Thursday, April 30, 2015

For Meditation: Eternal life

From my morning reading, Hughson's With Christ in God.

"Eternal life begun consists in knowing by faith--a tender and affectionate knowledge which inclines the soul to love.  Eternal life consummated consists in seeing God openly, face to face."  Bishop Bossuet (111).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Commentary: Beloved Dust by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (2014)

A friend of mine, a lifelong Episcopalian, told me the other day that he’s never really understood what evangelicals are going on about when they talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus.  I muttered something to him about emotional and intellectual approaches to faith, but we both knew that was skirting the issue.  Having finished Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel’s Beloved Dust this week, I think I’ll just send him a copy and let the evangelicals explain it all in their own words—beautifully, simply and compellingly.

Goggin and Strobel are certainly from the evangelical mainstream.  Goggin is a pastor at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, probably America’s healthiest and influential megachurch, and Warren himself writes a ringing endorsement of a foreword.  Strobel teaches spiritual theology at Biola College in Los Angeles, one of evangelicalism’s strongest colleges.  They speak openly about the spiritual challenges they have experienced within the evangelical mainstream: duty-focused legalism, secret hypocrisy and shallow and trite devotionalism (not that evangelicals have any monopoly on these things).

For Meditation: that He should find His joy in our love

From my morning reading, Hughson's With Christ in God.

"It is no wonderful thing that I, knowing what God is, knowing how gracious He has ever been to me, and conscious of the blessings that He is continually preparing for me, should love Him, and thirst for Him, as for the One in whom alone I can find ultimate satisfaction and joy.  But it is a wonder beyond our knowing that He, knowing us, and how we have wounded Him and offended Him, and how we shall again and again do Him the same despite, should love us; and more than this, that He should desire that we love Him; and that He should find His joy in our love, and His grief in our neglect of Him."  (51-52).

Monday, April 27, 2015

For Meditation: God's love and our sin

From my morning reading, Hughson's "With Christ in God"

Man's reaction to his own sin is to flee from God in fear; God's reaction to man's sin is to draw near to man in love,  The more we sin, the more do we need His love, and the more generously is that love offered to us.  The vivid illustration of this is found in our Lord's first Word on the cross.  "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."  The verb said is given in a form which implies continued action: "He kept on saying."  As their blasphemies and mockings increased, He increased His cry that they might be forgiven.  He would not let their sin outdistance His love.  And so has He ever been.  So will He ever be.  (p. 33-34).

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Marked Forever: A Sermon for Easter IV

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  St. John 10:14-15

            “It may well be the only tattoo that pays for itself” read the boldly colored sign.  Last Sunday my family and I were down in North Carolina for my college reunion.  We met up with some friends for lunch at Bull City Burger and Brew, one of Durham’s many new hipster eateries.  The poster on the bathroom wall was advertising the restaurant’s latest marketing campaign, a partnership with a neighboring tattoo parlor.  A Bull City Burger logo tattooed on your body (in one of the authorized forms, measuring at least three inches in diameter) would get you a 25% discount on all burger orders, for the rest of your life.  A new frontier in advertising, perhaps—certainly more staying power than a Facebook ad.  I walked out of the bathroom, scanning the biceps of my fellow patrons, to see if any had decided to take the plunge.
            Of course, when you begin looking around at any establishment that serves a mostly younger crowd, you will see plenty of tattoos.  The most recent stats I discovered indicate that 21% of American adult admit to having a tattoo and the totals for people my age, in their thirties, go up to 38%, nearly 2 in 5.[1]  Tattoo parlors show more growth than nearly any other kind of retail establishment.  Long gone are the days when only bikers and sailors got inked, and increasing numbers of women, professionals and celebrities have gone under the needle in recent years. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

I'm praying today:

  •  For the repose of the souls of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, which began 100 years ago today
  •    For deeper honesty and repentance by the Turkish government for their role in this devastating tragedy
  • For guidance for T. and S. of my parish as they search for work and discern God’s call
  • For our new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, and for all who work to secure justice and equal treatment under the law
  • For S., B., and P. in their ongoing struggles with cancer, and for patience and compassion for those who care for them.
  • For protection for Europe’s many new refugees and for wisdom for those charged with making decisions about their humane treatment
  •  For K. and D, who mourn the death of their beloved daughter.
  •  For the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, that they may increase in numbers and grow in the life of grace

For meditation: "Every glory in germ"

Clipped from my current morning reading, Shirley Hughson's With Christ in God (1948):

"The mystics look upon our life as a holy pilgrimage, a journey whose end is the inner unity of God.  The more a soul keeps itself open to God, abandons itself to the mysterious action of God, and lets itself be caught in His current, the deeper God draws it into the secret abyss where all springs rise.  In grace, therefore, which contains every glory in germ, lie possibilities yet untold.  God perfects the soul of him who gives himself up to God."  Julius Tyciak.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

From all perils and daggers

“Defend us from all perils and daggers of this night,” intoned my older son yesterday evening.  We haven’t been reading Compline at bedtime for long, and though he’s only six, he wanted his turn at reading the prayers.  His three-year old brother, who usually has a foam sword tucked into his belt was delighted, and repeated “daggers, daggers” in a pirate’s growl throughout the rest of the Office.

Praying with children almost always makes me smile, but today it made me think as well.  My son was reading a collect first written in the perilous days of the early Middle Ages, the Illumina, quaesumus, Anglican Evensong’s “Lighten our darkness.”  It calls for God’s help in uncertain times, when the forces of evil seem strong and we cannot rely on our own power.

I think of my brothers and sisters, the Christians of the Middle East who live under the threat of persecution, the “daggers of the night.”  Today, we remember Saint George, the patron saint of Ethiopia, among many lands.  I pray for the souls of those 28 Ethiopian men, fellow “people of the Cross” killed by terrorists in Libya this week. 

The legends, as my youngest son can recount in great detail, tell that Saint George killed the dragon, and defended the weak.  What we know more clearly is that he was a fourth century martyr, slain for our common faith.  “Christ my captain,” Saint George prayed, “my Lord I have no strength but what Thou shalt give.  Help me this day and the glory shall be thine forever and ever.” (The Glorious Company, 113)

May Saint George pray for them, and for us.  Christ is our captain, the one who strengthens us to stand firm in the evil day and who protects us through the perils of the night.  We rest in His peace, which is the only true safety.

A Word of Mercy: Sermon for Easter II

“Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." St. John 20:21

            “The doors were locked for fear,” Saint John tells us.  The disciples were huddling in the dark that first Easter evening, ducking and covering from all the drama that the spectacle at the empty tomb was likely to unleash.  It’s a rather odd postlude to the joyful news of Easter morning.  By sunset, there were no alleluias in sight.  An angel had proclaimed His resurrection. Christ had appeared to Mary Magdalene.  But the disciples didn’t really know what to make of it all.  Their initial excitement had deflated as they tried to come to terms with what the announcement might really mean for them.
 St. John remembered that they were frightened of the Jews, the religious authorities, who had a court and a police force of their own.  Jesus had seen the rough end of their justice a few days earlier, and once the news got out that there was no body in the tomb, they’d be out looking for someone to blame.  Tomb robbery was a serious crime, and though the disciples were innocent of it, the Sanhedrin didn’t seem to have much trouble rounding up false witnesses.  Announcing that the true Messiah had been raised by God, that the new creation had begun--that was even more dangerous, as some of them would find in a few weeks’ time.

What's in a Name?

“Into the company of the blessed” is a phrase I’ve come to know and love from old collects and devotional prayers.  A prayer from Flowers of Piety (1840), for example, asks God that “I may believe in Thee, put my whole trust in Thee, love Thee above all things, and through the merits of Thy death and passion, be admitted into the company of the blessed, where I may praise Thee forever.”

In this prayer, the phrase clearly refers to the saints and angels who praise the Lamb forever.  This is the goal of the Christian life, to be with Christ and His saints in our true and lasting home.  To see Him and know His love completely is the greatest blessing of all, the promised rest at the end of this life’s struggles.  The hope of everlasting life and the communion of saints are among the strongest strains in my own spiritual life, themes toward which my meditations and writings often turn.