Thursday, August 20, 2009

Resurrection and Life Everlasting



All of us know that we’re going to die some day, but we avoid talking about it or planning for this reality throughout most of our lives. As Catholic Christians we should realize that, as believers, God has a purpose for our life in this world and the next; death is the point between the two. What begins here on earth is integrally connected to life in eternity.
From ancient times to our present day we daily affirm “I believe in…The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting” in the offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. At each Holy Eucharist we affirm the same belief in the Nicene Creed. It is part of our daily Christian living to fill our present life with joy and peace—it is our hope, the promise not yet seen—that by God’s promise we have a future and it starts today!
For Christians death is but one point in our journey with Christ. We take up our cross daily as we follow our Lord knowing it leads to Calvary and there the sacrifice of Christ opens the way to life everlasting. Instead of “death” being “the one we do not name,” we must speak knowing that tomorrow we will live. We act knowing we’ll live forever. So we live, now and in the hour of our death, saying “I believe in…the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
While many non-Christians believe in some kind of immortality of the soul, some life beyond the grave; many envision a life of beauty and goodness. But this idea is based on a theory of immortality without scientific evidence of an imperishable essence of our humanity, and with the idea of a temporary partnership of body and soul; The body is subject to decay, but the soul lives on. It is a theory without empirical evidence, but with only a sense that “it ought to be true.”
The Christian has an entirely different reason for our belief in a life after death; it is not based on theory but on the belief in the resurrection—on a historical event that happened two thousand years ago. For the Catholic Christian we pray during our festival of the Resurrection, also known as Eastertide, that Jesus Christ “by his death hath destroyed death, and by his rising to life again that restored us everlasting life” (Proper Preface, Book of Common Prayer). This resurrection happened in history in the Easter event, when Jesus rose from the grave. Yes, this is the claim of Christians, of those who witnessed Jesus risen from the dead. Claims are asserted and accepted about many events such as, the Moon Landings and the Holocaust; the rejection by a few certainly does not dissuade us.
The second part of our Christian claim is that because this one man, Jesus, was raised we too shall be raised. This belief relies upon Jesus’ promise “I go to prepare a place for you.” For the Christian, the incarnation, person, and work of Christ are the foundation of our belief. We have witnesses of the risen Christ, many of whom suffered death for refusing to renounce their testimony even under torture. This resurrection was the fulfillment of God’s promise which the Hebrews had waited for centuries; the coming of the Promised One, the Messiah.
For the Christian our hope isn’t in something in us—putting our faith in man. Our hope is in the resurrection: hoping in God, not ourselves. Our faith is in the divine power and goodness of the God who loves us, not in human nature. We assert that we shall live beyond death and the grave because God raises us from death to new life in Him.
The Christian asserts that it is not just our soul but our whole person who lives beyond death. Resurrection is about the whole person, not divided into parts: soul, mind, or body. It is the whole of the person that lives, that suffers, that loves—the entirety of our human life. In life and in death we are a single, whole being. The Apostle’s Creed uses the words “resurrection of the flesh” to emphasize that not only our “soul” is resurrected but the whole person. Christians understand that the resurrection is more than a reanimation, but that our nature is a whole. We are that whole person at our conception, as a child, in adulthood, and beyond our death. We see the same person in their childhood and in their old age. Our path following Jesus was compared to a seed of wheat in the ground dying and then bringing forth abundant fruit (John 12.24). There is a relationship between our present physical body and our future resurrected body, or as Paul writes, of our natural body and raised spiritual body. We are God-created as whole persons for life in this world and for live in eternity.
The “it ought to be” sense of non-Christian theory hints at the natural sense of God creating life—Life is a miracle in this world and in the next because of God’s choosing to create us. Likewise we also have a natural sense that our body is part of, and partially defines who we are. We know our existence, our being, not as a trapped soul, but in the wholeness of our being.
As Christians we talk about death, not as a tragedy nor as the end. Pain and loss, sorrow and separation, and sin were overcome in the resurrection. It was God’s intention of love to create life—abundant life. God wants us for Himself, now and forever. God created us with the intention to bring us, our whole self, to be with Him and be enjoyed for all time. We shall see God face to face. As Christians we see this present life not ending in death, but as beginning a new stage. We live our lives, looking toward our death as “a beautiful birthday in heaven.”
So Christians say, “I believe in…the Resurrection: and the Life everlasting.”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Striving for Christian Unity


How great is our need for an increase of charity, especially when it comes to the household of God. All of us need look more carefully to the sanctification at work in our own life by the Holy Spirit. Our calling to be one in Christ Jesus is in his person, the fullness of God revealed to us. As with Paul, we need to look to the Gospel first preached and not even if Paul should come preaching a new Gospel. If we are to find this unity, we need to turn to the Word of God incarnate as made known to us in Holy Scripture and his Bride, the holy Church—one, catholic and apostolic.
The oneness of the Church is only found in Jesus Christ and any division of fellowship impairs its visibility and operability to be catholic and apostolic. Likewise our division of fellowship distorts our vision of Church authority when members of the body hold themselves apart or to be whole without the full fellowship of the body. So we need to look to God’s self-revelation which is agreed upon all—the authority and reliability of Holy Scripture. It is from the Word of God that unity of the Body springs forth as two or three Christians gathered manifest the presence of Christ because it is inherent in His Holiness, in His Being, not in ours.
For all of Anglicanism problems and failures, I believe it offers a gift to all Christians in its tenet that we hold no doctrine unique to Anglicanism, that is to say, as Anglicans we will only hold to those things believe and practiced by the whole of the Church. What is so sad of our unhappy division is we fail to see how vast is breadth of what we hold in common and how small are those things tend to overwhelm and steer us to further apart.
We must have greater commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It should incumbent upon us to look always to Christ and the love of the brethren. We all need to confess our need to repent for every failure to look first to Christ, personally, in our local fellowship, and in our wider fellowship. It is only in restoring our relationships one to another, as ministers of reconciliation, will sanctification bring us into the reality of the mystical union of the Triune God.
How great is our God!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New era of Anglicanism in North America



The last two weeks have marked great events in the life of our congregation and in wider Anglicanism. First, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)was officially established marking a major step toward the unity of Anglicans in the USA and Canada, but into union with the vast majority of the Anglican Communion throughout the world. We recognize that the two other significant segments of our tradition are taking steps toward the unity to which our Lord Jesus Christ has called us (the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Province of Christ the King). We are also saddened that “The Episcopal Church” continues to walk further apart from the “faith once delivered to the saints.” We have witness in the forming of the ACNA a commitment to work together for the mission of the Church, toward fuller communion, and in continuity with the life and practice of the faith grounded in Holy Scripture. Robert Duncan was elected Archbishop of this new province of the Anglican Communion by the College of Bishops who represent nine founding Church bodies and various jurisdictions, nationally and internationally. Our own bishops, Richard Boyce and Win Mott, have worked these past years toward the unity of Anglicanism. When Anglicans claim they have no doctrines unique to Anglicanism, but only holding to what was received and practiced by the whole of the Church, in all times and in places and by all, we must actualize this reality in a visible unity in Jesus Christ.

Second, Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity hosted the parishes of the Diocese of the West (Reformed Episcopal Church, and now Anglican Church in North America) for its annual gathering for the mission and work of the diocese. The three keynote addresses were on the place Youth as young participants in today's ministry as disciples of Jesus Christ, the prayer book teaching and practice of healing of individuals, for their being made whole and complete human beings, and the future for continuing the greater unity of the Church. We were able to see friends from past Synods and meet folks from new congregation in the diocese. We were especially blessed to have a group from Saint Andrew’s Academy providing music for Mass and Evensong worship. Their group include a couple of graduates, several residential students and even a couple of the boarding school students. What was evident throughout the Synod was how as Anglicans the prayer book embodies our Anglican identity in North America. While we don’t identify with a specific prayer book as a whole, although most use the 1928, we have inherited a form and shape to our common worship. Whether we look to the 1549 BCP, the Sarum Missal, or even a modern language form, we have a “North American” usage which reflects our history as a prayer book Church. As Bishop Boyce pointed out, “the prayer book is only a tool.” Worship is at the center of our being members of the Body, our growing in discipleship, our ministering to one another, and our mission to the world. It is our common prayer tradition that pull it all together. Much of the discussion, formally and informally, revolved around how we make Christ known to others and for Anglicans we come together, in common prayer, to encounter God present. It was interesting to note that in the ACNA our diocese has the highest percentage of earned doctorates among its clergy, but our discussion was about spiritual growth and mission, knowing Christ and making Christ known.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

National Day of Prayer


This coming Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. Saint Paul tells us we should pray for those in civil authority. Specifically we pray for our leaders that they would uphold what is godly and right. As President Obama stated last week in Turkey, we no longer live in a Christian country. All the more reason we should ask God to intervene in the lives of our elected leadership that principles of what is good and right might convict our leaders to stand not for some political ideology, but for a greater good.
Yes, we have an economic downturn and a growing debt burden being placed on the coming generations; we have a swine flu epidemic and loss conscious clauses threatening our health providers; we have unemployment and uncertainty. But as Christians we pray that God's hand might shape the course of our government and our nation, that we, the people of the United States, might fulfill God's purpose nationally and locally. Not just for the first 100 days of a new presidency, but for the generations that come after us.
The tendency of our government, the tendency as individuals is to think short term. As Christians we offer our prayer, our intercession on God's terms--eternity. Tomorrow we have the opportunity to ask God to conform the wills, the actions, and the minds of this country to His eternal purpose.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover


When Jesus and the 12 Apostles gathered in the Upper Room at the start of the Passover, it was clear this wouldn't be as every other Passover the 12 had grown up with in their Jewish homes.
Jesus began by washing the feet of the Apostles. Most of these men had not likely had their feet washed by someone since their mother or sibling had done for them as a child. They were not likely to have had servants to do this for them. So Jesus whom they have followed, who has taught them during the past three years, whom they've come to know as the promised Messiah, does this service, kneeling at their feet. What came to their minds? The picture of a King laboring over commoner's feet? Or was it the love of a parent for the child, of a friend for a friend? The image is not pointing to service, but service pointing to the Love of God.
Our Deacons and our Deaconesses in their visible acts of service provide an icon of Christ and His demonstration of Love. They are visible images pointing to the Love of God. And each of us is to point to the Love of God in our own service. Yes, we expect our diaconate to embody "service in the Name of Christ," but it is to inspire each of us, lay minister or bishop, to point others to the Love of God.
Unleavened bread, broken before the meal and share by all not recalling their being in slavery and bondage in Egypt, was taken by Jesus. Jesus didn't use the words everyone knew and expected, "This is the bread of affliction." But Jesus broke it saying, "This is my Body." He broke it, and gave it. God's freeing the Apostles from bondage and slavery was being accomplished in Jesus' very body and they would share in that new freedom. Though they undoubtedly didn't understand that evening, they came to understand it was sin and death from which they would receive in this Passover.
After supper Jesus took the Cup of Elijah, which looked to God sending the spirit of Elijah to prepare for the coming of the Messiah prophesied in Malachi. This cup was never picked up and drunk from, it was not shared. When Jesus took the cup saying, "This is my Blood." There was no mistaking that the way had been prepared for the coming Messiah. The blood of Passover was the sign marking the doors of the Hebrews in Egypt and the sacrifice for being restored to a right relationship with God. In His blood, Jesus' would make the perfect sacrifice with the perfect offering.
Today, on this Maundy Thursday, we are reminded this is a new covenant with a new commandment, a covenant in the Body and Blood of the perfect sacrifice of God's own Son and in sharing in that communion we are to point to the Love of God in all that we do.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Knowing the our neighbors: Why won't they believe?



When we become Christians we are called out of the world, into the Church (ek-klesiaout+called), into the family of God. We talk with our Church friends about things that are truly important in our lives. While our lives engage those of the world, we like being at home, in the comfort zone.
So we need to be reminded to whom we bring the message of God's gift of eternal life: those who are of the world; those whose view of the world tends to be quite different from those "called out."



  • Two-thirds believe truth is realitive to the individual and the circumstance. It is no wonder life feels like it is shifting underfoot and unpredictable.


  • Two-thirds don't believe Evil has a reality beyond an idea, a concept. There is no choice to participate, enter into, or follow Evil.


  • Three-quarters believe their good works or good behavior earns them a place in eternity. It isn't on any authoritative source, but a feeling that "it just seems right."


  • Half to two-thirds believe perfection is not possible and Jesus could not have been without sin.


  • Interestingly, more than two-thirds believe in a God that is all-powerful and an all-knowing Creator who still rules today.

It is this last point that we have a common ground with those "of the world." If we are to bring the Gospel to this age rocked or shattered by a world recession or depression which gives no hope, we begin with this Creator God, who loves His creation, and has made Himself known in the person of Jesus. This is the door to their seeing that God has a purpose and a plan for them. While the Mosaic generation (18-23 year olds) may not hold a biblical worldview, they are interested in nature (outdoors) and the enviroment. They still have a sense of awe looking at our world as they also have little hope in humanity.
This is a time of great opportunity for our making Christ known with our friends of the world. Keep this in mind as you read through the latest Barna Research paper on what people in the USA believe today. [The Barna Reseach Group is one of the leading surveyors of religious opinion in the USA.]



So knowing this, how are be shaping our Outreach to reach those who believe in a Creator and have no knowledge of Him?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Christians Stand For Life

God put before His people life and death. He says "Choose life!" It is the choice we must make and not get distracted by political maneuvering. God's Word, no matter how difficult, needs to frame our stance as Christians.


For Christians to say that last week's decision for the USA to fund international groups performing abortions is a disappointment doesn't begin to address our culpability in this massive genocide. In a society that is fanatic about the quality of life of our livestock, we are failing miserably to address the loss of human life occurring at a pandemic rate. A civilized society is measured by its ability to protect those who can not protect themselves, and it is most clearly seen in how it cares for its children and its elderly. Clearly the problem isn't the human life of the unborn child! The problem may be about effective contraception, sex education, teen pregnancy, and a whole host of real problems, but the life of the unborn. While clearly Holy Scripture sees life beginning at conception, we argue about definitions of embryo, fetus, viable, and other dividing lines terms which can't diminish the reality that we are talking about human life).


Honestly, I don't know of anyone who says abortion is good. If that is the case, we are saying it is the lesser of two evils, the killing of the unborn or what? It is the "what?" we have failed to wrestle with, to treat as problems and therefore having solutions. For Christians, life does not belong to us, our own or another's. Life and all of creation belongs to God. It isn't ours. We don't create the stars, sky, and oceans. We don't create children. Instead Christians understand that we live, move, and have our being, as a gift from God. We don't have a divine right, only an invitation to enter into God's creation process or to reject it. As Christians "choice" is set before us, life or death, to be with God or apart from Him. We need to choose life, not because we "must obey." No, we choose life so we might share in God redemptive, recreative love, and be the means by which God's love is brought into our "real problems."


This is a time for us to cry out to God as we are culpable for our actions as a society. We have failed to address the real problems and have chosen a great evil. We need to cry out to God because we've failed as Christians, as a moral country, as a civilized society. With our wealth, we are multiplying our failure and inflicting it upon the poor of this world. As Christians we've failed even to look at the problems, not to mention our call to serve, to be the means by which God ministers to those in distress, those suffering from "unspeakable" problems. My life, and I'm sure your life, is directly touched by these real problems. An unborn life is treated as the identified problem. But Life isn't a problem. We need to look to the real problems. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. For the real problems we need to bring God's love to the hurting, the pained lives of those suffering because of these problems. We don't care enough!


As we've failed to address the real problems, we have much for which we need to repent. We've failed to bring the power of God to bear upon, not the abortion clinic or agencies, but upon the suffering and tragedy of lives that need God's love. There is no room for religious "holier than thou" attitudes. As Christians we personally know our own sinfulness and how much we need God's help and forgiveness in our lives. And we've failed to share that power of God's love, even though we know how much we need it daily in our own lives. We have loved too little. Lord, have mercy upon us. Save us, help us with thine almighty hand!



And on the lighter side...Let's have a look a the weather forecast: