Monthly Archives: March 2006

Short Exegesis on the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John

The following is a short exegesis paper I wrote for my New Testament class. I can’t remember if it was one I turned in or not, but here it is nonetheless.

Crosses

The Revelation to John has been the cause of a great deal of controversy in the history of the Church. It was even doubtful for a time that it would even make it into the canon of scripture. The primary conflicts in regard to Revelation have centered upon the appropriate interpretation of Christ’s 1000 year reign, with the most widespread millennialist theology in the US today being the dispensationalist variety. This conflict is not new however, and dates from the early centuries of Christianity. Conflict was quelled for awhile by the ascendancy of Augustinian theology which taught that the Church itself was what was referred to in the 1000 year reign. The Augustinian consensus was thrown into turmoil in the 12th century by the thought of a Cistercian monk by the name of Joachim of Fiore, who interpreted history in three ages: the age of the Father, the age of the Son and the age of the Holy Spirit. His work was enthusiastically embraced by some Franciscans. These groups kept the millennialist strain of Christianity alive until it reached its fever pitch in the reformation with the establishment of the bloody Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster. The discomfort of Cranmer and others toward Revelation is understandable considering this history. The few passages of Revelation in our lectionary is a testament to this discomfort.

One passage from Revelation that does appear in our lectionary is read on the feast of the Holy Innocents. Revelation 21:22-22:5 is a description of the heavenly Jerusalem seen by John. The selection begins with John describing what he sees as he survey’s the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. “I saw no temple in the city” he says, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” There is no need of a temple according to John; why should there be a need for a temple when God is residing in the midst of the people, as is the Lamb; there is no need of a temple or a sanctuary to encounter him. Additionally, the description of the New Jerusalem that John provides earlier in chapter 21 resonates with the descriptions of the Temple in the Old Testament. This city, the new creation, is God’s temple.

The presence of God has other ramifications as well, “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Here John makes use of metaphorical language to describe the glory of God and the Lamb. The glory of God is so bright that the sun is no longer necessary; the Lamb reflects the glory of God like the moon and is therefore a lamp that can take the place of the moon—there is no more need of sun or moon for the source of all light has made his home among the people. “By its light the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Here John hearkens back to Isaiah, who says “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isai. 60:3), in order to demonstrate the fulfillment of prophesy. All the gentiles and their kingdoms have come into the fold of God, the nations walk by his light—not just physical light, but spiritual light, no longer doing what is wrong in the sight of the Lord. John tells is that “the Kings bring their glory into it;” while it is obvious that humanity cannot possibly add to the glory of God, our worship can glorify the Lord. Here John is saying that the kings of the earth are showing proper reverence for God, and glorifying him by their worship, bringing their worship into the light and knowledge of God from the darkness where it had been before.

John describes the city as a place where, in verse 25, “its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.” Cities in the ancient world used to leave their gates open in the day time in order to commerce to take place. Usually if city gates were closed in the daylight it meant there was a siege, some other type of military threat or a plague of some sort. John emphasizes the fact that the gates of the city will always be open—first, they will never be closed because of a threat, and second they will never be closed at night, for there is no night in the heavenly city. “They will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations.” John is telling us here that the nations, the powers that once stood against God are now coming to the New Jerusalem.

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The Suffering of Job and the Answer of Christ.

Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. (Job 14:4)

Satan tests Job

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:13-14)

The Lenten series at our parish is focused on the problem of suffering and pain. The rector, Fr. Bill Midgett, felt like the Holy Spirit was leading hi to teach on this topic and the people of Trinity are responding. Last Wednesday night, our discussion turned to Job–to the challenge of Job and of the “Jobs” we are all aware of from our own lives and experience–the people who suffer for no apparent reason, whose pain not only taxes our emotional reserve and empathy, but offends our sense of righteousness, of rightness or justice. We all desire to see the wicked receive their just deserts, but we are offended when the innocent suffer.

Even as it challenges us, the story of Job gives us hope as it describes the reality that evil really is unexplainable, that people suffer without reason, that suffering can’t be equated with punishment for sin. But there is another way in which the Book of Job works, that I haven’t heard or read about elsewhere. I believe we see in Job a foreshadowing of Christ, that there is messianic content in Job just as there is in other parts of the Old Testament canon. For example, consider the role of the devil as the Accuser, the prosecuting attorney seeking to prove Job unfaithful to God, to force his disbelief and thereby wrong an innocent man–to prove in fact, that Job wasn’t as faithful or innocent as he or God believed. And yet through all of his trials Job maintained his belief in God, believing even when he lashed out at him in anger at affliction. As admirable as his endurance was though, Job could only endure, he had no hope of triumph.

There is no doubt that the story of Job is a troubling one, for even if Job never questions the existence of God, it is unclear that such a questioning would have even been possible for a pre-enlightenment person. Job doesn’t question God’s existence, but he does–and I think within reason, if not “justifiably”–question God’s goodness. And yet, God doesn’t allow the story of Job to form the entirety of what we know about him or about the devil. You see, there are parallels between Job’s story and the life of Christ. Just as the Enemy was fulfilling his role as the accuser in Job, seeking to destroy Job’s faith, he strikes out again at another innocent man in Jesus of Nazareth…but this time, the joke is on the devil. For while Job could only endure, Jesus had the power of God and could triumph.

There are some interesting similarities and differences between the way the devil attacks Job and the way he attacks Jesus. For Job, the temptation is to blame God and believe him unrighteous and unjust–to “curse God and die.” For Christ, the temptations placed before him were about the misuse of his power and authority, twisting them toward the ends of the devil rather than the Father.

The suffering of Job and Christ are parallel; Job was “innocent” and did all in his power to offer sacrifice to God for even a hint of wrong-doing. Jesus by contrast was intrinsically good and needed to offer no such sacrifice. In each case the role of the devil, of the Accuser, was to test and to tempt, to lead away from faith. The incarnation of Christ however was the means through which God played a trick on the devil and shattered his power over humanity. One wonders if, at the moment of Christ’s death on the cross, the devil believed he had turned events to his purposeses only to discover through the power of the resurection that Christ had been made God’s answer to the suffering of Job–in the person of Jesus Christ, God became man and suffered as humanity suffers in the fallen world. By enduring the worst of the devil’s assaults, and death on the cross bearing the sins of the whole world, Christ was able to deceive and defeat the devil–the totally innocent man taking on the totality of guilt for the whole world and dying at the hands of sinful people only to defeat death, hell and the devil by rising on the third day. And this is the defeat of the devil by God’s might, so that as we hear in Revelation 12:12:

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!

The devil has been defeated by Christ through his resurrection, his hold on humanity is at an end, and we are no free by grace to enjoy relationship with the Father. But because of his defeat, and the fact that he “knows his time is short,” the devil is ever more active in our world, bringing affliction on humanity…and yet, because of Christ we have hope, because of our salvation from sin. One of Job’s friends asked the question in chapter 14, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” We now know the answer to that question is not “there is not one,” but rather, there is one, Jesus Christ, who has brought a clean out of an unclean by saving a wretch like me and every other believer… our robes have been made white in the blood of the lamb.

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A Proposal for Repentance: What would it look like?

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Kendall Harmon has posted a letter from the Bishop of Arizona regarding the recent House of Bishops meeting which has again raised the issue of what true repentance would look like. The following is a FICTIONAL (As in not a real speech from a real person) proposal that I thought some would find interesting:

I greet you in the name of our victorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who in conquering death, freed us from bondage to sin, restoring the possibility of fellowship with God our Father; and who, if we accept and seek His Will, brings us into perfect communion with the Almighty through the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we gather here today under the shadow of judgment. The actions we have taken as a body over the past several years, the arrogance and lack of regard exhibited for our Anglican family–indeed our lack of fortitude and failure to administer godly admonition to our errant brothers and sisters who have strayed from the cause of Christ–all of these stand under the judgment not only of our fellow Anglicans in Africa, Asia, South America and elsewhere, but our ecumenical partners, and the entire Church of Christ, but also–and most importantly–under the judgment of God himself.

I stand before you today as one who had no official role in the action, which served as a presenting cause for the conflict and pain, which has wracked the body of our global communion. There are also those of you who have stood as a loyal opposition to the actions taken by the national Church. Yet we ALL stand under judgment. These actions were not the actions of a few only, but of our Church corporately, and it is as a body that we must bear responsibility. We have indeed sinned in thought, in word and in deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. Clearly we have not loved God with our whole heart, and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, for who among us would knowingly lead someone we loved to take actions which would imperil their lives. Yet as a Church we have taken actions; actions which have not only imperiled our relationships with other Churches, imperiled the lives of some among us who see affirmation as license, but we have imperiled the very souls of those in our care, To whom we have been sent to lead from darkness to light. We have done this. We are ALL guilty and we stand here today so that we might kneel tomorrow, seeking that humility which is the basis of truthful and sincere repentance, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6).

But we protest. We protest because we desire to preserve freedom of conscience, we hesitate because we don’t want the role–the burden, the responsibility, and the hard task–of telling someone we love that the road upon which they walk leads to destruction and pain–in this life, and in the next.

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Interesting stuff as the Bishop of Exeter addresses the Episcopal Church House of Bishops

The Times of London is reporting that the Bishop of Exeter had some interesting things to say to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church–words many of them probably didn’t want to hear.

‘I suppose one of the major challenges for the Episcopal Church now has to do with whether there are enought of you to stand broadly on the same ground, holding a range of opinions on Lambeth 1.10 but firm in carrying forward the Windsor vision of a strengthened and enabing communion life. This, I believe, is the key question rather than questions about whether the Episcopal Church will either be pushed out of the Communion or consciously walk away. Let’s be clear. On the one hand, noone can force another province or diocese either to go or remain. We are not that kind of church. Yet equally, no diocese or province can enforce its own continued membership simply or largely on its own terms.

{read it all}

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Comfortable* Words from the Late Fr. Lou Tarsitano

The Rev. Louis Tarsitano was an inspiration to many within the orthodox Anglican World and his death in January 05 came as a blow. Tarsitano has since come to be seen as a forerunner to many of the persecuited orthodox clergy today, as he was forced out the Episcopal Church over disagreements with the 1979 Book of Commpn Prayer. Here is what he has to say about one of the unique characteristics of the Anglican Way. Remember, councils of the Church, being made up of sinful men, can and have erred.

At the heart of the Anglican Way is the freedom to say “no” to error, just as long as one is prepared to bear the costs of that freedom. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not a pope, and the primates are neither cardinals nor a legislature. While the support of our brethren in other countries is precious, the fact remains that one can continue to be an Anglican without permission for as long as he has the guts for it. One can’t be a Roman catholic without the pope’s permission, nor a canonical Orthodox church without the recognition of the other churches of that household. But it is an Anglican witness that makes an Anglican church, with or without anybody else’s recognition. After all, the first American bishop was not consecrated by the Church of England, but by Scottish bishops not recognized at that time by the Archbishop of Canterbury, etc.

You can read the whole thing over at Albion Land’s Anglican Continuum.

*Comfortable here is the older use, meaning comforting.

History of Bishop Elections in the Diocese of Tennessee

George Conger has written an article in the Living Church about happenings in Tennessee. That article can be found here. George graciously posted some information that didn’t survive the editing process, which I’ve included below the selection from his Living Church Article.

The Diocese of Tennessee’s history of multiple ballots over two days to elect a bishop was repeated on March 18. Clergy and lay delegates to a special convention at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville failed to elect a successor to the Rt. Rev. Bertram N. Herlong after 14 ballots spread over 10 hours. According to the election procedure, the winning candidate must achieve a two-thirds majority in both the clergy and lay orders. {read it all}

Here’s the information that George shared:

The 1986 Tennessee election went to 38 ballots, while the 1993 election took 15, and both followed the same pattern as Saturday’s voting with the clergy and lay orders initially supporting separate candidates.

At the close of the first day’s voting in 1986, the Rev. Canon Robert G. Tharp led in the clergy order with two thirds of the votes after 28 ballots, ahead of the Rev. George L. Reynolds who ran first in the lay order and the Rev. James M. Coleman, who ran third. On the second day, Reynolds received two thirds of the lay order on the 31st ballot and was elected bishop on the 38th ballot after gaining the clergy vote. Canon Tharp later was elected second Bishop of East Tennessee while Fr. Coleman was to become the second Bishop of West Tennessee.

In 1993 the Very Rev. Bertram N. Herlong was elected Bishop of Tennessee after 15 ballots spread over two days. Herlong lead in the lay order for 14 of 15 ballots, finally gaining the lead in the clergy order over the Rev. Walter L. Krieger, rector of Christ Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on the 13th ballot.

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Rowan Williams: Sermon on the 450th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer
The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

Archbishop’s sermon at the service to commemorate the 450th anniversary
of the Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

St Mary the Virgin, Oxford

From today’s epistle: ‘The word of God is not bound’.

When it was fashionable to decry Cranmer’s liturgical rhetoric as overblown and repetitive, people often held up as typical the echoing sequences of which he and his colleagues were so fond. ‘A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction; ‘Have mercy upon us, miserable offenders; Spare thou them which confess their faults; Restore thou them that are penitent’; ‘succour, help and comfort all that are in danger, necessity and tribulation’; direct, sanctify and govern’; and of course, ‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.  The liturgical puritan may well ask why it is not possible to say something once and for all, instead of circling back over what has been said, re-treading the ground. And in the same vein, many will remember the arguments of those who complained of the Communion Order in the Book of Common Prayer that it never allowed you to move forward from penitence to confidence and thanksgiving: you were constantly being recalled to your sinful state, even after you had been repeatedly assured of God’s abundant mercies.

Whether we have quite outgrown this reaction, I’m not sure. But we have at least begun to see that liturgy is not a matter of writing in straight lines.  As the late Helen Gardner of this university long ago remarked, liturgy is epic as well as drama; its movement is not inexorably towards a single, all-determining climax, but also -precisely – a circling back, a recognition of things not yet said or finished with, a story with all kinds of hidden rhythms pulling in diverse directions.  And a liturgical language like Cranmer’s hovers over meanings like a bird that never quite nests for good and all – or, to sharpen the image, like a bird of prey that never stoops for a kill.

The word of God is not bound. God speaks, and the world is made; God speaks and the world is remade by the Word Incarnate. And our human speaking struggles to keep up. We need, not human words that will decisively capture what the Word of God has done and is doing, but words that will show us how much time we have to take in fathoming this reality, helping us turn and move and see, from what may be infinitesimally different perspectives, the patterns of light and shadow in a world where the Word’s light has been made manifest. It is no accident that the Gospel which most unequivocally identifies Jesus as the Word made flesh is the Gospel most characterised by this same circling, hovering, recapitulatory style, as if nothing in human language could ever be a ‘last’ word.  ‘The world itself could not contain the books that should be written’ says the Fourth Evangelist, resigning himself to finishing a Gospel that is in fact never finishable in human terms.

Poets often reinvent their language, the ‘register’ of their voice.  Shakespeare’s last plays show him at the edge of his imagination, speaking, through Prospero, of the dissolution of all his words, the death of his magic; Yeats painfully recreates his poetic voice, to present it ‘naked’, as he said; Eliot, in a famous passage of the Quartets, follows a sophisticated, intensely disciplined lyrical passage with the brutal, ‘that was a way of putting it’.  In their different ways, all remind us that language is inescapably something reflecting on

itself, ‘talking through’ its own achievements and failures, giving itself new agendas with every word. And most of all when we try to talk of God, we are called upon to talk with awareness and with repentance.  ‘That was a way of putting it’; we have not yet said what there is to say, and we never shall, yet we have to go on, lest we delude ourselves into thinking we have made an end.
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Jeremy Taylor: A Dissuasive from Popery

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When I was down in Charleston for the Mere Anglicanism conference, the question arose as to what the appropriate interpretation of Article 19 of the Church is. as the Article states:

19. The church

The visible church of Christ is a congregation of believers in which the pure Word of God is preached and in which the sacraments are rightly administered according to Christ’s command in all those matters that are necessary for proper administration.
As the churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the church of Rome has erred, not only in their practice and forms of worship but also in matters of faith.

Now, the articles go on to outline in detail what the errors of Rome were/are (adoration of the sacrament, purgatory, transubstantiation etc…) but are silent as to exactly what the errors of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch were. There has been a steady debate about this–for instance, some insist the errors referred to were the heresies that got their starts in those cities, such as Nestorianism in Antioch, Judaisers in Jerusalem and Monophysites in Alexandria. Such an explanation would be beneficial in explaining why Constantinople was left off of the list, certainly a name one would have expected if this was meant to be a condemnation of all of Eastern Christianity. Others have held that, given the iconoclasm of the Reformation, that the error is idolatry, and specifically the use of Icons. I was going to post on this, but I’ve discovered two very detailed discussions of it recently. I’d Rather Not has a long and detailed discussion of this history and argues persuasively that Anglicans should officially accept the Seventh Ecumenical Council (officially, Anglicans have only accepted 4 or 6 depending on where you look) which dealt with the issue of Iconoclasm. Additionally, The Confessing Reader discusses the issue. I would simply contribute a warning from someone who has traditionally been considered a High Churchman, Jeremy Taylor, and his musings regarding statuary in his Dissuasive from Popery.

My personal view is that I’d Rather Not is correct when he says the 7th council is acceptable and should be affirmed by Anglicans, and I view his discussion of worship vs. appropriate respect given to images of Holy things to be helpful (he compares the respect the 7th council reserves for holy images to the reverence we should have for the Bible, i.e. you wouldn’t put an ash tray on a Bible). My concern though, as someone who gets great enjoyment out of iconography and historic Christian art, is in the actual practices associated with the veneration of Icons in the eastern Church. By way of introduction to Taylor’s comment, I would say that while I agree with the theological foundation of the 7th council, I think Taylor makes a very pertinent point when he discusses practice and whether or not people will understand fine distinctions.

For myself, I think people have a strong enough tendency toward idolatry without adding to it–we idolize everything from our favorite music, worship style, worship leader, Church building, fast car, iPod, TV, Beauty product and so on… But at the same time, I think we live in a nihilistic age where many people live lives bereft of beauty and an appreciation for the aesthetic character of Truth, i.e. truth is beautiful and beautiful things can express higher truth. In this sense then, appreciating beauty leads one to contemplate the author of beauty (see David Bently Hart’s “The Beauty Of The Infinite: The Aesthetics Of Christian Truth” for a discussion of this). At the same time we need to be cognizant that we don’t give up worship of the creator for the creation, and this is where I think Taylor’s critique is helpful.

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The word from convention…and a word from me

DSCF0682As I’m sure many of you know, the electing convention yesterday was unsuccessful after a deadlock between some of the clergy and the bulk of the laity as to which candidate they wanted for Bishop. Titusonenine covered the voting (the results of which were published live on the web) and there was lots of response (337 comments to be exact, and visitors from all over the world, from Uganda to Great Britain). We were all certainly thankful for the many prayers that people lifted up for us. There has subsequently beenBilde-1 much discussion regarding the trends exhibited by the ballots (You can see those threads here and here). Additionally, the Tennessean had a decent description of events, which you can see here.

Basically the scenario was this: throughout the day Canon Neal Michell of the Diocese of Dallas led among the laity, never receiving less than 50.4% of the lay vote and accounting for 60.6% on ballot #4 where he peaked. He finished the day with 55.9% of the lay vote (66.7 is the magic number). Clearly the laity have a good idea of what direction they would like the Diocese to go and who they believe will cast the best vision for that task. They were rock-solid through nearly 10 hours of voting (and remember, no matter how much Christian love you have for the people in your midst, 10 hours in a fairly hot church sanctuary will strain your charity!).

The clergy however were a different story, and in a situation illustrative of the divide present in all old-line protestant denominations, they consistently split 50/40 (remember there were 4 candidate to account for a few percentage points) with the bulk siding against the plurality of the laity and going for either Winston Charles or Jay Magness. Now the interesting thing is that there appears to have been a concerted strategy among the more liberal delegations and clergy to support Charles first (who, it had been mused by the orthodox side, had been nominated as a straw man) and then switch to Magness as a “compromise” candidate. Indeed, many revisionist clergy had sought to paint Magness as a centrist, someone that they would rather not have (Charles being their boy), but that they’d be willing to “settle” for. Ironically many reasserters had already come to the conclusion that Magness would in factBilde be worse than Charles because of his refusal to distance himself from Bishop Gulick in Kentucky. Indeed, folks spoke with their orthodox friends in Kentucky and found that he was not a friend of the orthodox…as a matter of fact, Magness himself all but admitted this when he said during the walk-abouts the he got along better with the GLBT folks in his diocese than he did with the orthodox. Additionally, his continual response that he would “have to check the canons” and that he would make the chancellor of the diocese his “best friend” also turned some people off. But perhaps the most damaging thing to any of the candidates other than Michell is that they have not demonstrated an ability or interest in Church planting or growth. Both Charles and Cox preside over parishes that have lost membership in their tenures and Magness has very little parish experience, having been a Navy Chaplain for the majority of his career. This creates a fairly stark choice if the people of the diocese, if they want to continue the growth and direction of Bishop Herlong’s episcopate, or go the way of the Dodo rest of the Episcopal Church and decline in membership, especially among the young.

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Pray for the Diocese of Tennessee…

Tomorrow, March 18th, the Diocese of Tennessee will hold its convention for the election of a new Bishop. Pray that God’s Will be done and a faithful and able pastor of the flock will be elected to the episcopate at this crucial time.

For the election of a Bishop:

Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Grant, we beseech thee, of Thy loving-kindness, to this Thy flock a Bishop (or Pastor) who shall by holiness of life, wisdom in ruling and faithfulness in teaching, be well-pleasing unto Thee, and by watchfulness and zeal promote Thy glory and the salvation of souls; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Purification of the Church from Error:

O Eternal God and merciful Father, we humbly pray for Thy holy Church throughout the world, that it being purged from false philosophy and vain deceit, we may live and act as befits the members of the mystical Body of Thy Son, and in the end be found acceptable unto Thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Both of these prayers were taken from the Book of Offices, 1914 the predecessor to todays Book of Occasional Services.