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Archive for March, 2011

Lent – On Compunction

We’ve been talking about Lent at Holy Trinity and at All Saints and will continue to do so. As Lent is new to many of us, I thought it might be helpful to offer some thoughts or quotes on Lent to help fill in some blanks or offer some various perspectives on this season.

 

 

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The purpose of the first part of Lent is to bring us to compunction.  “Compunction” is etymologically related to the verb “to puncture” and suggests the deflation of our inflated egos, a challenge to any self-deceit about the quality of our lives as disciples of Christ.  By hitting us again and again with demands which we not only fail to obey, but which we come to recognize as being quite beyond us, the gospel passages are meant to trouble us, to confront our illusions about ourselves.  “Remember, you are dust…”  From this perspective, Lenten penance may be more effective if we fail in our resolutions than if we succeed, for it’s purpose is not to confirm us in our virtue but to bring home to us our radical need for salvation.

—  Mark Searle

 

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Parish and Cathedral

There is always a struggle between two leading conceptions of a Cathedral. One comes from the Monastic period and represents the Cathedral as a worshipping community where all the members of the Chapter should if possible be present at almost all the services … the other is that [of] the Cathedral as the central power station, so to speak, of the Diocese. Some large element of the former conception can be combined with it and indeed ought to be.

William Temple (1881–1944), written as Archbishop of Canterbury, Some Lambeth Letters, ed. F.S. Temple (Oxford, 1963), p. 35.

This quote from William Temple, got me to thinking….

As we are planting a parish church here in Chatham County, I’ve been pondering exactly what the term parish church means. A parish is by definition a subdivision or unit of a diocese or see. In our current structure in the Anglican Mission, where episcopal authority extends to churches across large swaths of the country, the concept of a diocese  or a meaningful relationship with a see (the locale of episcopal authority) is both unrealistic and untenable.

What is possible, it seems, is for faithful Anglican churches to have vibrant and significant relationships with other faithful Anglican churches within their region. Further, I think daughter churches can and should have lively connections to mother churches in much the same way that the monastics understood the term Cathedral. That is, the relationship between Parish and Cathedral being one that is exhibited by worshiping together whenever possible.

Interesting to consider.

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[If] we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

– CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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The Crossing

Just read a thought provoking post today from Bishop Thad Barnum at his blog entitled “The Crossing.” It struck a chord as I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to do so much in the name of God and yet to never let our hearts be changed and converted. Bishop Barnum’s post explains how storms often come to expose our hearts and our tendencies towards double-mindedness or double-soulness.

Here I stand. At the crossing.

Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so hard to find. That what we see on the outside is what’s real on the inside. Just that simple. But too often the chasm between the two is huge.

And I forget about the crossing.

Sam taught me that years ago. He was the perfect testimony. He came to faith in Christ through the witness of Christian men in our church. And Sam jumped in. Bible studies. Home group. Ministries in the church and our local community. He gave time — which in his profession he had little of. He gave money to the church and beyond. Way beyond.

Because he cared for the needy. It hurt him to see people suffering.

One year, two, three, and he grew in Christ. Off he went on mission trips to remote parts of the world. Wanting to help. Needing to serve. Big heart.

Sam.

His name came up to serve in church leadership. Who could be better? He met all the criteria. Strong in belief. In conduct. In service. In leadership.

Sam.

Until the testing came. And it came hard. By the time we heard about it, it was too late. He’d left his job. Left his wife. Left his teenage kids. Left his church family. Sam was gone. The guys closest to him at church pursued him. They still do. Even to this day. So many years later.

Some said it was an affair. Others said something big happened at work. Was he caught doing drugs? Smuggling money? A cover up of some kind? It almost doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, it was big enough to expose his heart.

And that’s what testing does.

In the Parable of the Sower, the seed has to land in the heart. The good soil. If not, when testing comes, we fall away. (Mk 4:17)

The foundation has to be on rock. Not sand. So when the storm comes, we stand strong.  Unshaken. (Mt 7:25)

Jesus taught us this. The world is full of trial and trouble. What matters is that we’re ready for it. That what He has done in us is real. To the heart. And what He will do for us is see us through the storm. He will give us what we need to endure. To persevere.

That’s His promise.

James said it. All we have to do is ask. In the midst of the mess of this world, we ask the Lord “who gives to all generously and without reproach” and He gives us the wisdom we need in the moment. (Jas 1:5) As long as we ask in faith. And from faith.

Because our faith is real. He has penetrated our hearts.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it?

Sam looked so real. He said the right words. He did the right things. He leapt beyond himself for the sake of others. He wept at the reading of Scripture. He showed us what it means to have a passion for the things of God. He testified in church and outside church. He looked so real.

None of us dreamed that he lived in two worlds. One on the outside. One on the inside. And the one on the inside so dark and secretive, controlled and well-protected for so many years that maybe he never dreamed the storm would come. A big storm. Bigger than him.

Exposing him. Tearing his two worlds apart.

Double-minded, that’s what James called it.

A word meaning “two-souled.” It’s deeper than being two-faced, divided between the image outside and the heart inside.

It goes to the division of the soul. As if, deep in our core, we can be two.

And we can’t. Not before God. Never, never can we serve two masters and get away with it. (Mt 6:24) No matter how in control we think we are.

Because storms come. Storms expose.

Sam became exactly what James said, “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (Jas 1:6) The storm hit and he was gone. His wife, teenage kids and church family bereft without him. His kids burned by their dad wondering if being a Christian is really even worth it.

Sam.

He taught me to stand at the crossing.

That it’s not enough, as a Christian leader, to help people believe in Jesus Christ, know the Bible, learn to pray, belong to the church, grow in service and ministry, give from our resources, serve the poor, the needy, the voiceless.

All of it can be done and the heart never touched. The gospel never real. The salvation given us in Jesus Christ never known in the depths of who we are. Outward Christians. Right words. Right deeds. Playing games. Two-souled.

So I make myself stand at the crossing.

Between the outside and the inside. And I beg the Lord to have mercy on us. To help us cross. So that Jesus Christ is real to our heart. In the depths of our soul. Before the storms come.

So we’re not like Sam. Disciples on the wrong foundation. Rooted in the wrong soil. Double-minded, two-souled, rudderless people at the time of testing. But just the opposite. We know Him. He knows us.

We’ve made the crossing. We’ve found real.

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St. Aristobulus

In the Eastern Church, today is the feast day of St. Aristobulus, known as the first bishop of Britain. He is credited with preaching the Gospel throughout the Celtic regions of Spain and the British Isles.

I was unfamiliar with this forefather of the faith until this morning. I’ve read the Venerable Bede’s accounts of the English church, with the Roman conquest in 44 AD and the life and death of Alban, Britain’s first martyr. But this St. Aristobulus is new to me. According to legend, Aristobulus was the brother of Barnabas and was numbered among the Seventy Two that were appointed and sent out by the Lord in Luke 10:1-24. He is referred to by Paul (again allegedly) in Rom 16:10, “Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus.”

While much of this story remains veiled in the mist and mystery of the past, it is interesting to consider how those who were a part of the earliest communities that followed Christ went to great lengths to see that his message of Good News spread throughout the world.

According to the Greek Martyrologies:

“Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole world, and ministered to him.  He was chosen by St. Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very warlike and fierce race.  By them he was often scourged, and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity.  He was there martyred, after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island.”

For more on Aristobulus, there’s a nice summary posted over at The Anglo-Catholic.

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O Lord Hear My Prayer

Here’s a striking video accompaniment to the Taizé song, “O Lord Hear My Prayer.”

h/t to Todd at For All the Saints

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This morning’s Gospel reading is taken from Matthew’s account of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by Satan.

There is much to gather from this account. I’ve preached this passage a couple of times. God’s word is alive and the Spirit guides us as we read it. This morning what has struck me upon sitting in this text again is the reality that temptation, when it comes is not limited to the areas we’d most suspect but it invades to pervert and distort even the good creation (“turn these stones into bread”), the holy place (“leap from the temple pinnacle”), and worship itself (“all these I will give you if you will fall down and worship me”). The common association of temptation with the Seven Deadly Sins has its place, for those sins are indeed deadly. But the real essence of temptation attacks where humans expect the best: daily bread, sacred spaces, the devotion of the heart.

 

 

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