Monday, September 15, 2014

Saint Andrew of Baghdad

The Reverend Canon Andrew White is vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad, the only Anglican church in Iraq. He has thus been dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad". He is also President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. He was previously Director of International Ministry at the International Center for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral,  England. 

My local paper, The Freelance Star, did a piece on Canon White today.  You can read it here...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's About Time...

The Associated Press is reporting the the United States is now providing arms to the Kurds in their death struggle against the scourge of ISIS/ISIL.  FInally.  

Time and again, we've fumbled the ball when it came to the Kurdish people.  This was evident, particularly, in our failure to call for a Kurdish homeland state following the 2003 Iraqi war.  This single act may have solved a number of issues as well as creating a solid ally in a region where the world desperately needs stability.  Hopefully, this action will build goodwill with the a people who have the iron will to stare down the horde and leave them to be carrion in the sands.

It can't be stated enough that ISIS/ISIL must not only be stopped, they must be completely destroyed beyond an ability to reconstitute or continue.  Their bloodlust will not be satisfied and their is no depths to their dark imaginations as attested to by the imagery coming from the region.  So far, I've not posted any of the graphic images of the their handiwork.  It is hard for even seasoned Marines to view.  This evidence confirms the stories of just what they've done to children.  Hell, and the Lake of Fire hold a special place for the bottom-dwellers who do these things to the Lord's littlest lambs.

I'd invite your continued prayers for the faithful of the region who remain in harm's way. Pray too for the Yazidis and pray for the Kurds.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Rethinking Pop views on Christ's Return

William Lane Craig, in an interview with Charisma News, speaks to the error of Darbyism that sprang up in the Nineteenth Century and is fueled both the Left Behind books series and the soon to be released film.  You can read the article here.  

Make no mistake, Christ is returning.
“You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sunday, August 03, 2014


From the pen of St. John on Patmos...
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Come." I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine." When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Rev. 6:1-10 NASB
Out of the Gate, I believe in a literal return of Christ and an eternal establishment of his kingdom as stated in the historic Christian creeds.  He will, as stated in the Nicene Creed "Come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end".  And, as the earlier Apostle's Creed simply stated "He will come again to judge the living and the dead".  But this said, I don't subscribe to Darby's view that holds to a belief that Christ would return for his church prior to the seven year period referred to as the Great Tribulation, a seven year period where the Almighty would pour out his wrath and judgement on an unbelieving world.

It seems more and more, that events in our world are becoming darker and seem to be coming out of the final pages of Scripture.  Wars, death, violence, famine, and now pestilence; it certainly brings to mind the 6th chapter of the Apocalypse of John.  There we read of specific judgements being levied against humanity for their persistent unbelief and rebellion against the Almighty.  In this, Four Horsemen are seen being unleashed upon the earth.  A white horse & rider who appeared as a conquering hero.  A red horse & rider who unleashed carnage and death.  A black horse & rider who unleashed famine and economic privation and famine.  And finally a pale horse & rider who brought famine and death. These four horsemen were seen as being responsible for millions upon millions.

Each morning, we wake to read and see news that seems to be lifted right out of the final chapters of scripture.  Whether it's stories of the slaughter of innocents, global catastrophes, or deadly plagues sweeping populations, all of these would seem to point to the closing moments of the age of man.  And, like REM sang, its the end of the world as we know it.  

I'm not about to say that these news stories are scripture being fulfilled before our own eyes.  I'm not a prophet and I've never played one on TV.   I would contend that these point to the terminal sin sickness of our world.  They stand as a reminder that this world is winding down and soon, our redeemer is returning.  These are mere portents and it will be likely become unimaginably much worse before the coda of time.

As easy as the urge may be, we can't look at the end through the pages of the Washington Post, Fox News or even LaHaye and Jenkins. There are websites that have made cottage industries out of this, even to the point of posting a weekly "Rapture Index". 

So when we read of these things and we believe we're hearing hoofbeats of dark horses, we should look up and know that our redemption is drawing near.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Thoughts on Gaza and more...

From the pen of King David, as inspired by the Almighty...
"A Song of Ascents, of David. I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." Our feet are standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built As a city that is compact together; To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD-- An ordinance for Israel-- To give thanks to the name of the LORD. For there thrones were set for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. "May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces." For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, "May peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good."  Psalm 122
Like many of you, I've been watching the the continuing strife in the mideast, not only the bloodbath in the fertile crescent, but the conflict on Israel's southwest border with the the Hamas-controlled terror state of the Gaza Strip.  The images are hard to look at, especially for us in the west who've been largely insulated from carnage and bloodshed.  I'd venture a guess that the most blood many of us have seen has been at a red cross blood bank.  Yet bloodshed is a fact of life for many on this sin-sick planet.

This morning, there are voices decrying the violence on the Israeli frontier.  They're calling for Israel to cease their military operations, stopping short of accusing them of atrocities against the Palestinians occupying Gaza.  They do this while displaying images of innocent casualties.  Others are calling for Israel to meet Hamas "halfway" in some form of accord.  Even our own Administration is breathing back-handed condemnation towards Israel.  In all of this, I'm finding myself feeling complicated emotions over the situation.

I have no pity for the hell spawn of Hamas.  They started this conflict, they're perpetuating it, and it will cease the moment they stop their murderous activities.  In many ways they remind me of some kids I knew growing up in Coatesville.  These boys found a wasp's nest and thought it would be entertaining to throw rocks at it.  The outcome was anticlimactic and they were stung without mercy.  Like these dopey boys, Hamas is throwing rocks at a proverbial wasp's nest.  They're inflicting damage against the nest and killing a few wasps in the process.  Yet the wasps are completely capable of defending their nest, to the point of interdicting the threat.  And like the wasp, Israel has the moral imperative to, and will defend their borders and citizens.  

I feel pity, washed in scorn for the innocent who are in harm's way.  No sane thinking person can view images of broken, injured civilians without being struck.  Yet these casualties of war have become such due to the cowardice and moral turpitude of the Hamas terrorists using them as human shields.  Only the truly gutless take up firing positions behind children.  Too, these poltroons have no compunction against slaughtering innocent Israeli children (who happen to be arab as well as jew) through their indiscriminate firing of unguided missiles into the Jewish heartland.

Many can't (or won't) see the fact that as part of it's charter, Hamas calls for the complete liquidation of the state of Israel and the Jewish people.  How does Israel meet them half way?  Were Saskatchewan to call for the same concerning our Republic, would we acquiesce?  If rockets were being lobbed into San Diego from Tijuana, would we shelter in place and hope for the best? 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it well when he said something to the fact of "If Hamas were to lay down their weapons, the fighting would immediately cease.  If Israel were to lay down its weapons, Israel would soon cease".  

I continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all Israel.  I know though that this will be at best, a temporary peace until Israel's rightful King steps back down onto the Mount of Olives to establish his eternal kingdom.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grist from the Mill of Locusts and Wild Honey

James Gibson, a South Carolina Anglican has a thoughtful piece over on the Locusts and Wild Honey Blog.  Here's just a taste of what Father James is setting forth...
The Anglican Church of North America is American Christianity’s best hope in a state of modern exile. This is because it best understands that the challenges of modern exile do not proscribe the Church’s missionary vocation, instead it encourages it. The ACNA has three things going for it that I’ll explain at length: its missional nature inherited from the Global South, its intellectual seriousness, and a strong, battle-tested respect for biblical and ecclesiastical authority in the face of doctrinal controversy.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Who is Bishop Foley Beach?

Joel Wilhelm has provided a great profile of the newly elected Archbishop, Foley Beach, over on his blog, "A Living Text."  You can read it here...

ACNA's Second Archbishop, The Right Reverend Foley Beach

Fresh of the wire from ACNA...

LATROBE, PA (JUNE 21, 2014)——The College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America elected today the Rt. Rev. Dr. Foley Beach of the Diocese of the South.  Bishop Foley Beach will succeed the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, the first archbishop for the Anglican Church in North America.
“The election occurred Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the College of Bishops three-day conclave where they met in the crypt of the basilica at Saint Vincent Archabbey,” said the Rev. Andrew Gross, Communications Director for the Anglican Church in North America.  The new archbishop will serve a five-year term and is eligible for re-election.
“I am delighted by this election and how the College of Bishops, after much deliberation and prayer, came to a unanimous decision,” said Archbishop Robert Duncan.  “This is a happy day for the Anglican Church in North America, a happy day for the Anglican Communion, and a happy day for the Christian Church.”
Though the current archbishop is stepping down from his role as archbishop of the North American province, he will continue in his role as bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Archbishop-elect Beach served as the Rector and Pastor of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, GA, from its founding in February 2004, until December, 2013. On October 9, 2010, he was consecrated in Atlanta, Georgia as the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South in the Anglican Church in North America.
Dr. Beach is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the School of Theology at the University of the South, and Georgia State University. He has served in ministry with Young Life, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church.
His passion is to share the Word of God in such a way as to help others discover the incredible living Jesus. Married for more than 30 years, he and his wife, Allison, have two grown children and make their home in the Metro-Atlanta area.
The new archbishop will officially take office at the conclusion of the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America which begins on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, with a formal investiture to follow in the coming months.
The Anglican Church in North America is recognized as a province by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is composed of over 50 million Anglicans.
The Anglican Church in North America consists of 112,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Habemus Archiepiscopus

The Anglican Church in North America has a new Archbishop!  Details to follow.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Waiting for "White Smoke" from St. Vincent's

Praying for those who will be selecting the 2nd Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America this weekend:
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: we thank you for miraculously raising up a new Anglican Movement and giving us a courageous Archbishop, Robert Duncan, to lead our Anglican Church in North America these past five years. Look graciously now on your Church, and send your Holy Spirit to guide the hearts and minds of the College of Bishops who will choose an Archbishop for our Province, that we may receive a faithful Apostle who will lead us in mission and evangelism with our brothers and sisters around the world, and who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries in North America, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Though I have two who I'm hoping to see installed, I know that the outcome is in the hands of the Almighty.  Proverbs 16:33 reminds us "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD."

Friday, June 06, 2014

June 6, 1944 and the Greatest Generation's Baptism of Fire

It was only 70 years ago, an incomprehensible amount of time to many in the low-information crowd, when a tsunami of men, steel, and lead came crashing down on a remote beach in Hitler's fortress Europe.  Son's of the British Commonwealth and nephew's of Uncle Sam, by the thousands, waded and ran into a wall of gunfire that was being unleashed by the German defenders of the Norman coastline.  Wave upon wave hit those beaches that day until the Allies established a firm beachhead.  It was also a costly victory too as more Americans and other allies perished than in all the action of the passed 13 years in Southwest Asia.

It's hard to comprehend, in this age of the pajama-boy, of the raw and unbridled courage that was demonstrated on that morning by men as young as 18.  Living in the age of 30 year old boys, this level of valor can be tough to get one's head around.  It's also hard to imagine an American president who could boldly lead a Republic into prayer without the fear of some atheist with their knicker's in a wad being offended.  For those unfamiliar, that prayer is captured on the video below.

The youngest of those men who landed on the Normandy beaches are quickly approaching their 90th birthday's.  They're deserving of our thanks and our gratitude.  To those brave American's, Canadian's, Brit's and free French warriors, I say thank you and may our LORD bless and keep you all the day's of your lives.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Reverie on Memorial Day Morning

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Many are off this Monday morning, enjoying a beautiful day here in Suburbia Majora.  Coolers are full of ice, the sunscreen is packed, and the kids are frolicking at the pool after a winter that seemed to border on Ragnarök.  Enjoy this day and the freedom to revel in the late spring beauty that this day promises to deliver.  But I'd ask you to pause and reflect.

Many don't notice that our flags this morning are at half mast.  The flying of our flag in this position has been debased by the current president who ordered it flown in this manner for a crack-addled pop star, but it still holds a much deeper significance.  This is a gesture of national mourning, mourning for a fallen hero or leader.  

Today, we pause for the barefooted soldier who fell at Valley Forge, for the Virginia Cadet who gave his all at New Market, and for the Iowa farm boy breathed his last on Omaha Beach.  We remember that young man who chose service over dishonor only to step on a boobytrap on patrol outside of Hue, and the daughter who's life was abruptly ended by an IED in Fallujah.

Remember them.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

On the National Day of Prayer, 2014

For the 4th year, I'll be leading National Day of Prayer observances here locally in Suburbia Majora.  Its humbling to gather with folks of various denominations, including that growing denomination known as "Spiritual but not Religious".  In these, there have been multiple blessings and some interesting challenges.  

The blessings speak for themselves.  The challenges have offered a chance to be stretched a bit.  Perhaps the greatest challenge has been to offer up a prayer that is thoroughly (and unabashedly) Christian while not being sectarian.  

All blessings and challenges aside though, it becomes more painfully clear with each year that this Republic is in dire need of prayer.  Anyone who would refuse to acknowledge that we're a nation under Divine judgement is in denial.  I look out at the Republic that we've inherited from our parents and the one we're passing along to our children and I shudder.  Looking at the slow motion avalanche of blight and decay, I can almost hear the quiet voice of the Almighty softly saying "So, how's that Post-Christian thing working for you?"

Let us pray...
Almighty God, we your offspring and the progeny of Adam gather this morning under this flag pole to bring praise to you and to intercede for our Republic, its Leaders and her citizens. We boldly and confidently come before you as the giver of all good things and the one by whose command, nations rise and fall. You’ve taught us through your holy counsels that every good and perfect gift comes from you and for this reason; we come before you this morning, joining others around this Republic who’ve also gathered in intercession.
We stand before you, seeking your mercy for ourselves, and for our nation. Too often, we’ve been like the prodigal children; the one who though desiring his father’s riches and bounty, was determined to live life on his own terms, or as the other harboring bitterness and malice under thin veneers of conformity and civility. In this we ask your mercy, and for the strength and resolve to live lives of gratitude and mutual concern for one another.
We ask that you would move within our lives, that we would be used as change agents for good. We pray that we might become channels of your peace and mercy to those you’ve placed in our lives and paths. We pray too, as public servants, that through your help, we will be faithful and diligent stewards of the nation and its collective trust and treasure. We commend to you this morning, those who’ve you placed in authority to govern and lead this Republic including Barak our President, Joseph our vice president, and those on Capitol Hill that they would govern justly; with an ear towards their constituents and a heart towards heaven.
We uplift to you those in our nation who are in need or who suffer this morning. We call out on their behalf, asking that you would open you storehouses of mercy for them. Too, we offer ourselves that we might become you heart and hands extended to those in need. Make us channels of your provision.
Finally Lord, we seek your protection against our enemies, both here in our homes and around the world. Not because we are deserving, but because you are one whose first principles include mercy and loving kindness. Protect us not only from our enemies, but also from ourselves that we might not only be recipients’ stewards of your blessings in this day, but also be able to pass along your bounty to those who will follow after us.

All of this, we ask, seek and hope for in your name.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Artful Animation

I've been a huge fan of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra for most of my life, sometimes to the chagrin of friends when we were growing up.  The band certainly is a acquired taste with it's aural lushness and depth; it's the musical equivalent of walking on  a thick, green lawn barefoot in the summer. So, when I came across this bit of Animation, I knew it would have to be shared.  Enjoy

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday in Easter

From this morning's Gospel...
Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
There was a radio program which became a television program entitled "You Are There".  The program ended before I was born though I know it through reruns.  Its goal was to place the viewer in the middle of historic events or epic periods in our history.  When I consider today's Gospel reading, I often imagine it in that setting of "You are there".

It must have been almost jaw-dropping for Cleopas and his companion when Jesus asked them about their discussion.  Clearly, Friday's crucifixion must have been the buzz for them to respond the way they did.  Yet Jesus just gently listened as the two gave their account.  He heard mourning and bewilderment in their voices as they recounted the crucifixion, death and burial from the standpoint of a follower.  Now, they were perplexed over the empty tomb.  And though they'd yet to recognize Jesus, he endeared himself to the pair as they asked Jesus to spend the evening.  At the table, Jesus takes bread, just as he did a few days earlier, blessed it, then shared it with the pair.  It was at this moment that they recognized the fact that the Lord was there in their presence.

I have to think that this was the first Eucharistic celebration of the New Testament era, and Christ was physically present.  This imagery is close to my heart whenever we celebrate the Eucharist as Anglicans.  In a sense, It is as if Jesus himself is there, saying "Take and Eat".

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reverie, Plus One...


Scott and Christine Dente colored our lives in the 90's.  It's hard to find their tunes today, but here's a favorite...

Holy Saturday

From this morning's Gospel Reading:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. 
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, `After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, `He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Yesterday was a day like none other.  Outside the city walls of Jerusalem, a cosmic collision of the temporal and eternal took place, affixed to a cruel Roman cross. In the eyes of some, it may have appeared as the death of a desperate hope of throwing off the yoke of Imperial Rome. To others, it represented the messy death of a wide-eyed Sophist. Still to others, it appeared as the timely demise of a troublesome meddler who was bent on usurping a culture and religious system. Irrespective a body, now still and lifeless, hung between heaven and earth. The eyes that stare in from outside of our timeline saw something completely apart. To these eyes, there on Golgotha's hill hung the only propitiatory offering that could satisfy a Holy and Just God. Just moments prior, this God-man suspended above the earth cried out "Tetelestai"! The debt for sins ancient and future were paid. The God-man then stepped out of our timeline and willingly yielding his life back into the hands of the Father. 

Those who were devoted to the decedent now had approximately three hours to see to the matter and in doing so, would render themselves ceremonially unclean for the coming feast Yet in their devotion, they sought the body of Jesus who might have otherwise been cast into the burning garbage dump outside of the city walls, gehenna. Instead of becoming food for carrion, the remains of the Christ were lovingly laid in a rich man's tomb.

A day later, the Jewish priestly aristocracy was nervous. They knew that in spite of the Christ's resounding declaration, that this was far from over. With the Roman governor's approval, the tomb was sealed with the signet of Imperial Rome. This seal was a dire warning to would be hoaxers that should they attempt to steal Christ's remains, they would suffer the same fate as the one lying on the other side of the stone.

From the standpoint of the Apostolic band, this had to be a crushing day. One of their own had handed Jesus over to the authorities and was now dead by his own hands. Their "class president" made a profanity-laced denial of their Master and was now living with the disgrace. The rest were hiding somewhere in the city, for fear that perhaps after the feast, they would be next.

Yet, we soon learn just how one day changes everything.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday, at the ninth hour...

It is finished...

Good Friday, on the sixth hour...

From St. John's Gospel:
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
As violent as our modern culture has become, I doubt that many readers of this blog have
witnessed a violent death, or have been called upon to serve as witness to a judicial execution.  

The U.S. is one of the few free societies which still administers the Death Penalty to the worst of offenders.  This said, our American method of Execution is sterile and detached, almost seeming like a medical procedure rather than an administration of death.  Those carrying out the execution have been medically trained and the act takes place in a room  resembling an operating theater.  Executions are carried out behind prison walls and witnessed by just a handful of individuals.  Every effort is made on the part of the state to carry out the procedure in a way that is quick, humane, and sparing the condemned from any unnecessary suffering.  Compared to other nation's who've retained capital punishment, these executions are relatively rare and get scant coverage.  This was hardly the case with the execution of the Christ.

Rome ruled with a hob-nailed boot and an iron fist, and her execution of justice was intentionally brutal.  The Roman crucifixion epitomized this fact.  Those unfortunates who experienced crucifixion died in the most prolonged, miserable way imaginable.  They would, over a period of hours to days, succumb to dehydration, physical exhaustion, and ultimately die by suffocation as breathing became ever more difficult.  Though this execution process could last days in the case of a strong individual, the process was artificially accelerated by the Roman's in order to satisfy the desire of the Jewish religious establishment who wanted the executions completed prior to sundown and the start of the Passover feast.

When comparing the most barbaric executions in our modern world to the death of Jesus, they would even be seen as relatively humane.  The execution of Jesus was slow, excruciating, and inhumane in the most extreme ways imaginable.

Jesus knew exactly what he'd be experiencing and I think that why he asked the Father if there was another way.  He was not merely going to die this afternoon.  He would be first offered up as a propitiation, poured out as the only offering fit to satisfy the justice and righteous wrath of the Almighty.  The weight of sin's debt demanded nothing less.  It was only upon it's satisfaction could Jesus cry out "TETELESTAI!", bow his head, and release his live to the Father.

Good Friday -- I

From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for Good Friday:
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
By modern measurements, the sun would have rose in Jerusalem this morning at 6:07 AM.  On that first Good Friday as the city was waking up, Jesus' ordeal had been under way for several hours.  Its easy to overlook sometimes, but by now, he had likely been up for over 24 hours.  And, for the past few hours, he had already undergone two sham trials before Annas and Caiaphas where he was exposed to both physical and verbal abuse.  Now, we was being led to stand before the Roman governor, bound and beaten.  In an act of expediency Pontius Pilate would dismiss Jesus, referring him to Herod.  Herod, in-turn, would send him back to the Roman Governor who's legionnaire's will have beaten him within the limits of his life (a beating capable of killing most), before finally nailing him to the cross.  In the next nine hours, Jesus will have experienced an ordeal that's beyond our comprehension.

The cast of actors on this day were a broad and diverse bunch.  There were the members of the Jewish religious establishment who for quite some time, looked for an opportunity to rid themselves of this troublesome Galilean.  There was the Roman Governor who wanted no more trouble than he already had.  There were guards and soldiers.  There were followers, Apostles, and others who by providence were celebrating the Passover, "This year in Jerusalem".  Central to it all though, was the second person of the Trinity.  Jesus, Son of the living God.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday in Holy Week (Maundy Thursday)

The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday:
Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." 
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."
 I'm thoroughly arrested by this unfolding moment. The Christ is mere hours away from enduring the most hellish ordeal ever endured by one clothed in human flesh. The spotless Passover lamb would soon have the sins of the vilest offenders laid upon his shoulders.  It's weight may have felt like the shattering blow from a pile driver. It's at moments of reflection, such as now, my careless sins and betrayals become a foul, wretched stench in my own nostrils.

The unfolding picture is truly stunning.  Christ, in demonstrating this love that loves someone to the end, strips down to his inner garments and girds himself with a towel in preparation to wash the feet of his disciples.  Try to imagine a dinner where the host suddenly strips down to his boxers and tee-shirt; it would be an awkward moment at the very least.  The Christ of God is now seen as the servant of all; transformed from High King of Heaven to lowly house slave. All were shocked, but Peter seems to have been scandalized as seen in his reaction.  Jesus doesn't mince words; without this "washing" St. Peter would have no share in the Kingdom.  Peter suddenly gets it, and all but asks for a bath.

For a visual learner, this moment in the Gospel packs a powerful punch.  It teaches volumes about the Kingdom and how it will unfold.  It shows us that the Kingdom looks far more like a tiny sun-baked Albanian nun cradling the dying than a slick, polished preacher trying to sell you your best life now.  Its self-emptying rather than self-agrandizing. Our Lord has no need or use for strutting popinjays who seem to pervade the vast spiritual and cultural wasteland. The "No Fear" Crowd does little more than stir His holy wrath. He saw all of these traits in His onetime anointed cherub, and threw both him and his company of fallen angels down from Heaven. No, He seeks something quite to the contrary. 

Consider on this Maundy Thursday... Our Lord seeks those who've grasped the concept that in the greater scheme of things, they're truly of no account. They've got nothing to bring to the table. These are the ones whom the Master can fill with His power, and may well use them mightily in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom in both word and action.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday in Holy Week

We read in this morning's appointed Gospel:
At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

Another Passover was upon Jews and like so many of our holiday dinners, things may have become a little mechanical for some of those gathered in that upper room.  The wine, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs; all part and parcel of a meal recalling an event that took place beyond anyone's memory.This passover would be like none other since that first one celebrated in Goshen.

St. John paints an interesting picture of the unfolding betrayal. Of the eleven faithful disciples, only St. Peter and the evangelist are initially aware of that Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, is about to betray the Master. In fact, the remaining nine seem to thing that the Teacher has sent their brother out to provide for those in need on this feast night. No, this was hardly the case.

Judas, according to Matthew's account, had in fact already agreed to throw the master to his enemies and was paid well for the deed. Now, he simply had to work out the logistics of making sure that Caiaphas's temple guard would make it to the garden in time to apprehend the Christ.

There are volumes of apologetics in print, giving an explanation for WHY Judas betrayed The Christ.  These range anywhere from pious conjecture to pure puffery.  The WHY will be revealed on that great and terrible day when all will stand before the Father and all things will be made known (A day that each of us, if we're honest with ourselves, fear to some degree or other).  

Judas should be a cautionary tale for us all.  Though he was one of the twelve who proclaimed the good news, drove out demons, and healed the sick, he was also known to be a thief.  This "power evangelist" was now twisted in to the traitor of all time.  The enemy of our soul is highly adept at leveraging "character flaws" (what was once commonly called sin) in our lives, and enticing us to do deeds beyond darkness.  

We've come to a societal point where betrayal is so common place that it seems to have lost its shock with many.  This morning, my mind goes to a lyric by Don Henley from his iconic "Sunset Grill":
"Respectable little murder's pay, they get more respectable everyday..."
We are all capable of becoming that "Man from Kerioth".  May each of our heart's be guarded, today and always.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday in Holy Week

From this morning's Gospel reading:
"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

So much had happened in a few dozen hours; a man dead four days was walking among the living, the words of Zechariah 9:9 had been fulfilled and now the voice of God the Father was rolling like thunder. Doubtless, many of those gathered in Jerusalem for the passover may have sensed in their hearts that they were on the cusp of something epic, something that was paradigm-shifting. Yet for all of this, the Christ is standing center stage, with a heart that grows heavier with each beat.

A heavy heart is not an enviable possession and I have to confess that I have known those seasons of heavy heartedness in my life, but this thought isn't about me and I digress.  Our heaviest of hearts could never even approximate what Jesus was experiencing.

What weighed on Christ's heart? Was it the knowledge that in less than 72 hours, he would become the recipient of 15 hours of hell on earth? Was it knowing that the city where he stood would be leveled and her residents the recipients of imperial genocide? I suspect that what was occurring at present was certainly a cause for sorrow. At this point, the city was swelling and surging as pilgrims filled Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover. The lion's share of those coming for the Lamb of Passover would ultimately reject the Lamb of God.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday in Holy Week

From the Book of Common Prayer...
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Omniscience is not one of our strong suits as people.  Often times, we're far closer to being bricks than approaching anything close to omniscient, not being able to see the impending consequences of our own shortsightedness. This I suppose is a divine gift, given our fallen natures.  Omniscience would probably drive us insane or make us suicidal.  For instance, consider what it would be like after receiving a welcome fit for a king just yesterday, you knew that in four days you'd be betrayed, tortured to the point of death, and finally dying on a Roman cross in abject humiliation?  

Consider further the omniscience of the Almighty in light of today's Gospel reading.  In the passage we see Jesus at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus along with the apostolic band.  We could infer that this may have been a feast, celebrating the return of their brother to the living, or not.  What is fact is the fact that there was a deep friendship between Jesus and the three siblings.  It was here that Mary, in an act of devotion broke open an alabaster jar of the finest perfume and anointed the feet of the Master.  I'm confident that many in the room were stunned by  Mary's action, knowing that the perfume flowing out and filling the room was in fact her old age pension.  Judas became indignant and copped the Super-Saint pose, rebuking Mary for her waste.

Had it been you or I there, being the only omniscient person in the room, we'd have torn into Judas like a hot knife through butter.  We'd have called him out for his hypocrisy and the fact that he was an embezzler.  Or worse, we may have confronted him over what he would do in the next few days.  But not Jesus.  In his love, he only gently rebuked Judas and turned the attention to Mary's act of worship.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday Reverie

From this morning's Palm Sunday Eucharist:
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,"Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee." Matt 21:1-11

Re-imagining "Three Streams" -- Part II

Part One

I don't know how it is on your end of the screen, but this Lent 2014 has been flying by.  It seems only yesterday that ashes were being imposed at All Saint's.  Now, Passion week is here and Easter will be upon us in only a few more days.

I'd like to continue the thoughts centered around reconsidering what many in the Anglican world refer to as the "Three Streams" which have influenced our Church and its expression of Christian worship.  Specifically, I want to now begin to consider the "Charismatic Stream".  This stream is the one, in my estimation, which has generated more controversy and agita than the other two streams combined.  But perhaps a re-imagination may take us a long distance in not only understanding, but also in gaining a new appreciation of this stream.

Let me make two bold statements.  If a church is to be healthy, vibrant and in compliance with the mandate of the Great Commission, the charismatic stream will be present.  The term "Charismatic" has been misappropriated and misused.  I'll defend the latter first.

To be charismatic simply infers that one is operating in and under the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit. 

Today, there exists a subset of churches which are marked by exuberant worship, ecstatic prophetic utterances, a rigorous legalism and a hyper-arminian theology.  The personal relationship with the divine is emphasized over the corporate to the point that Christianity has become almost an "individual sport".  Many of these bodies would proudly self-identify as Pentecostal or Charismatic.  These churches have silted up the meaning of "charismatic" through extra-biblical excesses and errors to the point that many believers (let alone Anglican believers) bristle at the thought of the term having any application with their church.  So, let's take them out of our discussion and look at the term in and of itself.

As Anglicans today, we have been influenced and move within the waters of the charismatic stream.  We are recipients of that "Other Comforter" promised by Christ to his disciples on his last night before the cross.  We have "received the power" promised by Christ before his ascension to the heavenly realm.  These gifts have empowered us to carry out the Gospel mandates of taking the good news to the ends of earth (and beyond).  These charisms are in operation on any given sunday where Bishop's, Priest's or Deacon's are proclaiming God's word faithfully and authoritatively.  

The evidence exists elsewhere too in parishes.  Vestries and finance committees whose members are gifted with gifts of administration are faithfully and effectively hearing from heaven and leading their parishes.  Others who've been granted the gifts of intercession are tirelessly battering the gates of hell on their knees.  And we overlook the "Gift of Helps" at our own peril.  This is the quiet gift; you'll see it in the the folk who always seem to be there to stack chairs, dust pews, serve on Altar Gilds or as Acolytes, and change dirty diapers in the nursery. 

For the one who would dismiss the idea of a charismatic stream within the Anglican expression, I'd invite you to try to consider the church without out the aforementioned gifts be extant in your parish?  Clearly, this stream is flowing within your parish.  

Part Three -- The Evangelical Stream

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Some Thoughts on the Book of Common Prayer

These words would be more typically spoken on June 13th, but are here this morning in the spirit of these thoughts.  From the BCP:
Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Anyone acquainted with the Anglican Tradition is acquainted with the Book of Common Prayer.  Across the Anglican universe it resides in pews or under seats, alongside the Bible and the Hymnal.  I've heard it disparaged and panned by some outside of the tradition as being a dead, dry book that contains little more than dead words.  I'd venture too that those who would say these things, likely have never read the words or let alone seen the book.

Christianity Today's Jordan Hylden did an interview with Alan Jacobs, who shares his thoughts on the Book of Common Prayer here.  

He shares on why the Book of Common Prayer (or BCP) is still a "big deal".

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Bono, sharing his faith

One for Reflection

Facebook can be chocked full of kitsch, distractions, annoyances and even mind-blowing ignorance from time to time.  It also has some interesting gems.

This essay, appearing on the Blog Cogito, Credo, Petam has generated a fair amount of discussion.  It can be seen here.