This past Sunday morning, as I awoke in my hotel room in Amman, Jordan, I immediately thought of a time of worship. Here I was in an Islamic nation, surrounded by a great deal of religion and reverence and I really had no where to go and no one with whom to join in worship. So, without the normal “church” surroundings with which I am so accustomed, I put on some worship music on my iPhone and began to worship. While on this pilgrimage I have always carried my Bible, but I didn’t have my Prayerbook. I decided to see just how much of the worship service I could remember. All of you Saint James’ faithful who worship at 8:00 AM know that I have often said that when I loose my place I revert to Rite One. So, that’s what I did. I just began the 8:00 worship service with all of you there and began with those powerful, reverent and comforting words. “Blessed be God, Father and Holy Spirit.” I have to say, God gave me a gift and I think I was able to say, pray, worship the entire service. Okay, probably a bit of it was my paraphrase, but not much. Please understand. I’m not just being proud of my memory. On the contrary. I’m being blessed by the incarnation of those words, that worship which has become part of my very soul.
Now you may be wondering, what I did when I got to the sermon? I’m sure Louise would say, “What else? He preached.” She would be right. Well, it wasn’t a sermon. It was more like a prayer, my personal proclamation before God. I was so overwhelmed by the simple, powerful opening words of the worship, blessed be the Trinity, that this became my prayer, my sermon, my proclamation of faith. I was inspired by my location. Here I was alone, in a hotel room, in an Islamic nation, amongst a people who faithfully kneel to pray three times a day to the God of Abraham, the Monotheistic God (Please, this is not the place for me to argue the finer points of Allah, Yahweh and The Trinity) Here I was alone, in the midst of Islamic monotheism and the power and the presence of the Holy Trinity, God in three persons joined me. Or should I rightly say, I joined them? My heart was overwhelmed with thanksgiving for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As I stood and prayed and talked to the Trinity, gave thanks to each Person of God and for Them I was taken into their fellowship. Jesus prayed that we (that’s us and God) might be one as He and the Father are one (John 17). The Apostle Paul called this the third heaven (2 Cor. 12 & Jude 14,15). This was living water for my soul.
Before taking this sabbatical, this pilgrimage, God gave me several words of direction and encouragement. You all know one of them. It was God’s direction to pray for you, by name on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. Another word He gave me, a promise, which I shared with only a couple of people, was the promise of Sacred Ecstasy. I must say, when I heard that, I wasn’t even sure I knew what it meant. I tried researching it a bit, but no help. So, I thought, okay, this sacred ecstasy will happen in some Holy place in Jerusalem: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa, the Garden of Gethsemane. Or maybe up in Galilee: Capernaum, the site of so many miracles, the Mount of the Beatitudes or even in Jericho at the Mount of the Temptations. Isn’t this God’s way? This amazing moment, this fellowship within the person of God: Father, Son and Spirit was happening in a hotel room in Amman.
Isn’t this God’s way? Isn’t this how He has revealed Himself to humanity since Creation and the Garden? God reveals Himself in His fullness, not dependent on holy places or holy things, but for and through holy people who submit in humility, reverent fear and worship of Him.
My prayer today is that upon my return and because of this great experience you have given me, that God will make the gift and joy and wonder and power and sacredness of the revelation of the Holy Trinity more real and powerful for you. God has truly given us a treasure. May we treasure it and share it.
1 John 1:1-4
Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee and traveled up to Jerusalem. That “up” was both an altitude, a spirituality and a theology. Therefore today we had to leave Jerusalem and travel down, literally some several thousand feet to below sea level to the Jordan river basin and then North to Galilee. When we follow Mary and Joseph in Scripture and read of the their traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem it never occurs to me how difficult a trip it might be. After making that trip in reverse I am humbled at the thought of a pregnant woman doing that. Bethlehem is literally a suburb of Jerusalem. Nazareth is many hot miles, deserts and mountains to the North.
Once we arrived in the valley of the Sea of Galilee we first stopped at the Church of the Mount of the Beatitudes. Every church that commemorates a holy site is quite different and owned by one Christian denomination or monastic order or another. Some are beautiful and lavish. Some are small, dank and disappointing. I have to remember I didn’t come to the Holy Land to see or visit churches. I came on a Pilgrimage. I have found the most spiritually nourishing practice at each holy site is to sit and read the Word that is associated with the event and ministry that the site commemorates.
Today as I sat atop the Mount of the Beatitudes, looking out over the Sea of Galilee and while reading the Sermon on the Mount, I was touched by the Holy Spirit. What can I say? I don’t have the means to convey to you on paper what it was like. I can do it when I am face to face with you, as I was with Jesus. On the edge of the Sea of Galilee I became more intimate with the ministry and mission of Jesus our Savior. The place and content of His sermon, the bravery, the humility, the radical call to a bold and sacrificial life struck me more powerfully than it ever has before.
At the end of our day we moved in to a Lutheran Guest house also on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We gathered for worship and Holy Communion and I was given the privilege to be the preacher. The lessons for this Sunday included a bit of the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord teaching the disciples to pray their prayer. How sweet is that? I have just come down from the Mountain, I have touched the Sea of Galilee and now I am asked to speak on our Lord’s Prayer for us, his disciples. God is so gracious. A Divine Appointment.
We will spend the next two days traveling around the area and our Lord’s Galilean Ministry. This is where He called the disciples. This is the Sea (a large lake) where He “traveled to the other side.” This is where He walked on the water. This is where He delivered and healed the man with a legion of demons. This is where, following His Crucifixion, the disciples retreated and where He came to find them and cook breakfast for them on the edge of the lake. What a place. But remember, it isn’t just the geography. Some of the places today are overcrowded, over developed, over used, over politicized and over commercialized. It isn’t just the place that is Holy. It is the Life of Christ that was shared there. It is the reverence of the people who come. It is the on going power of the Holy Spirit that invades any who will come and see and submit.
A beautiful and overwhelming example. When we visited Mensa Christi, the spot that commemorates Jesus’ cooking breakfast for the disciples from John 21, it was just another Church, just another rocky beach on the Sea of Galilee. And it was 101 degrees hot. So, we saw it. It was nice. We remembered. We gave thanks. We moved off the beach to find a spot to talk and pray a bit and heard singing. We were drawn to the song, the praise, the worship. What we found was a Philippino Youth Group with their Praise Team singing in english. It was amazing. They couldn’t speak a word of english, but they worshiped in english and it was stupendous. We became their congregation and just as Jesus did, they and the worship gave us nourishment on the beach.
Now it is my prayer that your worship on Sunday, your Sabbath will also be that nourishing.
Good Night from the Sea of Galilee.
You are my love and in my prayers,
Today was Mother’s Day at Saint George’s College. We spent the day just in the outskirts of Jerusalem at Ein Kerem and Bethlehem. While in Ein Kerem we visited the Church of the Visitation where the angel visited Mary and told her she was to be a mother. “Let it be to me according to your will.” Isn’t that the response God would ask of us all? Our typical reaction is, “yes according to your will, but….” The greatest thing about submitting to God’s will for us is that He knows what’s best for us and will never ask anything of us that would do harm. I love the great phrase from one of the prayers in Morning Prayer. “In whose service is perfect freedom.” To “let it be according to your will” is to find perfect freedom. Yes, it sure may stretch you, but it will also comfort you and provide for you.
Following the Church of the Visitation we then visited the Church of John the Baptist. While there a group of Hatian Christians were also visiting and began to sing in the shade under the trees surrounding the church. Amazing! Glorious! I wanted to join in but it was in French. No matter, the worship was blessed.
From Ein Kerem we traveled to Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity. Now you can be sure this holy spot is on every pilgrim’s tour in the Holy Land. And they were all there today. No matter, the wait, it was still an amazing moment to go through the gate of humble access (that’s a low door) and then descend below the altar of this Franciscan Church to the small grotto that has become the traditional site of our Lord’s birth. The place is wonderful, but remember, it is the people who are holy. Their reverence was inspiring.
Tomorrow we travel to the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Church of the Multiplication. I have been chosen to preach at our worship service tomorrow evening. Preaching by the Sea of Galilee. What a personal moment. I can’t wait.
While we have been here in Jerusalem the Moslems have been celebrating the Holy Month of Ramadan. Today was the third Friday of Ramadan, the holiest day. There were 200,000 Moslem pilgrims in Jerusalem. Yikes. You can’t imagine the traffic jams and the people jams. I guess the Holy Land isn’t always so holy.
Good Night from Jerusalem.
With my love and prayers for you,
Today we left Jerusalem proper and drove south to Hebron. Our first stop was in Makhpelah and the tomb of Abraham and Sarah. Of all the nations God promised Abraham would father and of all the land God promised Abraham would occupy he only owned one small bit. The cave at Machpelah where he first buried Sara and then himself. This became the burial site of all the patriarchs. The site we saw, actually constructed by Herod the Great almost 2000 years later is actually one of the best attested holy sites in Israel. Of course, there always seems to be a broken world story that accompanies every holy site and every Holy act. Because Abraham is claimed as the Father of Faith by both Islam and Judaism, both religions have a piece of the site. Abraham’s tomb is literally in a room divided down the middle by bullet proof glass and viewable on one side from a mosque and on the other side from a synagogue. Sad. Yet, I could not let these divisions prevent me from giving thanks for Abraham saying, “Yes” to God. Because he said yes, we may also. Thank you father Abraham.
Our next stop was the Oaks of Mamre, the site where Abraham and Sarah were promised they would be the parents of many nations. I hope you get to see the pictures I’ve posted of the Oaks of Mamre where there are no oaks. It is also the site of a great church built by the Emperor Constantine to commemorate the event since then destroyed. Kay and I had a blessed moment to stop and give thanks for our children and that God also made us parents and gave us the gift to pass faith on to a new generation. Join us, won’t you?
We spent the afternoon at a Jewish settlement in Ephrata (Micha 5:2) We heard a really fine talk from and had a fine discussion with an American orthodox Jew who emigrated to Israel 31 years ago. We heard his perspective on the current geo-political situation with Israel. Then we traveled just a short distance over the green line to a Palestinian refugee camp for another fine presentation and time to speak with a young social worker telling us of his hurt and frustration with the same situation, a divided country. Who can solve this? I afraid it isn’t John Kerry. Only God. Only God.
I’ll leave you with this one last thought of my day and the evening. Every place Abraham went he dug a well and built an altar. At each place he offered hospitality to those who came. Isn’t that exactly what Abraham was doing when three men visited him at the Oaks of Mamre? (Genesis 18) What is it about the combination of water and worship and hospitality that is a foundation for our faith, the way of life that we are led to live by power of the Spirit and in the Love of Jesus Christ?
Some of you have enjoyed my quizzes, so here’s another. What are the events of Abraham’s life that occurred between the time he was promised children in Genesis 12 and the renewal of that promise in Genesis 18? Which of these events do you think is most important for us as Christians?
Good Night from Jerusalem.
With my love and joy,
Today was such a full day. This morning we had Jerusalem 101. That means we had a three hour lecture on the history of Jerusalem beginning with the Canannite Period through to today. That’s 2000 BC through to the Six Day War. Yikes. The lecture was great, interesting and informative, but three hours?
Following lunch we circled Jerusalem and the Old City. This gave us geographic and historical perspective. From the Mount of Olives we looked over the Garden of Gethsemane, the Kidron Valley, the Lower City or the City of David, the Hinnom Valley and more. To be able to see these places we have all studied so long and to get the perspective of place and distance was so useful. How humbling it was to stand on the Mount of Olives just above the Garden of Gethsemane and be able to see and visualize the path taken after Jesus was arrested and carried to Caiaphas’ house to be interrogated.
We left the Mount of Olives and traveled around the Kidron Valley and back over to the lower city, just below the Temple Mount. There we visited the Jerusalem Archeological Museum. Here we could view the Temple Walls, the remains of Robinson’s Arch (think back to Peter Walker’s teaching during Holy Week) and the market where the animals for sacrifice were sold. I could easily picture Jesus coming to the Temple on that Palm Sunday and clearing the Temple.
Great introductory material today, even if there was 4000 years of it. Tomorrow we go to Hebron, the Oaks of Mamre and Abraham and Sarah’s grave. Can’t wait.
Good Night from Jerusalem. You are all in my prayers.
With Love and Joy,
Today, Tuesday, was a recovery day for us after 24 hours of travel and the 7 hour time change. This gave Kay and myself the opportunity to go into the Walled City. Entering the Old City through the Damascus was quite an experience. Entering the gate while thinking of the Psalm 122 was most moving. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” Wow, and my feet were standing within her Gates. Even with that wonderful moment, it was also a bit disconcerting that upon entering the Holy City we had to fight way through the Souk. That’s the market. While winding my way through the very narrow labyrinth of streets filled with shops and shopkeepers hawking their goods, the Holy City seems far from Holy. Then I walked out of the dark street and into a sun filled courtyard and stood before the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I will not try to fully describe our brief time in this very holy place. Yes, we were drawn first to go up the very narrow, steep steps to the Rock of Golgotha. There, just as other pilgrims, I could crawl down, under the altar, and reach through to touch the rock upon which Jesus was crucified. What a moment of humility and thanksgiving. Because we were alone and not with some tour, we could tarry. I use that word because it fits. We tarried, just as Jesus asked the Disciples in Gethsemane. We sat. We prayed. We talked. We looked. We rested. We soaked. We than went around to the Holy Sepulchre. I must admit the power and the holiness of this spot was a bit diminished because it was inundated by such crowds. It was hard to get even a moment at the place where Jesus Christ burst froth from the grave. Thankfully I will have several more opportunities to visit the Holy Sepulchre during this class and following.
With all that the Holy site contains, Golgatha, the Tomb, the Resurrection, I have to tell you the holiest moment I had was at the rock that is called the Stone of Anointing. This stone commemorates the slab on which the body of Jesus may have been lain so that it could be anointed before burial. Please understand. It is only hopeful that this may be the very stone upon which Jesus was laid. But, as I stood and watched the people come to kneel and pray, as they came to place objects on the stone to be blessed, as they knelt and touched it with their lips and their prayers I realized the holiness was not in the rock. It was in the people. Then hesitantly I too knelt and kissed the stone and touched it with my forehead and the holiness invaded me. I stayed their too long. There were many who wanted a moment at this place. Yet, I couldn’t leave. Thanksgiving. Sacrifice. Redemption. Joy. Life. Hope. These were just a few of the many words and emotions that poured over me. I didn’t touch the heart of Jesus. He touched me.
I pray for you all, for a holy moment of your own. Here in the Holy City, I experienced it. The holiness doesn’t reside in the place. It resides in the people. You too are holy. Always remember “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.”
With my love,
Good Night from Jerusalem
As I begin this last day of preparation and packing for the next stage of my three month sabbatical I am amazed and thankful at how this has all come about. The evidence of God’s guidance and sovereignty is overwhelming. One of the hallmarks of the Twelve Step Programs is the trust that “God can do for you, what you can’t do for yourself.” That has been so evident in this journey of choosing which sabbatical am I to take? When one begins with a open season of time and a blank slate the possibilities are endless. At first this seems attractive. Then it becomes overwhelming. The question initially seems to be this. Where to go? What to do? What to study? Then I recognized that is not the primary question. The primary question is, “For whom is this sabbatical?” Is it for me? Is it for the people off Saint James? Is it for God? Is it for shared ministry? Of course the answer to all these questions is yes. Then prayerfully I came upon a more basic question. Is this sabbatical about mission or study? Do I spend this time on a mission to serve others? Or do I go and study and learn more about mission and ministry? As I made the choice to travel to Jerusalem and the Holy sites of Israel I began to feel a bit selfish. I had to wrestle with the possibility of being a missionary tourist.
As I made my decision to take a study sabbatical and not a missions sabbatical I had to answer the question of the why of my sabbatical. These are the questions first mentioned above. For whom is this sabbatical? I would love to be going on a mission in this sabbatical. It would feed my soul. With that, my decision to take a study sabbatical comes from God’s leading and the desire to be more useful and useable to the faithful of Saint James to lead them to a life of missions. There are too many of us, Christians all, who spend our time studying about our faith and never enter the mission of our life-in-Christ.
I am going to Jerusalem and Israel at-large to be renewed, to be challenged, to be inspired. I also go for Sabbath Rest. All of this is for one purpose and mission. That is upon my return I may lead you, my friends, family and faithful of Saint James on a life of mission. We are on a mission you know.
With God’s help I will live out Saint Paul’s parting mission for the Christians of Ephesus. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
I can hardly believe the time has come for me to leave Saint James for a season. The sabbatical that all of you have so graciously granted me has arrived. I am both excited and appropriately hesitant. I am excited for all the possibilities and adventures that await me. I am hesitant due to all the possibilities and adventures that await me. You understand – it’s called the unknown.
Sunday, June 23rd is my last Sunday at Saint James. During the first several weeks of July I will take some personal time to prepare for the heart of my sabbatical and see my family. I must be a good son and go see my mother who lives in Raleigh, NC. She turns 90 soon and mostly is doing quite well. She had a real slump of health issues the past several months, but has rebounded somewhat is has some renewed quality of life. While I’m gone I certainly covet your prayers for her – Mildred Jenkins.
Also during this personal time I hope to take a motorcycle trip. I know, I know. Remember my reply whenever I’m asked, “Where do you go on that thing?” I always say, “Nearer my God to Thee.” In addition to this there is lots of preparation, a little packing and at least six books I am to read before arriving in Jerusalem.
On Sunday, July 21st, I hope to return to Saint James for the 10:30 worship that Louise and Andrew may send me out with the commissioning of the Holy Spirit and with your prayers. Please know how much your support will be needed that we all might realize the potential of this trip. This Sabbatical is not just as a vacation for me or a time of study and reflection. This can be a renewal from which all of us may benefit. I hope to return filled with memories, moments, places and people that will have impacted me, the Holy Scriptures and the prayer that it will bear much fruit in my teaching, preaching, leadership and pastoral care. I can’t wait to go and I can’t wait to return – to you.
While in Jerusalem I will take two courses of study at St. George’s College. Founded in 1887, St. George’s College and Cathedral is the oldest ongoing Anglican presence in Jerusalem and is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
The first course I will take (the one for which Kay is joining me) is the entitled The Palestine of Jesus. It is a 14 day study tour of Holy sites and class room work with both academic and devotional aspects.
The second course I will take at St. George’s is a offered for the first time this year. Its title, The Children of Abraham. This Course will focus on the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and their theologies, histories, relations, and common heritage in the Holy Land. The course will cover aspects of the following elements in the theology of the three traditions: Israel; Covenant; election; Promise; and Faith; and will focus on convergence and divergence in the relations between the three religions. I can’t think of any topic that has greater impact on God’s story through the Hebrew Nation and greater implications for today’s geopolitical issues, cultural issues and faith issues. Again, I can’t wait.
During the interim between these two courses, from August 6th through September 6, I will live with Rabbi Natan Ophir in his flat. I met the Rabbi on an internet site; Airbnb. Basically it is an internet bed and breakfast system. After corresponding for a time he agreed to host me for the month between courses at St. George’s.
Obviously I am excited at the possibilities of being a resident for a time in Jerusalem and the interaction I will be able to have with this Rabbi and professor at Jerusalem College of Technology. He grew up in Philadelphia, emigrated to Israel in the mid 80’s and received his PhD from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1993. Dr. Ophir is also a knowledgeable guide of the Holy Lands. I am looking forward to the discussions we can have and his directions as to the places to go in Israel.
This extended length of time in Jerusalem, Israel and beyond will allow me to move from being a tourist to the life of a pilgrim. The faithful have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land for thousands of years. A pilgrimage is always made seeking Holy revelation. The tourist takes a tour, but the pilgrim takes time. I am going to the Holy Land not just to see the sights, but to hear from God. Speak Lord!
Arthur, John 10:27, Acts 20:28
A number of years ago at Saint James our hearts were captured by a Biblical vision of the Church. It is called a Three Streams, One River vision.
Three Streams…is derived from Psalm 46:4: There is a river whose streams make glad the city (people) of God…” I pointed out that “glad” can be translated “whole.” God has provided these streams to bring His people into wholeness — a reality that Ezekiel saw when he noticed that, growing beside the river of the water of life, were trees whose leaves were for the healing of the nations. Ezekiel 47:12
One observes that three great streams have flowed throughout the history of the Christian Church. (We can also find evidence of them in the Old Testament.) The apostle John identifies these three streams in his first letter. In 1John 5:8, he says There are three witnesses — the Spirit, the water, and the blood — and these three agree.
Some of us come from “the Spirit,” or Pentecostal stream. Others identify more with the “water,” with its emphasis on the washing of the Word and personal cleansing. This is the Protestant — the biblical and evangelical — stream.
Others of us come from the “blood” or Catholic stream, with its emphasis on the sacramental. The differences and even struggles which may arise between us often reflect our inability to understand another “stream,” where we feel less at home.
John says that, though these three witnesses are distinct, they are in complete agreement! What do they agree about? They are unanimous about the person of Jesus Christ: who He is, why He came, and what He has done for us. Those witnesses agree because, together, they create a brilliant composite picture of Christ. None of them can manage that completely on their own.
So the three streams agree on the substance of our faith: the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet though their witness is in perfect agreement, there is a dynamic tension between them.
The three streams – Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal – have always been present in the Christian Church. They are complementary, intended by God to flow together. Tragically, they are usually separated. Churches which major in a specific stream typically reject – and often criticize – the others.
What, then, will a “three streams, one river” church look like?
Here is a brief summary of the distinct approaches adopted by each stream in just six areas:
Standards of Orthodoxy
A “three streams” church won’t separate faith from works. It will be passionate about calling people to a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. But it will not be tempted to see that as an end. The goal is also to call people into a life of obedience to Jesus by sacrificial service “to the least of these my brothers.” Our vision statement captures that truth. We are called to “Proclaim God’s Grace in Jesus Christ.”
Music and Worship
All the great kinds of music which Paul mentions in Ephesians 5:19-psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs-will be welcomed and balanced in a “three streams” church. Each has its own unique place: “psalms” – liturgical music to enhance the liturgy; hymns, which express the grandeur and majesty of God and which are rich in doctrine and biblical imagery; and “spiritual songs” – music which arises spontaneously out of, and gives expression to, what God is saying and doing to His Church now. Spiritual songs usually have a relatively brief shelf-life. They feel dated after a few years. At our Sunday celebration – a “three streams” service – we employ all three genres.
Our Anglican model of authority is hierarchical. Clergy have spiritual authority over their congregations. Bishops have spiritual authority over clergy. A “three-streams” church receives and respects that authority. But it will expect those in authority to recognize the spiritual giftedness of the congregation, and to call all its members to the work of ministry. A “three streams” congregation knows the utter futility of engaging in ministry without the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It will pray for its leaders to be freshly and powerfully anointed, so that their leadership will manifest the presence and power of Christ.
The Catholic preference for top-down, centralized structures speaks of the need for spiritual oversight, and submission to the authority God has placed over the church.
The Protestant preference for bottom-up (lay-initiated and -led), diversified (shared power) structures insists that the congregation be trusted with real responsibility, and be given a sense of ownership for the life and mission of the church.
The Pentecostal preference for spontaneity speaks of a burning desire for life – and a recognition that structures in themselves cannot bear fruit.
These three, apparently incompatible, approaches are mutually consistent. Each needs the others. The first, by itself, leads to authoritarianism; the second to anarchy; and the third to chaos. We will hold these three structure preferences in cohesion with our Team based organization. This method of organizing, administering, and encouraging our shared ministry recognizes the episcopal authority of the bishop imputed to the Rector, while relying on the ministry of all believers in ministry team participation and discerning and employing the Spiritual gifts of the congregation.
The Charismatic Renewal succeeded in bringing back the forgotten Holy Spirit into the Church. “Three streams” churches will make generous room for the Holy Spirit. They will welcome the manifestation of all the spiritual gifts. They will emphasize intuitive ways of knowing Truth, not restricting these to the rational and cognitive.
But they will never divorce the Spirit from the Word-preferring manifestations of the Spirit to disciplined Bible study and biblical preaching (in fact, the Word should judge manifestations); or creating false dichotomies between spontaneity and freedom on the one hand, and program and structure on the other. Neither will they divorce the Spirit and the Word from the Father, who creates order by keeping Word and Spirit in dynamic tension.
Key Aspect of Christ’s Salvation
A “three streams” church will receive and love Jesus Christ as the scriptures reveal him to us through his incarnation, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, and glorious ascension; through the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost; and through His promised return. It will never prefer His divinity over His humanity, or His miracles over His command to love and serve others.
By: The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison
This past Advent my wife asked what I was going to preach about on the coming Sunday.
“Repentance,” I replied. “Oh gosh!” she replied wearily, “I wish you’d preach on something cheerful.” One can easily understand why repentance is not considered a joyful subject! The dictionary defines ‘repent’ as “self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do,” “conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it,” or “to feel remorse.” The brilliant novelist E. M. Forster claimed that, “of all means to regeneration, Remorse is surely the most wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissue with the poisoned. It is a knife that probes far deeper than the evil” (Howard’s End, Ch. 41). One could expect such a negative view of remorse from Forster’s known failure to trust Christian forgiveness. How-ever, we should not overlook the unfortunate truth in his observation.It is especially important when we acknowledge that our secular culture increasingly shares with Forster a hope bereft of divine forgiveness, where mere regret sadly replaces repentance.
I contend that the Greek word used in Scripture to express repentance distorts the true biblical meaning of the crucial term: Repent. The Greek word that is used is metanoia, meaning to change one’s mind, whereas in every context in Scripture ‘repentance’ is not a change of mind but a change of heart. The difficulty lies in the fact that the Greek language has no word for change of heart—no metakardia. Swahili has no word for atonement because there had been no experience of atonement. So Greek, bereft of Israel’s revelation concerning change of heart, is left with a superficial hope, only a change of mind, metanoia, no metakardia.
This failure to appreciate the deeper dimension of human nature was abetted by the teaching of Socrates and Plato, who insisted that knowledge produces virtue. They identified goodness with knowledge, saying that to know the good is to do the good. Vice and evil are simply the result of ignorance.
Such belief is radically different from that of Scripture: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt,” and “If I… understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13: 1, 2). Love comes not from a change of mind but a change of heart. “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13); “The Lord is nigh them of broken hearts” (Ps. 31:18); “The wise in heart will heed commandments” (Prov. 10:8); “The heart of men is set to do evil” (Eccles. 9:13); “receive the heart of contrite ones ”(Is. 57:15); “Blessed are the poor in heart for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). In fact, it takes nine columns of Cruden’s Concordance to list the texts regarding heart, but one column is sufficient to include all the verses regarding mind.
Because the Greek language had no word for change of heart, Greek translation gives prominence to the mind. This was bootlegged into Christianity, resulting in a Greek rather than a Christian understanding of repentance. It is not enough to change one’s mind. Our hearts must be changed, changed not by knowledge but by love.
Following this mistake the meaning of faith or belief (pistis) tends to be relegated to the mind and not, as in Scripture, more deeply to the heart. One can intellectually acknowledge the existence of God, but that is a far cry from the trust of God in one’s heart.The latter results in action whereas the former can rest in mere passive acknowledgement.
Much of the historical misunderstanding in the relation between faith and works stems from teaching that faith (pistis) is a matter of the mind instead of its being a trust of the heart that, as true faith, inevitably leads to works. Professor Ashley Null has taught us that “what the heart desires, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” This, he tells us, is his paraphrase of Philip Melanchthon’s writings that so influenced Thomas Cranmer and can be seen in his Prayer Books. Knowing that the will is but an agency of the heart, Cranmer saw the virulent vanity of Pelagianism. Unless the heart is enticed, evoked, and changed, it is vain to exhort the will. The Gospel itself is the means by which the heart is changed by the message of a gracious God. Unless the heart is moved, the will cannot be effectively engaged.
It is particularly evident in the parable of the prodigal son that repentance in the pig-pen is a low level of repentance, an insight of the mind. “I can do better as one of my father’s servants.” But true repentance, a change not of mind but a change of heart, occurs when the prodigal son experiences the undeserved, initiating, costly love of his father. Similarly, Cranmer’s absolutions in both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (1928) show that true repentance comes after, not before, absolution. The grace of unearned and undeserved absolution speaks to the heart and results in the fruit of the Spirit.
There is no Socratic reliance upon the mind as the means of virtue and obedience in Cranmer’s prayer books. His use of Psalm 51 in the penitential office, “make in me a clean heart, O God…, a broken and a contrite heart, shalt thou not despise,” his responses to the Decalogue, “incline our hearts to keep this law,” and the reception of Holy Communion, “feed on him in thy heart” show clearly that Cranmer’s incomparable use of Scripture for the biblical meaning of repentance indicates a true metakardia even though there is no such Greek word.
When Dr. Null’s work on Cranmer was published by Oxford University Press, it was promised that the whole title would be on the cover. Unfortunately it was not. One has to turn inside to the title page to find it: Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love. Given the general and
understandable attitude toward the term ‘repentance’ the sub-title badly needs to be up front. Many of us feel that repentance is good for other people, but understanding that repentance renews “the power to love” makes us realize a dimension that all of us seek. “Renewing the power to love” rescues the remorse in repentance from destructive possibilities. Sin is a deeper matter than merely breaking a rule or law. It is always radically personal against others, against self, and against God. No self-hate, self-damage, despair, or the accumulation of sacrifices—the fruit of mere remorse—can rectify or redeem sin.
God’s absolution is no mere acceptance. It is God’s grace squeezing into the bastion of our hearts through the crack of remorse. This is the repentance (metakardia) that renews the power to love.
The Rt. Rev’d C. FitzSimmons Allison is the 12th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and lives in Georgetown with his wife Martha.