Sunday, May 28, 2017

I am not asking on behalf of the world

This Sunday's reading is from John 17:1-11, and in it Jesus prepares his disciples for his ascension,

"After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
‘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. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 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. 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. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 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.'"

Jesus' prayer to God for his disciples,
"...protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."
has been considered somewhat problematic since Jesus is leaving out the rest of the world,
"I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me"
Readers should not be dismayed because by the time we get to John 17:20 (not heard today in church) Jesus adds,
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;"
Matthew Henry in his Concise Commentary puts it this way,
Christ prays for those that are his. Thou gavest them me, as sheep to the shepherd, to be kept; as a patient to the physician, to be cured; as children to a tutor, to be taught: thus he will deliver up his charge. It is a great satisfaction to us, in our reliance upon Christ, that he, all he is and has, and all he said and did, all he is doing and will do, are of God. Christ offered this prayer for his people alone as believers; not for the world at large. Yet no one who desires to come to the Father, and is conscious that he is unworthy to come in his own name, need be discouraged by the Saviour's declaration, for he is both able and willing to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him. Earnest convictions and desires, are hopeful tokens of a work already wrought in a man; they begin to evidence that he has been chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. They are thine; wilt thou not provide for thine own? Wilt thou not secure them? Observe the foundation on which this plea is grounded, All mine are thine, and thine are mine. This speaks the Father and Son to be one. All mine are thine. The Son owns none for his, that are not devoted to the service of the Father.

Reading the whole chapter always helps. Just the same, the prayer is for Jesus' disciples and those who will come to believe in him thanks to the ministry of those disciples and not for those who are unrepentant and who reject him. For them we shall pray to be given the strength and courage to spread the Gospel ourselves to that unbelieving world which lacks the protection and unity that we have in Jesus' name.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Anti-Semitic Films Shown at the Washington National Cathedral/Mosque

The National Cathedral in Washington DC is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and has been dishing out the Kool-Aid of progressive, revisionist theology for years. As a physical structure, it is an impressive sight, but due to the cancerous theology slowly eating away at its foundations, I can no longer visit the building. The contents of today's blog post nailed the lid on the coffin for one of my friends who has also cordoned off the site as a "no-go zone".

"The Occupation of the American Mind" is an 82 min film that was shown on March 05, 2017 in the Perry Auditorium of the Washington National Cathedral. This film's theme is that Americans have been lied to and brainwashed by the media (who are mere pawns in the hands of Zionists) and that it is the Jews who are the bad guys in the Middle East. 

Reports from Jihad Watch are that this was just one film out of a series promoted by the National Cathedral that follows the same theme. It is unconscionable that any Christian group sponsor such anti-Semitic propaganda. The possible intent of these presentations may be to weaken Episcopalian resistance to any "Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions" (BDS) resolutions that might be brought forward to the next General Convention (GC) of the Episcopal organization thirteen months from now. 

At the last General Convention, resolutions that would have started the Episcopal organization on the slippery slope towards BDS were rejected, much to the chagrin of the Rev. Winnie Varghese (Trinity Wall Street) whose comments can be found in her Huff Post article of 07/10/2015 titled "Episcopal Bishops Did Not Reject Divestment from Israel"
"We didn’t mention Boycott, Divestment, or Sanctions because we don’t believe that is where we are as a church."
(Readers please note that whenever a revisionist uses the words "where we are as a church", what they really mean is "where we need to be as a church")
"However, those who oppose any criticism of Israel, ever, made sure to claim that it was Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions that was being considered every time they spoke of our resolution. It was dishonest, but they were successful. They even got a headline that The New York Times picked up. Maybe a grateful lobbyist will get them another first class airfare to Israel and those awesome international frequent flyers miles."
 Doesn't that sound a lot like what is being preached in "The Occupation of the American Mind"?
"We have been targeted as a church before because of the perceived impact of mainline Protestants on public morality. The Institute for Religion and Democracy targeted us for a decade to try to force a split on sexuality. They are currently targeting other mainline traditions. The tactic is to keep us from hearing our own members and acting on our own beliefs, and it tends to be successful.
We are currently being targeted by advocacy groups whose agenda is to insure no public criticism of Israel, none, not of occupation; illegal settlement; or illegal attack." 
Remember the Rev. Winnie Varghese? She is an Episcopal lesbian Indian-American who was featured in the past at the Huffington Post in a piece called,  "Celebrating The Holy: Marriage Equality As Sacrament." 

Outlook India once did an article on her in which they wrote, 

"Winnie would like to see activists again on the steps and in the graveyard of St Marks like in the sixties, and in the days leading up to the Iraq war. 'Spirituality for me is very embodied. It's who we are on this earth, and how we treat each other on this planet.'"
"Divestment" in anything owned by an Israeli will probably be on the Episcopal General Convention agenda again in 2018. A task force will have to be appointed, and "The Occupation of the American Mind" will likely become part of the curriculum at Episcopal seminaries.

"Boycott" will be saved for 2021 and a resolution to create materials for congregations will be passed. The film series shown earlier at the National Cathedral will be asked to be circulated at the parish level.

"Sanctions" will be tabled until 2014 after which time activists will once again be seen on the steps and in the graveyard of St. Mark's.

If anyone is in the business of spreading lies and trying to brainwash people it is the clergy and staff of the Washington National Cathedral/Mosque by showing these anti-Semitic films.

The more the Cathedral staff continues to promote the Islamic worldview, the closer the Washington National Cathedral comes to becoming the Washington National Mosque. How their liberal minds can side with the same folks who provide us with suicide bombers and ISIS is a mystery to me.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The World is Blind

This Sunday's Gospel reading was John 14:15-21
‘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 for ever. 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.
 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth because it is blind and ignorant.

As part of the world I find that frightening.

Knowing Jesus, I am no longer frightened for myself, but worry about the world.

Too many Christians want to make the world a better place through social activism, but that just deepens the blindness of the world.

It should be obvious that we need to open people's eyes to Jesus, and to teach them his gospel so that they, as part of this broken world, can have the Spirit of truth abide in them too.

Now that would be world changing.

Please turn on your speakers, sit back and relax as the Cambridge singers under John Rutter perform "If Ye Love Me" by Thomas Tallis from 1560,

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Duke Divinity School professor of Catholic theology resigns after calling out the "illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies" of diversity training

As someone who has been required to attend a "Diversity Training" exercise, I have to agree with Duke Divinity School professor of Catholic theology Paul Griffiths that such "training" is a colossal waste of time, and while being good-intentioned, it often teaches a liberal ideology which must be accepted and followed if one wishes to remain employed.

The story from the Washington Times.
"The theologian created a firestorm on the Durham, North Carolina, campus this year when he responded to a facultywide email, sent by associate professor Anathea Portier-Young, that encouraged attendance at a two-day anti-racism program."
“I exhort you not to attend this training,” Mr. Griffiths wrote in the Feb. 6 email. “Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, cliches, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show.”
The dean of Duke Divinity School, Edith Heath, confirms those "illiberal and totalitarian tendencies" in the following words,
"She condemned Mr. Griffiths for using mass email 'in order to humiliate or undermine individual colleagues or groups of colleagues with whom we disagree.''The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution,' she wrote in the email, also sent Feb. 6.
I would consider calling Professor Griffiths a racist, a sexist, and a bigot, offensive and unacceptable, especially from someone in charge of a Christian institution. Her character assassinations add to a complaint from associate professor Anathea Portier-Young (who had sent out the original e-mail encouraging participation in the diversity training),
Ms. Portier-Young filed a complaint with the Office for Institutional Equity claiming the use of “racist and/or sexist speech in such a way as to constitute a hostile workplace,”
In addition, Valerie Cooper, Duke Divinity School associate professor of religion and society. accused Professor Griffiths of "academic malpractice",
“As you read Prof. Paul Griffiths‘ complaint, below, please bear in mind that Duke University has a clear statement in favor of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Ms. Cooper wrote on Facebook this month. “Because this statement *is* Duke University policy, being against diversity isn’t an issue of academic freedom. It is academic malpractice. If you can’t abide by Duke’s policies, you shouldn’t work for Duke.”
"Diversity" at Duke Divinity School obviously is noninclusive and nonequitable when it comes to diversity of opinion.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Slaughter of the Psalms

Once again I must say a few words about the faults of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The selections from the Bible that are read on Sunday mornings in churches that follow the RCL are often shortened. or chopped up and rearranged such that the average pewsitter is not given a chance to think about the original contexts and traditional understandings of scripture.

This Sunday is no exception.
31 In te, Domine, speravi 
1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.
3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, for you are my tower of strength.
5 Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me,O Lord, O God of truth.
15 My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies,and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me."

That is what we call around here, "Sunday Morning Sweet Milk". The pewsitters have no clue as to why the psalmist has to take refuge in the Lord. There is just one mention of the psalmist's enemies, and no mention at all of the retribution that will face them. For that, you have to read the complete psalm.

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.
3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength.
5 Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me, 
O Lord, O God of truth.6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols, and I put my trust in the Lord.
7 I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy; for you have seen my affliction;you know my distress.
8 You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place.
9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow,and also my throat and my belly.
10 For my life is wasted with grief,and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction,and my bones are consumed.
11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies andeven to my neighbors,a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.
13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;fear is all around; they put their heads together against me;they plot to take my life.
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, "You are my God. 
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and in your loving-kindness save me." 
17 Lord, let me not be ashamed for having called upon you; rather, let the wicked be put to shame;let them be silent in the grave.
18 Let the lying lips be silenced which speak againstthe righteous, haughtily, disdainfully, and with contempt.
19 How great is your goodness, O Lord!which you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have done in the sight of allfor those who put their trust in you.
20 You hide them in the covert of your presence from thosewho slander them; you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the Lord! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in abesieged city.
22 Yet I said in my alarm,"I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes." Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreatywhen I cried out to you.
23 Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful,but repays to the full those who act haughtily.
24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

Words like, "I hate those, let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in the grave, let the lying lips be silenced", are considered imprecatory verses, and these are the kinds of things that are typically not included in the Sunday church services of most mainline denominations.

Verses 9-14 remind me of the afflictions of Job,
9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow,and also my throat and my belly.10 For my life is wasted with grief,and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction,and my bones are consumed.11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies andeven to my neighbors,a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;fear is all around; they put their heads together against me;they plot to take my life.14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, "You are my God. 
These were not included in Sunday's expurgated version of Psalm 31. In them we see the reasons why the psalmist takes refuge in the Lord. To our fault, it is usually only in times of despair like those the psalmist is experiencing, that we turn to the Lord, and this is a lesson that is lost when the psalm is mutilated.

The Sunday sweet milk is not what we should be seeking. As we are reminded in the opening verses from another of today's RCL selections, 1 Peter 2:2-3,
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 
3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Lord forgive us for our sins of omission. Give us wisdom to drink from all of your holy words.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Death of Words: "Religion" and "Religious"

One of my favorite themes to look out for in our ever changing culture is the changing meaning of words. The changes occur subtly and gain a momentum such that most people are unaware of the fact that they are playing a role in a far greater game than simple word-play. 

The following example across my desk recently,
"Religion is for people who are scared to go to Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there." - Bonnie Raitt.
The singer/song-writer has defined "religion" for the modern age.

The Oxford Dictionary explains that the word has an older and perhaps now lost meaning.
"Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence’, perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind’."
More commonly but still in Oxford usage the word means,
  • "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods."
  • "A particular system of faith and worship."
  • "A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion."
 Bonnie Raitt and the zeitgeist follow the popular notion that religion, and I presume she is including Christianity, is built on fear of eternal punishment, damnation, and the fires of Hell rather than trust in a God who loves us so much that he would go through Hell himself to save us.

Yes we should fear Hell, but to assume that those who are "spiritual" have already been there and are not setting themselves on a path to go back there is a bit of a stretch.

Again, let's reference Oxford,
Spiritual: Adjective
  • "Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things."
  • "Having a relationship based on a profound level of mental or emotional communion."
  • "(Of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits."
  • "Relating to religion or religious belief."
As we see, in the older sense, "spiritual" and "religion/religious" are related.

To the modern singer/songwriter, and to many people today, they are totally unrelated things.

I think this is a change which creates a negative association with "religion" as opposed to the positive connotation given to "spirituality".

The Barna group has studied the "spiritual but not religious" group and concluded,
"By definition, the 'spiritual but not religious' are religiously disinclined, and the data bears this out in a number of ways... 
...It’s one thing to be disinclined, but it’s another to claim harm. The broader cultural resistance to institutions is a response to the view that they are oppressive, particularly in their attempts to define reality. Seeking autonomy from this kind of religious authority seems to be the central task of the “spiritual but not religious” and very likely the reason for their religious suspicion."

"Secondly, as functional outsiders, their view of religious distinctiveness is much looser than their religious counterparts. A majority of both groups (65% and 73%) are convinced that all religions basically teach the same thing, particularly striking numbers compared to evangelicals (1%) and practicing Christians (32%). Again, the “spiritual but not religious” shirk definition. The boundary markers are non-existent, and that’s the point. For them, there is truth in all religions, and they refuse to believe any single religion has a monopoly on ultimate reality."
I think that Bonnie Raitt may be claiming harm from religion, and in so doing she is guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The Christian religion has so much to offer, and to throw it out based on a stereotypical assumption that "religious" Christians are obsessed by the rightful fear of Hell is a very dangerous thing to do.

Matthew Henry centuries ago described the baby this way,
“The Christian religion is the religion of sinners, of such as have sinned, and in whom sin in some measure still dwells.
The Christian life is a life of continued repentance, humiliation for and mortification of sin, of continual faith in, thankfulness for, and love to the Redeemer, and hopeful joyful expectation of a day of glorious redemption, in which the believer shall be fully and finally acquitted, and sin abolished for ever.”― Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

When I mourn the death of "religion", I am mourning the loss of the older meanings for the word, for as C.S. Lewis wrote,
"And when, however reverently, you have killed a word you have also, as far as in you lay, blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for. Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten to say." - C.S. Lewis, "The Death of Words" From (C.S. Lewis On Stories, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1982, p. 107)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

You may have a fence and a gatekeeper, but bad guys will still get in

This Sunday's reading from John 10:1-10. In it, Jesus tells a story about how sheep are kept safe from predators by keeping them in a gated pen and how sheep and the shepherd interact once the shepherd comes to lead them out to pasture. His followers didn't get it and needed more explanation,
"‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them."
"So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.'"
The gatekeeper's identity is not clear, but we shouldn't worry too much about this because Jesus is the gate and can open himself. Still, a gatekeeper is in the story and various commentators have their opinions. Matthew Henry in his "Concise Commentary" names the "Spirit of Christ" as the one who opens the gate,
"Here is a parable or similitude, taken from the customs of the East, in the management of sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of his pasture. The church of God in the world is as a sheep-fold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The great Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are his, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, as the Eastern shepherds went before their sheep, to set them in the way of his steps. Ministers must serve the sheep in their spiritual concerns. The Spirit of Christ will set before them an open door. The sheep of Christ will observe their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy of strangers, who would draw them from faith in him to fancies about him."
All of us sheep need to learn how to recognize the shepherd's voice. As far as I can tell, the best way to do this is to study the Bible in the company of other faithful Christians. This also helps us learn how to recognize the thieves and bandits who are always finding a way into the sheepfold around the gate and the gatekeeper.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Rubicon of Homosexual "Marriage"

"Homosexual marriage is the Rubicon that biblical Christians may not cross under any circumstances."Gavin Ashenden
When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river in 49 BC, it marked a turning point in the history of the world. For Caesar, there was no turning back. When Christians cross the Rubicon of homosexual marriage, they leave the "One holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" in which they once professed belief with every recitation of the Nicene Creed. Unlike Caesar, they can cross back over their Rubicon, but how many will do so? Inebriated with the power of going along with the masses, it is unlikely that they will submit themselves to the rule of Christ.

Those of us who continue to blog about same-sex "marriage" are often told to shut up and accept defeat. If we give up the fight and stop discussing the subject, no one will hear the good news that there is a better way and that Jesus told us this when he preached about the male-female relationship.
 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
 If no one reminds former Christians of these things, few will turn back from their march towards the decadent future that awaits those who cross the Rubicon of homosexual "marriage".

So, we must continue to shout in order to be heard over the roaring waters of this modern day Rubicon in hopes that some might cross back over to Jesus' side.

John Frame of the Reformed Theological Seminary puts it this way in his review of Al Mohler's "We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong",
"For all of this, the rebuke we receive in the title of Mohler’s book rightly commands us to action. I hope that the Christian community will hearken to it. As Christian citizens, we must bring God’s word into the present deplorable situation, lest we be prevented from speaking it at all."

Sunday, April 30, 2017

To Emmaus and Back

This Sunday's Gospel reading was from Luke 24:13-35 and tells the story of two followers of Jesus who met the resurrected Lord as they walked away from Jerusalem, but they did not recognize him.

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles (sixty stadia or 7.5 miles and some texts say one hundred and sixty stadia) from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Fifteen miles in one day is a good hike. Sixteen miles on a mountain trail is the most I have done.

The average walking speed of a human is 3.1 miles per hour. So let us say, 7.5 miles to walk to Emmaus, 1 hour for lunch with Jesus, 7.5 miles back to Jerusalem. Total elapsed time for Cleopas and his companion was 5 to 6 hours. Total time with Jesus is not so clear, but for him  to expound on the scriptures and how he was revealed in them probably took a couple of hours. Lucky guys, or were they both guys?

In John 19:25 we see a reference to someone with a very similar name,

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

John spells the name differently. but he may be referring to the same person. Perhaps Cleopas was accompanied by his wife on the road to Emmaus.

I wonder what ever happened to Cleopas, and his wife?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Collective Guilt: Apologizing For Something You Did Not Do

I never will understand why people and organizations feel the need to apologize for somebody else's behavior especially when the actions in question occurred several generations ago and when all of those involved have been dead for a century or more. Yes, the organization may live on, but to whom is it going to apologize (assuming an organization can apologize)? 

I have seen this behavior carried out in the Episcopal organization time and time again, first with apologizing for not ordaining women, then apologizing for any role the church and its members played in slavery, and most recently over the treatment of LGBTs. Two items in the news recently raised the question in my mind, "What does all of this accomplish?"

First, we see in New Orleans the removal of historical monuments related to the War of Northern Aggression. The current mayor, who once was a neighbor to my folks, removed the first of these monuments this week with the eventual goal of removing a prominent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from what is currently named "Lee Circle". Gen Lee is not alone as other monuments are slated for relocation with him to a dark warehouse somewhere.

One carnival organization took the mayor to task during its Mardi Gras parade with this satirical float which I photographed in their top-secret den prior to its rolling down St. Charles avenue,

Needless to say, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's revisionist actions have raised the ire of historical preservationists while gaining him support from his political base, making him feel good, but polarizing the city, a city that has a long history of avoiding race riots and other consequences of racial divisiveness. Attempts to revise history by erasing the past are just one manifestation of the collective guilt virus.

The apology virus also appears to have infected the Jesuits in which the disease has resulted in a “contrition liturgy". The following is from the Religion News Service,

WASHINGTON (RNS) The leader of the Catholic religious order that helped found Georgetown University addressed more than 100 descendants of slaves and sought their forgiveness.
“Today the Society of Jesus, which helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say: We have greatly sinned, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do,” said the Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
Georgetown has recently acknowledged it benefited from the sale of more than 250 slaves in 1838 to pay off its debts. On Tuesday (April 18), it apologized for its role in the slave trade during a formal “contrition” liturgy.
Some of the descendants of those slaves spoke during the ceremony, jointly hosted by the school, the Jesuit order and the Archdiocese of Washington. One of their representatives said penance is required, even as forgiveness is sought.
“Penance is very important,” said Sandra Green Thomas, president of the GU272 Descendants Association. “Penance is required when you have violated God’s law.”
In 1838, the school was involved in the sale of 272 slaves who worked on Jesuit plantations in southern Maryland. The sale benefited that state’s Jesuits and paid off debts at a precarious moment for the nation’s oldest Catholic university.
The “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope,” was steeped in symbolism of time and space. It was held two days after Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and a day after Emancipation Day, a holiday that marks the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia in 1862.
CS Lewis dissected the problem of repenting for another when he considered the growing expressions of "national guilt" in England over the possibility that governmental policies may have pushed Germany into starting WWII.

 Young Christians especially last-year undergraduates and first-year curates are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England hears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?
    If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet. whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’
C.S. “Jack” Lewis, “Dangers of National Repentance,” The Guardian, 15 March 1940,
Cited from God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 189.
The false sense of having done something good by "repenting" of the sins of an ancestor, an organization, or any remotely related entity to oneself masks the sin of failing to repent of one's own sins.

The present rush to express collective guilt is either a form of madness or as Lewis might put it, it is an abominable play on our emotions suggested by Satan himself.

The only things pulling down historical monuments or issuing apologies in the form of contrition liturgies accomplish are a feeding of the ego and an undeserved a sense of pride in doing what might temporarily increase one's popularity among a constituency.

And the last time I checked, pride was still one of the seven deadly sins.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

From the beginning, it was all about saving souls

Over the course of a lifetime wasted listening to Episcopal priests downplaying the notion of heaven, reinterpreting the meaning of "eternal life", and scoffing at those who sought to "save souls", I have come to realize how harmful those sermons were to the body of Christ. In the first decades of Christianity, salvation and the promise of eternal life were central to the spread of the Gospel as evidenced by this Sunday's reading from 1 Peter 1:3-9

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Granted that the work of saving souls belongs not to man, it is clear that preaching the good news of salvation through belief in and love for Jesus remains as important today as it did in the time of Peter.

Giving up on modern preaching which is afraid to mention the hereafter and instead is obsessed with speaking out on issues of the day, I turn today to a classic sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1898-1981) entitled, "A Living Hope of the Hereafter",

 This old world is doomed. It is a sinful world, an awful world, and man can never make it a good world. He can protest, he can march, he can pass acts of Parliament. But he can never make the world good, because the sin is in himself. When he lived in paradise, he turned it into a place of shame.
O No! Man can never put this world right, but God can, and He will. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." A lively hope of what? That this old world is going to be renewed! The regeneration is going to take place in the entire cosmos. When? When the Lord Jesus Christ comes again in glory. The Lord Jesus Himself tells of "the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory' (Matt. 19:28b). That is the Christian message. He has triumphed over all His enemies. He is risen, and He is seated at the right hand of God. What is He doing? He is waiting until His enemies become His footstool (Ps. 110:1). Then He will come back to earth again as "King of kings and Lord of lords." He will destroy out of existence all that is sinful and vile, ugly and foul. He will renew the whole creation, and bring in His glorious kingdom. The City of God, the New Jerusalem, will descend, and God will make His tabernacle amongst men.
This is what the living hope means to us. If we are Christians we shall be there. Not as vague spirits floating in a nameless sea of existence. No--but in this body as glorified, delivered from all vestiges of sin and shame, weakness and wildness. You will be identified as yourself. You will be in a glorified body. "Our citizenship is in heaven," says Paul to the Philippians, "whence also we wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change this our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working of that mighty power by which he is able to subdue even all things unto himself" (3:20-21).

Amen to that Brother! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Local Shamanism Lessons This Weekend

I am posting this for my liberal Episcopalian friends who are seriously into other religions and for my serious Christian friends who might find the following notice amusing and sad. I know some Episcopalians who will be interested in this workshop. They should feel free to contact me for the details since I have redacted the contact information.

This is the Basic workshop through The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, a non-profit public 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization. 
Shamanic Journeying, Power, and Healing

During the Basic experiential workshop, participants are introduced to core shamanism, the universal, near-uni-versal, or common basic methods of the shaman to enter nonordinary reality for problem solving and healing.
That was a mouthful. It kinda reminds me of Episcobabble. I guess I'll call it "Shamanababble".
Particular emphasis is on the classic shamanic journey, one of the most remarkable visionary methods used by humankind to explore the hidden universe otherwise known mainly through myth and dream.
Aren't hallucinogenic drugs part of the classic shamanic journey?
Participants are initiated into shamanic journeying, aided by drumming and other techniques for experiencing the shamanic state of consciousness and for awakening dormant spiritual abilities, including connections with Nature. 
At least there are none of those unnatural tambourines.
Practice includes comparisons by participants of their discoveries in shamanic journeys as well as being introduced to shamanic divination and healing. They are also provided with methods for journeying to meet and study with their own individual spirit helpers in nonordinary reality, a classic step in shamanic practice.
I always wanted to meet someone in nonordinary reality.
Participants learn how the journey is utilized to restore spiritual power and health, and how shamanism can be applied in contemporary daily life to help heal oneself, others, and the Planet. 
Can you earn a degree in Planetary Medicine?
Please bring:• A rattle or a drum if you have one.• A bandana or other eye covering.• A cushion and/or blanket.• A rough-surfaced GRAPEFRUIT-sized rock.• A pen and notebook to record your journeys.• A bag lunch (optional).
Wear comfortable layered clothing and warm socks. Please do not use perfumes or scented oils (some participants may have allergies). 
I knew I should have kept that GRAPEFRUIT sized rock.
Completion of this workshop qualifies participants to take more advanced FSS workshops.
(and spend more money)
WORKSHOP DATE AND TIMEApril 22 & 23, 2017 10 am - 5:30 pm
FEE AND REGISTRATIONFee: $250 with a $25 discount for paid in full registration by March 24, 2017.
Only 250 bucks to journey universally, near-uni-versally, or commonly into nonordinary reality! Sign me up!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Week Classical Break: Miserere Mei Deus (Allegri)

I hope everyone will sit down in a quiet spot, close their eyes, and listen as Psalm 51 is sung in my favorite setting, Allegri's Miserere.

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The following history is from and provides a most excellent background on the history of the music,

Allegri's masterpiece was written sometime before 1638 for the annual celebration of the matins during Holy Week (the Easter celebration). Twice during that week, on Wednesday and Friday, the service would start at 3AM when 27 candles were extinguished one at a time until but one remained burning. According to reports, the pope would participate in these services. Allegri composed his setting of the Miserere for the very end of the first lesson of these Tenebrae services. At the final candle, the pope would kneel before the altar and pray while the Miserere was sung, culminating the service.
The idea of using a solemn setting of the "Miserere mei Deus" psalm likely started during the reign of Pope Leo X (1513-1521). Contemporaneous accounts relate the use of the Miserere in this way in the year 1514. The earliest surviving setting is dated 1518 and was composed by Costanzo Festa (c. 1490- 1545). Festa's Miserere was sung in the "falsobordone" style, which is an ancient and rather simple means of harmonizing on traditional Gregorian chant. His setting consisted of nine vocal parts split into two choirs, the first a five-part and the second a four-part, each alternating with the traditional Gregorian plainsong melodies, and then coming back together again for the last verse. Festa's setting was the first of twelve such settings collected in a two-volume manuscript preserved in the Pontifical Chapel archives. Ten more contributors, including Guerrero and Palestrina, are represented in these volumes before the final manuscript of Allegri's celebrated work, following exactly the same ensemble layout as Festa's original work and is likewise in the falsobordone style, closes the collection of twelve.
It was not long before Allegri's Miserere was the only such work sung at these services. With its soaring soprano parts (sung for centuries by castrati) and compelling melodic style, the work enjoyed almost immediate popularity. So impressed was some subsequent pope that the work thereafter was protected and a prohibition was placed on its use outside the Sistine Chapel at the appointed time. Chapel regulations forbid its transcription; indeed, the prohibition called for excommunication for anyone who sought to copy the work. In spite of this, by 1770 three copies were known to exist. One was owned by the King of Portugal; another was in the possession of the distinguished composer, pedagogue, and theoretician Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784); and a third was kept in the Imperial Library in Vienna.
It is here that the first tale contributes to the mystique that has come to surround this work. The copy in the Imperial Library was brought to Vienna by Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705), who, having heard of the piece from dignitaries visiting Rome, instructed his ambassador to the Vatican to ask the Pope for a copy of the work for performance in the royal chapel. The Pope eventually obliged, but when the work was performed in Vienna, it was so disappointing that the Emperor believed he had been deceived, and a lesser work sent to him instead. He complained to the Pope, who fired his Maestro di Cappella. The unfortunate man pleaded for a papal audience, explaining that the beauty of the work owed to the special performance technique used by the papal choir, which could not be set down on paper. The Pope, understand nothing of music, granted the man permission to go to Vienna and make his case, which he did successfully, and was rehired. In fact, it is this elaborate performance technique, including improvised counterpoint, first employed soon after the work was written, that has been approximated in a recent recording by A Sei Voci on Astree.
The next famous story concerning the Miserere involves the 12-year-old Mozart. On December 13, 1769, Leopold and Wolfgang left Salzburg and set out for a 15-month tour of Italy where, among other things, Leopold hoped that Wolfgang would have the chance to study with Padre Martini in Bologna, who had also taught Johann Christian Bach several years before. On their circuitous route to Bologna, they passed through Innsbruck, Verona, Milan, and arrived in Rome on April 11, 1770, just in time for Easter. As with any tourist, they visited St. Peter's to celebrate the Wednesday Tenebrae and to hear the famous Miserere sung at the Sistine Chapel. Upon arriving at their lodging that evening, Mozart sat down and wrote out from memory the entire piece. On Good Friday, he returned, with his manuscript rolled up in his hat, to hear the piece again and make a few minor corrections. Leopold told of Wolfgang's accomplishment in a letter to his wife dated April 14, 1770 (Rome):
"…You have often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prized that the performers are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away a single part of it, copy it or to give it to anyone. But we have it already. Wolfgang has written it down and we would have sent it to Salzburg in this letter, if it were not necessary for us to be there to perform it. But the manner of performance contributes more to its effect than the composition itself. Moreover, as it is one of the secrets of Rome, we do not wish to let it fall into other hands…."
Wolfgang and his father then traveled on to Naples for a short stay, returning to Rome a few weeks later to attend a papal audience where Wolfgang was made a Knight of the Golden Spur. They left Rome a couple of weeks later to spend the rest of the summer in Bologna, where Wolfgang studied with Padre Martini.
The story does not end here, however. As the Mozarts were sightseeing and traveling back to Rome, the noted biographer and music historian, Dr. Charles Burney, set out from London on a tour of France and Italy to gather material for a book on the state of music in those countries. By August, he arrived in Bologna to meet with Padre Martini. There he also met Mozart. Though little is known about what transpired between Mozart and Burney at this meeting, some facts surrounding the incident lead to interesting conjecture. For one, Mozart's transcription of Allegri's Miserere, important in that it would presumably also reflect the improvised passages performed in 1770 and thus document the style of improvisation employed by the papal choir, has never been found. The second fact is that Burney, upon returning to England near the end of 1771, published an account of his tour as well as a collection of music for the celebration of Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. This volume included music by Palestrina, Bai, and, for the first time, Allegri's famous Miserere. Subsequently, the Miserere was reprinted many times in England, Leipzig, Paris and Rome, effectively ending the pope's monopoly on the work.
It is not known where Burney obtained his copy of the Miserere. It has been suggested that Maestro di Cappella Santarelli at the Vatican gave him a copy, which he checked against Padre Martini's manuscript when he visited Bologna. This is certainly possible, as is the alternative that he simply obtained a copy from Martini. However, both explanations seem unlikely given the papal strictures placed on copying the manuscript. Is it possible that Burney took Mozart's transcription, perhaps compared it to Martini's copy, and then published a cleaned-up version, minus the improvisations, and destroyed Mozart's manuscript to protect him as Catholic subject of the Holy Roman Empire? We may never know the whole story.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Artist's Vision of a Gay Jesus

The Jesus in Love blog attempts to bring Jesus to the LGBTQ community, and their methods are of necessity, revisionist.

For example, last year they presented Douglas Blanchard’s “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”, a series of paintings of the artist's vision of Jesus' last days and resurrection.
"The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city as he lives out the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection...
Blanchard’s images show Jesus being jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He stands up to priests, businessmen, lawyers, and soldiers—all of whom look eerily similar to the people holding those jobs today. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom."
To some people this is what Holy Week is all about.

From Jesus in Love Blog

For an example of the paintings, click here... if you dare,

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

On Female Bishops

I know I will get blasted for this one.

My opposition to female bishops goes back to Titus 1:5-9,

"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.  An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
I also look to Jesus' non-inclusive and less than diverse choices for his twelve closest followers.

In order to be in favor of female bishops in the Church, I believe that one must decide to keep the two examples cited above locked into their historical eras. In so doing, these facts become irrelevant to any discussion about how the present day Church is structured. This way of reading the Bible inevitably leads to one becoming free to discard any part of scripture with which one is uncomfortable. The "authority of scripture" thus becomes the "authority of me".

What else did Paul write that can be ignored? Romans 1: 26-27 is a favorite one,
"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."
I am not aware of any female bishops in the Episcopal organization who believe that either Titus 1:5-9 or Romans 1:26-27 have any applicability to today's Church.

To put it bluntly, in order to be a female bishop, you first must have a revisionist mindset.

And I am not in favor of revisionist bishops.

I hope the logical side of my brain can silence the emotional side which is screaming its lobes out in a visceral reaction to the new female bishop of the Diocese of Spokane. Spokane is an "inclusive diocese", and she should fit right in.

Spokane is also a dying diocese having lost 28% of average Sunday attendance between 2005-2015.

Don't look for a major turnaround anytime soon.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Lenten Spirit: "To set the mind on the flesh is death"

This Sunday's reading is from Romans 8:6-11, 
"To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."
Paul is fleshing out a theme he introduced in Romans 7:24-25,
"Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin."
Paul's words of encouragement to the Romans in Romans 8 have to be tempered against the realization that his audience is just as wretched as him.

Most sermons today will probably focus on the positive aspects of being "in the spirit", and the resuscitation of  Lazarus (the Gospel lesson) while totally ignoring the reason why we need the Holy Spirit and Jesus in the first place.

Most pewsitters will probably be too in the flesh to notice.

Just trying to keep everyone in the Lenten spirit.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Charlotte North Carolina Schools remove "Jacob's New Dress", but add one that might be just as bad.

Controversies over what is taught in public schools are nothing new. Recently, our liberal neighbors across the border have come under fire for trying to add a pro-transgender children's' book to the first-grade curriculum.

Here's how WSOC reported it,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - "The Amazon summary for the book 'Jacob's New Dress' describes a story about the unique challenges faced when someone doesn't identify with traditional gender roles.
In the book, Jacob wants to wear a dress to school.
The book was supposed to be part of an anti-bullying lesson for first graders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
But not everyone was in agreement.
CMS board member Rhonda Lennon said that a concerned teacher spoke up about the book.
That concern made its way to Raleigh and lawmakers contacted the CMS Board of Education, which didn’t know about the book selection.
'Apparently, we were the topic of conversation for most of the General Assembly off and on yesterday,” Lennon said. "I think there are ways that we could have incorporated that kind of communication and that type of a curriculum with our students to make sure people are treating everybody respectfully without really going that far and it just feels like we went too far.'
Lennon said after all the discussion, the book was pulled Tuesday morning."
So, what was put in its place?
"Instead, students will read 'Red: A Crayon's Story,' which is about a red crayon that sees itself as blue."
Which, in my opinion, is just a backdoor way to present the same message that self-identification trumps any external source of characterization. In other words, putting a blue cover on a red crayon or a red cover on a blue crayon is essentially the same as putting a frilly dress on a little boy or a pair of greasy coveralls on a little girl.

"Red: A Crayon's Story" is a favorite of the transgender community. The following is from Gay Star News,
"Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue.While everyone around him wants him to do ‘red’ things, and draw things like strawberries, Red just ends up all blue. He can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries!Finally, after being given a brand-new perspective, Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue.Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall can be written in many ways, but especially as a tale to explain transgender people to a young child."
Of course, the LGBT community has their panties/briefs/boxers/thongs in a knot as WSOC reports,
"Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, responded.
'Every student should have the right to learn from and understand diverse perspectives of the many backgrounds that make up a large school district like CMS,' Sgro said. 'It's sad that some are unwilling to allow students this opportunity and seem to stop at nothing to push their extreme views about LGBTQ people on children at any cost. Let's be very clear, children don't have closed minds, but sadly yet again, adults have proven that they do. The only thing controversial about these books is that it seems some have blown their understanding of the intent of this curriculum way out of proportion. All students deserve to have their experiences represented in the curriculum taught to them, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, ability and class.'"

To WSOC's credit, they balanced the story with an opposing viewpoint,

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of N.C. Values Coalition added a statement on CMS’s attempt to mandate transgender curriculum.
"As Charlotte's City Council passed an outrageous ordinance last year that made it necessary for the state to correct the mistake with HB2, Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools were working on rolling out a new anti-bullying policy that seeks to indoctrinate students in the school district by normalizing transgender behavior.
"The purpose of our elementary schools is to teach writing, reading and arithmetic, not to encourage boys to wear dresses. CMS is failing our children. In the recent 2016 state academic ratings, 43 of 165 CMS schools achieved overall pass rates below 50 percent and a majority (59 percent) earned a grade of C or below when measuring student proficiency and growth. These lessons found in the book, Jacob’s New Dress and My Princess Boy and other transgender curriculum that are not appropriate for any child whose parents support traditional family values.
There is no question that this attempt by CMS staff to mandated training is nothing more than putting a dress on CMS's Gender Unicorn. We encourage CMS to refocus on their mission of maximizing academic achievement instead of advancing this controversial curriculum."

I always wondered why the gender unicorn was naked and sexless.

Things were so much easier when I was in first grade and we learned how to read using the Dick and Jane books and the most controversial thing was Dick's name.

If they used those books today, I bet someone would change the names,

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Turning a Blind Eye: Défense de cracher

Back in high school, my French teacher had a sign over the chalkboard that read "Défense de cracher" which means,

No Spitting!

Monsieur Berard always got a laugh when new students asked him what "Défense de cracher" meant. It was a good icebreaker as many of his students had limited previous exposure to the French language and were probably a bit apprehensive about taking his class. Once the meaning of the sign was revealed, the students could see that our teacher was a good man who we could love and learn from.

This Sunday's Gospel reading from John 9 relates the story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth. Later, after gaining his sight, the man met Jesus, recognized him as Lord, and worshiped him. Jesus' method of spitting on the ground, making some mud, and applying the mud to the man's eyes might make my Ophthalmologist squirm, but the miracle of healing the blind and the theme John uses of removing spiritual blindness should resonate with many in the pews this morning.

Unfortunately, the people who are not in the pews today are the very ones in need of a spit of mud in the eye.

Who will carry the good news to those who choose to not worship the Lord today? Who will tell them that there is a beautiful new life to experience if they simply let Jesus heal them of their blindness?   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lay Pastoral Caregivers: Should Priests Delegate Pastoral Care Duties?

Looking back at a post aimed at pastors titled "How Pastoral Care Stunts The Growth Of Most Churches" by Carey Nieuwhof from November 16, 2015, makes me think of certain failures I have witnessed in the Episcopal organization, the most important of which is the failure for a parish church to grow in spite of a growth in the surrounding population. While the failed theology of the Episcopal organization is reason enough (I could never recommend this denomination to a new convert), one has to look at what local leadership is or is not doing to bring people to Christ. Raising up evangelists is one thing, another important part of a church ministry is the development of disciples from within who can take on some of the pastoral care needs of the church freeing the priest/minister/pastor to focus on growth. Episcopalians are not alone in this failure. Nieuwhof in the process of promoting his book, thinks failure to delegate pastoral care is a major factor holding churches back,

"The Barna group reports the average Protestant church size in America as 89 adults. 60% of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending..."
"If pastors could figure out how to better tackle the issue of pastoral care, I’m convinced many more churches would grow..."
"When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding and funeral and make regular house calls, attend every meeting, and lead every bible study or group, he or she becomes incapable of doing almost anything else..."
"Message preparation falls to the side, and providing organizational leadership for the future is almost out of the question..."
"Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not. Many pastors burn out trying.
The pastoral care model most seminaries teach and most congregations embrace creates false and unsustainable expectations..."
It’s ironic. They very thing you’re great at (pastoral care) eventually causes your exit when you can no longer keep up."
For many years I worked 24/7, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Getting called out at all hours of the night and then being expected to perform at a 100% level the next day is tough, and while most younger people can keep that up for a few years, I know how that can lead to burn out especially if you are over 40. People in that situation should realize that something has to be done in order to bring in associates or the church will never be able to grow. With the average Episcopal Sunday attendance running around 58, most parishes can barely afford a full-time priest who just cannot do it all (although many think they can). A small church usually believes that their options are to either dig deep into their pockets and bring in a church growing assistant priest/minister/pastor, or a perhaps a deacon who can take over the pastoral care duties while the existing leadership focuses on growth. Those church-growers who want to serve as an assistant are few and far between, and deacons are the Bishop's men/women and not always consistently available.

Nieuwhof figured that changes were needed in his ministry and looked to lead instead of continue as a pastor to a pastoral size church.
"The goal of Christian leadership is to lead, not to be liked.
If a church is going to grow, congregations have to let go of the expectation that their pastor will be available for every medical emergency, every twist and turn in their lives, every family celebration and every crisis.
That’s a tough sell for many congregations, but if a church is going to grow, it has to happen..."
The average pew sitter expects his or her pastor to be there whenever they experience a change in their status, and that is unrealistic. Even Moses, Jesus, and the Apostles delegated authority to others,
"So how do you deal with this?  Have the courage to shift care to the congregation.
The best answer I know of for pastoral care in a larger church is to teach people to care for each other in groups.
Groups based care isn’t just practical. It’s biblical.
It’s thoroughly biblical: going back to Exodus 18, when Jethro confronted Moses about doing everything himself.
Even Jesus adopted the model of group care, moving his large group of hundreds of  disciples into groups of seventy, twelve, three, and then one."
The idea of creating lay pastoral caregivers is nothing new, but in my experience with the Episcopal organization and the Community of Hope lay chaplain training program, well trained, licensed lay chaplains have been underutilized by their rectors, rectors who continued to shoulder most of the load to the neglect of putting more effort into church growth. Those rectors or their parishioners were guilty of not "letting go" of the old model, not accepting that,
 "98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.
2% of the time you’ll have situations where the need of a member exceeds the ability of the group to help..." 
While we were successful at a local level of creating pastoral care teams which were great at organizing meals and snacks for funerals, the rector continued to handle most of the pastoral care and the best our church could do was to slow the decline.

Unfortunately for the Episcopal denomination, it appears that most people going into seminary are drawn to ministry because they have a personality profile that matches someone who is best suited for pastoral care rather than true Christian leadership, and when "called" to be a full-time rector will have a great deal of difficulty delegating that role to lowly pew sitters. That same personality type will condemn the rector to a career of frustration as they are forced into the role of "leader".

So, the answer to the question, "Should Priests Delegate Pastoral Care Duties" is "Yes", but priests should maintain a supervisory role and train and select their lay pastoral team carefully.    

Sunday, March 19, 2017

There are conditions to be met before drinking this water

Last Sunday's Gospel reading was John 4:5-42 in which Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. Out of this relatively lengthy Sunday morning lesson, I have chosen to highlight just two sentences which usually go unmentioned in the typical sermon,

Jacob's well

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 
The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 
The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you* say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’ 
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,* can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.
 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving* wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ 
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’
Jesus' initial response to the woman was to indirectly confront her with her sins, sins that she tried to hide.

Isn't that typical of how we respond to Jesus as well?

For years I treated this passage just as proof that Jesus could see my sins, but in light of the rest of the story it would appear that as a pre-condition to taking a drink of the "living water" we must fess up our sins, sins that Jesus already knows, and will forgive.

All of this has the making of an effective argument against communion of the unprepared and a strong argument for the Prayer of Humble Access.

How might you respond if when you approach the altar rail for communion the priest was to say, "Go call your love, and come back." ?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What is the problem with the "Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement"?

This year and the next are supposed to be years of revival in the the Episcopal organization (TEc). The first revival was held in Pittsburgh last month. So far there is no indication of anything of any substance having occurred. Where are the thousands of new converts? Considering the fact that the Episcopal organization is trying to pass off a false gospel on any unbelievers who might stumble into one of their revivals, no news might be good news.

These revivals sound more like social activism recruitment drives,
"The six Episcopal Revivals will vary in design, but most will be multi-day events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, topical speakers, invitation to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren’t active in a faith community."
One catch phrase that the Presiding Bishop has used to promote his revivals is "The Jesus Movement". What he means by this can best(?) be explained by TEc itself.
"What is the Jesus Movement?We’re following Jesus into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with the earth. 
How do we join? First, we follow Jesus. We are simply the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, seeking every day to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Just like Jesus. 
What’s our work?We’re working on simple practices for each priority area – if it’s a Movement, then we should all be able to grasp the ideas and get on board. Then we’re mapping a strategy that inspires and equips all of us to join God and make a difference. 
The Jesus Movement takes you places. For the Episcopal Church, it calls us to focus on three specific Jesus Movement Priorities: 
1) EVANGELISM:Listen for Jesus' movement in our lives and in the world.Give thanks. Proclaim and celebrate it! Invite the Spirit to do the rest. 
2) RECONCILIATION:Embody the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus with each other   
3) CREATION CARE:Encounter and honor the face of God in creation 

  • INSPIRE Episcopalians to embrace evangelism 
  • TELL the truth about church and race 
  • DEVELOP creation care resources 
  • GATHER Episcopal evangelists 
  • REWRITE the narrative 
  • GROW local eco-ministries 
  • EQUIP all to be evangelists 
  • FORM Episcopalians as reconcilers 
  • PURSUE eco-justice at church-wide and local levels 
  • SEND all as evangelists 
  • REPAIR  and RESTORE institutions and society 
  • CONVENE conversations around climate and faith"
"Develop creation care resources", "Grow eco-ministries", and "pursue eco-justice"? Is that the evangelism Episcopalians will learn to embrace at these revivals?  Count me out..

"Tell the truth about church and race" can be said in one sentence, "Episcopalians are predominately white."

"Rewriting the narrative" sounds like more of the revisionism that has been such a disaster for the Episcopal denomination.

"Repair and restore institutions and society" is a pretty ironic goal considering what the Episcopal organization has done in the past to weaken the institution of marriage.

"Convene conversations around climate and faith." The presumption is that everyone shares the faith in the climate change due to humanity theory.

I don't know about you, but I don't see anything in there about bringing unbelievers into belief in Jesus as Lord or spreading the good news of Christ born, crucified, and resurrected for our sins.

Since they are going about it all wrong, I predict that the Episcopal revivals will fall flat and that the great Episcopal decline will continue unabated.

Matt Kennedy who is Rector (Senior Pastor) at the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY explains the problem this way,
"Love God and love your neighbor is not the Gospel. It's the law. And no one can do it. The Episcopal Church's "Jesus Movement", Andy Stanley's 'attractional church', and a number of other church-growth gurus embrace the Great Commandment and the second like it as "the message" of Jesus and believe it is the key to renewal and growth. Jesus certainly preached the law, as we must as well, but what is the result when the law is the center of our preaching? We only condemn those who hear. We tie burdens on their backs they cannot carry. The first purpose of the law is to reveal sin (Rom3:20). The Gospel is about Jesus' life death and resurrection to save sinners (1Cor15:3-5). But preaching the bloody cross is much less seeker-friendly than preaching human potential." Matt Kennedy
Jesus is moving alright. It is just that the Episcopal organization is moving in a different direction.

They should probably call it "The Episcopal Movement" and flush it down the nearest gender neutral toilet.