Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bishop Curry: All You Need is Love

This week everybody seems to be talking about Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's expressive sermon that he delivered at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Many people loved it, but I thought it was weak in spite of the forcefulness with which it was delivered. 

While Bishop Curry sounded nice, his sermon was a bit too nice. Like the serpent's words, "Taste it, you will like it" they are awfully tempting. While there is nothing wrong about preaching on love, it requires a deeper exposition. The love of God and the love of Christ for the world, God's love for the Church, and God's intended love between one man and one woman are things that most Episcopalian Bishops are incapable of communicating. No one expected Bishop Curry to talk about complementarianism, and no one expected any major digressions into his favorite themes, so his sermon appeared benign if not great to most of his viewers. It had to sound benign you see, because  he could not say the words that he really wanted to say about his novel ideas about what makes up a Christian marriage in front of an audience of two billion people because those words are so unbiblical that the effect on his sect would be ruinous.

Here's the full transcript of Curry's "The Power of Love" sermon as recorded by NPR:
"And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
From the Song of Solomon in the Bible: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: 'We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.'
There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over-sentimentalize it. There's power, power in love.
If you don't believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved."
I think he is equating two different types of love.
"Oh there's power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There's a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it - it actually feels right."
Uh oh, following "it feels right" can lead you into all kinds of problems.
"There is something right about it. And there's a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love, and our lives were meant - and are meant - to be lived in that love. That's why we are here."
It would have been helpful if he had defined what type of love he was talking about, and that is one of the major weaknesses of his sermon. 
"Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives. There's an old medieval poem that says: 'Where true love is found, God himself is there'.
The New Testament says it this way: 'Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God.' Why? For God is love."
Never ask an Episcopal priest to expound on what he/she/it means when they get started on "God is love." They would probably have a meltdown.
"There's power in love. There's power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
There's power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
There's power in love to show us the way to live.
Set me as a seal on your heart... a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death.
But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we're all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.
But it's not just for and about a young couple, who we rejoice with. It's more than that.
Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and he reached back into the Hebrew scriptures, to Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and Jesus said: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'
And then in Matthew's version, he added, he said: 'On these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world ... love God, love your neighbors, and while you're at it, love yourself.'"
Whoa! Did Jesus say that? "And while you're at it love yourself"? I think NPR messed up on the punctuation, but the Bishop did add a new layer of meaning to Matthew's Gospel.

It was only a mater of time where the power of this version of love will be used by the Bishop to try to stir people to political action,
"Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history."
Wait a second! God revealing himself, and dying for us was the number one world changing event in human history.

"A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world - and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.
I'm talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.
If you don't believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America's Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform.
They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It's one that says 'There is a balm in Gilead...' a healing balm, something that can make things right.
'There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.'
And one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said: 'If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.'
Oh, that's the balm in Gilead! This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all.
He didn't die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn't... he wasn't getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world... for us.
That's what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world."
Next we get echoes of John Lennon's "Imagine",
"If you don't believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.
Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way.
Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way - unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
When love is the way, there's plenty good room - plenty good room - for all of God's children.
Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well... like we are actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that's a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family."
It sounds like we can make heaven on earth, all we need is love. Curry's gospel sounds a lot like the sixties gospel of love.

Next he switches gears into a lengthy digression at about the time people are ready for the wedding to go on.
"And let me tell you something, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament: that's fire.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - and with this I will sit down, we gotta get you all married - French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.
Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a mystic.
In some of his writings, he said, from his scientific background as well as his theological one, in some of his writings he said - as others have - that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.
Fire to a great extent made human civilization possible. Fire made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating which reduced the spread of disease in its time.
Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates.
Fire made it possible - there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire.
The advances of fire and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good.
Anybody get here in a car today? An automobile? Nod your heads if you did - I know there were some carriages. But those of us who came in cars, fire - the controlled, harnessed fire - made that possible.
I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on the water. But I have to tell you, I did not walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here.
Controlled fire in that plane got me here. Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other.
Fire makes all of that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history.
And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love - it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.
Dr King was right: we must discover love - the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.
My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love."
In sum, heaven on Earth is attainable, all you need is love. What could possibly be holding us back?

Maybe we haven't supported enough liberal causes, maybe we haven't marched in enough gay pride parades, maybe we haven't celebrated enough gay marriage ceremonies in the Church, maybe we have been sending those e-mails from The Episcopal Public Policy Network into the Spam box, maybe we haven't performed enough abortions, maybe we haven't brought enough lawsuits against faithful Christians, or maybe we have been critical of the Episcopal sect in print and on social media.

And you know what they call people who go against the zeitgeist, those who disagree with Bishop Curry and his unbiblical agenda, an agenda that he was afraid to verbalize in front of an audience of billions?


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Looking Bach at Pentecost

Whitsunday is the name we give to the day of the Feast of Pentecost. The name, "White" Sunday, stands in contrast to the red colors that priests wear on this day and may be a more fitting description of the clothes worn by those coming to be confirmed or baptized on Pentecost. I don't know when the custom of having us pewsitters wear red came into being, but having very few articles of red clothing myself, this Sunday always makes me feel a wee bit like the odd person out. This year I found a Hawaiian shirt displaying images of flaming volcanoes to wear. I think I'll go with that and try to fit in with the crowd for once.

Never one to follow the herd, I prefer classical music to modern praise music. For that reason, I may have to put in my ear buds at some point in this Sunday's service and listen to a little Bach.

Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! ("Ring out, you songs; sound, you strings!"), BWV 172, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, composed in Weimar in 1714 for Pentecost Sunday.


While most of us will not be treated to such wonderful sounds, churches that still follow the BCP lectionary will hear either the wonderful good news found in John 20:19-23 or John 14:8-17 as today's Gospel reading.

John 20:19-23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

or John 14:8-17
Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you."

Just think where we would be today if the gift of the Holy Spirit had not been bestowed upon the Apostles.

Wearing anything but volcano print Hawaiian shirts I suppose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Having Michael Curry Preach at Your Wedding is Like...

The news that the Episcopal Sect's Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, will preach at this week's royal wedding upset me, but pleased the Archbishop of Canterbury,

I'm thrilled that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have asked Bishop Michael Curry to preach at their wedding. @PB_Curry is a brilliant pastor, stunning preacher and someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
This tells me that Justin Welby tolerates and may even accept Michael Curry's support of same-sex marriage.

I am sorry, but asking a man who does not believe that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman to preach at your wedding is like asking the wolf in sheep's clothing to give a talk on shepherding to your flock.

I am sure you can think of other analogies.

Go ahead, fill in the blank.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Sanctify them in the truth..."

This Sunday's reading from John 17:6-19 usually loses me as Jesus prays for his disciples. This time I tried to take a third and fourth read through, and while the form and structure bogs me dowm, verse 17 seemed to stand out.

6 ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
In the course of the prayer, Jesus has three "asks",

  1. "protect them in your name that you have given me"
  2. "protect them from the evil one"
  3. "Sanctify them in the truth"

The first ask, "protect them in your name that you have given me", is a prayer for general protection probably from the world that hates them. Note the name God has given Jesus is God's name so when we pray in the name of Jesus, we are praying in the name of God.

The second ask, "protect them from the evil one", appears to refer to Satan, the existence of whom many would deny. To the deniers I would have to say that if they don't believe Jesus, then there is nothing I can say to convince them.

The third ask, "Sanctify them in the truth", opens up the discussion over the meaning of "sanctify" and how one might be sanctified in truth.

Time for a trip to "Theopedia",
"Sanctification, or in its verbal form, sanctify, literally means 'to set apart' for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred. Therefore, sanctification refers to the state or process of being set apart, i.e. made holy. In systematic theology, the term often carries a technical meaning that differs from the biblical word group. Sanctification is regularly equated with the Christian life. In Wesleyan theology, it can refer to a moment of 'Entire Sanctification,' in which one reaches a state of Christian Perfection."
So I read "sanctify in truth" to mean "set aside" because they have been in the presence of truth and they will have the truth in them when Jesus' prayer is answered. I wonder if the upcoming descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was a moment of "entire sanctification".
"In Christianity, the term can be used to refer to objects which are set apart for special purposes, but the most common use within Christian theology is in reference to the change brought about by God in a believer, begun at the point of salvation or justification and continuing throughout the life of the believer. Many forms of Christianity believe that this process will only be completed in Heaven when believers are also glorified, but some believe that complete holiness is possible in this life."
Progressive sanctification means that rather than a moment of "Entire Sanctification" most of us have to settle for a lifelong process which is a good thing as well,
"Indeed, the more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin that remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it....Was this not the effect in all the people of God as they came into closer proximity to the revelation of God’s holiness." -John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied
The process of being "set apart" begins the moment you begin to follow Jesus. I think it is a process because we are always straying from his path.  

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Utopian Thinking, Social Justice, and Immigration

A recent mailing from the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina focused more on "Social Justice" than sharing the Gospel of Christ. How do I know? I searched and searched for Jesus' name and could not find it anywhere in the E-DUSC News.  Instead, there was a prominent photo of Bishop Waldo gazing Jesus-like out a window with the title, "Door of Return: Racial Truth and Reconciliation Pilgrimage to Ghana" set beneath his countenance.

I don't think the Bishop had to go all the way to Ghana to find "racial truth", whatever that means, or reconciliation for that matter. All he had to do is walk a few blocks from his office in Columbia, SC, and he could have found plenty of opportunities for both.

At least in Columbia, African Americans and Euro-Americans for the most part share a common belief in Jesus. That is an excellent starting point for reconciliation. I am not sure that the Episcopal sect's version of Christianity has a lot in common with African American Christianity however. Bishop Waldo might have a harder time reconciling his version of Christianity with his neighbors than he will with reconciling the racial truth that his diocese is largely made up of aging lily white, upper income liberals whose zeal for social justice is tepid at best and misguided at worst.

In Europe, social justice warriors welcomed waves of Muslim immigrants which has created all kinds of problems. In America, our social justice shills would also embrace such an incoming tide. Is it any wonder that American Muslims "constitute a strongly Democratic constituency. Three-quarters of Muslim voters say they cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election" according to a Pew survey.  The major problems with the American Left accepting Muslims into their party are that Islam is not a reconciling religion, and the Islamic vision of social justice as well as the Islamic vision of Utopia stand in stark contrast to the visions of the both the secular and religious Left and the visions of conservative Christian believers.
From Crisis Magazine comes this, 
"Europe’s utopian experiment in immigration isn’t working out because Europe’s leaders never took sufficient account of the extreme differences among cultures. They never understood that many of the migrants were traveling not just from different lands but, in effect, from different centuries. Moreover they seemed to be ignorant of what the Catechism says about man’s “wounded nature inclined to evil.” Still living off the accumulated moral capital of Christendom, they couldn’t envision a London that would become the acid attack capital of the world, or an England where the term “Shropshire lad” would conjure up an image not of late nineteenth century rural youth, but of a Pakistani gang rapist (Telford is in Shropshire)." - Are the Vast Majority of People Moderate? by William Kilpatrick
Thankfully, our Latino immigrants share with us a Christian worldview and heaven-view, and while illegal immigration is still illegal, reconciliation is possible, unlike the situation in Europe. Our immigrants must however learn that America, while an improvement from their lawless countries, is not Utopia.

It is natural for us to long to fix the world through social justice crusades. It is also natural for us to desire Utopia.

The problem is that due to our fallen nature, everybody has their own unique idea of how to go about creating Utopia. We have forgotten that God is the only one who can and who will will make the world right again for us just as He has promised.

C.S. Lewis pointed this out very well in "Mere Christianity" when he wrote,
“The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We all desire the same thing, that heavenly country to which Lewis refers, but we have to realize that we are not going to be able to create God's kingdom on Earth no matter how many social justice movements we support.  And if anyone tries to create Utopia, they will probably be merely less than Christian, following their own vision, and they will probably have to impose their ideal through the use of force in order to get the rest of us to go along.

And of course, all man made attempts to create Utopia fail.
"When misguided longings for heaven or Eden enter the public square, there is a utopian overreach that results in deleterious consequences in the political, economic, and social spheres of life. Utopian overreach results in dystopian outcomes." (Crisis Magazine, Why The Left is So Seductive by Jonathan B. Coe.)

Sunday, May 06, 2018

How Do We Go About Loving One Another?

Today, most churches using the Revised Common Lectionary will hear John 15:9-17,

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants* any longer, because the servant* does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

In this Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus gives one important command to his disciples, to love one another as He loved them (v. 12), but he also mentions that there are other commandments to keep as well (v. 10).

The problem that modern listeners have is that when they hear the word "love", they associate it more with "acceptance", and "tolerance" than having to lay down their lives for another person. Sure, there are some who appear to be ready to die wrapped in a rainbow colored flag in support of the LGBTQetc., but I would bet that many more would not go that far.

The question I pose is this, how tolerant, and how accepting is Jesus's love for us?

Let us be reminded that Jesus had some harsh words for his opponents and even his disciples. He could not tolerate or accept the money changers in the Temple. Peter was scolded by Jesus when he told Peter, "Get thee behind me Satan". 

The loving Father corrects us when we are wrong, and we don't like to be corrected.

But that also is love.

So, when we try to love one another, should we be silent when we see our friend straying from God's commandments? If we do nothing, is it out of fear of losing a friendship or damaging our reputation? Remembering that we should be willing to lay down our life for that person, all fear should be cast aside.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

This Freedom March Will Not Appear on the Nightly News

There will be an important event this week, and it is not Cinco de Mayo. In fact, this important celebration will likely go un-reported by the main stream media. I am talking about the "Freedom March" on May 5, 2018 in Washington D.C.. 

The Freedom March is a celebration of formerly homosexual or transgender people who have found a new life in Christ. They describe the event as,
"Speakers and a march celebrating freedom from homosexual/transgender lifestyles by the grace and power of Jesus Christ!"
What a fabulous idea.

If you visit their Facebook page (which will probably be banned in California under a newly proposed law) , you will find several encouraging testimonials from ex-homosexual and ex-transgender persons. For example,
"From the Freedom March worship leader, Edward Byrd:
It has been 6 years since I went from confused, broken, afraid, lost, full of pain and disappointment. I was running around searching for fulfillment in an any man that would pay me attention.
(Giving Myself Away) I transitioned to Remi. I was stripping, doing drugs, overdosing, living recklessly, and searching for something to make me whole. Nothing could fill the emptiness no matter how many times I drowned myself in bottles of alcohol trying to escape the pain!!
It wasn’t until I RAN INTO JESUS that the chains broke and blinders fell off and I was able to see him, his love and who he created me to be! 🚨Hear 👂🏾the story here! —>
So Excited to be doing Worship for the 🌈 FREEDOM MARCH! 🌈"
Of course this goes completely against the narrative that our revisionist friends in "progressive" sects have been pushing for decades, that people are born homosexual or trans.

Thank God for giving us examples of people like the Freedom March.