Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Hymn for Michaelmas

On the Feast of Michael and all Angels, popularly called Michaelmas, we give thanks for the many ways in which God's loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God's creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligences other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them, and it is not clear how much of what we are told is figurative. Jesus speaks of them as rejoicing over penitent sinners (Lk 15:10). Elsewhere, in a statement that has been variously understood (Mt 18:10), He warns against misleading a child, because their angels behold the face of God. (Acts 12:15 may refer to a related idea.)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is occasionally reported that someone saw a man who spoke to him with authority, and who he then realized was no mere man, but a messenger of God. Thus we have a belief in super-human rational created beings, either resembling men in appearance or taking human appearance when they are to communicate with us. They are referred to as "messengers of God," or simply as "messengers." The word for a messenger in Hebrew is MALACH, in Greek, ANGELOS, from which we get our word "angel" [ Digression: ANGELION means "message, news" and EUANGELION means "good news = goodspell = gospel," from which we get our word "evangelist" used to mean a preacher of the Good News of salvation, and, more narrowly, one of the four Gospel-writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.]

By the time of Christ, Jewish popular belief included many specifics about angels, with names for many of them. There were thought to be four archangels, named Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. An alternative tradition has seven archangels (see Tobit 12:15 and 1 Enoch 20). Sometimes each archangel is associated with one of the seven planets of the Ptolemaic system (the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). Michael is associated with Saturn and Uriel with the Sun. The other pairings I forget, but I believe that you will find a list in the long narrative poem called "The Golden Legend," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (I believe that a pairing is also offered in the opening chapters of the Proof of The Apostolic Preaching, by Irenaeus of Lyons, but I have not the work at hand.)

Michael (the name means "Who is like God?") is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures in Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel); in Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses); and in Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon). In iconography, he is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. Oftentimes, his lance pierces the mouth of the serpent, as this demonstrates the power of truth to conquer the Father of Lies. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

Gabriel (the name means "God is my champion") is thought of as the special bearer of messages from God to men. He appears in Daniel 8:16; 9:21 as an explainer of some of Daniel's visions. According to the first chapter of Luke, he announced the forthcoming births of John the Baptist and of our Lord to Zachariah and the Virgin Mary respectively.

Raphael (the name means "God heals") is mentioned in the Apocrypha, in the book of Tobit, where, disguised as a man, he accompanies the young man Tobias on a quest, enables him to accomplish it, and gives him a remedy for the blindness of his aged father.

Uriel (the name means "God is my light" -- compare with "Uriah", which means "the LORD is my light") is mentioned in 4 Esdras.

It is thought by many scholars that the seven lamps of Revelation 4:5 are an image suggested by (among many other things) the idea of seven archangels.

What is the value to us of remembering the Holy Angels? Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who have chosen to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall. The greater our natural gifts and talents, the greater the damage if we turn them to bad ends. The more we have been given, the more will be expected of us. And, in the picture of God sending His angels to help and defend us, we are reminded that apparently God, instead of doing good things directly, often prefers to do them through His willing servants, enabling those who have accepted His love to show their love for one another.



Coelites Plaudant - 5 verses, C


Found at bee mp3 search engine

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peace at Augsburg


In many ways, the Reformation was not merely a change in the religious landscape, but also a renovation of the entire social order. Economics were impacted, education swelled, and the missionary impulse brought Europeans into increasing contact with other cultures - and conflict with other Europeans. Great was the turmoil and many the monstrous crimes committed in the name of Christ in the wake of the Reformation. Religious passions quickly passed into political conflict. No place was this more true than in Germany, where peasants rioted at the behest of the radical Anabaptists. And, of course, Luther's alliance with certain Prince-Electors was a sore spot for the Roman Catholic aligned Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

At the Diet (a formal assembly of princes) of Worms in 1521, Emperor Charles V outlawed Lutheranism . But he was unable to stamp out the reform movement at the time because of other crises. Not until 1529 was Charles able to follow up on the Lutheran issue. He sent word that Catholicism was to be restored everywhere in Germany. Many German cities and princes protested. These were called the "Protesting estates" and from them we got the name "Protestant."

Charles saw that some sort of conciliation would be in order. In 1530 he attended an assembly known as the Diet at Augsburg.
Lutherans presented the Confession of Augsburg (authored principally by Philip Melancthon) in an attempt to prove to Rome that their views were Biblical. This confession remains the basis of the Lutheran faith. However, reconciliation proved impossible and Charles ordered Lutherans to reunite with the Catholic church by April 15, 1531. This had the effect of stiffening opposition against him. A military alliance of Protestants, known as the Schmalkaldic League came into being. Charles crushed this, but Elector Maurice switched sides and declared war on the emperor, forcing him to negotiate with the Protestants. In 1552, at the Peace of Passau, Charles accepted the existence of the evangelical church and promised to hold a "diet" to settle the controversy.

The diet was not convened until 1555. Again it was held in Augsburg. Peace was arranged between the Lutherans and Catholics on this day, September 25, 1555. In many respects it was imperfect. Although Lutherans were given legal standing, Anabaptists and Calvinists were not. "[A]ll such as do not belong to the two above-named religions shall not be included in the present peace but be totally excluded from it." Each German territory must take the faith of its prince. This inbuilt religious divisiveness crippled Germany's ability to unite as a nation. There was no toleration within a territory.

The Peace of Augsburg did, however, permit people to transplant to a region whose faith was more congenial to each. "In case our subjects, whether belonging to the old religion or to the Augsburg Confession, should intend leaving their homes, with their wives and children, in order to settle in another place, they shall neither be hindered in the sale of their estates after due pay, net of the local taxes nor injured in their honor... "


The Peace of Augsburg offered the merest hint of toleration. Weak as was the treaty, it brought increased stability. However, not until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 were Calvinists added to the list of tolerated religions.

Bibliography:

  1. "Augsburg, Peace of." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  2. Durant, Will. The Reformation; A history of European civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300 - 1564. The Story of Civilization, Part VI. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.
  3. Kidd, B. J. Documents illustrative of the Continental Reformation; edited by B. J. Kidd. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1967.
  4. Simon, Edith and the editors of Time/Life. The Reformation. Great Ages of Man. New York: Time Inc., 1966.
  5. Various encyclopedia articles & websites.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Religion in the Recession

A troubled warden approached his pastor and said, "We've got serious problems. Our members don't invite people to church. Our members don't give enough to pay the bills."

The pastor said, "As you know, my job is spiritual development. You'll have to bring that up with our evangelism and finance committees."

The warden returned not long after that and said, "Things are getting worse. Attendance is down. Giving is down. We might not be able to pay the staff!"

The pastor said, "Why didn't you tell me it was that serious? But as you know, my job is spiritual development. We'll have to bring up these problems at our next vestry meeting."

Immediately at the start of the vestry meeting, the warden stood up and said, "Pastor, we have a spiritual problem in our church."

America does not have a failing economy.

America's churches don't have attendance and money problems.

Our spiritual problem is being exposed.

2 Chronicles 7:14.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Litany in Honor of the Holy Cross

There's no better way to start off this day than with the greatest processional / recessional of all time, Lift High the Cross!
Lift High the Cross


Found at bee mp3 search engine

Readings for the Feast of the Holy Cross are found here.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
have mercy on us.

The word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Reflection: Jesus has many who love His Kingdom in Heaven, but few who bear His Cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake.

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Reflection: Why do you fear to take up the Cross, which is the road to the Kingdom? In the Cross is salvation and life, protection against our enemies, infusion of Heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind,joy of spirit, excellence of virtue, perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross.

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Reflection: Take up the Cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and go forward into eternal life. Christ has gone before you, bearing His Cross;He died for you on the Cross, that you also may bear your cross,and desire to die on the Cross with Him. For if you die with Him,you will also live with Him. And if you share His sufferings, you will also share His glory.

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Reflection: See how in the Cross all things consist, and in dying on it all things depend. There is no other way to life and to true inner peace, than the way of the Cross.Go where you will, seek what you will; you will find no higher way above nor safer way below than the road of the Holy Cross.

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Reflection: The Cross always stands ready, and everywhere awaits you. You cannot escape it, wherever you flee; for wherever you go,you bear yourself, and always find yourself. Look up or down, without you or within, and everywhere you will find the Cross. And everywhere you must have patience, if you wish to attain inner peace, and win an eternal crown.

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord!.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us to follow Thee not only to the Breaking of Bread but also to the drinking of the Cup of Thy Passion. Help us to love Thee for Thine own sake and not for the sake of comfort for ourselves. Make us worthy to suffer for Thy name, Jesus, our Crucified and Risen Lord and Savior, now and forever. Amen.


If you haven't taught your children to remember their salvation using the sign of the cross (a duty Martin Luther put especially on fathers), why not today? For further reflection, I recommend ECatBedside's reflection piece.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paphnutius the Confessor

St. Paphnutius was an Egyptian bishop, of a city in the Upper Thebaid in the early fourth century, and one of the most interesting members of the Council of Nicæa (325). He suffered mutilation of the left knee (was hamstrung) and the loss of his right eye for the Faith under the Emperor Maximinus (308-13), and was subsequently condemned to the mines. At Nicæa he was greatly honoured by Constantine the Great, who, according to Socrates (Church History I.11), used often to send for the good old confessor and kiss the place whence the eye had been torn out.

He took a prominent, perhaps a decisive, part in the debate at the First Œcumenical Council on the subject of the celibacy of the clergy. It seems that most of the bishops present were disposed to follow the precedent of the Council of Elvira (can. xxxiii) prohibiting conjugal relations to those bishops, priests, deacons, and, according to Sozomen, sub-deacons, who were married before ordination. Paphnutius earnestly entreated his fellow-bishops not to impose this obligation on the orders of the clergy concerned. He proposed, in accordance "with the ancient tradition of the Church", that only those who were celibates at the time of ordination should continue to observe continence, but, on the other hand, that "none should be separated from her, to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united". The great veneration in which he was held, and the well known fact that he had himself observed the strictest chastity all his life, gave weight to his proposal, which was unanimously adopted. The council left it to the discretion of the married clergy to continue or discontinue their marital relations. Paphnutius was present at the Synod of Tyre (335) with St. Athanasius.

See more at Wikipedia.

Commination for 9-11

A Commination,

or Denouncing of God's Anger and Judgements against Sinners,

With certain Prayers, to be used on the first Day of Lent, and at other times, as the Ordinary shall appoint.
After Morning Prayer, the Litany ended according to the accustomed manner, the Priest shall, in the reading Pew or Pulpit, say,
BRETHREN, in the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend.
Instead whereof, until the said discipline may be restored again, (which is much to be wished,) it is thought good, that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God's cursing against impenitent sinners, gathered out of the seven and twentieth Chapter of Deuteronomy, and other places of Scripture; and that ye should answer to every Sentence, Amen: To the intent that, being admonished of the great indignation of God against sinners, ye may the rather be moved to earnest and true repentance; and may walk more warily in these dangerous days; fleeing from such vices, for which ye affirm with your own mouths the curse of God to be due.

CURSED is the man that maketh any carved or molten image, to worship it.

And the people shall answer and say,
Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that curseth his father or mother.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's landmark.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that maketh the blind to go out of his way.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that perverteth the judgement of the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that smiteth his neighbour secretly.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that lieth with his neighbour's wife.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that taketh reward to slay the innocent.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, and taketh man for his defence, and in his heart goeth from the Lord.
Answer. Amen.
Minister. Cursed are the unmerciful, fornicators, and adulterers, covetous persons, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards, and extortioners.
Answer. Amen.

Minister.
NOW seeing that all they are accursed (as the prophet David beareth witness) who do err and go astray from the commandments of God; let us (remembering the dreadful judgement hanging over our heads, and always ready to fall upon us) return unto our Lord God, with all contrition and meekness of heart; bewailing and lamenting our sinful life, acknowledging and confessing our offences, and seeking to bring forth worthy fruits of penance. For now is the axe put unto the root of the trees, so that every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: he shall pour down rain upon the sinners, snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest; this shall be their portion to drink. For lo, the Lord is come out of his place to visit the wickedness of such as dwell upon the earth. But who may abide the day of his coming? Who shall be able to endure when he appeareth? His fan is in his hand, and he will purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the bam; but he will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. The day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night: and when men shall say, Peace, and all things are safe, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as sorrow cometh upon a woman travailing with child, and they shall not escape. Then shall appear the wrath of God in the day of vengeance, which obstinate sinners, through the stubbornness of their heart, have heaped unto them, selves; which despised the goodness, patience, and long, sufferance of God, when he calleth them continually to repentance. Then shall they call upon me, (saith the Lord,) but I will not hear; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; and that, because they hated knowledge, and received not the fear of the Lord, but abhorred my counsel, and despised my correction. Then shall it be too late to knock when the door shall be shut; and too late to cry for mercy when it is the time of justice. O terrible voice of most just judgement, which shall be pronounced upon them, when it shall be said unto them, Go, ye cursed, into the fire everlasting, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. Therefore, brethren, take we heed betime, while the day of salvation lasteth; for the night cometh, when none can work. But let us, while we have the light, believe in the light, and walk as children of the light; that we be not cast into utter darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let us not abuse the goodness of God, who calleth us mercifully to amendment, and of his endless pity promiseth us forgiveness of that which is past, if with a perfect and true heart we return unto him. For though our sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and though they be like purple, yet they shall be made white as wool. Turn ye (saith the Lord) from all your wickedness, and your sin shall not be your destruction: Cast away from you all your ungodliness that ye have done: Make you new hearts, and a new spirit: Wherefore will ye die, O ye house of Israel, seeing that I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God? Tom ye then, and ye shall live. Although we have sinned, yet have we an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. For he was wounded for our offences, and smitten for our wickedness. Let us therefore return unto him, who is the merciful receiver of all true penitent sinners; assuring ourselves that he is ready to receive us, and most willing to pardon us, if we come unto him with faithful repentance; if we submit ourselves unto him, and from henceforth walk in his ways; if we will take his easy yoke, and light burden upon us, to follow him in lowliness, patience, and charity, and be ordered by the governance of his Holy Spirit; seeking always his glory, and serving him duly in our vocation with thanksgiving: This if we do, Christ will deliver us from the curse of the law, and from the extreme malediction which shall light upon them that shall be set on the left hand; and he will set us on his right hand, and give us the gracious benediction of his Father, commanding us to take possession of his glorious kingdom: Unto which he vouchsafe to bring us all, for his infinite mercy. Amen.

Then shall they all kneel upon their knees, and the Priest and Clerks kneeling (in the place where they are accustomed to say the Litany) shall say this Psalm.

Miserere mei, deus. Psalm 51
HAVE mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Turn thy face away from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence: and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
O give me the comfort of thy help again: and stablish me with thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew thy praise.
For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee: but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and ablations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine attar.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Minister. O Lord, save thy servants;
Answer. That put their trust in thee.
Minister. Send unto them help from above.
Answer. And evermore mightily defend them.
Minister. Help us, O God our Saviour.
Answer. And for the glory of thy Name deliver us; be merciful to us sinners, for thy Name's sake.
Minister. O Lord, hear our prayer.
Answer. And let our cry come unto thee.

Minister. Let us pray.
O LORD, we beseech thee, mercifully hear our prayers, and spare all those who confess their sins unto thee; that they, whose consciences by sin are accused, by thy merciful pardon may be absolved; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O MOST mighty God, and merciful Father, who hast compassion upon all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made; who wouldest not the death of a sinner, but that he should rather turn from his sin, and be saved: Mercifully forgive us our trespasses; receive and comfort us, who are grieved and wearied with the burden of our sins. Thy property is always to have mercy; to thee only it appertaineth to forgive sins. Spare us therefore, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed; enter not into judgement with thy servants, who are vile earth, and miserable sinners; but so turn thine anger from us, who meekly acknowledge our vileness, and truly repent us of our faults, and so make haste to help us in this world, that we may ever live with thee in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the people say this that followeth, after the Minister.
TURN thou us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned. Be favourable, O Lord, Be favourable to thy people, Who turn to thee in weeping, fasting, and praying. For thou art a merciful God, Full of compassion. Longsuffering, and of great pity. Thou sparest when we deserve punishment, And in thy wrath thinkest upon mercy. Spare thy people, good Lord, spare them, And let not thine heritage be brought to confusion. Hear us, O Lord, for thy mercy is great, And after the multitude of thy mercies look upon us; Through the merits and mediation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then the Minister alone shall say,
THE Lord bless us, and keep us; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and give us peace, now and for evermore. Amen.

Prayers for 9-11

The following prayer was shared by Father John Troy Mashburn, pastor at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis. Wherever you are, it's a great prayer to join with others in offering up to God on September 11.

O Lord our God, Who art Thyself, the Hope of the hopeless, the Help of the helpless, the Savior of the storm-tossed, the Haven of the voyager, the Physician of the sick; be all things to our land which nine years ago on this date was devastated by the cowardly and hateful acts of false martyrs; who imitated wicked Herod in his slaughter of 14,000 innocents, whose only crime was to be born at the time of Thine incarnation.

For those who lost loved ones, grant the comfort you imparted to the Mary and Martha before you raised Lazarus and care for them as Thou didst care for Thy Mother from the Cross, putting her in the care of the Apostle John.

For the survivors, grant them healing in every sense, as you strengthened and healed the confessors.

For those related to and aiding the survivors and the families of the fallen, grant the strength and compassion Thou didst instill in Thy foster father Joseph, who was Thy guardian in Thine earthly youth.

For those who died, grant them remission of their every sin in Thy great compassion; both those who like the wise servant and the wise virgins, constantly prepared themselves to enter the heavenly banquet at any hour; and those who emulated the Rich Fool, preferring to enjoy earthly pursuits and ignore heavenly ones.

To the rest of us, instill in us the knowledge that while the devil still manipulates our Divinely-given free will (sic) to his own ends in this world, his power is fleeting and ultimately void, as Thou hast already crushed his dominion, leaving to him only those who freely choose him. Remind us that, while evil at times seems to win, and the death of the innocent seems to signal the destruction of goodness, the innocent are at peace, and while the God-fearing will endure a period of torment; those who choose evil shall endure eternal torment.

For those who hate us, speak to their hearts as St. Procla sought to speak to her husband Pilate concerning Thee, and as Thou didst speak to Pharoah concerning the Hebrews, to soften the hearts of those who seek our destruction.

Spare us O Lord, from all hatred of the murderers, and from prejudice toward those whose only crime is to be of their ethnicity and/or religion.

Spare us, O Lord, from paranoia and rash acts by which we trample each other like rabid beasts.

Spare, O Lord, those who protect us, those who serve in our government, armed forces, law enforcement agencies and all first responders, from despondency, disillusionment, and all things which would undermine their righteous calling to protect us in the manner of our Guardian Angels, and care for us in the manner of the Good Samaritan.

All this we ask of Thee our all-powerful and all-loving Saviour, together with Thine unorginate Father, and Thine all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen


That's St Nicholas Orthodox Church right next to the towers. It's the one we're trying to get rebuilt at Ground Zero

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Drinking to your health

This has never been a particular problem for Anglicans. The old saying goes "Wherever there are four Anglicans, there's always a fifth." But it's nice to have solid justification.
One of the most contentious issues in the vast literature about alcohol consumption has been the consistent finding that those who don't drink tend to die sooner than those who do....a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does tend to increase one's risk of dying, even when you exclude former problem drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.
Read the rest over at Time.

Pop and the Pope

Well... Here's one more reason not to be excited about Benedict XVI's offer of amnesty to Anglicans.

Here's the song he's chosen to reach out to the disco / dance club hipsters of England.

Ooberfüse - Heart's Cry by 360degreemusic

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dunning-Kruger Effect in the Church

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect? While this article goes on in length and points to the original research, here's the definition:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."
In other words, people who lack a skill often don't have enough ability to recognize that they lack that skill. It happens all the time - as the above-linked interview's anecdotes suggest. But it's tragic when it happens in the church. I'm thinking of a few instances.

First, everybody knows that if you can't pass muster in the musical world, you can always get an audience at church. It seems we have even less standards for performers than we do for members.



Maybe it's not always that bad...but I'm willing to bet that most of you have sat through a painful offertory or two in your life.

And it's not just poor performance. The actual compositions these days are TERRIBLE. Theologically vapid. Poetically unsound. And intentionally unsingable. I tend to agree with C.S. Lewis, who thought that most (traditional English) hymns were "fifth-rate poetry set to sixth-rate music." However, those hymns have never made me want to burst into tears or write letters to the bishop. They have never made me worry about the children who were taught to sing them. Aesthetic quality isn't really the point, although God deserves the best -- at the very least we should not be forced to sing heresy. Our music should elevate us to assume God's perspective rather than reiterate our own. It should focus on on Christ and His Kingdom rather than moor us in our own experience. (Contrary to contemporary opinion, Latin chant is not only breathtakingly beautiful, it's pretty easy to learn. Certainly it's easier to sing than some of those showtunes that pass for praise and worship these days!)

Secondly, the article proffers education as a means of addressing the problem. I couldn't agree more. I enjoy introducing people to good church music. I'm no music expert, but I have a good ear and a wide-ranging appreciation for it. (Yes, even the modern guitar-stuff can be well done on all accounts...for some reason, most just choose not to go through the effort.)

But this isn't just about music. What about PRAYER? Have you ever been stuck in a prayer group with someone who just has to use "just" just about every other word? (just)
“Lord, just hear us tonight. We just lift up our hands to you and pray that you will just send you love down to us in ways we just can’t understand. Take us just as we are Lord. Just, just. Just, just.”
Just telling them to quit isn't going to be enough. "Lord, teach us to pray..." Okay - let's get on with this vital work. One of the things that drew me to the Anglican Church was her rich tradition of prayer. I had a real sense of the poverty of my own prayers. I felt quite privatized in my prayer life - as though I were only praying my concerns but never being taken outside of my own limited points of reference. Liturgical prayer changed that. And I know of no better source in English than the Book of Common Prayer. Look at the older ones and you'll be praying concerns out of the Scriptures that would have never crossed your own mind.

I'm not advocating doing away with private, highly-personal prayers. But I'm trying to aim for a balance. Looking at high quality public prayers will help us to improve our own private prayer life. It will lift us beyond searching for words and aim us toward seeking God's face in prayer.

Lastly, many Christians settle for a poorly trained ministry. While roughly half of active full-time clergy have at least a bachelor's degree, the other half...doesn't. I don't want to fall into the trap of credentialism, but there is plenty to be said for having had a good bit of formalized training in the texts of Scripture, the theological and historical tradition of the church, and pastoral practice. I'm not so much concerned with post-nominals that come with that formation but rather with the habits and attitudes it fosters as well as the data conveyed.

I'm really concerned for a church that's led by someone who has no real sense of church history beyond hearsay from grandparents about the good ol'days. And someone who has only read the Scriptures for themselves and then teaches that as God's word is little more than a medieval pope mistaking his opinion for God's revelation. Reading Scripture together is necessary for the people of God so that we can come to a common understanding, at least on Scripture's principle teachings. (Col. 4:16; 1 Th. 5:27; cf. Neh. 8)

Those are just a few of my thoughts on this. Where else should we be looking?