Monday, 30 November 2009
Who says only nuts come from Brazil? This is an excellent analysis of the Covenant and its deficiencies. The 1st 3 sections are so unexceptionable that they are pointless and section 4 is a new and not very Anglican kind of Church. Well done the Brazzies! You are not just footballing geniuses!
The Apostle Andrew (left) in Calling of Apostles Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio
Our patron Saint here in the land of the Happy Haggis. May his prayers be with us and for us today. And here's a wee sermon from another John who preached:
|A sermon of St John Chrysostom on St John's gospel|
After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. They reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.
Notice, too, how, even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarise a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.
When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
These opposite duties of fearing yet praying to have the sight of Christ are not necessarily inconsistent with each other. Why we should fear it, is not strange. Surely when a man gets himself steadily to contemplate a state of things beyond this life, he is in the way to be overpowered by the thoughts which throng upon him. How dreadful to the imagination is every scene of that unknown hereafter!
When we pray for the coming of Christ, we do but pray in the Church's words, that He would "accomplish the number of his elect and would hasten His kingdom." That is, we do not pray that He would simply cut short the world, but... that He would make time go quicker, and the wheels of His chariot speed on. Before He comes, a certain space must be gone over; all the Saints must be gathered in; and each Saint must be matured. Not a grain must fall to the ground; not an ear of corn must lose its due rain and sunshine. All we pray is, that He would please to crowd all this into a short space of time; that He would "finish the work and cut it short in righteousness," and "make a short work upon the earth;" that He would accomplish,—not curtail, but fulfil,—the circle of His Saints, and hasten the age to come without disordering this.
I have spoken of coming to God in prayer generally; but if this is awful, much more is coming to Him in the Sacrament of Holy Communion; for this is in very form an anticipation of His coming, a near presence of Him in earnest of it. And a number of men feel it to be so; for, for one reason or another, they never come before Him in that most Holy Ordinance, and so deprive themselves of the highest of blessings here below. Thus their feeling is much the same as theirs would be, who from fear of His coming, did not dare look out for it. They indeed who are in the religious practice of communicating, understand well enough how it is possible to feel afraid and yet to come. Surely it is possible, and the case is the same as regards the future day of Christ. You must tremble, and yet pray for it. We have all of us experienced enough even of this life, to know that the same seasons are often most joyful and also most painful. The joy does not change the grief, nor the grief the joy, into some third feeling; they are incommunicable with each other, both remain, both affect us.
Or consider the mingled feelings with which a son obtains forgiveness of a father,—the soothing thought that all displeasure is at an end, the veneration, the love, and all the undescribable emotions, most pleasurable, which cannot be put into words,—yet his bitterness against himself. Such is the temper in which we desire to come to the Lord's table; such in which we must pray for His coming; such in which His elect will stand before Him when He comes.
The Diocese of Massachusetts (I think that's how it's spelled) have given permission for their clergy to go ahead with conducting same sex marriages. Yowls of fury will without a doubt be heard from the Global South of the Anglican Communion " They are ignoring the Covenant". Yes, indeed they are, and you've only yourselves to blame. Bishops ordained to minister to conservative congregations, crossing Provincial boundaries and that damnable Ugandan Bill. The sense I have is that ECUSA (the TEC) are finally sickened by it all and, now that the courts have begun to throw out conservative claims for the property and assets, they are going to proceed to do what they believe to be right and not what ++Rowan and the Africans want. Good.
I have to say that the Ugandan situation has absolutely changed my mind on what we do with regard to the Covenant. If the COU and their pals are really going to support legislation the like of which has never been seen since the Nazi era, then I regard them as abhorrent as the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa during Apartheid and we should deal with them in the same way we did with the Afrikaaner Churches who provided theological justification for their evil regime of choice. They are in a state of impaired communion with God and we as the Church must show them that. We do not have communion with them. They have sundered themselves from the fellowship of Christ by their wicked and wilful actions and until such time as they abjure them (and I don't think that saying the death penalty is bad, so just put gays in jail for years counts as abjuration), we ignore and shun them - financially, as well as spiritually. You cannot dialogue with evil and those who support this bill are evil or utterly deluded.
"Oh, but we must maintain dialogue" I hear you say. No, one of my heroes, +Hensley Henson, Bishop of Durham, had no truck with that or the Church that sided with Hitler in Germany in the 30's. He had no hatred for the German people (his beloved step mother was German) but he had nothing but contempt for Nazism and its apologists both at home and abroad. Like Jonathan Swift, he had a "savage indignation" in his heart when faced with injustice and he denounced it uncompromisingly. So should we. The Archbishop of Canterbury was less than impressive against Hitler (Lang, a Glaswegian), so Rowan Williams is in reasonably salubrious company. Then, as now, the case was made that to be openly critical would inflame the situation and quiet , behind the scenes diplomacy would bear fruit. Henson thought that was rot and only shaming the bigotry and inhumanity with the glare of unfriendly publicity would stop it - or at any rate spare the Church from the taint of collaboration. It was a matter of conscience and principle, not of politics, secular or ecclesiastical.
Friday, 27 November 2009
Nobody's fault, but we suddenly hit some buried c**p. Which had been buried for years precisely because it made me feel scared and awful and c**p. I got out of the session and stood on the top of the steps at the front door, breathing the cold, sharp 4 o' clock air of Leith and swearing quietly. Time for a walk, as my head was in a heck of a mess, with emotions roaring away. It won't be a total surprise to hear that I also lit up, needing something chemical to steady the nerves. Fair enough. Then in came the bandits. Specifically, my brain started a very disturbing debate about needing a drink. Not needing it physically, but needing it because I know that it would change my mood and alter my feelings and get me the hell out of the bad place in my emotions. Needing it in a very cold, sober, analysed sort of way. And that was scary - 1st time in 8 months I've felt that desire to blot it out. Rather like a waking conscious nightmare.
Leith Walk is a long road and has plenty of pubs on it. Very inviting looking places. I kept walking. Not a stroll, but a yomp. Left, right, left, right My boots are heavy, my belt is tight...thank God I was once one of Baden-Powell's infant paramilitaries and learnt to keep going on a hike. Even when you're tired and it bloody hurts. By the time I got to the West End of Princes Street, my mad alky head was retreating, sane Dougal returned. You know you're stressing when you're chain smoking Hamlet cigars. (I did 2 en route).
A modicum of calm set in back at base. I was able to say to people "I've just had a s**t bit". Getting dinner ready was a good distraction, as was conversation over the dinner table. Normal stuff. And at Compline the lesson hit me like a bloody brick:
For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. (2 Cor 4:6-10)
The lesson? Clay, c'est moi. Afflicted - oh God, yeah BUT NOT crushed. Perplexed - indeed we are, but not (quite) driven to despair. Struck down - it certainly felt that way - but again, NOT destroyed. Still here, still alive, still sober. Rattled, shaken but actually victorious. On the receiving end of just enough grace to make it. They told me this urge would hit at some point and by God they were right. But it went and got beaten. God only knows how. Time methinks to kip and rest and be thankful. Roger. Over and out.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Monday, 23 November 2009
I will thank you because I am marvellously made;
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
How deep I find your thoughts, O God!
how great is the sum of them!
If I were to count them,
they would be more in number than the sand;
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.
Mercifully, the bad head days are further apart and this opening peice of psalmody from Evening prayer tonight just caught my current mood. I am wonderfully made, not fearfully. I know deep down that I am made in God's image and loved, even when I can't find it in me to love me or to believe that I am loveable. And I am loved body and soul by God, who hates nothing that he has made. I need to keep that thought there day by day - to reprogramme my brain to reflect what I truly believe and to accept that this is true of me and for me, as well as for others.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
However, what I really did not expect to discover on the train home was a very good and well written wee article on depression and suicide. Not in the paper, but in the Stirling Albion matchday programme. It was a piece on the recent tragic suicide of the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke. I'm going to quote quite a bit of it.
"Robert Enke didn't want to cause anyone any trouble. In the darkest hours of his mental illness his thoughts were only for Leila his adopted daughter and Teresa his wife. The swooping cycle of depression, illogical yet making perfect sense, allowed him to believe that Leila would be taken away: that the authorities would deem a loving father unfit. Having seen Teresa attempt to come to terms with the death of their biological child, he felt that it was better he disappeared than Leila.
Tony Adams knew emotional torment and its ability to destroy. His crutch was alcohol....The former Arsenal defender recognises that depression and dependency are not mutually exclusive.
Paul Gascoigne...knows alcohol abuse inside out. He struggles with depression and obsessive compulsive behaviour....now he is a lonely, semi-tragic specimen.
But Robert Enke was not an alcoholic, he was not an under-educated attention seeker. Neither is Dame Kelly Holmes. Her fighting spirit was confounded by injury. She locked herself in her bathroom and passed a steel blade through her flesh. One cut for every day's training missed.
Sport brings with it many pressures. The ultra-macho culture, the pressure to win at all costs, the blame that is always - always - meted out in defeat. It is a wonder that there are not more high profile sportspeople who struggle to cope."
A very powerful and sensitive article in a quite unexpected place. Goes to show not all footie fans are brainless knuckle draggers or utterly insensitive.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
who made the abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land
and through her holiness and leadership
blessed your Church with new life and unity:
help us, like her, to yearn for the gospel of Christ
and to reconcile those who are divided;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
It seems mindful to point out that Hilda was one of the great reconcilers of the Romanising and Celtic strains of English Christianity. She (probably rightly) saw that the great Celtic tradition had had its day of being the driving force of English Christianity and that the new energy of Augustine's Roman mission was what was needed to take things forward. And it did, gradually melding into the potent English school of spirituality of the Middle Ages (Dame Julian, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Margery Kempe et al). There is a case that can be made that the waning power of English Establishment Anglicanism means that the new drive of more popular and acceptable RC-ism is what England needs just now (thanks to Basil Hume in no small part). That said it is also probably true that what the Church of England needs to rediscover its impact is freedom from the internal strife of trying to hold Anglo-Papalist, Evangelical and Liberal streams together at all costs. If FiF go to Rome, then the C of E can square the circle more easily between Evangelical and liberal (perhaps saying Ta Ta to the Puritans) and recover its nerve and strength. Perhaps the Scottish Church can help best by genuinely being itself and giving an example of good, generous and principled liberality of spirit to keep the Church of Englandshire alert to best practice!
Friday, 13 November 2009
Anglo-Catholicism is going through a profound crisis precisely because it is losing faith in its central principle. Anglicanorum Coetibus is offering to let incoming Anglo-Catholics hang on to the incidental symbols of that principle, while relinquishing what lies behind it. Does that make sense? Would they not be better off just becoming Roman Catholics in the normal way, and joining an existing Catholic community they can enrich and be enriched by?"
It strikes me that the Anglo-Catholic identity is defined less by a distinctive liturgical rite than by an aesthetic: a sense that liturgy ought to be done well and with dignity, not mangled with guitars and servers in scruffy trainers. That preaching should be intelligent and reasoned. "The Pope says" isn't an argument, it's a statement. It would benefit contemporary Roman Catholicism to have the injection of Anglo-Catholic aesthetic and intellect to counterbalance it's vigorous social ethic and genius for "redemptive vulgarity". But in return, we could use the vigour of progressive Roman Catholics in the Anglican tent to stiffen us against the rampaging Puritans and stop such guff as the lay celebrant affirming Bishop of Peterborough and the un- Anglican theology of Sydney.
Open your ears, O God, to my prayer,
My thoughts are distracted and I am disturbed
My heart is tied in a knot
Perhaps my strongly incarnational theology and my sense that My Lord stands always in the darkest place alongside those who feel crushed and burdened leads me to offer my prayers today for my gay and lesbian sisters and brothers in Uganda. If I do nothing else today, I will find a church and light a candle for those who feel they are dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death just now. I may be weak and powerless myself and on the road to I know not where, but I can pray and for others who are worse off than myself. That little bit I can offer.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light"
A nifty one-liner from one of the monks at Worth Abbey. I'm sure Newman would have smiled too! For we all have cracks and at our best that is how we let in the light which is God and which transforms and redeems and sanctifies.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
(Columba Stewart OSB)
I came across that quote in an article on "Radical Honesty and the Self: the practice of the Desert Fathers". It strikes as very applicable to many of us who are/have been involved in pastoral concerns. Trained to help, we have huge difficulty in being helped. Sometimes that presents itself as aloofness or clericalism. Its root lies in making our God too small and too human.
Our God is a God beyond our full comprehension. Infinite and inexhaustible, God's love cannot be "burnt out" or used up. And our frailty and failings can never exhaust his patience.
Anyone who has ever found themselves in the tricky situation of having pastoral contact with the bereaved knows full well that it is very easy for the slightest mistake, however unintentional and malice free, to trigger an adverse reaction. And sometimes the boob isn't entirely your fault: I recall an annoyed lady at Kirkcaldy Crem once, when I had said the deceased and his widow had met whilst nursing their 1st spouses at the local hospice. No one bothered to tell me that the wife in the hospice was no 2, not no 1 from whom he was divorced (amicably, as it happened). No 1 came up to me and said "By the way Son, Ah'm no deid yit!". GB's staff obviously didn't get the exact info to him and failed to correct the error before the letter went in the post. His handwriting is notoriously bad: he lost one eye playing rugby as a teenager and he has been reported as having retina problems with his good eye recently. He meant well and his human failings caused another in a state of emotional vulnerability distress. As a son of the Manse, he will probably be feeling deeply embarrassed and upset by this. At least the Thunderer took a tolerant and compassionate line towards him in its leader. I wish more of the Press displayed such a reasoned attitude to public figures.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Friday, 6 November 2009
The Church of Uganda and the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”
The Church of Uganda is studying the proposed “Anti-homosexuality bill” and, therefore, does not yet have an official position on the bill (so, it's not, like, urgent?). In the meantime, we can restate our position on a number of related issues.
1. Our deepest conviction as the Church of Uganda is that, in Christ, people and their sexual desires are redeemed, and restored to God’s original intent. Repentance and obedience to Scripture are the gateway to the redemption of marriage and family and the transformation of society. (Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality, May 2005)
2. The House of Bishops resolved in August 2008 that “The Church of Uganda is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, (how offensive is that!!!) especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.” (AYE RIGHT!!)
3. The Church of Uganda upholds the sanctity of life and cannot support the death penalty. (GOOD)
4. In April 2009, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said, “I am appalled to learn that the rumours we have heard for a long time about homosexual recruiting in our schools and amongst our youth are true. I am even more concerned that the practice is more widespread than we originally thought. It is the duty of the church and the government to be watchmen on the wall and to warn and protect our people from harmful and deceitful agendas.” (How did this ignorant idiot ever become an Archbishop?)
5. “Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture.” (Resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops.) Homosexual behaviour is immoral and should not be promoted, supported, or condoned in any way as an “alternative lifestyle.” This position has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the House of Bishops and the Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda. (And the bits about dialogue and listening are...not mentioned)
6. We cannot support the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of homosexuals (Resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops), and we will oppose efforts to import such practices into Uganda. Again, this position has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the House of Bishops and the Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda.
I have to say I am rapidly going right off the idea of regarding myself as in Communion with this Province. Words simply fail me.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Monday, 2 November 2009
If this is what's up then this really is a nasty game with definite overtones of Germany in 1933.
But on the plus side, Exodus International (one of the biggest of the "ex Gay ministries") have called on their partner organisations in Uganda to campaign against this "nightmare bill" see:
I certainly disagree with their fundamental premises, but am pleased to see that they at least have followed the logic of their theology with some consistency. If God loves you enough to heal you of homosexuality, it scarcely seems to be consistent with his will and love to execute those who God loves enough to heal
Sunday, 1 November 2009
I blame the sermon this morning: the message was "You are not alone". When the preacher opined that sometimes we only recognise what love is by its absence in our lives, I went to myself: "S**t. That's put into words what I've felt for years". Which sent me off on a panicky muse, half listening to the sermon and half running after my own thoughts and feelings. I'm aware of the abscence of love or feeling loved often, yet I spent 16 years preaching about God being love, Love Incarnate and personified and made real and solid and concrete in human flesh and loving us. Suddenly I realised that that was what I believed and hoped for and trusted in, but didn't actually KNOW for myself. I suddenly wasn't sure if I'd been telling the truth for years: "Of course I believe in the God of Love and the Love of God." But always, always wondering if it was really true. I had faith, I had hope, but not certainty: was that what was wrong?
I actually went through most of the rest of the service in a real quandry: "Can I say the Creed? I believe..? Do I really believe God is here with me and for me in the Eucharist? I want to, I need to, but is it true? Can I take the sacrament?" Well I did, because I can spot a spiritual panic attack when I see one, because I see the Sacrament as efficacious medicine for the soul in times of trouble independent of my subjective feelings and, I might be in a quandry of doubt, but there is nothing sacriligious in coming to God and saying: "I'm not sure I can see or feel your presence in my life just now but I'm here and I'm holding out my hand. Heal me and feed me. Please." And I didn't feel anything much at all.
Afterwards, I chatted to my neighbour (a priest who left parish ministry several years ago). Apropos of nothing, he remarked that it was X years since he'd said Mass. He'd preached, married and buried but not that. I paused and said: "Do you miss it?" "I never let myself think about that." was the reply. Then I said: "I haven't celebrated for 7 1/2 months, but I'm covering for someone on Wednesday. I'm not sure I'll be able to. What if I only know the absence when I stand there?" We looked at each other, sharing in a moment of communion. We were both suddenly in a place where our sense of God and certainty about God was fuzzy, but where we weren't alone. As I walked back, I realised that I had been unable to see or sense or feel the presence but that God had put me next to someone in a very similar boat and opened us up enough to share a bit of that feeling. If that wasn't a sign of God actually being with us, even when we could only sense the absence, then what on earth was. "See, John, I AM with you always. Even until the end of time. Trust me" The preacher was right. We are not alone.