                     --------------                           -----------
Resurrection centered                     Mercy focused                      Thanks
heaven focused                                intercessory                        Memory
more declarative                                  pleading                          Our Faith


Now we're going to "jet" through the rest of the funeral service:

The Ministry of the Word,  the BCP reading list is a great resource here for ministering to people from the Word, around the issues of bereavement and the promise of resurrection.

Its worth noting that you can use www.lectionarypage.net to access all of these scripture references in one place. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Burials".

The Homily is usually short and should be focused on the scriptures chosen by the family.  I usually include a time
for people to share their own memories of the deceased, both family and friends.  This can be either planned and
written out - sometimes the family writes a memoir that I read for them, or a representative from the family reads.
Friends are often grateful for such a time as well.  Don't be afraid of silence but be aware of when to stop.

The Apostle's Creed may be included when appropriate in a Christian burial for a church member and where many
of those attending are believers.  It is a little more awkward to use it if those facts are not known or present.

A form of Prayers of the People is available for use in the service as well.  These may be led by the priest, another minister or a family member.   The celebrant concludes with one of two collects, the first for church members / christians and another, more general collect for others whose faith is less certain.

As I said earlier, Eucharist may be celebrated in desired by the family.  

The Commendation is again used (similar to the one from the Last Rites service above).  The service is closed with
an anthem, reminiscent of the opening of the service for Easter Day:

The Committal is the graveside service - very brief and to the point.  It includes the Lord's Prayer and the casting of dirt (as appropriate) on the casket.  This is normally done immediately after the Funeral service at the church or funeral home, but can be part of a stand alone graveside service, if another time or place is required.

The Blessing at the end of the service is found on Page 503.  There is a prayer of consecration if the burial site is not in a designated cemetery, such as spreading ashes or another private spot.

And finally, I want to leave you with an assignment:
What we did with the three prayers earlier, I want you to do as homework with the additional prayers on pp. 503-505. There are a variety of circumstances and even theologies in view in these prayers.  Spend a few minutes, look over them and make your column of notes, as we did earlier.  Perhaps do it on a separate sheet of paper and fold it inside your prayerbook.  This exercise will give you a handle on these resources and get you familiar with the appropriate times and places for each prayer.

I hope that this session has been helpful for you as you think about walking with people, or even walking this way yourself.  We don't spend much time thinking about or preparing for these times, until they are upon us!  A few minutes spent now and in the coming days, reflecting on these prayers and resources, can save a lot of angst when the time comes for you, or for others you love.

Thanks for your presence here and blessings as you go.

Fr. Phil Eberhart

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