Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sorry, We Still Have a Disciplinarian

Today's lectionary gave us a truncated version of Galatians 3. Here is the version heard in most Episcopal churches,
"Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, (missing verses cut at this point)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.  And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." Galatians 3:23-25,4:4-7

These verses have been a dangerous trap for those who seek to justify sins by re-visioning them as works of the Holy Spirit. To them, the sexual morality codes found in the Bible are a prison. "We are no longer subject to a disciplinarian" sounds like the perfect excuse for sexual liberation. Even today, Louie C. over at Queer Eye for the Lectionary looks at Galatians 3:25 and sees something that I could never imagine,
"The church violates Saint’s claim if it requires lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered to live under the law no longer required of hetero Christians."
Of course he neglects to mention how we "hetero Christians" are bound to live up to the words of our Lord regarding marriage, lust, and adultery.

The Saint's arguments in Galatians really need to be considered as a whole and not be reduced to the little snippets most churchgoers hear on Sunday mornings.

The lectionary editors should consider that it might be more helpful for people to hear more rather than less. Can you imagine being in a 1st century crowd listening as the letter was being read for the very first time,
"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?"  Galatians 3:1-5
If he were writing this letter to us today, perhaps he might change the last sentence to read,
"Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your following your new laws of morality and 'justice', or by believing what you have read in the testimony of the Saints? You foolish moderns, who has bewitched you?"
No, we are still subject to a disciplinarian, a loving Father, one who has gone to the ultimate lengths to rescue us when we have gone astray. We listen to and follow His discipline, not out of fear, but out of respect, gratitude, and love.

In case you want to insert the missing verses back into the readings from Galatians today, here they are:
"for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world." Galatians 3:26 - 4:3

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Crowd is Untruth

We often hear the claim that the Holy Spirit is acting through various votes on  church resolutions even though those resolutions are in clear contradiction to the written Word. In truth, many of these resolutions have more to do about politics than the Holy Spirit.

A short tract form Kierkegaard reminded me that we should be wary when we grant spiritual authority to our ballot box decisions (emphasis mine).
"The crowd is untruth. Therefore was Christ crucified, because he, even though he addressed himself to all, would not have to do with the crowd, because he would not in any way let a crowd help him, because he in this respect absolutely pushed away, would not found a party, or allow balloting, but would be what he was, the truth, which relates itself to the single individual. And therefore everyone who in truth will serve the truth, is eo ipso in some way or other a martyr; if it were possible that a human being in his mother's womb could make a decision to will to serve 'the truth' in truth, so he also is eo ipso a martyr, however his martyrdom comes about, even while in his mother's womb."

"For to win a crowd is not so great a trick; one only needs some talent, a certain dose of untruth and a little acquaintance with the human passions. But no witness for the truth - alas, and every human being, you and I, should be one - dares have dealings with a crowd. The witness for the truth - who naturally will have nothing to do with politics, and to the utmost of his ability is careful not to be confused with a politician - the godfearing work of the witness to the truth is to have dealings with all, if possible, but always individually, to talk with each privately, on the streets and lanes - to split up the crowd, or to talk to it, not to form a crowd, but so that one or another individual might go home from the assembly and become a single individual. 'A crowd,' on the other hand, when it is treated as the court of last resort in relation to 'the truth,' its judgment as the judgment, is detested by the witness to the truth, more than a virtuous young woman detests the dance hall. And they who address the 'crowd' as the court of last resort, he considers to be instruments of untruth. For to repeat: that which in politics and similar domains has its validity, sometimes wholly, sometimes in part, becomes untruth, when it is transferred to the intellectual, spiritual, and religious domains. And at the risk of a possibly exaggerated caution, I add just this: by 'truth' I always understand 'eternal truth.' But politics and the like has nothing to do with 'eternal truth.' A politics, which in the real sense of 'eternal truth' made a serious effort to bring 'eternal truth' into real life, would in the same second show itself to be in the highest degree the most 'impolitic' thing imaginable."

The Crowd is Untruth by Soren Kierkegaard On the Dedication to "That Single Individual" Translated by Charles K. Bellinger (H/t Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Greatest Villain in Newtown: The Weak Church

In my previous post, I mentioned an article that got me to thinking about the mass murder of Newtown's school children and teachers in a different light. After reading that today's Lectionary suggested that reading the Magnificat was optional (those verses framed by parentheses: Luke 1:39-45(46-56)), and fuming that this might deprive some Sunday worshippers of the opportunity to hear words such as,

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. (KJV)

I thought people might never hear about the "God of power and might", and what might be the effect of a steady dose of similar omissions?

William Murray is the son of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and he has some interesting answers to my question and for those of us trying to make sense of the recent tragedy in Newtown (full text found here).
"If an individual is not afraid of the wrath of God, it is impossible to cause him to fear the justice of the state..."
Such a person has only himself to fear.
"But the greatest villain (in this tragedy) is a church that has accepted the world’s view that hell does not await evildoers..."
Yes, that is the message being spread in the modern revisionist parish as has been documented here on previous occasions.

"With a weak message from a weak church, there is no restraint or lessening of the violence..."

There can be no argument that the weak church (as far as judgment and damnation goes) sends out weak messages to the weak minded, but is it possible in this day and age to convince a people that scarcely believes in eternal life that there can be eternal fire?

"My mother, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, fought to make the public schools the armed camps they are today by removing prayer, the recognition of the authority of God. In 1962 and 1963, I was attending an all-boys public high school in downtown Baltimore, Md. The school was a magnet school before the term even existed and was intended to prepare young men for college, majoring in science and engineering. There were 1,800 teenage boys in the school, and there was not a cop in the building – ever. The doors were unlocked and often the un-air-conditioned rooms had open windows. There were no metal detectors, no picture IDs, and students went in and out the doors on the honor system.
The authority of God was present..."
Authority was something we were taught as children to respect and to fear. I know that I never, never wanted to be hauled into the Assistant Headmaster's office, a place where all sorts of unspeakable horrors were rumored to await misbehaving schoolboys.
"In the vast majority of America’s public schools, the authority of God has been replaced with the authority of the iron fist of government. Morals? Without the authority of God, there are no morals, and none are taught in the public schools today. The ethics that are taught are situational, perhaps the same situational ethics that led to the logic that caused the tragic shootings in Newtown."
That same situational ethics might be alive and well and taught by your church too.
"A large advertising sign near my home reads, 'A church for those who don’t like church.' Translation: 'No condemnation of sin here – we have coffee latte and great music.'”
The feel good Sunday morning church of today serves up a watered down version of God's message. This is what the people, in ever decreasing numbers, lap up week after week . To what effect? Would it hurt to deliver the message with all the shock and awe contained therein?
"How about this politically incorrect sermon subject: 'An angry God condemns the carnal sin of Adam Lanza, the Newton school shooter who killed 26, and he will rot in eternal torment in hell, as do all those who turn their backs on God and his goodness and continue their wicked and sinful ways.' 
No way, no how in America today."
Read it all here.

What happens when you’re raised by America’s most famous atheist? Read William Murray’s riveting and redemptive new book, “My Life Without God”

What happens when your revisionist church includes the strong language but twists it to meet its agenda? Today at our church we got a massive dose of the Magnificat with at least four versions being read or sung, and then we had to listen to our priest's three takes on the Mag, one of which unfortunately came from a liberation theology point of view in which celibate Catholic males and early Protestant  Reformation males got bashed.  Lord have mercy!

Fortunately "his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation".


Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of Time: Studdert Kennedy

Methought it was the end of time,
The dawn of judgment day,
The world stood waiting for the judge,
Dim faces drawn and grey.

The sword of dawn slashed thro' the East,
I did not dare to see,
But threw my arm across my face
From that dread mystery.

Then trembling raised reluctant eyes,
To look upon the throne,
But all the earth was emptiness,
And I stood all alone.

Till I looked down, and at my feet,
With shining eyes and mild,
And two small wounded hands held out,
There stood my Judge--a Child.

"The Judgment" by Studdert Kennedy

Although he was a socialist, and despite being recognized by the Episcopal church as a somebody, I still like some of his poetry.

"Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (June 27, 1883 - March 8, 1929), was an Anglican priest and poet. He was nicknamed 'Woodbine Willie' during World War I for giving Woodbine cigarettes along with spiritual aid to injured and dying soldiers.

Born in Leeds in 1883, Kennedy was the seventh of nine children born to Jeanette Anketell and William Studdert Kennedy, a vicar in Leeds. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained a degree in classics and divinity in 1904. From here."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is God Awesome or is He Terrible?

I was reading Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" from July 8, 1741 over at Christian Classics Ethereal Library yesterday at the same time as a friend sent a link to an article about how that sermon would not go over well in today's feel good Sunday morning church, and how perhaps part of the blame for the recent slaughter of children may be due to the elimination of the fear of God from the Church's message to the world.
"You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair;"
No, you probably didn't hear that preached last Sunday.

The various translations of the Bible have been a part of this problem as well. The Lectionary compounds the problem by deleting the harsh words of judgment in addition to the effects of the softened language seen in some translations.

I have been reading the KJV of the Bible this year, and as I do, I become more and more tuned into the deficiencies of the NRSV (which is the version used in our Episcopal church).

Psalm 47 (also found in other Psalms) came around the other day and the word "terrible" jumped out at me.

1 Clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

2 For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.

3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
King James Version (KJV)
I thought to myself, "Now that would not go over well with the pewsitters on a pleasant Sunday morning. I wonder how the NRSV puts it?" This is what we might hear today,

1 Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.

2 For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.

3 He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

An awesome God is indeed something that we should be terrified of, but unfortunately the word "awesome" in today's common vernacular does not carry any connotation that would instill in us a feeling akin to terror. A simple search at Sentence First turns up,
"...the word awesome means pretty good, great, cool, excellent, fine, exciting, quite interesting, not terrible, etc. It is often preceded by totally, or followed by dude, or both; and new variations arise constantly."

Of course, the modern connotation of the word "terrible" is something more like mean, cruel, or awful, and might be preceded by the name "Ivan", and that wouldn't work at all. Let me try a few variations,

For the Lord, the Most High, is totally awesomeis awful, is cool, is quite interesting, is pretty good, a great king over all the earth.

I am not sure what the solution is, and I have been trying to come up with a neologism that will combine Awesome and terrible into one word.

I don't think it is awesible.

All I can come up with is "Awerrible" which sounds a bit like a cockney version of "Horrible," and that won't work either.

How about "gnawsome"?

Reverend Fun - Gnawsome

 That's what you get, a feel good smile, when you try to please the crowd.

Instead of this,

"And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day!" Jonathan Edwards

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bad News, Good News

The editors of our local paper got in a bit of trouble after printing a large advertisement announcing a gun sale on the same page as part of their report on the recent mass killing of little children and teachers at a school in Connecticut.

One of the Charlotte television stations reported this morning that the newspaper staff has apologized for their blunder.

That makes me feel a little better about my own editorial errors.

This morning's Gospel reading from Luke 3 delivers shocking news from John the Baptist that people need to shape up, to repent, or they will be burned like chaff in the Messiah's unquenchable fire.

Bad news... if you don't repent and be baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire.

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. Luke 3:7-18
Good news? Yikes!

The good news is that we don't have to be chaff.

Judging from the bad news delivered in the newspaper this week, there is going to be plenty of chaff that won't listen to the good news, and there will be plenty of fuel for those unquenchable fires for some time to come.
"Teacher, what should we do?"
Repent and be baptised. Believe in Jesus, the only Son of God, our only Saviour, our only advocate.

Brother, do we ever need one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Weird Wisdom Taught at Episcopal Convent

The Episcopal Convent of Saint Helena flyer sometimes makes me wonder what kind of convent this is, but then I remember the modifier...


Here is an example,

The monthly Wisdom Group continues its gatherings at the convent, working with recorded material by Adyashanti, a spiritual teacher who emerged from the Zen tradition yet draws on all great spiritual traditions.

Says Sr Linda, the group host, "There’s a familiarly quoted adage, ‘When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears.’

If Adyashanti’s teaching is for you, it is so healing and freeing. The effect of people who hear him must be similar to the effect on people who heard Jesus speak.”

We watch and reflect on one DVD ateach gathering, meeting from 9:30 until noon, and
closing each gathering with a time of silence.
To partially quote their spiritual teacher,
"If you want to learn something, go elsewhere."
Maybe the sisters don't realize that their teacher might not be all in it for Christ. After all, he also wrote,
"You are the Buddha! You are freedom itself! Stop dreaming your dream! Stop pretending that you are in bondage—stop telling yourself that lie! Stop pretending to be someone, or something!"
Hey St. Paul, can you help them out on that bondage issue?
"I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." Romans 6:19 KJV
Don't worry too much about the poor sisters being led away from the convent, because they plan on balancing Adyashanti with a dose of Former Presiding Bishop Frank (Continue the Conversation) Griswold.

In a weekend teaching, Bishop Griswold will explore the various ways we are prepared and rendered open to the sometimes wild and unexpected “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” who bounds into our lives and lays claim to our hears and imagination.

Now that creates an interesting image: the Lion of the tribe of Judah pouncing on Adyashanti with Frank Griswold asking us enter into a deeper conversation about it as it happens. Now that would be an impact worth awakening for!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Virtue to Waldo: You're Conflicted

Personally, I trashed +Waldo's latest Advent letter to us peons in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina because it just came across as a bunch of Episcobabble designed to make us feel good about "Waldo the great Uniter." It is clear where Waldo's grand unification theory is leading this diocese. His strategy of trying to get folks like me to hold hands with those who espouse false doctrine just won't play in Peworia.

David Virtue took Waldo's letter apart over at his web portal. Here is a taste,

WALDO: I will also stay in contact and dialogue with those who have felt that The Episcopal Church has moved courageously in its theological developments. And, I offer my support to those within the Diocese of South Carolina who wish to remain within The Episcopal Church. Both Bishop Mark Lawrence and Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori are aware of my offer. 
VOL: There you have it. Waldo has given away his hand, "...moved courageously in its theological developments." That's the problem right there. There is nothing "courageous" about endorsing pansexuality, gay rites for same sex blessings and accepting Katharine Jefferts Schori's less than ringing endorsement of the divinity of Jesus Christ (in fact she has stated she cannot). It is precisely those "theological developments" that Bishop Lawrence cannot accept that has brought about the divisions in his diocese and the wider Episcopal Church. It is why there is an alternative missionary province - The Anglican Church in North America - now in play. 
WALDO: My deepest hope is that in the long term, we, in our brokenness, will steadfastly hold on to the possibility of reconciliation and restoration, even if it takes us a generation. This is precisely the kind of dialogue to which our strategic visioning process calls us. So I will continue to foster such dialogue and to be the bishop of all in this diocese, regardless of where members are on the theological or political continuum. 
VOL: Not going to happen. One cannot nor ever reconcile darkness and light, truth and falsity. Dr. Rowan Williams tried to find an Hegelian synthesis to hold the Anglican Communion together and failed. Restoration can only be based on truth. There is little truth left in The Episcopal Church that Bishop Lawrence and a whole host of other bishops who have left TEC will ever be reconciled too. Perhaps a good start might be an apology to Archbishop Robert Duncan for the shabby way he was tossed out of TEC and then given a trial that declared him guilty; or at a more local level, an apology from Bishop Charles Bennison for the wretched way he treated his orthodox priests for over a decade in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. That would be a good start. Finally, all of the HOB must agree that, in the name of inclusion, they will allow graduates and ordinands from Trinity School for Ministry to be allowed in their dioceses. That would be a good start. I won't hold my breath.
Just ask Bishop Waldo to define "courageous theological developments," and ask him how many Trinity graduates he has recruited in the spirit of "diversity".

 Read the rest here...

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Diocese of East Tennessee Has Been Assimilated

The Knoxville Sentinel announced the availability of same sex blessings at local Episcopal churches yesterday.

Bishop George Young's letter regarding this can be found here.

In it he says some things that reminded me of the actions of our Bishop Waldo. Specifically Bishop Young says,

"Over the past year I have talked a great deal about how I wanted the diocese, in the context of our upcoming February 2013 diocesan convention, to have some input as to how we will live into this new aspect of our life together as Episcopalians in East Tennessee. My desire has been for us to corporately move forward.
I appointed a 'Task Force For Same Sex Blessings' earlier this autumn, and their task has been to advise and guide me as to how we will continue..."
Task Force huh, doesn't that sound familiar? We have our own Task Force 10 to Gomorrah thanks to our Bishop Waldo.

Bishop Young's task force has already found Gomorrah and he has concluded,
"Therefore, after extensive prayer, conversation, and with hope for the future, I approve the provisional use of The Witness and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant in the Diocese of East Tennessee after the 2013 Diocesan Convention under the following basic conditions..."
I believe that Bishop Waldo's letter informing our Diocese of the results of his task force will be similar to the one presented to the Tenneseeans yesterday.

Update, E. Tenn stats point to a fig tree that is not bearing fruit.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Three Things From Margery Kempe, Ancress of Lynn

This week we were catching up on our O.T. readings, and yesterday I was in Deuteronomy 6 and read,
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." Deuteronomy 6:4-8

The first great commandment seems to be the one that seems to give people the most trouble. How can we keep God in our hearts all the time when we are constantly drawn away by the distractions of the world? Isn't it like patting your head and rubbing your belly while at the same time singing the National Anthem? Impossible as it may seem, Jesus makes it one of our highest obligations,

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:36-40 King James Version (KJV)

It is a tall order, and one of the things that makes it more difficult is that "Why should I love God?" is often a question in people's hearts, souls, and minds, and it is this question that gets in the way of following the first commandment. I found something the other day in the rare book section of the www that  may be of some help to those who are struggling with this problem.
"Daughter, if thou knew how sweet thy love is to Me, thou wouldest never do other thing but love Me with all thine heart.

"Daughter, if thou wilt be high with Me in heaven, keep Me alway in thy mind as much as thou mayst, and forget not Me at thy meat; but think alway that I sit in thine heart and know every thought that is therein, both good and bad.

"Daughter, I have suffered many pains for thy love; therefore thou hast great cause to love Me right well, for I have bought thy love full dear."

From the Book of Margery Kempe, Ancress of Lynn (d. 1438 or afterward)

(Christian Ethereal Classics Library)
I hope it helps you like it helped me!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent Lessons and Carols

For the close of Rock Hill's "Christmasville" activities, our church offered worship to the Lord which put us in a bit of a competition with a fireworks show that finished just as our worship was set to start.

For those of you who went to the fireworks and missed the service, I will provide an order of the service with links to the readings (KJV except for the reading from Baruch) and music where available on the web.

Prelude: "The Holly and the Ivy, Coventry Carol, I Saw Three Ships"

Introit/Procession: "Prepare a way for the Lord" (Michael Bedford 20th c.)

Hymn 102 "Once in royal David's city"

Lesson I Genesis 3:1-15

Anthem: This is the truth sent from above (Ralph Vaughan Williams1872-1958)

Lesson II Isaiah 40:1-11

Anthem: The Lord is my Shepherd (Howard Goodall b. 1958)

Lesson III Baruch 4:36-5:9

Hymn 70 "Herald, sound the note of judgment"

Lesson IV Isaiah 65:17-25

Anthem: All my heart this night rejoices (Johann Georg Ebeling 1637-1676)

Lesson V Isaiah 7:10-15

Anthem: Come Jesus, Holy Son of God (G. F. Handel 1685-1759) arr. Hal H. Hopson

Lesson VI Micah 5:2-4

Hymn 78 "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Lesson VII Luke 1:26-38

Anthem: Magnificat (Peter Aston b. 1938)

Lesson VIII Luke 2:1-20

Hymn "Of the Father's Love Begotten"

Lesson IX John 1:1-18

Hymn 83 "O Come all Ye Faithful"

Offertory Anthem: Gloria (John D. Horman 20th c.)

Hymn 87 "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

Postlude: Angels we have heard on high, Deck the halls

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"We Don't Care Who's on Top"

Or so the billboard said a couple of months ago.

"An Auckland church has erected a billboard in support of a bill to legalise same-sex marriages.

The billboard, outside St Matthew-in-the-City, shows two model brides kissing atop a wedding cake, with the text 'We don't care who's on top'.

It comes as Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill on marriage equality is expected to pass its first reading in Parliament later today." (read it all at the NZHerald)

St Matthew-in-the-City is the infamous "church" in N.Z. that put up some outrageous Christmas billboards a couple of times in the past. Archdeacon Glynn Cardy was the instigator then, and I guess he is still at it (judging by the title of one of his recent sermons "Jesus Did NOT Die for Our Sins").

Folks, this is the picture of the progressive church that you have all been clamoring for.

A church where you can have your cake and... eat it two.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Daniel and the Translator's Den

On this Christ the King Sunday we had a chance to visit the NRSV's version of Daniel's vision.
Daniel 7:9-10,13-14
9 As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousand served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgement,
and the books were opened.
*****(Verses 11-12 were expurgated)*****
13 As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
Besides the fact that parts of vision were not heard by the congregation, and that our preacher chose to politely castigate other Christians for focusing on the Day of Judgment, the NRSV in its attenpt to be more gender neutral chose to translate verse 13 as,
"..,I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven."
rather than the more commonly used
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him."
Alas, another generation will miss the connection with the "Son of Man" phrase in the New Testament. There is an abundance of commentary on the connection available, but to be brief, I will give you the Scofield Reference Notes:

This scene is identical with that of Rev 5:6-10. There the ascription of praise of the "kings and priests" (cf. Dan 7:18, 18, ref. a) ends with the words, "and we shall reign on the earth." Rev. 6. opens the "vexing" of Ps 2:5 introductory to setting the king on Zion Ps 2:6 Rev 20:4. The vision Dan 7:9-14 reverses the order of events as they will be fulfilled. Verse 13 describes the scene in heaven (cf) Rev 5:6-10 which, in fulfilment, precedes the events which Daniel sees in vision in Dan 7:9-12. The historic order will be:

(1) The investiture of the Son of Man with the kingdom Dan 7:13,14 Rev 5:6-10

(2) the "vexing" of Psa 2.5, fully described in Mt 24:21,22 Rev 6.-18.

(3) The return of the Son of Man in glory to deliver the "smiting" blow of Dan 2:45 7:9-11 Rev 19:11-21.

(4) The judgement of the nations and the setting up of the kingdom Dan 7:10,26,27 Mt 25:31-46 Rev 20:1-6.
Okay, so the NRSV stripped Daniel's prophecy of some of its power, but what did the lectionary editors do in removing verses 11-12?
11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.
12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
Of course, they pulled out the graphic language of judgment!

We are all under the sentence of judgment, and to gloss it over, or edit it out of the readings for the unsuspecting minds of the pewsitters, is to lead them into the error of the comfortable false sense of security of a feel-good Sunday service; a steady dose of which can be just as deadly as a steady dose of sin and judgement, or fire and brimestone preaching.

People have to hear about both judgment and salvation. After all, if there is no judgement, who needs a Saviour?

We can feel good about the Day of Judgment while at the same time fearing it because of that very same Son of Man who will put the beast to death and who will give its body over to the fire.

And Daniel knew a thing or two about those beasts.

Reverend Fun - Dances with Lions

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks Day

This Sunday our preacher presented us with an extremely detailed catalog of the contents of her refrigerator and pantry. A list that, for the sake of the congo, could have been greatly abbreviated. Why do we have such a long litany of things to be thankful for? Is it because we recognize that all things are from God, or is it that so many of our desires are actually being met?
"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Mark 11:24 KJV
Maybe we should also give thanks for those desires that appear to go unmet by the Lord and understand that when they are not met, it does not mean that our prayers have not been answered. Perhaps they will be answered in keeping with God's desire and not ours. Perhaps they will be answered much, much later.  Perhaps we haven't really been listening to hear the answer, or we were blind and did not see it.

The important thing is to keep on praying and never give up. Someday your eyes may be opened to, or your ears may hear, God's true response.

I reversed the usual order of the operative word for tomorrow's holiday in the title of today's post because I recently had one of those little experiences that most of you would write off as a dream, a personal experience, or a bit of difficult to digest food upsetting my sleep. Reading about other's personal "spiritual experiences" usually only arouses my skepticism, so instead of sharing mine, tomorrow I will merely pray a quiet,
"Thank you Lord for hearing and answering our prayers."   

Sunday, November 18, 2012

‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’

The title for today's post comes from Hebrews 10:
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’, and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’ For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
‘This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds’,
he also adds,
‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:11-25
I could not help but think of our brothers in The Diocese of South Carolina as the news came to us from their special convention held yesterday. It looks like they are going to put all the sins and lawless deeds of TEc behind them.
Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation

Today, Saturday, November 17, 2012, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina met in Special Convention at the “mother church of the Diocese,” historic St. Philip’s Church in Charleston. There, an overwhelming majority passed three resolutions. (View Resolutions.)

The first, by voice vote, affirmed the act of disassociation taken by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese, in response to actions of The Episcopal Church (TEC).

Amendments to the Diocesan Constitution
The second resolution, also by voice vote, passed on first reading. It approved amendments to the Diocesan Constitution removing all references to TEC.

Amendments to the Diocesan Canons
The final vote, which was by orders, was for approval of amendments to the diocesan canons, likewise removing all such reference to TEC. It passed with an overwhelming vote of 96% (71 clergy) in the clergy order, with 3 abstaining. In the lay order, the vote passed with 90% in favor (47 yes with 5 abstentions).

“It’s Time to Turn the Page,” says Lawrence

“We have spent far too many hours and days and years in a dubious and fruitless resistance to the relentless path of the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Lawrence in his address. “…I believe it is time to turn the page.”

The Bishop called those gathered to look forward. “I will be calling together a task force to link stronger parishes with congregations and missions in the diocese that may suffer the loss of members due to this departure from the Episcopal Church. If a smaller parish has lost 10, 20 or 30 percent of its membership it may not be able to afford a full time priest. So while continuing to keep the door ajar for disaffected parishioners to return, we need to find ways to enable that congregation to continue to support their rector or vicar; and not merely in order to keep ply wood from the windows but in order to reach their community for Christ and to grow his Church. That is what it is about. Let’s get on with it.

The Bishop said, “We need to explore new ways of preparing young men and women and even middle-age ones for ministry; especially those who know how to travel light. It is a new day and new ways of proclaiming the old truths need to be adopted.”
“Finally,” he said “I turn to our place in The worldwide Anglican Communion…We have heard from Archbishops, Presiding Bishops, and diocesan bishops from Kenya to Singapore, England to Egypt, Ireland to the Indian Ocean, Canada to Australia. They represent the overwhelmingly vast majority of members of the Anglican Communion and they consider me as a faithful Anglican Bishop in good standing and they consider this diocese as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Ah friends, this has got to comfort us… We are not alone. Greater are those with us than any who may be against us.”
By my estimate, DSC may lose 5,000 of its 27,000 members, and the TEc remnant might be enough enough to exist as its own separate diocese (given the fact that TEc has a few other tiny dioceses), although it will be one doomed to the inevitable slow death of all liberal dioceses wedded to TEc's false teachings.

(Addendum, Bishop Lawrence in a letter of 01/04/2013 notes,

"Of our 71 parishes and approximately 30,000 baptized members, 22,244 members of you have decided to remain with the Diocese. Fifty Three Hundred say they want to be with The Episcopal Church- with nearly half of those from one church in Charleston, and 1900 are still undecided."

No doubt 815 will vow to fight to the death for all properties of DSC, but given the last South Carolina Supreme Court ruling, I think you should be comfortable in planning to worship at one of DSC's churches on your next trip to Charleston.

You should find a welcoming group of Christians there.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Finally, Some Good News about Greece

Blasphemy charges filed over gay Jesus play in Greece

"ATHENS (Reuters) - Actors and the producer of a Greek play that depicted Jesus Christ and his apostles as gay have been charged with blasphemy, court officials said on Friday."
Ah, isn't it great to see the "birthplace of democracy" in full flower.
"...Bearded black-robed priests holding crosses were shown on television tearing up posters promoting the play. The Orthodox Church is an integral part of Greek society and a powerful institution."
It is a good thing  it wasn't a musical about a bisexual Mohammed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Codes of Conduct, Commanders, and Commandments in General

A few years ago, I was faced with the problem of our priest getting a divorce and taking up with another woman. At the time, another priest took me aside and told me that I should not hold my priest to high standards as priests are just sinners like the rest of us, and I should forgive and accept the unrepentant priest and continue in the church.

I didn't buy that argument then, and over the intervening years I stood by and watched the disasterous effects of such acceptance replayed in other congregations. I now stand my ground and firmly believe that relaxing a moral standard is the first step on the road to moral confusion. A confusion that will plaque future generations.

God holds us all to very high standards. His standards are Standards, and they have not changed over time.

Our organizations, governments, and military set standards as well. Time and time again our leaders fall short of the standard mark, and their foibles wind up being widely publicized. We watch and listen to each new revelation as they serve to educate, titillate, and offend us.

The latest scandal involving General David Petraeus provides yet another example of our human failings. I find it fascinating that the press is fanning the flames of this while just two weeks ago the very same press was praising former President Clinton for the bang up job he was doing in helping President Obama get re-elected.

Here we have two of our top military commanders, both of whom had captured the hearts of the main stream media, both of whom to which the people of the United States had entrusted their precious secrets, both of whom held incredible power over the fate of nations, one of whom lied, schemed, and successfully enhanced his career, the other one who, only after being caught, bit the bullet and resigned.

So why does one get a promotion while the other gets the ax?

A General can be court martialed (as adultery is listed in the Manual for Court Martial), and the Commander in Chief can be impeached, but the rules for that are more subject to interpretation and politics.

So why would another leader, United States Senator Diane Feinstein, initially wish that President Obama refuse General Petraeus' resignation? She has since changed her mind but only because,
"When you realize additional complications, which I did not at the time when I spoke to him, I think he did the right thing," she said. "I think the president really had no choice but to accept that resignation."

Adultery might get an initial pass, but two women sending threatening e-mails is a serious compromise of national security, and only then should the General face the consequences.

But a Commander in Chief having sex in the Oval Office is not a serious compromise and goes unpunished.

The Bottom Line to today's children: Sometimes adultery is wrong, and sometimes it can be a job enhancement.

Very confusing.

The juxtapositions of General Petraeus' sin with President Clinton's sin and our society's confused response points to a far greater problem. By abandoning our foundational beliefs in the God of the Bible and his commandments, our society has lost not only its moral compass but has thrown away its moral anchor.

This week we have been studying that forgotten, disdained, oft "revisioned" book, "Leviticus," a book that most of us would toss out with the compass as another antiquated means of navigation. The moral codes came up on Monday,

Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.

And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:

(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.

For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 18:20-30 (KJV)
Contrary to popular belief, the moral codes have not been undone by Our Lord Jesus as we read this week in Mark,
And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;

And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
Mark 10:1-19 (KJV)

Our leaders are just like us in this respect: we knowest the commandments, but we followeth them not.

So why do we embrace the failure of the one and apply standards to the failure of the other?

Those Standards sure do cause problems.

So who needs em anyway?

With no commandments, no Standards, who needs a Saviour either?

Thank God we do have an advocate in Jesus because sooner or later we will mess up by His Standards in one way or another.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wedding Songs, Widows, and Sacrifices

This Sunday's Bible readings included two stories involving widows.

In 1 Kings 17:8-16 we heard about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath and the miracle of the jar of meal.
"The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah." 1 Kings 17:16
 And in Mark 12:38-44 we have Jesus at the Temple observing the sins of the scribes, and then the offering of the widow's mite.
As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ 

And one of our Hymns today was #353. The 1982 Hymnal version in which the third verse varies from what I could find on-line.

Here is the verse in our Hymnal that we sang today,
"O God of love, inspire our life,
reveal your will in all we do;
join every husband, every wife
in mutual love and love for you."
As we were being chided for not sacrificing enough to the Episcopal church because of diagreements with the "national" church, I had to think about the tales of suffering widows and how this is all entwined with the Biblical narrative regarding marriage, a narrative our church has decided to sacrifice to the whims of the secular world. 

The plight of  the historcial widows we heard about today is foreign to modern Americans. With a large proportion of single parent families, there may be a greater perception of the problem of divorced moms and single mothers raising children than concern for the poor widows that we heard about today.

Things will be so much simpler when marriage, being something ordained by Christ as between one Christian man and one Christian woman, is eliminated.

Well, it might be a little complicated for the Hymnal editors since they will have to change the troublesome wording of that third verse to Hymn 353.

But just think, once polygamy and/or polyamory becomes acceptable, no one need ever be alone after the death of a spouse.

Widowhood itself will die!

Who wouldn't want that?

Certainly God doesn't expect us to sacrifice our happiness by obeying some ancient commandments about marriage made up by a bunch of oppressive old men?

The Episcopal church will never sacrifice its rejection of Biblical marriage, and for that,
"They will receive the greater condemnation."

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Episcopal Church Called Out as Unjust and Ungodly

Our priest this past Sunday brought up the often misquoted Martin Niemoller who I think is recorded as having said in the Congressional Record of October 14, 1968 on page 31636:

"When Hitler attacked the Jews
I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church --
and there was nobody left to be concerned."

I have been waiting for our clergy to defend a Christian brother we know, but I guess it is just one of those things over which we should not be concerned.

For all its talk about "justice", the Episcopal church, through its actions against Bishop Mark Lawrence, exposes itself to be just as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Primates Council calls it:

"We are grieved, however, by the attitude and actions of the leadership of The Episcopal Church and their efforts to demand canonical obedience through unjust means to their ungodly agenda. As we have made clear in the Jerusalem Declaration we reject their authority and call on them to repent and return to the Lord." h/t T19
I am not much of a joiner, but I am glad I joined the FCA back in 2009. You can too by registering here.

The unjust and ungodly accusation rang a bell. I think it was Psalm 43 that came to mind,
Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. Psalm 43:1
I am afraid that the FCA's call to repentance is unlikely to be heeded, and I admit that I am also guilty in that I have stopped praying for a change of heart for the leadership of TEc. I must get back on it immediately.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Psalm 32
While you kept silence, 815 came for Bishop Lawrence, and my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

Dear Lord, instruct the Episcopal church so that we may once again acknowledge our sins, cease asking you to bless our iniquities, and to accept your statutes.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Change You Can Believe In

Living right next door to a "battle ground state," I have been bombarded to death by television advertisements for the two major candidates for President of the United States. I feel sorry for undecided voters. They must be very, very confused by these commercials. Who can they believe? The one common message from both sides is that things  will change for the better if their candidate gets elected.  

That promise is probably not worth wasting much time in discussion.

I don't know what the religious make up of the undecided is, so I decided to look it up, and according to the RNS,
"A whopping 22 percent of Protestant pastors haven’t settled on a presidential candidate, according to a survey released earlier this month by LifeWay Research. By comparison, just 4 percent of all likely voters remain undecided, according to Gallup."
I hope they are undecided because perhaps they are more likely to put their trust in God, and the rest of us are more likely to chase after idols, but the article points to the possibility that some pastors are just trying to avoid conflict.

I don't know what you think your guy will do for you over the next four years, but when you go to vote this Tuesday, whether you are undecided or not, please keep in mind this one basic thing: 

                 God: Change you CAN believe in.
Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ Mark 12:32-33
Now, that is a vote that will not be wasted. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Whatcha Think?

His Grace, Archbishop Cranmer, blogs on Reformation Day on Hallowe'en. I could not resist commenting on his last two lines,

"Father Gabriele Amorth, exorcist-in-chief at the Vatican, has said: 'If English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that.'"
"One wonders if he holds the same generous view of those children who like to dress up as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Foxe, Huss, Knox or His Grace to celebrate Reformation Day.."  

I posted,

"I may keep the house lights on tonight in hopes of seeing children who like to dress up as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Foxe, Huss, Knox or His Grace to celebrate Reformation Day!"

Get thee hence and add your comments! 

Nine Bishops Waiting... hurry, hurry...

I can't remember what year it was, but somewhere back in Jr. High we were assigned "Nine Coaches Waiting" by Mary Stewart as part of our summer reading list. This was the cover of my copy,

I was one who would typically put off reading the assigned books until the last week of summer vacation, and unless a book really gripped me, that week became a high anxiety torture chamber that I knew had to be followed by the required book report and examination by the Chief Inquisitor (the scary English teacher for our next level in school).  

The only grip I ever got on "Nine Coaches Waiting" was the grip of my fist as I threw it across the room every time I read the recurring verse, "Nine coaches waiting, hurry, hurry..." 

Unfortunately my teacher loved the book, and we spent the first week of school dissecting every painful chapter.

I guess more people loved the story and Mary Stewart's style than hated it because it was a best seller. A recent on-line review is making me re-think one or two of the themes that our English teacher wanted us to pick up on as we were reading the book that summer. The reviewer writes,

"And it’s a story about trust and how much or little you can afford of it. The main characters suffer deeply because they find themselves out of their depth and must face decisions that cost them dearly."  

I think that reviewer has identified a theme that can be found in the ongoing disaster novel that is The Episcopal church, especially the latest rounds of "disciplinary actions" taken by TEc's leadership. 

At present, there are nine innocent bishops awaiting "conciliation" for speaking or writing something that goes against the current agenda of the "National" office as regards property disputes. George Conger's report at Anglican Ink tells it all and came in via e-mail to many of us this past week. Here are some excerpts,

Panel recommends "conciliation" between the accused and the Episcopal ChurchArticle | October 22, 2012 - 11:46pm | By George Conger
A Reference Panel has found that a prima facie case of misconduct can be made against nine serving and retired bishops of the Episcopal Church for having endorsed an amicus brief presented to the Texas Supreme Court, or for having given testimony in a trial court proceeding involving the Diocese of Quincy.
The Rt Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert, the Rt Rev William H. Love, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr, and the Rt Rev James M. Stanton have been informed the Reference Panel had reviewed the charges brought against them by the provisional bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy and by lay and clergy accusers.
In an 19 Oct 2012 email Bishop Matthews wrote:"The Reference Panel unanimously decided according to IV. 6.sec.8 that the complaint will proceed with option (c), Conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10."
One of the nine told Anglican Ink he has yet to be told what it was about his actions that violated the canons. Is it the "issue" or "expressing the issue in court" he said.If it is the issue, the bishop noted the position set forth in their brief was identical to that put forward in 2009 in the Bishops Statement on Polity. If it was stating this belief in court, "what is illegitimate about that," he asked.
One commentator asked "why it is OK for some bishops or dioceses and TEC itself to seek to have the courts interpret the C&Cs, but when others specifically advise the courts that they cannot get embroiled in these issues, it is a canonical offense. 
It is my guess that nobody really understands what "conciliation" in the TEc dictionary really means as this is the first time this will be done on such a scale. The Chief Inquisitor holds all the cards, and the decisions that the nine bishops waiting face could be ones that might cost them dearly. Are they in it too deep? Will those who stick to their guns and not do a "conciliatory tango" with 815 get dealt some real punishment? 

O, think upon the pleasure of 815!

Securèd ease and state! The tableau of same sex blessings,
Ready to spread before the provinces, that e'en now
Beckon to be fed...
Banquets abroad by torchlight! Feasts of the Solstices! All manner of pleasures!
Nine bishops waiting — hurry, hurry —
Ay, to the devil....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Morning T.V. Preaching Blues

I have been under the weather the past few days and I've vegetated on the couch for two straight days, and as a consequence, I was able to watch several different television preachers do their thing. There was the Atlanta megachurch and a preacher who hopped around the Bible in search of support of his point which I think was that even though we all are saved there may be a different reward at judgement day for those who don't use that salvic grace to do God's will.

And then there was the Charlotte contemporary church and its blue jean clad preacher from Monks Corner SC who came out with a few choice quotes of his own but was much less concerned with scriptural citations. Here are three good ones,

"The holy spirit is the operating system and not the app."

"Some people say there was a lot of spirit in Williams Brice Stadium last night. Let me tell you, the spirit of God ain't been to that place since it was built."

"Ask somebody next to you. 'Are you full of it?'" (the Spirit).
And there were the obligatory DVD offers and invitations to come back next week for more.
It is also clear that if you give somebody a stage and a microphone for 30 minutes, they will mess up somewhere.

I wonder if I could get the networks to sponser a reality show where different preachers are pitted against each other in a preach-off.

While I have no doubt that the preaching is not all there is to these ministries, and I do know that such styles of preaching may be effective means of spreading the Gospel of Christ, I worry that too much emphasis is placed on the preacher himself rather than the reading, study, and worship that we all have as our individual duties, alone and in groups.

Today, I was reading the Sunday lectionary readings, and the Epistle reminds me to turn my eyes away from the high priests of television.

Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. Hebrews 7:23-28

Thanks be to God!

And thanks be to God for chicken soup and chamomile tea!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who Lights Up Your Life?

Trick question?

No, really, what was your first thought when you read the title?

Was it Debbie Boone or Whitney Houston?

If so, read on...

I was reading Psalm 18 the other day, and a little light went off as I read,

"For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness" 
(Psalm 18:28)

Number one, I cannot light my own candle.

Number two, nobody other than the Lord can light my candle.

Number three, it isn't my candle in the first place.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lay Preachers, Servants?

Followers may have noticed that for the past several months our church has been drafting lay homilists from members of the congregation, most of whom have been involved in Christian Education in the past, to give one Sunday sermon a month. Most of these sermons have gone over well (with one notable exception which was a classic example of modern revisionism). This is an experiment at our church, and I am not sure how long it will last. This may be a case of our new priest in charge getting to know more about the congregation than this becoming a new standard operating procedure. Whatever it may be, I am hearing some rumblings from the congo.

                       (Scroll to 1:00 for a little chuckle)

It was appropriate that today's Gospel reading contained the following verses about the servant ministry.

"So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’" Mark 10:35-45

So, all you potential servant ministers sitting out there in the pews, be on the alert, and check your draft cards.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

The readings for this day, the feast day of St. Luke, speak to my friends in the Diocese of South Carolina as they and their Bishop, Mark Lawrence, are under assault from the unrighteous, and ungodly horror that infects the Episcopal church in this generation. If the good Bishop and the Standing Committee of DSC are removed by the actions of a tiny minority of revisionist activists, the result may be the release of thousands of good Christian souls currently held captive and tainted by the bloodsport of TEc. Thousands who may now be free to go forth into the upstate and "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Let us pray,
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 
 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ 
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ Luke 4:14-21

Cathedral of St Luke & St Paul, Charleston SC