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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tell Us About Your Experience... On Second Thought, Read This Instead

The following are excerpts from a guest post by Jack Miller at The Heidelblog titled "Good Old Fashioned Subjectivist Goo." 

In the 1920′s, J. Gresham Machen diagnosed not only the intellectual and theological drift of his day but of that which would continue to develop over the next 90 years. He wrote,
"The depreciation of the intellect, with the exaltation in the place of it of the feelings or of the will, is, we think, a basic fact in modern life, which is rapidly leading to a condition in which men neither know anything nor care anything about the doctrinal content of the Christian religion, and in which there is in general a lamentable intellectual decline. "(What is Faith?, p.28)
For those of you who are not familiar with this seminal work of J. Gresham Machen, here is a link to the on-line text. I encourage all to read it carefully.

Miller continues,
The drift away from theology, i.e. the events of the redemptive-historical drama in the Bible and their meaning (doctrine), created a vacuum that has been gradually filled with other things. And one of the main results has been the rise of both the relational and the experiential as pillars of many expressions of American Christianity."
One of the reasons why I hate round table discussions as conducted in the Episcopal church today is that they are "moderated" and participants are instructed to avoid discussions of doctrine and scripture and instead to focus on expressions of feelings, experiences, and emotions.
To paraphrase the words of Traffic’s hit song from that same time period, a new old fashioned experiential goo was replacing the Word-based proclamation of Christ, i.e his death and resurrection for unworthy sinners in both Word and Sacrament (doctrine from above). To be built up in Christ now had more to do with being touched by someone’s testimony of their experience, accompanied by their own unique interpretation of the Spirit’s work in their life. And of course, it was incumbent upon those listening to be appropriately and relationally supportive with “amens” and “praise the Lords.” Interestingly, that’s not all too different from what one finds in any number of different support groups. The means of grace in Word and Sacrament by which sinner/saint is comforted and strengthened in faith was gradually replaced with shared testimonies of subjective experiences and mystical worship moments to attain a corporate sense of “God’s Spirit.”
In the Episcopal tradition, we do not supply the "Amens and Praise the Lords" when engaging in our "listening processes". Instead, we nod and pass the tissues.
Faith, no longer pointed to nor rooted in the redemptive-historical objectivity of the gospel, was redirected toward the ever-elusive subjective. So, once again Machen’s words from the twenties presciently described what came about,
The identifying mark of much of today’s evangelical church is the subjective/experiential elevated above the objective/declarative of the Word. And it is this modern means of grace which is deemed spiritually authentic. Speak of doctrine or objective biblical truth and eyes begin to roll in boredom. Share your experience of a God-moment and heaven has come to earth.
Machen was exceptionally prescient. Miller reminds us of the applicability of Machen's predictions to the Evangelical church, but I think this also applies to non-evangelicals as well.   It is amazing that our Bishops cannot recognize that the walk away from doctrine and the headlong rush into the subjectivist goo are some of the causes of the decline of the Episcopal church.

I mean I really feel strongly about this...

And I've experienced it too...

Tell me how you feel...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reconciled: Dixie and The Battle Hymn of the Republic Together

It has been said that the cause of most church splits is going to be forgotten in a few hundred years. For instance, I have many non-Anglican friends, and I am welcomed in many non-Anglican churches as a fellow Christian. So is it possible that the Episcopal schism will ever be reconciled? I doubt it because the underlying cause of our division is a difference in trust in scriptural authority. This will lead to two churches who will diverge to the point where their common origin will be as unimaginable as any future reconciliation.

It is impossible for me to imagine "Here Come the Grooms" and "Here Comes the Bride" ever being played together in the same Church.

Almost as unimaginable as hearing Dixie and the Battle Hymn of the Republic played together.

Cue up Mickey Newbury,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Dark Lord" Arrested Charged With Unlawful Symbol Burning (Burned a Bible and Put it Out With...)

We should all feel safe now that the police have succeeded in capturing the one who has been bedeviling humanity and the Church all these millenia,
PHOENIX (Reuters) - "A 22-year-old Arizona man calling himself 'Dark Lord' has been arrested for allegedly burning a Bible and urinating on it outside a Christian-oriented homeless shelter in northern Arizona, police said on Friday.
Eric Minerault was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center late on Thursday on suspicion of one count of unlawful symbol burning stemming from the incident at the Gospel Rescue Mission, Prescott police spokesman Lieutenant Ken Morley said in a written statement."
"Minerault was clad in black and was wearing a black-and-red robe and a pentagram necklace."

Unlawful symbol burning? Does that mean an unlawful symbol cannot be burned or does that mean that it is unlawful to burn a symbol. Even the ACLU can't figure this one out,
"Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the arrest raises questions as to whether Minerault’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights were violated. But Pochoda, who was not familiar with the charge cited, said courts have upheld laws that bar symbols like crosses from being burned."
(Full story here as reported by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editted by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott)
"Bar symbols"??? now I am confused.

Since the reporters didn't follow through with this obvious hole in the story, a quick search of the Arizona statutes turned up the code(s) in question (I have included links to current code(s)),
13-1707. Unlawful cross burning; classification
A. It is unlawful for a person to burn or cause to be burned a cross on the property of another person without that person's permission or on a highway or any other public place with the intent to intimidate any person or group of persons. The intent to intimidate may not be inferred solely from the act of burning a cross, but shall be proven by independent evidence.
B. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. 
13-1708. Unlawful symbol burning; classification
A. It is unlawful for a person to burn or cause to be burned any symbol not addressed by section 13-1707 on the property of another person without that person's permission or on a highway or any other public place with the intent to intimidate any person or group of persons. The intent to intimidate may not be inferred solely from the act of burning the symbol, but shall be proven by independent evidence.
B. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. 
It does appear that the legislation would prohibit the burning of any "symbol" when done without permission or (no "and" in the letter of the law) with the intent to intimidate.

I think the Dark Lord may get out of this one if he can dredge up a Dark Counselor to help him at his court appearance. I know there are a few Counselors, dark or otherwise, that our Episcopal organization might lend him if he can't find one on his own. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Sentinel Treatment

Today's readings contained teachings about how to handle conflict in the Church. First, Paul advises us to be patient in suffering,
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21
Next, Jesus outlines how to deal with sins committed by one member of the church against another,
Jesus said, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Matthew 18:15-20
Pick any sin, insert it into Jesus' plan, and imagine how things would play out in today's church.

I think most folks would simply leave and start attending another church rather than follow Jesus' instruction.

Our preacher today spoke about the importance of "conversation" which in Episcospeak means to share one's feelings and to appreciate and accept the other party's point of view, but it seems to me that Jesus' instruction is less about conversation and more about a call to repentance and true resolution of conflict. Jesus is telling us to do the very thing modern Episcopalians are most afraid to do and that is to "point out the fault" so that the sinner is given the opportunity to repent, and He is asking us to do this not once but three times.

Totally missing from our sermon (and I expect from most sermons heard in Episcopal churches today) was any mention of the consequences to the unrepentant sinner.

Why? Because we don't dare treat anyone as a tax collector or Gentile. The Episcopal church is too desperate for members.

And besides, these days it is not not the unrepentant sinner who sees his status in the church change, but instead it is the one who points out the sin who winds up being ostracized.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Xe/Xem/Xyr: Thank You Vancouver School Board Now I/xe Am More Gender Aware/Confused

According to this story in the Vancouver Sun, the local school board has gone beyond bending over backwards in support of "modern sexual speak." I/xe present the following excerpts,
"VANCOUVER -- Grammar teachers may need to amend their lesson plans after the Vancouver school board approved Monday a policy change that welcomes a brand-new string of pronouns into Vancouver public schools: 'xe, xem, and xyr.'
The pronouns are touted as alternatives to he/she, him/her, and his/hers, and come as last-minute amendments to the board’s new policy aimed at better accommodating transgender students in schools."
I/xe know, "It" might sound insulting, but "them/they", "you/yours", and "ya'll/yous guys" should all be acceptable with the possible exception of French class where the masculine and feminine classification of words might make things shall we say, un(e) petit(e) peu plus problématique (m+f).

And to think it started over a bathroom issue,
"The vote may be the knockout blow in a bitter and protracted fight over the controversial plan to put gender-neutral washrooms in schools and support students in expressing their preferred gender identities.
'We’re standing up for kids and making our schools safer and more inclusive,' board member Mike Lombardi said in an interview just before the policy was voted in." 
 I/xe don't know about making the schools safer. When I/xe was in school, the bathrooms were the last places on campus that I/xe would have considered safe places to go. I/xe entered our smoke filled bathrooms with great fear and trepidation (mostly about getting beat up). I/xe have a suggestion: schools should be required to make all bathrooms (who takes a bath there anyway?) single occupant, one hole jobs like they do on airplanes. I bet they/xem won't because that might offend someone/xyr whose sexual preference is to share the experience with others.

Vancouver parents are not fooled by any of this,
"Scores of angry parents and community members had attacked the plan during the first two meetings. Some said it could lead to teachers pushing an agenda on children without their parents’ knowledge." 
I/xe guess they will have to vote Xem out with the next school board election, but policies like this tend to be even harder to get rid of than they were to push through in the first place.