Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Since I am on vacation for a few weeks, I am happy to offer this space today to Father Ken Howard, the rector of the parish church of Gaithersburg, Maryland, called Saint Nicholas.
Ken is a bright and articulate voice in the Episcopal Church and I am delighted to share his insights about the current debates in the Anglican/Episcopal Church.
I am also delighted to share a photo of me and my new grandchild, Alexandra Paige Cornner who also resides in Gaithersburg with my son, Matt and his wife, Sarah.
God's Peace in New Friends,
March 31, 2007 | Features
By The Rev. Ken Howard
Episcopal 101 (Reclaiming Our Anglican Traditions)
The Foundation of Our Faith
The "recent unpleasantness" of the secessions of the churches across the river raises some very important questions.
The leaders of those congregations claim that they are leaving the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) to preserve orthodox Anglican Christianity. They claim that they have no choice but to leave because the U.S. Episcopal Church has rejected Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition. Implicit in their rationale for schism is the accusation that the national Episcopal Church is no longer Anglican or even Christian.
So we have to ask ourselves several questions? What is the ultimate foundation of Christian faith? What makes a Christian Christian? For that matter, what makes a church Christian?
What lies at the core of Christianity? Is it ultimately defined by a set of beliefs? Or by a relationship with Christ? Our departing brothers and sisters across the river are staking their actions on the former definition: that Christianity is primarily defined by its doctrines and that membership the Church Universal is based on agreement with (or assent to) those doctrines.
Despite our friends’ claims to the contrary, traditional Anglican theology has always held to the latter definition: that what makes a Christian Christian is a relationship with Christ. According to Richard Hooker, one of the founding theologians of Anglicanism, "the foundation of our faith" is the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Savior. In other words, for a person (or a Church) to be considered Christian only belief in Christ as savior is essential; all else is secondary.
That does not mean that the doctrines of the Christian faith are unimportant. On the contrary, they can be very important in guiding us in what it means to be Christian. But they are the Church’s expression of what it means to be a Christian, and as such they can be subject to error. For example, even the Nicene Creed, the quintessential statement of Christian belief and unity was itself the source of disunity for more than a millennium. All over the definition of a mystery: whether the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son," as the Western Church held, or "from the Father," as the Eastern Churches have held. Both have recently agreed that it was a distinction not worth splitting the Church over. Even if disagreement over a portion of the Nicene Creed was a valid reason for schism, surely the current controversies over less essential questions are even less so.
Even if the current disagreements were over the most important doctrines, would disagreement with those doctrines render someone no longer a member of the body of Christ? Not according to traditional Anglican theology. According to Hooker, "Only ‘direct denial’ of Christ constitutes apostasy from the Universal Church. Only denial ‘by consequent,’ by failure to hold a necessary implication, does not make a non-Christian. ‘Whole Christian churches’ have so erred and are yet Christian." In other words, even heretics remain Christians. "We must acknowledge even heretics themselves to be, though a maimed part, yet a part of the visible Church."
So there we are. When we acknowledge Christ we become part of one body, one family. No matter how much we disagree, we are stuck with one another.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
This past Sunday, I offered the following meditation about what difference the Resurrection is making in my life and the lives of others whom I know. I suggested that to come alive in Christ, is to hear his yelling the DIVINE YOO-HOO that responds to our sense of being lost or dead to life. Once we hear Jesus call us, our old ways of doing things no longer seem to work very well or make as much sense to us (I compared my previous week's experience of switching between my new MAC and my PC).
Many of the words that used to mean one thing to me, now open up into something new and very different. The sense that God is not on my side, gives way to a joy that God is with me as someone who not only really loves me, but as James Alison says, really likes me too.
Sheol is a place of the dead. Jesus is not the "God of the dead," but of the living. When he comes into our tombs, he calls us by name, calls us to stand up, and brings us to life, life that is more abundant and wondrous than we could ever imagine. The true joy of this new life is that no one else needs to be second or the bottom of the rung of life in order for me to know deep down inside that I am loved, and called, and sent to share in word and deed, the Good News of God in Christ.
Please read SHEOL: WAITING FOR THE DAY TO DAWN, knowing that that the Day has surely dawned on God's creation and that Jesus is calling us to arise and come to the light and life of blessing, mercy, and forgiveness.
SHEOL: WAITING FOR THE DAY TO DAWN
I, with Lazarus, am dead
I, with Lazarus,
Wait for what I did not know,
What I only hoped for.
I, with Lazarus, am alone.
Cut off from myself,
Cut off from other people,
Cut off from God,
Cut off from Life.
It is dark here.
It is nothing here.
It is a place which is no place.
It is a time which is no time.
It is a feeling which is not feeling.
Some call it Sheol.
I have no name for it.
I, with Lazarus, wait.
We wait for a voice
Which commands life---
A voice that cries out my name:
A voice that reaches
To the depths to the depths of hopelessness and despair,
Deep into my tomb and says:
“Arise, come forth!”
I, with Lazarus, am dead.
We wait for the Dawn.
We have come to the night
To greet the Day.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
What is the good news about Easter? Last year on Easter Sunday, I told the story from my childhood about getting lost in a park and forgetting to follow our Mother’s three basic rules to follow when on an adventure:
1. Stay together.
2. Hold hands.
3. Yell yoo-hoo every once in a while to let her know where we were.
I am not sure where she got those rules, but they did work and my brother and me, having been lost, were found. The difference between being lost and found was simply being in the presence of someone who loves us. There is really no place or condition in which we might find ourselves that can be called “lost,” if we are in the presence of God.
The power of resurrection is in the message that Jesus entered into the most shameful, violent, and cursed experience we all fear and seek to avoid as human beings and yet continued to be held in God’s arms. When my brother and I were lost, our Mom never lost sight of us and her love for us claimed us as found.
Come to hear the story of Easter as we celebrate the love and forgiveness of God and discover that no matter how lost we are, God hears our deepest, voiceless cry. Let us stay together, hold hands, and make our voices cry out to God.
The yoo-hoo prayer that our Mom taught us works. The day of resurrection proclaims that there is no one left alone in the place of shame or curse. No one is lost. God knows where we are and claims us as found and loved. Let’s come together to celebrate being found and then gracefully and gratefully share this good news and take the hand of others whom the world has declared to be lost.
God’s Peace in the Alleluia Yoo-Hoo,
Services on Easter Sunday
5:00 AM Easter Vigil
8:00 AM Holy Eucharist with Choir (child care provided)
10:00 AM Holy Eucharist with Choir with Easter Egg Hunt following the service
(Child care provided)