Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Visual Heresy

A little intellectual stimulation for a dull grey Tuesday afternoon in Advent:

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

C. B. Moss on General Councils

The following is from Fr. Claude Beaufort Moss' short tract The Church of England and the Seventh Council (1957).

But who is to decide whether the definition of a particular Council is a necessary conclusion from Scripture rightly interpreted?  The English Church has no doubt at all about this. 'The Church hat authority in controversies of faith' (Article 20). The Church has no right to enforce what cannot be proved by Scripture, but it has the right ot give judgment on the interpretation of Scripture, and to require its membesr to accept its judgment. 'No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation' (2 Peter 1.20). For the Church is not an academic society for theological research; it is an army marching to win the human race for Christ.  There are some questions which, once they have been asked, must be answered, and answered finally. Is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, a created being as Arius taught?  If He is, we out not to worship Him as God. Was His Manhood swalowed up in His Godhead 'like a drop of vinegar in the ocean,' as Eutyches taught? Then it is not true that a man like us is on the throne of God, and knows what our sufferings are because he has felt them.  Such questions must be setted, and only the Church can settle them.  If local councils cannot, a General Council must be held.  But its decisions require to be accepted by the Universal Church, which is the final judge.  Councils can be misled: no assembly of men is immune from the possibility of error, as history abundantly shows.  When the decrees of a Council have been accepted by the whole Church, or practically the whole Church, the question is settled.  It ought not to be opened again unless new knowledge turns up, which in the nature of the case, if the subject is the revealed truth of the Incarnation, is unlikely. (Emphasis added)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

It's more than a great song sung by one of America's finest cowboy singers, it means I plan on going live here at "triple b".

Yes, I still have a bit of old-timey nostalgia in my veins.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Does this mean anything?

I used the collect for Proper 28 at the Prayers of the People today, since my sermon focused on having an encounter with the Word of the Lord (Jesus) in the word of the Lord (Scripture).  As I set my BCP for the Rite II Mass, I found that the same collect is significantly different in terms of its content.

The bold portion of the Rite I collect is not contained in the Rite II collect.  Does this lack change the meaning?

First Rite I:
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be 
written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise
hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that,
by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace 
and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which 
thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and 
reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and 
ever. Amen

Rite II:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for
our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn,
and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever
hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have
given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I doubt the change is accidental, yet I wonder why the language was changed?  Is something being communicated here?

Can anyone enlighten me?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hitting Pause

or otherwise known as a hiatus.

I am going dark on these pages for a significant period of time.  How long, I do not know, but I have way too many other projects in the hopper that must take priority.  The largest of these is a proposal for my Doctor of Ministry program.

I ask that you keep me, my family, and the parish of St. Matthew's in prayer.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Wonder

in light of the much publicized sermon (see herehere, and here), delivered by our Presiding Bishop last month in Curacao, how last Sunday's Gospel passage would be interpreted following the same hermeneutical  (interpretive) principles.  I expect that consistency in interpreting similar texts is to be desired.

Since the texts are indeed similar, I think we should compare them.  First the text from Acts 16:16-34 on which the Presiding Bishop's sermon in Curacao was based:
One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. (Emphasis added)
In the aforementioned sermon's take on this passage, Paul is the unenlightened one for having the temerity to cast out a demon, in the name of Jesus Christ, from a demon possessed slave girl.  Paul's error, under this interpretation (which is without precedent in the tradition of interpretion), is that he did not recognize "her gift of spiritual awareness" and thus cast out what he could not understand, quod est interpretatum not adequately embracing diversity.  This latter is apparently the actual hermeneutical principle at play in the preparation of the homily delivered.

So using the prior sermon as a guide, or as a principal for interpretation, I wonder how this reading from Sunday's service (Luke 8:26-39) could be preached:

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Emphasis added)
I believe it would be fair to say that, according to the new interpretive tradition, the slave girl was only saying what Paul was saying in referencing God, and here the demon also only states the truth about Jesus.  Why did Jesus not embrace the spiritual understanding of the Gerasene?  The Geresene "demoniac" did not ask Jesus to cast out the demon, and in fact under the control of the demon specifically asked Jesus not to torment him.

So, is Jesus to be accused of not embracing the divine and spiritual self-understanding of the Gerasene?  Is Jesus intolerant of what he could not understand?  Does Jesus stand accused of a failure to embrace diversity here?  Would this not make Jesus a sinner, like Paul was above, and in need of God's corrective? I am not saying that the Presiding Bishop would preach this, but it is the logical conclusion to the hermeneutic embraced in the first passage, and we would be incredibly dismissive if we argued that the laity would never put these two together.

Please note that Luke, the author of this Gospel and Acts, has the demon possessed utter almost the same exact title for God.  Also note that the result of the exorcism, in both cases, is a move to have the "troublemaker(s)" removed from the area. This is not accidental, and frankly should guide our exegesis by using scripture to interpret scripture.  This, it seems to me, would be in line with the tradition.

Do you see the danger of using an idiosyncratic hermeneutic to develop a one time homily?  In the tradition this idiosyncratic hermeneutic is also known as eisegesis, or reading into the text what we want to say/see, and it is a temptation for all of us who are called to deliver homilies.  I am certain that I have fallen prey to this temptation more than once, and wish I could have those homilies back, but it is a temptation that we who preach must strive to conquer.  One of the tools at our disposal, particularly as Anglicans, is our emphasis on Tradition as a guide for interpreting the Scripture.  When we are out on a creative limb, we must constantly ask whether we are supported by the tradition, and whether the branch will bear our interpretive weight.  If we choose to go forward, without support, on a thin limb, we should not be surprised if we fall.  We clergy are under authority, and do not have the right to "make it up as we go along".

This is not a critique of the Presiding Bishop, per se, but a call to solid preparatory work for all who are called to deliver the Word of the Lord.  It is a tremendous responsibility, and we need reminding, as  Dr. Alan Ross, a former instructor of mine, says: "God has promised to bless his word, not yours".

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Truly Impressive Christian

I am not given to flights of praise, nor am I an overly emotional person, but I found the story below to be incredibly moving.  This particularly so, in that last night our Vestry approved the construction of a small addition containing an elevator and two special needs accessible restrooms.  It was a good, and no pun intended, constructive discussion, especially around money and stewardship.  To wake up and read about this man, this Holy Fool in the Eastern tradition, and his sacrificing for the Church is serving to convict me about my struggles in faithful stewardship.  As we discuss money, and what we will, or will not, give to the work of the Church, may Elder Dobry's witness guide and challenge us.  May his witness convict us in our discipleship.

May God bless the Holy Fools!

 Please follow the links.

98 year old dobri dobrev, a man who lost most of his hearing in the second world war, has traveled 25 kilometers every day for decades from his village in his homemade clothes and leather shoes to the city of sofia - a trip he made by foot until recently - where he spends the day begging for money.
though a well recognized fixture around several of the city’s chruches, known for his prostrations of thanks to all donors, it was only recently discovered that he has donated every penny he has collected — over 40,000 euros — towards the restoration of decaying bulgarian monasteries and churches and the utility bills of orphanages, living entirely off his monthly state pension of 80 euros and the kindness of others.  (From here).

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


The one and only comment to the previously linked article deserves a post of its own.  So, thank you Fr. Bill.

Well said. I've always wished more people would bring the kids to church, rather than to nursery or stay home. So many times, I've seen parishes and parents isolate the kids in a nursery or not come until "they are old enough" and then wonder why they didn't stay in a liturgical tradition, or even in a Christian tradition when they are old enough to decide for themselves. There is plenty of blame to go around here, parents who feel it is not worth it, parishioners who glare or frown, and well-intentioned people who isolate kids and entertain them while teaching them to worship in some one else's tradition. I too hope that we all will persevere and keep the little ones in church. If they can crawl around for a year and a half smashing cheerios, kneel for the Lord's Prayer and elevation by age two, and walk forward kind of respectfully with Momma and Papa by the time they are three, we stand a lot better chance of retaining them as acolytes in fifth grade, and seeing them go to church on their own at 18 or 20. It worked for mine, and it is now working for my Grandchildren. Keep the faith and pass it on, and we will be blessed by heaven. "Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

This is something to which I need to dedicate more thought.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Two of my favorites for Memorial Day.  The first is Eric Bogle's rendition of The Green Fields of France, the second is the Flowers of the Forest played by Pipe Major Tom Coulson a World War II Veteran and Combat Piper.

This day let us remember those who have given "the last full measure of devotion" in the wars of the nations, and especially of our nation.  Let us also not forget the families of those we have lost.

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  BCP 839

Sunday, May 26, 2013

An Oldie for Trinity Sunday

From the Historical Documents section of the Book of Common Prayer 1979 (pg. 864).

Quicunque Vult

commonly called
The Creed of Saint Athanasius

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
     neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory
     equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and
     one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by
      himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten,
      but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three
      Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the
      Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of
      God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance
      of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his
Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from
      whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their
      own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into
      everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Twenty Years On

No, the previous post was not a cryptic lead into this one. (Did you see what I did there, cryptic,get it?  It was punny!  I know puns are the lowest form of humor, but  they are all I have).

Seriously, I was not making a point about today's great commemoration.  No, it is not a commemoration of death.  Although, the death of Constantine the Great on this date in 337 AD would make a good one.  As an aside, does anyone know why he doesn't show up in our Kalendar yet?  He was the first Christian Roman Emperor, so that should count for something, shouldn't it?

All kidding aside, today marks the 20 year point of my marriage to Amy.  And speaking of death, that's exactly what she said after the ceremony, "Now I am either married or a widow."  I stay on my best behavior because I think she meant it.  (Really, if I show up missing in the future, she should be the number one suspect, after all the life insurance is paid up).

Following St. Paul's advice, we were married young, and today marks the moment when I have been married longer than I was single.  Do the math, I will be 40 in October.  And to think my  in-laws told her that when I turned 20, I would know what I wanted out of life, and it was intimated that being married to her would not be it.  Funny, our marriage turns 20 today, and I still want to be married to Amy.  Does this mean I win the bet?

I love you, Amy, more today than yesterday, and though I know we are nowhere near where we thought we would be at this point in our lives on that day we married, every day has been a blessing.

Thank you for 15 great years (smile), two of the best children anyone could have, and all of your support.  Here's to the next 20!

In the midst of life...

The Coffinmaker from Dan McComb on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Birthday

Today is the yearly celebration of the birth of the youngest.  I cannot believe how quickly ten years have gone by.

I vividly remember the circumstances of his birth.  I was in the last year of seminary at Bexley Hall, and in the midst of finals, when he decided it was time.  He was a bit early then, but has not lived up to that standard consistently over the past several years.  After several hours of labor, my beloved's blood pressure dropped precipitously and I can taste the fear I felt when they announced that they had "lost" the heartbeat.  Organized chaos ensued as they rushed my beloved from the room for an emergency C-Section.  All I could think of was losing this little boy that I was awaiting so eagerly.  Having followed as closely as I could, I was left alone for several minutes, minutes of anxious prayer, until an orderly came out with scrubs for me.

I asked the orderly if the baby was ok, his response was that my beloved was fine.  This did not calm my nerves, as I knew that she would be fine, so I asked again, and he motioned me to follow.  When I entered the OR, I was greeted with the best sound I have ever heard, the squawking of a newborn baby boy.  He was a bit blue, but healthy.  Mom, of course, was fine as well.  It was at this point that I broke into tears.  Tears of joy.

It turns out that the drop in BP that forced the C-Section was a blessing.  As they removed him from the womb, the discovered that he had twisted himself in such a way as to wrap the cord around his neck.  This was not seen on any of the ultra-sounds.  A traditional delivery would have been a dangerous option, with this condition not observed.

As I remember this day, I give thanks to God for the birth of the youngest, and pray that he may have many years!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lectionary Fun

Prepping for this weekend's homily, I discovered that the appointed passage from Revelation has been highly edited.  I am not really surprised, as the editors often  leave out verses that might be "controversial" or upset the sensitivities of modernists, however, when I read the passage in the lectionary book, then compared the original, I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

The passage as it appears in the lectionary:

 Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
At the end of the visions I, John, heard these words:
"See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

The passage in context (verses missing in lectionary are in bold):

Revelation 22:12-21

“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Ironic, isn't it?  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

St. Athanasius

A little reading from his On the Incarnation:

What we have so far said, then, is no small proof that death has been brought to naught, and that the Cross of the Lord is a sign of victory over him. But of the Resurrection of the body to immortality thereupon accomplished by Christ, the common Saviour and true Life of all, the demonstration by facts is clearer than arguments to those whose mental vision is sound. 2. For if, as our argument shewed, death has been brought to nought, and because of Christ all tread him under foot, much more did He Himself first tread him down with His own body, and bring him to nought. But supposing death slain by Him, what could have happened save the rising again of His body, and its being displayed as a monument of victory against death? or how could death have been shewn to be brought to nought unless the Lord’s body had risen? But if this demonstration of the Resurrection seem to any one insufficient, let him be assured of what is said even from what takes place before his eyes. 3. For whereas on a man’s decease he can put forth no power, but his influence lasts to the grave and thenceforth ceases; and actions, and power over men, belong to the living only; let him who will, see and be judge, confessing the truth from what appears to sight. 4. For now that the Saviour works so great things among men, and day by day is invisibly persuading so great a multitude from every side, both from them that dwell in Greece and in foreign lands, to come over to His faith, and all to obey His teaching, will any one still hold his mind in doubt whether a Resurrection has been accomplished by the Saviour, and whether Christ is alive, or rather is Himself the Life? 5. Or is it like a dead man to be pricking the consciences of men, so that they deny their hereditary laws and bow before the teaching of Christ? Or how, if he is no longer active (for this is proper to one dead), does he stay from their activity those who are active and alive, so that the adulterer no longer commits adultery, and the murderer murders no more, nor is the inflicter of wrong any longer grasping, and the profane is henceforth religious? Or how, if He be not risen but is dead, does He drive away, and pursue, and cast down those false gods said by the unbelievers to be alive, and the demons they worship? 6. For where Christ is named, and His faith, there all idolatry is deposed and all imposture of evil spirits is exposed, and any spirit is unable to endure even the name, nay even on barely hearing it flies and disappears. But this work is not that of one dead, but of one that lives—and especially of God. 7. In particular, it would be ridiculous to say that while the spirits cast out by Him and the idols brought to nought are alive, He who chases them away, and by His power prevents their even appearing, yea, and is being confessed by them all to be Son of God, is dead.

Athanasius was also an opponent of Gnosticism.  I heard a quote just today that "Gnostics believed that the material world and the immaterial world must be kept inviolably separate."   Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Christian Hip-Hop?

Yes, indeedy.  Though not my normal genre, I can be a bit eclectic, I like this man's message:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

St. Mark

This morning I was able to celebrate Mass to commemorate the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist.  He is quickly becoming one of my favorite saints of the Ante-Nicene period. I think it is important to remember that the title "Evangelist" holds more weight than just being the author of a Gospel bearing his name.

Mark was an evangelist in the deepest sense, as he began as a friend of Jesus.  We can credit the founding of the Church in North Africa to Mark's missionary and evangelistic efforts.  He was the first Bishop of Alexandria, and the current Coptic Pope Tawadros II is his spiritual successor.  He was martyred for the faith in the city that he evangelized, and before they were stolen by the Venetians, his relics were venerated in Alexandria.

The Church (Western, Eastern, and African) owes much to St. Mark, and so we rejoice in the witness of this Evangelist.  It is a shame that so much of the history of St. Mark and the Church in Africa have been forgotten by the West.

For more information on St. Mark, please check out the Center for Early African Christianity (linked on the side bar) and especially Dr. Oden's The African Memory of Mark.  Dr. Oden's book has been formative for my understanding of St. Mark.  Also, check out his lectures on the need to recover the history of Early Libyan Christianity.

Please pray, as well, for our brothers and sisters who currently are suffering persecution in Egypt for bearing the Name of Christ, remembering His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church; The Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, President Bishop of the The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and the congregations committed to their care.

Collect for St. Mark:

Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (BCP 240)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bible Reading

This past weekend the Diocese hosted an event at the Chiara Center in Springfield.  The center is run by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, and is a wonderful location.

The presenter was The Rt. Rev. Dan Herzog retired from the Diocese of Albany, and he was quite the live wire.  His comments were prescient and inspiring, and I understand that many of us, including yours truly, came away renewed and re-energized.

Bishop Herzog gave one of the best, concise, Bible reading suggestions that I have heard.  He called is Spiritual CPR.

So here it is:

  • Pray that God open's the Scripture to you.
  • Read for the following:
    • C--Command to be obeyed
    • P--Promise to be received
    • R--Sin of which to repent.
That is it.  

He also gave an introductory plan for beginning (or renewing) a daily reading plan.  Start with Luke and read one chapter a day.  After completing Luke read Acts.  That should take two months.  Then move on to other material as you are led.

For additional reading plans I recommend the St. James Daily Devotional Guide or the Daily Office Lectionary (BCP Page 934).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Think I See Your Problem

Of course, demons are no laughing matter, but from the Daily Mail:

A Romanian lawyer is suing his local Orthodox bishop and four priests claiming they failed to properly exorcise flatulent demons that were forcing him out of his home. 
Madalin Ciculescu, 34, accused the five of fraud after they turned up several times to exercise the demons which were responsible for the bad smells that were ruining his business.

This sounds like a conversation Mel Brooks would write into the script for Young Frankenstein II.

Frankenstein:  Igor I thought I told you to exorcise these demons.

Igor: Master, I did. They got plenty of exercise. I took them for long walks in the park, threw a Frisbee, and crunched their abs.  They may still stink, but boy are they cut!

What would demon exercises look like anyway?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today is the memorial of the Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (if I may use the subtitle of Eric Metaxas' excellent book, linked above).  A champion of the Church, an outspoken critic of Naziism, and a first rate theologian, he was executed by the Nazi's on 9 April 1945 at Flossenburg Prison.

I have always enjoyed his writings and theology, and though I could pull great and deep thoughts from his work today, I thought it would be refreshing to see his mind at work on what many consider the light thing of the Church...music.

But there should be singing, not only at devotions, but at regular times of the day or week.  The more we sing, the more joy we derive from it, but, above all, the more devotion and discipline and joy we put into our singing, the richer will be the blessing that will come to the whole life of the fellowship from singing together.
It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together.  It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song.  Thus all singing together that is right must serve to widen our spiritual horizon, make us see our little company as a member of the great Christian Church on earth, and help us willingly and gladly to join our singing, be it feeble or good, to the song of the Church.  (Life Together, 61)

By the way, he was a big fan of unison singing so that individuals did not, out of pride, call attention to themselves, these were the greater foes of congregational singing.  He also did not believe that there were many who were  "unmusical" and could not sing, and considered those who would not sing due to some mood as disturbers of the the fellowship.

The Collect:

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, you gave grace to your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive your word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Holocaust Memorial

I was privileged to participate in the Holocaust Memorial Service at Moses Montefiore Temple yesterday evening.  As always, it was a tremendously moving experience, and an honor to bring the words of survivors to life.  The horror, and darkness, of the Holocaust is, frankly, unimaginable to me.  How could ordinarily kind people not stand up against the darkness?  The answer, only to easy, is because of evil.  Not that the ordinary people considered themselves evil, or meant to choose evil, but merely went along and remained silent out of ignorance, or a sense of self-preservation.  That is how we choose evil, by not choosing to stand up for right, by choosing the path of self-preservation, the easy and wide path.  Evil grows from the small choices that we make, or do not make.
One of the presenters, a child of survivors, stated frankly, "That when we allow Holocaust deniers to speak, unchallenged, we murder again those six million."

Christians are called to remember that evil is ultimately defeated in the Cross and Resurrection, and we are called to be people of hope, of life, and to make decisions that lead to renewal and true peace.  We can only make those decisions, when the perpendicular pronoun, and its self-interest, are replaced with the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit.  Let us pray that the Spirit give us new minds to make holy choices to stand against evil and be the resistance in our age, to prepare for the coming King.

Here are several pieces that particularly engaged me during yesterday's liturgy.

We have come here to remember those who cannot be forgotten
We have come to speak of that which cannot be spoken but must not be left unsaid
We have come to remind not others but ourselves of what was done and what was not done
We have come to ask questions that cannot be answered but cannot be left unasked.
We know how to remember the dead we have known.
We know how to commemorate the death of one person.
But all of us are mourners; all of us recall not one but six million ones.
Not only those we have known, but those no one can know, the names that are forever lost.
Rabbi Reuven Hammer

As I light this candle, I vow never to forget the generations cut off, and the generations never born The brilliance, creativity, wisdom, kindness, goodness, caring. The inventions, medical advances, healing and solutions lost with them and lost perhaps for all time. Our world is bereft, and as we light this final candle, we remember all the irreplaceable souls, all the people who would have taken our universe to places of which we can't even dream. All the souls who would have made this world a much better place for each of us .

When a new child comes
Everything seems strange to him.
What, on the ground I have to lie?
Eat black potatoes? No! Not I!
I've got to stay? It's dirty here!
The floor-why look, it's dirty, I fear!
And I'm supposed to sleep on it? I'll get all dirty!
Here the sound of shouting, cries,
And oh, so many flies,
Everyone knows flies carry disease.
OOOH, something bit me! Wasn't that a bedbug?
Here in Terezin, life is hell.
And when I'll go home again, I can't yet tell.
Teddy, 1943

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Annunciation & The Fall of Barad-Dur

For all you Tolkien fans, go here for an excellent article.

A brief excerpt:

What am I saying? To the Christian March 25th is the day that Lucifer is defeated by means of the incarnation and death of Christ.  Likewise, the day Sauron is defeated is also March 25th when the Ring was cast into Mount Doom.  One might argue that Tolkien is preparing his reader for Christ by means of a story. After all, he does write of a pre-Christian world.  It would only makes sense that there are foreshadowing of Christ to be found in it like there are in other pre-Christian cultures.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Watch the Movie, Read the Book

Yes, I have watched a bit of The Bible on the History Channel, but since I do not watch that much TV, and Sunday Evenings are usually otherwise accounted for, I have not seen as much as I would like.  Having said that, the little I have seen, it is well produced and accurate, yet reading the overviews of each episode leaves me scratching my head at the leaps and edits made.  I know that there is a tremendous amount of material in the original, but so much has been left out, so it is a bit of a teaser.  Oh well, maybe it will send some folks who have never read the Book to the Book.

With this in mind, I had to laugh at the latest add from Church Publishing’s partner company Cokesbury.  For those who may not know, CP has downsized a bit and is using Cokesbury for distribution of resources.  Anyway, they sent out an ad for the “Companion Novel” to the Mini-series The Bible.  No seriously, they have a novel written in the way the series is written.  I thought we already had a book that the movie was based off, now we have a book based on the movie based on the Book?  OK, I am certain the novel will be useful, but what would you wager that the response would be to read the novel and skip the Book?  How many times have you said, “The book was not as good as the movie”?

Frankly, I wish they had added a spit take warning as I choked on my coffee when I read this: “Historically and theologically accurate, many prominent biblical characters are dramatized in the story: Moses, David, Daniel, John the Baptist, and, of course, Jesus. A 10-hour miniseries on the History Channel is the basis for the novel, and the script has been reviewed by seminarians for authenticity” (emphasis added).  That is a real corker.  I know seminarians, I was a seminarian, and most of us were in no position to make a judgment on the accuracy of a script.  There is a reason we were called “Semi-Arians” and the place of study, the “Semetary”, as in the place where good faiths go to die.  All joking aside, why use seminarians as the test audience and make them the authorities on the script?  Seminarians are being educated, they are not yet fully educated and formed, no offense intended to seminarians, but it would be like asking an accounting student to make authoritative comments on your tax situations.

Of course, the seminarians may not have been asked about the theology, they may have been asked about authenticity.  This word is a new favorite in the church as we should be authentic, but I believe it is overused. So did the seminarians say it was authentic? I hope so, it is a real authentic script written on paper or in digits!  Other than that, I do not know how authenticity could be judged.  I do believe the word means something other than accurate.

Anyway, watch the movie, it looks good, it has received good reviews, then read the Book.  Four out of 5 seminarians agree.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bishop of Rome

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected Bishop of Rome on the second day of the Conclave.  He has taken the name Francis to set the tone of his papacy.  There is some question of whether he has taken the name after St. Francis or Francis Xavier, or both.  He was the runner-up in 2005 to Benedict XVI.

There is an old joke that goes, "I know you are a Jesuit, but are you a Christian?"  In this case, the evidence seems to be that Francis is both.  He is a theologian of great depth, and has a heart for the poor.  He also appears to be a humble man, as his first official act was to lead a prayer for Benedict XVI, and bowed before the gathered masses to pray for him before blessing them.

He is also quite acquainted with suffering, as he lost a lung as a small child.

It will be interesting to watch this papacy and this new Bishop of Rome.  As members of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, I encourage all of us to pray for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, and their spiritual father, Francis.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Very Interesting

A new post from Philip Jenkins on the historic connection between the Coptic (Egyptian) Church and the Church in Ireland.

Hie thee hence.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Two Words

will  be sufficient to address the reason I did not watch Tinseltown's mutual affection society awards on Sunday night:

Seth MacFarlane.

I did not wish to participate in the humor of an individual who represents the coarsening of our culture, or humor of the lowest common denominator, and it appears my instincts were correct.  I have enjoyed Family Guy in the past, I enjoy good satire, and good humor (not just the ice cream), but over the past several months have discovered that I do not like who I become after a steady diet of contemporary popular television.

I really do no longer have a stomach for the crass, the cheap, or the degradation I see in so much of what is popular.

I guess I really am a Fogey.

For another perspective see the article at First Things entitled: They will Know We Are Christians By Our Lack of Irony.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be Careful For What You Ask

Ash Wednesday began in a lovely way.  After taking the time for personal hygiene, I was able to see the children off to school, then sat down as is my custom to a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and a brief conversation with my beloved.  We then prayed the Office together before I made my way to the Rector's Study for a day of study, reflection and prayer to begin the Lenten fast.

Part of my Lenten discipline is to fast on Ash Wednesday, and over the years I have had varying degrees of "success".  I am not a person of great discipline when it comes to food, as I like it too much.  I will admit that I struggle with the sin of gluttony.  My struggle can be seen with my ever increasing girth, and this particular sin is the focus of my Lenten discipline this year.  I am trying to fast regularly, watch my intake of food (particularly the fast and processed kind), and in general to be mindful of my eating habits.

So, as I came to the building this morning, I began to prepare for tonight's liturgy, and found that the ashes I thought we had, we did not.  Reflecting on this development, I recognized the comedy of errors that led me to this find. Without rehearsing the details, I discovered, in short, it was my fault. (Is failure to plan ahead a sin?  If so, there's another one to work on).  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  In a panic, I thought about burning the greenery from last Sunday's flowers, but a calmer head prevailed and after a couple of phone calls I found myself on the road to acquire the last packet of ashes at Lagron-Miller.

In the midst of this, the hunger struck.  On the road, listening to the radio, and passing all the signs for the quick meals, my belly started to rumble.  On the return, surrounded by restaurants I began to feel weak, both physically and spiritually.  I was craving.  A juicy burger would be wonderful, a chicken sandwich, Chipotle, Taco Bell, Subway, I was even considering stopping for the compromise of a decent salad.  I know, that last one indicated my desperation!  So, I turned off the radio and spent the time in prayer, passing up all those wonderful delicious options. The final temptation was returning to hear our Administrator announce that she was going to the soup restaurant for their delicious Lobster Bisque.  Get thee behind me, and back to the study for prayer.

So the fast continues, with Jesus's help, so far.

I do not write this as a wish for congratulations, or even to "publicly" announce my fasting and turn it into some sort of Pharisaic cause for pride.  I write because it is a small victory.

Would it have been some great sin to eat? No.  Would it have been some great sin to stop for a quick processed meal?  No.  But, it would have been a one in giving into the temptation to take the easy way out, and not keeping discipline.  No, it would not have been unforgivable, but it would not have been a step in the right direction for my spiritual discipline.  I could have be forgiven, but strength only comes with struggle.

The lesson, for me, is about grace.  Of course, grace is available in forgiveness, but God's grace was available through prayer to make one small step of victory.

And isn't that what we all need?    

That is part of the message of Lent.

Thought of the Day (Ash Wednesday)

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man: sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life. The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light. Through repentance a man regains his true splendor, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light.  If a man believes in Christ, "Even though he dies, he shall live: (John 11:25); he shall know that "I the Lord have spoken, and will do it: (Ezekiel 17:24, LXX).

--St. John of Karpathos, For the Encouragement of the Monks in India Who Had Written Him, sec. 4.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Benedict XVI

I was quite shocked to awake to news that Benedict XVI is resigning from his position as Bishop of Rome to be effective 28 February 2013.  He is the first to do so since the 13th Century when Celestine V resigned from office after just a few months in St. Peter’s chair.

No doubt, the rumor mill will start to grind and many elaborate conspiracies constructed to “figure out” just why this Bishop of Rome is resigning at this particular time with this short notice.  I will leave the gristmills to do their grinding, and take his resignation at face value.  He is tired, aged, and no longer has the capacity to serve as the position requires.  He wishes to devote himself to prayer.  Benedict XVI seems to have always spoken his mind, so I trust he has spoken true in this case.

I was always surprised with the adulation and joy with which younger Roman Catholics greeted this particular incumbent and embraced his reforms. He seems to have had quite an impact on the next generation of Roman Catholic leadership, both lay and ordained.  What does this mean for Anglicans?

It will be interesting to see who the Cardinals will elect in conclave to be Benedict XVI’s successor.  I openly suggest that it may be time for a member of the Global South to be elevated to the role.  That would prove most interesting.

In any case, it is a good and gracious thing for Anglicans to pray for our Roman brothers and sisters in the midst of this transition.  Pray for the conclave, and may the Holy Spirit lead it to a faithful shepherd for the Church of Rome.  Pray also for Benedict XVI as he leaves his office and enters retirement.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Inspiring Speech

Dr. Benjamin Carson delivers the keynote at the National Prayer Breakfast.  He has an amazing and inspiring story.

One thought that jumped out at me, "What is more important to the future of this nation, the ability to make a 25 foot jump shot or solve a quadratic equation?"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mere Thoughts

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, in his Mere Anglicanism presentation, discussed two views of Jesus that are quite common today.

1.  Jesus as exemplar of obedience.

2.  Jesus as "guru" or guide.

So, two questions:

1.  Have you seen or read any Christian theological works that promote these views, either exclusively or a as a primary understanding?

2.  Who holds these views?

Then answers may surprise you.

To answer question #2, Bishop Michael notes that the first view of Jesus is held by Sufis the second makes its presence known in the Hindu comprehension of Jesus.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Homily at the Funeral of Donna Mann

(I know there are punctuation and grammatical errors here.  They are intentional for a spoken script, not as an article for reading).

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Jesus said to Thomas, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In 1951 the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, wrote the following in light of his father’s death.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though death, in Thomas’ poem, is called “that good night” there is an underlying principle that death is the enemy to be raged against, not a friend to be embraced.  His is an understanding that death, not life, is an aberration, a falling away from what should be.
Yet, if we peruse the universe, and test the evidence of our senses, it would appear just the opposite.  The universe is filled with emptiness.  There is more nothingness out there than there is somethingness. Though we can mathematically prove the existence of other planets like ours, with a “Goldilocks zone” perfect for supporting life, we have yet to discover life “out there.”  There appear to be many more dead planets, than live ones.  Even on this blue planet, life for many is “nasty, brutish, and short.  When we are honest, we look around and see the struggle that life has to emerge, survive, and to be sustained, it appears, always as a losing battle.  It appears, in fact, that death, that nothingness, is not the aberration, life is…

This is not the Christian vision.  This is not the Gospel.  Life is the goal of the creator God.  Life is not the aberration, death is.  Death, nothingness, as Mr. Thomas reports, is the enemy.  Mr. Thomas implores his father to fight this enemy.  To rage against him.  To not give up the ship.  To boldly stand and declare that he “has not yet begun to fight.”  As if, by his own might he might keep this enemy at bay.  As if, by all of our advances, all of our medicines, all of our cosmetics, all of our surgeries, all our exercise, all of our Botox, we might withstand this enemy, when the truth of it is, we cannot.  Yes, Mr. Thomas you are correct, death is the enemy, but we need a champion.

Here then is Jesus, our Champion.  He has come to fight the fight for us.  To win where we can not.  To deliver us from the grasp of death and its power.  Yet, he came not raging, but with love.  He came not wielding power, but in humility to serve.  He came not with a shout, but stood before his accusers as a sheep mute before its shearers.  He came not to be raised to a throne, but raised on a cross.  He came indeed to take on death for us.  He came to die, and in that surrender, in his dying, and in his raising he put death to death forever.  In Jesus we can know that death is the aberration and life the norm.

This is the heart of the Gospel, that in Jesus the crucified and risen one, death holds no dominion.  Death holds no power over him, and the promise is that it holds no dominion over those who put their trust in him.  The resurrection is that proof that Jesus has won the victory. To quote Bishop Tom Wright, “Resurrection is not a fancy way of talking about death.  Resurrection is the overthrow of death”.
This is part of what Jesus means when he refers to himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  To know Jesus is to know the creator God whose will and work, whose “way” is to bring life to the world.   To know Jesus is to know the Truth that there is a God who cares, a God who lives, a God who delivers, a God whose way is a way of Life.  To know Jesus is to participate in his divine and eternal life, the Life of God.  To know Jesus is to join in his defeat of death.

To know Jesus is to know that we do not rage against the dying of light as if we must fight it on our own.  No, to know Jesus is to trust that natural death is not the final word.  This physical death is transitional.  Jesus himself promised that a place is prepared for those who love him.  A place in the Father’s house of many mansions.  The image Jesus is working with is that of a wayside inn, a resting place in his presence. I find it intriguing that, as we are not too distant from Christmas, that there was no room in the inn at Jesus’ birth, yet for all who are prepared to follow there is always room in the inns prepared by Jesus.  Yet this wayside inn is not the final destination.  The God who brings something from nothing, will bring life from death.  To those who know Jesus, who follow in the way, who say Yes to God, will be given resurrection and new life in God’s final renewal and recreation of the world.  In short, we shall be like him who died and rose for us.  This is the promise of Jesus, the promise of the Gospel.

This is the promise to which Donna held so fast.  This was the promise that allowed her to face a terminal diagnosis without raging, for she knew that the light would not be dying.  It was apparent, in her last days, that death held no dominion over her.  The disease, which could take her body, held no real power over her.  This was not because of her own strength, but because of the strength of the faith of Jesus in her, and her trust in the eternal promise. Donna was born again in the waters of baptism, and nurtured in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, in fact, her final meal was the heavenly meal of the Body and Blood of Christ, Donna is a child of Jesus, and heir of resurrection.  This is her faith, and it was actively seen in her life of service, of giving up of herself for the life of others.  She followed her master, and now resides in that place prepared for her, that wayside inn to final resurrection, in the presence of Jesus.

 This same Jesus, who is her way, her truth, her life, who has won victory over death and the grave, is our only hope.  May we have the faith to offer over our lives to him who can make somethings of us all.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back in the Saddle

As is par for the course, I have ignored writing here.  I could claim to be busy, which is true, but in reality I did not have much to say.  Still do not have much to say, but I did find this quote today and it spoke to me.

Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not have time for prayer.--Fr. Hilary Ottsenmeyer (St. Meinrad Archabbey) quoted in "Preaching Effectively, Revitalizing Your Church" by Guerric DeBona, OSB.