Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Confessions 1: Anne Rice

I did not like the first vampire book of her's that I was given, and I did not follow her career except when she started buying up familiar properties. I was intrigued when she purchased Saint Elizabeth's as I had walked past the chapel at Saint Elizabeth's so many times that the exterior image is burned into my memory. I remember wondering what it looked like on the inside. As the picture below shows, she apparently restored it lovingly.

She has returned to Christ, and she describes her journey in the video below. It is well worth watching.
h/t Texanglican

I am so happy for her. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Starting Points

Today's readings were full of launching points for a sermon. We started with Psalm 23. You remember,
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake..."

And Acts 9:36-43 with the miracle of Peter's prayer resulting in Tabitha returning to life.
Then Revelation 7:9-17 with it's remarkable imagery and this interesting exchange,
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

And finally, the sharp words of Jesus included in John 10:22-30
"The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one."

Our Deacon, Rick Hanners did an excellent job bringing in all the texts with the exception of Peter's work on Tabitha. Rick focused on us as sheep, something we really would rather not be if we had our druthers. Since we do not want to be led, what would make us follow this Shepherd that the scriptures testify to?

This was one of those rare, "Follow Jesus" sermons that we needed to hear and listen to attentively, anxiously, yearningly, for us to forget for the moment our selfish thoughts and cares, and to begin anew and follow Him. I hope my readers were blessed with a similar Sunday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marcus Borg's Palliative Care Plan for the "Common Christians," or Why I Want Marcus Borg to Come to My Funeral

Because I want at least one person to be happy, or maybe because then, and only then, will I allow myself to be assimilated into the collective.

From the Washington Post:
"Q.1 What should pastors do if they no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination?"
This may not apply to the Episcopal church as it is hard to define the beliefs of the denomination.
"Q.2 Do clergy have a moral obligation not to challenge the sincere faith of their parishioners?"
I am trying to understand this question. I guess the problem the question is trying to address is where the clergy's notion of sincere faith is at variance with the parishioner's notions of sincere faith. For example, (which shall become clear later) if an enlightened theologian, bishop, priest, or deacon, say someone like retired Episcopal Bishop Spong, develops a sincere faith that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and that Jesus was not resurrected in a physical sense, does someone like Bishop Spong have a moral obligation to withhold these heretical ideas from simple believing pewsitters? All I can say is that if simple parishioners have a sincere faith, their clergy should remember Matthew 18:6,
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
That sounds like a moral warning which a pastor should have an obligation to obey.

The converse situation can be imagined as an orthodox preacher facing parishioners who are getting caught up in the latest unorthodox wave. Is there some sort of moral obligation to remain silent on the issues? I think not.
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:2-4 (King James Version))
Next question, please.
Q.3 "If this requires them to dissemble from the pulpit, doesn't this create systematic hypocrisy at the center of religion?"
We don't need any more systemic hypocrisy, but I think the questioner is leading the respondent to imagine a preacher who believes he has a superior grasp on things that those ignorant pew people could never understand and might cause alarm or flight if he preached the new thing from the pulpit. If the preacher hides his new knowledge, wouldn't he be giving his sermon with his fingers crossed behind his back? What about crossing his fingers while saying the creed? Should he cross them in the open or hidden so none of his congregants can see? The poor unorthodox pastor cannot maintain that charade and remain in good health. What is he to do?

My hypothetical orthodox preacher, on the other hand, when faced with doubts might turn to scripture and his spiritual advisor, but would not use the pulpit as either a vehicle to espouse radical new ideas or as a means to work the problem out.
Q.4 "What would you want your pastor to do with his or her personal doubts or loss of faith?"
Easy, don't preach about it until he has recovered, undergo counseling with an orthodox clergyman, recant those false doctrines, pray for understanding and forgiveness from the Lord, immerse themselves in Bible study and prayer, and continue to be mentored by an orthodox clergyman. Failing that, consider another line of work.

Now, I want you to come up with your own answers, and then read Marcus Borg's responses:

Borg: "If a pastor/priest loses his/her faith in the sense of agreeing with 'the new atheism' as expressed in the recent bestselling books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, then I think it would be hypocritical for them to continue in their professional role. Or they might give themselves a brief period of time to see if this is their settled opinion."

I think it would be beyond hypocritical, and might be better categorized as sinful for a new atheist to continue as a pastor/priest.
Borg: "But I don't think this is the issue that many clergy face. Rather, the issue is what they learned in divinity school versus what they think that many in their congregations think. Contemporary seminary education -mainline Protestant and Catholic - leads to a different understanding of what it means to be Christian than what much of 'common Christianity' affirms."

I get the distinct impression that what they are teaching in seminaries is superior to what "common Christianity" affirms. I am also afraid that Borg is creating a straw man named "Joe Common Christian" which he will proceed to define in the next few sentences.
Borg: "By 'common Christianity,' I mean what most Christians took-for-granted until a generation or two ago - and perhaps about half (or more) of American Christians still assume to be the heart of Christianity. This 'common understanding' sees the afterlife as the central issue that Christianity addresses. Our problem is that we are sinners and deserve to punished, indeed condemned. This is where Jesus comes in: his death was the payment for our sins, and those who believe this will be forgiven and thus go to heaven."

It probably would not make a difference to Marcus Borg because it is not out of the mouth of his historical Jesus, but 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 came up in the lectionary cycle as I was typing this post.
"But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal."

Common Christians just don't get it, but seminarians have been re-educated and enlightened.
Borg: "In most mainline Protestant and Catholic seminaries, with varying degrees of intensity and clarity, this understanding is undermined by what candidates for ordination learn about the Bible and the Christian tradition. Christianity is not primarily about the afterlife, despite the emphasis placed upon life after death by much of common Christianity. It is about transformation this side of death - the transformation of ourselves and of the world."

Transformation on this side of death is a visible sign of the power of, among other things, the resurrection and the promise of life beyond death. No cross, no crown. Transformation of the world comes about through the actions of these transformed, redeemed, and what common Christians would call "saved" souls. Transformation of our sinful world cannot be completed by creatures such as us by ourselves because, even though baptized, we are always falling into sin. We just can't get it right. We still have to pray, "Thy kingdom come," and not, "Thanks Lord for the baptism and all that, but we can take care of things from here."
Borg: "When clergy sense a difference between this understanding and what their congregation thinks, I encourage them to be discerning."

Please don't give any advice on how to be discerning...uh oh here it comes anyway,
Borg: "If their congregation is mostly elderly and unlikely to survive beyond the death of its members, and if their elderly flock is not using 'common Christianity' to judge and beat up on other people, then there may be no need to try to change them. Clergy in situations like this might see themselves as chaplains in an old folks home."

Great advice, "Humor the poor demented creatures." Or, "That generation will die and then we can be free of "common Christianity." That is what made me think that Borg might be happy at my passing. Why not just go ahead and euthanize the common Christians. Or maybe they are slowly poisoning us. I have a term for that, and I call it "Episcopathanasia."
Borg: "But if clergy are in intergenerational churches with a potential future, then I encourage a different approach. Seek to bring your understanding of Christianity into your congregation. This can be done in sermons, but especially in adult theological re-education."

Hey, we have heard some of those sermons right here in little ole Rock Hill! I call it "beating people up with uncommon Christianity." Spread the new thang! Open the re-education camps!
Borg: "It is a crucial need in our time, and there are resources: reading groups; video series groups, especially videos produced by 'Living the Questions.' Clergy can lead these, though they need not. Laity can also do so."
Oh yeah, "Living the Questions2" a $295 "resource" for the progressive church featuring guess who as a contributor? Marcus Borg of course. Way to work in a free plug Marcus. I am sure there are plenty of gullible lay people who will fall for Borg's uncommon Christianity and shell out the bucks for his books and DVDs, but common Christians should be able to find plenty of Bibles and resources provided for them free of charge by other common Christians.
Borg: "My impression: the timidity - apprehension, fearfulness - of some mainline Protestant and Catholic clergy to convey their richer understandings of the Bible and Christianity has contributed to the decline of Christianity in our time."

These so called "richer" understandings are the cause of the decline and fall of the Episcopal church. How much of those richer understandings came from Borg himself? Just look at the books he has published. Does anyone else see the intellectual snobbery showing? He goes on to isolate himself and his new Christianity further,
Borg: "There are millions of people who cannot accept the beliefs of 'common Christianity.' Let conservative Christianity have a monopoly on 'common Christianity.' But those of us who care about Christianity and its future should not imitate that." By Marcus Borg | March 16, 2010; 3:16 PM ET

I came away from reading Borg's words with the notion that, in his eyes, the church would be better off ridding itself of "common Christians" so that the enlightened Christians could get on with changing the world. I felt the presence of an intellectual snobbishness that was quite disturbing coming from someone whom the church has elevated to such an important position as Canon Theolgian. I for one am glad to be counted as someone who Borg would look down his nose upon. I am looking forward to being placed in the palliative care wing of his church. I sincerely want him to be happy at my passing. In fact, I would predict from his statements that when I go, he would have the biggest smile of anyone attending my funeral. I always wanted people to be happy at my send off, so I really need to invite Marcus Borg so he can help cheer people up.

I will pray for Marcus Borg, that he might come to love the common Christian and their understanding of the faith delivered to us by the witness of the Apostles. Since he is unlikely to listen to a lowly pewster, I will include the following quotation with his invitation to my funeral,
"There is nothing we cannot be made to believe or disbelieve. If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth."

C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p. 43.

Post Script:

I ran this post past a common Christian last week, and I asked him what he thought. He responded simply and frankly, "I think he (Borg) must have fallen on his head."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Marcus J. Borg is Canon Theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, OR. Here is a commentary on Marcus Borg from

"Borg makes two negative claims about the historical Jesus: he was nonmessianic, which means that he didn't claim to be the Messiah or have a message focused on his own identity, and he was noneschatological, which means that he did not expect "the supernatural coming of the Kingdom of God as a world-ending event in his own generation" (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, p. 29). Borg summarizes his view of the historical Jesus in these words: "he was a spirit person, subversive sage, social prophet, and movement founder who invited his followers and hearers into a transforming relationship with the same Spirit that he himself knew, and into a community whose social vision was shaped by the core value of compassion" (op. cit., p. 119). By "spirit person," Borg means that Jesus was a "mediator of the sacred" for whom the Spirit or God was a reality that was experienced. Based on his experience of the sacred, for the historical Jesus compassion "was the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life centered in God" (op. cit., p. 46). Jesus spoke against the purity system in sayings like "blessed are the pure in heart" and in parables like that of the Good Samaritan. The historical Jesus challenged the purity boundaries in touching lepers as well as hemorrhaging women, in driving the money changers out of the temple, and in table fellowship even with outcasts. Jesus replaced an emphasis on purity with an emphasis on compassion. The historical Jesus spoke an alternative wisdom in aphorisms and parables that controverted the conventional wisdom based upon rewards and punishments. The earliest Christology of the Christian movement viewed Jesus as the voice of the Sophia. The images of Jesus as the Son of God and the Wisdom of God are metaphorical, just as much as the images of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Word of God.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Gospel

GSE4 Thematic Address 1: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ” - Abp Nicholas Okoh

"...the deity of Christ is increasingly becoming offensive in some quarters in our communion. For others the uniqueness of Christ cannot be taught in our pluralistic society. But pluralism was there, in the first country. The Jewish religion was there, so were the Greek Philosophies and religions, hence it was said that the cross was foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling block to the Jews. The creeds, the 39 articles (see 2, 3, 4) and the Holy Scriptures, all uphold the deity and uniqueness of Jesus, the Christ. To deny these fundamentals is to abandon the way; it is apostasy; it is 'another gospel,' which is condemned in scripture."

What are stumbling blocks for some are the blocks with which others pave the way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Missionary Talk

Today's services were delayed by an unexpected fire alarm that resulted in the evacuation of Lumpkin Hall and the sanctuary. Everyone was forced to the parking lot across the street until the Rock Hill Fire Department had checked things out. Fortunately there was no holocaust this Sunday, and services proceeded although someone had to babysit the fire control panel because the alarm kept misfiring.

Today we had a special visitor, a missionary who was born in Spartanburg and who attended the Church of the Advent, Laura Estevez. She is working in Ecuador with her husband Jorge. It sounds like they are engaged in an important ministry with children of the streets. Donations can be made to "International Teams." Click here for the web site, or click here to donate directly. I think you can designate Laura and Jorge Estevez in the top line, and there is a separate box for comments and prayers.

For your benefit here is the Statement of Faith for the International Teams,
"We believe in one God, eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
We believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit was born of the virgin Mary, was true God and true man existing in one person and was without sin. We believe in His representative and substitutionary sacrifice, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to the Father, His present life as Lord of all, High Priest and Advocate, and His personal return in power and glory.

We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells and gives life to believers, enables them to understand and apply the Scriptures, empowers them for godly living and equips them for service and witness.

We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God, without error in the original documents, fully trustworthy, and the final authority in all matters of Christian faith and life.
We believe that each member of the human race is fallen,sinful and lost; that the shed blood of Jesus Christ provides the only ground for forgiveness of sins and justification to all who receive Him by faith; and that only through regeneration by the Holy Spirit can they become children of God.
We believe the one, holy, universal Church is the body of Christ, composed of all regenerate people. This redeemed community worships God and seeks to proclaim the Good News to all people.
We believe in the bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust, the everlasting blessedness of the saved, and the everlasting punishment of the lost."

We believe!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Classical Music As Social Control

The other day I was coerced into discussing my personal likes and dislikes in music by my piano teacher (yes the pewster is a first year student). She noticed pained expressions appearing on my face as some composers names were mentioned. No, she did not mention Frank Zappa, but there are a number of 20th century composers and compositions that I found too painful to endure when taking "Music Appreciation" in college and they still affect me to this day. I did not appreciate the atonal experiments, nor did I care for things based on certain mathematical formulas. I think there is a place for cacophony, just not an entire suite based upon it.

What sounds annoy kids these days? I have witnessed aversion to classical music in some members of the younger generation, but I suspect that most of this dislike is feigned, or at the very least it is a problem with the different approach to sensuality that classical music takes compared to rap, hip-hop, rock and roll, etc. Or it may have something to do with the need to slow down and actually listen to classical music.

My piano teacher and I discussed the use of Beethoven in "A Clockwork Orange" to try to change the lead character, Alex's, behavior.

"Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now. As I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures!"(Alex listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony)

Later, she sent me this piece entitled "Weaponizing Mozart: How Britain is using classical music as a form of social control" by Brendan O'Neill of "Spiked" in London.
"In January it was revealed that West Park School, in Derby in the midlands of England, was 'subjecting' (its words) badly behaved children to Mozart and others. In 'special detentions,' the children are forced to endure two hours of classical music both as a relaxant (the headmaster claims it calms them down) and as a deterrent against future bad behavior (apparently the number of disruptive pupils has fallen by 60 per cent since the detentions were introduced.)

One news report says some of the children who have endured this Mozart authoritarianism now find classical music unbearable. As one critical commentator said, they will probably 'go into adulthood associating great music—the most bewitchingly lovely sounds on Earth—with a punitive slap on the chops.' This is what passes for education in Britain today: teaching kids to think 'Danger!' whenever they hear Mozart’s Requiem or some other piece of musical genius."

I wish I were a kid today. Back when I was in school, a special treat was a trip to a concert by our local symphony orchestra. Of course, some kids cut up, some were just there to get out of class, but some of us actually got something out of it.

Punishment, on the other hand, was something to be feared. The most dreadful thing was a trip to the Assistant Headmaster's office where, behind closed doors, all manner of horrors were said to be done to hapless youngsters. Sometimes they punished us by making us write 200 times, "I will not make paper trinkets in Mr. Stewart's class," or they made us drag a wire screen around a cinder track all the while chasing us in a school bus and yelling "Run you dogs!" at us through a megaphone. Oh, the tortures they devised, but Mozart!? Never that!
P.R. Deltoid: "I've just come from the hospital; your victim has died."
Alex: "You try to frighten me. Admit so, sir. This is some new form of torture. Say it, Brother Sir."
P.R. Deltoid: "It'll be your own torture. I hope to God it'll torture you to madness." (from "A Clockwork Orange")

The article goes on to remind us of Alex's complaint about his reprogramming in "A Clockwork Orange."
"Pleading with his therapists to turn the music off, he tells them that 'Ludwig van' did nothing wrong, he 'only made music.' He tells the doctors it’s a sin to turn him against Beethoven and take away his love of music. But they ignore him. At the end of it all, Alex is no longer able to listen to his favorite music without feeling distressed. A bit like that schoolboy in Derby who now sticks his fingers in his ears when he hears Mozart."

O'Neill apparently thinks that the use of these "special detentions" will have similar, sinful, long lasting adverse effects on the wayward youngsters of today's Britain.
"The weaponization of classical music speaks volumes about the British elite’s authoritarianism and cultural backwardness...
...they have so little faith in young people’s intellectual abilities, in their capacity and their willingness to engage with humanity’s highest forms of art, that they imagine Beethoven and Mozart and others will be repugnant to young ears. Of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Now I know why I can't appreciate track and field telecasts.

I think O'Neill will be proved wrong, but there lies hidden in most pieces of commentary on the subject of punishment the question of the end justifying the means. I quote again from "A Clockwork Orange."
Prison Chaplain: "Choice! The boy has not a real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. The insincerity was clear to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice."
Minister: "Padre, there are subtleties! We are not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime and with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons. He will be your true Christian, ready to turn the other cheek, ready to be crucified rather than crucify, sick to the heart at the thought of killing a fly. Reclamation! Joy before the angels of God! The point is that it works."
Good classical music has enduring, endearing charms that can soothe a savage breast and can transcend generation gaps. Is it torture? Does the end justify the means? Is irreparable harm being done to today's youth, or is harm being done to classical music? Could it be any worse than embedding classical music in a violent film?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Eucharistic Prayer D: The PETA Prayer

Every now and then something gets stuck in my craw, and I just can't seem to get it down. This Easter, we started using "Eucharistic Prayer D" from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. To those unfamiliar with the history of the revolutionary changes inside the 1979 BCP, I direct you to the pages of the Prayer Book Society, or the late Peter Toon's little book, "Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004."

We usually refer to "Eucharistic Prayer C" as the "Star Trek Eucharist" because of the following line,
"At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

By your will they were created and have their being."

Eucharistic Prayer D, on the other hand, does not have a moniker as far as I know, at least not until now! I have a couple of ideas, but first let's look at the problematic area which starts after the Sanctus {p. 374},
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

We acclaim you, holy Lord, glorious in power. Your mighty works reveal your wisdom and love. You formed us in your own image, giving the whole world into our care, so that, in obedience to you, our Creator, we might rule and serve all your creatures. When our disobedience took us far from you, you did not abandon us to the power of death. In your mercy you came to our help, so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation.

Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as one of us, yet without sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy. To fulfill your purpose he gave himself up to death; and, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.

And, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all."

Did anybody catch the first sticking point? It was that bit about ruling and serving all your creatures. Yes, I know, I would have capitalized "Your" too, but serving God's creatures does tend to diminish a certain command out of Genesis 1 that was the bane of eco-pastors of the 60's.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:27-28 KJV)

In my house it is true that I serve God's animals.

I allow them to rule my schedule, my dog food budget, and I clean up every time the cat thinks outside the box.

So far, I have two votes for the moniker "The PETA Prayer."

But don't forget that man was first given permission to "serve" animals in Genesis 9,
"And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." (Genesis 9:1-3)

The cat had better run and hide, my Lenten fast is over.

Genesis 9 has us serving animals all right, for lunch! Maybe that's what Eucharistic Prayer D means to say, but I doubt it. I think the intent is to diminish the dominion of man, and to shield us from those words from Genesis that caused so many priests of the day so much grief back during the beginning of the environmental awareness revolution that followed the popularization of Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring."

I did a web search for commentary on Prayer D, but came up a little short. I did find the following from Grace Church Charleston,

"Eucharistic Prayer D (page 372) is adapted from the Liturgy of Saint Basil (d. 379) and is the most widely authorized Eucharistic prayer among Christians. It is included in the Coptic, Greek and Slavic Orthodox Churches, in the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, and other parts of the Anglican Communion. It incorporates the theology of the other three prayers, and is suited for Maundy Thursday, and some Sundays in Eastertide. Kirtley+ 10/7/2007" (The Rev'd Dr. Kirtley Yearwood Vicar)

I could not for the life of me imagine St. Basil writing anything like this, so another web search turned up his liturgy and what he had to say about the animals, (p.27)
"...for it is you who have given us the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy."

That is way too violent for Episcopalians to hear on a Sunday.

I have some other problems with Eucharistic Prayer D. Compare the above words from the 1979 BCP with the words of the 1928 BCP that follow the Sanctus,
"All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again:"

I think that is a pretty good summation of the theology of the Eucharist. Compare that with the last paragraph of the 1979 prayer D that I quoted above,
"And, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all."

I find the "to complete his work in the world" part troublesome. I am afraid that this can lead to a diminution of the redemption we receive from Jesus, and contains a hint of "works righteousness," a hint of a mankind that has been made right (history proves otherwise) and needs only a little help from the Holy Spirit for man to establish God's Kingdom, and a hint of the progressive notion of the the continuous improvement of humanity.

Revisionists love the new Eucharistic prayers because these prayers free them from the perceived fetters of scripture and remove a lot of that old talk about sin that is supposed to turn people off. Because they are sanctioned by the church, the prayers are assumed to be theologically correct. I think the late Peter Toon+ would agree with me when I ask, "What is wrong with the old version?"
"BUT chiefly are we bound to praise thee for the
glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our
Lord: for he is the very Paschal Lamb, which was offered
for us, and hath taken away the sin of the world;
who by his death hath destroyed death, and by his rising
to life again hath restored to us everlasting life."
(Upon Easter Day, and seven days after. BCP 1928)

R.I.P. Lent 2010, or The Diet of Champions, Free of Charge

Now that Lent is over, the ashes can be cleaned from the fireplace, and the fast can be been broken, and it might be permissible to talk about those Lenten experiences.
Matthew 6:16-18 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
At the onset of the 2010 Lenten season back in February, I was still listening for direction as to the disciplines intended for me. Within the first week, the message was clear that I should not only fast and pray, but exercise the body as well. The end result has been the loss of eight pounds of excess baggage, increased physical and spiritual endurance, and a closer relationship with God. This was not something I came up with on my own as a self improvement program. I credit the Lord for drawing up the plan and accomplishing these results. I see now that the Lord knew how to prepare me for a new life after Easter.

Here is the plan and how it worked.

Anyone wishing to duplicate these results should first consult with their Great Physician.

I would not advise this particular plan for anyone else because of its highly personalized nature and risk to persons with diabetes.

Beginning with prayer for help, daily readings from the lectionary, regular worship, daily Bible study with the support of FCD (see right hand column), thirty minute periods of silence, my spiritual life was strengthened, and I found myself spending more quality time with the Lord.

Having experience with fasting, and exercise, but never the combination of the two, I was led to begin the fast by studying up on weight loss. Examining my daily caloric expenditures and the caloric content of a pound of fat was a good place to start. It appears that a pound of fat contains 3500 calories. In order to lose a pound of fat a week I needed to run a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day. A few clicks of the mouse will tell you that it is hard to increase your caloric expenditures by 500 calories a day by exercise without spending most of your day at the gym. I knew that I usually can only engage in vigorous exercise every other day, and it was sobering to find out using the Fit Day calculator that this probably only burned an extra 300 calories on those days and perhaps 128 extra calories burned daily when averaged out over a week. More disheartening was the fact that I was already exercising at least twice a week prior to Lent, so one added day of exercise each week would only increase my average daily energy burned by 28 calories.

In order to have put on 8 pounds in the past year, despite exercising off and on to one degree or another (mostly off for a month prior to Lent due to an extended case of bronchitis), I must have been taking in an average of just 77 extra calories a day over and above my basic needs.

So, I  needed to either cut 577 calories from my usual daily intake while maintaining a stable level of exercise, or I needed to cut about 472 calories a day if I could push myself to increase the frequency of my strenuous exercise. The latter was where I was directed towards, so I dusted off the running shoes and cleared away all the stuff that was hanging from the weights, and set additional aside time for working out the body.

My fasting was from dawn to dusk, but I could consume water, or on occasion some fresh green leafy vegetables (with no salad dressing) so as to not be completely antisocial (eating together is a very social behavior). While fasting is an important spiritual activity, people had told me that this is not an effective means of weight reduction because of overeating after dusk. This is when I had to be most careful about watching my caloric intake as I had developed a habit of snacking after supper for the past few years.

As it turned out, hunger did not occur.  I did notice a flavor of ketones late in the afternoons that told me that my body was mobilizing fat for energy (one of the byproducts of fat metabolism is ketones which can be dangerous at high levels, and can be detected either by their odor or by a diabetic urinary test strip). I also noticed an increase in a general restlessness around 6 p.m. each evening. This restlessness might manifest itself by an impulsive walking around the kitchen or difficulty staying seated and completing an evil Sodoku puzzle. Sitting down and practicing piano (yes the Pewster is a 3rd month piano student) usually took care of the restlessness, burned a few extra calories, but tended to scare away the cook (an added bonus that decreased the available number of calories available for consumption). The potentially most dangerous times of this plan occurred when strenuous exercise was performed before the evening refueling. Running while mildly ketotic is not something I had planned on doing, but due to the constraints of time, it was unavoidable. I had not expected to encounter Christ during my runs, but there were several occasions where I felt that He was leading me, always ahead, far enough away that I could not tell if He was wearing sandals or not.

Now that Lent is over, I do see the world in a different light, as though I have been born again...and I don't think that is just because of a little acetone floating in my blood stream. Prayer throughout Lent, regular worship, daily scripture reading, and the support of the Lord were the keys to this rebirth. There were times when running up my personal "heartbreak hill" that I found myself repeating "Lord have mercy" in perfect rhythm with my labored breathing. I did not experience hunger nor pain, and that was a daily reminder to give thanks to God. I now realize that I stayed free of illness and injury as well, for which I am grateful that the Lord so blessed me. I just hope He doesn't make me do it again next year.

And for the rest of the good news, this amazing diet plan is available for an unlimited time free of monetary charge. You may obtain a personalized plan by contacting your manufacturer.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Shoeless Easter Sunday

In a change from our typical Easter sermon, this year our rector sat down, removed his shoes and socks and preached barefoot. This was part of "Barefoot Sunday" an operation mounted by Samaritan's Feet. Their Mission:
"Samaritan’s Feet is a non-profit organization dedicated to changing lives through Shoes of Hope distributions around the world. 300 million people wake up each morning without a pair of shoes to protect their feet from injury and disease. The goal of Samaritan’s Feet is to provide shoes to 10 million of these individuals in the next 10 years by teaching them a biblical story of faith, hope, and love, demonstrating those truths in touching them by washing their feet, and treating them to a new pair of shoes and socks."
A special basket offering was taken up. By the end of the service, that basket was overflowing.

The words of today's O.T. reading came to mind

Isaiah 65:17-25

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

Thanks be to God for all the gifts he has bestowed upon us.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Day Without Jesus

The first Sabbath day following the crucifixion of Jesus must found His disciples in shock, going through the initial stages of grief. From the Gospel record, they were not exactly sitting by the tomb awaiting His Resurrection, I think they were still not expecting that. To them, it was their first full day without Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine such a state, but today calls us to do so.

A note at the LobsterPot directed my attention to Fr. Stephen's piece, The Sound of Silence. It is a worthwhile read today as we think about the loss of the living Word that the disciples experienced. I quote from the piece:
St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “He who possesses in truth the word of Jesus can hear even its silence...”

"In a strange way we live in a world that is hungry for silence – not for the empty silence that grinds everything beneath it. We hunger for a silence that is capable of bearing the fullness of the Word – a silence that is filled with the praise and joy of God."

Thanks Fr. Stephen.