Friday, February 05, 2016

Quinquagesima

Confusion about the word “Love”

I Corinthians 13  *  Luke 18:31-43

At the present time the Church and all of society are in a crisis due to the attempt to rob the word “marriage” of any true definition, adding more confusion to what has been imposed in the past by a rampant divorce culture. The secular proponents of what they call this “evolution” justify it by using the word “equality” without definition and in place of a substantive argument. The religious proponents of it try to justify it by the word “love.” After all, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”    The problem is that we use the word “love” in English to mean several things, making it unlike many words in our language that are precise. You may say “I love a juicy steak.” But you cannot have charity for a juicy steak.    

          The King James version of today’s Epistle reading, I Corinthians 13, uses the word “charity.” In most other places where the same word, agape (γάπην), appears in the original Greek, the King James Version has it translated as “love.” Here it is translated, however, with the word “charity” perhaps to be very specific, coming as it does from the Latin caritas, into which agape was translated by St. Jerome. Good Biblical exegesis and study places agape on a higher level than the other words also translated “love.” Indeed, it is not too much to say that this word speaks of the love of God, and that this love is a virtue that can be grown in our lives only by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5, Galatians 5:22). The character of this love is described very powerfully in today’s Epistle reading, and in the character of this love we see the character of God, in fact, we see Jesus.

          The character of this love is completely giving and selfless, and this love was the love that kept Jesus Christ from coming down off the cross. This love, not the nails, held Him there. As I have said before, take that love personally, as did St. Paul :  “…the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).” In no way is this love ever selfish, self-seeking, indifferent, or apathetic. It overcomes anger, and wants the best for everyone in a sincere, indeed active, manner. It produces spontaneous fruit of good works and it forgives instantly. We also see that “Charity…rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” And, to that point we will return.

          Another word that is used in the original Greek New Testament, and that is translated “love,” is philea (φιλία), which means brotherly love and also friendship. From this we have the words Philadelphia, that is, City of Brotherly Love, and philosophy, that is, love of wisdom, philanthropy, that is, love of mankind, etc. It is a very good and positive word when speaking about human relations, love of friends and family. It is consistent with agape, though not itself as high and spiritual in nature. Surely, philia is present where agape is present; however, I cannot make the same guarantee in reverse. One’s sincere and heartfelt love might fall just short of Divine love, choosing in some crisis the comfort of being loved in return over that of complete selfless giving, or maybe failing in courage.

          Another Greek word is storge, (στοργή), which is the affection of parents to their children. It is a word that was not used much in ancient literature, but it has survived.

          The fourth Greek word for love is never used in the New Testament, though it appears in the Greek Apocrypha. That word is eros (ρως), and from it we have the English word “erotic.” It is the love of sexual passion. When the word has a good meaning it is only between a man and his wife. It can be present side by side with both philea and even agape. But, again, only between a man and woman who are married to each other is this kind of love a good thing. Eros can be present, however, with practices forbidden by God’s commandments in such sins as adultery or fornication.

          Here we must deal with another Greek word that appears quite a bit in the New Testament, a word that is never translated “love,” and never should be so translated. In the Gospel accounts of things that Jesus said when warning against carnal sins, in the Greek manuscripts quoting Him, He used this word; that word is pornea (πορνεία). From it come the words pornography and fornication. Obviously, pornea has no redeeming value. It is always sin. The weakness of translating the word pornea as “fornication” is that modern people assume that fornication is limited in definition to premarital sex. But, in fact, pornea means any and every kind of sexual immorality, from adultery to incest, from premarital sex to same-sex acts, etc.

The following things, therefore, can be present in combination:

1.     Eros and pornea

2.     Eros and philia

3.     Philea and pornea.

4.     Philea and agape

5.     Perhaps even eros and agape, but only in marriage.

(In the above, bear in mind that pornea is never translated as love.)

     But what can never be present in combination is pornea and agape, for, as we heard read in today’s Epistle, “Charity … rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” We also heard, “Charity … seeketh not her own.”

     To equate love of neighbor, which is agape, with eros is a problem. Such love should be exclusive of a man for his wife, and a woman for her husband. And since pornea is not love at all, but lust, even if it is combined with eros, it is certainly not the love God commands us to have for our neighbor, and is far from the new commandment of Christ, “That ye love one another as I have loved You (agape).”

     Indeed, when it comes to the subject of sin, if seeing that one’s neighbor is in the grip of sin and needs to repent and be forgiven by Christ, charity, agape, cannot rejoice. Charity moves us to pray and hope for the person’s repentance and salvation. It cannot move us to participate or enable sin. Such is not the love of God.

     Some indeed protest that their acts and relationship of pornea are a kind of love, a kind the Church needs to affirm. So they tell us that the Church ought to bless same-sex “marriages.” But, I ask you, cannot two people in an adulterous affair also claim that their acts and relationship are a kind of love? Indeed, inasmuch as eros may be filled with emotion, people do say it and mean it. If we can bless a sinful union then why not have the Church some up with rites to bless an adulterous affair? After all, they are in love, and love is always good – right? But the true love of God, charity, agape, cannot rejoice in iniquity. It will move one to repent, and to want the other party to repent also.

     Let us look at the context of that specific commandment that Jesus quoted as the second great commandment of the Law:

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:17, 18).”

Does the love of God actually rebuke? In this case, does it actually move one to urge repentance of his neighbor? Yes. You see agape doesn’t seek its own gratification, and is willing to be unloved and rejected, just as Christ was willing to go to the cross and endure the hostility of sinners against Himself.


     So throwing around the word “love,” as these proponents and apologists of sin do all the time, turns the word into a sound no more meaningful than a dog’s bark. The Son of God came into the world to save the world, not to make the world safe for immorality. Jesus showed the love of God by dying for our sins and offering forgiveness and a new life to all who come to Him with sincere repentance and true faith.            


Friday, January 29, 2016

Sexagesima

II Cor. 11:19-31  *  Luke 8:4-15  

The Gospel and the Epistle appointed for this day blend well together when we consider the patience of St. Paul. He endured all things that could come on anyone, and so brought forth fruit an hundredfold. When he began his walk he turned away from the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. In time of persecution he did not fall away; and in his case the time of persecution was lifelong until his death as a martyr. Instead of complaining that God was terribly unfair in leading him through fire and water, he gave thanks that he could suffer with Christ. Paul saw his own sufferings as leading to good, especially emphasizing how God used those very trials to further his evangelistic mission as an apostle. Through those sufferings Paul was able to reach people with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his salvation.  
He said as much in another epistle, writing to the Church in Philipi these words:

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14)

In today's epistle, he did not write the long list of things he endured in order to boast, but to establish credentials that his critics did not have, namely certain false apostles and teachers who were troubling the Church in Corinth. That is, he was not waxing rich or gaining status in the world, and was not living in luxury. That he chose to continue his life of persecution and danger, and great discomfort, instead of going back to Tarsus to profit from his family's tent-making business (no doubt as suppliers to the imperial army), was offered as proof that his service was genuine. For that reason, and that reason alone, he wrote those words to the Christians in Corinth, that they would hear him and turn away from the false teachers. The Apostle warned about them in the same chapter from which today's Epistle reading was taken:

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." (II Corinthians 11:3,4) 

It really does matter who you allow to serve as your spiritual leader, teacher and guide, due to the very same problem: A false gospel, another Jesus, and another spirit which we did not receive (that is, not the Holy Spirit we received in our Confirmation). St. Paul actually came right out and told the Corinthian Christians that some ministers are called into their vocation by Satan, not by God.

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if 
his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." (vs. 13-15)

The issues are of eternal consequence, not simply matters of liturgical taste. Furthermore, with eternity in mind, live your life as part of the Church, for that is where the true Gospel is taught, where the pure Word of God is preached and where the sacraments are duly administered. That is what matters, whether every detail is to our taste or not. It is not about satisfying our emotions (which satisfaction may come or not come) but about eternal life with Christ.        
It is in this context, when St. Paul told those ancient Christians in the city of Corinth that they needed to follow him, and reject the false ministers of a false Gospel, that he reminded them of his own sufferings and persecutions. In light of that, once again I want to quote those words from another epistle, the Epistle to the Philippians:

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel."

"The furtherance of the gospel" means, of course, the mission of the Church, preaching the word of God to those who have not heard it. That is how the Apostles laid the foundation. They built the Church wherever they went by preaching the Gospel. And, the troubling reality is, we are much too capable of presenting something less than the Gospel.        
We must never allow our Faith to become so complicated that we cannot easily and briefly articulate the essential message of salvation that everyone needs to hear. Nor can we afford to be distracted by many pressing matters that, in the end, simply prevent us from serving God. If Satan has beguiled any of our people through his subtlety, it has been by distorting the message or hiding it under a pile of stuff, maybe rubble, or maybe under a pile of beautiful ornate treasures that simply distract us from the real priorities. We must not allow anything to so complicate our beliefs that we forget the Gospel, how to preach it with power, with the right kind of simplicity, and with conviction.  
Who is the sower, and what does he sow? The answer is in the Gospel reading we have heard today: "The seed is the word of God." So, after Mark's account (4:14) of the same parable, the Lord explains simply, "The sower soweth the word." To whom do we sow the Word? Now, that is also important to get right.    
What kind of farmer would sow the seed everywhere, on all kinds of ground, the shallow ground of the path, the rocky ground, and among the thorns? The sower in this parable does not seem to be very careful with that seed. He appears to be less than frugal. He seems extravagant, like a spendthrift, downright prodigal. But, recall the parable of the wheat and the tares. The landowner, representing God in the parable, did not send his servants to uproot the tares prematurely, lest they uproot the wheat as well.  
Just as we cannot tell who will prove to be genuine wheat (that is who will actually hear the Gospel, and truly repent and believe the message), so we cannot really know into what kind of ground we are sowing. We cannot see who will receive the seed into the good ground of an honest heart, for we cannot see as God sees. It is our task to sow the seed everywhere, as wasteful as that may appear to be.   
I have seen parishes and their clergy fall into the trap of looking for P.L.U.--"people like us." Over the years in various churches I have met clergy, and even a few self-appointed lay-sheriffs, who mistake their position for that of a "gatekeeper." They treat potential new members the way insurance underwriters treat new applicants, looking them over to see if they should be approved or not. It is especially troubling when these underwriters and sheriffs purposely drive away people based on churchmanship, whether in the name of Anglo-Catholic High churchmanship, or in the name of pietist Low churchmanship. In truth, there must be room for everyone who is looking for a valid church, just as there must be an effort also to reach people who are completely unchurched, and to introduce them first and foremost to Christ Himself. We have been commissioned to spread the word to "all sorts and conditions of men." It is not a commission exclusively to "people like us," but to everyone.

The message is simple: "Repent and believe the Gospel." The sacramental life of the Church follows, and we are supposed to bring people into that life; but, before we can do that, we must be willing and able to present the Gospel of Christ. Listen to these words by William Temple, the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury (1942–44): “Evangelism is to so present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men might come to trust Him as Savior and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.” 
The sower presents Jesus Christ as the Gospel reveals Him. He is One with the Father in eternity, and Who also took human nature into His Divine person, born of a virgin, fully human (while remaining One with the Father as God the Son), Who died on the cross as the spotless Lamb of God to take away all our sins, Who rose again from the dead on the third day, Who appeared to witnesses after His resurrection, and Who will come again in glory. Those who believe in Christ are welcomed into the fellowship of His Body, the Church, to live the sacramental life of disciples.   
Now, the purpose of false apostles, and deceitful workers, the ministers of Satan, is to take away this Faith from our minds. Failing that, their purpose is to get us so distracted by other things (even things that may seem good or religious), so as to get us "off message," so that we never sow the word to others. The tactics I have seen include:

1. To distort our priorities so that we "major on the minors."
2. To sow discord among brethren (Prov. 6:12-19), so that we fight each other and squabble about all manner of things (oh, and it's always about something important, in fact so important that people must divide, and maybe even ignore the clear commandment of God- in I Corinthians 5-so as to take each other to court with lawsuits).
3. To simply make us lazy, so that we neglect the House of God.*
4. Or to lead us astray with false doctrines.

All of these things I have seen in my many years, and so have some of you. And, why should we be surprised? St. Paul warns that Satan has his own ministers - indeed, the Devil really does call some people into the "ministry." They are called and appointed, by Satan, to stop the Church so that sowers do not sow the word.       
But the good news is God calls His own servants to lead the way. God has given us the word to sow, His word to sow, just as we are to believe it ourselves and live by it. And, knowing that we are weak, God gives us the Holy Spirit Who reveals His own power within us by gifts of service in every member of the Body (and I do mean you), so that together we may do His will in this fallen world. And, if we have the Faith that He plants in us by the seed of His word, and if we remain steadfast, anything that may come our way, whether good or bad, will fall out for "the furtherance of the Gospel."
__________

*Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. Haggai 1:9, 10


Friday, January 22, 2016

Septuagesima

Read it at this link.

January 22, Evil anniversary


It was on this day in 1973 that the Supreme Court legalized the murder of children in the womb. Snow and ice may make turn out at the March for Life in Washington D.C. much lower than usual, or maybe not at all lower. I will find out this evening. I attended this event for many years, my wife by my side after we were married, and I thank God for all the people who are able to get there.

All Christians everywhere need to understand that abortion is a grievous sin, the sin of murder.

All Christians ought to perceive it also as an issue of justice that requires both prayer and action, as did slavery, as did the Holocaust, and other great injustices in history.

All Christians ought to know that this is moral rather than political, and that addressing it publicly and from the pulpit is perfectly correct, and necessary.

LET US PRAY that God will end this injustice, and have mercy.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Audio file of my sermon on January 17, 2016

Second Sunday after the Epiphany. Click on the picture for the link.




Friday, January 15, 2016

Concerning the suspension of the Episcopal "Church"


Those who want to read a brief news report about the Anglican Communion Primates having suspended the Episcopal "Church" (TEC) from voting in Communion matters, and from representing the Anglican Communion for a three year period, may read the news at this link. If you want to read my analysis of this matter please come back to this page.

That the Global South primates have won a kind of victory is a step in the right direction, but only a step in a long journey. Many of us in Continuing churches know that this is approximately forty years later than it should have been. We know also that the Archbishop of Canterbury, then Donald Coggan, would have made all things better by recognizing the Denver Consecrations in 1978. The presence of ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach at the primates meeting this past week is good in one sense, but it also drives home the propaganda that we need to resist; namely that only now has a genuine Anglican alternative to TEC arisen. That notion has been presented only in an implied sense, but it is strongly implied at our expense, though it has never been true at all.

Furthermore, we do not accept the idea that any church body that "ordains" women is practicing authentic and genuine Anglicanism, for it is rejecting the catholic understanding of holy orders that was always preserved in Anglicanism from the time of the Reformation on. The idea that the matter of a sacrament may be altered, in this case a woman substituted for a man, cannot but lead right back to the belief that a man may step in for a woman, or a woman for a man, in another sacrament, namely holy matrimony. Logic follows its own law of gravity, as I wrote before, back in 2007 (see it here). Sadly, this bodes ill for the Anglican Communion in many places other then the United States, which is why the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) has stepped in to ensure valid orders in many countries on all inhabited continents, as well as the islands of Haiti and the Philippines. This rescue by the ACC has been necessary even in several of the Global South countries from which Anglican Communion primates traveled to Canterbury. And the ACNA still has women in their diaconate and in their priesthood.

Therefore, I do not see the suspension of the Episcopal Church as a major victory or healing. It only delays the break up of the Anglican Communion, focusing only on same-sex "marriage." In itself same-sex "marriage" was already practiced in TEC, just not by name before the government declared it legal. It was called the "Blessing of Same-Sex Unions," and was approved at the same 2003 General Convention that approved Gene Robinson for their TEC episcopate. That did not lead to any such actions as we see now by the primates, nor did it cause the ACNA to arise for six years.

Indeed, "Blessing of Same-Sex Unions" was always meant to be the same thing as marriage, however unofficially in the eyes of the state, inasmuch as the Church does not actually marry anybody, since the ministers of matrimony are the bride and groom who marry each other. The priest hears their vows in front of other witnesses, and gives them the Blessing. The Church does not make marriages, but rather blesses them. So, we know what TEC was really approving in 2003. All that is different now is the mask has come off completely.

This is not a matter of too little too late, but of a brief delay. At the end of these three years will TEC have repented? The evidence is that they are digging in their heels and playing "martyr" and "prophet" under the leadership of their Presiding Bishop Curry, who spoke passionately to the other primates, wresting every New Testament verse he could drag out of context, no matter how violently. In his theology, it appears, God sent His Son into the world to make the world safe for pornea (sexual immorality). The Son did not come to call sinners to repentance, but to seeking affirmation  of their sinful "lifestyles." Curry's words, and their tone, show no repentance, but only a Satanic method called twisting the scriptures. In three years TEC will only slide further into apostasy and heresy, assuming all the while a "holier than thou" attitude in the process.

And, since history proves that TEC is the real trail blazer in the Anglican Communion, including parts of the otherwise laudatory Global South, it is only a matter of time before the cancer spreads further, perhaps a mere three years. No, a much more radical and perhaps painful procedure must take place for us to have any cause of rejoicing. That procedure may seem as painful as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. It is called repentance.


Second Sunday after the Epiphany

 Click on the icon for the link.