Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Revised Common Lectionary: Wishing Everyone a Wrath Free Advent

My readers should be well aware of the problems with the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) that I like to point out. The most common problem is the sin of omission. The lectionary routinely cuts and splices readings, and these edits usually remove those verses which might prove upsetting to the Sunday morning pewsitters who aren't there to hear about things like God's wrath, Sin, and Hell. 

Advent is generally approached by mainline liberal churches as a period of anticipation and hope.
Last week, at my new not so mainline church, we heard a sermon in which the word "sin" was mentioned more times than I had heard in decades of sermons in various Episcopal churches. It was  refreshing that the RCL's edits were ignored. Unfortunately for most pewsitters, they will read the expurgated version of  Psalm 85 this Sunday. I have highlighted the verses that won't be heard (vs 3-7),

Psalm 85:1-2,8-13
1 You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, *
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.
2 You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
and blotted out all their sins. 
3 You have withdrawn all your fury *
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.
4 Restore us then, O God our Savior; *
let your anger depart from us.
5 Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
will you prolong your anger from age to age?
6 Will you not give us life again, *
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your mercy, O Lord, *
and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

A God without wrath is a God blind to our sins, and the God I know, Jesus, has a keen eye for Sin, and he is a God who I suspect would not be pleased with some of these lectionary edits.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The "Travel Ban", the Drop in Muslim Refugees, and the Rise in Christian Refugees

This week's news that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the "travel ban" issued by the Trump administration did not get much attention on the mainstream news. As I watched NBC Nightly News on Monday night, there was no mention of the decision. Instead, the main message of the nightly news was NBC's presumption that President Trump will eventually be impeached for obstruction of justice.

The "travel ban" is a separate issue from immigration, but as we have learned, many who "travel" here stay for years beyond their initial declared intention and somehow become immigrants.

The mere suggestion that President Trump is anti-muslim, and the threat of the "travel ban" may have been factors behind the drop in Muslim immigration reported this summer by Pew research and the Religion News Service (a liberal outfit),

 (RNS) "Christians made up the majority of refugees admitted to the U.S. in the first five full months of the Trump administration, reversing a trend that saw Muslims entering the country at higher numbers under President Obama, a new Pew Research report shows."
I am encouraged by the increase in Christian refugees as the world is becoming increasingly hostile to us.

Let 'em in!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

New Church Year Resolutions

The following is a re-post of one I wrote 3 years ago, and I still think the idea of Advent resolutions is a good one since we are beginning a new church/liturgical year.

Advent Resolutions:

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and it marks the beginning of a new Church year. I never have been too keen on New Year's resolutions as the whole new year thing always seemed rather arbitrary to me.

After all, who made January 1 the first day of the new year? Julius Caesar?  Pope Gregory XIII?

Do we really want our year's beginning be a remembrance of a two faced god?

Janus: the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past.

Nope, not me, no way.

Perhaps every day should mark a new beginning, and it should demand new resolutions from us.

Nope, that would be too tough.

The liturgical year begins today, so why not start the year with Advent resolutions?

I can hear it now, "Are you nuts?"

Yes I am.

So this year I resolve to...

Oh God, I hate resolutions, and I hate to write them down. That makes them so permanent.

Alright, I resolve to pray daily.

Today I will pray for peace as our Choral Society will today when they sing Vivaldi's  Gloria which includes "Et in Terra Pax".

Luke 2:14 "Gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis."



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"A full-time job involved in the death of people is probably a bit too much, and ‘probably’ is a euphemism.”

The euthanasia (or physician assisted death) movement is alive and well in the Netherlands where the demand for physicians is increasing according to a recent article in the Guardian,
"The number of people euthanised in the Netherlands this year is set to exceed 7,000 – a 67% rise from five years ago – in what has been described by the director of the country’s only specialist clinic as the end of “a taboo” on killing patients who want to die."
"Steven Pleiter, director at the clinic, said that in response to growing demand he was now on a recruitment drive aimed at doubling the number of doctors and nurses on his books willing to go into people’s homes to administer lethal injections to patients with conditions ranging from terminal illnesses to crippling psychiatric disorders."
The article goes on to describe a 60 year old man with obsessive compulsive disorder that the clinic "helped".  The fact that they have expanded their market by taking on the non-terminally ill is chilling.
Prof Theo Boer, a professor of ethics at the Theological University of Kampen, added: “In the beginning, 98% of cases were terminally ill patients with perhaps days to live. That’s now down to 70%.
Is that something to be proud of? Who will be next?

The effect on physician providers strikes me as exactly what one would expect for executioners, not enough are signing up for the job, and this is a problem for the business of death,
“We ask the doctors to work eight to 16 hours a week for this organisation. A full-time job involved in the death of people is probably a bit too much, and ‘probably’ is a euphemism.”
The next statement sounds like an echo of an evaluation of a death camp by a superior officer,

“There is no dispute about the good intentions of the people at the end of life clinic. [But] they may have become too used to doing euthanasia. Yes they have expertise but they are too experienced. You should never get used to helping someone die.”
I have a sick feeling from reading this, and I apologize to my readers if it has caused any distress, but this is what happens to a society that walks away from Jesus.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Dilemma of the Sheep and the Goats

This Sunday's Gospel reading is Matthew 25:31-46 and contains the prediction of the separation of the sheep from the goats.

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

The message of the importance of charity is clear, but the dilemma revisionist preachers face this Sunday is that they have to revise the parts of this reading that do not fit the message they want to send to their sheep. You see, the revisionist preacher wants to focus on how his sheep are really good at bringing meals to each other when a member is sick, and how their congregation welcomes "strangers" (meaning: LGBTs), but they have to do this while studiously avoiding all of Jesus' talk about Hell and damnation.

Or maybe that is no dilemma at all to the devoted revisionist.

Yeah, no problem at all. In fact, I have heard it handled quite easily in the past. The revisionist preacher starts out with a story about their Thanksgiving family dinner and how they treated the rest of their family and then they find a way to tie it into the first part of the Gospel reading all the while ignoring the harshness of the second half. Presto, change-o, Biblical Jesus becomes revisionist Jesus.

This season is the time in which we all express our thankfulness for God's blessing, not the least of which is the fact that He deems to save us from the eternal damnation and Hell fire awaiting those who reject Him.

Like it or not, we need to be continually reminded of this.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Scandal of Lust: A Very Old Problem

The recent spate of sex scandals in the U.S. involving celebrities and politicians differ in some respects from past scandals, but they share the same the same root cause: our failure to listen to Jesus.

Today's scandals tend to involve touching, speech, and "sexual harassment" along with abuse of power to gain sexual favors, whereas past scandals usually were the result of the physical act of adultery and also the abuse of power in a relationship.

"Touching" is used as a way of testing the receptiveness of a potential mate. Back in the 1960's there was a hit song by the Beatles, "I wanna hold your hand" which shows one way of initiating touch, and that is by asking first. About that time, I had a friend in my Christian school who was very "touchy" with girls. He would put his arm around a girl without asking. His behavior stood out as atypical among his peers (teenage boys) and was not always welcomed by girls, but it was welcomed often enough to encourage the behavior.

"Speech" had certain norms back then as well. It was presumed that boys would be the ones to telephone the girls and also be the ones to initiate physical contact and not the other way around. That was also a time when boys talked a lot about "getting to first base" and beyond in what is now frowned upon and referred to as "locker room talk".

"Sexual harassment" is a newer concept and it is becoming so hard to define as it encompasses more and more variations that one has to conclude that like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. In other words, each generation makes it up as they go because they do not hold to a higher, absolute moral standard.

"Power", in my youth, was exerted by parents, adults, teachers, the Headmaster, and the Assistant Headmaster. We all heard the rumors of what happened to young boys in the Assistant Headmaster's office.

Since the sexual revolution, things have changed. As far as speech and touch go, it is now not uncommon for teenage girls to be the first to call boys on their phones and even to send nude photos of themselves via "sexting". Abuse of power has been stood on its head as female teachers are caught seducing teenage boys with increasing frequency. Sexual harassment, while it no doubt existed in the past has only recently come into the lexicon and, as I mentioned earlier, is hard to define exactly.

Or have things changed?

Remember my friend from school? His younger sister, along with another girl, once pulled a shy young boy into the girl's restroom and pulled down his pants in what was the big scandal of the Eighth Grade.

Adults were expected to behave differently from young teens, but the idea of the "Playboy" and the "Playmate" introduced by Hugh Hefner showed that you didn't have to grow out of childish behaviors. It should be obvious that those behaviors may persist into adulthood, particularly if they prove successful in the mating game.

On a number of occasions, I have observed elderly men trying to grope nurses who were trying to start intravenous lines in their arms. When discussing this issue with the nurses, I had to conclude that the behavior, while unacceptable, "Must have worked for them at least once".

Not only do helpless frail old men do it, but people in positions of power are most prone to use their status when attempting to make "first contact". We can learn from the Bible that the abuse of power in this way is displeasing to God and results in great harm not just to individuals but to entire peoples, especially when sex is involved. Remember the sin of David and Bathsheba? How about the sin of Lot's daughters?

So maybe things haven't changed in that while the human sex drive is the same, the rules governing its expression keep changing because people have tossed out the rules laid down in the Bible. Society has made its own bed, and now we have to lie in it.

Our society's response to the current sex scandals is like that of a post sexual-revolutionary mob, a mob that has rejected Jesus as its guide, a mob that glorifies sex for fun, and a mob that, without guiding principles, can only cause more destruction. So all we can expect from the revolutionaries are the confused and logically inconsistent responses to today's scandals and lame suggestions on how to stop them that we get from the mainstream news media and the worldly pundits as they dare not speak one word about what the Bible has to say on the subject.

We need to teach our children, our friends, and the powerful to love God and others as ourselves just as God's Commandments and as Jesus taught.

Today's celebrities and politicians should also not forget that the commandments about lust and adultery are still in there.

They need to be taught that Jesus said that adultery is more than just a physical act, something that former President Clinton erased from our cultural heritage with just a few words, "I did not have sex with that woman."

The old joke goes like this,
The Hebrews sent someone up the mountain to check on Moses and to find out about how the negotiations with God over the Commandments were going. Moses told him, "Tell the people that I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I've got Him talked down to ten. The bad news is that the one about adultery is still in there."

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lectionary Options: Your Parish and Its True Colors

Churches following the Revised Common Lectionary sometimes are faced with options when selecting readings from the Bible for their Sunday worship services. This Sunday gives us two very different options from the old Testament,  Option A: Judges 4:1-7 (Deborah is the star) paired with Psalm 123 (mostly harmless), or Option B: Zephaniah 1:7,12-18 paired with Psalm 90:1-8,(9-11),12 (full of reminders to fear the Lord).

First let's take a look at Option A,
Judges 4:1-7 
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years. 
At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgement. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” ’
Psalm 123 Ad te levavi oculos meos 
1 To you I lift up my eyes, *to you enthroned in the heavens.2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,3 So our eyes look to the Lord our God, *until he show us his mercy.4 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy, *for we have had more than enough of contempt,5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *and of the derision of the proud.
Those were pretty harmless, and the inclusion of Deborah who sat as a Judge of ancient Israel is sure to cause progressive rectors to lean towards choosing Option A to be read during their parish's Sunday services.

Contrast that with Option B,

Zephaniah 1:7,12-18

7 Be silent before the Lord God!   For the day of the Lord is at hand;the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,   he has consecrated his guests.12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,   and I will punish the peoplewho rest complacently* on their dregs,   those who say in their hearts,‘The Lord will not do good,   nor will he do harm.’13 Their wealth shall be plundered,   and their houses laid waste.Though they build houses,   they shall not inhabit them;though they plant vineyards,   they shall not drink wine from them.

14 The great day of the Lord is near,   near and hastening fast;the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,   the warrior cries aloud there.15 That day will be a day of wrath,   a day of distress and anguish,a day of ruin and devastation,   a day of darkness and gloom,a day of clouds and thick darkness,16   a day of trumpet blast and battle cryagainst the fortified cities   and against the lofty battlements.17 I will bring such distress upon people   that they shall walk like the blind;   because they have sinned against the Lord,their blood shall be poured out like dust,   and their flesh like dung.18 Neither their silver nor their gold   will be able to save them   on the day of the Lord’s wrath;in the fire of his passion   the whole earth shall be consumed;for a full, a terrible end   he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. 
Psalm 90 Domine, refugium 
1 Lord, you have been our refuge *from one generation to another.2 Before the mountains were brought forth,or the land and the earth were born, *from age to age you are God.3 You turn us back to the dust and say, *"Go back, O child of earth."4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *and like a watch in the night.5 You sweep us away like a dream; *we fade away suddenly like the grass.6 In the morning it is green and flourishes; *in the evening it is dried up and withered.7 For we consume away in your displeasure; *we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.8 Our iniquities you have set before you, *and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.9 When you are angry, all our days are gone; *we bring our years to an end like a sigh.10 The span of our life is seventy years,perhaps in strength even eighty; *yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,for they pass away quickly and we are gone.11 Who regards the power of your wrath? *who rightly fears your indignation?12 So teach us to number our days *that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
The differences between Option A and Option B are so striking that I suggest they be used as a litmus test to determine your parish's true colors. Are you attending a church that covers up our sinful and undeserving nature and the judgement we deserve, or are you attending one that tells it like it is?

Which option do you think most Episcopalians will hear? 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Church of England: Evidence For Collusion With the Secular Agenda

A while back, Brett McCracken  posted "7 Good Reasons to Leave a Church" and at the top of the list was,
1. The church abandons orthodoxy. 
If your church begins to fudge on matters of orthodoxy, placing cultural relevance or social gospel initiatives above sound doctrine and biblical authority, look for another church. Sometimes a church outright embraces heresy and it is loud and clear, but more often the march away from orthodoxy is a slow and hard-to-discern series of small compromises. If you see your church headed in that direction and your alarm bells go unheeded, get out sooner rather than later.
For those of us who were once in the Episcopal organization, we saw the series of compromises, and we sounded the alarm, but the alarm went unheeded.

Everyone has predicted that the Church of England, which shall from henceforth be referred to as "That Certain Organization in England" (TCOinE), will follow in the way of the Episcopalians. While the TCOinE has not yet produced a blessing for same-sex couples, their difficulty in dealing with matters of human sexuality shows that the series of compromises leading away from orthodoxy are beginning to pile up.

We have already seen the Archbishop of Canterbury's inability to share the Gospel with Muslim schoolchildren,
In 2015 I noted how un-evangelical the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, acted when speaking to a group of mostly Muslim school children.  The Archbishop faced a number of “challenging” questions from pupils at the Church of England school (St Alban’s Academy in Highgate), where 80 per cent of its pupils are Muslim.Answering a pupil who asked whether he would encourage him to convert from Islam to Christianity, the Archbishop said: “I am not going to put pressure on you, and I wouldn’t expect you to put pressure on me.” (BirminghamMail)
We have witnessed his acceptance of Islam in May of 2017 when he posted a video message to Muslims a few days after a terrorist attack in Manchester, blessing them and wishing them a,
"very good Ramadan".
Now we have the issue of transgender people and how TCOinE schools will teach the Gospel of Christ to children growing up in the age of gender confusion. Basically TCOinE won't spread the parts of the Good News that relate to the traditional/Biblical view of human sexuality because if it did, TCOinE would run afoul of the law.

The gruesome details are in a publication called,
"Valuing All God’s Children Guidance for Church of England schools on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying"
 In it, we find the rationalization used to justify the next step away from orthodoxy,
"...the Government has placed a duty on schools to prevent extremism and to teach British Values (this came into effect in February 2015). Schools must now ensure that they promote British Values which include challenging extremist views, understanding the importance of identifying and challenging discrimination and the acceptance of individual liberty and mutual respect. In July 2016, following a rise in hate crime after the Brexit vote, the Government issued Action Against Hate. This plan for tackling hate crime includes the need to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools."
 It would appear that teaching the former Church of England's position on marriage as being between one man and one woman would run afoul of current "British Values" and thus be a violation of secular law.

How the esrtwhile church came to taking this step can be discerned from the words of the Archbishop himself,
"Central to Christian theology is the truth that every singleone of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us isloved unconditionally by God.We must avoid, at all costs,diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or aproblem. Church of England schools offer a community whereeveryone is a person known and loved by God,supported toknow their intrinsic value.This guidance helps schools to offer the Christian message oflove, joy and the celebration of our humanity withoutexception or exclusion." 
- +Justin CantuarThe Most Revd and Rt Hon JustinWelbyArchbishop of Canterbury
I wonder when the Christian message became one "the celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion"? Our humanity is what gets us into trouble time and time again does it not? Not a whole lot to celebrate there. Instead, how about if we celebrate our new life in Christ?
That can't happen in the secularized former church schools in England because worship services must now honor current "British values",
7. CollectiveWorshipIn collective worship the importance of inclusivity anddignity and respect for all should be explored, as well asother themes and values that play a part in challenging allforms of prejudicial bullying, including HBT bullying andlanguage.
Teachers in the classroom must also actively indoctrinate the children in the new British value system,
Opportunities to discuss issues to do with self-esteem,gender identity, and anti-bullying including HBT bullyingshould be included in physical,social, health and economiceducation or citizenship programmes.The curriculumshould offer opportunities for pupils to learn to valuethemselves and their bodies. Relationships and sexeducation should take LGBT people into account. Sexualorientation should be included within RSE in thesecondary phase. The Church of England’s teaching onhuman sexuality and a range of Christian views should betaught, as well as a range of perspectives from other faithsand world views.
So here we have Welby the Weak. He gives in to the government's rules regarding education, effectively eliminating teaching the whole Gospel of Christ to children in CofE schools.

And to think, he was from the "evangelical" wing of the former CofE.

As I have said before, the word "evangelical" must mean something different across the pond.

"Secular collusion" must be taking place.  A full investigation is called for!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Parable of the Ten Somethings

Does anyone else remember a time when bridesmaids were supposed to be unmarried and were presumed to be virgins? Well, that was the way it was back in Jesus' day. In this Sunday's Gospel reading, the "Parable of the Ten Virgins" found in Matthew 25:1-13 becomes the "Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids" in many of the translations commonly read in Episcopalian parishes.
‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
I am not sure when the virgin bridesmaid went out of style, but in my experience, it was sometime after the introduction of "the pill" when virgins got harder and harder to find. This also resulted in a shortage of virgins to sacrifice to the volcano gods.

The modern translations do keep priests from putting the thought of "foolish virgins" into the minds of their somnulent Sunday morning pewsitters which might keep those pewsitters from getting the point of the parable which is to be prepared at all times for the coming of the Lord, and that, for most of us, will probably translate into being prepared at all times to "meet our maker".

The consequences of not being prepared are to be shut out, and I am willing to bet that most Episcopal priests would rather not and probably will not speak very much about that part of the parable this Sunday.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Why People Are "Fed Up With" Thoughts and Prayers

I don't know why the Huffington Post exists other than to give us insight into the minds of the people who are contributing to the cultural and spiritual decline of America, and a recent post, "People Fed Up With ‘Thoughts And Prayers’ Demand Action After Texas Church Massacre", is a perfect illustration of what I am talking about.

In this post, people are upset that,
"President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and many other political leaders sent their “thoughts and prayers” to Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday after a gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 more at the First Baptist Church."
Clearly, those responding with outrage at the political response perceive gun control as being more effective than prayer.

Here are a few choice quotes,
"They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else."
“Thoughts and prayers” again, @realDonaldTrump, idiot?These people were in CHURCH. They WERE praying. -Keith Olbermann 
"To all those asking for thoughts and prayers for the victims in #churchshooting , it seems that your direct line to God is not working."
"Clearly your prayers aren't working if a mass shooting can take place in a church. Maybe we can try a legislative solution now?"
"They were in a *church*. Prayers are not helpful; action is. "
Let me speculate and guess that these people believe that government is more effective than God when you want something done to right a wrong. I do not know if they are atheists or agnostics or progressive, revisionist, social activist Christians, but clearly, they have placed God on the back burner and are neglecting the great commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."

Actually, the real reason people are fed up with the words "thoughts and prayers" coming from the mouths of politicians is that the politicians are named Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. If a President Hillary were to offer up those same words, I doubt that you would hear a peep out of these poor misled souls.

Before I go, one more thought, maybe, just maybe God did answer those prayers by sending an armed neighbor to intercept the gunman.

Just a thought, and a prayer. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Brothers in Christ: You Are Not My Father!

This Sunday's Gospel reading is from Matthew 23:1-12. In it, Jesus advises his disciples to avoid honorifics and to stay humble servants to one another.

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students (brothers/brethren). And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
Growing up in a "low church" Episcopal parish, the priest was always referred to as "Mr. so and so" and never "Father so and so" as that was an honorific typically used in reference to a Roman Catholic priest.

Somewhere along the line, I think it was in the early seventies, it became more common for Episcopal priests to accept being called "Father".

Oh yeah, that was about the time that the Episcopal seminarians stopped believing the Bible. Women's ordination was around the corner and, inconsistently, nobody wanted to call female priests "Mother".

Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) explains it in his Commentaries,
"They are forbidden to ascribe such titles to others (Matt. 23:9); 'Call no man your father upon the earth; constitute no man the father of your religion, that is, the founder, author, director, and governor, of it.' The fathers of our flesh must be called fathers, and as such we must give them reverence; but God only must be allowed as the Father of our spirits, Heb. 12:9. Our religion must not be derived from, or made to depend upon, any man. We are born again to the spiritual and divine life, not of corruptible seed, but by the word of God; not of the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but of God. Now the will of man, not being the rise of our religion, must not be the rule of it. We must not jurare in verba magistri—swear to the dictates of any creature, not the wisest or best, nor pin our faith on any man’s sleeve, because we know not whither he will carry it. St. Paul calls himself a Father to those whose conversion he had been an instrument of (1 Cor. 4:15; Phlm. 1:10); but he pretends to no dominion over them, and uses that title to denote, not authority, but affection: therefore he calls them not his obliged, but his beloved, sons, 1 Cor. 4:14."
"The reason given is, One is your Father, who is in heaven. God is our Father, and is All in all in our religion. He is the Fountain of it, and its Founder; the Life of it, and its Lord; from whom alone, as the Original, our spiritual life is derived, and on whom it depends. He is the Father of all lights (Jas. 1:17), that one Father, from whom are all things, and we in him, Eph. 4:6. Christ having taught us to say, Our Father, who art in heaven; let us call no man Father upon earth; no man, because man is a worm, and the son of man is a worm, hewn out of the same rock with us; especially not upon earth, for man upon earth is a sinful worm; there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not, and therefore no one is fit to be called Father."
I am sure this will upset the Anglo-Catholics passing by, but from now on, I will call you "Brother".  

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Sins of Our (Founding) Fathers: Christ Church Philadelphia, You Are Next!

A few years ago, I was visiting Christ Church (Episcopal) in Philadelphia and noticed brass plaques with inscribed names attached to the pews. As I sat in the pew that bore the name, "Ben Franklin", I felt a little uncomfortable because I was not one hundred percent sure I was welcome to sit there, but that was not a pew breaker for me.


There were other pews with brass plaques, one of which read, "George Washington", and that did not bother me in the least.

Recently, another Episcopal church (also named Christ Church) announced that they were relocating similar markers because the names "George Washington" and "Robert E. Lee"  might make someone feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and that might be a betrayal of the Episcopal organization's slogan, "All are welcome".

Here is a link to the letter from the vestry of Christ Church in Alexandria to the congregation. It reads (in part),
"Hebrews 13:2 says, 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.' Christ Church lives into this call, feeding the hungry with our Lazarus ministry, welcoming the stranger in our refugee ministry, and inviting all to worship with us. The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome. Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques.
Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of “All are welcome — no exceptions.”
I wonder if they ever considered removing the cross because it is offensive to non-Christians.

Why are those memorials there in the first place?
"The plaques were erected in 1870, just two months after Robert E. Lee’s death, by parishioners eager to memorialize two men who had impact within our parish and an outsized impact on our nation..."
"Washington is unique in our nation’s history: the leader of the Revolution, the visionary who not only refused to be king but also gave up power after eight years, and a symbol of our democracy. He regularly worshiped in our pews and helped shape our city’s character."
"Lee was a longtime parishioner, whose family had a significant presence in our church. From “Light-Horse Harry” Lee’s membership in our parish at the time he memorialized George Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” to Mary Custis Lee’s gift of $10,000 to begin the Christ Church endowment, the Lee family was a prominent part of the Christ Church family."
C'mon people, quit trying to erase history.

Years ago, I was touring the St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and looking down, I saw that I was standing on Henry VIII's grave.

From On the Tudor Trail

There were no ropes to keep tourists from stepping on old Henry and company.

I wonder if Christ Church Alexandria will consider moving Washington's and Lee's plaques to a suitable place on the floor so that those who choose to respect these men may walk around their memorials, and those who feel unwelcome might be given the opportunity to step on top of them.

Christ Church Philadelphia, you are next! Remove those plaques!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

There Is Someone You Just Can't Question

This Sunday's Gospel selection is Matthew 22:34-46 in which Jesus shows the Pharisees that they just can't win when they put the Lord to the test,
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah?* Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit* calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord,‘Sit at my right hand,   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. 
When I was young, I could never win a debate with my father. He was always right, and this irritated me to no end, and we children dared not dispute his lengthy sermons on whatever teaching or warning he wanted to share over dinner. This had the effect of silencing us during the family meal because if we brought up any subject, it would result in yet another sermon. As I got older, I found that I could challenge his facts when I was sure he had gotten them wrong and sometimes his assumptions, but once he got going, I still knew that it was best to keep my mouth shut.

Similarly, when we are children we usually accept the presence of God and his teachings, but when we become rebellious teenagers we often question those teachings and we even question His presence. God, however, is not like our earthly fathers. Our earthly fathers are fallible, sinful men. God on the other hand is sinless and has this nasty habit of always being right.

The Pharisees should have learned their lesson in Matthew 22 that there is one person that you just shouldn't question.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Difference Between Praise Songs and Hymns

I am posting this as a follow up to last "Sunday's Sing to the Lord a new song, Do I really have to?".

Greg Griffith put this on Facebook a while back. I was not sure where he found it, but after I googled it, I found it at and several other places,
An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended a large church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
“Well,” said the farmer, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise songs instead of hymns.”
“Praise songs,” said his wife, “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.
The farmer said, “It’s like this - If I were to say to you: ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: 
‘Martha Martha, Martha,Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA,the cows, the big cows, the brown cows,the black cows, the white cows,the black and white cows,the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn,are in the corn, are in the corn,are in the corn, the CORN, CORN, CORN,’ 
Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well, that would be a praise song.” 
Coincidentally, the same week, a young businessman from the city who normally attended a church with contemporary-style worship was in the old farmer’s town on business. He visited the farmer’s small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
“Well,” said the young man, “it was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”
“Hymns,” said his wife, “what are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man.
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.
The young man said, “It’s like this - If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: 
Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry.Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and byTo the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth. 
For the way of the animals who can explain;There in their heads is no shadow of sense,Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain,Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced. 
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,Have broken free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.Then goaded by minions of darkness and night They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.Where no vicious animal makes my soul cryAnd I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.
Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sing to the Lord a new song, Do I really have to?

I am not a fan of most contemporary church music, and by contemporary, I mean anything written by a composer who was born after 1890. The Psalm appointed for today encourages me to 
be more open-minded,

96 Cantate Domino
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; *sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. 
2 Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. 
3 Declare his glory among the nations *and his wonders among all peoples. 
4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *he is more to be feared than all gods. 
5 As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *but it is the Lord who made the heavens. 
6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary! 
7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; *ascribe to the Lord honor and power. 
8 Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *bring offerings and come into his courts. 
9 Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *let the whole earth tremble before him. 
10 Tell it out among the nations: "The Lord is King! *he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;he will judge the peoples with equity." 
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *let the field be joyful and all that is therein. 
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joybefore the Lord when he comes, *when he comes to judge the earth. 
13 He will judge the world with righteousness *and the peoples with his truth.
I will try to sing a new song now and then if it demonstrates sound theology, if it is not tediously repetitious, if it fits with the appointed readings from scripture, and if it serves to glorify the Lord and not the performer.

I think that eliminates most contemporary church music.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Churches Without Fathers: We have "produced our own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest."

Robbie Low is vicar of St. Peter’s, Bushey Heath, a parish in the Church of England and his recent commentary on the fatherless church (requires subscription to "Touchstone") cites research done in Switzerland that showed,

"In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally."
Interestingly, the presence of faithful Christian fathers, worshipping regularly, has a greater effect on the developing child than the worship habits of the mother. Why this happens is a matter of speculation of course,
"Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a 'grown-up' activity."
"When children see that church is a 'women and children' thing, they will respond accordingly—by not going to church, or going much less." 
Boys raised by a single mom grow up seeing the church from the perspective that it is not for men. When I was young I recall there being a disproportionate number of little old ladies present at Sunday morning services even during the baby boom years. That and the effeminate nature of some of the priests may have turned many a young boy against the Episcopal sect. Episcopalians haven't done anything recently to change the impression left in children's minds, and in fact have added more major innovations that make things worse, just as the Church of England is doing,

"Second, we are ministering in churches that accepted fatherlessness as a norm, and even an ideal. Emasculated Liturgy, gender-free Bibles, and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer. In response, these churches’ decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated. To minister to a fatherless society, these churches, in their unwisdom, have produced their own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest."
They have "produced their own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest." Is that the model we want to present to children, to our fellow Christians, to the world?

Of course, the Episcopal organization and CofE are not turning back so Rev. Low's observations will not help them to climb out of their death spirals, but his words are a sharp warning to other Anglican entities,
"The churches are losing men and, if the Swiss figures are correct, are therefore losing children. You cannot feminize the church and keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Are All Welcome At the Table?

This Sunday's reading from Matthew 22:1-14 contains the Parable of the Wedding Banquet,

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Revisionist preachers will studiously avoid comment on verses 11-14 because it goes against their standard message that "All are welcome at the Lord's table", a quote I heard numerous times from my last revisionist rectorette when she announced Holy Communion particularly at funerals when she did not know if some present were baptized Christians or not. Sadly, people who come to the communion rail unprepared may have to face far greater consequences than a polite prayer over them as the cup passes them by. As harsh as it sounds, to let them partake of the Eucharistic elements may do them more harm than good. Remember how Paul cautions us in 1 Corinthians 11:26-30:
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died."
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), in his commentaries, gives his take on the "Friend" who did not have a wedding robe and got tossed out of the banquet. Henry was not so much concerned about Communion without Baptism for he probably could not have even imagined it becoming an issue in the Church. I think the parable applies equally to the unbaptized or non-Christian as it does to what Henry calls "hypocrites in the church".
VI. The case of hypocrites, who are in the church, but not of it, who have a name to live, but are not alive indeed, is represented by the guest that had not on a wedding garment; one of the bad that were gathered in. Those come short of salvation by Christ, not only who refuse to take upon them the profession of religion, but who are not sound at heart in that profession. Concerning this hypocrite observe,
1. His discovery, how he was found out, Matt. 22:11.
(1.) The king came in to see the guests, to bid those welcome who came prepared, and to turn those out who came otherwise. 
Note, The God of heaven takes particular notice of those who profess religion, and have a place and name in the visible church. Our Lord Jesus walks among the golden candlesticks and therefore knows their works. See Rev. 2:1, 2; Song 7:12. Let this be a warning to us against hypocrisy, that disguises will shortly be stripped off, and every man will appear in his own colours; and an encouragement to us in our sincerity, that God is a witness to it.
Observe, This hypocrite was never discovered to be without a wedding garment, till the king himself came in to see the guests. 
Note, It is God’s prerogative to know who are sound at heart in their profession, and who are not. We may be deceived in men, either one way or other; but He cannot. The day of judgment will be the great discovering day, when all the guests will be presented to the King: then he will separate between the precious and the vile (Matt. 25:32), the secrets of all hearts will then be made manifest, and we shall infallibly discern between the righteous and the wicked, which now it is not easy to do. It concerns all the guests, to prepare for the scrutiny, and to consider how they will pass the piercing eye of the heart-searching God.
(2.) As soon as he came in, he presently espied the hypocrite; He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment; though but one, he soon had his eye upon him; there is no hope of being hid in a crowd from the arrests of divine justice; he had not on a wedding garment; he was not dressed as became a nuptial solemnity; he had not his best clothes on. 
Note, Many come to the wedding feast without a wedding garment. If the gospel be the wedding feast, then the wedding garment is a frame of heart, and a course of life agreeable to the gospel and our profession of it, worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called (Eph. 4:1), as becomes the gospel of Christ, Phil. 1:27. The righteousness of saints, their real holiness and sanctification, and Christ, made Righteousness to them, is the clean linen, Rev. 19:8. This man was not naked, or in rags; some raiment he had, but not a wedding garment. 
Those, and those only, who put on the Lord Jesus, that have a Christian temper of mind, and are adorned with Christian graces, who live by faith in Christ, and to whom he is all in all, have the wedding garment.

So no, not all are welcome until they accept the invitation and put on the Mantle of Christ, and then they are welcomed like the prodigal son into the arms of our loving Father. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Do We Need Archbishops? :The Failure of "Episcopas"

After last week's pointless meeting of the pointy hats in Canterbury, I am left wondering if we really need Archbishops, Primates, or an Anglican Communion at all.

The Anglican Communion's loose structure and lack of discipline are often touted as its greatest strengths by progressives and revisionists. Their goals have certainly been facilitated by the current "instruments of communion" and the failure to effectively discipline and correct Churches that have departed from Anglican tradition and the teachings found in the Bible.

Who actually operates those instruments of communion? The guys in the pointy hats, for the most part, are the ones running the show.

Bishops and their like have been with us since the earliest days of the Church. But Archbishops and Popes maybe not so much.

1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are the only times in the NT when "bishops" are directly referred to, and some Bibles translate the Greek word, "episcopas", which more likely means "overseer", to mean "bishop."

1 Timothy 3 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
3 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Titus 1
5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
Paul clearly had a local structure in mind with one or more ordained overseers in a particular region such as in Crete. No mention of an "Arch-overseer" can be found unless one considers Paul to be the overseer of overseers.

So we do need "Bishops" that meet Paul's criteria, but history is replete with bad examples, and Paul himself had to write strong letters to his churches when he learned that they were going astray. To date, no Church has come up with the perfect solution to the problem of oversight.

The Anglican Communion certainly does not have a Paul at the helm. Their titular overseer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has no real power of oversight except when deciding who comes to a meeting of provincial leaders.

Just look at how recent events were handled by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church (USA), and the Scottish Episcopal Church have all altered 2000 years of teaching on homosexual activity and were still invited to Canterbury to meet with the rest of the Anglican Primates.

The Anglican Church in North America, which has not changed the Church's teaching, was not invited to the gathering and is considered by the Archbishop of Canterbury to not be part of the Anglican Communion.

The invitations say a lot about oversight in the organization we call the Anglican Communion. When those who flaunt their disregard for what is revealed in scripture are honored at the banquet while those deserving a seat at the table are left out on the street, there is a serious problem.

Let me speculate as to why things seem to work out the way they do in this organization.

Imagine you are having a family reunion in this day and age of blended families, divorces, and unwed mothers, and you have to decide whom to invite and who to exclude.
Should you invite the cousin, brother, or sister who had numerous adulterous affairs and is now legally re-married? "But that is family!", you say, and you are stuck with them so of course, you will extend an invitation. Many in the Anglican Communion feel this way about their wayward Provinces.

But what if you change the hypothetical to a team meeting in which the game plan for next week's contest is to be put together? Should you invite the players who don't follow the playbook and are busy writing their own rules and making new playbooks? No, of course, you will not even let them into the meeting room unless they admit that what they are doing is harmful to the team. A few leaders in the Anglican Communion feel this way about the Provinces thay are approving of same-sex marriages and blessings, as well as gender-neutral language and are revising their prayer books to reflect the change in the game plan.

Are we a "team" or are we a "family"? That is the crux of the problem. Christians traditionally refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ so "family" would appear to have the upper hand. But are we still bound to someone as a brother or sister when they change traditions, coming up with unChristian innovations, and leading their children astray through false teachings? Again, looking to Paul and the problems he encountered in the early Church, we find the answer, and the answer is "No", they are to be treated as tax collectors and Gentiles (Matthew 18:17).

In this day and age, we have grown accustomed to dysfunctional and broken families, but this is not to be accepted as the ideal towards which we should strive. Unfortunately, dysfunction is exactly what the Anglican Communion as overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a large number of Primates seem to admire as they conspire to create a sense of unity where there is none. 

We need Bishops and maybe even Archbishops, but they need to be true to the job description or they should beware,
The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops cemented into place by Archbishops.
And yes, we need a larger Communion, but the current set up is broken because it has been failed time and time again to uphold the Gospel of Christ.

I am just not sure if we should call the new Communion "Anglican". I don't want any association with the current overseers in Canterbury.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

A Prophetic Parable

This Sunday's Gospel reading, Matthew 21:33-43, is one of Jesus' harshest prophetic parables. In it he predicts his death and infers that his murderers will be his audience, the chief priests and elders who had just confronted him in the temple and asked by whose authority he had overturned the tables of the money changers and by whose authority he taught and cured people in the temple. 
‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;*this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes” Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
No wonder the chief priests and elders were irate and wanted to kill him.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Where is Jesus in the reporting of tragedy?

I generally prefer to wait until all the facts are in before commenting on tragic events like the recent Las Vegas massacre, but the absence of commentary from the mainstream media on the spiritual warfare that is the basis for man's inhumanity to man struck me as something that should be noted and reflected upon as society moves further away from a worldview based on the reality of an omnipresent God and turns more and more to a secular, agnostic, and emotive worldview.

Most reporting in the earliest stages of an unfolding story is based on facts as they occur, the planes flying into the twin towers for instance. It is not long before reporters, like the rest of us, move from talking about "what happened" to asking "why did it happen?".

In the absence of answers to the question of "why", news reporters start asking witnesses or survivors "how they felt" or "what was it like" and because the answers to those interviews create an emotional response in viewers, we remain glued to the tube for hours on end. The longer we are hooked on the emotional impact of the moment, the less likely we are to look for root causes. Indeed "emotivism" itself prevents us from making moral judgments.

Emotivism is the doctrine “that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character.” (h/t Crisis Magazine).

Sure, virtually everyone will conclude that what was done in Las Vegas was "WRONG", but there are several paths people take to get there.

The secular humanist might reason that the random taking of innocent life creates uncertainty, removes productive citizens from us, and thus weakens society. He would then seek to find a legislative solution.

The agnostic might reason that humans evolved with a violent nature in order to survive. He would then shrug his shoulders and tell us to arm ourselves and live with it.

The scientist might argue that such violence is due to mental illness and look to Medicine to work for a cure. 

The mainstream media has given voice to all of those worldviews.

As a Christian, I believe that we are all sinful creatures and that our murderous nature has been present since the fall of man. We are slaves to Sin, and we will remain in bondage until we surrender to Jesus. How much of the violence men suffer upon their fellow man can be traced to a rejection of Jesus?

Yes, we hear voices in the media asking us to pray in a generic sense, i.e. pray for the wounded, pray for the families, but the media is afraid to state who we are to pray to.

There is but one cure for us and that is Jesus, and that is whose name we must invoke in our prayers.

And the Gospel of Jesus is what we should be shouting at the top of the news if we hope to prevent future tragedies of this sort.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Every knee shall bow

This Sunday's Epistle reading is Philippians 2:1-13. In it we hear the words, "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow", which should sound familiar to most regular churchgoers because it is often paired with the hymn that shares the title. I think this selection is something our pro football players should study,
"If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,   did not regard equality with God   as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,   taking the form of a slave,   being born in human likeness.And being found in human form, he humbled himself   and became obedient to the point of death—   even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him   and gave him the name   that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus   every knee should bend,   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess   that Jesus Christ is Lord,   to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
Note that one of the important messages Paul has to the Philippeans is that they "be of one mind". Note too that "diversity of mind" is not mentioned. Yet somehow today the Anglican Communion is trying to hold diverse minds together as if that were a good thing. This week, as some of the Anglican Primates meet with Archbishop Welby, diverse minds will pretend that they are a "Church". Let us pray that they mark well Paul's words.

Most of you will be familiar with Raph Vaughan Williams version of "At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow",

But you may not have heard this version,

Or this one played to the tune Camberwell,

And I bet none of my readers have heard this one,

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On Accepting Another's Delusion.

We are living in a world where delusions spread so quickly and are so easily accepted thanks to the power of social media that it is hard to know what is true and what is false, and that may be just the way the world wants us to think.

Take the recent controversy over NFL players kneeling or staying in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem for example. This type of "virtue signaling" has become a phenomenon that all of the sports networks are fawning over. Sportscasters are afraid to criticize the protesting players, while coaches, owners and teammates, with a few notable exceptions, are joining in,  and I believe a large part of the followers are doing so because of team/herd mentality.

Or is it mob mentality? There is a fine line between herd mentality and the stampede of a mob, and that is a line I hope they do not cross.

The footballers keep telling us that they are not protesting the flag, the country or the National Anthem. They claim that they are the true patriots, but when they say this, they are offering up a delusion. I am sorry, but protesting during the National Anthem is not patriotic. Whatever they say it is, it is disrespectful of our military veterans and their sacrifices without which these athletes would be out of a job, working in the salt mines serving under a king or a dictator.
"... keep trying to tell us that protesting the flag and the national anthem is really an expression of patriotism and not of disrespect. It isn’t, and it insults our intelligence to tell us we have to treat it as if it were. It insults OUR dignity as people to tell us we have to see your protests as something other than what they are." - attributed to Brian Troyer.
The delusion that the players' protest is not disrespectful is not the only delusion being spread thanks to the age of mass communication. Think, "the right to choose", "marriage equality", and the transgender nonsense among other things.

William Kilpatrick has more on modern delusions and how they are enforced in his recent piece, "The Normalization of Delusional Thinking" which focuses primarily on the delusion that Islam is a religion of peace,

"...All of a sudden, a significant percentage of our social and intellectual elites have succumbed to the delusion that a girl can be a boy, and a boy can be a girl, or whatever he, she, ne, ze, zir currently desires to be. This is not merely a rebellion against social convention, it’s a rebellion against reality. It’s a rejection of basic biology."
"...There are several parallels here to what has become the standard response to Islam. As with transgenderism, we see an official denial of reality: Islamic terror has nothing to do with Islam, the terrorists (who are only a “handful”) “misunderstand” their faith, Islamic values are just the same as Christian values, and so on."
"Likewise, just as you’re not allowed to call Bruce Jenner 'he,' you’re not supposed to say 'radical Islamic terror' or 'migration invasion' or any other words that might be offensive to Muslims."
These days, we not only must live with another person's delusions, we must affirm them. According to one congresswoman, it is racist to disagree with the football players' protests. Even Fox News is afraid of the consequences of going against delusion when it comes to transexualism and has its newscasters referring to Bruce Jenner as "she". The power of the delusion is absolute,
...“making [others] agree to something they know is a lie is a hallmark of totalitarianism.” - Matthew Hanley
How did we get here?  William Kilpatrick claims that it is a result of the attack on objective reality which had as one of its goals the toppling of our belief in the reality of God,
"...Another objective reality that came under attack during the self-esteem era was the existence of God, or, more accurately, the existence of the God who reveals himself in the Old and New Testaments—the God who make demands on the individual self. In his place, many substituted vague, New Age-ish forms of spirituality. Either that, or they began to conceive of God as a servant of their emotional needs—an all-understanding therapist in Heaven who just wants everyone to feel good about himself, herself, zeself, zirself."
"The famous maxim attributed to Chesterton applies here: 'The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.' Once you lose sight of the central objective reality in the universe, it’s easy to lose sight of all the other realities, and you end up believing in anything—no matter how counter-factual the 'anything' might be. You might believe that same-sex couples are truly married, you might believe that males can become females. You might even believe—heaven help you—that Islam is a religion of peace."
You might even believe football players are true patriots when they disrespect our veterans.

You shouldn't have to accept another's delusion, and you shouldn't be forced to affirm it either. That is why I had to break from Bishop Waldo after he published his delusional justification for proceeding with same-sex blessings in Upper South Carolina.

I found out then that you can't reason with the deluded, and humoring them by accepting and affirming the lie just results in the delusion spreading to others. At some point you have to make your point and leave, another runaway slave from another delusional dictator.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Cure for the Jailhouse Blues

In this Sunday's reading from Philippians 1:21-30 Paul weighs the value of his life and work against his desire to be with Jesus after death. Without the background of verses 1-20, most pewsitters will not be aware of the context of Paul's circumstances. Matthew Henry in his Commentaries puts it this way,
  "We see here the care the apostle takes to prevent their being offended at his sufferings. He was now a prisoner at Rome; this might be a stumbling-block to those who had received the gospel by his ministry. They might be tempted to think, If this doctrine were indeed of God, God would not suffer one who was so active and instrumental in preaching and propagating it to be thrown by as a despised broken vessel. They might be shy of owning this doctrine, lest they should be involved in the same trouble themselves. Now to take off the offence of the cross, he expounds this dark and hard chapter of his sufferings, and makes it very easy and intelligible, and reconcilable to the wisdom and goodness of God who employed him."
With that in mind, we can see why Paul is contemplating his death,

"For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again." 
"Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have."

The cure for the jailhouse blues, even maybe the death row blues may be just this, to stay alive for Christ and for others for the labour is never done.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Broken Communion Blame Game

Centuries after The Reformation, Catholics and Protestants still cannot agree on who is to blame and there is no shared communion between them.

Today, we are witness to the breakup of the Anglican Communion and get to watch as each side blames the other.

In the past it used to be said that one side of a disagreement must be right, one must be wrong, or both must be wrong, but today we "know" that both sides can be right (sarcasm).

Archbishop Peter Jensen is on my side of right or wrong and he tries to answer those who blame his side for the deepening divide in the Anglican Communion in the following statement (found here),

"The suggestion that Gafcon is a divisive movement, and in particular aimed at breaking up the Anglican Communion, is one I hear from time to time.
It’s heartbreaking to hear it because it is untrue and it is an indication of the power of gossip. 
I never tire of telling the story of the meeting of Primates at the end of the Jerusalem Conference 2008.  I was asked by the chairman to become the secretary to the movement.
Before answering, I asked the Primates, ‘Is it the aim of Gafcon to break away from the Anglican Communion? Are we setting up and new Communion?’
The reply was an instant, unanimous and resounding ‘No!’  Just as well, as I would not have had any further role in Gafcon had the answer been anything else. 
We are committed to the Anglican Communion, we are committed to its spiritual vitality, to its commitment to the word of God and the preaching of the gospel and the sheer goodness of our fellowship in the Lord. 
It is for that very reason, however, that we have taken the steps, scripturally mandated, to call those who have separated themselves from us by false teaching back to repentance and back into fellowship with us. 
The problem is that fellowship is catching. You can catch goodness from fellowship – a good model of holiness, a shared concern, the deep prayers for each other, material help. But we can also catch spiritual diseases from each other – pride, idolatry, false teaching, for example. Fellowship is powerful. 
When we knowingly have fellowship with those whose teaching endangers the gospel itself, we are in danger of catching the same disease and at the least endorsing it and putting others at risk. 
They may choose to move away from us, but our task is to call them to repentance and to renewed fellowship in the truth of God’s Word. 
To label this ‘divisive’, bearing in mind that it is a response to a deeply divisive prior action, is tragically misleading. Gafcon’s motivation is not to divide or to ‘grab power’, but to help ensure that the Church is preaching the truth for the sake of souls. 
Be assured: Gafcon is not divisive. It stands for the renewal of our Communion according to the word of God and for the glory of Christ." 

Sure sounds like Reformation language to me, and which side of that divide would you have gone with?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Consequences of "Unforgiveness"

This Sunday's Gospel reading from Matthew 18:21-35 is about forgiveness and the consequences of unforgiveness.
"Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven (some texts have 70 x 7) times. ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents* was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’"

I wonder what most pewsitters heard during the sermon today? It is probably a great temptation to preach about forgiveness and to skip talking about the consequences of unforgiveness, but the consequences are too terrible to ignore. Without a doubt we should all be handed over to be tortured for all are guilty of the sin of unforgiveness.

Thankfully God is forgiving way beyond the seventy times seven limit mentioned in today's Gospel selection because our sins are far more numerous. God is so forgiving that He was willing to die upon the cross for the innumerable sins of the whole world.

The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness, but very little to say about unforgiveness unless you consider O.T. tales of vengence as being about unforgiveness.

Earlier, in Matthew 12:31-32 we learn of the one thing God will not forgive,
"Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
More dreadful consequences.

 So when I hear someone say that we have a forgiving God, I have to agree with them but with one caveat, Matthew 12:31-32.