Having spent some time years ago in a UCC church, I was curious to learn of their new campaign ‘God is still Speaking’ in which they boast of their ‘inclusion’ of all. Part of their campaign includes a commercial which shows bouncers at a cathedral type church chasing away various folks (minorities, gays, etc.)and only allowing others (squeaky whites, etc.).
Then the UCCers come in and show how ‘inclusive’ their churches look, with gals holding hands and such, because ‘God is still speaking.’
I contrast that with the description of Hippolytus, bishop of Rome around 225 A.D. He gives a manual on the training of Catechumens who want to join the church. A key phrase that is repeated is ‘let them cease (meaning their pagan occupations and practices) or be rejected.’ In other words, he describes a community that rehabilitates pagans in a three year process, complete with exclusion from the table during that time and even exorcism if necessary. If the potential convert refused to be a part of the rehab program, well, they were ‘excluded’ from the community.
Now pieces of what Hippolytus says is anachronistic but interestingly the church of his time grew like wildfire. The pagan rehab stuff seemed to work both in terms of evangelism and in terms of disciple-making. Is there something to learn here?
(PS, I’m not picking on the UCC, my experience with my own denomination is pretty much the same, witness the ‘Via Media’ evangelism curriculum.)
There are a few people that I have known over the years that possess what we might call gravitas. That is, the ability to ‘draw’ others to themselves. However, for me, it is not an outgoing personality or a ‘cool’ demeanor that draws me in. It is a peace of soul, a comforting presence.
My grandpa died when I was 14. He had the gift of gravitas. His charism was not the gift of gab or the gift of schmooze, but a quietness of heart and soul. His days were spent working for the railroad at 10 cents and hour, his nights were spent with his wife and his 8 children. His mornings were spent with his Bible open in prayer.
I don’t know about you, but I am weary of politics, beauracracy and spin. Give me a man (or woman) who is unpretentious and who just wants to do what is right; a man who knows God. A man like grandpa.
The pinnacle of Christian worship has always been the celebration of the Eucharist. I know that many of our readers have been affected by the Presence. I’d like to hear more.
As the ‘Prayer of Humble Access’ beautifully puts it in the Prayer Book,
“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness,
but in thy manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.
But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy;
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore ever dwell in him, and he in us.
And as the hymn says,
“At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”
I dig this quote on Tradition by George Florovsky:
“The true tradition is only the tradition of truth, traditio veritatis. This tradition, according of St. Irenaeus, is grounded in, and secured by, that charisma veritatis certum [secure charisma of truth], which has been “deposited” in the Church from the very beginning and has been preserved by the uninterrupted succession of episcopal ministry. “Tradition” in the Church is not a continuity of human memory, or a permanence of rites and habits. It is a living tradition — depositum juvenescens, in the phrase of St. Irenaeus. Accordingly, it cannot be counted inter mortuas regulas [among dead rules]. Ultimately, tradition is a continuity of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, a continuity of Divine guidance and illumination. The Church is not bound by the “letter.” Rather, she is constantly moved forth by the “Spirit.” The same Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which “spake through the Prophets,” which guided the Apostles, is still continuously guiding the Church into the fuller comprehension and understanding of the Divine truth, from glory to glory.”
I have had some folks who were mystified over the 200+ posts on “Hermeneutics.” I need to clarify a couple of things so as not to alienate anyone in blognation,and to bring them up to speed. Basically, there are two ways folks approach a text (say the Bible or even the constitution), there are the ‘constructionists’ who read a text seeking to find what the author intended to say. In other words, the constructionist will ask ‘what did Paul mean by…’ Then there are those who are deemed ‘deconstructionists’ who beleive that it is impossible to get in the head of an author, and who feel that the meaning of a text is defined by the reader him/her self. So, the interpreter of the text is who is important, not what the original author meant.
Therefore, when a ‘deconstructionist’ approaches the Bible, he/she can reinterpret it based on a variety of reasons (it is offensive, it is irrelevant, it is weighted on the side of patriarchy, etc.). No one is purely a constructionist or a deconstructionist, but this is the grid in which people interpret Scripture, whether they realize it or not.
One of my early posts had a quote from 9th century bishop Isaac of Ninevah. Here is a fuller version of the quote. I think it is the spirit in which Christians ought to strive for.
“Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Be slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place,
do not destroy their character.
What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy.”
Amma Theodora said, “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees cannot bear fruit if they have not stood before the winter’s storms, so it is with us. This present age is a storm; and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.”
“God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers or unbelievers, of the just or the unjust, of the pious or the impious, of those freed from passions or those caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated or the illiterate, of the healthy or the sick, of the young or of the very old. He is like the outpouring of the light, the glimpses of the sun, or the changes of the weather, which are the same for everyone without exception” (Sr. Benedicta Ward).
One of the troubling dichotomies of the Christian world is ‘truth versus love,’ which often plays itself out in liberal/conservative polarization. Listen to this qoute from Hans von Balthasar: “…there is nothing true or good, in the long term, without the light of grace of that which is freely bestowed. And a Christianity which went along with modernity and subscribed merely to the true (faith as a system of correct propositions) or merely to the good (faith as that which is most useful and healthy for the subject) would be a Christianity knocked down from its own heights. When the saints interpreted their existence in the light of God’s greater glory, they were always the guardians of the beautiful.”
Wouldn’t it be great to have the good, the true, and the beautiful all at once present in our Christian communities?
The question of questions. Why does God allow these kind of things? I don’t expect any profound answers. Perhaps the better question is, how will we respond? How can we help in the name of Jesus?
Pray for New Orleans. Pray that the looting and violence stops. Pray for the displaced, those who have died, and those who are close to death. Kyrie Eleison.
“Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted. Have mercy, O Lord, on the people affected by Katrina. For your love’s sake. Amen.”