Friday, May 17, 2019

Benevolence Fund Update

https://www.gofundme.com/6vdptx-benevolence-fund


Because of your donations I have been able to provide families with food they wouldn’t have had this week, to provide necessary medicines for one person’s thyroid disease (which same disease, having gone untreated, killed both of her older siblings), and to buy insulin necessary to the life and health of an eighteen year-old diabetic who is not covered by any insurance or social program. That is all just this past week. Frankly, some of the needs of these same people will come up again before their situations improve. “The poor you have always with you.” Of your charity please continue to support the Saint Benedict’s Benevolence Fund.

FYI, I have a bank account that receives the funds. I have withdrawn all of the money donated so far to use for the purposes mentioned above, and before this week the same kind of needs. Some was used to pay bills online, and some to buy the needed food and the needed medicine outright. This is how it has to continue because we are taking care of immediate emergencies, not of things that can wait to be approved in an office somewhere.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A source of moral confusion


A deadly dichotomy: Separating God's will from God's commandments

A very unfortunate doctrinal development that is popular among many modern Christians has a direct effect first on all moral reasoning. Somewhere, perhaps in the Middle Ages (or so I would argue), a tendency entered into the thinking of the Church, especially in the West, to emphasize, among the revealed attributes of God, will and power above love. The result on eschatological reasoning has been to make a clear separation between matters having to do with “God’s plan” – so to speak -from serious theological principles, especially anything to do with the unchanging nature of God. As people collect various ideas about fulfillment of predictive prophecy, pulling facts from history just a little here and there, or from current events (with heavy speculation about seemingly inevitable future developments), they create an entire system of biblical interpretation and doctrine in which unchanging and eternal principles of theology have no place. And, before you might dismiss this as a problem that exists only among the lesser educated masses, the fact is that it can be found just as readily in the strongholds of ecclesiastical academe.
          Closely related, and rooted in the same emphasis of divine will and power over divine love, is the dichotomy that such a doctrinal emphasis creates between the will of God and the commandments of God. This can be traced back through many centuries. It must be seen clearly for what it is: It is a destructive problem that often corrupts the minds of Christians, about God and about all matters of ethics and morality. It is thoroughly interwoven into many systems of theology that have achieved the utmost respectability. Let us see, for example how it distorts basic truths of the Gospel itself.
          Can it be denied that Jesus, in all four of the Gospel books, sees His death on the cross as the will of God? Can it be denied that He quite willingly pursues that very death because it is His Father’s will? Indeed, He does. The cross for him, in his human nature, is the crowning act of obedience to God (Phil. 2 :1-11). And, in His divine nature, it is no less his own will as the Logos and only begotten Son of the Father (due to divine love, Gal.2:20).
          Right at this point we come to a crossroads (no pun intended). One of two interpretations must govern how we understand the cross, and thereby how we understand the will of God, and thereby how we think of God, and thereby how we understand every moral and ethical question. Also, at this point we must get the answer right, or else we may never be able to attain to the highest of all virtues, charity (I Cor. 13:13). We simply cannot afford to misinterpret this.
          If, indeed, the famous “Love Chapter,” that thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, speaks of the ultimate good to which we are called to attain, the love of God that only the Holy Spirit can create and nurture within the human heart, we must face this simple sentence for all that it means: “[Love] does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices with the truth (v.6).” In terms of consistent theological principle, and what has been revealed to be the unchanging nature of God as himself the revealed abiding reality of that love (“God is love” I John 4:8, 16), we have to be clear in our thinking as to what that means concerning the details of the crucifixion of our Lord. In what way was the betrayal of Judas, the false condemnation by the Sanhedrin, the cruelty of the Roman soldiers, etc., the will of God?
          “For in truth both Herod and Pilate, along with the gentiles and peoples of Israel, conspired in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do what your hand and your counsel designated should happen in advance…(Acts 26:27, 28).” That echoes the words of the patriarch Joseph, concerning the callous sin of his own brothers who had sold him many years earlier into slavery in Egypt: “And Joseph said unto them, ‘Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them (Gen. 50:19, 20 KJV).”
          In both the crucifixion of Christ, that is the details of how it happened, and in the sin of Joseph’s brothers, we come across God accomplishing his will through the evil acts of men. If we take this to mean that God predestined each of those events to happen, and the sinful men involved did the will of God, even that they had no free will to choose otherwise, then we must live with the dichotomy between God’s will and God’s commandments, and that must be rooted in placing divine will and power over divine love. That Christians engage often in this doctrinal paradigm is undeniable. And, it cannot but have tragic results in terms of ethical and moral understanding, rooted in a distorted mental image of God that denies His impassibility and the consistency of divine simplicity. Such a view cannot contribute to a saintly life, for divine love has to be tamed to make way for some sort of higher considerations, even within what now appears to be a complex and even varied divine nature.
          If that is the case, then what can we mean by saying that God is good? Can divine love have, within itself, hatred? Was St. Paul wrong? Does light indeed have fellowship with darkness? Did God’s “hand and counsel designate” such malicious sins? In the eternal will of God, did Judas have to betray the Lord? Did the Sanhedrin have to perpetrate injustice to the point of judicial murder? Did the soldiers have to crown Jesus with thorns and mock him? Did the brothers of Joseph have to hate him, and sell him? 

The answer that many Christians have been taught to accept is yes. They take literally the words from Malachi: “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated (Mal.1:3).”  Although such language merely used a Semitic idiom to say that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau, I have come across those who interpret this in a thoroughly modern western emotional sense, ignoring the true meaning (and the theological issue of what Jacob was chosen for, that is, the place of Israel in the large Messianic theme of Salvation History, as any intelligent reading of Romans chapters nine through eleven makes clear, once one’s head is free of the baggage). According to their interpretation, God hated Esau, so he predestined him to go to hell, making sure he would never receive divine mercy and salvation. And, so too, for them the cross teaches both divine love and a distorted picture of what must be called, honestly, divine cruelty – at best divine indifference.
          So, if we accept this doctrinal paradigm, light must have fellowship with darkness, hatred fellowship with love, and specific sins must actually be the outworking of God’s will. How can this completely distorted doctrine help but cause a schizoid image of a god divided within himself, preventing the believer from approaching any question of morality on the firm basis of consistent theological principle, and thus render the attainment of charity always beyond one’s reach? For, who can rise to a higher moral level than what one worships as God?
          What God’s eternal counsel determined was not the actual sins. Getting back to the question I posited above, “In what way were the betrayal of Judas, the false condemnation by the Sanhedrin, the cruelty of the Roman soldiers, etc., the Will of God?” The answer is, those sins were not at all the will of God. God has revealed his commandments in no uncertain terms, simply stated in the summary of the law to love God with one’s whole heart, mind and strength, and one’s neighbor as oneself.
          God’s will was to save Israel and preserve them in the time of famine. So, when the brothers of Joseph did what was inevitable, foreseen by the God who knows all things, Providence produced what was good. In no way could their evil acts prevent the will of God; indeed, because He “enacts all things in accord with the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11),” even the most sinful acts have to result in bringing about the good purpose of Almighty God. It was never the will of God for Judas to betray Christ, nor for the Sanhedrin to falsely convict Him, nor for the Romans to go about their violent and murderous acts with such schadenfreude.
          It was the will of God for the Son to offer Himself willingly in love for the sins of the whole world. It was the will of God for Jesus to surrender himself as the obedient suffering servant. The inevitable evil of a world hostile to God and to all goodness was very much within the foresight of the Almighty. Carrying out his will, to do good, was not prevented by human evil; indeed, whatever evil men do, God has the almighty power, nonetheless, to turn it to good. Therefore, inasmuch as he cannot be defeated, even evil acts result in his will being accomplished. But, to believe that God must rob man of the freewill that is inherent in the creation of the human race (else, the “image of God” becomes meaningless), and therefore wills any sinful act as something divinely “predestined,” must cause all of the theological confusion, and therefore moral confusion, I have described above.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Update on St. Benedict's Benevolence Fund

UPDATE

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this. All of the money raised has been used for poor people in Durham, NC, simply for necessary items, mostly food and medicine. On Thursday May 2, at our Diocesan Synod, this was part of the annual parish report I prepared for St. Benedict's Anglican Church here in Chapel Hill, NC.

"Some of the new families have been very faithful to bring food for the food basket. I mention that because giving what we are able to give to the poor has become a feature of our life as a parish. This has caused me to look into the idea of a “Go Fund Me” campaign to help some of the poor who call the church because their very real emergency needs are not met by anyone else, and not by social programs. A few of us have gotten to know some of them, and their families. The “Go Fund Me” campaign adds to what I was trying to accomplish through a discretionary fund that did not stretch far enough. Most of the poverty seems to be in Durham more than in Chapel Hill. I believe this is part of our calling, and we need not be afraid to obey the clear commandments Jesus Christ gave us in the Sermon on the Mount...If I have anything to suggest for the benefit of other congregations, it is this: Do not be afraid to give and to love 'the least of these.' Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give.” I believe that between seeking to obey that command, and praying for God to give the increase, we are simply handing Him five loaves and two small fishes. And, that is when He places it back in our hands and says, 'Give ye them something to eat.'”

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

St. Benedict's Benevolence


https://www.gofundme.com/6vdptx-benevolence-fund

For poor families who call the church in need of immediate assistance. Regular calls include turn off notices for water bills and electric bills, or a need for food when a family has nothing to eat, or a need for medicine. This includes a woman with two teenage sons currently in a state of medical and financial crisis, who needs medicine she cannot afford, for which she is not covered by any insurance or program while her S.S.I. case is delayed in what has been a lengthy appeal process with no end in sight. I, the Rector, have a discretionary fund, but we are a small church and the money simply does not go far enough. This is about poor people who call churches because they fall through the cracks, or they are waiting for the process to be completed for Social Services or the Social Security Administration, but face turn-off notices, food shortage, and an immediate need for medicine. They need help NOW, not when the system finally (if ever) provides. When they call a church it is because they have already reached the end of their rope.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A study for Maundy Thursday B'rit Chadasha

Reposted from 2012

"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."
Jeremiah 31:31-34
.
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
Matt. 26:26-29

"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."
I Corinthians 11:23-27

"Ante-argument" : Setting up the point
How can we build the first, second and third floors of doctrinal clarity without the foundation? If one thing has become clear from recent discussions about the sacrament of Holy Communion, it is that we have seem to have no proper regard for the actual Jewish context in which our Lord said the words, "Do this in remembrance of me." We have busied ourselves about the nature of Christ's presence in the sacrament, to an extent with Scripture and to an extent with mere philosophy and man-made definitions, while neglecting certain and obvious facts that were absolutely clear to the earliest Christians. Since the sixteenth century we have battled over Real Presence, Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation, breathing such extreme words as "heresy" when, in fact, no breach of doctrinal orthodoxy should be asserted, and when it cannot be proved. Indeed, such accusations often mean only that someone's religious taste has been offended.

That is not to say that details of sacramental theology do not matter, nor that we can deny, or should want to deny, that the Universal Church has always treated the Sacrament as having a supernatural and real connection to the Living Christ by which he gives himself to the Church as the food and drink of eternal life, and that this has given the Church every reason to speak of that grace in terms of his Presence among us, and to teach it as an objective fact, though shrouded in mystery. The consensus of the Universal Church has been to read the Scriptures in such a way as to find the presence of the risen Christ in the actual elements themselves. But, in the last several centuries our sacramental theology has become seriously unbalanced in the sense of "this ought ye to have done without leaving the other undone." So it is that one question remains: As glad as I am that we believe in the objective and Real presence of Christ, I must ask about the covenantal meaning of the Lord's Supper, Why is this missing from most of our talk about the sacrament?

As Hooker expressed, the exact moment of the service in which bread and wine may be said to undergo their change cannot be known, and neither can the exact manner of that change; and what matters for those who receive with faith is that they participate in Christ, that is, have communion with his Body and Blood, even if the consecration is not complete until they themselves fulfill part of what Christ commanded in the words "do this..." namely, his commands "Take eat...Drink this all of you." This is not to make room for treating the elements as Zwingli's bare or empty signs, an idea expressly rejected by all the Anglican teachers (including Cranmer). However, we must not forget, as we have seen before, that for the earliest Anglican teachers, the presence of Christ could not be separated in its truest significance, or in any practical way, from grace, which has everything to do with what he gives to each worthy receiver (i.e., made worthy by grace). If we believe that the words "This is my body...This is my blood..." are the only Words of Institution, we need to read the text again, and realize that those words come with words about receiving: "Take, eat...drink this all of you (as in our Prayer Book, "drink ye all of this") also in the Words of institution, placing Hooker's suggestion on firm ground. That is, what matters most about his presence in the sacrament is grace given by means of it.

Yet, the unworthy receiver "shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord," clearly showing that he violates that holy presence, because he does not have fellowship with Christ by faith. For, as we have seen also in previous essays, the words "participate," "partake," "fellowship" and "communion" (including I Cor. 10:16) all signify, wherever we find them in the English translations of the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer with the Thirty-Nine Articles, or in the Homilies, that the Greek word koinōnia (κοινωνία) best expresses the intended meaning; for all these English words have been used to translate that one Greek word. The unworthy or wicked (Article XXIX) person who presumes to eat or drink has taken the holy elements that are mystically and really the body and blood of Christ, but he cannot partake of (have communion or fellowship with, or participate in) Christ, and therefore cannot be a partaker of the Divine nature (II Pet. 1:4).

(It is tragic that modern Anglicans cannot understand these things when they read Anglican sources; but, as I have argued and proved these points before, I will not dwell on them now; I will refer the reader to my essays on classic Anglicanism, especially those linked above. Suffice to say, the English Reformers, when read carefully and diligently, cannot be charged with any abandonment of the Catholic Tradition of the Universal Church. They restored great pieces of it long neglected.)

The point
But, why do we spend so much time having to prove these things? Is there not a significance to Holy Communion that we have missed in our debates about the unknowable? Is it because we have never accepted the idea of humility as Hooker expressed it, that we ought to admit our ignorance openly as to how the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, that we have argued so much over mysteries, that cannot be resolved, to the point of distraction from what is clearly written as a Biblical doctrine? That lost doctrine is the relationship between the Sacrament and the New Covenant.

Any reading of Genesis chapter fifteen in light of St. Paul's teaching about the faith of our father Abraham (yes, Christians everywhere, our father, if we believe), especially in his Epistle to the Church in Rome, and in light of what the Epistle to the Hebrews says so clearly about the shedding of blood as it relates to any covenant, shows that God took upon himself the penalty of human sin. He passed between the pieces of the sacrificed animals as Abraham had laid them out, meaning that God chose to accept the penalty if the covenant were to be broken, even though his covenant with all mankind had been broken already. The full weight of this cannot be appreciated unless we consider the words of Jesus as he held that cup in his hands: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

When the New Testament was written, the Greek word that most closely held the same meaning as the word b'rit (בְּרִית) which we translate as covenant, was the word diathēkē (διαθήκη) which we translate as testament. Modern people think of a covenant as merely an agreement or contract; but, like a Last Will and Testament, it requires death.

"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:15-22)."

What we find is that they chose the word we use for testament, because they saw that it had this connection with the meaning of covenant: It required death. We see in the opening quotation from Jeremiah that the people of Israel broke the covenant, and we must then think in terms of that fifteenth chapter of Genesis and the presence of God walking between the divided body parts of the dead animals. When the Lord said, "this cup is the new covenant/testament in my blood" the disciples thought of Jeremiah's words, foretelling that God would make a new covenant. That covenant has a list of blessings:
1. The law is written in our hearts
2. God himself is our God (i.e. the true God protects us and provides our every need)
3. We know God
4. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten.

How is this possible? Only through the sacrifice of Christ, and the shedding of his blood. We broke the covenant God made with all mankind many times over. He made it with all people in creation. He made it with Abraham whose faith was credited to him for righteousness. He made it with his chosen and elect people, among whom are counted all Christians as those grafted into the people of Israel, children of Abraham by faith. On that night he made it with us anew, and to establish it he bore the full weight of death, that the New Covenant is his Testament. Our inheritance includes those benefits listed above, as Jeremiah foretold. It includes, as a necessary part of knowing God, eternal life (John 17:3), for God is eternal.

This is why when we "do this" in remembrance of Him, it is the sacrifice re-presented, in that we "show forth the Lord's death," each time we "do this," and will do so "till he come." This is not the double plural "sacrifices of masses." It is the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is the covenant meal that includes the sacrificial thanksgiving or Eucharist (literally good grace, or good thanksgiving). This is why our Canon of Consecration opens: "All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." This sets the stage for all that follows.

The covenantal meaning has everything to do with why St. Paul says so clearly, "the night in which he was betrayed." He was telling the Corinthian Christians that their evil behavior was like the betrayal of Judas, their mistreatment of their fellow Christians, brothers and sisters, a breaking of the covenant that existed between themselves and God, and therefore between themselves and each other. "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread  (I Cor. 10:15-17)." 

That communion, or fellowship (koinōnia, κοινωνία) with the Body and Blood of Christ is communion with one another in the Church, which is also called by the same name, "the Body of Christ" (I Corinthians 12). The unworthy or wicked person who presumes to eat and drink is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, in terms of the whole ancient understanding of what a covenant means. In the context of St. Paul's warning, in that eleventh chapter, the unworthy or wicked person is known by how he mistreats his brothers and sisters, those also in the communion of Christ's Body, those also in the covenant.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Our Synagogue 3rd Sunday in Lent

Reposted from two years ago. 

Synagō

For the Third Sunday in Lent             

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. (Luke 11:23) 

What does it mean to gather with Christ? It is possible that the word "gather" was meant to convey the idea of kibutz (קָבַץ), a word that the modern world became familiar with because of the early Zionists and the state of Israel. Or it may have been meant to convey adah  (עֵדָה), which means congregation, for which the Greek equivalent is the word ekklēsia (κκλησία), the word translated as "church" in the New Testament. The Greek word actually used in the verse is of great interest, synagō (συνάγω), from which we get the word "synagogue." No matter how we approach it, that verb form of "synagogue," used by Luke when quoting Christ, must bring to mind the assembled local Church.  

It is also significant that this line is recorded in a context about spiritual warfare and the attack of the Kingdom of God, a frontal assault to take back territory formerly siezed by Satan, and to set hostages free. Going back to v. 20, we see that context:  

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

And what follows is about spiritual warfare also, with a warning.  

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (vs. 24-26) 

Gathering with Christ and His Church seems to be one and the same, at the very least inseparable. When on his way to die in a Roman arena, St. Ignatius wrote several letters to various churches (circa 110 AD). Though he knew that he himself would never return to his bishopric in Antioch, he wrote for the good of all churches everywhere and for all generations to come. In his Letter to the Smyrneans, he said: “Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”  

The alternative is to be part of a great scattering, a life of isolation where it is all too easy to avoid the clutter of prayer, worship, sacraments and sound doctrine. In that scattering an individual becomes such a house as Christ describes, "swept and garnished," ready for the habitation of evil plus more evil times seven. That last state is worse than the first.  

Koinonia
Another word that is relevant to the subject of gathering with Christ and His Church is the word translated as "fellowship," which is koinōnia (κοινωνία). "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (κοινωνία) with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:4) Here we see that this fellowship is impossible without the truth of Apostolic doctrine, the word of God in Scripture.

This same word, koinōnia, is translated "communion" speaking very directly of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the body of Christ?" (I Cor. 10:16) 

A form of this word is used also to say we are partakers. That is koinōnos (κοινωνός).  

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers (κοινωνός)of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (I Pet. 4:13) 

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers (κοινωνός) of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (II Pet. 1:4) 

Contrary to that is a kind of fellowship from which we are told to turn away. 

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Ephesians 5:8-11)." 

In that passage we see a form of the same word translated "fellowship," sygkoinōneō (συγκοινωνω). With what have we fellowship, that is communion? The Body and Blood of Christ, or the unfruitful works of darkness? With whom have we fellowship, that is communion? Christ and His Body the Church, or "the world, the flesh and the devil?" Choose. 

One can see the skillful use of words in our Service of Holy Communion when we come across such lines as, "humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction." The scholars of the Church of England were second to none, and they knew exactly what they were saying in light of the Biblical use of words that formed their thinking. 

We partake, we communicate, we have fellowship; this is with Christ and His Church; and it is across all barriers of time and space. As St. John tells us in the larger context of his words quoted above about our fellowship, going back to the first verse and taking it from the top:  

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-4)  

Our Synagogue
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb. 10:22-25) 

That word "assembling" is a translation of yet another form of the word "synagogue." It is episynagōgē (πισυναγωγή).  

I do not know what value each of you place on the fellowship of God's Church, especially in countries where the choices seem endless, and where it is so free and easy to gather together. Unlike the ancient Christians under the Roman persecution before 313 AD, and unlike many Christians in various countries where the Church suffers persecution, modern western Christians do not take a risk or pay a high price for the opportunity to assemble. But, to understand the value everyone ought to place on the fellowship of God's holy Church, let us summarize the points we have learned in this brief study. 

When we gather as the Church we gather with Christ Himself. If we do not so gather or assemble together, we scatter and become prey for the enemy. If anyone doubts the reality of that peril, let us look at the very next verse from the portion we have quoted of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Vs. 26, 27 tell us, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Why does the writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warn that forsaking the assembling together of the Church leads to a state of willful sin? Need we really ask this question?

When we gather as the Church we have fellowship. This is not merely social; more than that it is also sacramental and theological. That it is sacramental is obvious, as we have seen from the passage about the communion of Christ's Body and Blood. That it is theological is obvious, because of what John tells us about the doctrine of the Apostles who touched, who heard and who saw the Incarnate Christ (especially as they again touched, heard and saw Him after He had risen from the dead). Our fellowship and communion is in the truth of God's word and it is sacramental. It is with God, and it is with one another. Across barriers of time, we have fellowship with the Apostles themselves by believing their testimony and doctrine; this fellowship is with God and with His Son. We have communion with Christ's Body and Blood; we have fellowship one with another; together we look forward to the day when we may be partakers of the Divine nature. 

I hope you are not planning to sleep late this Sunday.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Lent

TO KEEP A TRUE LENT
By Robert Herrick (1591 – 1647)

Is this a Fast, to keep
The larder lean?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?
Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?
Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A down-cast look and sour?
No: ‘Tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
And meat
Unto the hungry soul,
It is to fast from strife
And old debate,
And hate;
To circumcise thy life,
To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin;
And that’s to keep thy Lent

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Teaching & Proclamation on Abortion

The Bishops of the Anglican Joint Synods Churches released the following statement on the matter of abortion.
In 1973 the Supreme Court paved the way for legalized abortion in the United States in a landmark decision known as Roe v. Wade.  Four years later, The Affirmation of Saint Louis laid out the following in response: “every human being, from the time of his conception, is a creature and child of God, made in His image and likeness, an infinitely precious soul; and…the unjustifiable or inexcusable taking of life is always sinful.”  For over forty years the bishops of the Joint Anglican Synods (commonly known as the G-4) have upheld this teaching, and proclaimed that protection of the unborn is a fundamental principle of catholic moral law.  Though we generally refrain from engaging in politics, recent events in New York and Virginia compel us to reaffirm this teaching and to speak out against continued attempts by certain elected leaders to advance what has aptly been termed the “culture of death.” 

On January 22nd of this year, the New York State Legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act, a statute that expands the state’s already liberal abortion policies by allowing the termination of pregnancy up until the moment of birth; permitting physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and licensed midwives to perform abortions; and removing penalties for performing an abortion from the state’s penal code.  Not only does this legislation allow for the killing of a viable human child, it runs the risk of exposing women to higher-risk medical procedures and removes protections against domestic abuse.  Already a New York prosecutor has dropped felony abortion charges against a man who murdered his girlfriend and their unborn child. 

In Virginia, where similar legislation has been proposed, the current governor has made statements that appear to endorse the notion that babies who survive late-term abortions could be left to die.  Such sentiments reveal how far removed the pro-abortion movement is from the values expressed in a document penned by another governor of Virginia, one which asserts that all humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” A society founded on these principles cannot support legalized abortion.  If the right to life is unalienable, it belongs to the individual alone, and cannot unjustly be taken away. Moreover, the right to life possesses a logical priority in that all other rights flow from the individual’s status as a living being.  Curtailing the right to life undermines the principles of natural law and threatens the very fabric of our democracy.

We, the bishops of the St. Louis Continuum, therefore call upon all Christians and people of goodwill to join us in resisting the expansion of abortion in the United States, and working to roll back the laws that permit it in the first place. Our role, however, is not to craft legislation, but to bring the world to Christ, a process that begins in prayer.  We therefore ask our clergy and laity to pray for those who support the practice of abortion, asking God that their hearts may be changed.  Pray for the women who are struggling with the decision to keep a child, particularly those who are under outside pressure to end a pregnancy.  And, as always, pray for the unborn children at risk, that they might come to know the blessings of this life.  We also call upon our people to support organizations that promote adoption, minister to women in crisis, and assist families in need.  We encourage them to give to these organizations the gifts of talent, treasure, and especially time, that through making personal connections with those involved, we may witness to the goodness and mercy of Christ. 

We ask all of this with the fervent prayer that every life may be cherished and every person may be recognized as a child of God.