Sunday, August 31, 2014

Stumbling Blocks, Lawsuits, Harlots

A few points to be gleaned from today's readings from the Bible.

From Romans 12:1-8 we heard this,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect.

And then from Matthew 16:21-27 we heard this,

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
The lessons that 1) Christians should not be conformed to this world (Romans 12) and 2) that when our minds are on human things rather than divine things we are identified by our Lord as being Satan himself (Matthew 16) should strike home to each and everyone of us. We let our beliefs be swayed by the ever changing norms of society, and we see our minds forget the divine as we become preoccupied in our daily activities.

The image of the stumbling block, a block of stone, carved from a quarry, made of the very dust of which we are made causes me to think about just who it is who places the stones in the path of the unwary. Who moves them from place to place, from one issue to the next?


Of all the numerous stumbling blocks the Episcopal church has pushed around, perhaps the one that has done the most damage is the Revisionist heresy. This heresy sneaks into virtually every discussion of issues in the church, and you don't have to dig very deep to find it as last week's post on the revision of Ephesians 5:28-29 by the Task Force on Marriage, and the worst sermon ever by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church where the possessed slave girl in Acts 16 gets re-cast as a spiritually gifted soul abused by St. Paul so aptly demonstrate.

I have even heard attempts to justify going to court to fight over church properties. All such attempts must appeal to a revisionist approach to 1 Corinthians 6 (which was part of my private Bible study this morning).

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?
2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?
5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?
8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
The modern conflict wherein some maintain that sexual immorality can be seen (revisioned) as a blessing from God as opposed to those who hold firm to the traditional interpretations of Scripture puts us pewsitters in the awkward situation of heeding the call to flee the harlot and having to give her the keys to what we have historically been told was God's house, a house for which we are asked to contribute our hard earned dollars without running to the civil courts for a judgment.

Pay the harlot so that she can create more stumbling blocks for other churches? I understand why people go to court to fight over church buildings.

See how easy it is for my mind to focus on human matters and to become a stumbling block too.

St. Paul's solution that we go before the saints in our conflicts begs the question: "Where do we find saints these days to resolve our conflicts?"

On Earth, one person's saint is another person's harlot.

We must look heavenwards. We must turn to scripture, to the lives of Jesus, to the witness of the Apostles, to their wise lessons, and we must find a way to avoid the stumbling block of revisionism which is always going to be out there seeking to ambush us.

Reverend Fun - Best Stumbling Block

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Only in TEc Does It Take A Task Force to "Study" Marriage

Why would anybody need a "Task Force on the Study of Marriage" unless they were trying to sink traditionalist views on the subject.

Clearly the target is in sight, and that target is marriage itself. The unstated goal is to replace the rite of same sex blessings approved by the Episcopal church with either a marriage rite for same sex couples or a major re-write of the current marriage rite to be more inclusive of those with different sexual orientations.

The Task Force on the Study of Marriage faces a number of obstacles despite the decades long efforts of progressive Episcopalians to clear the minefields in their way. One major obstacle remains the Bible. After reading the following suggested Bible study question from "Dearly Beloved  A Tool-Kit for the Study of Marriage, p. 23,"  I get the sinking feeling that TEc's revisionist minesweepers will make short work of any objections that might come from the typical pewsitter. Here is a taste of what they are up to,
•( Ephesians) Verses 28-29 describe the wife as identical to the husband’s own body, on the analogy of Christ and his Body, the church. What, if anything, does this say to you about gender in relation to the body?
What in the world? How could anyone reach the conclusion that the wife is identical to the husband’s own body from that text? For those who need a little reminder the task force provides the source,
The following passage (Ephesians 5:1-2, 21-33, NRSV) is commended for use as a reading in the BCP “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage.”
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 20 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 21 Be subject to one another outof reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. 24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind— yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.
The bizarre interpretation that the wife is identical to the husband’s own body is likely intended to help lead people to approve of marriage being the union of a male wife to a male husband or a female wife to a female husband. As far as the task force's theological drift goes, I would consider this to be "directed theological revisionism" or "revisionism with intent" which might be another name for the major heresy which infects the Episcopal church today.

The Task Force's revisionist strategy shows up again in the following (highlights added),

b. Different historical periods interpreted the marriage ritual in different ways, Eastern and Teutonic cultures believing that the marriage rite dramatically changed and blessed both the husband and the wife, Romans believing that the wedding day was in fact the bride’s day.
Question: How do we still see this ancient question being played out in contemporary marriage practices? How does the concept of same-sex marriage further inform this ancient divergence of viewpoints? 
c. For much of history the expectation and necessity of formal, legal marriage was one left to those with power, status, and property. In our own day we do not believe that economic or social status should have any impact on people’s right to marry.
Question: How does this change in the Christian understanding of who can marry change our contemporary understandings of the nature and purposes of marriage? 
d. Throughout history access to legal marriage has been closely related to the right to give consent, a right directly related to one’s ability to act and choose autonomously. Only those with the right to act autonomously could exercise the right to choose marriage. Often this has meant that those who were oppressed and subordinated in a patriarchal and colonial context could not decide their own lives. Access to marriage became a means of controlling the powerless in a society.
Question: Are there situations in contemporary society where access to marriage is still being controlled by the powerful and privileged to the detriment of those with less power?
One thing the Episcopal church has taught me is to beware of Task Forces. Their task is to force you into accepting something that you would never accept on your own.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Free Us From Becoming Slaves to the Freedom From Religion Foundation

On April 10 the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter of complaint to Clemson University claiming that the public university's football program is entangled with religion.

"Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott. "We are concerned that this commingling of religion and athletics results, not from student initiative, but rather from the attitudes and unconstitutional behaviors of the coaching staff."

Note: FFRF had only 155 members in South Carolina in April, and perhaps fewer since the story broke.

FFRF contends:
• In 2011, coach William "Dabo" Swinney personally invited James Trapp to become team chaplain for the Tigers.
That violates the Constitution and Clemson's own "misguided and legally dubious 'Guidelines For Athletic Team Chaplains,' ” Elliott noted. The guidelines say student groups select their choice for team chaplain and then request the coach's approval. No records were provided that show a student organization selected a chaplain.
• Trapp was regularly given access to the entire team in between drills for bible study.
FFRF says that by granting Trapp such access, Swinney shows "preference for religion over nonreligion, alienates those players who don’t believe as he does, and creates a culture of religious coercion within the university's football program.
• The chaplain has an office at the Jervey Athletic Center, displays bible quotes on a whiteboard and organized and led sessions on “being baptized” in the athletic building.
"Mr. Trapp, as a paid employee of a state university, may not proselytize or promote religion and may not use his university office to do so," Elliott wrote. He also serves as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes representative and as a football recruiting assistant. A website lists him as campus director of ministry/life coach, and he refers to himself as a minister.
"Mr. Trapp’s legal duties and obligations as a state employee prohibit him from using state resources (i.e., his office in the Jervey Athletic Center) and his official position as a recruiting assistant to proselytize. If Mr. Trapp is to evangelize the team, he must not do so as the recruiting assistant, nor can it be at coach Swinney’s insistence."
FFRF also contends, due to information it's received, that:
• Swinney confirmed that the entire team would attend an FCA breakfast Dec. 31, 2011, wherein three players would “testify.”
• Three privately funded buses (116-seat total capacity) were used to take the team and coaches to Valley Brook Baptist Church on Aug. 7, 2011, and on other occasions for worship on “Church Day.”
• Swinney schedules team devotionals. Records indicate that between March 2012 and April 2013, approximately 87 devotionals were organized by Trapp, approved by Swinney and led by coaching staff.
"[P]layers wishing to abstain should not be forced to subject themselves to the resentment, embarrassment or scrutiny that could result from taking such a stand," Elliott said, citing the 1992 Supreme Court case Lee v. Weisman.
FFRF wants the school to direct Swinney and Trapp to immediately stop team prayers, sermons, bible studies and “church days” for players and train staff about their First Amendment obligations and monitor compliance.
Now I don't like Clemson much after the pasting they put on my team last year, but I am warming up to their football coach. On August 23, 2014, told us a little more from the coach's point of view,
“I’ve never been bashful about telling people I’m a Christian,” Swinney says. “That’s just who I am.”
This ties in nicely with our preacher's sermon today on Matthew 16:13-20:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
As a new season is about to kick off, Swinney has stayed true to his conviction of offering opportunities for spiritual growth to his players despite one organization’s belief that he has gone too far.
FFRF's point of view is presented as well,
“I mean, that’s a lot of praying going on,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, a nonprofit atheist and agnostic group. “And it’s all orchestrated by the authority figures. And that is abusive."
Abusive? This raises the question of what other elements in the education of our youth might be considered abusive. Consider for example LGBT history month and the FAIR act in California that requires schools to teach about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from history and social studies lessons. Isn't that all orchestrated by the authority figures? Isn't that coercive? Isn't that abusive?

It appears to me that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is all about making our children slaves to their new Godless religion, and FFRF is going to use threats and bullying to keep educators in line. At least they haven't beheaded anyone in a literal sense, but to go after the head coach is almost like the tactics of a terrorist.

The tactic may be working as this week's story of a teenager being suspended because she said, "Bless you" after someone sneezed in class demonstrated.

Wouldn't the parents of athletes in California who are mandated to be educated in the new religion because of the FAIR act be better served if they sent their kids to Clemson than to Southern Cal.?
In the homes of recruits, Swinney promises parents he will help their son grow academically, athletically and spiritually.
“Only thing mandatory in our program is you’re going to go to class, you’re going to give effort and you’re going to be a good citizen. You’ll be held accountable for that,” Swinney said. “But spirituality is a personal decision for everybody... It’s a free country here, and I can live my life the way I want to."
Coach has the last and best word,
“I can’t come to work and not be a Christian.”
 And that means if you come to Clemson, you will hear about Jesus and his saving grace!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Maybe Aronofsky Should Have Called the Movie "Gilgamesh" Instead of "Noah"

‘You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of Euphrates? That city grew old and the gods that were in it were old. There was Anu,-lord of the firmament, their father, and warrior Enlil their counsellor, Ninurta the helper, and Ennugi watcher over canals; and with them also was Ea. In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said to the gods in council, "The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel." So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind. Enlil did this, but Ea because of his oath warned me in a dream. He whispered their words to my house of reeds, "Reed-house, reed-house! Wall, O wall, hearken reed-house, wall reflect; O man of Shurrupak, son of
Ubara-Tutu; tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. Tear down your house, I say, and build a boat. These are the measurements of the barque as you shall build her: let her beam equal her length, let her deck be roofed like the vault that covers the abyss; then take up into the boat the seed of all living creatures." -The Epic of Gigamesh 
The other day I was forced to watch the recent film "Noah" which I had expressed no interest in seeing when it was at the theaters.  Noah had its world premiere in Mexico City on March 10, 2014 and here we are in August and it is already available for rent at your nearest RedBox machine.

Other than the lead character being named Noah, the film has nothing in common with the Biblical story of the flood. I think they could have named it "Gilgamesh" and produced the same film, but nobody (except me) would have paid money to see Gilgamesh. The movie Noah simply prostitutes Noah's name in order to attract an audience.

Ah well, that's entertainment I suppose.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lost in the Translations: This Ain't No κυναρίοις and Pony Show

 Most of you probably heard Matthew 15:21-28 read in church today,
Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.
I was using the New KJV recently and it used a slightly different translation of κυναρίοις,
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Matthew 15:21-28

κυναρίοις as used in Matthew 15:26 has been discussed on these pages earlier here. "Little dogs" is the New KJV translation. I still prefer the word "puppy" which is used in the International Standard Version.

The Pulpit Commentary at BibleHub has this to say,
Dogs (κυναρίοις). A contemptuous diminutive, rendered by Wickliffe, "whelpies," or, as we might say, "curs." This was the term applied by the Jews to the Gentiles, even as Turks nowadays talk of "dogs of Christians," and as in later times, by a curious inversion, the Jews themselves were generally saluted with the opprobrious name of"dogs." Some have seen a term of endearment in the diminutive "little dogs," as though Christ desired to soften the harshness of the expression by referring, not to the prowling, unowned animals that act as scavengers in Oriental towns, but to the petted inmates of the master's house. But Scripture gives no warrant for thinking that the Hebrews ever kept dogs as friends and companions, in our modern fashion...
I still think that being the dog that is allowed under the master's table is better than being a dog in the street. So I would disagree with the Pulpit Commentary and dare to suggest that man's best friend had a special relationship with its master in Biblical times as well as he does today, but perhaps not to the extent of getting a spa treatment at Pampered Pooch or being permitted to sleep on the bed.

I may be barking up the wrong tree here, but don't worry, the hair on my back isn't standing up about it

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Thy Sea Is Great, Our Boats Are Small"

Continuing with our nautical theme as promised,
O Maker of the Mighty Deep
Whereon our vessels fare,
Above our life’s adventure keep
Thy faithful watch and care.
In Thee we trust, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
We know not where the secret tides
Will help us or delay,
Nor where the lurking tempest hides,
Nor where the fogs are gray.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
When outward bound we boldly sail
And leave the friendly shore,
Let not our heart of courage fail
Until the voyage is o’er.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
When homeward bound we gladly turn,
O bring us safely there,
Where harbor-lights of friendship burn
And peace is in the air.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
Beyond the circle of the sea,
When voyaging is past,
We seek our final port in Thee;
O bring us home at last.
In Thee we trust, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) 
I thought of this as I stared out the window of our jet during a recent flight over the ocean. It was at the point where I could see neither land nor ship from horizon to horizon. It is little wonder the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was never found. The vast ocean conceals many lost souls, ships, and aircraft.

After my return to our home port, a quick glance at our Carolina skies reminded me who watches over us as we travel, especially whenever we journey across an empty, wine dark sea.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peter's Swan Dive: "Without the Wings of Faith, He Desires to Fly at Will" - Calvin, An Admonition to the Church as Well?

It has been three years since Matthew 14 and the story of Peter's attempt to walk on water graced these pages. Since it was the Gospel reading for this Sunday, and since we have been on a bit of a nautical theme this week (and will continue in that mode on Wednesday), I thought it good to revisit Matthew 14:22-33 once again, 
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
 Matthew 14:22-33
 As children, we would play this story out at the swimming pool by boldly running or stepping off the side of the pool and promptly sinking, thus confirming the depth of our faith.

Calvin took a more serious approach to the story in his commentaries (my emphasis added),

Now though Christ appeared at the proper time for rendering assistance, yet the storm did not immediately cease, till the disciples were more fully aroused both to desire and to expect his grace. And this deserves our attention, as conveying the instruction, that there are good reasons why the Lord frequently delays to bestow that deliverance which he has ready at hand.
28. And Peter answering. The condition which he lays down shows that his faith was not yet fully settled. If it is thou, says he, bid me come to thee on the water. But he had heard Christ speak. Why then does he still argue with himself under doubt and perplexity? While his faith is so small and weak, a wish not well considered bursts into a flame. He ought rather to have judged of himself according to his capacity, and to have supplicated from Christ an increase of faith, that by its guidance and direction he might walk over seas and mountains. But now, without the wings of faith, he desires to fly at will; and though the voice of Christ has not its due weight in his heart, he desires that the waters should be firm under his feet. And yet there is no room to doubt that this longing sprung from a good principle; but as it degenerates into a faulty excess, it cannot be applauded as good.
Hence too it happens that Peter immediately begins to smart for his rashness. Let believers, therefore, instructed by his example, beware of excessive haste. Wherever the Lord calls, we ought to run with alacrity; but whoever proceeds farther, will learn from the mournful result what it is to overleap the bounds which the Lord has prescribed. Yet it may be asked, Why does Christ comply with Peter's wish? for by so doing he seems to approve of it. But the answer is obvious. In many eases God promotes our interests better by refusing our requests; but at times he yields to us, that by experience we may be the more fully convinced of our own folly. In this manner, it happens every day that, by granting to those who believe in him more than is actually needed, he trains them to modesty and sober-mindedness for the future. Besides, this was of advantage to Peter and to the other disciples, and it is of advantage to us at the present day. The power of Christ shone more brightly in the person of Peter, when he admitted him as a companion, than if he had walked alone on the waters. But Peter knows, and the rest see plainly, that, when he does not rest with a firm faith, and rely on the Lord, the secret power of God, which formerly made the water solid, begins to disappear; and yet Christ dealt gently with him by not permitting him to sink entirely under the waters.  Both of these things happen to us; for as Peter was no sooner seized with fear than he began to sink, so the fleeting and transitory thoughts of the flesh immediately cause us to sink in the midst of our course of employments.  Meanwhile, the Lord indulges our weakness, and stretches out his hand, that the waters may not swallow us up altogether. It must also be observed that Peter, when he perceives the unhappy and painful consequences of his rashness, betakes himself to the mercy of Christ. And we too, though enduring just punishment, ought to betake ourselves to him, that he may have compassion on us, and bestow the aid of which we are unworthy.
31. O man of little faith. While our Lord kindly preserves Peter, he does not connive at Peter's fault. Such is the object of the chastisement administered, when Peter is blamed for the weakness of his faith. But a question arises, Does every kind of fear give evidence of a weakness of faith? for Christ's words seem to imply that, where faith reigns, there is no room for doubt.  reply: Christ reproves here that kind of doubt which was directly opposed to faith. A man may sometimes doubt without any fault on his part; and that is, when the word of the Lord does not speak with certainty on the matter. But the case was quite different with Peter, who had received an express command from Christ, and had already experienced his power, and yet leaves that twofold support, and falls into foolish and wicked fear.
Calvin points out Peter's haste which leads him to experience the folly of sinking, and also leads him to find the grace of our Savior's extended hand.

The Church too may leap hastily into turbulent waters confident in the strength of its faith or in the belief that it is being guided by the voice of the Spirit. I am confident that the Lord will be there to save His Church...  if it finally realizes that it has acted foolishly and rashly, and if it cries out for help as it goes under.

Right now, it looks like the Episcopal church has not yet recognized that the water is already waist high, rising quickly, and its feet are not standing on anything solid.

Once it admits its failure, I expect Christ to reply,
O church of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Thou art a port protected from storms which round us rise

Different denominations do things differently, and sometimes no one can remember why.

For example, this verse is not in every version of the hymn "O Day of Rest and Gladness", and I am not sure why.
"Thou art a port protected
From storms which round us rise;
A garden intersected
With streams of Paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain
In life's dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah's mountain,
We view our promised land. "
"O Day of Rest and Gladness" by Author: Christopher Wordsworth (1862) Trinity Hymnal #392 (1990) verse 3.

Click on the link and check out the various hymnals that have this Hymn, and you can see that this verse is left out of many of them.

Any clues?

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Is There Something That Can Separate Us From His Love?

Today's sermon carefully avoided the Gospel reading about the feeding of the five thousand and used the following excerpt from Romans 8 as a launching point to talk about death.

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
The first half of our sermon could have been acceptable to a congregation of Unitarians, but we finally got around to the heart of the matter towards the end and learned that we have nothing to fear when we die for we have confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ and nothing can separate us from his love.

Or is there something that can separate us?

Both Paul and our homilist today were preaching to the choir. A Christian listener is strengthened and encouraged by the message in Romans 8:39. To the non-Christian it is rubbish.

Yes there is something that can separate us from the love of Christ, and we look at it every time we see ourselves in the mirror.

The other night as I was out on a walk, pondering the imponderables, a voice came to me saying,
"You are just a tool as far as God is concerned, just a means to His end. What happens to you is of no real concern to Him."
I was a bit taken aback and for a moment thought,
"Yeah, you're right."
Then the voice said,
"You don't have to be a tool, something to be used and discarded. You can be free, free to live your own life to the fullest." 
I thought,
That is when I recognized the voice of the Tempter and committed myself once again to walk in God's path however difficult and painful it might be and wherever it might lead since He has done the same for me (which is a tad bit more than the Tempter promised to do).

Some might say that the voice of temptation comes from within, some might say that it comes from without, but in either case if you listen to it, you will find exactly that something which can separate a person from the love of the Lord.
"There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us." Walt Kelly