Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cheer, Cheer for Old Jerome Bettis!!

ND Bettis

I'm pulling for Jerome Bettis to win this year's Super Bowl. Cheering for the Steelers was made much easier when the team showed up in Detroit yesterday wearing Notre Dame Green with #6 on them (Bettis' number at ND).


Monday, January 23, 2006

New Audio Sermons

I have just added some new audio sermons from my time in the Peace Reformed Pulpit. These messages seem fairly relevant for these days...

Streaming: Peace, Purity and Unity: A Sermon on 2 Cor. 13:5-14

The download is here for you podcast types.

Streaming: When God Tells You to Jump in the Lake - 2 Kings 5. Download here

Streaming: The Others - Romans 1:1-17. Download here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's All About the Christology!!!

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

I guess I made it, but I don't know what the heck happened to Wayne.

December 5, 1971

I called the rectory in my home town today. I am somewhat embarrassed that I did not know this before, but the above date is my spiritual birthday. I was baptized on December 5, 1971 at St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Anderson, Indiana.

Many Christians can name the date of their evangelical awakenings. I suppose that I have had such experiences now and again over the years, but I have never been able to bring myself to name one of them as the date of my conversion. I have always said and written that my life as a Christian began with my baptism as an infant. Now I have a real space and time day to go with it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Thoughts on the AMiA Winter Conference 2006

For a good time now I have been fearful of whether the African face of AMiA was the real deal. Not that I had any particular reason for this suspicion, mind you. The folks that I have met over the past couple of years in Chicago and now in St. Louis have been of exceptional quality and integrity. They have manifested a deep concern for the catholicity of the Church and fidelity to the Apostolic Faith. Put simply, I feel very proud and humbled to know such people. The concern was the manner in which the Mission came into being in the first place. Episcopalians have permitted so much revisionism to flourish under their aegis that one is rightly suspicious of the sudden retreat toward orthodoxy when a gay bishop is ordained. After all, if you can embrace all the other terrors of modernity, what could occasion the sudden exclusion except a pernicious homophobia?

Of course, I have long given up this fear when it comes to the AMiA folk that I know personally, but the question has remained when it comes to the broader organization. I already know that St. Louis and Chicago are the catholic strongholds of AMiA where other places give greater latitude to the “happy-clappy,” church growth element of American evangelicalism. I could stomach that as long as the Liturgy of the Prayer Book remained intact, but the bigger question was whether the realpolitick that drives more banal evangelical church practices drives the Anglican Mission’s ecclesiological self-understanding as well. Put simply, are the bishops of the so-called Global South really bishops, or do they merely function as a wax nose giving ecclesiastical cover to otherwise disaffected, maverick evangelical conservatives?

Fortunately, the Global South bishops are true bishops. Far from disconnected or ignorant of the specific cultural challenges in North America, they demonstrate a far subtler understanding of our situation than most of us are of there’s. Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia addressed the gathered crowd in his opening night homily and felt no discomfort whatsoever in admonishing us as our bishop. Our Primate, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda demonstrated his ease with being in charge by extending the Liturgy an extra half-hour while inviting the other seven visiting primates to address us individually. Turning to the American missionary bishops, Kolini then told us that he has “never regretted laying hands on” the Rt. Rev. Chuck Murphy and the Rt. Rev. John Rogers. Now, it’s pretty hard to get at the flavor of these actions, but they communicated to me a certain comfort with ecclesiastical authority – not lorded over those under their charge, but humbly expressed without self-consciousness.

The general African flavor of AMiA also plays out in the manner that the churches relate to one another. Far from being beholden to the money that comes from the richer Western churches, the Africans have declared themselves in broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada despite the financial cost. In AMiA, there is certainly a monetary benefit to Rwanda and other African provinces, but there is no hint of our playing the role of condescending benefactors. Rather, it is they who consider us impoverished for the poor state of the Church in the West. One Archbishop told us of his conversion at the age of eighteen because of the efforts of Western missionaries. To paraphrase his comments, Americans had brought the light of the Gospel to that which was formerly called the “Dark Continent,” but now that a great darkness has settled on us, those to whom our grandparents had brought enlightenment were bringing a little of that light back to us.

If it is to be believed that in the next millennium the center of gravity in Christendom will shift away from Europe and North America to regions south of the Equator, AMiA stands to be a leader organization in the United States. AMiA is already working on the question of how to more closely integrate the theological and clerical formation of priests on both continents. Africa stands to benefit from the great Western theological tradition and the West stands to benefit from the development and appropriation of distinctive African theologies.
There are some 76 million Anglicans worldwide and the numbers will increase principally in Africa. Archbishop Bernard Molango of Central Africa told a small number of us that he is confirming at least a hundred new converts annually in each of the parishes of his diocese. Other of the bishops gathered confirmed this general sense that God is working powerfully in Africa.

I have long been concerned about the real power of Reformed Presbyterianism to really go the distance in the new millennium. Its confessional tradition, liturgical minimalism, and general suspicion of symbol, ritual, tradition, and embodied spirituality seem only appealing to rich white-folk. The problem, however, is the seeming absence of an alternative. Now, I am the last guy to buy into a fad or a sales pitch and I am generally post-cynical, but this week was truly amazing and it has stoked both my enthusiasm and imagination for what shape my vocation may take in the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Calvin's Eucharist and Local Presence (Part 2)

In 1 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that had failed to embody Christian koinonia. In that community, the eucharist had not yet been separated from the larger communal meal. Apparently when the Corinthian Christians came together, the meal would begin with the breaking of the bread, then each believer would “take out” (v. 21) his own meal to consume it without sharing (v. 21) or “waiting upon” (v. 33) others. This lack of mutual sharing, one getting drunk while another went hungry, underscored the social and economic inequities within the community and compounded the oppression of the poorer believers. The Apostle chastens them saying, "When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat." (v. 20). To paraphrase, St. Paul is saying, “You are celebrating a supper all right, but don’t deceive yourself into thinking that it is the Lord’s supper.” What is being described, then, is not a general instance of the manducatio impiorum, but the specific instance where a professing Christian congregation invalidated their eucharist by failing to discern their own identity as the ecclesial body of Christ. St. Paul looked at their foodways and saw no evidence that they had really understood the kingdom Christ was bringing into the world. The Corinthian church didn’t look like the Kingdom of God at all. It was as though Jesus had never been crucified. The scandalon is that this cognitive dissonance took place even as they communed in Christ’s sacramental body.

Should we wish to make the secondary application of this passage to general instances of the manducatio impiorum, it is important to keep the question of cognitive dissonance in mind. When St. Paul warns the Corinthian Christians regarding the “unworthy” or better “careless” reception of the eucharist, he is describing their failure to “discern” a body that is really and objectively present both sacramentally and ecclesiastically. If an unbeliever presents himself at the altar of a true Christian church, he objectively partakes of the sacramental body of Christ because he partakes in the objective presence of the gathered ecclesial body of Christ. Now it is true that an unworthy or careless participant in the eucharist, whatever his profession, eats and drinks only “judgement to himself,” but this is because of his failure to discern something that is objectively there. The ecclesial body and the sacramental body stand and fall together. For this reason, St. Paul says that unworthy participants are guilty, not of eating mere bread and wine only, but of “profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Put simply, faith discerns the body and blood of Christ; it does not manifest them. The incarnation of the body of Christ is an objective reality and his being present is underwritten by the promise: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).

This manner of resolving the difficulty inherent in the question of the real presence has a real pastoral payoff and an inherent practical benefit. First, the notion that the real presence is restricted to those who receive with true faith would seem to annul the Reformed notion of sola gratia. As soon as the presence of Christ, and thus the validity of the eucharist, depends on the quality or character of our faith, we move from an economy of gift giving to an economy of exchange. Faith becomes the currency that procures the presence of Christ. This would not seem to represent a biblical understanding of how God manifests himself. To return briefly to prophetic conceptions of “day of Yahweh,” the sudden coming of the Lord to his temple is a given (Cf. Mal.3:1). While this coming of God may signal the advent of salvation or damnation—of vindication or desolation—the faithlessness of God’s people is irrelevant to his appearance. Indeed, when Christ fulfills the promise of Malachi it is in his “judgment” (contra “cleansing”) of the temple (Cf. Matt.21:12; Mk. 11:15; Jn.2:14-15). It is for this reason that prior to communing at table, our Book of Common Prayer prescribes the so-called “prayer of humble access” for the Priest who prays “in the name of all those who shall receive the communion:”
We do not presume to come to this, Thy table, trusting in our own righteousness but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Thy table. But Thou art the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord so to eat the flesh of Thy dear Son Jesus Christ and to drink His blood, that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us.

As clergy we can never give the appearance that we are turning people back upon themselves or their spiritual own resources as the means of their healing. Better here on pastoral grounds to prefer the Formula of Concord’s construal of the presence of Christ to that of Calvin:
We believe, teach, and confess that not only the true believers [in Christ] and the worthy, but also the unworthy and unbelievers, receive the true body and blood of Christ; however, not for life and consolation, but for judgment and condemnation, if they are not converted and do not repent, 1 Cor. 11, 27. 29.

For although they thrust Christ from themselves as a Savior, yet they must admit Him even against their will as a strict Judge, who is just as present also to exercise and render judgment upon impenitent guests as He is present to work life and consolation in the hearts of the true believers and worthy guests.

We believe, teach, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guest, namely, those who do not believe, concerning whom it is written John 3, 18: He that believeth not is condemned already. And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated, by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper, 1 Cor. 11, 29.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Calvin's Eucharist and Local Presence

Although the the Articles of Religion do not directly reference Calvin, their use of Augustine in Article 22 is nearly a direct quote from Calvin’s Institutes 4.17.34, [Battles Vol. 2, 1404]. Unfortunately this seems to represent a rather selective use of Augustine. While it is true that Augustine writes, “he who received the power of the Sacrament, not only the visible Sacrament; and indeed inwardly, not outwardly; and who eats with the heart, not who presses with the teeth” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 26.12), Calvin is highly selective when he uses Augustine to support his doctrine. Elsewhere, Augustine is able to make the following affirmations that seem to affirm a local presence:

That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God is the Body of Christ (corpus est Christi). That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ (sanguis est Christi). Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend his Body and Blood, which he poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. (Sermones 227, PL 38)

Christ was carried in his own hands [Ferebatur enim Christus in manibus suis] when, referring to his own Body, he said, 'This is my Body.’ For he carried that body in his hands [Ferebat enim illud corpus in manibus suis]. (Enarrationes in Psalmos 33:1, 10, PL 36).

None of this is new, of course, but I'm starting to lose confidence with regard to Calvin's rejection of the local presence and in his treatment of the manducatio impiorum. I could use some help if anyone wants to set me straight.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Strike Three ... Throw this guy out!

Pat Robertson

This is one of those times where the scandal of a divided Christendom is particularly pressing.

For the handful of you who are yet unaware, Pat Robertson has recently gone on record attributing Ariel Sharon's stroke to the divine judgement of God for his trading away land for peace. Back in the Fall, of course, he was praying for the death of more Supreme Court members and advocating the assassination of a Venezuelan head of state.

It's too bad that we have allowed for a situation in which professed Christian leaders are accountable to no one for their words. Some mechanism should exist to inhibit him. Unfortunately, there is no umpire to call Robertson out on his third strike.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Epiphany Icon

The EPIPHANY, or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles.

God, who by the leading of a star didst
manifest thy only-begotten Son to the
Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know
thee now by faith, may after this life have the
fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.