Category : * Christian Life / Church Life

Wednesday Food for Thought–Tim Keller on the Holy Spirit as our Second Advocate and a story from the 18th century Welsh Church

” … your defense lawyer may have hard and challenging things to say to you, yet always in order to help you case and cause. And he or she does not merely speak to you – but also speaks to the powers that be for you. This is why the translations of John 14:16-20; 25-27 that call the Holy Spirit the Advocate are also, I believe, on the right track. That’s how God’s Spirit is defined, or described, in the word Jesus uses to talk about him. But we must notice also that Jesus calls the Spirit another Advocate or counselor. Who, then, is the first Advocate? The only other place in the New Testament where the word paraklete is used is in 1 John 2:1-2: ‘If anyone does sin, we have an advocate (paraklete) with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ So Jesus is the first Advocate, and the Spirit is the second. And I want you to know that in this word – advocate, counselor – we have the key to understanding not only Jesus’ work on the cross but also the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Indeed, I’d argue that unless you know that Jesus was the first Advocate, you won’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit as the second Advocate at all….”

“The first Advocate is speaking to God for you, but the second Advocate is speaking to you for you. Throughout the Farewell Discourse, Jesus keeps saying that the job of the Spirit is to take all the things Jesus has done on our behalf – all the things that the apostles had still not yet grasped – and to ‘teach you’ and ‘remind you’ and enable the apostles to finally understand all that Jesus had taught them about his saving work (John 14:26).”

“I love the fact that the Holy Spirit is not merely an instructor, but an Advocate. Though he is ‘the Spirit of truth,’ he does not merely teach and inform us; he calls us to live according to what he is telling us. He convicts us and challenges us (John 16:8-11). He says in effect, ‘You are a sinner – are you living with the humility and dependence on God that results from that fact? Yet you are also righteous in Christ – adopted and accepted into the family. Are you living with the boldness and freedom that should accord with that fact? Are you as free from the need for worldly power and approval and comfort as you should be?’ He argues with us, he exhorts, beseeches, and entreats us (all good translations of parakleo), to live lives in accordance with the accomplishments and realities of Christ’s love. And this is why Jesus says that through the Holy Spirit he will finally ‘show’ himself to his friends (John 14:21). They will finally see him and know his loving presence. … it’s natural for us to believe that it would have been better to have lived during the time of Christ and to have actually met him and heard him with our ears and seen him with our eyes. You might believe that you could know him better that way than you do now – but you would be wrong. Before he died, the Holy Spirit had not been released into the world in this powerful way, and you can only know Jesus fully through the Spirit’s influence, as he shows you in the shadow of the cross how high and long and wide and deep his love is for us. In other words, right here and now, through the Holy Spirit, you can see Christ and know his presence and his love better than the apostles could in that moment in the upper room.”

“This week, somebody criticized you. Something you bought or invested in turned out to be less valuable than you thought. Something you wanted to happen didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Someone you counted on let you down. These are real losses – of your reputation, of your material wealth, of your hopes. But what are you going to do, if you’re a Christian? Will this setback disrupt your contentment with life? Will you shake your fist at God? Toss and turn at night? If so, I submit that it’s because you don’t know how truly rich you are. You are not listening to the second Advocate about your first Advocate. You are not living in joy. You are forgetting that the only eyes in the universe that matter see you not as the ‘phony little fake’ you have sometimes been, but as a person of captivating beauty. If you’re that upset about your status with other people, if you’re constantly lashing out at people for hurting your feelings, you might call it a lack of self-control or a lack of self-esteem, and it is. But more fundamentally, you have totally lost touch with your identity. As a Christian, you’re a spiritual billionaire and you’re wringing your hands over ten dollars. It’s the job of the second Advocate to argue with you in the court of your heart, to make the case about who you are in Christ, to show you that you’re rich. And it’s your job to listen. How can you listen better? That’s a big subject, but if you are a believer, then the Holy Spirit will do his work as you use the ‘means of grace’ – reading and studying the Word by yourself and in community, prayer, worship, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper….” 

“I once heard a story of an eighteenth-century Welsh preacher who, when he was just a teenager, was standing with his family around the deathbed of one of his aunts. His aunt had been a strong Christian, but she was slipping away. Everyone thought she was unconscious and some said out loud, ‘It’s a shame; she’s had such a hard life. She’s seen two husbands die, and she’s often been sick, and on top of it all she has died poor.’ Suddenly she opened her eyes, looked around, and said, ‘Who calls me poor? I am rich, rich! And I will soon stand before Him bold as a lion.’ And then she died. Understandably, that had quite an effect on the young man. This woman had the peace that Jesus spoke of because she had listened to the Advocate. She was saying, ‘I’ve got the only husband who can’t die. I’ve got the only wealth that can never go away. And my Savior dealt long ago with sin – the only disease that can really and truly kill me. How can you call me poor?’ The second Advocate had told her about the first Advocate, so she could say in the face of great loss, as the hymn writer did, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

–Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), pp.34-147, quoted by yours truly in this past Sunday’s sermon

Posted in --Wales, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Matthias

O Almighty God, who into the place of Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: Grant that thy Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to begin the day from the Gregorian Sacramentary

O God, who willest not the death of a sinner: We beseech thee to aid and protect those who are exposed to grievous temptations; and grant that in obeying thy commandments they may be strengthened and supported by thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

(Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth) U.S. Supreme Court upholds Texas ruling on bishop Ryan Reed led Diocese and Corporation

It is with great joy and thanksgiving to God that we receive news today that the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has let stand the unanimous May 2020 ruling of the Texas Supreme Court (TXSC),which found in favor of the Diocese and diocesan Corporation.

Responding to two Petitions and replies, SCOTUS denied the requests of The Episcopal Church and All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth for a review of the May 2020 opinion. That opinion upheld state trust law and statutes governing unincorporated associations, affirming ownership of properties throughout the Diocese is governed by our Constitution and Canons and administered by the diocesan Corporation.

For all practical purposes this ends the appeals process that began in 2015 following the Second Summary Judgement of the trial court in Fort Worth.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, Supreme Court, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

John and Polycarp on Heretics

From here:

“There are those who have heard [Polycarp] tell how when John the disciple of the Lord went to bathe at Ephesus, and saw Cerinthus inside, he rushed out of the bath without washing, but crying out, ‘Let us escape, lest the bath should fall while Cerinthus the enemy of the truth is in it.’ Polycarp himself, when Marcion once met him and said, ‘Do you know us?’ answered, ‘I know you, the first-born of Satan.’ The apostles and their disciples took such great care not even to engage in conversations with the corrupters of the truth, as Paul also said, ‘A heretical man [(ἁιρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον)] after a first and second warning avoid, knowing that such a man has fallen away and is a sinner, being self-condemned.'”

–Irenaeus, Against heresies 3.3.4

Posted in Church History, Theology

A Portion of the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp for his Feast Day

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Cesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, Chapter IX.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Polycarp

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who didst give to thy venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Saviour, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, after his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to begin the day from Thomas Wilson

O Heavenly Father, subdue in us whatever is contrary to thy holy will, that we may know how to please thee. Grant, O God, that we may never run into those temptations which in our prayers we desire to avoid. Lord, never permit our trials to be above our strength; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Alan Haley–TEC Diocese in Fort Worth loses its Appeal to the US Supreme Court of a Unanimous Texas Supreme Court Ruling Against them

With its denial of certiorari (review) this morning to two of the Episcopal Church in the USA’s (“ECUSA’s”) groups in Fort Worth, Texas, the United States Supreme Court has put to rest the multiple adverse claims made for the last twelve years against the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. All of those various claims, and the stages of their ups and downs, have been chronicled on this blog, which began just before the legal disputes emerged. It is gratifying, therefore, to report that this blog has managed to outlive, along with (retired) Bishop Jack Iker and his faithful flock, the Machiavellian intrigues of the schemers at 815 Second Avenue to hound and intimidate them into surrender of their properties.

Denial of review of the May 2020 decision by the Texas Supreme Court puts finally to rest ECUSA’s dogged attempts to enforce its notorious and one-sided Dennis Canon in Texas. The brazenness of that Canon, which attempted unilaterally to impose (after the fact) an enforceable, perpetual trust everywhere on all the parish properties of its members in ECUSA’s favor, ran directly into long-standing Texas trust law, which requires the consent of a property’s owner to place it into a trust, and which also requires express language to make a trust irrevocable. The Dennis Canon failed the test on both of those grounds.

Nor could ECUSA succeed by giving its successor group the same name as Bishop Iker’s Diocese, and then pretending to assume its identity. The Texas Supreme Court saw through those machinations, and held that the majority controlling the Diocesan corporation, and not ECUSA’s minority faction, were the true successors under Texas corporate law to the group that founded the original Diocese in 1983. In that respect, the Texas courts were far more perspicacious than the feckless courts in California, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere who simply allowed ECUSA’s attorneys to pull the wool over their eyes, and pretend that the newest kid on the block was actually the oldest, who (they claimed) had been there the whole time.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Supreme Court, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

(AP) 10 years after quake, Christ Church Cathedral finally rising

The Christ Church Cathedral was arguably New Zealand’s most iconic building before much of it crumbled in an earthquake 10 years ago. The years of debate that followed over whether the ruins should be rebuilt or demolished came to symbolize the paralysis that has sometimes afflicted the broader rebuild of Christchurch.

As the city on Monday marks one decade since the quake struck, killing 185 people and upending countless more lives, there are finally signs of progress on the cathedral.

It’s being rebuilt to look much like the original that was finished in 1904, only with modern-day improvements to make it warmer and safer, even to add extra much-needed bathrooms. But first, workers must stabilize the remains.

Peter Carrell, the Anglican bishop of Christchurch, said reopening it will represent a key milestone.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday sermon–What does it Mean to Abide in the Lord (Psalm 25:1-10)?

The sermon starts about 31:15 in.

Listen carefully for a story from the life of evangelist Daniel Paul Rader (1879-1938) and another one about the church in 18th century Wales.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Meir Soloveichik for Eric Liddell’s Feast Day–Finding God in the Olympic Footrace

While Americans rightly exult in the achievements of U.S. medalists, “Chariots of Fire” also serves as a reminder that athletics and even patriotism only mean so much. When Liddell is informed that a qualifying heat takes place on Sunday, his Sabbath, he chooses not to compete in that race. The camera cuts from athletes at the Olympics to Liddell reading a passage in Isaiah: “Behold the nations are as a drop in the bucket . . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” David Puttnam, a “Chariots of Fire” producer, wrote me that the verses were “specifically selected by the actor, the late Ian Charleson, who gave himself the task of reading the entire Bible whilst preparing for the film.”

The Isaiah passage is liturgically important for Jews: Parts of it are declaimed in synagogue on the Sabbath when we read God’s command to Abraham to leave the center of civilization and found a family, and a faith, in a new land. Isaiah reminds Jews that Abraham’s children have encountered much worse than what Harold Abrahams experienced. While most nations now rest on the ash heap of history, the biblical Abraham’s odyssey continues. The countries competing in today’s Olympics come and go, while those who “wait upon the Lord” endure.

“Chariots of Fire” also offers a message for people of faith who have grown troubled by the secularization of society and the realization that they are often scorned by elites. Like Liddell, we may be forced to choose religious principle over social success. Hopefully, however, we will be able to use our gifts to sanctify this world. As Liddell’s father told his son in the film: “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back in wonder.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, Missions, Sports

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Eric Liddell

God whose strength bears us up as on mighty wings: We rejoice in remembering thy athlete and missionary, Eric Liddell, to whom thou didst bestow courage and resolution in contest and in captivity; and we pray that we also may run with endurance the race that is set before us and persevere in patient witness, until we wear that crown of victory won for us by Jesus our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer, Sports

A Prayer to begin the day from John Cosin

O Lord our God, grant us, we beseech thee, patience in troubles, humility in comforts, constancy in temptations, and victory over all our spiritual foes. Grant us sorrow for our sins, thankfulness for thy benefits, fear of thy judgment, love of thy mercies, and mindfulness of thy presence; now and for evermore.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Prayers for the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina This Day

Join us this Sunday, February 21, as we, in The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina, pray for the work and ministry of…

Posted by The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina on Friday, February 19, 2021

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to begin the day from Brooke Foss Westcott

Blessed Lord, who wast tempted in all things like as we are, have mercy upon our frailty. Out of weakness give us strength; grant to us thy fear, that we may fear thee only; support us in time of temptation; embolden us in time of danger; help us to do thy work with good courage, and to continue thy faithful soldiers and servants unto our life’s end.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Gail Thornton RIP

Agnes Gaillard Thornton, 83 of Summerville, SC passed away January 25, 2021 at Life Care of Charleston.
Daughter of H. Reed Joyner and Agnes L. Gaillard. After the death of her father in WWII, in Belgium, at the Battle of the Bulge, her mother remarried the Reverend George Lenhart Jacobs, who in turn adopted mom. Her name was changed to, Agnes Gaillard Joyner Jacobs. After marrying our father, Reuben Thomas (Tommy) Thornton, III she became known as Agnes Gaillard Thornton.
Mom was a lifelong member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where she sang in the choir. She was a voracious reader, lover of the theater and loved traveling the world especially Paris!
She was predeceased by her parents, her husband of 37 years and her youngest son Geoffrey.
She is survived by her brother, Adam (Rachel) of Ravenel, SC; and sister Georgia (Jerry) of Johns Island, SC. Sons Tommy (Cathryn) of Indian Harbour Beach, Fl and Clay (Sandy) of Summerville, SC. Grandchildren: Elizabeth, Ben, Cameron, Clayton. Great grandchildren: Nicholas, Jack, Timothy, and Charlotte.
The family would like to give a special thank you for the awesome, loving care she received at Life Care of Charleston and especially her special nurses: Candace and Nina.
In lieu of flowers, if a memorial would like to be given, the family ask they be made to: Flowertown Players, 133 S. Main Street, Summerville, SC 29483.
During this period of COVID 19, the family is having a private graveside service (Courtesy of Dyal Funeral Home).

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals

(CT) The Radical Christian Faith of Frederick Douglass (for his Feast Day)

Douglass rejoiced in 1865 when the Union triumphed in the Civil War and the nation ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery forever. But he did not believe his prophetic work had ended. At the end of his life, equality under the law remained an aspiration, not a reality. African Americans and women were denied the right to vote. The ghost of slavery lived on in oppressive economic arrangements like sharecropping. Jim Crow carved rigid lines of racial segregation in the public square. White mobs lynched at least 200 black men each year in the 1890s.

He had good reason, then, in 1889, to mourn how the “malignant prejudice of race” still “poisoned the fountains of justice, and defiled the altars of religion” in America. Yet Douglass also rejoiced in the continued possibility of redemption. A new way of seeing the world, and living in it, still remained—one that rested, Douglass said, on a “broad foundation laid by the Bible itself, that God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Frederick Douglass

Almighty God, we bless thy Name for the witness of Frederick Douglass, whose impassioned and reasonable speech moved the hearts of people to a deeper obedience to Christ: Strengthen us also to speak on behalf of those in captivity and tribulation, continuing in the Word of Jesus Christ our Liberator; who with thee and the Holy Spirit dwelleth in glory everlasting. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to begin the day from the Gelasian Sacramentary

O God, who by thy Son dost marvellously work out the salvation of mankind: Grant, we beseech thee, that, following the example of our blessed Lord, and observing such a fast as thou dost choose, we may both be subjected to thee with all our hearts, and united to each other in holy charity; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Churchwarden Patrick Kidd Expresses Some Concerns about recent C of E leadership amidst the Pandemic

Take the time to read it carefully.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A Prayer to begin the day from Prayers for the Christian Year

Almighty God, spirit of peace and of grace, whose salvation is never far from penitent hearts: We confess the sins that have estranged us from thee, dimmed our vision of heavenly things, and brought upon us many troubles and sorrows. O merciful Father, grant unto us who humble ourselves before thee the remission of all our sins, and the assurance of thy pardon and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Prayers for the Christian Year (SCM, 1964)

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

(LA Times) Black people still aren’t getting COVID vaccines. This pastor isn’t having it

The pandemic has forced churches across California to keep their doors shut for much of the last year. For some, that has meant losing loyal congregants who lack internet service and, therefore, have been unable to watch sermons online. For others, the shift to streaming solely on social media has allowed them to actually expand their congregations.

City of Refuge is one the churches that has grown and Jones has used the opportunity to speak to more people about the dangers of COVID-19 and the safety of vaccines. In fact, the biggest reason he wanted to get vaccinated was to set an example for his congregation of 20,000, and for the hundreds of others who also now watch him online every Sunday.

Too many members are reluctant to get vaccinated, he said, despite the risks they face. They insist that the vaccines are “evil,” he said, and that the coronavirus was manufactured and that Donald Trump had something to do with it.

“It’s just the same old conspiracy stories. There’s no proof for any of that,” said Jones, 71, who also happens to be the brother of model and actress Grace Jones. “So what I do is I go in and say, where’s the proof? Let’s talk reality.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(RNS) Dallas faith groups help shelter homeless Texans during deep freeze

Some communities urged residents to boil water before drinking, and Texas officials are not sure when power outages will end, according to local news reports from Dallas. The Weather Channel reported 17 people had died due to the storm.

The Rev. Wayne Walker of OurCalling, a Dallas-based homeless ministry, said his organization had been providing shelter at its building but became too crowded during the deep freeze. There was not enough space for people to stay warm while still keeping socially distanced.

One Dallas homeless shelter, where about 250 people were staying, temporarily lost power due to the storm, reported The Dallas Morning News. The city has also been relying on local hotels to provide winter shelter for the homeless during the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Parish Ministry

(The Bakersfield Californian) Churches strive to maintain Ash Wednesday tradition, even as they bend it for safety’s sake

It was another sign of the times Wednesday as two Anglican priests sprinkled ashes over the heads of the faithful without the congregants having to get out of their cars.

Beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday in the parking lot of Trinity Anglican Church in southwest Bakersfield, a drive-thru format was used to minimize physical contact during the early-morning observance of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

“We’ve never done this before, but with COVID, God is letting us try something different this year,” said the Rev. Karl Dietze, pastor at Trinity.

He didn’t really know whether anyone would even show up for the unusual Ash Wednesday rite, but Dietze said it was worth a try.

“We’re trying to do ministry and keep people safe at the same time,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lent, Parish Ministry

(RC World) Ron Rittgers for Luther’s Feast Day–Martin Luther’s Reformation Of Love

Viewing Luther’s central problem as an inability to fulfill the two great commandments helps to account for why he spends so much time in Reformation manifestos like The Freedom of the Christian on love of neighbor. He believed that his evangelical theology enabled one to truly love the neighbor as one received unmerited divine love through loving trust in God, which fulfilled the first commandment (LW 29:186). A big chunk of The Freedom of the Christian is given over to a consideration of neighbor-love. As Luther reflected on the Christ hymn in Philippians 2, he asserted, “…the good things [i.e., faith and righteousness] we have from God should flow from one to the other and be common to all, so that everyone should ‘put on’ his neighbor and so conduct himself toward him as if he himself were in the other’s place. From Christ the good things have flowed and are flowing into us. He has so “put on” us and acted for us as if he had been what we are. From us they should flow to those who have need of them… This is true love and the genuine rule of a Christian life. Love is true and genuine where there is true and genuine faith” (LW 31: 371).

Luther posited a radical solution to a traditional problem. He argued that the way to enable fallen human beings like us to love God and neighbor is to assure us of God’s prior unconditional love for us in Christ, which frees us from our perceived need and ability to make ourselves lovable to God through our own efforts. Luther argued that once we experience the inflowing of this radical love into our hearts and lives, this love itself moves us to love God with childlike trust and to love our neighbor as we ourselves have been loved. At its best and at its heart, the Reformation was all about this reformation of love.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin Luther

O God, our refuge and our strength, who didst raise up thy servant Martin Luther to reform and renew thy Church in the light of thy word: Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of thy grace, which thou hast made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to begin the day from Prayers for the Christian Year

O Lord our God, who art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity: Have mercy upon us, we beseech thee, for our sins accuse us, and we are troubled by them and put to shame. We have done wrong to ourselves in ignorance, and to our brethren in willfulness, and by our selfish and faithless ways have grieved thy Holy Spirit. Forgive us, we humbly pray thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Prayers for the Christian Year (SCM, 1964)

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

C H Spurgeon for Ash Wednesday–The Turning for which God Calls

I. In the first place, my hearers, let me endeavour to explain to you the NATURE OF THE TURNING HERE MEANT. It says—”if he turn not he will whet his sword.”

To commence then. The turning here meant is actual, not fictitious—not that which stops with promises and vows, but that which deals with the real acts life. Possible one of you will say, this morning “Lo I turn to God; from this forth I will not sin, but I will endeavour to walk in holiness; my vices shall be abandoned, my crimes shall be thrown to the winds, and I will turn unto God with full purpose of heart;” but, mayhap, to-morrow you will have forgotten this; you will weep a tear or two under the preaching of God’s word, but by to-morrow every tear shall have been dried, and you will utterly forget that you ever came to the house of God at all. How many of us are like men who see their faces in a glass, and straightway go away and forget what manner of men they are! Ah! my hearer, it is not thy promise of repentance that can save thee; it is not thy vow, it is not thy solemn declaration, it is not the tear that is dried more easily than the dew-drop by the sun, it is not the transient emotion of the heart which constitutes a real turning to God. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin, and a turning unto righteousness in real act and deed in every-day life. Do you say you are sorry, and repent, and yet go on from day to day, just as you always went? Will your now bow your heads, and say, “Lord, I repent,” and in a little while commit the same deeds again? If ye do, your repentance is worse than nothing, and shall but make your destruction yet more sure; for he that voweth to his Maker, and doth not pay, hath committed another sin, in that he hath attempted to deceive the Almighty, and lie against the God that made him. Repentance to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward conduct.

In the next place, repentance to be sure must be entire. How many will say, “Sir, I will renounce this sin and the other; but there are certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold.” O sirs, In God’s name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance; it is the solemn renunciation of every sin. If thou dost harbour one of those accursed vipers in thy heart, thy repentance is but a sham. If thou dost indulge in but one lust, and dost give up every other, that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink thy soul. Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices; fancy it not enough to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life; it is all or none which God demands. “Repent,” says he; and when he bids you repent, he means repent for all thy sins, otherwise he never can accept thy repentance as being real and genuine. The true penitent hates sin in the race, not in the individual—in the mass, not in the particular. He says, “Gild thee as thou wilt, O sin, I abhor thee! Ay, cover thyself with pleasure, make thyself guady, like the snake with its azure scales—I hate thee still, for I know thy venom, and I flee from thee, even when thou comest to me in the most specious garb.” All sin must be given up, or else you shall never have Christ: all transgression must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you. Let us remember, then, that for repentance to be sincere it must be entire repentance.

Again, when God says, “If he turn not, he will whet his sword,” he means immediate repentance. Ye say, when we are nearing the last extremity of mortal life, and when we are entering the borders of the thick darkness of futurity, then we will change our ways. But, my dear hearers, do not delude yourselves. It is few who have ever changed after a long life of sin. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” If so, let him that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well. Put no faith in the repentances which you promise yourselves on your death beds. There are ten thousand arguments against one, that if you repent not in health, you will never repent in sickness. Too many have promised themselves a quiet season before they leave the world, when they could turn their face to the wall and confess their sins; but how few have found that time of repose! Do not men drop down dead in the streets—ay, even in the house of God? Do they not expire in their business? And when death is gradual, it affords but an ill season for repentance. Many a saint has said on his death-bed, “Oh! if I had now to seek my God, if I had now to cry to him for mercy, what would become of me? These pangs are enough, without the pangs of repentance. It is enough to have the body tortured, without having the soul wrung with remorse.” Sinner! God saith, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, when your fathers tempted me and proved me.” When God the Holy Spirit convinces men of sin, they will never talk of delays. You may never have another to repent in. Therefore saith the voice of wisdom, “Repent now.” The Jewish rabbis said, “Let every man repent one day before he dies, and since he may die to-morrow, let him take heed to turn from his evil ways to-day.” Even so we say; immediate repentance is that which God demands, for he hath never promised thee that thou shalt have any hour to repent in, except the one that thou hast now.

Furthermore; the repentance here described as absolutely necessary is hearty repentance. It is not a mock tear; it is not hanging out the ensigns of grief, whilst you are keeping merriment in your hearts. It is not having an illumination within, and shutting up all the windows by a pretended repentance; it is the putting out of the candles of the heart; it is sorrow of soul which is true repentance. A man may renounce every outward sin, and yet not really repent. True repentance is a turning of the heart as well as of the life; it is the giving up of the whole soul to God, to be his for ever and ever; it is a renunciation of the sins of the heart, as well as the crimes of the life.

Read it all from December 7, 1856.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Lent, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A look Back to Benedict XVI’s 2013 Ash Wednesday Homily

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2.12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”.

Read it all.

Posted in Lent, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture