N.T. Wright: Women Bishops: It’s About the Bible, not Fake Ideas of Progress

This from the good former bishop of Durham regarding the recent flap in the Church of England over the defeat of a proposal to allow women bishops. Wright nails it when he argues that proponents of women bishops who use the mantra of progress to advance their agenda at any cost muddy the waters and cloud the legitimate biblical argument for women bishops.

I personally support having women bishops because I think there is solid biblical warrant for such. But I also respect those who (mistakenly in my opinion) reject the idea of having women bishops. To force women bishops on those who are legitimately opposed to them, is to fly in the face of many of Paul’s exhortations to the churches on the ground in his day about how Christians must act toward one another (cf. e.g., Romans 12.10, 14.13; Ephesians 4.2, 5.21; Philippians 2.5; Colossians 3.13; 1 Thessalonians 5.11). Paul’s whole point was to not lord your preferences over others in areas that do not involve core Christian doctrine, e.g., Christ’s saving death and resurrection. The ordination of women as bishops falls safely under this category. Just so with +Wright in this op-ed piece. Check it out and see what you think.

Exhorting the CoE to ‘get with the programme’ dilutes the argument for women bishops

“But that would be putting the clock back,” gasps a feckless official in one of C. S. Lewis’s stories. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”

“I have seen them both in an egg,” replies the young hero. “We call it Going bad in Narnia.”

Lewis nails a lie at the heart of our culture. As long as we repeat it, we shall never understand our world, let alone the Church’s calling. And until proponents of women bishops stop using it, the biblical arguments for women’s ordination will never appear in full strength.

Read it all.

Fox News: Charlie Brown Christmas Show at Center of Church vs. State Fight

Oh the horror of it all! I might add that this “free thinker” also needs to include a total lack of common sense and severe intellectual rigidity as problems that need to be addressed along with showing Charlie Brown. If this is what “free thinking” has come to, our country is toast.

“We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown,” Anne Orsi, a Little Rock attorney and vice president of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, told KARK 4 News. “The problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state, it oversteps it entirely.”

The parent, who did not want to be named, told KARK in a statement that although she could choose not to allow her child to attend, she’s letting her daughter go to the performance for fear the girl could be singled out.

Read the whole sad and absurd thing.

Commanders of the Starship ADGL

Being an old trekker, I’ve always wanted my bishop to be a starship captain. Imagine my delight when I discovered that +Roger is not only a good bishop, but as you can see, he’s also out of this world.

And as we all know, every starship captain must have a good first officer. Kirk had Spock. Picard had Riker. +Ames has Scotton+ (although I know dude had to have photoshopped that body to his face). 🙂

Starship ADGL 1701 Alpha-Omega ready for duty.

Fr. Philip Sang: From Everlasting to Everlasting Christ is the King

Sermon preached on Christ the King Sunday B, November 25, 2012, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

Lectionary texts: Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93.1-6; Revelation 1.4b-8; John 18.33-37.

This is the last Sunday of the Christian year recognized as the feast of ‘Christ the King’.
Next week is Advent – the start of a new Christian year, but this week we conclude the old ecclesiastical year with a proclamation of the kingship of Christ, and a call upon all of us to decide where our allegiances in this world lie.

The history of the feast of Christ the King goes back to 1925, when the feast day was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI. 1925 was a dark time for our world. The world had only just emerged from World War I.

The world was in the grip of a worldwide economic depression, and desperately looking for answers. The world was watching, waiting for answers, and listening to the leadership of the time, powerful men were competing for the limelight, and the Pope felt that it was time to call on Christian people everywhere to declare their allegiance to the rule of Christ.

In our reading today Daniel In his vision at night looked, and there before him was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

This time the nation of Judah had just emerged from the Babylonian captivity and were watching and waiting as well. Daniel assures that the dominion of the son of man is everlasting.

Still going back from the Babylonian captivity we see the psalmist singing ….

The Lord is king and has put on glorious apparel; *
the Lord has put on his glory and girded himself with strength.

Your throne has been established from of old; *
you are from everlasting.

Backing up some 1900 years earlier from the time of Pope Pius XI, in the Roman province of Judea – a region that was also heading towards war, once again there were various voices competing for attention – military leaders, politicians and charismatic figures who would arise from the rank and file of the subjugated local population, promising to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression.

Pontius Pilate was the character with the unenviable job of keeping the province of Judea in line, and he was, according to the Jewish historian Philo, a ruthless overlord: “by nature rigid and stubbornly harsh. . . of spiteful disposition and an exceeding wrathful man. His career was marked by … bribes, acts of violence, outrages, cases of spiteful treatment, constant murders without trial, and ceaseless and most grievous brutality.”

Today’s Gospel reading we see a dialogue that is told by John, as it is portrayed as an encounter between the leading local power-merchant of the government, on the one hand, and the apparently powerless figure of Jesus, on the other. And yet, as the story progresses, we realize that it is Jesus who is in control, whereas Pilate seems to be quite powerless. He wants to release Jesus but can’t. His job is to administer justice, but he is too scared to do what he knows is right. And so he moves back and forth between Jesus and his accusers, eventually symbolically washing his hands of the situation, in a desperate attempt to excuse himself from responsibility.

What we see here is two kings – two competing kingdoms, two contrasting types of power. On the one hand we have Pilate, whose power resides in the army that stands behind him. On the other hand we have Jesus, whose power comes from the fact that He tells the truth.

This is indeed Jesus’ response when Pilate asks him whether He is a king: Jesus responds “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus says, “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice”, because they recognize that He speaks the truth and so they hold him as an authority and listen to him, regardless of whether he has any official position given by the institution.

This is the difference between the kingship of Jesus and the Kingship of Pilate, if we can put it that way.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus speaks about is different in almost every respect from the kingdoms of this world.

His is the Kingdom where might and money mean nothing in terms of a person’s value, but where humility and sacrifice mean everything.

His is the Kingdom where the weak are not despised but loved, and where 99 healthy sheep are left on the hillside while attention is given to one who strays.

Jesus is king of the upside-down Kingdom, where the first is last and the last, first, and so He says to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world”, for He has no interest in competing with Pilate at his level. His power is not that sort of power.

Let’s be clear on this: the fact that Jesus is not competing with Pilate for political power does not mean that Jesus was not a revolutionary. Jesus was a revolutionary, and in a sense, his countrymen who presented him to Pilate as an insurgent were quite correct, for Jesus was starting a revolution, and it was a revolution that would change the face of the earth. It just wasn’t a revolution that used force of arms to achieve its end.

At this time the Gospel portrays a dark time in human history. 1925 as well, when Pius proclaimed the feast of Christ the King was another dark time. And as we conclude this year, I think we recognize that we are in another dark period of human history as well.

Our world seems to be sinking into increasing global violence. At a local level, prejudices and divisions continue to grow. We too find ourselves in conflict with this world and its rulers. We too are questioned, mocked, belittled, defamed, injured, and wearied by constant attacks. But we continue to take our stand with Christ – holding fast to the truth, and declaring our allegiance to our King!

Amid all these, Christ is King! That is our proclamation this morning. He is the one who we acknowledge as our ultimate authority. His is the Kingdom that we are subjects of. His rule is the one we recognize above all others.

It’s not easy to follow Christ the King. We know that, as our gospel drama today concludes not with Jesus striding from the palace victorious, but with Him being taken away and executed. Even so, we proclaim it: Christ is King

John writing in Revelation says Christ is “The Alpha and the Omega.” Some of you may know that those are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – so, to say something or someone is “the Alpha and the Omega” is to affirm completeness – to affirm that they are the beginning and the end — the A to Z — and everything in between.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

While this is a true statement, it is an interesting choice of words for the writer of Revelation to write down.  We know from history that when he wrote these words, John was living in a time of vicious persecution. To make a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ at the time, was to put your life in danger of, at the least, becoming a social and commercial leper or, at worst, being legally murdered as an enemy of the Roman empire. John himself was on the prison island of Patmos as he wrote and prison islands were not simply places of incarceration – they were holding cells for those awaiting execution. John pictured the awful conditions as they existed in his day. He noted how human beings could become monsters and destroy a society from within; he saw the disastrous results of violent conflict. But with eyes of faith, John gazed into the future and saw a better day — a day in a world ruled by King Jesus – the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, who was  and is to come, the Almighty.

I know that others have seen that “better day” as well.

Brothers and sisters – we can make all kinds of things king over our lives. We can give all kinds of things control over our lives.  We can let all kinds of things rule our lives.

We can let our lives be controlled by money. We can let our lives be controlled by power.  We can let other people rule and control our lives. We can let our desire for things like the best cars – the best computers – the best houses – or whatever else is the “latest and greatest” according to society – control our lives. We can let these things control us – but we are not living out the truth that we know as Christians.

As Christians, we know that Christ is King! As Christians, we know that only Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

As Christians, we know that all the things of the world will fade away – and only Christ will last.

As Christians, we know that Christ is King!

We can let the bad things and bad situations in our lives rule our lives also. We can look at the bad things going on in the world and let fear rule our lives – and it could be said that we would have good reason for that. we can look the trials we may be going through in our life — whether they be health issues or fear of losing our job or trying to get the health coverage we and our family need (as I do) or getting out of debt or family problems, or so many other things that may be happening, and let fear rule our lives – and again it could be said that we would have good reason for that also.

Brothers and sisters, the choice is ours, we can let the things of the world rule our life or situations rule our lives – or we can be like the Apostle John and the Pilgrims. They saw the bad things – the terrible things – the devastating things – but they would not bow down to these things or give homage to them or give them control over their lives. They saw all these things – but they had eyes of faith – and realized that only Christ the King is “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

As somebody said it is true, Christ wrote no books, composed no songs, drew no pictures, carved no statues, amassed no fortune, commanded no army, ruled no nation on this world —   And yet, He who never wrote a line has been made the hero of unnumbered volumes. He who never wrote a song has put music into the hearts of nameless multitudes. He who refused the kingdoms of this earth has become the Lord of millions. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Christ the King.

Who is Christ to you?

In the name of God the Father, the son, and the holy Spirit Amen!

Wars and Rumors of Wars: But the Kingdom’s Still Coming!

Sermon delivered on the 2nd Sunday before Advent, November 18, 2012, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

Lectionary texts: 1 Samuel 1.4-20; 1 Samuel 2.1-10; Hebrews 10.11-25; Mark 13.1-8.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

We can all relate to the “fab four” in today’s gospel lesson. Jesus has just told them that the very dwelling place of God among his people, the Temple, is going to be destroyed. To appreciate how the disciples felt, imagine that someone you know who is very credible and whom you trust intimately tells you that the White House and the Capitol building complex are going to be destroyed in your lifetime. It would catch your attention and probably make you feel quite anxious. You would also likely ask your friend to give you some more information about this, just the way Peter, John, James, and Andrew did with Jesus.

And then there’s Hannah in our OT lesson today, sitting in God’s house and praying so intensely that old Eli mistakes her for being drunk. Hannah was barren, the worst kind of affliction for any woman to endure in ancient Israel because it was believed to be a sure sign of God’s curse. To add insult to injury, Hannah also had to endure the ridicule of a rival wife, and so we see Hannah bringing her case to God. Surely the “fab four” could relate to her despair and anxiety. So can we.

Then of course we have our own anxieties with which to deal. I’m still hearing quite a bit of buzz and hand-wringing around the aftermath of our recent presidential election and the selection of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, +Justin Welby. There are many who are firmly convinced that our country has made a turn for the worse, not to mention the fate of the Anglican Communion. It is not my place to comment on this except to say that clearly these folks did not listen to or read my sermon from last week. How else to explain this angst? 🙂

At a more personal level, many of us also deal with various anxieties related to our relationship with God. Certainly every one of us here has said or done things we regret and wish we could take back but cannot. These things haunt us and make us afraid that we will somehow be found out and disgraced, not to mention our related anxieties about what God thinks about our deep, dark secrets and how God will eventually deal with them (and us). Don’t believe me? How many of you here have never had any concern or doubts over how things will go for you when you meet your Maker? I thought so. Given all this pervasive anxiety, I want us to look briefly at what our texts have to say about the anxiety-producing things of the world and within ourselves, looking especially at our lesson from Hebrews. And if you are one who is particularly afflicted with anxiety this morning, take heart and hope because there is good news for you to embrace.

The first thing we note from Mark’s gospel lesson is that Jesus warns us not to let catastrophic events like war and natural disasters that regularly afflict our world distract us and/or afflict us with anxiety so that we are led astray. The somber tone of Jesus’ warning is striking, given that the major theme of his teaching, at least in Mark’s gospel, has been that the kingdom of God is at hand. How can God’s kingdom be at hand with so many nasty things going on? It is a question that we still ask 2000 years later! Jesus doesn’t provide an answer but simply warns us not to be led astray from following him. But as we learn from Hannah in our OT lesson, and from countless other Christians who have had to suffer for their faith, God will often use our suffering to draw us closer to him, just as he did with Hannah. It is the consistent testimony of the saints—from Hannah to Ruth to Paul to Augustine to Bonhoeffer—that when we approach God in faith and trust in the midst of our anxieties and the chaos of life that can bring about our suffering, God will often redeem our suffering and draw us closer to him so that we are enabled to persevere and rise above our suffering for our good and God’s glory.

Moreover, when we think about and reflect on what the writer of Hebrews tells us, we understand why Jesus told his disciples (and us) to hang on and not lose hope because in today’s lesson there is wonderful good news for us on all fronts. The writer reminds us that Jesus is now ascended to heaven (God’s space) and is seated at God’s right hand, NT code meaning that Jesus really is Lord, as we saw last week. And the groundwork is now being laid, even though we cannot always see it, for Jesus’ enemies to be vanquished completely one day. The bad guys may appear to be winning. The world may reel and rock with social and natural disasters, but this only reflects the reality of our broken world, not the real state of things. Jesus is Lord, his enemies are being vanquished, and his kingdom is coming, even as we speak!

To be sure, this requires great (not blind) faith on our part because it flies in the face of what our senses often observe. But the reason we can have confidence that the enemies of Jesus will ultimately be defeated and God’s kingdom fully established is because of Jesus’ unique, unrepeatable accomplishment on the cross. As the writer reminds us, Jesus has made the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God. In doing this through Jesus, God also established the basis to defeat the evil that was (and is) unleashed by our sins (cf. Colossians 2.15). Jesus only needed to sacrifice himself once and that is why he can now sit down at God’s right hand. Unlike the priests of the old covenant who had to stand to offer continual sacrifices to God to atone for their own sins and the sins of God’s people, Jesus has brought about radical reconciliation and healing through his death on the cross, once and for all. The writer surely wants us to take great comfort from this because this is the basis for our new and reconciled relationship with God, and the foundation on which we as Jesus’ followers are to build our lives so that he can use us to be his tangible signs of light and salt to a broken and hurting world that desperately longs for and needs God’s healing and forgiveness offered in Christ.

Of course, we cannot be tangible signs of Jesus’ light and healing love if we ourselves are not first forgiven and healed by the love poured out for us on the cross, and we note carefully there are no sins listed here that are too awful or great for God to forgive through Jesus’ blood. None. In fact, the writer encourages us to draw near to God with a sincere heart and the full assurance of faith because our hearts have been sprinkled (with the blood of the lamb) to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. What does the writer want us to see here?

Well, first it is possible for us to have a clean heart because we have been given the Spirit to live in and transform us over time. Our changed and truly human heart is the chief marker of the promised new covenant from Jeremiah 31.33-34 that the writer cites. We typically aren’t changed overnight, but it is the consistent testimony of Christians that we are changed, and in the process we become more and more like the image-bearing humans God created us to be. But often we need others to help us see and acknowledge that the Spirit is changing us.

Second, we note the emphasis the writer places on faith throughout the whole lesson. Faith isn’t something we just get or develop on our own. To the contrary, it is a gift given to us by the Spirit dwelling in us. The Spirit helps us develop our faith as we think actively about and reflect on the object of our faith—Jesus. The more time we take to reflect on all that Jesus has done for us and God’s world, and the more we work out the implications of his death and resurrection for us and the living of our days, the more the Spirit will help deepen our faith so that we really do believe the truth that in Jesus’ death God has completely and totally forgiven us and that we really are God’s children. If this is true, why would we not engage in these activities?

Growing in faith is not unlike getting in physical shape (cf. Philippians 3.12-14; 1 Timothy 4.7-8). We have to do our part to get fit and we have to use our minds to engage Scripture and other devotional material to reflect on and pray about Jesus so that we have a solid foundation on which to base our faith. Think about it. We typically do not make big decisions rashly and without forethought (and when we do, it often results in disastrous consequences). We muse over the evidence, weighing all the information. The writer is telling us that we are to do likewise with Jesus. Faith is a gift but we must put in our sweat equity to assist the Spirit who gives us the gift.

Third, our growing faith will then result in our guilty consciences being wiped away, precisely because we know that we are saved by the wondrous atoning sacrifice of Jesus. When that happens, our anxieties about our worth in God’s eyes will typically disappear and interestingly, so will many of our anxieties about the world around us. But without Jesus, we have every reason to be anxious about our eternal destiny and the world around us because we are effectively admitting that we are left to our own devices to cope with the world’s evil and our own, which surely cannot turn out happily or well.

And finally, God’s great love for us expressed in and through Jesus and verified in the power of the Spirit inevitably leads us to worship God. If we really believe God has done what it takes for us to be reconciled to him and to defeat the evil that bedevils us and God’s world, why would we not want to worship this God of ours? But even here the writer is wise about the inherent weakness of our human condition because he reminds us that we are to worship together so that in the power of the Spirit we will not despair when wars and rumors of wars break out and so that we can encourage each other to love and to good deeds. In other words, God calls us to worship together, in part, so that we can help each other be the fully human beings God created us to be in the power of the Spirit. And if we stop coming to worship, so will others and we thus impede the work of the Spirit. That is another reason why worship matters!

As forgiven and healed people, together we are to build on the unique accomplishment of Jesus to bring his rule of healing love and light to his world so that all might have the chance to find the forgiveness and grace that has claimed us from all eternity. This is what it means to be God’s holy people. And when know we are God’s holy people, we know that we really do have Good News, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Archbishop Duncan’s Statement on the Appointment of +Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury

On behalf of the College of Bishops, clergy and laity of the Anglican Church in North America, I greet Bishop Justin Welby and wish him God’s blessings and every success as he prepares to step into his new ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury.

I assure him of our regular prayers as he assumes his new responsibilities in a time of significant challenge, tension and opportunity within our Anglican Communion. Bishop Welby’s resume reveals a man who is devoted to God’s Word and responsive to the Holy Spirit.

The Bishop’s heart for the poor, particularly as priest and bishop in England’s post-industrial North, is a heart with which we can readily identify.  His experience and skill with mediation and conflict resolution should serve him well in his new office. As Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, I look forward to getting to know Bishop Welby and to working with him.

It has been very helpful to have the doors of Lambeth Palace open to us under his two immediate predecessors, and I trust that Bishop Welby and I will develop a good and open relationship as I commit to work with him and others for the good, and the good order, of all who call themselves Anglican.

With my colleagues of the GAFCON Primates Council and with all who are part of the movement which is the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, I share the conviction that submission to “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and to the prayers” is the surest course through the days ahead.

May the Lord grant us all His grace and wisdom as we move forward in this new season together.

The Most Reverend Robert W. Duncan is Archbishop and Primate The Anglican Church in North America

Dealing with the Changes and Chances of LIfe: Remember Jesus is Lord!

Sermon delivered on the 3rd Sunday before Advent, November 11, 2012, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

Lectionary texts: Ruth 3.1-5, 4.13-17; Psalm 127.1-6; Hebrews 9.24-28; Mark 12.38-44.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the wake of Tuesday’s election and the selection of the new Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday, I have heard and read a lot of naysaying and doom and gloom. It is a natural human tendency to do this, I think, and that is why our lessons today are so timely (a coincidence?). Each in its own way speaks of God’s sovereignty and providence in human affairs and so this morning I want us to look at these texts to see what we can learn from them and so take hope.

In our OT lesson, we are given a classic reminder of what God can do when people are faithful to his word and act accordingly. First, some background. Here we have Naomi, an Israelite who has lost her husband and two sons, and thereby her only means of support. By any measure, Naomi would be considered to be materially destitute. We also have her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth, a foreign woman who has steadfastly refused to abandon Naomi. It is a poignantly desolate and desperate picture the writer paints for us. Both women have been dealt a terrible hand and surely they were tempted to ask where God was in all of it and give up all hope! But they don’t do that. They both remain faithful and trust that God will somehow deliver them from their desolation if they remain faithful and persevere.

And now in today’s story, Naomi devises a breathtakingly bold plan for Ruth. In evocative language that is deliberately vague so that we are left to wonder if there are sexual connotations involved, Naomi tells Ruth to prepare herself in a way that will effectively be seen as a marriage proposal by the righteous Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s. Scandalous indeed! In ancient Israel, women simply did not propose marriage to men! Moreover, there is no guarantee that the plan will work. Boaz might wake up and in the fog of sleepiness and darkness mistake Ruth for a prostitute. Or Boaz might be mortally offended by Ruth’s aggressiveness and send her away so that she is consigned to a destiny of hopelessness as a forsaken widow and foreigner.

Nowhere is God mentioned in the first part of our story. But the writer wants us to see that God is there, working in and through the faith of Naomi and Ruth and the righteousness of his servant Boaz to accomplish his will, both for Ruth and Naomi and also for his people Israel. We are seeing how God brought together the great-grandparents of King David, through whose line God would eventually bring forth his Messiah, Jesus. The story is even more remarkable considering that it takes place in the dark age of Israel when rebellion and anarchy ruled because there was no king and “everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21.25). In such a chaotic environment, surely there would have been every reason for people to wonder if God had not abandoned them and left them to their own devices.

And we dare not let our 20-20 hindsight rob us of the remarkable courage and faith that Naomi and Ruth display here. As we have seen, it all could have gone terribly wrong. Like us in our present situations, these women did not know that there would be a happy ending. But they trusted in God and God delivered them through the righteousness of his faithful servant. As the psalmist reminds us in today’s lesson, unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. You cannot have this kind of trust without having a real knowledge of the heart and mind of God. And if we do not understand that God often can and usually does work through his faithful people, we will miss God’s Presence in our midst, especially in the chaotic times of our lives.

But living faithful lives is no guarantee of a happy outcome like Ruth and Naomi enjoyed. If nothing else, the Bible paints a frank and realistic picture of the human condition. In God’s wise providence (which itself requires great faith on our part), God sometimes allows human evil and sin to temporarily thwart his good purposes. We see this illustrated in today’s gospel lesson. Jesus has just finished condemning the pride and greed of some of the teachers of the law for practicing injustice and oppressing society’s weakest and most helpless. And then as if to show an example of this to his disciples, he points out to them a poor widow who gives all that she has to support a corrupt Temple system that has utterly failed to be God’s light and image bearer to God’s own people, let alone to the other people living in God’s good but broken world.

There is no happy ending to this story as far as we know. The widow goes away, utterly bereft of any material wealth and with no prospects of help, at least from the Temple system, which seeks its own enrichment at the expense of everything and everyone else. And we can very much relate to this because we live in a world where the bad guys seem to win as much if not more so than the good guys. But Jesus is warning us not be be participants in this kind of evil, either directly or indirectly, because God will judge this kind of behavior severely (and the people who consistently behave in these ways). Make no mistake. God will not be mocked.

But Mark also seems to be reminding us that even in the face of this injustice, God has seen the woman’s heart and has blessed her faithfulness. This poor widow is not forgotten by God and we are to be encouraged by that. But we will have a hard time finding encouragement if we do not look for God’s faithful image- and light-bearers to step up and help this woman (and all like her) in her poverty and to fight the injustice that oppresses her. It is not enough for us to wring our hands and bewail the wickedness of the world or the lousy hand we have been dealt. We are called to action in the power of the Spirit and it is through our faithful actions that God works to dismantle the corruption and injustice we see characterized in this story and our world! Only then will we really have the opportunity to see that God is faithful to his promises.

But how do we know our actions will make any difference? Because as the writer of our epistle lesson reminds us, in the death of Jesus, God has overcome human sin and the evil it produces (cf. Colossians 1.19-23; 2.15). And when Jesus appears again, this time it will not be to die again for us but to bring about our salvation in full. In other words, God is fully in charge and engaged actively in the affairs of his world, and history is going somewhere. We know this because we believe Jesus will come again to usher in his kingdom in full and so consummate his victory won for us on the cross. A God who becomes human to suffer and die for us so that he could vanquish evil and offer us forgiveness so that we can be the human beings he created us to be is not a distant or uncaring God who is only marginally involved in his world. No, as the first Christians would proclaim, “Jesus is Lord!” (which means Caesar is not).

And so we are saved, not to be taken out of the world but to be Jesus’ light and salt for the world as his healed and redeemed people working in the power of the Spirit. Like Boaz in our OT lesson, Jesus calls us to bring his healing love to the world in the context of our everyday lives and to say no to the evil that besets us so that through us he can build on the foundation of his death and resurrection to bring about his kingdom on earth as in heaven. This  is not particularly sexy and it certainly isn’t spectacular. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because often this will involve personal sacrifice and suffering on our part. As Christians we are not called to look for pillars of fire and cloud to see God’s glory in his world, but rather to a crucified Messiah, who in apparent weakness has brought about the means for God to redeem his broken and hurting world and people (cf. 1 Corinthians 1.18-25). To be certain this takes great faith on our part. And it also takes great patience and perseverance. But we are promised the help of the Spirit and each other to help us in our weakness. And if we fail to look for God’s Presence and sovereignty manifested in human agency, we will surely miss a huge part of how God chooses to bring about his will on earth as in heaven.

In a few minutes we are going to baptize Daniel into Christ and his body, the Church. We’ve all known people who have been baptized and then proceed to act as if their baptism never happened and that they do not really belong to Christ. We can understand this because our faith has been buffeted by the changes and chances of life and I suspect most of us have wavered in our faith, if not fallen from it on occasion, at least temporarily. We are perplexed by this because we believe that God is all-powerful and so we often sit back as if to enjoy the ride and wonder why God doesn’t just zap all the evil for us. But as our OT lesson reminds us, that’s not how God typically works among his creatures and creation. As we have seen, God in his wise providence has chosen to work through wise human beings who bear his image. This means we are to walk with Daniel as he begins to live out his new life in Christ. It means we need to be there for him when “it” hits the fan for him, to weep with him and to rejoice with him when God’s blessings are graciously poured out on him. He needs to know that he can count on us and we on him. And through it all, we can have confidence that God is with us, working through us to use our puny and sometimes half-hearted or mistaken efforts to bring about his good will for not only Daniel and us, but also for those others whom God providentially brings into our lives.

The same holds true for the fate of our country and the Anglican Communion. We are not to give up or lose hope because God can and does work through some of the most unlikely folks to bring about his will for his people. Again, this does not guarantee a happy ending, at least from our limited perspective. But like Ruth and Naomi, we must continue to live faithful lives with hope and confidence because we know God is true to his promises and we trust God’s good will for us and God’s world. We remember that Jesus is Lord who works through his faithful people (and even some unfaithful ones), and that means God has not abandoned us. So if you are feeling discouraged about the state of affairs in this world, take heart and hope. Let God use others to strengthen you by reminding you of this truth. May God use each of us to strengthen one another whenever the opportunity arises and especially when we see each other express a real need for hope. As we do, we will realize that because Jesus is Lord and sin and evil are not, we really do have Good News to embrace, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Prayer for Veterans Day

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom;
for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.
On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.

Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals
or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion
and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace.

All this we ask through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Brief History of Veterans Day

As you pause this day to give thanks for our veterans, past and present, take some time to familiarize yourself with the history of this day.

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Read it all.

On Resisting the Urge to (Pre)judge

Yesterday, the new Archbishop of Canterbury–the titular head of the worldwide Anglican Communion of some 80 million–was announced. His name is Justin Welby and he is currently the Bishop of Durham (England). Over at Stand Firm in Faith, a conservative Anglican blog, I have been fascinated and more than a bit dismayed to read all the doomsday predictions about +Welby and what he does (or does not) bring to the table. Already, several of the Stand Firm bloggers are predicting that +Welby will not have what it takes to deal with the problems of revisionist Christian theology that is so sadly ensconced in The Episcopal Church and which has torn apart the Anglican Communion.

Now Fr. Kennedy et al. may be perfectly correct. +Welby may not be up to the difficult tasks that lay ahead of him. But none of us know that–and that is precisely the point. None of us know how this is going to play out. Yes,  we can parse +Welby’s writings and sermons, etc. from his past for clues as to how he will behave in the future. But +Welby doesn’t have a lengthy track record as a bishop and the man has not even assumed his office yet! Things change and so do people, and if +Welby is going to be a great leader, he doubtless will rise to the occasion. But none of us know what he will do when he becomes the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Consequently, it seems to me that the naysayers at Stand Firm are rushing to prejudge +Welby, and in doing so are providing a terrible witness to evangelical Anglicanism, whose main declaration should always be Jesus is Lord! This kind of (pre)judgmentalism is also guaranteed to run off those outsiders who are looking in to see how we Christians behave and/or what the Christian faith is all about, and that is not a good thing because the world needs Christ and his people more than ever.

I appreciate the bloggers’ zeal at Stand Firm to protect the gospel. I also appreciate the fear that is reflected in their naysaying because I too have been afflicted by it on occasion. But the naysayers would do well to read this Sunday’s lectionary, especially from the book of Ruth, to be reminded that God can and often does work through the faithfulness of ordinary people (and sometimes even through unfaithful people!), and in the most unlikely circumstances, to accomplish God’s purposes. This in itself should be reason enough for anyone who claims to be a faithful Christian to withhold prejudgment about the outcome of +Welby’s future tenure as the ABC. Is God not bigger than +Welby and our Communion? Again, +Welby’s election may turn out to be a very bad thing for the Anglican Communion. He may prove to be a weak and indecisive leader. But let us not rush to judge him at this point. And let us always remember that Jesus is Lord, even when everything around us appears to be screaming otherwise.

Archbishop Cranmer Weighs in on the New Archbishop of Canterbury Elect

From His Grace’s blog.

Not York; not London; not Liverpool or Norwich. The CNC’s lot has fallen on Durham, and His Grace would just like to congratulate His Grace on his elevation to the See of Canterbury.

Justin Welby is on record as saying that he has ‘neither the experience nor the desire’ to lead the Church of England and become Primus inter pares of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, but that, of course, makes him ideally suited to the task. He possesses humility and sober judgment, which probably comes of spending 11 years in the oil industry before seeking ordination.

His Grace isn’t concerned that Bishop Justin is an Old Etonian: what he did with his education is more important than where he was educated. And Bishop Justin chose to expound the biblical vision for humanity and reflect on the centrality of Christ in a fallen world. He chose to dedicate his life to the enrichment of humanity – not with oil and money, but with Christian witness and the light of spiritual truth. He is clearly capable of preaching ‘with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other’.

Read the whole thing.