No longer Anglican

Over the last few weeks, I think I have come to point where I can say that I am no longer Anglican.  I am no longer a part of Anglicanism.  The organization and the politics and the infighting have left me behind.

And no, I’m haven’t laid down my Orders or asked to be defrocked from where I serve.

I am still a part of the Church.  I am still worshiping with a Prayer Book and Liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer.  My patrimony or heritage comes from the British Isles throughout their whole history, but I am not going to be defined by an -ism.

A good friend and priest said,

‘Why can’t we just see the Anglican patrimony/prayer book as part of the Church?’

I agree.  Why can’t we just begin to see ourselves as part of something greater than our own man-made walls of exclusion from each other.

Let me preface this with saying that I am no canon lawyer, or Bishop, or anybody with any authority.  I know there are tremendous obstacles that are in place that would prevent unification of the Church but we are making in roads in several ways including the acceptance of our primary Sacrament, baptism, among various groups and fellowships and denominations and communions.

I long for the day that I can kneel to receive Christ’s Body and Blood with members of Christ’s Church who are separated on each side of me, to become fully one with the One who creates and sustains and loves with my self-exiled brethren on each side.  For isn’t that what excommunication in these large situations really is– a self-imposed exile from your brother.

For me, if you have been placed into Christ’s Church, then come and feast and lets work out our problems as prodigals and older brothers around the table of our Father celebrate for what was lost is now found.

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Finding God in the Furnace of Doubt

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This was a sermon delivered on April 23rd at St. Andrew’s Church in Rome, GA.  The Scripture was Easter 2A from the Gospel of St. John. 

 

Dostoevsky once wrote, ‘It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.

Our Gospel today tells the story of Thomas.  Poor, poor Thomas.  Doubting Thomas as we always have heard him.  Not Denying Peter or Power-Seeking Sons of Zebedee?  No, Thomas is forever known as the one with little faith, the one that just had to see.  And I think Thomas gets a bad rap. Thomas is really the patron saint of us all.  For doubt is not the opposite of faith, but the catalyst used to find Christ’s fiery love within the questioning.

I think it’s interesting that our lectionary places this story right after the glorious celebration of Easter.  I think we take for granted the pain and turmoil that the disciples were going through at this time.  They had just witnessed the death of the man they thought was going to free Palestine from the Roman occupation.  They thought he was going to restore the Jewish people as rightful rulers of their land and that the apostasy that had occurred in the Temple would be avenged. Jesus was just another failed revolutionary whose plot was foiled.

We enter the story on the Sunday evening, all the Disciples (well, except for one) were gathered in a house with the doors locked, for fear.  Fear of those who had crucified their leader.  Fear of death also.  He then showed him his hands & side and pronounced Peace to them.

So here they are, scared, frightened, no idea what to do, forgetting all that Jesus had taught them over the last 3 years, and the doors are locked.  They were huddled.  They didn’t want to risk anything.  Right before this in the day, Mary Magdalene had announced to them that Jesus was alive.  But it appears, even for them, that they couldn’t accept the word that was brought to them.  They, too, had to see to believe.  And so, out of nowhere it seems, Jesus appears in their midst, telling them, ‘Peace be with you.’  Peace, not worry, not fear, peace.  And then he does something amazing.  He breathes on them.

Why is this breathing important?  It’s both a sign that he was truly alive.  The dead don’t breathe. Ghosts or spirits don’t breathe.  He really is alive.  He really has something coming into his lungs.  And then he tells them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit (or in Hebrew, The Ruach Ha-Kodesh/ The breathe of God)…’

He is creating something new in this moment.  Remember what John calls Jesus in the first chapter– The Word (the Word that created the Universe, the creative Word of God) has become flesh and dwelled among us.  John, perhaps the most mystical of the Gospel writers, is showing us that Jesus was creating something new in this moment.  He was giving the disciples or apostles a new mission.  

In the ordination prayers for Priests in the Anglican Church, these sames words are given to each priest. Jesus was giving his mission, which is the putting together of the world back to rights or the Tikkun Olam (repair of the world), to the Disciples which is the stand-in for the Church.  Jesus was giving grace or power to the Disciples not to lord over others but to help in that repair or renewing.  No longer do you have to go to the Temple to be forgiven, take my forgiveness out of this central location and into the world.  God’s love and grace was being extended to the entire world.

Where was Thomas when Jesus first appeared? John doesn’t tell us. My own guess was that he was out and about getting on with his life. Why do I think that? Because Thomas was a realist. Let’s not forget: in chapter 11, it’s Thomas who recognizes that for Jesus to return to Judea is to face the threat of death, and it’s Thomas who urges the other disciples to go with Jesus. So while we don’t know where Thomas was when Jesus first appeared, we do know where he wasn’t — locked in the upper room for fear of the religious authorities.

The other disciples tell Thomas they have seen Jesus and what does he do?  Does the say, OK!  That’s cool!  No, Thomas, like many of us, says he needs physical proof– to actually touch the wounds of Jesus.  See, we give Thomas a bad rap here, but let’s not forget that the other disciples actually got to see Jesus.  Maybe our expectations of Thomas are expectations we put on ourselves– why can’t you just believe more?  Why do you need to see the wounds?  Or to quote Darth Vader, ‘Your lack of faith is disturbing.’

I grew up in a tradition where you didn’t doubt.  If you doubted, you didn’t have faith and that meant that you weren’t living right with God.  Thomas was used as a negative example.  Don’t be a Thomas.  Doubting Thomas was a curse, a way of saying that your faith was ‘not mature’ enough.  The problem for me, however, was that I couldn’t just take what was told me for face value.  I was, and still am, a questioner.  My kids are the same way, which is in and of itself, both endearing and, well, tiring.  But still, doubt & questioning is better than indifference, for at least in doubt, we are curious enough to try to find the answer.

Thomas wasn’t indifferent to if Jesus was risen or not.  He cared, he cared so much, he needed to touch the wounds, the places of pain within Christ, to know that He was who he said He was.  So a week later, again on a Sunday, Jesus appear among them again, and Thomas is with them this time around.  And what’s the first thing he does to Thomas?  Scold him for his lack of faith?  No, he offers his wounds to Thomas to touch.  That’s love.  

Love isn’t just a feeling, Love is an action.  Love is Christ letting Thomas touch his wounds, his scars, to feel what Love really feels like.  Thomas had probably spent that week before within a furnace of doubt and pain.  Why couldn’t he just believe?  Why couldn’t he make himself not feel the way he does?  And Jesus, letting that go, offers Himself to Thomas, offers his pain to Thomas.  And out of that moment, Thomas proclaims– MY LORD AND MY GOD!  Thomas’ confession of Christ’s divinity is found in touching the wounds and scars.

There is a story of St. Martin of Tours. The fourth-century monastic bishop received an apparition. It seemed as if Christ, arrayed in regal attire, was appearing to him. Martin heard, “Acknowledge, Martin, who it is that you behold. I am Christ; and being just about to descend to earth, I wished first to manifest myself to thee.” But Martin kept silence. Then he heard again, “Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see? I am Christ.” Finally, Martin knew what was really happening, and he replied, “The Lord Jesus did not predict that he would come clothed in purple, and with a glittering crown upon his head. I will not believe that Christ has come, unless he appears with that appearance and form in which he suffered, and openly displaying the marks of his wounds upon the cross.” At that, the devil was exposed and vanished like smoke, leaving a terrible stench. As the more famous story earlier from his life reports, Martin, while still a catechumen, had clothed the naked Christ. Martin came to know Christ through a bodily way marked by humility. What we find in this lesser known later story is Martin’s firm conviction that Christ always has wounds. If he doesn’t, that’s not Christ. It’s the devil.

Now, if the cross of Christ has this effect upon his glorified body, what does this say about our humanity? Most certainly, we affirm that Christ’s humanity is our humanity. The reason for the Word to be made flesh, suffer, die, and rise was to have our humanity experience the transformation into the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. You could say that Christ’s glorious wounds are our wounds. He took our humanity to himself in the Incarnation. It is our humanity that suffered, died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Christ’s humanity is completely ours.

For us today, what does that mean in our witness to the Gospel and to the world?  When we are baptized, we are placed into the body of Christ.  Through his incarnation, as St. Athanasius says, ‘God became man so that man might become god.’  This is a participation, not a change in nature, within God.  We are not destined to become ‘gods’ and rule our own planets, as some other religions state.  No, we are to find ourselves so filled with grace and mercy and love and holiness and peace that we are moving closer into the fullness of God and showing that to the world.  And when we identify with God, we are going to have wounds and scars also.  Jesus was ‘wounded for our transgressions…and by his wounds we are healed.’  Becoming like Jesus, participating with God, working towards sanctification, means that we are going to have scars to show to the world.  For we are the body of Christ, and like Christ showed Thomas, we have scars and wounds.

So we are to open our wounds to those around us, allowing them to probe them, in order to show them Jesus. And we, therefore, in meditating upon our own participation in the fullness of Christ’s paschal mystery, we can catch a glimpse at how our struggles in grace are not in vain. Our conformity to Christ’s cross now will allow us to share the victory of the risen Lord, marked forever by the scars of the redemption he won for us. By thinking this way, heaven becomes even more real for us who know, all too painfully, the reality of the battle we are fighting upon this earth.

As we are invited with the apostle, Thomas, to probe in faith Christ’s wounds, we can come to believe that the glorious wounds are not only Christ’s, but ours as well.  Let us not forget that in spite of his initial doubt, Thomas, by legend, went to India and preached the Gospel in the East.  He was martyred in 72 AD some 39 years after crucifixion and resurrection all for the cause and love of Christ.   And like Thomas, while our alleluia may come from the furnace of doubt, we can proclaim, ‘My lord and My God’ till our dying breath.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Hosanna! to Crucify Him! (or our journey begins)

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“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”…but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”

Two events–separated by just days–

One calling for his anointing as King in the line of David…

The second calling for his death at the hands of the Empire…

Palm Sunday is beginning of our journey to the Cross with Christ.  It’s our walking with his disciples and his Blessed Mother along the Via Delorosa.  It’s our calling out HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST and believing that the Messiah has come to free us from our political oppressors and then when that doesn’t seem to play out, turning around and shouting for Pilate and Herod to CRUCIFY HIM.

Palm Sunday is about unfulfilled expectations and the upside-down nature of God’s Kingdom.  It’s about a King being proclaimed in the streets and killed within the week by some of the same hands.  It’s Death thinking it has won a victory and being defeated.

As we enter Palm Sunday and Holy Week, may we reflect on the contrariness of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and on the words uttered just days between.  May we remember that God’s ways don’t always impress with power and might, but that what may seem weak and meek to the world, is really God showing His true power.

 

The Prodigal and me

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father,I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him andkissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

This Sunday, we speak of reconciliation, prodigals, older brothers, a father’s love, and the best being slaughtered.  For many of us we view ourselves as the prodigal son, and ‘those others’ as the older brother.  For some of us, who are self aware, we are the older brother, jealous of the attention and love shown to the son who told his father he was dead in his eyes.  What we should find, though, is that we are both– we are both the prodigal returning home and the older brother who worked hard and is jealous of the lasciviousness of love shown to our no-good dirty brother.
As Pope Francis said, “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…And you have to start from the ground up.”

How do we heal the wounds?  First, we have to bring them in and offer them grace, grace, and more grace.  We should not expect those that are hurting to follow our rules immediately, without building a relationship with them.  Just like toddlers who are learning to walk will fall down a lot, we have to be patient, offer a hand, and ‘kiss the boo boos’ for those entering our doors hurt by the Church.

Second, we have a tremendous gift of Grace from God in the Sacraments.  Baptism and confession are healing points of Grace to the most weary of sinners (and in regards to confession, saints).  Then we offer them daily meals of bread and wine found in Christ’s Body and Blood and teach them the prayers and rhythms of the people of God found in our Daily Office.  We offer them branches of reconciliation through radical hospitality and opens tables of food & wine.  We invite them into our lives as the people of God and hear Jesus say to them (and to us):  “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I know I need this, I know that you need this, and I know that the world needs this– Church, quit trying to appeal to the Ceasars and Emperors of this world and reach out your front door to the needy, broken, hurting, and wounded within your communities.

a Prayer for #Primates2016

 

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be with the Council of thy Church now assembled in thy Name and Presence. Save our Church from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern us in our work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Starting yesterday (January 11th), the Primates of the Anglican Communion (including my own Archbishop and Diocesan Bishop, Foley Beach) are gathering to, in all actuality, decide the future of the Communion and how the Anglican Church in North America will play in the Communion.  My prayer is for repentance, reconciliation, and reunion.  Along with the Bishop Frank Weston, in his work that I read last night ‘In Defence of the English Catholic,’ I pray for the eventual reunion of Canterbury and Rome, with the three R’s leading the way there also.

Experiencing the Communion of the Saints

12119050_10104938645436800_1416117946192762606_nYesterday, running around the parish in my cassock and surplice, preparing for Evening Prayer for the Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, I had thIS thought–I am not alone.  You see, I had this deep feeling that nobody would be there for Evening Prayer this week.  There were too many things to distract– the Republican debate, the World Series, and other distractions and activities.  I was a little down that I had prepared and nobody was going to be there.  But that thought reminded me of what I was preparing to teach on this Sunday.

This week, I’m preaching on running the race to Sainthood at my friend’s parish, Holy Trinity, Flowery Branch.  I’m using the imagery of Matthew 5 to connect with the heavenly imagery of Revelation 7 showing there is no disconnect between grace, good works, and worship.  The main idea– we don’t run this race alone, even when we feel like it, there is a great cloud of witnesses that are cheering us on, saints known and unknown.  That cheering, which probably brings to mind the idea of football game or track meet, is more like a prayer meeting.  These cheers are prayers to God for us and on our behalf. So since we have the full host of heaven behind us, let us worship and serve with our full selves.

And yesterday, as I said evening prayer, in our chapel, alone, I knew that while I only heard my own voice, I was joined by a multitude of voices.  Saints Jude and Simon were praying with me, my grandfather was praying with me, the whole host of heaven was praying with me.  I was united in this thin space with the Saints and angels around the heavenly throne in praise of the Glorious Trinity– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I didn’t feel alone, even though it looked like it physically.

I get it if you have problems with invocation of the Saints.  There has been a lot of abuse within the Church of the Saints, using them as a substitute for Christ in our prayers for intercession.  A lot of times, we look at Saints, and wonder why we even honor some as more special than others.  I don’t have a great answer, other than, we remember some Saints because of the vivid work of grace we can see in their lives.  They are worthy of honor, not because they were good people, but because in them, others may see how their lives can be changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That’s why I have icons in my house– not to worship a person who is no longer physically with us– but to use them as windows into how God’s work in their lives can be the same in my life.  Jesus said, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living,” in response to the Sadducees’ questioning him about the resurrection.  St. Paul says in Ephesians that we have been ‘made alive with Christ.’  These saints, known and unknown, are not dead, but alive in Christ, awaiting the Second Advent.  With all that being said, I will proudly sing the Litany of the Saints on my ride to church on Sunday morning, and you may not, but in asking them to pray for “us,”  I’ll make sure to include you in that anyway!

LEX: Orandi, Credendi, Vivendi

The law of prayer is the law of belief which is the law of life.

Essentially, how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live. The law of prayer or worship is the law of life.

As an Anglican, our whole life should be shaped by Scripture and the Holy Spirit through our common regula of the Book of Common Prayer.  It used to be said that if you want to know what an Anglican believes, go to a service and listen to their prayers.  Nowadays, however, that may  not be the case with Episcopal Bishops crossing their fingers during the creed and the ‘plain meaning’ of words being twisted to form something completely contradictory.  Our prayer book was written, in my opinion, as a reformed Catholic book.  It’s little “r” reformed because it took what was considered essential liturgically and ritually for a proper service and that’s what was made mandatory and big “C” Catholic because it was based not on some continental Reformational document, but on the ancient liturgical rites of both Sarum in England and the East.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that it’s lack of devotional material and the downplaying of both the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the role of the Communion of the Saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, make it less than perfect.  However, I think it takes the idea of unity within the Faith seriously in bringing those who would otherwise kill each other into the same fold.  But how does this book, that so many ignore, actually shape our faith?

Matthew Dallman, a friend and liturgical scholar, is focusing his academic portfolio on the works and life of Fr. Martin Thornton.  Thornton states that the Anglican regula is divided into three parts:  Mass, Office, and Devotion.  One without the other would make an incomplete Christian.  For me, there is where I see truly the Anglican ‘Three Streams’ theology– it allows for a common service of communion (catholic), a focus on Scripture and prayer in the Office (evangelical/reformed), and the ability to have personal devotions that are less structured if so chosen (charismatic).  These three parts, when used together, creates worship experience that is formational and participatory, rather than a service that is just ‘watched.’

I believe this was a major outworking of the Oxford Movement that quickly got lost in the ritualist movement and why I think going back to the ‘roots’ of our movement is key for those of us who are carrying on their mantle.  As Anglicans, we need to learn to shape our life– including how we view time– by the Prayer Book.  We need to regain our memory of our Saints and ‘Blesseds’, we need to participate either corporately or individually in the Daily Offices, we need receive Jesus at least weekly into our bodies through Holy Eucharist or the Mass, and we need to learn spiritual practices that bring us into a closer relationship with Him.  As Anglicans, and especially for those of us within the context of the ACNA, we need to act and worship like Anglicans.  With the upcoming finalized Texts for Common Prayer, we need to grasp and run with these rites (or older rites like the 1662 BCP, 1928 American BCP, or the 1962 Canadian BCP) and begin to use them to shape ourselves and our congregations.  That is true catholicity.  The Anglican Church, in all its messed up glory, is a fellowship or tradition within the greater Catholic church and we need to realize what that means for us and the responsibility that is on our shoulders to keep the Faith.  It also means we need to lay down our own opinions and look to the example of the patristic church (as Lancelot Andrewes said:  ‘One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period—the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith’)  and give up innovations that are truly not catholic or ‘part of the whole.’

 

So pick up a Prayer Book (or go online here or here and print one out) and learn to say the offices.  There is a great resource here and here for you to pray along with and if you are ever near Atlanta, drop me a line and we can join up for morning or evening prayer at my parish.  If you are a Priest, Deacon, or lay leader within your parish, start a time of Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer sometime during the week to complement your weekly Sunday service.  If you are not using a Prayer Book for your Sunday worship, pick one up and try it out.  But most importantly, begin to let the words of your prayer shape your beliefs (and vice versa) so it works out into a life lived fully for Christ and His Church.