Daily Archives: September 22, 2014

Mark Avera's Sunday Sermon: "Delighting in his Grace" (on Jonah+Matthew 20:1-16)

Listen to it all (starts about 7:15 in). Also note there is a download option.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Betsy Childs reviews Marilynne Robinson new Novel "Lila"

Lila expresses some unorthodox ideas, but they didn’t spoil the book for me in the way they would have if I’d felt like Robinson was using her as a mouthpiece for heresy. Rather, as Lila reads the Bible for the first time, starting with Ezekiel then Job (instead of Matthew as her husband suggests), she encounters the strangeness of God and tries to work him out according to her own logic. Lila has far to go before she grasps the justice of God, and even farther before she understands his mercy. Lila doesn’t come at the Scriptures from a position of arrogance, but of ignorance, a condition of which she is keenly and painfully aware.

Lila is not a cheerful book, but it is a beautiful book. Robinson writes as convincingly as a sinner lately-loved as she did in the voice of a third-generation pastor. As I neared the end of the book, my reading slowed””not because I grew disinterested, but because I was sorry to see it end.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Pew Res.) Public Sees Religion’s Influence Waning

Nearly three-quarters of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade. And most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing.

Perhaps as a consequence, a growing share of the American public wants religion to play a role in U.S. politics. The share of Americans who say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues is up 6 points since the 2010 midterm elections (from 43% to 49%). The share who say there has been “too little” expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders is up modestly over the same period (from 37% to 41%). And a growing minority of Americans (32%) think churches should endorse candidates for political office, though most continue to oppose such direct involvement by churches in electoral politics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology

([London] Times) Plan to send 300,000 new Bibles into Iran

A new Persian translation of the Bible will be smuggled into Iran to feed a growing Christian community in the Islamic republic, defying a campaign of persecution by Tehran.

Publishers of the new edition, unveiled at a ceremony in London today, plan to ship 300,000 copies into Iran over the next three years. Iranian clerics have denounced the text, but missionary groups claim Iran’s Christian community is the world’s fastest growing, rising by 20 per cent a year.

More than 60 Christians are being held in Iranian jails, and police continue to target the “house churches” where small groups gather for prayer and Bible study.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Books, Globalization, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Independent) Religion can be 'dangerous and lethal', warns Bishop of London

“Much religion is really dangerous and I would say lethal,” he told the blog Philosophy for Life. “We project parts of ourselves ”“ our anger, all kinds of personal psychic material ”“ into the middle distance, deifying it.”

Bishop Chartres ”“ who previously caused controversy by saying that flying to go on holiday was “a symptom of sin” ”“ says religion in the West “has become ideas in the mind”, a development he describes as “a very modern tragedy”.

Read it all and take the time to read the full blog report linked in the article.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(God and Politics UK) The Church has a unique role to play in healing Scotland’s wounds

Reconciliation in its widest sense is about the restoration of relationships that have been badly damaged and broken. Jesus taught us to love and forgive those who hurt us. There can be no reconciliation without forgiveness ”“ this is love in practice.

The bonds that unite this country have been tested to near breaking point this week. We will now be together for a long time to come and it is important for the sake of our future that we move forward without carrying heavy baggage full of resentment and distrust along with us.

Politicians have been given a sharp shock and need to wake up to the disillusionment felt by many voters. The incredible turnout in Scotland has engaged an entire population. Fears for some have been dissipated, but hopes for others have been shattered. Politicians cannot ignore those desires for change. They can work towards building a politically fairer society, but reconciliation has a spiritual dimension. If Scotland is to become a united country once again in a United Kingdom, then Christians will need to play their part, pouring out an unconditional love that dissipates resentment and reminds factions who have fought against each other how much they still have in common.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Theology

Music for Monday Morning – Sabre Dance from Khachaturian's Gayane

Posted in * General Interest

Kendall Harmon's Sunday Sermon–The Challenge of Trials (James 1)

You may find the audio link here if you wish to listen to it.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Jerry Kramer–The 'Suffering of Iraqi Christians is beyond description’

The suffering of Iraqi Christian refugees fleeing the depredations of the Islamic State (ISIS) are beyond description, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Zanzibar reports following a visit to Kurdistan last week. The Rev Jerry Kramer writes: “Right now we’re processing all that we saw and experienced firsthand. Honestly, we don’t have the words at the moment. The suffering is so immense. The magnitude of the disaster is beyond comprehension.” Fr Kramer, who served as the rector of an Episcopal congregation in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and was one of the leaders in the grassroots campaign to rebuild the city, but currently is a missionary in Tanzania with Love for the Least ministries stated: “Christians were given 48 hours to leave their homes. “Some paid to stay or converted to Islam.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Tanzania, Terrorism, Violence

(AP) Pope in Albania urges Muslims to condemn extremism

Pope Francis called Sunday for Muslims and all religious leaders to condemn Islamic extremists who “pervert” religion to justify violence, as he visited Albania and held up the Balkan nation as a model for interfaith harmony for the rest of the world.

“To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman,” Francis told representatives of Albania’s Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic communities during a half-day visit to Tirana in which he recalled the brutal persecution people of all faiths suffered under communism.

Francis wept when he heard the testimony of one priest, the Rev. Ernest Troshani, 84, who for 28 years was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to forced labor for refusing to speak out against the Catholic Church as his captors wanted.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Albania, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Violence

(Economist) Ebola–Chasing a rolling snowball

The dispatch of troops to west Africa may seem an odd priority when American forces are preparing to confront jihadists in Iraq and Syria and are stretched thin elsewhere. Ebola is a disease that is usually absent from human populations, has been quickly stamped out in the past and in its worst recorded outbreak has thus far caused 3,000 known deaths (see article). Moreover it is unlikely to spread widely in rich countries with good health-care systems. Set against killers such as HIV, the virus that kills some 1.6m people a year, or tuberculosis (TB), which takes another 1.3m lives, an expensive fight against Ebola may seem a misallocation of resources.

Yet Ebola is now growing exponentially, with the number of new cases roughly doubling every three weeks or so. In Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, it is thought to be doubling every two weeks. Previous outbreaks were usually in rural villages where it was easier to contain. At this rate of progress, small numbers quickly become big ones, and there is a real risk of the disease spreading to cities such as Lagos, which is home to more than 10m people. The longer Ebola is allowed to replicate in humans, the greater the risk that it will become more contagious. Some virologists fret that it might even acquire the ability to be transmitted through the air by coughs and sneezes. Although this seems unlikely, nobody wants to find out just how quickly Ebola can adapt to humans.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Theology

(NPR) "God's story doesn't need to be True to Be Believed"

(Please note that the above headline is the one given by NPR to the piece as it appear on thier main page–KSH).

Believing in God isn’t like believing, correctly or incorrectly, that there are brick houses on Elm Street. What’s at stake is not a simple proposition whose meaning is understood and whose truth is up for discussion. God is an idea that is made intelligible, to the degree that it is intelligible, only thanks to the stories we tell about Him or about ourselves and our history. Believing in God is more like believing that a story is true, or that a story is compelling or worthwhile or worth learning or caring about, than it is like believing some fact.

Herodotus said that history is the history of lies. This is a bit of an overstatement. But I get the point. History is made up of stories and stories are often slightly less than, or maybe slightly more than, the truth.

A story teller, like a bank teller, aims at a good count, a well balanced, transparent accounting. And the value of a good story doesn’t ever consist in its matching all the facts….

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Media, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Matthew

We thank thee, heavenly Father, for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Eternal Lord God, without whose aid we cannot do the things that we would: Look mercifully upon the waywardness of our hearts, and strengthen us against evil; that as citizens of thy holy kingdom we may walk henceforth in the power of the Spirit, and bring forth fruit to thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frank Colquhoun

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou who leadest Joseph like a flock! Thou who art enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before E’phraim and Benjamin and Manas’seh! Stir up thy might, and come to save us!

–Psalm 80:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A new site from Stephen Trott with Commentary on Sunday's Readings

The Reverend Stephen Trott, Bible teacher, canon lawyer, longtime lectionary contributor to the Church of England Newspaper and Rector of Pitsford with Boughton in Northamptonshire has started a new service online with commentary on each Sunday’s readings – Check it out and wish him well
Jonah 3.10 ”“ 4.11 Philippians 1.21-30 Matthew 20.1-16

Humanly speaking, we often expect things to happen in a certain way, or at least we think they should, or we hope and pray for a particular outcome, and yet we are disappointed. But Jonah’s reply to the Lord goes far beyond disappointment or even frustration: “Yes, angry enough to die.” He is angry because he has experienced great hardship, and despite all that he has been through he has still not understood why he finds himself in apparent confrontation with the Lord, who has ultimately forgiven the people of Nineveh, seeing their repentance. It had seemed appropriate to Jonah that Nineveh should perish at the Lord’s hand, but it is through Jonah’s reluctant obedience to his calling to prophesy there, that the city has been saved. Repentance first saved Jonah, in the belly of the great fish, and now the Lord has looked in mercy upon Nineveh. The Lord seeks always to save those who repent, however grave their rebellion against him, and he chooses Jonah and many more in his footsteps to proclaim repentance and salvation to his people in each generation.

Centuries later, Paul opens up his own heart and mind in his letter to the Philippians, as he wrestles with his calling and his hopes and expectations of the Lord…

Read it all

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

(CEN) The battle for the soul of the Church

[Linda] Woodhead sees Fresh Expressions and other forms of missionary outreach as attempts to boost the God-fearers. She puts her faith in both the churchgoing and non-churchgoing mainstream. There are several problems with this strategy. With admitted exceptions, clergy tend to be recruited from the committed. As numbers shrink, it becomes more difficult to recruit able candidates, especially able young candidates. Studying American evangelicals, Christian Smith has suggested, teaches us that churches thrive when they have a distinctive message but remain in dialogue with the secular society. What is crucial is that Christians choose the right issues on which to make a stand. Woodhead ignores signs that the number of those who claim church affiliation but are not active members or believers is in decline as more claim to be ”˜spiritual’ but not ”˜religious’. Woodhead herself has studied this pattern in Kendal. One move would be to make the Church more welcoming of spiritual seekers and turn clergy into what the NHS already terms ”˜spiritual care givers’. Questions need to be asked about how far the Church can go in this direction and still be Christian.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Down Under, Bathurst's Anglican synod grapples with $24m debt

The gravity of the financial situation facing the Bathurst Diocese of the Anglican Church hit home this weekend for members of the 47th Synod.

Bishop of Bathurst Ian Palmer implored representatives of parishes from Bourke to Bathurst to accept the need for fresh approaches to ministry across the Central West.

He said the Diocese needs to look at where its resources are spent and ask itself if there are resources that are no longer needed.

Bishop Palmer said the mood of the Synod was one of grappling with, or coming to terms with, the enormity of the financial problems currently facing the Diocese.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(Telegraph) How Qatar is funding the rise of Islamist extremists

Barely three years after Britain helped to free Libya from Col Gaddafi’s tyranny, anti-Western radicals hold sway. How could Britain’s goal of a stable and friendly Libya have been thwarted so completely?

Step forward a fabulously wealthy Gulf state that owns an array of London landmarks and claims to be one of our best friends in the Middle East.

Qatar, the owner of Harrods, has dispatched cargo planes laden with weapons to the victorious Islamist coalition, styling itself “Libya Dawn”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Libya, Middle East, Qatar, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Bloomberg) Ebola Worst-Case Scenario Has More Than 500,000 Cases

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa could spread to hundreds of thousands more people by the end of January, according to an estimate under development by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that puts one worst-case scenario at 550,000 or more infections.

The report, scheduled to be released next week, was described by two people familiar with its contents who asked to remain anonymous because it isn’t yet public.

The projection, which vastly outstrips previous estimates, is under review by researchers and may change. It assumes no additional aid or intervention by governments and relief agencies, which are mobilizing to contain the Ebola outbreak before it spirals further out of control in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Globalization, Guinea, Health & Medicine, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

Leicester City scores four second-half goals to shock Manchester United

Painful to watch after returning home, yuck. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Men, Sports