Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The "We Are All to Blame" Argument

In the wake of the mass murders of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, there were several attempts to lay blame on various causes other than Islamic radicalization.  

At The Islamic Monthly, Hina Tai wrote,

"...blame is relative. We are all to blame.
Blame is on those who say homophobia is solely a Muslim problem, in order to further the cause of Islamophobia rather than recognize America's historic oppression of LGBTQ people... 
Blame is on our political leaders who continue to think gun control is up for debate while Obama gives his 18th presidential address in response to a mass shooting... 
Blame is on us who shamed LGBTQ Muslims and made them unwelcome in their own mosques and communities rather than promoting inclusivity.... 
Blame is also on us who while condemning the violence purposefully erased the identities of LGBTQ from their statements... 
Blame is on those who will use this opportunity for political capital... 
Blame is on us who do not recognize that this shooting comes at an intersection of many different issues: homophobia, Islamophobia, (political-religious) extremism and gun violence — all issues that transcend religious and political lines."

In a letter to the editor of the Naples Daily News, one reader echoed what many are saying,
 "...we are all to blame for our complacence in the face of out-of-control gun violence."
The blame game's goal is to make three of our fingers point back to us. While self-evaluation is important after any disaster, it is more important to examine the external forces at work. In a culture awash with moral relativism and non-judgementalism, to blame anyone or anything other than oneself is to commit a social sin punishable by public denunciation and name calling, and that has the chilling effect of silencing meaningful analysis of the root cause for whatever disaster it was that took place. In addition, as the examples listed demonstrate, the blame game fails to identify anything helpful towards reducing horrific acts of violence such as the one that occurred in Orlando.

It is abundantly clear to this observer that combating homophobia without dealing with the religious component will not stop the problem, and banning guns will not deter those who are bent on the destruction of Western civilization.

Only a change of heart can do that, and there is only one power in the universe that can change hearts. That is the power that changed Saul from a persecutor of the early followers of Jesus into a Christian saint. How can we invoke that power to change the hearts of radical Islamists? By teaching them that there is a better way, a way revealed by God in a story that the Qur'an does not tell.

In the end, I guess I am going to support one "We are all to blame" argument:
We Christians are to blame for our failure to effectively spread the Gospel of Jesus to the Muslim world. 
We can do better, and we must pray for the courage to do so. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pentecost Lectionary Readings: Hopping and Skipping Through Galatians Part 5

As we continue with an effort to fill in the material that gets left out of the Sunday readings from Galatians, this week we skipped over Chapter 4 in its entirety, moved on to Chapter 5 and heard another section that got chopped up, Galatians 5:1,13-25,

"For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit."
At least Paul's warnings about the works of the flesh survived the cut.

Let's see what got left out: verses 2-12 in which Paul gets testy for one thing,

"Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!"
Leaving out the section on circumcision does not help the occasional Sunday church goer understand the problem with the Galatians in the first place, and not knowing the background issue makes Paul's arguments all the more difficult to follow.

Paul's reference to the yeast leavening the whole batch of dough hearkens back to Jesus' warning to,
“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6
For our era Paul might say, "Who persuaded you that my teachings on human sexuality were in error? A spoonful of ideas like that can bubble up and spoil the whole of scripture."

Recall that I mentioned that the lectionary schedule omitted Chapter 4. In it we see the method of reasoning that Paul uses when trying to change the Galatians minds. First he elucidates his take on the law and enslavement,

Galatians 4
"My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?"
Next, he makes a point that always rings true this time of year,
"How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted."
From the Anglophile Channel

And he gets personal,

"Friends, I beg you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong. You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What has become of the goodwill you felt?" 
The "physical infirmity" he refers to must be the blindness he experienced during his road to Damascus trip,

"For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. "
Yep, that was it.

He stays on the personal approach,
"Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them. It is good to be made much of for a good purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you."
Paul seems to understand that face to face communication is usually the best way to resolve a conflict, but since he cannot be face to face, he goes on presenting his rationale,

"Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,‘Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children,   burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs;for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous   than the children of the one who is married.’"
He finishes by using this O.T. reference as his advice for dealing with those who are leading the Galatians astray,
Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? ‘Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.’ So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman.
Hopefully these pages will help Sunday pewsitters fill in the gaps. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Inclusive" (Excluding the Masculine Words) Nicene Creed Experimented With in an Episcopal Diocese of the Left Coast

I received the following from a friend in the "Diocese of the Left Coast". Their Episcopal priest announced that the "Inclusive" Nicene Creed would be used during Pentecost. This is how it was printed in their service bulletin,
"(This is an inclusive-language translation of the original form of the Creed as used before 1054 and as still used by the Orthodox churches. The Creed need not be done every week.) 
We believe in three divine persons in one God:
We believe in the Creator, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Savior, Jesus Christ, eternally begotten of the Creator, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Creator. Through Christ all things were made. For us and for our salvation, the only Begotten came down from heaven and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was born of the virgin, Mary, and became human.
For our sake, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered, died, and was buried, but on the third day rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures, then ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Creator.
One day, Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and God’s kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Creator, and who, with the Creator and the Begotten, is worshiped and glorified. The Spirit has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."
Right off the bat, notice that God as "the Father" gets excluded and He becomes "the Creator".  He is not clearly identified as one of the Persons of the Trinity. The Jesus as "son" can be forgotten once references to "the Father" get the ax.

Next, note how Jesus is never referred to as "he" or "Lord".

Then, observe how Jesus was made "human" instead of "man".

Lastly, the omission of filioque clause with its "and the son" leaves the creed totally emasculated.

Wiser minds than mine can argue about the other theological problems with this, but I wonder about the ecclesiastical issue of using something that is not in the Book of Common Prayer in regular worship. Do you think this priest will be disciplined by their mandala gazing bishop?

I am certain that the writers of the Nicene Creed would be horrified to read this new version.

Inquisitive as to where this Episcopal priest came up with this "creed", I did a web search quoting the intro and found the possible source:
This is not the Roman Catholic Church but a rogue group that sounds suspiciously like the Episcopal church. They describe themselves as,
    "Ecumenical, Inclusive, Non-Judgmental, and Independent;  
     An Old Catholic Heritage Church for the Church's Homeless" (description used by the      United Catholic Church on their web page).
I had never heard of them before, and I bet Pope Francis never has either because,
"As a denomination, we are one of hundreds of autocephalous catholic churches in the United States."
(Autocephalous = no Pope)

And it is a teensy weensy denomination that consists of,
"In 2012, 26 ordained clergy persons in 11 parishes and 10 outreach missions/chaplaincies."
Update: week 2 of Pentecost, and after a bit of a dust-up, the parish was back to the BCP version.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pentecost Lectionary Readings: Hopping and Skipping Through Galatians Part 4

The past few Sundays we have been reviewing the readings from Galatians that most Sunday churchgoers will be hearing during the first month of Pentecost. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

This week we pewsitters heard the following excerpt from Paul's letter,

"Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:23-39

Every time this reading comes along I think back to the time I heard a member of the Episcopal church's Executive Committee misuse the "we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian" line in order to justify the Episcopal church's acceptance of the same-sex agenda.

One of the problems with hearing Galatians 3:23-39 in isolation is that the listener might be fooled into thinking that we really do no longer have a disciplinarian. If the missing verses (Galatians 3:1-22) are brought in, we see right away that Paul is writing as the Galatians' disciplinarian,

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 
There is no escaping the fact that we all need discipline, the question for the Galatians is should following the Mosaic laws (especially circumcision  Chapter 5) be of primary importance to those who have received the Spirit. Paul tries to argue drawing from the O.T. why the law should be viewed in light of the revelation of Christ and in that way applied to the Gentiles.
"Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’ For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, ‘Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, ‘And to offsprings’, as of many; but it says, ‘And to your offspring’, that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.
Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."
Galatians 3:1-22
It is a meaty argument and would be challenging sermon material for most preachers and maybe that is why it gets omitted from the Sunday lectionary cycle during Pentecost, but Sunday pewsitters are getting shortchanged if they don't hear the sharp words of Paul along with the gentle ones.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why Can't We Name the Religion That Inspires?

The recent murders of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando are being run through the machine most call the "mass media" but the story is actually running through a larger something. That something is built up in the minds of individuals, social groups, villages, cities, and nations by inputs from the old mainstream media, off-the-mainstream news media, social media, and conversations with family, friends, and co-workers. This something might be called a narrative turned meta-narrative, or it might be something that gets grafted onto the spirit of the age or zeitgeist.

The role of the Christian Church in shaping the meta-narrative in the United States gets smaller and smaller with each passing decade, but that does not mean that they aren't trying.

Many Episcopal bishops have posted statements including our Bishop Waldo, and while these bishops rightly ask for prayers, do they truly inspire Christians to follow Jesus more closely? Do they inspire us to spread the news that the world, a hostile world which is in desperate need of help, has been given a Savior in Christ Jesus?

The following is typical, and it comes from the top,

Statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the Orlando shooting
13 Jun 2016
Justin Welby and John Sentamu 
“After Sunday’s attack in Orlando as Christians we must speak out in support of LGBTI people, who have become the latest group to be so brutally targeted by the forces of evil. We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification. The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship. It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being. Now, in this time of heartbreak and grief, is a time for solidarity. May God our Father give grace and comfort to all who mourn, and divine compassion to us all.” (From Anglican Ink).
Christian leaders, like the mainstream news media, like many politicians, are shaping a meta-narrative that refuses to name the source of the problem.

The problem is inspired by adherents of, and by the scriptures of Islam. Its teachings, and the words of certain Islamic leaders on human sexuality (among other things) and how to respond to those who break its laws are contrary to western civilization's teachings. Islam and the western spirit of the age, which is increasingly secular, are destined to collide head on, and the violence in Orlando is just one sign of the clash of these two great forces.

Western "civilization" and all that goes with it, especially its attitude about human sexuality, is what is hated and is the ultimate target.

Mealy mouthed Christian responses do nothing to inspire us to spread the word that we do have an answer to Islamic radicals, and that is to boldly declare that Jesus is Lord and to spread this good news to those who hate us.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pentecost Lectionary Readings: Hopping and Skipping Through Galatians Part 3

After our first two Sundays in Pentecost in which we skipped nary a verse of the first chapter of Galatians, the third Sunday offers up the first section to get the axe. Most worshippers today will hear Galatians 2:15-21 which contains several theological points,

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law, I died to the law so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:15-21
While there is nothing wrong with presenting this portion of Paul's letter and letting it stand alone, we miss the context and the important chronology of Paul's journey by skipping Galatians 2.1-14 which I include below (just remember that this rightly belongs before the previously quoted text). I have highlighted a few lines in which Paul's tone is decidedly different from what was/will be heard in church today,

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ Galatians 2.1-14

When we read this part of Galatians 2, we get to see a tougher Paul than we might otherwise appreciate if all we hear is the Sunday morning version. This will be a recurring pattern over the next few weeks as we hop and skip through Galatians, and is in keeping with the Revised Common Lectionary's approach, an approach that waters down and sanitizes the Bible for the Sunday pewsitters.

In addition, I think the missing verses point to something that is missing from most conversations in the Episcopal church today, and that is being frank and "in your face" about false teachings and hypocrisy.

Any guesses as to how Paul would confront our current bunch of Episcopal church leaders?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Muhammad Ali: The Greatest... Tragic Hero?

With the recent death of Muhammad Ali, the American news media is aglow with praise for his life, his words, and his deeds. I worry that amidst the praise we might forget to pray for his immortal soul.

After converting to Islam, the former Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, joined the "Nation of Islam", and refused military service. In the 1960's those were  bold, rebellious, and attention-grabbing acts quite in keeping with Clay's public persona. At the time, many blacks were rejecting their "slave names" as well as the religion of their "slave masters", and there was growing resistance to the Vietnam war. In particular, it was felt that blacks were getting drafted to die in a "white man's war". Being a star in the public limelight, when Ali converted to Islam, it became more and more acceptable for others to follow suit.

This is Tragedy #1, when a famous person, a sports idol, converts to Islam, many people might do likewise, and if they also reject Jesus as Lord, they endanger their immortal souls.

"He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."  John 12:48
 Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary interprets it to mean,

"Our Lord publicly proclaimed, that every one who believed on him, as his true disciple, did not believe on him only, but on the Father who sent him. Beholding in Jesus the glory of the Father, we learn to obey, love, and trust in him. By daily looking to Him, who came a Light into the world, we are more and more freed from the darkness of ignorance, error, sin, and misery; we learn that the command of God our Saviour is everlasting life. But the same word will seal the condemnation of all who despise it or neglect it."

Luke also adds,
"He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." Luke 10:16
This is the greatest tragedy: the rejection of God. I do not know whether Ali had regained a belief in Jesus as Lord or not before he died as he had lost the ability to communicate his thoughts to us, I can only pray that at some point he accepted Jesus as his savior.

Later, Muhammad Ali was said to have moved to Sunni Islam, and after the 911 terrorist attacks he said (according to Aljazeera) ,
"Islam is a religion of peace. It does not promote terrorism or killing people," and later,
"I am angry that the world sees a certain group of Islam followers who caused this destruction, but they are not real Muslims. They are racist fanatics who call themselves Muslims, permitting the murder of thousands."
He repeated the message in his December response to Trump, saying: "True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion."

Tragedy #2 is that today's news media is, like Aljazeera, in love with the legacy of Muhammad Ali for not only his dreams of a peaceful Islam, but also for his rebellion against the norms of the 1960's, something that the aging hipsters now in control of the mainstream media look back as a confirmation of their own rebellion against authority. The news media is tragically, knowingly or not, setting up as an idol someone who more than likely rejected Christ.

Tragedy #3 is that more people may be drawn away from Jesus as a result of all of the Muhammad Ali worship that is being laid down.

Yes, he was the greatest boxer of his time, and a good man, but in spite of all those wonderful things perhaps he was also the greatest tragic hero as well.

Oh yes, he was also quite a clown. So let's all drink to the death of a clown,


Sunday, June 05, 2016

Pentecost Lectionary Readings: Hopping and Skipping Through Galatians Part 2

This is the second week that the Sunday lectionary stays in Galatians 1 and the editors do not skip any verses (click here for week 1) and move directly to Galatians 1:11-24.

First we hear a repeat of the tail end of last week's reading in which Paul establishes his cred,
"For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."
Paul recounts the time before his conversion,
"You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors."
Next we get a taste of predestination,   
"But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus."
Paul recounts his meeting with Peter,
"Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother." 
Next comes a strange interjection,
"In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!" 
 I am not quite sure why he needed to write that.

Finishing up this week's segment with the central miracle of Paul's conversion from persecutor to evangelist,
"Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, ‘The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me."  
I have often thought that God chose the right man for the right time when he selected Paul.

So, if Paul was the right man, predestined by God to spread the Gospel, then why is he so maligned by "progressive" Christians when it comes to his writings about marriage, homosexuality, and sexual immorality?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Church of Scotland Takes the Low Road

Disturbing news from the land of half of my ancestors as reported at The Wee Flea,
"The Church of Scotland has voted to allow its gay ministers to marry.
The General Assembly meeting in Edinburgh voted 339 votes to 215 to update church law to bring it in line with secular Scottish law. The church already recognised ministers and deacons in same-sex civil partnerships and has today extended that to cover same-sex marriage.
The Church said in a statement immediately after the vote that the decision “does not compromise the Church’s traditional view of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”
And it does not mean church ministers will be able to register same-sex civil partnerships or solemnise same-sex marriages themselves."
I cannae believe that they would think that this does not compromise the Church's traditional view of marriage; of course it does! Let me distill it for them: Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 teaches us,
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
C'mon Scotland, Jesus' teachings themselves are compromised once you start teaching that a man can leave his father and mother to be united to another man.

Maybe the Church if Scotland is confused by an old tradition that the soul of a Scot who dies outside his homeland will find it's way back home by the spiritual road, or the low road, because the Church is certainly taking the low road on the same-sex marriage issue.

Here is a familiar song that was inspired by that tradition,
By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Me and my true love were ever wont to gae
On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond 
Ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak the low road
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond 
'Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep side of Ben Lomond
Where in the purple hue the hieland hills we view
And the moon coming out in the gloaming
The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping
But the broken heart it kens nae second spring again
And the waefu' may cease frae their greetin' - The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond 1746. 

What's next? Same-sex marriage rites of course.

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