Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Apocalypse Illuminated by Richard K. Emmerson

A focus of my studies in Oxford this past Michaelmas Term was medieval eschatology, particularly the exegesis of the Book of Revelation in illuminated Apocalypses.  I soon discovered this area is more complex than I expected perhaps because the medieval church did not insist on much dogma in eschatology beyond the teaching of the Nicene Creed that Jesus “shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” Thus there was space for a lot of interesting diversity in the details of eschatology.  And events such as the year 1000 and invasions from Muslims and Tartars certainly goaded speculation on the details of end times.

At the same time, the many failed predictions, especially those that involved dates, assisted more conservative eschatologies to reassert themselves from time to time.  And most of the commentary texts of medieval illuminated Apocalypses reflect more conservative interpretations even as those, too, differ.
In short, medieval eschatology and its artistic expression is a fascinating but not at all easy area of study.  This is reflected in disagreements and occasional errors in modern scholarship.  Speaking of which, I am having to unlearn a thing or two I learned in Oxford!
So I appreciate a recent (and reasonably priced) acquisition to my library, Apocalypse Illuminated, The Visual Exegesis of Revelation in Medieval Illustrated Manuscriptsby Richard K. Emmerson, published just last year.  I’ve come across a number of excellent books in my studies on the subject, but Emmerson’s stands out as the best overview. It certainly well aids and clarifies the study of a complex subject.
Emmerson goes over the similarities and differences between various illuminated Apocalypses very well and uses a multitude of illustrations well in so doing.  His speculations as to what may have motivated bursts of creation of these lavish books, which clustered around certain times such as the third quarter of the 13thcentury, is also helpful.
And Emmerson is not at all merely derivative but advances scholarship.  One example stood out to me.  He boldly states that a number of very reputable scholars are mistaken in attributing a prediction that the end would come in 1260 to Joachim of Fiore.  He attributes that failed prediction to Joachimite followers instead and noted Joachim himself was adverse to setting dates though he was certainly bold in other respects.
Do be aware that, as Emmerson makes clear, Apocalypse Illuminated focuses on how these manuscripts interpreted the Book of Revelation and on the influences behind those interpretations. Thus, though well illustrated, this is not an art book.
I could praise Apocalypse Illuminated further.  But I will just say this: if I were to lead a seminar on medieval illuminated Apocalypses and accompanying eschatology, I would choose this book as theintroductory text.  If there is a more scholarly, more readable, and more up-to-date overview in this area, I for one am not aware of it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Oxford and Charles, King and Martyr

I will get it out of the way that, although I venerate Edward the Confessor and Henry VI, I am not a devotee of Charles I.  I will leave it at that out of consideration for a number of my Anglo-Catholic friends and because my opinion on his worthiness is not that important anyway.
At the same time, one of the venerable charms of Oxford is its devotion to Charles I.  Statues and portraits of him are all over the University on college quads, in libraries, in dining halls, in chapels, and more.  And that although he “borrowed” most of the colleges’ silver plate to mint coins!  There is even a window in a college chapel in which the face of Jesus looks suspiciously like Charles.
It is as if Oxford, which was Charles’ de facto capital during the Civil War, never really fully recognized his defeat in said war.  It is a perpetual, very civilized rebellion of the elite, a refusal to give in to defeat along with a willingness to forgive Charles’ errors, even the silver.  As far as the University of Oxford is concerned, Charles I remains and always will be their king.
And in case one thinks I am waxing a bit much about an unwillingness to bother to take down statues and portraits no one cares about anymore, I urge such impious skeptics to repent and get thee to Pusey House tomorrow at 6:30pm for a High Mass for “Charles, King and Martyr.”  See for yourself Oxonian devotion to His Sacred Majesty, King Charles the First, of Glorious Memory.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Thoughts on Holocaust Remembrance Day

We rarely note secular observances at my church.  We do recognize mothers and fathers during Mothers and Fathers Day.  (But we do NOT allow those days to hijack our services as so many churches do.)  And that may be about it.
But during announcements yesterday while leading Morning Prayer, I could not allow Holocaust Remembrance Day to pass unnoted.  For, as I told the congregation, this is personal with me.  About half the kids I went to school with were Jewish.  And I remember as a youth watching documentaries on the Holocaust and thinking the West has learned its lesson; there will never be a revival of anti-semitism in the West again.
I was wrong.  There is a revival of anti-semitism today.  
Although I avoided getting into politics in a church setting, and although I freely admit no political party is immune to anti-semitism, in the U. S. it is the Democrat Party that is enabling a revival of anti-semitism. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of the anti-semitic Congresswoman from Somalia, Ilhan Omar, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee where she will be privy to sensitive intelligence is particularly alarming and outrageous.
As I told the congregation, we should pray as to how to combat anti-semitism.  The best way I can think of is to call it out.  The exposure of the anti-Jewish bigotry of the leaders of the Woman’s March took a while to be effective.  Nonetheless that organization has now lost much of its power and credibility as several prominent Lib/Left women have disassociated themselves, to their credit.
I think similarly we should be unceasing in calling out those who embrace Louis Farrakhan and refuse to disavow him.  I’m talking about you, James Clyburn.
There is more that must be done.  But prayer and calling out anti-semitism among political and religious leaders is a good start.
Again, it is sad that we in the West have come to this yet again.

The Astonishing Kingdom of God – a sermon for Epiphany 3

Morning Prayer Epiphany 3
Psalm 16
Ezekiel 2:1 – 3:11
Mark 10: 13-27

Last week, we saw that an important theme in St. Mark’s Gospel is that the kingdom of God is at hand.  Indeed, the first words of Jesus in that Gospel are:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.
This week we will look further into the Gospel of Mark, and we’ll see that the kingdom of God and entry into it is a bit different than people expected.
In our reading this morning from Mark, chapter 10, we heard the famous episode of Jesus with the little children.  The disciples were rebuking parents who were bringing their children to be touched by Jesus.  They thought the Messiah had more important business than blessing children.  And it is certainly understandable that they thought that.
But Jesus’ priorities were different than they expected, so different that He was indignant that the disciples were trying to herd the children away.  He not only told the disciples to let the children come to him, but in addition told them that “to such belongs the kingdom of God.”  And, as if that wasn’t radical enough, He said, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
And the disciples said, “What??”  No, that’s not in scripture.  But one can imagine they were startled by Jesus’ statement as we might be.  If you don’t receive the kingdom of God as a child, you don’t enter it at all? What could Jesus mean?
We will get back to that question, but first let’s look at another time when Jesus startled his followers.
When the rich young man asked Jesus what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus disoriented him by answering, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.” Then what He said after the man walked away disoriented and “amazed” his disciples.  And “amazed” is St. Mark’s word, not mine.  Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”
Then, seeing how amazed his disciples were, he did not soften or water down His words but instead doubled down and said, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
The passage continues, “And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’”  They were floored by what Jesus had just told them about entry into the kingdom of God.  As St. Mark put it, “They were exceedingly astonished.”  Why?
There was a common misconception at the time that connected wealth to righteousness.  There are a number of passages in the Old Testament that state that one of the ways God may reward righteousness is with wealth.  And that is true.  But people in Jesus’ day commonly misinterpreted this to mean that if a wealthy man was not an obvious crook, cheat, or sinner, then probably he is wealthy because he is righteous.
Now before we think these people foolish, remember that today the heresy of Prosperity Theology is all too popular.  The Prosperity Theology heretics – yes, I said it – these heretics would have you believe that if you have enough faith, you will be rich.  And, of course, some of them connect faith to you making them rich with your contributions. We can laugh, but sadly people are defrauded by these heretics.
The common error of Jesus’ day was not as awful.  But it was a common error to connect faith, righteousness and wealth entirely too much.
So Jesus’ famous saying -- that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” -- that saying flipped their misconceptions and “exceedingly astonished” them indeed so that they asked, “Then who can be saved?”
Jesus’ answer to that question helps us make an important connection between what he said about children, what he said to the rich young man, and what he then said to his disciples.  Jesus’ answer to the question “Then who can be saved?” was:
With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.
“With man, it is impossible.”  Man cannot save himself.  Man cannot somehow merit or earn or buy or steal entry into the Kingdom of God.
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  God is the one who saves.  God is the only one who saves, who can bring us into his kingdom.  Salvation is the work of God, not of man.
Now, of course, that does not mean we are to be passive.  St. Paul describes salvation as a gift from God.  And as is the case with most gifts, for that gift to become ours, we must trust the giver and receive his gift.  But even so, the lavish, gracious gift of salvation is God’s doing, not ours.
Allow me to make this point [Here I bring out a humorous pointer.] using a gift I got for this past Christmas.  Gabriel gave me this wonderful and very useful pointer for Christmas.  Now after I opened this gift, I did not think, “Aren’t I wonderful!  I must have really deserved this gift!” Nor did I think myself clever and wise for receiving this gift.
No, instead, I was thankful for Gabriel and for his gift.  For the credit for the gift belongs to him, not me.
The same can be said for God’s gift of salvation.  Can we earn it? Well, we have sinned.  And you know what “the wages of sin” are!  “The wages of sin” is certainly not salvation!
Instead Jesus earned salvation for us by His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection.  And then he offers that salvation to us as a gift as Romans 6:23 continues:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Even our having faith to trust God and to receive his gift of salvation – even that faith is a gift.  As St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it isthe gift of God…”
So salvation is something God does.  When anyone enters the kingdom of God, all the credit and the glory belongs to God.  When we look at the great worship scenes in the Book of Revelation, the saints are not patting themselves or each other on the back.  Instead, they give all the glory to God.  One such scene is at the end of Revelation 5 when the multitude is singing to Jesus the Lamb of God:
…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
                  from every tribe and language and people and nation,
          and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
                  and they shall reign on the earth.”
Note the emphasis: salvation is brought about by Jesus the Lamb of God.  The worship in Heaven continues:
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 
         “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
         to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
         and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
         “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
         be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

All the glory belongs to God and to the Lamb of God.  All the credit for our salvation belongs to Him; for salvation is something He does by his love, by His power, and by His Precious Blood.
And thank God for that!  For, again, as Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
This is an important reason Jesus said that we must receive the kingdom of God like a child.  For if salvation and entry into His kingdom is not something we can do for ourselves but is something only God can do for us, then we need to trust Him and, in trust and faith, to receive that gift of salvation from Him.  And what is more trusting than a small child?
Sometimes they are too trusting!  Ever hold a child, and they are wriggling and moving around all over the place, and yet they are still trusting you to hold on to them? Little kids trust in you with their lives!  I’ve had that experience with two or more kids in this congregation . . . and, thankfully, they are still with us.
But the trust of children is amazing and beautiful.  That is how we should trust Jesus.
And I think trust was also an issue in the encounter with the Rich Young Man.  Jesus perceived that the man was trusting in his riches too much and in God too little.  So Jesus invited him to the radical trust of leaving aside his riches to follow Him.
We are to trust not in riches and not in ourselves.  Like little children, we are to trust in Jesus with our lives.  
That is so much more than intellectual consent.  The story is told of a man on a tightrope across Niagara Falls.  He was doing all sorts of stunts on the tightrope and just delighting the crowd who was cheering for him.  Finally he got out a wheelbarrow, and he was going to take that wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls on the tightrope!
But as he was about to do so, he asked the crowd, “Do you think I can take this wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls?”
And they cheered and shouted, “Yes! Go for it! You’re great! We believe in you!”
Then he asked them, “Then who wants to get in the wheelbarrow?”
It’s one thing to think Jesus is great.  Most of the crowd out there thinks that.  It is another thing to trust Jesus with your life. But receiving the kingdom of God involves trust like that. It involves trusting Jesus like a child.  Perhaps that is what is most astonishing about the kingdom of God.
We are called to trust in Jesus with our lives.  We are called to be like little children and trust in Jesus with our lives.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Roman Catholic “Bishop” Attacks Covington Students … for Wearing MAGA Hats

One would think after videos have clearly shown that the Covington High School students were the victims of aggressive bigotry, not the perpetrators, that LibChurchers would engage in the penitential discipline of apology and then shutting the **** up. And one would think Roman Catholic hierarchy would come to those students’ defense and surely not heap more smears on them.
But not so with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lexington, John Stowe.
Instead, in an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader for all to see, he wrote, “I am ashamed that the actions of Kentucky Catholic high school students have become a contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest.” And he is particularly upset that they . . . wore MAGA hats.
That is not satire.  He took the students to task for wearing MAGA hats to a political demonstration.  It appears merely wearing support for Trump and for “making America great again” even in a political demonstration is now a mortal sin in the Church of Rome.
I will let you read this and the rest of his smear for yourself if you wish.  I refuse to dignify it further.
And, again, these are pro-life Catholic High School students he is smearing.  Hasn’t the Roman Catholic Church victimized youth enough already?
But this is the sort of LibChurch leadership that is typical under Pope Francis.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Roman Catholics Should Have Freedom of Religion, But Do They Deserve It?

It is becoming that much more clear that the Left is attacking the freedom of religion of Christians, particularly Roman Catholics.  This is confirmed by that oh-so-noble Indian Elder Nathan Phillips attempting to disrupt a mass for the unborn over the weekend.
Not just Christians, but all who care about genuine freedom of religion must rise up and stand our ground against these predatory totalitarians. (And, yes, disrupting services is an old tactic of totalitarians.)
But I say that as the Roman Catholic Church has joined the totalitarians and once again victimized youth by smearing the Covington students. And even after more facts have come out showing the students were the ones who were the targets of bigotry, apologies are slow in coming and often do not come at all.

Just two examples: The Archdiocese of Baltimore smeared the students on twitter, posting “The Archdiocese of Baltimore condemns the disrespect shown toward a Native American elder during the March for Life. Respect for life demands all are treated with dignity.” But when the facts of the matter came out, they deigned only to “clarify” their statement.  No apology.

The Sisters of Mercy tweeted: “Racism and intolerance in all forms go directly against Catholic social teaching. The disturbing videos being shared of this incident showcase a bigoted disrespect of indigenous peoples and remind us how urgent our work for racial justice remains.”  Have these whores of the Left since issued any apology on their twitter account?  Of course not! Being a Libchurcher means never having to say you’re sorry.  Libchurchers confess other peoples’ sin, remember?
As for those Roman Catholics who say such as these do not represent you, I ask do you allow your contributions to filter to such? Then you are complicit, too.
I will continue to do my part to defend the freedom of religion of even such as the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Sisters of Mercy. But do they deserve it? Heck, no.  Are they actually the comrades and dupes of those Leftists who are attacking freedom of religion?  Yes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

March for Life Confrontation a Classic Leftist Tactic

Once full videos came out of the confrontation between Leftists and Catholic High School students at the March for Life, it became clear to me that what we have here is not nasty racism from a bunch of crackers (although there was really vile racism from the Leftists).  Instead, we have a textbook example of a classic totalitarian Leftist tactic – create a confrontation then play the victim for the cameras and for deceptively edited videos.
Oh, and the Native American who walked up to a student and banged his drum in his face has a history of playing the victim.
Even if the target does not respond or responds peacefully or even passively, the “victim” and Leftist backers carry on as if an outrage has occurred. I’ve seen this tactic first hand.  And here is a famous and enjoyable example [language warning with nutty screaming].
Now the gentleman in the above example may not have acted perfectly; likewise for some of the Catholic high school students (Good grief, they’re TEENAGERS.) And, of course, totalitarian Leftists exaggerate, distort and lie about any such imperfections for their political ends.
I will say the student who passively stood his ground and smiled while the drum was in his face is a hero in my book. 
I was going to write more on this when I found William Jacobson already has with videos and personal examples no less.  So read, watch, learn.  What happened at the March for Life is a frequent way totalitarians target their opponents.
And, yes, that they are targeting Christian schools should alarm.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Kingdom of God is at Hand - a sermon for Epiphany 2

Epiphany 2 Morning Prayer
Psalm 47
Joshua 3
Mark 1:1-15

I will begin with a confession.  The Gospel of St. Mark, the beginning of which we heard earlier, has often struck me as a bit odd.  For St. Mark seems to be in such a hurry.
He begins with Isaiah’s prophecy of the messenger who will call people to hurry up and “prepare the way of the Lord.”  Then suddenly John the Baptist appears.  Mark skips the Annunciation and the birth of Christ. When I was younger, I thought, “What?  No Christmas story?” And I sometimes still think that!
But St. Mark instead skips to John the Baptist proclaiming the coming Messiah.  Then Jesus appears and as soon as Mark mentions Jesus, he is baptized by John.  St. Mark seems even to have Jesus in hurry.  Then “immediately” – remember that word – “immediately” the heavens open, the Spirit descends like a dove and the Father proclaims, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.”
And then the Spirit “immediately” drives Jesus into the wilderness.  Even God seems to be in a hurry in the Gospel of Mark!
By the way, note that there is no contradiction between the Father’s expressed love for his Son Jesus and then His immediately driving Jesus off into the wilderness.  Sometimes God puts his children through difficult wilderness times precisely because He does love them.  That was the case with Jesus, and it is so with us.
But was God really in a hurry?  Well, probably not, at least not in the way we think of being in a hurry.  But why did St. Mark seem to be in a hurry and even seem to have God in a bit of a hurry? 
I think here it might be helpful to step back and look at how the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, focused on time in their gospels – how the four evangelists would have the reader look at time and at God in time.  
St. Matthew was interested in connecting the time and proclamations of the prophets with the life and times of Christ.  Again and again, he pointed out that an event in the life of Christ was a fulfillment of prophecy.  Matthew is not at all alone in the New Testament in doing that, but he particularly emphasized the connection between Old Testament prophecy and the life of Christ.
St. Luke was a detail man.  He focused on the life and times of Christ as he said he was doing in his introduction to his Gospel.  Unlike Mark, he even began a bit early with the promise of the birth of John the Baptist and then with the Annunciation to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus.  And Luke took his time with a longer narrative of the birth of Jesus than in the other gospels.  And he is the only one to show us Jesus between infancy and adulthood.  As we saw last Sunday, Luke gives us the story of Jesus in the Temple at age 12.  Later, he tells us much of Jesus’ interaction with his disciples between the Resurrection and Ascension.  Through Christ, God acted in time, in history, and Luke looked at that in detail.
Now St. John wants us to look beyond time.  For Jesus comes from beyond time.  John’s Gospel begins in eternity past: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  And John continues to remind us that Jesus is very God of very God from eternity past, particularly when Jesus confessed, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  
St. John is more selective than Luke in presenting us events in Christ’s life as John is intent on presenting this big eternal picture of who Jesus is.  One way he does this is by presenting particular miracles as signs revealing the divine nature of Christ.  The first such sign is one associated with this Epiphany season, the Wedding at Cana in which Jesus turned the water into wine.  John concludes his narrative of this miracle this way: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”
John presents these signs that we may believe as well, as he wrote at the end of chapter 20:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.
So how did St. Mark deal with time? And why did he seem to be in such a hurry?  The end of our second reading tells us why in no uncertain terms:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;repent and believe the gospel.”
“The kingdom of God is at hand” – these words of Jesus are a theme, perhaps thetheme, of St. Mark’s Gospel.  And because Christ and St. Mark see that the kingdom of God is at hand, there is an urgency to this Gospel.  Remember that word “immediately”?  By my count, it occurs 36 times in Mark.  Immediately, this happens, and immediately Jesus does that.  St. Mark’s Gospel moves quickly! For there is no time to waste.  And there is no time to be complacent.  For the kingdom of God is at hand!
The end of time and the consummation of the kingdom of God are very naturally of interest to Christians.  And we have been looking at that Wednesday nights as we go through the Book of Revelation.  St. Mark provides a good balance that should be our attitude toward the end.
Remembering that “the kingdom of God is at hand” helps us to avoid two extremes.  One extreme is thinking that Jesus will come back tomorrow or very soon or on x date.  It is interesting how often such thinking has occurred in church history, including recent history. Remember those billboards in 2011? Those old enough, remember all those books in the 70s and 80s?  Further back there was a rash of those setting dates for the Second Coming of Christ in the 19thCentury.  The Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have quite a history in that regard.
And I could go on all the way back to the early church.  Yes, some in the early church had a problem with this to the point that St. Paul felt the need to address it in his 2ndLetter to the Thessalonians.  No, the Thessalonians were not putting up silly billboards – at least I don’t think they were.  But Paul noted they had another problem.  Some were convinced that Jesus was returning very soon, and they used that as an excuse not to work, to be idle and lazy.  That prompted St. Paul to write, “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
Instead, St. Paul, as exhorted the Ephesians, we should seek to make the most of the time. That’s how the Second Coming of Christ should motivate us, not to laziness or other foolishness.   
The other extreme is a complacent or skeptical attitude towards the Second Coming of Christ, an attitude that he surely won’t come in our time or may not come at all.  Yes, there are those in the organized church (I use the word “church” loosely.) who think that that Second Coming of Christ in glory is a doctrine for the overly pious or excitable but won’t really happen, not in a way people will see anyway.  Such skepticism was described well by St. Peter in his second letter: 
. . .scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Such a complacent attitude about the end of time can also lead to laziness.  If one thinks one has plenty of days to waste, it is tempting to waste them.  And please note that this also applies to thinking that the end of our personal time, the end of our lives, is way, way in the future. The days of our earthly lives are not unlimited, even if it may feel like it when we are young.  Our time on this earth is limited, so we should make the most of the time and not fall into laziness.
As for the Second Coming of Christ, St. Peter answers the skeptics by presenting a balanced attitude:
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. . . .
Thus even if the Lord waits another two thousand years or more before returning, that is still a short time to him.  And if he delays, he does so for the good and loving reason that he wants more and more to join him in his kingdom.
But Jesus will come again.  And he will come “like a thief” – when people are not expecting it.  So if someone puts up a billboard saying Jesus is coming back on May 11th, 2020 or whenever, you can bet it won’t be that day.  And if someone says it will be a long time before Jesus comes again, they might be wrong, too.
Instead, St. Mark and St. Peter would have us have the balanced view that the kingdom of God is at hand and that Jesus could return to fully establish his kingdom on Earth at any time, but that we do not presume to know when that time will be.
If we have such a balanced view, then what should our response be? For knowing that the kingdom of God is at hand surely demands a response.
We should certainly seek to make the most of each day, since we see that neither Earth nor our Earthly bodies have an unlimited supply of days. But what should be our first response?
Our first response should be what Jesus called people to do, what he calls us to do – “Repent and believe the gospel.”  For sooner or later, he will come again and judge the living and the dead.
Now many series of sermons have been and could be preached on repentance and belief.  But since you probably do not desire for me to be up here preaching until the Lord returns, I will very briefly summarize what it means to “repent and believe the gospel.”
To repent means to turn, to completely change direction, away from your sin towards God.  It is more than only agreeing with God that he is right and that your sin is wrong.  It is acting upon that agreement and changing direction to follow Jesus, to seek to walk in his ways.  That’s repentance.
To “believe the gospel,” we need to know just what is the gospel. As we mentioned, the Gospel of St. John summarizes the gospel very well.  That Jesus is God from eternity past who entered human time, who entered history to live, die, and rise again for us, to save us so that we may live with him in His kingdom for eternity future.  And to believe the gospel is, again, more than just agreeing with that, but trusting in Jesus and in his life, death, and resurrection for us.
As we’ve seen, that is the very reason St. John and all four evangelists wrote -- that, in John’s words, “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.”
May God help us to repent.  May He help us to believe.  And may He help us to live like it.  For the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to hear you as you proclaim, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” Help us to repent. Help us to believe. For the time grows shorter and shorter before you come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead; and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ.  We earnestly desire to be loyal and obedient subjects of that kingdom. We desire to be loyal and obedient subjects of Thee, King Jesus.  So help us.  Help us through Thy Holy Spirit and through Thy powerful yet tender mercies.  Amen. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Unusual Takes on Epiphany Readings from Pusey House

A friendly tip: when one listens to a sermon from the current Principal of Pusey House, do not allow your mind the usual drifting. Otherwise, you will surely miss something. For George Westhaver’s sermons are brief, fast-paced, and packed!
And so it is with his first sermon of Hilary Term this past First Sunday after Epiphany (the text of which may be found on the Pusey House recent sermons page).  His unusual takes on two Epiphany readings are especially edifying.
On the Gospel from the end of Luke 2, Dr. Westhaver suggests that the wisdom of the 12-year-old Jesus may have come more from his being unclouded from sin than from his divine nature.
This had not occurred to me.  But it is in line with Dr. Pusey’s view, noted in Westhaver’s DPhil thesis, that sin can and does cloud the intellect.  Accordingly, Westhaver in his sermon contends, “We don’t know what a human mind free from the pollution of sin is capable of.”
Then he presents the anxious search of Mary and Joseph for the boy Jesus as a type of our search for Him.  This, too, is an unusual take today but in line with Dr. Pusey’s thinking.  For, as the aforementioned thesis examines, Pusey advocated a revival of typological interpretation of scripture and rightly thought our study of scripture is impoverished if we are not alert for types.  Westhaver’s take in his sermon demonstrates how types can enrich interpretation:
The events of the Gospel are not just stories about Him, they are stories about us. We should not be surprised that before Christ has fully grown up within us, before he has fully taken possession of us, that he may appear to be lost to us. We find ourselves in the situation of the bride in the Song of Songs, ‘I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways will I seek him whom my soul loveth’.[1]  The experience of the saints through the ages has been that there are times when Christ seems lost to us, and the only way to find him is with a kind of struggle and anxiety. 
The Gospel does give us some pointers to help us in the search. We may still expect to find our Lord in his temple, His Father’s House, in the place of worship, not only there, but certainly there. We don’t need to be afraid of our questions and doubts – He will listen to us with the same attention he gave the Doctors, his attention is His love. We can also expect him [to] address us with penetrating questions, His love for us, questions which are no less difficult than the journey, questions which are part of the answers He will give us, also in Love. 
Turning to the Gospel for the Feast of Epiphany itself, the sermon also uses Herod and the travels of the Magi as types.  Herod represents our fallen selfish nature that prefers King Me to King Jesus.  And, as the Magi were directed to avoid Herod after they met Jesus, so we need to avoid selfish grasping King Me after we meet King Jesus.
Herod is not just a figure in history. We too have to avoid Herod, because we all have something of Herod in us.  Herod did not want to have a rival, and it is part of our condition that we don’t want to have another king, even a king as wise and as good as Christ. Even after we have seen and adored Christ, we still have something of Herod in us, and so we must avoid our Herod-nature.  If we want to the transformed minds which share in the divine freedom and light, then we need to turn away from the Herod-nature in us.
Did I mention George Westhaver’s sermons are packed?  So do read it for yourself.  And, as you are able, avail yourself of the wealth of erudition and activities at Pusey House, both past and present.
Yes, Hilary Term is off to a very good start at Pusey House.

[1]Song 3.1-2

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Perfect. Anglican Communion Ambassador to Rome is a Resurrection Denier.

Archbishop Cranmer is among those provoked that an open Resurrection denier has been appointed Interim Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, which is effectively the embassy of the Anglican Communion to The Vatican. Hence its Director is in effect the Ambassador of the Anglican Communion to The Vatican.
The said Resurrection denier is the Very Rev’d Dr John Shepherd, formerly Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Perth, and Chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford from 1980 to 1988.  For Easter, he has said the following and more:
The Resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the Resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body.

Jesus’ early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts. But they’re not historical records as we understand them. 
There’s video, too:
But Happy Easter anyway!
One wonders if he would have been appointed if he were an open “Climate Change Denier.”  Heck, we wonder no such thing.  We know what would have happened.
But personally I am only mildly provoked by this appointment.  It is old hat really.  And, frankly, the Romans under Pope Franco deserve an insulting appointment like this.  The Vatican has a LibPope who enables and promotes abusing and abuse-enabling LibChurchers.  Really, The Vatican deserves worse than John Shepherd.  I hope Gene Robinson and Peter Ball were given due consideration.
This appointment is also appropriate due to the history of openly apostate bishops in the Anglican Communion, none of whom have been defrocked for fifty years and more if my memory is correct.  John Shelby Spong, David Jenkins, Shepherd, and no telling how many other allegedly Anglican bishops and clergy have openly denied and even mocked the physical resurrection of Christ.  How many have been defrocked? Hmmm?
That has provoked me for decades and still does. But with that history in mind, John Shepherd is a very appropriate appointment indeed.  Canterbury and Rome deserve no less.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Are we at Revelation 13:17?

When I was younger and more Dispensationalist, I took the Book of Revelation pretty literally.  I therefore expected Revelation 13:17 to be fulfilled by a world government requiring an actual mark or tattoo of some sort with those not submitting being unable to buy or sell.
Now with bar codes and the like (and with several governments making cash more and more unusable), such a literal fulfillment is certainly possible.  But I am beginning to wonder if a less literal fulfillment is happening now.  For both governments and corporations are making doing business more difficult for those who do not submit to lib/left cultural standards.  Robert Spencer of JihadWatch has been banned by Patreon and MasterCard.  The State of New York has made banking difficult for the National Rifle Association.  And this is for starters only.  Those in power, both government and corporate power, with totalitarian tendencies are making life more and more difficult for more and more of those determined to exercise their free speech against various Leftisms and Islam.
Jordan Peterson is so concerned about Patreon’s part in the attacks on free speech that he is leaving that platform.  His announcement of that also summarizes much of the current war on free speech. 
Bishop Gavin Ashenden has also noted the use of finance to attack free speech.  He, too, wonders if this is Revelation 13:17 happening today.  
And really such a less literal fulfillment is more likely. Why should “the Beast” bother with putting physical marks on everybody if invasive modern technology can be used more effectively to “deplatform” and defund those who refuse to submit? That certainly seems the direction the beast of tyranny seems to be going today in its attacks on free speech.
And remember this is not the first time corporations have been the willing tools of tyrants.  That is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany and what has been happening in China for years.
And now it’s beginning to happen even in the United States. Whether this is Revelation 13:17 or not, that should alarm.