Daily Archives: February 16, 2014

(Local Paper) How the H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship

Robert Flemming saw it first.

He was standing bow watch on the USS Housatonic, scanning the water between his ship and the dark silhouette of the South Carolina coastline….

It was nearly 8:45 p.m. when Flemming spotted something on the water about 500 feet away. The object was about 22 feet long, he estimated, and only its ends were visible. He called out to a deck officer.

“There is something that looks like a log,” Flemming said. “It looks very suspicious.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Defense, National Security, Military, History, Science & Technology

Notable and Quotable (II)–Appearance versus Reality

[Donald Margulies’s play “Dinner With Friends'”]…underlying subject is the mysterious way in which all relationships ”” friendships as much as romances ”” can evolve on a deep level as people grow and change, while, on the surface, things appear to remain stable. Life is sailing smoothly by, then one day the familiar face on the other side of the bed, or across the dinner table, or maybe even in the mirror, looks utterly strange.

–Charles Isherwood in his NYT review of the play in Friday’s print edition, quoted by yours truly in Adult Sunday School class this morning on Revelation 2:1-7

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Middle Age, Psychology, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

Notable and Quotable (I)–The Tortuous desire to be great at portraying others

“When I saw ”˜All My Sons,’ I was changed ”” permanently changed ”” by that experience….It was like a miracle to me. But that deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great ”” well, that’s absolutely torturous.”

–Philip Seymour Hoffman as quoted in the New York Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Movies & Television, Psychology, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

Anglican Unscripted 92 – Has the Church of England done right by the Gospel?

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis

Sermon by Dr Christopher Seitz: The Final Achievement of The Law: Transformative Life-Giving Grace

The Final Achievement of The Law: Transformative Life-Giving Grace

Sermon given by Dr Christopher Seitz at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Dallas from the Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:17-37 and Deuteronomy 30:15-20

You may know the joke about God giving the commandments from Mt. Sinai. First he offers them to the Canaanites. They look them over and say, “actually, adultery is one of our favorite activities, no thanks.” So he goes next to the Hittites, and they say, “no thanks, you know stealing is one of our main occupations.” At last he comes to the children of Israel and says “I’ve got some commandments.” “Are they free?” they ask. “Yes,” God says. “Great, we’ll take ten.”

It’s a good joke but it also has some deeper truth inside it. God gave Israel the commandments freely and out of love. Israel received them as a gift, like a ring on a solemn wedding day. Binding Israel and God together. Indicating love and limit, compassion and constraint, both.

The ”˜until death do us part’ character of the law Jesus underscores today. Michael thought we ought to hear it twice, this Sunday and last, and I agree. Not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, not one comma or dot over the ”˜I’, will pass away. God gave the law. Jesus is its embodied guarantor, its best man, now standing before you and me who were not Israel but were always where God was headed through them, to us here this Sunday, February 16, at Good Shepherd, Dallas. Straight into that place inside of us where we decide, and choose, where we love and hate, where we envy and brood and plan and worry and hope.

God did not give Israel ten laws only but in fact more than 600. 613 to be specific. Jesus picks out 6 of them to make a point in the Sermon on the Mount, and four of the six he refers to today. Two are familiar from the top ten list Israel freely received. Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Two others are less so. A certificate of divorce you shall write (from Deuteronomy 24). And this is how vows are made (from Leviticus and Numbers).

Why does Jesus revisit these laws and insist our righteousness must exceed that of the legal experts of the day?….
Michael has reminded us of the context. Jesus is setting apart a people for himself just as God did secretly through him at Mt. Sinai in days of old. He has us climb a mountain and listen to him as did Israel with Moses of old. He begins this solemn discourse””covering 3 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel””with the beatitudes. God’s kingdom is for those who mourn, who long, who hurt, who suffer indignity. In other words, those of us who come in need. Not legal experts who know a lot but don’t know what it means to come to the end of themselves.

A church father once said, “I have listened to all the wise philosophers and poets and from them I learned much. But not one of them ever said, come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” This is the new law-giver offering us new life, a start-over, new kind of life.

A quest for higher righteousness, you might well think, does not seem restful, but sounds like hard work. So here the question properly arises, what is hard about it? What makes it hard?

The answer is found in the contrasts Jesus makes. The old law regulated murder. That lets most of us here off the hook, and thank God for that. But God sees into the deeper places, the hateful triggers that fester and if unchecked could go, and do go for some, all the way to taking life. Murder is the final place where hate and ”˜you fool’ started. Adultery is the final step for a heart that lusts and prefers the other woman over the one solemnly chosen. The law was given so that we might be exposed before God and a new life in him given, as was Israel of old released from bondage in Egypt and given a fresh start. That reality, that law of new life, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter will ever pass away. It belongs to God’s deepest purpose for us.

Divorce and vow-making are realities that already assume something is broken or threatens to be. But God never so intended it. Our Yes should be our Yes, and our No our No. So what is it that has gone wrong in us that it is not simply so? How can we find the higher righteousness that Jesus insists is to be ours in him? He is raising the stakes by turning on a searchlight that shows us all in need of some higher remedy and saying that is what God was doing at Mt Sinai and today, this morning, here and now.

The Law is not a set of 613 rules to obey, for which we get a grade depending on how many we get right, but a searching out of us at our deepest parts where we live and wrestle to follow God and find life in him.

The story is told about the man driving through rural West Virginia. Every barn he sees has a shooting target on its side; the dead middle, the bull’s eye, has been hit solidly and the rest untouched. He saw a farmer, stopped, and remarked at what good marksmen the men of the area must be. He said, “that’s easy, we shoot first and draw the target afterwards.”

The lower righteousness, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is something like this. It consists of congratulating ourselves that we have hit the target because a lot of God’s laws we know we faithfully follow and so take our reassurance that we are getting a good deal right in the end. On balance, we are trying hard or intend to shortly. But the not one letter, not one stroke of a letter that will not pass away is the law’s intention to give us life, not give us a way to justify ourselves. That is not the life Christ died to give us with God.

In the portion of scripture from Deuteronomy chosen for today, Israel is called to choose life. Yet if we read on, into the chapters that follow, we learn that the law of God asks us to choose life but also foresees that we will fail at that.

The thing that is hard about the higher righteousness is that we cannot actually choose it or will it. It must be given to us by the law-giver himself. And that path of that gift runs straight to the cross of Christ and another mountain called Calvary. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ takes his Cross inside the deepest places of our individual lives before him. We do in fact hate, and speak improperly, and judge, and lust in our heart, and make complex plans and vows when a simple Yes or No ought to do. This is who we are. This is what the scribe and Pharisee believe we can target and through hard work succeed at eliminating. But that is what makes their righteousness incomplete. It is shooting first and drawing the target after.

The righteousness that is higher is in fact too high for us in our flesh. Jesus will have to carve it out for us, and give it to us. And so he does. He will choose the hard and higher righteousness. He takes upon himself all that the law requires, and that we have failed at and will fail at. Nothing will be lessened or lowered. All that the law saw in us, he sees in us, and takes upon himself for us. And in turn he clothes us in his righteousness and makes us right in him. He hits the target at the dead middle, and gives us access to a life where we might follow in his victory.

It is here that the words of our collect for today strike home.

Mercifully accept our prayers, and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, clothe us in your higher righteousness, so that walking in your way we might keep your commandments and please you in will and in deed. And when we fail, teach us to return to you alone, the giver of all life that never fades away. Let us find in you a fresh start and a fresh hope and the life of your higher righteousness.

This isn’t just a nice piety we use to paper over our shortcomings, but one that takes seriously how deep the problem is that Christ has come to address in us, and how successfully and permanently he has done just that. We have the law’s obedient keeper as our Lord and giver of life. In him we are exposed and loved and set on a new path as new born children all at the same time. We are given the new clothes of his righteousness to put on. The old ones of the old Adam are to be put away, set on the curb. As we in turn receive his transforming, higher-righteousness, life-giving grace. That is the final accomplishment Jesus speaks of today as the law’s abiding purpose. For you and for me.


The Rev. Canon Dr. Christopher Seitz serves as Canon Theologian in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas and is senior research professor of biblical interpretation at Toronto School of Theology, Wycliffe College

Posted in Uncategorized

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, fountain of love, pour thy love into our souls, that we may love those whom thou lovest with the love thou givest us, and think and speak of them tenderly, meekly, lovingly; and so loving our brethren and sisters for thy sake, may grow in thy love, and dwelling in love may dwell in thee; for Jesus Christ’s sake.

–E. B. Pusey (1800-1882)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

–1 Timothy 3:14-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(W. Post) Small earthquake in South Carolina felt about 150 miles away

A small earthquake shook both states [Of South Carolina and Georgia] late Friday, shaking homes and rattling residents in three states.

The quake happened at 10:23 p.m. and had a preliminary magnitude of 4.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site. It was centered seven miles west of the town of Edgefield, S.C., and was felt as far west as Atlanta and as far north as Hickory, N.C., each about 150 miles away.

“It’s a large quake for that area,” said USGS geophysicist Dale Grant. “It was felt all over the place.”

Just another lowkey week here–NOT. Read it all–KSH

Posted in * General Interest, * South Carolina, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

(GC) Rosaria Butterfield–You Are What””and How””You Read

I just returned from a well-known (and well-heeled) Christian college, where roughly 100 demonstrators gathered on the chapel steps to protest my address on the grounds that my testimony was dangerous. Later that day, I sat down with these beloved students, to listen, to learn, and to grieve. Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia; the snarled composition of our own sin and the sin of others weighs heavily on us all. I came away from that meeting realizing””again””how decisively our reading practices shape our worldview. This may seem a quirky observation, but I know too well the world these students inhabit. I recall its contours and crevices, risks and perils, reading lists and hermeneutical allegiances. You see, I’m culpable. The blood is on my hands. The world of LGBTQ activism on college campuses is the world that I helped create. I was unfaltering in fidelity: the umbrella of equality stretching to embrace my lesbian identity, and the world that emerged from it held salvific potential. I bet my life on it, and I lost.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(McClatchy) Syria Geneva talks adjourn with no date set to resume

With no progress to report at the end of the second round of Syrian peace talks, U.N. Syria envoy Lakdhar Brahimi on Saturday adjourned the talks and set no date for the next round, calling instead for U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“I think it is better that every side goes back and reflects on their responsibility: Do they want this process to take place or not?” Brahimi told reporters.

Brahimi blamed the impasse on the two sides’ disagreement over how to deal with the four points on an agenda that Brahimi said both the Syrian government and the opposition have agreed to: violence and terrorism, the appointment of a transitional governing body, what to do with current national institutions, such as the police and the army, and how to bring about national reconciliation and debate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Middle East, Syria, Violence

(Nigeria Tribune) Doctors, nurses flee as Boko Haram gets deadlier

Persistent attacks by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s Borno State have forced dozens of clinics to shut down and hundreds of doctors to flee, leaving many residents to seek medical attention across the border in Cameroon, health professionals and residents told a United Nations agency, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).

Musa Babakura, a surgeon at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) in Maiduguri, told IRIN: “There is a growing health crisis in northern Borno, where most doctors and medical personnel have left the area due to security threat[s] from Boko Haram, forcing thousands to seek medical services across the border into Cameroon.

“The whole healthcare system in northern Borno has collapsed.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Health & Medicine, Nigeria, Terrorism, Violence

(JE) Brian Miller–Anglicanism is Alive and Well

Roger Scruton is possibly the most important conservative philosopher alive today. His book Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England, is a must read, but then again, I say that about everything he writes. The man wrote an entire book on faces ”“ yes, faces ”“ and changed the way I look at the world….Anglicans Alister McGrath and John Lennox are well known for their apologetics and for going toe to toe with Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists. If you are restless and reformed you have probably heard the names of men like N.T. Wright and J.I. Packer, and if you really like to read, you may have heard of the political theologian Oliver O’Donovan.

So while many others and myself continue to lament the squishiness of Canterbury and the apostasy of the Episcopal Church, remember that reports of the Church’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary