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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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Rather than focusing on zombies as campy characters in B-movies, our sermon series reimagined zombies in a more symbolic way. Zombies became the bad ideas that have popped up at various misguided moments in the church’s history and, for whatever reason, can’t seem to die off. They keep coming back and, in some cases, exert a kind of stranglehold on the life of Christians and the ministry of the church.
And the way we fight off these zombies is with better ideas — with good, solid theology that reflects the grace of God, the compassion of Jesus and life of the Spirit.
During our six-week series, we exhumed and battled all kinds of zombies. One Sunday morning, we focused on belief. As Christians, does it matter what we believe? Most would answer in the affirmative. But are there times in the church’s life when Christian faith has become only about believing certain things to be true? Absolutely. Many de-churched folks can trace their journeys out of their congregations to the day that they stopped believing all of the fantastical things they were being asked to believe.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Christology
I found a divinity school…[where] we didn’t come to the Bible until about two weeks before commencement….[and as a result of my theological education]…during the first years of my ministry what I knew about God kept me from God….
[Later when I was reading I learned that] Rembrandt had a powerful painting on… [the subject of the raising of Lazarus in John 11], and it was quite obvious that Lazarus was not being raised in spirit only. The reanimated and bandaged corpse was realistically coming to life. Then I happened to turn to the back of the painting to see what the critic said of it. Critics have done much harm, but the words of that critic left there helped me into the Lord's bright blessing: “Rembrandt did everything he could think of to intensify the miracles of Christ.” I had intended to dampen their effect, but Rembrandt did everything he could think of to enhance them, to give them glory. For some reason those words of that unknown critic did me in. From then on, I too tried to do everything I could think of to intensify the effect of the miracles. When I turned that page, I changed sides….I had never raised my voice in.. [the] Presbyterian pulpit [in the parish where I served] before, but that day, since John said Jesus shouted, I shouted… [the words “Lazarus, Come out!”] as loudly as I could. And for the first time in my life someone asked me for a copy of my sermon.
--David Redding, Jesus Makes Me Laugh (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), pp.14-18, my emphasis
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian * Theology Christology Seminary / Theological Education Theology: Scripture
Aside from a pastor's personal weaknesses, what cultural forces make it harder for pastors to stay true in their calls?
We have a cultural tendency to elevate leaders. Maybe it's because they have an extraordinary education or a title or a position. Maybe it is because they have had a great deal of success in the growth of their church, or as an author or speaker. Whatever the reason, we're creating minigods in our minds and hearts. That creates expectations in leaders, and expectations are the foundations for disappointment.
What does that look like in a local church?
Maybe the pastor receives disproportionately large gifts compared to what's given to associates or other staff. Or the senior pastor is seen as the person that we all go to. It's people saying, "The pastor sat at my table," or, "The pastor was over at my house." As if the pastor is a movie star or sports figure.
I don't know how many times in Peacemakers' work, after coming in to help a church, I've heard elders say, "I wanted to say something, but I thought, Who am I?" We elevate pastors to a place where we feel they know so much more than we do, so we don't hold them accountable to some fundamental issues.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Maybe it's the waning light and earlier evenings as we head into winter. Or the book I just read on the effects of environmental toxins on fetal development and breast milk quality. Or the upcoming anniversary of the Newtown shootings. Whatever the reasons, as we enter Advent, I am increasingly aware of the darkness of this world into which I am bringing my child, due any day now.
It's a deeply disturbing realization. Welcome, little one, to a place where kids are shot in schools and on street corners, wars rage, and corporate interests often trump the common good. The things I see and hear about every day rattle my heart with worry.
Growing up with an overprotective mother, I told myself would never be that fearful and worried about my own children. Now, I realize it is only natural....
Read it all.
This Sunday we will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday (or "The Reign of Christ the King")! - It is the last Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Christian year. It is also the Sunday just prior to our entering into the holy season of Advent.
The observance of Christ the King Sunday is really a relatively new celebration. It was originally instituted by Pius XI, Bishop of Rome, for celebration on the last Sunday of October. However, after Vatican II, it was moved to its current location on the Christian calendar.
Read it all.
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.--C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt Brace, 1956), p.228
What must you do? If you suffer then you—or your friends and care-givers—must be keenly aware of these possibilities so you can move through them. Obviously, any afflicted person needs times of solitude, but isolation must ultimately be resisted. Suffering can make you more lonely or drive you into deeper community. Let it be the latter. And while all afflicted persons need to spend a great deal of time self-examining and healing, at some point they must face outward and think of others and love their neighbors and not think exclusively of themselves.
Even for Christians who understand the gospel, the feeling of condemnation can be a great challenge, but it is in the end a welcome one. We may think we believe we are saved by grace, but in times of difficulty we can finally learn to use the doctrine we know on our hearts, remembering that God’s wrath and punishment of our sin fell into the heart of Jesus, and now that we believe in him, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)
Our anger can be the greatest challenge of all. Again, the answer is to not merely believe gospel doctrine but use it.
Read it all.
In closing, permit me to highlight three areas of Simeon’s ministry which have greatly challenged me in my reflections and which, if we were to follow them, would have the potential to rejuvenate our ministry.
1 Giving priority to an effective devotional lifestyle, with a commitment to spending ‘quality’ time in Bible study and prayer.
2 A commitment to living a holy life, recognizing the need of the renewing and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
3 That, along with Simeon, our understanding of the purpose of our preaching would be: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ (John 12:21).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
The problem is that preachers and teachers of such messages are not telling us the whole truth. They are not giving us a full understanding of the Good News.
Proverbs is only half of wisdom. The other half is found in the Book of Job. And Ecclesiastes. And Jesus at Golgotha. The other part of wisdom—the deeper wisdom—centers on the folly of the Cross.
Not the Cross as a mere rest stop on the way to Resurrection. Not suffering as a means to an end. Not hardship that builds character and makes us better. That's more Proverbs wisdom and is true as far as it goes. That's the theology of glory—if we do this and that, and endure this and that with the right attitude, all will be well.
The theology of the Cross says that God is most deeply met in the suffering itself, not just on the other side of it. Forgiveness of sins is not found after the Cross, but in, with, and under the Cross. This is the "wisdom of the cross" (1 Cor. 1–2) that is folly to the world.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
REZA ASLAN (Author, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth): I think it’s incorrect to say that the followers of Jesus, and certainly the church fathers in the second and third centuries, changed Jesus’ message. I think that’s an incomplete statement. The fact of the matter is that Jesus’ message was in a constant state of change. Remember, none of these words were written down until, at the earliest, 70 A.D. That’s about 40 years after Jesus’ death when the first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, was written. And the Gospel of Mark was not written until after the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the period in which Judaism itself had become a kind of pariah religion, an illegitimate cult, in the Roman Empire. So, the Gospel writers at that point began this process that was really, in many ways, already underway, which was to sort of transform and redefine, reapply Jesus’ message, particularly for a non-Jewish audience. And so that process really continued until the middle of the fourth century, when, as a result of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, an attempt was made to actually create a sense of orthodoxy. But really, up until that point, you can’t say that there was any such thing as Christianity. What we really see is Christianities, in fact, many, many dozens of versions of it.
I’ve had a unique experience with Jesus, both as a worshipper and as a scholar studying him. I feel like it’s given me a different kind of perspective. On the one hand, knowing what it is to worship Jesus has given me a profound sense of respect for the faith of Christianity....
Read or watch and listen to it all.
Listen to it all if you so desire.
Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Theology: Scripture
Since its 2004 release, Ms. [Sarah] Young’s “Jesus Calling,” a collection of 365 short daily “devotionals” interlaced with Bible passages, has sold nine million copies in 26 languages. In the first half of 2013, it outsold “Fifty Shades of Grey.” She has written two follow-up devotionals, as well as tie-in books for children and teenagers and a “Jesus Calling"-themed Bible.
Most impressive is that Ms. Young has become a lucrative brand while granting almost no interviews and making no author appearances. Hobbled by Lyme disease and other health problems, she mostly sticks close to home. There are almost no public photographs of her, and she will not talk by telephone....
The October issue of Christianity Today, which is like the People magazine for evangelical Christians, contains a long article that seems to float the possibility that Ms. Young’s writings are heretical, and quotes several theologians who have concerns.
Read it all.
The omission of the filioque clause in the draft text also spoke to the disproportionate number of Anglo-Catholic and philo-Orthodox bishops and organizations within the ACNA’s organizational structure.
Like the Episcopal Church, the ACNA’s appeared to be in thrall to enthusiasts. Special interest groups who are dedicated to a particular cause have often been able to press their agenda onto the wider church. Changing the Episcopal Church’s teaching on abortion, the Book of Common Prayer, women clergy and homosexuality was driven by dedicated special interest groups -- not by mass appeal.
The filioque controversy has been discussed within Anglican circles for about 125 years. However interest in this topic had been a highest among Anglo-Catholics who had sought to justify a non-Roman type of Catholicism by an appeal to the Eastern church.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship * Theology Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Read it all.
The most important goal in comparative theology is to create a symmetrical model, that is, a structure that compares the traditions of each faith without misrepresenting or idealizing one over the other. This is perhaps the greatest challenge to anyone who does comparative studies, and in this case there are some instances where more fruitful comparisons could have been made. One of the asymmetrical comparisons in this book comes from the use of sources. On the one hand, academic debates about Christology by pluralists (including non-Christians) are portrayed as if they were normative for Christianity. Yet their views are compared with traditional Islamic thinkers. In another instance, the book gives a detailed historical-critical assessment of Jesus but nothing about the historical Muhammad. Eliminating these skeptical analyses of Jesus, or adding them for Muhammad, would actually put the two figures in closer symmetry.
One value to Siddiqui’s book is its honest Islamic inquiry into the relationship of Islam to Christianity. We need more Muslims making honest attempts to understand Christianity. Reading Christian sources and taking them actually to mean what they say is an important step in entering dialogue. This attitude is taken for granted in Western cultures, but it needs to be taught at the popular level in the Islamic world, where polemics still pervade the mindset of religious communities. Finally, Siddiqui’s book is welcome because it encourages Muslims to read the Bible in order to understand the context of their own scripture. Siddiqui’s analysis of the Bible and what Christians believe is important, despite some analytical asymmetries. Instead of repeating polemical mantras of the past, Siddiqui has put forward a book demonstrating that Muslims and Christians are in dialogue. Books like this should be encouraged from academia and the wider Islamic community.
Read it all.
The little-reported fact is that TEC has filed more than 80 lawsuits seeking to seize the property of individual parishes and dioceses that left the denomination. TEC itself has admitted to spending more than $22 million on its legal action. These efforts have largely succeeded when TEC attempts to seize the property of individual parishes. Parishes across the country have been evicted from their churches.
TEC’s policy is simple and punitive: No one who leaves TEC may buy the seized church buildings. In several cases where TEC has succeeded in seizing a church, it has evicted the congregation and shuttered the building. In some cases, the church has been handed over to remnant groups that remained loyal to TEC. In other cases, the church has been sold to another religious group.
However, TEC has had less success with the lawsuits it has filed against dioceses. Recently, an Illinois Circuit Court judge decided that TEC had no grounds to seize the endowment funds of the Diocese of Quincy. The Texas Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision supporting TEC over the separated Diocese of Fort Worth. And in South Carolina, a federal district court judge decided that the Circuit Court of South Carolina is the proper court to decide the fate of our property, upsetting TEC’s efforts to get the case heard by the federal judiciary.
Read it all from the Charleston Mercury, or alternatively here if that link does not work for you.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * South Carolina * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
When I was a small boy, I attended church every Sunday at a big Gothic Presbyterian bastion in Chicago. The preaching was powerful and the music was great. But for me, the most awesome moment in the morning service was the offertory, when twelve solemn, frock-coated ushers marched in lock-step down the main aisle to receive the brass plates for collecting the offering. These men, so serious about their business of serving the Lord in this magnificent house of worship, were the business and professional leaders of Chicago. One of the twelve ushers was a man named Frank Loesch. He was not a very imposing looking man, but in Chicago he was a living legend, for he was the man who had stood up to Al Capone. In the prohibition years, Capone's rule was absolute. The local and state police and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation were afraid to oppose him. But singlehandedly, Frank Loesch, as a Christina layman and without any government support, organized the Chicago Crime Commission, a group of citizens who were determined to take Mr. Capone to court and put him away. During the months that the Crime Commission met, Frank Loesch's life was in constant danger. There were threats on the lives of his family and friends. But he never wavered. Ultimately he won the case against Capone and was the instrument for removing this blight from the city of Chicago. Frank Loesch had risked his life to live out his faith. Each Sunday at this point of the service, my father, a Chicago businessman himself, never failed to poke me and silently point to Frank Loesch with pride. Sometime I'd catch a tear in my father's eye. For my dad and for all of us this was and is what authentic living is all about.--Bruce Larson, There's a Lot More to Health than Not Being Sick (Garden Grove, California: Cathedral Press, 1981), pp. 55-56 and also quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
...lastly, if I want another argument to make you good soldiers, remember your Captain, the Captain whose wounded hands and pierced feet are tokens of His love to you. Redeemed from going down tothe pit, what can you do sufficiently to show your gratitude? Assured of eternal Glory by-and-by, how can you sufficiently prove that you feel your indebtedness? Up, I pray you! By Him whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and yet were wet with tears—by Him on whose head are many crowns, and who yet wore the crown of thorns—by Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, and yet bowed His head to death for you—resolve that to life’s latest breath you will spend and be spent for His praise. The Lord grant that there may be many such in this Church—good sold iers of Jesus Christ.Read it all (cited by yours truly in yesterday's sermon).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Christology
The Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, is a smiler.
He loves to laugh, and those who know him best say he can tell a joke with the best of them.
But there is one form of humor that always puts a frown on his face.
“I don’t like jokes that are hateful toward any one group, especially jokes that are hateful toward a religious group,” he said. “In my baptismal covenant I pledged that I would ‘work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.’ Statements of hate, regardless of who they are generated against or how humorously they are intended, are not part of what it means to me to be faithful as an Episcopalian. So I say, don’t do it.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Culture-Watch Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Mormons * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
"Communication is evangelism...."
Ugh. Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
It is not enough to claim "We say the Nicene Creed every Sunday" as evidence of Christian belief. One must ask the deeper question, "What exactly do you mean by the words you are reciting?" Episcopalians have embraced the postmodern spirit of the age in an attempt to be relevant to the culture. In doing so they have changed the core beliefs of Christian faith at the very roots. This revision then becomes a pseudo Christianity, which is radically opposed to the original. The two cannot be reconciled by simply saying, "Let's all be friends." We no longer worship the same God.
As Anglicans, we are unwilling to compromise the traditional expression of Christian faith. When we separated from the Episcopal Church, Bishop Schofield freely gave deeds to the properties of all churches which wished to remain Episcopal. Four months later those same churches joined together in a lawsuit to take all the Anglican properties as well. All attempts to find an amicable settlement have been rebuffed by the Episcopal Church.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
[Speaking earlier this month David Cameron]... said: ‘I’m a Christian and I’m an active member of the Church of England, and like all Christians I think I sometimes struggle with some of the sayings and some of the instructions.
‘But what I think is so good about Jesus’s teachings is there are lots of things that he said that you can still apply very directly to daily life and to bringing up your children.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
"It was hard to know where to start after my last album. The song Blessings started as a diary entry and God blew us away by using it in the lives of so many around the world. And as I began to write for my new project "God of Every Story", I went back to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord, and honesty -- with myself. The path God has led our family down is not one I would have chosen for myself. It has been much harder than I had envisioned, yet it has required deeper faith than I ever thought myself capable of. And that's what God of every story is really about: It’s trusting that the same God who orchestrates the rising and the setting of the sun each day pays the same attention to every detail of my life. It’s believing that at the end of the day, we will look back on this amazing God story that is my life and view it as a beautiful sunset, where the blues and reds, the laughter and tears, all meld together to show the faithfulness of God in a way that makes us stand in applause."
"God of Every Story" is a collection of songs about where God's love and grace intersect with our real life situations. It’s about God working all things together for good and love always winning. It’s a celebration of God's faithfulness, even when we don't always understand His plan this side of heaven. Yet we praise Him because He is the keeper of the stars, the One who holds all things together and always, always, deserves our worship.
Read it all (note there is an excerpt from one of her new songs if you wish to listen) and you can find a Godtube interview to watch there.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Music Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Richard Ascough, professor of religious studies at Queen’s University, told me that, “From what I can see, Aslan accepts as historical the passages that fit his construction of Jesus and discards the ones that don’t, which results in a book that is historically suspect, as are most other [Jesus] books that have gone before it.”
Prof. [Reza] Aslan told The Washington Post that the criticism came from his having a foot in both creative writing and religion. “I like to go back and forth,” he acknowledged....He might as well have said, “Welcome to the bricolage of life!” Bricolage is that cultural trend to create a self-satisfying mosaic of our interests....Aslan is now a Muslim, but certainly a hard-core self-definer, inventing his own boundaries. “It’s not that I think Islam is correct and Christianity is incorrect,” he told the Post. “It’s that all religions are nothing more than a language made up of symbols and metaphors to help an individual explain faith.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Christology
We read in the gospel that when the Lord was teaching his disciples and urged them to share in his passion by the mystery of eating his body, some said: This is a hard saying, and from that time they no longer followed him. When he asked the disciples whether they also wished to go away, they replied: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
I assure you, my brothers, that even to this day it is clear to some that the words which Jesus speaks are spirit and life, and for this reason they follow him. To others these words seem hard, and so they look elsewhere for some pathetic consolation. Yet wisdom cries out in the streets, in the broad and spacious way that leads to death, to call back those who take this path.
--Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Catholic theologians speak of a “hierarchy of truths,” a phrase found in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio, 11). This concept does not mean that some truths are truer than others, or that the Catholic faithful are free to pick and choose among the teachings of their church as they please. It means, rather, that in the economy of divine revelation, more theological weight, as it were, is given to those teachings that relate directly to the foundational truths of the Christian faith. This point is similar to the distinction Thomas Aquinas makes between some articles of faith which are as such secundum se and others in ordine ad alia (ST 2-2, q.1, a.6). (See the excellent study by the Capuchin scholar William Henn, “The Hierarchy of Truths Twenty Years Later,” Theological Studies 48, .)
In this vein, I would like to propose a “hierarchy of ecclesial realities.” What do I mean by this? While I recognize myself as a Protestant, an Evangelical, and a Baptist, none of those labels defines my spiritual and ecclesial identity at the most basic level. Being an evangelical Protestant, a Baptist, indeed a Southern Baptist, are all important markers of my place within the community of faith, but there is a more primary confession I must make: I am a trinitarian Christian who by the grace of God belongs to the whole company of the redeemed through the ages, those who are “very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ” (Book of Common Prayer).
Far from being a new construal, this way of putting things goes to the very heart of what it means to be a genuine Protestant, a true Evangelical, and an authentic Baptist.
Read it all.
The most disappointing thing about the fanfare accorded to a book like Zealot is not that it will undermine the Christian faith (it will not); even less that it poses a challenge to the consensus of working scholars (it certainly does not). It is that it chips away at the public's confidence in history per se.
For a brief moment, Reza Aslan will be heralded as a breakthrough author. In a month or so, some other theory, equally unsubstantiated and certainly contradictory, will get the same kind of airtime. Such works are generally ignored by working scholars, who tend to be suspicious of anything that bypasses the peer review process.
The general public, however, over time experiences breakthrough fatigue - an increasing contempt coupled with a decreasing curiosity toward any new claim about the man from Nazareth. The net effect is a weary scepticism that we can know anything about the historical Jesus or about history at all.
Read it all.
Mona Siddiqui, a professor at Edinburgh University’s school of divinity, makes no secret of the various strains of thought that inform her study of Christians, Muslims and Jesus. Parts of her book are rigorously academic and arcane, other parts are very personal. Unlike Mr Aslan, she does not confine her meditations on her own faith to an introduction. Rather, she ambitiously weaves her personal and scholarly views throughout.
She presents certain basic facts: Muslims revere Jesus as a uniquely inspired prophet who was born of the Virgin Mary, ascended to heaven and will come again. Yet Muslims cannot accept that Jesus was the son of God. This, they believe, reflects a flawed view of both Jesus and God. As Ms Siddiqui shows, Christians and Muslims sparred with one another intensely during the early centuries after Islam’s rise, with each side vying to be the ultimate revelation of God. But the two faiths did at least grudgingly acknowledge one another as monotheistic, despite Islam’s firm rejection of the Christian view of God as a trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Christology
We fear being sued, finishing last, going broke; we fear the mole on the back, the new kid on the block, the sound of the clock as it ticks us closer to the grave. We sophisticate investment plans, create elaborate security systems, and legislate stronger military, yet we depend on mood altering drugs more than any other generation in history. Moreover, “ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s.”--Max Luxado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear (Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp.5-6 ; quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon
Fear, it seems, has taken a hundred-year lease on the building next door and set up shop. Oversize and rude, fear is unwilling to share the heart with happiness. Happiness complies and leaves. Do you ever see the two together? Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Clear thinking and afraid? Confident and afraid? Merciful and afraid? No. Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and unproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.
Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.
Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?
Imagine your life wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, and doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, absent the dread of failure, rejection, and calamity. Can you imagine a life with no fear? This is the possibility behind Jesus’ question.
“Why are you afraid?” he asks (Matt. 8:26 ncv).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Books * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
In its passion to pursue a progressive theological paradigm embracing cultural sensitivity (inclusiveness) and intellectual freedom, TEC cast aside fundamental Christian doctrines, professing, among other things:
* Jesus was not born of a virgin, was not God incarnate, and his resurrection is questionable at best;
* Man needs enlightenment, not salvation; we are to reconcile ourselves with one another, not with God;
* Scripture is not authoritative nor the revealed word of God, but rather metaphorical.
Simply put, Anglicans left TEC because of their faithfulness to the fundamental and historical Christian foundation that the Holy Scriptures are the final authority of its faith.
The tragic fallout of this split is multifaceted. A lady I have known and worshipped with for 30 years approached me, saying homosexuals were not welcome at St. Paul's. I was taken aback by her misconception. I reminded her that on every Sunday, the priest who is celebrating Holy Communion invites "all baptized Christians as being welcome here at the Lord's table." Not blessing same sex unions is an unrelated issue.
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Go to the audio archive here and set the player to begin at 13:11 (it goes until 16:57). Only out of the mouths of babes. You couldn't make this up if you tried. Listen to it all--KSH.
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Writer and scholar Reza Aslan was 15 years old when he found Jesus. His secular Muslim family had fled to the U.S. from Iran, and Aslan's conversion was, in a sense, an adolescent's attempt to fit into American life and culture. "My parents were certainly surprised," Aslan tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
As Aslan got older, he began his studies in the history of Christianity, and he started to lose faith. He came to the realization that Jesus of Nazareth was quite different from the Messiah he'd been introduced to at church. "I became very angry," he says. "I became resentful. I turned away from Christianity. I began to really reject the concept of Christ."
But Aslan continued his Christian scholarship, and he found that he was increasingly interested in Jesus as a historical figure. The result is his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth — a historical look at Jesus in the context of his time and Jewish religion, and against the backdrop of the Roman Empire.
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I find joy in every day, not because life is always good, but because God is.
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[The]...Rev Matthew Reed from the Children’s Society writes that the Church of England, which is so deeply embedded in our communities, could be the ‘transformational agency’ in our nation. As a church we are incredibly well-equipped to help change not just the lives of children living in poverty, but the society which currently prevents so many children from flourishing. ‘This is our time,’ he writes; I share this conviction.
For me, two things are now needed. First, we must be confident in our faith that Christ is the source of all goodness. So it’s necessary for us to develop our own personal spirituality, as well as our communal spirituality, so that this encounter with Jesus is driving our understanding of what is right and good. The other is that we need to be confident, but also gracious and wise in how we share that knowledge – so that we influence society in a way that people can hear, rather by the succumbing to the (all too human) temptation to try convincing people with our words alone, rather than our actions.
I am more optimistic about the Church than I have been at any other time in my life. Something is shifting; a spiritual hunger is starting to emerge. In so many ways this is an extremely difficult time for us as a society. But is it also a great opportunity to show people who Jesus is by how we live our lives.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology
While listening to a fiery preacher of the gospel I observed three young men in their thirties just to my right giggling at and mocking the preacher’s insistence that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Here was my opportunity.
They were Muslims, and soon we were talking about how Jesus could be both the Son of God and at the same time one with the Father. I asked them if they had read the Injeel, the Arabic word for the Gospels, since Mohammed said that Jesus was a prophet and that God had given us the Gospels. “Ah, but the Injeel has been corrupted,” they said. “But why if God is all powerful would he have allowed his word to be corrupted?” I asked them. No answer.
Our conversation ranged on a wide variety of subjects including Jihad (they insisted that those who interpreted Jidad violently were not “real” Muslims), suicide bombers (again they were not real Muslims), and whether those who followed Jesus caused wars or believed in turning the other cheek. When I turned my cheek and asked one of them to hit me, they all smiled (as did I), but they knew I meant it.
- See more at: http://www.stmichaelschurch.net/my-muslim-encounter-in-london/#sthash.EQYEeald.dpuf
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What is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life. I think of the beginning of the Book of Genesis: God fashions man out of the dust of the earth; he breathes in his nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living being (cf. 2:7). God is the source of life; thanks to his breath, man has life. God’s breath sustains the entire journey of our life on earth. I also think of the calling of Moses, where the Lord says that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. When he sends Moses to Pharaoh to set his people free, he reveals his name: "I am who I am", the God who enters into our history, sets us free from slavery and death, and brings life to his people because he is the Living One. I also think of the gift of the Ten Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions – you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great "Yes!": a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled in God alone, because only he is the Living One!....
Today’s Gospel brings us another step forward. Jesus allows a woman who was a sinner to approach him during a meal in the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her sins, saying: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God, the one who brings life amid so many deeds of death, amid sin, selfishness and self-absorption.
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A bird flew out at the break of day
From the nest where it had curled,
And ere the eve the bird had set
Fear on the kings of the world.
The first tree it lit upon
Was green with leaves unshed;
The second tree it lit upon
Was red with apples red;
The third tree it lit upon
Was barren and was brown,
Save for a dead man nailed thereon
On a hill above a town.
That night the kings of the earth were gay
And filled the cup and can;
Last night the kings of the earth were chill
For dread of a naked man.
‘If he speak two more words,’ they said,
‘The slave is more than the free;
If he speak three more words,’ they said,
‘The stars are under the sea.’
Said the King of the East to the King of the West,
I wot his frown was set,
‘Lo, let us slay him and make him as dung,
It is well that the world forget.’
Said the King of the West to the King of the East,
I wot his smile was dread,
‘Nay, let us slay him and make him a god,
It is well that our god be dead.’
They set the young man on a hill,
They nailed him to a rod;
And there in darkness and in blood
They made themselves a god.
And the mightiest word was left unsaid,
And the world had never a mark,
And the strongest man of the sons of men
Went dumb into the dark.
Then hymns and harps of praise they brought,
Incense and gold and myrrh,
And they thronged above the seraphim,
The poor dead carpenter.
‘Thou art the prince of all,’ they sang,
‘Ocean and earth and air.’
Then the bird flew on to the cruel cross,
And hid in the dead man’s hair.
‘Thou art the son of the world.’ they cried, `
‘Speak if our prayers be heard.’
And the brown bird stirred in the dead man’s hair
And it seemed that the dead man stirred.
Then a shriek went up like the world’s last cry
From all nations under heaven,
And a master fell before a slave
And begged to be forgiven.
They cowered, for dread in his wakened eyes
The ancient wrath to see;
And a bird flew out of the dead Christ’s hair,
And lit on a lemon tree.
--G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Listen here if you wish.
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....the bridegroom rejoices to revisit the heart’s chamber when He finds it adorned with fruits and decked with flowers—that is, meditating on the mystery of His Passion or on the glory of His Resurrection.
The tokens of the Passion we recognize as the fruitage of the ages of the past, appearing in the fullness of time during the reign of sin and death (Gal. 4.4). But it is the glory of the Resurrection, in the new springtime of regenerating grace, that the fresh flowers of the later age come forth, whose fruit shall be given without measure at the general resurrection, when time shall be no more. And so it is written, ‘The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth’ (Cant. 2.11 f); signifying that summer has come back with Him who dissolves icy death into the spring of a new life and says, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev. 21.5). His Body sown in the grave has blossomed in the Resurrection (I Cor. 15.42); and in like manner our valleys and fields which were barren or frozen, as if dead, glow with reviving life and warmth.
The Father of Christ who makes all things new, is well pleased with the freshness of those flowers and fruits, and the beauty of the field which breathes forth such heavenly fragrance; and He says in benediction, ‘See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed’ (Gen. 27.27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed, since of His fullness have all we received (John 1.16). But the Bride may come when she pleases and gather flowers and fruits therewith to adorn the inmost recesses of her conscience; that the Bridegroom when He cometh may find the chamber of her heart redolent with perfume.
So it behoves us, if we would have Christ for a frequent guest, to fill our hearts with faithful meditations on the mercy He showed in dying for us, and on His mighty power in rising again from the dead. To this David testified when he sang, ‘God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same; that power belongeth unto God; and that Thou, Lord, art merciful (Ps. 62.11f). And surely there is proof enough and to spare in that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and ascended into heaven that He might protect us from on high, and sent the Holy Spirit for our comfort. Hereafter He will come again for the consummation of our bliss. In His Death He displayed His mercy, in His Resurrection His power; both combine to manifest His glory.
--Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), On Loving God, Chapter III
This coming Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, and parishes around the world have a vital decision to make: Do we extinguish the Paschal Candle on Ascension Day or on Pentecost?
This question may sound like a liturgist's version of the game, Trivial Pursuit, but there is an important biblical and theological lesson to be learned....
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Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.--Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64
But then the Lord asks, “Do you love me?” It seems an odd question for Jesus to ask. We can’t help but wonder if some redactor got it wrong. Or perhaps some failure in communication may have taken place; someone must have misheard Jesus’ conversation with Peter. It was probably the person who counted the fish. We are not even sure we can trust John to have gotten it right. The disciples have been with the resurrected Jesus, but they go on fishing? They go back to the ordinary life they had prior to following Jesus? It seems unimaginable.
Moreover, Jesus is not supposed to ask Peter -- or us -- to love him. His job is to love us. In spite of our failures to be faithful disciples, in spite of our confusions about what it means to be Christian, in spite of our prideful presumption that we are our own creator, in spite of our sins, Jesus is supposed to love us.
Is that not the heart of the gospel? -- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” This passage from John seems to have gotten off script; we are to be assured of Jesus’ love for us, and not the other way around....
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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: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Anthropology Christology Theology: Scripture
Tony DeLLomo is on a mission from God.
In a hard-to-miss motor home covered with biblical passages, “Jesus is God” signs and an offer of a free Bible, DeLLomo has been spreading the Gospel by parking in high-traffic spots throughout central Florida.
“It’s all to glorify God,” DeLLomo said while wearing a sleeveless, white hooded sweatshirt with “Jesus is King” in red letters.
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For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us Acts 17:27 before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what was come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how by little and little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery—lest the creature should perish, and His Father's handiwork in men be spent for nought—He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father—doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.--Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word
Small wonder, given the harrowing times recently, that news about a long-running property fight over a picturesque church in northern Virginia escaped most people’s notice. But the story of the struggle over the historic Falls Church is nonetheless worth a closer look. It’s one more telling example of a little-acknowledged truth: though religious traditionalism may be losing today’s political and legal battles, it remains poised to win the wider war over what Christianity will look like tomorrow.
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A worldly Church is a weak Church. The only way to stop this from happening is to entrust the Church to the Lord through constant prayer. This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily during Mass Tuesday morning, celebrated with staff from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, also known as APSA. Emer McCarthy reports:
"We can safeguard the Church, we can cure the Church, no? We do so with our work, but what’s most important is what the Lord does : He is the only One who can look into the face of evil and overcome it. The prince of the world comes but can do nothing against me: if we don’t want the prince of this world to take the Church into his hands, we must entrust it to the One who can defeat the prince of this world. Here the question arises: do we pray for the Church, for the entire Church? For our brothers and sisters whom we do not know, everywhere in the world? It is the Lord's Church and in our prayer we say to the Lord: Lord, look at your Church ... It' s yours. Your Church is [made up of ] our brothers and sisters. This is a prayer that must come from our heart".
Then, Pope Francis remarked that "it is easy to pray for the grace of the Lord", "to thank Him" or when "we need something." But it is fundamental that we also pray to the Lord for all, for those who have "received the same Baptism," saying "they are Yours, they are ours, watch over them".
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A little while back I was in an online chat and was asked this question--do you have a recent sermon you have preached on (the doctirne of) justification? The person with whom I was chatting was in a theological argument with his brother on the topic. I had to think for a while, and found the following one that fits the bill. You can obtain the sermon here (it even comes with an outline)--KSH.
Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Anthropology Christology Theology: Scripture
This gospel is one of the most notable that a man can find in the New Testament, and worthy to be commended with all kinds of commendation. But as it is not possible that a man should sufficiently express this sermon of Christ by words ; first let us call unto God, that he will expound these words more plainly in our hearts, than we can by our words and interpretation, and that he will enkindle them, and make them so plain, that our conscience may receive comfort and peace thereby. Amen.
The pith of this excellent sermon is, that God so greatly loved the world, that he delivered his only begotten Son for it, that we men should not die, but have everlasting life. And first let us see who is the giver. He is the Giver, in respect of whom all princes and kings, with all their gifts, are nothing in comparison. And our hearts might worthily be lifted up and exalted with a godly pride, since we have such a giver, so that all who should come unto us by any other liberality, might be counted of no price in comparison of this. For what can be set before us that is more magnificent and excellent than God almighty. Here God, who is infinite and unspeakable, gives after such a manner as passes also all things. For that which he gives, he gives not as wages of desert, or for a recompense, but, as the words sound, of mere love. Wherefore this gift wholly proceeds of God's exceeding and divine benevolence and goodness, as he saith, God loved the world. There is no greater virtue than love, as it may hereby be well understood, that when we love anything, we will not hesitate to put our life in danger for it. Verily, great virtues are patience, chastity, sobriety, &c., but yet they are nothing to be compared with this virtue, which comprises and includes within itself all other virtues. A good man does no man wrong, he gives every man his own ; but by love, men give their own selves to others, and are ready with all their heart to do all that they can for them. So Christ saith here also, that God gives to us, not by right or merit, but by this great virtue, that is by love.
This ought to encourage our hearts, and to abolish all sorrow, when this exceeding love of God comes in mind, that we might trust thereto and believe steadfastly, that God is that bountiful and great Giver, and that this gift of his, proceeds of that great virtue of love. This sort of giving, which has its spring of love, makes this gift more excellent and precious. And the words of Christ are plain, that God loveth us. Wherefore for this love's sake ought we greatly to esteem all things that he gives us.
--Writings of the Rev. Thomas Becon (London, J. Nisbet), pp. 494-495
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...one of the most striking and certainly the most moving images coming out of Boston was of people rushing forward toward the sites of the explosions to help the injured.
The Archbishop of Boston, Sean O’Malley, spoke for many of us when he said that “the citizens of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are blessed by the bravery and heroism of many, particularly the men and women of the police and fire departments and emergency services who responded within moments of these tragic events.”
But it wasn’t only those in uniform. Carlos Arredondo, a peace activist whose son was killed in Iraq, became a national hero when he jumped over the security fence and started helping the injured. And he wasn’t the only civilian who ran towards the chaos when common sense dictated running away from it.
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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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In those few paragraphs, John Calvin succinctly sums up election and holiness for the Christian. While there are several themes that come out of this quote and this passage, the one theme that I think springs from this text is holiness. Holiness is the consequence and evidence of our election. We are not holy to be accepted by God, but because Jesus is holy we are holy. God says, “you shall be holy, for I am holy”.
The idea of holiness is almost a peculiar doctrine for the new Reformed movement. I know many young and old in this tradition who feel no obligation to actively and passionately with their entire being, to pursue a life of holiness. They wouldn’t explicitly say this, but their lives wouldn’t reflect otherwise.
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Listen to it all (an MP3 file).
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It was sad to read the public comments of the Episcopal Bishop of Washington denying the importance, or need for the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, going so far as to imply this teaching was “outlandish. ” More on that in a moment, but first some background.
Some time ago I brought a former Episcopalian into the Catholic Church who, after the Rite of Reception gave a great sigh of relief and said, “I know the Catholic Church is not without problems, but at least I know the Bishops actually hold the Christian faith. It is such a relief to be in the harbor of truth.”
I remember at the time wondering with him if that wasn’t a bit of an exaggeration of how bad things were in the Episcopalian denomination (this was about 1990). But he showed me a scrapbook of article after article of dozens of Episcopal “Bishops” denying quite publicly the divinity of Christ, the Virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, that there was any inherent conflict between Christianity and Unitarianism, etc., not to mention a plethora aberrant moral stances.
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This is what my father as a Jew discovered.
During Rabbinical school studies he was assigned to visit a Christian Church.
But over the course of a year found himself drawn back to that church over and over and didn’t
One day he finds himself going to the altar rail, not to get communion, but to simply receive a blessing,
when all of a sudden, as a Jew, the Living and resurrected Jesus Fills his body-
And in his mind just one sentence,
What if this is all true…
What if this is all true?
A year later he’s baptized and receives the Living Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy
• Are you looking for the dead, among the living?
• Or the Living among the living?
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I too have had a son die, so I have a sense of the pain Rick and Kay are facing. But their circumstances are different and my heart goes out to them.
At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word.
There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel.
God is with us.
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In the light of this Easter morning that is now dawning, I want to ask you, especially those of you gathered here to make your new commitment to Christ in baptism or confirmation: Do you expect, do you long, with Mary Magdalene, to ‘see the Lord’ in this life? And if so, what can this mean? What is it so to ‘see’ the resurrected Jesus, to commit yourself to a belief in him, and his life beyond death? What is it to assert, with this, that there is a divine, transcendent force in our universe which rises beyond death, tragedy and failure, which captivates our hearts and minds and turns our lives out of darkness into light?
Everything hangs on this question for us as Christians. If there is no resurrection, if ‘one did not rise from the dead’, then our faith is indeed ‘in vain’, as St. Paul puts it. The problem only comes – let us be honest – in clarifying what, exactly, we are being asked to do in believing this....
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Some people have already tried to force themselves to believe in what the Bible reports of the resurrection of Jesus. But it was not so simple. Always doubt interfered; and then one thought that doubt-for example, scientific doubt in the possibility of such a miracle-was the basis of his inability to believe. That goes without saying. Some of the greatest scientists of all times have believed in the resurrection, just as an apostle of early Christianity. Perhaps you also belong to those who would like to believe, who would also like to have this hope of eternal life. But you say you cannot. I wish to tell you precisely why you cannot believe, and I also wish to tell you how you can believe. You cannot believe it because you are not reconciled to God, and you are not reconciled to God because you do not really wish to repent for your godlessness. All unbelief without any exception comes from this unwillingness to obey, from the unwillingness of sin that separates us from God. In the moment when you do that and sincerely acknowledge your sins, then you can also believe in the reconciliation; no, in this moment you are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and the truth of the Easter message is clear to you. Then you believe in the resurrection, not because it is reported by the apostles but because the resurrected One himself encounters you in a living way as he who unites you with God, as the living Mediator. Now you yourself know it: he lives he, the Reconciler and Redeemer.
And now the stories of Easter become alive to you, worthy of belief, for you now recognize in them him who encounters you yourself. Now you believe not only in Easter; now the Easter certainly is for you a living experience. Now you can say with the apostle: Blessed be the God who has begotten me anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Were Jesus not resurrected, how could he redeem and reconcile you? When he reconciles you to God, you have encountered him, the resurrected One, not bodily, as did the apostle, but not really any less so, through his Word and his Spirit. Now you already stand at the beginning of the new, eternal life. Now you know what the Lord means when he says: "He who believes in me has eternal life." Upon that, everything therefore depends: being reconciled to God, forgiveness of sins, removal of the separation between you and God, joyful access to God, and peace with God through Jesus Christ who gives you on the cross the Father's love and with it eternal life.
--Emil Brunner (1889-1966)
Listen to it all (about 29 1/4 minutes).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology
Less than a month after sponsoring an event for Virginia Episcopal clergy featuring a speaker who denies both the afterlife and unique divinity of Christ, Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has presided over a service featuring a similarly controversial figure.
In a Good Friday service at historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, retired Bishop John Shelby Spong decried the Nicene Creed as “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John,” asserted that several of the apostles were “mythological” and declared that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins.
Read it all.
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Listen to it all from the parish in which I serve, Christ Saint Paul's Yonges Island, South Carolina, this past Sunday.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Eschatology Seminary / Theological Education
Without a doubt, at the center of the New Testament there stands the Cross, which receives its interpretation from the Resurrection.
The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which "destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand", which "is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles". But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).
Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith.
–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen
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.
“Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.
“Oh, at home had I but stayed
‘Prenticed to my father’s trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.
“Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.
“Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So ’tis come from ill to worse.
“Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same’s the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.
“Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.
“Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live lads, and I will die.”
–A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?
Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?
Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?
Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.
Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.
Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:
That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.
Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.
--George Herbert (1593-1633)
The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of his abundant willingness to receive all that come to him, in whatever plight they may be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident. So I shall use it at this time. May the Holy Spirit speak through it to the encouragement of those who are ready to despair!
Remember, beloved friends, that our Lord Jesus, at the time he saved this malefactor, was at his lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark.
Stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was he “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscouring of all things. Yet, while in that condition, he achieved this marvellous deed of grace. Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all his glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it it that he can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that he has returned unto his glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light! “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?
It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon one who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to his kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King. If the apostle Paul were here, and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to him as to one whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain, and bound to die. It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.
Recollect, also, that he was surrounded by scoffers. It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests, in their pride, ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour, and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn. His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits. He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor, and defend his Lord. His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession. I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour—that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.
–From a sermon of C.H. Spurgeon preached on April 7, 1889
[Shusaku] Endo locates the point of contact between Japanese life and the Gospel in what he observes, and has experienced personally, to be the essence of Japanese religious awareness. This he sees as the sense of failure in life and the subsequent shame and guilt that leave a lasting impact upon a person's life. Such theological notions as love, grace, trust, and truth are intelligible only in the experience of their opposites. Endo sees them incarnate in the person of Jesus through his own experience of failure, rejection, and, most of all, ineffectualness. Only rarely has modern Christianity presented the story of Jesus as the one to whom those who had failed, were rejected, lonely, and alienated could turn and find understanding and compassion. Endo argues that it is our universal human experience of failure in life that provides us with an understanding of Christian faith in its depth.
--Fumitaka Matsuoka, The Christology of Shusaku Endo, Theology Today (October 1982) [emphasis mine]
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!
A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!
--John Newton (1725-1807)
In recent years Luther's teaching on the atonement has been a subject of strong dispute. Some (mostly the Swedish interpreters) have stressed the ideas of "conflict" and "victory" in Luther's discussions of atonement, arguing for a discontinuity between the Reformer's own thinking and the "substitutionary" theory of later Protestant orthodoxy. Others have insisted that at this point Luther's teaching differs in no essentials from that of his successors. One is well advised to tread carefully on entering the field of controversy; nevertheless, I make bold to submit that the interpretation of atonement in both Luther and Calvin can be understood as turning on the central and pivotal conception of a "happy exchange," in which the believer's sins are laid upon Christ and Christ's own innocence is communicated to the believer. From this center, we may say, the Reformers' thinking moves outwards to the various other soteriological concepts, including the two about which modern opinion is chiefly divided, namely, "victory" and "substitution." First and foremost, the Christian is one who has been united with Christ so intimately that an exchange of qualities has somehow taken place.
Of course, this understanding of Luther's thought would not settle present-day controversies, for it is not incompatible with either of the two main rival theories, nor even with a combination of both. Neither is it incompatible with Calvin's threefold scheme of "Prophet, Priest, and King" (a scheme of which, in any case, he makes very little use), since Christ does not exercise these offices in any "private capacity," but rather communicates their benefits to believers. Perhaps we may say that the notion of "exchange" belongs to the presuppositions of atonement, as the Reformers understood it, whilst the detailed outworking of the doctrine demands the use of further categories.
That the notion is indeed fundamental to the Reformers' thinking could be demonstrated by many passages from the works of both.
Luther speaks explicitly of this "happy exchange" (fröhlich Wechsel) in the German version of the Treatise on Christian Liberty. The soul and Christ are united like bride and bridegroom. They become one flesh, and everything they possess is shared in common. "What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ." A similar passage occurs in the Larger Commentary on Galatians (though worded differently in Rörer's MS.): "So, making a happy exchange with us (feliciter commutans nobiscum) he [Christ] took upon him our sinful person, and gave us his own innocent and victorious person." These passages can readily be matched in Calvin's Institutes: "Who could do this [i.e., win salvation for men], unless the Son of God should become also the Son of Man, and so receive what is ours as to transfer to us what is his?" And again: "He was not unwilling to take upon him what was properly ours, that he might in turn (vicissim) extend to us what was properly his." The same pattern of thought recurs in both the Reformers when they speak of the Lord's Supper; as, for instance, in Luther's Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament, and the fourth book of Calvin's Institutes. What exactly it is that is "exchanged" is made perfectly clear in each of these passages: namely, Christ's righteousness is exchanged for the believer's sin.
--Brian A. Gerrish
St. Bernard was so terror-stricken by Christ’s sufferings that he said: I imagined I was secure and I knew nothing of the eternal judgment passed upon me in heaven, until I saw the eternal Son of God took mercy upon me, stepped forward and offered himself on my behalf in the same judgment. Ah, it does not become me still to play and remain secure when such earnestness is behind those sufferings. Hence he commanded the women: “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” Lk 23, 28; and gives in the 31st verse the reason: “For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” As if to say: Learn from my martyrdom what you have merited and how you should be rewarded. For here it is true that a little dog was slain in order to terrorize a big one. Likewise the prophet also said: “All generations shall lament and bewail themselves more than him”; it is not said they shall lament him, but themselves rather than him. Likewise were also the apostles terror-stricken in Acts 2, 37, as mentioned before, so that they said to the apostles: “0, brethren, what shall we do?” So the church also sings: I will diligently meditate thereon, and thus my soul in me will exhaust itself.
–Martin Luther (1483-1536)
Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathomed the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walked with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things
The which to measure it doth more behoove:
Yet few there are that sound them: Sin and Love.
Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains that all his hair,
His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, that forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.
--George Herbert (1593-1633)
And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.
Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, "Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: "O Crux, ave, spes unica" (Hail, O cross, our only hope)."
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Watch and listen to it all.
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O all ye, who pass by, whose eyes and mind
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blind;
To me, who took eyes that I might you find:
Was ever grief like mine?
The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread:
Was ever grief like mine?
Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
Was ever grief like mine?
Take the time for careful prayer, rumination and meditation over it all.
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.
–John Donne (1572-1631)
Listen to it all.
The ancient and saintly fathers and theologians have contrasted the living wood with dead and have allegorized that contrast this way: From the living wood came sin and death; from the dead wood, righteousness and life. They conclude: do not eat from that living tree, or you will die, but eat of the dead tree; otherwise you will remain in death.
You do indeed desire to eat and enjoy [the fruit] of some tree. I will direct you to a tree so full you can never eat it bare. But just as it was difficult to stay away from that living tree, so it is difficult to enjoy eating from the dead tree. The first was the image of life, delight, and goodness, while the other is the image of death, suffering and sorrow because one tree is living, the other dead. There is in man's heart the deeply rooted desire to seek life where there is certain death and to flee from death where one has the sure source of life.
--Martin Luther, "That a Christian Should Bear his Cross With Patience," 1530
Through Mary he received his humanity, and in receiving his humanity received humanity itself. Which is to say, through Mary he received us. In response to the angel’s strange announcement, Mary said yes. But only God knew that it would end up here at Golgotha, that it had to end up here. For here, in darkness and in death, were to be found the prodigal children who had said no, the prodigal children whom Jesus came to take home to the Father.
Read it all.
When one asks the most influential thinkers in the modern evangelical church are, one might find names such as Jim Packer, John Stott, and Don Carson.
I would like to suggest, however, that there is one whose influence is perhaps much greater than we are aware of, yet whose thinking all but pervades the modern evangelical church: Marcion.
He's the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits.
Marcion is - or, rather, was - a somewhat shadowy figure, with most of what we know about him coming from the hostile pen of Tertullian. Apparently, he was a native of Pontus (in modern times, the area by the Black Sea), who flourished in the middle of the second century, dying circa 160. His major distinctive was his insistence on the Christian gospel as exclusively one of love to the extent that he came to a complete rejection of the Old Testament and only a qualified acceptance of those parts of the New Testament which he considered to be consistent with his central thesis (i.e. ten letters of Paul and a recension of the Gospel of Luke).
So how does Marcion influence modern evangelicalism? Well, I think evangelicalism has become practically Marcionite at a number of levels.
First, the emphasis upon God's love to the utter exclusion of everything else has become something of a commonplace....
Read it all.
About 280 people gathered at the eighth and largest annual Mere Anglicanism conference Jan. 24-26 in Charleston, South Carolina. Two scholarly bishops — the Rt. Rev. Paul Barnett, retired Bishop of North Sydney, Australia, and the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, retired Bishop of Rochester, England — addressed the gathering’s theme of “Behold the Man!: The Person and Work of Jesus Christ.”
“I could not reject the historical reliability of the New Testament, even if I wanted to,” said Bishop Barnett, author of Is the New Testament Reliable? (IVP Academic) and several other books.
In his eucharistic sermon, Bishop Barnett challenged the congregation: “Let us learn from Judas, who loved money more than God; from Peter, who loved man’s approval and praise more than God’s; and from Caiaphas and Annas, who loved power more than justice. The sins of them live on in us; the same foibles beset us.”
Read it all.
In this way leadership is a myth, a story we tell ourselves over and over again in an attempt to make sense of the world around us. We look for leadership, because we expect leadership, because we look for leadership....
This is the plot of Shane, Triumph of the Will, Saving Private Ryan and practically every western every made. It is the founding myth of our politics and our society. It tells us that violence works, and that leadership only comes from the imposition of a superman's will upon the masses, and preferably those masses "out there", not us. Williams recognised this: "When people say, 'We want you to give a lead', what they mean is, 'We want you to tell them, not us. We don't want to be led.'" In the end, leadership means doing beastly things, to other people.
The need for "leadership'" in our society is fatally flawed by its roots. Instead, the Christian faith has a better word for the ministry to which he, and every Christian, is called: disciple. It doesn't matter how many hyphens we tack on to the front of it ("servant-leadership", "compassionate-leadership", "collaborative-leadership"), it is still leadership, and therefore antithetical to the model, ministry and challenge of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I don't want Justin Welby to be a leader. I'd hope that the new archbishop could be a disciple, and one who can help others to become disciples as well.
Read it all.
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Thank you so much for your welcome. Acts 22 and 2 Corinthians 5 are going to be the focus of our attention tonight.
One man standing on the steps of an impressive building in the capital city of his own nation, one man addressing a crowd, and delivering a speech which will effectively set the course of his life for the next four years - these might be references to Monday’s inaugural event at Capitol Hill, but they in fact describe the event described in our first lesson. Paul the Apostle, standing on the steps of the Antonia Fortress, the Roman army barracks overlooking the Temple in Jerusalem. I can’t find many other points of comparison between Monday’s speech and that delivered here by St Paul, but I thought at least that it would grab your attention, if only perhaps to help us to detect and to see afresh the incredible significance of what Paul is doing here. He is indeed on his final visit to the capital city of his own Jewish nation, Jerusalem. And he has just been arrested and will as a result spend at least the next four years as a prisoner, both in Caesarea and then in Rome.
And what he does here is extraordinarily brave. The angry mob is baying for his blood but Paul rather than gratefully being ushered into the safety of the Antonia Fortress, turns and asks permission to address the crowd. Why? What made him do it? Why did he risk it?
The answer however also has to do with the significance of the geographical place in which Paul uniquely found himself at just that moment. In his speech as you look down it, summarised here by Luke in Acts 22, Paul makes several intriguing references to events in his own life which had taken place within five hundred yards of those steps on which he was now standing. His education in Jerusalem’s torah academy under professor Gamaliel, his consultations with the High Priest and the Sanhedrin in the Temple enclosure; procuring extradition warrants on those blaspheming messianic believers in Jesus; his own part with assisting in the stoning of Stephen probably two hundred yards to his right, just outside the city’s Northern Gate; and then his time of prayer some four or five years later after conversion to Christ, when he was back from a brief visit to Jerusalem meeting the apostles and was praying in the Temple just two hundred yards to his left, when the risen Jesus warned him to leave the city.
Paul is back amongst his old haunts. Jerusalem university was his alma mater, and this was the place where he knew he was persona non grata. This was the place where he deeply wanted to speak of Jesus, risking all, so that his own countrymen, caught up as he had once been in Jerusalem’s mad religious and political agendas might hear of God’s will for them in Messiah Jesus.
But there is another event in Jerusalem’s recent past which also took place nearby. I was in Jerusalem over New Year and standing overlooking the model of ancient Jerusalem in the Israel Museum, and I got my students there to look at these steps of the Antonia Fortress which face West and I asked them the question: ‘As Paul stood there, what was directly in front of him, just two hundred yards away, albeit on the other side of the city wall?’ And the answer – Golgotha, the place where twenty seven years earlier his Lord Jesus had died for him, so maybe as Paul turned and faced the crowd he was also looking beyond them and seeing the cross of Jesus in his mind’s eye. And maybe that is precisely why he turned and faced them and faced their hostility, even his own death, because he knew that just over there his Lord Jesus had risked everything for him. Jesus had died in Jerusalem. Stephen had died in Jerusalem, and now Paul had to risk the same fate himself. He could do no less. In fact we know this pattern of thought was indeed in Paul’s mind, because when others are trying to dissuade him from going up to Jerusalem, he rebuts them quite plainly Acts 21 verse 13 ‘Why are you breaking my heart, I am willing not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus’.
Well what would make Paul say such a thing? Indeed, how does anyone brace themselves for suffering? What makes anyone take a stand in the face of severe opposition? What causes anyone, rather than fleeing the enemy, to turn and face them willing to take the consequences?
Now I may be a British academic, and therefore prone to being a bit out of touch with realities here on the ground in the United States, but even I cannot miss the fact that Mere Anglicanism this year, meets at a critical time in the history of the life of the Diocese of South Carolina, where clergy and people are having to make tough decisions about how to turn and face those who are opposed to them; and about precisely where to take their stand. And when faced with tough decisions, we all need in the words of Psalm 77 which I was reading myself this morning to seek the Lord and for our spirits to make a diligent search, to be asking hard questions even of God himself; but then going back to find a bedrock of conviction on which we can take a firm stand, going back to God’s clear actions in redemption history in the past.
Well that hard bedrock of conviction I suggest for all of us can be found by looking together at our other New Testament reading from 2 Corinthians 5 where we see deep truths which Paul had been relying on during his earlier period of very fierce opposition in Ephesus, finishing in the Autumn of AD 55. These words were therefore written by Paul perhaps eighteen months or so before he was arrested in Jerusalem during that Pentecost May AD 57. They show us the convictions which had burned into him during that crucible of suffering in Ephesus and they explain why Paul decided to turn and face the hostile crowd in Jerusalem two years later, and they can inspire and strengthen us for any stands which we may too need to make in our own day. And to summarise what we shall find we will look briefly at Paul’s convictions about the person and work of Jesus from which we will see that Paul draws out two further related conclusions.
So then what were Paul’s convictions about the person and the work of Christ? I hope again that you have this in front of you, 2 Corinthians 5 and you can see where I am drawing these points.
Concerning the person of Christ – well this is the passage where expressly in verse 16 Paul says we are not to regard Christ according to the flesh. Descriptions of Jesus in merely human categories are not sufficient and need to be abandoned. Jesus was an undeniable figure of recent history, but he is for more than just a figure of history, even a so-called ‘historical Jesus’. He is the Christ, that is the Messiah of Israel, but boldly and amazingly this Christ is closely associated with two things which properly belonged uniquely to Yahweh, the God of Israel: he is involved with Creation verse 17 ‘if anyone is in Christ, new creation’ and also with final judgement verse 10 just before our passage ‘we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ’. Above all Paul makes clear that what Christ did and achieved can be seen straightforwardly and completely as the work and activity of God, verse 18 ‘All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us’; verse 19 ‘In Christ God was reconciling the world’, verse 20 ‘On behalf of Christ be reconciled to God’.
In these three verses Paul repeatedly brackets Christ and God together, deliberately, so that the work and the activity of the one is the work and the activity of the other, not 75% but 100%. There is no distinction; there is no hair’s breadth between them. This is Paul’s conviction about Jesus Christ. He is to be identified with the God of Israel. Yes, this is in some mysterious way which will take theologians several hundred years to hammer out into the Creeds, but here is the raw data for that later theological elucidation. God was working through Christ - in Christ, God.
Now this is normative New Testament Christology. By the way I always tell my students never to use that word Christology in their sermons but perhaps I can be forgiven for using it here as it is the theme of Mere Anglicanism. High Christology, an ugly word to describe a beautiful thing, does not appear only in a few places in the New Testament, perhaps in documents that are thought to be rather late in the first century after about 60 years during which Jesus’ status has gradually been elevated somewhere into the divine. No, it is there consistently and from the very beginning.
I was speaking at the bishop’s house last night with your keynote speakers, Paul Barnett and David Wenham and I quickly checked with these Pauline scholars whether they thought that Galatians was Paul’s first letter. Happily we all agreed, a rare event amongst scholars – it must have been something to do with the Bishop’s food and drink I suppose - and if so, Galatians Chapter 1 verse 1 is the opening verse of the New Testament, written within twenty years of the Resurrection, and it categorically refers to Jesus as divine and not merely human. I quote: ‘Paul, an apostle not through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father’. They are the opening words of the New Testament and do it straight away; Jesus is not on the human side of the line, he is on the divine side of the line. Paul is convinced about the divinity, the deity, the God-ness of Jesus: ‘in Christ, God’.
Paul also has convictions about the work of Christ. He is convinced about Jesus’ resurrection, verse 15 ‘who for their sake died and was raised’. Paul is actually counting on this personally as the basis for his own hope of resurrection in the future. Earlier in Chapter 5 he has been trusting that when he dies and puts away his tent God will provide a building for him, a place where he will be at home with the Lord – isn’t that a lovely phrase ‘at home with the Lord’? But Paul in the verses of our second reading is focussed more especially on the cross, on Jesus’ death and crucifixion. Verse 14: ‘we have concluded this’ he writes, so here we are going to hear one of those settled Pauline convictions. What is it? ‘That one has died for all, therefore all have died’. ‘He died for all,’ he repeats.
Paul is convinced that Jesus’ death was a dramatic and intentional act designed to benefit all people in the world. But it is more than just for the benefit of all. Many people in church today perhaps would subscribe to some such fuzzy notion as that: ‘oh Jesus died for all’, they might say – ‘his death was an example of supreme love and it now means that God loves everybody regardless of whether they know it or want it’. That’s not how Paul finishes his sentence: ‘One died for all, therefore all have died’. Jesus’ death reveals that every human being is effectively in God’s estimation in a state of death. Jesus’ death reveals God’s judgement, his verdict on sinful human beings, a verdict of death, one died for all that therefore we now know that in God’s sight, all have died.
And if this is only implicit in Verse 14, Paul makes this conviction quite explicit in verse 21: ‘for our sake God made Christ to be sin’ – his death was therefore a dying caused by God’s verdict on human sin. It was substitutionary – Christ himself knew no sin but bore our sins, so that we [oh sweet exchange] might experience forgiveness and justification; that we might become the righteousness of God.
Here is Paul’s settled conviction about the work of Christ. Through his death and resurrection God has done the work of great salvation and redemption. He has dealt with the issue of human sin, 'not counting our trespasses against us [verse 19]. One way of saying this is to say that God through Christ brought righteousness and forgiveness in the place of sin and judgement. Another way of saying the same thing: God in Christ brought life out of death, in the place of death.
Now, please note that those two different ways of my summarising that just now use two different background metaphors. One was using more legal terms, the language of the law court. God has brought righteousness and forgiveness in the place of sin and judgement – that is legal, forensic terminology. The second one was using the language of the hospital, perhaps the maternity ward, or perhaps the morgue, the place where dead bodies are put. God has brought life in the place of death. These are Paul’s two parallel ways of summarising or concluding his convictions. His key word for the first one is reconciliation, or we might say re-conciliation; and his key word for the second is new creation, or we might say re-creation.
His use of the first term is clear and repeated several times. Verse 18 ‘God reconciled us to himself’, God again ‘was reconciling the world to himself’. Twice he speaks of Christians now being given a ministry or message of reconciliation, and so he appeals to us ‘be reconciled to God’. Reconciliation for Paul has been accomplished and now it must be announced. The barriers between the holy God and sinful humanity have been bulldozed away by the sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ, and we must now invite people to avail themselves of that death, of that pathway which has been blown open for them, so that they can walk into God’s presence. The judge in the law court turns out to be a heavenly father. The sentence of judgement has been replaced by sentences of tender love.
And Paul’s use of the second term comes only once but it is powerful and pithy: ‘If anyone in Christ, new creation.’ Yes the death of Jesus reveals that all have died, all are dead, but that is not the last word on the subject, because the crucifixion was decidedly not God’s last word about Jesus. Jesus was gloriously raised by God, dramatically and objectively, as a sure sign of God’s purposes, restoring his broken world in an eventual act of new creation. And that new creation can come and kick back into reality here and now, when men and women join themselves by faith to the death of Christ and so share in his resurrection. As Paul will develop this, perhaps about a year later, when writing Romans 6 verse 5: ‘If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in his resurrection.’
So there – reconciliation, re-creation – two great words, two Gospel truths that Paul presents to us in 2 Corinthians 5.
And as we close we inevitably should be asking these kinds of questions both to ourselves and to our churches as communities: ‘How much do we really believe these things? Are these the bedrock on which we are willing to make our stand?’ As individuals it is easy for our hearts to wander, we know it well, for familiarity to weaken our grasp of these truths, for the trials and busyness of life to take us elsewhere. Fifteen months ago I was reading through 2 Corinthians, it was a particularly dark time in my life, one of those times when the lights just seemed to have gone out and God was, as it were, leading me through a dark underwater tunnel. And I was reading through this dark and painful text, 2 Corinthians, for it to be light in my darkness, on my own there in a hotel room in Sicily. And I found myself having to confront all my buried doubts about Christ, about death, about my hope of resurrection. And I had to simply recite these words of 2 Corinthians 5 out loud to myself on my own to get my heart to trust these words as true for me.
Is that something which you need to do this day in this conference of Mere Anglicanism or in this dark season in the life of the Diocese – just to read these words to your own heart, to re-kindle the flame of your own personal faith and to trust in their truth? Jesus said to Martha: ‘do you believe?’ – and she found herself saying: ‘yes Lord, I do believe.’ [John 11:25-27]
As for our communities and wider church life we could spend ages asking whether these great Gospel truths of God’s reconciliation and recreation in Christ are really at the center of what we do and proclaim in that community called the church. How often are there sermons on the atoning death of Jesus or on the resurrection power of God? How seriously are we beseeching people to be reconciled to God as they surely need to be? How clearly are we proclaiming to people that through the Gospel, God can unleash his resurrection power, in making them to be new creations, re-oriented now to live not for themselves but for the God who loves them? To often these messages get silenced and the Gospel truths get abandoned and other agendas so easily take center stage in the life of the church.
I have the joy each morning of travelling to work at Trinity Ambridge in the same car as your chaplain here, Leander Harding, chaplain at Mere Anglicanism, and on this Tuesday morning as we navigated through the Arctic conditions of West Pennsylvania, my senior colleague Leander came out with this telling phrase: ‘some people are in the church for the purposes of faith in religion while others are there because the church is a useful place to pursue other agendas. Justin Terry and I just laughed and laughed until our lungs froze, but it is not a laughing matter. What are the other agendas which are sweeping through our church and effectively replacing the Gospel driven agenda set here by Paul?
So, are we willing to take our stand on these Gospel truths of divine reconciliation and divine recreation accomplished in Jesus Christ? Are these the convictions which are truly at the bedrock of our lives? On the eve of the conversion of St Paul we could do no better than to learn again these convictions held by Paul and to note how they strengthened him, they steadied him that day a few years later on that day in Jerusalem and caused him not to flee for cover but to turn and face the life-threatening opponents, as he was looking straight ahead of him to the very place where Jesus had died for him.
You know, we can almost imagine saying under his breath as he braces himself to speak: ‘I have concluded that one has died for all, and therefore all have died. And he died for me, so that I who am alive today should not live for myself, but if need be, die – for him who died for me – and was raised.’ Amen.
The Reverend Dr Peter Walker is Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thee that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Thanks to Kevin Kallsen at Anglican TV for these videos from the Mere Anglicanism Conference 2013 which you may watch below in the order they were given in together with text where available. We will be rotating them so that one shows above the fold. Also here are the Speaker Biographies and the Conference Schedule
Thursday, January 24
 ST PAUL: PASSIONATE FOR CHRIST - DR PETER WALKER - SERMON AT EVENSONG [Acts 22 and 2 Corinthians 5]
"even I cannot miss the fact that Mere Anglicanism this year, meets at a critical time in the history of the life of the Diocese of South Carolina, where clergy and people are having to make tough decisions about how to turn and face those who are opposed to them; and about precisely where to take their stand. And when faced with tough decisions, we all need in the words of Psalm 77 which I was reading myself this morning to seek the Lord and for our spirits to make a diligent search, to be asking hard questions even of God himself; but then going back to find a bedrock of conviction on which we can take a firm stand, going back to God’s clear actions in redemption history in the past.
Well that hard bedrock of conviction I suggest for all of us can be found by looking together at our other New Testament reading from 2 Corinthians 5 where we see deep truths which Paul had been relying on......"
Transcript may be found here.
Friday, January 25
 EPIPHANY - FIVE EUREKA MOMENTS - BISHOP PAUL BARNETT
"... I do not intend to dwell on the negatives but the positives and to do so in terms of my personal discoveries over the 55 years of my Christian journey. ‘Discovery’ is not the right word because it puts the emphasis on me. ‘Epiphany’, or ‘epiphanies’ would be better because these discoveries are really ‘revelations’ from God, God-given insights. ‘Flesh and blood’ does not discover truth about God; God must reveal it...."
Text from which talk is taken
 BEHOLD THE MAN, WHOSE NAME IS BRANCH - DR ALLEN ROSS
 THE UNIQUE AND UNIVERSAL CHRIST - BISHOP MICHAEL NAZIR-ALI
 JESUS IS THE KING - FESTIVE EUCHARIST SERMON - BISHOP PAUL BARNETT [John 19:1-16]
Saturday, January 26
 PAUL'S WITNESS TO TO JESUS THE SON OF GOD - DR DAVID WENHAM
 THE WITNESS OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER - ERIC METAXAS
Last week, orthodox Christians convened at the historical St. Philip’s Church to participate in theological discussions at the Mere Anglicanism Conference. Most of the attendees expressed support for the Diocese of South Carolina under Bishop Mark Lawrence, which has been forced out of the Episcopal Church through heavy-handed persecution against traditional Christians within the denomination. Ironically, revisionist Episcopalians met only eight blocks away to reorganize the rump diocese loyal to the national Episcopal Church, USA under Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.
Mere Anglicanism started off on January 24th with a traditional evensong from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with the Rev. Dr. Leander Harding of Trinity School of Ministry acting as officiant. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul Barnett lectured the next morning on five epiphanies that convinced him of the historicity of Christ. The former Anglican Bishop of North Sydney emphasized the powerful manuscript evidence, the archaeological-geographical credibility of the Biblical record, the multiple attestation to miracles, and the existence of external hostile sources. He likewise excoriated the textual skepticism and deconstructionism that dominates many seminaries today. “The health in the seminary influences the health of the ministers, and the health in the ministers influences the health in the churches,” he surmised.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina * South Carolina * Theology Christology
“The Diocese of South Carolina created this annual conference eight years ago as a way to bring together Anglicans from around the world to explore ways to keep our faith vibrant,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Miller, chairman of this year’s conference and Rector of the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort. “We provide world-renowned scholars who help attendees become informed, sound believers who are capable of thinking and acting biblically.”
Read it all.
"On one occasion I was travelling with the late lamented Bishop Weeks, then a simple minister. I went with him on a visit to a friend in the country. While I was in the railway carriage with him, a gentleman attacked him, knowing that he was a friend of missions. The gentleman said, 'What are the missionaries doing abroad? We don't know anything about their movements. We pay them well, but we don't hear anything about them. I suppose they are sitting down quietly and making themselves comfortable.' Mr. Weeks did not say anything in reply, I having made a sign to him not to do so. After the gentleman had exhausted what he had to say, I said to him, 'Well, sir, I beg to present myself to you as a result of the labours of the missionaries which you have just been depreciating;' and I pointed to Mr. Weeks as the means of my having become a Christian, and having been brought to this country as a Christian minister. The gentleman was so startled that he had nothing more to say in the way of objection, and the subsequent conversation between him and Mr. Weeks turned upon missionary topics. On the banks of the Niger, where we have not been privileged to be ushered in by European missionaries, native teachers have maintained their footing among their own people. Their countrymen look upon them as very much superior to themselves in knowledge and in every other respect, and listen to them with very great attention when they preach to them the Gospel of our salvation."
On St. Peter's Day, 1864, perhaps the most important event of his life took place, when in Canterbury Cathedral Samuel Crowther was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Niger. The scene was a memorable one, and is not likely to be forgotten by those who stood in the vast crowd which filled every aisle of the grand cathedral that day. The license of Her Majesty had been duly promulgated in these terms:--
"We do by this our license under our royal signet and sign manual authorise and empower you the said Reverend Samuel Adjai Crowther to be Bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland in the said countries in Western Africa beyond the limits of our dominions."
When the service began it was an impressive sight to see the Archbishop of Canterbury, attended by live other Bishops, enter the choir; and following them the three Bishops to receive the solemn rite of consecration, viz: the new Bishop of Peterborough, the new Bishop of Tasmania, and the new Bishop of the Niger. Remembering, as doubtless many did, the touching history of his childhood and early struggles as a slave, not a, few in that vast building were moved to tears as [118/119] the African clergyman humbly knelt in God's glorious house to receive the seals of the high office of Shepherd in His earthly fold. Most of all must one heart have been affected, that of Airs. Weeks, the missionary's wife, at whose knee he received his first lessons in the way of the Lord.
No one could fail to see how God had called forth this native from the degradation of a boyhood of slavery, to become a chosen vessel in His service. He had proved himself as a true-hearted standard-bearer of the Cross in much toil and patient endurance, and it was meet that to him should be committed the spiritual interests of the district in which he had spent hitherto nearly the whole of his life since he became a Christian.
On his immediate return to the Niger, the work began afresh with renewed energy. Special attention was given to the Delta, for King Pepple, having been on a visit to England, made an application to the Bishop of London to send missionaries to his dominions. A more degraded district was not to be found in Africa. Although its trade was very flourishing, being one of the chief markets for palm oil, the people were sunk in the lowest vices and superstitions. At the time of which we speak, when Bishop Crowther was forming the Christian Church there, the shocking practice of cannibalism was not yet wholly given up, and the people were entirely under the power of the priests of the Juju or fetish worship. As in Dahomey, no regard for human life seems to have existed; men were sacrificed at every high festival, and at the burial of any of their chief men a number of poor creatures would be slaughtered. The ghastly spectacle of their temple, paved and elaborately decorated with human bones, showed the ferocity of their religion.
In the midst of this awful darkness came Bishop Crowther and his fellow-helpers, bearing the light of the Gospel, and in due time many believed and were saved. It was as in the early Church of the first centuries, the adherents of the new religion were mostly slaves, and to escape their persecutors had to meet for worship and counsel in retired places.
--Jesse Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger (London, 1892), Chapter Ten (emphasis mine)
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Missions Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
It's interesting that our culture is rarely scandalized by this preaching of the Cross. That's probably because it is a rare theme of Christian preaching these days. Instead we have been smitten with practical preaching that helps people become successful in life and business, and with ethical preaching that tells people how to live better. This is done for the noblest of reasons—to show the gospel relevant to people's daily needs, but one can see where this has gotten us. When the Cross is preached, it is often preached in a way that falls on deaf ears. It's seen as a theme for theologians to wax eloquent about with strange words like propitiation and justification, or something comforting to guilt-ridden religious types—but meaningless to regular human beings.
Need-driven preaching—even of the highest order, that is, our search for significance—communicates that Jesus is just another way to solve our problems. It is no wonder that the culture looks at us, pats us on the head, and says, "But we've found other, equally valid ways to solve our problems, thank you." We tend to think that postmoderns have brought relativism down upon us, but it seems, we Christians have been the culprits the more we make our message about meeting people's needs.
The most needful and difficult task of the church today is to again preach the message of the Cross, and to do so in a way that alarms, surprises, scandalizes, challenges, invigorates, and inspires a 21st century world. What that would look like exactly is hard to say; our theologians and pastors need to help us here. In the most general terms, it has to be about Christ first and last. It has to be about the Christ who came into the world not to improve generally good people, but to resurrect the dead, not to bolster our self-esteem but to forgive us, not to make people successful but to make them loving, not to win the culture but to establish a kingdom without end.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sexuality * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * Theology Christology Soteriology
Mormons consider it ironic that they believe in such core Christian beliefs as the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, and the Resurrection and yet are not considered Christian by some of their fellow believers, whereas many mainline Christians who no longer hold such beliefs are considered so.--Bob Rees in an RNS opinion piece last year responding to the NY Times Op-ed from David Mason entitled "I'm a Mormon, Not a Christian"
You can find the speakers and agenda here and there. You all know enough about a conference like this to know that there is much more to it than simply the presentations. Please pray for the speakers travel and ministry here (a number are serving in Sunday worship after the conference locally), the time to develop new friendships and renew old ones, for the Bishop and his wife Allison in their hosting capacity, and especially for the the Rev. Jeffrey Miller of Beaufort, who has the huge responsibility of coordinating it all--KSH.
But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us. Then indeed there is humble longing and knocking, prayer and search, in order to be rid of sin, death and dread. And then he acts as if he had only begun to show us our sins, as if death were to continue, and hell never to cease. Just as he here treats his mother, by his refusal making the need greater and more distressing than it was before she came to him with her request; for now it seems everything is lost, since the one support on which she relied in her need is also gone.
This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious--as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9. For if Christ's mother had allowed those harsh words to frighten her she would have gone away silently and displeased; but in ordering the servants to do what he might tell them she proves that she has overcome the rebuff and still expects of him nothing but kindness.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * International News & Commentary Europe Germany * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
[Tony] Campolo said he has noted a shift over the decades away from a faith composed primarily of beliefs about Jesus toward taking Christ’s teachings both literally and seriously.
“I grew up at a time when the church was organized around the theologies of the Apostle Paul,” Campolo said. “Every Bible study I ever went to growing up was on Paul. We studied Ephesians and Philippians and Romans, and we went through Paul verse by verse.”
“Being solid theologically was of crucial significance,” he continued. “It still is. The shift that has taken place, however, is a shift away from the Pauline epistles to the Gospels.”
Read it all.
We were having lunch together and I was praying like mad. My friend had been in a committed same-sex relationship for about 15 years. He was interested in Jesus; attracted to his teaching and message. But he wanted to know what implications becoming a Christian might have on his practicing gay lifestyle.
I had explained, as carefully and graciously as I could, that Jesus upheld and expanded the wider biblical stance on sexuality: that the only context for sexual activity was heterosexual marriage. Following Jesus would mean seeking to live under his word, in this area as in any other.
He had been quiet for a moment, and then looked me in the eye and asked the billion-dollar question: ‘What could possibly be worth giving up my partner for?’
I held his gaze for a moment while my brain raced for the answer. There was eternity, of course. There was heaven and hell. But I was conscious that these realities would seem other-worldly and intangible to him. In any case, surely following Jesus is worth it even for this life. He was asking about life here-and-now, so I prayed for a here-and-now Bible verse to point to. I wanted him to know that following Jesus really is worth it – worth it in the life to come, but also worth it in this life now, no less so for those who have homosexual feelings. Yes, there would be a host of hardships and difficulties: unfulfilled longings, the distress of unwanted temptation, the struggles of long-term singleness.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
Someone told me recently, “I just don’t get all caught up in theological dogma.” As the days of our lives slip by, it is possible that a person might not get all caught up in the true theology behind this “most wonderful time of the year.” And with eggnog in hand still want his or her Christmas to be a time for proclaiming peace and good will (not peace because of the birth of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin giving us peace with God; not that, just “peace and good will”, a kind of mantra for postmodern America.)
So it is possible, at least for a while, to ignore the real meaning of Christmas. That is, as long as the internal and external events of my life proceed according to my plans; as long as I can keep at bay all forms of guilt from years of things done and left undone; as long as I can gloss over the world’s darkness to which the prophet Isaiah has alluded; as long as I can fend off the awareness that one day I too will die. For that long I can get by in this world without concerning myself with the truest meaning of Christmas.
But as soon as anything breaks through my delusional reality; as soon as guilt robs me of my peace, as soon as death threatens me, then absolutely nothing will matter more than the theological truth behind the Nativity.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Soteriology
Now think with me about how, on that first Christmas Eve, Jesus beganhis life journey…as an outsider.
Jesus was an outsider politically. He had to flee from Herod. Within a year of his birth, he was a refugee in Egypt.
Jesus was an outsider to his own family. Despite his mother’s devotion, his brothers and sisters never seemed to have understood him. At times during his ministry they even thought he had gone mad.
Jesus was an outsider to his townsfolk. The people of Nazareth accepted him – yes, when he was the carpenter’s son. But when his ministry began, they all but threw him off the cliff for his “pretentious” messianic airs.
Jesus was an outsider to the religious leaders. He had no formal theological training, nor did he have a proper school of educated disciples. His band of followers was riff raff from the boondocks up in Galilee.
And Jesus was an outsider to the Romans. They saw him as a menace to the peace they had brokered with the Sanhedrin. For all they knew Jesus was a zealot, secretly plotting a revolt against them.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * South Carolina * Theology Christology
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Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
It may seem strange to suggest that part of leading well is helping people see the connection between Christmas and Easter. But it is. For without this connection, Christians have no reason for their joy. Our commercialization of Christmas tries to isolate Christmas, to make it stand on its own apart from Easter. This is a recipe only for sadness.
Of course, practically speaking, it is hard to lead when morose, and it may be even harder to follow a morose leader. More deeply, however, joy is the final response Christians can have to the world in which we live, and especially during Advent and Christmas, leaders need to understand why we can rejoice and why our institutions can be places of joy.
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