Monday, August 30, 2010

Out of Africa, T.E.c. Walks Apart

Earlier this week, Baby Blue Online (via Virtue Online) posted an official Communiqué from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa which lays out the consequences of the Episcopal church's walk apart from the Anglican Communion.

I would call attention to the following excerpts,

5. We were very saddened with the recent actions of The Episcopal Church in America who went ahead and consecrated Mary Glasspool last May 2010, in spite of the call for a moratorium(1) and all the warnings from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and the 4th Encounter of the Global South.

This was a clear departure from the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion as stated in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. We are also concerned about similar progressive developments in Canada and in the U.K.
It was a clear departure from the teachings of the Apostles as well.

6. Being aware of the reluctance of those Instruments of Communion to follow through the recommendations of the Windsor Report(2) and taken by the Primates Meetings in Dromantine(3) and Dar es Salaam(4) we see the way ahead as follows...
" follow through..." is a nice way of saying that the Anglican Communion has no ....s, well, you know what I mean.

D. We are committed to network with orthodox Anglicans around the world, including Communion Partners in the USA and the Anglican Church in North America, in holistic mission and evangelism. Our aim is to advance the Kingdom of God especially in unreached areas.
How about those being held prisoner by revisionist priests and bishops?

7. Finally, we are very aware of our own inadequacy and weaknesses hence we depend fully on the grace of God to achieve his purpose in the life of his church and our beloved Anglican Communion.
Yes, we love the Anglican tradition, but the "Communion" as it is currently "structured" is sinking fast.

The footnotes help fill in a bit of the background

1. The Windsor Report Section 134.1 The Episcopal church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion(2) the Episcopal church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion energies.
Note the "The Episcopal church" leaves out the capital "C" at the beginning of the first sentence but gives them a full capital "C" later on may just be a Freudian typo (Hah!, I typed "typoo") on the part of the editor, but I am going to take this as confirmation of my practice. "T.E.c.", as it shall henceforth be abbreviated,  had and never will express any regret over what it believes are the actions of a holy spirit.
The Windsor Report Section 144.3 We call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the US and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorizations.
For those of you who have not been following the news from north of the border, yes,  the Anglican church of Canada too.
2. Windsor Report. Section D. 157 There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.
Of course, this will be brushed aside as mere culturally contextual, homophobic grumbling from a few mixed up Africans, but I would encourage all to respond to such claims with a loud voice, "Do not despise those who follow in the way of the Lord."

 "Before I formed you in Africa I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
(apologies to Jeremiah 1:5)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Missing Verses

Today's readings from Jeremiah 2:4-13 (7-13 below) struck a chord.
I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. Therefore once more I accuse you,  says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children.  Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord,  for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
In addition, Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16  was also worth noting (although some verses were missing).
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence,

‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
If you were not paying attention and were relying on the sermon to expound on these verses, you may have been surprised at the lack of reference to things such as holding marriage in honor, or to the cracked cisterns we have built on our own which we think can sustain us.

To me it was no surprise, because our curate, who was delivering the sermon, is known to have been appointed to serve on the task force to develop liturgies for same sex blessings as noted in the parish newsletter. She helping to build a cracked cistern. Of what profit is that?

Those who are prophesying that same-sex liturgies are the way the church is moving are nothing more than those who prophesy by Baal. Has the church changed its gods? Yes, if you are talking about the Episcopal church and its leaders.

Those leaders cannot expound on today's conjunction of Jeremiah and Paul's letter to the Hebrews. They are bound to their new god. Baal will not let them utter those words he cannot bear to hear.
As part of our continuing education project, in the reading from Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16 verses 9-14  were omitted today by the RCL.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Oh dear, why won't we go there?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's All About Relationship

All too often I have heard or read about how everything in the church should be about "relationship." There are variations to this catch word such as, "living in relationship" and "right relationship," and I suppose these terms should make us more accepting of others when we disagree. Being of a suspicious nature, I wrinkle my forehead whenever I hear the word "relationship" used by people in priestly garb because lately, I always seem hear this when a disagreeable idea or doctrine comes along. Why can't they just say what they mean, which is, "Tough luck pewster, we have moved on, and you have to live with it." Like a spouse whose mate has announced that he/she has taken on another lover and is asking the injured half to either "move on," or to "put it behind us," or worse, "I want an open marriage." IMHO, the previous relationship has been destroyed, and no amount of "living in relationship" will make it right. I have seen numerous broken relationships where one party appears blind to the fact that they are wrong but expects the other to "move on," or cannot see the shallowness of his/her apology and cannot understand why the offended party remains upset. When one party is in the wrong, true repentance of that party must be demonstrated and maintained over time in order to establish a new (albeit different) lasting relationship.

Of late, I have been thinking about the relationship of the Episcopal church to the Anglican Communion. This past week the Archbishop of Uganda had the following to say, h/t StandFirm,
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, yesterday said the Anglican Church today faces many challenges which have made it dysfunctional.

“What I can tell you is that the Anglican Church is very broken,” Bishop Orombi said.
“It (church) has been torn at its deepest level, and it is a very dysfunctional family of the provincial churches. It is very sad for me to see how far down the church has gone.”
“I can assure you that we have tried as a church to participate in the processes, but they are dominated by western elites, whose main interest is advancing a vision of Anglicanism that we do not know or recognise. We are a voice crying in the wilderness...” - original article by Ephraim Kasozi

 Time and time again, T.E.C. General Conventions, Bishops, and even the Presiding Bishop herself present themselves to the majority of the Anglican Communion as an unrepentant adulteress. Nothing in the structure of the relationship between the churches seems to be able to rein in the wayward church. The past year has brought forth developments such as the Anglican Covenant, and more recent changes to the Anglican Consultative Council which thus far have done nothing to repair or to rebuild a healthy relationship.

The Anglican Covenant appears to be a rather straight forward agreement for churches "in relationship" with one another to sign in hopes of remaining "in relationship."  There has been a whole lot of talk about this covenant and how, in its final form, there appears to be no real agreement for churches to accept discipline (Section IV). My best guess is that even in such a watered down form, the Episcopal church as a General Convention will not agree to sign on, and the idea of a covenental relationship will fade into history.

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is another ineffectual part of this flimsy structure called the Anglican Communion. A recent analysis of the dysfunctional relationships in the ACC was posted by the Anglican Communion Institute Inc. (ACI). Point 7 sums it up,
7. To summarize, Canon Rees’ remarks only underscore the extent to which proper debate on these pressing issues has never occurred. The final text was not seen even by the member churches until disclosed last month by the Registrar of Companies. The proposed Articles were never posted for public comment and debate at any point in the process. The effect of equalities legislation enacted in the last year was not considered at all. Technical matters related to charity law have dictated decisions about the structure and governing law of one of the Communion’s Instruments. The intended scope of the new Articles with respect to the other Instruments remains murky at best. And the relationship of the new Articles to the Anglican Covenant has been discussed by the ACC’s standing committee, but the results of that discussion have not been disclosed to the member churches that are considering adoption of the Covenant. We urge the Communion as a whole, but especially its constituent churches, to begin considering these important issues as a matter of priority. To have the structural coherence it needs the Communion requires a broader focus than the management of UK charitable assets.
As far as the relationship of the Episcopal church to the Anglican Communion goes, the analogy of the unfaithful spouse seeking an "open relationship" seems to hold up pretty well, and as long as there is no coherent structure to the Anglican Communion, no discipline, no place where the buck ultimately stops, and no real "marriage," the Episcopal church should be happy. You see, living "in relationship" is great as long as you are free to sleep around.

For how long will the rest of the world keep its harlot wife?

T.E.C., thou art the daughter of Diblaim.

Is it any wonder why we are a communion in chaos?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Healing Service

Today's Gospel lesson, Luke 13:10-17, was the subject for today's sermon.
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
One way of approaching this reading would be to focus on the position of the leader of the synagogue as a strict law follower who regarded women as chattel. Retell the story from the perspective of a first century Jew. Describe how synagogues operated back then. Remember to substitute the word "ass" for donkey at some point so as to wake up your sleepy headed pewsitters. Then proceed to draw a parallel between the indignant priest and "Southern" segregation and racial prejudice of the past. Finally, throw in the usual "pink herring" of using scripture to defend slavery, and voilà, whenever you so choose to bring up a new thang, use the same argument when you have an elephant coming out of the closet. To the rector's credit, he did not mention the

I am sure that there are other lessons to be learned from Luke's Gospel, and I will try to track some down...tomorrow. You see, today's lessons about working on the Lord's day tied in well with my busy weekend work schedule. Work this weekend must be done, and in my case it is a honor and privilege to do so. There are things that I did and said at work that did not work out very well today and were probably not pleasing to the Lord. Thankfully, God also allowed time for me to participate in worship at the church. On any given Sunday, many come not just to worship, but for healing. At our church, healing services are not standard Sunday fare. I wonder what people would have thought if our lay reader had, after reading the O.T. lesson, started calling people up to be healed. What if visitors had been tipped off that this was going to happen and the whole worship service wound up being hijacked by the lay healer and those in need of healing? Would the priests have gone with the flow, or would they have gently said, "We have a service on Wednesday for that. Please come back at that time for the healing service, after all we have to hurry to get to the parish picnic."

When I read this Gospel lesson, I tend to focus on the importance of caring for the sick and broken, their presence in the great congregation, and how we tend to make excuses to avoid the work. Jesus' chastises us for such behavior. The crowd has come because they heard that the healer would be in this place. When there is a job to be done, do it. God's work be done first, then you can go to the picnic.

The whole subject of work on the Sabbath should be a post by itself, but I can see Jesus' point that even untying your donkey is "work." It is impossible to even breathe without expending energy. I recall the story provided by a waitress of the man who asked her to open his sugar packet and to pour it into his beverage so that he might not perform any work on the Sabbath. I guess the act of lifting the cup and swallowing was not considered "work" because the waitress was not asked to do that for her customer. Perhaps a post about the spirit of the law and the letter of the law would be something to consider...tomorrow.

The story is not just about the Sabbath law being broken by Jesus, and getting the priesthood upset, but that we are all hypocrites. We are all broken in need of healing. Jesus' service was and is a healing service for bodies and for souls. I think that is the kind of service He has in mind for us too.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Einstein: There Are Only Two Ways to Live

"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is." - Albert Einstein

I have always wanted to take on the big E. Let me try to dissect this quotation a bit. If one presumes that are no miracles, then someone living with this "world view" must consider events to be either the result of a proximate definable cause, or as a result of chance, chaos, or probabilities. I have no doubt that many of us appear to be living fine, upstanding, miracle free lives, but for the Christian, is this a healthy way to live?

Such a christian might explain the following as either a cheap parlor trick or a fabrication:
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world. -John 6:1-14 (From today's lectionary reading).
Such a christian might explain the following (staying in John) as another fabrication:
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18
At this point I have to consider that our hypothetical christian is in trouble. Simply put, the miracles of the Incarnation, and Resurrection cannot be written out of Christianity. Without miracles, for our hypothetical man God truly is dead.

Next I have to approach Einstein's only other option, and that is to live as though everything is a miracle ("Everything" is one of those "wow" words once you sit down and consider it). I suppose our earlier hypothetical christian would imagine that "everything" eventually will be examined, cataloged, and explained. Those who follow Einstein's second world view see not just the miraculous in that which has been explained, but also a world of miracles that can never be explained.

Is there a third option. Can one believe that miracles happened in the past but do not occur in the present? I won't even begin to run through the problems with this idea.

Alternatively, can someone claim that some things in life are miraculous and others are not? I think this is the place where most people live. Let me see if I can play Einstein for a moment and find where this equation breaks down. I am looking at a paper clip lying on my desk. There is a perfectly natural explanation for the paper clip. It was made from wire, the wire came from a foundry where men used iron ore, nickel, etc, along with fire to make the steel, the Earth supplied the ore, stardust and gravity formed the Earth, etc, etc, and the Big Bang created "Everything." To attribute any single step in the process from the Big Bang to the paper clip's presence on my desk to a miracle while denying the miraculous in the other steps seems contradictory to me, so I guess Einstein was right.

I think Einstein's quotation gives us a glimpse into his contemplative side, a side which puts him in the camp of those who live as though everything is a miracle. As I contemplate the subatomic qualities of my paper clip, I get a sense of the miraculous too. The miracle of Creation is everywhere. Thanks to the Creator. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jesus: the Cause of Division

Today's title comes from the descriptive used at the lectionary pages for Luke 12:49-56
‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
It fell upon our deacon to deliver today's sermon, and he did a commendable job with this reading which as he admitted, might be put into the category of difficult verses by some.

Luke's Gospel spoke to people who knew first hand how becoming a follower of Jesus could divide familes, and these words of Jesus spoke straight to their brokenness. Rick also tied in today's Epistle (Hebrews 11:29-12:2) by reminding us that the early Christians would experience flogging, stoning, and worse (being sawed in two) as evidence of the division caused by Christ.

In the Church itself, divisions seem to never cease. On a micro level, there are often disagreements about finances, worship planning, preaching, teaching, and pastoring. On a macro level there are diferences in theology, doctrine, and Biblical interpretation. I would like to think we could come together and share in the Lord's Supper, but on a macro scale, we can't even do that. Are these the types of divisions that Jesus was talking about in Luke 12? I think not. The divisions I mention above are divisions of human origin, albeit christian humanity who must have believed that they were following Jesus in making these divisions. All of these divisions are tainted with sin, but it just seems to be that the sinner always winds up being the other guy.

From whence do doctrinal differences occur? Some would blame it on Biblical contradictions, others on differences in interpretation, others on new wisdom delivered by the Spirit, and others would blame it on ourselves and our lack of attention to theology, dogma, and doctrine. Here is a sound bite from The Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison (Bishop of South Carolina (ret)).
"Western piety has taught generations to neglect doctrine with such slogans as 'doctrine divides, service unites' and 'deeds not creeds.' The resulting centrifugal divisions in Anglicanism can only be healed by recovering our common faith and doctrine. The church in England and America is too far down this anti-doctrinal and anti-confessional synodophobic road to expect any such initiative for unity from them."
The timeless truth is that the cares of the world constantly draw us away from Jesus, and when we do walk in His way, we distance ourselves from not just the world, but from those around us who are bound by the world.

Many of our current divisiveness in the Church seems come from the willingness of some to try to embrace the allures of the world with one arm and Jesus with the other. If we keep one arm bound to the world, we shall either be split in two or lose our grip on Faith. Jesus came to bring division, and that division occurs right inside each and every one of us when we come to Him with both arms open, leaving those earthly things behind.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Death of Words: C.S. Lewis

Just what does it mean to be a Christian? Over the years I have heard various definitions tossed about, and I have been exposed to a number of interesting ways of using the word 'Christian.' Examples include: unchristian, good Christian, fundamentalist Christian, subchristian, and who can forget, the Magic Christian (see the video embedded in my previous post). I myself have suggested that I could not apply a capital "C" to the word christian when describing myself. I am creating a nuance to the meaning of the the word. C.S. Lewis might suggest that I should be more careful with words. I was reading his short essay on the "Death of Words" the other day and the final two paragraphs stood out (emphasis added).
"It is important to notice that the danger to the word Christian comes not from its open enemies, but from its friends. It was not egalitarians, it was officious admirers of gentility, who killed the word gentleman. The other day I had occasion to say that certain people were not Christians; a critic asked how I dared say so, being unable (as of course I am) to read their hearts. I had used the word to mean 'persons who profess belief in the specific doctrines of Christianity'; my critic wanted me to use it in what he would (rightly) call 'a far deeper sense'-a sense so deep that no human observer can tell to whom it applies.

And is that deeper sense not more important? It is indeed; just as it was more important to be a 'real' gentleman than to have coat-armour. But the most important sense of a word is not always the most useful. What is the good of deepening a word's connotation if you deprive the word of all practicable denotation? Words, as well as women, can be 'killed with kindness'. And when, however reverently, you have killed a word you have also, as far as in you lay, blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for. Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten to say."

C.S. Lewis, "The Death of Words" From (C.S. Lewis On Stories, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1982, p. 107)

What then is a "Christian?", is the natural next question. I suspect many different answers would be put forth from human mouths. As Lewis points out, once you allow a word to be given more and more human meanings, the word can lose its "deeper" meaning and the word dies. For Christians, the accumulation of multiple nuances of understanding of what should be at the center of their being can lead to confusion and a weakening of that center.
"Ye are the Temple of the living God."-2 Corinthians 6:16 KJV
God's people have always striven to build and maintain a solid temple for the Lord. I hope that I have not weakened that temple project by referring to myself as a "little 'C'" christian. I just can't help but think that to recieve that capital "C" is something to hope for, the true meaning of which we might learn only when our time comes to face our Lord.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Funding Evil: A Fool and His Money

This Sunday presented me with a large sampling of lectionary edits to deal with. I think this would be a good time to read straight through the expurgated verses for a change to get a feel for what the average pewsitter is being protected from hearing.

The Old Testament reading was Isaiah 1:1,10-20. Listen to what was not heard.
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.

Ah, sinful nation,
people laden with iniquity,
offspring who do evil,
children who deal corruptly,
who have forsaken the Lord,
who have despised the Holy One of Israel,
who are utterly estranged!

Why do you seek further beatings?
Why do you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and bleeding wounds;
they have not been drained, or bound up,
or softened with oil.

Your country lies desolate,
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
aliens devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
And daughter Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a shelter in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.
If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we would have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.
I am surprised they allowed people to hear verse 10:
Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!

Next, a large chunk of Psalm 50 got the ax. We read verses 1-8,22-23.

Hear again the missing verses,
I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’

But to the wicked God says:
‘What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
You make friends with a thief when you see one,
and you keep company with adulterers.

‘You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your kin;
you slander your own mother’s child.
These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
The Epistle also got trimmed. We heard Hebrews 11:3,8-16. The missing verses were,
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and ‘he was not found, because God had taken him.’ For it was attested before he was taken away that ‘he had pleased God.’ And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
There is so much good stuff in there that I have to wonder if we indeed are guilty of a great sin by omitting verses for whatever reason, be it in the interest of shortening the service, or trying to focus on one theme, or what I suspect, and that is to minimize people's exposure to talk about sin and judgement.

Given all of that confusion, it might be understandable that our rector chose to ignore those lessons and focus on Luke:32-40. Well, he actually focused soley on verse 34.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In his sermon, the treasure the rector chose to dwell upon was money. He told us about the depression era generation and how, in future years, they obsessed over money. After trying to shock people by stressing the word "fool" several times when talking about the rich man and his heirs in Luke 12:13-21 (last week's lesson), and then discussing his own discipline of tithing, he eventually came around to a theme of how liberating it was to give without questioning the outcome.

All of this brought to mind my choice to no longer fund the evil schemes of the Episcopal church. This is the church, after all, that funds pro-abortion groups, and seeks to destroy Holy Matrimony. The heart of this church is bound by the desires of the flesh.
"The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it"-Isaiah 1:5-6
I am afraid that I have found a treasure in the Word of God as delivered through the teachings of the Apostles and the Bible. I am sorry, but that is where my heart is right now, and I just can't see myself adding fuel to the fires that are consuming pieces of that heart verse by verse.

I also reflected on last week's news headlines about several billionaires who are promising to give away half of their wealth, not because of any Biblical wisdom, but because they have more than they can possibly spend. I pray that they give wisely, and that they don't create any monsters, but I am afraid that their treasure may not be the Word of God either.

The good folks at StandFirm posted a piece on how abortionist training gets funded and referenced a NYT article which highlighted a famous billionaire who has recently been in the news for his pledge to give large chunks of his money to "charities."

"Susan Thompson Buffett was married to Warren Buffett and served as president of the foundation that bears her name. She died in 2004. Two years later, Warren Buffett gave the foundation about $3 billion. He said that he expected the gift to increase the foundation’s annual expenditures by $150 million. And in fact, total giving by the foundation, where two of the Buffetts’ children sit on the board, increased from $202 million in 2007 to $347 million in 2008, according to tax returns."

"The tax records also show that most of the foundation’s spending goes to abortion and contraception advocacy and research. According to Access Philanthropy, a research institute that focuses on the giving preferences of foundations and corporate donors, family planning is one of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation’s main purposes. The foundation’s nonprofit 990 tax form shows that in 2008, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates in the U.S. received about $45 million; the international arm of the organization got about $8 million. There is no line item for the Ryan program or the Family Planning Fellowship. But the foundation paid out around $50 million to universities with one or both of the programs."

"Warren Buffett has never spoken publicly about his views on abortion. But in the 1990s, according to The Wall Street Journal, the Buffett Foundation helped finance the research and development of the pills that induce abortion. The foundation also helped finance a lawsuit to overturn the ban on so-called partial-birth abortion in Nebraska, Buffett’s home state and the headquarters of his company, Berkshire Hathaway. (Susan Thompson Buffett moved from Omaha to San Francisco in 1977 but remained close to her husband. She took credit for introducing him to the woman he has lived with since 1978; the three sent out Christmas cards together.) In Thompson Buffett’s only television interview, which was broadcast after her death, she told Charlie Rose: 'Warren feels that women all over the world get shortchanged. That’s why he’s so pro-choice.'"
Buffett's actions above and words below point to some of the perils of his idea of charity. He is reported at as saying,
"He said the wonderful aspect about private philanthropy is that money can be used to experiment with new initiatives that governments might not be willing to try."
The word is out on the street. Social experimentalists are listening. Now is the time to get their pet projects funded. If billions are funneled into other destructive "charities," just think of the long term harm to not just this country but to the world.

John Tammy at Forbes may have it right in his article "If Charity is Their Goal, Gates and Buffett Should Hoard Their Wealth" that their money should be used as capital for business,
"There are no jobs without investment, and given the billions that Gates and Buffett control, if they were to hoard their wealth rather than give it away, their wealth-creation motive would boost the job market."

There may be room for both wealth creation and charitable giving, but Tammy has a point.

Today, I faced a decision, should I put money in the recor's plate (T.E.C.), or should I put it in the "Christians Feed the Hungry" plate.

I chose the latter.

Now, where did I lay that WSJ?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

What does an atheist say when you sneeze?

I can't believe you are wasting a perfectly good day reading this post. No, that is not the answer!

Somebody asked this question the other day, and at first I was stumped, but later on the answer popped into my head. I am sure this has been said before, but here goes nuthin.

Q. "What does an atheist say to you when you sneeze?"

A. "Bless yourself."

I apologize for the anemic posting, but I just got back from a 1500 mile RT, and for the last 700 mi. we were U-Haulin it back to SC, so I am exhausted. I thank the Lord for a safe journey home. I guess the atheist would say, "Thank the U-Haul company along with your own loading and driving skills."

I think my hypothetical atheist would missing the point. It was not U-Haul or Me-Haul at all. I can't help but think that God is active in our "everyday" lives.  Even in those times where we are movin it down the highway.

In it for the long haul,


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Theology is a Practical Road Map

These days we hear an awful lot about "new ways of being church." After 2000 years, you would think that the history shelves might be the best place to explore those new ways before foisting them on us pewsitters.

Some of those "new ways" that we in T.E.C. have been exploring were addressed by St. Paul in todays reading: Colossians 3:1-11,
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).

On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Sounds a lot like the right way of "being Church" doesn't it? But it sounds so old fashioned. Hasn't theology found a way more in keeping with modern lifestyles?

The C.S. Lewis Institute sends me periodic e-mails. The July Update contained this pearl (for the complete text click here).
"In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Touchstone), pp.135-137

Lewis writes about personal religious experience being an inadequate guide for a Christian life. Many of us have been blessed with deeply spiritual experiences. If these experiences were all that I had to go on, I would be lost. Every seeker needs a road map in order to reach their final destination.

As far as life goes, there is but one end. For the Christian, that destination is so wonderful that the Narrow Way (Matthew 7:13-14) is a perfectly fine road to travel. As we encounter new side roads along the way, with their promises of new sights and adventures, and their ability to bypass all those traffic jams caused by issues, we have the road map of theology to keep us headed in the right direction. For there is but one right direction and a whole lot of wrong ones. Theology has studied most of the wrong ways. Theology serves as a handy field supplement to your Bible's road map when you encounter what appear to be novel side roads.

There is an old saying that goes,
"Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment."

So tap into Theology (link to Alister McGrath's text) the next time you see a new road sign tempting you to take a side trip along the Way.