Our God and King, who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is worth your read, especially if you are one who considers yourself to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” Excerpted from The Joyful Christian.
Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you… They all say “the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion.” I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means “the science of God,” and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?
In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”
Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real, to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America [from England].
Now Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But the map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you or I are likely to get on our own way are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.
Troubling times indeed for the Anglican Communion. It is precisely during these times that we must remember and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church (TEC), will receive an honorary degree from Oxford University. The award — announced last week (Feb. 6) — will be presented on June 25 in the presence of some of the world’s top scholars and fellow religious leaders.
“This award, richly deserved, affirms Bishop Katharine’s remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion, which she has dedicated to the service of Christ,”said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Institutions like Oxford are certainly free to honor anyone whom they wish. I have no argument with that.
But how can the Archbishop of Canterbury offer such fulsome praise for Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schori who, in defiance of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998), has accelerated the unilateral innovations of same-sex blessings and consecrations of same-sex partnered clergy as bishops that have brought terrible division to the Anglican Communion? How can Justin Welby say with any ecclesial integrity that she has “remarkable gifts of intellect dedicated to the service of Christ” when the unilateral innovations she has championed have destroyed that deeper spiritual unity in Christ for which Anglicans pray—that spiritual unity which is the highest good of the Anglican Communion and the very basis for its mission?
How can Justin Welby ascribe “remarkable intellectual gifts dedicated to the service of Christ” to a leader who has been challenged time and again over the last ten years by the Windsor Process itself, who has ignored the moratoria begged of her and TEC, and whose acceleration of those innovations was the very cause for the response of the Anglican Churches in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and elsewhere in the majority Global South which offered pastoral care and covering to those Episcopalians, now Anglicans, who would not submit to her innovations as a matter of conscience and fidelity to Biblical teaching and Lambeth Resolution 1.10?
Is such conduct really an expression of remarkable intellect in the service of Christ?
Our place is not the auditorium but the stage—or, as the case may be, the field, workshop, study, laboratory—because we ourselves form part of the creative apparatus of God, or at least are meant to form part of the creative apparatus of God. He made us in order to use us, and use us in the most profitable way; for his purpose, not ours. To live a
spiritual life means subordinating all other interests to that single fact. Sometimes our position seems to be that of tools; taken up when wanted, used in ways which we had not expected for an object on which our opinion is not asked, and then laid down. Sometimes we are the currency used in some great operation, of which the purpose is not revealed to us. Sometimes we are servants, left year in, year out to the same monotonous job. Sometimes we are conscious fellow-workers with the Perfect, striving to bring the Kingdom in. But whatever our particular place or job may be, it means the austere conditions of the workshop, not the free-lance activities of the messy but well-meaning amateur; clocking in at the right time and tending the machine in the right way. Sometimes, perhaps, carrying on for years with a machine we do not very well understand and do not enjoy; because it needs doing, and no one else is available. Or accepting the situation quite quietly, when a job we felt that we were managing excellently is taken away. Taking responsibility if we are called to it, or just bringing the workers their dinner, cleaning and sharpening the tools. All self-willed choices and obstinacy drained out of what we thought to be our work; so that it becomes more and more God’s work in us.
—From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill
If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philosophical importance.
The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The NT has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of [having] a [vacation] at sea. We are far too easily pleased.
—C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Christmas sermon preached by then Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright in 2005. I strongly commend it to you for your serious reflection.
That is the puzzle of Christmas. And, to get to its heart, see how it works out in the rest of John’s gospel. John’s Prologue is designed to stay in the mind and heart throughout the subsequent story. Never again is Jesus himself referred to as the Word; but we are meant to look at each scene, from the call of the first disciples and the changing of water into wine right through to the confrontation with Pilate and the crucifixion and resurrection, and think to ourselves, this is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh. Or, if you like, look at this man of flesh and learn to see the living God. But watch what happens as it all plays out. He comes to his own and his own don’t receive him. The light shines in the darkness, and though the darkness can’t overcome it it has a jolly good try. He speaks the truth, the plain and simple words, like the little boy saying what he had for breakfast, and Caiaphas and Pilate, incomprehending, can’t decide whether he’s mad or wicked or both, and send him off to his fate.
But, though Jesus is never again referred to as the Word of God, we find the theme transposed, with endless variations. The Living Word speaks living words, and the reaction is the same. ‘This is a hard word,’ say his followers when he tells them that he is the bread come down from heaven (6.60). ‘What is this word?’, asks the puzzled crowd in Jerusalem (7.36). ‘My word finds no place in you,’ says Jesus, ‘because you can’t hear it’ (8.37, 43). ‘The word I spoke will be their judge on the last day’, he insists (12.48) as the crowds reject him and he knows his hour has come. When Pilate hears the word, says John, he is the more afraid, since the word in question is Jesus’ reported claim to be the Son of God (19.8). Unless we recognise this strange, dark strand running through the gospel we will domesticate John’s masterpiece (just as we’re always in danger of domesticating Christmas), and think it’s only about comfort and joy, not also about incomprehension and rejection and darkness and denial and stopping the ears and judgment. Christmas is not about the living God coming to tell us everything’s all right. John’s gospel isn’t about Jesus speaking the truth and everyone saying ‘Of course! Why didn’t we realise it before?’ It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations, and the darkness not comprehending it. It’s about God, God-as-a-little-child, speaking the word of truth, and nobody knowing what he’s talking about.
Received via email.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
It’s hard to believe, but the Season of Advent is upon us! It seems just like yesterday that it was summer and now we find ourselves four weeks from the celebration of Christ’s Incarnation. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is so wasy to become distracted and overwhelmed by the many demands of this time of the year put upon us. Let’s put some things about this season of Advent into perspective:
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is our job as Christ’s body here on earth, to celebrate his presence in our midst daily through Word and sacrament. What ways can we reach out to those who are isolated, depressed and alone? Are there tangible ways to reach our to the needy and the destitute to let them know that God is with them and that He cares for them in a powerful way?
Take time to remember the reason for the season and diocesan family, let’s BE the change we want to see in the world!
Peace and All Good,
I remain yours in the power of Christ,
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes
O loving Creator, bring healing and hope to those who, at this time, grieve, suffer pain, or who have been made homeless by the force of flood in Philippines.
We remember those who have died and we pray for those who mourn for them.
May we all be aware of Your compassion, O God, which calms our troubled hearts and shelters our anxious souls.
May we pray with humility with our troubled and struggling brothers and sisters on earth.
May we dare to hope that through the generosity of the privileged, the destitute might glimpse hope, warmth and life again.
Through our Savior Christ who lives with us, comforts us and soothes us. Amen.
who raised up Charles Simeon
to preach the good news of Jesus Christ
and inspire your people in service and mission:
grant that we with all your Church may worship the Saviour,
turn in sorrow from our sins and walk in the way of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
But the glorious news is that, although during the present life we struggle with sin, and may or may not make small and slight progress towards genuine holiness, our remaining propensity to sin is finished, cut off, done with all at once, in physical death. ‘The body is dead because of sin,’ declares Paul, ‘but the spirit is life because of righteousness’ (Romans 8:10). John and Paul combine together to state the massive, central and vital doctrine which is at the heart of the Christian good news: those who believe in Jesus, though they die, yet shall they live; and those who live and believe in him will never die (John 11:25–6). Or, to put it the way Paul does: if we have died with Christ, we shall live with him, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead will not die again; and you, in him, must regard and reckon yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:8–11). ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2).
I therefore arrive at this view: that all the Christian departed are in substantially the same state, that of restful happiness. This is not the final destiny for which they are bound, namely the bodily resurrection; it is a temporary resting place. As the hymn puts it:
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest:
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Since they and we are both in Christ, we do indeed share with them in the Communion of Saints.
–N.T. Wright, For All the Saints: Remembering the Christian Departed
Blessed are you, Sovereign God,
ruler and judge of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In the darkness of this age that is passing away
may the light of your presence which the saints enjoy
surround our steps as we journey on.
May we reflect your glory this day
and so be made ready to see your face
in the heavenly city where night shall be no more.
Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever. Amen.
you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.