Posted by: celticanglican | April 19, 2016

Seasoning – Not Just for Food!

John Wesley preaching outside a church. Engraving. Wellcome V0006868

Maybe our evangelism needs to be more like this famous man’s and less like some of today’s “teachers”

Colossians 4:5 – 6 has some of the wisest advice in Scripture, situated within a chapter that many overlook because of its directives that apply to another culture. However, there is some wisdom for this day and age that you should bear in mind when reading.

The Church in its infancy struggled with the role of marginalized groups, such as women, Gentile believers, and slaves. Admidst this, the earliest followers had to figure out how to best reach out to people in a way that united, rather than divided.

Many people today use little, if any, discretion in their dealings with each other. This holds true not only for religious beliefs, but also for politics and other idealogy-based beliefs.

It’s unfortunately easier for people to shout out or shut out ideas they don’t like than appreciate the fact that the other person has their own “story” that has influenced their beliefs. This doesn’t mean we must accept everyone’s beliefs as truth, but that we should season our words with salt in order to approach others.

Think about it, why are you more likely to listen to? One that constantly tells you you’re wrong, evil, headed to eternal separation from God, etc. for disagreeing, or one that respects where you’re coming from and tries to understand?

Preaching the Gospel for Christians is often about having doors opened that would otherwise be closed. We need to strive to make sure the door remains open for us, rather than acting in a way that makes non-believers shut us out.

Remember the old adage about how God gave us two ears but only one mouth. Maybe this is so we can listen more and use our talk more responsibly.

 

Posted by: celticanglican | March 31, 2016

No, He’s Not Here!

Antiveduto Gramatica - Mary Magdalene at the Tomb - WGA10352

When we hear the Gospel reading from Luke 24:1-12, we hear one of the phrases in Scripture that is so important, yet so overlooked: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” There is so much faith and hope in these words!

These words are true not only for Jesus, but for us. Yet, why do we, in so many cases, keep looking for those whom God has called into God’s nearer presence, as though the grave/columbarium/wherever is the end of the story? For all those who have been baptized into, lived and died in God’s fellowship, it’s not the end by a long shot.

It’s often said that death brings out the worst in people. Things often change for the worse in a family after losing one of their members, and some of the turmoil is caused by common beliefs that aren’t truly Scriptural, but people insist on clinging to just the same.

Grief is difficult, and often compounded by guilt and mourning what could have been. When family members somehow feel as though following every final wish to the letter is absolutely sacrosanct, the focus shifts away from the Christian hope and onto death.

Maybe if we were to focus on what God did for us through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we could allow ourselves to step away from the tomb and into a fuller, more abundant life. Here are a couple of thoughts for your consideration:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die. – Mary Frye

From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, re: the Burial Office

The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the
resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be
raised.

The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that
“neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else
in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ
Jesus our Lord.”

This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love
we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted
by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we
rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord,
we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.

Posted by: celticanglican | February 15, 2016

Last Rites a No-Go for Lapsed Member?

Joseph T. O'Callahan gives last rites to an injured crewman aboard USS Franklin (CV-13), 19 March 1945

I haven’t posted any answered FAQs in awhile, and have an unaddressed one that I think is worth sharing.

Q. I know of a Catholic family that recently lost a lapsed Episcopalian family member and did not call for an Episcopal priest to do last rites so far as I know. This has caused some friction with another family member who felt that they intentionally denied their loved one last rites because they were more concerned about keeping their relative’s spirits up and seemed to think a pastoral visit would needlessly depress them. Even though the deceased Episcopalian was not devout, did their relatives have the right to refuse to call a priest, if that is in fact what they did?

A. In short – no, the only person that would have had the right to refuse the sacrament of healing (which is what the service commonly known as last rites is) was the deceased themselves. Even if they were lapsed, they would still have access to the sacraments as a baptized member. There are a lot of misconceptions about “last rites” as performed in the TEC, namely that it is drawn-out, requires a last confession, has to be done only when death is imminent, or can be done after death – none of which are true.

It’s entirely possible that the family, because of the difference in denominations, did not see the sacrament of healing, as performed in the Episcopal Church, as being as valid as or similar to their own.  I’ve provided some general info below that anyone can use as a helpful reference that hopefully answers questions.

The healing service only takes a few minutes, and any family members present are welcome to join in the prayers. Although the church member MAY make a confession, it is not required and, indeed, in our church, the general confession is sufficient. The sick or dying person receives the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, and may receive communion if they are able to, as can baptized family members or friends present who want to. Should a priest arrive after death, a different set of prayers for the person’s soul and comfort of the family is performed.  Rather than dragging a person down and depressing them, it can serve to give a person hope and somewhat of a sense of refreshment. If this family did deny their loved one this sacrament, they all missed out on a true gift and blessing from God.

Posted by: celticanglican | February 1, 2016

Forgiveness: Revisited

I’m straying from the usual lectionary reading or TEC-based post to revisit one of my topics that generated some good discussion: does forgiveness mean just forgetting about what someone did to you and acting like it never happened?

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter addresses Jesus, essentially asking how many times he must forgive someone who’s sinned against him. Jesus’ response is figurative, but clear: we are to forgive, just as God has forgiven us.

Forgiveness is often misunderstand, as it is often tied in with the old cliche about forgiving and forgetting. In many peoples’ minds, true forgiveness means forgetting about what happened.

This isn’t true, however. We can forgive someone for having wronged us, without forgetting what happened or allowing them to hurt us again.

Forgiveness isn’t for the benefit of the person who wronged you – it’s for your good. Forgiveness frees you from the resentment their behavior may have caused, letting you maintain your relationship with God and live the abundant life that God promised.

One of the tricky things about forgiving others is the fact that sometimes it seems like you won’t get there. I learned this the hard way recently, and it is very difficult.

Sometimes you need to forgive someone who sinned against who has since died and can’t demonstrate repentance. You may even have to forgive others who have wronged you because of what someone else did.

We must always remember it’s not about an arbitrary number of times you must forgive or demanding proof of the other’s repentance. It’s about freeing ourselves from others’ hurtful, inconsiderate and sometimes hateful influence and living in the light.

 

Posted by: celticanglican | January 24, 2016

5 Things We Must All Get Past for Real Unity

As the liturgical churches move past this year’s celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we see how much of a move there is for Christianity unity on a global scale. However, it’s easy to overlook that fact that a lot of efforts at unity start at a more localized level, even in our individual parishes/congregations and families.

There are many ways in which we can start achieving greater understanding among groups that aren’t dependent upon actions by larger ecumenical bodies. After reading the suggestions below, please feel free to add your own:

  1. Be Less of a Denominational Apologist – Although there are many important doctrines commonly taught in most groups, placing too much focus on doctrine specific to one denomination is more divisive than unifying. Instead, putting more emphasis on what we have in common goes a longer way.
  2. Think Globally, But Act Locally – There are many opportunities on a local level, such as Lenten programs run by local ministerial groups or community Bible studies, that bring together Christians of various stripes. If such opportunities don’t exist in your area, consider joining forces with others to start them.
  3. Never Assume Two Groups Treat Doctrines Exactly the Same Way – It’s very easy to think, for example, that all groups that teach some sort of baptismal regeneration believe the unbaptized are automatically damned or that groups that believe in a communion of saints all have the same views about saintly intercession. Instead, it’s more helpful to approach all of these doctrinal positions on their own terms, as each group understands them.
  4. Don’t Overlook Others’ Spiritual Experiences – It’s unfortunately easy to dismiss the spiritual experiences that others may have because they are different. Always treat the beliefs of others with the same respect you expect of yours.
  5. Avoid Presumptions About Others’ Beliefs – Some might feel inclined to laugh at an evangelical who attends an Episcopal church and assumes an usher is a deacon or a Catholic relative who assumes that non-Catholic clergy are “preachers” with no sacramental authority. However, bear in mind the fact that many people have little knowledge of denominations other than theirs, and this is a good starting-off point to discuss your similarities and differences.

What small steps do you think Christians can take to increase their understanding of each other?

Posted by: celticanglican | January 18, 2016

If We Stop Caring, We’re All Doomed

As the US gears up to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s birthday, one of his most famous quotes seems particularly timely: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

This country, and the Church as a whole, have come a long way since the start of the Civil Rights Movement. However, I think we still have a ways to go, with many deep rifts in this country that have yet to be mended.

The increasingly belligerant tone of the Presidential race, the discord over the Confederate flag in the wake of a tragic shooting, and violence throughout the country are examples of how much division still exists. The Church, as represented by her various denominations, faces constant struggles over sexuality, mission in a world where persecution is increasing and other issues, is faring little better.

The easy thing to do is to just ignore it all, and decide not to get involved. Choosing what is right vs. the easy route is often a choice that many prefer not to make.

However, I don’t think being a faithful member of the Jesus Movement leaves us with the option of the easy route. Jesus never promised a trouble-free life where we can safely sit on the sidelines and passively await something better.

We shall overcome, as Rosa Parks and the popular song have said. However, we need to stop remaining silent and get into action.

Posted by: celticanglican | January 5, 2016

Yes, It’s Time

Most of the Christmas lights and decorations are now down around town, and the majority of stores are now focused on the holidays that come  after Christmas. We’re at a stage in the Church year when our focus shifts away from Christ’s birth to a visit from the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12).

Many Christians who follow the traditional Church year take down their Christmas tree and other decorations at Epiphany. While it’s always a little sad to see the tree come down, maybe it helps to look at it as being symbolic of looking forward to the next great things God will do for us.

Some of us have made resolutions that we may or may not keep (I know I could use some help in that department). Just as we remember the past year but look to the promises of the new year, we should also look to the new promises God promises to all.

It’s easy to get to caught up in the story of Christmas and not give a thought to the (coming early this year) Lenten and Holy Week observances. After all, a baby Jesus is safer for some to remember than a betrayed, crucified Savior.

However, let’s make a resolution not to get stuck in neutral where the Gospel is concerned. God is continually doing too many new things for us to keep things under wraps.

Posted by: celticanglican | December 15, 2015

Smile! We’ve Just Passed Pink Sunday

Even though we remember St. John of the Cross in the lectionary today, I felt one of the readings from this past Sunday was a good place to start from. After having had one of the worst events of my life occur within the past few weeks, the signifigance of the Bible readings are all the more important.

I have a friend who’s been through many trials in life that has come through them with grace. One aspect of her positive attitude that gave me a fresh perspective on the Philippians reading is remembering a time when she greeted a co-worker at a busy hospital who was frazzled on a Sunday.

My friend’s great, joyful response was this – “Smile, it’s the Lord’s day!” May we all strive to have this level of joy to express to those around us.

It’s interesting that the lectionary readings get to Philippians 4:4-7 during a time when the secular, retail version of the Christmas season is in full swing. After all, it can be hard to look at the joy of the season when there are inconsiderate drivers on the road, rude shoppers in the stores, and a slew of bad memories for many people at this time.

While it’s a happy coincidence that this “joyful Sunday” comes after the things that irritate many about the holidays have been going on for a few weeks, we can draw comfort from Paul’s words. The earliest generation of Christians maybe didn’t have to deal with a stressful, shopping-influenced holiday season, but they did have more than their share of troubles.

What we can take away from this lesson: be happy. Let your light shine for all to see. Don’t give up on prayer. Most importantly, trust the One who is best able to guard your heart and mind.

Posted by: celticanglican | December 7, 2015

Yes, We’re Battling a Tough Crowd, But…

330px-anthonis_van_dyck_005

Ecclesiastes 2:7-18 has what I think is one of the best assurances of God’s faithfulness in the Bible. Few people probably knew the reality behind this concept than Ambrose of Milan, a bishop and Doctor of the Church who died in 397.

Ambrose lived during a time when the controversy between Arians and Trinitarians was at its highest. By using his theological prowess, he was able to defend the principles of orthodox Christianity effectively.

Although we live in an era where most of us aren’t going to have to cope with the type of political intrigue that this era of the Church did, Christianity is and never has been an easy ride. God has never promised us that things would be easy, but we would have grace to bear whatever burdens that life throws towards us.

Christians in many areas lack the freedom to worship freely, and in areas with religious freedom, are often caught with finding a balance between respectful dialogue and defending the faith effectively. We fall short of this all too often, yet our ancestors in the faith have helped equip us to deal with these challenges.

It’s interesting that Ambrose’s feast falls during Advent, a time when most of the world is caught up in the better-known celebrations of Christmas and New Year. When you think about it, what better time is there to bring Christ’s message of reconciliation to the rest of the world than during a time of year that makes it hard for many to see the light of Christ?

 

 

Posted by: celticanglican | November 29, 2015

A Call for Hope, Not Doom

Second Coming of Christ window

Advent is a time of the year that can be very difficult for both devotional writers and clergy alike. This season has a collection of Sunday readings like Luke 21:25-36 that emphasize the points of being watchful and waiting for Jesus’ return. Yet, there are many that turn these messages of hope into messages of doom by trying to turn them into exact predictions of when it will all go down.

There is a lot we can learn from the first generation of Christians: they knew that Christ’s return could happen at any time. Rather than building up complex systems for predicting the exact date, they focused on going about the important work entrusted to them.

One of the unintended consequences of many Christians allowing doomsday date setters to speak for them is that it takes the focus off of being the people of God. Rather, it puts people into a fear-based mentality that’s overly focused on watching for signs.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Getting caught up in fear-based predictions that Jesus never asked us to take part in hurts the cause of Christ more than helps. Why should we allow fear, which God’s perfect love casts out, to dominate so much of the message?

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