"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

My Photo
Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Giotto, "Noli me tangere." 1304-06. Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Lord is risen, indeed!! Alleluia! Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Alleluia! Christ is risen! A blessed feast of the Resurrection to one and all.  Posted by Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bishop Iker on the House of Bishops

My bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker of Fort Worth, has issued a statement on the recent House of Bishops' "covenant." It may be found here . It is so refreshing to read a statement by a high-ranking ecclesiastic that speaks truthfully and plainly!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

Delivered at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church, March 24th. The text is the Lord's Supper in Luke 22.

The dozen men who reclined in the Upper Room with Jesus that first Maundy Thursday must have been exhausted. It had been a very busy four days. On Sunday their Master had made a royal procession into the Holy City, to the cheers of the multitude. He marched right up to the Temple, displaying righteous anger and fierce dedication to justice as He cast the money-changers and merchants out of His Father’s House. It had been a sight to behold. Finally something was happening! The ministry of Jesus appeared to have reached its climax. Despite Palm Sunday’s dramatic start, however, the following three days had taken a different turn. Jesus took up his familiar role as teacher again, preaching in the Temple against the hypocrisy of the present Jewish leadership. Their Master played a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the authorities as he taught around Jerusalem, staying only a step or two ahead of people who wanted to stone him or throw him in jail. And, as if fearing for their lives and liberty had not been hard enough on the disciples, Jesus had also instructed his friends privately about the End of Days, “when the powers of the heaven will be shaken,” “brother will deliver brother over to death,” and Christ’s faithful followers will stand trial before councils and kings. No doubt that news had a very positive effect on morale.

But on Thursday night the disciples looked forward to a bit of normality. They were about to partake in a Passover seder, just as they had done every year of their lives. Thirteen weary men were reclining at a dinner party, ready to recount again the saving acts of God. They would give thanks for that night long ago when the blood of the lamb meant the difference between life and death, when the Lord of Hosts had brought their ancestors out of bondage in Egypt. Of course, even the Passover meal couldn’t be quite normal when Jesus was involved. For some reason he had decided to celebrate it a day early. Other Jews wouldn’t even sacrifice their lambs until tomorrow, Friday, the Day of Preparation. But here Jesus and his friends were celebrating together on Thursday night. But I suppose when you have already seen your Rabbi feed multitudes, calm storms, walk on water, cast out demons, heal the sick and even raise the dead; you probably should cut him a little slack if he decides to reschedule a dinner party. Just relax and enjoy yourself.

But the normality of the evening came to an abrupt end. Jesus took up some bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his friends. Then their Master spoke words that evoked stunned silence from his companions: “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He didn’t stop there, of course. After supper he took up a cup of wine saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Moreover, this ritual of bread and cup wasn’t meant to be just a one time thing. Whenever his disciples ate the bread and drank the cup in the future, Jesus told them, it was to be done in remembrance of him.

This must have been truly shocking to the Twelve. Consuming blood was strictly forbidden by the dietary laws God had given to Moses. The very idea of drinking blood, let alone human blood, would have been even more repellent to faithful Jews that it is to us. Blood is the life of an animal. And life belongs to its Creator, not to us. Life blood was to be given back to God in sacrifice, not taken into ourselves. And why had Jesus equated the broken bread with his own flesh? At this point, even the most think-headed of the apostles must have suspected this strange new ceremony had something to do with their Master’s frequent predictions of his impending death. Jesus himself confirmed these suspicions by turning the conversation to the betrayal he would soon suffer at the hands of one of his dinner companions. You and I have heard this story so many times we are used to it, but frankly this is a pretty strange business. Of course, things will get worse.

Following that final supper together, Jesus retreated with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked three of his friends to watch with him as he prayed to his Father. But fallen humanity is a frail thing, and Peter, James and John were overcome by sleep. So Jesus faced that last dark night alone … and he was afraid. Our Savior was at once perfect God and perfect man, but we must remember that Jesus truly was a man. St. Mark tells us that Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled.” He “hurled himself” onto the ground in his distress—the word in Greek is a violent one. Many early copies of the Gospel according to St. Luke record that Christ actually sweated blood, so great was his anxiety. Of course, if any of us were facing the prospect of an excruciating death by crucifixion we would probably become unhinged. But Jesus knew that physical suffering was just a part of what he must undergo. Christ was to bear the spiritual burden of the entire world’s sin even as the nails tore into his flesh. Human minds cannot grasp the immensity of this truth—it remains a mystery to us. But in some way beyond our comprehension, Christ would take all the pain and grief that the entire human race has ever known or will ever know into his very own soul, even as his flesh was racked by one of the cruelest tortures ever invented. And the Savior would endure all this alone. "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death,” he told his friends—perhaps the greatest understatement of all time. Yet Christ’s perfect humanity—full of fear and sorrow though it may have been--was also perfectly obedient to the will of His Father. "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." It was the Father’s will that His Son bear the Cross of our Redemption, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world. Jesus would pay the price for our freedom alone, betrayed by one whom he loved and abandoned by all those who had been most devoted to him—a point we will drive home tonight as we strip this sanctuary of its glories and we leave the church in silence, making our way into the dark of night.

Yet while the atoning sacrifice could only be offered by Christ Himself, its effects were not to be solitary. Jesus made this clear during that first Eucharist, if only his disciples had ears to hear it. Passover was not the only story from the Book of Exodus in the air that night. In the 24th chapter of Exodus, after Moses has received the Ten Commandments and other laws from the LORD, God tells him to assemble the people at the foot of Mount Sinai and offer sacrifice. There Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood [of the sacrifice] and threw it upon the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” The “blood of the covenant”—Sound familiar? A new people of God had come into existence there at Sinai, bound to Him and to one another by the spattered blood of sacrifice, the blood of the old covenant.

"This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,” Jesus told the Twelve. Here Christ was remaking the people of God before their very eyes. The Upper Room had become a new Sinai, or rather the true Sinai—a place where they not only met God face to face, but where God Incarnate gave His very self to them. A renewed Israel was coming into existence at the hands of the Messiah, bound together this time by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. Tomorrow Christ’s people will be consecrated forever at the Place of the Skull when His sacred blood dashes against the stones. Now “Types and shadows have their ending.” The blood of bulls and goats has been left behind. For Christ’s blood is truly Life—a life now infused into the dry bones of God’s scattered people. Christ’s Body, broken at Golgotha and raised from the garden tomb, will abide on earth in the Israel of the New Covenant, Christ’s holy Church, a people who continually offer Eucharist until His coming again in glory.

Bread and wine, Body and Blood, a new covenant—that first Maundy Thursday must have been thoroughly confusing for His apostles. It is one of the supreme ironies of history that the only people who ever received the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ from the Lord’s own hands did not yet understand the treasure they had just been given or what it meant for the salvation of the world. On Thursday night they could not really know what it meant. Good Friday and Easter Sunday were yet to come. But you and I know that the consecrated bread and wine we shall soon receive here were purchased at an unspeakably high price—a price no less than the blood of God.

But this was a price God was willing to pay. Despite our own sin and all the might of the powers of this present darkness, nothing could keep Divine Love from saving us and uniting us to Himself. Tomorrow we will commemorate God’s supreme act of love and forgiveness, when the Savior poured out His life for us on the cross. But Christ’s love is just as great today as during that first Holy Week. He still is offering Himself up for us before the throne of glory, and he will do so eternally. And He still longs to pour himself out for us right here and now--God’s love made manifest in the sacrament of the altar. When we receive His precious Body and Blood, Christ will unite Himself to us again, body and soul, humanity and divinity. And along with the bread of heaven, Christ offers us the gift of eternal life. No wonder St. Ignatius, a great bishop and martyr of the early Church, called Holy Communion “the medicine of immortality.”

The Holy Communion that Christ established on this night so long ago, while one of His most precious gifts to His people, is also a great and glorious mystery. This altar will not be understood by those who cannot see through the material world into spiritual realities. The Holy Spirit must touch our hearts and open the eyes of faith if we are to behold the real presence of Christ here. The altar is a place where time and eternity intersect, where the commonplace and the sacred meet. For those with eyes to see, there is Jacob’s ladder, where angels and archangels and all the company of heaven descend to sing the Sanctus with us. For those with eyes to see, there is Mount Sinai, where the covenant people gather and are formed into one Body. For those with eyes to see, there is the blood-soaked wood of Calvary, the place of atonement. There is the bare stone slab of Easter morning, source of new and unending life in Christ. This is a mystery for the ages. Christ will truly be here with us. You and I are about to hold on our tongues the most precious substance in the Universe. Christ’s Body and Blood will become part of our bodies and blood. Tonight we will kneel before the altar of repose and guard a treasure far greater than that of all the banks and museums on the planet combined. Behold the Living God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. O Come, let us adore Him. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Cantab+ Speaks on Abortion in the West

It is fair to say that the abortion issue is seldom discussed in ECUSA these days. There are certaily few activitist within the denomination who are dedicated to pro-Life causes. It therefore came as a surprise to me when Canon Kendall Harmon pointed out this article on his blog today. It is an op-ed piece by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in the Times of London addressing the abortion question in its British context. Here is an extended excerpt:

People are starting to realise we can’t go on as we are
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, says that abortion may not be a party issue but it is a public matter of immense weight

For a large majority of Christians — not only Roman Catholics, and including this writer — it is impossible to regard abortion as anything other than the deliberate termination of a human life. Whatever other issues enter into the often anguished decisions concerning particular cases, they want this dimension to be taken seriously.

Equally, though, for a large majority of Christians this is a view which they know they have to persuade others about, and recognise is not taken for granted in our society. The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right is alarmist nonsense. ... In the country at large, not least among young people, there is a groundswell of distaste about [the present British abortion legislation].

Some of this is to do with sheer statistics. A rising number of abortions means a rising number of — at best — tragic and humanly costly options. But the advance of technology has also reinforced anxieties. Whether it is a matter of evidence about foetal sensitivity to outside stimuli (including pain), the nature of foetal consciousness, or the expanding possibilities of saving early foetal life outside the womb, the trend is inexorably towards a sharper recognition of the foetus as a natural candidate for “rights” of some kind.

In light of this, it is a lot harder to reduce the issue to an individual’s right to choose. And this is not something said primarily by patriarchal clerics, but increasingly by women, and young women at that. The clear assumption that the availability of abortion was a basic element in the agenda for the dignity of women is by no means universally obvious. A good few see it now as another triumph of impersonal, even abusive, technology.

The ruling last week on Joanna Jepson’s appeal about the legality of abortion for a cleft-palate condition turned on a fine legal balance of probabilities, but it did nothing to take forward the questions that agitate many about specifying more carefully the nature of the “serious” conditions that might justify termination.

Christians are likely to feel, a little wryly, that it is strange for them to be appealing to others to do a bit of moral reflection on the advance of science. And they will want to ask: granted this cannot be an election issue in the sense of being a matter of manifesto policy, what sort of an issue is it going to be? Where and when can our legislators as a body think through where we are and what needs to be taken into consideration about this? The idea of a commission has been floated and is worth thinking about further. Questions to parliamentary candidates might be a useful way of opening up some public debate (even if this is not a matter of settling electoral preferences) but the debate needs to go much wider. Some serious work remains to be done about legal matters (the difficult issue of rights) and about the nature, authority and implications of research around foetal consciousness.

Of course, if you begin from the conviction at the beginning of this article, the whole thing is a good deal more urgent. But even if that is not a shared conviction there is more and more of a shared unhappiness and bewilderment around our law and its effects. It would be a real failure if agreeing that it was not an electoral issue provided an alibi for taking it seriously as a public issue. It is worth pondering, with an election in prospect, just what happens to those questions that are not party matters yet are public matters of immense weight.

It happens that abortion has emerged as potentially one such matter; but there will be others. The challenge is about how we keep faith with the seriousness of such questions, and resist the pressure either to make them partisan or to shelve them respectfully and indefinitely.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I really don't know the name of this flower. I took it on the side of the road on the way to Shang-ri-la.  Posted by Hello

THE BRICKS HAVE FINALLY BEGUN TO ARRIVE!! After a considerable delay due to manufacturer's shortage, the bricks for our new bell tower began arriving today at St. Vincent's. There is still hope that everything will be finished and in good order before the Anglican Communion Network Convocation in late April. Let us pray. Posted by Hello

A "class photo" of the Chant Institute last summer. Fr Larry Heiman, the director, is front and center (he's in his late eighties but still conducts with the grace of a dancer). I'm the portly chap at the right end of the third row. Posted by Hello

Gregorian Chant Institute

I thought I would pass along word of an opportunity some readers might find of interest. Last summer I attended the Gregorian Chant Institute at St. Joseph's College, Indiana, which is taught by Fr Larry Heiman, an internationally known expert in the field. It was a marvelous experience for me last summer. The course focuses on chant performance based on the earliest good manuscripts and is oriented toward worship. We chanted at daily Mass every day. More info can be found at here . The fee for an auditor, I believe, is less than $400 for the entire week, which includes a single room and three good meals per day. It is a great opportunity. I am going back this year. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

NIV has been "updated"

Those readers who prefer the New International Version of the Holy Bible will find this story from today's Daily Telegraph of London to be of interest. The texts, they are a'changin.

Rewritten Bible banishes saints
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent(Filed: 15/03/2005)

For readers of the Bible confused by its archaic language, such as its use of the term "stoned" for a form of execution rather than the effects of smoking dope, help is at hand. One of the world's most widely read Bibles, the New International Version, has been modernised by a team of 15 American and British scholars and is published today. Gone is the word "aliens", which the academics thought was invariably associated in the minds of the younger generation with extra-terrestrials. It is replaced with "foreigners".

Even the term "saints" is deemed to be too "ecclesiastical" and has been banished, to be replaced with "God's chosen people". The Virgin Mary is no longer "with child"; she is "pregnant". And, to the dismay of traditionalists, who will suspect a feminist agenda, "inclusive" language has been introduced throughout. Where the original read: "When God created Man, he made him in the likeness of God"; the new version says: "When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God." For those unfamiliar with the punishments meted out in Biblical times to blasphemers and adulterers, the new version is also helpful, changing "Naboth has been stoned and is dead" to "Naboth has been stoned to death".

More than 45,000 changes - about seven per cent of the text - have been made. Even the title has been changed to Today's New International Version. The new version has already caused a stir in the United States, however. Paige Patterson, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that the translators had gone beyond trying to clarify meaning. "They have an agenda - to attempt to force egalitarian and even feminist perspectives on readers in the name of translation," he said. But the scholars who worked on the book rejected the charges, saying that their changes were a fair reflection of the original Greek or Hebrew texts or updated colloquial English words.

House of Bishops

Those interested may read the text of a statement produced by ECUSA House of Bishops here. The main points: 1) they pledge not to consecrate any new bishops, regardless of their sexuality, until after GenCon 2006, 2) they pledge not to bless same sex unions or approve rite for such until at least after GenCon 2006, 3) they urge ECUSA's authorities to seriously consider whether or not to send representatives to ACC meetings in the future and, 4) they apologize for acting last year in the Robinson affair without sufficiently consulting with the world-wide Anglican Communion. It remains to be seen what all this will mean.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Times of London Reports on Declining Church Attendance

The March 5th edition of the Times includes a report on why church attendance is in decline in Britain and Ireland (hat tip to Lee Nelson). An interesting excerpt:

Researchers found “a widespread sense of anger and frustration” at what was happening to churches in the UK and Ireland. The 42-page report is an indictment of modern preaching and worship, illustrating how excessive liberalism and lack of conviction are driving worshippers from the pews.

The report portrays a desire for sermons based on the Bible and traditional teaching, rather than on politics, social affairs or audience-pleasing stunts. The report calls for better apologetics, or Christian teaching, and claims that many clergy are unable to mount a convincing argument in defence of Christianity and are not interested in trying. When asked to explain why Christianity might be true, the common response is: “It is just a matter of faith.”
The report says: “This has resulted in a growing number of people being left with the false impression that there are no strong reasons for Christian belief. Ultimately they abandon churchgoing and are mystified that Christianity continues to grow elsewhere in the world.”
The report blames the contemporary practice of teaching the universal nature of God’s love. Because people believe God will continue to love them no matter what they do, they no longer see any need to go to church to confess their sins or seek guidance on how to change their lives.

The aim was to explore the reasons why Christianity is in decline in Britain and Ireland but thrives in other parts of the world, including prosperous countries such as the US.
Researchers found that the thousands of people who still do go to church do so out of a sense of duty and not because it brings them any fulfilment. They report widespread criticism of the current fashion for “family” or “all age” services for bordering on entertainment rather than worship. One Shropshire churchgoer said: “I’ve seen balloons rising from the pulpit, fake moustaches and all manner of audience appeal . . . but with no real message behind it.”
Instead, churchgoers want to be told how to live a Christian life, and to understand how to evangelise in a society distracted by materialism. The report correlates statistics from the past 150 years showing attendance rising in the last half of the 19th century and peaking around 1905 before going into steady decline, with an inverse trend of crime, drunkenness and illegitimacy falling to a low at the turn of the 19th century and then steadily rising.

"Baby Got Bible"

For those who have not yet seen it, there is a very funny music video, "Baby Got Bible," (a spoof of Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back" of the late eighties) that may be found here . I nearly hyperventilated!

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Sermon, preached March 6th at St. Vincent's

I am sure that many of you have come across texts of the Holy Scriptures that touched your heart and engaged your mind in a special way. Somewhere—Bible study, private reading, public worship—a portion of God’s written Word moved your spirit. Now whenever that happens, we ought to pay careful attention. God could be trying to tell us something. But be careful! You never know when the Lord is going to use the Bible to change the course of your life.

You see, our gospel reading today—the healing of the man born blind--was just such a transformative passage for me. When I discovered that I would be preaching on John 9 this morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling that God wanted me to share with you how this particular story has affected me. So please forgive me as I wax autobiographical for a couple of minutes. I cannot resist. As the Blues Brothers might say, “I’m on a mission from God.”

Seven years ago I left Texas behind and headed north to Chicago. I was very excited. I was about to begin doctoral work in New Testament at one of the world’s finest schools, The University of Chicago. Of course, as a native Texan I knew that getting used to Chicago’s harsh winters would be a challenge. And there would no doubt be a little culture shock until I got used to big city, “Yankee” ways. But having already survived college, graduate study in European history, law school, and a masters program in theology, school was one thing about which I felt pretty confident. I anticipated no serious problems.

Boy! I was wrong about that! For one thing, I had the misfortune to arrive in Chicago just before the snowiest winter in thirty years. In January we had a blizzard. More than four feet of snow fell in twenty-four hours. And I wasn’t even remotely prepared for what wind chills of twenty below zero feel like. I would take a Texas summer over a Chicago winter any day! But as unpleasant as Chicago’s physical climate was during that first long winter, it was the spiritual climate of the University that really took its toll. To my shock, the world-famous Divinity School at U of C actually proved to be a difficult place to be a Christian. Only about half the Div School’s student body is even “nominally” Christian, and many of those Christians come from liberal denominations. The school feels nothing like a seminary, and that’s on purpose. Even in the department of New Testament the professors strive to maintain a completely secular learning environment. During my first week at the University I was publicly rebuked by one of my professors during a seminar on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. My transgression? I had asked a question that indicated I believed Jesus Christ to be divine. “Issues of personal faith commitment are inappropriate in this academic setting, Mr. Foster.” I had just graduated from a seminary where we began most of our classes with prayer, even hymn singing. Now I was studying the Bible at a school where Christians were expected to travel undercover. I began to wonder if I had made a big mistake.

I had heard that U of C had a flourishing Episcopal campus ministry. So, seeking solace in the company of fellow believers, I decided to attend Mass there one Sunday evening. That didn’t work out very well either, I’m afraid. When I told people that I was from the diocese of Fort Worth they looked at me like I had two heads. “Oh, you’re from there? Aren't they are all really conservative down there?” I heard remarks like that a dozen times that first night. I felt like a fish out of water, and an unenlightened fish at that. And worship didn’t help things much. On Sundays our chaplain treated the Nicene Creed as optional, and frequently he chose not to use it. I subsequently learned the reason: this priest did not believe in several articles of the Nicene Creed himself. Many of his sermons, though skillfully crafted and wittily delivered, would have better suited a Unitarian church than an Anglican one. But driven by my desperate need for the comfort of the Blessed Sacrament, I tried to worship there for a while. By Christmas I had my fill of unsound preaching, lackadaisical worship, and ‘progressive’ snobbery. I gave up and skulked away.

Since I have been a Christian, I have not experienced a darker night of the soul than I did that winter. I was battered by spiritual forces of darkness on every side. My faith was being torn apart in class and there was no one to help me put it back together again. I had no church home in Chicago to offer me support in my struggles. To make matters worse, many of my fellow students routinely ridiculed the doctrines of the catholic Faith and traditional Christian moral teaching. These were considered old-fashioned, ignorant, even oppressive. In order to avoid being ostracized by my peers I adopted a policy of judicious silence on all matters relating to my personal beliefs, but deep inside I felt a burning shame at my own cowardice.

Our Lord Jesus had warned his followers that one day they would be seized, beaten, and handed over to earthly authorities for trial on account of his Holy Name. They were not to be anxious beforehand about what they should say. Instead, the Holy Spirit would tell them how to witness when the time came. Countless examples of such courageous witness may be found throughout the history of the Church, from Steven, Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, to our blessed patron Vincent of Saragossa, right on down to the modern day martyrs. The Spirit gave them wisdom and courage to stand firm and preach the Good News in the face of the torturer’s rack, fire, wild beasts and the sword. Christ’s holy martyrs shine out as lights in the darkness of our times. Their steadfast witness is among the greatest treasures of Christ’s Body, the Church.

The witness of Randall Foster at the University of Chicago, on the other hand, was clearly a failure. I had no Spirit-given wisdom about how to respond to revisionist attacks on the Scriptures and Biblical morality. Even when I did know what I supposed to say, I didn’t have the courage to speak. After all, I was still trying to get my feet under me. I couldn’t afford to lose any friends by shooting off my mouth. People might stop talking to me if I divulged the full extent of my doctrinal orthodoxy and my adherence to traditional moral values. I would be “that weird, conservative guy from Texas.” I knew that my baptismal vows obligated me to proclaim the Gospel by word and example, but I was so heavily outnumbered! Let’s face it. I was a wimp.

That is when God stepped in to help. I was reading St. John’s gospel one day and came upon today’s story of our Lord healing the man who had been born blind. I had, of course, read the story dozens of times before, but this time was different. Something in my heart told me that this story was full of meaning for me personally. I began to ponder and to pray. Then it hit me—the healed man’s testimony was what I needed to hear--and what I needed to emulate.

I had been aiming too high. The bold testimony of apostles who had seen the resurrected Savior and were specially gifted with the Holy Spirit was beyond my own meager capacities. But here was a simple man who told a simple story. A man named Jesus had opened his eyes after a lifetime in the dark. The one-time beggar, perhaps still blinking in the unfamiliar light, stood before the hostile leaders of his own people and didn’t flinch. Here, undoubtedly, was a man without education and with no social standing. He probably knew little and cared even less about the political and religious squabbles of first-century Palestine. But one thing he did know: once he had been blind but now he saw. He told the Sanhedrin what Jesus had done for him in the plainest possible terms. The healed man didn’t know the fullness of the Good News yet, but he knew with certainty that Jesus was doing the work of God and the Council was hindering it. Despite his partial knowledge and limited gifts of expression this man testified to what he knew, headless of the consequences. The gift Christ had given him was too great for him to betray its giver. On account of his steadfastness witness to the Truth he suffered expulsion from the synagogue. But being cut off from his former life proved to be a crucial step toward an even more authentic worship of the Living God. When Jesus finally did reveal his identity as Son of Man to the one whom he had healed, the former beggar placed his faith in Christ and fell on his knees before him in worship. The man’s darkness had truly been swept away by the Light of the World.

That was it! If this guy could do it, I figured I could too. I’m certainly no apostle. But like the man in our story I had been freed from a life of darkness by the power of Christ. I am an adult convert to Christianity, and I know quite well how different my life is today from what it was before I accepted Christ as Lord. The man who had been born blind did not have all the answers, and neither do I. But this much I know, I once was spiritually blind but now I see by Christ’s holy Light. I ought to be shouting my grateful praise from rooftops! I cannot let fear relegate me to silence. I resolved never again to stand by in the shadows while the Truth of God was dismissed or belittled. Unsound doctrinal or ethical teaching cannot go unchallenged, no matter who doesn’t approve of the Christian standard. The corrosive effect of such error on souls is too severe. We cannot let untruth proceed unchecked. Of course, we should endeavor always to speak politely, even gently if possible. After all, the Lord Jesus himself advised us to “be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.” But not speaking at all is no longer an option. Who Christ is, what he has done for us, and what his sovereign will for our world is—these things must be proclaimed. Error that leads people away from a saving relationship with Christ must be opposed. Now I will be the first too admit that I am not always effective in my witness, and sometimes I cannot quite muster the healed man’s courage. But he is my brother in the struggle for Truth and I admire him greatly. If it were not for his example, it is unlikely I would be standing here in this pulpit today.

Here at St. Vincent’s we pledge “To Make Jesus Christ Known in All That We Do.” This is a bold charge and a difficult one to keep. There are dark forces at work in the world that do not want Christ to be proclaimed. Teaching that no one comes to the Father except by the Incarnate Son of God runs strongly contrary to the spirit of our multicultural and pluralistic age. Today anyone who stands up for the “faith once delivered to the saints” runs the risk of being labeled intolerant or a “fundamentalist.” Defending traditional Christian moral standards exposes one to the charge of being narrow-minded and oppressive. It isn’t easy to stay the course when “enlightened opinion” considers you a Puritanical throwback to a bygone age. In the face of such cultural opposition, there will always be a temptation to soft pedal the Word of Truth. But we must resist that impulse, just as the man who had been born blind did not surrender to the Council’s blandishments and retreat in silence.

You and I may not be apostles, but we are men and women who have come out of the darkness and have seen the Light of the World. We have known the healing touch of the one who leads out of error into Truth, out of sin into righteousness. Twenty centuries ago the man whom Jesus healed fell on his knees before Christ in worshipful thankfulness. We will do the same in a few minutes as we adore the precious Body and Blood of our Savior. May God give us ever-thankful hearts and courageous spirits, empowering us to go forth into the world and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ until his coming again in glory. Amen.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Bishop Duncan Speaks on His Meeting with the orthodox Anglican Primates

Although this report is by the leader of a group opposed to the ACN, it is worth reading.

Episcopal Church to Decide Whether to “Walk Apart” from Communion
By Lionel Deimel, President, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh

Monroeville, Pennsylvania — February 28, 2005 — Following a service of Evening Prayer, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, offered a perspective on the recent Primates meeting at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Monroeville. He took questions from the mostly friendly audience after his presentation. The message of Duncan’s presentation was that the U.S. and Canadian churches have fractured the Anglican Communion, and, that unless they repent of their “innovations,” they, but not him or the diocese he leads, will be outside of it.

Duncan began by reading his statement of February 25, in which he called the clarity of the communiqué from the Primates “breath-taking.” The bishop, who had traveled to Northern Ireland to be able to hear from the Primates directly about their meeting, said that his remarks were based on meeting with 17 of the 35 attending Primates over three days. The church leaders pressed five points, he said. (Audio of the bishop’s presentation, though not of the question period, can be found on the diocesan Web site, along with a description of it.)

First, the teaching in Network dioceses, the teaching of the Anglican Mission of America, and that of other Anglican traditionalists, is the teaching of the Anglican Communion. “There is no other,” Duncan asserted. Both on matters of Scripture and on human sexual behavior, the present teaching of the Anglican Communion is represented in the 1998 Lambeth resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality.

Secondly, Duncan reported that the Primates told him to “go back to North America and help people make the choice.” The synodical bodies of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada have been given time to accept or reject the Windsor Report. It is clear “that to hold the innovations of the General Convention of 2003 or the innovations of the General Synod of Canada in 2004 is to make a decision to walk apart from the Communion.”

According to Duncan, his supporters were encouraged to “flood the system” embodied in the “panel of reference” the Archbishop of Canterbury is urged in the Primates’ communiqué to establish. The task of this panel, he said, is “to guarantee adequacy of protection for orthodox minorities in places where they have been on the run or under duress.” Some 70 congregations are presently attempting to put themselves under conservative, non-Episcopal-Church bishops, and Duncan indicated that he plans to turn these cases over to the Archbishop immediately.

Duncan’s fourth point was that the Primates with whom he met insisted that all groups representing “missionary Anglicanism” in North American must be united under his leadership. The Primates are tired of dealing with the “alphabet soup” of AAC, AMiA, REC, FiFNA, etc.

Finally, the Bishop of Pittsburgh reported that the conservative primates wanted to send the message to the American orthodox to “grow up.” Conservatives, like progressives, want their own way and complain when they fail to get it. Duncan told his flock that it is in a “spiritual battle of immense proportion.” Referring to 2 Timothy 4:3–7, he said, “We’d like to keep the faith, but we have a harder time running the race and fighting the fight.” Summarizing, the five instructions, Duncan said simply, “Expect to suffer.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cranes with a Lifting Power of 10,000 lbs

They are now attaching an enormous crane system to the skeleton of our new bell tower at St. Vincent's Cathedral. It will be used as they brick in the tower to match the apse of the church. Unfortunately, Acme Brick is presently sold out of the type of brick we need, so the next stage of construction will have to wait until Acme fires more bricks in mid-March. Still, the crane system is an impressive piece of equipment, isn't it? Posted by Hello

View My Stats