Daily Archives: December 7, 2014

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly: St. Nicholas ”” The real one ”” returning to Manhattan

When members of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church celebrate their patron saint’s feast day on Dec. 6, they may be able to mark the occasion with prayers on newly blessed ground in lower Manhattan.

It depends on work schedules at the construction site for their new sanctuary, which will overlook the National September 11 Memorial. This is a problem Greek Orthodox leaders welcome after a long, complicated legal struggle to rebuild the tiny sanctuary — located 80 yards from the World Trade Center’s South Tower — which was the only church destroyed in the 9/11 maelstrom.

“It’s all of this powerful symbolism, and its link to that September 11 narrative, that lets people grab on to the effort to rebuild this church and see why it matters,” said Steven Christoforou, a youth ministry leader at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on real grace versus cheap grace quoted in this morning's sermon

This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Lent and Beyond: Prayer for South Carolina on Sunday December 7th

Awaiting results of litigation”“
Please pray for the Diocese of South Carolina, all those involved in the proceedings and for the Judge and for the growth of God’s Kingdom in South Carolina

Proverbs 14:30 (ESV)
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.

O Lord, bless the Diocese of South Carolina with a tranquil heart. Amen.

Please pray it all and there are more prayers for South Carolina here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Music for Sunday: O Come, Emmanuel – The Piano Guys

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

(F Things) Andrew Walker–Why does sex play a central role in the dominant+competing US narratives?

What is clear from the study are the increasingly entrenched perspectives of two Americas: A growing secular America champions an unburdened sexual libertinism whose version of sexuality is freed from the constraints of traditional sexual morality, a morality that often issued from religious-based truth claims. Meanwhile, religious conservatives in America remain quite skeptical about the general population’s enthusiasm for throwing off supposedly outmoded notions of sexuality.

But another narrative of America’s religious landscape is also clear from the survey””one that Russell Moore and I wrote about at National Review discussing preliminary statistics that sociologist Mark Regnerus described at a spring conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. What we said then remains important: Evangelical Christians aren’t liberalizing on the issues of sexual morality.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

In Seven States, Atheists Push to End Largely Forgotten Ban

A bookkeeper named Roy Torcaso, who happened to be an atheist, refused to declare that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1961 the court ruled unanimously for Mr. Torcaso, saying states could not have a “religious test” for public office.

But 53 years later, Maryland and six other states still have articles in their constitutions saying people who do not believe in God are not eligible to hold public office. Maryland’s Constitution still says belief in God is a requirement even for jurors and witnesses.

Now a coalition of nonbelievers says it is time to get rid of the atheist bans because they are discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional. The bans are unenforceable dead letters, legal experts say, and state and local governments have rarely invoked them in recent years. But for some secular Americans, who are increasingly visible and organized, removing the bans is not only a just cause, but a test of their growing movement’s political clout.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, State Government

Food for Thought for Preachers for Today–Are we preaching for a decision?

I had been ordained for a month and was meeting with two people appointed to evaluate my fitness for ministry….The question that I’ve never forgotten was, “Do you preach for a decision?”

The question has haunted me. We preachers proclaim good news and speak about all the amazing ways that good news penetrates, comforts, challenges and transforms lives. But my questioner had a point: proclaiming good news ought to in some way lead to a response, a decision of some kind. Otherwise proclaiming the good news of unconditional divine love can be an exercise in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Preaching ought to lead to people caring more, giving more and living more. It is the assurance of God’s presence, to be sure, and it is testimony to God’s healing love. But it is also an invitation to do something.

–John M. Buchanan, Christian Century, October 4, 2011, issue, page 3

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology

(BBC) Archbishop Justin Welby urges help for UK hungry

More help is needed to prevent families in the UK going hungry, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Justin Welby says food is being wasted in “astonishing” amounts, but hunger “stalks large parts” of the country.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he backed a parliamentary report, to be released on Monday, which aims to end hunger in the UK by 2020.

The report is expected to call for a new publicly-funded body, known as Feeding Britain, to make this happen.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, England / UK, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(Daily Mail on Sunday) The Archbishop of Canterbury on hunger in Britain

A few weeks later in England, I was talking to some people ”“ a mum, dad and one child ”“ in a food bank. They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked miserably. He said they had each been skipping a day’s meals once a week in order to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet. So they had to come to a food bank.

They were treated with respect, love even, by the volunteers from local churches. But they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry.

I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren’t careless with what they had ”“ they were just up against it. It shocked me that being up against it at the wrong time brought them to this stage.

There are many like them. But we can do something about it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Gregory Nazianzen

O God, by whose command the order of time runs its course: Forgive, we pray thee, the impatience of our hearts; make perfect that which is lacking in our faith; and, while we tarry the fulfillment of thy promises, grant us to have a good hope because of thy word; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds which cannot be passed.

–Psalm 148:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Columbia, South Carolina, to put body cameras on all police, try taping all interrogations

Columbia police and City Hall, sounding themes of transparency and trust, announced plans Thursday for body cameras and more training of all officers as well as the creation of a commission to investigate discrimination or abuse in any city agency.

Mayor Steve Benjamin said the changes come amid national concerns about mistrust of police, particularly among African-Americans in the wake of deaths in Florida, Missouri and New York of black males at the hands of white officers.

Among the other promised improvements for next year is a pilot project to require detectives to make video and audio recordings of interrogations of suspects in violent crime cases starting early in 2015, Chief Skip Holbrook said at a news conference to discuss a series of changes.

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Posted in Uncategorized

(TLC) Gerardo James de Jesus–The Parable of Ferguson

Yes, when the “heart becomes really deceitful above all things,” it truly becomes “desperately wicked.” People have trouble understanding this if they have not experienced profiling or the inability to find a job. But the Church must understand. It must understand how our core relations affect everything, for better and for worse. With this recognition will come new opportunities for healing alienation and mistrust.

First, we need to think incarnationally by placing ourselves on the side of the alienated, just as Jesus did. Jesus comes to us as a circumcised Jew, a member of a politically disenfranchised class in a land occupied by Romans, a man from a ghetto known as Nazareth (see John 1:46). Jesus knew alienation through and through, but responded in a transformative mode. He affirmed the humanity of the non-Jew, the uncircumcised, the despised Samaritan, the slave, the woman of ill repute, the foreigner or immigrant with his unfamiliar language and Greek culture, and even the hated Roman soldier who represented the occupier. As theologian Ray S. Anderson wrote in The Shape of Practical Theology (IVP Academic, 2001): “Jesus penetrated through these social and cultural forms of humanity and addressed the true humanity of each person, and so revealed his own humanity as the touchstone of divine grace.”

Second, incarnational thinking opens us to what we would rather avoid in ourselves, and it calls us to community. Why do I feel uncomfortable around you? Do I focus on another’s rage to hide my complicity in it? Am I afraid of losing popularity? Church leaders should cultivate human souls (see Heb. 13:17) by teaching them to build community. The incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, is the model. He comes not as the doctor diagnosing and exacting a cure but as one who suffers with us. The poor and marginalized trust Jesus because he becomes them (Phil. 2:7; Matt. 25:40). Intentionally hearing one another’s stories is essential to “breaking down the dividing wall” that fosters alienation (Eph. 2:14).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Dean of Durham) Michael Sadgrove–Are Cathedrals as Healthy as some Recent Reports Suggested?

What do we make of the latest statistics about cathedral attendances?

I’ve been a cathedral dean for half my ministry, and was a canon residentiary before that. So I once knew a fair amount about Coventry Cathedral and Sheffield Cathedral. 12 years at Durham completes a trio of three very different cathedrals (and if you count my years as an honorary vicar choral at Salisbury, that makes four).

In the last decade or so, the rhetoric has been that cathedrals are ‘a success story of the Church of England’. (Some immodestly replace the indefinite article with the definite.) I’ve often wondered what this means, and whether success/failure language ought to belong to the way we perceive church life. In the heritage sector, there is now much more talk about the importance of ‘intangible values’, not just the things we can observe and measure. I’m not the only one to worry that church growth/fresh expressions language is seduced by the easy appeal of measurables (‘bums on seats’). I doubt if these are what ultimately matter when it comes to understanding the dynamics of a faith community.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Anglican Ink) Half of the Diocese of Quebec's parishes set to close

Read it all and you can read Nancy Clark’s original article there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canada, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture