There are places I remember…

 

 

 

 

 

Places, practices and people form us. For many years, I looked at representations of the saints, recited the words of the liturgy and listened to the words of spiritual leaders. Sometimes I was bored, sometimes the words were tedious and made no sense and sometimes the presence of God shined through. Faith is more than cerebral. Faith is incarnate. Faith involves the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Even if God does not dwell in buildings built by human hands, humans are shaped by the physicality of faith. This has always been the scandal of the Word made flesh and the nemesis of creation shunning gnosticism, past and present.

My faith was shaped in no small part by the visual beauty and the familiar words of prayer of years of worshiping at All Saints Episcopal Church and Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. My faith was also shaped by the people who I came to know as teachers and counselors – Paul Urbano, Ken Whitney, Anton Renna S.J., Al Miller S.J., “Sister” Mary, and the small prayer group that met Monday nights. They were able to listen and support a teenager trying to get through some tough times. I was also able to witness the Spirit firing up the church through the preaching & teaching of Dennis Bennett, Terry Fulham and Francis MacNutt.  Those were years of hope about what the church could become that turned to disappointment as the ECUSA drifted farther and farther into irrelevance. However,  over the years God was at work and I was able to encounter worship scholar Robert Webber, the Alpha evangelism program and most recently Wellspring in Englewood, CO an Anglican congregation that combines sound preaching, God glorifying music and a liturgy in which the words are prayed with sincerity and passion. Ancient & future worship is alive!

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“Give me that alt-right religion…”

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“We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.”

The Barmen Declaration (1934)

Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas is an unabashed Trump enthusiast. Jeffress preached to Trump on Inauguration Day from the Old Testament example of Nehemiah, the humble servant who leads the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, endorsing Trump’s border wall since “God is not against building walls” and feeding his already inflated hubris by urging him to ignore his critics, stating “we have never had a president with as many natural gifts as you.”   From what’s been seen so far, not only is this patently untrue considering the long line of predecessors but Trump does not need to have his grandiosity encouraged! Besides distorting and misapplying the Word of God that he is supposedly commissioned to steward faithfully, preacher Jeffress resorts to fawning over a man who is undeserving of praise, whether it’s his crudeness, especially towards women, his failing financial track record, fueling conspiracies and false allegations about birth certificates, eavesdropping and secret recordings, repeated blame shifting and demagoguery and demonization of the media and those who disagree or confront him about his distortions of reality.

On the 4th of July, at the “Celebrate Freedom Rally,” in that good old, Baptist patriotic amalgam of civil religion & American greatness, with a mega-flag along with his mega-Baptist choir, Jeffress called Trump “one of the great patriots of our modern era and a president who cherishes the sacrifice and service of those in our armed forces.” I suppose he was referring to Trump’s 5 deferments from serving in the Vietnam war or his petty tirades with the Gold Star Khan family or belittling of Sen. John McCain. Trump is not the only one who seems to have difficulty with distorting reality. It beggars the imagination how the good pastor could even consider Trump a great patriot. As for the song “Make America Great Again,” I’ll take “In Christ There is No East or West” any day.

It’s hard to take this silliness seriously. Sadly, Jeffress is sickeningly sincere. What’s missing from Jeffress’s messages, is Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom. The true gospel is greater than any one political party, political leader or country. It is for all people and all nations, none of which may claim special status. It is not limited to 4 years or 8 but eternal. Jeffress has joined the line of spiritual leaders who sell their birthright for a mega-mess of porridge, who join the ranks of court prophets, sycophants who abandon the truth and fidelity to God to rub shoulders with the mighty (1 Kings 22).

It would be great if this could be dismissed as a Southern Baptist aberration but the adulteration of anemic churchianity with politics, right, left or “alt,” subtly undermines and distorts the real work of the church.  The true Christian faith is misrepresented. Since the baptism of Jesus, the gospel of his kingdom has thrived in or despite a variety of political environments. It does not need the repeal of the Johnson amendment to succeed.  It does not rely on flag waving or coddling demagogues. It does require faithful men and women of integrity and boldness to refuse to worship a golden ego (Daniel 3) or a tempting political offer on a mountain peak (Matthew 4:8) when they see one.

 

 

 

 

S.B.C. calls the alt-right out.

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Sounds like there was a ground swell refusal to allow denominational bureaucrats to stall and remain silent:

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

ISIS? Nothing new…

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Ignatius Maloyan was an Armenian Catholic Archbishop who was trained in Lebanon, served in Egypt and the Mardin province of the Ottoman Empire. In the summer of 1915, the Vali of Diyarbekir, Reşit Bey, commenced the Armenian Genocide in Mardin. Arrested and In court, the chief of the police Mamdooh Bek ordered bishop Maloyan to convert to Islam; the bishop declined, and was beaten, tortured, chained, and imprisoned.

On 10 June 1915, Ignatius and over 400 other Christians, including fourteen priests, were force marched into the desert. When they stopped, bishop Ignatius celebrated an impromptu liturgy with scraps of bread.  100 of their number were taken by Turkish troops to nearby caves and murdered.

As he watched his priests and faithful massacred in front of him, Mahmdouh Bey, offered to spare the Archbishop’s life if he would convert to Islam. Archbishop Maloyan first vowed loyalty to the Sultan in all purely civil matters, but added, “I’ve told you I shall live and die for the sake of my faith and religion. I take pride in the Cross of my God and Lord.” This enraged Mahmdouh Bey, who ordered the column to depart for a valley about four hours’ distance from Diyarbekir. There, on June 10/11, the remaining 200 deportees were killed and Maloyan was personally executed by Mahmdouh Bey. The local population stripped the clothes from the bodies of the victims, which remained untouched for five hours until they were all collected, doused with petrol, and burned.

In this corner of the world, people of all faiths still suffer from hatred and cruelty.

Hear the prayers of those who abide with you in dangerous times and in dark valleys,

and who die with your name on their lips.

Draw them quickly to your side where they might know eternal peace.

AMEN

Saints Preserve Us (Or Elves)

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A great-grandmother in Brazil has been accidentally praying every day for years to a figure of Elrond, an elf from “The Lord of the Rings” after mistaking it for a figurine of Saint Anthony of Padua. Her relative made the discovery after taking a look at the figurine, and realizing something wasn’t quite right. Following a hunch, they searched online for the figure – and found one exactly identical to the great-grandmother’s. However, there was only one problem – the figure wasn’t listed under ‘Saint Anthony’, it was in fact listed under “Elrond.”

Oops.

While Anthony is the patron saint for the recovery of lost things it’s unclear what Elrond is assigned to cover – maybe the recovery of lost rings, lost wizards or lost hobbits?

An Advent Poem

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In the darkest night, in the deepest pain, when all seems lost, no hope is found,

God is with us, Emmanuel.

Eternal light, shines forth bright, scatters the darkness around our hearts;

Fills with peace, the space within, his love reaches where none else may.

In midnight field, in nighttime fear, his presence guards our way; 

Not alone, not alone, joined with thousands unseen, joyful song rise again.

In the darkest night, in the deepest pain, when all seems lost, no hope is found,

God is with us, Emmanuel.

Signed, Sealed…

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I have voted. Since Colorado has mail-in ballots I have completed mine. Tomorrow, I will deliver it. I voted neither for Trump Inc. or Billary Inc. I was never convinced and still am not persuaded that the lesser of these evils will be better. I refused to waste my vote for a man who is a crass, vulgar, sexually predatory blow-hard & the corrupt party that nominated him.

There are a number of Christian leaders and self-appointed spokesmen who continue to urge, cajole, threaten and distort their own imaginings as the voice of God requiring a vote for Trump – even though they admit he is barely morally tolerable, personally repugnant and a political liability. We are urged – Vote the platform! Vote the party! These are  voices of desperation. What they do not seem to realize is that these have been co-opted and corrupted by the very political process and party leadership they continue to support and its nominee. It is also the failure to see beyond a 2 party system.

This election shows the bankruptcy of the GOP. Yes, the results are the judgement of God – and we have been under that for quite awhile. What is feared will be lost, was lost a long time ago and it wont be restored except by genuine repentance. And that’s not part of anyone one’s current political platform.

If HRC wins as is expected it may be a blessing in disguise as maybe God will awaken the church to stop leaning on the staff of a broken reed (Is. 36:6) and become the church with a gospel rather than a church of American consumerism who sells its soul & inheritance for a mess of political pottage & privilege.

Grabber in Chief?

“When a government is in its prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of state; virtue prevails; everything is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy, and all the people are happy. But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this generally tends to corrupt the Constitution and in time bring on its dissolution. This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment from Heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favored with the blessings of religion and liberty and is guilty of undervaluing them and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust.”

Samuel Langdon (1723-1797)

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To start – I have no rat in the “Billary Inc. vs. Trump Inc.” rat race – I consider neither major party’s presidential candidate fit for the highest office in the land. I am voting for a 3rd party candidate that aligns with my political and moral views. I am not persuaded that I am “throwing away” my vote – if the GOP had wanted to defeat “Billary Inc.” it could have nominated a plausible candidate of whom there were sufficient number to at least make a contest of it. But due to Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee & a majority of the delegate’s desperation and terror of Hillary, it has given into a hostile take-over of the party and is now held hostage by a psychopathic text-book narcissistic, sexual predator who has a scorched earth policy of relational skills. Now that Trump seems to have decimated his chances for even a close loss, he has resorted to theories about left wing-media conspiracies, threats of uprisings or simply whining. He has no one to blame but himself.

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Sadly, some Christian leaders on Trump’s “Evangelical Executive Advisory Council” have proven hotter & more wanton for power than Oholah and Oholibaha (Ezekiel 23) reversing their long cherished culture war morality, principles and values to excuse Trumps insults of war heroes & veterans, judges and citizens of different ethnicity, and minimize and dismiss his extended history of misogynistic words and actions against women with “yeahbuts” – the lame justification usually employed by 6 year olds (yeahbut -it’s not as bad as he-she-they did) or platitudes about forgiveness that demonstrate the cheapness of Trump’s so called conversion &  how willing they are to trivialize the Christian gospel.

Maybe as Russell Moore has pointed out, this is the last death rattle of the old-guard Religious Right establishment. I will skip the funeral. Maybe after the smoke & fog of the election has cleared, believers can get back to the work of being the church and making the land in which we live a better place than Trump Inc. or Billary Inc. portray it.