Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent is Coming!

Well, it’s that time of the year when the church calendar starts over! December 1st is the first Sunday of Advent this year. You may be wondering just what Advent is all about, so I will give a quick explanation!

Advent is the first season of the liturgical year for Christians who follow the church calendar. The word advent come from the Latin word adventuswhich means “coming.” So we call this church season Advent because we are preparing for Jesus’ coming in the flesh at Christmas (not just a day, but an entire season for the church!), which is also called the Feast of the Nativity. The neat thing about this season is that it also reminds us that Jesus is coming back one day to consummate his kingdom here on earth and reveal his glory to all the world. This is one reason why the church calendar celebrates Christ the King Sunday as the final Sunday of the church year, which was last week at the time of this post.

So, Advent serves a double purpose:
  1. A preparation for Christ’s second coming. This is recognized by the readings from the first two Sundays of Advent focusing on Jesus’ teaching about this second coming.
  2. A preparation to celebrate his birth. This is seen in the readings for the third and fourth Sundays that point to some of the prophecies of that first coming as well as Gospel readings that tell the story of things that were happening just before Jesus was born all those years ago.

So, what is our posture for learning and putting these truths into practice for ourselves? One way that we do this is asking ourselves, why did Jesus need to come in the first place? Well, we are all sinners in need of redemption from our sin. And that very sin has infected all of the world, not just people. The whole creation groans under the burden of the curse because of our sin. Thus, Jesus’ coming was for all of creation’s redemption, which includes our own redemption. Through Jesus, everything is put to rights, as N.T. Wright likes to put it. This is very important for us to think about this season.

What does this lead to then? It leads to a time of reflection in our own individual lives about our need for Jesus. I need Jesus continually because I myself am a sinner who is in the wrong with God the Father because of the sin that dwells in me and my own actions. Part of my practice for this season is to remember this and seek God’s mercy remembering that it is in Jesus himself for me! There is a sense of sorrow in this season for my own sin and that leads to a sense of repentance and seeking God to renew our hearts through His Holy Spirit that He has given to us. This is a starting place for us and I will have more to say later.

Come Lord Jesus, come!
(I also posted this on my Tumblr blog in case anyone comes across that and thinks that I ripped someone off...)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Last night our pastorate teaching was on community. It was a hard one for me to focus on because I was taking care of Ike during it and he was not in his snuggly, sit still and relax mood as he usually is when Rach takes care of him.  However, one thing that Steve said caught my attention and has me ruminating a great deal.

He mentioned how community doesn’t really happen until some type of crisis occurs in a group.  He looked at Acts 11 and how it wasn’t until God scattered the church in Jerusalem around that they began accomplishing his work to bring the Gentiles into the church as a group.  You had Peter and others who went out and followed God’s lead and brought non-Jews into the church, but there was not a concerted effort until the church got scattered that they all started to live this kind of faith in front of the Gentiles.

That got me thinking more specifically about individuals and maybe Steve dug into this a bit, I honestly can’t remember because I was so in and out of the teaching last night.  Crisis and tragedy are a catalyst for us as individuals to enter a community of others!  What drives us to depend upon someone else?  Often, we cling to our own ropes so hard that we won’t let go.  We get to the end and somehow weave a bit more onto that end so that we can cling a little longer.  A little crisis here, a little crisis there gets us back to the bottom, but we add a little bit more so that we don’t have to let go just yet.  But then, something huge comes along (and the “huge-ness” of that event varies from person to person) and we finally quit trying to add onto our rope and we let go and fall.

Then we fall and fall and fall.

And fall some more, maybe….

But that bottom hits us hard and we are broken and battered and bruised.  And we wallow there for a while...

But eventually, somehow, we finally open our eyes and discover a bunch of other people gathered around us, reaching out to us to join them.  We think, “Where’d they come from??” Really, they have been there for a while waiting on us to open our eyes long enough to notice them.  These other people are people who have done the same thing too.  They fell down to the bottom of the pit and discovered someone else waiting on them.  What you do then is in many ways up to you.  You can close your eyes again and continue laying there or you can recognize that they want to help you get up, to hear what happened, to sit and listen for a while and when you are ready to share out of their own experience how they got there.  

And something we discover as we listen to them, instead of ourselves, is that Someone else is in the midst of them.  And we find out that He sent them to us to bring us to Himself. 

Yes, at the bottom of that pit with all of those other messed up people, we can find Jesus waiting for us that He might heal us and use us to bring him to other hurting people in that pit.  We get pulled into that community through our own crisis and find ourselves among others who have dealt with one crisis or another.  And in the midst of all of that we find the Church who is the one who brings us to Jesus when we need Him the most.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Confirmation Opportunity

I've gotten the opportunity to teach our youth about the faith in preparation for some of them to be confirmed later this year.  It's a pretty awesome opportunity for me.  I've avoided involvement with youth for a few years now after feeling like I botched everything in my internship during my early seminary career.  I probably didn't do as bad as I feel, but I certainly do as well as I could have for the most part.

Anyway, I've done one class which was more of an introduction to the concept of confirmation.  The one thing that I didn't get to mention was this great quote that AnalogReigns put me on to: We are reborn in baptism for life, and we are confirmed after baptism for strife (quote comes from St. Faustus of Riez, which is printed in the article "Children, Confirmation, and Communion" published in The Anglican Way Summer 2013 issue found here).  However, I think that I captured this concept well in what I said which is posted below:


There are two questions that I want to answer tonight. What is confirmation? Why confirmation? The reason I ask them back to back is that they go together. The what of confirmation gives us the why of confirmation; the why of confirmation gives us the what of confirmation. Really, these two questions are two sides of the same coin.

I’ll start with the first one: Confirmation is a rite, or a ritual, you might say, in which the bishop lays hands on someone and prays for them to receive the strengthening work of the Holy Spirit. The reason the bishop does this is because he is our primary spiritual authority. God has given him charge for our care. The reason that Randy is our priest at King of Kings is because the bishop has delegated aspects of his authority to Randy to provide our immediate pastoral care, but ultimately, that care rests with the bishop. Because that care ultimately rests with the bishop, he retains the care in regard to confirming you. When he confirms you, he is recognizing and blessing your faith and in doing that he seeks God’s mercy to maintain that faith throughout your lives.

So, we have an explanation for what Confirmation is, but why should we submit to confirmation? Why does the bishop seek God’s mercy on our behalf; with regard to our faith? The reason is because it is God who gives you that very faith and thus only God can maintain it. We don’t presume upon God’s grace by acting as though we can do anything we want after God gives us faith. Instead we seek after God’s mercy, always recognizing that in ourselves, left to ourselves, we would always forsake God, but by the Spirit he has given to us. How did God first give us His Spirit? The Holy Spirit was given to us through the Word and Sacrament. Paul says in Romans 10:12-17 that

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Here we see that it is through the hearing and preaching of God’s word that we are enabled to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. We also see though that this salvation is connected to the sacraments as well. In Acts, Peter tells the people to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and the people would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Supper is also referenced as a place where forgiveness of sins is known. There is nothing inherent in the actions in and of themselves, but they are means that God has chosen to work in us. Hence through hearing God’s word and receiving his sacraments, God works faith into us and when we abide in those things, he strengthens and enlivens that faith.

Confirmation is not a sacrament in our church. It is an important even though. In it we acknowledge that the faith we have is a gift of God and being a gift of God, only God can maintain it, only God can preserve our faith that we might persevere in the faith he gave to us. We acknowledge this preservation nearly every week in the Collect of the Day. Listen to them and hear about how we are always asking the Father to keep us in Christ, to fill us with His Spirit that we might forsake sin. For example last weeks collect asked God to graft or put in us love for Him, to nourish us with His goodness and to bring forth the fruit of good works. Today’s collect asked God to grant us to trust him with our whole hearts and tells us that God will never forsake those who boast in his mercy. The psalm that I read to start this spoke of the same things and even confesses that God can give us faith even before we are born! Faith is God’s gift to us and He is the one who keeps us safe in it.

To sum up the what and why of confirmation, I give you this final definition: Confirmation is a recognition not only of a need to publicly acknowledge one's faith, that has been freely given from God, but a deep recognition of one's need for the work of the Holy Spirit, freely given through Word and Sacrament, in one’s life for strength, continuing renewal, and increase in faith that we might never forsake our Lord Jesus. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To be lost is to be found...apparently...


Lost logoSo, R and I just finished watching Lost.  I think we made it through most of the series in the last six months.  Needless to say, it has been roller coaster!  I loved the character development and how you initially hated some characters, but came to love them dearly at the end, and others, who were newish, you came to love as you saw them grow in the short time they were there.  Yet the ending...I must say there may be spoilers ahead, but then again, it has been two and a half years since it aired, and if you knew anyone who watched it then, you probably heard plenty about the series if you had never watched it, especially from those who *despised* the ending!

I didn't despise the ending, but am processing it.  Really, that is probably the whole point of it.  However, in talking about it with R, she made the comment that it kind of makes you think of where the culture is now (or where culture has seemed to always have been in pop religion...).  It all works out in the end, there is a happy ending somewhere, even if it isn't here, it's raining somewhere, so let's drink (sorry, that's Jeffersonian anecdote I heard years ago, not Lost...).

Yet, it did drive me to quite a speech with R.  I just came out of an ethics class in seminary this semester and really, there are a few things to say that relate here, I believe.

I love Virtue Ethics.  Especially after reading N.T. Wright's After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.  It was tonight that I realized that a few things that I read from Peter Kreeft's Christianity for Modern Pagans (one of my favorite books, for reasons that I can't go into here) perfectly line up with Lost in, sort of, an inverse kind of way.

You see, Pascal saw man as both wretched and great, and in some ways great because he could see his own wretchedness.  But the answer to man's paradoxical way of life was through Christ.  We could only become great by embracing our wretchedness (seeing that we had no way out of it) and through that embracing Christ.  Culture, however, sees us either as great or wretched.  Pascal nailed it when he said, "Man is neither angel nor beast, and it is unfortunately the case that anyone acting the angel acts the beast."  We are neither, but culture, seems to think that we are one or the other.  And because of this, we come to think that if we are angels all we have to do is summon the strength from within to act appropriately, or in terms of Lost, find ourselves on the Island and discover who we really are.

On one hand, there is some truth in this.  It is right that we can't simply get to heaven from what we are now.  We don't get there from here, we have to change what we do.  Think of the scene when Hurley says, "Dude, I didn't know Ana Lucia would be here," and Desmond replies with, "She's not ready."  Her time on the Island didn't fit her for "heaven" and she needs to spend time in this in between place of the "flash-sideways" to get it right.  See, everything works out in the end, just not at the same time for everyone.

Yet in this sort of truth that we can't get to heaven from where we are right now, is the dangerous lie that we can get to heaven if we change ourselves, whether drawing from within, or from responding properly to outside forces, or some combination of both (the Island, maybe??).

It's all very Aristotelian, actually.  What, you ask, does that even mean??

Aristotle put forward what is called a "Virtue Ethic."  There is an end goal to life, that is, to be happy (in the good ol' Greek sense, a well formed life, not our uber subjective understanding of it today).  To get to that goal, though, we have to develop virtue.  How does one do that though?  By observing and imitating those who are virtuous, of course!  But we don't seem to have any virtue to get us started....You see where the problem arises.  To cut the tension, one has to assume that we have at least the beginnings of virtue within us and we need something to bring it out.  But, is that in anyway true?  Is there some "seed" of virtue within?

I would say that answer is "No."  But with some qualifications...I'm not saying that we can't ever do something that is good, but I am saying that whatever "good" we do is not really good enough to count for actual virtue.  We can't get to the end goal of a "happy life" from where we are now, we just don't have it in us at the end of the day.  Our imitations don't even come up as good as my three year old son's drawings of the field outside our house that consists of merely a circle of brown with some green scribbled in it!  Now, hear me out here...we aren't total beasts (we do some things that can be considered good), but we aren't angels (who would presumably be able to do actual good, that is, virtuous things).  We're somewhere in-between.  Something that is neither angel nor beast, but a whole different category.

That is the mistake I see in our culture, though.  There is no third category.  We are simply irredeemable (in both positive, not needing it, and negative, unable to be so).  That is, we are so lost that we can't be found, or we weren't ever lost and so don't need to be found...Really, we need to see that we are lost and thus, in need of being found.

I'll say some more about this and virtue later, after I hash it out in my own brain some more...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Word about Bishops



As everyone who has ever looked at this blog can figure out, I'm an Anglican. One of the things that Anglicans have that a lot of other churches don't have are bishops. Why is this


Well, most people argue for bishops simply from history because they say that bishops don't really have scriptural support or that the bishopric was not very developed in the New Testament, so we have to look at history to discover that bishops are an acceptable form of church government. This is a little annoying because many want to understand why we have bishops from the Bible! In the next few posts, I am going to talk about a scriptural basis for having a church led by bishops. I'm doing this because it is important for those who aren't Anglican to know why we do what we do. But it is also important for those of us that are Anglicans to know why we do what we do also!


So, I am going to be doing a few blog posts about this and maybe you'll agree…maybe you won't, but at least see that we Anglicans do have a truly biblical argument for out use of bishops as opposed to some other form of church government.


image h/t:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A departure from the theme and yet not...

I found this on another blog tonight:

And by justice sin must have death,- death, our death, for the sin was ours.  But if we had died to sin, we had perished in sin; perished here, and perished everlastingly.  That His love to us could not endure, that we should so perish.  Therefore, as in justice He justly might, He took upon Him our debt of sin, and said, as the Fathers apply that speech of His, Sinite abide hos, “Let these go their ways” (Joh 18.8).  And so that we might not die to sin He did.  We see why he died once.

Why but once?  because once was enough, ad auferenda , saith St. John; ad abolenda, saith St. Peter; ad exhaurienda, saith St. Paul; ‘to take away, to abolish, to draw dry,’ and utterly to exhaust all the sins, of all the sinners, of all the world.  The excellency of His Person that performed it was such; the excellence of the obedience that He performed, such; the excellency of His humility and charity wherewith He performed it, such; and of such value every of them, and all of them much more; as made that His once dying was satis superque, ‘enough, and enough again;’ which mae the Prophet call it copiosam redemptionem, “a plenteous redemption” (Ps 130.7).  But the Apostle, he goeth beyond all in expressing this; in one place terming it huperballon, in anotherhuperekperisseuon, in another pleonazon,- mercy, rich, exceeding; grace over-abounding, nay, grace superfluous, for so is pleonazon, and superfluous is enough and to spare; superfluous is clearly enough and more than enough.  Once dying then being more than enough, no reason He should die more than once.  That of His death.
Lancelot Andrews, “A Sermon Preached Before the King’s Majesty at Whitehall, on the Sixth of April MDCVI, Being Easter Day on Romans vi 9-11″

I think that sums up a great deal about where we are going over the next few days in our lives as we come to the end of Lent and enter into the Easter season.  Thank the Lord that Easter is not just one day, but is celebrated for seven weeks and thank the Lord that every Sunday can be termed a "little Easter."

Quote courtesy of

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Theological Revolution

Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail 9780819214768
I have been blogging a lot lately about the various and diverse reasons that led me down the Canterbury trail.  I am something of a mutt when it comes to theological breeding and that does not really bother me.  In fact I think that it gives me something of a reflective nature on the nuances of theology, but also, a kind disposition toward those who are "inconsistent" in their views.

The one thing that led me away from Lutheranism of the conservative brand (besides the seminaries being in Fort Wayne, In and St Louis, Mo, both of which are cooooold), was the hard line on theology.  It was an all or nothing approach to the Book of Concord.  That is wonderful.  They are a confessional people.  They love their Lutheranism (and I love quite a bit of it too!), but I knew that I couldn't commit all the way to Lutheranism…I mean, this blog used to have the tag "Too Lutheran for the Calvinists and too Calvinist for the Lutherans" for a reason.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Liturgical Formation



And I believe what I believe is what makes me who I am. I did not make it, no it is making me. It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.--Rich Mullins, from the song Creed

Rich Mullins knew what he was talking about with the lyrics posted above. While he was speaking of the Apostles' Creed, I believe what he ways really applies to the whole of liturgy.

Liturgy plays an important role in our worship in many ways, but I think that the most important is how it forms us into "better" believers. Everything that I have said before danced around this notion. Liturgy gets into us, it is habitual and repetitious, it teaches us theology and practical prayers for life. All of these things are formation. Liturgy forms us into who we need to be.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Liturgical Theology

So...I couldn't really find a picture to put on this there...

Liturgy is theology applied to worship and even to all of life. What do I mean? What we all believe is encapsulated in how we worship. This is part of the reason the so called "worship-wars" have happened in the church throughout the past two generations. There has been a struggle to determine if how one worships affects how one believes. I think that in the long run, it does. If you water down the worship, it will be extremely hard to overcome what you are indirectly teaching (or learning). If worship is flippant, then our view of God becomes flippant. If worship is all about experience, then we become convinced that the Christian life is built on experience or how I feel that "my faith" is doing today.

Of course, my use of liturgy here is narrow. When I use it, I mean an explicit liturgy, one that follows the contours inherited from the church of the first 500 years or so. Because, as I said previously, all churches have a liturgy. It's just that some don't have an explicit one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Liturgy in Me


Let me talk about the aspect of liturgy getting into me (and you too, when you experience it!):

The use of the same prayers is important because you learn them by heart. It is important that we learn them by heart because they connect us to one another and also to all who have come before us in the Church. In fact, many of them that are used in the traditional liturgy (like that of the Book of Common Prayer) date back to the first 500 years of the church.