Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Innkeeper and the Priest


"He brought him to an inn and took care of him" - Luke 10:34

The validity of the orders of the priest and the grace of the Sacrament depends upon the love of God, Who knows what they need whom He brings to His inn. The innkeeper was not necessarily a person of any great merit, but to him was given sufficient to provide for the needs of the man. God has entrusted His Sacraments to His priests, and however much they may fail in their own lives, the gifts they dispense are a perfect provision for our souls, for they are indeed the gifts of God Himself.

- Father Andrew, Meditations, 283

Samaritan Living


"When he saw him, he was moved with compassion and came to him" - Luke 10:33

The Samaritan passes by and comes where the man is. In that sentence is told all the deep mystery of our Lord's Incarnation. He came down to be in the poverty of the poor. He did not pass by, He did not come down and look at it, and then go back to heaven. He did not come to tempted men and say, "You ought not to have that temptation,' but He came to where the tempted man was. he came into the place of suffering and willed that His own coronal should be a crown of thorns. The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of the Incarnation. It is the picture of the love of God.

- Father Andrew, Meditations, pg. 282

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Review: The Apocalypse of St John: A Revelation of Love and Power

The Apocalypse of St John: A Revelation of Love and Power The Apocalypse of St John: A Revelation of Love and Power by Fr Lawrence Farley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Listened to this over a 2-year period via Podcast (but also bought the written commentary).

Highly Recommended. The author is not only versed exegetically and historically in regards to interpretive issues but does a fantastic job bringing out the need for a deep understanding of the Old Testament if one is to rightly interpret Revelation. It is constantly (and rightly) emphasized that to understand Revelation and its intent, the book must be read and studied from the perspective of a faithful Jew - who is also a Christian. The author illustrates the point repeatedly and thoughtfully.

Highly Recommended.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 12, 2021

Mercy for Seeking and Knowing Truth


I, therefore, cease not to ask of our true Lord and Master that He will design so to teach me, either by the utterances of His Scriptures, or by a discussion with fellow believers, or by the inward and more sweet teaching of His own inspiration, that in those things which I am to put forward or assert I may ever hold fast to the truth; and I ask that from this very Truth, Himself, I may be taught many things and more which I do not know, for from Him I have received the little that I do know. I beseech Him that He will go before me and follow me with His mercy; and that those things which I ought to know to my soul’s health He will teach me; that what I know of truth He will guard me therein; that in those things in which I am humanly mistaken He will correct me, and that from what is false and harmful He will deliver me; and that He will make to go forth from my mouth those things which are the most pleasing in the sight of Truth Himself, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Saviour.

Fulgentius of Ruspe (468-533) (Bishop in North Africa and Christian Saint)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Guide to Reading the Bible


This is a concise, thoughtful, and extremely helpful article in regards to how a historic and thoughtful Christian should approach Holy Scripture.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Drowsy Half-Waking


Two months before his death C.S. Lewis wrote:

"[We are] a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener's good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming."

McGrath, pg. 360

Saturday, January 9, 2021

For Our Country: A Prayer

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-1979 Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

For Whom the Bell Tolls


Wonderful article regarding a pandemic, death, and the hope of Christmas from a bishop in 1623:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Remembering Hugh of Lincoln - Bishop, Prophet to Kings, and Protector of the Oppressed


Hugh of Lincoln, bishop, protector of the oppressed
17 November 1200 

As a sign of his remorse for his role in the murder of the Archbishop Thomas a Becket, King Henry II founded the first house in England of the strict monastic order called the Carthusians. Difficulties arose with the first two priors, and a French noble recommended Hugh de Avalon, who at that time had been a monk at the mother house of the order for 17 years.

On his arrival in England in 1176, Hugh found that the building of the monastery had not begun. Worse, no compensation had been paid to those who would have to lose their lands and property to make room for it. Hugh refused to take office until these persons had been paid "to the last penny." He intervened again on behalf of the builders, whose pay was not forthcoming.

Henry loved him for his plain speaking. "I do not despair of you," Hugh said to him at their first interview; "I know how much your many occupations interfere with the health of your soul." Henry, impressed by his frankness, swore that while he lived he should not leave his kingdom, and took so much pleasure in his conversation, and paid so much heed to his counsels, that a rumor arose that Hugh was his son. Hugh's biographer wrote that "of all men only Hugh could bend that rhinosceros to his will." When Henry was in danger of shipwreck, he cried out, "If only my Carthusian Hugh were awake and at prayer, God would not forget me."

This affection never diminished, though Hugh dared to oppose the king, particularly in the matter of keeping bishoprics vacant in order that their revenues might fall to the king's treasury. One of the worst examples was Lincoln, which, except for a few months, had been without a bishop for eighteen years. Hugh was elected to the post in 1186, and his monastic superiors ordered him to accept. After so long a period of neglect, there was great need of reform. Hugh employed priests of great piety and learning, and made the fullest use of his authority in disciplining his clergy. He took a stern view of the ill-treatment of the poor by the royal foresters, and when a subject of the church of Lincoln suffered at their hands he excommunicated their chief.

He also refused to appoint a royal favorite to a meaningless but lucrative post. Henry was furious, and summoned him to his presence. He came, and Henry turned away his face and would not speak, but by way of ignoring his presence took out a torn glove and began to sew it. At last Hugh said, "How like you are to your relations at Falaise." The king might have resented this allusion to the humble birth of William the Conqueror's mother, the daughter of a glove-maker, but he only laughed, and the quarrel was made up.

Riots against the Jews broke out in England at the time of the Third Crusade. In defence of the persecuted, Hugh faced armed mobs in Lincoln, Stamford and Northampton and compelled their submission.

Hugh refused to raise money for the foreign wars of King Richard the Lion-Heart, calmed the king's rage with a kiss, and persisted in his refusal: this was the first clear example on record of the refusal of a money-grant demanded directly by the crown, and an important legal precedent. Richard said, "If all bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could raise his head against them."

His relations with King John were less happy. John showed him an amulet, which he said was sacred and would preserve him. Hugh replied, "Do not put your trust in lifeless stone, but only in the living and heavenly stone, our Lord Jesus Christ." The following Easter he preached at length on the duties of kings, and the king slipped out partway through.

Devout, tireless, and forgetful of self, Hugh also had wit, a temper that he described as "more biting than pepper," and a great love and concern for children and the defenceless. He visited leper-houses and washed the ulcerous limbs of their inmates.

He was fond of animals, and they of him. Birds and squirrels came readily to his hand. He had a swan that would feed from his hand, follow him about, and keep guard over his bed, so that no one could approach it without being attacked.

In 1200 the king sent him on an embassy to France. His mission was a success, but he took ill and returned to England to die on 16 November 1200. John Ruskin called him "the most beautiful sacerdotal (priestly) figure known to me in history."

-John Kiefer

Prayer (contemporary language)

O holy God, who endowed your servant and bishop Hugh of Lincoln with wise and cheerful boldness, and taught him to commend the discipline of holy life to kings and princes: Grant that we also, rejoicing in the Good News of your mercy, and fearing nothing but the loss of you, may be bold to speak the truth in love, in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Friday, November 13, 2020


A Pastoral Theology

  • I believe that popular notions in American Christianity regarding the separation of theology/practice, the past/present, the intellect/emotion, and the personal/communal are artificial, unscriptural, and in contrast with a faithful, historic, and Christian discipleship

  • After the love we have for our Triune God, the foundation for a transcendent (thus, lasting) evangelism is the scripturally defined love that Christians are to have in community together. Biblical Community is a gift of the Holy Spirit but must be developed and sought after by God’s people.

  • An enduring church worships, loves, and seeks the covenant-making God of the scriptures in both personal and communal ways. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the faithful church effectively brings a transcendent Gospel to the world around it from a position of humility, authenticity, and depth.

  •  A parasitic form of Christianity loves people so that it may get something from them. It fosters selfishness, infighting, and power games within communal family life. While an unhealthy view of the church can survive for many years, in time this kind of Christianity will decline and evaporate. Empire building has no place in the Kingdom of God, and this spirit and approach contribute to an anemic and unhealthy church wherever it is found.

  • Biblical discipleship lives and proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others. However, discipleship is not just an invitation to public conversion through baptism, but following baptism, walks in a relationship with the new convert as their genuine and personal faith grows, a later faith takes root, or an empty faith reveals itself over time. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Nobility or the Status Quo?


Are you nobler than those who are quite satisfied with their comfortable beliefs? Read the below before you answer.

Acts 17:
11 Now, these Jews were nobler than those in Thessaloni′ca, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

When we are challenged by credible sources that we respect regarding the teachings of Holy Scripture, are we noble and do we give honest prayer, thought, and research to their challenges? Or, like anyone else who prefers the comfort of their own presuppositions, the fear of honest assessment, and the need to avoid the unknown, do we brush them off? (or like the Jews in Thessalonica, go on the attack?).

Does the "truth set you free" or are you the warden of your own captivity? The search is for Christ NO MATTER THE COSTS.

"My word is truth, and the truth will set you free" - Jesus (John 8)

Is it the "salvation" that Jesus offers that we truly want?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

How We Find Out


By their fruits, you will know them Matt. 7:20

We find out what people are really like by the way they take the things that happen to them. One might think a woman very charming, yet find her fail in the day of trouble, or one might be with a man when a fire broke out at a theatre, and find that he was immediately in a panic; or one might see someone, whom one had always regarded as very commonplace, do a very beautiful act. In each case, one would say, 'Well, I never thought he or she was like that! The circumstances of life reveal character.

Our Lord willed to come into this world and bring with Him nothing, to start with the poorest and to meet life as it came, and each thing as he met it revealed His character. Hate came to him, and He revealed His love. Success came to Him, and he revealed His humility. Failure came and revealed his faith. All things came to Him, eventually death, and death itself contributed to his royalty, for it revealed that He is alive forevermore.

Life finds us out, and our first discovery may be very like the discovery of St. Peter when he went out and wept bitterly after denying his Lord. But that was not the last word about Simon Peter, nor need our failures ever be the last word about ourselves. We can learn by our mistakes, and, if life finds us out, we can find out our God in our lives, and through its challenge and His grace bring forth the fruit that shall make us known as His children.

Father Andrew - Meditations, pg. 273

Doing Right or Getting the Right Result?


James 1:

2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

The surprising statement no doubt came out of St. James's own experience. The only way in which we can read "trials" is by taking it as being for the testing of the will, and that is surely what the apostle means. It has to be proved that we are doing right from the highest motives; that we are doing right because it is right, and not because it is profitable; that we are doing the true thing because it is true, and not because it is polotic (politically expedient).

... if we do right from thoughts of punishment or reward, we may be doing right things but we are not really doing right.

-Father Andrew, Meditations, pg. 272 

Friday, September 18, 2020



"There is nothing new under the sun". -Song of Solomon

"He (St. Athanasius) stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, 'whole and undefiled,' when it looked as if all the civilized world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended to-day and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

-CS Lewis

Hall, C. A. (1998). Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


“The Christian life is not a straight run on a track laid out by a vision statement formulated by a committee. Life meanders much of the time. Unspiritual interruptions, unanticipated people, uncongenial events cannot be pushed aside in our determination to reach the goal unimpeded, undistracted."

“Goal-setting, in the context and on the terms intended by a leadership-obsessed and management programmed business mentality that infiltrates the church far too frequently, is bad spirituality. Too much gets left out. Too many people get brushed aside. Maturity cannot be hurried, programmed, or tinkered with. There are no steroids available for growing up in Christ more quickly. Impatient shortcuts land us in the dead ends of immaturity." 

-Eugene Peterson - “Practice Resurrection,” pg. 133

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Morning Prayer, Week of Pentecost 12

 Doesn't God owe us an explanation for the pain we deal with in our lives?

From our Lectionary readings today, do we want a "Book of Job" kind of God? Does this God offer us real salvation? Do we, like Jesus, understand that "the world hates me because I testify against it that its deeds are evil"? Are we prepared and willing to be hated for the "right reasons"?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Review: Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by N.T. Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of Tom Wright's earliest books. An important basic read for popular Christianity and beyond.

View all my reviews

Review: Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Those who believe that Jesus is the King and Lord of the world today, accept his kingdom teachings and ways.

Tom Wright helps the reader confront the historical and theological assumptions that so many of the Jews listening to Jesus would have assumed regarding the coming of the Messiah; so many of the modern, western, and American assumptions we make today.

While clearing a path through the confusion of the many looking to shape their own vision of Jesus and a kingdom of their liking, Wright invites us on a journey of accepting the kingly rule of Jesus in all of its subversion, nuance, and complexity. He reveals a Jesus who calls his people to be the worshipping church together, desiring his lordship in every area of their lives and in every category of the created order.

In the end, he calls the church to her true mission: To Worship the triune God of the Bible by receiving her established Lord and King. He tasks the baptized to together open their hearts and lives to the Kingdom work that he longs to do through them. We proclaim the Good News of redemption through Christ and aid people as they begin to live the new creation that has taken and is taking root in the church and in their lives. The kingdoms of this world will not endure, but the powers are unaware of who is truly in control and that they have already been defeated.

It is only our God who builds his eternal kingdom (both now and in completion someday); those building their own kingdoms (while naming them the kingdom of God) will find the life and teachings of Jesus inconvenient, indeed.

View all my reviews

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

The Creator and Creation - Gen. 1

When we try to make Genesis a modern science book, we hide the truth, beauty, and clarity contained in its pages.

The Creator and Creation (Audio Sermon)

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 as the Priest here at St. Peter and St. Paul, we will be offering a “New Members Investigative Class” which will run for 10 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 we do not have the space to delve too deeply into the history and theological ideas behind confirmation in more detail, suffice it to say that in its beginnings, confirmation was an aspect of the Sacrament of Baptism which involved the laying on of hands of a bishop communicating and welcoming the Holy Spirit into the lives of the newly baptized. It was a sign and seal of the mysterious work of God involved in the sacrament of Baptism for those with faith in Jesus Christ (or those being nurtured toward this faith in Christ if infants). 

Confirmation developed in time (in the Western Catholic Church BUT not in the Eastern Church) as a way for the Bishop to still be engaged in the baptism of a child or adult (thus communicating his important place of authority in apostolic succession) after the fact. Thus, pastorally and historically it developed into an aid for the church to encourage 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. In time confirmation especially became the place where those baptized as infants (or those whose baptism coincided with being a citizen of a “Christian” nation), could learn and embrace the Christian faith under 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!!!! But there is nothing to say that this has not already happened in the life of the baptized as they kneel to be confirmed by their bishop.

Confirmation helps those who are baptized and committed to Christ (or considering this commitment due to a nominal view of their baptism) to then takes steps toward 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

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 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:

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