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.