Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Anglican and Catholic

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From time to time, I sneak a peek at the Rector's copy of The Living Church, the Episcopal Church's last weekly independent news magazine. I was delighted to find the editorial below on page 24 of this week's issue about going back to their roots. I say good for them, and good for us.

When the Board of Directors of the Living Church Foundation met recently in Albuquerque, N.M., it spent some time discussing the role of this magazine in a rapidly changing Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. Members of the board felt this would be a good time to clarify the role and purpose of THE LIVING CHURCH. In so doing, the board felt it should return to its roots and re-emphasize its historic mission.

The Articles of Incorporation of the foundation, publisher of this magazine, state that its purpose is "the publication and distribution of literature in the interest of the Christian religion, and specifically of the Protestant Episcopal Church according to what is commonly known as the Catholic conception thereof..." That document, written nearly 80 years ago, also acknowledges that such publication and distribution includes "conducting and maintenance of a printing and publishing business..."

Readers may notice that beginning with this issue we have attempted to explain our purpose in two statements. One is found on the cover immediately underneath the masthead, or name of the publication. Gone is the familiar "An independent weekly serving Episcopalians." In its place is this description: "An independent weekly supporting catholic Anglicanism." This does not represent a change in our focus, but rather it broadens what has been our position all along.

THE LIVING CHURCH has always served Episcopalians and will continue to attempt to do so, but it has always served other Anglicans as well. For many years this magazine has contained news and articles about other Anglican churches, because we believe the Anglican Communion is important. We have long emphasized the importance of Episcopalians being Anglicans, and now is a good time for us to re-emphasize it.

The second statement that has been rewritten is found at the top of Page 3. It clarifies the historic mission of the Living Church Foundation. We are committed to the Anglican and catholic concept of the church as an incarnational and sacramental body. We value our Anglican heritage and take seriously our role as catholic Christians. We attempt to nourish Anglican faith, piety and practice within The Episcopal Church. Again, this represents no change in our policy. Rather it is simply time that we said so.

By the way, that is not a photo of the Board of Directors of the Living Church (if only). It is the photo taken outside of St Paul's Cathedral, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, after the consecration of Bishop R. H. Weller in 1900. The picture, dubbed the "Fond du Lac Circus," was published in The Living Church and created controversy in southern low church parishes who had never seen such pomp and circumstance. I have the picture hanging in my office.

Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost

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This past Sunday, I visited one of the new mission congregations of our diocese, St Barnabas the Apostle in Keller, TX. Thanks to the good people of St Barnabas, the audio of my homily is available online. You may listen to it by streaming audio or by download. I will also be there next week, on Trinity Sunday, and will post the links to that homily when it becomes available.

Visions of the Messiah

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Joel 2:28
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions."

For the past few years, we have been seeing news accounts of Muslim conversions to Christ through dreams and visions. Evangelism among Muslims, especially in Islamic territory has been difficult since the attempt of St Francis of Assisi. The Sultan remain unconverted, but his last words to the departing Francis were, "Pray for me that God may deign to reveal to me that law and faith which is most pleasing to him." Along the lines of St Peter's Pentecost sermon citing the prophet Joel (above), the Holy Spirit seems to be addressing this problem.

"There is an end-time phenomenon that is happening through dreams and visions," said Christine Darg, author of The Jesus Visions: Signs and Wonders in the Muslim World. “He is going into the Muslim world and revealing, particularly, the last 24 hours of His life - how He died on the cross, which Islam does not teach - how He was raised from the dead, which Islam also does not teach – and how He is the Son of God, risen in power."

More recent is the somewhat different story of Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, who allegedly claimed to have visions of the Messiah before his death.

Before Kaduri died, he reportedly wrote the name of the Messiah on a small note, requesting it remained sealed for one year after his death. The note revealed the name of the Messiah as "Yehoshua" or "Yeshua" – or the Hebrew name Jesus. . . .

The note, written in Hebrew and signed in the rabbi's name, said: "Concerning the letter abbreviation of the Messiah's name, He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid. This I have signed in the month of mercy." The Hebrew sentence consists of six words. The first letter of each of those words spells out the Hebrew name Yehoshua or Yeshua.

As reported by Israel Today:

A few months before Kaduri died at the age of 108, he surprised his followers when he told them that he met the Messiah. Kaduri gave a message in his synagogue on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, teaching how to recognize the Messiah. He also mentioned that the Messiah would appear to Israel after Ariel Sharon’s death. (The former prime minister is still in a coma after suffering a massive stroke more than a year ago.)

Other rabbis predict the same, including Rabbi Haim Cohen, kabbalist Nir Ben Artzi and the wife of Rabbi Haim Kneiveskzy. Kaduri’s grandson, Rabbi Yosef Kaduri, said his grandfather spoke many times during his last days about the coming of the Messiah and redemption through the Messiah. His spiritual portrayals of the Messiah—reminiscent of New Testament accounts—were published on the websites Kaduri.net and Nfc:

“It is hard for many good people in society to understand the person of the Messiah. The leadership and order of a Messiah of flesh and blood is hard to accept for many in the nation. As leader, the Messiah will not hold any office, but will be among the people and use the media to communicate. His reign will be pure and without personal or political desire. During his dominion, only righteousness and truth will reign.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day photos

After celebrating a Requiem Mass on this Memorial Day, Melisa and I paid a visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
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Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all 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; and give us such a lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p 488)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The simple style of ancient hymns

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I love how ancient hymns very simply and poetically tell the story straight from the Scriptures. The example below (which may offend some) is the first hymn at Matins on Pentecost. The source of beautiful translation is the Anglican Breviary. For comparison, the story is recorded in Acts 2:1-21.

Hymn at Matins: Jam Christus astra ascenderat.

Now Christ, gone thither, whence he came,
And throned midst the stars aflame,
Desired God's Promise to bestow,
The Father's Gift to man below.

The solemn time was drawing nigh,
Replete with heavenly mystery,
On seven days' sevenfold circles borne,
That first and blessed Whitsun-morn.

When the third hour shone all around,
There came a rushing mighty sound
And told the Apostles, while in prayer,
That, as 'twas promised, God was there.

Then from the Father's light there came
That beautiful and kindly Flame,
To kindle every Christian heart,
And fervour of the Word impart.

With joy the Apostle's breasts are fired,
Thus by the Holy Ghost inspired;
And straight, in divers tongues and speech,
That wondrous works of God they preach.

All nations to their voice give ear;
Barbarians, Latins, Grecians hear,
And lo, the wondrous word to all
Doth in familiar accents fall.

But Jewry, faithless even yet,
With mad, infuriate rage beset,
To mock Christ's followers, combine,
As drunken all with new-made wine.

Thereat, with signs and works of might,
Stands Peter forth to teach aright
How Joel's words, fulfilled this day,
Refute what these maligners say.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, praise be done;
And Christ the Lord upon us pour
The Spirit's gift for evermore. Amen.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Is it censorship?

Yesterday (the Seventh Sunday of Easter) the proscribed epistle reading was Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20. Here is the passage with the missing verses added in bold type:

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. 16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things for the churches I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." 17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. 18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly " Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The most interesting part about the editing is that one of the verses which is omitted is a condemnation of those who remove passages from the book. The context would seem to indicate that John has in mind removing passages from being read out loud in church.

It is not simply a '79 Prayer Book issue. As you can see from Textweek, it is simply the same selection taken from the original three year lectionary developed by the Roman Catholics for the Missal of Paul VI, which was adopted without substantial change by other western liturgical churches. The difference is that the Prayer Book expressly allows omitted verses to be read or readings to be otherwise lengthened (see BCP, p 888).

The question to ask is why the passages were omitted. Admittedly, the list of the damned and the condemnations don't fit nicely into a rosy Easter selection. But is this ample reason to censor them? I would say no. But I would also suggest that if such passages are not read in church, they simply will not be heard by most people in the pew who simply do not read the bible regularly on their own. With one passage, it may not make that big of a difference. But with all the edited passages in the lectionary, it could have a cumulative effect of distorting the perception of the faith among many in the pew. Even those aware of such passages need to be reminded periodically of their existence.

Titusonenine is having a discussion
about whether the omissions represent a move toward a universalist theology. It is worth taking a look.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Homeward bound

This past Thursday, we commemorated the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. The gaze of the disciples was turned to the heavens—watching, waiting, and wondering as our Lord went to prepare a place for us. As the Book of Acts describes it, they seem to have been looking us for awhile, so long that angels came up and tapped one on the shoulder, and said, “What are ya’ll looking at?” They reminded them, “This Jesus, whom you saw ascend to heaven will one day return." So they encouraged the disciples to return to Jerusalem to pray, as Jesus had said.
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They did so. Still today, we keep a special nine-day vigil of prayer called a novena between the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. But I’m sure their attention was still turned toward heaven, pondering the mysteries that lay unseen on the other side of the cloud. And so in this time for us between the Ascension and Pentecost, it’s good that we also turn our attention toward heaven and seek understanding. This is a good time to address the subject, and there’s no better place to learn about heaven than here in church. While we don’t have the time to be exhaustive on this occasion, I did want to address a few basic concepts about heaven.

First, What is heaven? What is this heaven to which Jesus has ascended? We sometimes use that word in passing without considering its meaning. What is heaven? Is there one answer to that question? Would I recognize heaven if I saw it? The Bible has much to say about heaven, but the manifold metaphors and details are sometimes hard to separate and analyze and understand. Pearly gates? Streets of gold? Walls of jewels? Is heaven a magnificent palace?

Behind the many references to heaven, I think we can find one central concept: heaven is the abode or dwelling-place of God. Therefore, in going to heaven, Jesus goes home to the Father. Heaven is God’s dwelling-place, but he does not want to dwell in solitude. As creatures made in God’s image, we were fashioned to share more and more fully in the life of heaven—to be at home with God. This is the sense in which the Prayer Book defines heaven: “By heaven, we mean eternal life in our enjoyment of God” (BCP, 862).

This is what theologians have called the Beatific Vision: the fullest experience of heaven is the intuitive and unobstructed knowledge of God as he is—that is, to behold God face-to-face. And this intimate communion with God becomes the source of everlasting happiness for the human soul. This is what we pray for at funerals. The catechism says we pray for the dead, “because we still hold them in our love, and because we trust that in God’s presence those who have chosen to serve him will grow in his love, until they see him as he is (BCP, 862). This is the Beatific Vision.

Let us not forget, however, that the joys of heaven are not only found in fellowship with God, but also in the joys of fellowship with those we love. That means being reunited with family and friends. It means the joy of getting to know family members we have heard about but have never met because they died before we were born. Sharing a home with God means sharing that home with others.
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Second, we are led to ask, Where is heaven? Despite the fact that Jesus ascended into a cloud in the sky, it does not follow that heaven is necessarily “up there” somewhere on the other side of the clouds. Indeed, if heaven is God’s dwelling-place, it seems that earth might be considered a part of heaven in the beginning, when God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden paradise of Eden. It was certainly heaven for them. Yet, in a sinful world, God seems distant—above and beyond the toils and tragedies that we know in the here-and-now. Wherever heaven is, we feel it is surely apart from earth.
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Now Jesus prepares a new heaven for us. The Book of Revelation speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, where God dwells perpetually with his people in a common home. “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Rev 22:3-4).

Theologian Karl Rahner put a new spin on what heaven means for us. He observed that instead of looking at Jesus as going to a pre-existing place called heaven, we could instead say that Jesus returned to the Father to establish heaven as the fulfillment of the promised union of humanity with God, begun with the union of the human and divine within Christ at the incarnation.

Likewise, when Christ returns to earth in glory, it’s not so much that he leaves heaven as it is that he brings heaven with him and remakes a heaven out of earth. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever’” (Rev 11:15). That sounds like something worth being a part of.

So thirdly let us consider, Who goes to heaven? Or to put it another way, How do I get there? It is said that there will be three surprises in heaven: The first surprise finding people in heaven that you never expected to be there. The second surprise is looking around for those you expected to see in heaven, but not being able to find them there. And the third surprise is that you are there. What a joyful surprise that is! And it should surprise us, for Jesus is really the only human being who belongs in heaven. But remember that God does not want to dwell alone.

When Jesus told his disciples he was going to prepare a place for us and we know the way to follow, “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.” (Jn 14:5-6)

Since only Jesus belongs in heaven, he is our only way into heaven. We don’t belong because we have been estranged by sin. But Jesus atoned for our sins and made forgiveness possible. Through his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, he has become the means for restored fellowship with God. So the way to heaven is being “in Christ,” as St Paul so often expressed it. It means that we are joined to him, united to him, share his resurrected life. If we make our home in Christ, we will find ourselves in heaven. That's why Jesus prayed in today's Gospel reading that we may find our unity by dwelling in the Son, who is one with the Father.

Ontologically, this union begins with baptism. The sacrament of Holy Baptism is our death to our old selves and our rebirth into the resurrected eternal life of Christ. "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death," as St Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, "in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Rom 6:4). Likewise, Holy Communion, “the Bread of heaven,” sustains that intimate fellowship with God and sharing of resurrected that comes through first being joined to Christ when we are born again at our baptism.

As you come to the altar today, to the sanctuary where heaven overlaps with earth, know that you come to find a foretaste of our promised inheritance, for all the glories of the risen Christ have ascended into the sacraments.

We therefore beg, dear Lord of thee
To pardon our iniquity;

Yea, of thine own supernal grace
Uplift our hearts to seek thy face:

That when in clouds, O Judge of doom
Thy glory shall this earth illume,

Thou mayst remit our debt of pain,
And grant our long-lost crowns again.

All praise from every heart and tongue
To thee, ascended Lord, be sung;

Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Painted ceilings are worth looking up to

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On this feast of the Ascension of our Lord, my attention is drawn to the painted ceilings of churches. The ceiling of the chapter house of the cathedral at York (above) shows the central role of Christ, the Lamb of God, in the Catholic Faith.
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The blue ceiling with gold stars at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in New York City (above) reminds one of the celestial realms of glory. It is a common ornamentation for the sanctuary. The blue ceiling with gold "MR" in the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Spokane (below) reminds us of Maria Regina--Mary, the Queen of heaven.
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The soft blue and white on the ceiling of Worcester Cathedral (above) convey a sense of the gentleness of the Lamb of God. The detailed painted saints and ornament on the ceiling of St Paul's Cathedral in London (below) remind one of the glories that await in heaven.
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The color in the tower at Canterbury Cathedral (above) highlights the architectural structure, as does the contemporary look in the cathedral of Madrid (below).
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Monday, May 14, 2007

To elevate or not to elevate

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I realize that this post may only interest priests, sacristy rats, and other liturgy geeks, but so be it. One of the things that has been awkward in the most recent Prayer Book (and even in the previous editions) is exactly how to handle the alms, or monetary offerings. If you are looking for ceremonial directions in those old books that deal with Catholic liturgical minutia, forget it.

The other day I heard someone say (tongue-in-cheek) that downtown at St Andrew's (our traditional low-church parish) they won't elevate the host, but they sure will elevate the cash. Of course, we see it handled slightly differently everywhere. In some places, very simply. In others, it is like a solemn blessing of the cash (perhaps to exorcise it's attraction as the source of all evil). So that got me thinking. Exactly how do you handle the cash?

As far as the liturgy is concerned, there is much detail about the offerings and the offertory. But in that case, the offerings ("oblations" as distinct from "alms" and "offerings" in the 1928 BCP) are the bread and wine. The directions from the 1928 Prayer Book on this matter are as follows:

The Deacons, Church-wardens, or other fit persons appointed for that purpose, shall receive the Alms for the Poor, and other Offerings of the People, in a decent Basin to be provided by the Parish; and reverently bring it to the Priest, who shall humbly present and place it upon the Holy Table.

And the Priest shall then offer, and shall place upon the Holy Table, the Bread and the Wine.

And when the Alms and Oblations are being received and presented, there may be sung a Hymn, or an Offertory Anthem in the words of Holy Scripture or of the Book of Common Prayer, under the direction of the Priest.

Some things I notice in these rubrics: The money is received in a basin by someone assisting in the liturgy--be that a deacon, warden, subdeacon, or acolyte. The basin is given to the priest. No ceremony seems to be implied; it is not held up for him to bless. The celebrant in turn "shall humbly present and place it upon the Holy Table."

In these directions, the basin of alms is to be left on the altar. That the priest "humbly presents" it, implies some ceremony. That could mean that he should hold it up in the gesture of offering, or make the sign of the cross over it, or both. The sign of the cross will likely be made over alms in the "Prayer for the whole state of Christ's Church" at the words, "We humbly beseech thee most mercifully to accept our [alms and] oblations, and to receive these our prayers, which we offer unto thy Divine Majesty". Then comes the offering of bread and wine, which may have been sitting off the corporal, waiting for the alms to be collected and placed on the altar.

Here a note should be made about the two different gestures known by the word "elevation." The more familiar gesture is what is called the "major elevation," which first appeared in the Western liturgy in the thirteenth century. In this case, after the applicable words of consecration, the priest raises the element up higher than his head to show it to the people for their adoration.

The older "minor elevation" comes later at the doxology to the eucharistic prayer. In this case, it is a gesture of offering ("Thine own, from thine own, we offer unto thee"). The priest raises the Host and Chalice together up to about chest (or at most, eye level). This was also the type of gesture used at the offering of bread and wine before the eucharistic prayer began. It seems to me that this is the gesture that should be used by the priest, if any, for the presenting and placing of alms on the altar.

What is sometimes seen is that the alms basin is raised up over the head (as pictured above). Although there is a subtle difference between the two gestures of elevation, the main problem in this case is that the elevation over the head is a gesture of adoration. There only other place it appears is in the adoration of the consecrated Host and Precious Blood. Needless to say, it is not appropriate for the cash. Especially when accompanied by the singing of "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow," the gesture gives the impression that we are praising Mammon.

In contrast to the 1928 edition, the 1979 Prayer Book does not give much guidance for how to go about handling the offertory. The main direction seems to be that the people must stand, at least when gifts are first put on the altar.

Representatives of the congregation bring the people's offerings of bread and wine, and money or other gifts, to the deacon or celebrant. The people stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar.

It seems to me that in absence of more explicit direction (which should be given in the next revision) or contrary instruction, the older pattern should adhered to with the dignity and decorum fitting the offering of alms.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What hue shall we do?

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At the recommendation of the flower guild and the worship committee, the wall of the apse here at St. Alban's will be painted blue, probably this week. The motive is to make the candles and flowers stand out better against the background. Blue and red accented with gold are the most common colors for the sanctuary. Of course, we have a lot of red here with the brick. And blue also makes sense for our apse since the archway at the crucifix represents the open gateway to heaven and our columbarium is placed in the walkway of the apse.

Now the question is which hue is best. I'm inclined toward the idea that darker is better, preferably with some sacred symbols stenciled in gold, but it's also not my decision. Some sample patches have been painted for comparison. The final choice will be a light to medium grayish blue, somewhat similar to the altered photograph below.
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I have added an example of what I refer to above and in the comments about a darker blue background accented with gold symbols like the fleur-de-lis. The picture is of the main altar designed by A.W. Pugin at the Church of Ss Peter and Paul in Newport, Shropshire (UK).
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Monday, May 07, 2007

Glimpses of glory, a homily for Easter V

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One of the most spectacular meteorological phenomena in the world is a rare cloud formation called the cloud of Morning Glory. Usually, it is only observed in Northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria. A Morning Glory cloud can best be described as a roll cloud that can be more than 600 miles long, over a mile tall, and can move at speeds up to 25 miles per hour.

The morning glory is often accompanied by sudden wind squalls, intense low-level wind shear, and a sharp pressure jump at the surface. In the front of the cloud, there is strong vertical current that sends air up in the cloud and creates the rolling appearance, while the air in the back side becomes turbulent and sinks. The cloud can also be described as a Solitary wave, a wave that has a single crest and moves without changing speed or shape. Despite being studied extensively by Australian meteorologists, the Morning Glory cloud is still not clearly understood.
At once both entrancing and frightening, it essentially looks like a giant white tidal wave in the sky. It was named “morning” because that is the usual time of day when the formation appears, due to the moisture in the atmosphere. The name “glory” comes from the awesome display of the energy in motion by the clash between hot and cold. No one would deny this formation the word "glorious." But is glory best illustrated by this gigantic cloud, or by the gentle flower called the Morning Glory?

Glory is something which is seen or experienced, more than understood. Indeed, it is difficult to come up with one definition to understand the word "glory." Glory is perhaps instead a quality that best helps us understand something else. For this reason, God uses ordinary things as signs of his glory.

The things are “ordinary” in the sense that they are natural things that we experience everyday—like sunshine, clouds, fire, hail, beauty, acts of kindness, music, or most anything else. God uses ordinary things for extraordinary purposes. God uses them to get our attention, to convey a mystery, to reveal his majesty. The Greek word for glory, doxa, indicates a worthwhile quality. The Hebrew word for glory, kabhod, comes from the root for heaviness. God uses ordinary things as signs of the weight of his glory.

Isaiah pointed this out. He liked to use the word "signal" (or “ensign” in the King James Version). Simple things are used as ensigns to call people to come experience God’s glory. In chapter 11, the Prophet writes, “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek ... he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

The simple birth of a child heralds the glorious dawn of eternal salvation. Jesus is the ultimate sign of God’s glory—his life and death and resurrection reveal that glory. When the Christ child was presented in the Temple, the aged Simeon recognized it, saying that he was now ready die in peace. "For my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to thy people Israel.” A baby was the sign of the glorious dawn of salvation.

What makes something a sign of glory is not the dramatic nature of the sign, but the importance of that which it is used to reveal? For this reason, true glory is often hidden from view. Many people look upon the sign and see something ordinary. Others discern the glory and are brought to their knees in humble recognition of divine majesty.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus said, “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” Is this the moment we’ve all been waiting for? Is this the unveiling of the majesty of the Father and the Son? An outside might have missed it entirely, but then I don’t know if the insiders fared much better. And yet, according to what Jesus said, this is the moment.

The curtain is rising, the search lights are beaming, the trumpets are blasting, heaven and earth are calling our attention. The betrayer has just sealed Jesus’ destiny. Judas has chosen to go through with his plan of betrayal, which means that the hour of glory has come—the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The resurrection was a more direct display of God’s power. The ascension called our attention to the heavenly realms of glory. Yet, the it is the crucifixion which occupies “the hour of glory” in John’s Gospel. That is to say, all the glories of the risen and ascended Christ are fully unveiled in his passion and death. There is no glorious moment in the story of the good news than when the Lord of heaven and earth pours himself out in love so that sins may be forgiven and the gates of heaven be opened. There is no more glorious thing than sacrificial love.
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To put it another way, true glory is not found in the reward, but in the sacrifice. Think of a great monument; the glory is not in the monument, but in that which it commemorates. The most glorious thing is love, and the nature of love is the gift of self. Now that they are going to be separated, Jesus called upon his disciples to follow that example. He called them anew to the love which fulfills all the commandments of God. "I give you a new commandment: Love one another the way that I have loved you.” That is, I want you to give yourselves away for others, as I will do for you. That's how people will know that you are my disciples.

Christians are supposed to love God and to love one another. That means giving ourselves away . . . to God, to each other, and to those who will come after us. That’s what it means to love; that’s what it means to truly live. Quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood once wrote, “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well that he will never sit.”
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The Father is gloried by the perfect obedience of the Son, even unto death. The Son is glorified by the Father in manifesting divine love to the world. Some of the most glorious things often look the most ordinary—the birth of a baby, the execution of a criminal, or the unfolding of a morning flower. All of God’s glories shine through the light of the cross.
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The most glorious among us are the most Christ-like among us. That Christ-likeness involves looking to the future, seeing what the real priorities are, and putting others before ourselves as an expression of love. I submit to you today that this is the most glorious way to live—living as a sign for others, living lives of sacrifice, the majesty of giving ourselves away.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The mysteries of Marmite

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Marmite is that oh-so-English savory spread for toast and so much more. It is a syrup made from yeast extract produced in brewing beer. What I did not know until recently is that supposedly, if you put a dollop of Marmite on a plate and whack it repeatedly with a spoon, it will turn lighter in color. Some have reported that it will turn nearly white, but I have not found any documentation of this. The picture below shows Marmite that has been whacked. The dark splotch on the left is a fresh dollop of Marmite for color comparison.
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Update: From our UTA Canterbury director Brian Pickard, here is the sermon from his parish last Sunday. The visiting preacher, Bishop Benjamin Kwashi of Jos, mentions growing up with Marmite about half-way through. The title of his sermon? It's "Are you afraid of hell?"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why God made hugs

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An older gentleman who regularly attends our Saturday morning Mass and is always ready to give out free hugs gave me a bookmark with this delightful poem by Jill Wolf.

Everyone was meant to share
God all-abiding love and care;
He saw that we would need to know
A way to let these feelings show.

So God made hugs--a special sign,
And symbol of His love divine,
A circle of our open arms
To hold in love and keep out harm.

One simple hug can do its part
To warm and cheer another's heart.
A hug's a bit of heaven above
That signifies His perfect love.