Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ritualism is good for your health.

Apparently recent studies have shown that Frankincense contains a chemical with a mild psychoactive effect that counteracts depression and makes you happy. I have always said we needed more incense in our church services.
Read all about it here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Angel of the Lord Announced Unto Mary . . .

A sermon on Romans 2:25-3:18, Jeremiah 5:1-9 and John 5:30-47 March 25, 2011,
Feast of the Annunciation. Preached at the Trinity Chapel.

Today we are exactly 9 months away from Christmas. it’s the feast of the annunciation, when “the Angel announced unto Mary and she conceived by the Holy Ghost.” It seems ironic that the Angel’s announcement of the one “who will save his people from their sins” should come in the middle of Lent, and that this feast should be marked by readings that speak of God’s judgment. Especially incongruous is the reading from Romans where Paul specifically speaks of God’s judgment against Israel, the same people Jesus came to save.
This reading is a key part of Paul’s argument in Romans. In the first chapter he established that God’s wrath and judgment rest on all the gentiles. This wouldn’t have surprised any Jewish readers: Gentiles were, by definition, idolaters, outside God’s covenant and the sphere of his grace. A pious Jewish reader might have come to the end of C. 1 and been excused a sigh of relief, and a prayer of thanks for the good fortune to have been born into the covenant people.
The Apostle doesn’t let his audience enjoy that relief for long though. The Jewish people, the covenant people, also stand condemned before God. “Circumcision,” Paul says “is indeed of value if you obey the Law, but if you break the Law, your circumcision becomes uncircumscision” (ESV, 3:25). Now Paul’s claim that the Jews had failed to keep the Law must have sounded strange. Paul himself says in Philippians that he was blameless at to righteousness under the Law (Phil. 3:6). And I don’t doubt that there were many Jewish men and women who could have said the same. They had kept the Law; They had sinned, fair enough, but the Law made provision for forgiveness through sacrifice. So for what fault could God possibly condemn them?
What Paul saw when his attempt to stamp out Jesus’ followers was interrupted by conversion, was that even though he was blameless with respect to the Law, he had completely missed the point of the Law. The Law is, as Paul said, “the embodiment of knowledge and truth” (2:20), and the Truth which the Law spoke of was the Truth of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself says “if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46 ESV).
It’s not so ironic after all that we read this on the feast of the Annunciation, because the judgment against God’s people was precisely what the Angel announced to Mary. God had come to dwell with us, to save his people from their sins - this was the truth to which the Law bore witness. The world rejected this truth. St. John says “this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19). It is the Gospel, as much as the Law, which judges us.
The Prophet Jeremiah searched among the wealthy and the wise, looking for a righteous man, and was disappointed. Israel had the spiritual wealth and wisdom of the Law, they were “entrusted with the oracles of God,” but they became no better than the Gentiles when they rejected the only one who perfectly embodied the Law God had given them. That’s why Paul can say that the Jews had every advantage (3:1-2), and yet were no better off for it (3:9). All of humanity, Gentile or Jew, is under God’s righteous judgment.
Now at this point I picture Paul’s hypothetical Jewish reader throwing up his hands in frustration and saying “Well what are we supposed to do then? We did all the right things! But we’re guilty anyway, judged anyway. What more can we possibly do?” But that’s exactly it: we can’t do anything!
Our whole problem is that we try so hard to do something; we want to establish our own righteousness apart from God. We’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden, when we wanted to be like God, when we tried to deny our dependence on him. And anything we do, whether circumcision, or Baptism, or even the Holy Eucharist, just becomes a more subtle form of idolatry when we attempt to use it as a way to prove our righteousness, rather than a sign of our total dependence on God.
So again, what can we do? In Christ we have heard God’s judgment that “None is righteous.” And the only thing we can do is respond to God’s judgment with our “Amen.” We can admit that God is righteous, that we deserve the sentence of Death which was carried out on the Cross, that we’re helpless before God. This isn’t despair: it is faith and it is repentance.
It’s not despair, because we have not just been judged, we have been judged in Jesus Christ. The Cross is our judgment, and to believe that we have been judged in Christ and his cross is at the same time to believe that we have been raised with Christ. As soon as we accept that we are unjust and have been judged in Christ, we will also hear that we are justified in him.
So as we go through Lent, and we fast and pray and practice Christian disciplines, may those things not become distractions from God, but reminders of our need for God, so that when Good Friday comes we can really say Amen to the Cross and passion, and rejoice in the Glory of Easter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Orthodox Quote on Chrisitan Mysticism from a Heterodox Source

"In Giving us his love, God has given us his Holy Ghost so that we can love him with tthe love wherewith he loves himself. We love God with his own love . . ." Meister Eckhart, quoted by Thomas Merton in Zen and the Birds of Appetite.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

National Apostasy anybody?

This is not a political blog, not even an ecclesiastically political blog, but I feel like I have to post about this.
Perhaps you have all heard the recent news from the UK.
Owen and Eunice Johns, who have been foster parents for a number of years now, have been told by a judge in England that their conservative Christian views on homosexuality exclude them from being suitable foster parents, because their views might be harmful to children.
Now first, I think this is an outrageous and totalitarian decision, but what really gets me is that the judge says there is no place for Christianity in the laws of England. . .
Really? Last I checked there is still a body called the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. Maybe it is because I am an American, but I cannot grasp the sheer madness of a judge in an avowedly CHRISTIAN NATION WITH A STATE CHURCH saying that Christianity has no place in the laws of the nation. That makes some sense in an nation like the United States of America, but how can it possibly even be uttered in anything but jest in an English law court?
And if John Keble thought things were bad when the state abolished a few Irish dioceses, what would he have to say about this?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Society of the Holy Cross

Yesterday afternoon six seminarians from Trinity School for Ministry, including myself, joined the Pusey Guild, which is the portion of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) reserved for Seminarians. The SSC was founded by Charles Lowder and several other Anglo-Catholic priests to support the spiritual life of the clergy, by providing a rule life and a community to support each other in observing that rule. It is now the largest and oldest priestly society in the Anglican Communion.
We had a beautiful High Mass; Fr. Ralph Walker, SSC, Master of the Province of the Americas Celebrated, and Fr. Tom Hightower, SSC who is in charge of the Pusey Guild, preached a wonderful homily on the importance of keeping the Cross of Christ at the center of our lives as Christians and future priests, so that we can bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a disconnected and religiously indifferent culture. Fr. Walker also gave us a very moving exhortation to stay true to the vision of the Society's six founders. He pointed out that the SSC was founded by six priests, 156 years ago as of February 28, and that there are six of us who form this newest chapter of the Guild, and he called on us to follow the example of those six priests who dedicated their lives to preaching the gospel of Christ, and undertook to live truly cross shaped lives.
He also noted that the four great distinctives of the SSC are 1) its orthodox doctrine, 2) dignified and beautiful worship, 3) emphasis on pastoral care and 4) involvement in social concerns, especially ministry to the poor.
It is a great blessing to me to be part of the Pusey Guild at Trinity, and I pray that we will be a blessing to all our brothers and sisters at Trinity during our time here, and a blessing to those parishes, church plants or communities of whatever sort which will be under our care when we are ordained as presbyters in Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
+ In Hoc Signo Vinces!