Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Papal Visit Inspired What Exactly?

There are many reasons why I am not a Roman Catholic, and as I watched Pope Francis burn through thousands of gallons of jet fuel during his recent trip to the U.S., flying from one east coast city to the next when any environment respecting, global warming fearing, humble man would have taken the train or walked (as one group did, walking from Baltimore to Philadelphia to see him), I couldn't help thinking about the contradictions.

Much of the oohing and aahing from the media covering the papal visit was about how he reached out and touched the handicapped and children. One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is the way it inspires people to do good works such as caring for the sick and the elderly.

One of its weaknesses is that it sometimes appears to teach righteousness through works.

One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is that it sometimes treats its people like sheep.

One of its weaknesses is that it sometimes treats its people like sheep.

One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is the way its people sometimes choose to ignore papal teachings.

One of its weaknesses is how it inspires people to go through mental hoops in order to ignore its teachings.

One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is the huge numbers that turn out for special worship services.

One of its weaknesses is that huge numbers seem to turn out for worship when the pope comes to town and the rest of us are left to wonder, "Just who is being worshiped here?".

Any church can be inspirational and disappointing at times.

How many of you were inspired in some way by Francis?

Was John Boehner inspired to resign as Speaker of the House after the Pope asked Boehner to pray for him?

Was Nancy Pelosi inspired to change her mind on her anti-Roman Catholic political views?

Was I inspired to swim the Tiber?

Were you?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dilemma: Mark 9:38-50, What Parts to Ignore?

Today's Gospel reading was Mark 9:38-50, and I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this used as a jumping off point for a sermon that failed to deliver. Here is the text,

John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 
‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 
‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’
By failing to deliver, I meant that all too often the parts about getting thrown into hell are thrown into limbo and treated as though they never existed. The past two times this reading came up at our church, only the first section was discussed. Wondering if this was common practice, I headed over to the Episcopal church's "Sermon's That Work" page to look for another example. I think the following excerpts prove my point: Episcopal sermons tend to fixate on just the part of the Gospel that fit the preacher's worldview and make people feel good (I have highlighted the Episcopalian code words).

September 27, 2009
In today’s gospel, we hear the intriguing story of Jesus’ disciples trying to stop a man who had been casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They seem to have become especially upset because the offender was not one of them. In the eyes of the disciples, he was not part of the inner circle, and he was acting differently from what they considered to be the norm.
As soon as Jesus heard about it, he turned the tables on his closest followers and rebuked their blind, unbending exclusiveness. He told them not to stop the man, because whatever good is done in Jesus’ name would put him in a situation of not speaking evil of the Lord. And tellingly, Jesus concluded, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Jesus made it clear that he and his disciples were not a little clique, working in a corner of life, fenced off from others. His world view, his God’s-eye view, made him well aware that God’s actions are not limited to the forms with which his disciples were familiar.
What is the lesson in this for us? Don’t Jesus’ words ring true as a rebuke of our often blind and unbending exclusiveness, our arrogant assumptions that God’s action among us is limited to forms with which we are most comfortable and most familiar?
In this, our Lord gives us a model for a broader view. There is an issue of tolerance. Doesn’t Jesus’ message to the disciples help us stop short when we fall into the all too common trap of thinking in terms of “us” and “them” – seeing life only from the perspective of our own groups?
Intolerance of the other is certainly an attitude that Jesus rejected in today’s gospel reading. Possibly, he realized that the disciples considered the man casting out demons as a threat to their inner-circle status. He was an outsider, so they tried to stop him. Jesus rejected this by making it clear that only in a more narrow sense can one be an outsider.
What was true for the disciples has been true throughout history. The world and the church have fought for centuries in such a fence-building frenzy. The stories of the past schisms and divisions are legion. And living out the tendencies of the same human nature, we still act this way in our time, don’t we?
Standing against this, Jesus’ words remind us that Christianity is not the preserve of a privileged few. He reminds us that no one seeking to do the Lord’s work is an outsider. He reminds us to welcome all people who are willing to join the journey, following our Lord. Over and over again, Jesus’ words remind us to be including – not excluding. Over and over again, Jesus’ words rebuke us when we turn against others because they are different. Over and over again, the life Jesus lived and the way he taught his first disciples remind us of the scandal of our divisions.
There is another side to this, of course. Sometimes, conscience and practicality dictate that we separate ourselves from others, but the message here, at the very least, is not to do so lightly – not to draw a line in the sand except as a last resort. Jesus helps us work against the subtle temptation to think that “for me to be right, anyone who disagrees with me must be wrong.”
Jesus seems to be telling the disciples something like this: “Look for the commonality. Recognize that there are many among you who might work or think differently, but don’t jump to the conclusion that that makes them against you – or against me.”
He warns us against simplistic solutions to complex problems. He causes us to see that truth is always bigger than any one person’s, or any one group’s grasp of it. Jesus cautions us against inflexibility of thought or deed. He helps us embrace tolerance of a variety of actions and viewpoints. He helps us re-learn what is so easy to forget: that diversity is not only good; it is absolutely essential for the health of the Body of Christ.Today’s gospel reinforces a belief that what we need in the church is less “either/or” and more “both/and.”
Where do we find commonality? Why not begin by looking to our earliest roots? Those who can declare that “Jesus is Lord” are not against us, and therefore are for us, and for Christ. Those who can follow the steps of Jesus, taking up their crosses and denying themselves for the sake of God and God’s children are not against us, and therefore are for us, and for Christ.
The story of today’s gospel is about the disciples’ attempt to draw a circle around Jesus and themselves – shutting out the one who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Perhaps a concise, powerful poem by Edwin Markham can help us remember that Jesus ordered the disciples not to exclude that man and to recall that those who are not against us are for us.
In his poem “Outwitted,” Edwin Markham writes:
“He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”

As a child, it was the parts about cutting off your hand or foot or ripping out your eye that got my attention when I heard this Gospel reading. Those were the things that needed the most explanation. I suspect that most Episcopal churches today ignored those verses and instead focused on the first section, maybe throwing in a few references to the Papal visit to the United States that drew so much attention this week.

I can hear it now, "The Pope is one of us, we are one with him, all is well!"  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The De-mythologisation of the Anglican Communion

This title to an article in The Atlantic says it all,
"The Archbishop of Canterbury: Dissolving the Anglican Church to Save It" 
"Justin Welby will reportedly try to preserve the group of churches, shaken by fights over homosexuality, by loosening its ties."
To which the world yawns and asks, "Who cares?"

To be honest, being "in communion" with the worldwide Anglican Communion has never been all that important to me during my lifetime in the Episcopal church. Perhaps that feeling is common in Episcopal circles, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Episcopal church has strayed so far from its erstwhile communion partners around the world: they and their opinions have not been felt to be important, which is not the way we are supposed to feel now is it?

Just what is this Anglican Communion supposed to be anyway? puts it this way,

"The 1930 Lambeth Conference described the Anglican Communion as a 'fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury.'" - Colin Buchanan, Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism
"Today the Anglican Communion is 38 autonomous national and regional Churches plus six Extra Provincial Churches and dioceses; all of which are in Communion - in a reciprocal relationship - with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the Communion's spiritual head.
There is no Anglican central authority such as a pope. Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury." (the so-called instruments of communion - UGP)
The four attributes of the Church, "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic", are things that Lambeth 1930 and we claim to believe each time we recite the Nicene Creed.

For the sake of argument, try to answer the following questions,
  • When is a church no longer one?
  • When is a church no longer holy?
  • When is a church no longer catholic?
  • When is a church no longer apostolic?
I would answer that the church is no longer one when its regional churches become so autonomous that significant differences in doctrine appear and false teachings become part of their formal structure.

I would answer that a church is no longer holy when it rejects one or more of the teachings of Christ.

I would answer that a church is no longer catholic (universal) when its autonomous churches start acting as though they were each their own universe, and these universes collide.

I would answer that a church is no longer apostolic when it rejects one or more of the teachings of the apostles.

Unfortunately, a few of the churches in the current Anglican Communion have lost one or more of the attributes of the Church, and I will leave it up to the reader to figure out which ones I am thinking about.

Looking again at the 1930 Lambeth Conference definition, I conclude that the Anglican Communion, as it is currently constituted, is a fellowship, outside the one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Even using the looser modern definition, the Anglican Communion is not a communion. For example, when was the last time the Episcopal church made a decision that was guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury?

So, the myth of an Anglican Communion probably should go the way of the Gods of Olympus, and maybe Archbishop Welby's meeting will mark the beginning of its end.

If only Edith Hamilton were still around to write the story in a more entertaining way for future students of Anglican mythology, otherwise it is going to read more like a Shakespearean tragedy which will be entertaining but in a different way.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The First Gender Neutral Account in the N.T.?

Today's Gospel reading was from Mark 9:30-37, and the translation most heard in the Episcopal church (NRSV) leaves an interesting first impression,

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

Did you notice that the child was referred to as an "it"? In the Authorized translation "it" was translated as "him".

I vaguely remember a time as a child when I was unaware of gender.  I cannot remember exactly when I learned about the difference between little boys and little girls, but it was probably around age 3 or so, or about the time I started to read (I was a bit precocious).

I remember my first opposite sex attraction. It was in the first grade, and I faced a little bit of derision from my classmates at the time, but later, in college, my friends were quite impressed that my first kiss was with an individual whom they identified as a "hottie".

Today, with gender differentiation being left entirely up to the individual child (who is not to be influenced by his parents in any way), what are children to think?

I know this is politically incorrect to say, but I think we should raise girls to be girls and boys to be boys.

In interpreting Mark's account, it matters not whether the child is a he or a she as the end result is the same, but the fact that this is an issue (how we translate this passage) points out a shift in our culture where we are more likely to assume that a gender neutral translation is preferable to the gender specific one that our parents learned.

Is that a good thing for children?

If your answer is no, then why do we stay silent as gender neutrality is shoved down our throats (I am thinking about the upcoming revision of the Book of Common Prayer among other things).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Upper South Carolina Churches Invite Bishop Spong to Re-educate Their Sheep

The following alarming announcement came from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina last week.

Bishop John Shelby Spong  
September 22nd, 2015
7 pm - 9 pm
St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Columbia 
Hosted by St. Luke's, ColumbiaEpiscopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of such books as Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, will speak in Columbia, SC, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 7 pm.  St. Luke's is located at 1300 Pine Street in the Historic Waverly neighborhood, near Five Points in downtown Columbia.   
Spong will lecture on "CHRISTPOWER in the Radical Center of Life--A New Christianity for a New World," followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Spong always promises to provide a provocative, thoughtful, and enlivening experience for seekers from all faiths and denominations (or none) and across all religious and political spectrums. 
His appearance in Columbia is a cooperative effort of several local congregations including St. Luke's, St. Martin's in the Fields, Church of the Cross, and St. Simon & St. Jude Episcopal Churches, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia and the Jubilee! Circle, Columbia.
When I looked up Jubilee Circle, Columbia, I was not surprised to find that their tag line reads, 
"From certainty to mystery ..." captures our mission at Jubilee! Circle. Our goal, in both community and worship, is to move us out of the dogmatic forms of religion that restrict us and quash our creative spirit with their "certainty" and move us instead into the "mystery" of the Holy where we can experience liberation, freedom, and new ways of moving and being in the world.

Liberal, progressive Episcopalians would feel quite at home at Jubilee Circle where they follow a Pelagian theology called "Creation Spirituality",
"Jubilee! Circle uses as its guide the principles of Creation Spirituality outlined by Matthew Fox. Most of the Christian theology today is drawn from a story of fall and redemption - where we've fallen from God's grace and are originally cursed with sin. Instead, Jubilee! Circle focuses on a theology of Original Blessing, which Fox tells us is older than the fall and redemption story which traces its roots to the fourth century and Thomas Aquinas."
While no more harm can be done to the Jubilee circle crowd or to the Unitarian Universalists by Bishop Spong's falsehoods, it is alarming that the Bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina is letting this old heretic come and teach his Episcopal sheep. So what if Spong teaches that there was no virgin birth, so what if he professess that the wedding at Cana was Jesus' own wedding, and so what if he denies the physical resurrection of Jesus. 

According to Spong in his book "Jesus for the Non Religious,

Therefore, when I say that God was in Christ or when I assert that I meet God in the person of Jesus, I mean something quite different from the theological definitions of the past that forged doctrines like the incarnation and the trinity, both of which depend on a theistic definition of God. So in order to get to the essence of who Jesus was and even who Jesus is, I must get beyond the traditional theistic definition of God that I now regard as both simplistic and naïve, to say nothing of being wrong. p 214  
This means that anyone seeking to discover the meaning of Jesus today must be prepared to acknowledge that this story of the crucifixion is not history. While Jesus was undoubtedly crucified by the Romans, the familiar details that accompany the story of the cross are not literally true and did not actually happen. p. 112  
The resurrection language of the gospels is literal nonsense. Earthquakes do not announce earthly events. Angels do not invade time, space and history to roll back a stone, to make a historic resurrection announcement. A resuscitated Jesus does not walk out of his tomb in some physical form that can eat, drink, walk, talk, teach and expound on scriptures. p. 122
If anyone in the world qualifies as a false teacher, it would be Bishop Spong. Who dares to tell God what He cannot do?

So what Bishop in his right mind lets his priests invite false teachers into his house?

Upper South Carolina is going down the tubes. Thank you Bishop Spong, I now believe there will be no resurrection... of this diocese.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Do new revelations negate the teachings of scripture?

Today's reading from James 3:1-12 contains a number of excellent talking points and one line that raises an important question. As we shall see, a similar problem pops up in the Gospel reading.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
Did you catch the problem? Modern desalination plants use reverse osmosis to turn salty water into fresh. Do new discoveries negate the teachings of scripture?
This is an example that opponents of Biblical inerrancy might pull out when they argue against taking the Bible too seriously. The following arguments show the problems that you create once you raise doubts (however unfounded) about the authority of the writers of the Epistles.

  • James is wrong, so I wonder what else he got wrong
  • James was right at the time, so I wonder what else is not applicable to us today?
  • James was writing metaphorically, so does it matter if he was right or wrong?

These lines of reasoning are all problematic, raising questions of the value of the Bible as a spiritual resource.

Next, let's take a look at today's Gospel reading from Mark 8:27-38,
And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare′a Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Eli′jah; and others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he charged them to tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Uh oh, to many the "take up his cross" line looks suspiciously like the writer, knowing the ending of the story, inserted words into Jesus' mouth, and if the writer did that in this verse, where else did he alter the story?

The standard answer to the doubter is that Jesus knew that he would die upon a cross, and we might expect that the disciples were probably a bit bewildered at the reference, but still, once the doubt has been raised, the long term effect on the average pewsitter can only be negative.

Recently, the Episcopal church changed its teachings on marriage to permit same-sex marriage in the church. One bishop proclaimed this was done on the basis of "a new revelation."

It is easy to see how after several generations of revisionist teachings from the seminaries and the pulpits which have elevated doubt to the level of truth that the Episcopal church is primed to accept any and all new revelations that come into vogue, and along with the freedom to ignore the very words contained in the only source through which we have come to believe in the first place, the church cannot perform one of its primary duties: to transmit the Faith to an unbelieving world.

Once the church is free from the Bible, it is free to accept new revelations that otherwise would have been deemed unacceptable.

Such freedom should frighten TEc devotees.

Freed from the Bible, you become a slave to the ruler of this world.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Story of the Moral

Recently, Sarah Hey in a Facebook post wrote,

"I grew up on Aesop's Fables -- and I'm wondering who else did? It's striking how much practically every fable's moral has had some kind of impact on daily, weekly, yearly choices.
Of course, as with all morals, one may note -- with some bitterness & cynicism too -- the striking exceptions.
That's okay -- the world is a better place when people work towards the attitudes of most of those stories.
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.'
From The Lion & the Mouse, Aesop's Fables"
I too was raised with these stories, and I expect my parents were as well.

For thousands of years children have listened to, enjoyed, had their imaginations stimulated, and their morality shaped by stories. I suspect that for much of human history, the number of stories used in this way was limited to a few of the best and most memorable such as the stories from the Bible.

Today, we and our kids are awash with new stories. Many of these books, videos, and films are of no moral value, and more often than not, they teach either moral relativism or a new morality (previously called immorality).

What are children really learning?

By the time they reach school age, each has a library of stories in their heads that may be quite different than what is in the minds of their classmates, and entirely different from what their forefathers learned.

The accumulation of useless or harmful "fables" does not end with childhood. Adults too are susceptible. We are attracted to the new stories rather than being drawn to study the old. Have you not heard or said yourself, "I've seen/read/heard that before" as you chose what to pay attention to?

Our generation has lost the common story that is society's strength and the basis of humanity's transmitted wisdom.

The multiplicity of stories in today's world creates a multiplicity of muddled moralities. Is this how a culture should transmit its moral code?

 "Once an objective standard for morality is neglected, there is no longer any means for a proper appeal to objective reality whenever disputes arise; that is, there is no longer a way to settle disputes. Harmony is lost because the culture has no common tuning fork by which that harmony might be achieved." C.S. Lewis
No "common tuning fork" not due to a lack of stories but due to a plethora of them.

The moral of the story?

The story that no one wants to hear is the story of the moral, and that has caused much of our current trouble.

We would rather be entertained,

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Hyperperissōs: Above All Measure

This Sunday's Gospel lesson is Mark 7:31-37, and we are blessed to hear the record of yet another miraculous healing,

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

 Matthew Henry's Commentary from 1706 breaks it down,

He used more significant actions, in the doing of this cure, than usual. 
1. He put his fingers into his ears, as if he would syringe them, and fetch out that which stopped them up. 
2. He spit upon his own finger, and then touched his tongue, as if he would moisten his mouth, and so loosen that with which his tongue was tied; these were no causes that could in the least contribute to his cure, but only signs of the exerting of that power which Christ had in himself to cure him, for the encouraging of his faith, and theirs that brought him. The application was all from himself, it was his own fingers that he put into his ears, and his own spittle that he put upon his tongue; for he alone heals. 
3. He looked up to heaven, to give his Father the praise of what he did; for he sought his praise, and did his will, and, as Mediator, acted in dependence on him, and with an eye to him. Thus he signified that it was by a divine power, a power he had as the Lord from heaven, and brought with him thence, that he did this; for the hearing ear and the seeing eye the Lord has made, and can remake even both of them. He also hereby directed his patient who could see, though he could not hear, to look up to heaven for relief. Moses with his stammering tongue is directed to look that way (Exod. 4:11); Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb or deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Have not I the Lord? 
4. He sighed; not as if he found any difficulty in working this miracle, or obtaining power to do it from his father; but thus he expressed his pity for the miseries of human life, and his sympathy with the afflicted in their afflictions, as one that was himself touched with the feeling of their infirmities. And as to this man, he sighed, not because he was lothe to do him this kindness, or did it with reluctancy; but because of the many temptations which he would be exposed to, and the sins he would be in danger of, the tongue-sins, after the restoring of his speech to him, which before he was free from. He had better be tongue-tied still, unless he have grace to keep his mouth as with a bridle, Ps. 39:1. 
5. He said, Ephphatha; that is, Be opened. This was nothing that looked like spell or charm, such as they used, who had familiar spirits, who peeped and muttered, Isa. 8:19. Christ speaks as one having authority, and power went along with the word. Be opened, served both parts of the cure; “Let the ears be opened, let the lips be opened, let him hear and speak freely, and let the restraint be taken off;” and the effect was answerable (Mark 7:35); Straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and all was well: and happy he who, as soon as he had his hearing and speech, had the blessed Jesus so near him to converse with.
Now this cure was, (1.) A proof of Christ’s being the Messiah; for it was foretold that by his power the ears of the deaf should be unstopped, and the tongue of the dumb should be made to sing, Isa. 35:5, 6. (2.) It was a specimen of the operations of his gospel upon the minds of men. The great command of the gospel, and grace of Christ to poor sinners, is Ephphatha-Be opened. Grotius applies it thus, that the internal impediments of the mind are removed by the Spirit of Christ, as those bodily impediments were by the word of his power. He opens the heart, as he did Lydia’s, and thereby opens the ear to receive the word of God, and opens the mouth in prayer and praises. 
The reference to Grotius gives us an interesting bit of history,
In 1618 Grotius was sent to prison for his Arminian theological sympathies, by order of the Calvinist Prince Maurice of Nassau, but he escaped and settled in Paris. He wrote juridical, political, and theological works. His most famous book, intended as a handbook for the use of Dutch sailors traveling to the Far East, is De Veritate Religionis Christianae (On the truth of the Christian religion, 1627). In this book Grotius gives evidence of the truth of the Christian religion and refutes paganism, Judaism, and Islam. 
Getting back to Henry's Commentary,
6. He ordered it to be kept very private, but it was made very public (1.) It was his humility, that he charged them they should tell no man, Mark 7:36. Most men will proclaim their own goodness, or, at least, desire that others should proclaim it; but Christ, though he was himself in no danger of being puffed up with it, knowing that we are, would thus set us an example of self-denial, as in other things, so especially in praise and applause. We should take pleasure in doing good, but not in its being known. (2.) It was their zeal, that, though he charged them to say nothing of it, yet they published it, before Christ would have had it published. But they meant honestly, and therefore it is to be reckoned rather an act of indiscretion than an act of disobedience, Mark 7:36. But they that told it, and they that heard it, were beyond measure astonished, hyperperissos—more than above measure; they were exceedingly affected with it, and this was said by everybody, it was the common verdict, He hath done all things well (Mark 7:37); whereas there were those that hated and persecuted him as an evil-doer, they are ready to witness for him, not only that he has done no evil, but that he has done a great deal of good, and has done it well, modestly and humbly, and very devoutly, and all gratis, without money and without price, which added much to the lustre of his good works. He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak; and that is well, it is well for them, it is well for their relations, to whom they had been a burthen; and therefore they are inexcusable who speak ill of him.

Hyperperissōs (ὑπερπερισσῶς)  appears only once in the New Testament and means, "superabundantly, most vehemently, above all measure" (

Are we so superabundantly astonished when we hear this story today, or are our ears and hearts closed to the idea of miraculous healings from God through Jesus?

 Ephphatha my friends.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Ten Theses on the Door of 815

When Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenburg and kicked off the Reformation, the main thrust of his argument was that the Roman Catholic Church had created a new gospel regarding indulgences. The result was corruption of the Pope, clergy, and the Church. The Church fought back through defenders like Johann Tetzel. His arguments sound patently absurd to modern ears. Church trials could not stop Luther, and as his theses were theologically sound, the horse was out of the barn because the Roman Church would not agree to reform.

Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church has plodded on in spite of sharing the mantle of Christendom with various assorted Protestant denominations.

Today's Episcopal church has become corrupt in a similar manner to its ancient Godfather in Rome through a fabrication, an addition to the Gospel, or to quote an anonymous Episcopal bishop, a "revelation" of a theology of marriage that blesses same-sex unions as marriage. The Episcopal church's General Convention has become the sole arbiter of scriptural interpretation and a promoter of non-scriptural additions.

The die is cast, and no argument, no matter how convincing, will cause the Episcopal church to repent and reform.

It is probably past time for us to post theses on the doors of our Episcopal churches, but here are some anyway.

1. In the beginning God created them male and female.
2. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.
3. Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh.
4. The bishop who teaches that the union of two males or two females is a blessing from God has created a vision of marriage out of his own experience and has not arrived at this conclusion through study of Holy Scripture.
5. The priest or deacon who teaches that the union of two males or two females is a blessing from God has created a vision of marriage out of his own experience and has not arrived at this conclusion through study of Holy Scripture.
6. Elevating a non-biblical teaching to the level of gospel weakens the authority of the Gospel and creates a false gospel.
7. Promulgation of a false gospel is an action of false teachers.
8. The eternal consequences to the professors of false teaching are to be feared.
9. In the absence of repentance, false teachers should be shunned.
10. In the absence of repentance by the Church, there will occur a new Reformation.

Additions anyone?