Sunday, January 29, 2012

Who Has the Authority Anyway?

Today's Gospel reading was all about Jesus' authority,
"They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee." Mark 1:21-28
As Fr. Diggs pointed out in his sermon, this authority that came into the world was and is badly needed to teach and heal those who are most in need of healing, the broken, the sick, or in other words, us. These words may not have sat well with some of the pewsitters, and may not have roused the sleepy ones, but Fr. Diggs spoke strongly, as one with authority for, as he put it, "the Gospel of Jesus the Christ," and he should be commended for his attempt to get us to do likewise.

One thing the story of the casting out of the unclean spirit pointed out to me is that in the present day, while we give a lot of lip-service to being "spiritual" (which I might take to mean that we desire and work to create in ourselves a clean spirit, or try to "tune in" to the spiritual world), and we would like to think of our spirits as being pure, and only in need of a little fine tuning, we wind up discounting the whole notion of unclean or evil spirits.  If there are no unclean spirits, then our spirits are not in danger and have no need to be purified or redeemed. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that there is no need for a redeemer, no need for a teacher, no need for one with authority.

Perhaps our innermost desire is to do the work of the Holy Spirit for ourselves, to cleanse our spirits, but in so doing, we set ourselves up as our own authoritative ones.
"I am the centre of the world; where the horizon is depends on where I stand... Education may make my self-centredness less disastrous by widening my horizon of interest; so far it is like climbing a tower, which widens the horizon for physical vision, while leaving me still the centre and standard of reference." William Temple on original sin. Christianity and Social Order, 1942 pp36-37. (From "Basic Christianity" by John Stott 1958)
Living as my own center of reference leaves me with an image of living in a very cold and hollow house, one of my own creation.
From naked stones of agony I will build a house for me;
As a mason all alone I will raise it, stone by stone,
And every stone where I have bled
Will show a sign of dusky red.
I have not gone the way in vain,
For I have good of all my pain;
My spirit's quiet house will be
Built of naked stones I trod On
roads where I lost sight of God.
(Spirit's House By Sara Teasdale )[American (Missouri & New York) poet, 1884-1933.]
Especially now, in this day and age when we believe that we can build our own shelter from life's pain and suffering but not from those unclean spirits that the ancients believed in, we need an external authority, an annoited one who can take away the bloodied stones of our house, tearing down the walls that we have put up. Walls which may be unintentionally keeping our Saviour out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pearls From Mere Anglicanism 2012

January's "Mere Anglicanism 2012" provided an excellent opportunity for clergy and laity from all over the world to meet, greet, and learn a bit about "The Once and Future Church."

For a lay person, there are always pearls to take home from such a conference. Papers are presented, things that are not commonly discussed such as Anglican history are given ample time and detail, and being in a prayerful community makes one eager to learn more in order to move forward in our walk with Christ.

Of course, anytime you can visit Charleston you'll have a good time.

                                    (In the courtyard of the Doubletree)

Okay, here are a few pearls, and I don't mean the kind found at the "Noisy Oyster" (please note, my shorthand notes might lead to a misquote here and there):

1) From the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres:
The new things that affected the early Church were dealt with by connections between the churches and a foundation built on the study of Jesus' words and scripture as a whole (from his sermon during evensong).

2) Bishop Chartres (lecture on Bishop Henry Compton):
"The Prayer Book is at the heart of our unity."
"The Prayer Book is countercultural... a sure if not flashy way to heaven and beyond."
"We need to recover engagement with the whole of scripture... not just those parts that are most appealing and engaging."
"...put ourselves under the judgement of scripture, don't tyrannize over the text... the lectionary keeps us from doing the latter."
"'You have your truth, I have mine' is the death of civilizations."
"Pessimism is the luxury of the comfortably off."

3) John McCardell on the Beaufort revival of 1831:
Never pass up a chance to hear about something you know nothing about (U.P.)

4) Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali:
"Christ's uniqueness and his universality go hand in hand."

5) Bishop Mark Lawrence:
"Our focus is on 'Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.'"
"Some storms are unavoidable... TEc charted its course into the storm... nine years later, no port is in sight."
"Who can claim to be Anglican?" (on all the varieties of Anglican churches in his area).
"The Episcopal church's actions are expressions of pure autonomy..." (on the tension between the local and universal Church).
"Veer from the pathway of the Church Catholic... and this affects the whole Communion."

6) The Very Rev'd Dr. Justyn Terry Dean of Trinity School for Ministry:
Joke: A preacher is giving a very boring sermon which so upsets a man in the congregation that the man hurls a hymnal at the preacher, but the hymnal hits instead the back of the head of a woman on the front row. The woman stands up, turns around, and says, "What the... Do it again... I can still hear him."

"We try to reorder ourselves to a distorted creation"
"Walk by Faith and not by sight."
"... to live rightside up in an upside down world" (All on the story of the upside down mice)

"...millions more have died from secular ideologies than Christian ones..."
"The average age of conversion in the U.S. is sixteen."

On the Church's need for $$$, "We want to be fed from silos, God wants to feed us by hand."

7) Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi:
"I know you are praying for us in Nigeria;we are praying for you in America."
"Only the Gospel can teach you to be honest."
"Lead children to Jesus and strong faith..."

If I ever need to convert an atheist, a Muslim, or an unchurched person, I'm going to call Archbishop Kwashi!

8) The Very Rev'd Robert Munday (not a speaker but caught on break when talking about the great weather in Charleston this year:
"And I have to get on a plane to Nashotah today..."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Our Saviour Calling

The Gospel reading from Mark was the focus for our Deacon's sermon today.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:14-20

The subject of "the call," as presented in these verses, really does feel like a call from God. Imagine minding your own business, mending your nets, and up and leaving to follow some guy walking down the shoreline. That guy must be God...right?

Our Deacon presented various speculations as to whether or not Simon, Andrew, James and John already knew Jesus before He passed by, and I always worry when such speculations are presented in a sermon. Mark's version of the call does not seem to indicate a gradual decision on the part of the Disciples to follow Jesus or one that was made after a period of discernment, or after listening to Jesus preach, teach and perhaps even seeing him heal the sick. No, this call seems to be one of those slap in the head kind of things.

Is it so hard for us to believe that these things happened then?

Can they happen now?

Interestingly enough, on this day we were presented with an introductory letter from our future Priest-in-Charge who has accepted a call from the vestry to serve here for the next 2-3 years or longer (sort of a try before you buy deal). I was disappointed in the language of the letter which gave more emphasis on the call of family ties and pilgrimage than a "Sea of Galilee moment."

Maybe those types of calls don't happen anymore. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Theology of the Occupy Movement

                                               Photo/REUTERS/Andrew Burton (on ENS)

I don't get the "Occupy (OWS) Movement." I was waiting to see if they might develop a concrete political agenda or a unifying philosophy, but I never expected that they would develop a "theology." Recently the NYC branch tried to occupy property owned by Trinity (Episcopal Church) Wall Street. The protestors, including a retired Episcopal bishop (pictured above), were arrested after the refusal by those in charge of the church as well as the Presiding Bishop of TEc of the OWS' request for a peaceful occupation of the church grounds. One of those arrested, Tim Beaudoin, posted a report at "America: The Catholic Church Weekly" which contained these strange statements:

"Occupy is appealing to Trinity, a very wealthy church, to share its resources (prime Manhattan real estate, currently empty but presently leased on a short-term basis to a tenant) with the Occupy movement whose social goals are ostensibly the same as Trinity’s – a more just world for more people – and many of whose participants explicitly dedicate themselves to the cause for reasons of religion or spirituality. Some in Occupy use religious language of 'sanctuary' for Occupy in their appeal to Trinity, because we were forcibly evicted from Zuccotti and have been hounded out of other public places since then. A religious organization like Trinity, many argue, ought to appreciate a basic point from the theological tradition: ongoing material space that is artistically curated, ritually inhabited, and safely overseen is essential for an ongoing witness to a more deeply flourishing reality...

...I think we have a very important theological matter before us when Occupy, through its religious-leader allies, is saying to Trinity Wall Street: We in Occupy -- as a multifaith, interreligious, spiritually pluralistic movement that is also and equally a nonreligious, secular movement -- can better meet your mission as a Christian church in this particular time, and this particular place, with negligible negative financial impact (Trinity is a very wealthy community)..."

I don't think the Occupy people get it either, I am unaware of the "theological tradition" behind "...material space that is artistically curated, ritually inhabited...", since that description might fit a number of non-Christian spaces as well as quite a few Episcopal churches.

And might "safely overseen" be properly interpreted to mean, "squatters will be evicted"? 

If, as many in the Episcopal church see it, the mission of the Church is to promote various liberal political and social causes, then the author may have a valid argument about OWS being better able to meet the Episcopal church's mission. After all, OWS doesn't have all those pesky trappings of religion as well as the cost of suing dissenting members to slow it down.

But, if OWS thinks the mission of the church is to sue other Christians, then there is no way OWS can do better than David Booth Beers and the TEc legal team.

I have to admit that Tim Beaudoin's "a multifaith, interreligious, spiritually pluralistic movement that is also and equally a nonreligious, secular movement" is a pretty good description of the Episcopal church of 2012. 

Perhaps the OWS folks do need a philosophy, but they should forget about the theology.

Let us pray that they look to God who is our rock and salvation for sanctuary from whatever it is that is persecuting them.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shhhh... Don't Talk About What We Should Shhhh...un

This Sunday we were presented with an interesting combination of Bible readings:

a) Psalm 139:1-5,12-17

b) 1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)

c) 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

d) John 1:43-51.

I would challenge you to guess which one of these would be the most likely scriptural passage to not be expounded upon  in a Sunday sermon?

(Insert theme music from "Final Jeopardy" here)

Got it yet?


Drum roll...

Answer (c) is correct.

Let's read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and try to figure out why we might not hear a teaching from the pulpit on the subjects of this passage.

‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Yikes! I am amazed that one even got in the Sunday Lectionary. I would have guessed it would have been shortened to,

‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

I heard a couple of comments from the sheep that the reading was all about sex, and that Paul was obesessed with sex. Such comments are clearly meant to diminish the power and importance of Paul's words and say more about us than they do about the apostle. My reply to those individuals was that 1) Paul was right, and 2) It wasn't that Paul was obsessed with sex, but the Corinthians were the ones with the problem (read Chapters 5-7 of 1 Corinthians again).

Another way you can diminish the power and authority of Paul's words is to not refer to them at all during the sermon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dead Minds Graffiti Attack

Our church building sits in downtown Rock Hill and is surrounded by other churches. We are on the corner of what might be called Episcopal, Presbyterian (ARP), and Methodist. Our next door neighbor was Baptist but currently is non-denominational. One or another of our church walls have been marked with graffiti over the years. This past week, the graffiti got personal. "Dead Minds" was spray painted on one of the walls. The police are investigating this and other graffiti hits this week as reported in our local paper, The Herald.

"Dead Minds" sounds like an appropriate name for a graffiti "artist," but a quick Google search could not pinpoint a local using that moniker.

I found a band in N.J.' s Facebook page. I wonder if there are any fans in Rock Hill?

I found another band called "Thrice" that had a song called "A Living Dance Upon Dead Minds" a few years back from their appropriately titled "The Illusion of Safety" album. The lyrics are a bit strange, but the "dead minds" quotation comes from this stanza,

"love everywhere,
exploding, maims and blinds,
a living dance upon dead minds,
love everywhere,
exploding, maims and blinds,
a living dance upon dead minds"
Thrice - A Living Dance Upon Dead Minds

I don't remember them touring Rock Hill lately, but maybe a deranged fan is at large in our fair city.

Turn on the Bat-Signal Commissioner Gordon! Or in the case of Rock Hill, Commish Glen the Frog!

I can't help but wonder if this was just another random act of graffiti, or was it a premeditated attack with a hidden message for those of us seeking the sanctuary of our overactive minds? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If Your Bishop Preaches This, RUN

h/t American Anglican Council An Episcopal church in Ohio broke away and Ohio's Bishop Mark Hollingsworth is totally clueless. (Source:

"When they talk about Jesus, it's not the same Jesus I talk about," said the Rev. Gene Sherman, pastor of the 250-member breakaway congregation from St. Barnabas.

"They say Jesus is a way to salvation. I say Jesus is the way to salvation."

In response, Ohio Episcopal Bishop Mark Hollingsworth said in a prepared statement that Episcopalians believe Jesus is the way to salvation, but he added that "there is a range of understanding as to whether Jesus is the only way to salvation."

"In our belief that God is generous . . . many of us suspect that in striving for intimacy with all human beings, God can achieve it through varying faith experiences and traditions," he said.

Pure pluralistic unchristian garbage.

After such a demonstration of theological genius, what will this clueless bishop do with an empty church building?
...Before the exodus, the congregation had changed the name to St. Barnabas Anglican Church. The diocese has changed the name back to its original St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, which was established in 1950.

Its interim pastor is the Rev. Alan James, a member of Bishop Hollingsworth's staff.

"We're looking for a person skilled at growing churches," said James.

A person with church growth skills? In the Episcopal church there ain't no such animal. Let's see, in the past 10 years the Diocese of Ohio has lost 10,000 members.

ASA has dropped from about 12,000 to 8,000.

If they have not been able to find anybody who can grow the poisonous Episcopal seed in the past 10 years, what are Bishop Hollingsworth's chances of finding the guy/gal/transgendered person now?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Did Your S.C. Parish Put the Stand Up For Life Insert in Today's Bulletin?

If you parish is anything at all like my parish, I bet they didn't. 

Here what should have happened (from their Facebook pages):

Four ways to promote the January 14, 2012, Stand Up for Life March and Rally in your church by SC Citizens for Life (SCCL)
  • Download and make two-sided copies of the Church Bulletin Insert.  (It copies nicely in black and white.) Place them in the bulletins on Sunday January 8.
  • Put the BULLETIN ANNOUNCEMENT in your bulletin on JANUARY 8.

The annual Stand Up for Life March and Rally featuring former abortion clinic worker Abby Johnson will be Saturday, January 14, 2012, at the State House in Columbia S.C. March lines up at 11 a.m. at the USC Russell House, Greene Street.  Rally begins at noon at the State House.  For more information see or call 803-252-433 or 803-730-1095 or e-mail

  • Post the rally flyer on bulletin boards and other prominent places around the church.
  • Announce the Stand Up for Life March and Rally from the pulpit on January 8.
CLICK HERE to get all printable materials
If you would like South Carolina Citizens for Life to send you rally flyers in color, please call the SCCL office at 803-730-1095 or 803-252-5433 or e-mail Holly Gatling at

So, I guess it is a good and acceptable thing for your Episcopal church to always give support to the "Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice," but don't let them dare give even one word in support of life. 

And to think that today's O.T. reading came from the very beginning of the Book of Genesis

Let us be thankful for the gift of forgiveness. Lord forgive us.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

More Syncretism in DUSC?

I held back on printing this so as to not spoil Advent and Christmas, but strange things keep on coming from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and its church that brought us "Birthing the Christ Within" (posted here on 12/07/2011).

The latest evidence is this curiously worded healing ministry:
Healing Sanctuary presented by the St. Timothy's Center for Spirituality and Healing. Starting on Monday, December 12 , 6:00-8:00 pm we will be holding a healing sanctuary every second Monday of the month at St. Timothy's, 900 Calhoun St., Columbia. This will be a time when different people will volunteer their time to provide different energy healing modalities to people who would like healing. There will be no charge for these services and they are open to the public. Anyone may attend, however you MUST call the church office at 765-1519 to schedule a time as space is limited. Healing Sanctuary will be at St. Timothy's, 900 Calhoun St., Columbia. You may call Rev. Henson for more information.
I suspect they were looking at those "singing bowls" referenced in that earlier post and came up with this creative use for their investment.

For your information, we are healed through one "energy healing modality" and one alone, and that is through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Annual Spiritual Check Up from the C.S. Lewis Institute

The following e-mail came to me the other day and I think it might be something to use as a New Year's Resolution.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40

Each year many of us will go through a physical check-up, perhaps do a financial check up at year’s end or at tax time, and perhaps do a performance review at our workplace.   But how often do we take time to review our spiritual life?
Those who are saved by grace are called to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3.18).  As disciples of Jesus, we are to live a life of love – love for God and love for our neighbor, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Too often, in the busyness of our day-to-day lives, we let other priorities crowd out the two highest priorities Jesus gave us.   The following questions are designed to help you examine your spiritual life over the past year and to prayerfully seek God’s help in areas where you desire to grow in the New Year.    
Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind.1.    How is my personal relationship with God?
  • Do I have a growing desire to spend more time with God?
    Am I spending appropriate time praying, reading and meditating
    on the word?  
  • Am I growing in my desire to obey and please God? 
    Do I obey out of gratitude for God’s love?  Or from guilt or fear?
  • Have I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit?  Do I ask God to
    fill me each day with the Holy Spirit?
  • Are there areas I am holding back from God? 
    Which ones?  Why?
  • Am I more aware of the sins in my life? Do I repent on a
    daily basis and receive forgiveness and cleansing from God.
    Have I fully, truthfully repented of all past and current sins?

2.    Am I actively serving God in some way?
  • Volunteering at church?
  • Praying regularly for the pastor, staff, missionaries
    and volunteers?
  • Am I seeking to make others feel welcome in my church?

3.    Am I growing in my desire and actions to give sacrificially to God’s work in the church and other ministries?  Am I teaching my children about sacrificial giving and putting God before materialistic desires?
4.    Am I living in humility before God, my family, friends and co-workers?
5.    Is there evidence of grace growing in my life?  Do I thank God every day for his love, grace and mercy and saving me from what I deserve? Am I learning to see others through the mind of Christ?  Am I treating others with the same grace God has shown me?

Loving Your Neighbor6.    Am I loving my family as I should?
  • Husbands, are you loving your wives? How, specifically?
  • Wives, are you respecting your husbands?  How, specifically?
  • Parents – are we teaching our children the Bible, how to pray,
    and how to please God?
  • Am I managing my time in a way that reflects God’s
    priorities and honors my family relationships? 
    What specific changes are needed?
  • Are there any outside influences that are harming my family
    relationships?  If so, what will I do about them?

7.    Am I forgiving others?  Is there anyone among my family, friends, neighbors or co-workers that I refuse to forgive?  Do I fully trust that God has forgiven my sins?
8.    Am I growing in fellowship with other believers?
  • Am I part of a small group?  Is it making a difference in the
    lives of participants?
  • Do I have a Godly mentor to help me grow in my walk with
  •  Am I mentoring/discipling a newer believer?

9.    Have I personally witnessed to anyone in the past year? In my neighborhood?  In my workplace? Am I prepared to share my testimony? To share the Gospel?
  • Am I fervently praying for and planning opportunities to witness
    in this coming year?
  • Am I being salt and light in my neighborhood, workplace
    and social groups?  How, specifically?

10.    Am I focusing part of my time and money to help the poor and disadvantaged?  Am I teaching my children about the importance of helping the poor?  How?
Jesus says that if we love him, we will obey him (Jn. 14.15), and he calls us to grow in grace and love. Do you have a plan for growing in your love for God and love for your neighbor for this next year?  Will you prayerfully prepare one before the end of the year?  To help you grow in these areas, you’ll find a variety of resources on our website (