Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Discernment in Community": Self Fulfilling Prophecy

(Unidentified Person in Dog Collar)

In response to the recent legalization of gay marriage in New York, Bishop R. William Franklin of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York is quoted as saying,
"Many Episcopalians believe that in community, we can discern with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a way in which the letter of Scripture is compatible with a wider inclusion of the life of partner gay and lesbian people in our community. And that would apply, now, to the question of marriage." (From here)
h/t T19

Liberal churchmen continue to have a real problem in justifying same sex marriage. They really want Scripture to say that it is okay to endorse, and create blessings for these marriages, but as hard as they try, Scripture won't change. In the absence of clear direction to move forward, the next step for the revisionist bishop, priest, or layperson is to reinterpret Scripture to fit the desired result. In Episcobabble this is done through the process called "discernment in community."

Ask the right community to discern the Spirit and voila, a spirit will respond with the desired answer. Brilliant!

What happens in the Episcopal church when it gathers in community and tackles theology is not a true discernment process (as evidenced by the First Theological Council of Upper South Carolina, the repeated blunders of the General Convention, and by the continuing election of false teachers as Bishops). In most of these cases, Scripture is thrown under the bus in favor of feelings, personalities, and politics. If it is not ignored in the process, Scripture is reinterpreted until it becomes uninterpretable.

Recent actions by other denominations such as the ELCA and PCUSA are evidence that the misapplication of discernment by the community is not a problem unique to the Episcopal church and may indicate a deeper problem that will show up in any particular group considering any particular issue.

I think the problem may be that the first and most important requirement before "discernment in community" can take place is that there must be a "discerning community." What makes a community a discerning one? I believe it must be one that submits its will to the will of God, and it looks for the will of God not in the experience of loving human relationships, but in the witness of Scripture. From my experience, this submission to God's will, as seen through Biblical witness, is what has been lacking in the actions of the Episcopal church over the past 40+ years.

I honestly do not think that the majority in TEc sees a problem with its current methods of "discernment in community," but until we recognize the foolishness of our present ways of theological discernment, and humble ourselves before the Lord, the Episcopal church will continue its slow downward slide into oblivion.
"I say this so that no one may deceive you by specious arguments.
For even if I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing as I observe your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him,
rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.
For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily,
and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power." Colossians 2:4-10 (NAB)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love For the Father Above All

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd, To bow and bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come 'round right. - Shaker dance.

In the summer months, our church services tend to get simpler. Today's "supply" priest was Fr. Diggs who came out of retirement to preach on this the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel reading for today was Matthew 10:40-42,
40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;
42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
Fr. Diggs pointed out that the Revised Common Lectionary shortened the reading for this day which used to include verses 34-39 as well.
34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
This is a familiar pattern we see with the RCL. Difficult verses often are not read on Sunday mornings.

Fr. Diggs' sermon was based on verses 34-39 which was fine by me as I had posted 34-38 in last week's blog.

Back when Christianity was new, and families were being split apart, Matthew 10 must have sounded quite familiar.

Today, with the media portraying the average person as if they were defined by their romantic relationships and entanglements, elevating those loves to the highest goal for human beings, can people read these verses and possibly understand what it is to love God above all our earthly lovers?

Yes, we can love, and we are instructed to love each other, but to love God more is to be held to a higher standard. We mustn't confuse human romance with our love for God, but I am afraid that is exactly what happens. Even Bishops are prone to this error, but the complicated wording they use may make you think that they are stating things just right.
"Our lifelong commitments, our mundane daily struggles, our most intimate relationships, our triumphs and tragedies, all of it has the potential to reveal the love of God. Gay or straight, single or called to marriage or union, our family life has the capacity to be the “domestic church.” I pray that all of us in this diocese will continue to grow together into the image of the dying and rising Jesus. May we and our faithful relationships be signs of his self-giving love." Jeffrey D. Lee XII Bishop of Chicago, "GUIDELINES AND LITURGY FOR CLERGY AND CONGREGATIONS WISHING TO PERFORM BLESSINGS OF SAME SEX UNIONS IN THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF CHICAGO."
To be simple, to elevate gay marriage into a sign of God's love, when God's Holy word says not to, is something that will certainly set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a church against the Christian Church.

It would be so easy to listen to Bishop Lee and others who glorify human love. Unfortunately, simplicity leads away from such worldly desire and towards submission to God's laws,
"When true simplicity is gain'd, To bow and bend we shan't be asham'd."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day Reflections

"Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." Luke 10:2 (KJV)

Father's Day made me reflect on some of the things my father taught me that appear to have little relevance to my day to day adult life. Things like how to shoot snakes in a swamp come to mind.

Other lessons proved to be more useful, or not...

My father was very keen on sharpening knives and tools. To this day, I get frustrated with dull blades. When I was young, and carrying a pocket knife was considered socially acceptable, we were even allowed to have one at school. My father taught me that people would usually cut themselves because they were working with a dull knife, and that was one reason why we kept our pocket knives sharp. The rule about dull blades however did not work for my mother who always seemed to slice her finger when working with one of Dad's freshly sharpened kitchen knives. Mom used to keep a dull knife hidden that she would take out and use for food prep when Dad wasn't looking.

Kids can't carry pocket knives to school these days, nor might they be able to carry a machete or hatchet into class like I was able to do on a couple of occasions in Middle School when as part of the "Service Club" I was assigned the job of gathering greens for Christmas decorations. We were told to provide our own equipment and pack a lunch. I set me sights on Dad's hatchet, but Dad was concerned that I might damage his prized and carefully honed hatchet by striking a stone, or that I would lose it, but he might have been worried about my fingers and toes because he gave me a safety lecture before letting me borrow it and the leather holster that he had made out of some scrap material. The rest of the Service Club showed up equally well armed and we left the school parking lot early one December morning in an old smoking school bus driven by one of the coaches. After a 90 minute drive, Coach let us loose on a patch of woods that he owned, and the five of us flailed and hacked away at anything green with our weapons. Then we had to gather the greenery and load the bus making sure that there was room for us and our gear. Coach didn't appear too concerned about safety because I don't think we saw much of him after we got there. I think he might have had a cool one and took a nap in his cabin while we worked. After lunch, we returned to school (in one piece) in time for final period, and we proudly marched into class properly filthy, weapons in hand.

Today we wouldn't get past the metal detectors or security guards located at the entrance to most schools. Coach would be fired, we would be arrested, psychoanalyzed, expelled, shown on the nightly news, and placed on a watch list.

When I returned home, Dad checked to make sure I had not destroyed the edge of his hatchet, complained a little about the condition of the leather holster, and after another lecture, we carefully dried and oiled the hatchet so that it would not rust before hanging it in its assigned spot in the workshop.

Our heavenly Father lectures us, guides us, and sometimes lets us loose in the wilderness with his most dangerous instrument, his Holy Word. Let us take proper care of the tools He has entrusted into our care. Let us use those tools to gather fresh greenery into His temple, and let us take time to reflect on his love and hope for us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's, Son's, and Holy Spirit's Day

Today is both Trinity Sunday and Father's Day so I have been thinking about the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity as well as those human relationships that we honor today.

In the Church, the rector is often called "Father___," and I suppose that it is natural that people sometimes develop a sort of child/father relationship with their priest.

Which brings me to note that the turnout for today's Trinity Sunday service paled in comparison to last week's large turnout for our rector's retirement celebration.

I know that our church attendance drops in the summer, but last week proved that people are still willing to come to church on Sunday if they can be motivated to do so.

But what about,

Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Deuteronomy 5:16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Ephesian 6:2 "Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise--

Of all the various reasons why we place human relationships above our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I can't come up with one that justifies our doing so.

I would like to honor both my heavenly father and my earthly one on this day.
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him.
(Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.")
But he said in reply to the one who told him, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?"
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." Matthew 12:46-50

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set a man 'against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's enemies will be those of his household.'
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:34-38
Thank you Lord for Fathers everywhere. They have been a large part of leading us to You, and we honor them when we worship You.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SCLM Animal Rites: Please Tell Me This is a Typo

From the Executive Offices of the General Convention of the Episcopal church web pages you may find the following Subcommittee listed under the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.

"SCLM Task Force - Animal Rites Group
(Subcommittee of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music)"

The only document on-line on that page has an agenda from July 2010 that says nothing about animal rites.

Animal "Rites" is also used on the SCLM page (here).

A comment on the SCLM webblog also references this mandate,
"My 'angst' stems not just from the magnitude of HWHM considerations, but from list of OTHER projects the SCLM is charged to produce: Hymnal Revision, Same-sex rites, and (close to my heart, both theologically and zoologically) animal rites with accompanying theological/pastoral considerations! (Who knows what else? I don’t!)"
What else? How about this,

Has this church gone to the dogs?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Druids In Upper SC

As a follow up to their Spring Equinox service, the Druid church in Columbia SC, St. Michael and All Angels, is at it again,
"An observance of the Summer Solstice, June 21

St. Michael and All Angels', Columbia invites you to join us in our outdoor chapel on Tuesday, June 21 at 7pm as we observe the summer

This will be a service of prayer and Thanksgiving for the abundance of God's creation. As Christ's Body in our world we are stewards of this
great bounty.

We will gather to pray for the healing of our planet and for the wisdom to care for it.

St. Michael and All Angels' is located at 6408 Bridgewood Rd, Columbia, SC, 29206." (From EDUSC News)

And don't try to convince me that they are trying to convert the Columbian Druids to Christianity.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It Is What It Is, And It Is Sweet.

Today we celebrated Pentecost and our rector's retirement. It was a day that was blessedly free of controversy with the only surprise coming when the rector, in trying to explain a gender neutral Holy Spirit, stated that not only did conservatives get it wrong in trying to make the Spirit masculine, but the feminists got it wrong in trying to make the Spirit feminine. A jab at feminists from the pulpit! Now that was a first.

Today's readings also support the gender neutral or maybe a non-gender vision of the Holy Spirit since when Christians talk about the Spirit we usually are dealing with the New Testament greek translation which is more in keeping with the Spirit as "It."

1 Corinthians 12:3-13
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

John 20:19-23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
After 14 years, we can agree on something.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Feeling the "Itch of Wanderlust" This Spring?

Can anyone explain what this bit of hyperbole is doing in our Diocesan Newsletter?

Upcoming retreats at the Snail's Pace

"Journey of the Heroine/Hero
June 24-26th

Sometimes our lives seem utterly chaotic convulsions and our days no more than random collection of dots which do not appear to connect in any meaningful pattern. However, throughout the long march of human history and story, pattern has emerged. Some people call it the Great Story, others the monomyth or voyage of the heroine-hero. Whatever name we may use, there is comfort in knowing that our lives too share meaning and order with the greatest and the least.

During this weekend the participants will first learn the stages of the great journey through an introductory exercise in guided imagery on Friday evening. Throughout the day on Saturday each phase of the journey will be explored in greater depth through readings from contemporary short stories and personal journaling.

Our companions in our travels will become familiar friends like Flannery O'Connor, Frederick Buechner, Annie Dillard, Alice Walker, John Updike and others. On Sunday morning the weekend will conclude with a worship experience in which we explore the spiritual implications of our travels and the deepening of our discipleship. If you are feeling the itch of wanderlust this spring and long to go on pilgrimage, please join us!

Deadline to register is Friday, June 3rd."

Sorry I missed the deadline, but can anybody explain that first paragraph?

Here's my take on it.

"Utterly chaotic convulsions" - the opposite of organized convulsions, or what I experienced while reading our newsletter.

"Monomyth" - something Joseph Campbell came up with, or the rumor that your boyfriend/girlfriend just came down with mononucleosis.

"Random collection of dots" - Our Diocesan Newsletter.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What Would the Resurrection Be Without the Ascension?

Back in High School Government and Civics class we used to frequently get bogged by hypothetical situations. Worse yet, were the hypothetical questions that seemed to spin off endlessly from the initial hypothetical situation. I think all that time wasted was suppossed to get us to think like little lawmakers who should try to cover as many possibilities as can be imagined when drawing up hypothetical laws, Bills, and Constitutional ammendments.

I hated it, and I spent much of the class drawing cartoons of airstrikes being called in against the campus. If I were to do such a thing today, I would get in all kinds of trouble. As it was, my cartoons became underground hits.

And I think I wound up with a C+ in Government and Civics.

I still don't like "hypotheticals."

In the course of today's sermon, our preacher posed the question which I posted as a title to this blog post: "What would the Resurrection be without the Ascension?" (or WWTRBWTA for short).

His point was to increase people's awareness of the importance of the Ascension and to chastise us for not attending the Thursday 11 a.m. service that celebrated Ascension Day.

I was left wondering about how modern people, many of whom have enough trouble with the bodily resurrection of Jesus, might react to Acts 1:9-11
"When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’"
and Luke 24:50-51 both of which which I read on Ascension Day,
"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven."
How many people today have trouble believing this happened? I don't know the answer to my question, but I do know that you can't discard the Ascension stories. They are integral to the Gospel's witness. Because the Ascension is integral, it might be better to draw cartoons or color in the Sunday kids bulletin than to get caught up in the hypothetical question posed during today's sermon.

Without an Ascension, we would be left with an unanswered question as to what became of Jesus after his post resurrection appearances to the disciples. An endless stream of hypotheticals starts flowing through my mind. Thoughts like, "Where does he sleep?" or, "Will his body show signs of its age?" In either case, you see that I must presume that the non-ascended Jesus would live in His physical body on Earth forever.

I hate hypotheticals.

I disagree with our preacher's answer that without the Ascension, the Resurrection might be considered nothing more than a cheap parlor trick, but I would rather not waste more time on his answer other than to say that in his attempt to make the congregation more aware of the importance of the Ascension, and how naughty we were for not coming to church on Thursday morning, he might have taken another path... hypothetically speaking.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Power of Words

Well worth the time (1 min 48 sec) to watch...

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Psalm 119:18