Saturday, April 4, 2020

Join us for our Palm Sunday Service Online at 11 AM

This Sunday, Father Tom and his family will be leading an at-home Worship Service via Facebook Live. The sermon will come from the Gospel text for the day, Matthew 21:1-11, and is entitled: "Disruption". The broadcast will begin at 11 AM and will also be available shortly after the service for replay at the below page for those who do not have a Facebook acct.

The Palm Sunday at-home liturgy and the link to the Facebook Live Service can be found on our Church website: See the At-Home Liturgy and Media page.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Model of St. Patrick

As a teenager, Patrick was captured and made a slave by Irish pirates off of the coast of Britain. After six years of labor in Ireland, he escaped with the aid of some fishermen. During his time in Ireland, he became much more devout in his Christian faith. Not only did Patrick forgive those who had enslaved him, but after training and schooling returned to bring them the Gospel as a missionary.

James 1:
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  

For the Christian, God can always take that which is evil and turn it into good. But he can only do so for those who "count it all joy" when falling into various trials. When we become imbittered and unthankful to the Lord during the most difficult of times, he is unable to heal, strengthen, and lead us. We shut the door of hope to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God for St. Patrick's wonderful model of accepting God's healing, living, and transforming grace through the most difficult and enduring times. May we be encouraged to walk in his shoes.

The Peace of Christ be yours today!!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Our Thinking is to Be Turned Inside Out

"Our thinking is to be turned inside out when we realize that the true God raised Jesus from the dead and thereby announced to the whole world that he is the life-giving God, the God of generous love, the God who takes the metaphorical leprosy of the world and deals with it. Let the true God renew your mind as you worship and follow his risen Son."

Wright, N. T. (1994). Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (p. 67). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Dynamic Personality

The writer of Hebrews is concerned with some churches who were struggling and being tempted to walk away from their beliefs about Christ. What these Hebrew Christians didn't realize was that their very spiritual lives were at stake. So why were they vulnerable to some of the false doctrines promising them things that the Gospel never had?

Hebrews 5:12-14

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the world of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 6:1
Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity...

"You hear it said [these days], with a great air of religious common sense, that it is the man that the modern age demands in the pulpit, and not his doctrine.  It is the man that counts, and not his creed. But this is one of those shallow and plausible underparts which is blandly offered for the arduous whole. No man has any right in the pulpit in virtue of his personality or manhood in itself, but only in virtue of the sacramental value of his personality for his message. We have no business to worship the elements, which means, in this case, to idolize the preacher ... To be ready to accept any kind of message from a magnetic man is to lose the Gospel in mere impressionism.  It is to sacrifice the moral in religion to the aesthetic. And it is fatal to the authority either of the pulpit or the Gospel. The Church does not live by its preachers, but by its Word."

Peter T. Forsyth - a speech in 1907

We live in a society of people who want to remain children. Children think in very simple and concrete terms: yes or no, black or white, good and bad, my group and your group. This is the crowd most ready to latch onto or commit to "dynamic leaders". They want leaders who will make the complex simple, the profound manageable, the painful anesthetized, and consequences inconsequential. But the mature and the discerning, i.e., "those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil" will not tolerate such things. They are mature and live a life of complexity, discipline, and patience.

Instead of using the church as a spiritual crutch, those who are mature will desire both truth and accountability. The mature will stop church shopping when the going gets tough (or uncomfortable) and commit to a messy but grounded covenant family by which to use their gifts for the kingdom of God, They will accept the complexity and transcendence of God's great character, ways, and salvation, and lay aside the facade of personal control and self-preservation.

Or - like most Americans - Christian or not, they will continue to follow the dynamic leaders and churches that promise things they can't deliver and American dreams that God never promised.

Do you want to be a spiritual child or a mature adult?

If "adult" is you answer, then stop following the salesmen, pop stars, and ringleaders, and start following Jesus through those clergy who are more concerned with giving you Christ and His Kingdom rather than their own answers, visions, and empires; who are committed to leading the church by walking with their people through the joy, confusion, pain, grounding, eternal hope, and lasting peace that Jesus Christ came to give us.

Friday, January 10, 2020

That Whole "Donatist" Thing


Below is an article that I have submitted for publication in the past and am hopeful it will get published in the future. That said, as an author, I am harder to publish than most, as I don’t fit neatly into the two polarized groups in our Anglican worldwide communion (I actually had an editor of an Anglican periodical tell me this - this is likely why my book was published by a traditional, but not Anglican publisher).  I hope you are blessed by the below article.

Fr. Tom

That Donatist Problem
The Elusive Search for the One Pure Church

I am thankful for the Reformation. I wouldn’t be an Anglican if this was not the case. Luther helped many understand that a baptized person earns no merit on their own before God per their religious busyness. He, with others, also exposed the way that the Roman Church of the day had made their tradition all-encompassing. Tradition had grown in such a way as to push Holy Scripture to the background, and thus, it was interpreted through the lenses of an extensively rigorous and religiously cultural bias. The Reformers sought to address this problem in part through what became “sola scriptura” and helped restore the primacy and importance of Holy Scripture in keeping with their Patristic forebearers who were soaked in Scripture.”[1]

But as any careful investigator will note, the Reformers also went beyond Medieval abuses and encouraged certain Scriptural and theological errors of their own. While it is true that we do not merit our righteous status before God, it is also true that sanctification IS still a part of our salvation as evidenced overwhelmingly in Holy Scripture:

“Sanctification is not ‘Christian living’ removed somehow from the gospel message and our salvation. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit as He continues to develop holiness in our lives as we open our hearts to our Lord Jesus Christ and seek our triune God.”[2]

Through Luther’s influence, a theology also arose that taught that salvation could occur outside of the Covenant Community of God, the Church of Jesus Christ (in contrast with Patristic assumptions even before Cyprian). A cavalcade of Reformers (and the later Pietists) followed suit taking the theology of a personal salvation to an unscriptural extreme. Salvation for Protestants thus became “my salvation outside of the church” (aka, me and Jesus) instead of my personal salvation inside and with the church in keeping with the scriptural teaching of being “the bride of Christ.” I submit that these would have been surprising and extremely foreign ideas to the framers meeting at the Council of Nicaea in 325.  I also submit that those attending Nicaea would have assumed the primacy of scripture (Suprema-scriptura) along with the important place of tradition in keeping, finding, and applying the truth.

In our search for holiness, it is easy to go beyond what is true and right, becoming more impressed with our current insights than our position in finite time and space allow. As history reveals, over-reactions theologically can create their own heresies and cause lasting damage to the Church of Jesus Christ. Spiritual humility and scriptural discernment are disciplines that must be pursued; they do not come easily and need to be done in community.

Holiness or Grace?
During the persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, there were some Bishops who cowered under threat allowing both holy books as well as their copies of Holy Scripture to be destroyed. Following the persecution, many of these Bishops returned to their posts. Around 311 A.D./C.E. the Bishop of Carthage was consecrated by one of these traditores (traitor Bishops). The Bishops in Numidia found this untenable, consecrated a rival bishop, and brought their appeal to the unified Catholic church. The initial investigation did not support the desires of these Donatists (named after a later champion of their cause), nor did a later Synod.  In the end, they were opposed continuously by the entirety of the church. The Catholic church in the 4th Century believed that the unworthiness of any minister did not invalidate the sacramental rites. As Augustine wrote, Christ was the true minister of the sacraments of the church.

In the end, the Donatists separated themselves from the Western Catholic Church and declared themselves to be the true church. They were extremely rigorous and proclaimed a desire for the “true holiness” of the saints. They saw themselves as the pure church, while others were suspect. Any Catholic coming into a Donatist parish were required to be “re-baptized.” Any of this sound familiar?

In our search for holiness, it is easy to lay aside a thoughtful and collective grace. In our search for grace, it is easy to lay aside the tough love and the courage it takes to pursue and encourage holiness. The history of the church is resplendent with cases that engage the harmful extremes. Over-reaction is easy, communal and thoughtful courage is hard.

Faithfulness will always demand prophetic pushback when those leading a church are in conflict with Holy Scripture and historic Christian orthodoxy. In our desire to be faithful it is also easy to begin to develop a “two-dimensional” approach to holiness and faithfulness. We can decide that those who are not on “our team” are now the bad guys, and those on our team are the truly blessed, Spirit-led, good guys. This is a narrative that is far too common among many priests and bishops in the ACNA, who act if they now know that there is no more faithfulness left in The Episcopal Church. It is also common with bishops and priests in The Episcopal Church who act as if it is acceptable to punish or alienate those who do not succumb to their new and innovative orthodox morality and theology (no matter the injury caused to our World-wide Communion in the process).

Tolkien’s words in the Fellowship of the Ring resonate here:
“Frodo: 'It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill Gollum when he had the chance.'
Gandalf: 'Pity? It is pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play in it, for good or evil, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.'
Also, hear the curious words of Jesus in Luke 9:
49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Our God’s character and reality are NOT relative to someone’s (or group’s) individual desires and opinions.  However, beyond the clear teaching of Holy Scripture and our Historical Creedal orthodoxy, there is much that the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” is less certain and agreed upon (especially in the application of truth in any culture!). May our desire for holiness be bathed in thoughtful grace, and may our grace not bend regarding that which is eternal and transcendent. 

God never abandoned his often-apostate Children of Israel, nor did he enable or placate their wickedness. It is only through these largely rebellious Covenant people that we now have our Messiah and Salvation. Let us be hesitant to decide for God when he has finally discarded his Church. Do we not now as Anglicans understand that Luther was wrong to deem the entirety of the Roman Catholic Church as Apostate in his day?

Starting and Ending Points
I am not discounting the importance of seeking after and engaging holiness.  However, I am submitting in the strongest possible terms that “revisionism” in history and theology is not just a progressive problem, but a clear conservative/revivalist problem as well. If we believe that we have the inalienable right to make up our version of Christianity based on our personal and cultural existential experiences, then we will continue in conflict with the ways of the Triune God of Christianity and the majority of the unified church of Jesus Christ before the 11 century.

This conflict is exacerbated by an individualism that continually takes the name of the Holy Spirit in vain to support a-historic and anti-intellectual laziness when it comes to the interpretation of Holy Scripture.  It is right and good to believe in the illumination of the Holy Spirit; however, this does not mean that our thoughts and feelings while praying or reading Holy Scripture are from God. We are the church together in accountability to Holy Scripture and our informing tradition. You and I are never the centers of any world…EVER.

The above thoughts do not remove either the mystery or the existential realities involved with seeking or submitting to the one true God.  However, our Christian heritage does position our Triune God as the “prime mover” of all that is…including redemption. Our God is not the god who many Modern worshippers desire.  He is not a god that will coalesce with our ever-burgeoning opinions so he can garner our attention, worship, and efforts.

Maybe we should consider the ways he has saved and led his Covenant People in the past with more frequency. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

[1] Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, IVP, 1998, pg. 129
[2] Reeves, Was Jesus an Evangelical?, eLectio Press, 2017, pg. 25

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Church Membership and Confirmation

Membership and Confirmation

For the fourth time since I have arrived, we will be offering a “New Members Investigative Class” which will run for 9 weeks. We will be offering this class beginning this winter (TBD) for all those considering memberships here at St. Peter and St. Paul.

Topics and themes covered in this class will be:

·         Our parish history.
·         Our shared Historic Heritage
·         An introduction to specific Anglican beliefs and distinctives
·         The Four Stages of Salvation History
·         The centrality of Christ’s teaching regarding the Gospel and the Kingdom of God
·         The central characteristics of Historic Christian Worship and Ministry
·         Ministry distinctives of the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul
·         Our strengths and weakness as a church at this time in our existence
·         The central customs and practices of a Historic (catholic) Liturgical Church.
·         The Importance of communal and personal spiritual discipline
·         And more!

However, this class is not just being offered for newer attenders. It is being offered to all in our membership who also have not been confirmed as followers of Christ after their Baptism. For those interested in the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Anglican Tradition, this 9-week Investigative Membership Class is a “foundations class” that must first be attended.

What is Confirmation? While my next article will delve into the history and theological ideas behind confirmation in more detail, suffice it to say that Confirmation developed in time as an aid for those who had been baptized to CONFIRM (both personally and communally) that they understood the Christian faith, were committed to following Jesus as Lord, and were desirous to grow in their learning, obedience, and motivations.  Confirmation is a pastoral sacrament that developed in the Western Church especially to encourage those baptized as infants (or those whose baptism coincided with being a citizen of a “Christian” nation), though, perhaps not yet aware of or living a life of discipleship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority and guidance of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”.

However, in Scriptural, historic and theological terms, Confirmation serves Baptism, not the other way around. The sacrament of Confirmation does not seek to solve the mystery or importance of responding in faith to the Gospel message in partnership with the place of Baptism in our conversion – releasing and giving us faith, the Holy Spirit, and new birth in Christ. In other words, Confirmation is not the place where we “ask Jesus into our hearts” but where we personally commit and live out our faith in him in more meaningful and communal ways. If confirmation becomes that place where the Holy Spirit enlightens us to understand and internalize the Gospel message, however, we are joyful, indeed!!!!

Confirmation helps those who are baptized and committed to Christ (or considering this commitment due to a nominal view of their baptism) to takes steps toward an ever-growing discipleship in Christ, embracing a life of continual “repentance and faith” (thus, a continual conversion). Confirmation can aid all of us as we continue to live out the “already” and “not yet” aspects of our redemption.

Father Tom

Moralism is the Enemy of the Gospel

"Moralism is the enemy of purity, integrity, and authenticity. On its surface, moralism looks helpful, but the surface is deceiving. Moralism is very concerned with what it does and how it looks. It is obsessed with public relations and the perceptions of those that it is trying to impress or motivate.""
"Moralism, in its most basic definition, is the doing of good things, the embrace of good behavior, and the measurability of said things in comparison with others. Moralism is self-serving under the guise of serving and sacrificing for others. This is why it is such a dangerous, capricious, and duplicitous enemy. It (and the Evil One’s subtle use of it) often fools us all."
"Moralism produces visible and short-lived behaviors without changing a person’s beliefs and character. In other words, if the “heart” of a person or an organization does not change, a lasting, loving, authentic behavior will not take root. Integrity cannot be faked, and in the end, is seen most clearly when one has something to be gained or lost. Only a “heart of flesh” can be genuine in its intentions and good works."
(WJE, Page 167).

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Do You Have the Courage to Make a Pharisee Mad?

"If you follow Jesus, eventually you are going to tick-off some Pharisee. Stop worrying about what people think, and start thinking about obedience to the will of God."

 -The Rev. Dr. Michael Van Horn

There is a Fountain - Audio

Saturday, August 31, 2019

True Healing from God

A wonderful sermon which helps us distinguish between God-ordained healing and the rote incantations of individualistic religious magic.

Audio Sermon - Be Thou My Vision; The Rev. Dr. Michael VanHorn

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Boundary of our Anglican Core Theology

Of course, I knew the conversation that I have been trying to have among Anglican Clergy and Professors in the ACNA wasn't a new one.  I mean, we proclaim that we believe the below quote by Lancelot Andrewes (or something very close to it) in the very Constitutional Documents of the ACNA. This conversation that has largely garnered no interest among my peers is:

"As Anglicans, we are to evaluate our Protestant, Pietistic, Revivalist, and Individualistic theology (and practices) by our Catholic foundations; not the other way around."

This is NOT a discussion that has been welcomed among our Bishops and clergy, nor does there seem to be any interest to begin this discussion. This means that we either need to change the declarations that we make in our Constitution in the name of scriptural and authentic integrity, or that we begin the painful and life-giving process of addressing the ignorance that we have of our theological foundations.

"One Cannon reduced to writing by God Himself, two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period...determine the boundary of our Faith"

-Lancelot Andrewes

How does the Holy Scripture address people that:

  • Speak out of "both sides of their mouths" regarding the theology they believe about God, redemption, and the Covenant People of God in every age? 
  • Who communicate and act as if they believe certain things that they know that they do not truly believe...thus, speaking "yes" and "no" about our foundational beliefs in being both catholic and evangelical?
  • Who as a pattern of life refuse to clarify and to define their vocabulary (and the theological implications of their vocabulary) and willingly enable a communal life where theological and practical accountability to our true beliefs is IMPOSSIBLE?
  • Who as a pattern, worship at the altars of pragmatism, individualism, and numerical power as signs of the moving and confirming of the very Spirit and character of our Triune God...removed from the celebration and embrace of a careful, thoughtful, and historical discernment (both in the past and the present) regarding such things?

With all the good that the Lord is doing among us in the ACNA, it seems clear by overwhelming evidence that we have an integrity and a character problem when it comes to our core definitions.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Common Authority in the Midst of Common Prayer

For those interested in an Anglican Future:

"Without an anchor or rudder, a ship floats aimlessly and dangerously at the whim of the ocean. The formularies, including the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, are our anchor and rudder to navigate this mere Christian way that we call Anglicanism. May we use the formularies in our journey and avoid being adrift in the current of the zeitgeist or smashed against the rocks of post-modernity."

Thursday, August 8, 2019

WWJD? or maybe not.

"What was the cause of their relentless hostility to Christ? Neither his messianic claims nor his occasional Jewish unorthodoxies, it seems to me, account for the bitter resentment he aroused in them. There were others at that time in Judea, each of whom claimed to be the Messiah, and for the most part, Christ conducted himself like a strict and pious Jew."

"No, as I see it, Christ's real crime was simply that he spoke the truth, which is intolerable to all forms of authority--but especially ecclesiastical. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, Christ said. In the eyes of Caiaphas and his associates, as later in the eyes of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, Christ had to die because the truth he spoke and the freedom he offered undermined the authority other men claimed and exercised."

Malcome Muggeridge (1903-1990), Jesus Rediscovered.

Adam...and Scientific Confusion (N.T. Wright and Others)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Shouting into the Void

From a 2014 article in the Covenant Blog.

"Today, the liturgy is to Anglicans what the Bible is to evangelicals: a debilitating intellectual crutch used to excuse indifference to — and even hatred of — the ecclesial commitments borne and sustained by rigorous and thus humbling study. In our laziness, we cast off accountability both to our fellow Anglicans and to the wider body of Christ. We cannot teach what we do not know; we cannot defend what we do not understand; we cannot give what we do not have. And thus we shuffle off to mumble prayers to an unknown God, convinced that our inarticulate incoherence is an effectual sign of uniquely privileged grace. We defraud other Christians — but we deceive only ourselves. "

So, maybe our book of prayer and catechism didn't drop from the sky to us, thus, giving us the right to choose, manipulate, and create new theologies as we see fit while being ignorant of the very contexts and beliefs of those who formed our earliest and most central beliefs? Of those who have changed and shaped our beliefs in the past, the present, and, Oh, yes...the future?

If you would like to see a complete gutting of any kind of sacramental theology (especially see the rites for baptism), you should take a look at the Kenyan Prayer Book (likely done in isolation from any kind of theological or historical sensitivities or accountability).  The Pietist revivalist African Bishops are our future, RIGHT? ....or so the ACNA narrative goes.

Does anyone in the ACNA believe in a researched, careful, and thoughtful discernment of what is actually going on and believed in our GAFCON parishes across the world? 

I am thankful for my Kenyan and African brothers and sisters, but no province, Diocese, or parish has a right to pick the theology they want from our heritage while removing and ignoring the conflict with our creedal and the core teachings of the early councils of the Church.

As I have shouted, ad-nauseum into the black and silent void of Anglican anti-intellectualism (both Episcopal and ACNA), we will never have a unity reflective of the character of God and the way he has revealed and called us to be his people unless we define and enforce what indeed is  the content of THE GREAT TRADITION and thus, what our true, core, theological beliefs must be if we are going to say we are truly Anglican.  Until this happens, we will continue to splinter at a break-neck speed in every corner of the globe and encouraged by every Anglican group that claims an Anglican identity.

There will never be a truly catholic and thus, unified Anglicanism without a clear theology and a unified authority willing to enforce it.

Father Tom Reeves
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Roanoke, VA
(540) 562-0511

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

An Informing Tradition and the Illumination of the Holy Spirit

To my evangelical, congregational, and non-denominational brothers and sisters in Christ, the suggestion of this book is that every American person and church has an informing tradition. “No Creed but Christ” is and has always been an illusion that cannot be maintained. When believers have laid aside the ecumenical creeds as valid representations of their faith, they have – and always will – replace them with more current and highly informed “statements of beliefs” and other kinds of theologies. No one has, and no one ever will read or understand the scriptures inside an individualistic vacuum. It is impossible for us to act in such a way because we are created and made for community. Like it or not, we humans are always dependent on networks of people regarding the way we think and live.

All Christians read the scriptures with some kind of directing spectacles informed by our church history (or lack of one), church culture, and the society in general that we live in. Can we identify our spectacles, and if we can, are the spectacles worth retaining? The illuminating work of the Holy Spirit will not erase our blind spots or be unhindered by our spiritual, intellectual, and historical laziness.

(WJE, Pages 17-18).

See also the below:

Monday, June 3, 2019

Liturgy and Individualism

The below is a response to the above article.

(Begin Comment)

Excellent assessment.
Winfield Bevins spoke at our last Diocesan Synod on the Great Commission and is a current “circuit speaker” being espoused by the ACNA College of Bishops. He espouses what is essentially the approach and theology of most of our ACNA Bishops. These Bishops have been encouraged by Ed Stetzer and other Congregationalist Revivalists with this Narrative:
Anglicanism is a wonderful “emergent” tool (my term, few use emergent now in light of the newer “missional movement” language) to reach some in a culture looking for some historic grounding and ancient direction for their lives and worship. The ACNA is looking to encourage these individuals (including aspiring priests) that they can retain their individualistic, pietistic, and American assumptions about conversion and church, while sometimes wearing robes and collars. It’s fun to pick our favorite church father, engage a liturgy we have no intent on submitting to, and even baptizing a baby, all the while, both theologically and personally retaining the core theology we were given about evangelism, conversion, and ecclesiology from Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Gordon Conwell Seminary.
To see “On Demand” evidence to this effect, all one has to do is look at the bio of those that have been invited to speak at all of our “Provincial Assemblies” since 2008 (the group of speakers for this summer’s Provincial Assembly is overwhelming revealing – we look more like a Moody’s Pastors Conference). Evangelical Pietism is our direction and guide, but we still like to “dress up” in the 1662 prayer book and pretend that the Councils and Creeds matter. When it comes to any kind of trackable evidence of teaching or emphasis in the ACNA, our so-called Anglican Foundations are “optional” at best.
If interested, here is an article I wrote for The Covenant in June 2018 on Apostolic Succession. I have yet to have a discussion or dialogue with any Anglican about it, but was still thankful that it was given some exposure.
Peace and keep caring about “recovering our past for the sake of our future”. I personally think that the core “shared” beliefs of the Patristic fathers offers us a way back theologically, but have found few Anglican scholars or priests who have any desire to engage this discussion.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review: Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven

Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven by Edith M. Humphrey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As an Anglican priest, one would think that much of Dr. Humphrey's research in her chapters would be familiar or even redundant to me. Unfortunately, too many Anglican Priests (trained to be evangelical revivalists above all things) will be surprised by the understandings and practices which shape the very core of our weekly liturgy.

Most Anglican priests seem to assume the foundations of their liturgy without knowing or truly valuing the importance of their place in our worship. So often American Christians think that both the Holy Scriptures and/or the Book of Common Prayer dropped magically from the sky at some point in history...outside of a frail but redeemed community of the faithful. We wonderful modern/postmodern individualist thinkers now believe we are free to interpret (or amend) either of these gits from God as we see fit. But the Illumination and guiding hand of the Spirit in the early church was well at work before we were even sparks in our parent's eyes. Our personal experiences and opinions do not trump the Revelations of God to his Covenental Communal Community before us.  Their experience and understanding of God is why we have our Holy Scriptures, beliefs, and liturgy.

Edith gives those with the discipline to read and the ears to hear, reasons to reconsider our childish dishonesty and modern arrogance. She encourages us back to the foundations theologically behind our worship; a liturgy based on the magnificent character of our Triune God and his ways; a liturgy which assumes the centrality of the Incarnational work of Christ on behalf of his creatures and creation; a sacramental heritage that makes God the center, converter and guide of those worshipping in his name. We are asked to consider, understand, and define the words, beliefs, and worship we engage. Highly recommended, and a great source for future reference.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 17, 2019

Best Easter Sermon...EVER

Letting Go In Order to Recieve - Rev. Dr. Michael Van Horn

How Do We Carry the Body of Christ's Death in our Bodies?

N.T. Wright commenting on Paul's phrase in 2 Corinthians 4:10 about "carrying the death of Jesus in our bodies": If you want to see resurrection at work here and now, in your own life, you have to be prepared to see crucifixion at work as well. And if the Corinthians want an apostle who is living the gospel he proclaims - Paul isn't sure that they do want this, but they ought to! - then they must look for these signs."
"Don't look in other words, for a showy, flashy rhetorical presentation which leaves the problems and sufferings of the world to someone else. Look for someone who is being given over to death for the sake of Jesus, so that Jesus' life may be revealed even in their mortal humanity.""2nd Corinthians for Everyone", pg. 45

Friday, May 10, 2019

The FIRST THINGS as Grounded by Historic Precedence

The reality is that Protestants can claim no authority for the New Testament as Holy Scripture without Apostolic and Patristic credibility, care, and precedence, yet we feel so free to make up our interpretations of Christianity as we see fit as if the Bible was penned outside of a context.  God breaks into space and time, but he engages it and uses it.  The Holy Scriptures were not written in a Gnostic and esoteric vacuum chamber.

We Anglicans spend so much of our time over-reacting to Roman Catholicism, that we end up throwing out the very foundations of our discernment regarding our history and theology.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Healthy Relationships or Divided Allegiance?

Thy Kingdom come...Matthew 6:10

As God is everywhere, so is His kingdom everywhere. But there are tracts and territories that are not under the domination of their rightful King, and that is what is meant by sin. Men are always trying to find satisfaction in creatures, but where they give their first allegiance to created beings the result is an inevitable disappointment, and that disappointment is a symptom of their disloyalty or their divided allegiance.

Fr Andrew - Meditations, pg. 298

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Do a Few Things and Do the Well (Part 2)

So what are those “few things” right now that God wants St. Peter and St. Paul to be (and DO!)?  Well, in part this question still needs to be worked out together in tangible ways, however, I think that there are some things that we all need to think and pray about.

It is my belief that the scriptures teach that there are key characteristics that a healthy church will exhibit (making the main things, the main things).  These identification markers should include:

ñ  the worship of the triune God in discipline and sacramental mystery
ñ  the effective communication of the Holy Scriptures
ñ  the development of Biblical family
ñ  the centrality of prayer (liturgy and free)
ñ  the training of people in their ministry gifts
ñ  a life-long approach to reaching out to others with the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

God calls the church to engage these things as a gathered “body” of Christ, and individually[1] out in the world.

As we have heard the Holy Scriptures preached and taught over the years, we have engaged each of the above listed characteristics (we will also continue to do so). If we as a church body want God to bless, and if we indeed want to encourage a real season of “growth” (spiritually and numerically) then what can we do to prepare for it?

While we are a family together, we are also unique individuals, given gifts by Christ to serve his church and thus, the world.  How does God want to use you?  Yes, I am talking to you (insert your name here:___________________________). 

First of all, do you believe that he wants to use you?  You are the one who has to believe that God wants to use you right where you are, at your age, in your circumstance, and in your financial situation.  Do you believe it?  We close off the power of the Holy Spirit when we lay aside God’s promises and callings due to our own inferiority or excuses.

Secondly, are you asking him to use you in any way that he chooses?  We are not the lords of our own lives, HE is.  So are you willing to submit to this?  This might mean that you will be called by God to involve yourself in attempting things that you have never attempted before.  This may mean that you may need to STOP doing other good things in the church (or in your life), so you can do what God is calling you to do FIRST OF ALL.  Open your heart to him in regular prayer and ask HIM how he wants to use you. He promises to answer us.

Thirdly, are you praying for others in our body, that God would use them?  Yep, more prayer (grin).  Sometimes we are so busy doing, that we don't take the time to stop to listen and communicate with our Lord.  Through the resurrection power of the Spirit, we can change this.  Don't beat yourself up, or put unrealistic expectations on yourself, but make time during the week to pray for yourself and others so that we as a body will be truly led by him.  It is his strength and guidance that we must have.

Fourthly, do you love those you know who are unchurched? Are you praying regularly for these same people?  Who are those people in your life?  Start (or continue) praying for them, that God would soften their hearts to the Gospel and use our church (starting with you [insert your name here:___________]) to lead them to Jesus Christ. You don’t need to be anybody else to lead someone to consider Jesus as their savior and Lord. The Lord wants to you use you with your gifts, personality, and background.

Lastly, prepare yourself through prayer and meditation for UNCOMFORTABLE CHANGE as our church grows.  NO, this does not mean that the pastor has any crazy ideas that he is going to surprise you with...what it means is that if a church is going to choose to love one another and love the world outside, then we must embrace that there is no real love without sacrifice

As a body grows numerically, the dynamics of that body will also change...the relationships and warmth don't have to change...but you might find God using you (or those you know now) to spend time with other newer people in our church that need to be served. He might call you to do different things...which means YOU (meaning all of us) may have to give up your control over what God wants to do in our church. 

He might answer our prayers by bringing (who others may see as) “undesirables” to our church (remember Jesus and the Leper?).  Embrace this pain, don't run away from it!  Through prayer and seeking God with all your heart, prepare yourself now to be what he wants you (and all of us at SP & SP) to be.

Father Tom

Remember, the Lord is already in the future waiting for us.  We have nothing to fear.

[1]    Individually, but never on our own...we are always a part of the one church of Jesus Christ

An Introduction to the Theology of Baptism of the Church Fathers

A Brief Interaction with the Church Fathers on Baptism

Audio Sermons Dealing with the Historic Theology of Baptism as Taught by Holy Scripture

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Do a Few Things and Do Them Well (Part 1)

There is only one being who can do all things at once and do them well.  Only our triune God is unlimited by time, space, and situation. As Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:17, “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together... “ The reality is that God not only is a wonderful creator, he is the wonderful sustainer

God is intricately involved in his created universe, and he never becomes tired or overwhelmed.  This is a mind-numbing thought for we humans (who often get tired AND overwhelmed), and this reality should encourage us that we do not have a “Clark Kent/Superman” kind of God, but a God, while comprehended in part, is none-the-less, incomprehensible.  Not only are there things that we do not understand about him and his ways, there will always be a vast gap between the creator and his creation.  If it were not so, then we would have a God that is more like the mythological and pagan gods of old; more super-human and maniacal than truly god-like in character and power.

I continue to be encouraged with how well we are able to accomplish a helpful and sharp presentation regarding our worship and church life.  We are small in number and resources, but our way of doing things reflects a desire to do things well.  For example, our banners are tasteful and first rate.  Our worship space is simple but communicates an appreciation of historic symbol and the importance of art in worship. We are led musically in worship by people who take their craft seriously, yet do not want worship to be hindered by an attitude of “performance.” We present a wonderful newsletter, missal, and are meticulous in our Council and committee notes to be truthful and accurate.  Led by the building and grounds committees past and present, we have a well-maintained and beautiful church building and property that enhances our ability to worship and minister to people. Our many volunteers are doing a wonderful job keeping our facilities clean and presentable.

All that said, however, we are still limited according to God’s design. We are often driven by many things in our lives, that if not reflected on (and changed by the Word and Spirit) end up driving us.  We all have insecurities and hurts that need healing and that  can make us feel inadequate; we have self-imposed requirements on ourselves that are often unrealistic; we at times take a “blasie-someone-else-can-do-that attitude” (that puts the burden on too few); we are tempted to put our glory and control in front of the glory of Jesus; and we have to fight a constant need to “do God's job for him” if we don't like the way he is choosing to work in someone's life or our church as a whole.

Listen to the wise words of Eugene Peterson:

“It was a favorite them of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.”

“But if I vainly crowd my day with conspicuous activity or let others fill my day with imperious demands, I don’t have time to do my proper work, the work to which I have been called.”

I think that God has much for us in 2019 and beyond. However,  like his process in our sanctification, he does not give us everything at once to handle.  He gives us our responsibilities and callings gradually. When we follow his timing and are PATIENT (not irresponsible or unresponsive), we find his moving and power is PERFECT.  When we run ahead of his timing, we are usually pushy, anxious, and potentially divisive. 

How can we balance the limits of our finiteness while being faithful stewards seeking to be disciplined and effective in our “ministry” to the people God has called us to love?  Well, the scriptures tell us that we are to do so meditatively (evaluating ourselves and our motives), prayerfully (realizing it is only the Holy Spirit that can break through our blindness and hardness), patiently (moving TOGETHER in the Spirit while possibly having differing applications and specific ministries in our faithfulness), and sacrificially, modeling the Christ who came that the world might have lasting life and light.

Father Tom

Friday, January 11, 2019

Review: Theology: The Basics

Theology: The Basics Theology: The Basics by Alister E. McGrath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read in the hope of using this tome for the training and teaching of parishioners. Have read multiple of his books before, but was disappointed with the usual Evangelical Pietistic Anglican approach to treating the core Patristic Church fathers as “Mascots” in CORE AREAS to be read and interpreted through, Luther, Calvin, and current modern theological lenses. Most Protestants, however, will have fewer qualms.

I.e., while I am a fan in many ways of Karl Barth's theology (especially his Doctrine of God), he is almost helpless regarding his views on the sacraments as they have been historically understood. McGrath jumps all over this and continues to fuel the limits of Reformational myopia when it comes to an ecclesiological application of the mystery of God's work in the sacraments and within his Covenant Community as a whole (this also crops up in multiple ways in McGraths "Historical Theology", but in far less obvious ways). McGrath's Genevan Reformed bias is evident in his treatment of tradition, Holy Scripture, the sacraments, and the church.

As an Anglican Priest, I found this book too often showing forth the individualism as birthed by the enlightenment and modernity. That said, there is much to commend the book for in its basic assertions, and the attempt by the author to expose the reader to core thinkers and theologians of every age. McGrath is a top-notch Christian thinker and scholar. Until I find something more integrative with a Patristic Covenantal understanding of conversion and ecclesiology, I will use this book with my parishioners.

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Review: Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought

Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought by Alister E. McGrath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A helpful introduction to many of the key periods of the church and some of the theological developments today. Only read up through the Medieval period, but found his treatment of key theologians and the development of theology fair and helpful. Will continue to use this work as a reference.

I have read and have used much of McGrath's writing for my study and use in my ministry over the years. He is a top-notch scholar with a Protestant/Evangelical bent when it comes to his Anglicanism. In this book, he addresses the importance of tradition (more than many Protestants will do), but still functions theologically as if the Reformation is the true birth of the Church. His Genevan Reformed bias is often clear to see for those with a nominal understanding of the Reformation.

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