Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: October 2006 (Page 2 of 2)

Words of Morality, Words of Reason…

An interesting post from “Sigmund, Carl, Fred” about the different approaches exhibited by Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI in their dealings with tyranny and oppression.  Here’s what the man says:

It is interesting to note that in fact, Pope Benedict is ahead of
the curve on this one. Taking a lesson from his predecessor, John Paul
II, he is fighting tyranny and oppression on a different front. Whereas
the gentle man from Krakow fought the secularists with the ferocity of
a lion, this pontiff is fighting on a different front. Benedict is
confronting the evil of irrational faith by insisting that faith is not
borne of irrationality, but rather, by rational and reasoned thought.

Polish Pope that saw and lived through evil from the side of the
victim, was to enable his successor, the German Pope that saw and lived
through evil from the side of the perpetrator. Together and in concert,
these two men, so close, were to come to understand the real and all
encompassing nature of evil. Each in their own way- and because of each
other- were uniquely equipped to address and fight the forces that
oppress so many that are created in His image.

One Pope fought tyranny by with words of morality. Another Pope fights tyranny with words of reason.

{read it all}

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What’s all this about Wineskins….

Jesus Teaching In Temple
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

I want to pick an argument with some people… actually, a lot of people, since I think most of the folks I know who have interpreted the “Old Wine in New Wineskins” passage that is contained in the synoptics–in Matthew 9:16-17; Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:33-39–have done so while laboring under the assumption that Jesus is referring to his own teaching as the “New Wine” and to the Law, particularly the legalism that had developed among some of the Pharisees, as the “old wineskins.” I wonder though, if this is correct, and wanted to offer another possibility.

Consider the passage in Luke, particularly Luke 5:39, wherein Jesus states that everyone knows the old wine is better, and that no one, after drinking the old wine, would want the new. Most commentators and exegetes seem to say that this is a criticism of the pharisees and the other Jews who wanted to hold on to their human traditions, their “Old Wineskins,” and therefore were unable to receive Jesus’ “new” teachings because of their preconceived notions.

I believe there is another, perhaps less convoluted way of reading this portion of scripture, but it depends upon a view not toward the way people perceived Jesus’ ministry at the time, but rather, the way in which it was actually carried out. That is to say that, while the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes et al…, as well as many Christians after them have understood Jesus’ teaching is as something new, it doesn’t seem that Jesus himself, or the New Testament for that matter, really envisions Jesus or his teaching as “new” or in discontinuity with the tradition. Instead, the writers of the New Testament went to great lengths to demonstrate beyond all doubt how Jesus actually fulfilled the requirements of the Law and the writings of the Prophets. Additionally, Jesus himself never denies the Torah, rather he attacks the various accretions that the Pharisees and others added to it, always re-centering discussion on the original intent which was being obscured by their new teachings. One can perhaps see this most clearly in two places–one within the context of the new wineskins passage itself–that is, how Jesus explains the Sabbath by indicated the intent of the Sabbath, i.e. Mark 2:27, and in his response later to their question regarding divorce in Mark 10 begins with Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation…” Clearly then, Jesus did not see himself as an innovator, but as the one who was to purify and complete what had already been set forth (by God the Father through the Son, the Logos) in creation.

Just a thought…

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The Day Off

One of the joys of ministering together with your spouse is that, despite the difficulties presented to having ordinary conversations and personal time, it is easier to take time off together and share the day with one another.  Anna and I both take Friday’s off… this has been a transition for her, as she was used to taking Mondays (the Preacher’s sabbath, as I’ve heard it called)… but we’re getting more used to it… today we’re in the Nashville area (Brentwood to be exact).  As part of her birthday present, I got Anna a gift certificate to a spa for a massage… one of our friends also gave her the gift of a hair cut with her sylist who is also in the Brentwood area, so we scheduled these areounf the same time today so that we could come up for a lunch date together.  While Anna’s doing her think I’m going to be blogging from a local coffee shop… good times…

Unintended consequences…

Another powerful example of what a focus on “me” and “rights” can do to others.  Hat tip to Kendall.

LONDON, Ontario — She
had every daughter’s natural need for affirmation, but that was something her
homosexual father just couldn’t give his little girl.

Now in her 40s, Dawn Stefanowicz knows there are others like her — others who as
children ached with silent hunger for that missing connection. To help them,
she has set up the first website that specifically addresses the impact of
homosexual parenting from the adult child’s perspective.

“It pierces the inside of you when
you know the truth. Men who struggle with their own masculinity cannot affirm
femininity,” she said. “Six-year-olds cannot tell you how they’re being
impacted. We can’t comprehend what we went through until we’re adults.

{Read it all}

Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke

During seminary I had several discussions in one of my professors about the future of theological education in the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion in the US. One of the things we discussed was the likelihood of a strong orthodox presence at the University of the South or the possibility of the founding of an orthodox seminary in the southeast (should Sewanee “side” with the reappraisers). All of this seemed irksome to me primarily because it meant one of two things, either A) trusting in an institution
that is becoming less and less inclined to spend effort or thought on it’s church affiliation, seemingly keeping it primarily for the benefit it brings and for nostalgic purposes or B) somehow financing the construction of an entirely new seminary at a time when money is in short supply, church attendance is down across the board (generally speaking), and it is more and more clear that the foundation of a viable institution is extremely difficult these days (simply consider the struggles Trinity School for Ministry
has went through). Considering the current situation, I couldn’t help but think back to the various party conflicts in the Church of England and to the university system there. Traditionally there have been the Universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, to which everyone of varied allegiances went. Within those institutions there were founded colleges and houses of study that leaned in one direction or another, but maintained connections to and access to the resources of the larger universities–Wycliffe
Hall, Oxford is a good example from the evangelical side of the spectrum, Pusey House from the Anglo-Catholic.

So it occurred to me that the orthodox were barking up the wrong tree… rather than set their sights on the establishment of entirely new schools, why not instead funnel resources into the creation of houses of study attached to inter-denominational divinity schools that are, though sometimes having liberal faculty, too large to be caught up in the denominational politics that now abounds in Episcopal seminaries. Additionally, rather than writing off Episcopal seminaries as lost to the reappraising side,
why not sponsor endowed chairs at such institutions in order to bring in orthodox faculty–don’t simply look at how to oust entrenched liberals, look at how to expand the range of opinions at the seminary through the inclusion of orthodox faculty members. And finally, why not look at the establishment of scholarships for orthodox students, tutoring houses wherein they could establish a rapport with orthodox tutors and fellow students etc…

Well, so that’s my manifesto…and it seems that Duke has done something that, while obviously not motivated by a desire to provide a place only to orthodox/conservative students, seems to be on the right track as far as facing the reality of divided allegiances and teh task of spiritual formation in our current ecclesial climate.. Good for them… Consider the following article:

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And then there were three…

Well, the decision as to who to elect the next Bishop of Tennessee has been made someone easier–or at least the choices have been narrowed–by the withdrawal of two candidates from the process. One would have appreciated their decisions more had they withdrawn prior to the deadline for write-in nominations. As it is, TN is left with a narrow field. From what I understand, those remaining are fine priests–as where those who withdrew. While I honestly felt during the first election that Neal Michel was
the right person to be the next Bishop of TN, my feelings about this slate are not as hard and fast. As it is I believe Bauerschmidt+ and Paden+ to be the best choices at this time, but who will be elected? Only God knows, and as of yet he hasn’t deigned to reveal the future to yours truly. At the moment I’m leaning toward Bauerschmidt+ more so than Paden+, but I’ll have to reserve total judgment for after I’ve met them.

I’m closing comments on this thread and encourage your participation over at Titusonenine.

Here are the letters from Frs. Russ Levenson and Thack Dyson:

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I know this is by no means a new or limited phenomena among private schools that go out looking for more money diversity, but nevertheless it is troublesome to see it in print. I just pulled the following description of “spiritual life” from the web page of an Episcopal School:

The ________ is committed to the development of the whole student � his spiritual maturing no less than his intellectual, physical, and emotional growth. In keeping with that commitment, students are required to attend regular weekday and Sunday chapel services. The School�s chaplain, an Episcopal priest, is available to students who wish to speak with him. He makes a special effort to reinforce the faiths of students from Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist backgrounds.

One would think that the definition of a school associated with the Episcopal Church would be Christian by default… oh wait, this is the Episcopal Church we’re talking about… I knew better already…

I checked around a bit, and I found this description of chapel life at another Episcopal boarding school I’m familiar with:

At ______, the religious program is the glue that binds our community together. From its founding in 1900, the Chapel has played a central role in helping members of the school community make sense of the seemingly disconnected elements of our studies, society, and lives. As an Episcopal school with students of many religious backgrounds, we lift up our Christian faith as an example to students of all faiths, with the belief that religion, properly understood, is an impetus to better understand ourselves, our
religious heritage and our core values. Above all else, the Chapel is a place of hospitality to all people of all faiths. The Chaplain plays an integral role in all aspects of the campus community and provides much of the leadership for our residential curriculum by attempting to bring to daily life the Christian concept of servant leadership.

Regular services […] consist of a Sunday Eucharist, and Morning Prayer on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There is also a voluntary fellowship group that meets on Thursday evenings.

This description is somewhat better, though still a little weak. At least they claim Christ. I seem to recall something someone said somewhere about claiming Christ before men…hmmm… where was that… oh yeah, (Matt. 10:32-33), that’s it…

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Amish have answers to acts of violence

Terry Mattingly has written this moving piece about the recent shooting in an Amish school house in PA. It reminds me of a family story–I apologize beforehand if I get some of the details wrong. My great, great grandmother was a very religious woman, though I have no idea what denomination she saw herself as part of. I know she never cut her hair, instead wearing it in a bun, from which she would unroll it and use a fine-tooth comb to comb it out. My dad can remember sitting in the floor when he was a child and she was very old, and watching her comb and comb her hair. Well, my great-great grandmother, named Nancy, was married to a man, nicknamed “Squire” who, as I understand it, worked as a blacksmith as well as a Sherriff’s deputy.

One day Squire was killed by a shot-gun blast through the window as he sat down to eat breakfast, shot by a drunk nephew-in-law, angry that his wife had left him and was staying with Squire and Nancy. Well, Nancy was an interesting woman… my grandma tells me that people used to ask her why she never cried when some of her (many) children died in infancy… she used to say that “we should weep when someone comes into this world and rejoice when they go out. I know where my babies are, it’s these
ones still alive that I don’t know about…” Now, I may not agree completely with that theological viewpoint, but she had a point. And she had a point later, when members of the community were petitioning to get her nephew-in-law out of prison after he’d served something like seven years or so. Nancy signed the petition, and in so doing angered her sons a great deal. You see, she said that no amount of prison time would bring Squire back and this man had children he needed to take responsibility
for. God would judge him for what he did to Squire and no one else’s judgement would do.

It’s something to consider as you read this article:

“The Amish are our cousins so I know some of what they must be
feeling,” said Arnold, in his thick German accent. “I know these
parents are hurting, I know they are asking questions, but I know that
they know the answer is forgiveness. Tragedy and pain can soften our
hearts until they break.

“But if we trust God this will help us to feel compassion.”

The gunman’s stunned wife released a media statement that showed her
understanding of her Amish neighbors and their beliefs. She knew she
could appeal for prayers and forgiveness, even though outsiders might
find her words hard to fathom.

“Our hearts are broken, our lives
are shattered and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost
today,” said Marie Roberts. “Above all, please, pray for the families
who lost children and, please, pray, too, for our family and children.”

Some of the Amish went even further. One woman told the Los Angeles
Times: “I am very thankful that I was raised to believe you don’t fight
back. You should forgive.”

To grasp the Amish point of view,
it’s crucial to understand that they truly believe God desires justice,
but also shows mercy and “they believe that these are not contradictory
things,” said Arnold. “They know that God said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I
will repay.’ The Amish certainly believe that this killer will not go
without punishment, but they also believe that his punishment is in
God’s hands.”

{Read it all}

Hat tip to Kendall

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I found this to be very interesting.  Metalutheran has ceased blogging.  Here’s is the message he left:

It’s been fun, but public blogging has come back to bite a few seminarians. I don’t need that.

This seems to be a burgeoning trend… I know that many bloggers have begun blogging anonymously or have stopped altogether because of the fear of reprisal from employers.  Additionally, I know that recently, due to the climate in the church some have suggested that I either stop blogging or do so anonymously, something i simply refuse to do.  I figure that if I say anything damaging on my blog, it’s my right to do so, and in all honesty, I’m not much less likely to say it in person, since I am usually willing to be open and honest with people about what I think.  But this trend is something I am VERY concerned about, especially amongst seminarians of various denominations who feel threatened because of what faculty or commissions on ministry (or the equivalent in their denominations) might do if they read something the disagree with or find offensive.  This trend has to be combated somehow.

No need to be perfect…just follow Jesus

Sermon for Proper 21b
Scripture: Mark 9:38-48
Theme: You don’t have to be perfect, just follow Jesus.

The Disciples are an interesting bunch. We can see that all through the New Testament… there must have been something about them that prompted Jesus to choose them as his closest followers and students. We get a glimpse of just how unique they are at the beginning of Mark’s gospel when he recounts how it was that Jesus called the first disciples to follow him.

Let me set the stage for you.

Mark opens strongly but differently than Matthew and Luke—he has no birth story… instead, like John the Evangelist, he opens with John the Baptist “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

Mark provides us little background information about John—in the Gospel of John he is referred to as a “man sent from God.” In Mark, John simply “appears” as if from nowhere, “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

In Mark’s Gospel, everything has a purpose, there are no extraneous details and you get the sense that we are going somewhere… toward a destination, with no false endings, no time to wait around and talk about unimportant things, about anything that doesn’t take you closer to the center of the whole story…

So when Mark takes the time to tell us how Jesus called the first disciples we know there is something important going on, something we’re supposed to learn… not only the sort of importance we might think of from the simple fact that these were Jesus’ first and closest disciples, but something in particular is important in the way they were called—in the way they reacted.

You could tell from their reactions… instead of asking Jesus a hundred questions about what he meant and who he was when he said to them: “Follow me,” they laid down their nets and followed.

So there was something that Jesus saw in each of his disciples, particularly the 12, his inner circle, that inspired him to choose them as his closest followers. And yet, they weren’t really that special, were they? I mean, no more special than anyone else… they were fishermen, and tax collectors…political dissidents and people working with the Roman establishment.

They were every-day people… and Jesus called them…

And they followed.

They followed him through his ministry, through the towns and villages, into the Synagogues and out into the desolate places where he prayed. They followed him when he healed, taught, prayed. They were faithful disciples of Jesus.

But they weren’t perfect.

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