Sunday, July 05, 2020

Pasteurized Jesus

This Sunday's reading from Matthew 11:16-19,25-30 contains a curious deletion: verses 20-24. 

16 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ 
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
So why did most sleepy eyed Sunday morning churchgoers miss verses 20-24? Let's read them and see,
20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?   No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’ 

Did Jesus really say that? How you answer that will define your brand of Christianity. 

The real Jesus is tough. He comes down hard on those who reject him.

The pasteurized version of Jesus that most churchgoers heard about this Sunday morning is far more dangerous to the world than the real Jesus. 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Love Your Enemy: If Only They Would Listen to Jesus

There is a Gospel reading for Independence Day, and it is from Matthew 5:43-48,
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
America obtained its independence from the enemies of liberty only after a long and bloody revolutionary war which begs the question: "How do we love our enemy as Jesus commands us when that enemy is out to kill us, is out to deprive us of freedom, or is out of his mind crazy?"

In today's society, loving your enemy appears to mean that you let them continue on whatever path of self destruction they have chosen, and sometimes it means allowing them to destroy other persons, places or things either by their actions or by their words.

Sometimes loving your enemy means locking him up or even putting him down.

That is the only way for a free people to remain free. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Prayer Request

This past Sunday, my neighbor was hospitalized with the corona virus. He is elderly and has a serious comorbidity affecting multiple organ systems. Pewsterspouse and I were in his house briefly on Friday. We shared some watermelon with his spouse on the porch while he stayed inside. So far, we are fine. Please pray for him and his family who were in closer contact than with him than us. His name is Jim.

Lord, watch over Jim and his family. Give them the strength to get through this illness. Hear our prayer. In Jesus name, Amen.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Waiting for the prophet who prophesies peace?

In this Sunday's reading from Jeremiah 28:5-9, the prophet tells us that God's prophet will be the one who prophesies peace which irritated the prophet Hananiah so much that he broke the yoke that Jeremiah had been carrying (I added those verses 10 and 11 for your benefit),
 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfil the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.’
 10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it.
 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.’ At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.
The preacher of non-violence is often met with violence himself. Look at what happened to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in the last century.

And one must not forget what happened to the Prince of Peace, Jesus .

It seems to me that it is easier to get people caught up into a cycle of violence than to get them to stand up for peace, especially if that peace is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It also seems that we will never learn.

I came across the following from the Patheos pages,
The injustice and suffering in Palestine two thousand years ago was certainly no less than the suffering in our world today. The revolutionary prescriptions of our time for the overcoming of such injustice and suffering are likewise not always so different from those proposed then. The idea that the present-day situation has become intolerable, so that revolutionary violence has become justified, even necessary, was widespread then as now – and it was not the most wicked who were proclaiming this idea. Those who justify violence today do not see that they are starting a vicious circle from which they can scarcely escape, and which – as is shown by the history of revolutions in Palestine in the time of Jesus and in Europe during the past two hundred years – will either corrupt them through abuse of their new-found power or, if they seek to preserve their ‘humanity,’ drive them into opposition and finally liquidate them as alleged ‘counter-revolutionaries.’ In the midst of an outwardly hopeless situation, Jesus taught his group of followers how to break out of this vicious circle; until the age of Constantine, the early church adhered unflinchingly to this refusal to use violence. It is part of the critical power of the gospel that this summons to freedom – which also means freedom from the inner law of violence – is still heard today, is in fact once again being heard more clearly. … Reflection on the message of Jesus against the background of the unimaginable brutality and injustice of his age could help us today better to understand the gospel, that is, Jesus’ summons to freedom, and to act accordingly.
Martin Hengel, Victory over Violence (London: SPCK, 1975), 83-85. 
H/T Michael Bird

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

You might be a progressive Christian if...

Over at A Grain of Sand, Campbell posts five things which identify a "progressive" Christian.

1. You might be a progressive Christian if you say: ‘The Bible contains the Word of God’
2. You might be a progressive Christian if you say: ‘I can’t believe Jesus would . . .’
3. You might be a progressive Christian if you say: ‘The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t need to be physical to speak truth to us.’
4. You might be a progressive Christian if you say: ‘God is love, He wouldn’t punish sinners throughout eternity.’
5. You might be a progressive Christian if you say: ‘We don’t need to speak about the gospel, we just need to show it in our lives by our care for others.’

Campbell discusses his reasoning behind each of these "might be's", but I challenge you to figure them out without peeking at his web site.

I know there are a whole lot of things that can be added to his list, but the ones he has chosen are pretty typical of what you will hear not only from progressive Christians but also from unbelievers as well.

It behooves us to know how to respond to those who have fallen for such ideas.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Dire Times Predicted

This Sunday's reading is from Matthew 10:24-39 in which Jesus gives some dire predictions for what the future holds for his disciples,

‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 
‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.  
‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.  
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 
Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
When your own family rejects you because of the Christian faith, do not lose heart. Instead, pray that they will someday see the light, and keep proclaiming it from the rooftops!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina Bishop Andrew Waldo to Retire

I received the news via e-mail that Bishop Waldo of Upper South Carolina is planning to retire in 2021. As you read his letter, remember that the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina (EDUSC) lost 20% of its average Sunday attendance dropping from 8,300 to 6,500 during his tenure (statistics are from 2009-2018 from the Episcopal Parochial Report).  If there are any clues in his letter as to why his time as Bishop has been such a disaster, I can find only a couple that he admits to, or should I say, boasts about, and those are same-sex blessings/marriage, and having one of the highest percentages of women in charge of congregations in the Episcopal Church.

I can only speculate, but my guess is that the next Bishop of Upper South Carolina will be someone who promises to build on Waldo's "legacy".

Oh well, read it and weep,

“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

6 June 2020

"Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Throughout the seasons of history, a great cloud of witnesses is filled with faithful women, men, and children who have met times similar to our own with steadfastness and persistence. St. Paul knew his own biggest challenge to bring the good news of God in Christ Jesus to the nations would take several lifetimes. 'I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,' he wrote to the church in Corinth. Our work as disciples is constantly one of 'some planting and others tending,' as we put to use our many gifts in the one Spirit for the good of all.

Early in 2019, I began discussions with my family, some of my bishop colleagues, and the Presiding Bishop about a horizon for me to request the support of the Standing Committee to call for the election of the Ninth Bishop of Upper South Carolina.

This day, I have asked for and received the Standing Committee’s consent to call for the election of the ninth Bishop of Upper South Carolina at a special Convention on Saturday, 25 September, 2021. My resignation as your Bishop will take effect on 31 December 2021, about 19 months from now. This date was set late last fall in consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s office, and the decision to announce at today’s Diocesan Executive Committee meeting was made this past February, in consultation with the Rev. Stephen Rhoades, President of the Standing Committee.

In this season of my own family’s life, I am called to make time for my children and grandchildren in ways we have not previously been able, and while my health is excellent. Later this month, I will celebrate 32 years of ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, which followed nine years in a vocation as a performing musician and teacher. The next season in my family’s life is approaching. Following the timeline established by the Standing Committee, the Nominating Committee for the Ninth Bishop of Upper South Carolina, once called, will have the task of discerning whom God is persuading to serve his Church in this capacity, in this place, for the next season of your common life—who will lead you in following God’s call.

In the coming months, we will have ample opportunity to reflect on the important work have we have done together in God’s gracious hands. We have learned much about how to be in deeper dialogue on difficult issues, like same-sex blessings/marriage and racial reconciliation. We have built relationships to support public education through parish-school partnerships and advocacy. We have worked to create and live into norms of transparency and mature discipleship across the Diocese. We have changed the face of the college of clergy within the Diocese, now having one of the highest percentages of women in charge of congregations in the Episcopal Church.

We have learned much about being the Church during this pandemic, and yet we are just getting started in understanding—and are just now planting seeds for—a Church that will emerge energized, newly skilled in technology, freshly longing for in-person relationships, and even more deeply centered in and grounded upon the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We are continuing to work on strengthening youth and campus/young adult ministry and leadership development, and to create a stronger, more flexible and higher capacity camping and retreat ministry at Gravatt Camp and Conference Center.

Most of you have heard me speak or preach or tell stories about events and people who shaped my passion and understanding around issues of race and reconciliation—stories from my childhood in Alabama and ever since. Today’s conflicts around racial justice are urgent signs of the critical work we still have to do—addressing injustice, economic inequality, education inequity, and discrimination. Polarized politics and pandemic have only accentuated the importance and difficulty of this work to which God calls us, and yet we have much more work in learning how to grow in Christian maturity during a time of conflict and alienation. Indeed, disciples of Jesus—across time—have strived to embrace and live Jesus’ words, 'Love one another, as I have loved you.'

Our Centennial Campaign: From Generation to Generation in the Church, with its goals to renew the Episcopal Church Home at York Place, Gravatt Camp & Conference Center, and Canterbury Campus Ministries is still underway, even though we recognize it will take longer than planned. Each goal will play an important healing and restorative role in the life of this Diocese for many years to come.

In other words, we remain a Church focused on making, equipping and sending mature disciples. This is and continues to be our vocation, our call from God.

We have plenty of time in the months ahead to engage this work, and for the whole diocesan community to imagine who you will be, and where you will go when you turn the next episcopal bend in the river. In the meantime, I intend to remain fully engaged, excited about our shared work as fellow travelers and laborers in God’s mission.

In 2009, when I was still a nominee for Bishop, I traveled here from Minnesota for the November 'walkabouts'—the all-day Q&A sessions in Columbia and Greenville with people from across the Diocese—with an uncertain heart about my call to be here. I had heard that, even in the midst of theological turmoil in the Church, this was a Diocese that simply wanted to stay together. At the walkabouts, many of you articulated that deep desire over and over again, in one way or another. Your love and care for one another, your commitment to the good news of God in Christ, and your passion for ministry was palpable. By this point, I was listening. Awakened. Persuaded that, should I be elected, we could—for a season—serve God together in gladness and devotion. And we have. These continue to be some of the most inspiring, fruitfully challenging, and spiritually rich years of my life.

In gratitude, love and hope, I remain faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina"