Friday, June 30, 2006
On Monday, I'll drive down to Albondón, in the province of Granada, to have a first look at my newly renovated house. For the next three weeks I´ll be getting to know it and my new village and environs. My children will join me for a week from mid-July, then we´ll all head back to Madrid.
I´ll return home at the end of July, while the children will travel up to the north of Spain to spend August with their Spanish grandparents, as well as assorted aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.
I´ll be checking in here every few days, but will try to remain quiet. As we have apparently still not mastered the blog´s software, the comment function will not work. However, anyone wishing to make a comment may send it to co-host Ed Pacht, the Poetreader, and he will post it on your behalf.
I wish you all a wonderful month of July, whether you are working or holidaying.
God´s blessings on you all.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
"The final straw came when The Episcopal Church failed to "repent" of its action at its General Convention in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, and failed to vote through a moratorium on any more gay consecrations. "
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Now that I've got going on photos, I can't help but share one of the work that has been done on my house in Spain.
This is a shot with the more-or-less open-plan kitchen and dining room in the background, and the passageway leading to the unseen living room in the foreground. You can also see the backside of the bread/pizza oven.
I shall be heading to Spain on Friday for a month, and will spend a good three weeks in the house -- painting, furnishing and generally making it liveable.
(l-r Paul and Gemma Walker, Bishop Starks, me)
On Sunday June 25th I was received into the Anglican Catholic Church during Mass at the Mission Church of Saint Theresa of Lisieux in Grange Park, Northamptonshire by Bishop Rommie Starks, episcopal visitor of the Diocese of the United Kingdom. During the same service, a young couple, Paul and Gemma Walker, were confirmed by the bishop.
St Theresa's is in the care of Fr Christopher Bosworth, and the chapel is in his home. He and his gracious wife Cathie were our hosts for the day, which included a lovely buffet lunch of salmon and other wonderful things.
During my visit of only a few hours, I had an opportunity to meet privately with the bishop to discuss matters relating to my own future in the ACC, and which may extend to my being accepted as a postulant for Holy Orders. I also had a long chat with Fr Damien Mead, the bishop's vicar general and my "contact" in the diocese.
Fr Damien joked that when people complain about how far they have to travel to attend Mass at an ACC church he would use my example, noting that I had traveled all the way from Cyprus to England. I warned him that this might not be such a good idea, given as how on my budget I would be hard pressed to make it once a year!
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Today’s Gospel brings up a subject that most preachers seem unwilling to mention these days. It speaks of a departed soul in torment, and gives us a scene of hell. In fact, this story is not one that our Lord Jesus thought up, but rather one that He took the liberty of changing. Unlike the other parables, He made use of a story already told, and one that was popularly known by the Jews of that day. They had already developed a strong moral understanding because of the Torah and the prophets, and they knew the fate of those who did not love their neighbors. But our Lord adds His own ending, in which we learn that miracles, specifically the rising of the dead, are not enough to win the heart of anyone who cannot be moved simply by the truth revealed in scripture, that cannot turn and repent when hearing the word of the Lord. This may seem incredible, but it is true.
The power of sin, when that sin is cherished and pampered, can harden the heart just as it did that of Pharaoh in the time of Moses. When we understand this, it begins to make sense why Christ said one day, after working miracles in the presence of a large crowd, that no sign would be given to their generation. How strange indeed, when we read of the many powerful and visible signs that these very people had just seen. A heart given to sin so hardens itself that no sign is sign enough. You may recall from the Gospel of Matthew that the priests who knew that Christ had risen from the dead paid the Roman guards to make up an alternative story. If that seems strange, I can only say that, contrary to popular belief, seeing is not believing. We know the words of Christ to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." It is also true that there are those who do see and yet believe not. For, ultimately, faith has more to do with repentance than with being convinced of a fact.
The story about Lazarus and the Rich Man is not about the end that awaits unbelievers, but about the difference between living faith and dead faith. It highlights the kind of faith which cannot bring forth any fruit, because it has, to borrow words from the Book of Revelation, left its first love. The terrifying end of torment in Hell is the condition in which the Rich Man (Dives if you prefer) finds himself, even with his own kind of faith. Our Protestant friends have been taught since the days of Martin Luther that man is saved by faith alone (or sola fide). And, in all fairness, an emphasis on faith is an important balance to many from our ranks who speak of baptism as if it were the end all and be all of life in Christ. In all fairness to Luther, it is right to speak of the importance of faith as opposed to such human inventions as the corruption of Indulgences which had so upset him. In his early days he preached a sermon about faith, in which he made it clear that faith cannot exist by itself; that true faith creates love which produces good works. Very Pauline, very sound. But, in time he came to reject the Epistle of James as, to use his words, "an epistle of straw." For, James is the only one in scripture to refer to faith alone. However, in doing so, James does not support the view that we are saved by faith alone, for what he said was "Even so faith, if hath not works, is dead, being alone (James 2:17)." And he tells us that this kind of faith- "faith alone"- cannot save us.
Frankly, that is the only place in scripture where faith is spoken of with the word "alone" anywhere in close proximity. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, Saint Paul tells us. But, he never adds the word "alone" -as Luther was wont to insist upon fifteen centuries later- and, he goes on to say that this faith leads to "good works which God hath prepared for us to walk in (Eph. 2: 8-10)." Funny- isn’t it?- that Paul and James completely agree.
The Rich Man sees Abraham, and calls him father Abraham. Abraham calls the Rich Man "my son." Those who have faith, Saint Paul teaches us in his Epistle to the Romans, are the children of Abraham. So, why did not the faith of Dives- the Rich Man- save him from the place of eternal torment? This is very important; we must heed the answer. It was because his faith was dead. In his grave, and in the fires of his torment, he simply caught up with the deadness of a faith that does not heed the words of Moses and the Prophets. He would not be persuaded- persuaded, that is, to repent- had he seen the Risen Christ and placed his fingers in the wounds in His hands.
Impossible you say? Ah, but did not Christ’s enemies witness some of the same public miracles that His friends had seen? Did not Judas the traitor, when sent out with the others, himself work miracles? If we read the Gospels closely we see that he must have. The twelve came back to the Lord and reported that they had preached and healed the sick and driven out demons, as later the seventy would also do. Even if we picture Judas standing by while another apostle did the actual praying that brought about healing, did he not see many miracles in his years with the Lord? He saw Christ’s miracles in abundance. Faith is not simply seeing and believing a fact. It is a living virtue of those who know God. It cannot abide alone, but only, as Saint Paul tells us, along with hope and charity. And so, both the Gospel and the Epistle tell us of the love of God, of charity, which is the mark of each person who has living faith.
The Epistle by Saint John does not speak of some heroic effort to love our neighbor, with clenched teeth and flexed muscle. Rather, it shows us how naturally the love of Christ flows from the life of anyone who knows God. In line with the Collect, it tells us that the strength of those who put their trust in God overcomes the weakness of our mortal nature so that through us, He loves those who have need of our kindness. If we come to the end of our natural strength in the face of human need; if we are overwhelmed by the poverty and suffering that is beyond our ability to mend, it is not merely the strength of human idealism that sustains us. Having worked for years among the poor and disabled, and having spent many hours taking them to Social Service offices, I know that the world’s best idea of kindness quickly goes down a drain of cynicism, indifference and even cruelty. The caseworkers can be among the meanest and most abrasive people on earth (not all of them of course).
The Rich Man probably thought that his faith was producing good works. After all, Lazarus got to lie outside of his gate and eat the scraps from his table. The Rich Man "gave at the office." He sent out his check, his scraps, to a thing called "charity." But, as a fellow Israelite, Lazarus was his brother. The Israelites were commanded in the Torah to be kind even to the stranger in their midst. How much more naturally it should have come to him to invite Lazarus in from the street, to put him at his own table as David had done for the lame grandson of Saul. Is the best we can do merely to send out gifts to those we wish not to see? A living faith sees no one as a stranger. In the words of our Lord, it does good for one of the least of His brethren.
"The righteous man considers the life of his beast. But, the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" says the Book of Proverbs. Utopian ideologues since the French Revolution, such as Marx and his followers, spoke lofty words about what was best for mankind. It reminds me of one of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoons. Linus tells his sister Lucy that he wants to be a doctor, a great doctor. She tells him "you cannot be a great doctor. You know why? Because a doctor must love mankind. You don’t love mankind." Linus, stunned, retorts "I do love mankind…It’s people I can’t stand!" The ideologues have always loved mankind; and they have made many people suffer for it. They have offered millions of innocent victims to some idea of "good for the highest number," and all of that Satanic balderdash about what is best for humanity. Crowds enjoying the spectacle of heads being cut off in Paris, Communists dictating who should live, who should die, and who must go to the camps, and, indeed, the Nazis destroying millions in order to advance human evolution to the state of perfection, believed they were lovers of mankind, saviors of that abstract and impersonal thing called "humanity."
But, the judgment to come on the Last Day will concern what we did, not for mankind, but for one of the least of these. One. Our Lord spoke of "one" quite deliberately. If we cannot love our brother whom we see, how can we love God Whom we have not seen? - our brother, not some lofty and impersonal "mankind." Christ came into the world to save each of us who believe. He bore the sins of each person. Of the whole world, yes. But, with Saint Paul, we can speak of the Son of God "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." The personal element, love for the one lost sheep, which we all have been, is the very heart of genuine love. The love He puts into our hearts by a living faith, the charity without which faith cannot abide, sees the need of the one, of our brother. That brother cannot be sacrificed, that sister cannot have her feeding tube pulled out, that unborn baby cannot be aborted and thrown away, that hungry child cannot be neglected, that discouraged individual cannot be ignored, by those whose faith is alive. Because this kind of faith works by love and labors in hope.
And it cannot do so on merely human strength.
This living faith is persuaded by the scriptures. It hears Moses and the prophets, and is ready to welcome the Risen Christ in whom it hoped all along. It cannot help but have charity, the love of God, for living faith knows no other way. It is the faith of the Holy Spirit Himself, Who abides in us and shall be with us
Friday, June 23, 2006
During that service, God willing, I will be received into the ACC.
I will also be meeting with the Episcopal visitor of the Diocese of the United Kingdom, Bishop Rommie Starks, and the diocesan vicar general, Fr Damien Mead, to discuss my possible future ministry in the ACC.
Your prayers, please, for safe travel and for discernment of God’s will.
I hope to have some good photos to share with you on my return.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
TO THE FAITHFUL IN CHRIST JESUS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD: We, the undersigned, Bishops of the Episcopal Church make the following statement:
In the wake of the action by this House granting consent to the consecration of Canon V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, many of us in this House made an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion "to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us." That appeal was heard and the Archbishop called for an extraordinary meeting of the Primates on 15-16 October, 2003. The Primates spoke forthrightly and unanimously about the consequences that would ensue across the Communion in the event that the consecration went forward, warning that it would "tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level." They also called for the formation, under a mandate given by theArchbishop, of the Lambeth Commission on Communion. This General Conventionhas now given its response to the recommendations of the work of thatCommission, known as the Windsor Report.
Now, once again, we find the need to speak candidly. The responses which the Convention has given to the clear and simple requests of the LambethCommission, the clear and simple requests indeed of the Anglican Communion, are clearly and simply inadequate. We reaffirm our conviction that the Windsor Report provides the way forward for the entire Anglican Communion, the ecumenical relationships of the Communion, and the common life of a faithful Episcopal Church. Further, we have agreed to submit ourselves to the Windsor Report's requirements, both in what it teaches and in the discipline it enjoins. We have not changed in our commitment.
Sadly, because of statements made by members of this House at this Convention, we must question whether this General Convention is misleading the rest of the Communion by giving a false perception that they intend actually to comply with the recommendations of the Windsor Report. We therefore disassociate ourselves from those acts of this Convention that do not fully comply with the Windsor Report.
It is our intention not only to point to the inadequacies of the General Convention's responses, but to declare to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Communion that we continue as The Episcopal Church in this country who uphold and propagate the historic faith and order we have come to know through the Anglican heritage of apostolic teaching and biblical faith; who desire to be fully a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; and who are ready to embrace and live under the Windsor Report without equivocation. Accordingly, we repudiate the actions of the General Convention of 2003 which have breached the bonds of affection within the Communion. We bishops have committed to withhold consents for any persons living in same gender relationships who may be put forward for consecrationas a bishop of the Church. And we have refused to grant authority for the blessing of sexual relationships outside Christian Marriage in our jurisdictions. We intend to go forward in the Communion confidently and unreservedly.
Our chief concern now is to fulfill our charge as bishops of the Church ofGod in the Anglican tradition to "guard the faith, unity and discipline" of the Church. Pastoral care and apostolic teaching must not only be given to our own dioceses, but to all the faithful in this country who seek apostolic oversight and support. We will take counsel together to fulfill our service on behalf of faithful Anglicans in this country, both clergy and laity, and to proclaim the Gospel and build up the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we seek the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates andBishops of the Anglican Communion as we do so.
Signed . . . Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
These are the words of Alice Linsley, the "blog theologian" at Drell's Descants.
For those of you who do not know of her, she is a well-educated, deeply spiritual and highly courageous woman who, in March, renounced her orders as a priest in ECUSA. Sadly, for us, she has just announced her intention to be received into the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
In answer to a question about her journey, she says:
"I came to see that ECUSA’s innovation of ordaining women as priests constitutes a break with catholic orders. Once you abandon catholic orders you also no longer have church discipline. I have been saying all along that the homosexual agenda has advanced by using women’s ordination to the priesthood. ECUSA doesn’t care about catholic orders because it is essentially post-Protestant, at least 2 steps removed from Catholicism. But the true Church is and always will be one, holy, catholic and apostolic. ECUSA can’t claim any of these distinguishing marks. ECUSA in its heretical and unrepentant state is a cult."
Monday, June 19, 2006
Romans 1:22ff, passim: Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible men . . . Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts . . . who changed the truth of God into a lie and served the creature more than the Creator . . .
and so forth, with explicit mention of homosexuality, both male and female, as the result, not the cause of apostacy. God has already allowed them to go their own way, can't we do the same?
"This action is taken as a cooperative member of the Anglican Communion Network in light of the Windsor Report and its recommendations."
I could not. I was in shock, and still am.
As it has been many years since I was a member of the Episcopal Church, I would prefer not to comment on, much less attempt to analyse, what this decision will mean for the church of my birth. Others are already doing that, and quite adequately.
What I want to ask is this: what are the Continuing churches doing to provide a haven for those many orthodox Episcopalians who are agonizing over their own future in the Church?
This morning I read an exchange on over at All Too Common, Anglicanism, the Network, and Women’s Ordination, which prompted me to wonder if the Continuing movement is even in a position to do so.
Here is the exchange:
1Fr. Daniel commonly prayed: June 19th, 2006 at 12:18 am
Andy, I think you’ve said it: “We have compromised the truth long enough.” Sometimes, it takes a while before a person/persons realize how much things have been off track. It took several years before I understood that my former Anglican jurisdiction was a sham, that women’s ordination is unbiblical, that theological “innovations” are unchristian. I decided to walk with those who are still faithful to Christ, to Scripture, to Creed–and I’ve not regretted it for a moment.
Unfortunately, many in ECUSA have ignored some very important fundamental issues in hopes that the homosexual problem would disappear (or at least some moratorium was imposed). The homosexual bishop case is not the beginning of these problems; I think we all realize that. These problems won’t be solved–or even begin to be solved–by a simple moratorium.
I honestly mean no “I told you so” when I say this: it’s time that true Christians in ECUSA realize that the Continuing Anglicans saw this coming a long time ago. The road to Christ goes neither through Canterbury nor 815; those can, at best, only be stops along the journey–perhaps similar to Jesus’ stop on his journey, when he talked with the woman at the well. I’m not saying that all those in ECUSA who want to remain faithful to Christ must now come to Continuing jurisdictions. I am saying that those faithful will have to decide whether to continue compromising on so many of the fundamental issues other than homosexual ordinations; they will have to decide whether theological revisions, sexual immorality, blasphemy, paganism, and all the rest are important issues in the life of the Church. Will the axe be laid to the tree?
2The Common Anglican commonly prayed: June 19th, 2006 at 12:40 am
Thanks for not wanting to be a downer, despite this news. On that same note, I cannot help notice three things about the Continuum: 1)It’s fractured like crazy and spread very thin. It’s juridical communion (recognition of authority) with other jurisdictions is spotty and in-fighting is rampant. It hardly represents Catholic Christianity in this respect. 2) Many, many bishops are divorced and re-married, which to the Catholic, is not all that different from a practising homosexual. 3) I don’t know to which jurisdiction you belong, but the Continuum, despite it’s common sinfulness with the rest of humanity, seems to give off an air of puritanism. Ex: “At least we don’t ________, or we left back in 18__ because of ________, or we aren’t like ________.” Not only is it puritanical, but it seems to praise schism as a good thing.
Honestly, it would seem more appealing if the bishops who divorced for unbiblical reasons would be called out, and if unification with each other and with the rest of Catholic Christianity were being actively and publically pursued. It would also seem more appealing if the Continuum wasn’t maintaining the consistently small number of “faithful” Christians for the past two centuries.
These are just my initial observations. I am not against it by any means, but it just doesn’t seem like an attractive option at this point in time. Please correct me if I am wrong, as I certainly might be ."
This brings me to a second question, one to which I alluded in my catastrophically uninspiring post of June 6 on post GC2006 scenarios: What steps, if any, are the leaders of the Continuing churches taking to make the movement an attractive option by moving toward unification and a common front? Further to this, what obstacles stand in the way of unification?
I, for one, consider it a scandal that our small movement is divided among four principal jurisdictions.
I am a newcomer. Will someone out there set me straight on this?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Fr. Robert Hart on how, like the Red Queen, to try to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
We have all seen them, those large paperback books with the yellow covers that teach every practical subject under the sun. For example, people beginning to use a computer can read Windows for Dummies- a book that helped me. Even religion has its share of “Dummies” books, such as Catholicism for Dummies. With the charm of self-effacing humor, an American attribute that was best exemplified by Ronald Reagan, people buy these books and laugh at themselves in the process.
But, there is one more volume that is needed, namely a “Dummies” book on how to be impressed by the latest and most novel, nonetheless banal and most outrageous, fads and trends in pseudo-scholarship. Why take The Judas Gospel seriously, or the claims of Dan Brown about his meticulous historical research? The problem is that even just a little education gets in the way. And for many people these subjects have become quite boring- just a rehashing of the same old same old. But, with a “Dummies” book, we could learn to appreciate the ability to be impressed in and of itself.
Here are some of the things that such a book (perhaps they could title it Banality for Dummies) could help us to appreciate. This list is not exhaustive, and with the embarrassing help of the National Geographic channel, it will be outdated by the time anyone reads it. Nonetheless, the same themes reappear with such regularity that these principles can be applied to whatever new fad comes along, as a sort of “one size fits all” that really does fit all (not like the bathrobes in the stores).
How to see the Pre-Constantine Church as being motivated to guard its power and privilege.
I really need help with this one. Dan Brown, for example, seems not to be aware of the time of persecution that lasted between Nero and Constantine. In fact, it seems that scholars such as Elaine Pagels have trouble remembering that this period covered about two and a half centuries, and that the Church was an illegal association subjected to its own holocaust. Precisely what power, privilege and status was Saint Ignatius of Antioch protecting when writing about the authority of bishops? I admit that I need a “Dummies” book on how to appreciate the theory that a desire to solidify his own power motivated him to write epistles that taught the importance of the episcopal office. Ignatius was well aware that he would be killed very shortly in the arena, and he was chained to four Roman soldiers as a prisoner, sentence having been passed. The epistles of the saint were the legacy, left behind for the Church’s benefit, the last will and testament of a man on a traveling death row. And, I need a “Dummies” book so that I can learn how to overlook the general persecution when reading similar critiques of men like Saint Irenaus.
This leads directly to the next point, namely,
How to believe that ancient Christian bishops were the first in line to die for secrets that disproved any reason to be a martyr in the first place.
A little bit of wisdom from Pope Saint Gregory the Great gets in my way. In his classic book Pastoral Care, the eighth chapter of Part One, he wrote:
Now, as often happens, those who covet pre-eminence seeking support for their own cupidity, take advantage of the Apostle’s statement when he says: ‘If a man desire the office of a bishop he desires a good work’…We must, however, observe that this was said at a time when whosoever was set over the people was the first to be led to the tortures of martyrdom.
Now, the saint was writing about the danger of ambition and pride; but in the process he creates a stumbling block for anyone trying to believe the worst about the church hierarchy in the period between Nero and Constantine. If the theories of Holy Blood Holy Grail, and its stepchild, The Da Vinci Code, are to be taken seriously, we need to ask why the bishops of the Church risked, and often squarely faced, death for a religion they did not really believe in. If the Church was guarding the secrets of Christ’s alleged marriage and of his final mortality, how was that something to die for? Or, if we turn to the world of more serious pseudo-scholarship, we must ask exactly what power, privilege or status was being protected by the men whose honor was that of being first in line to be crucified, or burned at the stake, or eaten by large cats as the entertainment for a Roman audience? Really, a “Dummies” book needs to be written to help us.
How to defenestrate logic
Granted, the example I am about to use is over a decade old now; but it is too perfect an example of a heresy against reason to ignore. Its main feature is the principle of overcoming logic. If we can deal properly with this problem, especially with this advanced sample, we will have achieved a victory. But, again, I cannot help anyone to get this victory. I can only present the need, once more, for a big yellow book.
When Barbara Thiering was, in Luke Timothy Johnson’s words (in his book The Real Jesus), “an obscure Australian academic whose credentials for addressing the question of the historical Jesus consist of four technical articles on the Dead Sea Scrolls and two books tracing the connections between Qumran and the Gospels” she “had her ‘research’ made the subject of a television documentary…” Johnson put the word “research” between quotation marks, as the facts merit. For several years the Discovery Channel marketed the tape of this documentary, which was hyped as a challenge to faith that every Christian must face. Briefly, Thiering’s theory was this: In order to understand the New Testament, we must translate it into Hebrew, and then interpret the symbolism of the Hebrew words by the secret code of the Essenes. Only when we do this, can we see what it really means. One of the things we learn using this method, is that Jesus never rose from the dead; in fact he had not died. He simply changed his name, and became the Apostle Paul. Of course, this is only perceived by those who can use the Essene codes to unlock a Hebrew translation (her specific translation that is). The question that gets in the way, is why did the writers of the New Testament books address their works in the Greek language to Gentiles outside of the Holy Land, that is a readership who knew nothing about the Essenes or their codes, and that did not read Hebrew, if the books could never be understood by them? It seems like kind of a wasted effort, to say the least. (And, of course, the same question comes up again, namely, why did they face martyrdom themselves, and promote the likely martyrdom of their converts, for naught but a mortal Jesus?) If we can overcome the problem logic makes for us on this grand scale, we will have mastered the principle of unrestrained credulity. We will find it easy, after this accomplishment, to take seriously Holy Blood Holy Grail, The Da Vinci Code, The Judas Gospel (which was not created by the Marvel Comics Group after all), and everything that Elaine Pagels has ever written.
We need a “Dummies” book.
How to be impressed by Second and Third Century Gnostic “Gospels” while considering the Canonical Gospels as having been written too late to be reliable.
Well, that one speaks for itself.
Like the El Greco Fallacy
Of course, there is another possibility. A “Dummies” book may be useless for a large number of people, because this much credulity may be difficult for them to learn. If so, perhaps we could use some of these theories as an intelligence test. After all, that is how the El Greco Fallacy came to be. A psychology professor at Harvard invented the theory that El Greco painted long thin figures, completely out of proportion, because of astigmatism. He saw everything long and thin, and out of proportion, and so everyone in his paintings appears to have come straight off the rack. Everyone who believed the theory was rejected as a student, lacking sufficient intelligence. Or so the story goes.
I do not suppose that even a “Dummies” book would help us with that one.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
In Jewish history, by the time that Christ was born the Name of God had not been spoken for about five hundred years; I mean that mysterious Name of which we have only four consonants that correspond to our Latin alphabet, in English rules of pronunciation, to the letters YHVH. Attempts to reconstruct a proper pronunciation are a waste of time. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah, after the return from Babylon, no man of Judah ever spoke this Name again. Rather than risk a mispronunciation of the Name, the word Adonai, which means Lord, would be spoken by a Jewish reader when reading the Hebrew Scriptures (and in rare cases, H’ Shem, which means the Name. But Adonai is by far the older and more commonly accepted substitute for the mysterious, ineffable Name). This is why your Bible has, as its English translation of the mysterious Name, the word “LORD” in all capitals. Whenever this, the most revered Name of God, was written by a Jewish scribe, he would destroy the pen and never use it again. This Jewish reverence for the Holy Name was part of the first generation of Christian Tradition; and I really question the wisdom of trying to pronounce the Name at all.
Furthermore, the pronunciation of the ineffable Name may be lost due to Providence. When Christ came into the world He began early on to reveal the Name of God as that Name is given for our salvation. When but twelve years of age He said, “did you not know that I would be in My Father’s house?” Only once does the scripture record Him using the phrase “our Father.” This is when He tells us how we ought to pray. For Christians God is our Father. But, Christ never says “our Father” in such a way as to imply equality between Him and us. He draws a dividing line, speaking either of “My Father” as the only begotten Son, or speaking of “your Father” to us as those who are adopted through Him, born again of water and the Spirit. Never, does He say “thy Father” to any individual. For we are only able to speak of our Father, as the community of those adopted in Christ. To us God is our Father, for even if we are praying alone, we cannot be, and so are not, God’s children apart from the only begotten Son.
In all of this, however, keeping to the subject of God’s Name, Jesus Christ has revealed the Name of God. In the words He spoke to the apostle’s on the night in which He was betrayed, He spoke of the coming of the other Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, as He would come upon them later on Pentecost, sent from the Father by the Son. Then in His high priestly prayer- the 17th chapter of John, the Lord Jesus addresses His Father, and says, “I have revealed to them thy Name.” The revealed name was Father, a name that tells of the simple fact that “God is love.” After he died for our sins and rose again, He went on to reveal to us the full Name of God, as we have been reminded already concerning the command to baptize. That Name is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. We do not need to labor long and hard at trying to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, that is the ineffable Name. We speak instead of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.
So, it is fitting that we read from the third chapter of John on Trinity Sunday, because of the way in which the Trinity has been revealed. It has been revealed in the process by which God has done those most direct and significant acts in the history of salvation, when “the fullness of time had come” and God sent forth His only Son born of a virgin. The Son did always the will of the Father, right up to and including the offering of His life on the cross. By the Father’s will he rose again. In every way He directly identified Himself on the most intimate terms with God, including words that provoked the most severe hostility from men: “I and my Father are One.” He spoke of the other Comforter whom He would send from the Father. He revealed the Name of God first as Father, and then more completely as the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. And, none of this revelation was given in abstract terms as mere theory; he did not reveal the Trinitarian Name in a classroom, or by writing a paper.
The doctrine of the Trinity was revealed by Jesus Christ in those self-giving acts by which we are saved. Our hope of eternal life, that begins in the waters of Baptism, is tied to the revelation of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. The Trinity was revealed by the work of God in giving Himself to save us from sin and death. The coming of the Son, His sacrifice, and His resurrection; the coming of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost so that the Church would be endued with every means of grace, all give to us a practical and real knowledge of God as the three Persons. In saving us he made His Himself known, and His One Name is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.
It never has been a problem of arithmetic. The doctrine of the Trinity speaks of Trinity in Unity, three Persons in One God. Everyone who knows that the word “unity” is a form of the word “unit,” which comes from uno (which means one) knows that many parts can make up a unit. We know about the use of the shamrock by Saint Patrick, that it is three leaves in one. Many things throughout the created world show how simple a fact it is that any number of parts can equal one. So, to pretend that it is difficult to believe that three Persons are One God is a rather shallow excuse for incredulity about this doctrine. The real problem is that of understanding God. We cannot put God under a microscope, and describe parts or define ingredients. We cannot imprison His Fullness in the human mind, as if we could play chess with Him and hope to win. We will never understand God: But in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we can know God. And, because He is infinite, eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent; a journey of knowledge of the Infinite that will not be exhausted unto ages of ages, or world without end. Olam, v’olam- forever and ever, our glorious hope is to know God more and more.
We know that God is love because we know the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. And, due to the greatest acts of salvation history, we love Him because he first loved us.
A piece I came across over at CaNN last week got me to thinking about what images of the Christian faith churches present to the world as a way to gather in the harvest.
We are so accustomed these days to hearing such things as "God loves you, and he loves you just as you are. If you are looking for a place where you can feel affirmed in who you are, where you can be what you want to be, and be encouraged to become what you want to be, then come and join us on Sunday morning."
Rubbish! That isn't Christianity, it's secularist humanism. It's for wusses.
And Christianity ain't for wusses.
As I pondered, I began to imagine the sort of advertisement that might really make people stop and think about what the Christian faith is, and whether it might be right for them.
And it was this piece which, while focusing particularly on young people, gave me the bare bones of something to work with for all people:
It begins with the following:
The Church Fathers had a distinctive approach to youth ministry.
Now, don’t jump to conclusions. I haven’t uncovered any evidence that St. Ambrose led teens on ski trips in the nearby Alps. Nor is there anything to suggest that St. Basil sponsored junior-high dances in Pontus. (There’s not even a hint of a pizza party.) In fact, if you check all the documentary evidence from all the ancient patriarchates of the East and the West, you won’t find a single bulletin announcement for a single parish youth group.
Yet the Fathers had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There’s ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.
How did the Fathers do it?
They made wild promises.
They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.
Imagine a church running an ad making promises like that?
Imagine a challenge like this: "You think being a Christian is easy? Try it for 24 hours."
Or: "You think Christians are weaklings? See how strong you are."
Or: "You think Christians hide from reality? Tell that to the people down at the soup kitchen."
Those are three challenges that came to my mind.
There must be countless more.
So I have decided to host a contest for most challenging advert along these lines.
I'm thinking of the sort of thing that would fit easily on a poster or one side of a leaflet.
If anyone is game, send me your entry offline (you'll find my email address in my profile). The winning entry will be posted on The Continuum, with appropriate chapeaux to the author.
Come on, now. Don't be a wuss!
Friday, June 09, 2006
In the second part of his critique, Matt says the following:
Fr Timothy draws a facile dichotomy between conversion and sanctification: two aspects of Christian living that are separated neither in scripture nor in tradition. As an evangelical, I believe that the process of sanctification necessarily flows out of conversion based justification. It is justification (through the conduit of faith alone) that ensures salvation, but if the process of sanctification does not ensue, if there is no change in life and habit, there is reason to suspect that conversion has not in fact occurred. As some put it: we are saved by faith alone; not by a faith that is alone. But anglo-catholics also emphasize both conversion and sanctification.
Sanctification is the process of daily conversion: your habits of thought, speech and behavior are changed as you are conformed or gradually converted by holy discipline and the grace of the sacraments to the image and likeness of Christ. The difference between anglo-catholics and evangelicals is not over whether both conversion and sanctification take place, but the ground upon which one is saved. For evangelicals, salvation is grounded on justification and justification comes by faith alone. For anglo-catholics justification (being declared righteous by God) comes at the end of the process of sanctification, not logically prior (as it does for evangelicals) so that salvation is accomplished through the grace imparted to the believer who cooperates with that grace and bears the fruit of a changed life and good works.
In either case, evangelical or anglo-catholic, there is no room for accommodating sin. At no point in the process of sanctification would an evangelical or anglo-catholic say: “this sin is okay for now.” Particularly addictive or habitual sins may take longer than others to break and some sins may plague a believer for his entire lifetime, but he is never at liberty to make peace with them. Nor is the Church.
Sins are to be exposed, fought, and mortified by the power of the cross and resurrection. That is the purpose of “a church in which people grow in holiness by regular attendance at Bible-expounding worship.”
When we fall, we get up, repent, and return to the Lord. There can be no peace with sin.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” – Acts 1:14
Just as we see the Blessed Virgin Mary in the beginning of his Gospel, we see her at the beginning of Saint Luke’s book about the Church of the Apostles. This tells us about the great parallel between what happened during the Annunciation and what happened on the Day of Pentecost. In his Gospel, Luke had already told the Lover [or friend] of God (i.e. Theophilus- that is, the reader who loves God) what the angel had said to Mary: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” -Luke 1: 35. The risen Lord Jesus tells the disciples something very similar: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me…”
We must understand this in light of many important Biblical themes, not the least of which is Saint Paul’s words that we are the Body of Christ, and each one of us members of it. The Blessed Virgin Mother is the only person to share the miracle of the Incarnation with the Lord Himself. The Church, we see from Luke’s writing, is the extension of the Incarnation. Without the Holy Spirit the Church could exist as a club, an association, even as a religion. But only with the Holy Spirit bringing Christ into our midst, so that we see Him again after His Ascension, can the Church be the Body of Christ. In His Church the Lord is pleased to be visible even now, in this physical world. In its fallen state, with its sordid history, the world is not bereft of the holy Presence.
The most likely scenario, in Matt's opinion, is the following one:
"Two parallel provinces. ECUSA does not comply with Windsor. The Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledges the failure to comply but does not act immediately to derecognize ECUSA, preferring to put off a final decision until 2008. ECUSA is still part of the Anglican Communion but in a sort of suspended state, a limbo. The non-compliant bishops will be invited to “observe” at Lambeth. As a result of non-compliance, and in anticipation of some form of “walking apart” the ABC gives special recognition to the Windsor compliant bishops as a separate entity and indicates, by word and/or deed that, at least until Lambeth, there are two legitimate Anglican entities in the USA: one non-compliant and under discipline and one that is Windsor compliant. The Windsor compliant entity, comprised both of non-Network and Network bishops and non ECUSA and ECUSA parishes begins to function like a full-fledged province: planting churches, perhaps even ordaining bishops (recognized by Canterbury) for parishes residing in non-compliant jurisdictions."
His remaining three scenarios are for One replacement province one disciplined rival; two rival Communions, two rival provinces and one province, several provincial missions.
Read it all here:
Speaking as a Christian first, a Catholic second, and an Anglican third, and deeply committed to the goal of reunion among the disparate elements of orthodox Anglican faith and practice as a first step toward broader ecumenism, I would like to pose the following question for discussion:
Which one of these scenarios is most likely to serve as the best impetus to bringing about that Anglican reunion?
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Dancing on Air
One thing about the furball that is the wreckage of ECUSA is that you can pull on just about any string to unravel a part of What Went Wrong. Some people point at Prayer Book Deformation, some at a lack of regard for something called “biblical authority,” some at Women’s Ordination, and some (especially in the wake of the John Bennison story) at the gradual but nonetheless radical changes in ECUSA’s notions about sexuality and marriage. With respect, I’m going to disagree a bit. The hole at the center was caused when too many of ECUSA’s Top Staff ceased to believe in the actual, physical resurrection of Jesus.
Too well I can remember when we began to hear, over 30 years ago, that we were to find “Christ among each other.” That was just the thin edge, but now we have any number of bishops and theologians and teachers who don’t believe that Jesus actually and physically rose. Spongy John is just the noisiest (and most simple minded) of this crew, and that ECUSA has never disciplined him, never repudiated his work, is diagnostic. The real division between the sides of controversy is here, and the two sides have increasing little to say to each other.
Those who believe in the physical resurrection give their loyalty to a Person, not to an idea or ethical position. Their thought is organized around that Person, and the central, earth shaking fact of His Resurrection and all that it implies. Those who do not believe in this physical resurrection tend to focus on the Church as an institution, on ethics, and, derivatively from ethics, on politics. At the moment, the dominant ethics happens to be dominantly left wing and “Green,” but it doesn’t matter. It could just as easily be right wing and capitalist in the extreme.
For one who believes in the Resurrection, this world, the world of idolatry, the wicked world, is under judgement and is already passing away. So when the believers come to last Sunday’s Gospel in John 17, Jesus’ long prayer is very pointed. The world (always, here, the wicked world, the world of idolatry) will hate Jesus’ followers because they do not follow the world’s ways. They are strangers in the world, as Jesus was, and are set aside, made holy, consecrated, to God’s purpose.
For those who do not believe in this Resurrection, about the only thing left is to try to make of the world, a heaven; but drifting anchorless, they hear the whisperings of the world and conform themselves more and more to the world, to analyze the Bible into meaninglessness, to adapt to “reproductive rights,” serial monogamy (or worse), to restlessly seek “relevant worship,” and to wonder why fewer and fewer listen to them every year.
Can anything be done? I’m doubtful, simply because there is little common ground. Those whose essential loyalty and commitment is to the Risen Lord may disagree on almost everything, but their common loyalty provides the key to discussion. But there’s little useful common ground between those who believe in the physical resurrection, and those who do not. Reconciliation requires a some common ground, and where it was there’s now a chasm.
People who have seen the movie, The Ten Commandments, have been lied to by the banality of Hollywood. Moses did not climb the mountain of Sinai until after the Ten Commandments were spoken. The people of Israel awoke to the sound of a trumpet from the top of Mount Sinai, and to the sight of fire blazing upon it. The voice of God shook the earth; they all heard it, as the Ten Commandments were spoken to the whole nation at once. They heard the voice of God audibly from heaven, a real sound with vibrations for the ear. The reality of it was terrifying, and they asked Moses to climb the mountain so that the voice of God would not be heard any more; for it was a terrifying sound. The Lord agreed, and called Moses up the mountain.
Fifty days after the real Passover, when, after dying for the sins of the whole world, Christ rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem. The crowd saw the tongues of fire, and heard the rushing mighty wind. They heard the disciples declare the works of God- Christ’s miracles and especially His resurrection- in the native languages of people who had come from all over the empire. The event was real and it was supernatural. Saint Peter (no longer afraid, no longer denying the Lord) declared the Gospel. Through his preaching about three thousand people were converted. The Church was born this day.
Whether or not one understands the Christian life, has everything to do with whether or not one understands what happened on the day of Pentecost fifty days after Christ rose from the dead. Only by understanding and appreciating the meaning of this day can we understand the Christian life. If it is simply a history lesson to us, or even worse, just a big mystery we never try to comprehend, then we cannot live in this world according to our calling as the people of God.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, with His power and His gifts, is every bit as real as the Incarnation, though very different in kind. Through the Incarnation God was present in the earth in the Person of His Son, without any sin, without any taint of original sin. Through the coming of the Holy Spirit God is present in the earth through sinners who are called to become- every one of them- saints. In the Incarnation God was present in his Son to go about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil; through the coming of the Holy Spirit Christ is present in His Church to continue this very ministry.
Through the Incarnation Christ was present in a body of flesh and blood. Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, Christ is present in His Body, the Church, of which you are the members- the parts. In us, by the Holy Spirit, Christ remains a tangible, physical and visible reality. His Incarnation is extended though His Body the Church. Where we gather together He is present.
Upon what should we depend? Like most clergy, I have been given many words of advice, many ideas. Some of the ideas are very good; and some are not. But even the best ideas for how to bring people into the Church, are of no value if we forget the source of our power, namely the real and present God in our midst. We are called into His service. The future of this congregation depends right now on the decision we will make; will we exist simply to provide ourselves with the services we like, simply to preserve the old Prayer Book, or many other things perfectly good in themselves; or will we dedicate ourselves to be the people of God who are available to Him so that He will be pleased to use us to reach the people of this community? The Lord Jesus said, “This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Are we here to know God, and to help others to come to know Him?
Whether or not we understand the meaning of this day is crucial; it has everything to do with knowing what the Christian life is. Our options are gone; we can afford to hold back absolutely nothing. We depend upon the Holy Spirit. He gives every gift that we need for the service of God. All of the sacraments are made real by His work, including the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood on the altar. But, also many gifts that exist among all of the members of Christ’s Body- gifts that you have, even if you do not know about them, or have never thought about the whole subject. This is not theoretical to me. I am an eyewitness to miracles of healing, and other miracles. I have seen; I know.
A few months back a lady gave me unsolicited advice. She wanted me to know that I am too strict. She thought I was too strict simply because I preach the same Biblical morality that is so obvious that, frankly, we all should know it. She told me that in order to get new members, I should not teach “old fashioned” morality. I should accept the fact that the times are changing- and all that rubbish. The problem with her reasoning was obvious. None of this was real to her. She believed that we can make up the rules, or change them, at will. I hope that, wherever she is now, she will learn the truth. If this whole thing is a fantasy, or if the Church is just a club or a business that needs members, then we can change the rules. But, if the Real and Living God is present among us, and wants us to know Him and to help others to know Him, then we are not simply talking about rules. We are talking about the commandments that have come from on high, and about the revelation of His Word. Concerning these things we have no rights to make changes, and we have no vote- absolutely no vote at all. The Church is the agent of God’s kingdom; it is not a democracy. Was I offended by the advice that the lady was giving me? Yes, very much so. Christ is real, the Father has sent Him, and He has sent His Spirit. His real and holy presence is among us, and we are here to do His will. Our calling is to be saints, that is, to be holy people. Our mission is love, that is charity. We are called to Know God and His Son Jesus Christ, and to help others to know Him.
Upon what do we depend? Is it enough to have good plans, and useful ideas? These are good things, but they are not enough. If the disciples had depended upon a brilliant plan, a sure fire market strategy to build the Church, we would not even remember their names. The Church was born on the day of Pentecost for one reason: The Holy Spirit had come in power. The Risen Lord Jesus had told them to do nothing, but simply to remain in the city until they would be endued with power from on high. Without the Holy Spirit, they were told to do nothing at all. They waited and prayed for those ten days after He ascended to the Father’s right hand; and then the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, came upon them.
If we understand that this is reality of which I speak, and that we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to give us His power and gifts, we can be a mission Church useful to the Lord for His purpose of salvation, as the ones through whom our Lord Jesus Christ continues to go about doing good, healing all who are oppressed by the Devil. Even so, Amen.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
And for those of you who do, you will have seen that the folks there have issued an appeal for urgent financial assistance.
CaNNet online ministries host, help, and encourage the following – CaNN, Titus-19, Pontifications, Drell’s Descants, Lent & Beyond, Clueless Christian, Confessing Reader, Andrew Carey, IRNS Blog, Dr. Leander Harding, All2Common Blogger, RAFwN; and host sites like the AAC Blog, Anglican Essentials Canada, The Anglican Planet, Bp. N.T. Wright, and Ekklesia (The Chicken Dinners People). They also host a number of African dioceses, and other ministry sites, at no charge.
In its plea Saturday, CaNNet said "a donor-group recently cut their support without any notification, and that has left the server-fund sinking into red ink, to the tune of US$300 a month. We have a number of monthly donors who give to help us pay for part of the server-costs– however, we really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, need (a) some one-time donations, big or small; (b) a few more regular donors to step up for those and other expenses, which have grown as we’ve taken on new sites to further the Narrow-Minded Anglican CounterRevolution™."
If you don't know CaNN, now is the time to get to know it. Just click on The Continuum's link.
Then do what you can to help them out.
They are performing a service whose value is beyond measure.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Henceforth, all comments will require word verification. This simply means that anyone wishing to comment will have to type into a box some randomly generated letters as part of the process.
If you do, your comment will be accepted. If you do not, it will not.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
The first Metropolitan of the ACC, Bishop Mote, passed away on April 29th. This news was not known by the general public until May 29th. My friend and colleague, Fr. Frank Brulc, told me of how several years ago Bishop Mote had encouraged him and blessed him, upon learning that he was going to be a priest in the APCK.
May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace: And let light perpetual shine upon them.