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From the Morning Scripture Readings

The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.

–Ezekiel 18:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(ACL) Archbishop of Canterbury asked–Is it OK to attend GAFCON 2018?

The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply as Chair of the House of Bishops:

A We strongly agree with the view of the Panel that international relationships contribute to the development of discipleship and mission. I am personally pleased that every diocese has some link to Anglican Provinces across the world, and we are keen to continue developing these relationships. The recent Primates Meeting underlined the importance of such relationships. I have had conversations with, and listened to, the views of those planning to attend the Gafcon conference, and am keen to increase attendance at any event that encourages the flourishing of the whole Anglican Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, GAFCON

(CEN) Alan Storkey–We Are Called to recover the truth that our God is a global God who cares for the whole world He has made

So much of the Bible contains world events. Egypt was the cradle of much early civilisation and we see the ordinary people of God being freed from slavery in Egypt. We see the formation of a nation-state under the hand of God. They are taught to see beyond rulers and fighting to God’s law and God’s ways, and are given the foundation at the time of Moses of the most important legal system in human history.

Then we see empires forming including the great Babylonian and Assyrian empires. They come and go on the biblical stage, but always under the ways of God, either through obedience and wisdom or disobedience and waywardness.

The New Testament is no different. Although much of its subject matter involves Jesus interacting with ordinary local people, teaching the way, the truth and the life, it also recounts the way in which Jesus confronts the Jerusalem leaders and also the Roman representative, Pilate. It is clear that Jesus offers a root and branch challenge to the Roman Empire and its rule of fear. He will die on a cross, but fearless of the system of intimidation on which the Romans rely.

Of course, it is the Jewish leaders’ grasp on power that leads to Jesus death. They have the vast money-making system of the Temple at Jerusalem, the tourist hub of the whole eastern Mediterranean, and because Jesus challenges it, he has to go, but insists on coming back.

Of course, none of this is surprising. God is going to challenge the way early tribes and empires do politics with something far better.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–May we never forget the Real Power of Personal Interaction

This week, research was published showing that spending as little as ten minutes a day talking to someone with dementia can make a real difference to their quality of life, alleviating their anxiety and sense of isolation in a strange and fearful world.

Increased levels of dementia have been the price we pay for the rise in life expectancy in recent decades. And it’s tough: for the sufferers themselves, their carers, and for members of their family. It can be almost unbearable to find that your parent can’t recognise you, their child. And people can become fatalistic about it, thinking that there’s nothing you can do to make things better. But that’s beginning to change.

Three weeks ago, my wife Elaine and I visited, in his home in Philadelphia, Aaron Beck, co-founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy practised today. 96 years old and physically frail, he was still wonderfully young in mind and spirit. He told us that he’d always believed that his methods could help many people but not those with dementia, but now – though the research is still in its early days – people were beginning to find that it could help them too.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Church of England Evangelical Council’s (CEEC) statement on Gospel, Church and Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith

2.We recognise that some fellow Christians no longer accept the Church’s teaching on marriage, singleness and sex but, because it is an integral part of our calling to be holy, we cannot treat this teaching as an ‘optional extra’ (or adiaphora).

•We believe this teaching is both apostolic and essential to the gospel’s transforming purpose and thus must be compassionately and clearly proclaimed and explained in and by the Church.

•This area is therefore of a higher order than other divisive matters, often viewed as ‘secondary’ (for example , the ordination of women), because it calls for faithful obedience to the unambiguous and authoritative teaching of Scripture concerning godly living and human flourishing.

•Thus,the upholding ofthis teaching, rooted in our creedal confession of God as Creator, and the enabling of Christians to live it with joy and confidence, is an essential
aspect of biblical faithfulness—especially when, as in our day, these matters are being so hotly contested.

3.We believe that the Church of England, being defined by adherence to essential apostolic truth, should not accept teaching or affirm behaviour—whether implicitly or explicitly-which contradicts or undermines the boundaries laid down by apostolic teaching and practice.

Read it all (6 page pdf).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Mosaic) Yarom Hazony–Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom

Britain’s June 23 referendum on independence was the most important vote in a democratic nation in a generation. Many Americans assume that events in Western Europe can’t have that kind of significance, and in fact the U.S. media paid scant attention to the upheaval taking place in the UK right up until the official returns showing an impending British exit (or “Brexit”) from the European Union.

But in the aftermath, all this changed. The fear, outrage, and despair that Britain’s vote for independence provoked in elite opinion in Europe and in many circles in the United States points to a political event of massive proportions. Even before the vote, a campaign orchestrated by the Cameron government sought to play upon the sense of trepidation that had become evident among a portion of the electorate. The government’s message, Douglas Murray wrote, was “unmistakable”:

With Brexit, the country [would] be taking a leap into the unknown with the possibility of becoming a basket case and causing a world war. Memories of the mid-1970s were conjured up: the three-day work week, the uncollected rubbish, the unburied dead.

And that was the Tories speaking. In the aftermath of the vote, much the same message could be heard from all sides of the political establishment in tones that were, if anything, even more hysterical.

But the principal revelation here—and the phenomenon to keep our eyes on—is not only the fact that, for many both in the UK and elsewhere, the prospect of British independence is genuinely an object of dread. It is also the countervailing fact that the possible re-emergence of a free and independent Britain has rallied profound admiration and enthusiasm among countless others. The fissure between these powerfully held and irreconcilable views was there earlier. But Brexit has turned the floodlights on it, exposing, so that all can readily see, the deepest fault line in the politics of Western nations today. It is along this line that the bitterest and most fateful political battles in our time are likely to be fought.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BBC) Church of England issues anti-plastic tips for Lent

The Church of England is urging Christians to give up single-use plastics during Lent, in a bid to cut the environmental damage it can cause.

Worshippers have been offered tips to cut plastic use for each day up to Easter, such as choosing a fountain pen over a plastic ballpoint pen and buying music electronically rather than on CD.

The Church linked it to a Christian calling to “care for God’s creation”.

The calendar of tips has been sent to each of the Church’s 42 dioceses.

Each week of the Lent Plastic Challenge has a theme, for example food and drink, kitchen, clothing and travel.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Lent

(Miami Herald) Rifle type used in South Florida school massacre ‘designed to kill multiple enemy combatants at once’

Semi-automatic rifles look like military weapons, and in many cases they are. But most types of semi-automatic AR-15 rifles — like the one the Broward Sheriff’s Office said was used to massacre 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday afternoon — are legal for civilian use across the United States. In Florida, any adult can buy a rifle so long as they are not a convicted felon.

Most guns used in mass shootings across the United States were legally obtained — sometimes by the individual, or they were taken from a family member with a permit.

“AR-15s are designed to kill multiple enemy combatants at once,” said Frank Smyth, weapons expert and founder of GJS, an organization that trains journalists for combat reporting. “But of course in the hands of an active shooter or an individual that was targeting civilians, it’s a tactical weapon. It enables them to target multiple people in a quick period of time.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Education, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Bray

O God of compassion, who didst open the eyes of thy servant Thomas Bray to see the needs of the Church in the New World, and didst lead him to found societies to meet those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of Christian knowledge; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:12-14

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Seeking a Lenten discipline? Don’t be surprised at what you need – An Ash Wednesday Message from Bishop Lawrence

The outward forms of Lenten discipline are not spelled out in the prayer book with any specificity, nor should they be. I suspect that if each of us went to a doctor of the spiritual life, as one goes to a physician for an annual checkup, the diagnosis, and subsequent prescription for our maladies would be quite different for each of us. I suspect that in many cases we would not find the soul doctor’s orders some dreadful duty of denial, but a welcome relief that we would readily embrace. I can easily imagine a devout, busy Christian exhorted by a doctor of the soul that what he or she needed for a Lenten discipline was some physical exercise; to keep Sabbath; to read a good novel; see a good movie once a week; or even to learn to laugh again.

One memorable spiritual master in Twentieth Century England was Fr. Hugh Maycock. Connected with Cambridge from 1944-1952, and Oxford 1952-1970, he was a formative influence on many young scholars. One of his former students, Kenneth Leech, in recounting what he learned from Fr. Maycock, noted two unusual disciplines: The value of sleep and laughter.

Sleep and prayer are closely related. Both call for slowing down, a relaxed condition, “an abandonment to trust.” Many committed Christians today live their lives in a permanent state of semi-exhaustion. To embrace a discipline of proper sleep would be spiritually helpful, a true preparation for the Sabbath rest of the people of God. Then there is the importance of laughter. Leech writes, “Laughter is necessary to our sanity: a person with no humor is like an iron bridge with no give in it. It is vital too that we learn to laugh at ourselves.” Laughter has been shown to have therapeutic qualities for the mind and body. It also has value for our life with the Lord.

So, how do you go about choosing a Lenten discipline? Don’t just decide in knee-jerk fashion to give up chocolate, coffee, or some equally unfruitful undertaking. Rather, seek the advice of a wise, discerning Christian friend. Ask the counsel of a priest or “lay pastor.” Prayerfully listen to God while in prayer or in church or out for a walk. Just don’t be too surprised at what you hear. It may be a surprisingly delightful prescription, such as, “slow down,” “sleep more,” “laugh a lot!” Of course, there are some who will need to hear, “get the lead out,” or “quit nursing your wounds,” or “ask me to help you forgive, and get on with your life.”

Read it all.

Posted in Lent, Theology

(Eleanor Parker) ‘þu eart dust and to duste gewendst’: Ælfric, Ash Wednesday and ‘The Seafarer’

On that Wednesday, throughout the world,
as it is appointed, priests bless
clean ashes in church, and then lay them
on people’s heads, so that they may remember
that they came from earth and will return again to dust,
just as Almighty God said to Adam,
after he had sinned against God’s command:
‘In labour you shall live and in sweat you shall eat
your bread upon the earth, until you return again
to the same earth from which you came,
for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’
This is not said about the souls of mankind,
but about their bodies, which moulder to dust,
and shall again on Judgement Day, through the power of our Lord,
rise from the earth, all who ever lived,
just as all trees quicken again in the season of spring
which were deadened by the winter’s chill.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Lent, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday from the Gelasian Sacramentary

O God, Who through Thy blessed Son hast gloriously reconciled mankind to Thyself; grant us to keep such a fast as he has chosen; that following the example of our Lord, we may obey Thee with faithful hearts, and serve one another in holy love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Food for Thought from Saint Augustine for Ash Wednesday

Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act had never been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For “pride is the beginning of sin.” And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction….The devil, then, would not have ensnared man in the open and manifest sin of doing what God had forbidden, had man not already begun to live for himself….By craving to be more, man became less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from him who truly suffices him.

–Augustine, The City of God 14.13

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