Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


Galatians 3:16-22 * Luke 10:23-37

Ever since the days of Martin Luther the question of Faith and Works, and the role they may or may not play in the salvation and justification of sinners, has dominated a great deal of theological discourse. As you may know, Luther built his German based Reformation on sola fide, which translates as “faith alone.” This view, misunderstood and taken to an extreme, can take all of the statements by Saint Paul about faith, and make it the only factor in the Christian life. And, indeed Saint Paul does speak often about faith that justifies and saves us. But, Saint Paul never added the word “alone.” The only verse in the whole Bible that contains these words, "faith" and "alone," in close proximity is James 2: 17: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Because of Saint James’ teaching in his Epistle, Martin Luther called it “an Epistle of straw, compared to” most of the New Testament. What is the balance? What is the truth about faith and works, and the role of faith in our salvation?

Saint Paul never exactly said that by faith we are saved. Rather, he took it along a specific route that begins with grace. In Ephesians, the second chapter he wrote these words: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” In the very next verse he adds, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (This ought to remind you of the words in our prayer of thanksgiving after receiving Communion, about good works that God hath prepared for us to walk in.) So, if Saint James was full of straw for teaching that “faith without works is dead, being alone,” then Saint Paul was full of the exact same straw, because he taught the exact same thing.

In fact, today’s Epistle is speaking more directly to the problem of faith and works then either Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, or the Epistle of James. This is for two reasons. First of all, Paul never conceived of faith existing all by itself, cut off from the rest of the Christian life. In the most famous passage he ever wrote, the chapter about the love of God, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, he lists the three most important virtues together: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” It is always at least somewhat misleading to speak of “faith alone” because faith never is alone. True faith that is planted in us by the Holy Spirit always has two other virtues at its side: hope and charity. It simply does not exist alone. Article XI says, "that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." The careful use of "only" as opposed to "alone" is no accident. Article XII affirms that faith cannot exist alone, at least not for very long: "Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God's judgment, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit." True faith will produce fruit (and, in all fairness, to Luther, he taught the same), indeed the fruit will "spring out necessarily." The New Testament holds this as a consistent pattern: Faith produces love, and love produces good works.

But, in today’s Epistle, Paul tells us of the distinction between the Law and the promise, specifically this promise that Abraham believed. And, Paul builds a lot of teaching on this promise and the faith of Abraham, basing it on these words from Genesis. “And He [God] brought him [Abram] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” The Hebrew word for believed is the word “amen.” Amen (אמן) is a form of emet. Emet (אמת) means “truth” and so “amen” means true. Jesus, when He said “verily, verily” actually said, “Amen, amen, (μν μν) I say unto you.” When you say “amen” you are stating that you believe the words spoken to be true. When Abram (as his name was at that stage) believed God, what he believed, very specifically, was that God’s word is true. That is how Abram amened God, and so was accounted righteous. From this Paul teaches two things. First, believing in God’s revealed truth is essential to our being accounted as righteous, namely, that by God’s mercy our sins are not taken into account. He also taught that Abram, as yet uncircumcised, became the father not only of the Jewish people, but of all people who have faith, that is all who believe God’s word to be true, even Gentiles. All of this shows the absolute necessity of faith. The writer to the Hebrews teaches us that this faith in God’s promise was manifest when Abraham was ready to offer Isaac on the mountain. James, however, uses the same story to teach the importance of works. Again, this should not surprise us, because the issue never was faith versus works.

We are saved by grace through faith, not by our works. But, faith lives with hope and charity. You can separate faith from works only if you can separate it from charity. Your own good works cannot earn for you the forgiveness of your sins; but the faith that calls and empowers you to enter the whole sacramental life as a Christian is a faith that God’s word is true, and it is faith that lives with hope and charity. And, because it lives with charity, good works will be present in the life of faith. However, like the Samaritan in today’s Gospel, this charity can be quite spontaneous. The Samaritan saw a man who may very well have despised him were he not in dire straits. The Jews looked down on Samaritans as being a group of Gentiles pretending to be Jews. They were seen as being second class at best. This did not matter to the Samaritan in this parable; why? The answer is that he was, as the Lord said, “moved with compassion.” He was not trying to balance out his sins with good works (which is impossible). The idea of trying to appease God by doing a good work is not indicated at all. Instead, the Samaritan simply has compassion, and acts without resentment against a Jewish man who, under other circumstances, he may have avoided. His charity is natural and spontaneous, not forced and contrived.

The other thing we learn from the Epistle is the true context of faith and works as a theological question. In the Western world, ever since the Reformation, the whole treatment of this subject has been misunderstood by some, recast as a difference between people within Christianity. But, this is not right. Paul was not teaching that God’s grace saves us through just any faith, rather through faith in something very specific. The faith that God’s word is true, the promise we must say our own “amen” to, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is now revealed through the Word made flesh as proclaimed by his Apostles. Any effort to be saved by works meant, as used by Paul in his Epistles, the effort to be saved by the works, specifically, of the Law. The Law of commandments that came four hundred and thirty years after Abram believed God’s promise, does not make you righteous. It reveals that you are a sinner. It reveals that you need the Savior from sin and death, the One who has died as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and rose again the third day to destroy death. Before his conversion, when he was Saul of Tarsus, he believed himself to be righteous, and his zeal to persecute the Church to have been the seal of his righteousness. But, when he saw the Risen Christ, and was blinded as he drew close to Damascus, he learned that this great crowning act of his own righteousness was actually the sin of persecuting the Messiah by persecuting His Church. At once he learned of his sin, and of God’s mercy in forgiving that sin, he was converted, and began to see only in his brief time of physical blindness.

So, the issue, at the time Saint Paul was writing, was never some quality called faith versus good works. These terms are used, rather, to speak of the difference between religion when it is without a specific faith in Jesus Christ, even the best religion (the truth of the Jewish religion based on the revelation of God to Patriarchs and Prophets) and a belief that God’s word, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is true. It is the difference between trying to be saved by the Law of Commandments, through efforts of self-deception that you are somehow a good person, and the faith that embraces the entire new life of a Christian. I could say that it is the difference between Judaism and Christianity; however, I would say that only with respect. As Christians we do believe in Judaism, the Law and the Prophets. It is simply that we also believe in the promise, and we say the “amen” of faith that God’s word is true, specifically the word of the Gospel as preached by the apostles of the New Covenant, the word that is the foundation of the Church in every age and place about Jesus Christ.


Then, we must recall the words of James: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” That is, this faith will grow in us by the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, and it will abide with hope and charity as we press on into the sacramental life by the grace of God, pursuing the goal and end of our belief, knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

II Cor 3:4-9 * Mark 7:31-37
Many years ago, back in the 1970s, some of the notable figures of the Charismatic movement- the popular “neo-Pentecostal” movement that spread across all denominational lines- would address the burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” The truth is, miracles of healing can and do happen every once in a while, but, to be honest, not most of the time. The reverse question that ought to have been obvious, but that no one seemed to ask, was: “Why, considering that ‘all have sinned,’ has God ever healed anybody?”

In popular religious movements it is all too easy for false doctrine to arise. Furthermore, one of the insidious results of false doctrine is to hide true doctrine from view. People become obsessed with the demands of false teaching. In the case of the healing and faith emphasis of certain popular ministers, the concept was introduced that people can receive healing for any and all ailments (as if they could never die) if only they would embrace methods to work their faith up to such a level that all things would be possible on demand. This mistaken notion of faith carried with it no moral implications, and this kind of faith itself was the substitute for all of the virtues. In this whole mess of confusion, the truth that was lost was the Gospel itself. I am not saying that everyone in that movement was guilty of this; however, the right question was not asked: Why has God ever healed anybody?

Indeed, why did Jesus heal this man in this portion of the Gospel of Mark? Why does He give to him ears that hear and a tongue that speaks? Why did the Lord heal people? Why did he show compassion? If He had handed out what was due, he would have slain everybody; “for all have sinned.” But, instead we see His ministry described in the words of St. Peter: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38).” The purpose of the Incarnation includes this fact: He does not deal with us as our sins deserve. If we repent, He forgives us.

Some people misread the Lord’s words: “Thy faith hath made thee whole." All too often, this is presented as if faith worked like some kind of magic charm, or, as if faith becomes the one work that brings salvation. Such an idea would invert the great teaching of St. Paul that faith does for us what our own works cannot do. It is not the one human merit that earns either healing, blessing or salvation, but instead is the doorway by which we may receive God’s gifts.

In today’s Epistle reading we see two curious phrases: “the letter” and “the Spirit.” We learn that the letter, which refers to the Law, kills; but the Spirit, which is the life of Christ given to us in the New Covenant, gives life. The letter, the Law that God gave in the Covenant of Sinai when He revealed His commandments to Israel in the days of Moses, is “holy and just and good," as St. Paul tells us in another Epistle, the one to the Church in Rome. The glorious ministry of the Law is condemnation, and the severity of that condemnation justifies no one. Our Lord is the one who brought this fact out most clearly. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount each of us learns that he has received the sentence of death, utter condemnation- damnation. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that we looked at only last week demonstrates the folly of anyone pleading for life by the letter that kills. Only a self-deceived man living in a fantasy of self-inflicted and extraordinary delusion, pleads the Law of God, expecting to be justified by it. The Pharisee deceived himself into believing that he was not a sinner “like this Publican.”

The glorious ministry of that Old Covenant revelation of the Law is that it slays each of us; it condemns each of us. “All have sinned, and come short of the gory of God.” So, then, why did Jesus go about and do good to sinners? Why did he heal anybody ever? Because the glory of the ministry of the New Covenant is even greater than the glorious ministry of condemnation.  In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord spoke of the blood that would be shed from his own body as “the blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The disciples understood this from the prophecy of Jeremiah, in which the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit of life was foretold:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (
Jer. 31:31-34)

Israel looked ahead to the time when this covenant would produce the new man who has the Spirit of God within him writing the commandments of God on his heart. The forgiveness of sins and the promise that each person would know God, was the promise of the new Covenant.

The promise of forgiveness was demonstrated by the works of Jesus, and only by way of the cross. Not one person that Jesus healed deserved that healing. None of them deserved healing; but by healing Jesus showed that he forgives sins. Every time he healed someone, and every time he spoke the words of forgiveness to a repentant sinner, he knew that it was all due to the pain he would endure as he would pour our his soul unto death, with the nails through his hands and feet, and the thorns piercing his brow. It was not free of charge, for he would pay the price. The burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” can only be answered by saying, in terms of God's perfect will, "but he does"- if only because all who believe in the Son of God, all who eat the Bread of Life, all who live by the Food and Drink of eternal life, will be raised up on the Last Day, when he comes again in glory.

We need the ministry of condemnation in order to appreciate and understand the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus never approved of sin; he was far more condemning than Moses, speaking of Hell in a way no other preacher ever did. Forgiveness requires condemnation. Churches that approve of sin cannot meet the greatest need of the human heart; and they cannot bring healing. For, there is no acknowledgment of the wound among them. Forgiveness itself is very condemning, for what is approved cannot be forgiven. Jesus condemned all sin on the cross in the most powerful way possible. Justice and mercy met where the cross intersected, where he hung beneath the charge of the Roman governor. But, St. Paul, in another place, tells us that the real charge that hung over the Lord was the Law of God (Colossians 2:14). There He paid the full price of sin for you and me. Then He rose the third day, and overcame death. So, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.


And that my friends, is why God has ever healed anybody.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Conscience

I saw an interesting survey called something like, "How Pro-life are you?" Inasmuch as I am completely and actively pro-life, I opened the link and began to read the questions. The first question was impossible to answer. It listed four reasons for being pro-life: religious, moral, legal and experiential. We had to select one of the four. I could not choose one.

One may ask me, "But as a priest, should you not say that your reason for being pro-life is religious?" I could say that it is a reason, but to choose either religious conviction or moral conviction, as if they can be separated in the life of a believer, is impossible. To choose between them at all is at best misleading.

The Christian approach to matters of morality cannot be simply due to what is written in the Bible, though it must agree with that and not deviate from it. However, we know that part of the New Covenant is to have the Law of God written on the human heart by the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31f). That is not the same thing as being merely existential in one's approach.

In no way am I saying that a person ought to follow his heart, or "evolve," or any of that trendy sophistry. What I am saying is that the conscience of a Christian must be formed by the Word of God, and that such a conscience is dependent on the grace of God to make it alive. We are not Muslims, and the Bible is not the Koran. The word is not merely external to our consciences, but rather it speaks directly to the human conscience by the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is the grace of God at work in the human heart.

To separate religious consideration from moral consideration is impossible for a believer. It is God who has made our consciences sensitive; and it is giving ear to His word that teaches and forms the conscience intelligently. We cannot choose either religion or morality, dividing them into separate categories, without inflicting serious damage on our own understanding of both.

From "TOUCHSTONE"

It had been a while since I wrote for Touchstone Magazine, but I got around to sending them this article, and I see it is featured on the website.

Thou Shalt Now Covet

Robert Harton Spiritual Evolution & the Myth of Equal Rights
Idid not know the man I was drinking tea with in the parish hall below my office. He had introduced himself as a retired Episcopal priest a few days before, when he'd called for this appointment. He told me then that he was offering something called "coaching," and was asking for referrals from local clergy. At the time of the call I had thought he was running some sort of sports team, but now, over tea, he was telling me what he meant by the word "coaching."


Read more:http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=27-05-016-v#ixzz3B3Htuph6


Friday, August 15, 2014

Reflections on the Prodigal Son (for Trinity IX)

The Gospel. St. Luke xv. 11.
1. We have three characters in this parable, and the most important of them is the father. It is the love of this father that remains the most important lesson. He is shown in such a way as to give us the true picture of God’s impassibility, because his love is constant, never destroyed, never diminished, always present. Because we think of love in strictly emotional terms, that is emotion instead of feeling, we think of changes and reactions as part of what it must be. Not so the love of God. The father in the parable is patient, quick to forgive and completely gracious because nothing changes him.

When the prodigal returns to his father’s house, he finds that the return itself is sufficient for him to receive forgiveness, because the father does not base his love on reaction, or on whims. If we believe that the love of God is based upon how He feels at the present moment, then we do not understand the cross. The forgiveness of sins can be anticipated with hopeful expectation because Jesus Christ died for all of our sins, and “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) If we understand that mercy or judgment depend on where we stand, because both were present on the cross, God’s impassibility becomes a great comfort, and His love becomes our certain hope and expectation. 

2. Another character is the elder brother, the one who does not know that he too is a sinner. Neither does he care that his bitterness grieves his father, because, after all, he is right. Right, that is, in that he is correct. If ever we forget that everything we do in Church is all about the Father’s love for sinners (including ourselves), we become the elder brother. In every Holy Communion service we quote Saint Paul in the Comfortable Words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The elder brother takes many forms, and that includes the forms he takes among people like ourselves. I have been present in services where people seemed more concerned with a performance than they were with worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Infinitely more important than getting all the details right is remembering why we are here to begin with.

Everything we hear from God’s Word, and every sacrament we receive, is all because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The elder brother is not capable of obeying the words of Saint Paul, “Do the work of an evangelist.” He cannot do this work, because he is so very correct about how unworthy the younger brother is; he would never have sought for his lost brother. And, because of this his heart is far from that of his father. He cannot make merry because joy depends upon love. And, to understand his father he would have to be filled with the love that seeks out, that waits, that forgives and restores.

3. Finally we must consider the prodigal son himself. Anyone who cannot identify with this repentant sinner (including his elder brother) wallows in self-deception because, as the Beloved Disciple wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (I John 1:8-10).” 

In order to learn about sin, I did not really need a textbook in Seminary. All I ever needed was to look in the mirror. Like Count Dracula, some people act as if they are unable to see their own reflection. What is the mirror but the word of God, the perfect Law of liberty that James tells us we must look into? (James 1:22-25) The laver in which the priests cleansed themselves before entering the Holy Place was made of mirrors, all of which helped them to wash. Look into God’s word, and let the truth convict you of your own sins - rather than the sins of that prodigal who left home (and now has the gall to return!).

When I teach people about Confession and Absolution I tell them that they must remember that Christ is the Advocate for us; but we appear before a priest (and the Priest) to make confession as witnesses for the prosecution. Without excuses, without sugar-coating, we must testify against ourselves, and let the love of the Father come through to us by way of this sacrament of Christ’s own priesthood. We must learn to identify with the prodigal son, to be able to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” “'Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” In other words, spoken through the priest, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen (Book of Common Prayer 1662)." So too, with the General Confession for  “all who truly turn to him.”

Saint Paul tells us that we are all called to become saints, both in the opening chapter of I Corinthians, and in the opening chapter of Romans. My Roman Catholic mother-in-law once, in 1984, gave me a dose of “nun theology.” Her bad understanding of her Catholic Faith became quite clear when she insisted that regular people, like you and me, could never be like the saints, let alone among the saints: They are “special people who were able to be holy.” This makes them sound like superheroes, bitten by just the right spider so they can shoot webs out of their fingers, or that they can fly because they come from Krypton. On the other hand, I have had Fundamentalist friends who preach that once you “come to Jesus” you are no longer a sinner, but rather you are already a saint. However, what Saint Paul told the Corinthians and the Romans was that they were called to become saints, because holiness of life is a vocation for every Christian.


But, unless we first identify with the prodigal son, we haven’t a snowflake’s chance in “the other place” of becoming saints. Knowing we are called to become saints, but seeing the terrible truth in the mirror of God’s word, we must be willing to appear for the prosecution in order to receive the grace of forgiveness. The joy of sin-forgiven creates charity; and this, in turn, fuels the ability to do the work of an evangelist.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Romans 8:12-17 * Matthew 7:15-21
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves

One of the finest images ever presented in a sermon that I was privileged to hear, was the simple image of drinking seawater. If survivors from a sinking ship are together in a lifeboat, no matter how thirsty they may be, the worst thing they can do is to drink seawater. The salt in each drink adds to thirst, rather than quenching it. Eventually they go mad before dying of dehydration. Each drink adding to the thirst, rather than quenching it, is a good image of addiction; but, at the end of the day it is a picture not only of addictions, but of all sins of the flesh. Each time the flesh is indulged it craves more: "Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied." (Prov. 27:20) Do not drink seawater, and do not try to satisfy lust.  
"Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." Says today's Epistle. Looking back at the last two weeks, you may recall that this portion of the Epistle to the Church in Rome began with the reality of your new life given to you in the waters of baptism. And, in sharp contradiction to modern heresy taught by that other denomination (the one that embarrasses even the atheists), Baptism is not a license to sin, but the sacrament whereby you have died to sin and come alive with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13,14)

To drink of the Spirit of life in Christ is to find satisfaction that the seawater of sin cannot give. To walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh is to know God "whose service is perfect freedom." To let go the weight of sin, to cut yourself loose from the burden, is the great joy of freedom. It may hurt. Repentance may hurt so badly at first that our Lord compares it to plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand. He is not unaware of the pain it may involve to repent of some sins. He is not unaware of the pain some may feel even as they let go of bitterness and decide to forgive. He is not unaware of the agonies of "cold turkey," whether from real addiction, or from lusts of the eyes and of the flesh, or even "cold turkey" from a wrong romance outside of marriage. The Lord knows that some repentance hurts at first; but afterward it brings peace. Beside which, these sober words must be heard and taken to heart: "for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell." (Matt. 5:29, 30)         
These are things that the false prophets will not say to you. The Lord warns of them, coming in sheep's clothing, looking so very holy and good; but inwardly, he warns us, they are ravening wolves. They court your favor. They do not preach that we should repent and forsake our sins; they aid you only in deadly self-deception, just as enablers help addicts destroy themselves. And, they add to the deceptions and errors of modern society by presenting an image of God who has made no commandments, and who approves of sin, and so needs to forgive nothing.   
As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings (Jer 23:16-22).”

I read of a startling statistic in The Washington Times in 2009: A full 40 percent of all children born in this country are born out of wedlock, up from 25 percent four years before that. Have we really come to a time when people are so unconcerned about their children that they make no effort to provide stable homes and family life? Yes, we have. And, why not? Children are treated as throw-away objects while they are vulnerable and helpless, still growing in the womb, having no protection of law. This is a sin of our whole country. And, marriage is treated as an experiment, and something that may be redefined by the stroke of legislator's pens and the whims of their votes; as if marriage were man-made rather than ordained of God; and, as if human nature can and should be altered. Indeed, for forty years extreme feminists (both male and female feminists, since many men hold that ideology too) have told us that God made some big mistakes in creating human nature the way He did, and it is their crusade to change it, or destroy it trying to change it. Therefore, innocent children are offered in sacrifice to their god of convenience and egalitarianism, and marriage is offered in sacrifice with the innocents. People in our time increasingly display not only ignorance of the moral Laws of God, but increasingly they display their inability to comprehend morality at all. Sadly, churches are simply going along to get along, and often fail to teach their people what they need to know in order to live. They let them drink the seawater, and make little or no effort to guide them to the water that Christ alone gives; that alone satisfies thirst.        
Yes, these are the things the false prophets will not tell you. They preach a different gospel, not heeding the warning of St. Paul:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal.1:6-10)

That alarming statistic, that forty percent of American children are born out of wedlock, reveals the failure of the clergy above every other group in modern society. I have come to see that a clergyman may be a false prophet without ever teaching error overtly. All he needs to do, to present another gospel, is to so court your favor that he becomes one who pleases men, and cannot, therefore, be a servant of Christ. In an Anglican context, such a man may enter a pulpit with the intention of watering down the power and the wholesome effect of the Scriptures that are read, and of the Biblical truth that sounds clearly as a trumpet throughout the whole liturgy of Holy Communion. He need merely make it go down, as the song from Mary Poppins says, with "a spoonful of sugar."
I have advised men who study for Holy Orders as follows:

"It is not the duty of the clergy to blunt the sharpness, to soften the hammer, or to quench the fire. Woe to the preacher who protects the people from the word that kills, because he protects them also from being made alive- truly and forever alive. Woe to the preacher who acts as a buffer, deflecting the force of the scriptures to soften the blow, because in protecting from the stroke, he prevents the healing. If his labors in the pulpit amount to a lifetime of standing between the people and the word of God, reducing its effect, taming it and making it polite, presentable and harmless, he will have nothing to show for it in the end but wood, hay and stubble instead of gold, silver and precious stones.       
"It far easier to preach if a man (informed by the Tradition of the Church) will ride the scriptures like a wave, letting them make their own point, and arrive at their own destination. If the passages that have been read speak of life and death, then elaborate on life and death. If they speak of repentance then preach that men should repent. When they encourage faith, proclaim faith. When they warn of Hell and the judgment to come, then blow the trumpet as a faithful watchman on the walls. When they comfort, speak as a pastor who feeds the sheep. Let the meaning of the scriptures be expounded to their full effect, proclaiming from them the truth that affects the eternal destiny of the souls in your care."     
  

The reality is this: The message is the same as always. Repent and believe the Gospel. And, the Gospel is the same Gospel that was preached by the Apostles and that has been taught and "believed always, everywhere and by all." Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day as the scriptures foretold. After his resurrection he was seen by many witnesses. To be saved from sin and death you must repent of your sins and believe this Gospel. Some churches have a new message. We preach the old one, the one that came from the Living God.