The Sermon Every Episcopalian Needs to Hear

Friends, have you ever suffered the embarrassment of wanting to talk to God and having nothing to say? Or have you had umpteen books about prayer and not known which to choose? Well now, friends, I have a wonderful new product. This book can meet all your prayer needs in one slim volume.

Actually, the book is not so new. It was first used on June 9, 1549, which was Pentecost Sunday that year. And this was some gift of the Spirit. It has been revised a number of times for various countries and churches but it remains fundamentally the same as on that Pentecost long ago. We ought to celebrate that day with a great feast; we ought to have Anglican Pride Week.

Say it open,
Say it proud;
I'm Anglican,
And I'm proud.

It's this book that makes me an Anglican. You too.

So you say you want to talk to God but you can't find a thing to say. Get a Prayer Book. Look on page 810 at the list of prayers. Prayers for the world, for the church, for the country, for the President, for the sick, and for a sick person to pray, for the dying and for the dead, and a lot of other things. Its all right here in a single book.

And so are the great and small events of our life, baptisms and weddings, funerals and even adoptions in our new book. The Eucharist is here and the whole rhythm of our life is set forth and provided for richly.

Has anyone ever asked you what Episcopalians really believe? See page 845, An Outline of the Faith or Catechism.

Here in this book, we are provided for by God in hidden ways as well as the obvious ones. The regular user of this book finds her or himself opened to God in new ways, sometimes startling and often moving. A while back, I had surgery, and the morning of my surgery, the Psalm for Morning Prayer was 121:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.

All through that week in the hospital, familiar verses came leaping out at me with meanings I had never seen before, and I found myself praying for my own recovery and then giving thanks for surgical success and most of all, able to pray for my fellow patients in new ways.

The words appointed by this book are equally valuable in bad times. At the first office after one of my brethren had died very suddenly, the first psalm was 139:

Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

I could hear the voice of the deceased praying that psalm. And all through that Ascension week, the images of Ascension, the gift of the Spirit to come and of eternal life, spoke in new ways to us as we mourned. Words cannot express this, except, of course, the words of this book.

What am I trying to tell you? This book can tell you what to say to God in any and all specific situations. But it can also tell you in general. It can give you the means to make conversation with God habitual. It can lead you to the habit of prayer, large or small. Look at page 137, Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, which gives you a little bit for four different times of day. For a larger God habit, there are Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline. And the Lectionaries in the back of the book give you Bible readings for every day of the year and lots of special occasions besides. What more can you want from a book? You have everything you need for salvation in one slim volume.

That was the intent of Thomas Cranmer and the others who compiled this book. They deliberately gathered all these things we need into a single manageable book, so that we might read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them to our own salvation. These things had been scattered about through large and expensive books in a language few common folk could read. They meant to put the means of salvation into the hands of common folk; hence they called their work The Book of Common Prayer.

What's more this book is available everywhere. Just find any old Episcopal Church, and there they are in great profusion, a miracle of spiritual fertility, an extravagant sowing of the seed of eternal life. Get one at your local book store. Buy two and give one to a friend.

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could have only one book besides your Bible, wouldn't you really rather have the Book of Common Prayer?