Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hilaire Belloc, a forgotten writer

If you should ask how this book came to be written, it was in this way. One day as I was wandering over the world I came upon the valley where I was born, and stopping there a moment to speak with them all--when I had argued politics with the grocer, and played the great lord with the notary-public, and had all but made the carpenter a Christian by force of rhetoric--what should I note (after so many years) but the old tumble-down and gaping church, that I love more than mother-church herself, all scraped, white, rebuilt, noble, and new, as though it had been finished yesterday. Knowing very well that such a change had not come from the skinflint populace, but was the work of some just artist who knew how grand an ornament was this shrine (built there before our people stormed Jerusalem), I entered, and there saw that all within was as new, accurate, and excellent as the outer part; and this pleased me as much as though a fortune had been left to us all; for one's native place is the shell of one's soul, and one's church is the kernel of that nut.

Hilaire Belloc, The path to Rome (Google book, pdf)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Humility is the Queen of Virtues

“. . . no one seems to know what just happened [decision of Supreme Court on same sex marriage in June 2015]. This wasn’t the legalization of a behavior—for the legal barriers to homosexual conduct were torn down decades ago. The rights to cohabitate, to share insurance benefits, tax status, and even call each other spouse—without discrimination—are hard fought gains that were achieved before last Friday. A new right has not been created, rather the Constitutional right for the rest of us to think and speak our minds, and to hold our own counsel has been severely curtailed. The right to do something impossible can’t be achieved, not by any court, only the right to demand everyone else be supportive of this masked ball, with legal penalties for refusing to join the dance. We’ve only lost the right to object.”

“. . . Christians shouting the word “sin” at something out there have failed to use this most powerful weapon we have by the Holy Spirit to counter forces beyond our human skill or strength. When an obstacle is too high, too strong, too wide for you to go over it, it is best to adopt humility and go under it. If language against a sin that’s been called a blessing can only draw fire and fill you full of verbal bullet holes, then use the stance that saints have long used in more trying circumstances and under worse governments: the language of humility. When saying, “You are sinners!” just won’t do—and I think this is one of those times—then freely speak the truth and say, “We are sinners and have failed God, but we’ve been found by Him and are happy to be new creatures in Christ.”
Humility: Queen of  Virtues

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wait, Hope, Trust

Advent Meditations for December 21

Wait when the seed is planted, Wait for the rain to fall;

Wait for the restless green sprout, Wait while the plant grows tall.

Wait for the coming Savior, Wait through the heart’s slow race;

Wait for the kingdom’s dawning, Wait till we see his face!

Hope when the sun is setting, Hope through the dark of night;

Hope though the moon is waning, Hope as we long for light.

Hope for the coming Savior, Hope through the heart’s slow race;

Hope for the kingdom’s dawning, Hope till we see his face!

Trust in the new spring’s promise, Trust through the summer’s heat;

Trust in the dying autumn, Trust through the winter sleet.

Trust in the coming Savior, Trust in the heart’s slow race:

Trust in the kingdom’s dawning, Trust till we see His face!

http://airmaria.com/category/subjects/spiritual-life/faith/#sthash.JdFUm8IN.dpuf

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Pastors or pew--who is right?

A Barna poll finds


"Less than 1 percent of senior pastors and discipleship pastors told Barna that “today’s churches are doing very well at discipling new and young believers.” Six in 10 said that churches are discipling “not too well.”

But those in the pews disagree. More than 9 in 10 said that their church “definitely” (52%) or “probably” (40%) does “a good job of helping people grow spiritually.”"

And how about this one?  Ah, the problem with polls. . . I'm doing OK, but that guy is really bad off.

 “Pastors give their own church higher marks than churches overall, but few believe churches—their own or in general—are excelling in discipleship,” the report stated

 http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/december/pastors-pews-vastly-disagree-discipleship-barna-navigators.html

Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Saints Sunday, November 1, 2015

                 Image result for UALC Columbus

Narthex window, Church on Lytham

Today we Christians celebrate and remember all the Saints who have gone before us. In our church members submit names on cards to be read during the service they attend. We'll be serving communion during that time, so it is always wonderful to hear the names of my parents and sister while I'm offering the body of Christ to fellow believers.

Pastor Brody preached an unusual sermon.  He went over the funeral service as printed in the Lutheran Book of Worship (Augsburg, 1978), “Burial of the Dead” pp. 206-214.  It was very moving.

"Most Lutheran churches use the first Sunday in November to remember all the saints in the Church of Christ Jesus, especially those members and friends of the local congregation who have been called to Heaven in the previous year.

The custom of commemorating all the martyrs of the Church on a single day goes back at least to the third century. All Saints' Day celebrates not only the martyrs and saints, but all the people of God, living and dead, who together form the mystical body of Christ.

In Europe, All Saints' Day is also called All Hallow's Day ('hallowed' means 'sanctified' or 'holy'). October 31st, the evening before All Saint's Day is named All Hallow's Eve, which was contracted to Halloween." (Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Ypsilanti, MI)

Image result for UALC Columbus

Sanctuary window, Church at Mill Run

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Adult Sunday School, October 2015, UALC

Our Sunday school class is studying Romans, and for two weeks had an outstanding, articulate retired Lutheran pastor, Douglas McBride formerly of San Antonio, as our teacher. Class members are taking us through Romans after his excellent overview and first three chapters. I hope he can come back.

Paul wrote a letter to the Roman church, a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles, from Corinth, while he was on his third missionary journey between 56 and 58 A.D. He was on his way to Spain.** At the time he was gathering an offering from the Gentile Christians for the church in Jerusalem (15:25; Acts 24:17). Over half of the people he specifically mentions in the letter have Greek or Roman names, and he calls the Jews, “my brothers.” The church may have been started by his converts, but no one knows for certain. Since he first mentions Phoebe it appears that she brought the letter to Rome, so she must have been a trusted convert and helper. He greets a number of households indicating the church was made up of numerous groups, and he addresses in the letter a number of situations, many of which sound similar to our churches today. Struggles among themselves; how to deal with the government, etc.

He encourages unity and accepting one another, just as Christ accepted them. Yet it seems the church has never been more divided and scattered than today.

In the free box at church I found the New International Version of the Bible (Zondervan) on cassette. I may be one of the few people who still have a hand held cassette player, so I’ve been listening to Romans while using my exercycle. Usually, I don’t enjoy audio of the Bible--speakers/voice actors go too fast or it’s too monotonous, but this one is really excellent. There are music and sound effects, and when the writers reflect on OT passages of Jesus’ messages, there is a slight echo or reverberation.

* * “We know little about the early years of Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula. According to legend the apostle James --at Christ’s urging--carried the gospel to the country in 40 AD, but the early church writers have nothing to say about it. We know that St Paul intended to visit in Spain (Epistle to the Romans, XV, 24 and 28), which would suggest that there were organised groups for him to preach to. But there is no evidence that he made the trip, nor does any church in Spain popularly claim to have been founded by Paul.

By the second century, however, some Christian communities were probably established in the peninsula. We know that St Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (France), writing around 180 AD, alludes to Christian churches amongst the Celts and Iberians. We also know from a letter by St Cyprian of Carthage (?-258?) that by 254 AD there were Christian communities in Astorga, Mérida, León and Zaragoza.” Source.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The new catechumens in the third century church

Apostolic Traditions was written by Hippolytus who feared the church was straying from tradition and falling into heresy and false doctrine, so he wanted to record the right way to ordain leaders like bishops and deacons and how to bring in new members. Nothing of the original Greek remains, but there are translations.  This simplified version by Kevin P. Edgecomb  is based on the work of Bernard Botte (La Tradition Apostolique. Sources Chretiennes, 11 bis. Paris, Editions du Cerf, 1984) and of Gregory Dix (The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, Bishop and Martyr. London: Alban Press, 1992)

15 Those who are newly brought forward to hear the Word shall first be brought before the teachers at the house, before all the people enter. 2Then they will be questioned concerning the reason that they have come forward to the faith. Those who bring them will bear witness concerning them as to whether they are able to hear. 3They shall be questioned concerning their life and occupation, marriage status, and whether they are slave or free. 4If they are the slaves of any of the faithful, and if their masters permit them, they may hear the Word. If their masters do not bear witness that they are good, let them be rejected. 5If their masters are pagans, teach them to please their masters, so that there will be no blasphemy.

6If a man has a wife, or a woman has a husband, let them be taught to be content, the husband with his wife, and the wife with her husband. 7If there is a man who does not live with a woman, let him be taught not to fornicate, but to either take a wife according to the law, or to remain as is.

8If there is someone who has a demon, such a one shall not hear the Word of the teacher until purified.

16 They will inquire concerning the works and occupations of those are who are brought forward for instruction. 2If someone is a pimp who supports prostitutes, he shall cease or shall be rejected. 3If someone is a sculptor or a painter, let them be taught not to make idols. Either let them cease or let them be rejected. 4If someone is an actor or does shows in the theater, either he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 5If someone teaches children (worldly knowledge), it is good that he cease. But if he has no (other) trade, let him be permitted. 6A charioteer, likewise, or one who takes part in the games, or one who goes to the games, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 7If someone is a gladiator, or one who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he shall cease, or he shall be rejected. 8If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 9A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. 10If someone is a military governor,a or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 11The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. 12The prostitute, the wanton man, the one who castrates himself, or one who does that which may not be mentioned, are to be rejected, for they are impure. 13A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. 14An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreamsb, or a charlatanc, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected. 15If someone's concubine is a slave, as long as she has raised her children and has clung only to him, let her hear. Otherwise, she shall be rejected. 16The man who has a concubine must cease and take a wife according to the law. If he will not, he shall be rejected.

17 Catechumens will hear the word for three years. 2Yet if someone is earnesta and perseveres well in the matter, it is not the time that is judged, but the conduct.

a Lit. has the authority of swords
b Other ancient authorities add or one who clips the fringes of garments,
c Lit., one who stirs up the people

---------------------

Given the lax standards of today it is amazing that the persecuted and outlawed church of the third century would not accept people who would not change their lifestyle or profession in preference for sinning. And they needed witnesses—which many churches still recommend . . such as a god parent or sponsor. Military leaders were to defy orders. Political leaders were not welcome to take instruction. Gladiators had to give up their jobs. Slaves, however, could become Christians and by their witness might convert their masters, but not magicians or those in the occult who wouldn’t give it up. Sexual immorality (prostitute, wanton man, the castrated, and one “who does that which may not be mentioned”) was enough to cause rejection—and I don’t see an exception for giving up the practice. A faithful concubine, however, could be accepted in the fellowship, but the man had to give up his concubine or make her a wife.