Monthly Archives: September 2011

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St. Michael and All Angels

Today is the feast of St. Michael and All Angels in the calendar of The Episcopal Church, as in much of the Western Church.

Collect of the Day:

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

A Reading from the Revelation to John:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back,  but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,  “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God   and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb   and by the word of their testimony,  for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.

Rejoice then, you heavens   and those who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”  (Rev. 12:7-12)

More on the ways folks have celebrated St. Michael from Google Books:

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yorkminster

Changes coming to Facebook

So, lots of folks have been frustrated by the changes in Facebook’s news feed recently. There are more changes coming, this time to your profile. For those who aren’t aware, there’s this article (H/T to @revstevewood). I took advantage of the opportunity given to developers to preview the new format and I like it. At the moment only people categorized as “developers” will see my profile in the new format, but as of Oct. 1, everyone will. Here’s a screen cap of the new “timeline” layout:

Howard Triest

BBC News – Jewish US army translator who got close to the Nazis

Howard Triest
Howard Triest

Shades of Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  Amazing story about a German Jewish man who ended up joining the American Army and later worked as a translator for the psychiatric team that examined & questioned the Nazi prisoners at Nuremberg in an attempt to find some explanation for their genocidal behavior.

“We didn’t find anything abnormal, nothing to indicate something that would make them the murderers they would become”

–Howard Triest

via BBC News – Jewish US army translator who got close to the Nazis.

William_of_Ockham

About William of Ockham’s understanding of blameworthy action

As I reflected upon tomorrow’s Gospel reading (Matt. 20:1-16), the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, I found myself considering the different reasons that we should be thankful for the merciful character of God, even though our human nature is to cry out for justice (for everyone except us, since we desire to keep mercy for ourselves).  I kept coming back to two issues that I’d been reading about recently.  The first is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of bearing/accepting guilt, that is, his notion that responsible action inevitably requires a willingness to become guilty.  The second issue had to do with the way God seems to view guilt.  It is a well known statement of Jesus’ that a person who has looked upon another with lust or anger is guilty in their heart of the immoral action that might lead from it (Matthew 5:21-30).  While some could say this is simply hyperbole, the Christian tradition has often placed at least as much emphasis on intent as on actual actions or results.  A common example would be what Augustine says regarding lying, i.e. that a person who tells a falsehood believing it to be true is not guilty of lying.  Similarly, a person who conveys the truth while intent on spreading a falsehood is guilty of the offense.  This sort of thinking is expanded upon in the works of folks like William of Ockham, who tends to believe that no action has intrinsic moral qualities, these being derived from the intent of the actor.  The Cambridge Companion to Ockham [also Occam} puts it this way:

First, one and the same act is good when combined with one intention and evil when combined with another.  His typical example is of a person who sets off to church intending to praise and honor God but at some point continues his journey out of vainglory.  So too for the case of someone who hurls himself from a cliff intending to commit suicide but sincerely repents halfway down.  In each case the act–walking to church, falling to one’s death–remains the same in respect of multiple acts of the will, although it changes its moral quality: from good to evil in the former case, conversely in the latter case. […]

Second, Ockham argues that the performance or nonperformance of the act does not affect moral evaluation–this is, in effect, an argument against moral luck.  If each of two people wants to perform a virtuous deed and attempts to do so, and one succeeds while the other fails through no fault of his own, we still hold that they have equal moral goodness.  To hold otherwise would be to allow luck to play a role in moral evaluation.  Likewise, a person who would commit adultery given the opportunity is no less guilty than the one caught in the act.

If I’m remembering correctly, this is reflected in Aquinas in a somewhat different way, when he argues that engaging in a seemingly virtuous act is not actually virtuous unless one has the freedom to choose otherwise.

At any rate, this understanding of guilt, should we take the time to reflect upon it, should draw us all up short in thinking “I’m basically a good person, God won’t judge me too harshly,” since, in judging the heart, God is not simply judging what we have managed to do, but what out hearts would allow us to do given the opportunity or situation.  This is why we stand in such need of mercy.

from the St. John's Bible

First Hand Written & Illuminated Bible in 500 years Completed

from the St. John's Bible
Creation, Covenant, Shekinah, Kingdom (Wisdom of Solomon 10–11)

The St. John’s Bible has been completed after fifteen years of labor.  I’ve followed this process for a number of years. I think I was a freshman in college when I first heard about the work.  It’s an amazing endeavor and I’m thankful that it was undertaken.  There are far too few examples of this sort of work by Christians today.  Our Bibles and our buildings are disposable, created for consumption and decay.  Very little that we make today (besides our refuse) will endure even a few hundred years.  This is impressive not simply because of the skill and care that went into it, but also because it was such a lengthy commitment, and because it will last for many, many years.

To read more about the St. John’s Bible, or to order prints, check out their web site.

To see the report about the final pages, watch the video below (under the “more” tag) H/T to @MoAmy.

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BonhoefferIn order to establish clarity about the inner logic of theological construction, it would be good for once if a presentation of doctrinal theology were to start not with the doctrine of God, but with the doctrine of the church. –Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio

Jesus Christ: Extreme Humility

Pat Robertson on Marriage: It’s all about you.

I don’t follow the happenings or statements of Pat Robertson, and I am–like so many others–very used to hearing of his random statements from time to time, becoming irritated or made uncomfortable by them and then moving on.  On the one hand, I find myself thankful again and again that Robertson isn’t “one of ours” in the sense of being an Episcopalian or even part of a magisterial Protestant tradition.  But in taking comfort in such a position I am being disingenuous to my beliefs.  One of the things that keeps me within the Episcopal Church, to which I was called by God, is my belief that–as a Baptized Christian–I share responsibility equally for what other Baptized Christians do, regardless of their denominational affiliation.  Therefore, leaving the Episcopal Church would make me no less responsible for the off the wall actions of certain Episcopalians.  But to truly put this belief into practice I have to take seriously the responsibility to weigh, judge and offer humble correction to my brothers and sisters of all stripes.

It’s with that in mind that I share the following comment with you.  Recently Pat Robertson offered his opinion on his television show that a man would be justified in divorcing his Alzheimer’s afflicted wife to marry another woman because she’s “not there anymore.”  I heard about this comment on Twitter and I don’t believe I can comment on this any more ably than Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I particularly appreciated his turn of phrase in this paragraph, but please take the time to read his whole article.:

Pat Robertson’s cruel marriage statement is no anomaly. He and his cohorts have given us for years a prosperity gospel with more in common with an Asherah pole than a cross. They have given us a politicized Christianity that uses churches to “mobilize” voters rather than to stand prophetically outside the power structures as a witness for the gospel.

via Moore to the Point – Christ, the Church, and Pat Robertson.

Jesus Christ: Extreme Humility

I find it hard to imagine Jesus condoning the behavior Robertson approves. The icon above, “Jesus Christ, Extreme Humility,” reminds us that the Lord who offered himself and endured suffering for us, also calls us to bear our cross in this life, with love of God and love of neighbor as our guiding principles. Somewhere Robertson lost sight of that.

If It Feels Right – David Brooks

 

Per Christian Smith’s video comments (posted on the St. Joseph of Arimathea Facebook Page or available from the St. George’s Institute/C3 Conference video page, it’s not appropriate to chastise young adults for lacking the vocabulary to tackle important moral issues.  They lack the vocabulary because the culture they live in has lost it, i.e. they’ve never heard anyone have a well grounded conversation on such difficult issues.  Instead, they’ve been awash in (poorly constructed) polemic and, more often than not, opinion and anecdote masquerading as reason and fact.

And quite honestly, Americans of all ages are bad at talking about all serious issues.  Just look at our political debates, look at the lack of competence on display in presidential debates and I challenge you not to throw your hands up in disgust.

But, rather than simply throwing our hands up, I think we are challenged to do better and to engage in the yeoman’s work of providing a common language which will provide for the exchange and nurture of ideas as a common currency provides for the exchange of goods and services.  The first step in providing such a conceptual framework is simply to start having thoughtful conversations in small groups: among families and faith communities and in classrooms (where the boot of fearfulness and bureaucracy doesn’t quash it before it can get going).

It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.

 

The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, which Smith and company recount in a new book, “Lost in Transition,” you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.

 

When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

via If It Feels Right – NYTimes.com.

More Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs – USATODAY.com

This connects with the discussion of Spirituality below:

The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for “310 million people with 310 million religions.”

via More Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs – USATODAY.com.

The Litany

A Litany for the Tenth Anniversary of September 11th

At St. Joseph of Arimathea this Sunday we will have a somewhat different service as we observe the tenth anniversary of September 11th.  Along with almost everyone I’ve talked to, I find it hard to believe that ten years have passed since that day.  And yet, much has happened since then in my life and in the lives of so many people.  Our nation is certainly in a different place.  And because so much has happened, and so much that has happened has been affected by the events of those days, it is appropriate to observe the anniversary.  Additionally, there is something particularly powerful about the passage of a decade, and the call to look back over what has happened during those interveneing years.

As part of our observance of the day, for the liturgy geeks among us, we will begin with the Penitential Order & Decalogue at both services (8 AM Rite I and 10:30 Rite II).  The purpose of this, with its movement of the confession to the beginning of the service (which I ordinarily dislike) is that it will both set the tone for the service as one of remembrance and reflection, as well as provide a more distinct opportunity for the Prayers of the People to be a focal point during that portion of the service.  In the place of our normal prayers we will have a litany written for the occasion.  I couldn’t find one that I liked completely, so I took inspiration from several.  Primarily from the Great Litany in the Book of Common Prayer and from this version authored by another Episcopal Priest (also, you’ll note, inspired by the Great Litany).

The version I’ve compiled/authored is below and I would be interested in any constructive criticism that might aid in its improvement before Sunday.

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