Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring Equinox Church Service Roundup

Almost missed this one, but here is a brief roundup of Episcopal sect services celebrating the vernal equinox. 
St. David's in Spokane, WA: A Mandala of Spring -- Equinox Ritual and Celtic Celebration
Invigorate your spiritual journey as we give thanks for the coming season of spring.
This Eucharist service is open to any and all in the area; please invite your friends to be a part of the thanksgiving. All are welcome to the potluck reception following the service. 
Oh dear, mandalas, celtic celebrations, and "Equinox rituals". The pagans have taken over this congregation which has lost nearly half of its Sunday attendees over the past decade. Plus, it sounds like communion of the unbaptized is being practiced in the Diocese of Spokane.

Next up, throw in a labyrinth walk,
St. Paul's Smithfield, NC: The Daughters of the King chapter at St. Paul's will host two Spring Equinox Labyrinth Walks at the Labyrinth at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on
Tuesday, March 20.  The first is from Noon to 1 pm (actual equinox is at 12:15 pm), and the second is from 7 to 8 pm (candlelight)
Why not call it a Stonehenge instead a labyrinth and make the druids happy.
St. Brigit in Frederick Colorado invites people to walk their labyrinth before the service, The Vernal Equinox celebration is a part of St. Brigit’s A’it Caol series.  A’it Caol (pronounced atch qweel) is Gaelic for “A Thin Place.”  These quarterly services are created to offer guests an experience of God through a unique liturgy, which combines ancient tradition with contemporary language.  They include specially designed meditation areas, reflecting the Scriptural lessons, and sacred music with a Celtic sound.
Ancient people marked this day with thanksgiving for the return of light and warmth. Spring promised rebirth and hope.  In the Christian church, the Vernal Equinox is significant in that it is used in determining the date of Easter, the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Equinox.
Older children are welcome at the Vernal Equinox Service.  Childcare will be provided for children under age six.  Guests are invited to come early to walk St. Brigit’s outdoor labyrinth, weather permitting.
Episcopal druids see these rituals as recruiting tools. The next one up admits it in their advert,
St. Luke’s, Renton, WA: Seasonal Liturgies returns in 2018 with Spring Afresh. We will gather on the Spring Equinox (Tuesday, March 20) at 7 p.m. for an evening of poetry, story, song, and chant. These liturgies are one of St. Luke’s major ways of welcoming and engaging the wider community. Your family, friends, and guests are more than welcome.
I would strongly advise the "wider community" to stay away from these "liturgies" because we have been warned,
"Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
     I am afraid of you,
lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." Galatians 4:10-11 (KJV).

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Melchizedek Sunday

This Sunday, pewsitters get to hear a name rarely spoken, Melchizedek. Who was he and why was he considered important enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Jesus in Hebrews 5:5-10?
"So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
   today I have begotten you’;
as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
   according to the order of Melchizedek.’
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek."
Melchizedek first appears in the Bible back in Genesis as priest of God Most High when he blessed Abraham and was presented with the first tithe,

"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
'Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.'
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything."
Genesis 14:18-20 (NIV)
Later on, the sons of Aaron (who sinned and were struck down), and then the sons of Eli (who also got struck down) served a priestly function. Not exactly what you want of an eternal priesthood. 
Jesus was of David's lineage so how could the writer of Hebrews make the connection between Melchizedek, Jesus, and an eternal priesthood? Probably from his intimate knowledge of the Psalms and Psalm 110 in particular, 
Psalm 110 of David
1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion:
rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,
in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning:
thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen,
he shall fill the places with the dead bodies;
he shall wound the heads over many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook in the way:
therefore shall he lift up the head.
So the eternal priesthood referenced by David may be the connection between Jesus and the order of Melchizedek. That should be something that an ancient reader of the letter to the Hebrews would understand.

I really think the lectionary editors should have included Psalm 110 and Genesis 14 as options for this Sunday's readings. Otherwise, some Sunday preachers might gloss over Hebrews 5 and their pewsitters would not understand the eternal priesthood of Jesus.
Harvey E. Finleyin Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology puts it this way,
"Melchizedek of Salem came out to pronounce a blessing on Abraham who was on his way back to Hebron after rescuing Lot from Kedorlaomer, king of the East ( Gen 14:18-24 ). Melchizedek provided food and wine for a sacral meal. As they ate, Melchizedek pronounced a blessing on Abraham in the name of God Most High.
The willingness with which Abraham acceded to Melchizedek as a priest of God Most High is a most interesting aspect of this narrative. This name apparently connoted the same meaningful theology to Abraham as the name "God Almighty" ( Exod 6:3 ). Abraham also equated God with 'Creator of heaven and earth' ( Gen 14:22 ; cf. v. 19 ) in his ascription-confessional to the king of Sodom.
A Priest Forever. Psalm 110:4 reads: 'The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.' This is a royal psalm. Two significant points are made about the One who is to sit at God's right hand. First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God's oath. Neither of these affirmations applied to the Aaronic order of priesthood.
Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek. The Book of Hebrews presents Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, as a priest after the order of Melchizedek (4:14-7:28, esp. 5:5-11 ; 6:13-7:28). The author draws directly from Psalm 110:4 several crucial points to explain that the high priesthood of Christ has superseded and is superior to the priesthood of Aaron.
First, the priesthood of Melchizedek is an 'order forever' ( 5:10 ). In contrast, the priesthood of Aaron had a history of disruptions and termination.
Second, the references to being 'without father or mother' ( 7:3 ) and to being an 'order forever' ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:16 Hebrews 7:17 Hebrews 7:24 ) are to be understood as referring to the kind of priestly order rather than to the longevity of a particular priest of Abraham's time. Jesus even carries the longevity of his priesthood back to the Godhead ( Hebrews 7:15 Hebrews 7:26 ; cf. 1 Peter 1:20 ).
Third, the divine guarantee for the priesthood of Melchizedek rests on God's oath.
For the writer of Hebrews to look at these Old Testament passages about Melchizedek along christological lines is in keeping with the practice of other New Testament writers. Early Christians were convinced that it was they upon whom the end of the ages had come and hence felt that the Old Testament was written in some divinely intended way to point to them."
I don't think it will happen, but from now on let's just call today Melchizedek Sunday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Difference Between a Church and a Sect

One of the problems people have in this age of non-denominational churches is the danger of getting sucked in by a sect. In fact, if you read the following excerpt, walking into a mainstream denominational church may not protect you from this danger.

From The Heidelblog,
Finally, we should not simply assume that all those groups that call themselves “church” are such. As early as 1561 the Dutch Reformed Churches recognized this problem with respect to the Anabaptists, whom all the confessing Protestants rejected as part of the Reformation altogether. The churches confessed, “for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of ‘the church'” even though they are not actually churches. This is how we deal today with many of the groups that arose in the 19th century as part of the so-called “Second Great Awakening” and the other groups such as the Millerites (who gave us the Jehovah’s Witnesses), the Christian Scientists, the (traditional) Seventh-Day Adventists, and virtually all of the Pentecostal groups that arose out of the Cane Ridge “revivals” (early 19th century) and the Topeka and Azusa Street “revivals” (early 20th century). In 16th-century terms, in the language of the Belgic Confession, these are mostly “sects” and not churches at all since they lack “the marks of the true church,” namely, the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the use of church discipline.
I truly believe that the Episcopal organization fails the tests of pure preaching of the gospel (example: The Worst Sermon Ever?) and the use of church discipline (example: the Righter Trial).  I could give more examples of both failures of course, but you get the point.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

God So Loved the World

This Sunday, the readings contain words which should comfort everyone of us. We should share these words freely and widely to an unbelieving world.

From Ephesians 2:1-10 I pulled out verses 4-9

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 

And from John 3:14-21, the famous verse 16,

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Now listen to Sir John Stainer's version of "God So Loved the World" and feel the peace that God's love brings to the world.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Fatherless Children and Mass Murderers

We need to look at the emerging evidence that (surprise) a child needs a biological father and mother to develop normally. I think the Catholic Bishops being sued for turning down a foster parenting request have a case,
March 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – "Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, Texas, turned down two “married” lesbians for foster parenting because their homosexual lifestyle gave children no father. The lesbians are now suing Catholic hierarchs and the federal government for discrimination."
I was reading a post at The Federalist (because it was misquoted elsewhere) the other day and was struck by the fact that not having a father around might have something to do with mass shootings.
"On CNN’s list of the '27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History,' seven of those shootings were committed by young (under 30) males since 2005. Of the seven, only one—Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho (who had been mentally unstable since childhood)—was raised by his biological father throughout childhood."
The author thinks that No-fault divorce was one of the more important causes for fatherless children,
"No-fault divorce moved the American father onto the fast track towards the exit—from family life.
In 1960, only 5 percent of American children were born out of wedlock. Forty years after no-fault divorce entered the United States, a shocking 41 percent of children are born to an unmarried mother. God only knows what the next 40 years will look like."
I think he should have included the Pill, the sexual revolution, and welfare rewarding unwed motherhood. Instead, he adds the re-definition of marriage as a factor,

"No-fault divorce is not the only factor pushing fathers out of the household. If no-fault divorce gave fathers a way out of their kids’ lives, redefining marriage from its traditional definition of one man and one woman has officially declared fathers optional. What’s more, if the American household retains any semblance of stability today, things are only going to get worse. As Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out in his dissent, the Supreme Court’s ruling has cleared a massive pathway for state-recognized polygamy."
It is true that children raised in a lesbian household are going to be fatherless, and children raised by two homosexual men will be motherless. The jury is still out on how those kids are going to fare, but I have read some articles by survivors of same-sex childrearing that were very troubling.

Katy Faust is one of them and blogs at "Them Before Us" where she speaks out against fatherless parenting from her own experience. She spoke with ABC Australia about how her childhood influenced her views.
"Although she loves her mother and her mother’s partner, Faust says, neither took the place of a father, and she believes no woman can.
'While my mother was a fantastic mother and most of what I do well as a mother myself I do because that’s how she parented me, she can’t be a father,' she explained. 'Her partner, an incredible woman — both of these women have my heart — cannot be a father either.'”
Faust reviewed the data that shows same-sex parenting as harmful at Them Before Us and quoted the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health which was able to pick out just 20 children of same-sex couples out of 12,000,
"The adolescents with same-sex parents experience significantly lower autonomy and higher anxiety, but also better school performance, than do adolescents with opposite-sex parents. Comparing unmarried to (self-described) married same-sex parents, above-average child depressive symptoms rises from 50% to 88%; daily fearfulness or crying rises from 5% to 32%; grade point average declines from 3.6 to 3.4; and child sex abuse by parent rises from zero to 38%. The longer a child has been with same-sex parents, the greater the harm."
Whoa,  "child sex abuse by parent rises from zero to 38%". That is scary.

One might say that the data set is too small, but the data used to support sane-sex parenting is also flawed (read report here). That report finds one major study with better data that shows the disadvantages to being so raised,
"The NFSS contains rich data on young adult children of same-sex parents and is the second largest study, after the Census, with information on these children. Screening over 15,000 young adults, the study identified 236 respondents who reported their parents having had romantic same-sex relationships. Examining 40 outcomes in areas—related to their family and romantic relationships, education, physical and psychological well-being, economic and employment status, substance use, and criminal activity and victimization—it found that, compared to children in traditional intact families, those of mothers who have had a romantic same-sex relationship fared, on average, worse on 24 out of the 40 outcomes, and young adult children of fathers who have had a same-sex relationship fared worse on 19 outcomes. Even after accounting for a number of characteristics, these differences remained."
I wonder though if we are missing the boat by focusing on biological fathers. There is another Father who is being left out of the equation and that is God the Father of us all.

If mass shooters would be in proper relationship with Jesus and their Father in heaven, I suspect they would be not be predisposed to killing innocent people. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

My Father's House is Not a Stable!

This Sunday's Gospel reading form the Revised Common Lectionary, John 2:13-22, tells us of the time when Jesus cleaned out the Temple.
"The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken."
It struck me that the Temple must have been a pretty smelly place from all the animal droppings. I find it interesting that Jesus puts the whip to the cattle and sheep first.

When I see animals like cattle, camels, etc paraded through a church on the Feast of St. Francis, I get this flashback of Jesus coming down, whip in hand, and thrashing all of them out of there.

The guys selling doves at the Temple got off relatively easy. At least Jesus didn't let the doves out of their cages as some animal rights groups might have him do today. I guess Jesus knew that the bird droppings would have been all over the place if he had let the doves out.

Our church buildings should be considered as our Father's houses. That is why I get so upset when I see them used for profane blessings and the like.

Keep the beasts and profane blessings outside. Forgiveness awaits inside.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Please Lord, Send Billy Graham Back: Only 4% of Episcopalians consider that a personal relationship with God in Christ is the most important relationship in their life.

"RenewalWorks" claims to be,  
"a vital ministry serving the Episcopal Church in a time when commitment to spiritual growth needs to be renewed" 
Their revealing white paper contained at least one alarming result of their research on "the spiritual life of the Episcopal" organization:

Only 4% of Episcopalians surveyed consider that a personal relationship with God in Christ is the most important relationship in their life.
See the tiny part of the graphic near the bottom right below,

Billy Graham is rolling in his grave.

Upon hearing this, Pewsterspouse exclaimed,  "If they don't have that, what are they doing in church?"

My response, "It is not a church. It is an organization of like minded folks."

The white paper explains,
"...among Episcopalians, there is a limited correlation between the call to service and spiritual beliefs and practices, making the church not all that different from many nonprofit organizations." p 8
Since they are not truly Christ centered, the Episcopal organization is nothing more than a non profit social club dressed up in religious attire that occasionally does some community service (while at the same time trying to spread a false gospel).

The false gospel has at its root doctrinal laziness and/or unbelief. The survey seems to indicate that a large percentage of Episcopalians say the Nicene Creed with their fingers crossed.
"Fifty-seven percent of Episcopal respondents stated that they very strongly believe in the doctrine of the Trinity" 
The data is credible as it was obtained mostly from regular Sunday attendees,
"Seventy-five percent report that they attend Sunday service three to four times per month"
Those who keep coming back are the ones who were polled, and they naturally reported the following,
"Sixty percent are extremely or very satisfied with the Sunday service’s role in supporting their spiritual growth."
If they were not satisfied, they wouldn't come back, but in spite of the satisfaction, the majority sense that they are missing something,
 "Fifty-five percent of Episcopal congregations fit in an archetype described as troubled. It may be helpful to think of them as restless or hungry (rather than conflicted or in crisis). Basically, these congregations are marked by a desire for greater spiritual growth; they have a hankering for more from their church, and in particular, from their clergy. They are not satisfied with what they are receiving"
The problem is that the pewsitters can't know what they are missing because they don't do their homework, and they probably have never been told that they must do their homework,
"Overall, Episcopalians engage in daily spiritual practices at a much lower rate than people in other denominations. For instance, only 14 percent report they reflect on scripture daily." p 11
Having been born and raised as an Episcopalian, having lived a lifetime as a member of the Episcopal organization, and having studied the decline of the denomination for the past fifteen years, none of this comes as a shock to me.

All of this highlights the utter foolishness of having Presiding Bishop Curry lead Episcopal "revivals", because one can't evangelize if you yourself don't buy into the basic Christian beliefs on marriage, divorce, human sexuality, and sin.

Those of us who went through "A decade of Evangelism" in the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina back in the 1990's know that evangelism to an Episcopalian means setting up coffee hour or serving as a greeter or a chalice bearer on Sunday mornings.

The white paper concludes with what should be obvious,
"Until parishioners are comfortable in basic beliefs and value a personal relationship with Christ, an ability to evangelize may be diminished." p 13
"May be diminished", good grief.

Please Lord, send Billy Graham back! His job is not done!