Sunday, April 30, 2006

Book signing

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The folks at our parish bookstore were kind enough to host a book signing today. We sold out early, but more copies are on the way. Please visit St. Alban's Bookstore, an excellent destination for your needs for books, cards, gifts, etc.

You can also purchase Moments of Grace directly in paperback, or as a download. I told everyone I'd sign your copy whenever you'd like (except during Holy Communion).

Pop Quiz on Christian symbolism

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What is the meaning of IHS?

1. I Hate Satan

2. Issaquah High School

3. I Have the Solution

4. I Heard Something!

5. Originally, a monogram of the Greek name of Jesus Christ, then the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator ("Jesus, Savior of Men")

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What is the meaning of X P?

1. Xcentricities of Priesthood

2. Xtra Pretty

3. Xmas Presents

4. My home computer's operating system

5. Constantine's military standard, the first two letter of the Greek Christos.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The courage of individuals

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I went to see the new film United 93 today. I encourage everyone to do the same. I found it moving, interesting, inspiring, and respectful. I remember thinking back in 2001 that this story would make a great movie. I'm pleased to see this as the result. It could not have turned out better. It is a grim experience, but also an inspiring and straightforwardly realistic one. United 93 is far surperior to the more voyeristic A&E movie Flight 93. I shudder to think what awaits us in Oliver Stone's film World Trade Center.

To those who worry that it may be too soon, or that they don't know if they can handle it. Don't worry, just go see it. You need to. It is part of our story, and we need to have ways to remember. It would be just as silly to say we should not celebrate Holy Communion anymore or that we can't watch The Passion of the Christ because it is too soon or because we just can't handle it. There are those who were directly affected in New York and Washington who may not see it for that reason. But they do not need to see on film what has already been before their eyes in life.

One special suprise was the marvelous portrayal of Ben Sliney, who was on his first day as the FAA's operations manager. I found out later that he was played by . . . himself (pictured below). Indeed, the director Paul Greengrass used a mixture of actors and real personalities throughout the control room scenes.
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Seeing the movie led (appropriately) to my own reflections on the event. I don't think I have ever posted my sermon given on 12 September 2004 at St Alban’s, Arlington, TX. For those interested, it follows below.

Homily for Proper 19

History is replete with turning points. For the Moslem Turks of the Ottoman empire, the most decisive turning point came in 1683. The heretofore conquering Islamic armies of the Sultan were met, held, and thrown back at the gates of Vienna, Austria. The leader Poland’s Christian army, John Sobieki, sent a letter of victory to Pope Innocent XI in which he wrote, similar to Julius Ceasar, "I came, I saw, God conquered." Historians would note that the Ottoman empire never recovered from that defeat. From then on, the world stage was set. It was nearly assured that Western Christian powers would dominate the world stage forever undermining Moslem domination through Europe. For Eastern historians, and especially more enthusiastic religious devotees, the moment was remembered as a humiliation for Islam, and a prelude to more humiliations later on. The date was September 11, 1683.

If anyone had doubts about the Battle of Vienna, those were erased at the Battle of Zenta. The Moslems had made a last ditch effort to destroy Christian civilization in the old Byzantine empire. Fourteen years later to the day, on September 11, 1697, Prince Eugene of Savoy killed 20,000 Turks, seized the Ottoman treasury, and took captive 10 of the Sultan’s wives. By treaty, the Ottomans were forced to cede Croatia, Hungary, Transylvania, and Slavonia to Austria. As you know, it was unrest in this part of the world that later blossomed into "the Great War," or as we now know it, World War I. A number of territories in Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East changed hands through the war. And following that conflict, it was on September 11, 1922 the British mandate came into force in Palestine over and against unrelenting opposition from Arabs, who declared it a day of morning. In 1998, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared the 11th of September as an annual International Day of Peace, dedicated "to strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among nations and peoples."

And in 2001, on a cool Tuesday morning, the 11th of September, the United States became part of a conflict she did not begin and, very likely, will not see finished. Those terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania have been a little bit more on our mind this time around probably because of the election--people are giving more thought and discussion to the direction of our nation in world affairs, her foreign policy, and matters of security. It just so happened that three years ago I was scheduled to preach on the Sunday following the attacks as a seminarian in Wisconsin. My first thought was overwhelming; what in the world could I say? I was comforted when I looked ahead to the readings for that Sunday, and found one of the images was that of the Good Shepherd.

What biblical image could more vividly relate to homeland security than that of the Good Shepherd, who provides safe pasture for his sheep, keeps watch over his flock, and goes after the one who is lost? John’s gospel tells us that while the enemy has come "to steal, to kill, and to destroy" the flock of God, the mission of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is just the opposite, "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10b).

In our Gospel lesson today, we see examples of God’s intense love for us—a love that cannot bear to let a single soul be lost. This is the work of the Good Shepherd, who tends God’s flock, and lays down his own life for the sheep. One of the major themes of Luke’s gospel is the universal call to salvation, that the will of God manifested in Jesus Christ is that God desires all men to be saved.

The Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus why he was dining with these tax collectors and sinners--the dregs of society. Shouldn’t he be concerned with the big picture, not with the little people who will be forgotten? So Jesus tells them a few parables, beginning with a shepherd with 100 sheep. The Good Shepherd cares for each individual—each one is precious. And so Jesus tells us that when one of them is lost, the shepherd leaves the other 99 behind to search for his one lost sheep. When the shepherd finds the little lamb, he doesn’t walk him, but carries him all the way back to the flock. And when the returns, there is great rejoicing.

Jesus adds another parable about a woman who had ten gold coins—her treasure. And when one is lost, she postpones all her work, and does not rest from her search until it is found. And when she finds the coin, she calls her friends over to rejoice with her. That’s what God’s love looks like. And Jesus tells us that likewise there is great rejoicing in heaven, among the angels and saints and all the heavenly host, over each single sinner who repents and is brought back home to God.

I began with a history lesson this morning to show a contrast--between the culture of death and the gospel of life, between history’s concern with armies and battles and turning points, and Jesus’ concern for the individual--especially those who are lost or forgotten about. For those who would seek to terrorize, the individual is not important. They have no reservation about assaulting human dignity, for they do not know the love of God. But for God, the individual is important. God cares about each and every human soul. Each and every human life is precious to him.

Christians have often speculated--"What if?" What if you were the only sinner? What if you were the only one that needed a Savior? Would Jesus still suffer and die on the cross just for you? More than any other, this is the passage that says, "Yes!" For Jesus, it would all still be worth it. He would leave the 99 behind to go after you.

Think of the example of St Paul that we heard earlier. Paul persecuted the Church of God. He made it his mission to root out and destroy the Christian faith, and rid the world of Christians themselves. St Stephen was the first martyr because of St Paul. But God Loved Paul and saved Paul. And the Apostle wrote, "I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Tm 1:16). No one is beyond hope; God never gives up the search. Because God is love, and wills our salvation. For God, each man, woman, and child is like one of the old woman’s coins. Each one is a treasure; and when one is lost, he searches for it and rejoices greatly when it is found.

In the rescue efforts in New York City, I remember seeing on television one fireman whose hands were bloodied from digging through the rubble. And I thought, now there is a model of the love of God, trying desperately to find and save each lost person. For Jesus, each one is a little lamb, each one is a treasure of his heart. And so are you. You are precious to God, and God wills for you to be saved, and to experience the comfort of his life-giving embrace.

How many of us seek to model the love of God in our own lives--the kind of love we read about in the gospel today? There will be endless opportunities. So then, I say seek out the lost, the broken, the forgotten, all those who need the love of God, all those who need to be welcomed inside God’s house to share fellowship with Christ. He has not forgotten those who do not frequent his house. With the Lord’s strength, neither will we.

Let us pray.
O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; that, when we shall have served you in our generation, we may be gathered unto our fathers, having the testimony of a good conscience; in the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope; in favor with you, our God; and in perfect charity with the world. All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest + in peace. Amen.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Feast of St Mark the Evangelist

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Today is the feast of St Mark. Papias claims he was the author of the gospel bearing his name. In the Revelation to John, he is symbolized as a winged lion. The church in Alexandria, Egypt claims Mark (as a bishop) was its founder. Pope Shenouda III is the current successor in the See of St Mark as the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria. He visited Nashotah House during my time there (pictured below).
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There are two cathedrals named for St Mark that I have visited often and love to listen to online. St Mark's Cathedral in Shreveport, LA (below) has a wonderful music program and a fantastic Aeolian-Skinner organ. Their entire Sunday liturgy (in a high-quality recording) is posted online here. Great music, good singing, very good layreaders, and also good preaching (though sometimes a little left of center).
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The other St Mark's Cathedral, in Seattle, WA (below) also has a great music program. They are especially famous for their sung Compline service (1928 BCP) under the direction of Peter Hallock, who made several contributions to the most recent hymnal. The church is packed with several hundred people on Sunday nights at 9:30 for this liturgy; most of them look to be in their teens and twenties. Unfortunately, services are not kept online, but you can listen to it live here via KING-98.1 FM radio at 11:30pm central. It is well worth staying up for.
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Monday, April 24, 2006

The eucharistic sacrifice

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From the eucharistic prayer of the American Prayer Book:

"Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Savior Jesus Christ, we, thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same."

William Forbes (1585-1634), the Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh and professor at Aberdeen University, wrote in his work Considerationes Modestate et Pacificae ("Modest, Peacemaking Considerations"):

"The holy Fathers say very often that in the Eucharist Christ's Body itself is offered and sacrificed, as appears from almost numberless places, but so, that not all the properties of a sacrifice are properly and really preserved; but by way of commemoration and representation of that which was performed once for all in that one only Sacrifice of the Cross, whereby Christ our High Priest consummated all other sacrifices, and by pious prayer; by which the ministers of the Church most humbly beseech God the father on account of the perpetual Victim of that one only Sacrifice, Which is seated in heaven on the right hand of the Father, and in an ineffable manner present on the holy table, that He would grant that the virtue and grace of this perpetual Victim may be efficacious and salutary to His Church for all the necessities of body and soul."

He went on to say: "The sacrifice which is performed in the Supper is not merely Eucharistic, but also in a sound sense propitiatory, and is profitable not only to very many of the living, but of the departed also."

Thomas Rattray (1684-1743), another Anglican bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church, in his posthumous work, Some Particular Instructions Concerning the Christian Covenant and the Mysteries by which it is Transacted and Maintained (1748), wrote as follows:

"Then as Christ offered up His body and blood to God the Father under the symbols of bread and wine as a sacrifice to be slain on the cross for our redemption, so here the priest offereth up this bread and cup as the symbols of this sacrifice of His body and blood thus once offered up by Him, and thereby commemorateth it before God with thanksgiving; after which He prays that God would favourably accept this commemorative sacrifice by sending down upon it His Holy Spirit, that by His descent upon them He may make this bread and this cup ... as to be symbols or antitypes of the body and blood of Christ ... Then the priest maketh intercession in virtue of this sacrifice thus offered up in commemoration of, and in union with, the one great personal sacrifice of Christ, for the whole Catholic Church, and pleadeth the merits of this one sacrifice in behalf of all estates and conditions of men in it, offering this memorial thereof not for the living only but for the dead also, in commemoration of the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and of all the saints who have pleased God in their several generations from the beginning of the world; and for the rest, light, and peace, and a blessed resurrection, and a merciful trial in the day of the Lord to all the faithful departed."
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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Be joyful

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Regina Coeli

¶ During Eastertide, bells are rung morning, noon, and evening in honor of the resurrection and the following is said.

O Queen of heaven, be joyful, alleluia;
Because he whom so meetly thou barest, alleluia,
hath risen, as he promised, alleluia:
Pray for us to the Father, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia;
R. For the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

Let us pray.
O God, who by the resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ didst vouchsafe to give gladness unto the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, being holpen by the Virgin Mary, his Mother, may attain unto the joys of everlasting life; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2006

On this day . . .

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753 BC: According to legend, twin brothers Romulus and Remus, sons of the god Mars, found the ancient city of Rome.

1836: Shouting, "Remember the Alamo," General Sam Houston and his army of Texans defeat Mexican forces in the Battle of San Jacinto, winning independence for Texas.

1910: Mark Twain, author of the American classics The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, dies.

1918: Germany's World War I flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious Red Baron, is shot down behind British lines.

1926: Her Majesty, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, was born.

1975: I was born.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Satan entered into him"

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In my Sunday School class, we left off our study of John's Gospel with Judas' betrayal of Jesus followed by his washing of the disciples' feet. We talked about what it meant that "Satan entered into" Judas right before he left the Upper Room. The following passage may provide some additional insight. Dr. Malachi Martin (1921-1999, pictured above) served as a priest exorcist in New York for a number of years. In his book on the subject entitled Hostage to the Devil, he observed (p. 436):

Still, Father Conor, who taught Father Peter so well during his months in Rome, remains the exorcist of my acquaintance who seemed to have the broadest understanding of the stages and perils of the actual processes of possession and of Exorcism. Conor's general outlines of the process of possession ran as follows.

First, the actual entry point, the point at which Evil Spirit enters an individual and a decision, however tenuous, is made by the victim to allow that entry.

Then, a stage of erroneous judgments by the possessed in vital matters, as a direct result of the allowed presence of the possessing spirit and apparently in preparation for the next stage.

Third, the voluntary yielding of control by the possessed person to a force or presence he clearly feels is alien to himself and as a result of which the possessed loses control of his will, and so of his decisions and his actions.

Once the third stage is secure, extended control proceeds and may potentially reach the point of completion—perfect possession.

In any individual case, these four stages will dovetail and overlap differently. And, while the process may be swift, more often it seems to take years to accomplish. "We have the eternity of the Lord of Knowledge," Tortoise told Hearty arrogantly.

At every new step, and during every moment of possession, the consent of the victim is necessary, or possession cannot be successful. The consent may be verbal, but always involves choice of action. Once initial consent has been given, its withdrawal becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. In Jamsie's case, he was subjected to intense physical pain when he thought of ejecting Ponto. When Carl hesitated, he was threatened with vivid images of his own extinction. But whatever the pain or threat, it is wielded to retain the consent of the possessed for the continuing presence and power of the preternatural spirit.

Rather than being signs of the great power of preternatural spirits, these threats are evidence of their limitations, for they cannot attack and seize control of the will directly. They can only work through the senses (Jamsie's pain) or the imagination (Carl's fear was produced through the attack on his imagination), in order to assure the continuance of that most basic element of all human possessions: the consent of the victim by his own will.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Good news from the (green) Blue Book

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In its report to the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the House of Deputies has compiled statistics on attendance and giving in each diocese for the period between 2000 and 2004, the latest year for which data is available. The figures are compiled from reports submitted annually by each congregation.

The Diocese of Fort Worth is in Province Seven, a 12-diocese area that includes all of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and New Mexico, as well as parts of Louisiana and Missouri. While the Episcopal Church as a whole and most dioceses in the Province have experienced losses in membership and numbers of communicants in good standing over the four-year period, the Diocese of Fort Worth has grown, and its rate of growth is greater than any other in the Province:

Change in baptized members, 2000-2004
Diocese of Fort Worth +4.6%
Province Seven average -1.0%
Episcopal Church in the U.S. -3.5%

Change in communicants in good standing, 2000-2004
Diocese of Fort Worth +5.5%
Province Seven average -1.6%
Episcopal Church in the U.S.-2.3%

In addition, “plate and pledge” income figures are up in the Diocese of Fort Worth for the same period, outpacing those for the Province and the Episcopal Church as a whole.

Change in plate and pledge, 2000-2004
Diocese of Fort Worth +19.6%
Province Seven subtotal +13.2%
Episcopal Church in the U.S. +11.8%

Reason number 487

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When I came home from the Easter Vigil and gave my wife a kiss, she pulled me back in close, held my head next to hers and said, "Mmmm. I can smell the incense on your hair, and I love it."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter table blessings

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From the Book of Occasional Services, here are some blessings over foods traditionally eaten on the Easter Day feast and throughout Paschaltide. They should be said when all are gathered at the table, preferably by the father of the family or the eldest son.

Over Wine
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, creator of the fruit of the vine: Grant that we who share this wine, which gladdens our hearts, may share for ever the new life of the true Vine, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Over Bread
Blessed are you, O Lord our God: you bring forth bread from the earth and make the risen Lord to be for us the Bread of life: Grant that we who daily seek the bread which sustains our bodies may also hunger for the food of everlasting life, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Over Lamb
Stir up our memory, O Lord, as we eat this Easter lamb, that, remembering the Israel of old, who in obedience to your command ate the Paschal lamb and was delivered from the bondage of slavery, we, your new Israel, may rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the true Lamb who has delivered us from the bondage of sin and death, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Over Eggs
O Lord our God, in celebration of the Paschal feast we have prepared these eggs from your creation: Grant that they may be to us a sign of the new life and immortality promised to those who follow your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Over other Foods
Blessed are you, O Lord our God; you have given us the risen Savior to be the Shepherd of your people: Lead us, by him, to springs of living waters, and feed us with the food that endures to eternal life; where with you, O Father, and with the Holy Spirit, he lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Happy 79th Birthday

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May God grant you many years.


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Wonder why you didn't get your candy this year? Poor Peter cottontail. The Easter bunny was apprehended earlier today by this farmer who found the large rabbit laying chocolate eggs on his property.

Happy Easter

Here are some photos from St Alban's in Arlington, TX.

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Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.
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Not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

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Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

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Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Behold his mighty hand

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From the Exultet at the Pascal Vigil

The Deacon sing or says
It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our whole heart and mind to praise you, the invisible, almighty, and eternal God, and your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who at the feast of the Passover
[chronology of John's gospel] paid for us the debt of Adam's sin, and by his blood delivered your faithful people.

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.

How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.

His Sabbath rest

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What a thought . . . That the Sabbath was also ordained by God in order that Jesus might fulfil the Law by resting in the grave on the Sabbath day.

The Saturday Collect from Compline (1928)

LORD Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who at this evening hour didst rest in the sepulchre, and didst thereby sanctify the grave to be a bed of hope to thy people; Make us so to abound in sorrow for our sins, which were the cause of thy passion, that when our bodies lie in the dust, our souls may live with thee; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God world without end. Amen.

Friday, April 14, 2006

By his wounds we are healed

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On this day, we offer up prayers and intercession for the Church and the world, pleading the merits of Christ's sacrifice. Good Friday is a time for especially remembering those who need the light of the Gospel. These are collects for use on Good Friday from the first American Prayer Book.

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics; and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mass of Collegiality

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In the picture above, I am the first face in the front on the left. The diocesan website has a wonderful collection of images posted here. On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Bishop and clergy gather for Mass at the Cathedral of St Vincent to reaffirm their ordination vows. As a sign of their unity, the priests concelebrate with the bishop, who also blesses the holy oils used in parishes church for the coming year. For me, it is one of the best moments of the year. The liturgy for the reaffirmation of vows is below.
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After the Sermon (and Creed), the Bishop sits in a chair before the Altar and addresses those who are to renew their vows. They stand facing the Bishop, who says these or similar words

Dear friends, the ministry we share is none other than the sacrificial ministry of Christ, who gave himself up to death on the cross for the salvation of the world. By his glorious resurrection he has opened for us the way of everlasting life. By the gift of the Holy Spirit he shares with us the riches of his grace. We are called to proclaim his death and resurrection, to administer the Sacraments of the New Covenant which he sealed with his blood on the cross, and to care for his people in the power of the Spirit.

Do you here, in the presence of Christ and his Church, renew your commitment to your ministry, under the pastoral direction of your bishop?
Answer I do.

Bishop Do you reaffirm your promise to give yourself to prayer and study?
Answer I do.

Bishop Do you reaffirm your promise so to minister the Word of God and the Sacraments of the New Covenant that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?
Answer I do.

Bishop Do you reaffirm your promise to be a faithful servant of all those committed to your care, patterning your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?
Answer I do.

The Bishop then stands and makes this affirmation
And now, as your bishop, I, too, before God and you, re-dedicate myself and reaffirm the promises that I made when I was ordained. I ask your prayers.

Bishop and Clergy
May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things, give us also the grace and power to perform them.

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I wanted to list the wonderful clergy that serve in the (Episcopal) Diocese of Fort Worth. I appreciate their partnership in the ministry of Christ and have love in my heart for each one of them and for our bishop. They are listed by date of incardination (their birth into the diocesan family either by ordination or transfer). Those before 1983 are listed according to their incardination in the pre-divided Diocese of Dallas.

The Rev. Canon William E. Blewett
The Rev. Richard A. Cantrell
The Rev. Richard N. Clark
The Rev. Timothy R. Coppinger
The Rev. James A. Eanes
The Rev. Canon John H. Heidt
The Rev. James T. Horton, Jr.
The Rev. John E. Keene
The Rev. Nelson W. Koscheski,, Jr.
The Rev. Ronald F. Sims
The Rev. Terrance N. Jordan

The Rev. Claire B. Linzel

The Rev. Donald R. Webb

04/16/05 The Rev. Dennis W. Helbert
04/2/05 The Rev. Nancy S. Weaver
05/29/04 The Rev. George L. Milyiori
10/12/02 The Rev. Susan E. Slaughter
10/12/02 The Rev. Sandra W. McCown
10/12/02 The Rev. Patricia A. Banks
01 /06/01 The Rev. Sharla J. Marks
09/24/00 The Rev. R. Mark Parker
06/27/98 The Rev. W. Ann Richards
06/06/96 The Rev. Janet G. Nocher
08/24/93 The Rev. Kerwin K. Wade
07/25/87 The Rev. Lana K. Farley

01 /01/06 The Rev. R. William Dickson
11/01/05 The Rev. Steven M. Pope
10/29/05 The Rev. Mark A. Stockstill
10/28/05 The Rev. Taylor Marshall
09/14/05 The Rev. Christopher P. Culpepper
08/20/05 The Rev. Lee M. Nelson
05/26/05 The Rev. Ronald B. Thomas
05/05/05 The Rev. DeWayne Adams
10/26/04 The Rev. Roger G. Grist
10/7/04 The Rev. Darryl J. Pigeon
03/13/04 The Rev. David A. Madison
03/26/03 The Rev. Joshua J. Whitfield
03/22/03 The Rev. John M. Phelps
03/22/03 The Rev. Davidson R. Morse
12/24/02 The Rev. S. Philip Swickard
10/08/02 The Very Rev. Christopher C. Allen
06/08/02 The Rev. James R. Reynolds
03/16/02 The Rev. Timothy M. Matkin
03/12/02 The Rev. Frank S. St. Amour, III
07/30/01 The Rev. Quintin G. Morrow
06/29/01 The Rev. Alex D. Moffat, Jr.
05/14/01 The Very Rev. J. Scott Wilson
05/01 /Ol The Rev. Robert O. Mitchell
02/06/01 The Rev. Felix O. Akinkugbe
02/02/01 The Rev. Walter W. Kesler
01/23/01 The Rev. Edward F. Kresowaty
01 /06/01 The Rev. Stephen W. Jones
10/19/00 The Rev. William C. Cantrell
04/24/00 The Rev. Burton A. Shadow
12/15/99 The Rev. Sergio Diaz
10/28/99 The Rev. James Frederick Barber
09/23/99 The Rev. James Stanley Sullivan
09/09/99 The Rev. David F. Klein
05/08/99 The Very Rev. Scott R. Wooten
11 /03/98 The Rev. Deuel C. Smith, Jr.
06/27/98 The Rev. Eric C. Mills
06/27/98 The Rev. Marvin B. Shannon
05/29/98 The Rev. David A. Edman
11 /04/97 The Rev. Russell E. Fisher, Jr.
08/25/97 The Rev. Bryant C. Bechtold
06/21 /97 The Rev. Zeke L. Rogers
10/18/96 The Rev. Robert L. Young
09/03/96 The Rev. Melvin A. Bridge
07/01 /96 The Rev. Thomas B. Kennedy
07/01/96 The Very Rev. Ryan S. Reed
04/22/96 The Rev. I. Jonathan Ogujiofor
10/16/95 The Rev. Christopher N. Jambor
09/11 /95 The Rev. Timothy P. Perkins
02/11 /94 The Rev. Ignacio J. Loyo
01 /31 /94 The Very Rev. Christopher T. Cantrell
12/28/93 The Rev. Tommy F. Bye
12/27/93 The Rev. W. Crews Giles
12/27/93 The Very Rev. Andrew F.L. Bradley
01 /30/93 The Rev. C. Gregory Sherwood
08/20/90 The Rev. Ronald R. Baskin
08/02/90 The Very Rev. Christopher C. Stainbrook
08/24/89 The Rev. H. Jay Atwood
08/17/89 The Rev. Alan E. McGlauchlin
10/06/88 The Rev. Louis H. Hayden
02/1 5/88 The Rev. William J. Taylor, III
12/23/87 The Rev. Jesse G. Smith
09/04/87 The Rev. Joseph H. Schley
07/25/87 The Rev. Vance C. Page
07/25/87 The Rev. William T. Stanford
05/07/87 The Rev. William L. Hobart
01 /Ol /87 The Rev. John G. Twyman
11/24/85 The Rev. J. Ronald Baker
10/15/85 The Rev. Henry C. Mayer
09/30/85 The Rev. Canon David E. Nyberg
03/1 3/85 The Rev. M. Gayland Pool
01 /1 8/85 The Rev. William P. Barrett, Sr.
09/1 1/84 The Rev. Thomas E. Hightower
09/11/84 The Rev. John G. Arthur
07/16/84 The Rev. Richard E. McHenry
04/13/84 The Rev. Vernon A Gotcher
08/23/83 The Rev. Earl D. Haverly, Jr.
08/04/83 The Rev. Jeffery A. Logan
08/01 /83 The Rev. Canon Courtland M. Moore
01 /Ol /83 The Rev. Efrain Huerta
09/05/82 The Rev. Canon Charles A. Hough III
03/16/82 The Rev. Stephen D. Carter
03/16/81 The Rev. Donald N. Kreymer
08/31/80 The Rev. William R. Belury
06/28/80 The Rev. Frank B. Reeves
11 /0l /78 The Rev. Thomas A. Powell
06/25/78 The Rev. Radford B. Allen, Jr.
09/14/77 The Rev. James U. Norwood
06/26/77 The Rev. Louis L. Tobola, Jr.
06/24/77 The Rev. Sam McClain
04/01/77 The Rev. William A. Komstedt
06/22/76 The Very Rev. William A. Crary, Jr.
09/05/75 The Rev. William H. Risinger, Jr.
09/01/75 The Rev. John H. Stanley, Jr.
06/17/75 The Rev. James A. Rogers
09/27/74 The Rev. Bertrand N. Honea, Jr.
08/25/74 The Rev. James A. Hazel
06/16/73 The Rev. Cecil Dow James
01/15/73 The Rev. John D. Payne
06/20/70 The Rev. Canon Billie R. Boyd
10/27/68 The Rev. V. Stanley Maneikis
09/21 /63 The Rev. George C. Kershaw
06/20/61 The Rev. Canon Laurens R. Williams

01/31 /49 The Rev. Canon James P. DeWolfe, Jr.

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This is one of my favorite picture of "Father Jim," the senior priest of the diocese, and probably the best priest I have ever known.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Eye of God

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Compiled image of NGC 7293: The Helix Nebula, from the Hubble Telescope.

LOOK down, O Lord, from thy heavenly throne: illumine the darkness of this night with thy celestial brightness, and from the sons of light banish the deeds of darkness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect from the Office of Compline

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Old Testament Gospels

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Before the New Testament was written, the early Church looked at the Scriptures and found an abundant witness of Christ. Here are four vivid prophetic accounts of the Passion of Christ from the pages of the Old Testament, written centuries before the events they foreshadowed actually happened. They are what I like to call the Old Testament Gospels.

The Gospel according to Moses
[Genesis 22:1-14]

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you." And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."

The Gospel according to David
Psalm 22:1-19

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8"He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!" Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet--I can count all my bones--they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

The Gospel according to Solomon
[Wisdom 2:12-22]

"Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected." Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God.

The Gospel according to Isaiah
[Isaiah 53:3-6,9-12]

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Standards for Eucharistic sharing

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In looking ahead to prepare for the commemoration of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, I was reminded that there has been recent scandal about the practice of "open communion" in some Episcopal Churches, such as Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. "Open Communion" refers to the practice [which goes against both canon law and biblical precedent] of offering Holy Communion to anyone, be they Christians of other denominations, people of other religions, or people of no faith at all. Many are aware of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox disciplines of not offering Holy Communion to those outside their church, but there is great confusion about what the official policy for Episcopal churches (whether it is followed or not) actually is. Here are "the rules" about Eucharistic sharing (i.e., administering Holy Communion to Christians of other denominations). The whole text of the most recent statement on the matter from the 1979 General Convention is posted below. I have highlighted portions that I find particularly significant. It seems to me that it is a very thoughtful and balanced policy.

Standards for Eucharistic sharing (1979)

House of Bishops
On the fifth day, the Bishop of Kentucky, Chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical Relations, moved the adoption of Resolution A-43 as amended:

Whereas, the Holy Communion must be seen in its proper context as the fellowship of committed Christians in the household of the Apostolic faith, to which we are admitted through Baptism; and

Whereas, in the Apostolic tradition which the Episcopal Church maintains and practices, the normative condition of the Church is a union in one fellowship of faith, of hearing and proclaiming the Word, of sacramental practice, of personal relations and of Church order; and

Whereas, since the General Convention of 1967 adopted a Statement of Communion Discipline, several developments have occurred that affect the practice in this Church of admitting members of other Churches to partake of the Lord's Supper at altars in the Episcopal Church, to wit:

(a) The admission of children not yet confirmed has put the focus on Baptism within our tradition and communion of faith as the sacramental prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion.

(b) The Proposed Book of Common Prayer locates the Eucharist in a central place in the life of the Christian family. All rites in the new book are placed in the context of the Eucharist.

(c) The positive response to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission's Agreed Statement on the Eucharist (Windsor 1971) undergirds the strong agreement in this Church on the Eucharist as a mystery offered by God to his gathered Church, and the recognition of Christ's real presence in this sacrament.

(d) Ecumenical practice increasingly calls for mutual participation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper as a means to unity and not just a sign of unity.

(e) Inasmuch as the sharing in Christ's body and blood is a sign of and a means toward a growing unity in Him, a certain openness to eucharistic sharing with those of other Communioins should be maintained. This stance, however, requires a real sensitivity to the constraints of conscience on those whose Churches officially do not approve of this sacramental participation.

(f) Whenever provision is made for Eucharistic sharing under these special circumstances, it needs to be done in such a way that the receiving of Communion strengthens and sustains the responsible participation of a Christian in the ecclesial body to which he belongs; therefore be it

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring. That the following standard be adopted for those of other Churches who on occasion desire to receive the Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church:

a. They shall have been baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and shall have previously been admitted to the Holy Communion within the Church to which they belong.

b. They shall examine their lives, repent of their sins, and be in love and charity with all people, as this Church in its catechism (PBCP, p. 860) says is required of all those who come to the Eucharist.

c. They shall approach the Holy Communion as an expression of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice once upon the cross was sufficient for all mankind.

d. They shall find in this Communion the means to strengthen their , life within the Christian family "through the forgiveness of (their) sins, the strengthening of (their) union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet..." (PBCP, p. 859-60)

e. Their own consciences must always be respected as must the right of their own Church membership to determine the sacramental discipline of those who, by their own choice, make that their spiritual home. And be it further

Resolved, That the Commentary on Eucharistic Sharing, which has been recommended by the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations and is appended to this official Report to the 66th Convention, be hereby commended as a pastoral context for the interpretation of these standards.

Commentary On Eucharistic Sharing

A. Fundamental Understandings

The Holy Communion is a sacramental event in the life of God's people. It is a special offering of thanksgiving by those who are united by a common faith, responsive to the Word proclaimed in their midst and recalling in Eucharistic Liturgy the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, their common Lord. It is a sacrament of unity for God's people, as it is the divine presence of the one and undivided Lord, and serves to bind into a common body those whose differences He has reconciled.

There is a very special relationship between the Holy Communion and the koinonia, or community in which it is celebrated. That community is in some way always related to a larger community of the Holy Catholic Church. Yet each Eucharistic community must have a life of its own as well—faith, fellowship, and response to the Word of God. Since each individual Eucharistic koinonia is an expression of a larger community, it is subject to the regulation and direction expressed, however imperfectly, by that larger community.

B. The Present Reality

1. Normative Practice
We are constantly faced with the anomaly of celebrating the Sacrament of unity within the pain of incompleteness caused by divisions within the Body of Christ. This is less apparent when the gathered community is united in faith and order, as is the case when only Episcopalians are in attendance at a celebration presided over by an Episcopal priest or bishop. Eucharistic sacrifice is but a single offering. But at least the norms, standards, and disciplines of the Episcopal Church apply equally to all who are present. (Where there is a concordat of intercommunion with another church, freedom of access to the Holy Communion of both bodies is generally offered to all members in good standing in their own church.)Increasingly this church must face the reality of exceptional cases and special circumstances wherein these conditions do not all prevail and for which some consistent standards are necessary as a basis for Eucharistic sharing.

2. Exceptional Cases
The exceptional case of an individual under circumstances of emergency needs, spiritual and pastoral, is widely recognized within the catholic church. Emergency needs of this kind are so exceptional that there is no way to regulate the occasional act of shared communion by a Christian of another church who requests the Sacrament of Our Lord's Body and Blood, out of a deep need for grace.

3. Special Circumstances
By far the greater concern for communion involving persons of other churches is presented by those special cases where some but not all of the elements normally required for the church's Holy Communion are present. It is the bishop of each diocese who shall be ultimately responsible for interpreting the extend of participation by non-Episcopalians in such special cases, according to the criteria of this commentary.

4. Respect for Church Discipline
Whatever provision is made for Eucharistic sharing under these special circumstances needs to be done in such a way that the receiving of communion strengthens and sustains the responsible participation of a Christian in the ecclesial body to which he belongs. Certainly his own conscience must always be respected as must the right of his own church to determine the sacramental discipline of those who, by their own choice, make that their spiritual home.

C. Receiving Communion in a Church Other Than That of Membership

When non-Anglicans attend a Holy Communion Service where an Episcopal bishop or priest is presiding, their reception of the elements of the Communion is appropriate when these four conditions are applicable:

a. They shall have been baptized with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and have been admitted to the Holy Communion within the Church to which they belong.

b. They shall "examine (their) lives, repent of (their) sins, and be in love and charity with all people," as this church in its catechism, (PBCP, p. 860), says is required of all those who come to the Eucharist.

c. They shall approach the Holy Communion as an expression of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice once upon the cross was sufficient for all mankind.

d. They shall find in this Communion the means to strengthen their life within the Christian family through the forgiveness of (their) sins, the strengthening of (their) union with Christ and one another and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet... (PBCP p. 859-60).

If local circumstances present a pastoral need for apublic invitation, it should not in any way be coercive, nor should it be in terms of an "open Communion" applied indiscriminately to anyone desiring to receive Communion.

Serious attention needs to be given to the repeated practice of communicating in an Episcopal Church on the part of someone who holds nominal membership in another church even to the exclusion of worship in his own communion. It is no service to the unity of Christ's Church when one group contributes to the weakening of loyalty and undermining of discipline of another. Dealing honestly with the problems raised in such a case is a pastoral responsibility of the church and frequently becomes the occasion for a renewed Christian commitment and a more responsive decision about church membership within the Body of Christ.

All of these considerations naturally raise the question which faces a member of the Episcopal Church who is present when the Holy Communion is celebrated in another Christian Church. In general the same standards which should apply for those who intend to receive Communion at Episcopal altars should be present. It is important that church members respect the teaching and discipline of the church by whose authorization the Sacrament is celebrated as well as those of their own church. In cases of doubt the counsel and direction of the ordinary and/or the parish priest should be sought to give guidance. Once again the ultimate guide of conscience informed by the teachings of the Church will be expected to determine the individual decision. The action of receiving the Holy Communion in a church other than one's own should be the consequence of an intentional decision for the unity of Christ's Body as well as a response to personal spiritual need. It should not be an avoidance of coming to terms with difficulties, an act of convenience, a cover for embarrassment at being different, or the avoidance of coming to terms with difficulties in one's own church. To communicate at the altar of another church is a solemn act of faith and unity within a divided church, and can only be justified if it builds for the unity of God's people because of church doctrine, discipline or reasons of conscience. One of the realities of life within a divided Church is the very brokenness at the Table of the Lord. There is great temptation to pretend that this is not true or to believe that we as individuals can do what denominations still feel should not be done. This is an experience of the Cross in a sinful world. Often it is more appropriate to bear the pain and give testimony to the integrity of faith and discipline in one's church than to act as though full unity existed where it does not. For centuries individual Christians have found both blessing and pain in a kind of spiritual communion which is possible on occasions when it is unappropriate to participate in the Breaking of Bread with other Christians. The spiritual communion is in itself a participation in the presence of Him who died upon the Cross to the end that full unity might one day be restored. Both the blessing and the pain to those who have such spiritual communion together, when Eucharistic sharing is not possible, give added incentive to work for the full and complete unity within the Body of Christ.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cultivating happiness

I heard a fascinating interview yesterday with Darrin McMahon, the author of a recent book called Happiness: A History. It is a fascinating subject, and was a timely discussion in light of my recent post below. A few things that came up in the conversation were that happiness is a commandment in the Talmud and one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Asher, is the same word used for happiness in the Old Testament. Certainly the theme of joy and happiness is abundant throughout the Bible. Here are a few examples:

Psalm 16:11 "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

Psalm 96:11 "Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;let the sea roar, and all that fills it."

Psalm 104:14-16 "You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate,that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man,oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart."

Psalm 118:24 "This is the day that the LORD has made;let us rejoice and be glad in it."

The Bible also talks about depression, sadness, and the loss of happiness, as below:

Lamentations 3:17 "My soul is bereft of peace;I have forgotten what happiness is."

Certainly Jesus experienced and embraced the whole range of human emotions, and happiness would have been valued highly by Jesus, his family, and his followers.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The original King of comedy?

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One of today's readings [Mark 9:42-50] from the Daily Office was a passage often cited as an example of Jesus' use of humor. Was Jesus trying to be tongue in cheek, or is Jesus always supposed to be serious? The Franciscans argued about it in the Middle Ages [see or read The Name of the Rose], and the argument continues today. I think that Jesus did use humor, and I've noticed it's mostly sarcastic humor. In the Daily Office reading, he treats the silly idea that "my hand or my eye made me do it" with a quick eye roll and the offering of a "perfect solution for the problem." Consider how Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message:

"If your hand or your foot gets in God's way, chop it off and throw it away. You're better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You're better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell."

Here's more commentary from Harold J. Sala:

“The widespread failure to recognize and to appreciate the humor of Christ is one of the most amazing aspects of the era named for him,” so wrote the Quaker scholar Elton Trueblood in the opening sentence of his book entitled The Humor of Christ. And why haven’t we recognized that Jesus did smile, laugh, and had a sense of humor? A variety of reasons, including the fact that he spoke Aramaic, what he said and did was recorded in Greek, and then translated into hundreds of languages, including English. Facial expressions, things he said which were a play on words, and cultural innuendos become obscured in translation. The terrible passion of the crucifixion also makes us think that Christ could never have laughed or smiled. All of which are untrue.

Trueblood believed that it’s kind of a mistaken, misunderstood sense of piety that makes us fear that accepting the reality of Christ’s sense of humor would detract from his righteous life, as though being sober and serious, never cracking a smile, is a reflection of piety! He also believed that the humor of Jesus transcended words. He used pictures such as straining a gnat from your drink and swallowing a camel—something which anyone could grasp in any language. Had Jesus frowned on the display of humor, he would never have taken a little child in his arms and told us that unless we became like a little child we would not enter the kingdom of heaven. Children laugh unrestrained by pompous dignity. They can relate to the embarrassment of another child without ridiculing the child.

Even the critics and enemies of the Gospel were, on the whole, also blind to his humor. Frederich Nietzsche wrote, “Would that he [Christ] had remained in the wilderness and far from the good and just! Perhaps he would have learned to live and to love the earth—and laughter too!” The fact is that of all the creatures which God made, humans are the only ones who really laugh. Why? Made in the image of God, his children have intelligence which allows them to scoff at that which is unreasonable and absurd. There are many varieties of humans—some laugh at bawdy, off-color stories. Some laugh at the ridiculous (which, at times should include what we do and say ourselves). Some laugh at incongruities—a contrast of what you had hoped for with what happens. Some nervously laugh when they are embarrassed. And no matter what causes your laughter, you feel better when you laugh. It’s a medicine of the soul that lightens your heart and drops your pulse and blood pressure, too.

Phil Yancey wrote a book entitled The Jesus I Never Knew. In his book, which conveys a powerful message, he talks about the Jesus he heard about growing up—the sober, stereotyped, rigid individual who is completely unlike the real Jesus, the one portrayed in the New Testament. Has there been a conspiracy led by old slewfoot himself to make us think that Jesus was humorless? Possibly. Because when we discover he was completely human yet completely divine, it brings him closer to where we are and lowers the wall of separation which keeps many of us from really knowing him.

The better you know the context of the New Testament and take time to really study the Gospels, the more you will see the warmth of Jesus’ personality shining through, one fully and completely human, one who is dynamic and lacking nothing. The real Jesus is one whom you will grow to love and to accept completely. The better you know him, the greater will be your love for him, and the more faithfully you will follow and enjoy him.
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Monday, April 03, 2006

We need an interpreter

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Something occurred to me as I was reading through one of the selections [1 Corinthians 14:1-19] for today's Daily Office. We often hear about the gift of speaking in tongues in Pentecostal circles [and often hear people speak in tongues], but I don't think I've EVER heard a peep about the gift of interpreting tongues.

St Paul makes clear in today's lesson that the former is fairly useless to the wider church without the latter. He goes on to state: "If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God." 1 Corinthians 14:27-28

Has anyone ever seen or heard about someone exercising the gift of interpretation of tongues? I'd be interested to hear.