Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tuesday - the Book of Forms

Prayer:  Great God,  You teach us that where charity and love are,  there You are.  May the love of Christ gather us as one.  Let us rejoice and be glad in the living Christ so that with purity of heart we can love one another with Your fullness of love and charity.  Amen.

Read  St. Luke  11: 45 – 46
Now one of the experts in the law who is reclining at table with  Jesus asked, “Teacher,  when you say these things, you insult us also”  (St Luke 11: 45  NIV  Zondervan, 1983).   Jesus replies  that the experts of the law are loading people down with burdens they can hardly carry while they do not lift a finger to help them carry their burdens.    The experts of the law,  like the Pharisees,   were  living by the letter of the law and going to the extremes with the law… and expecting everyone else to live under the burdens of all these laws.    Laws which make religion  a burden is not a living breathing religion of  our God.   The laws were and are to remind the people that they are the People of God.

Okay,  before you throw out the Presbyterian Book of Forms and yell, “hurrah.  Good bye Book of Forms forever”,  remember that  laws and rules and regulations actually free up a person or Church to come and worship God with love and joy.

The Presbyterian Book of Forms state that the focus of having a bunch of rules and regulations was “To take away all occasion of tyranny,” our Lord wills that office-bearers in his Church “should rule with mutual consent of brethren (sic), and equality of power, every one according to his function.” (2 Bk. of Dis. II, 4)
It is a fundamental principle of Presbyterian polity that every member of a court has a right to take part in, and is responsible for, the whole business of the court.”

Where did our Book of Forms appear from you ask.  It was in 1875 when the Four Presbyterian Church denominations in Canada decided that they only needed one Presbyterian Denomination in Canada….. (Book of Forms Historical and Confessional Basis)    The Presbyterian Church in Canada is in historical continuity with the Church of Scotland, reformed in 1560. The four churches re-united in 1875 had their origin in presbyteries and synods constituted under the appointment of that church, of one or other of the branches of the Secession Church in Scotland.
1.1 These were: the Presbytery of Truro, constituted by appointment of the Associate Synod (Burgher), 1786; the Presbytery of Pictou, constituted by appointment of the General Associate Synod (Anti-burgher), 1795; the Presbytery of the Canadas, constituted by appointment of the Associate Synod (Burgher), 1818; the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the Church of Scotland, 1831; the Synod of Nova Scotia in connection with the Church of Scotland, 1833; the Presbytery of New Brunswick in connection with the Church of Scotland, 1833; and the Missionary Presbytery of the Canadas in connection with the Associate Synod of the Secession Church in Scotland, 1834.
2. By the Basis of Union, 1875, The Presbyterian Church in Canada receives the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and manners. It also receives as its principal subordinate standard, the Westminster Confession of Faith, approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland of 1647. The government and worship of The Presbyterian Church in Canada are in accordance with the recognized principles and practice of Presbyterian Churches as laid down generally in “The Form of Presbyterial Church Government” and in “The Directory for the Public Worship of God.” (Declaratory Act: A&P 2001, p. 239, 41)
3. The “principles and practice of Presbyterian Churches” are set forth particularly in the Second Book of Discipline, 1578, and acknowledge: that Christ Jesus, our Lord, as the Head of his Church, has appointed its constitution, laws, ordinances and offices; that its government and discipline are to be administered according to his will as revealed in Holy Scripture, by officers chosen for their fitness, and duly set apart to their office; that these officers meet for deliberation and united action in sessions, presbyteries, synods, and General Assemblies, and in such order that the organic unity of the church is maintained in a hierarchy of courts (in contra-distinction to a hierarchy of persons); the authority of which courts is ministerial and declarative, announcing what Christ has revealed, and applying his law according to his direction. (Opening pages of the Book of Forms.  Presbyterian Church in Canada, 2012)

Laws and rules and regulations are needed so that we know how we are governed.  The problem with the experts of the law and Pharisees is they were going overboard. They were taking the 613 laws and creating hundred more laws to fulfil the 613 laws.  The same with ourselves as well,  if we focus upon the Book of Forms and forget the Bible,  we are in the same boat as the experts of the law.

Prayer:    Everlasting God,  when we gather together let us not be divided in spirit. Let the peace of Christ  flow through us so that we can unite the divided Church.  Let the love of Christ flow through us so that we can put an end to discord and strife.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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