Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An Ancient Collect that is Unfortunately All Too Relevant:

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Winding Centuries Have Come and Gone

The winding centuries have come and gone
Still the Christmas song goes on and on.
Some have loved the Babe, some still hate him;
Christmas joy is for hearts that welcome him.
Peace on earth, the thronging angels sing,
Throughout the heavens, hear the merry chorus ring.
Simple shepherds on the hill rejoice to hear
The news that Almighty God has drawn near.
But Herod on his throne feels a deadly chill;
Any who threaten his power he will kill,
Wife, or son, or even little baby child.
There is no safety for child or mother mild.
But Herod is dead; the years have come and gone,
Only Christ will come with the breaking of the dawn.

In the picture is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the site of the birth of Christ Jesus. All of the beautiful mosaics were stripped out of the church building by the Muslims and used to decorate the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The ancient conflict still goes on today with the murder of the innocents young and old in Israel and in many other places as Islam spreads its black wings.

Today's Lectionary Readings: Psalm 124, Jeremiah 31:15-17, Matthew 2:13-18, Revelation 21:1-7

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Christmas Collects

Our Anglican Theology is formed in part by the prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.

Christmas Day
O God, who makest us glad by the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Christmas Eve
O God, who hast caused this holy night to shine with the illumination of the true Light: Grant us, we beseech thee, that as we have known the mystery of that Light upon earth, so may we also perfectly enjoy him in heaven; where with thee and the Holy Spirit he liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

A Poem from an Anglican Writer, Christina Rossetti (183—1890). Christina Rossetti was an Anglo-Catholic writer. Her brother was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Rossetti’s best known poem is Goblin Market.

Love Came Down at Christmas
 ~ Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

[The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (later known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three founders were joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member "brotherhood". Their principles were shared by other male and female artists, notably Marie Spartali Stillman.]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Man in the Box

An essay on Fundamentalism

Just who is the man in the box?  Erik Erikson, a Harvard psychologist used the term “totalism” to describe a worldview that is marked by certain characteristics.  A totalism is a self-enclosed system.  Whatever fits in the box is acceptable, whatever doesn’t fit in the box is unacceptable, unless of course you can lop off the arms and legs and conform it to the box.  The box is a safe self-contained system that allows for no ambiguity and tolerates no differences.  In popular terminology we often refer to the man in the box as a fundamentalist.  In the New Testament both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were fundamentalists.  There are Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists.  There are Republican fundamentalists and Democratic fundamentalists.  There are Liberal fundamentalists and there are Conservative fundamentalists.  Fundamentalisms, or totalisms, have nothing do with content but refer to an essential life stance. 

Fundamentalism as an American Religious movement proposed twelve fundamentals that most self-styled Christian fundamentalists don’t even know exist.  Fundamentalism, or to use the other term, totalism, doesn’t have anything to do with content.  Just because one believes in the authority of Scripture doesn’t mean one is a fundamentalist or totalist.  Fundamentalism has to do with a narrow and rigid way of looking at life.  Bible believing Episcopalians are often viewed with suspicion by totalists who belong a variety of fundamentalist groups.

There is a set of signals projected by these ardent totalists that are easily identifiable.  First and foremost they are absolutely right and you are obviously wrong.  This can be very painful when it is your Christian faith that is being attacked.  It can be equally painful when you run into the same type of person in a business setting, particularly if they are in a position of authority.  Totalists project an attitude of assured righteousness with some hooks that catch the unwary.  Their chosen victims are flat wrong and somehow deficient.  It is not a mere matter of being in simple disagreement.  It is much deeper than that.  One is untaught, or even stupid, at the very least inexperienced, and the righteous one looms over you accusingly.  Another double barbed hook is the projection of guilt or shame.  Somehow you are to blame because you don’t know or accept their viewpoint.  There are signal words that tell when this is going on, words like, “should,” “ought,” and “must” and all their emotional cousins. 

The totalist takes refuge in community whether visible or invisible, whether real or imaginary.  No matter how small or large their community is, they globalize it.  Everybody knows, everybody thinks.  This is the way it is done.  The man in the box with his source of knowledge, has all the answers.  Totalists use the Bible this way, or the traditions of the Church, or the teachings of some charismatic leader, or the Koran, or some political philosophy, or child rearing books, or business methods, or when they are really weak minded, something they read on the internet. 

The underlying threat is that you are unacceptable.  You may be ostracized, or shunned and expelled.  Sometimes this only implicit, sometimes explicit.  Their voice tones, body language, facial expressions are well practiced to coerce by negative manipulation in order to gain the desired result, your obedience to their viewpoint.   Perhaps most of all, one signal stands out above all others.  The totalist doesn’t love you as an individual with your flaws and deficiencies.  The totalist loves you as you ought to be when you agree with them.  They wear converts to their positions like scalps on a belt.  Jesus said of the Pharisees, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

Jesus says to his disciples, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  It was never His intention that we be imprisoned by totalisms as rigid as those of the scribes and Pharisees.  The Bible says, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  (Galatians 3:2-3).  Totalists are hard to deal with and often impossible to argue with, in part because they are frightened by freedom and thrown into consternation by ambiguity.  In love and constancy, in patience and humility we are called to obey the clear word of Holy Scripture, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).   

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An Invitation to Think

Let me invite you to think! Some Christians don’t like to think, but to me that is like trying to sleep in short-sheeted bed. My own observation is that we first encounter God; then we begin to understand Him. It is the process of understanding Him, and consequently understanding myself and others, that fascinates me; what Anselm would refer to as “de ratione fidei” thinking something out for oneself in prayer. Anselm’s Monologion “supplies a method of harmonizing faith with reason. The subject of the discourse, as (Martin) Rule points out, is not the reason of faith but the being of God; this is first affirmed by faith and then subjected to the method—de ratione fidei—of thinking something out for oneself in prayer: credo ut intelligam.

In the Prosologion Anselm says, “I seek not, O Lord, to search out Thy depth, but I desire in some measure to understand Thy truth, which my heart believeth and loveth. Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.” (Martin Thornton: English Spirituality, [1963, Published in the U. S. A. by Cowley Publications], p. 157, 158.  Half a century ago a college friend of mine referred to some of the young Christians in our Christian college as “spiritual dwarfs;” thus causing an uproar of protest. Retrospectively he was right, the Church has many spiritual dwarfs who accept the tenets of faith but don’t like to think about them. ~ Dom Anselm, Oblate OSB

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lecher Priest

A Call to Repentance and Holiness:

God save us all, we have a lecher priest
Whose every word and smile is oily sweet,
Whose love denying love is just a cheat,
Whose words and actions show his inner beast.
He did not start thus, no, not in the least.
He once longed with ev’ry trembling heartbeat
To be a star, to be a true athlete,
Presiding at the altar and the feast.
His heart was never silver, only tin,
His feet were partly iron, partly clay
When he began to show the beast within.
Hidden within his heart was sad dismay
And all alone he faced his inner sin.
Where was the Church upon that fateful day?

Relax.  It’s nobody you know! Or is it?  Everybody is going to wonder who I have in mind.  Nobody specific, well at least, nobody in the same time zone, at least at the moment. “Where was the Church upon that fateful day?” Some were voting for same-sex marriage, not that it is even possible for that to actually be a marriage.