Dr. John Stott on the Ascension (2)

There is no need to doubt the literal nature of Christ’s ascension, so long as we realize its purpose. It was not necessary as a mode of departure, for ‘going to the Father’ did not involve a journey in space and presumably he could simply have vanished as on previous occasions. The reason he ascended before their eyes was rather to show them that this departure was final.  He had now gone for good, or at least until his coming in glory.  So they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and waited – not for Jesus to make another resurrection appearance, but for the Holy Spirit to come in power, as had been promised.

Understanding the Bible, 103.

Dr. John Stott on the Ascension (1)

It is a pity that we call it ‘Ascension Day’, for the Bible speaks more of Christ’s exaltation than of his ascension. This is an interesting avenue to explore. The four great events in the saving career of Jesus are described in the Bible both actively and passively, as deeds done both by Jesus and to Jesus. Thus, we are told with reference to his birth both that he came and that he was sent; with reference to his death both that he gave himself and that he was offered; with reference to his resurrection both that he rose and that he was raised; with reference to his ascension both that he ascended and that he was exalted. If we look more closely, we shall find that in the first two cases, the active phrase is commoner: he came and died, as a deliberate, self-determined choice. But in the last two cases, the passive phrase is more common: he was raised from the tomb and he was exalted to the throne. It was the Father’s act.

—The Exaltation of Jesus (sermon on Phil. 2:9-11)

Pope Leo the Great on the Ascension of Jesus

With all due solemnity we are commemorating that day on which our poor human nature was carried up, in Christ, above all the hosts of heaven, above all the ranks of angels, beyond the highest heavenly powers to the very throne of God the Father. And so our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high. This faith was increased by the Lord’s ascension and strengthened by the gift of the Spirit.

A Prayer for the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus

O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Savior Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

From The Book of Common Worship

Fr. Dwight Longenecker: Disturbed by the Presidential Election?

Every once in awhile Fr. Longenecker gets it right. If you are a Christian, remember that Jesus is Lord. See what you think.

So I not only want to vote local, I want to live local and love local. If there are social problems, I want to get involved at the parish level. If there are economic problems I want to see what we can do in our own parish to help the poor, the unemployed, the needy and the immigrants. If there are family problems I want to get involved in helping to solve them at the local, parish level.

I advise you to do the same. Do not fret about the national elections. Do not fret about whatever corrupt, ignoramus gets elected to the White House.

Live local. Love local. Worship local.

This is where life is real. This is what matters. This is where you can roll up your sleeves and make a difference.

Get involved in loving God and loving your neighbor here and now where you live and where you are.

Leave the corrupt politicians to their devices, hope for the best, expect the worst.

Pray and don’t worry.

Read it all.

Regis Nicoll: Wilberforce for Good

For those of you who do not know William Wilberforce, he was an 18th century Anglican who, along with the Clapham Sect (a group of Christians), almost single-handedly brought about the abolition of slavery in England, a remarkable accomplishment. I agree with the author’s thesis. As Christ’s body, we’ve got a lot of work to do on a lot of fronts, starting with our own house. See what you think.

When the behaviors and beliefs of Christians mirror those of their unbelieving neighbors, it is evidence that the Church is a product of the culture it is called to transform, and that instead of producing disciples, it has been turning out “belonging nonbelievers,” if not “functional atheists.”

So, if you want find fault for the recent Court ruling, look no further than the doorstep of the Church and a decades-long ethos of non-discipleship Christianity. The thing is, the solution to our national condition starts at the same threshold.

No one knew that better than the British abolitionist William Wilberforce.

In the eighteenth century, Great Britain was the great world power, as is the United States today. But it was also a country marred by rampant alcoholism, prostitution, political corruption, and the social injustices of hazardous factories, sixteen-hour workdays, and child labor. Crime, vice, and corruption were so bad in London that the city earned the epithet, “the devil’s drawing room.” On top of that, Britain was the world leader in the slave trade, a moral failing that Wilberforce sought to correct.

As a young parliamentarian, Wilberforce realized that while politicians and their policies bore responsibility for the execrable conditions of the day, they were not the cause of those conditions. The cause was the moral decline of society, which was owed, in large part, to the failure of the Church.

At the time, the Church of England was in full retreat from historical Christianity. Pew and pulpit were marked by nominal-to-heterodox beliefs. Lay non-attendance was widespread, as was clerical neglect of congregational care.

Read it all.

Bishop Roger Ames: The God Who Makes Himself Known

Sermon delivered on Easter 6C, Sunday, May 1, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Bishop Roger Ames is our guest preacher today. There is no written text for today’s sermon. Click here to listen to the audio podcast of Bishop Ames’ sermon. It’ll be worth your while.

Lectionary texts: Acts 16.6-15; Psalm 67.1-7; Revelation 21.10, 21.22-22.5; John 14.23-29.

CT Book Review: Reading Esther in the Shadow of ISIS

Reviewer: Gerald McDermott. Some really good insights in this review. Looks like a fascinating book as well. See what you think.

51Nfg7bFvoL._SX140We know from the story that God’s plan to deliver the Jews from annihilation succeeded. But was it an act of God that overruled human freedom? Or was it an act of human courage and political genius that God observed from a distance?

Hazony argues that too often Jews (and, I would add, Christians) have treated this as an either-or question. They think that if God were in control, then humans would be mere pawns; or if humans make the right decisions, then God is merely the observer and not the cause. (Hazony maintains that this is a “God of the gaps” theory that thinks of God “intervening” occasionally to change things that otherwise go on without him.)

The biblical authors, he counters, would have none of this. Their principal metaphor for the human-divine relationship was brit, the Hebrew word for “covenant,” where God acts through human choices. Both are totally involved. As Jonathan Edwards put it, “God does all and man does all.” Edwards was paraphrasing the apostle Paul: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13).

Read it all.

Fr. Ric Bowser: Water and New Creation

Sermon delivered on Easter 5C, Sunday, April 24, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no written text for today’s sermon (but it is nice to know that science is finally catching up to religion!). To listen to the audio podcast of it, click here.

Lectionary texts: Acts 11.1-18; Psalm 148.1-14; Revelation 21.1-6; John 13.31-35.