David Neff: Dwelling in Heaven’s Suburbs

Spot on (albeit a bit sloppy in its usage of the word “heaven;” resurrection is about New Creation, not heaven). Nevertheless, read the whole wonderful article.

Why preach about heaven? Bob was unashamed to confess: “The most cogent reason in my case is age. As one gets older, one begins to think there is not much of this life left,” he said. “Thinking about heaven is a faithful response to the running out of the string.”

Why do we Christians seem to want to forfeit our treasures so easily? I mean, what’s up with that? Really.

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Jerome, Priest and Monk of Bethlehem

Almighty God, we praise you for the men and women you have sent to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life, such as your servant Jerome. Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

About Jerome, Priest and Monk of Bethlehem

Learn about Jerome on his feast day.

Jerome was the foremost biblical scholar of the ancient Church. His translation of the Bible, along with his commentaries and homilies on the biblical books, have made him a major intellectual force in the Western Church.

Jerome was born in about 347, and was converted and baptized during his student days in Rome. On a visit to Trier, he found himself attracted to the monastic life, which he tested in a brief but unhappy experience as a hermit in the deserts of Syria. At Antioch, he continued his studies in Hebrew and Greek. In 379, he went to Constantinople where he studied under Gregory of Nazianzus. From 382 to 384 he was secretary to Pope Damasus I, and spiritual director of many noble Roman ladies who were becoming interested in the monastic life. It was Damasus who set him the task of making a new translation of the Bible into Latin — into the popular form of the language, hence the name of the translation: the Vulgate. After the death of Damasus, Jerome returned to the East, and estabished a monastery at Bethlehem, where he lived and worked until his death on 30 September 420.

Read it all.

From the Morning Scriptures

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

–Luke 6:6-11 (TNIV)

Have you ever gotten angry over seeing someone behave as a Christian? The question is not as silly as it may sound. I have seen people get visibly angry when they heard someone pray for the likes of someone like Osama bin Laden. I have seen people get angry when they hear someone speak out against war or against homosexuality (not homosexuals). I have seen people get angry when they were asked to pick up their cross and follow Jesus, e.g., to do something that would bring them disapproval from others.

Christ calls us to be countercultural, to abide by God’s economy, which demands that we look out for the weak and the helpless, which demands that we take up our cross and die to our selfish desires, which demands that we dare love someone enough that we actually do not take a laissez-faire attitude toward them when we see them engaging in destructive behaviors, which demands that we love our enemies and pray for them. This is not easy because this is not the way of the world. The next time we read stories like the one from today’s Gospel, let us stop and look at our own houses before we throw stones at the Pharisees.

John Keble on Preserving the Faith

We continue today with another excerpt from our featured Anglican theologian this week, John Keble. Today Keble muses on what it takes to remain faithful to Christ. Note carefully Keble’s attention to the role of tradition in learning sound Christian doctrine.

The one thing needful is to “retain the mystery of the faith;” to “abide in the good instruction whereto we have already attained;” to “teach no other doctrine;” to be on our guard against those who resist the truth under pretense of “proceeding further,” assured that such, although they seem to be “ever learning,” shall never be able to “come to the knowledge of the truth”; they will “proceed” indeed, but it will be from bad to worse!

Sermon on Primitive Tradition Recognized in Holy Scripture (1836)

The Nature of God’s Gifts

What merit, then, do we have before grace which could make it possible for us to receive grace, when nothing but grace produces good merits in us? When God crowns our merits, it is his own gifts that he crowns. For, just as in the beginning we obtained the mercy of faith, not because we were faithful but that we might become so, in like manner God will crown us at the end with eternal life. Consequently, eternal life itself, which will certainly be possessed at the end without end, is in a sense awarded to antecedent merits, yet, because the same merits for which it is awarded are not effected by us through our sufficiency, but are effected to us by grace, even this very grace is so called for no other reason than that it is given freely.

–Augustine, Letter 194.5

Translation: Every good thing we have or will receive is from God.

Love: It Isn’t Easy

Do not suppose that it is easy to preserve love, that you need not do anything to keep it, that you can always afford to be gentle with the beloved, a gentleness that sometimes masks a “not caring” what the loved one does. That is not how you preserve love. Do you love your children when you won’t discipline them? Do you love your neighbor when you never correct them? This is not love but apathy. Love must sometimes arouse you to correct the loved one. When you find that they are good, rejoice with them; when you find that they are going in a wrong direction, admonish them.

–Augustine, Commentary on the Epistle of John, 7.11.1

A Prayer from Clement of Rome

Through your works, you have manifested the eternal ordering of the world, Lord, creator of the universe. You remain the same throughout all generations; just in your judgments, admirable in power and magnificence, full of wisdom in creating and prudent in strengthening everything in existence. You manifest your goodness toward all visible things and your fidelity toward those who trust you, for you are merciful and compassionate. Amen.

Walking in the Christian Way

Here then are two precepts for the one who is going to live the rest of life walking in the Christian way. First, the one who is still living under divine governance, however well and rightly he has acted in the past, should not think about all the actions he has already done as though he deserved to obtain something by them. Rather he should cast them into oblivion, always seeking the new tasks that remain. Second, he should nonetheless keep living under the divine rule, continually pressing on toward these thing and observing the rule of Christ.

–Marius Victorinus, Epistle to the Philippians 3.13-14

Pregame Prayers at Pee Wee Football Games Are Out of Bounds, Florida Dad Says

Ah yes. Another example of the tyranny of the minority seeking to impose its will on the majority, a uniquely American issue in this Age of Political Correctness, bless our pointy little heads.

Note to Mr. Fromm. The prayers are voluntary. So is your son’s participation in them. If you find them offensive, don’t let your kid participate. But maybe that really isn’t your issue…

Football and prayer don’t belong in the same backfield, says a Florida dad who wants his hometown to stop a Pee Wee football league from having kids perform voluntary pregame prayers.

Louie Fromm, an assistant coach for the Holmes County Pee Wee Football Association, formally requested on Monday that the Vernon, Fla., City Council end the league’s traditional 50-yard-line pregame prayer ritual, alleging that his and his son’s First Amendment rights are being violated.

Read it all. What do you think?

A Prayer for St. Michael and All Angels

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.

About St. Michael and All Angels

On the Feast of Michael and all Angels, popularly called Michaelmas, we give thanks for the many ways in which God’s loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God’s creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligences other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them, and it is not clear how much of what we are told is figurative. Jesus speaks of them as rejoicing over penitent sinners (Lk 15:10). Elsewhere, in a statement that has been variously understood (Mt 18:10), He warns against misleading a child, because their angels behold the face of God. (Acts 12:15 may refer to a related idea.)

Read it all.