EASTER FOUR

Just what state of being are we baptizing Lucy Barboro Champbliss? Just why are we doing this? Let me begin with our natural state.

Watson evil

In 1996, Lyall Watson published a fascinating book entitled Dark Nature, A Natural History of Evil, [p. 54ff.]

“THERE ARE SEVERAL GENETIC INSTRUCTIONS WHICH SEEM TO BE COMMON TO ALL LIFE:
• BE NASTY TO OUTSIDERS: We are afraid of strangers. We are afraid even when the newcomer has done us no harm. “Who is your family?” “Who were you before you married?” “You don’t talk like you all are from around these parts!”
• BE NICE TO INSIDERS: We are nice to those who are part of us, even when they are really trouble and difficult. Why? “Because blood is thicker than water.” “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It is really hard to get into most human institutions if those already on the inside do not invite us in.
• CHEAT WHENEVER POSSIBLE: This is the basis of everything from card games to tax evasion. (April 15 is our national day of wailing and gnashing of teeth.) It comes naturally. We hear all sorts of reasons for cheating: “Everybody is doing it.” “I didn’t think that it really mattered?” “Do it if you can get away with it.” “It’s a matter of national security.”

As Vladimir Lenin once said, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is negotiable.”

The great Anglican liturgist, Dom Gregory Dix once wrote, “It is the heart and core of ‘the Gospel’ that something drastic has to be done about brokenness and sin, and that what I cannot do God has done.”

In today’s first reading from Acts we find ACTS 2:42 Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Life among the Believers 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Let me point out that if this is normative for the Community of Faith, there are NO CLERGY. Yes, Apostles but then everyone is supposed to be “fully loaded and ready to move out,” which is the meaning of the Word Apostle. In a sense everyone who witnessed the ministry, passion and resurrection of Jesus was an Apostle with the Twelve having a special role in terms of message.

We have idealized this period ever since: Our baptismal creeds picks this up. What a wonderful place, wouldn’t you love to have been there? How long do you suppose it was before someone ripped the bloom off the bush? It was just about nine months, just long enough for mischief to be brought to full term.  Acts 6ff [pg. 1266 in Pew bible]

In the first century women and children depended on the income of a man in order to survive. If the husband died, then the family was in desperate straits. This being the case there is a lot widow and orphan talk in scripture. The Greek part of the community felt that their widows were discriminated against. So the dissatisfaction grew and the Greek communicants began to complain loudly, “our widows are being ignored by the Church meals on wheels.” They came and told the Apostles. The Apostles said we can’t do it all and we must be about prayer and serving the word not waiting tables or literally “Keeping Accounts”. Choose seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. We’ll appoint them.” And they did. They were called Deacons, a name that comes from the word: doulos or servant. They chose Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, etc. Prayed, laid hands on them . . . and put them to work. Notice that the names of those chosen to be deacon were Greek names. Apparently that management technique is ancient. Put those who complain in charge of the problem. “You are empowered now go do it.”  These are the first clergy. Bishops in the earliest days were selected from the College of Deacons.

Over the first five hundred years the Church in the Roman Empire developed the model that is still dominant in the West. From the 6th Century on the Western Culture was Christian. That model continues to this day: Building – People – clergy. Clergy were put in place to act as “professional Christians” so nobody else need bother.

  • Lay People get serious about their faith and folk assumed what? Off to Seminary with you. Why, only professional Christians bother with all that.
  • “O John, we hired you to do that.”

This is not working and it is not true. I am here to be your Coach not your surrogate nor your truant officer. I am a player coach. I’m playing because I’m baptized. I’m ordained to Coach. This is my part of the re-inventing process we call SOULWorks.

At Saint John’s we have actively and consciously for the past five years been growing ourselves up and calming ourselves down. We took surveys that told us where we are on the journey to union with Christ. We’ve developed initiatives: Bible Challenge (Bibles in Pews), Ancient Practices, SOULWorks Weekends #7 in September.

We are in transition. Going forward there will be many, many, more lay-people in active ministry than clergy. All Christians are in ministry. You will be in places I’ll not be. You have influence that I lack.

What we are called to and what we are baptizing Lucy into is un-natural in this fallen world. We are called to live above our unconscious animal nature What the Church was dealing with then and has struggled with ever since is the simple fact that being Christian runs against what comes naturally for humanity. Rising above the animal toward the Angels of our better nature is an un-natural act!

France’s Cardinal Suhard, “To be a witness is being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”

St Mark Alex

PALM SUNDAY MARTYRDOM IN ALEXANDRIA AT SAINT MARK’S CATHEDERAL
Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response. “The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered. Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city. On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church. “I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’ “‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’” Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal. “How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked. “If it were my father, I could never say this. But this is their faith and religious conviction.” Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

This is the un-natural life of one who is in Christ. This un-natural life of grace is ours in Christ Jesus. I am committed during these last years as your Rector to accept what is mine in Baptism so that you will do the same. What might happen in Memphis if we each become the living mystery that makes no sense without the resurrection? I’m not sure, but I’d sure like to see it, just once. Amen

Coptic Martyrs

I have cherished friends of  the Egyptian Coptic Church of Saint Mary’s & Saint Rouis here in Memphis.  Several of Saint John’s household joined these brothers and sisters for prayers this week after the bombing of Saint Peter’s in Cairo last Sunday.  Please find below the pastoral letter from His Grace, Bishop Youssef of the Southern Diocese of the American Coptic Church.   His Grace was most kind to me when I was presented to him a couple of years ago at a Bible Study he conducted at his annual visitation.

bishop-youssef

COLLEYVILLE, TX. December 11, 2016 — A message from His Grace regarding the bombing at St. Peter Coptic Orthodox Church in Abassiya, Egypt.

Today, heaven’s gates opened wide to many victims of terrorism, angels placed the crowns of martyrdom upon their heads, and our Lord Jesus Christ welcomed them into the paradise of joy. Shortly after receiving the Holy Eucharist, a bomb exploded on the side of this ancient church, where women, infants, and young children await their turn to partake of the Holy Eucharist. There is no God in any religion that can accept this savagery, for it is incomprehensible that heaven can be comprised of murderers. Where is the bravery in these atrocities? Where is the heroism in such violent acts? Bravery and heroism are marked by the courage of all Christians, regardless of their dire circumstances, whether poor, ill, or disadvantaged, but greet each day with faith and fill every church in this great land that has been blessed by the blood of the martyrs for more than 2000 years. We are not praying for our martyrs, for they have won the kingdom of God. We are praying and fasting for those who commit these cowardice acts and hide behind the cloak of religion to destroy a nation trying to recover from years of the poison of extremism. We are praying and fasting, not for our martyrs, for they have obtained forgiveness through the body and blood of Christ, but for those who do not know the meaning of love and will not be forgiven until they learn the power of love. We are praying and fasting, not for our martyrs, for they held their children in their arms so that they would grow in their footsteps and follow the rules of love and forgiveness, but for those who are steered by hate and teach their children to kill. We are praying and fasting for the healing of all Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, that we may live together in peace, safety, and civility for the good of all citizens. We are praying and fasting, not for our martyrs, for they followed God’s commandments, but for those who do not denounce these horrific crimes, that will worsen matters by not taking a stand. We are praying and fasting that the Lord will be swift in hearing the call of the martyrs’ blood and bring these murderers to justice here on earth and in eternity. May the Lord comfort the families and loved ones of our beloved martyrs and may He root out all aggression from His beloved Egypt, and may He heal the pain of all Egyptians suffering from the consequences of terrorism.

Saint_Justin_Martyr_by_Theophanes_the_Cretan

“And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry that we speak of a human kingdom. Instead, we speak of that which is with God, as can be shown from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, even though they know that death is the punishment awarded to those who so confess. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we would deny our Christ, so that we might not be killed. We would try to escape detection, so that we might obtain what we hope for. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since death is a debt which must at all events be paid” (Justin Martyr, c. AD 150, First Apology 11).

We ask the Lord to protect His church and the Christians all over the world, to grant His peace upon us, to support our beloved father and patriarch, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and to guide all the leaders and governors entrusted with the lives of all the people in the whole world.

Glory be to God, forever. Amen.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Marfo-Mariinsky & St. Elizabeth the Martyr – YouTube

via Marfo-Mariinsky & St. Elizabeth the Martyr – YouTube

Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr

Ninety-eight years ago yesterday,  Elizabeth Feodorovna,  Grand Duchess of Russia,  sister of Alexandra, the last Empress was hurled into a mine shaft by the Bolsheviks.  Elizabeth Pray for us.

Saint Elizabeth Romonova

Elizabeth,  the New Martyr  (July 7, 1918)

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EARLIER REPORTS NOW DENIED

Fr.-Tom-in-YemenReports of Fr. Uahunnalil  have now been denied by the Chief Bishop of the Middle East and Cardinal Schohborn has walked back from the cross (so to speak)

Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna has confirmed last night, that the Salesian priest, Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday. Father Tom was with the Sisters of Mother Teresa who were killed in Yemen. May he Rest in Peace. Source Salzburg.com/F

 

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John+

 

Study to Show Thyself Approved…

lyons-martyrs

One of the best practices in RenewalWorks is to embed scripture in everything. The vesting room has a sign on the door about robing priests with righteousness, but the true embedding is in the heart. I find passages that I memorized back in Sunday School at The Anderson Baptist Church serve well and it comes back to from the recesses of my mind.

A passage that haunts my mind are the words of our Lord found in the…

Gospel of John 9:4,“I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

Those words give my work a sense of urgency, not anxiety, but a focused energy. A year ago, I rose early to walk in my neighborhood. At four a.m. there are few folk around as I moved through the pools of light cast by the street lamps. I listened to the entire Church History and Martyrs of Palestine by Eusebius, some 35 hours or so. Several sections comprise long lists of Christians martyred via the most hideous tortures. One section lodged in my psyche.  The authorities devised unique and awful punishments for belief in Jesus. For a time Christians suffered one eye gouged out, the foot opposite mangled, and a sentence to the copper mines. Soon a host of Christians was gathered there.

The presence of so many Christians, including several bishops, led to the growth of a Christian community with “houses for church assemblies,” 63 appointing its own bishop, 64 and, because they were denied written scriptures, listening to recitation by a blind Egyptian who knew them by heart. 65 It appears that those who became too old or infirm to work in the mines were allowed to live on, fasting and praying, in a separate settlement near the mines and this evidently became a special focus of the Christian community, led by the Bishop Silvanus and the blind “reader” John. 66 Despite a presumably high mortality rate, the community was periodically reinforced as new batches of Christians were sent there; in 306– 7, most arrivals appear to have been from Palestine and Gaza; in 308– 9 we hear of two groups from Egypt, one comprising 97 men, women, and children,,, —

Mattingly, David J. Imperialism, Power, and Identity:
Experiencing the Roman Empire – (Miriam S. Balmuth,
Lectures in Ancient History and Archaeology) (p. 189).
Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


One story, a note in one of the ancient manuscripts has caught in my imagination,

“Many of them were Egyptians. The Greek adds in this place the account of one John, who had learned the Scriptures so thoroughly by heart, that Eusebius states, that when he saw him standing up and repeating portions of the Scripture to the congregation, he supposed he had been reading till he drew near, and discovered that he was quite blind.

Can you see it?  A crowd of cripples, surrounding an old man with a ring of snow white hair round his bald head. Listening as if their very life depends on it, (cause it does) the company of the walking wounded hear the depths of the words”Let not your heart be trouble, believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms”  or “Be not afraid, I have overcome the world.”  Blind eyes shut he sees the Good News of God in Christ.  Seeing eyes look beyond the damaged present to the world to come.

Screen-shot-2012-02-03-at-9.16.27-AMI join that gathering from time to time in my mind.  At the edge I stand, unobserved,  listening to the words of life from one who knows the price of faith. What if he had not embedded the Bible in his soul?  What about me?  If all I had was my memory how much scripture would I have?

ALAPAYEVSK

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The entrance to the mine shaft at Alapayevsk where the Grand Duchess Sister Elizabeth was thrown to her death accompanied by four young Romanov men and Sister Barbara. It is now a place of pilgrimage.

Elizabeth, New Martyr,  pray for us.

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