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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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It’s not easy being a celebrity pastor these days with that pesky Internet around.
Consider the struggles of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Faced with mounting accusations circulating online — plagiarism, misusing church funds to prop book sales, silencing anyone in his church with the temerity to question him — Driscoll has urged his followers to stay off the Web. “It’s all shenanigans anyway,” he explains.
Steven Furtick, a megachurch pastor in North Carolina, and Dave Ramsey, an evangelical finance guru, have been taking hits, too, as have the wheeler-dealers on the Preachers of L.A. reality show. This, against a backdrop of culture shifts creating strong headwinds against the leader-and-follower model typified by today’s Christian superstars.
What are a megapastor and his followers to do? Remembering the biblical admonitions against idolatry would be a good start.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Media Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Pastoral Theology
Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who seton foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither.--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Books * Theology Eschatology
Every age selects its symbols, preferring some over others, to give expression to those unspoken inclinations of the collective soul. The signs and rituals that betoken traditional eschatology—Last Rites among them—are losing their resonance. We have given a quietus to the death knell, silenced the treble of the Sanctus bell. Altar rails, sturdy emblems of distinction between the sacred and profane, surrendered dominion to modernity’s self-confidence. The sovereignty of modern man spurns genuflection. Our clergy grow uneasy in clerical dress.
And those direful old frescoes of the damned? Their claim on art increases as their hold on lives diminishes. The damned exist for us now only in horror movies. We have lost sight of them among ourselves. Allegories of the weighing of souls ended with those generations who trembled to speak of God as a consuming fire. Now we speak only of love. Nothing hangs in the balance for us good folk. St. Michael has put down his scales and taken up guitar.
Read it all.
The revelation this week about the home burial of Kirsty Allsopp’s mother came as no surprise to us agents of change at the Natural Death Centre charity. Her mother's request for a 'stranger free', private, swift, home interment, expresses an instinctive desire that I hear frequently. The public are now increasingly aware that they have choices, power and knowledge to retake control of how our bodies are treated and cared for after death.
The internet has made information available that is generally suppressed by the industry and misunderstood by many gate-keeping professionals, including medics, registrars and civil servants. In the UK we are very lucky to actually have such freedoms - most other countries are tightly controlled by the state, industry and Church. I am contacted by people from all over Europe and beyond who cannot believe that we are so free to choose and control our funerals. Oh how I love being British.
Many people are also starting to question why we automatically hand over the care of the bodies of those who we have loved and cuddled to strangers, when we can carry out that final act of love and care for them ourselves, if we so choose. I hope Kirsty and her family are greatly comforted by their achievement.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
RNS: The “Left Behind” books series has sold more than 60 million copies. What do you think when you hear that so many have been influenced by that brand of eschatological thought?
SH: My reaction to the “Left Behind” series is one of amusement and pathos. Pathos because so many people have misunderstood Christian eschatological convictions and turned them into speculative accounts of the so-called “rapture.” I take it to be a judgment against the church that that kind of speculation has gained a foothold.
RNS: You argue that “we may be living during a time when we are watching Protestantism coming to an end.” Some people may look at the hundreds of millions of Protestants in the world and call you crazy. Explain.
SH: My suggestion is meant to be a reminder that Protestantism is a reformed movement. When it becomes an end in itself it becomes unintelligible to itself. Protestants who don’t long for Christian unity are not Protestant. There is also the ongoing problem that Catholics have responded to the Protestant critique in a way that the Protestant critique no longer makes much sense. Accordingly, the question is: why do we continue to be kept apart?
Read it all.
Her spunky personality and Hollywood success laced eulogies at her private funeral Friday morning at her home parish, St. Helena's Episcopal Church in Boerne, Texas.
Yet, the gathering focused memories on what the speakers called Davis' exemplary devotion to her faith, especially her decision in mid-career to leave Tinseltown and join an Episcopal community in Denver....
"The media had a field day" recalling her acting career, said William Frey, 84, a close friend and retired Episcopal bishop, during the homily. "But most of them have missed out on the one thing that has driven her for the last 40 years, and that is her faith."
Read it all from the San Antonio Express-News.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Movies & Television * Theology Christology Eschatology
It is difficult to imagine a more brutal way for a teenager to be confronted by the reality of life and death.
But as an 18-year-old gap year student, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, found himself having to cut down the body of a fellow teenager who had hanged himself.
A new biography of the Archbishop singles out the moment in the early summer of 1974, while he was volunteering as a teacher at a boys’ school in Kenya, as marking the beginning of an unlikely journey to becoming one of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders.
Within days of the tragedy, about which he is not believed to have spoken previously in public, the future leader of the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Church told a close friend how he had begun to find faith in God.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology Suicide Religion & Culture Young Adults * International News & Commentary Africa Kenya * Theology Christology Eschatology Soteriology
From the most recent Time Magazine:
There’s a lot of discussion in the film about what happens to people after they die. Do you believe in an afterlife?
I believe in energy, and I believe that we all come from the earth and we all come back to the earth. And then what happens spiritually or mentally or emotionally–I have no idea. It’s like what Peter Pan says: “To die would be a very great adventure.”
In response to almost the last of Cole [Moreton]’s questions I remembered Simpson’s experience and reflected that mine had been the reverse: facing my own mortality and possible death I discovered just how deep the well of hope is within me. Whether I lived or died that hope could not be disappointed.
If the gospel is truly the good news we proclaim it to be, then it is during times of adversity that it will be especially true. Our hope in Christ does not confer immunity from suffering, grief and loss but has the capacity to transform our experience of them. Going through difficult times – financially, relationally, or on the health front – effectively act as a refining process reminding us, sometimes painfully, where our security and confidence ultimately lie.
No one in their right mind would wish themselves to have cancer yet paradoxically I have found my journey with lymphoma to be a season of blessing and spiritual growth.
Becoming aware of my own mortality has proved to be a gift and caused me to perceive life through a more richly coloured lens
- See more at: http://www.bristol.anglican.org/2014/being-an-evangelist-when-the-going-gets-tough/#sthash.tXwM9BGg.dpufRead it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine * Theology Christology Eschatology
'Tolkien may have put away his translation of “Beowulf,” but about a decade later he published a paper that many people regard as not just the finest essay on the poem but one of the finest essays on English literature. This is “ ‘Beowulf’: The Monsters and the Critics.” Tolkien preferred the monsters to the critics. In his view, the meaning of the poem had been ignored in favor of archeological and philological study. How much of “Beowulf” was fact, and how much fancy? What was its relationship to recent archeological finds?
Tolkien saw all this as an evasion of the poem’s true subject: death, defeat, which come not only to Beowulf but to his kingdom, and every kingdom. Many critics, Tolkien says, consider “Beowulf” to be something of a mess, artistically—for example, in its mixing of pagan with Christian ideas. But the narrator of “Beowulf” repeatedly says that, like the minstrels who entertain the knights, he is telling a tale from the old days. “I have heard,” he says. “I have learned.” Tolkien claims that the events of the poem, insofar as they are real, occurred in about 500 A.D. But the poet was a man of the new days, when the British Isles were being converted to Christianity. It didn’t happen overnight. And so, while he tells how God girded the earth with the seas, and hung the sun in the sky, he again and again reverts to pagan values. None of the people in the poem care anything about modesty, simplicity (they adore treasure, they count it up), or humility (they boast of their valorous deeds). And death is regarded as final. No one, including Beowulf, is said to be going on to a better place....
As an adult, Tolkien could read many languages—and he made up more, including Elvish—but the number is not the point. Even in secondary school, Carpenter says, “Tolkien had started to look for the bones, the elements that were common to them all.” Or, in the words of C. S. Lewis, his closest friend, for a time, in adulthood, he had been inside language. Perhaps he couldn’t come back out. By this I don’t mean that he couldn’t talk to his wife or his postman, but that Old English, or at least that of “Beowulf,” was where he was happiest.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Fankhauser had been in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province for barely two weeks when he stepped on what the military calls an improvised explosive device. He was on his fifth combat deployment.
There had been a rainstorm, the ground had shifted and was soft, and the usual signs of a hidden bomb were not there. It was a joint patrol: Marines, British forces and Afghans. Only Fankhauser, 30, was killed.
"It gives me a kind of peace that it wasn't a mistake" but rather an accident, Heather Fankhauser, 35, said of her husband's death. "It wasn't anything he could have done. Lots of other guys, guys with families, were there that day, and they'll be going home, and that's how my husband would want it."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Military / Armed Forces * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Eschatology
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence; and give us such a lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Charleston County Coroner's Office reports rising applications from funeral homes for cremation permits as more families opt for an urn of ashes over a traditional burial.
Some said that the change here and statewide is happening because the alternative to a typical funeral has become more acceptable. Others think cremation fits better in a mobile society where people are less likely to have a spot reserved in the church graveyard.
"The trend is catching up with us here. Things don't change as rapidly down South," said Overton Ganong, spokesman for the Funeral Consumers Alliance of South Carolina.
Read it all.
Heaven Is for Real, the story of a young boy who reportedly had a real-life experience of heaven during emergency surgery, is currently playing in movie theaters. The film is not doing as comparatively well as the eponymous, bestselling book that inspired it — more than one million e-book copies alone of which have been sold — but it will likely inspire other Christian films, given that its gross receipts have exceeded its relatively modest budget more than sixfold thus far.
The book and the movie’s success have reminded me that people can also come to believe that God and heaven exist by realizing that the devil and, thus, hell are real, and sometimes through a shocking personal experience.
In his short pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken often of the reality of the devil, (read here too) and the accompanying existence of hell, which is definitely a place to be avoided.
Read it all and follow all the links.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Eschatology
'Despair, or folly?' said Gandalf. 'It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy!--J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings (Mariner Books 2012 reissue of the 1954 original), p. 302 (emphasis mine)
Nearly three quarters of Danwon [High School]’s 11th graders died two weeks ago in the sinking of a ferry that ranks as one of the country’s deadliest disasters in recent decades.
“I’ve seen these kids grow up. I know each of their faces,” said Mr. Kim[In-jea], 57, who lives nearby and said seven of his neighbors lost their children. “To say that this neighborhood feels empty would be an understatement. This neighborhood feels like a morgue.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Education * International News & Commentary Asia South Korea * Theology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
"While the economy is recovering and families are beginning to have more financial flexibility, they are still very cautious when making major purchases. If they can spend less, but still get something very tasteful and befitting their loved one, a family may choose that option," says Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association.
And if any movement is changing the monument business most, it is the huge rise in cremations.
Today, about 43 percent of people are cremated. Compare that to 2000 when only one in four people were cremated. In 1970, fewer than 5 percent of people were cremated.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Eschatology
By now I am sure that most savvy Christians are long since inured to the drivel that Time and Newsweek foist upon us every Easter and Christmas. It was not always thus. David van Biema (formerly of Time) and Kenneth Woodward (formerly of Newsweek) were knowledgeable, conscientious religion editors and took great care with their reporting (not to mention the estimable Peter Steinfels, late of The New York Times).
It's very different today. Case in point: the cover story on heaven in...[2012's] Time. Who's the author? None other than Jon Meacham, Sewanee graduate, author of several highly praised historical works (Franklin and Winston, American Gospel, and American Lion) and former editor of Newsweek. In addition, he has been on the vestry at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue.
Unfortunately, Meacham does not know when to back off gracefully from subjects he does not understand--which includes theology....
Read it all.
Heaven Is for Real is more than just a field guide to the marvels of heaven. It's the story of how God comforted a frightened child. It's the story of God's faithfulness to a grieving father.
What exactly happened to Colton Burpo—whether he actually experienced the glory of heaven or had a mere hallucination—will remain a mystery. But we live in a mysterious world, and we shouldn't be surprised when we encounter the miraculous and the supernatural. We should approach tales like this with critical discernment. We can't immediately accept them, but neither should we reject them haphazardly. We should test them under the light of Scripture, and we should celebrate the fact that God, who reveals himself through his Word, is faithfully active in our world, meeting us in ways that can't (and sometimes shouldn't) be explained.
Read it all.
The Christian claim from the beginning was that the question of Jesus's resurrection was a question, not of the internal mental and spiritual states of his followers a few days after his crucifixion, but about something that had happened in the real, public world.
This "something" left, not just an empty tomb, but a broken loaf at Emmaus and footprints in the sand by the lake among its physical mementoes. It also left his followers with a lot of explaining to do, but with a transformed worldview which is only explicable on the assumption that something really did happen, even though it stretched their existing worldviews to breaking point.
What I want to do here is to examine this early Christian claim, to ask what can be said about it historically, and to enquire, more particularly, what sort of "believing" we are talking about when we ask whether we - whether "we" be scientists or historians or mathematicians or theologians - can "believe" that which "the resurrection" actually refers to.
Read it all from ABC Australia.
While "'Heaven Is for Real" lacks the rich descriptions and striking imagery of many previous accounts of the afterlife, it provides an excellent example of a favorite modern view. Where Christians once longed for complete communion with God, many now think of the great hereafter as the best family reunion imaginable, where God is relegated to the role of guest star.
Journalist and author Maria Shriver says heaven "is a place that you go to and once again become reunited with those you have loved and lost. That vision is what keeps me from falling apart. . . . That's what I have faith in."
Surrounded by religious pluralism, scientific materialism and universalism, many evangelical Christians feel the church's teachings on eternal life are under attack. Into that milieu, "Heaven Is Real" provides proof of the transcendental in the form of eyewitness testimony. That the eyewitness is a guileless preschooler only adds to the appeal.
Not everyone agrees, of course.
Read it all.
Have you seen that new movie “Hell Is for Real?” Of course, you haven’t. Because it doesn’t exist. It’s heavenly counterpart, however, earned $21.5 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend.
Sixty-four percent of Americans believe in the survival of the soul after death, and a majority believes in both heaven and hell, according to a Harris Poll released in December 2013. But while most are comfortable discussing the afterlife and heaven, talk of hell can scatter the masses.
So why are Americans afraid to talk about hell?
Read it all.
The Christian truth that the crucifixion reveals the heart of God is a scandal to those who imagine God as an aloof and implacable Creator, who lacks compassion for our frailty and is hostile towards our disobedience – instead of being merciful.
As for those whose god is an impersonal intelligence, the cross is meaningless – if not absurd.
Terry Eagleton’s book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate is a penetrating critique of the reasoning of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. In passing he considers the incongruity of a Saviour who is crucified: “Messiahs are not born in stables. They are high-born, heroic warriors who will lead the nation in battle against its enemies. They do not reject weapons of destruction, enter the national capital riding on donkeys, or get themselves strung up.”
Thankfully Terry Eagleton offers reasons why believing in a Christlike God is not a delusion – unlike some commentators who have heaped personal insults on Richard Dawkins and demonised him.
Read it all.
The text for the sermon is "He has risen! He is not here" (Mark 16:6). The sermon begins with an introduction of Rico Tice by Richard Meryon at about 50:50 of the video, after which Rico Tice prays and the sermon proper begins at about 53:00--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Apologetics Christology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
Listen to it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
Listen to it all from Saint Helena's, Beaufort (it begins with the Gospel reading followed by some music, the sermon itself starts at about 3:05)
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
Listen to it all should you wish to and also note that there is an option to download it there (using the button which says "download" underneath the link which says "listen").
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
...we must learn, not only how to die, but how to turn and turn again, as Mary Magdalene did twice before she saw that it was Jesus right in front of her in the garden. Have you ever wondered about the fact that the first witnesses to the resurrection, supremely here Mary, did not recognize Jesus at all in the first instance, and some - according to the gospel of Matthew - even continued to "doubt" when they were in his risen presence? This is another very strange thought: that the risen Christ, being God's Son, is here all the time but that we have to "turn" and keep "turning" towards his gaze, until our senses and mind and soul and heart are so attuned and magnetized to his presence that we too can say Rabbouni - not to grasp and hold him, not to constrain him within our restricted human categories, but to worship and adore him.
St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the thirteenth century, rather ruefully acknowledges that the women in the gospels understood this better and first because, as he puts it, of their "greater capacity for love," their resoluteness in not abandoning Christ on the cross and in following him even to his place of burial. To "turn" is to keep longing for and loving him, even in despair, as these women did - to keep discerning the wind of Christ's Spirit and leaning into it, until love and knowledge and sensuality all align and we can know as we are known in him.
Thirdly, and finally, only thus shall we learn to "see the Lord," as Mary saw Him, through tears to be sure, but with absolute conviction and certainty. Many think that this doesn't happen anymore, but let me tell you (as one who was once a hospital chaplain, ministering to the dying) it does
Read it all (emphasis hers).
...particularly when we look at the disciples, the watered-down resurrection doesn’t seem credible at all. Remember that the Gospel of John (whose author had little to gain by making the disciples, future leaders of the early church, look bad) notes that the disciples were so frightened that they barricaded themselves behind locked doors after Jesus’s death. They had good reason to be. “If the authorities dealt that way with Jesus, who had so many people supporting him,” they must have thought, “what will they do to us?” Even before the crucifixion Peter shrank in fear from being identified as a follower of Jesus. Imagine how their fear would have intensified after witnessing the Romans’ brutal execution of their master.
With one exception, all of Jesus’s male followers were so terrified that they shrank from standing at the foot of the cross, unable to accompany Jesus during his final hours. Their reluctance may have stemmed from an inability to watch the agonizing death of their friend, but much was out of fear of being identified as a follower of an enemy of Rome. (The women, showed no such fear, though the situation may have posed less danger for them.)
The disciples were terrified. So does it seem credible that something as simple as sitting around and remembering Jesus would snap them out of their abject fear? Not to me. Something incontrovertible, something undeniable, something visible, something tangible, was necessary to transform them from fearful to fearless.
This is one of the most compelling “proofs” of the Resurrection.
Read it all.
I believe the story. With my head, looking at the evidence and thinking logically as a person who was a research physicist for twenty-five years, I believe it. And after listening to the testimony of people – from beggars to kings -- through all the ages who had concluded that the story is true, I believe it. And at the innermost levels of my heart, where the deepest truths reside but are not easily put into words, I believe it is true.
And that is why I know that I will see my mother again someday. It’s not just wishful thinking, some little tale I’ve fooled myself with because I can’t face the cold hard facts of life. Yes, I will see Della Mae, and I am convinced that it will be a day of great victory and joy. St. Paul says that it will be like putting on a crown, and St. John says that it will be a time when every tear will be wiped away from my eyes. That’s what will happen someday to me. But what Jesus did affects me right here today also -- I know that this Jesus who overcame death and the grave has promised not to leave me here twisting in the wind. He is with me every day, through his Spirit, to guide me, comfort me, embolden me, and use me for his glory and to serve his people, right here, right now.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family * Theology Christology Eschatology Pastoral Theology
As Easter approaches, many Christians struggle with how to understand the Resurrection. How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian? Can one understand the Resurrection as a metaphor — perhaps not even believe it happened at all — and still claim to be a follower of Christ?
The struggle keeps some Christians from fully embracing the holiday. A 2010 Barna poll showed that only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection; just 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith.
“More people have problems with Easter because it requires believing that Jesus rose from the dead,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of the new book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”
“But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all.”
Read it all.
What difference does it make that Christ is risen? I’m not asking what difference we would like it to make: I guess we want resurrection to be the answer to our questions, the happy ending to all our doubts and fears. I’ve spoken about ‘before’ and ‘after’, but I don’t mean that Easter is closure. Far from it: it pulls us into new journeys whose end we can never predict. So how does Easter change everything?
What it doesn’t do is to wind back the clock, as if this wilting daffodil could somehow regain its freshness and vitality. It’s the opposite. Easter winds the clock forward to the time where there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where everything we know is transformed. The Easter garden where Jesus comes to Mary and calls her by name – this is the paradise that an ageing, hurting world has looked forward to since time began. She thinks he is the gardener, and of course he is, exactly that, the divine Gardener who by rising on the first day of the week has begun to re-make creation and bring beauty out of ashes. And this new Eden is our destiny as human beings caught up in the renewal of creation that is Easter. Our first reading said: ‘when Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory’. It is coming, yet it has already begun: with Mary in the garden, with the disciples Jesus greets, with those who have not seen yet believed, with all who worship and love and follow him on this Easter Day.
For Easter takes our fear away, and gives us back our lives.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology
Question 45: What does the "resurrection" of Christ profit us?
Answer: First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death; secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life; and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
Footnotes: [For "first"] 1 Cor.15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: Rom.4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 1 Pet.1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [for "secondly'] Rom.6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Col.3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Col.3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Eph.2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Eph.2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [for "lastly"] 1 Cor.15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Cor.15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Cor.15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. Rom.8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
If I had a Son in Court, or married a daughter into a plentifull Fortune, I were satisfied for that son or that daughter. Shall I not be so, when the King of Heaven hath taken that sone to himselfe, and married himselfe to that daughter, for ever? I spend none of my Faith, I exercise none of my Hope, in this, that I shall have my dead raised to life againe. This is the faith that sustains me, when I lose by the death of others, and we, are now all in one Church, and at the resurrection, shall be all in one Quire.
–John Donne (1572-1631) [my emphasis]
As a parish priest I remember telling parishioners, on more than one occasion, "When death comes into your home he brings a lot of unwanted relatives with him." I do not mean relatives or in-laws who may come from out of town for the funeral. The relatives of death to which I refer are grief, fear, loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, depression, even anxiety. Once these come under the roof of your house it is difficult to show them the door. They tend to take up residence, over staying their welcome. Just this morning I read the story of Clint Hill, the secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy during the days some refer to as Camelot. With poignant grief he recalled her words that day almost fifty years ago as the President's wounded head lay in her lap like a modern Pieta, "They shot his head off. Oh Jack, what have they done?"
I've been listening to Dr. Billy Graham's recent book Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. He is no stranger to moments of national grief, like the one Clint Hill witnessed so painfully. At age 93 he has seen firsthand more than a little of our country's sorrow. Yet grief when it is personal strikes even deeper. In recounting the death of his beloved wife and best friend for almost sixty-four years, Ruth Bell Graham, he writes, "Although I rejoice that her struggles with weakness and pain have all come to an end, I still feel as if a part of me has been ripped out, and I miss her far more than I ever could have imagined." "Death", he goes on to say, quite accurately, "is always an intruder even when it is expected." Frankly, if there is no answer to death there is no answer to our most abiding enemy and all those blood relatives he brings with him. This, as you might imagine, brings me to Easter. I am happy to recall it. The apostle affirms, "Our Saviour Jesus Christ has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." (2 Timothy 1:10 NEB)
Easter unflinchingly confronts our enemies, death and sin that would lock us in a self-justifying bondage, and plague our lives from start to finish. Christ's death, however, is God's No to sin. In the cross God reveals his hatred of sin as Christ dies to destroy it; and shows his love for sinners as he dies to free us of it. In Christ's resurrection God speaks his Yes to life and human freedom, breaking the power of death. Donald Coggan, a former Archbishop of Canterbury put it well: "You may not like it. You may ignore it. You may deny it. But this is it. Take away the Cross and Resurrection from Christianity and you have a poor lifeless and maimed thing left..." And we must also say a dead religion dreadfully inadequate for our needs. Archbishop Coggan was right. We need to keep the Cross and Resurrection central. They tell us of God's No, to death, and the fear that is death's power; No, to sin and its tyranny of our lives; No, to fear that cripples us from living the dance of life freely; No, to the shame we don't deserve and grace for the shame we do; No, to the loneliness that dogs our steps for the Risen One is with us always. Let me say again. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Great Yes of God. It has left us an empty tomb and an open door. It will in God's good time and grace sweep our lives clean of death and the unwanted relatives it brings into our homes. Even this Sunday as we say the words, "Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia." the joy of Easter may escort some these out the door. We can then live our lives in Christ, with Christ and for Christ freely, and for his sake for a hurting and broken world.
May the Peace of the Risen Christ be always with you,
--(The Rt Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina
Listen to it all.
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Going through the barrier with a colleague to board my train in a busy station in London, suddenly a loud alarm sounded. A voice came over the public address system advising, no instructing, every person in the station to leave the building immediately. The majority of passers-by stopped, stood still and looked at each other. Visitors to London were already making their way to the exits, Londoners were hurrying their way to their destinations. The message only came once. I looked at the person I was with, we shrugged our shoulders, and went through the barrier to catch our train.
We have, collectively, quite a bit of disbelief and fatigue when we are told that we really must respond, or do something, or change our behaviour or direction.
Mary Magdalene was exhausted by grief. With Jesus everything had died. Who knows why she thought she was going to the garden in which the tomb they had borrowed for him was situated, but who knows why we do lots of things when we are worn out by life? Mary’s emotion represents the emotion of the whole world in the presence of the overwhelming cruelty and irreparable nature of death.
With Mary there are so many that weep. In Syria mothers cry for their children and husbands. In the Ukraine neighbours cry because the future is precarious and dangerous. In Rwanda tears are still shed each day as the horror of genocide is remembered. In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt. Asylum seekers weep with loneliness and missing far away families. Mary continues to weep across the world.
This is the world we live in, a world which each of us has had a hand in creating. A world of crosses. We can comfort one another and treat the dying with dignity. We can make gardens and graves, we can move stones and wipe away tears. But we can do nothing to defeat death.
But listen, hear the announcement. . . The one who was dead, is now alive! The one whose body had been a corpse, lying motionless in the grave, inert, lifeless, lying flat on the stone ledge of the borrowed tomb – he now stands before Mary, speaking her name. This day he speaks everybody’s name to engage them with the news that he is alive.
When Mary hears her name spoken, we are told, she turns towards him. A moment before and she is in the deepest despair, a second after, her life has changed. For death has more than met its match. It has been defeated. Everything changes.
We cannot expel God, nor the life of God, from his world. In fact this new life insists that there is nowhere God is absent, powerless or irrelevant. There is no situation in the universe in the face of which God is at a loss. The one that was dead is now alive. Where there was weeping there is now joy.
Someone wrote recently ‘Joy might be a greater scandal than evil, suffering or death’. [David Ford]. This is what I have been moved by in Christian communities around the world who face the most devastating of conditions. Their certainty that Jesus is alive enables them to face all horrors with joy. Not happiness, but joy. Joy can exist alongside mental illness, depression, bereavement, fear, because the joy of Christ comes from knowing that nothing and no one less than God has the last word. I remember sitting in a room with the Bishop who had come over from Pakistan soon after the attack in September on a church in Peshawar. I asked how Christians were coping with the fear that such attacks brought, and wondered if there had been anyone in church the week following the attack. ‘Oh yes’ the bishop replied, ‘ there were three times as many people the next week’. Such action is made possible only by the resurrection. The persecuted church flourishes because of the resurrection. I think of women who I met earlier this year who have survived unspeakable sexual violence, yet who lift their arms in prayer and praise to God. I think of teenagers I met in Luton who have hope and joy, in lives that were dominated by self hatred and harm. This has only been made possible because Jesus is alive.
The announcement that Jesus is alive changes everything; not simplistically or even instantly do circumstances and situations change. But it changes us. It gives us hope where we were in despair, faith where we were lost, light where we were in darkness, joy where we were entirely in sorrow. That joy in huge life of Jesus is present in the food banks, the credit unions, the practical down to earth living that the churches are demonstrating across this country.
But Jesus hasn’t finished with Mary yet. It isn’t simply a personal thing for her. She must now become a witness. So Jesus sends her to the ‘brothers’ to tell them. Please notice, in all four gospels the first witness of the resurrection is a woman. So Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles.
Jesus comes to find us all. In all the gospels when anyone meets Jesus they are given a task. The task is to join the announcement. The meaning of our whole existence is to be witnesses to the new life that is offered by Jesus Christ. The persecuted church bears witness in its joy overcoming fear, in worship in the midst of war, of refugee camps. In an IDP camp in Goma in January, the reminder that Jesus is alive was worth more than many sentences of comfort, for he brings joy.
The new life of Jesus is given to us. We witness to it as we insist that money isn’t our ruler, that self- promotion isn’t King, that pleasure isn’t a fulfilling aim, and that the survival of the fittest simply means some die later than others. The new life of Christ has broken into our world, it cannot be contained, nor restricted, nor managed. The church exists to show by its life and work the transforming power that has been set free in the world. All that we need to do is respond in faith and receive the gift of that life.
To fail to respond is like hearing someone crying ‘fire’ and continuing to walk into the building. Or have someone whisper ‘will you marry me?’ and turn the channel to find something interesting to watch. This is an announcement that calls our attention, catches our lives, heals our brokenness, and send us out with a purpose, a hope and a joy. It is news that the world cannot ignore, that we cannot neglect, it is the news of joy immeasurable.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Christology Eschatology
The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soul from the body. For them, resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’ day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are.
Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was highly antagonistic to Christianity and wrote a number of works listing arguments against it. One of the arguments he believed most telling went like this: Christianity can’t be true, because the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know women are hysterical. And many of Celsus’ readers agreed: For them, that was a major problem. In ancient societies, as you know, women were marginalized, and the testimony of women was never given much credence.
Do you see what that means? If Mark and the Christians were making up these stories to get their movement off the ground, they would never have written women into the story as the first eyewitnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb. The only possible reason for the presence of women in these accounts is that they really were present and reported what they saw. The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty and an angel declares that Jesus is risen.
Read it all.
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Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn't have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he's still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he's gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.
The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn't defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon - He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death.
Let's be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn't mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God's life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect - and in the whole world.
Read it all.
This is the real meaning of Easter...
No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem. Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship. Thank God, we have an empty tomb.
The glorious fact that the empty tomb proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes. Death is not a wall, but a door. And eternal life which may be ours now, by faith in Christ, is not interrupted when the soul leaves the body, for we live on...and on.
There is no death to those who have entered into fellowship with him who emerged from the tomb. Because the resurrection is true it is the most significant thing in our world today. Bringing the resurrected Christ into our lives, individual and national, is the only hope we have for making a better world.
"Because I live ye shall live also."
That is the real meaning of Easter.
--Peter Marshall (1902-1949), The First Easter
Take the time to listen to it all from the Oxford Philomusica.
Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.
--–The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Rowell, (recently retired) Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Theology Anthropology Christology Eschatology Soteriology
Tragically neglected, Holy Saturday remains a central part of the three most Holy Days of the Christian year. It is called the Triduum...
Filed under: * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Epiphany Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Theology Anthropology Christology Eschatology
Yet, there was one large omission that set all other truth dangerously at risk: the omission of holy rest. The refusal to be silent. The obsessive avoidance of emptiness. The denial of any experience and any people in the least bit suggestive of godforsakenness.
It was far more than an annual ignorance on Holy Saturday; it was religiously fueled, weekly arrogance. Not only was the Good Friday crucifixion bridged to the Easter resurrection by this day furious with energy and lucrative with reward, but all the gospel truths were likewise set as either introductions or conclusions to the human action that displayed our prowess and our virtue every week of the year. God was background to our business. Every gospel truth was maintained intact and all the human energy was wholly admirable, but the rhythms were all wrong, the proportions wildly skewed. Desolation—and with it companionship with the desolate, from first-century Semites to twentieth-century Indians—was all but wiped from consciousness.
But there came a point at which I was convinced that it was critically important to pay more attention to what God does than what I do; to find daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get that awareness into my bones. Holy Saturday for a start. And then, times to visit people in despair, and learn their names, and wait for resurrection.
Embedded in my memory now is this most poignant irony: those seven or eight Indians, with the Thunderbird empties lying around, drunk in the alley behind the Pastime Baron Saturday afternoon, while we Scandinavian Christians worked diligently late into the night, oblivious to the holiness of the day. The Indians were in despair, religious despair, something very much like the Holy Saturday despair narrated in the Gospels. Their way of life had come to nothing, the only buffalo left to them engraved on nickels, a couple of which one of their squaws had paid out that morning for four bony ham hocks. The early sacredness of their lives was a wasteland; and they, godforsaken as they supposed, drugged their despair with Thunderbird and buried their dead visions and dreams in the alley behind the Pastime, ignorant of the God at work beneath their emptiness.
Take the time to read it all.
"The single argument in its favor seems to be that it has been around so long," [Wayne] Grudem, a professor at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona, writes in his Systematic Theology, a popular textbook in evangelical colleges. "But an old mistake is still a mistake."
Grudem, like [John] Piper, has said that he skips the phrase about Jesus' descent when reciting the Apostles' Creed.
But the harrowing of hell remains a central tenet of Eastern Orthodox Christians, who place an icon depicting the descent at the front of their churches as Saturday night becomes Easter Sunday. It remains there, venerated and often kissed, for 40 days.
"The icon that represents Easter for us is not the empty cross or tomb," said Peter Bouteneff, a theology professor at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. "It's Christ's descent into Hades."
Read it all.
This ultimate solidarity is the final point and the goal of that first 'descent,' so clearly described in the Scriptures, into a 'lower world' which, with Augustine, can already be characterised, by way of contrast with heaven, as infernum. Thomas Aquinas will echo Augustine here. For him, the necessity whereby Christ had to go down to Hades lies not in some insufficiency of the suffering endured on the Cross but in the fact that Christ has assumed all the defectus of sinners...Now the penalty which the sin of man brought on was not only the death of the body. It was also a penalty affected the soul, for sinning was also the soul's work, and the soul paid the price in being deprived of the vision of God. As yet unexpiated, it followed that all human beings who lived before the coming of Christ, even the holy ancestors, descended into the infernum. And so, in order to assume the entire penalty imposed upon sinners, Christ willed not only to die, but to go down, in his soul, ad infernum. As early as the Fathers of the second century, this act of sharing constituted the term and aim of the Incarnation. The 'terrors of death' into which Jesus himself falls are only dispelled when the Father raises him again...He insists on his own grounding principle, namely, that only what has been endured is healed and saved.
That the Redeemer is solidarity with the dead, or, better, with this death which makes of the dead, for the first time, dead human beings in all reality- this is the final consequence of the redemptive mission he has received from the Father. His being with the dead is an existence at the utmost pitch of obedience, and because the One thus obedient is the dead Christ, it constitutes the 'obedience of a corpse' (the phrase is Francis of Assisi's) of a theologically unique kind. By it Christ takes the existential measure of everything that is sheerly contrary to God, of the entire object of the divine eschatological judgment, which here is grasped in that event in which it is 'cast down' (hormemati blethesetai, Apocalypse 18, 21; John 12; Matthew 22, 13). But at the same time, this happening gives the measure of the Father's mission in all its amplitude: the 'exploration' of Hell is an event of the (economic) Trinity...This vision of chaos by the God-man has become for us the condition of our vision of Divinity. His exploration of the ultimate depths has transformed what was a prison into a way.
--Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter [emphasis mine]
…Suddenly all of them standing around the gallows know it: he is gone. Immeasurable emptiness (not solitude) streams forth from the hanging body. Nothing but this fantastic emptiness is any longer at work here. The world with its shape has perished; it tore like a curtain from top to bottom, without making a sound. It fainted away, turned to dust, burst like a bubble. There is nothing more but nothingness itself.
The world is dead.
Love is dead.
God is dead.
Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell. One has penetrated the other perfectly. The nadir has reached the zenith: nirvana.
Was that lightning?
Was the form of a Heart visible in the boundless void for a flash as the sky was rent, drifting in the whirlwind through the worldless chaos, driven like a leaf?
Or was it winged, propelled and directed by its own invisible wings, standing as lone survivor between the soulless heavens and the perished earth?
Chaos. Beyond heaven and hell. Shapeless nothingness behind the bounds of creation.
Is that God?
God died on the Cross.
Is that death?
No dead are to be seen.
Is it the end?
Nothing that ends is any longer there.
Is it the beginning?
The beginning of what? In the beginning was the Word. What kind of word? What incomprehensible, formless, meaningless word? But look: What is this light glimmer that wavers and begins to take form in the endless void? It has neither content nor contour.
A nameless thing, more solitary than God, it emerges out of pure emptiness. It is no one. It is anterior to everything. Is it the beginning? It is small and undefined as a drop. Perhaps it is water. But it does not flow. It is not water. It is thicker, more opaque, more viscous than water. It is also not blood, for blood is red, blood is alive, blood has a loud human speech. This is neither water nor blood. It is older than both, a chaotic drop.
Slowly, slowly, unbelievably slowly the drop begins to quicken. We do not know whether this movement is infinite fatigue at death’s extremity or the first beginning - of what?
Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.
It trickles, lost in the chaos, directionless, without gravity. But more copiously now. A wellspring in the chaos. It leaps out of pure nothingness, it leaps out of itself.
It is not the beginning of God, who eternally and mightily brings himself into existence as Life and Love and triune Bliss.
It is not the beginning of creation, which gently and in slumber slips out of the Creator’s hands.
It is a beginning without parallel, as if Life were arising from Death, as if weariness (already such weariness as no amount of sleep could ever dispel) and the uttermost decay of power were melting at creation’s outer edge, were beginning to flow, because flowing is perhaps a sign and a likeness of weariness which can no longer contain itself, because everything that is strong and solid must in the end dissolve into water. But hadn’t it - in the beginning - also been born from water? And is this wellspring in the chaos, this trickling weariness, not the beginning of a new creation?
The magic of Holy Saturday.
The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?
Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?
The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.
What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded–no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.
Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world - still unborn, still caught up in its first rising - will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again.
In the future, all shape must arise out of this gaping void, all wholeness must draw its strength from the creating wound.
High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.
–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Theology Anthropology Christology Eschatology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what was the greatest obstacle to the extension of Christianity. He answered: "Christianity."
Christianity faces the prospect of its own death through the death of its inadequately conceived Easter God. Christianity, as practised in New Zealand, is not credible and is dying.
If Christianity faces up to this full reality, it will survive to be a useful religious community. If it fails to shoulder the full weight of its own cross, it will not discover whether its Christian faith is really true.
Read it all.
The number and identity of the women in the resurrection accounts can be difficult to untangle, which is one of the reasons why we provide a glossary in The Final Days of Jesus as a guide. One of the confusing things, for example, is that no less than four of the women share the name Mary: (1) Mary Magdalene; (2) Mary the mother of Jesus; (3) Mary the mother of James and Joses/Joseph; and (4) Mary the wife of Clopas (who may have been the brother of Joseph of Nazareth). In addition, there is Joanna (whose husband, Chuza, was the household manager for Herod Antipas) and Salome (probably the mother of the apostles James and John).
As you preach this Easter, do not bypass the testimony of the women as an incidental detail. In the first century, women were not even eligible to testify in a Jewish court of law. Josephus said that even the witness of multiple women was not acceptable "because of the levity and boldness of their sex." Celsus, the second-century critic of Christianity, mocked the idea of Mary Magdalene as an alleged resurrection witness, referring to her as a "hysterical female … deluded by … sorcery."
This background matters because it points to two crucial truths. First, it is a theological reminder that the kingdom of the Messiah turns the system of the world on its head. In this culture, Jesus radically affirmed the full dignity of women and the vital value of their witness. Second, it is a powerful apologetic reminder of the historical accuracy of the resurrection accounts. If these were "cleverly devised myths" (2 Pet. 1:16, ESV), women would never have been presented as the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ.
Read it all.
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I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full of what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine.--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 12 ("Faith"; emphasis mine) [Hat tip:JH]
“A Journey to Waco,” [Clive] Doyle’s memoir, is an account of what it means to be a religious radical—to worship on the fringes of contemporary Christianity. Doyle takes the story from his childhood in Australia through the extraordinary events of 1993, when some eighty armed agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raided the Mount Carmel community, in an effort to serve a search and arrest warrant on Koresh, on suspicion of violating federal firearms rules. “I want you all to go back to your rooms and stay calm,” Doyle recalls Koresh saying, as federal agents descended on Mount Carmel. Doyle goes on, “I could hear David’s steps going down the hall toward the front door. . . . Then all of a sudden I heard David say: ‘Hey, wait a minute! There are women and children in here!’ Then all hell broke loose—just a barrage of shots from outside coming in. It sounded like a bloodbath.”
In the resulting gun battle, four A.T.F. agents and six Davidians were killed. The F.B.I. was called in. The Davidian property was surrounded. An army of trained negotiators were flown to the scene, and for the next fifty-one days the two sides talked day and night—arguing, lecturing, bargaining—with the highlights of their conversations repeated at press conferences and broadcasts around the world. The Waco standoff was one of the most public conversations in the history of American law enforcement, and the question Doyle poses in his memoir, with genuine puzzlement, is how a religious community could go to such lengths to explain itself to such little effect....
The F.B.I. agent expected that the Davidians, like a fragile cult, would turn paranoid and defensive in the presence of a threat. He didn’t grasp that he was dealing with a very different kind of group—the sort whose idea of a good evening’s fun was a six-hour Bible study wrestling with a tricky passage of Revelation. It was a crucial misunderstanding, and would feed directly into the tragedy that was to come.
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The American Funeral Industry is changing. In recent years, stores like Costco have begun selling caskets, jewelry made from cremation remains, even burials at sea. And now in Southern California, one of the biggest names in the funeral business, Forest Lawn Cemetery, is trying to reach people in a place where they live and breathe - the shopping mall. More from Gloria Hillard.
GLORIA HILLARD, BYLINE: Navigating the kiosk at the Glendale Galleria, shoppers are offered everything from beauty tips to hot neck wraps to vapor cigarettes before arriving at a more tranquil place located between LensCrafters and Footlocker, Forest Lawn....
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When all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence...to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination.... What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worme is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God?--From a sermon to the Earl of Carlisle in 1622
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Gay clergy should follow their conscience and defy the Church of England’s restrictions on same-sex marriage, a prominent bishop has said as the most radical change ever made to the legal definition of marriage in Britain comes into force.
The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, said priests should be “creative” to get around restrictions on blessings for same-sex couples and that gay clergy who wish to marry should do so in defiance of the official line.
He also claimed that several current serving bishops are themselves in gay partnerships, and urged them to publicly acknowledge their status for the sake of “honesty and truthfulness” and even consider marrying.
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"Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus."—HEB. vi. 19, and part of v. 20.
Life is full of changes and chances. It sounds commonplace to say so, and yet more and more one learns to realize that the commonplaces of life are the things we most frequently dwell on, and the things we most often need comfort about. Poverty and riches, sickness and health, prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, succeed one another in our lives in a way that men call chance, and Christians know to be the will of God. All external circumstances change and alter; friends fail us or are taken away; death breaks up family circles; we move away from the scenes of youth and dwell in other places; cities and towns lose their familiar appearance; nay, in this our day things that should be most stable shake and totter, and government and order seem about to fail, and the very Church itself partakes of the universal disquiet; and only the eye of faith can discern the sure and immovable foundations against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.
But, even if there were no external changes, the changes within us are still harder to bear. We are not what we were. Time more surely alters our inner selves than even it does what is without us. We do not love what we loved, we do not seek what we sought, we do not fear what we feared, we do not hate what we hated. We are not true to ourselves. However brave a front we may present to the world, we are compelled to acknowledge to ourselves our own inconsistencies. There is often a broad chasm even between the intellectual convictions of one period of life and of another; and our very religious convictions, except they are built on the unchanging rule of the catholic faith, contradict each other; and the weary heart, uncertainly reaching forth in the darkness, longs with an ever deeper longing for that immutable One "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Blessed, then, is it to hear of an anchor of the soul. The imagery is simple enough. The ship, beaten by waves, tossed by tempests, driven by winds, takes refuge in the harbor. The anchor is cast from the stern. The ship rides securely; the danger is over.
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Listen to it all if you so desire or download the MP3.
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Franck Darmon is only 35, but he already knows where his bones will lie. Not in his native France, but in Israel.
“When you compare a cemetery in Israel — with the blue sky, the sun and all the white tombstones — to a cemetery in France with the gray surroundings, it’s very distressing,” Darmon said. “The soul doesn’t have the same type of rest.”
Darmon is not the only French Jew reaching this conclusion, and not just because of the weather. France may have Europe’s largest Jewish population, but many don’t want to stay here for eternity.
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...often the wicked so devote themselves to the practice of sin that they succeed in doing more wickedness than they would have been able to learn from the bad example of reprobate sinners. For this reason the torment of greater punishment is inflicted on them, in that they, by their own initiative, sought out greater ways of sinning, for which they are to be punished. Consequently it is well said: "According to the multitude of his devices, so shall he suffer [a citation from Job 20:18]. For he would not find out new ways of sinning unless he sought them out, and he would not seek out such things unless he were anxious to do them deliberately. Therefore, in his punishment, this excess in devising wickedness is taken into account, and he receives proportionate punishment and retribution. And even though the suffering of the damned is infinite, nevertheless they receive greater punishments who, by their own desires, sought out many new ways of sinning.
--Gregory the Great (540-604), Book of Morals 15.18.22
Solidarity with the persecuted Church is an obligation of Christian faith. Reflecting on how well each of us has lived that obligation is a worthy point on which to examine one’s conscience during Lent. And that brings me to a suggestion: Revive the ancient tradition of daily readings from the Roman Martyrology this coming Lent by spending 10 minutes a day reading John Allen’s new book, The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution (Image).
The longtime Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and CNN’s senior Vatican analyst, Allen has recently moved to the Boston Globe as associate editor, where he (and we) will see if talent and resources can combine to deepen a mainstream media outlet’s coverage of all things Catholic, both in print and on the Web. Meanwhile, Allen will continue the Roman work that has made him the best Anglophone Vatican reporter ever—work that has given him a unique perspective on the world Church, and indeed on world Christianity. His extensive experience across the globe, and his contacts with everyone who’s anyone in the field of international religious freedom issues, makes him an ideal witness to what he calls, without exaggeration, a global war on Christian believers.
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Church of Uganda Archbishop, Stanley Ntagali, on Tuesday launched a fundraising drive for the construction of the Anglican Martyrs shrine at Namugongo.
Ntagali announced the fundraising drive during at a news conference at the Church of Uganda headquarters in Kampala.
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It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.
But does paradise rhyme with hell? Setting aside the cliché about the Inferno being more interesting than the Paradiso, any serious reader will find a deep unity of theme running throughout the hundred-canto trilogy, from Dante’s promise “to treat of the good that I found there” (Inferno 1:8) to the final canto, which T. S. Eliot deemed “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.” Eliot has yet to be proven wrong; the poem deserves its canonical status on a shelf below the Bible and above the ranks of merely literary classics. To borrow a word from Dante, the Divine Comedy, if we are willing to read it whole, imparadises the mind.
Though the poem has a deep unity, the tradition of its interpretation does not; and to read the Divine Comedy in English—ideally with the Italian close at hand—is to step into a stream roiled by rival literary and religious movements.
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Concerning hell, C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” In many ways, I agree with him. No one, Christians included, should like the idea of hell. For years I’ve felt that if you were to give me a Bible, a divine eraser, and ten minutes, I would take hell out of the Bible.
Those of us who believe in hell aren’t sadists who enjoy the idea of eternal suffering. In fact, the thought of people I know who are outside of Christ spending eternity in hell is heart-breaking. As a young Christian, when I began to learn about hell and its implications, I almost lost my faith. It was that disturbing.
Hell is a difficult reality, but it is something that the Bible teaches, and we can’t fully understand God and his world unless we grapple with it.
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You can find the link to listen to it all here; note you can listen by clicking the link or download by clicking the blue "download" word underneath the black line. Professor Lennox preached at Saint Helena's, Beaufort, S.C. on Sunday.
Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life.
It faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam, another Pew survey has reported.
Michel Varton, head of Open Doors France, told journalists in Strasbourg that failing states with civil wars or persistent internal tensions were often the most dangerous for Christians.
"In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war -- the war against the church," he said while presenting the Open Doors report there.
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At Christmas, thoughts at many churches turn to a certain star.
At Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, thoughts are of a thousand stars or more.
That’s how many long-hidden stars have been uncovered in the ceiling of the building, a 165-year-old Episcopal church at Hicks Street and Grace Court, under a $5 million renovation that includes a new copper roof, new insulation, new lighting, new wiring and a much-needed cleaning of many of the 3,200 organ pipes.
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Rob Bell has suggested Christians put too much emphasis on hell. Do you agree?
Absolutely not. Most don't even talk about it.
Do you think the church has lost the same-sex-marriage fight?
I'm going to pass on that. I don't know.
Read it all (subscriber access only).
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As interments of veterans and their dependents climb to a record level, the Department of Veterans Affairs is rushing to add burial space at the fastest rate since the Civil War.
The project is adding thousands of burial sites and vault spaces across the country. But a Nevada congresswoman is pressing the VA to add more national cemeteries, especially in Western states that now have few cemeteries but whose senior populations are growing.
"The prestige of being buried in a national cemetery is something every veteran is entitled to," said Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat, who has been prodding the VA to open more such cemeteries in places like Nevada. It is among about a dozen U.S. states that lack a federally funded and operated national cemetery, and rely mostly on veterans' cemeteries run by states or Native American tribal governments.
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@pastorbrady: God's peace and healing to the family of Claire Davis. #arapahoehigh Our hearts are broken at news of her death.” Lord, help.
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Listen to it all if you so desire.
I’d be more sympathetic to complaints about the war on Christmas if they weren’t coming from the very people who have waged a largely successful war on Advent. Because, let’s face it, the idea that Christmas should be celebrated in early December, or even mid-December, is not a Christian concept; Christmas celebrations historically were confined to … Christmas. They were even banned in several of the Protestant colonies, and once the bans were lifted, Christmas remained unrecognizably low-key by today’s standards. The monthlong Christmas celebration is a secular invention, promoted and pushed a little harder each year by a retail industry bent on doing what it does best: convince us to buy more and more things we don’t need.
And the complaint about a societal war on Christmas is not a religious complaint; it’s a political complaint, which politicians have used quite effectively to make too many people believe that Christians have been marginalized by the larger society — as if we weren’t ourselves the larger society.
Adding insult to spiritual injury, the assault on Advent crowds out the real observation of Christmas — the one that starts on the evening of Dec. 24 and runs through Epiphany, 12 days later. Try to find a Christmas carol then or, after the new year, anyone who even says “happy holidays,” much less “merry Christmas.”
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Listen to it all if you so desire.
I’m thankful that even though I don’t have all the answers, God does. In tragedy we seek explanations, but explanations never comfort. It is God’s presence that eases our pain.
I’m thankful that this life is not all there is. It’s not the end of the story. One day God will right all wrongs, even the odds and settle all accounts. Justice will be served. Evil will not win.
I’m thankful for the hope of heaven. I won’t have to live with pain forever. In heaven, there are no broken relationships, broken minds, broken bodies, broken dreams or broken promises. The Bible tells us, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
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One day near the middle of the last century a minister in a prison camp in Germany conducted a service for the other prisoners. One of those prisoners, an English officer who survived, wrote these words:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive… He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near… On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment, and the thoughts and resolutions it had brought us. He had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.” That had only one meaning for all prisoners–the gallows. We said good-bye to him. He took me aside: “This is the end; but for me it is the beginning of life.” The next day he was hanged in Flossenburg.”I read it every year on this day and every year it (still) brings me to tears--KSH.
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“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,--The Death of the Hired Man, 121-122, quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon
They have to take you in.”
Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who seton foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither.--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10, quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve–KSH.
P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:
It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: "I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done." The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: "The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene." Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.
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A tumblr entitled “Selfies at Funerals” is the latest variation on the theme of spiritual entropy facing the modern world. The tumblr consists of self portraits of pretty youngsters making goofy expressions or showing off how flattering their dress or hair cut makes them look on the way to or after a funeral.
The phenomenon of “the funeral selfie” is inevitable in a culture entirely adverse to pain and terrified of dying. We would much prefer to make a silly face and strike a pose then to contemplate the fact we will inevitably die. As the Atlantic observed, what formerly inspired reflection and mourning now inspires a goofy grin or a suggestive pose. When death confronted Macbeth he pondered perhaps that life is nothing more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” We are content to shout “YOLO! LMFAO!” and pose for a quick photo to show off how good our hair looks for the funeral. To see a loved one as a corpse and realize that we too shall be just as dead is too much for modern man’s constitution; he is too used to taking every available short cut with the aid of modern science and technology. The idea that pain, suffering and death are things we must come to grips with in order to be fully human is entirely foreign to our sensibilities.
As a result, we tend to gloss over death whenever possible when it rears its head in our lives.
Read it all.
Q: If you had to name or or two ways that we could pray specifically for the conference what would those be?
A: Pray that God would pour out His Holy Spirit for the beginning of a new revival throughout the church through what He can accomplish at this gathering. Pray for the persecuted church throughout the world which is widely represented by many in attendance. Pray for the health and safety of all gathered.
Q: What has struck you most about being in a different place with so many Anglicans from so many varied locales?
A: This is what heaven will be like someday, and what a joyous opportunity to get a taste of it now....
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Rising industrialization and urbanization in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries helped push the graveyard out of town, and these shifts coincided with the rise of a new reserve, in which displays of strong emotion, such as grief, were unseemly.
But during the 1950s, the landscape changed. In 1955, Geoffrey Gorer’s fascinating essay “The Pornography of Death,” argued that proscriptions around death had replaced the Victorian taboo against sex. In 1959, psychologist Herman Feifel came out with The Meaning of Death, a collection of essays often credited with singlehandedly establishing death, dying, and bereavement as legitimate areas for study. Yet neither Feifel nor Gorer made their way to American dinner tables. It was [Jessica] Mitford who got ordinary people talking. The American Way of Death made its way into soap operas, newspaper cartoons, and even the cover of Good Housekeeping. (An extract appeared in a 1964 issue alongside such articles as “Coming, a New Kind of Refrigerator” and “How Well Can Carpets Take It?”) Her take-charge, do-it-yourself message helped liberate Americans from the rigid rules and roles they were eager to cast off, as they were beginning to do in so many other areas of life.
That doesn’t mean The American Way of Death encouraged Americans to rethink their cultural relationship with death, exactly. The book is a narrowly conceived exposé, a screed against expensive funerals and the men who sell them, not an analysis of how or why funerals got that way. It’s interesting to contrast Mitford’s book with the seminal death texts of the past, such as the two in the fifteenth century that were both called The Art of Dying, or the Tibetan and Egyptian books of the dead. Those works helped individuals prepare for death by prescribing a series of attitudes and rituals designed to ensure a good death and a better afterlife. Such rituals helped people grapple with death’s great challenge to the self; they made death mean. By contrast, Mitford’s book is a Consumer Reports of death. Instead of prayers and meditations, she offers tips on the best way to get a cheap casket (just keep asking the salesman; it’s often out in the garage).
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The formula never changed: demand discipline, emphasize recruiting and increase resources. It was simple, but it also worked.
At Southern Illinois, Kill & Company saved a program on the verge of being dropped. They beat Indiana on the road. Kill drove into the rural communities near Southern Illinois and persuaded fans to return, one handshake at a time. When Mike Reis, the Salukis’ veteran play-by-play announcer, spent weeks in the hospital for colon surgery, Kill visited daily. When the university offered him a raise, he spread the money among his assistants.
At Northern Illinois, Kill and his crew replaced Joe Novak and began another turnaround. In his interview, Kill told Novak and Jim Phillips, now the athletic director at Northwestern, about the seizures and said he had a handle on them. Phillips said Kill’s health did not factor “an iota” into his decision.
Even then, a Big Ten job seemed far away. What school would take that kind of chance?
Read it all (Hat tip: Elizabeth Harmon).
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Please bow your heads and let us begin as we should always begin, in prayer.
Heavenly Father and Gracious God remind us of who you are and of whose we are and of the message that you have entrusted to us. We are gathered for such a time as this and we need to be recentered, we need to be refocused, we need to have our call furthered clarified, and so Lord we need a word from you. Gracious God take my lips and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our wills and mold them and shape them according to your purposes. And take our hearts and set them on fire with love for your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In the stories General Eisenhower used to tell about his associates in the military and the government, he had one favorite above all the others. He indulged in it frequently at the expense of one of his chief aides, whose name was named George Allen. George Allen had the distinct misfortune, the dubious distinction of having played in the record-setting football game with the most lopsided score of all time. The score was 222 to 0. It was a game between Georgia Tech and Cumberland played in the 1916 season. And, yes you guessed it; George Allen played quarter back on the losing side. After about three quarters of the game, when the score had begun to mount into the hundreds and the team was dramatically demoralized, there came an amazing moment, in one of the few plays where Cumberland actually had the ball, when the ball was snapped back to Allen and he missed it and fumbled the ball. The opposing linemen came charging in, and suddenly the ball was trickling around the backfield and B. F. “Bird’ Paty, who later became a prominent attorney, was looking at the ball and he looked up past the ball and there was Allen, who was shouting, “Pick it up! Pick it up!” And Paty looked at the ball, and looked at Allen and then he looked at the charging linemen and he looked back at Allen and said, “You pick it up! You dropped it!”
My dear brothers and sisters I want to begin this afternoon by being so bold as to say that we have dropped the ball. I believe as passionately as I know how to state that we live in a time and a church under judgment. The book you need to center yourself on brothers and sisters is the book of Jeremiah, and the theme of judgment hardly ever mentioned in the contemporary western church when it is unfolded in the midst of God’s working with his people you see it quickly doing three things: It does cutting, it hurts and we heard abundant evidence of that today. Secondly it sets out confusion, tremendous confusion. Read and think about the book of Jeremiah sometime and think about how confusing it was for the people on the ground. Do I listen to Jeremiah or do I listen to Hananiah? Do I stay in Jerusalem or do I go to Babylon. Maybe I ought to think about going to Egypt. It becomes so confusing for Jeremiah himself at one point in Jeremiah 20 that he doesn’t even know to his own instincts and he almost internally self-destructs. But my dear brothers and sisters, a time of judgment is not only a time of cutting, though it is that, it is not only a time of confusion, though it is that, it is also a time of clarification.
And so the purpose of this talk this afternoon for just a few moments is to center us in our common faith and mission as we begin this 48-hour journey together. One of the things I delight in saying about my hero CS Lewis is that he had an instinct for the center. He knew how to distinguish between penultimate things and ultimate things and I need to say something to us as orthodox Anglicans. My dear brothers and sisters, we’ve not always done as well in making that distinction as we need to. We’ve got to learn to give those things that, even if they are precious to us, if they are not the ultimate things. We’ve got to recover an instinct for the center of whom we are, and the center of the message we are called to proclaim. Are you all with me?
So let’s think about Anglican essentials this afternoon. What is the center of who we are?
Number 1. All my points begin with the letter C, that is to help me in case I lose my place.
The first C is catholic; we are catholic, small C. What, Kendall Harmon was forced to think very deeply, what in its essence does it mean to be a catholic Christian, because that, I believe, is what we are.
It means first of all that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. It means there is such a thing, to use Thomas Oden’s wonderful phrase, as a history of the Holy Spirit. So that when I did my doctorate at Oxford in the early 1990s and I studied the whole history of western Christian eschatology there came a moment when I confronted Augustine for the first time in earnest since college and I read the whole City of God and I sat there at Latimer House in Oxford with my pitiful little heater in the freezing cold temperatures, and I wept. Because I realized the Augustine had simply leveled every single book I had read in the last ten years, in the first three chapters. No wonder CS Lewis said he read three old books for every new one. At the end of City of God Augustine says, speaking of heaven, these wonderful words:
“There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. This is what shall be in the end without end.” Did you get that? “There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise.” Do you know that is the finest summary in the smallest amount of words of heaven I have found anywhere? We have to drink deeply from the tradition that has been handed on to us, and unapologetically.
Sunday is the 300th anniversary of the birthday of Jonathan Edwards so permit a word about the man who is called America’s theologian.
George Marsden, who is the finest church historian in my estimation writing right now, has just released a brand new book on Jonathan Edwards called Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press).
And writing about Edwards and his theology he says this:
“It is precisely because of the 20th century’s experience of human horror that Jonathan Edwards’ thinking on hell (yes you heard me use that word) cannot be so easily dismissed. Marsden goes on, Edwards believed (listen carefully to these words) that each person is “by nature incredibly short-sighted, self-absorbed, and blinded by pride.” Only a traumatic jolt could burst the bonds of self-absorption. Therefore the verbal violence of hellfire and damnation “was a gift of God to awaken people who were blindly sleepwalking to their doom.”
Interesting themes, heaven and hell, Augustine and Jonathan Edwards, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. That is part of what it means to be a catholic. But there is more.
Second part of being catholic, it seems to me, is to believe in order. I found myself thinking about that simple gesture that happens in so many courtrooms. Order in court.
It seems to me what catholics are constantly saying to the church is “Order in the church, order in our worship, for crying out loud.” You ought to be able to follow the service. CS Lewis has a wonderful essay were he describes how the priests are always messing with the service and there is no structure that is predictable so that the liturgy can be vehicle instead of an obstacle to worship. Order in worship is important. It is amazing to me, thinking particularly about General Convention but also the general life of the Episcopal Church that since Thomas Cranmer gave us the Book of Common Prayer we have almost gone completely full circle and we are back to the very liturgical situation that he set out to reform namely there were too many liturgies running around and there wasn’t any order so he wrote a bookof COMMON PRAYER.
And yes order in the church so there is a certain way that we go about our business: bishops, priests, deacons, vestries, canons, there is a way that God set up the church.
And most importantly in our time order in the way we make decisions. Which means that to be a catholic Christian means that the more important the decision the more widely you consult, more people need to be involved, themore important the international leadership is involved. Hello, that is what is means to be a catholic Christian.
Finally to be a catholic doesn’t just mean those seven sacraments or seven sacramental acts or however you want to delineate them. It means more than that. To be a catholic means to think sacramentally. I found myself going back to that wonderful minor classic of Harry Blamires The Christian Mind. Listen to this summary that he gives of what it means to be Christian.
“The Christian mind thinks sacramentally. The Christian Faith presents a sacramental view of life. It shows life’s positive richness as derivative from the supernatural. It teaches us that to create beauty or to experience beauty, to recognize truth or to discover truth, to receive love or to give love, is to come in contact with realities that express the Divine Nature. At a time when Christianity is so widely misrepresented as life rejecting rather than life affirming [does that sound familiar to anyone?], it is urgently necessary to right the balance. In denouncing excesses of sensuality, Christians are apt to give the impression that their religion rejects the physical and would tame the enterprising pursuit of vital experience.”
And we don’t do it. There I was watching the opening sequence of The West Wing where President of the United States, Jeb Bartlett, has his daughter gone and kidnapped. He is in massive crisis. And what does this secular program do with a country and a president in crisis but it ends the first show of this season with the President of the United States with his hands open and a priest placing a wafer in those hands. Because he needed to have a sense of contact with the supernatural.
That is part of what it means to be a catholic Christian. Ya’ll with me? Stand on the shoulders of those who came before, a sense of order in the church and to think sacramentally.
I want everybody here who defines themselves as an Anglo-Catholic to please stand up. God bless you all.
That’s right, you heard it hear first, charismatic.
I had the distinct fortune of having my roommate in college be a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien Conn. And believe it or not, we used to drive from Bowdoin College five hours one way and go to two Sunday morning worship services and the Sunday night worship service and then drive all the way back to Maine. And the one thing about that parish that I remember above all others was that when you walked in people were there to worship God for whom He was in the beauty of holiness and it was astounding to see people do that. And that is my image of what the church should be.
Worth-ship is what the word means. To give God the worth He is due for the glory of who He is. I find myself thinking of that interesting play “Equus.” That interesting play “Equus where Anthony Perkins played Martin Dysart the doctor in the Broadway version when it first came out. The story of a boy who has a bizarre form of mental disturbance where he is obsessed with horses and this secular psychologist named Martin Dysart who is working like crazy with the boy who does nothing but talk about and dream about horses reaches this amazing moment in his life where he actually begins to envy the boy even though he is profoundly aware that the boy is deeply disturbed. Because Martin Dysart the secular psychologist, realizes that the boy has something outside of himself that is beckoning him and that he has to bow down to and Martin Dysart the secular psychologist has nothing.
In an amazing moment he says in a soliloquy on the stage, “Without worship we shrink!”
And that is part of the message of the charismatic movement to the contemporary church. Worship, brothers and sisters, is a priority. To meet God for who He is.
More than just worship from the charismatic movement. Power.
If I learned anything from three-hundred-plus Terry Fullum tapes in the early 1980s I learned that Holy Spirit was the power of God to be unleashed on His people and in His world. So that in the early 1980’s when Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of Washington exploded with what is probably the most visible indication of something called natural power that many of us in the modern world has ever seen. At 8.32 a.m. the explosion ripped 1,300 feet off the mountain, with a force of ten million tons of TNT, or roughly equal to five hundred Hiroshimas. Sixty people were killed, most by a blast of 300-degree heat traveling at two hundred miles an hour. Some were killed as far as sixteen miles away from the original blast. The blast also leveled those incredible 150-foot Douglas firs, as far as seventeen miles away. A total of 3.2 billion board feet of lumber were destroyed in that explosion, enough lumber to build 200,000 three-bedroom homes. That’s natural power. And what the charismatic movement importantly reminds us that we need to center ourselves in this afternoon is that the power of God that resurrected His Son Jesus Christ which is far more potent than Mount St. Helens and far more powerful is the power that rests in each one of us and in His church. Do you believe that with me?
Just one quick story about the power of the Holy Spirit of all places at General Convention. Thank you for praying for us, thank you for praying for me. It was the case that the Spirit was working and certainly one of the low points was the night of August 5th when the vote came down and I was a complete mess in many many ways and very upset not least because the bishops went overtime and so the bishops were in session after the House of Deputies were no longer in session and I was commissioned to read a speech in the House of Deputies as Bob Duncan was going to read a speech in the House of Bishops repudiating the action but since the bishops went overtime the bishops made their statement but in deputies I didn’t make my statement and I was not pleased about this. I said, “Lord, what are you doing? We worked on the statement, this isn’t working out.” And I had to make the statement the next day. You know what Jesus says in John 3 about the Holy Spirit. He says the Holy Spirit blows where He wills.
And so we were trying to figure out when Gene Robinson on Wednesday was going to be introduced. And John Guernsey and I are standing there at the computer and Jim Simons calls and says he is going to be introduced right as the session begins. So we work like crazy on the statement. Then Jim Simons calls right back and says no he isn’t going to be introduced so we slow down our pace and then he calls back and says yes he is going to be introduced. And we start changing our pace again. And then he calls back and says no he’s not and then finally one more change and yes he is! And so Guernsey changes it for the 400 thousandth time in the computer and I literally rip the page off the printer and I run across the street to get in there and sure enough Gene Robinson is introduced, and I have to read the statement. The whole time this has been happening I have been praying the night before and that morning and I had one overriding impression that was bothering my spirit very deeply. The overriding impression, brothers and sisters, was this, when we had the debate in deputies on same-sex unions and on the confirmation of Gene Robinson, and you need to hear this, no one, not a single person who argued for the change and the innovation brought into the debate a perspective of those beyond our shores.
And so there I was with my prepared text and I thought, what the hay, the Spirit blows where He wills, and so I spoke from the heart and I inserted a section in the speech that wasn’t in the text. I could just imagine Guernsey’s response in the back. The Enforcer [nickname for John Guernsey] was not happy. But the Holy Spirit had other plans. I spoke this point into the microphone and then sat down. And one person from Texas stood up and then the next thing that happened was one of the really amazing moments in Minneapolis for me personally. We had a deputy stand up from Honduras and he stood up with a translator and very slowly, because each phrase had to be translated, with this wonderful cadence he said, “I am a servant of God, in Honduras, and I am charge of 52 missions, and because of what this convention has done my entire ministry has been [and I quote him directly] has been washed down the drain.” And it was as if he confirmed exactly the point I made, only it wasn’t in my speech. The Holy Spirit did one of those things that the Holy Spirit is so good at doing. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit blows where He wills in your lives right now? That’s what it means to be a charismatic Christian.
First, catholic. Second, charismatic. Third, canonical.
All right, I should have said evangelical but it had to start with a “c”. You knew it was going to come to the Bible eventually.
I do need to say a few things about the Bible although I know that John Yates is going to say a whole lot more. My dear brothers and sisters, I am so proud this afternoon to say to you that we are people who be lieve in theauthority of the Bible.
I can do no better this afternoon than to quote to you the 1958 Lambeth Conference statement which I believe every Anglican needs to memorize, that’s how important I think it is. Listen to what the 1958 Lambeth Conferencesaid about the Holy Scriptures:
“The Church [they wrote] is not ‘over’ the Holy Scriptures, but ‘under’ them, in the sense that the process of canonization was not one whereby the Church conferred authority on the books but one whereby the Church acknowledged them to possess authority. And why? The books were recognized as giving the witness of the Apostles to the life, teaching, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the interpretation by the Apostles of these events.” [Listen to this last phrase.] “To that apostolic authority the Church must ever bow.”
Now I need to say to you that the authority of the Bible needs to be understood by us a Christians as personal authority. It is a certain kind of authority. It is an authority that is personal, and I can’t do better than one of my heroes, Austin Farrer, who was the warden of Keble College in Oxford where I had a chance to study. He’s given the perfect illustration of what it means for every Christian every day to pick up the Bible. What’s supposed to be in my mind when I hear a sermon from this document, when I hear an adult education class on this document or when I read this document? What am I supposed to think that I’m doing? Listen to what Austin Farrer says:
“What is the bible like? Like a letter which a soldier wrote to his wife about the disposition of his affairs and the care of his children in case he should chance to be killed. And the next day he was shot, and died, and the letter was torn and stained with his blood. Her friends said to the woman: the letter is of no binding force; it is not a legal will, and it is so injured by the facts of the writers own death that you cannot ever prove what it means. But the lady said: I know the man, and I am satisfied I can see what he means. And I shall do it because it is what he wanted me to do, and because he died the next day.”
That’s what it means to read the Bible. It means to read a personal letter from God stained with his own blood. Is that your perspective, when you preach from it?
Something else about the Bible, not just the Bibles authority and not just that its personal authority, but that we as Anglican Christians actually believe not only in the authority of the Bible, but the importance of loving the Bible. I like this first psalm; it says something really amazing about the godly person. It says that the man of God and the woman of God is blessed who not only meditates on God’s law but delights in it. And the word that is used in Hebrew haphats means to have emotional delight in. It’s the word of a wife delighting in her husband, or a husband delighting in his wife. We’re to have a delight of scripture. We’re to love it, not simply to read it although we should and not simply to be under its authority although we should, we need to love it, to care about it, and to steward it.
My own hero Charles Simeon (1759-1836) preached his way through the Bible and taught his congregation of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Cambridge, England not only that the Bible was authoritative but it was something to be loved. He once said this: “I love the simplicity of the Scriptures, I wish to receive and inculcate every truth precisely in the way and to the extent that it is set forth in the inspired Volume. Were this the habit of alldivines, there would soon be an end of most of the controversies that have agitated and divided the Church of Christ.”
Do we love the Bible, brothers and sisters? Love the Bible.
So what have I said so far? I said we’re catholics, I said we’re
charismatics, and I said we’re canonical. And I said we are under judgment. And I find myself gravitating to that fascinating verse, in Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, [in Jeremiah 29] plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” With these bases what is to be our focus as Anglicans as we go forward into the unknown future that God has for us. What is to keep the main thing the main thing mean for us in this time.
It means three more C’s.
First of all Christ. I’ve got to say that, I’m sorry! But it is about
Jesus. It is about the unsearchable riches of Christ and since we are in year B can I just remind you in passing of the sheer power for a moment of Mark’ Gospel. He is trying to portray a Jesus Christ who comes into people’s lives in power and who makes an authoritative claim. You remember the way that Mark unfolds the story at the end of chapter 4. That amazing scene where he stills the storm. They say who is this that at peace be still he says. And they say who is this of ye of little faith and so Mark wants to convey to his readers that the Jesus whom he is portraying has authority over the natural world. And then chapter 5 begins and you have that amazing scene with the Gerasene demoniac who is out there gashing himself among the tombs. And he suddenly because of the power of Christ is placed in his right mind. Jesus who has power not only over the natural world but over evil. And then the story goes on and Mark has that wonderful scene where Jairus has this sick daughter and Jesus is supposed to go and on his way, you remember what happens, the woman with the issue of blood comes up and touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and she is healed. Mark gives us a Jesus who has power over sickness. And now we have Jesus who has power over the natural world, and over the demonic world and over the evil world and over sickness. What is the last story in Mark Chapter 5? He goes to Jairus’ daughter’s house and she is dead, forget it, it’s over. He says it is not over that she is just sleeping and he gets everyone out of the room except the family and he says to the little girl, “Talitha cumi, “I say to you little girl arise,” and it’s the Jesus who has power over death.
This is the Jesus, brothers and sisters, that we need to unapologetically proclaim. The Jesus who makes a powerful claim, power over nature, power over the demonic, power over sickness and power the last great enemy of all, death itself.
We will be people who unapologetically will be about the Christ, proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. We will also be people, next C, of the cross.
I’m not giving up on the Rite I language of the prayer book. “By His one oblation of Himself once offered, the full perfect and sufficient sacrifice oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. By the merits and death of Thy Son, Jesus Christ and through faith in His blood.” What is it that Paul says in Galatians 6? “Far be in from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” It’s got to be centered on the cross, brothers and sisters; the cross is the center of it all.
To be a Christian means not to think from the world or from one’s self to the cross but to place one’s self as Luther did every single morning at the foot of the Cross and to think and to pray out from there to one’s self and the world.
Two quick comments by way of reminder about the cross. The cross is the final statement of God about the depth of the problem. To think from the cross out is to be reminded of the horror of sin. In his wonderful book Compassion Henri Nouwen tells the moving story of a family whose name are Joel and Nida Theartiga that he knew in Paraguay. And this family in the course of their life and ministry the father who was a physician becomes increasingly critical of the government in Paraguay. The military is becoming increasingly abusive and the father can’t take it anymore and he speaks out more and more boldly. Finally the government acts and they take their revenge on this physician and his wife by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. The enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but as Nouwen tells the story, as they said their prayers and thought about it, they chose another protest, a more cross-like, biblical lament. And as Nouwen describes the funeral, what they chose to do was to take their son and to take his body exactly the way they had found it in the jail: naked, scarred by electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress that it was on in prison when they found it. It was the strongest protest imaginable, because it put the injustice of human sin on total display.
My dear brothers and sisters, that’s what happened on Good Friday. The Cross in all it’s ugliness, exposed the world and exposed our hearts for what they are breeding grounds for violence and injustice; for arrogance and pride; yes, for sexual sin and immorality; for moral cowardice, personal greed, and self-interest, and all else. The cross of Christ is offensive because it exposes and condemns our rebellion and rebelliousness.
But the other thing about the cross, the great thing about the cross if we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, is that in the mystery of God’s working on the cross, God at that moment in history, the judge of history, comes into history and absorbs the judgment upon himself. PT Forsyth put it this way: “The cross of Christ is God’s only self-justification in a world such as ours.” Karl Barth put it this way: “God, by the decree He made in the beginning of all his works and ways, has taken upon himself the rejection merited by the man isolated in relation to him.” Total exposure of human sin, total absorption of human rebellion, he himself has born our sins. God made him who knew no sin to be sin, brothers and sisters, so that in him we may be the righteousness of God. Do you believe that?
My last C. Not only the Christ, and not only the cross, but finally, and here I think I get to my most heartfelt cri de coeur about the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s about conversion for crying out loud. A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century in the Episcopal Church: The 1979 prayer book! The full theological measure of its ethos has yet to be completely felt but we are now at a place of enough distance from it to begin to reflect with each other about its real impact on our common life and if we do that, and very few people are doing it, the results are deeply disconcerting.
Think with me just for a second. A prayer book that has an underemphasis on God’s transcendence and holiness and judgment, combined with a very weak sense of sin, combined with a liturgical practice that actually makes confession of sin optional, combined with a strong emphasis on baptism, combined with a baptismal covenant which is decoupled from its trinitarian and scriptural mooring so that apparently the nearly everything I read in the Episcopal church what it actually means to be baptized ONLY is revealed the last two questions in the baptismal covenant: namely, loving your neighbor as yourself, and to striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being, combined with the predominant ethos of the American Episcopal Church which is liberal catholicism combined with the predominant ethos of America which is this weird post modern miasma of malnourished pluralism masking as real community, it leads to this, and I need to say this as clearly as I can: we have a theology in practice which moves straight from creation to redemption! A nearly universalistic or in fact completely universalistic worldview in which the fall and sin have in essence disappeared!! To be created in the Episcopal Church is apparently to be redeemed (at the most you need to be baptized) and so, think about this for just a second - what are the two most recent trends worthy of mention since Convention? Some people are arguing Gene Robinson was baptized, therefore he should be consecrated a bishop. It apparently trumps everything else. If you are baptized everything else follows, and then the even more important one which really flew under almost everybody’s radar screen, the huge growing practice in the Episcopal Church of open communion. So that at All Saints Pasadena the Rector gets up and says “who ever you are, where ever you are in your spiritual journey, I invite you to come forward for grace and consolation along the way.” Any reference to God the Father? Uh-uh. Any reference to God the Son? Gone. Any reference to the Holy Spirit? Nada. Now think about this for just a second.
Over against this barely Christian ethos, if you actually place what it means to have a biblical world view, you find yourself shocked, shocked because when you read the scriptures, Luke 19:10, the reason that the son of man came was to seek and to save the lost. God comes to Abraham and says, “Go to a lost world so that through you they will be blessed because they are not blessed now.” Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15 not one, not two, but three parables. The lost coin, and the lost sheep, and then–just incase we missed it–the lost son. And Paul can cry out in 2 Corinthians 5 “I beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” The overwhelming conviction of historic Christianity is: If you don’t have Christ you’re lost! Which is why number one on your sheet is to declare the great commission the first priority of our life and work. I don’t want to know when you come to see me whether you’re a good Episopalian, I want to know how many people in your parish have met Jesus Christ and are being transformed by His love.
One more Simeon story just about the lostness of the lost. I need to say this so strongly because it just is so rare in the Episcopal Church to see people that believe the way Simeon believed. I love this story. This is a first hand description of one of his sermons and the text on this particular day when Charles Simeon, a vicar at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Cambridge England, who lived from 1759-1836. Simeon is preaching and his text is “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people,” that is his text. Listen to this eyewitness description. “And after having urged all his hearer to accept God’s offer of mercy, he reminded them that there were those present to whom he had preached Christ for more than thirty years, but they continued indifferent to a Savior’s love; and pursuing this train of expostulation for some time, he at length became quite overpowered by his feelings, and sank down in the pulpit and burst into a flood of tears, and few who were present could refrain from weeping with him” When was the last time anyone of us really cried for the lostness of the lost who are all over our parishes and our lives. God cries. The gospel calls. Do we?
So what have I said? What I have said is that what it means to be an Anglican is to be a catholic, to be a charismatic, to canonical. What it means to be centered in the Anglican essentials is that we are about Christ and his cross and yes the call to conversion. And now I draw my remarks to a close. Because this word this afternoon brothers and sisters has to touch us where we really live and breathe.
You remember I started by talking about the fact that I believe that we are a church that is under judgment. Did you catch the word that I used? I didn’t say they are under judgment, I said we. It’s a real downer to hear what happened as our panel well described to us about what happened in Minneapolis. And there is a danger that we face as we begin our journey together and the danger is this.
Any sense that it is the re-appraisers, that’s the way that I like to
describe them, who are responsible primarily or even nearly exclusively for the pathetic state of affairs in which we find ourselves and our church has to be abandoned. All of Israel I remind you all this afternoon was under judgment in Jeremiah’s day and the whole Episcopal Church is under judgment including us.
The so-called orthodox, that’s us, have an enormous amount to answer for in this time. Our sins of compromise, timidity, denial, ignorance, careerism, self-interest, party spirit, the list is very long. So hear this afternoon, my brothers and sisters, the gospel for all of us. Hear it well, B. F. “Bird’ Paty in that football game, in a losing game, looked at the football dribbling around on the ground and he didn’t want to pick it up. And God’s message to us in recentering us is: We have dropped the ball!! We have lost our center as gospel people, as catholic, charismatic, canonical Anglican people. Not only have we lost our center, but hear this well; we do not even have the power to pick the ball back up left to ourselves. But dear sisters and brothers hear the good news of the Gospel this afternoon. The God who gave us the ball, who has watched us drop the ball, through the cross forgives us for dropping the ball and by the power of the Holy Spirit gives us back the ball.
Will you take the ball back up with me?
And finally you’ve heard that word used by David Roseberry, realignment. You are going to hear a lot about it. It is in our preliminary draft of the statement. And I need to say a clearly as I know how this afternoon why a realignment within Anglicanism is indispensably necessary. There has to be a new realignment, there has to be a new and different future.
At Minneapolis the Episcopal church decided to risk the whole future of the Anglican communion on this one vote, all four instruments of Anglican unity said don’t do it, many prominent Anglicans leaders worldwide pleaded for us not to do it, and we not only did it but we did it without consulting them. This is not catholic it will not stand.
At Minneapolis the Holy Spirit was grieved and a way of life which is in contradiction to holiness was celebrated and blessed, this is not charismatic it will not stand.
At Minneapolis, the Scriptures were either quickly dismissed or incredible and deliberately twisted, this decision is not canonical it will not stand.
Most importantly and finally, at Minneapolis, the will of the Father to draw all people to himself through the cross of his Son, get this now, was replaced with a new and different gospel where a therapeutic Jesus embraces people where they are. It is a gospel of affirmation rather than the gospel of salvation. We have moved from sinners in the hands of an angry God to clients in the palm of a satisfied therapist.
So the Episcopal Church is now a church where people are officially led away from Christ. And this is why we need a realignment. You’ve got to understand this. Because with the new gospel you and I who believe the traditional gospel are the embodiment of a call to holiness and believers in a gospel which those who believe the new teaching see as unjust and unchristian. We are enemies of the new gospel. Beware underneath the call to participate in the Episcopal Church from now on there is lurking a passionate desire among some to persecute many of those who disagree with this new teaching.
I was on the committee that put out C-051. I remember it well there were 45 of us. Guess what the vote was? 44 to 1. I remember it because I was the one. And there was an incredible moment at the end of Minneapolis which is the future in the Episcopal Church if we don’t have intervention. And to my utter amazement, having written a one-person minority report, which is my prerogative as a member of the committee, I watched person after person after person come to the microphone and insist that my one-person minority report be expunged from the record of the Episcopal Church. It was astounding. It was like being in a family that has an Uncle Steve and they are pretending that he doesn’t exist and they go through all the family albums and pull out his picture and go through all the family history and erase those sections where Steve is mentioned. That’s our future brothers and sisters if we don’t have help. We’ve got to have outside intervention. We haven’t moved anywhere. The church has moved from us.
Our hope is in asking for a realignment in a church were are increasing under attack with a total sense of our own powerlessness to shape the nature of our coming intervention, and that’s really good news because Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Are you re-centered with me brothers and sisters? Catholic, Charismatic, Canonical. We are going to be about Christ, and the cross, and conversion.
As we are seated, let us pray.
Lord, you are a great God and you have given us a great and astounding message. Re-center us, and enable us to be people who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and his cross, and who call others to conversion in His name by the power of the Holy Spirit. Forgive us Lord, for the ways that we have dropped the ball. We confess that we have dropped the ball Lord; we confess that we don’t have the power to pick the ball back up. Lord in your mercy, you, the God who gave us the ball in the first place and who watched us drop the ball. Give us back the ball Lord, by the power of your Holy Spirit, and bring us into the new and exciting and hopeful future that only you can give us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
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Professor Stephen Hawking has predicted that it could be possible to preserve a mind as powerful as his on a computer - but not with technology existing today....
Prof Hawking was speaking after the premiere of a new biopic about his life, which he narrates himself, at the Cambridge Film Festival.
Asked about whether a person's consciousness can live on after they die, he said: "I think the brain is like a programme in the mind, which is like a computer, so it's theoretically possible to copy the brain onto a computer and so provide a form of life after death.
"However, this is way beyond out present capabilities. I think the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark."
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Christian de Chergé was a Trappist monk who, with six of his monastic brothers, was killed in Algeria in 1996. The exact circumstances of their deaths remain disputed. They were abducted by a band of radical Islamists, in the midst of a horrendously violent period of civil-religious strife. Only their severed heads were subsequently recovered. To what degree did the Algerian army play a role in their deaths, and with what assistance from French security advisers, wittingly or unwittingly?
Rather, de Chergé gave his life as a reconciling gift thrown into the midst of the hostility and violence associated with antagonistic diversities. His was a witness made quintessentially within our late modern culture of fragmented “globalized” hopelessness....
Christian Salenson’s Christian de Chergé: A Theology of Hope (a translation of the 2009 French original) follows in step with the temper of the times, and takes up the [interest in the] Christian-Muslim... [angle of his thought]. Although this approach has its limitations, the volume, in all of its austere precision and accessibility, is of the highest quality, and deserves to be read as a necessary introduction to de Chergé’s thought. SRead it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books * International News & Commentary Africa Algeria Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Eschatology
....despite his national renown, he's a pastor at heart. Gentle, gracious, and filled with concern for his congregation, for over 25 years he's counseled his flock at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio through countless painful experiences—the marriage that's fallen apart, the 5-year-old who died in a car accident, the war vet burned from head to toe in Afghanistan. These experiences led to his latest book, You'll Get Through This: Hope and Help For Your Turbulent Times, an extended reflection on suffering, pain, and hope based on Joseph's story in Genesis. Jeff Haanen, executive director of Denver Institute for Faith & Work, spoke with Lucado on living through tragedy, a theology of suffering, and the hopefulness that flows from trusting in God's sovereignty.
Why did you choose Joseph's story in Genesis as a basis for your book?
Well, I've been pastoring for a long time—over 30 years—and I've found myself wanting to give people a real hope-filled message that they can consider during tough times of their lives.
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At 45, Laura Sweet has thrown plenty of dinner parties. The routine has become familiar: Pick a date, email invites, fire up a few favorite dishes, pour some wine and let the conversations flow.
But for the former hospice volunteer who lives in Walnut Creek, Calif., the dinner she'll host in her apartment on Saturday is bound to stand out....
The meal's theme: death.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Dieting/Food/Nutrition Life Ethics Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology
Our world is fascinated with zombies. From revisionist writings in adult literature like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to children's books such as Zombiekins, from television dramas of The Walking Dead to major motion pictures like the recent World War Z, as well as quasi-zombies — Boggans — in children's films like Epic, not to mention the plethora of zombie video games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, our society is captivated by the undead.
What drives this zombie-filled imagination? What is its philosophical and theological import? Perhaps it is just good science fiction. Maybe it is the fear of chemical warfare, concerns of which flood our commercial media and public broadcasts. But why has this new genre of literature and film so mightily fixed our gaze upon the printed page and illuminated screens? Are we all worried about rampant cannibalism; being devoured by insatiable creatures, stoppable only by a "deadly" blow to the head? Or have we simply run out of other good reasons to give Brat Pitt a heroic leading role?
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If popular culture shapes how 21st-century people understand the afterlife, then some literature and movies are more helpful — and truer to the Bible — than others. Perhaps a guide can help sift the wheat from the chaff.
Greg Garrett, 51, a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church and a professor of English at Baylor University, hopes to provide such guidance in Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Literature and Culture.
The book, scheduled for 2014 by Oxford University Press, explores how popular ideas of heaven, hell, and purgatory are shaped by what we watch, what we read, and what we’ve derived from religious traditions.
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A song about ascending to heaven written by a dying 18-year-old, has gotten 7.7 million YouTube hits and at one point reached No. 1 on the iTunes music charts.
Zach Sobiech, who died in late May, wrote the farewell song “Clouds” as an ode, in part, to his unwavering faith in God.
He is remembered for providing hope to people around the world, many of them facing similar situations.
Read it all and there is a link to the song provided at the bottom of the story.
In the book you emphasize three interrelated themes: (1) God as Lord; (2) human beings as God's image bearers; and (3) the place in which God's rule is exercised. Could you elaborate on the meaning and significance of this third idea of "place"?
God didn't create us as ethereal beings to float in some kind of spiritual netherworld. He created us as flesh-and-blood creatures to live in the world he formed and to rule that world for him. Adam and Eve as God's vice-regents, dependent on him, were to rule the garden for his glory. They failed, of course, and the story of God reclaiming the world began (Gen. 3:15).
The story begins with baby steps and progresses at an incredibly slow pace. When God calls Abraham, he promises him universal blessing but begins by pledging the land of Canaan. But Abraham and his immediate heirs never possess the land. They live as exiles and sojourners in it (Heb. 11:13). Hundreds of years pass before Joshua conquers Canaan and the promise of the land is realized. Finally, Israel is poised to extend God's kingdom to the world. I don't have time to tell the whole story here, but Israel fails miserably and ends up going into exile. The promise is going backward!
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It’s been almost 40 years since Dr. Ernest Becker published his Pulitzer Prize-winning study, The Denial of Death. Unlike Becker, three recent books do not attribute the denial of death to more or less universal psychological mechanisms. They lay death’s denial at the feet of sociological and technological developments characteristic of the modern world. Nevertheless, they agree with Becker on one basic point: American society lives in denial that we all die. Further, all three agree that churches have colluded with — perhaps have even been captured by — this pervasive habit of avoidance. All three authors have had scrapes with death, which drove them from denial. In response, each has issued a call to churches to reclaim their ministry to the dying....
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It is God who governs our existence, and it is hope and not disappointment that defines who we are as the people of God.....--Read it all.
We are resurrection people, and so we encounter our mistakes, not as lost opportunities, not as wrong turns that have led us off course, but as a part of an unavoidable process God is working in us and in the world.
We are resurrection people, and so we look out into the world, not as disappointed judges of the failings of society, but as the hopeful trusting people of the God whose plans will not be thwarted.
We are resurrection people who, like an expectant mother, know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us, because we are a people with a reason to hope.
Don't be afraid to talk about death and funerals, advises the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, writing in support of Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May 2013), at http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/medical-ethics-health-social-care-policy/dying-matters-end-of-life-care.aspx.
Bishop James, the Chair of the Churches Funeral Group, said: "…This week encourages us all to think about how we approach the prospect of our own death and that of those closest to us; it is good and healthy to talk about these things together…"
Dying Matters, a broad-based and inclusive national coalition of 28,000 members, including the Church of England, aims to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards dying, death and bereavement.
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Cemeteries and even some mosques have refused to take his body. His city, Cambridge, has urged family members to bury him elsewhere. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez and local talk radio host Dan Rae want him dumped in the ocean, like Osama bin Laden. Clergy have largely kept mum.
“The only signs of people who are showing some sort of moral conscience are those few who stand with a card near the funeral home saying (burial) is a corporal work of mercy,” said James Keenan, a moral theologian at Boston College. “To say, ‘we won’t bury him’ makes us barbaric. It takes away mercy, the trademark of Christians. … I’m talking about this because somebody should.”
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Watch it all (just over 1 minute long). Short, provocative and helpful I thought--KSH.
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Filed under: * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Theology: Scripture
Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.
--The Great Divorce, Chapter 11
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Pastor Rick Warren will join Ed Stetzer on his webshow, "The Exchange," Tuesday afternoon to talk about his 27-year-old son's suicide earlier this month.
Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, will host The Exchange live from the Exponential church planting conference in Orlando, Fla., where Warren had been scheduled to lead two Bible studies.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif., agreed to an interview with Stetzer about what pastors need to know about grief in their congregations, how his son's death has changed him and what church leaders can do to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness.
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Read it all from the Independent. There are two pieces, one for and one against.
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Paul’s statement of priority is a vital corrective for our confused times. Without hesitation, Paul writes with urgency about the truths that are “as of first importance.” All revealed truth is vital, invaluable, life-changing truth to which every disciple of Christ is fully accountable. But certain truths are of highest importance, and that is the language Paul uses without qualification.
And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith. Without these, there is no good news — no salvation.
Paul gets right to the heart of the matter in setting out those truths that are “of first importance.” Following his example, we can do no less. These twin truths remain “as of first importance,” and no sermon is complete without the explicit affirmation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So it was then, so it is now, and so it ever shall be until Christ claims his church.
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