Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Brief Observation

During the Obama years, this blog used to get regular visits from a Department of Justice computer (don't ask how I know). Since President Trump was sworn in, those visits have stopped.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

The World's Best Bread Recipe Ever

There are few aromas that people find as alluring as that of fresh baked bread. I can imagine primitive man walking miles to return home or to the next village when he smelled that. The only other primitive aroma that might rival bread is a barbeque after a fresh kill.

The world is hungry for a great bread recipe. It need look no further than John 6:35,41-51
"Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 
Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’"
Jesus not only is the best bread you will ever taste, but he also provides the best drink as well.

Try it, you'll love it.

It is the best thing since sliced bread.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Anglican Reformation Began in 2008 - Stephen Noll

Just as trying to pin down a date for the Protestant Reformation has proven to be problematic, where to draw a mark on the timeline of history for the Anglican Reformation will forever be debated (if Anglicanism survives as an important Christian entity).

Stephen Noll has written extensively on the rift in the Anglican Communion and states that the 2008  Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) marked the beginning of the Anglican Reformation, although the roots had sprouted at least 5 years earlier as he describes in his "Commentary on the 2018 GAFCON Letter to the Churches Part Five: Reforming God’s Church",

"I have documented (see Essay 4 of my book and also here) the rejection of Lambeth I.10 and the failure of the Instruments to discipline the Episcopal Church in the years that followed the 1998 Lambeth Conference, culminating in the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop in 2003. The so-called 'Windsor process,' which occupied much time and expense, warned that the actions of the Episcopal Church might 'tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level' but then did nothing about it. The responsibility for the failure of the Instruments of Communion to discipline those who had violated biblical doctrine and morals is unequally placed: the Primates, especially those from the Global South, called repeatedly for repentance and obedience throughout this period and most clearly in 2007, but their call was undercut and ultimately negated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion Office. 
As Lambeth 2008 approached with no resolution of the crisis, Archbishop Peter Akinola commissioned a Statement for the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA), titled 'The Road to Lambeth,' which warned:
The current situation is a twofold crisis for the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the 'Instruments' of the Communion to exercise discipline, has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith, as is supposed by the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality. 
 We must therefore receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened. There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity. We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers. 
Archbishop Rowan Williams ignored 'The Road to Lambeth' and invited all the bishops of the Episcopal Church except Bishop Gene Robinson (note: the offense was not just Robinson’s example but the teaching of those who elected and consecrated him, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5:19 and 18:5-6). 
In consequence, the Global Anglican Future Conference met in Jerusalem in June 2008. A reformation had begun."
I hate to argue with Dr. Noll, but I will believe it when I see a wholesale rejection by GAFCON bishops of their invitations to the next Lambeth gathering. If that happens this next time around, I will name GAFCON 2018 as the beginning of the Anglican Reformation because as long as people remain in communion with Canterbury,  reformation will be tethered to the dead weight of the Church of England, the Episcopal sect USA, the Canadians, the Scots, Wales, and all of those rotten branches that refuse to repent of the damaging innovations that they have promoted over the past several decades.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Torn Ligaments

In this Sunday's reading from Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul compares the unity of the Church to the parts of a human body knitted together by ligaments. 

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;   he gave gifts to his people.’(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Every time that I have heard a sermon that drew from this passage (or from 1 Corinthians 12-30 in which Paul employs a similar argument) the primary focus has been on spiritual gifts. Now I know that a rector looking out on a congregation in which the 1/3 rule probably applies (1/3 of the people do 3/3's of the work), wants the do-nothings in the crowd to hear these words and to come up during coffee hour to volunteer to join the altar guild or some other worthy service.

Not once in all my years have I heard an Episcopal priest talk about Paul's warning,
"We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming."
 That probably strikes too close to home. The winds of doctrinal change have been tossing Episcopalians about for decades, and most of that wind has been blowing out of the mouths of bishops and priests, the very members who are supposed to be guardians of doctrine and protectors of the rest of us from being tossed to and fro resulting in torn ligaments and separated body parts left in pieces on the Anglican battlefield.

Those crafty and deceitful clergy are the ones responsible for tearing apart the ligaments of the body of the Church.

Thankfully there is a skilled surgeon available who can knit the torn ligaments and create a whole, functioning body.
We just have to call on Him and allow Him to operate on us.

And Jesus is His name.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Can Men Who Claim to Be Women Be Lesbian?

The transexual train has run into a lesbian wall called "Stonewall". Stonewall is a group in the U.K. that is all things LGBT and whose mission statement is,
"We're here to let all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, here and abroad, know they're not alone.
We believe we're stronger united, so we partner with organisations that help us create real change for the better. We have laid deep foundations across Britain - in some of our greatest institutions - so our communities can continue to find ways to flourish, and individuals can reach their full potential. We’re here to support those who can’t yet be themselves.
But our work is not finished yet. Not until everyone feels free to be who they are, wherever they are."
Their mission that everyone should "feel free to be who they are" is causing the ruckus. A person's identity is now based on feelings which of course are forever subjective to change, and this becomes a problem when a transexual genetic and anatomic male who identifies as a woman decides he is still sexually attracted to genetic and anatomic females. Stonewall apparently decided to address this sticky situation by asserting that such an individual can call themselves a lesbian.  This ruffled some "real lesbians" as reported in The Times,

"Lesbians have accused Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, of erasing biological women by saying that 'male-bodied persons with penises' can be lesbians.
The Lesbian Rights Alliance (LRA) has sent an open letter to Stonewall demanding that it take the L out of LGBTQ because it makes 'lesbians invisible and erases lesbians through its promotion of the Trans Agenda”'.
The 135 signatories say that Stonewall supports the 'absurd idea that male-bodied persons with penises can be lesbians'.
They say that lesbians are biological women who are sexually attracted to, and have sexual and emotional relationships with other biological women only.
They wrote: 'If we refuse to accept these men as lesbians you label us transphobes and ‘Terfs’, unleashing a torrent of hate speech upon us from your supporters.'
Transgender activists refer to women who disagree with them as 'Terfs' — trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
The LRA said: 'We urge you to stop claiming to represent us and leave the L out.'”
Just to show you how out of touch I have been, this is the first time that I have learned of the term "Terf — trans-exclusionary radical feminists".

This whole thing is ironic to me because for years I endured the teaching of a revisionist priest who at every opportunity derided "American individualism" yet he was fully supportive of the LGBTQ agenda, an agenda which is all about people being "free to be who they are, wherever they are."

At some point absolute freedom disintegrates into things like an LRA Terf war over an LGBTQ Stonewall. One might say that absolute freedom perverts absolutely.

Before I get caught in the crossfire, I'm getting the L out.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Jesus Feeding the 5000 and Walking on Water: What Do You Believe?

Six years ago, I had the privilege as a lay person to  preach on John 6:1-21. As this passage came around again this Sunday, I will take the opportunity to publish that sermon. Here goes nothing,
"Wow, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and walking on water! Now those are tough acts to follow.
The last time I stood in a pulpit was when I was thirteen and the narrator in our Epiphany pageant, and that was a point in my faith journey when I was just beginning to struggle with doubts. I was starting to go from the simple and close relationship with God that I had as a child to the doubt, rebellion, and eventual denial of God that I experienced as a teenager. When was a rebellious 17 year old, I remember writing a paper on the new rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar for my religion class. In the process, I found that I identified with  “Herod’s Song” which contained the lines, 
“So, you are the Christ, you're the great Jesus Christ. Prove to me that you're no fool; walk across my swimming pool.” 
"Feed my household with this bread. You can do it on your head.”
By the time I was a College Freshman, I was a vocal opponent of the Gospel, and stories like the ones we heard today were among my favorite targets.
But later that same year, I accepted the challenge put to me by my Christian friends at school, the challenge that I examine the evidence in scripture for myself, and it was after studying the Gospel of Luke and his orderly account, that I gave up the fight, submitted to God's will, and accepted Jesus as my Saviour.
Finding myself standing here today, reflecting on my faith journey, and now tasked with discussing the signs, and wonders found in the sixth chapter of John, after having vigorously denied them in my youth, is a miracle of sorts. You just never know where God will lead you.
The early followers of Jesus, as described in the sixth chapter of John, were following Him because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.
John's choice of the word for “sign” is intentional. A sign is unique and a bit different from “miracle” or “wonder” in that a sign definitely points to something else.

When I was growing up, our family would take long road trips. We kids would be fascinated by colorful road side signs like ones for “The World's Largest Snake Farm 15 miles ahead.” Those signs usually had a painting of a beautiful woman being threatened by a huge snake... the kind of thing that would make us kids beg for Dad to stop. And there was never just one sign, they were staggered, with another one at 10 miles, 5 miles and so on. And if we ever succeeded in getting Dad to stop the car at the snake farm, we were disappointed to find that the reality of the thing was far inferior to what we had created in our imaginations.
Man made signs are like that.
After witnessing the first sign we heard about today, the multiplication of the loaves, the crowds following Jesus thought that this sign pointed to “the prophet who was to come into the world,” They were probably thinking of Jesus as the second coming of Elijah, and Jesus will have to correct them later on in this chapter of John. His explanation will not sit well with many of his followers.
The other sign John tells us about today is Jesus walking on the water. It is a curious account because in John's account we are left guessing if Jesus ever gets into the boat, and we see the boat immediately getting to its destination. This account seems incomplete, but John, unlike Luke, never said that he was going to give an orderly account of things.
These two events, should be familiar to all of us. They are pretty much foundational for most of us. While the walking on water stories differ somewhat in detail amongst the Gospels and in fact, the story gets left out of the Gospel of Luke altogether, the story of the feeding of the five thousand is repeated with remarkable similarity in all four Gospels, and is said to be the only such miracle to be so documented apart from the Resurrection itself.
Foundational: They certainly were to the early Christian Church to be told so often.
But are these stories foundational for us today?
How can we be sure that these signs are pointing us in the right direction?
And how do we answer the rebellious teenager's assertions, “It was all a trick,” or “People made it all up.” That was me.
Now, arguments that the signs and miracles were parlor tricks are nothing new. The First Apology or defense, was an early work of Christian apologetics addressed by Justin to the Roman Emperor around AD 165. Part of his argument against the claim that Jesus was just a clever magician was that these acts had been prophesied in the Old Testament.
Justin's Apologetic didn't work with the Emperor and that's why we call him Justin Martyr.
And his call to look to the words of the O.T. prophets may not work for people today many of whom either discount much of the Old Testament as irrelevant, or deny that the older scriptures contain things that foreshadow the coming of Jesus at all.
You certainly can't deny the parallels between Jesus and the O.T. Prophets. We heard one today in the story of Elisha and the feeding of the 100, although Jesus beats Elisha’s deed 50 fold.
And before Elisha, we had Elijah (1 Kings 17) feeding the widow and her son, with the inexhaustible jar of flour and jug of oil, a story you did not hear today...
And there were water miracles associated with the older prophets as well.
So was Jesus just another prophet like Elijah or Elisha as his early followers thought? Or was he the clever magician that Justin's opponents claimed? Or was he the fraud that Andrew Loyd Webber's Herod mocked. If all I had to work with was today's little snippet of the Gospel of John, I might still struggle with these miracles, but there is more to the story.
Indeed, it is only with our post resurrection eyes that we can even imagine where these signs are pointing. Let me present the viewpoint of C.S. Lewis on “Miracles.”
“If we open such books as Grimm’s Fairy Tales ... we find ourselves in a world of miracles so diverse that they can hardly be classified. Beasts turn into men and men into beasts or trees, trees talk, ships become goddesses... Some people cannot stand this kind of story, others find it fun. But the least suspicion that it was true would turn the fun into nightmare. If such things really happened they would, I suppose, show that Nature was being invaded. But they would show that she was being invaded by an alien power. The fitness of the Christian miracles, and their difference from these mythological miracles, lies in the fact that they show invasion by a Power which is not alien. They are what might be expected to happen when she is invaded not simply by a god, but by the God of Nature: by a Power which is outside her jurisdiction not as a foreigner but as a sovereign. They proclaim that He who has come is not merely a king, but the King, her King and ours. It is this which, to my mind, puts the Christian miracles in a different class from most other miracles.... when Christ walks on the water we have a miracle of the New Creation. ... This miracle is the foretaste of a Nature that is still in the future. The New creation is just breaking in. ...That momentary glimpse was a snowdrop of a miracle. The snowdrops show that we have turned the corner of the year. Summer is coming...None of the Miracles of the New Creation can be considered apart from the Resurrection and Ascension: and that will require another chapter.”

Today's readings from John's Gospel clearly show the new creation breaking in, and that should make us curious as to what the next chapters will bring.
This Chapter of John is a good example of his way of conveying that message. Of course, the signs point to the divine nature of Jesus. And, if you read further, you will see Jesus chastising his followers and explaining to them the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves. In the course of his explanation, Jesus repeatedly makes the point that the feeding of the five thousand is not about food for the stomach. It is about something else, something new that has entered the world.
Now this is where the people following Him start thinking that Jesus is not a magician or a fraud but must be crazy, because He starts claiming to be the bread from heaven, and not only that but He is the Word made flesh, and they are supposed to gnaw on that. (Yes the word is translated as gnaw)
That was not what they thought the signs pointed to, and this presents a real problem to His followers, and in fact proves to be way too much for many of them who choose, at this juncture, to leave Him.
“Feeding five thousand, walking on water... okay, Elijah and Elisha could do that, but being the Word made flesh, forget it.” Even many of those who had eaten of the barley loaves, could not stomach this claim., and they say to Jesus, in verse 60 “…This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
Who can hear it today?
Now, We who know the post resurrection Jesus, have an advantage here and are less likely to walk away because of these bold claims.
Fast forward to the end of John's Gospel to see how the resurrection helps us to accept the“hard saying” of Jesus by looking at the parallels between the early signs and the final ones. After Jesus' death, his disciples had returned to fishing, and they were having no luck at all until a man on the beach, who they later learn is the risen Lord, tells them where to cast their nets. When they listen to Him and follow His instructions, their catch is multiplied.. shall I say… a thousand fold? They are then invited to breakfast where Jesus gives thanks, breaks bread, (sound familiar) and opens their eyes once again.

Next Peter gets instructed repeatedly, to feed Jesus' sheep. Think back to the other Gospels and their pictures of the feeding of the five thousand, reclining on the green grass where Jesus had led them, and Jesus, before performing the miracle, tells his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples couldn't do it then, they did not understand, and they had yet to receive the Holy Spirit. But here, at the conclusion of John's Gospel, Jesus is telling Peter to feed His sheep not with bread and fishes but with the bread from heaven. This bread is the Word made flesh, and it is the good news transmitted to us through the Gospel of John, one example of which we saw back in chapter six, verse 40, “That you believe in Him and have everlasting life, and He will raise you up on the last day.”
Isn't that what people still hunger for?
It took me a long time, but after reading, studying the witness of the Gospels, and chewing on God’s word contained therein, alone and with friends, I can confess my belief.
Yes, I no longer have a problem with Jesus walking on water or feeding the multitudes. After all, I believe that He rose from the dead, and I believe that He died so that we might live to tell the tale that the signs of Jesus point to something greater than we can imagine. Man made signs with their promises to satisfy the desires of the human heart will always disappoint. The problem for many of us is how do we tell if a sign is man made or not, particularly when the sign claims to be the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we go chasing after every one of those, we will never arrive at our destination. No, the message of John's Gospel is quite simple, look no further, the signs are all there, Jesus staring you in the face, believe in Him, fill yourselves with Him, and live.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Disconnect Between the Houses of the Episcopal General Comvention

The 2018 General Convention (GC) of Episcopalians saw something of a shift in the trajectory of the progressive march to the promised land, a promised land whose landscape has always been subject to change. The current goals that drew the most attention at GC 2018 were gender neutral liturgies and Prayer Book revision, both of which are necessary to get to the nirvana of having a same-sex marriage rite enshrined in the Prayer Book.

As some had predicted, full Prayer Book revision was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Deputies, and rejected by the House of Bishops, It appears that it would cost 8 million dollars and take 10- 20 years to complete such a revision and that there is insufficient theological brain power left in the Episcopal sect to even attempt such a project.

Over the past two decades, the House of Bishops has caved to most innovations, but this time they went against the will of the House of Deputies. Some might think that this represents a turning of the tide as though the progressive wave hit a sea wall, but I don't think the House of Bishops wall is built of stone. Instead, the House of Bishops wall is bound to crumble as it gets pounded every three years at GC and as its members age out and are replaced by, you guessed it, veterans of the House of Deputies.

You see, Episcopal bishops are elected by the clergy and pewsitters of their dioceses. And who is most politically active in the majority of Episcopal dioceses? Revisionists and progressives of course. So, while it may take 10 years for enough turn over to take place to shift the vote in the House of Bishops, it will happen eventually.

In the meantime, the denomination has authorized the continued trial use of same sex marriage liturgies and gender neutral liturgies, and Episcopalians have given its progressive priests the right to use these liturgies without their bishop's permission.

So there is a disconnect between those old fashioned knuckle dragging bishops and the politically active  junior clergy and pewsitters in the House of Deputies, but the progressives will eventually pull things back together and see their desires fulfilled. Just give them some more time because heresies never die, they just get reincarnated every three years.