Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth

In Christmas we see the coming of our promised Savior- the Incarnation of Christ.  As we stand in awe and gaze at the Infant King in Epiphany we realize that He has come not only for Israel but for all nations and races.  He is given to us and brings the whole truth of God's message and plan for each of us through not only 2000 years ago but also in Word and Sacrament today.

P.M. Scott says this regarding our Scripture lesson (below) today in Ephesians 3. 1.

"To Paul was committed the assertion of the infinite scope of Christianity, and as the chosen messenger of the King, “to bear His Name before the Gentiles.” 
A. The Commissioned Messenger.
S. Paul did not come upon his own errand, and, in answer to those who doubted his commission, he appeals: 
(1) To his Sufferings. His chains are a proof of the reality of his mission, a mark of his devotion to the cause of Christ, and more especially of his championship of the Gentiles. No man would have sought bonds and imprisonment, and thus they were a proof of a dispensation committed to him, and of a necessity laid upon him. 
(2) To his Knowledge.  It is the mark of a messenger to know, and to know at first hand. S. Paul lays claim to direct revelation, and points to his writings as a proof of his knowledge in the mystery of Christ, and this proof remains. The denial of Christ leaves S. Paul unexplained, but accept Christ and S. Paul is fully accounted for. 
B. The Contents of his Message. The sum and substance of S. Paul’s message is contained in the baptismal formula, which by Christ’s command was to be administered to all nations. By baptism into the name of the Father the Gentiles became “fellow heirs” with the Jews as children of God. By baptism into the name of Christ they became “of the same body of Christ.” By baptism into the name of the Spirit they became “fellow partakers” of Christ’s promised Comforter. The mystery of Christ is, in short, the baptismal covenant. 
C. The High Importance of this Message. S. Paul is overwhelmed at his own unworthiness compared with the freedom and fulness of this wide Gospel, and with its vast importance, as witnessed by— 
(1) Its long preparation—“hid in God from the beginning of the world.”
(2) Its intended scope—as wide as creation.
(3) Its still wider issues—as part of the eternal purpose of God for the whole universe. 
The work of the Church is the application of the Incarnation, and the history of the Church is to be one Epiphany. So unspeakable is the grace of the baptismal covenant that to S. Paul it appeared the very “mystery of Christ.” We often regard the Incarnation as a mystery of nature, but to S. Paul it appeared as a mystery of grace. To him the Virgin birth was of less wonder than the love of Christ, and the point of the mystery lay in what he knew rather than in anything yet kept secret. To us mystery increases with ignorance; to S. Paul with knowledge, for the more he knew the greater need of adoring wonder. It would be well for us to extend this thought to our view of nature, of miracles, of sacraments. These are all mysteries of love, and their mystery is their witness to a love that passeth knowledge. It is little mystery that God can do everything; it is a great mystery, or “revelation,” that He can love everything and everyone that He has made.
Let us now turn to S. Matthew 2:1-12
"This is the central chapter of the season, and the first unveiling of the mystery, the open secret of God.
A. The Seekers after Christ. They were seeking truth, and no path that leads to truth can ever lead away from Christ. Let any man follow the truth at all hazards, and regardless of consequences, and he will be on the road to Bethlehem. The wise will ever follow the star, but there had been no star unless God had put it there. God was seeking the wise men, and lit His star-candle to find them. Man cannot by searching find out God, but there is hope when God searches that He will not miss. Only let us not hide among the trees of the garden. 
The Jews searched the Scriptures, but they did not find the Christ, for they had no mind to seek Him. They knew when He should be born, but they would not go to find Him. Herod searched, but with an evil motive, and he did not find. God will not reveal Himself to His enemies. Those that love lies shall find lies. Those that love the truth shall find the truth, and even if, like S. Paul, they seek amiss, the Truth Himself shall go after them till He find them. 
B. The Seekers Directed. They were eager in seeking direction, and came to those who should have known the way, to the guides of God’s Church. Let these never lose the key of knowledge, or how can they open the door to others, and how can they know the door who go not in thereat? When God’s ministers have ceased to guide, God will guide without His ministers. He will light the star of truth, and guide earnest seekers from the darkness of sin and ignorance into the full knowledge of His Son. 
C. The Search Ended. “He that seeketh findeth” is the promise of Christ. We learn from the wise men three marks of true religion— 
(1) It is ever a discovery, or, better still, a succession of discoveries, and is, therefore, rich with the joy of finding. The “wise men rejoiced with exceeding great joy,” and in proportion as we find Christ shall we find joy. 
(2) It is known by worship—“they fell down and worshipped Him.” When we fail to find truth upon our feet, we may often succeed better upon our knees.
Christianity is more of the heart than the mind, and its deepest expression is worship. 
(3) It is known by sacrifice—“they opened their treasures.”
What we have received from Christ is best measured by what we are ready to give to Christ. We cannot do better than give our gold to God’s Kingdom, our hallowed incense to His Name, our myrrh of submission to His Will; but every gift is appropriate if we each give of our treasures that which we love best. He Who has our treasures will have our heart.

Let's pray that we may pass, even if by starlight, through faith, into the comforting fullness of Divine Light and walk the straight path of love and faithfulness, in Word and Sacrament:--

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy 
only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant, that we, 
which know thee now by faith, 
may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Ephesians 3. 1.
FOR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the Gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Matthew 2:1-12
WHEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor,
that shall rule my people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Monday, January 4, 2016

An Apologetic Challenge to Aigner's "Rascally Millennials".

I'd like to take opportunity to answer a wonderfully honest article by Jonathan Aigner entitled "An open letter from one of those millennials you can't figure out." Please click and read it. It's worth your time and it certainly is worth an answer from one who agrees. What's a little reading if it means gaining eternity?

Aigner cites a litany of their marketing gimmicks and his generation's apathy toward the effort. His experience with "cool, hip, youth-group-glorifying, theology-eschewing McCongregation" fell short of authentic conciliar Christianity and left him unfulfilled and disconnected.

Aigner sums up his  love / hate relationship with contemporary religion:
I love the theology, but I hate the expectations of pseudo piety.
Love the gospel, hate the patriotic moralism.
Love the Bible, hate the way it’s used.
Love Jesus, but hate what we’ve done with him.
Love worship, but hate Jesusy entertainment.
 Further, he asks 'if this all worked would there be any real Church left?'  "Would we see a Cross?"  Good question.

This is the very stuff we traditional Anglicans also reject and at have done so at great cost. Please read on and allow me to elaborate.

Tacky Wars
If your standard of entertainment gives you no need of "pathetic" theatrics, neither does ours.  If, as Aigner also says, you aren't concerned about "busy-program" and want a natural, gritty, authentic setting with both old and new faces, ethnicities, races" drawn together by God rather than marketing ploys- so do we.  We are ethnically and racially divergent yet commune in one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Antiquity, consensus, and universality- the early undivided Church is our standard and yes, you will most definitely see the Cross.

If "Big Box" buildings and arrays of amplification are a distraction we don't have it. We worship in truth in a house, displaced by the very objections listed in Jonathan's article. The first Christians worshipped in houses as well. They didn't do theatrics with big screens and 'lock-ins' generally meant martyrdom. They broke bread and prayed together and so do we.

Liturgy literally means 'the work of the people' revering God in an order. No "pseudo piety, patriotic moralism, misuse of the Bible, retail Jesus, and syrupy entertainment" here.  We never traded away the Liturgy faithfully preserved for us by the same saints that also handed on the Scriptures "generation to generation."

Liturgy is true worship passed down through the centuries as God desires and uses to sanctify his people, bringing us into remembrance.  Liturgy doesn't indulge the self-help self-centered culture, but focuses right worship Godward and grace returns manward. God created us in good order, and likewise, in the same manner,  prepares us for the coming of our Savior. This is the function of liturgy- so that we may grow in holiness and ultimately approach Him.

The story of the preparation of Israel for salvation is the story of our preparation as well, just as an athlete or musician increase in skill through repetition so the Liturgy prepares you for your eternal state.  It is this heritage we preserve for you.  Unlike Esau, we didn't trade it away for a bowl of lentils.

The sacraments are channels of grace given by Jesus Christ to sustain us and prepare us for what awaits us all in the greater life.  The sacraments cannot be explained away by the philosophies of men that seek to box God into mundane formulas rather than magnify Him in the fullness of faith. We preserve it from the very earliest Christians to ensure it is offered to you.

Can you ask tough questions?  Good, that's biblical.  Can you accept tough answers? Many cannot. If you demand a church where no question is out of bounds you should also appreciate a church where answers will stretch and challenge and make you uncomfortable- often contradicting coveted presuppositions.  You'll get it straight up here.


Jonathan raises valid questions, has eagerness to dispense with superficialities and "Jesusy cliches" but what good is it if one doesn't act to rectify these problems?  If you agree with him you should be ready for real spiritual food he seeks and we have a challenge: spend a year abiding with us on a demanding path of prayer and spiritual formation/catechism - just as the early Christians, that is "uncool, radical, and different."  Come run the race, put on the new self, and be transformed by the renewal of your mind.  You can do it.

Heavy Lifting For The Soul
Live in the fullness of the 'faith once delivered', be the prodigal son,  come home and reclaim your heritage.  We await you in love and joy.

'We have the Word of God, the Faith of the Apostles, 
the Creeds of the Primitive Church, 
the Articles of the general Councils, 
a holy Liturgy, excellent Prayers, 
perfect Sacraments, 
Faith and Repentance, 
the Ten Commandments, 
and the Sermons of Christ, 
the precepts and counsels of the Gospel; 
the necessity of good works, 
a holy life,
obedience to God, 
and are ready to die for him, 
do as He requires us so to do; 
We speak honourably of his most holy Name, 
we worship him at the mention of his Name, 
we confess his Attributes, we love his Servants, 
we pray for all Men, 
we love all Christians, even our most erring Brethren, 
we confess our sins to God and to our Brethren and to God's Ministers,
and we communicate (Eucharist) often.
Our Priests absolve the penitent, our Bishops ordain Priests, 
and confirm baptized persons,
 and bless their people and intercede for them; 
and what could here be wanting to Salvation?"

 - Jeremy Taylor 1613 – 67

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