Friday, May 23, 2008

Fr. Scott Gunn has an excellent post over at his place. It is making the rounds on the blogs today.

He strikes at the core of the Church. We do good works by virtue of the faith that lives in us. Good works are no substitute for for genuine faith.

Ultimately, faith is trust in God, and the Church is the community united in that trust. We act out of our trust that God cares for us and this world.

Fr. Gunn puts it well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go-with Apologies to the Clash

Martin Marty wrote this sharp article about the decision to remain within your parish or leave. Very timely.


Skeleton of Trinity Sunday Sermon 2008

The German theologian Karl Barth said that theological work begins with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Barth was sending a not so subtle message to the Church. The Church is not a refuge from the world. The role of the Church is to engage the world through the lens of faith.

As the Church, there are countless ways we seek to disengage from the world. This is especially true in the United States. We have internalized the separation of Church and state to mean that faith is purely a private matter.

As individuals, some view the Church as a filling station. We gather once a week to fill up on feeling good, so we can make it through another week.

I am not suggesting that there are not limits to the proper exercize of faith. I am not suggesting that the Church is a place of individual sustanance. What I am saying is that there is more, and that a well-rounded has more. I am saying is more.

This is Trinity Sunday. It is the Sunday when we give thanks the various persons through which God has revealed God’s essence, and our recognition that each of the persons is bound together in unity. On this same Sunday, we accept the essence of God’s will for us. We are to go into the world and make disciples of all nations baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To accept the nature of God and answer God’s call, we must get over our obsession with private. We have to decide that we are citizens, first, of God’s kingdom, but also reside within the present order. The question is how do we do both.

Jesus commandment is not to go into the world and make the nations Christian. His command is to make disciples. If the world were full of nations of disciples. The present order might be very different.

Last week, the paper ran a story about the charitable contributions of Americans to the natural disasters of the last several years.

1. Asian Tsunami (Dec. 2004)
220,000 deaths
$1.92 billion

2. Hurricane Katrina (Aug. 2005)
1,577 deaths
$5.3 billion

3. Pakistan Earthquake (Oct. 2005)
73,000 deaths
$0.15 billion ($150 million)

The article postulated that altruism always reflects some personal concern. The author suggested that in the case of relief efforts, the personal concern is Americans are more generous with other other Americans. There is a greater sense of identification with people like us.

I understand this dynamic, but don’t find it to be congruent with the Gospel.

This Trinity Sunday we mark that God is revealed to us as three persons united in a relationship. The implication is we are called to partake of God in relationships as well. We are called to recognize that we are interconnected. In the Great Commission, barriers between public and private break down, as well as the national boundaries and distinctions that separate us.

The message of Jesus is God could not be contained by Israel. The chosen people have a role in the salvation of the world. We were grafted onto the same vine, but the extension of God’s grace does not stop with us.

The Good News is that the Church is a kind of school, where we learn to practice the love of God that exists between three persons in unity of being. This love is offered to us, but it is too abundant to stop with us. The heart of the Gospel is the grace and love of God are for all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


The link is to a very moving news story about post-genocide work in Rwanda. It reminded me of the Truth and Reconciliation work in South Africa. It is impossible to know how one would respond in this kind of a situation.

The world is broken, and God knows it. It is not surprising the Christ spent so much time speaking about forgiveness. Where there is reconciliation with God and one another, there is hope.

The quote:

Mukantabana admits it was difficult to forgive. She said she did not speak to Bizimana or his wife for four years after the killings. What put her on the road to healing, she said, was the gacaca process.

"It has not just helped me, it has helped all Rwandans because someone comes and accepts what he did and he asks for forgiveness from the whole community, from all Rwandans," she said.

Bizimana said he did just that.

"You go in front of the people like we are standing here and ask for forgiveness," he said.

But despite his confession and apology, Iphigenia said reconciliation would not have happened unless she had decided to open her heart and accept his pleas.

"I am a Christian and I pray a lot," she said, the pain etched in the lines on her face and around her sad eyes.

Woman opens her heart to the man who slaughtered her family

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

St. Basil the Great-On the Holy Spirit

        Even as bright and shining bodies, once touched by a ray of light falling upon them, become even more glorious and themselves cast another light, so too souls that carry the Spirit, and are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and send forth grace upon others.
        This grace enables them to see the future, to understand mysteries, to grasp hidden things, to receive spiritual blessings, to have thoughts fixed on heavenly things, and to dance with the angels. So is their joy unending, so is their perseverance in God unfailing, so do they acquire likeness to God-most of all-do they themselves become divine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Caring for the Fallen

A holy task indeed. I am sure it does take a toll.

Science, Symbolism Mix in Army Mortuary Training

Science and Theology

A fascinating look at neuroscience and religion awaits you in this op-ed piece The Neural Buddhists by David Brooks.

Hat tip to the Creedal Christian

Who are we?

The Freakonomics blog at the NYT is so rich. If you do not subscribe, drop everything and do it.

This piece is about the economics of specialization related to human labor. The are some marvelous quotes, even one from the Babylonian Talmud.

We see each other in various ways. We wear many hats. How does God see us, and should that cause us to see each other differently?


For those willing to work a little...


Evangelical Manifesto

Executive Summary of Evangelical Manifesto

An interesting group of academics and professionals comprise the Evangelical Manifesto. The goal seems to be a return to the heart of the evangelical movement. It sounds pretty good. No matter where you are on the theological spectrum, the document raises thoughtful questions.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the most difficult member of the Trinity, for me, to conceptualize. In many ways, it is part of the territory. A spirit is devoid of form and identifying characteristics. A spirit is more of a presence than a form. I suppose it is no mistake that the Spirit is the final member of the Trinity to be dealt with in the Nicene Creed.

In the Church, we often speak of the Spirit as the ongoing presence of God. In chapter 14-16 of the Gospel according to John, Jesus repeatedly promises that the Holy Spirit will come to the disciples. The Holy Spirit seems to be about guardianship. Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” (Jn 14:18)

This guardianship seems to be at work in the context of love. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (Jn 14:15-17)
Jesus indicates that the presence of the Spirit is bound up in reciprocity. In the community of love, distinct from the world, the Spirit is present to those who keep Jesus’ commandments.

The promise of the Spirit is articulated a few more times through Jn 16. Then in Jn 20: 19-23 the Spirit comes. The Spirit comes just after Jesus offers the disciples peace. “Peace be with you” is Jesus’ greeting, as he appears to his disciples. It is as if, freedom from anxiety is the harbinger of the Spirit.

Now, the Holy Spirt is cited some 97 times in the Scriptures. The citations seem to indicate the presence of God, the presence of otherworldly wisdom, and discerned action. These are all clues as to how our forbearers understood the work of the Holy Spirit. The understanding of those before us is useful. But, I also think looking at the connection of the Spirit and the recollections of the Christian community to Jesus are good guides.

I also find the advice of 1 John 4:1 to be useful. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Testing comes into play, when we think about the prophetic realm, which is also a work of the Spirit. As we think about testing, the entire witness of the Scriptures and the experience of the Church comes into operation.

I think the quest for “peace at any price” is not indicative of the presence of the Holy Spirit. But real peace forged by seeking understanding, free from anxiety, in love, is a mark of the Spirit’s presence. The seeking of truth can only happen in the context of love, which is essentially the fulfillment of Jesus’ commandments.

I see lots of parties claiming the presence of the Holy Spirit to justify particular actions, but I also see lots of anxiety, so much so, I wonder if the Spirit would deign to appear. If I saw a little more freedom, fewer threats and more wisdom sought, I might be a little more optimistic about our ability to recognize the Holy Spirit in our midst. Nonetheless, that is the Church’s task, to discern the will of the Spirit, and accept the strength offered.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Check out my post over at the Anglican Centrist.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Let the Children Come to Me

Luke 18:15-17

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

The issue of children in church comes every so often in most parishes. Children can be noisy and restless, we sometimes are very aware of their presence. Some think it obvious that children should be elsewhere on Sunday morning.

I understand that perspective, but don’t share it. I have had too many experiences with children grasping in profound ways the content of worship. As a curate, I remember a particular Sunday Eucharist. A very devout family was in attendance with their daughter. During the Eucharistic prayer, at the words, “ take eat, this is my body which is given for you,” the little girl piped in “unless you are a kid”. We were all stunned at her feeling of exclusion. The parents thought they were doing the right thing having the child wait to receive communion, until she could understand. She received communion the following Sunday.

Children have a place in Church. They are offered the same grace, through the mercy of God, we all are offered. I hate to think that a child would ever feel less than a full member of Christ’s Church.

Of Course, two dynamics have to be in operation. Parents have to be sensitive to the fact others are worshipping. Parent’s have to determine when our youngest members have become too disruptive. Second, we have to be tolerant as a community. We have to remember that the Eucharist is a gathering of the whole community. It is not a service of meditation for those capable of understanding what God is doing in our midst. Otherwise, none of us could be there.

We all know the Church is the family of God. We are committed to taking care of each other, because we are family. We are individuals and families, young and old, from different places and backgrounds. Yet, we are one in coming together. We all have to do our part.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Taking Up the Cross

This one is tough, but important.

Incidentally, the blog linked below is not a social activist site, but a site dedicated to scholarly, theological debate. The issue highlighted warrants significant theological consideration.

Christ and Culture with Apologies to H. Richard Niebuhr

From the earliest periods of Christian history, there has been debate about how followers of Jesus are to exist in the world. Some fled society to live lives of solitary dedication to God. Some have sought to make the present order Christian. Most of us, I suspect, live somewhere in-between.

I think in-between is a fine place to be. In Christ and Culture, Niebuhr put the options as: Christ Against Culture, Christ Of Culture, Christ Above Culture, Christ and Culture in Paradox and, get ready for it, Christ the Transformer of Culture. Christ transforming culture has always made sense to me.

Transformation avoids a remote Christ, and a vision of Christ that merely justifies, or resists the present order. Transformation fits with the Gospel witness of the ministry of Jesus. Transformation might also help the faithful avoid some bad music and tacky t-shirts... :)

Pop Goes Christianity


This business / science article is about choice versus possibilities. It is a fascinating glimpse into human functioning.
The money quote:

“The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of “The Open Mind” and an executive change consultant for Professional Thinking Partners. “But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider.’ ” She adds, however, that “to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities.”

How I wish we could be more open to exploring the possibilities of the Gospel. The danger of institutionalizing anything is that it can become stuck in one methodology. I am no radical, but I often find myself longing for more from the Church.

This Sunday, we will celebrate Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The lessons focus on the power of God becoming present and empowering the followers of Jesus. It is clear that we are talking about a new phase of creation. It is a creation of cooperation and connection. It is a creation of mutuality and understanding flowing from the very essence of God.

I would love to see more of that.

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Politics of Happiness

This article explores happiness and considers the religious dimension. You will be shocked...

Happiness part 2

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury

It would be interesting to have the leaders of the three historic branches of Christianity gather...Having two assemble is not bad.

Vatican lends hand

Father Tony Clavier Asks Important Questions

Governance and structure are significant in any institution. Both communicate core values, but neither really strike at the heart. Governance and structure are vehicles to accomplish the goals of the institution. It seems obvious, every now and then, we ought to examine our forms to insure they effect what matters.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Mark Galli Weighs the Pros and Cons of Liturgical Worship

The article really speaks for itself. I found it interesting. My thought is that there is something positively countercultural about liturgical worship. I expect the time in worship to be different, and not look like every other moment of our week. Powerpoint and cute little ditties, which all sound the same, would leave me hungry, but that is just me. Seeing people, representing the variety of the human condition, united in Christ in worship is powerful. The transformational quality is bound up in the temporary subversion of our individuality to be one in Christ.

A Deeper Relevance