Feasts or Folly?

I mentioned the George Barna book a few posts ago in which he says that in the US there are ‘revolutionaries’ who will change the face of the faith. These are the Christians who have chosen to live as faithful disciples without darkening the doors of a church.

This would make my vocation and ministry a fool’s errand. In fact, that would make the feasts and fasts of the church (the Church Year) nothing more than a cultural phenomena whose time has come.

While we have all heard of the ills of ‘organized religion’ and God knows I hate the bureacracy of my little slice of Christendom, is the ‘no church’ movement the wave of the future?

PS I know that the ‘Body of Christ’ is the people of God more than the building that we call ‘church.’ That does not make our spaces of worship less set apart for God’s use, however. In fact, how can we be set apart as the Temple of the Holy Spirit if we know no holy space, no ‘thin place’ in the world? I hope and pray that my parish nave and sanctuary is a ‘thin place,’ a place where the human and divine intersect. I also hope and pray that we all see ourselves as that intersection.


We beseech thee, O Lord,
pour thy grace into our hearts,
that as we have known the incarnation
of thy Son Jesus Christ,
announced by the message of an angel to the Virgin Mary,
so by his cross and passion
may we be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who lives and reigns with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, who by the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin Mary to become a habitation meet for thy Son: Grant that as we rejoice in her commemoration, we may be delivered by her loving intercession from our present evils and from eternal death. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

(From the Anglican Service Book)


I was reflecting with my spiritual director the other day some more thoughts on the Paraclete. (Our Lenten study at church is on the Holy Spirit, by the way, which is why our recent musings have been geared towards the Third Person of the Trinity).

Our reflection brought me to one of my favorite passages in Scripture, Isaiah 6, where Isaiah is commissioned by the LORD. I was drawn to Isaiah’s language of being ‘undone’ in the presence of the LORD. He is faced with God’s holiness and ‘otherness’ and can only say ‘Woe is me!’ This is not the experience of a ‘worm’ or someone who needs to ‘get over’ his guilt. This is man naked before the numinous.

In our world, we treat the spiritual life the same as everything else. Spirituality is something to be ‘consumed,’ we get what we want from it, and we move on to the next fad. Certain ‘gifts of the Spirit’ or emotional responses to God are as deep as we want to go.

How about being ‘undone?’ How about being naked before the numinous?

The Paraclete

As some of you may know, I grew up Pentecostal. In regards to the Holy Spirit, I’ve noticed that there are two extremes among many Christians. The first how Luther described the Moravians: “They’ve swallowed the dove, feathers and all.” These are those obsessed with the Holy Spirit, or at least certain miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

Then there is the other extreme. These are the folks like the converts to Christ in Acts who were disciples of John, were baptized by John–but who did not receive water baptism in Christ and who said, “we did not even know there was a Holy Spirit.” This, I think, is where the majority of Christians are.

What I believe is needed is a renewal in the Holy Spirit. Rather than ‘swallowing the dove,’ we have ‘caged’ the dove. Either we limit (yes limit) him to certain gifts, music or dramatics, or we pretend that the Christian life has no mystical or experiential dimension at all.

The failure of ‘charismatic renewal,’ in my opinion, was not the desire to go deeper in the Holy Spirit, it was that we did not go deep enough. When the penultimate Christian experience is speaking in tongues (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and once to do you’ve ‘arrived,’ then the riches of Christian spirituality get stuck somewhere in the 1970s, or whenever one experienced the gift for the first time.

There are many ways that the Holy Spirit has come with ‘fire’ over the centuries. Let’s not ‘cage’ the dove by limiting him to a certain era or gift. I believe there is much to be discovered for those who wish to be empowered for ministry and mission in this world. There is much to be discovered for those who wish to grow in holiness. What we need to do is ‘set the dove free’ so that we can accomplish the work of Christ’s Kingdom.

In the words of the medieval hymn:
Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.


The Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession, has seen hard times lately. It is rarely encouraged and priests hear fewer and fewer. Lent is a great time for the Sacrament of Confession, in fact Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent is a particular time for Confession. To ‘be shriven’ is to participate in Reconciliation. I heard no confessions on Shrove Tuesday.

Is the great Sacrament of Confession passé?