Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolution J.C. Ryle Style.

I hate New Year's resolutions, but here is one that I am bound to keep,
"Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. Let us study it, search into it, dig into it, meditate on it, until it dwell in us richly. (Coloss. 2:16.)
In particular, let us labor to make ourselves familiar with those parts of the Bible which, like the book of Psalms, describe the experience of the saints of old. We shall find it most helpful to us in all our approaches to God.
It will supply us with the best and most suitable language both for the expression of our wants and thanksgivings. Such knowledge of the Bible can doubtless never be attained without regular, daily study.
But the time spent on such study is never misspent. It will bear fruit after many days."
--J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 35. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

h/t Tolle Lege 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I've Got Nothing

Thinking about this the Christmas season makes me thankful for the gift that God gives us. How many of us are thinking "the gift that God gave us" as if that Christmas so long ago were but a dim, fading memory, a legend, a myth, a cute story?

This week some of us accepted the challenge of trying to recall our earliest memories of Christmas at the Stand Firm in Faith web site, and what I found was that our memories all seem to revolve around family, and not around church or any special feeling of being in God's presence.

Christmas may forever face this challenge, the challenge of God's gift being lost among all the other gifts, be they toys, gizmos, socks, sweaters, or the gifts of food and family.

We humans exchange gifts.

God gave himself to us on Christmas.

Can we possibly give Him anything comparable in return?

I am afraid that I've got nothing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Were You There?

"Were You There on That Christmas Night", Natalie Sleeth (1930-1992)

Were you there? Were you there
On that Christmas night?
When the world was filled with a holy light?
Were you there to behold as the wonder foretold
Came to Earth?

Did you see? Did you see?
How they hailed him king?
With their gifts so rare that they chose to bring?
Did you see how they bowed as they praised him aloud
At his birth?

Did you hear how the choirs of angels sang
At the glory of the sight?
Did you hear how the bells of Heaven rang
All through the night?

Did you know, did you know
It was God's own son?
The salvation of the world begun?
Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth?

Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth? --Natalie Sleeth

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Denunciation of the "Myth of the Annunciation"

In church today, many of us heard the story of the Annunciation.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

This story is close to my heart. I was raised in a church of that name: "Annunciation". I held fast to that little church... literally. As children, we used to climb along a ledge on its outer walls pretending to be litle cat burglers and little spidermen while our mothers performed their altar guild duties (until the sexton came outside and swatted us with his broom). I have circled the most difficult corner for us spiderpeople to negotiate.

I have held fast to Luke's account as well in spite of all efforts to sweep the story away.

I read one such attempt the other day at, and I think it should be required reading because it shows what Christian apologetics is up against. The post is craftily worded and rather lengthy, and will seem quite convincing to many modern readers (not that our youth are much into reading these days). I will only quote the conclusion, because in the end, this is where all such attempts to explain away the Bible wind up.
 "Instead of taking the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke literally, and thereby doing a disservice to historicity and rational thought, we should accept them as religious myths. They are beautiful legends embodying faith in the supernatural and the efficacy of prophecy. They are attempts by these gospel authors to put into words their conception of a momentous, divine event. And they do so in a manner consistent with what credulous people in ancient times expected.
Although we shall never be sure about the exact circumstances of Jesus' birth, we do know that about two thousand years ago, there was born in what is now called Palestine an extraordinary Jew who was to change profoundly the course of human history." -
R.C. Symes "Myths surrounding Jesus' birth," as interpreted by Progressive Christians. 
They end in heresy.

In this case, Arianism?

In any case, the ultimate conclusion from any argument that attempts to prove that the virgin birth is a myth is to find that God is not omnipotent. The argument thus ends up saying that, "Here is something that God cannot do."


The above example of a denunciation of the Annunciation is just one of many attempts to discredit the Christmas story that you might see each year around this time. In my opinion, these are showing up with increasing frequency. They sometimes are heard within the walls of the church itself (case in point Bishop Spong). This increase means that the enemies of the Gospel are growing in power, and the apocalyptic part of me is concerned that the day is coming when the followers of the Gospel will be "bombed back into" the first century, maybe not with bombs made from explosives, but instead with the social bombs of discrimination, name calling, and isolation.

If this happens, the Gospel will of course survive, but it will be up to determined defenders of the Faith to help pass it along to some future generation that will respond to its call.

And when revisionists have taken over the historic church buildings, it just might take a new generation of little cat burglers and little spidermen to break in and shatter the myths of the modern mythologists.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Private Communications, Hackers, Dictators, Terrorists, Bishops, and Hollywood

In a curious confluence of the stars and meteors, this week presented us with leaks of hacked Hollywood communications, the possible involvement of a foreign dictator's hackers, and an Episcopal bishop's publication of letters  inhibiting him and in effect deposing him because he expressed a desire to bridge the gulf that separates the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal church.

The fact that all electronic communications are subject to potential publication is somehow infuriating to the Hollywood left now that they have been exposed and everyone gets to see what used to stay hidden behind the  silver screen.
Why are people so upset? I do not believe it is just because of possible terrorist threats on the film industry. There must be something more. I think it is because this explodes the modern secular human myth that privacy truly exists.

Is anything really private?

Don't we Christians believe in the omniscience of God? What could we possibly keep from Him?


We all are totally exposed, naked, there is nowhere to hide before Him.

So what should be our reaction to being hacked?
"What is the proper response to God’s omniscience? The inspired apostle Paul provided a fitting answer in Colossians 3:24: 'And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.' Those who refuse to serve the Lord should be frightened by God’s omniscience, because God knows of every sin. And unforgiven sin will be punished (Psalm 90:8; Romans 6:23). For God’s children, however, the implications of God’s knowledge are sources of peace and strength (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 3:22; Romans 11:33). Ultimately, the God Who knows everything will judge humans based on how we use the knowledge that has been revealed to us. We must act based on our knowledge to prepare for eternity." Caleb Colley, Ph.D. at Apologetics Press 
The whole Hollywood hack fuss may be bad for their business, their pride, and their reputations, but I would hope that it would be an occasion to point them towards that which is truly important.

Lord, if this year's season of Advent does anything at all, let it shine The Light on our lost paths, and help us to see that all of our secrets are revealed to you, and that we must beg for your forgiveness and forever thank you for coming to our rescue in the form of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Lights Are Not Enough

Last night I went outside to look for any Geminid meteors that might be bright enough to be seen through the urban light pollution, some of which was due to all the houses in our neighborhood that had placed electric "candles" in the windows as part of our typical Advent/Christmas decorations.

Mea culpa

The brightness of the sky-glow made me question the need for all those Advent/Christmas lights. Jesus should be able to find his way without our help. It seemed to me that humanity's ability to light the night might be a reflection our growing amnesia of the powers of darkness, of our needs, and of some of our ancient Christian themes.
"A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Luke 2:32 King (KJV)
Only children are afraid of the dark these days. We make our own light.

Today's lesson featured the interrogation of John the Baptist, who testified to the light, and the question posed to him of by what authority he performed his baptisms.
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, 'I am not the Messiah.' And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the prophet?' He answered, 'No.' Then they said to him, 'Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?' He said, 'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord," as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, 'Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' John answered them, 'I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.' This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing."
John 1:6-8,19-28
John was clearly a target not only of Herod but also of the priests and Levites, much like Jesus will be during his time.

Given the importance of John the Baptist, isn't it odd that he is not commonly found as a Christmas tree ornament? Maybe one holding a candle?

Given his usual depiction, maybe not.

But doesn't our season of Advent remind us to also be preparing the way for the Lord?

Now I don't expect you all to rush out and don a garment of camel's hair with a leather belt around the waist, nor do I expect you to live on a diet of locusts and wild honey, but maybe in this increasingly secular world where children may not have been raised in the Christian faith, maybe we should step up and proclaim the good news as well,
" give knowledge of salvation unto his people." Luke 1:78
We are still a people in need of salvation, and I think that is where the Christian understanding of reality differs from the prevailing worldview in the west. As Albert Mohler wrote in his blog this week,
"The Christmas story cannot be reduced to a sentimental tale that gives humanity a warm glow." 
No, humanity was and still is broken, living in darkness, and we are still in need of a redeemer.

So maybe we need to keep the candles lit in the windows of our homes to signal to the rest of humanity the need for the True Light to come into our darkened world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TEc Bling: "The Episcopal Church, We don't suck"

This was given out by an Episcopal bishop at a youth event and posted on Facebook,

"The Episcopal Church We don't suck"
C'mon man! Bishop dude needs to stash the bling.

I have to agree with the message in a way: TEc certainly has not been sucking in new members.

Question: "Just what is that great sucking sound that we hear in TEc anyway?"

Answer: "The sound of people being sucked out the door."

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Pearl Harbor Reflections

"The lesson of Pearl Harbor ought never to be forgotten... We need to keep that in mind." Oliver North 

If you ever go to Hawaii, you must not forget to pay your respects to those who died at Pearl Harbor. For us, it was a sacred duty as well as a rewarding experience. I pulled these from my photo album.

Oil droplets ascending from the U.S.S. Arizona

Flag over the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed." 2 Peter 3:10

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Slippery Staircase

The first step away from God is when we deny the authority of the scriptures found in the Bible.

I saw this illustration over at Churchmouse Campanologist, and I agree that it as true today as it was in 1922, and I asked if there were any steps lower than the last two. You will have to step over to Churchmouse's pages to see what we came up with.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Resolutions

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and it marks the beginning of a new Church year. I never have been too keen on New Year's resolutions as the whole new year thing always seemed rather arbitrary to me.

After all, who made January 1 the first day of the new year? Julius Caesar?  Pope Gregory XIII?

Do we really want our year's beginning be a remembrance of a two faced god?

Janus: the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past.
Nope, not me, no way.

Perhaps every day should mark a new beginning, and it should demand new resolutions from us.

Nope, that would be too tough.

The liturgical year begins today, so why do we not start the year with Advent resolutions?

I can hear it now, "Are you nuts?"

Yes I am.

So this year I resolve to...

Oh God, I hate resolutions, and I hate to write them down. That makes them so permanent.

Alright, I resolve to pray daily.

Today I will pray for peace as the choir did today as they sang Vivaldi's "Et in Terra Pax".

Luke 2:14 "Gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis."




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of California: The Earth and the Cosmos Are Reaching Out and Calling You

One should fully expect to see the prerequisite Episcopal delegation at anything related to "climate change" or "earth Day", so the following should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of California, Marc Andrus whose Magical Mandala Tour was featured on these pages a while back (Part 1 here, and Part 2 here). The following invocation is from the "People's Climate March" and it strikes me as something that one might hear at a pagan ceremony.
Invocation for the Conclusion of the People of Faith Service
People’s Climate March
Sunday, September 21, 2014
New York City
“Who calls the clouds of Monarch Butterflies to their annual 4,000-mile migration?”
“The Earth!”
“Who prompts the Arctic Tern in the air, and the Blue Whale in the Ocean to make their 12,000-mile migration?”
“The Earth!”
“Who starts the 500-mile Serengeti Migration, beginning with 250,000 Zebras, then 1.7 million Wildebeasts, and 400,000 Gazelles?”
“The Earth!”
“And who called you to make your journeys, from Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, California, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Everywhere to come to the People’s Climate March?”
“The Earth!”
“Then you are the prayer of the Earth, you are her invocation to God! The Earth and the Cosmos have reached out and called you to make your life a prayer for healing, peace, justice and integrity!” 
+Marc Andrus
Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of California 
Uh, like seriously, I mean get real Marc, ya know...

Shouldn't the answers to all of his questions be "The Lord!"? I think he has the whole thing upside down, but I guess that is the way people see things until their eyes are opened.

I hate to be one who quotes scripture to a bishop... not really, I enjoy it,
The heaven, [even] the heavens, [are] the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. Psalm 115:16 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Marriage Pledge and Upper South Carolina

With the redefinition of marriage spreading throughout the land, the issue has finally reached South Carolina where our state Attorney General vowed to fight to the last to uphold traditional male-female marriage, but a Charleston Probate Judge went ahead and issued six "marriage licenses" on Wednesday and our own county probate court followed suit on Thursday.

As the Attorney General appears to have failed, priests, ministers, and pastors in South Carolina face the prospect of being presented with a slip of paper from City Hall claiming that two people are "married" in the eyes of the State, and those persons may be asking for a blessing, a marriage service, or just the minister's signature.

What will our clergy persons do in this new era?

This past week saw the publication of "The Marriage Pledge" over at First Things. It reads,

"In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women. 
As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-­habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends. Now marriage is being fundamentally redefined, and we are ­being tested yet again. If we fail to take clear action, we risk falsifying God’s Word. 
The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage. 
Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life. 
Please join us in this pledge to separate civil marriage from Christian marriage by adding your name."  
Drafted by:
The Reverend Ephraim Radner
The Reverend Christopher Seitz

That is one way to handle it.

Here is another,

"My old man
He's a singer in the park
He's a walker in the rain
He's a dancer in the dark
We don't need no piece of paper
From the city hall
Keeping us tied and true
No, my old man
Keeping away my blues"

-Joni Mitchell from her album, "Blue"
The churches and the State have been cooperating in the marriage business for a long time, but only since 1911 have people even needed a government license to be married in South Carolina.

Our state makes about 1.8 million dollars a year from marriage license fees, and will be reluctant to get out of the business.

Maybe now is the time for clergy to follow the advice of Bishop Gene Robinson who in 2009 suggested the churches get out of the civil marriage business altogether.

Sarah Hey, a fellow Upper South Carolinian, has encouraged us to spread the pledge and to pass it along to conservative clergy members.

Since there aren't that many of those left, I think we should send it to all of our non-conservative clergy as well.

I did.

So far, I do not see any Upper South Carolina clergy as cosignatories.

C'mon, there has to be one or two still left, or has the purge by our bishop been complete? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

++Welby: "The Flourishing of the Church of Those Who Disagree"

As the CofE moved this week to ordain female bishops, the money quote unwittingly came from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby himself, (via AFP)
"Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together,"
"We will also continue to seek the flourishing of the church of those who disagree."
The results of the  Episcopal church's experiment of being the church of those who do agree (re: female bishops) suggests, the future of the CofE is likely to be one of steady decline.

This vote ensures that the "church of those who disagree" will indeed flourish (as long as it continues to hold true to the Biblical teachings on the nature of bishops).

Thanks for giving it a kick start Justin!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Words Too Strong For Sunday Ears?

I am quite certain that nobody will notice the omission from the Gospel reading today which was Matthew 25:14-15,19-29,
 Jesus said, "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, `Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, `Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, `Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, `You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
No, the important part that went unheard was not verses 16-18. It was verse 30,
"And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." AKJV
(Addendum: This verse was mentioned in today's sermon, but it was immediately qualified as we were told that surely the cast out would be let back in next Sunday. I never knew Hell had a revolving front door.)

This Sunday, the pewsitters may have been spared the awful ramifications of being unprofitable, but next week they should get a redeeming dose. For those who do not take the danger of being cast out seriously, or who think that Jesus could never have meant eternal separation from Him, or who presume that the devil does not exist, Our Lord continues in Matthew 14 and separates the sheep from the goats as He says,
 "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matthew 14:41-46
 That would make three Sundays in a row (link to last Sunday's post) where consequences too terrible to imagine are described by Jesus himself to those who are unprepared, lazy and unprofitable, or lacking in mercy.

Do you think He is trying to send us a message?

As Colin Smith points out at Bible Study Tools,

“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” 2 Thessalonians 2:9 
"To be shut out from God’s presence and from His power is to be without hope and without love forever. This is one of the hardest truths in the Bible. But here’s something I’ve discovered—the hardest truths can produce the most tender hearts. If you grasp this most difficult of doctrines, God will use it to soften your heart today."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Phillip Jenkins: "America’s last Episcopalian walks among us today"

The Midwest Conservative Journal directed my attention to this article at Patheos.

"My own Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) just released its annual statistics, showing a rate of decline that would be truly amazing if it were at all unexpected. Between 2012 and 2013, the denomination’s membership fell by 1.4 percent, to 1.87 million, while Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) fell by 2.6 percent. Those percentages may not sound like much, until you realize that these are figures for a single year, and they closely echo the percentage drops for several preceding years.  
If we extrapolate that rate into the not-too-distant future, then the number of people attending Episcopal churches on a typical Sunday will be negligible by mid-century, typical of a tiny sect rather than a great church or denomination. It won’t reach zero for a while, but in effect, the church will cease to exist. 
That mid-century date is really not far off. In fact, the baby baptized at my church last Sunday will by that point only be a young adult in her 30s.  
Non-attending notional members will persist for a few years longer, but by the end of the century, we should be talking total disappearance. 
In that scenario, America’s last Episcopalian walks among us today." - Phillip Jenkins

As I have mentioned before, the causes of the rush off the cliff are legion, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the calculations as to the trajectory of the Episcopal church.

My comment at the MCJ,

The shift is nearly complete from being called the Republican party at prayer to being the Democrat party without a prayer. Playing dress up on Sunday with phony clerics who don’t really believe the source documents of Christianity just won’t bring people to Christ.

Is there a way to reverse the trajectory? Of course there is, but nobody on board the starship Episcoprize seems willing to toss the captain and crew out into the vacuum of space and make the passengers study the owner's manual in order to find out how we should have been flying this thing in the first place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014



'TWERE heaven enough to fill my heart
If only one would stay,
Just one of all the million joys
God gives to take away.

If I could keep one golden dawn,
The splendour of one star,
One silver glint of yon bird's wing
That flashes from afar;

If I could keep the least of things
That make me catch my breath
To gasp with wonder at God's world.
And hold it back from death,

It were enough; but death forbids.
The sunset flames to fade,
The velvet petals of this rose
Fall withered-brown-decayed.

She only asked to keep one thing,
The joy-light in his eyes
God has not even let her know
Where his dead body lies.

O Grave, where is thy victory?
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory is ev'rywhere,
Thy sting's in ev'rything.

Studdert Kennedy

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Would You Have Lent Them Some Lamp Oil?

Today's Gospel reading was from Matthew 25:1-13,

Jesus said, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, `Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, `No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, `Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
No one would help out the poor foolish ones? I can hear it now, "How unChristian of those wise ones!"

The door that is shut is often considered the difficult part of the parable, and a part that might have been glossed over in many a sermon today, or it might have met with some revisionist interpretation.

It contains a warning that should not be minimized: "Be prepared. Your souls depend on it."

As I listened, a few other tough questions came to mind.
1) If you were one of the wise, would you have lent the foolish some oil?  
2) Would you, the wisest of the wise, have asked for a small contribution of 1/6th of each person's oil to help at least one of the poor foolish ones?
3) Would you, the wisest of the wise, have warned the foolish to keep their lamps unlit until the bridegroom was announced?
Taken in inverse order,
3) Warning the foolish usually is to no avail. 
2) Saving one fool would likely cause a riot amongst the rest of the foolish, the end result (torn and dirty clothes, ruined hair, nails and make up) of which the bridegroom would not particularly like. 
1) The danger of lending the foolish oil (treasure) should seem obvious from the outcome of the parable.
I guess this is something else to consider as we fill out our pledge cards.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Your Pledge Dollars at Work: Pledging to Engage in Spiritual Warfare

This is the time of year when Episcopal parishes run "stewardship" campaigns and seek promises of money to pay for next year's operational costs, salaries, insurance, etc., but some of that money will go to their Bishops and their bloated staffs, while some of it will go to the larger Episcopal church to use as it pleases.

No matter how well you think your local parish is doing, ask youself this question,
"Has the Episcopal church been a good steward with our money?"
Based on the decline in membership, the continued support of abortion, the slide towards gay marriage, the mixed up theology of many bishops (including our own) and confused ramblings of our Presiding Bishop, I would say, "No."

Something else to consider when filling out that pledge card is the money wasted on litigation.

The recent rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court of an appeal by the Episcopal church to review two breakaway cases in Texas, one involving a parish and one involving an entire diocese, may signal a bellweather moment in the course of the Episcopal schism (see the Anglican Curmudgeon's post). It would appear that the unilateral imposition of a trust by a denomination on individual church properties will have to meet the property statutes of each state in the Union and churches wishing to split from a denomination will have to duke it out in state courts (unless there is some gross negligence on the part of the state). For Episcopal parishes this means that any attempt to leave their diocese will still face the likelihood of a long and expensive legal battle, but that the probability of a favorable outcome is higher than ever. For any diocese that wishes to depart, the stakes are higher, but the legal basis for a favorable outcome appears stronger.

People have questioned why the Episcopal church has pursued the departing groups so aggressively (to the tune of 20-40 million dollars) when the primary basis for the Episcopal church's claim on departing properties is a questionable "implied trust" hastily added to the Canons when the first hints of schism started to appear.

Some have said that it is all about money. Property = Money in their eyes.
“The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so.” - Screwtape― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I would argue that it is not about money, and the fact that the Episcopal church is burning through money in pursuit of a lost cause is proof enough.

No, this must be about ideas. More than that, it is about who controls the promulgation of ideas to the pewsitters.

Control is obtained through manipulation of the discernment process for those called to ministry, through control of the seminary educations of those discernees, through manipulation of local parish rector searches, through careful grooming of lay delegations to diocesan conventions and General Convention, and through intimidation.

Intimidation in order to maintain control of what goes into our Sunday morning mind numbed brains is what all the litigation is about.

As far as the Episcopal church sees it, as long as it keeps the vestries and pewsitters in line, absorbing their twaddle from the pulpit, and sending in their pledge cards, all the time talent and treasure spent on litigation is is not money wasted.

Of course, in the long run such a strategy is doomed because the ideas found in scripture will never be trumped no matter how hard revisionists try to present an alternative view through sermons or through canonical machinations.

As much as our bishops and priests would like to deny it, this present war of ideas is just a small battle in a much larger and longer spiritual war.

Let's face it.

We pewsitters in the Episcopal church are being played as tools of fools on the battlefield of what will ultimately prove to be the losing side of a great, ongoing spiritual war.

Now that is something to consider when filling out that pledge card.

If you are pledging to engage in spiritual warfare, whose side are you going to be on?

"The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighbourhood of the Holy. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.” Screwtape ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Cheap Sainthood?

Of my many pet peeves, All Saints Day is one of them. Looking back through my blog roll, I found several posts on the subject.

One thing that bugs me is the way we read a LONG list of names of the dead, a list that seems to grow longer each year. This from my post in 2011,
"On this Sunday we recite a long list of the dearly departed. Names are submitted by the congregation and printed in the bulletin. I do not contribute to this list because I don't want to add any stumbling blocks to the impatient. My list this year includes ten names. If we average 100-120 people in attendance on Sunday, and each has ten people in mind, then the list to be read aloud would include 1000-1200 names."
Since we now appear to have less than 100 in attendance on most Sundays, my hypothetical list would only be 800 names long.

I know that I am a party pooper on this, but this thing can get way out of hand. Bishop Dan Martins of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield recently posted the following on Facebook which I believe supports my point,

"The celebration/observance of whatever is going on liturgically/socially at this time of year has gotten way out of hand, IMO, and this is primarily because we've lost track of how it all evolved historically and at the same time gotten confused theologically.
In brief ... way back in the day, every local church (read: diocese) had its favorite heroes and/or martyrs that it liked to commemorate on the anniversary of their death. In time, as these local churches shared their memories with one another, certain of these heroes/martyrs began to be commemorated more widely, even, in some cases, universally. After a while, the calendar got too crowded, so there was an impetus to pare it back. Let the local churches continue to celebrate their local heroes, but the larger church would focus on a chosen few (relatively). As a compensation, there would be a feast of *All* Saints.
Of course, there is a sense in which "saint" can refer to any baptized person, in this world or departed from it, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about heroes, those whose witness to the gospel has been of such magnitude that the community discerns them to have reached unimpaired communion with the Holy One and formally capitalizes the 'S' in 'Saint' in front of their name.
Of course, somebody eventually said, "What about my Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe? They were no super-Christians, but they were faithful and were good folks. Can't we remember them too?" And that's how we got All Souls' Day (November 2, unless supplanted by Sunday), the commemoration of All Faithful Departed. This is for Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe and others like them ... which is, in effect, all but a small percentage of the community of the baptized.
In short: All Saints Day is when we appropriately invoke the prayers of those presumed to have achieved the Beatific Vision. All Souls Day is when we offer our prayers on behalf of those who have gone on before us marked with the sign of the cross, but whom we guess might be yet on the Purgative Way. These are "the departed" for whom we are required by the rubrics to pray in every Eucharist.
Sadly, IMO, these two observances--the Principal Feast of All Saints and the optional commemoration of All Faithful Departed--have gotten conflated, sentimentalized, and trivialized in many people's minds and in the practice of many Christian communities.
And this lies behind my biggest objection to the RCL provisions for All Saints. The RCL has drunk the revisionist KoolAid and repurposed All Saints to a sort of Grand Funeral Liturgy. Just compare the relevant sets of readings and you'll see what I mean. But I'll stop the crank here."
Since +Martins brings up the "S" vs "s" saint problem, let me point out how this was handled in our rector's sermon today,
"Once you are baptised, you are all (S)saints."
We were not told if we are big "S" Saints or little "s" saints or whether or not there was any such distinction, but we were told that what we do with our God given (S)sainthood is a matter of our choice, and that there were "trillions" of us.

I suspect this is the expected result of living in a society in which little boys and girls play sports and in the end everyone gets a trophy.

This reminds me of my time with Pelagius, and perhaps my time with Huxley.

Call me a crank too, but Sainthood is both a title granted by man as well as a visible sign of the free gift of the grace of God having been received exceedingly well.

A world with trillions of Saints sort of lowers the value of Sainthood doesn't it? A world full of cheap Saints is almost like a world without heroes.

I think Gene Simmons of KISS wrote something about such a world being a "pointless thing devoid of grace",

"A world without heroes
Is like a world without sun
You can't look up to anyone
Without heroes
And a world without heroes
Is like a never ending race
Is like a time without a pace
A pointless thing devoid of grace
Where you don't know what you're after
Or if something's after you
And you don't know why you don't know
In a world without heroes
In a world without dreams
Things are no more than they seem
And a world without heroes
Is like a bird without wings
Or a bell that never rings
Just a sad and useless thing
Where you don't know what you're after
Or if something's after you
And you don't know why you don't know
In a world without heroes
There's nothing to be
It's no place for me"
Excuse me while I crawl back into my cave and remember my dear departed loved ones and pray that God holds them as dearly as he does the (S)saints.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Second Dumbest Thing our Presiding Bishop Has Ever Said

This has to be the second dumbest thing our Presiding Bishop has ever said,

The Episcopal Church needs many more women bishops, according to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and it has neglected available methods to accomplish that goal...
Jefferts Schori said that resistance to women in top leadership roles tends to come not from clergy, who are largely supportive. It comes instead from laity in an Episcopal Church she described as “too white, too old, too female” in comparison with the general population. When asked if laywomen are to blame for the scant number of female leaders, she said, “I don’t know that,” and instead placed the problem broadly at the feet of laypeople empowered to cast votes. Read the rest at the Midwest Conservative Journal.
The next P.B. is really going to have to try hard to top this gal.

If the blame is placed on the laypeople who vote, then logic would tell us that  the blame must rest on old white females.

Church ladies!

That makes about as much sense as saying that white female democrats won't vote for Hillary Clinton if she runs for President.

So how do you solve the gender gap problem in the Episcopacy?

One has to wonder if the rules for electing a bishop might be changed at some point in the future to reduce the impact of the old white church lady vote.

In case you missed it, the dumbest thing she ever said was probably in her worst sermon ever...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Lord said to my Lord Problem

Today's Gospel reading was Matthew 22:34-46.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
`The Lord said to my Lord,
"Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet"'?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Last year I posted about the difficulty with the greatest and first commandment and wrote,

"The heart has too many strings pulling on it, and the mind is constantly being distracted by its own musings for me to ever say that all my heart and all my mind are all in it for God all of the time."
Today I will focus of the problems many of us have with Jesus' question that he gave the Pharisees,
"How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord"
We have to look at the complete text of Psalm 110 which Jesus quotes,
Psalm 110 of David

1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion:
rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,
in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning:
thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen,
he shall fill the places with the dead bodies;
he shall wound the heads over many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook in the way:
therefore shall he lift up the head.

I have always needed help figuring out that first verse. Here is what I found at NazareneSpace,

Yeshua identifies himself as the Messiah as being the “my Adon” who YHWH speaks to in Psalm 110, verse 1. 
1YHWH says unto my Adon: Sit you at My right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool
The Midrash Tehillim (Midrash on Psalms) identifies the “My Adon” of Psalm 110:1 as Messiah.  According to the Midrash Tehillim: 
The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit you at My right hand.
To the Messiah it will also be said,
and in mercy the throne be established;…

Tovia Singer and other anti-missionaries (and others who question the deity of Messiah) insist that the “my Adon” of this passage is not YHWH.

However this identification is based on one of the “Tikkun Soferim”, the “emendations of the scribes”
While in verse 5 the Masoretic Text has “Adonai”, this is one of 134 places where the Masoretic Text reads “Adonai” but which the Masorah indicates that the text originally read “YHWH” and had been altered by the scribes in an attempt on their part to clarify the text. A copy found at the Cairo Geniza also has “YHWH” here.

Matthew Henry in his Commentary provides some help as to why the Pharisees were so puzzled,
It is not so easy for those who believe not the Godhead of the Messiah, to clear this from an absurdity, if Christ be David’s son. It is incongruous for the father to speak of his son, the predecessor of his successor, as his Lord. If David call him Lord, that is laid down (Matt. 22:45) as the magis notum—the more evident truth; for whatever is said of Christ’s humanity and humiliation must be construed and understood in consistency with the truth of his divine nature and dominion. We must hold this fast, that he is David’s Lord, and by that explain his being David’s son. The seeming differences of scripture, as here, may not only be accommodated, but contribute to the beauty and harmony of the whole. Amicae scripturarum lites, utinam et nostrae—The differences observable in the scriptures are of a friendly kind; would to God that our differences were of the same kind!
III. We have here the success of this gentle trial which Christ made of the Pharisees’ knowledge, in two things.
1. It puzzled them (Matt. 22:46); No man was able to answer him a word. Either it was their ignorance that they did not know, or their impiety that they would not own, the Messiah to be God; which truth was the only key to unlock this difficulty. What those Rabbies could not then answer, blessed be God, the plainest Christian that is led into the understanding of the gospel of Christ, can now account for; that Christ, as God, was David’s Lord; and Christ, as Man, was David’s son. This he did not now himself explain, but reserved it till the proof of it was completed by his resurrection; but we have it fully explained by him in his glory (Rev. 22:16); I am the root and the offspring of David. Christ, as God, was David’s Root; Christ, as Man, was David’s Offspring. If we hold not fast this truth, that Jesus Christ is over all God blessed for ever, we run ourselves into inextricable difficulties. 

No wonder the pre-resurrection Pharisees were unable to answer Jesus. Since we know the rest of the story, we are able to dissect the question and the response.

But it does take a bit of digging. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

'Tis Not a Gift

Typically, this time of year people's thoughts turn to church budgets and stewardship campaigns, and appropriately today's Gospel reading was about money.

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22,
All too often people are presented with the idea that "giving to God the things that are God's" means giving money to the church. There is a whole lot more to giving than that, and in fact giving to the church that has strayed from God is definitely not giving to God. Giving money to a church that supports abortion, giving money to a church that has given up on divorce, and giving money to a church that has given up on sex is not giving to God the things that are God's.

The fact that people continue to render these gifts leaves me amazed.

I think 'tis not a gift, but instead 'tis enabling.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The "Wrath" of God: Getting Over a Pons Asinorum

Talking about gruesome stories, in 1 Samuel we are brought face to face with some of those difficult verses we seldom hear preached on Sunday.  I have picked out the verses I believe might cause people to question the Bible.
2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

7 Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

10 The word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11‘I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.’

32 Then Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’ And Agag came to him haltingly. Agag said, ‘Surely this is the bitterness of death.' 33 But Samuel said,
‘As your sword has made women childless,
so your mother shall be childless among women.’
And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

Modern people might question, "Did the Lord order the viscous attack on Agag and the Amalekites, or is this just the Hebrew's way of writing a justification for their war?"

And to add to the confusion for the modern mind, the victorious King Saul is disobedient to God's command because the destruction was not total and spares Agag and the animals, and as a result falls out of favor. You might hear the question, "What kind of God is this?" or the statement, "I would never worshio a God like that."

Was Agag so bad that God ordered him to be punished in such a manner?

Please read the following from C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain Chapter 4 Human Wickedness:
"When we merely say, that we are bad, the 'wrath' of God seems a barbarous doctrine; as soon as we perceive our badness, it appears inevitable, a mere corollary from God's goodness. To keep ever before us the insight derived from such a moment as I have been describing, to learn to detect the same real inexcusable corruption under more and more of its complex disguises, is therefore indispensable to a real understanding of the Christian faith. This is not, of course, a new doctrine. I am attempting nothing very splendid in this chapter. I am merely trying to get my reader (and, still more, myself) over a pons asinorum--to take the first step out of fool's paradise and utter illusion. But the illusion has grown, in modern times, so strong, that I add a few considerations tending to make the reality less incredible."

Would a modern person go so far as to say that God is incapable of wrath, or that He would not act in a punitive way to creatures that have sunk even lower than bad? Have we gone that far over the precipice that we can, from our fool's paradise, dictate to Him?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why I Worry About Pride Parade Goers

I am continuing my reading through the O.T. prophets and the following warnings from Malachi struck a chord:

"So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free." Malachi 3:15 
"For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the Lord of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch.
But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves."
Malachi 4:1-2  

Why do people have to participate in or attend pride parades when in humility we should all stay home and beg forgiveness for our prideful selves? 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Budget Woes For +Upper South Carolina?

The silence from upstate Episcopalians about the upcoming 92nd Diocesan Convention Of The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina is perhaps a reflection of the general sense of "who cares" amongst the people in the pews, but perhaps there is more going on than people know.

Apparently a letter from Bishop Waldo went out to clergy recently about restructuring the staff. He attributes it to a financial shortfall this year and projected cuts for 2015, and so the theme for this year's convention is appropriately titled,

Stewardship of People, Place and Money
                    October 17-18
            Christ Church, Greenville
Didn't they used to call that, "Stewardship of Time, Talent & Treasure"?

Stewardship of people means:
1) Gone is the Canon to the Ordinary.
2) Gone is the Canon for Congregational and Leadership Development.
3) Gone is the Executive Assistant to the Bishop.

With pledges decreasing, many smaller parishes are feeling the pain this year from their diocesan assessments. These assessments will drop a little bit the year following a poor yearly income report, so Bishop Waldo knows that he either has to cut his budget or some program that might be particularly precious to someone else, but as far as stewardship of money is concerned, are there any other sacred cows out there to sacrifice?

In previous years, suggestions to cut the 815 pledge have been summarily dismissed. It is hard to see anything good coming out of 815 these days, so why not give them what they have earned? Will anyone stand up this year and ask the delegates to put the knife to this clear and present danger to good stewardship?

Usually, the proposed budget (euphemistically called the "Statement of Mission") has been passed around enough times that most of us are aware of exactly what cuts the Conventioneers might have to debate. This year a cloak of silence has been thrown over the pre-convention debate so that many delegates may find their Saturday afternoon plans thwarted if anyone tries to debate a line item at Convention. This budget has been in development all year, so there shouldn't be any surprises, but what usually happens is that somebody who feels strongly about their particular line item will decide to stand up and give a last minute appeal for that item.

Ah well, Bishop Waldo and 815 are the ones to blame for falling plate and pledge and falling enthusiasm for the Episcopal organization thanks to their progressive changes and insidious revisionism, but don't expect your church leaders to admit it. Instead expect more attempts at rearranging the deck chairs as the ship slips below the waves.

Here is a copy of the Bishop's letter,

I am still trying to figure out "Stewardship of Place". Does that mean that if your church does pay its dues, it will be placed in "Mission" status turning your place into the Bishop's place?

I sure am glad we have a huge mortgage payment that the Bishop would never want to add to his budget woes.

If he is looking for advice from this lowly pewsitter on how to pull the Church from out of its budgetary death spiral, I would tell him to repent of his sins, to say no to same sex blessings and marriages, to cast out the revisionist priests he has allowed to take over the ranks of the clergy, to cast out the remaining "Canons to This That and the Other Things" in order to recruit reasserting clergy with track records of church growth, and to preach the Gospel. Heck, bring them in from DSC if you can't find them in TEC.

If you preach it straight, they will come.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

To Be In Communion or Not to Be in Communion

That is the question this week for pewsitters all over the world who worship in an Anglican style after three news items appeared which might awaken even the most disconnected Sunday card-puncher.

First the news leaked by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal style church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that the Lambeth Conference of bishops from throughout the Anglican Communion ain't gonna happen. I think the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, does not want a repeat of the last Lambeth disaster where some bishops refused their invitations and the Episcopal P.B. was told she could not wear her mitre while in ++Welby's jurisdiction. ++Welby may also be confused as to who to invite and who to "not invite", because there is a growing number of bishops out there who claim to be Anglican but who face a powerful group who say that they ain't Anglican.

Imagine inviting a bunch of Jr. High School girls and their cliques together for a party, and you will see the Archbishop's problem.

Secondly, the Archbishop of Canterbury let it slip (Anglican Ink) that he believes that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is an ecumenical partner and not a member church of the Anglican Communion. That is a big snub to some 100,000 pewsitters many of whom have a better understanding and a higher regard for Anglicanism than some of the bishops currently controlling the Episcopal church.

Last and perhaps least, from the tiny Anglican Church of North West Australia comes this,
"...recognizes the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) as a member church of the Anglican Communion, in full communion with Diocese of North West Australia; rejoices that the orthodox faith is proclaimed in word and deed through ACNA and its member churches;" (Link to StandFirm in Faith post).
Does that make NW Australia an ecumenical partner now?

Identity confusion reigns supreme. You can't host a religious gathering like Lambeth when nobody can agree on who belongs there in the first place.

A few questions raised by all of this can be summarized as follows,
1) What is the definition of an Anglican church?
2) What is the definition of an Anglican?
3) What is the meaning of being in communion with another church?
4) What is the meaning of being in communion with another person?
5) What things should exist in order for a church to be in communion?
6) What things might take a church out of communion? 
7) What things might take a person out of communion? 
8) Who makes the call?
9) Who cares?
Maybe only time will answer the questions. To my mind, the Anglican Communion has been high-jacked by those who are enamored by a revisionist approach to scripture and theology and who will do what ever they can to destroy traditionalists. Today's Gospel reading hints at what might await those who would promote non-traditional sexual morality and try to steal the inheritance from traditionalists.

Jesus said, "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.' So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time."
Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures:
`The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes'?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom."
Matthew 21:33-43
In time, those who hold true to the Bible will be given the kingdom and their share in the true Anglican Communion.

++Justin Welby: To be in communion, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous traditionalists
Or to take arms against a sea of troublemakers
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream of union in the communion.

Hamlet was a tragedy too...

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Wolfhart Pannenberg: "A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg passed away recently.

From Christianity Today,

Of homosexual practice he said the following: "This is the real problem: and it is here that we must deal with the conclusion that homosexual activity is a departure from the norm for sexual behavior that has been given to men and women as creatures of God. For the church this is the case not only for homosexual but for any sexual activity that does not intend the goal of marriage between man and wife—in particular, adultery. 
"The church has to live with the fact that, in this area of life as in others, departures from the norm are not exceptional but rather common and widespread. The church must encounter all those concerned with tolerance and understanding but also call them to repentance. It cannot surrender the distinction between the norm and behavior that departs from that norm. 
"Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. 
If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."
Each week, thousands of Episcopalians recite the Nicene Creed unaware of the fact that they are no longer part of  that one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

We say that we believe in it, but our actions speak otherwise.

Lord, help us with our unbelief.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Two Sons

Today's Gospel reading was from Matthew 21:28-32,

Jesus said, "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him."

Calvin in his commentaries had this to say about the parable.

"This conclusion shows what is the object of the parable, when Christ prefers to the scribes and priests those who were generally accounted infamous and held in detestation; for he unmasks those hypocrites, that they may no longer boast of being the ministers of God, or hold out a pretended zeal for godliness. Though their ambition, and pride, and cruelty, and avarice, were known to all, yet they wished to be reckoned quite different persons. And when, but a little ago, they attacked Christ, they falsely alleged that they were anxious about the order of the Church, as if they were its faithful and honest guardians. Since they attempt to practice such gross imposition on God and men, Christ rebukes their impudence by showing that they were at the greatest possible distance from what they boasted, and were so far from deserving that elevation with which they flattered themselves, that they ranked below the publicans and the harlots For as to the profession which they made of being eminent in observing the worship of God, and of being zealots of the Law, Christ tells them that it is quite as if a son were, in words, to promise obedience to his father, but afterwards to deceive him. So far as regards the publicans and the harlots, he does not excuse their vices, but compares their dissolute life to the obstinacy of a rebellious and debauched son, who at first throws off his father's authority; but shows that they are greatly preferable to the scribes and Pharisees in this respect, that they do not continue to the end in their vices, but, on the contrary, submit gently and obediently to the yoke which they had fiercely rejected. We now perceive the design of Christ. Not only does he reproach the priests and scribes with obstinately opposing God, and not repenting, though so frequently admonished, but he strips them of the honor of which they were unworthy, because their ungodliness was worse than the lasciviousness of the harlots."
While most of today's sermons on this parable probably focused on our personal son-ship and how we as individuals answer God's "asks", let us not forget that the primary target of this parable was the priestly class.

Today's priestly class should take particular note of this parable.

When they lead us in saying, "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church..." do they really?

They say "Yes," but when they return to their offices on Monday, do they turn back from their headlong rush to bless same sex relationships and same sex marriage?

They say they will join us in the vineyard, but they don't.

Wouldn't it be better if they were to heed the parable?

Yes the parable condemns us too, but it helps us all to return for forgiveness just as it challenges us to follow God's commandments more honestly and happily in the future.

The priestly class of the Episcopal church is welcome to share in that happiness.

We are a welcoming church.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kirill the Fighter Pilot Patriarch

I wonder what would happen if one of our religious leaders accepted this gift?
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, was presented with an unlikely gift for a religious leader this week as he toured a factory in Russia's far-east - a single-seater fighter jet SU-35.

That's one way to get to heaven.

Kirill was presented with the jet after giving workers at the civilian and military aircraft plant icons blessed by himself, the church said in a statement on its official website on Tuesday.
The patriarch, with whom President Vladimir Putin has fostered increasingly close ties in recent years, addressed the workers on the importance of protecting Russia.
"Russia cannot be a vassal. Because Russia is not only a country, it is a whole civilization, it is a thousand-year story, a cultural melting-pot, of enormous power," RIA news agency quoted him as saying.
"In order for us to be able to live a sovereign life, we must, if necessary, be able to defend our homeland."

I wonder if Vladimir Putin is the one saying "Bless you my vassal" after hearing that remark.

And isn't this the same Kirill who said, "
The Church isn't an organ of political commentary; we don't have the job of immediately assessing everything that happens in our country, in society, in the world. Conversely, nevertheless, the Church can assess historical events with a soteriological understanding, that is, from the point of view of how it affects mankind's salvation." (see earlier post by clicking here)
If you are going to bring politics into the Church or take the Church into politics, you better be armed, armored, and prepared to take a few potshots. Our P.B. should know.
I can see it now, +KJS accepting a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to take on her next visit to Charleston.

That would keep those DSC vassals in check.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Who Else Hates Alice in Wonderland, and Who Hates it When Alice Shows Up in a Sermon?

I knew I was in trouble this Sunday when our preacher began his sermon on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard or the parable of the generous landowner (Matthew 20:1-16) by describing how "Alice in Wonderland" was one of his favorite books. I was in trouble because when I was a child I HATED "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Yes dear readers, I, the person who would not harm a spider, the person without malice, the person who loves everyone and everything on God's green Earth, HATED Alice.

It may have been the crazed Queen of Hearts screaming "Off with her head!" that frightened me as a child. Or maybe it was the other characters who were ready to follow her commands. Or perhaps it was the Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar that created in me a distrust of people using inhaled intoxicants, or maybe it was nightmares of waking up to see our pet kitty turning into a Cheshire Cat, sitting on the chest of drawers, staring at me, grinning, and breathing that awful cat food breath that affected me so deeply.

Or maybe it was the wedge that broke up an early romance.

No, it was none of that.

It was the utterly pointless, unending insanity accepted as normality that I despised.

So when an Episcopal priest praises "Alice" in his sermon, I know that I am going to be in for a long morning, and we were.  During today's very long sermon my mind went down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, got smaller, got taller, and watched as scenes of strange characters wafted in and out.

And the characters spoke to me,
Alice: "Curiouser and curiouser!" (The words of our preacher as he described the parable).
The Duchess: "Tut, tut, child! Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it." (As our preacher explained that there is only one meaning to any parable).
The Mock Turtle: "Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense." (In response to that idea).
The King: "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (As our preacher tediously reiterated every word of the Gospel lesson).
The Mock Turtle: "What is the use of repeating all that stuff, if you don't explain it as you go on? It's by far the most confusing thing I ever heard!" (Did I say tediously?)
Rabbit : "Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!" (As I glanced at my watch)
The Mock Turtle: "We called him Tortoise because he taught us." (Slowly taught us,  Zzzzz...)
The Queen: "Now, I give you fair warning, either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!" (If only I could have heard a good stopping point). 

This is not the first time that I have heard an Episcopal priest go all gaga over "Alice in Wonderland". What is it with Episcopal priests and their love for this book? Perhaps a few more quotations will help you to understand.
Alice: "I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I ?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!" 
Alice: "I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir, because I'm not myself you see."
This lack of certainty is characteristic of many Episcopal clergy persons. You just can't pin them down. They identify with Alice's confusion.
Eaglet: "Speak English! I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and I don't believe you do either!" 
Many Episcopal priests are notorious word twisters, spinning new meanings into ancient words. (See The Revised Revisionist Dictionary).

And finally,
The Cat: "We're all mad here."
You see, it is the utterly pointless, unending insanity accepted as normality which has been typical of life in the Episcopal church these past several decades that draws these Alice in Wonderland lovers to the church like dormice to a tea party.

Of course there is another theory out there, and that is the "Old hippies never die, they just become Episcopal priests" theory.

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call...
Call Alice
When she was just small
When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's off with her head
Remember what the Dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head
Feed your head - Jefferson Airplane