Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Gospel

The good word from Father Jones over at the Anglican Centrist-

As we approach another mile marker in the Anglican saga -- let us pause to remember a few really good things. We've got some really Good News, and here's mostly what I'm talking about:

We believe in One God, the maker of heaven and earth. And that means all time, space, matter, dark matter, and all the other stuff we don't really understand or know about -- whether it exists in 3, 4 or 11 dimensions -- and however many other universes there might be.

We believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ. And this Lord who though God emptied himself for our sake -- taking on our nature, and dying as a servant to all on a cross, that all might enter God's Kingdom. This Lord died for our sins, defeated Satan (whose power still enthralls this world), and opened the Way for us all to Follow.

We believe in the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the very breath of God -- the Wisdom of God -- the divine presence amongst, withinst and aroundst us.

We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Body of Christ, the lively and militant incarnation of Christ on Earth, the New Israel -- the mystical company of all faithful people in Christ. Yes, she is but one assembly, she is Holy, she is catholic, she bears the witness and purpose of its apostolic founders, and we love her. We give thanks for the historic continuity we have in living tradition from the apostles -- and we give thanks for our bishops whose office it is to preserve that tradition, know and teach the Word of God, and to oversee God's Church faithfully.

We believe the Holy Scriptures of Old and New Testaments are the Word of God written, being the sufficient witness to God's revelation, and are all anybody needs to know what is needed to enter into a living relationship with God. We believe that God speaks through Holy Writ not only once but livingly and actively just as the Word of God is itself living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword.

We believe the Sacraments of Eucharist and Baptism -- appointed as they are by Jesus Christ himself -- are means of Grace. We are not talking about memorials here -- lapidary reminder markers -- we are talking about channels of the power of God which touch us wholly with God's presence. We are talking about anamnesis to folks living with clouded minds in a world whose dark purpose is amnesia of our Creator's presence.

We believe that our mission as Christians, is to share in the purpose of God, as revealed in the life and witness and death and resurrection and ascension of Christ, and that is to be part of the process by which God restores the Creation to the Way He Wants It to Be.

Can I get some Amens from the people of God in Christ reading the blog?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith

I came across an article at Time.com with the same title as this entry.

The article cites the upcoming publication of a book of her correspondence with spiritual directors and confessors. According to the article, Mother Teresa wrote the letters expecting them to be destroyed. The disregard for her wishes makes me cringe. Communication between a spiritual director/confessor and the receiver of direction/penitent should be held in confidence. As a priest of the Church, I take these confidences very seriously and would never willingly breech a confidence.

Conceptually, faith is one of the most misunderstood words in the life of the Church. Some view the word faith as a synonym for belief. In this realm, there is an anti- intellectual hue. It usually is taken to mean believing in something in an absence of tangible evidence.

Particular groups of Christians espouse this vision of faith. Although, the anti-intellectual crowd often does appeal to the Bible as a kind of evidence. That is why the literal truth of the scriptures is very important for Christians of this persuasion. Their adherence to the “plain meaning” of the text is the foundation of belief/faith. If that is compromised, the whole thing threatens to unravel.

I would say something more like, I believe through faith. I believe in God, because I look at the world with an eye toward meaning and purpose. The story of the Christian Gospel offers me a lens to view reality and engage the meaning and purpose, I believe, exists through the self-revelation of God.

Faith (in a Christian sense) is the perspective of being open to the purpose and meaning available through the transcendent reality of God, and expressed most fully in the person of Jesus. Faith is about living into openness to God. It happens through commitment to the relationship.

On the one hand, relating to Mother Teresa, I dislike the notion of her situation as a crisis of faith. Most will take that to mean she had was having second thoughts about belief, which appears not to be the case. On the other hand, it was a crisis of faith, in that she struggled with the perceived absence of God. In the pursuit of God, experiences of presence and absence are simply part of faith.

Mother Teresa was a person of incredible faith. Despite her pervasive experience of the absence of Jesus, she persisted. Faith is about being grateful in abundance, and vigilant in the lean times. We all wait to see God, face to face.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alone, First, Last?


In looking at the Gospel for this Sunday, I have noticed the interesting juxtaposition with last week’s Gospel. Last week was focused more on the individual making a choice to follow Jesus. Jesus seems to say that it doesn’t matter what those around you choose. It matters not even what your family chooses to do. What matters is what you choose to do? Suffice it to say, Jesus tenders an invitation and as individuals, we are given the freedom to respond. The existence of this text is indicative of the fact that families and intimates, in the early life of the Church, did not universally accept Jesus’ invitation. So, this text was an explanation of experience.

Shifting to our upcoming Gospel text, Jesus seems to be espousing a more holistic vision of the Kingdom. True, Jesus speaks in terms of being part of it, or not. But, he seems to be talking in a more collective fashion. Jesus seems to direct his comments to a group of people that think they are part, but in actuality are not. He speaks of the first and last, and the reversal of that order in the Kingdom. First and last probably had something to do with status and position, both religious and economic.

Luke’s Gospel presents us with a unified vision. We choose Jesus as individuals. Yet, the community is the first gift of that choice. At the same time, the nature of the community is critical. Jesus’ words to those that think they are justified, but are not, serve as a warning to all. You are not fine, simply because you are surrounded with people that think all is well.

St. Paul talks about the discernment of spirits. To paraphrase Paul’s thinking, good spirits are known to be good, because they bring about good. We are challenged to examine ourselves, choose Christ and stick with it. The Holy Spirit will be known through the fact we are being built up. We are also challenged to constantly examine the nature of our particular Christian community. Are we living the Gospel? Have we lost our way because we are so sure we are first? If the fruit of a spirit’s work is destruction, it is not the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Episcopal Life And The MDG's

I am feeling a bit cranky. Maybe it is the process of reentry from holiday. The object of my current ire is the Millennium Development Goals.

Now, I have no issue with the content of the MDG’s. Eradicating poverty, ample potable drinking water and ending hunger are all very good things. My problem is how we are contextualizing them.

The current issue of Episcopal Life heralds the MDG’s. It is clear that the MDG’s are a primary focus of the moment for the Church. No problem here. The problem in my mind is that you have to read through two articles until any substantive mention of the Gospel is made. The mention finally occurs in an article quoting the Archbishop of Canterbury. Up to that point, the reader could be consuming any newspaper, rather than a periodical of the Episcopal Church.

You might think my criticism unwarranted because this installment of Episcopal Life does go on to make it clear that the MDG’s are part and parcel of the radical demands the Gospel makes on the believer. You might even say that the connection with the Church is a given, since the material presented is in Episcopal Life. These criticisms are valid.

My point is that we are missing an opportunity. As we trumpet the importance of the MDG’s, wouldn’t it be valuable to be clear that, for us, this grows out of our commitment to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can’t take for granted that those disconnected from the Church will make the connection or understand. If we articulated our commitment to the MDG’s in a deliberate theological context, at every opportunity, those unfamiliar with the Christian faith and the Episcopal Church might seek to discover more. Those that have dismissed Christianity might be interested to know: it is about much more than getting into heaven. Of course, they won’t, if we are ineffective in our proclamation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back In The Saddle

After a much needed holiday, I am back. Stay tuned for my usual volume of posts.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Original Sin

The story of the Fall communicates several truths. The Fall is, first of all, an illustration of the problem that dogs humanity. It communicates in mythic ways, the human drive to be God. Remember the serpent’s promise. Eating the forbidden fruit will make Adam and Eve like God. The difficulty is that the desire to be God only distances us from God.

We are creatures of God. When we seek to become God, we sacrifice the integrity of our relationship to God, because we are no longer seeking relationship with our creator. We are seeking to take the place of our creator.

Matters are made worse through our inability to manage the position of Supreme Being. We are incapable, as human beings, to act with the good of the whole in mind. We do prove capable of being, for limited moments, selfless. Human beings are capable of selfless acts, but those acts are few and fleeting. Selflessness is good; it just doesn’t last.

Our problem isn’t the inability to perform selfless acts anyway. Sin is pervasive and systemic. We live in a world that honors the capacity to consume above all else. No one is immune. This is the basis for the economic systems we hold dear, and all participate.

This morning, the news is telling the story of children’s toys manufactured in China containing lead. It would be easy to point a finger at China for sub par manufacturing components and techniques. That would be too simple and na├»ve. China is the location of factories because they produce goods cheaply. This increases the profits of the American companies. This makes stockholders in the American companies happy. The consumer is happy because more can be consumed. The cycle continues with the outcome being dangerous, poor quality toys. The whole thing designed to help us stuff our faces with produce.

The Fall is a macro-myth to communicate the way things are. It is about acting out of a desire to become gods, self-interest and consumption. The antithesis of this is Jesus. He claims his identity as the Son of God. Jesus lives and dies, not out of self-interest, but with His eye eternally on the good of the whole. Jesus points to the intrinsic value of the person that has nothing to do with consumption.

Jesus is the turning point. We need not succumb to living as those that are fallen and rudderless. Through the coming of Christ, we have been transformed. God will not impose transformation on us. The Good News is that transformation is available, possible and offered us.