"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Archive for October 2012

Science and Tsunamis

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Just listening to the reporting from Hawaii, which is now under a Tsunami warning as a result of the earthquake off Haida Gwaii, BC. The State scientist was just interviewed on the television and explained why they went suddenly from no watch right to a warning.

We’ll keep them in our prayers that the model is grossly overpredicting the wave amplitude.

He used a good metaphor – that of a log rolling into the water. When a log rolls into the water, there are large waves generated off the centre of the log, and smaller waves off the end. The sea level data they have for their modelling software is only off the ends of the earthquake zone, that is the small waves off the end of the log. The earthquake was in an unusual location.

Once they started running the models, they noticed that the energy from the BC earthquake was focused on Hawaii. He also said they are not confident as to the accuracy of the models because of the input data, and the rare nature of earthquakes in that area.

This is very interesting, particularly given the six scientists just convicted in Italy for not providing adequate warning. Here is a clear explanation, from an expert, about the limitations of their prediction software. It’s presently showing a wave amplitude as high as seven feet (which is huge for a Tsunami), but their confidence is low.

What that means is the seven foot number may be high, or it may be low. Their model has not been tested for the particular input conditions that they are faced with. The lack of any buoys in the deep ocean between BC and Hawaii means the next real-world data point they obtain will be when the wave front arrives.

I was watching a local journalist who lives on the water (south shore of Ohau) who had decided to stay put. He commented that after hearing the scientist hedge his predictions he was very uncertain as to what he should do.

A model is only as good as the data that is input, and a model is only tested to the extent that there is real-world data to compare against the model prediction.

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Written by sameo416

October 28, 2012 at 2:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Perfection of Science

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The court decision from Italy sent six scientists (seismologists, I believe) to jail after a finding of guilt on the charge of manslaughter. The crime was failing to properly warn the public of the possibility of a serious earthquake in 2009, that ultimately killed 309 people.

The court ruled on Monday that six scientists and one ex-government official were guilty of manslaughter for failing to adequately warn Italians about a deadly 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, in the Abruzzo region. Each defendant was sentenced to six years in prison.

It is always risky to second guess the court system anywhere…but a finding of guilt and this sentence seem outrageous. 

It raises an interesting question about the public perception of science.  There is an obvious expectation of accuracy of prediction, that frankly doesn’t exist in any of the predictive sciences.  I wonder if the last 10 years of yammering about climate change, and the constant refrain to ‘trust the experts’ has perhaps convinced people that scientists are able to speak absolute truth at will?

Science doesn’t provide us with an inerrant source of truth.  The scientific method provides us with predictability based on repeated observation of the natural world, but it never guarantees the outcome.  Weather prediction is a fine example, which runs around the level of pure chance (that is, you have as much ability to predict the weather by guessing as you do with climate modelling).

The potential impact of that ruling will be to stop scientists from making any predictions whatsoever, or, like the terror threat level in the USA, the predictions will become so constantly threatening to ensure that they capture any possible outcome.

Written by sameo416

October 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

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Kierkegaard on the Established Church

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Thanks be to God for those who support us in the faith, and though they seem few, they are a mighty army.

One brother reminded me that the church has been broken in every age, so we should not feign surprise when we discover it is broken in our own.  God has given us the mystical gift of the Body of Christ on earth, and we turn that gift into a corporation, ruled by our brokenness and need for self-justification.

A second brother in Christ pointed me back into S. Kierkegaard, who spoke so often into our present mess. A 400+ page collection of his writings is available for free download here.  A few that caught my eye:

The established Church is far more dangerous to Christianity than any heresy or schism. We play at Christianity. We use all the orthodox Christian terminology – but everything, everything without character. Yes, we are simply not fit to shape a heresy or a schism. There is something frightful in the fact that the most dangerous thing of all, playing at Christianity, is never included in the list of heresies and schisms.

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Think of a fisherman who owns a splendid net that he inherited from his father. Year after year he puts out his net – but gets no fish. What is the matter? What can it be? ‘Sure enough, I know’, says the fisherman. ‘The fish have changed; in the course of time they have decreased in size. If I want to catch them, I must get hold of a net that is not made for large fish’. Now think about eternity in terms of salvation. From generation to generation, steadily, incessantly, the cost of being Christian has become cheaper and cheaper, the terms of salvation have become easier and easier. A generation of jubilant millions, served by huckster clergy, has replaced Christianity with a religion of easy terms. It has rendered Christianity worthless and taken Christianity in vain, all in the name of perfecting Christianity. Eternity quietly looks on and observes: I am catching no one. But eternity is not like the fisherman. It does not need us. It is we who need eternity, to be caught is to be saved. Moreover, eternity is at one and the same time the fisherman and the net – consequently it does not change.

The Moral: The fisherman needs the fish; ergo, he changes the net. If, on the contrary, it is the fish that need to be caught – and this is the Christian way – then to be caught is to be saved. But then the fish must change, which is impossible as far as the metaphor is concerned but not in respect to what the metaphor signifies.

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Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, supplied with provisions for an eternity. A new commandant comes. He gets the idea that the right thing to do is to build bridges over the ditches – in order to be able to attack the besiegers. Charming! He transformed the fortress into a village, and the enemy captured it, naturally. So it is with Christianity. We changed the method – and the world conquered, naturally.

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Christianity has been made so much into a consolation that people have completely forgotten that it is first and foremost a demand.

Written by sameo416

October 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

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For we do not war against flesh and blood…

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SJE Tools for the Apprentices of Christ sermon series Ephesians 6:10-18 (this is the extended version, the delivered sermon will be 3 pages of text shorter)

Pray. Good morning – we have a slightly reduced community today, and I’m all on my own up here, as our men are on retreat . As we gather as the Body of Christ, we do so in union with them, as we’re unified in the mystical breaking of the bread. We lift them up in prayer, that this weekend will be a holy and transforming one for each of them (and for those of us who have stayed back). 

When I was looking at the text from Ephesians we are dealing with today, it was before our synod of last weekend. This past week as I put these words together, it struck me repeatedly what an excellent text this armour of God discourse provides for us today. This text is excellent because it both focuses us on the reality of a life of faith, following the risen Lord in a dark world, and on how we are to properly respond to warfare. I find for myself, that since synod I have been turning more and more into prayer, that I may stand fast against the assaults of the evil one, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. Our theme today is workplace protection, not talking workers compensation issues, but rather what we might call personal protective equipment – PPE – for we Christians living in our workplace, that is the world.

Why is it we need protection from the world? The reason is that this part of the creation, while redeemed and won through Christ’s ultimate defeat of evil on the cross, is still under the rule of the prince of this world, that is the devil. If we read earlier in Ephesians, we hear Paul’s caution about the way of this world:

2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Children of wrath, sons of disobedience, dead in sin and trespass, those who follow the way of this world, those who follow the prince of power of the air – this is what we once were, before we gained the new life, the new personhood, real humanity in Christ Jesus. Now these are harsh words, and we all have friends or work associates who are either not followers of Christ, or lukewarm followers of Christ, and Paul is not telling us to start to calling them children of wrath (although that might be a cool name for a reality TV show). Rather Paul is highlighting for us the difference that is working in us after falling under God’s mercy, once we passed out of being children of wrath, that is, those who lived like the rest of mankind, following only the desires of the body and the mind.

We get a bit caught up in this language because we Canadians are so gosh-darn polite and don’t like labels or statements that might be hurtful to others. Yet here Paul is being clear – there are two realities at work in the world. Both are under the complete Lordship of Christ, and yet the way of the world leads only to the death of sin. This is one of the reasons why the way of Christ is offensive to the world.

This call comes through clearly in the Scriptures, that tell us we are to be set apart from the world, even while we are immersed in the world. In James 1:27 we hear this about true religion, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” True religion before God requires that we keep ourselves unstained, unpolluted or untarnished by the world. This is where our need for PPE – workplace protection – comes in. Just as a worker on a construction site needs steel toes and a steel shank to protect against nails or dropping heavy objects on his feet, we followers of Christ need some way of protecting ourselves against the pollution of the world.

First, maybe a word on the approach in this passage, which is one that is charged with military imagery. We are talking here about armour, shields swords helmets and warfare…and not the nice kind (that’s a joke) but rather close quarters combat, where we are literally grappling with an opponent. Paul uses these soldiering images because, quite simply, we are engaged in warfare constantly and continuously by virtue of our faith. That warfare is not like we see on the news, with the surgical strikes, drone attacks and the like of this broken world, but rather it is a spiritual war which engages all of us, everywhere and always. Why are we engaged in this whether we ask for it or not? Just take a listen to the baptismal vows either taken by us or by our god parents and parents on our behalf:

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? 

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

If you hold a post-modern view of such things, Satan may be a quaint and curious part of forgotten lore (E. Poe) used only for frightening the uninformed. If you’re of a Scriptural worldview, Satan is a personal and intelligent being, a roaring lion prowling around seeking someone to devour. Those vows are pretty in-his-face (1 Peter 5:8), make this conflict is inevitable and a part of our calling as followers of Christ. That passage in 1st Peter goes on to say, “Resist [Satan], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” As you’ve heard preached repeatedly in our part of the Body of Christ, the way of the disciple is one of suffering, and that includes what Paul is talking about here. Our call as Christians places us on the front line of the conflict.

Paul presents us with a clear call to recognize the reality of our existence, that that there is a larger reality which exists behind the veneer of the physical world, that in fact infuses all of reality but which is hidden from us, usually. This reality is what we affirm in the creed when we declare that God is the maker of all things visible and invisible/seen and unseen. The reality places us as essential elements in a cosmic struggle between good and evil. Now, do not be mistaken that this battle was already won by Christ on the cross. Part of our job, in the in-between time before Jesus returns, is to do battle against the ruler of this world who violently seeks to destroy that which God has given us.

This calling is clear in the baptismal prayers and vows set out in our Book of Common Prayer, which outline the task of the believer explicitly:

O MERCIFUL God, grant that all sinful desires may die in this Child, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. GRANT that he may have power and strength to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh.

This is what Paul is speaking about in this passage, when he emphasizes who is the enemy in this battle which involves all of us. That calling of the believer is again emphasized in this prayer after baptism:

WE receive this Child into the Congregation of Christ’s flock, and do sign her with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter she shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue [as] Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto her life’s end. Amen.

This is a bold prayer and as we go through Paul’s words you’ll see how the baptism prayer quite clearly mirrors what Paul is setting out as our calling as soldiers of Christ, to “manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue [as] Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto her life’s end.” Our call as Christians is to continue Christ’s battle against evil in the world, but not because He failed to do a good enough job on the cross, but because the world is still under the rule of the prince of this world, who seeks to bring nothing but destruction on the Church.

10: Lets walk through the text and look at some of the important things being said, and how they’re being said. This is Paul’s conclusion to the entire letter, and he sums up his main ideas by beginning with a command to be strong in the Lord. How are we strong in the Lord? By putting on the whole armour of God. The armour we are to put on has two characteristics: it is complete, that is, the whole armour of God; second, it is God’s armour. That is, Paul is telling us to literally put on God as our armour, to adopt as our covering the Lord God, and his righteousness. This is another call to cast off the old person, and to adopt the new person, reborn of the Spirit, but it always tells us that the key to resisting evil is not our own strength and skill, but only the righteousness of our Lord.

I will acknowledge that this can be a troubling image if you strongly hold to Christ’s teaching against violence. I’ll gently prompt you to think about this text a bit differently, and about your faith a bit differently. Prayer, the necessary practice of every believer, is of itself a form of warfare as it boldly proclaims God’s kingdom and rule over all, ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’. Each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer or any prayer, we are engaged in a direct attack on evil. Paul’s imagery may be a challenge for us, but it accurately reflects what we each are doing on a daily basis.

11: Now the reason for this armour of God is not necessarily so we can assault the hilltops of this broken generation, and Paul uses a word four times in the next 3 verses – to stand in opposition to something or someone. The reason we put on the armour is so we can stand against the schemes of the devil. He’ll return to that reason in verse 13 and 14, so that if we set out the why of Paul we have this: Be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…
Be able to withstand in the evil day…
Having done all to stand firm…
Stand therefore…

The principle reason we wear that whole armour of God is so that we can withstand the attacks that will come by virtue of our belief, and after having endured the attack, to remain standing. In this, we each act as a messenger of the Gospel, which will never be defeated but remains standing even after severe attack. Our remaining standing witnesses to the world that we serve the victor.

12: Paul now goes on to define for us the battlefield. This text always reminds me of the standard military briefing format. Paul has defined for us the situation and the mission of the believer, he has told us about the friendly forces, and now he defines for us the enemy forces we will be engaging. He first identifies the type of conflict, which is a wrestling match, that is what we would call today CQB, close quarters battle. This is a hands-on job but, Paul makes clear that this battle is not against flesh and blood.

This is an important caution, particularly when we may have the reactive urge to directly engage sinful structures or people in personal attack. You may be called to do that, if your ministry is one of prophetic declaration on behalf of the Lord, but God does not usually ask us to engage in wrestling matches with flesh and blood. Rather, Paul tells us exactly what it is that we are fighting: against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. In more traditional translations, that rulers and authorities is rendered as powers and principalities. These foes are not ones that can be won by physical strength or endurance, or being able to bench 250, but rather can only be defeated through the mystical power of Christ.

This verse has been interpreted, in Enlightenment eyes, as talking about unjust power structures of this world. There is no doubt that Satan uses our human institutions, including the church, as a means to bring Christians into bondage. However, Paul is calling us to recognize that the face behind those unjust power structures is the great deceiver, the enemy of God, and to keep ourselves focused on the true enemy. This is why we can talk about, the corporate church bodies for example, as a part of the powers and principalities of this world, as they too often have become tools of oppression for those who follow Christ. Behind the physical and temporal structures that bring oppression, is a very real spiritual conflict that colours all that we encounter in the physical world. So behind our synod meeting, immensely polite and destructive, there is this intense spiritual combat taking place. Real wounds are being dealt, that cause grievous spiritual harm, and that cannot be cured with bandage or salve, but only by the power of God. Paul is not talking about bad managers here, but rather supernatural beings whose essence is wickedness, and whose primary goal is to bring suffering, chaos and disintegration on the followers of Christ.

13: God has not left us unprotected. While the battle has already been won by Christ on the cross, there is a fierce rearguard or mopping-up action taking place. We hear Paul say twice that we are to be ready, to stand on guard, to keep alert, so that we may carry out our mission to stand fast, and to take the fight to the enemy. The reason for the armour is reinforced, this time so that we may be able to withstand the evil day. Be not fooled that we are living in an evil day, and this is the reason why suffering comes so easily to those who believe. Until Christ returns, we live the brokenness of this world, and suffer and die.

14: Paul now turns standing into a command: stand therefore and, Fasten the belt of truth – the fastening of a belt prepares us for battle, keeping us tight, neat and ready to move. This belt is the truth of Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the light.” Christ’s truth dispels the darkness of deception and cloaking that is brought over the believers by Satan’s lies. The belt of truth compasses us about with Christ’s truth, which is every living word of the Gospel. We carry that truth with us when we go to battle. Put on the breastplate of righteousness – this provides our bodies with protection against direct blows, and God’s righteousness anoints us with the reality of Christ, and this dispels the lies of the evil one…lies whispered in our ears that we’re really not following Christ, or that it is easier to just go along with the world. Holiness is another word for righteousness, and this defends our hearts against the lies of the evil one.

15: Shoes for a soldier are critical, as they protect the feet. In times of high alert, a soldier may even sleep with boots on, in case of a late-night emergency. Here the shoes are the readiness given by the Gospel of peace. This is a very interesting insertion of a Gospel imperative for peace in the midst of very military imagery, and it is done for a specific purpose. While we may be girding ourselves for battle against these powers and principalities, we do not war the way the nation’s war. Rather, where we walk in Christ’s name we bring the peace that only the Gospel can bring. This may require that we boldly denounce evil when we encounter it, but we don’t conclude with a victory dance the way the world celebrates. Christians make war differently than the world.

16: The shield of faith protects us against the fiery arrows of the evil one, for it is our faith that keeps our eyes on the cross of Christ. That single minded faith protects us against all assaults – direct and personal, heretical teaching, persecution, temptation to ungodly behaviours. A shield often would be marked with a heraldic emblem that would indicate the loyalty of the bearer, and the shield of faith marks us as God’s own – we know to whom we belong.

17: The final piece of armour is the helmet of salvation, which covers our most vulnerable area, the mind, with the blessed assurance of our salvation. A spiritual attack on the believer comes first in the physical – a temptation into physical sin. If we resist the physical temptation, the subsequent attacks come in the mind, and can be subtle, deceptive and things of great beauty. Our mind, encompassed with our salvation and combined with God’s righteousness and the truth of Christ, is able to see through those lies and to stand firm.

The last metal item is a sword. The Greek describes a short sword or a long dagger, used for close quarters fighting, which further reflects Paul’s description of this wrestling match. Now a sword can be used defensively, but it is primarily an offensive weapon. Our sword is the very Word of God. With this sword we are able to cut connections to the lies that drag us down. The sharpness divides up things which do not belong together, and probes to the core of human issues, cutting away the masks of falsehood.

You are engaged in this warfare whenever you proclaim the Gospel, but that does not necessarily mean speaking. The very presence of a believer changes things on a spiritual level in a fundamental way. The mark left on us by our baptism and our belief, makes us the Christ-light in the midst of darkness, and the presence of a believer anywhere transforms that place even if no one knows you’re a Christian. This happens because of the spiritual reality, but also because by the very substance of who you are as a believer you influence all those around you. So in our schools, our workplaces, our families, our social groups, the presence of a follower of Christ is an evangelist merely by presence.

18: Paul ends the armour dialogue by identifying the true weapon of the believer, which is prayer, constant and persevering, in all forms and in supplication for all the saints. The whole armour of God allows us to stand fast against the assaults of the evil one, which permits us to wield the Word of God, and to pray without ceasing for all parts of the Body of Christ near and far. Paul emphasizes how we are to do this:
Pray at all times in the Spirit
With all prayer and supplication
Keep alert with all perseverance
Making supplication for all the saints.

Now, a concluding word on prayer. We live in a busy world, and finding time to pray is always a challenge, necessary, but a challenge. It is important that you set aside even a few minutes per day for time with the Lord, and to fit that in where ever you can in the day. A cup of coffee or tea and a quiet moment – I often take a few minutes at my desk before I leave for lunch to just dwell in the Spirit and to pray for the saints. Walking down a street is a good opportunity to pray, and while sitting in traffic, or while sitting in a deer blind. Even a stroll up to your community mailbox to pick up bills can be an occasion for intercession and worship. Make all aspects of your day an offering of prayer before God, and you will take a large step to Paul’s charge of praying without ceasing.

Prayer is also a sure defence against becoming a part of the world, for each word of prayer reconnects us with the Master, the victor of this earthly battle, our Lord Jesus. It is difficult to stay connected to the world in any real way when you are turning in prayer to Almighty God…for that very act, almost independent of what words you speak, separates you from the way of the world which declares there is no God.

What I wanted to share with you in particular is an ancient little prayer usually called the Jesus Prayer – how many have heard about it? This prayer comes out of the monastic tradition, and I think it one of the most powerful prayer strategies that I’ve encountered. I know in my life it has made a huge difference in the daily struggle to take thoughts captive and to replace the thoughts of this world with only the thoughts of Christ. If you are struggling with the anti-fruits of the Spirit, such as anger or despair, part of the Christian call is to take those thoughts captive in Christ, and the Jesus prayer is the main way I do that.

It’s a really simple prayer, that contains within it a statement of belief – a complete creed. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. That’s it. In those 12 words you affirm the faith, ask for intercession in your life, and remind yourself of why you need God. Once you’ve memorized the words, you can use it anywhere – just to start out I printed some business cards with the prayer and left them at the back. Take as many as you want and leave them where you’ll see them. It is a great prayer, even to say repeatedly when you’re driving or waiting for your family physician.

Taking things captive with the Jesus prayer just requires that you break into the thought, by praying the Jesus prayer. Each time the thought returns, pray the Jesus prayer again. You will find that your mind will be gradually transformed as you repeat the prayer.

Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, and one of the easiest ways to start on that is with the Jesus prayer. I commend it to you.

So, what message are we left with from Ephesians?

First, as believers we are to claim and live in Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness. They have no authority left over the believer, even while they may be able to bring suffering. We can be supremely confident in knowing of the defeat of all that stands against Christ, even while we war against powers and principalities.

Second, we are to be aware of the nature and dimension of the spiritual conflict which surrounds us. There is a spiritual war in progress, and ignorance is not bliss – it means you won’t understand the reason you suffer, and won’t know what to do about it. We are facing very real, personal intelligences who serve the ruler of this world, and who seek our destruction.

Third, even in the midst of persecution and attack, God has given us the tools we need to stand fast and to resist. We are to keep alert and to watch while praying constantly. We are to especially watch out for attacks where the powers and principalities come disguised as servants of righteousness, as wolves in sheep’s clothing, and to be on guard against heresy in the Body of Christ and to resist it whenever we encounter it.

The most important tool given to us by God is the Sword of the Spirit, that is, the living Word of God. With God’s word we can assess what is true, for nothing contrary to Scripture can be called true to Christ. By it we are saved. It is also the measure against which we test teaching to determine what is of God, and what is not. You’ve heard Don say, and I’ll say, that the obligation of a Christian is to test the spirits…and that includes testing what you hear preached in this church. If you believe we’ve departed from the one faith, please come and tell us, for I need rebuke when I go astray.

Finally, remember that the promise of God is life, and life abundant, joy and freedom. Anything which seeks to bring bondage to God’s people is not of God.

In all things, stand fast, and be ready. Put on the armour of God and pray without ceasing in supplication and intercession for all the saints, that in the day of trial you may be able to stand. For all of us, I pray that God will put upon us the belt of truth, that with it we may clearly see through the lies of this world; the breastplate of righteousness, so that we may be compassed about by God’s holiness; for readiness, the shoes of the gospel of peace that we may be bearers of God’s peace where ever we travel; let us take up the shield of faith in order to recognize and resist all the attacks of the evil one; on our head place the helmet of salvation, that our minds might be protected and secure in you, in our hand place the sword of the Spirit, which is the living Word of God.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on us, sinners all. Amen.

Written by sameo416

October 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Individual Victory

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Just reading an old ’53 commentary on Ephesians I found in a used bookstore. The words hit me in the face, as I was wondering about relationship with the organized church.  It is amazing how God brings those in grief comfort, in the strangest places.  I only picked this up off my shelf because I’m preaching on Ephesians tomorrow, and only looked at it as a last test for the already roughed out sermon.  Thanks be to God for this reminder.

It is important to observe at this point something of great spiritual significance.  Paul began his letter by talking to individual Christians…he makes it clear at its close that it is not en masse that Christians must fight the devil, but as individuals.  In the context of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan, every victory of each individual Christian is a defeat for the cosmic powers of evil.  We who are accustomed to regard victory solely in terms of organizational movements and their success, would do well to remember this.  A victory over temptation won by the most insignificant Christian soul has a cosmic dimension.  It breaks part of the power of the Enemy and brings the Kingdom of God nearer.  More ultimate even than the organized Church of Christ on earth is the individual soul. Souls, which in the words of the great historian, are more important than civilizations, have in certain periods of history been more important also than organized Churches.  Such souls, belong to Christ and being member of his Mystical Body, may exercise on occasion enormous spiritual influence, though they may be compelled to live a solitary existence and be unrecognized and unrequited by the organized Church of Christ. (page 196)

God’s Order: The Ephesian Letter and this Present Time, John A. Mackay, 1953

Written by sameo416

October 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What Mean You by this Word, Apostolic?

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Being apostolic means we are linked to all other apostolic parts of the Body, and to remain in that relationship obligates us to not depart from the apostolic faith. Apostolic churches have always been able to differ on things that don’t really matter to salvation – the types of robes used, or the style of music sung.  On matters of salvation apostolic means consistent and unified in one faith.

When a church departs from the apostolic faith, by taking a unilateral action that breaks that linkage, the church can no longer profess that it is apostolic.  Indeed, every time that a person professes faith in the ‘one holy, catholic, and apostolic church’ they will be professing a lie.  In the modern era, I expect most would treat such a declaration with indifference, or would proclaim that justice and love win the day.  That is fine to say, but to continue to call yourself apostolic makes a mockery of the word. 

Such a departure has profound spiritual consequences, that will be a mystery to people fully grounded in the way of this world.  God may not withdraw his Spirit from the Church, as long as there are faithful who remain and suffer, but God will withdraw his Spirit from those who have violated their oaths before God.  If we expect we can live and proclaim whatever we want in God’s name, we are mistaken.  Like in physics, in the Spirit every action has an equal reaction.

St Irenaeus sets the meaning of apostolic out beautifully (the bolded line is my favourite):

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it.  She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.  For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same.  For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world.  But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth.   Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition.   For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

Written by sameo416

October 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

St Athanasius on the Faith

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St Athanasius wrote this letter to his faithful who had been removed from their churches through violence by the Arians. The Arian heresy just about won the day – they believed that Jesus was a part of the created order. It is that heresy we rebut each time we repeat the creed, “…being of one substance with the Father…”. It was only through the faithful witness of believers, and Athanasius, that the apostolic faith was eventually restored.

Athanasius says some things about our faith that are an appropriate reminder to those who treasure the apostolic faith, and who worship Christ.  My personal favourite, “Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith.”

Here begins a letter of S. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, to his children. (from www.ccel.org)

May God comfort you. I know moreover that not only this thing saddens you, but also the fact that while others have obtained the churches by violence, you are meanwhile cast out from your places.   For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true Faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you.  Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith.

Who then has lost more, or who possesses more? He who holds the place, or he who holds the Faith? Good indeed is the place, when the Apostolic Faith is preached there, holy is it if the Holy One dwell there. (After a little:) But ye are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from Apostolic tradition, and frequently has accursed envy wished to unsettle it, but has not been able. On the contrary, they have rather been cut off by their attempts to do so. For this is it that is written, ‘Thou art the Son of the Living God,’ Peter confessing it by revelation of the Father, and being told, ‘Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to thee,’ but ‘My Father Who is in heaven,’ and the rest. No one therefore will ever prevail against your Faith, most beloved brethren. For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should [seem to] speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment [by means] of blood-thirsty enemies4538. And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth. What profit then is the Place to them?

For behold they that hold the Place are charged by them that love God with making it a den of thieves, and with madly making the Holy Place a house of merchandise, and a house of judicial business for themselves to whom it was unlawful to enter there. For this and worse than this is what we have heard, most beloved, from those who are come from thence. However really, then, they seem to hold the church, so much the more truly are they cast out. And they think themselves to be within the truth, but are exiled, and in captivity, and [gain] no advantage by the church alone. For the truth of things is judged…

Written by sameo416

October 19, 2012 at 9:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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