Friday, March 25, 2011

We Live on the Edge

We live in a world wracked by the consequences of the fall and of ongoing human choices to sin against God and one another. No one escapes these consequences, the more spectacular of which fill the news cycles of the various media outlets. But the less spectacular of these consequences are what fills our lives – the petty conflicts, the lies, the unfaithfulnesses, the addictions, the abuses, the accidents and illnesses and deaths.

Lent reminds me that I live on the edge, that I live in a world fatally marred by sin, that I myself bear the marks and scars of my own wrongs and those done to me by others, that I need a savior, that we need a savior.

I must be in a dark mood. Perhaps on another day I can write rapturously on the glories of baroque organ masters such as Bach. But today, as I look out and look in, I think all I can manage is ‘Lord, have mercy.’

By Joseph Black from his blog Onesimus Online HERE

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Orthodoxy: Get Serious

I wonder if I am serious enough about working out my salvation. I think many of us (me included) pussyfoot around the seriousness of our brokenness. Found this today.

The main reason why Orthodoxy is so attractive to converts, at least to this convert, is its seriousness about sin. I don’t mean that it’s a dour religion – it is very far from that! – but rather that Orthodoxy takes the brokenness of humankind with appropriate seriousness. Orthodoxy is not going to tell you that you’re okay. In fact, it will require you to call yourself, as St. Paul described himself, the “chief of sinners.” And Orthodoxy is going to tell you the Good News: Jesus died and returned to life so that you too might live. But in order to live, you are going to have to die to yourself, over and over again. And that will not be painless, and cannot be, or it’s not real.

Because of that, for all its dramatic beauty and rich feasting, Orthodoxy is far more austere and demanding than most American Christianity. The long liturgies, the frequent prayers, the intense fasts – all make serious demands on the believer, especially comfortable middle-class Americans like me. They call us out of ourselves, and to repentance. Orthodoxy is not interested in making you feel comfortable in your sins. It wants nothing less than for you to be a saint.

Rod Dreher

From Creedal Christian

Saturday, March 19, 2011

BCP Re-think

"So it is no surprise that when contemporary liturgists speak about the Book of Common Prayer they bemoan its direct appeal to the mind. They complain that it is “too cerebral”, “too intellectual”; they object to its “didactic” and “catechetical” qualities. For them, in contrast, liturgical prayer should be a thing of ‘rich imagery’ and ‘metaphor’, not of theological statement which appeals to reason. I think we know what they mean. Living in the TV age, we are all affected by the contemporary taste for entertainments with immediate impact on our emotions and appetites. We are not predisposed to liturgies which expect us to think, and will."

From Bishop Anthony Burton's Blog HERE It is a magnificent appeal for the BCP which in many Anglican Diocese has gone the way of the dinosaur. Many parishes in my own Diocese have ceased using it. I feel this is a great tragedy, and in many respects a failure of leadership.

LORD have Mercy, Brian+

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Hiatus

As part of my Lenten discipline this year I am greatly limiting my use of the internet. I hope to return after the great celebration of the Resurrection.

May you have a blessed Lent.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Inner Arguments

I found this quote from Fr Stephen Freeman's Blog, Glory to God For All Things. It is an interesting insight into the inner thought life of the fallen, and broken. Lately I have found myself struggling with 'inner arguments.' My inner peace is fragile, and so very often broken by conflict, whether caused by my sinfulness, or inflicted upon me by another's sinfulness. Either way, my peace is disrupted by my lack of love, and faith. I forget God, and this prevents me from walking in love and peace. Lord, forgive me for forgetting you.

The story is told of a an old woman who came to the Elder Thaddeus (Serbian), and complained about a neighbor whom she did not like. He told her, “You are arguing with her all day. You should stop.” She replied, “Argue with her? I make it a point never to see her and never to speak to her.”

“Nevertheless, the elder said, “You argue with her in your mind all day long.” Pray for her and this will disappear.”

LORD have mercy, Brian+

The Wonderful posting by Father Stephen that this quote was found in called "The Unreal Land," is found HERE. Magnificent and well worth a read.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Your Church: Is it too Small?

This is the final of three short writings that I did after the General Synod 2010 in Halifax. Forgive the terse statement at the end, but it is how I often feel about the liberal alterations to a once great Church. Brian+

Your Church: Is it too Small?

One of the aspects of the crisis facing the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) relates to how we understand the inter-relations of the different bodies (members) of the Anglican Communion. During my attendance at the General Synod of our Church in Halifax it was obvious that part of the problem rests in how ‘big,’ or ‘catholic and apostolic’ as we say in the Creed, our church is. This is important because our understanding of the bigness of our church directly impacts how we understand our relationship with each other.
While in Halifax, it was obvious that those of the liberal persuasion who were inviting changes in the doctrine and polity of our ACoC understood the church to be what I call ‘small church’, whereas those of traditional/conservative/orthodox views saw the church as ‘big church.’ By ‘small church’ I mean that each diocese, and even parish, if one takes the premise of smallness to its logical conclusions, can determine its own doctrinal and polity positions over practically any matter. This smallness was frequently expressed at the General Synod through disapproval of ‘interference’ from the rest of the Anglican Communion regarding what was perceived as local issues (cultural context). For ‘small church’ thinkers, the local church/diocese should have the right to determine how they should act within their local context.
‘Big church’ thinkers, on the other hand, feel that the local church draws its doctrine and polity, even identity, from the larger or wider church. The more important or difficult the issue that is facing the local diocese/church, greater would be the need for wider consensus on that decision. Thus, given the significant struggle of the current issue facing our church and our internal difficulty of having a clear understanding of a Biblically based doctrinal rational for liberal innovations, ‘big church’ thinkers would reserve judgment to the wider, catholic and apostolic church.
Recent comments by Archbishop Rowan Williams reflected the struggle to balance the autonomous diocesan structure of the Church with the ‘bigness’ that is belonging to the ‘catholic and apostolic’ church. He said that the Church, at this time, is not able to make a consensus decision on the matter of same-sex blessings, nor the ordination of persons living in a same-sex relationship. The Saint Michael’s Report, The Galilee Report, and the Council of General Synod reflect that it was not clear that the ACoC should move on these liberal innovations. Still, some bishops and dioceses have already acted upon their ‘small church’ perception, where ‘big church’ thinkers have said no, or not yet.
Many conservative/orthodox/traditional thinkers have not articulated this point of the ‘bigness’ of the church very well. However it is an important component in the overall understanding that though each diocese is local and ‘autonomous,’ we do not have the right to change any significant doctrinal or church polity that adversely impacts the identity and mission of the rest of the members. Though the Biblical rational for changing our doctrine on human sexuality is debatable for liberal thinkers, what ‘big church’ thinkers do not often understand in the debate is the expression of our wider unity when we consecrate a new bishop. Given innovations unwelcomed or unwanted within some dioceses of our national church, does a conservative, ‘big church’ diocese welcome an innovating ‘small church’ diocesan bishop to participate in the consecration of a new bishop where these matters are deemed critical to their understanding of the church? Does this sully the ‘catholic and apostolic’ witness of the new bishop? I believe all bishops of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion would say yes; all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church would say yes; Our Anglican rites of ordination and Consecration say yes, at least within the nation.
Now, we live in an age of relativism and individualism, where ‘small church’ thinking seems to be correct, but I would put forth the understanding that the ‘big church’ thinking is the thinking of the historic church, and thus should be the thinking of the Anglican Church of Canada. To think less of our church is to risk its reason for being and reduce it to a localized social/religious organization with pleasant language about social justice and good works salvation. It was interesting to note that during the recent General Synod we heard constant lauding of all of our ‘good works’ in mission, but virtually nothing of our being personally and corporately transformed into the image and likeness of Christ.
The essential reality of the ‘big church’ is why the general Secretary of the Anglican Communion, The Rev. Cannon Kenneth Kearon said to our General Synod, that we are not the Anglican Church OF Canada, rather we are the Anglican Communion IN Canada. That’s ‘big church.’ That is the church I want to belong to, and that is the church that I believe we are confessing when we say the Creed. Local option, ‘small church’ thinking is a sign of the declining, dying, and decaying great church we once were. We pretty up the dying with pleasant language of respecting diversity within unity, but let’s not kid ourselves, we are meant to belong to the holy, catholic, and apostolic church, not some little aberration of a Gnostic cult that will soon be all that is left of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Roots among the Rocks: Self-identity versus Identity-transformation

This reflection was printed in the Newfoundland Anglican Life: September 2010 Issue

During the General Synod we were presented with the first presentation of the wonderful play called “Roots Among the Rocks.” This powerful drama, presented by the Anglican/Lutherian youth under the direction of Jenny Salisbury, portrayed the struggles of a number of youth with their issues of identity and acceptance in the Church. It displayed the various ‘common’ spiritual struggles of youth and their feelings of acceptance in the church as a solution for their identity struggle. It was not without forethought that the drama included a scene of ‘intimacy’ between two females, who then sought the acceptance of their relationship in the church. When they were ‘received/accepted’ they were happy and well.
The problem with all of the ‘solutions’ of acceptance in the Church was what I call the entrenchment of identity. There was no sense of repentance, in that one states, “This is where I am today,” rather than, “I desire to be more in You, LORD Jesus.” The lack of repentant, penitent, confessional language, not only in the drama of ‘Roots Among the Rocks’, but also in the whole of the Anglican General Synod, is a reflection that the Anglican Church of Canada has truly lost its way. We are demanding that God accept us were we are and as we are, rather than in the confession of our brokenness and our need to be more deeply found in the fullness of Christ by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The classical, Biblical, and traditional language of Anglicanism was noticeably absent during General Synod. Our crisis today is profoundly rooted in the quest for self-identity rather than the quest to be found in the Christ-identity through self-denial and personal transformation. Perhaps the ‘weak’ confession of the BAS needs to be strengthened by the sturdy words of the Book of Common Prayer:
“ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We
have erred and strayed from thy ways like
offended against thy holy laws, We have left
undone those things which we ought to have
done, And we have done those things which we
ought not to have done; And there is no health
in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God,
which confess their faults. Restore thou them that
are penitent; According to thy promises declared
unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant,
O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may
hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.”

A Prophet with nothing to say to nobody who could hear!

Last year I attended the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, held in Halifax. I wrote three comments that I forwarded to our provincial Anglican publication, the Anglican Life. Only one was printed, so I have at long last decided to post the three here. I know that this is not entirely connected to the general theme of this Blog, so my apologies,as you allow these three postings. For your consideration.
Lord have mercy, Brian+

A Prophet with nothing to say to nobody who could hear!

During the Synod meetings in Halifax delegates became acquainted with a young man who stood outside of the Conference Hall. Each day we were greeted with his warm, kind face, though he wore a robe giving the appearance of a rather serious Biblical figure, and he held a large sign with an ominous message:

Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5.20-24)

Well, this was curious. Then unfolded what may have been an even more prophetic parable for our society. Two young lads around the age of 12 passed by holding their skateboards, and one stopped to observe the young prophet. He asked him what he was doing, standing there with a sign. The young prophet replied that he felt that he was called to stand there with a sign for the people of the meeting. The lad then asked what the sign said. To this the prophet replied that it would mean different things to the people coming out of the meeting. Puzzled, the lad rubbed the sign with his hand and asked what it meant to him. To this the prophet said, “A cat has gotten my tongue, I cannot say.”

I could hardly believe what had just transpired. This was a ‘play’ revealing the fundamental problem facing our society today – relativism. Now we might not be awake to the daily implications of relativism, but within the Church relativism destroys the witness of the Gospel and the purpose of the Church. Sounds ominous, but it is true. You see if the Gospel of Christ contains no content that can be communicated, and that nobody can understand what that message is then we are truly lost, both the messenger and the hearer. The plight of relativism is played out in those conversations when a person presents a fact, and the hearer responds with, “Whatever. That’s how you see it!” or “Whatever makes you happy.” In contrast to such relativism, St. John writes:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1.1-4 NKJV)

In our Anglican Church of Canada we are witnessing the ravages of relativism as we grapple with the many issues. Within relativism the only ‘truth’ that is valid is that of experience, even to the extreme of individual experience: there is no unity, no common voice, just appearances. We are left with nice religious language as we do nice justice things, which gives us nice feeling experiences. Let’s agree to disagree, but have a good time together anyway. Real truth need not apply, or be of concern. Sadly the lauding of good works was the main course at the General Synod in Halifax. And why not, after all, when we relativize the reality of Jesus and the witness of the Truth within the Church, we can only offer good works, good feelings. We have nothing to say to each other, or anybody else for that matter, about sacrificial holiness and bearing a cross unless it feels good. The young prophet reveals that we have nothing to say of real salvation.

I left General Synod wondering if the Anglican Church of Canada was able to say anything that meant anything. Sadly, the Sexuality Discernment Statement will be much like the Young Prophet’s sign: it will mean different things to different people, and nobody really knows what it says. After all, to agree to disagree, and to live with our differences of understanding is just another way of saying, “Whatever. That’s how you see it!” or “Whatever makes you happy.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lenten Fasting

Fasting, neither above nor below your ability, will help you in your vigil. One should not ponder divine matters on a full stomach, say the ascetics. For the well-fed, even the most superficial secrets of the Trinity lie hidden. Christ Himself set the example with His long fast; when He drove out the devil He had fasted for forty days. Are we better than He? Behold angels came and ministered to Him (Matthew 4:11) they are waiting to minister to you too.
Tito Colliander, Way of the Ascetics

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honoured, do not envy him.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
Let the ear fast by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?
St. John Chryostom