Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Confession of Saint Peter

Simon Peter Answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’.”
Matt 16:16 (NIV)

The Liturgical Calendar marks today as a remembrance of the “Confession of St. Peter”. I would have truly enjoyed celebrating the Eucharist this morning but alas, there is not one fully functional Anglican Church between my office and me. I pray that this will be soon resolved. I am not blogging to bemoan the lack of operational Anglican parishes in Stafford. Instead, I would like to consider Peter’s divinely inspired declaration, and the question that precipitated it.

Jesus and the Apostolic band were on the road traveling from the Galilean coast onto the region of Caesarea Philippi. The group had witnessed a string of miracles that concluded with a banquet for 4,000, courtesy of seven small loaves, a few fish, and the power of the Almighty. The stage was set for the big question:

Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

The group immediately offered up their answers. Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, all were bandied about.

“But who do you say I am?” Jesus continued.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Peter replied.

I don’t know, but seems that there may have been a pregnant pause in order to allow for the full impact of the statement. Its no doubt that all the eyes were darting between the Son of God and the son of Jonah. Then, Christ commends Peter and Proclaims that the very foundation of the Church is laid upon Peter’s bold statement.

This isn’t an event taken out of time; everyone will be faced with this very question at one point in their lives. Our answer, whether personal or corporate will speak volumes.

Can He be our “Christ” if we deny the veracity of His word or the sufficiency of His atonement? As the “Son of the Living God”, is He the sole doorway to the Father or one of many pathways? Is the Christ of Matthew 16:16, the Christ of “General Convention 2006”? I believe the answer to each of these questions is a resounding “No”.

God’s Church is built on this mighty, spirit-inspired declaration made by the son of Jonah. When the Church (or a church) moves off this foundation, it ceases to be the Church built by the Almighty. It has slipped its moorings and is tossed here and there on the angry sea. However, the church that is anchored to this rock is secure. Though the adversary may snarl and roar, it’ll not prevail. It’s schemes and threats will come to nothing.
Let's never forget this key truth: The Church isn't built on the plans of 815, or the objectives of any particular Diocese. The Church is built upon our Christ. Luther reminds us tonight that He is a "Mighty Fortress", and a "Bulwark never failing".

It Just Occurred to Me...

I was looking at the blog last evening when it occurred to me that nearly all the images on this site are pictures of rivers, etc. Hmmm...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Let the River Flow

Some thoughts at the beginning... This is a view of the Potomac River from my slip at the Quantico Marina. Don't let the blue skies and shimmering waters fool you, the shot was taken on a cold day in Feb 2005. As I stood there contemplating the picture, my mind was drawn to Christ's promise in John's Gospel. This said, can we consider a few things?
"Me-monkey theology", would have us believe that God the Father is like some over-indulgent Grandfather/Santa Claus figure who blesses all the children of God for no reason and no particluar end, Outside of the fact that the blessings were "claimed" by the blessee. The God of Scripture is quite a different person and when he blesses us, He does so that we might in-turn bless others.
God the Father causes "Living Waters" to flow from our lives that we might be instruments in His hands. Unlike a restless sea that ultimately drowns all who fall into it, this Living Water satisfies and encourages our fellow believers. As it flows from our lives, it touches saints and in-turn, brings glory to the Father. This blessing allows us to participate in the grand opus of the Almighty as His grace flows through us into the graceless world that surrounds us.
As we pray, let us ask the Father to make us a blessing to the household of faith, and the world around us. .

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Tipping Point

It has been one week since the Suffragan Bishop of Virginia, The Right Reverend David Jones, visited my parish in Stafford, VA. Bishop Jones is a gentleman in every sense of the word and was a gracious guest in what could have been a very tense meeting. The parishioners asked the Bishop many pointed questions that evening, yet accorded him the dignity of his office. It was a moment to be proud of the saints of Augustine Church. During this meeting, I asked Bishop Jones a simple, but direct question. “Sir, where is the tipping point,” I asked. “Where is the line where we say ‘No more’?” This tipping point arrived this past weekend in Pine Bluff Arkansas, as the Presiding Bishop repudiated once more, the exclusivity of Christ Jesus as the only Savior, Mediator and way to the Father.

We can debate any number of issues within the bounds of Christian love and charity. The healthy and organic church will continue to wrestle and reform until the Lord’s return. There are foundational tenants of the faith that are non-negotiational, that is if we still claim to profess to the historic orthodox faith. When we jettison Christ as THE WAY to the Father, we have nullified gospel, and the very foundation of His Church.

Though she may think otherwise, the Presiding Bishop speaks for her entire church. Even of she holds orthodox beliefs on a personal level, she betrays them with her public statements. In reducing the words and person of Jesus, she has blasphemed the Godhead itself. Not only has she not clarified her position, she reiterated this position recently in an Arkansas parish. In my assessment, the Presiding Bishop has in fact, crossed the Rubicon into heresy. Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori continues to advocate what is ostensibly a Universalist position. This is certainly a crucial tipping point.

It breaks my heart, but I can no longer remain in communion with a church that mitigates the Gospel of God. I cannot in good conscience celebrate a Liturgy and Eucharist in the name of one who is ostensibly just a good man and “a way” to the Father.

Bishop Jones, thank you for your visit. I continue to lift you up in prayer.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Vesper Meditations for the Reasserter

It's not easy taking a stand for the truth. Without the refreshment of prayer and the word, we're soon burned out and out of the fight. While praying the office of Evening Prayer (or Vespers, as I'm wont to call them) last night, I received a beautiful baptism of serenity. The text in blue is taken from the Order for Evening Worship (BCP pp. 108-114). The text is my 2 cents. I hope you're equally blessed...

Light and Peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

I’m certain that everyone who has ever taken a stand for the truth in the face of popular opinion has experienced some level of inner anxiety over their actions. Like the father who begged Christ “I believe, but help my unbelief”, tiny pockets of self-doubt nibble away at their minds and distract them, causing them to be overly introspective. In the midst of this, Christ brings His saints light to dispel the darkness of self-doubt, and peace that quiets our spirits. Light and Peace allow us to stand in His confidence.

It is not ourselves that we proclaim; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants, for Jesus' sake. For the sameGod who said, "Out of darkness let light shine," has caused his light to shine within us, to give the light of revelation—the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6

We’re not ill-tempered contrarians who delight in spoiling the fun of others. Reasserter, we’ve not taken this stand to bring attention to ourselves. Our message is neither novel nor new. We’re not banging our own drum and we’re certainly not sowing the seeds of schism for its own sake. We proclaim the eternal message of Christ Jesus. We speak God’s truth in a spirit of Love. This truth brings shines gloaming darkness, exposing false tolerance and political correctness as the diabolical inventions they are.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we give you thanks for surrounding us, as daylight fades, with the brightness of the vesper light; and we implore you of your great mercy that, as you enfold us with the radiance of this light, so you would shine into our hearts the brightness of your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Gracious Light Phos hilaron

O gracious light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praised, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of Life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Both The collect and hymn encourage us! There is no darkness that that won’t flee in terror from the Light of Christ. Though it only takes the flame of one candle to chase away the darkness, the glorious light of Christ drives away both darkness and shadow.

Almighty, everlasting God, let our prayer in your sight be as incense, the lifting up of our hands as the evening sacrifice. Give us grace to behold you, present in your Word and Sacraments, and to recognize you in the lives of those around us. Stir up in us the flame of that love which burned in the heart of your Son as he bore his passion, and let it burn in us to eternal life and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Even in the midst of our stand, let us be people of praise! We’re reminded of the Beatitudes where Christ declared:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:11-12 TNIV)

The Lord bless you and keep us. Amen.
The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. Amen.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.

We’re the apple of our Lord’s eye.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Standing Watch on the Bow

I usually pause this time of the year to take a tongue-in-cheek look in the rearview mirror. Between Hollywood, politics, Neocon follies and the like, there’s enough hay to keep a hack like me in a steady stream of copy. I’m not in the mood as 2006 closes and 2007 unfolds. I’ve been thinking about other things.

One church worships at the altar of political correctness while another becomes a troop of “me-monkeys” bent on naming and claiming heaven dry. This church tortures, twists, trashes or ignores scripture in order to celebrate aberrant behavior, while another continually invents and reinvents esoteric experiences that have neither basis nor precedent in Scripture. Sadly too, a growing number of evangelical churches who claim to be vanguards of Biblical truth have created what’s little more than an “Idiot’s Guide to Christianity”. I’m really troubled by this…

I’m tired of a dumbed-down, “Jesus for Dummies” version of Christianity…
I’m brokenhearted at seeing expressions of the historic faith hijacked by socio-sexual agendas…
My chops are frosted at seeing the Holy Spirit mocked and blasphemed by charlatans fleecing the ignorant through some manufactured manifestation…

Mostly, I’m disappointed with my own apathetic and complacent spirit.

It’s 2007 and there is a great challenge in front of us all. This year is an Undiscovered Country and my prayer for the next 12 months goes something like this:

Let us pray…
Almighty God,
Thank you for the passing of one more year.
Though you’ve not promised us tomorrow, you have given us this moment.
In this moment:
I pray that you make my life a living epistle for the entire world to read.
Let Your grace, mercy and peace be left for the lost in every step I take.

May your word no longer remain simply hidden in my heart, but rather let it pour from my lips like a spring of living water.
I want to know Christ, knowing the power of his resurrection, apprehending His sufferings and in like manner, dying to self.
Forgetting what is behind, Lord propel me forward toward the prize, the higher calling that’s found in Christ alone.
Let my back be strong, my hide tough and my heart tender.
I ask this in and through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.