Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Advent



Isaiah 40:1-11 * Psalm 80 * Phil. 4:4-7 * John 1:19-28 

Again we see that mysterious image of John the Baptist, the burning and shining light who bore witness by his life and death to Jesus Christ. “He must increase, and I must decrease,” said this prophet, this man whose unique vocation was that he bridged the Old Testament and the New. Two weeks ago we saw that all of the scriptures bore witness to Jesus Christ; and now, this last prophet of the Old Covenant bears direct witness to Christ, baptizing Him, and seeing the Spirit of God come upon Him as a dove out of Heaven. This last prophet of the Old Covenant is the first prophet of the New Covenant. The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (Isa. 43: 19).” God called this prophet, this unique prophet, to show that the new thing, the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet (Jer. 31:31f) was upon them. John’s father was a priest under the Law of Moses, a descendent of Aaron. Therefore, John was also, by that Law, a priest. Yet, John the son of Zechariah, went into the desert to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “prepare the way of the Lord.”


Advent is about the last things, and especially meant to remind us that Christ will come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead, to make the heavens and the earth new, and to rule forever on His throne, surrounded by saints whom He has redeemed from sin and death to rule forever with Him. But, as we have seen, instead of having us read the many passages of scripture that deal very directly with eschatology- the study of the end- the Gospel readings appointed by the Church give us a glimpse of Christ’s second coming by reminding us of events that happened when He came at first. The first week we saw that His kingdom brings judgment on the very House of God in the midst of the holy city, and cleanses it by driving out those who defiled it by their practice of unrepented sin. The picture ought to inspire the healthy fear of God, and to make us repentant and resolute to live in such a way that we will be among those who remain in His house forever, instead of being driven out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


And now, thanks to the wisdom of the Church, we are reminded of the Baptist who prepared the way of the Lord by preaching repentance and cleansing. John the Baptist bridged the Testaments and prepared the way for Christ by offering hope, by giving sinful people a chance to start over again. The sinners who came to him were given a new beginning, hope and cleansing- themselves cleansed rather than tossed out as the Lord tossed out the money changers when it was the temple that was cleansed of evil presences and practices. In other words, the vocation of John the Baptist was to prepare people to see Jesus as the Messiah, and the preparation was repentance, the only way to be prepared to meet the Lord. The Advent message of repentance is necessary. Modern popular religion tells everyone that they need not repent of their sins, but rather that everyone is accepted with all of their ungodly baggage. The truth is, some churches are simply helping people go into the outer darkness. After all, St. Paul warned of people he called Satan’s ministers (II Cor. 11:13-15). The real ministry of the Church is the most important and serious thing in the world. Here we deal with things more important than mere life and death. We speak and administer the word and sacraments that have to do with the eternal kingdom to come. We give out both a warning and hope: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

Now, about the comings of Jesus Christ, and the life of this mysterious John the Baptist, we should dig a little deeper. The word “Christ” is from the Greek for the Hebrew word Meshiach, or as we pronounce it in English, Messiah. We have come to call the Lord by two names more than all others, Jesus and Christ. The one means Salvation- Y’shua. The other means “the anointed” – Meshiach. The implication is the Old Testament expression, “the Lord’s Anointed.” This comes with two pictures, as the word "messiah" is sprinkled generously throughout the pages of the Old Testament (generally translated "anointed"). The word speaks of priests and kings, and the anointing comes by the hand of a prophet.

The first men to be called meshiach were the brother of Moses, Aaron the High Priest, and his sons the priests. The King James Bible uses the phrase “the priest that is anointed.” The original Hebrew is h’ kohan h’ meshiach- “the priest the messiah.” The second class of men to be called messiah (meshiach) are the kings. David would not stretch forth his hand against Saul, because he was “the Lord’s anointed.” That is, the Lord’s messiah. Every priest was a messiah, and every king was a messiah. And, yet, the scriptures clearly speak of the one Man who would be both priest and king, and who would be the only hope of the whole world, being the one Jews call H’ MeshiachThe Messiah. So, first Messiah is the priest, and then after that He is the King.

His two comings are foreshadowed in these pictures. First he came as priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews is the most explicit New Testament book that tells of Christ’s priestly ministry when he came the first time, and does so in light of the hope of those who look for His second appearing. As the priest He offered Himself as the sacrifice. The Book of Leviticus tells us clearly how a priest made kippur, that is atonement, for a repentant sinner who confessed his sin to the priest and brought a sacrifice. The real meaning is that the priest himself is the atonement, and offers the animal because he cannot sacrifice himself. This is a type and shadow of Jesus, who did offer Himself as priest and sacrifice when He came the first time. The importance of the Suffering Servant passage to the clear New Testament proclamation of atonement cannot be overstated. You will find it in the 53rd chapter of the Book of Isaiah. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This Suffering servant, after His death in their place, rises and takes up a ministry of intercession for sinners. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” A dead man cannot prolong his days unless he rises again. In this passage, His death and resurrection are priestly, because he dies as the one true sacrifice, the atonement, and after rising “he ever lives to make intercession for them,” that is, for those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). The Old Testament sacrifices on those altars foreshadowed His true sacrifice, just as our sacrifice on this altar, in which nothing is killed, proclaims it. In fact, there is only one Mass (Eucharist or Holy Communion), and always when it is offered anywhere in the world by the Church, it is joined to the one true sacrifice on Calvary.

When he comes again, the image of Messiah as King will be fulfilled in all of its glory. This is the terror of all that is evil, and it is the hope of the Church. It is a certainty that he will come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead, to establish Heaven on Earth, to rule and so grant peace forever. Both testaments speak of His coming as the King Messiah. Daniel saw one coming in the clouds of Heaven as the Son of man to rule with the Ancient of Days; Moses saw that “the Earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Our eternal hope is not based upon imagination and conjecture, but upon the sure promise given in and by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We are given the “sure and certain hope of the resurrection on the Last Day.” It is the only such hope, and it is impossible to separate that hope from Jesus Christ, because immortality, the hope of eternal life, is granted through His resurrection. So writes Saint John about those who, due to this hope, purify themselves: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (I John 3:2).”

John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord by his message of repentance. Pondering these pictures of the Messiah as priest and King we are both warned and encouraged with both fear and hope. This is the meaning of Advent. It is of eternal consequence that we give heed.
 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Second Sunday in Advent (Bible Sunday)

Romans 15:4-13 * Luke 21:25-33

The opening of today’s Epistle and the last line from today’s Gospel are the seeds of today’s Collect.  Together, they explain why this Sunday has come to be called “Bible Sunday”.

That Collect speaks of the obligation we each have concerning the Holy Scriptures:  we are to “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them….”  Then, the Collect suggests, comes the work of the Holy Spirit as He uses those Scriptures within us to plant and grow the patience and comfort that keep us upon, and help us along, the path to eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Also, in the Epistle and Gospel for this day we find that hope to be what our Prayer Book calls “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life.”  This “hope” is not a mere wish for something that may never happen.  When we examine the meaning of “hope” as it relates to “faith”, we see that the Scriptures clarify their meaning by adding the words “sure and certain.”  This important qualifying phrase comes from the Epistle to the Hebrews:

"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:  That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:  Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.”[1]

Thus we see that the Bible does not separate “hope” from “faith” and never separated either of these two from “charity”.  These three virtues grow together and hope depends on faith.  Hope believes, faith works, and charity labors.
We find our sure and certain hope in the word of God.  Faith grows within us when we hear that particular voice, the voice of God that we discern so clearly as he speaks to us now within the Scriptures.  Written so long ago, when they are spoken or read God Himself speaks to us in the present.  Never are they worn out or obsolete or irrelevant.
A common misconception is that the Bishops of the Christian Church assembled in the city of Nicea under the direction of the Emperor Constantine and there, at his behest, began cutting books out of the Bible.  In fact, when the Council met and the all-powerful Emperor presumed to address the Bishops of the Church, they told him that he, not being a bishop, could not address their assembly.
Something similar is true of the notion that those same Bishops set out to prune the Bible of important books they did not wish the Christian people to know about.  The truth is that the Bishops at Nicea did not decide which books then in circulation were actually Scripture and which were not. All those Bishops did was to affirm in unity of mind – and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit -- that the books the Church already perceived as the word of God were, indeed, just that.
The process of recognizing the books of the Old Testament and the New was what we might call the vox populi, the “voice of the people”, that is, the common consensus of the household of the faith.  The ancient Jewish people had discovered, over time, which books spoke to them in what they recognized as the distinctive voice of God; these books became the Jewish Bible which is now our Old Testament.
St. Paul tells us in what high regard we must hold the Old Testament in today’s Epistle: “Whatsoever things were written afore time were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
In the earliest days of the Church this Old Testament formed the only Canon of scripture.  But, by the early years of the Second Century, additional books had already been received into Christian congregations and there quoted as the word of God.  These twenty seven books eventually formed additional and final portion of the Canon of Scripture, that we know as the New Testament. 
In some places a few questions were raised about II Peter, Jude and Revelation.  But over time skepticism about them disappeared.  In a few places some people thought that a work called The Shepherd of Hermas might be part of the Canon of the Church’s Scriptures but it failed the prime test for acceptance.
That question was, as it had been for the ancient Jews before, did or did not the people of God recognize the voice of God in this book? In this book, as in the other books that ultimately were not recognized as part of the Canon, the early Christians simply did not hear the clear and familiar voice of God in the same way as they heard God’s voice in the books they recognized, and that we accept, as Canonical Scriptures.
Thus, long before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the Church had defined its Canon. This was the same as the one we have now, adding to the Jewish Scriptures the Church had inherited the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.3
Thus, too, there were no books for the Bishops at Nicea to delete, but, instead, only a Canon that had already been established before any of them had been born.
In Advent, the Church traditionally reads Isaiah’s passages about the Suffering Servant, the one by whose stripes we are healed and who prolonged his days after dying, that he would live forever as the agent of God's will.  The Lord Himself assures us that His coming again will be our redemption and that the fears and darkness of this age will disappear in the light of His glory.
His coming to rule over heaven and earth, cleansing this world from all evil, from death and suffering, and all such things, is sure and certain.  If instead of comfort, this fills your heart with fear, then that means that you must repent from all your sins.  Turn, then, to the Lord, that you may enter that blessed state of sure and certain hope, and be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. 
Today’s Epistle speaks of Christ’s ministry, first to His own people of Israel, and then of the way that ministry extends to all nations through those people of Israel who believed in Him and became His disciples. This recalls the words of Simeon, when he held the infant Jesus in the Temple: “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”[2]
This light shines into the darkest places where we try to hide from God because we are conscious of our own sins. If we respond to His mercy, that same light of revelation brings comfort and hope, the sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life.
The invitation is extended by His words:  come, eat and be filled with the food and drink of eternal life. Come feed on the Living Bread that has come down from heaven, and with hearty repentance and true faith receive Christ through these humble means unto everlasting life with him in glory.

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”


[1] Hebrews 6:17-19 (KJV).
[2] Luke 2:32 (KJV).
3 For purposes of this sermon and its basic message, I have not brought up the Apocrypha. Suffice it to say, it is covered in Article VI.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Painting by El Greco
Romans13:8-13 * Matthew 21:1-13
What a confusing choice for today's Gospel, the same reading we have in the Blessing of the Palms on Palm Sunday, before the first Eucharist. What does this have to do with the main theme of Advent, that we must be prepared for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory to judge both the quick and the dead? After all, as everyone should know, it is about our own real preparation to come face to face with God. The season is about the Four Last Things, Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Among these, Heaven and Hell take on powerful significance as the Resurrection to immortality, to live and reign with Christ forever, and the resurrection of those who will go into the lake of fire. As the Lord said: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."1 In light of these themes, it is not enough to be aware of the joy that awaits those who will enter the blessed state of glorification as the sons of God. We must also be aware of the terror of the Lord so as to persuade men,2 including ourselves, to be ready for the Lord at all times.

Several religious leaders from various churches must have voted, about a century or more ago, to close Hell. Like some prisons, it has perhaps become overcrowded, and so nobody else can go there, even though some people are dying to get in. Why else would it sound so strange to hear it mentioned in a sermon-in church of all places? Maybe Hell has become the sort of topic, like for example, sin; something that fashionable people just do not discuss in church. It's not nice, it's not warm and fuzzy, and it contributes, no doubt, to global warming. The problem is, the ultimate "fire and brimstone" preacher in the Bible is Jesus Christ-no more Mr. Nice Guy to anyone shocked to learn it. Yes, St. John the Baptist has a few words to say about it. St. Paul never mentions it directly, though clearly warning about it indirectly. Some theologians want to blunt the effect of every passage that does mention it. If we are to be serious about the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must face this subject, namely, the danger of going into the outer darkness "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."3 The worms and fire invoke an image of a dump, but it was a reference to where bodies are left unburied after a great slaughter.

The Greek word for that ultimate Hell is Ge'enna (γε’εννα). It refers to a terrible place mentioned in the Old Testament as a site where children were murdered in sacrifice to Molech, the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. Our Lord spoke of it in terms of that final and dreadful verse in the Book of Isaiah: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."4

God "commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
5 The Gospel command to repent is also a word of hope. It is centered on the grace of God, and the love of God demonstrated and revealed in the cross of Christ. 6 How simple and yet powerful are those words of St. Paul, "Christ died for our sins."7 In that light, we obey the command to repent, and therefore are filled with joy because he gives us the certain hope of eternal life. "Repent, confess, thou shalt be loosed from all."8 This alone gives hope. A false gospel of acceptance and inclusion cannot revive and comfort anyone's conscience. The words of today's Epistle tell us how to live our lives in this world in the fear of God, and also in the grace of God. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. "

Why are we given this selection from the Gospels?
Why this picture of Christ being welcomed as the Son of David, the king, and then getting off the donkey, going into the temple, and casting out the money changers? We understand why this leads to the Passion, and is read at the start of Holy Week when we bless the palms. We understand that other judgment, that in the cross of Christ it was the Prince of this world who was judged and cast out. 9 When we begin Holy Week it makes sense. What, however, does this have to do with the coming again in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, to judge the quick and the dead? As an event in history, how do we place some meaning of it in the future? as a recorded past event, how does it find its way into eschatology (the study of the End)?

The simple answer (so obvious once we realize it) is that, in her wisdom, the Church puts before our eyes this picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, from his first coming, that most closely resembles his second coming. Here is the Lord who suddenly comes to his temple and cleanses it. We see the Lord who casts out from the place of that holy presence of the Shekinah, those who have been living unrepentant in sin. The authority of the Lord, to mete out judgment, to evict sinners from his presence, to cleanse, to purge, and to purify, is seen in this Gospel passage. That harder side of the One who was able to forgive and heal with compassion is here made visible. This picture shows the judgment of the Lord; it shows his unique authority as the Word and Son of the Everlasting Father, that power that comes so genuinely from within Himself that all of these men felt compelled to obey His voice, and had no power in themselves to resist His words of eviction from the Holy Place. He had no visible army to carry out His commands, no soldiers to enforce His decree; and yet His power was such that no one could resist, and no one could refuse. Just as He had power to cast out demons so that people would not be tormented any longer, so His word with power casts out willful sinners so that they can no longer defile. Yes, this is the best picture we have of the Lord who comes again as Judge.

                    Bible illustration by Gustave Dore

St. Peter wrote: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"10 If we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit among us, we will experience that gentle judgment that saves us here and now. After all, even though St. Peter makes direct reference to the End, that is the Last Day when Christ comes again, and does so with words to place the fear of God in our hearts, he begins with "the time is come." If the message is about "the end" of those who are removed, thrown into Ge'enna with its hungry worms and perpetual burnings, what judgment is there that begins now in the house of God? Jesus cast out the works of darkness from the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem, casting out those who had worked that darkness openly and unashamed, and who insulted the holy place no less than the sons of Eli had done long before.11 But, St. Peter urges us with a present hope: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God." What is this judgment that must begin now? Pray God, let it be for each one of us the very self-examination that aids those who repent to make a good confession of their sins with all of the sincerity of a heart moved by the Holy Spirit.

Let us recall that other name, that specifically Anglican name that we give to the main service each and every Sunday: "The Holy Communion." Other names are good too, such as The Divine Liturgy (the Orthodox name), the Mass, and the Holy Eucharist. But, I like the Anglican name, The Holy Communion. It was first used to make something very clear to the people of the Church of England, which is that the purpose of the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, is that it be taken and received. The Catechism tells us that two of the sacraments are generally necessary to salvation, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The purpose of coming and receiving this Blessed Sacrament is to feed on the Living Bread that comes down from heaven, which if a man eat, he may live forever. Jesus told us that He is the food and drink of eternal life, and to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
12 First we make confession of sin based on the self-examination we should make every time; as St.Paul wrote: "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."13 It is in that self-examination and the resulting sincere confession, that we prepare for the coming of the Lord right now, that is, his coming to our altar, and then into our very bodies as we eat the food and drink the cup of eternal life-His flesh and blood. If we live always ready for this Sacrament, we will live always ready to meet the Lord face to face.

In today's Gospel passage, we see important elements of His Second Coming, elements that are true to the Person of the Son of God, the everlasting Son of the everlasting Father. He is the only king and savior. He is the judge “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 14 Judgment will begin at the House of God, until His whole creation is cleansed and purified, made ready for a habitation of His righteousness, a dwelling place of His glory among men. The purpose of a Penitential season is to learn to sharpen and focus our self-examination, the same self-examination that we should do every time we draw near to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I know that a “feel good” religion is the popular model for success in today’s “spiritual” market; but the only good feeling we should ever trust is that spoken of by the Psalmist: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”15
To be ready for the last Judgment, we must be willing to let the Holy Ghost shake up our world, we must allow Him to shake up our very selves. Indeed, to prepare for the coming again of Jesus Christ, we must draw near "with hearty repentance and true faith" in order to make a good confession, sincere and resolute of purpose to "walk in newness of life." Indeed, to prepare for the coming again of Jesus Christ, we need do no more, and no less, than we do when we prepare to receive the Communion of His Body and Blood.16


1. John 5:28, 29
2. II Corinthians 5:11
3. Mark 9:42-50
4. Isaiah 66:24
5. Acts 17:30
6. Romans 5:8
7. I Corinthians 15:3
8 From Weary of Earth and laden with my sin, Hymn 58 in The Hymnal 1940.
9. John 12:31, 32
10. I Peter 4:17, 18
11. I Samuel 2:12f
12. John 6:26-59
13. I Corinthians 11: 29
1
4. Matthew. 3:12
15. Psalm 32:1

16. I Corinthians 10:16

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Forty Years Long...


The four leading bishops are pictured above, from left to right, the Rt. Rev. Paul Hewitt (DHC), the Most Rev. Walter Grundorf (APA), the Most Rev. Dr. Mark Haverland (ACC), and the Most Rev. Brian Marsh (ACA). 

As promised, I write my reflections on the 2017 Joint Anglican Synods. For those not knowing what it was, the Anglican Diocese of the Holy Cross (DHC), the Anglican Province in America (APA), the Anglican Church in America (ACA), and the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) came together last week in Atlanta Georgia. Each jurisdiction held the business sessions necessary to a provincial synod separately, inasmuch as those meetings are about all sorts of specific things, many of which are put to a vote, some involving budgets, etc. But the spiritual and social activities, from church services to meals, were all held together. On the last day of the gathering, Friday October 6, all synod business having been concluded, everything was done together. In the morning, the four leading bishops signed the agreement for full communion. This was followed by a man calling out "Praise God!" and a spontaneous rendering, sung by all of us, of the Doxology. A little bit later the four jurisdictions held a Mass together. 

Whether they drew lots or simply discussed who would do what (I can ask my Archbishop if anyone thinks it matters how), the celebrant was Bishop Paul Hewitt, and the preacher was Bishop Grundorf. In his sermon, Bishop Grundorf preached on the theme "For such a time as this," words of Mordecai from the Book of Esther. As the keynote address the night before, by Fr. Charles Clendenin, Bishop Grundorf's sermon was direct, to the point, and very honest about the forty years long of our wandering (Psalm 95:10). He also spoke to the times in which we find ourselves, and about the challenges and opportunities before us. I believe both men were more than a keynote speaker and a homilist. They spoke as prophets, as I said this past Sunday in my own sermon (at this link you may find the sermon for the 17th Sunday after Trinity 2017). 

Earlier, when the four leading bishops were preparing to sign the agreement, Bishop Hewitt spoke of the "hand of God" on us, and of "the anointing" of the Holy Spirit. When considering the Biblically significant number of forty years (since the St. Louis Congress in 1977), and the leading of four bishops (evoking the memory of the first four Continuing bishops of the Denver Consecrations a few months after the Congress of St. Louis), it does appear that God Himself is the One Who has arranged these events, and Who is speaking to us "for such a time as this." I believe that God Himself judged it best for us to wander in division until He cleansed out from us much of the sins and error still in our old Episcopal Church and Church of Canada hard hearts, most especially the deadly sin of pride. As the ancient prophets of Israel told on their own people, and as the people eventually heard it to become a people prepared by God, so it is for us at this time. 

For my own reflections to be complete for you, I recommend hearing the sermon I preached two days later, as I linked above.

Press conference during the Joint Synods

Anglican Joint Synod - Press Conference

Anglican Joint Synod - Keynote with Fr. Clendenin

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Communion at the Joint Synods Mass, Oct. 6, 2017



The hymn you hear is very appropriate. This was during the receiving of the Holy Communion. Check this spot for my reflections on the 2017 Joint Synods Mass, which I will be writing and posting soon.

The Offering

of the collection taken at the 2017 Joint Synods Mass will be used to help ACA parishes and people in Puerto Rico, because of the terrible damage from the hurricane.

I will write my impressions of the Joint Synods after discharging the usual duties of my ministry here brought on by what seems to be, after this week, the sudden arrival of the weekend. Suffice to say, it is the hand of God at work that has created this new beginning after the biblically significant period of forty years.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

2017 JOINT ANGLICAN SYNODS

The joint Anglican synods are well underway in Atlanta Georgia, marking a new and long overdue initiative by leading bishops to unify the Continuing Church. I am busy taking part, and will write about it when I return. In the meantime I may be able to post a bit here and there as time permits.

Friday, September 08, 2017

"Gender" Confusion in Holy Orders

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana

I have tried to abstain from saying much about the fairly new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). But in light of the news about them at this time, it seems that a few words are in order. Clearly, one cannot tell, despite their name, if they are a church or a confederation of churches. In reality, it is confusing even to many on the inside; actually they are both in certain ways.

The tragedy of their decision regarding Women's Ordination is that they are following on the same road, in the same direction as the Episcopal "Church" from which they claimed independence only eight years ago (although absorbing two other Anglican church bodies that were older, the Reformed Episcopal Church and what used to be called the Anglican Mission in America, later renamed Province de l'Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda in the USA). Once again they have imitated the Episcopal "Church," which years ago had decided that the ordination of women would be accepted, or not, by each local diocese. That is exactly what the ACNA bishops decided to reaffirm for their church just one day ago. 

"September 7, 2017
PREAMBLE In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood."
Later in the same paragraph they say:
"It was also unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America."
Such was also the rule of the Episcopal Church until 1988, and of the Church of England until the 1990s. Once the idea of women's ordination is accepted at all, it is arbitrary at best merely to limit it.  So, do not expect this to last.
Then, with telling irony, they declare:
"We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood."
Learning from history
A brief history lesson is in order. What the ACNA bishops have reaffirmed is exactly the official position that the Episcopalians took concerning Women's Ordination throughout the late 1970s, into the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming heavy-handed and dictatorial about it when the new century began. Furthermore, this is the position taken by the Episcopalians at their General Convention in 2000 about the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions (they stopped short of saying "Same-Sex Marriage" at that time only for legal reasons. But the meaning was clear enough to anyone who knows that the ministers of Matrimony are the man and the woman. The role of the Church, through the clergy, is only to bless, not to effect, the Union of a married couple). In 2003 they repeated that, but have, since then, become quite solid in their affirmation of Same-Sex marriage. Their most recent General Convention was little more than Satan worship, reveling in heresy, apostasy and immorality in an open manner that was rebellious and brazenly malicious against Almighty God.
Ten years ago, when the ACNA was not yet even a gleam in Bp. Robert Duncan's eye, I wrote the following for this blog:
"The fact is, once the 'ordination' of women was accepted, the movement to bless same sex unions was inevitable. The arguments for Homosexualism are not merely similar to the arguments for women's 'ordination.' Rather, they are the exact same arguments. The blessing of same sex unions, practiced now throughout the heretical but official Canterbury Communion, is performed as a church rite by sincerely lusting couples under the direction of clergypersons of both sexes and all genders, to be as close to the semblance of marriage as the Law of each state, province or nation makes possible. In short, it imitates the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and does so on the newly understood basis that the sex of a person has no significance in a sacrament. If Shirley and Maggie can be "ordained" they can also be married, and so can Adam and Steve.

"The 'conservatives' among the Anglicans have failed to understand the gravity of logic. It works the same way as this illustration. If I stand at the top of a thirty foot hill with a big round rubber ball, and decide to roll the ball only ten feet down the hill and no farther, like it or not, the ball will roll the entire thirty feet to the bottom before it stops after rolling even farther still. It does not matter that I intended only to roll it ten feet. Once I let go, gravity will take the ball the whole way. This is how a premise works in relation to logic. Once you let go of the ball, that is, once you state or merely accept a premise, the gravity of logic will take over. Perhaps you only meant to let women be priests, but not to let the premise take its own logical course to the final end. However, the premise itself is subject to the gravity of logic, and must keep rolling until you are "blessing" Adam and Steve in the imitation sacrament of Unholy Unmatrimony. Those who want to argue that this was not inevitable have two problems facing them: First, we predicted this would happen, and second, it has.

"So, with all due respect to our conservative and principled Anglican friends who want to keep their priestesses, and make new ones, we cannot surrender the doctrine that the sacrament Holy Orders is, by God's revealed will, reserved to men. Otherwise, we only slow the process down instead of preventing it. We don't need to be ECUSA part II, waiting to happen again."

In light of our plans
I invite the bishops and people of PEARUSA (formerly the AMiA), and those in Forward in Faith North America to consider those of us in the Continuing Church, despite our own obvious failing to stay together in unity in the past. It is not because we are perfect that I ask them to look at us seriously, because, indeed, we have been all too often ignorant of Satan's devices (II Corinthians 2:11). But that history is behind us, very much consigned to a previous time. This newer generation of bishops is working to repair every breach made by some who caused divisions in the early days. The upcoming Provincial Synods being held jointly in Atlanta merely make official what has been reality for years.

Human flaws are everywhere to be found, of course. The problem with false doctrine, however, creates a greater danger than mere human failing. It takes people down a destructive path, and at a pace that they cannot control, no matter how much they may feel in control. As I wrote ten years ago, once the premise is released, it shall go all the way to its inevitable end. Nothing can stop it, because it exists in the realm of ideas, and is committed to each new generation.

Gender Identity Confusion
Is it not obvious that "Gender Identity" is the great new deception of this time, and that its main victims are children and youth? The lie is spread everywhere that contradicts one simple fact: "God made them male and female (Genesis 1:27)." Children are suffering abuse at the hands of adults who actually force this confusion on young minds, incapable of putting up a defense. This can lead to the plastic surgery falsely called a "sex-change" operation, after which a patient becomes twenty times more likely to commit suicide.

The issue of women's ordination is part of the entire struggle, no less than same-sex marriage and "Gender Identity" confusion. It is part of the same overall deception that is harming the future of the whole society, and creating confusion for children and youth about basic human nature. I see it as part of the great spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness. My position may seem radical; but, I fear that nuance is never called for when people are racing to the edge of a cliff, or even merely plodding along at a somewhat slower rate than those who are racing. The destination is the same, and ultimately it is worse than rolling down a hill.

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Click here.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2017


II Cor 3:4-9 * Mark 7:31-37
Many years ago, back in the 1970s, some of the notable figures of the Charismatic movement- the popular “neo-Pentecostal” movement that spread across all denominational lines- would address the burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” The truth is, miracles of healing can and do happen every once in a while, but, to be honest, not most of the time. The reverse question that ought to have been obvious, but that no one seemed to ask, was: “Why, considering that ‘all have sinned,’ has God ever healed anybody?”

In popular religious movements it is all too easy for false doctrine to arise. Furthermore, one of the insidious results of false doctrine is to hide true doctrine from view. People become obsessed with the demands of false teaching. In the case of the healing and faith emphasis of popular Charismatic ministers, the concept was introduced that people can receive healing for any and all ailments (as if they could never die) if only they would embrace methods to work their faith up to such a level that all things would be possible on demand. This mistaken notion of faith carried with it no moral implications, and this kind of faith itself was the substitute for all of the virtues. In this whole mess of confusion, the truth that was lost was the Gospel itself. I am not saying that everyone in that movement was guilty of this; however, the right question was not asked. Why has God ever healed anybody?

Indeed, why did Jesus heal this man in this portion of the Gospel of Mark? Why does He give to him ears that hear and a tongue that speaks? Why did the Lord heal people? Why did he show compassion? If He had handed out what was due, he would have slain everybody; “for all have sinned.” But, instead we see His ministry described in the words of St. Peter: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38).” The purpose of the Incarnation includes this fact: He does not deal with us as our sins deserve. If we repent, He forgives us.

Some people misread the Lord’s words: “Thy faith hath made thee whole." All too often, this is presented as if faith worked like some kind of magic charm, or, as if faith becomes the one work that brings salvation. Such an idea would invert the great teaching of St. Paul that faith does for us what our own works cannot do. It is not the one human merit that earns either healing, blessing or salvation, but instead is the doorway by which we may receive God’s gifts.

In today’s Epistle reading we see two curious phrases: “the letter” and “the Spirit.” We learn that the letter, which refers to the Law, kills; but the Spirit, which is the life of Christ given to us in the New Covenant, gives life. The letter, the Law that God gave in the Covenant of Sinai when He revealed His commandments to Israel in the days of Moses, is “holy and just and good," as St. Paul tells us in another Epistle, the one to the Church in Rome. The glorious ministry of the Law is condemnation, and the severity of that condemnation justifies no one. Our Lord is the one who brought this fact out most clearly. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount each of us learns that he has received the sentence of death, utter condemnation- damnation. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that we looked at only last week demonstrates the folly of anyone pleading for life by the letter that kills. Only a self-deceived man living in a fantasy of self-inflicted and extraordinary delusion, pleads the Law of God, expecting to be justified by it. The Pharisee deceived himself into believing that he was not a sinner “even like this Publican.”

The glorious ministry of that Old Covenant revelation of the Law is that it slays each of us; it condemns each of us. “All have sinned, and come short of the gory of God.” So, then, why did Jesus go about and do good to sinners? Why did he heal anybody ever? Because the glory of the ministry of the New Covenant is even greater than the glorious ministry of condemnation.  In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord spoke of the blood that would be shed from his own body as “the blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The disciples understood this from the prophecy of Jeremiah, in which the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit of life was foretold:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” ( Jer. 31:31-34)


Israel looked ahead to the time when this covenant would produce the new man who has the Spirit of God within him writing the commandments of God on his heart. The forgiveness of sins and the promise that each person would know God, was the promise of the new Covenant. 


The promise of forgiveness was demonstrated by the works of Jesus, and supplied only by way of the cross. Not one person that Jesus healed deserved that healing. But by healing Jesus showed that he forgives sins. Every time he healed someone, and every time he spoke the words of forgiveness to a repentant sinner, he knew that it was all due to the pain he would endure as he would pour our his soul unto death, with the nails through his hands and feet, and the thorns piercing his brow. It was not free of charge, for he would pay the price. The burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” can be answered only by saying, in terms of God's perfect will, "but he does"- if only because all who believe in the Son of God, all who eat the Bread of Life, all who live by the Food and Drink of eternal life, will be raised up on the Last Day, when Christ comes again in glory.

We need the ministry of condemnation in order to appreciate and understand the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus never approved of sin; he was far more condemning than Moses, speaking of Hell in a way no other preacher ever did. Forgiveness requires condemnation. Churches that approve of sin cannot meet the greatest need of the human heart; and they cannot bring healing. For, there is no acknowledgment of the wound among them. Forgiveness itself is very condemning, for what is approved cannot be forgiven. Jesus condemned all sin on the cross in the most powerful way possible. Justice and mercy met where the cross intersected, where he hung beneath the charge of the Roman governor. But, St. Paul, in another place, tells us that the real charge that hung over the Lord was the Law of God (Colossians 2:14). There He paid the full price of sin for you and me. Then He rose the third day, and overcame death. So, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

And that my friends, is why God has ever healed anybody.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tenth Sunday after Trinity


1 Corinthians 12:1-11 * Luke 19:41-47a
"...thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

In the Gospel we see the Lord himself entering His city and His temple, present in a very direct way, cleansing and purifying His Father's house. The city belonged to Him in a special way, His chosen city, the place of the throne of David that signifies the Lord's own eternal rule. The temple was the chosen place for His abiding Presence in the Holy of Holies, where the Blood of Atonement was carried within the veil and sprinkled once a year, and where no one but the High Priest dared to go, and never without that Blood of Atonement shed on Yom Kippor. The City was always the place of the Temple, the abiding place of His glorious Presence.

          And, yet, even though the abiding Presence of God was there, Jesus speaks of His arrival at that hour as their time of visitation. The opening of this passage is sober: "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
          The Epistle speaks also of the abiding Presence of God in His temple, that is, in His Church. And, it speaks, also, of Christ's visitation in this, the living temple of His people. For, Christ Himself is present whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit is present. In the Church we have always the Presence of Christ with us. He is with us by the abiding Presence of His Holy Spirit. By that abiding Presence He makes His Presence known further by charismatic realities.
          The word "charisma" is the New Testament Greek word (χάρις- charis) that is translated both as "grace" and as "gift." When we say that something is charismatic, we do not mean, necessarily, that it is exciting or spectacular. Neither are we speaking, necessarily, about what was called, or is called, the Charismatic Movement. We speak, rather, of the graces or gifts of the Holy Spirit, doing so by using an English form of a word from the original language of the New Testament.
          We hear a lot and read a lot about the charismatic reality of the sacraments, and of the mystery of His Presence in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. That sacrament is one of the charisms or charismata, one of the gifts that operates in His Church, in this case through the ordained ministry of the priesthood. The Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the sacrament comes from the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church; it is, in that proper and true sense, charismatic.
          This chapter from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Church in Corinth ties all of these realities together. Christ is, by the Holy Spirit, always present in His Church; His is the abiding Presence. And, yet, each time He uses a member of His Body, the Church, He comes to us with a visitation. We can receive and acknowledge Christ our Lord, as He comes to us through the various members of His Body, the Church, or we can fail to know the hour, the time of our visitation. We can be reverent about His Body as He is present in the sacrament, and yet be irreverent toward His Body, the Members of that same Body who surround us here and now, the people sharing this room with us, Christ's Body the Church. When you stand in the presence of another member of His Body, you are faced with the hour of visitation. How will you respond?
       Perhaps you might see, even now, why St. Paul followed this chapter, chapter twelve, with the famous chapter thirteen about that highest kind of love, the love we call charity:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal...And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (from I Corinthians 13)
                 We have not even begun to learn the lesson in today's Epistle. We may talk for hours about the Real Presence in the Eucharist, even debating various fine points of sacramental theology. In this chapter twelve, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the members of the Church are the members of His Body. Paul places this in a very significant context: Between chapter eleven about the sacrament of Holy Communion, and chapter thirteen about charity, the love without which we are nothing, and without which we would be counted dead while we live.
          In this chapter Paul teaches us that the gifts and graces God gives, without which each one of us is incomplete and terribly needy, are given to the people who surround us right now, in these members of the same Body, the Body of Christ. Metaphorically, and also somehow quite truly, you may be an ear, another may be a hand or a foot, unable to function all alone; and we all need what the other members have been given by the Holy Spirit. We depend on each other, we need each other. What we need is not each other's faults and failings; we need to be forgiving of those, because what we need are those gifts of the Holy Spirit God has placed even in the least comely of members.
          We have different passages in the New Testament where gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed, and no two lists are the same. The possibilities are endless, because it is God who works in His Church according to His will. But, you may rest assured that you can afford to be hateful and resentful of absolutely nobody in your congregation, and of nobody in the Church; you can afford to be unfriendly to no one. Each member of the Body presents you with a visitation from Christ.
          Furthermore, we cannot afford for any of you to miss your calling, to ignore the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been given to you for our common good, and to further the witness of this parish in our common mission to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. You must not become lukewarm in your commitment to Christ and His Church, or turn away from it. You were given gifts for our benefit, even if you have yet to discover them.
          I like to point out to those who study for Confirmation that C.S. Lewis wrote about the sacrament of Confirmation in his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the chapter where the children meet Father Christmas, he gives them gifts; but these gifts are not toys; they are not given for the amusement and fun of the children. For example, Peter, in the story, is given a special sword to help win the battle to liberate Narnia, and Lucy is given a flask of liquid to use for healing. That is, the gifts are given to each of the children not to use for themselves, and not just for fun, but to use for a common war effort against evil, and for the benefit, indeed the healing, of others. That is a picture of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
          To know this, the time of our visitation from Christ, we need to see the gifts that flourish from the abiding Presence of the Lord. We need always to see each other in the light of Christ, quick to forgive and always motivated by love. Indeed, if ever we wax ignorant of Satan’s devices we could develop a thousand reasons not to love one another; and we could not afford to yield to even one of them. We need always to walk in charity, because, as much as we need to have reverence for the Presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament, we need no less to have reverence for Christ in the members of His Body the Church--indeed, your own church, right here and right now.