HE LEFT A MARK AND IT IS GOD’S MARK

Posted by ajenkins on May 1, 2013 under Just A Thought, The Parish | Be the First to Comment

Saint James’ Epistle, Newsletter for May

Southerners, especially Charlestonians know the expression about the difference between a Yankee and a **** Yankee is that the latter doesn’t go back North. For the last five years we have had one of those Yankees. In fact, it may be worse. Bruce McDonald has not only been a Yankee that didn’t go home, but he is a Canadian that didn’t go home. And for that, I am thankful to God.
For the last five years Major Bruce McDonald, Canadian Army Retired, has been our Senior Warden, the Rector’s Warden at Saint James and he has left just a good and Godly mark that I will be forever thankful to him and for him.
Now first, let’s be honest about the means God used to draw Bruce to Saint James and the ministry we all share. It was love. Yes, love of God and from God. But also it was love – of a beautiful blond across the aisle. Some years ago when Bruce was visiting Saint James and his friend Bill McDaniel, they were at worship when Bill said, “Hey, what about the blond across the aisle?” Eventually Bruce and Rosalyn, the blond, married and began life on James Island and at Saint James. Now isn’t that just how God works? God uses love of all sorts to get His work accomplished.
As Bruce had been a lifelong Anglican and had served and even been part of planting a church in Canada, God and we, of Saint James quickly recognized that here was a leader for “such a time as this.” Bruce was chosen for fulfill an unexpired vestry term and then reelected, therefore serving five years as our Rector’s Warden on the Vestry.
During his tenure Bruce has left not only his mark, but he has left God’s mark.
Bruce has continually told me how he doesn’t like the finances, math and budgets of the business side of church ministry. Yet, it was Bruce who recognized the possibility and importance of our using endowed funds to payoff the mortgage on the Ministry Center, making Saint James, not only debt free, but positioned for ministry. That not only made it possible for us to balance the budget, but gave us all the incentive to do so. Bruce also reorganized the Vestry, creating a Finance Team which worked with the Endowment Committee to make decisions and recommendations for the Vestry’s approval, thus freeing the Vestry to be a more vision oriented, ministry minded group. For someone that doesn’t like finances and budgets, that’s leadership.
Bruce continues to leave God’s mark on our Diocese. Bruce currently serves on the Diocesan Council, basically the vestry of the Diocese. Last year he was elected to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese. This Court is formed to be the judges and jury of any charges which may be brought against the clergy. Thankfully there have been none recently. Bruce has also just been selected by our Bishop to serve on a Diocesan Communications Team who will help us respond to all the news articles and spin currently in the local and national media and international blogosphere. Again, Bruce left God’s mark, a man for such a time as this.
There is much more to say to bless and embarrass my friend Bruce, but I must have a personal note here. It was Bruce, along with the Vestry and thirteen sacrificial and generous givers who have made my sabbatical possible. Bruce along with our People’s Warden Virginia (another blessing) who asked a few folks to contribute to the sabbatical fund in order that the expense not use the precious resources we have for ministry. I am going to Israel for two months for education and renewal that I pray will bless us all. Bruce is still leaving God’s mark. Bruce continues to be a valued friend with that curious and sarcastic wit of his. I love him.
Lastly and most importantly, Bruce takes seriously James’ admonition (the brother of Jesus), “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them… And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well…” (James 5:13) Many times Bruce has called on me to join him, to go pray for someone who is sick. The results have been miraculous, even to the point of one our members who was certainly close to death. Bruce continues to leave God’s mark. Thanks be to God.
Arthur
1 John 4:19

Rector’s Annual Report Annual Meeting for Ministry, 2013

Posted by ajenkins on under Anglican Events, Faith At Home, Just A Thought, Regeneration, Sabbatical, The Parish, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

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

TO BE AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST
by
LOVING GOD.     LOVING PEOPLE.     BUILDING COMMUNITY.

THANKSGIVING

We continue to be a congregation of Thanksgiving. I know you have heard my refrain, “Let your thanksgivings overwhelm your complaints.” As there is always something about which to complain; by faith, there is also always something for which to give Thanks. Remember, we call the prayer of consecration at the Holy Communion, “The Great Thanksgiving.” I pray that you have been blessed and awed by the thanksgivings offered. For me these thanksgivings are humbling and encouraging. The testimonies to God’s goodness and action in our lives are to many to mention. We have joined the thanksgivings of our brothers and sisters-in-Christ for everything from birthdays to the birth of a child or a grandchild to the answer of prayer for healing from cancer, resurrection of a marriage and new faith and life. Yes, people have come to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Yes, I start this report with thanksgivings because expressing our thanks and recognition to God is changing who we are and our life together.

SHARE OUR SACRIFICE

Our stewardship, our Christian giving during 2012 was marked by the Share Our Sacrifice request. It reminded us of the power of Biblical solutions over financial solutions. It reminded us that as the Body of Christ we look for family solutions and not business solutions. It reminded us that as the Body of Christ we are an organism and not just an organization. Several of you have asked me why we didn’t continue that request this year. My answer continues to be two-fold. First, we did continue it. I asked you to simply add your increased sacrifice to your tithe. That’s what Kay and I did. The second part of the answer is that your Staff doesn’t have anything more with which to sacrifice. We sacrificed to  make a point, that is, if we all share in the giving there is very little sacrifice in it. Have you experienced the joy and peace of tithing, of giving intentionally to God and this ministry we share? Try it.

PREPARATION FOR A NEW ASSISTANT RECTOR – WE’VE DONE IT!

We’ve done it and I am so proud of you all. We have prayerfully and I think, faithfully called a new assistant pastor. The Rev’d Andrew Williams and his wife, the Rev’d Jill Williams and their two sons, Jude and Joshua will join us this Summer. Andrew will join us for his first Sunday on June 9th, the same Sunday our Bishop, Mark, will be with us. Jill may need to stay in Massachusetts for a time to sell their home and finish up some of her own ministry within the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Andrew will bring a new energy and perspective to our clergy staff. Andrew thinks about car seats and soccer matches, while I think about reading and naps.
This new method of ministry transitions has been blessed and encouraged by our Bishop. In the past it was traditional and understood that no assistant could or would move into the leadership role upon the senior pastor’s retirement. This made for transitions that always depended on bringing someone from outside the parish family, outside the ministry organization to become the new spiritual leader. While this was done carefully, prayerfully and with a discerning search committee, it still was often marked by great change by not fully knowing what you were going to get. By growing up the pastoral leadership from within our ministry and life together will not miss a beat. But that is why we are bringing Andrew into our clergy staff now instead of 7 years from now. With God’s help and your understanding this next seven years will be a fruitful season of life and ministry at Saint James.

LOUISE WELD

As we prepare joyfully to welcome Andrew to our church I want to be very clear about my plans and prayers for the ministry I share with Louise Weld. I want you to keep her. I want you to give of your tithes and offerings that we might be able to keep Louise on our staff for as long as she can and will serve. Yes, I want us to allow Louise to have a more part-time ministry as she wishes at the same time recognizing that we need her. Louise and her ministry is impacting us at Saint James and also our Diocese. She is about to play a major role in the understanding of women’s ministry and ordination as we reorganize our diocese. She is a symbol of the fullness of ministry that is to be shared by men and women, husbands and wives and parents. I fully believe that Louise and I, clerics male and female, perfect and imperfect, represent a small part of how the Kingdom of God, the Jesus Culture and the Body of Christ works. That representation is important for our Diocese at this critical time.

FAITH AT HOME

Building Faith by building families of faith continues to be the vision and goal of our staff and myself. I recognize this contradicts many of the teaching, standards and expectations of our society and even many of the practices of the church in the past. Just one of the lies that continues to be propagated by society is that you, the parents, have very little influence over your children. This is such a sad lie and completely opposite of Biblical truth and God’s created order. God has given parents power and authority over their children’s hearts. And, as we often say by quoting Dr. Rob Rienow, “IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.”
We are starting to see some of the fruit of this dramatic shift in how we teach and make disciples and how we structure our ministry. I want you to know that many parishes in the Diocese are copying Saint James. Our invitation for fathers to pray over their children at baptism, confirmation, graduation and more is being used across the diocese and more. The Rev’d Mark Holmen, of Faith At Home Ministries is sharing this idea and more across the country. To God be the Glory & Honor.

ANGLICAN EVENTS

Last year I told you that “we have been living as a step-child within The Episcopal Church (TEC) for the last eight years.” Well, now that has ended. To quote our Bishop, The Right Reverend Mark Lawrence, “we have moved on.” During this past year charges of abandonment of communion and judgments of inhibition and deposition were brought against our Bishop. Knowing that if our Bishop were removed we would not be allowed to chose another, our Diocese left TEC. I have been asked by many times, “where are we going?” My answer has been and continues to be, “No where.” We are not realigning with any Anglican entity at this time. We will simply remain the Diocese of South Carolina. Remember, we were a Diocese before there was a TEC and we are one of several dioceses who formed TEC. Obviously and sadly this will all decided in court. Again, I remind you that your leadership, the Vestry and many parish elders have made wise, faithful and effective preparations for whatever may come.
Meanwhile, we continue to keep the main thing, the main thing. That is the worship and ministry of our Living Lord, Jesus Christ. For me, that is most clearly expressed in the Apostle John’s words in his first letter. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also my have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.    1 John 1:3

THE DIOCESE AND THE STANDING COMMITTEE

The next several years will be significant and historic for our Diocese. Because we are now an Anglican Diocese, no longer restricted by TEC traditions or canons, we can and will reorganize ourselves and reclaim some of the Biblical ground that has been lost. Just one small but profound example of that is membership. Canonically speaking, TEC has defined a member for the last many years as “one who attends church and receives communion at least three times a year.” Doesn’t that seem like a pretty meager definition of membership? I have been blessed and challenged to be elected to the Standing Committee of the Diocese for the next three years. As a member of the Standing Committee I will be on the forefront of our reorganization and identity as a Biblically based church and a member of the Anglican Communion.

SABBATICAL

I can hardly believe that my sabbatical is almost here. I must bear witness to you of God’s grace and provision in this. The timing is certainly providential. Yes, I admit I have wanted, even needed a sabbatical for many years. Please remember, a sabbatical is more than a rest or a vacation. It is more importantly a time of renewal, education, reflection and ministry direction. I can’t imagine a better time than this as we all plan for the future and I as I consider the direction and importance of my waning years of ministry with you. The place is also providential. Obviously I had considered possibilities and places for a sabbatical for years. Thoughts, daydreams, listening to other pastors who had traveled here and there and focused on many differing areas of study and ministry. And then, as this sabbatical became a real possibility the door just opened to Jerusalem, Israel and the Holy Land. Two courses of study at St. George’s College and then a month with a Rabbi living with him in his flat (that’s what they call an apartment). I will literally be able to cross that line from being a tourist to be a resident of Jerusalem, even though just for a short time. I will be able to leave the tours and structured itineraries and go to some of the Holy Places and just be. One of the several things the Lord has put on my heart is to go the the Mount of Olives, take with me the list of members of Saint James and pray for you each by name. I can’t wait to name you, your family, your children before the Lord in that place where our Lord prayed, “Make them one as we are one.” John 17:22. Also, the finances have been providential. Last year, Bruce and Virginia, our Wardens, sent out a request to some of the members of Saint James and they graciously funded my sabbatical. I am so grateful and humbled by their generosity. Also, I am blessed that this didn’t take away from the ministry budget and resources we so carefully steward at Saint James.
My greatest prayer for my sabbatical is that it will not be all mine. My prayer is that this will be a time of ministry review, renewal and reflection that will bless, encourage and guide us all. I can’t wait to  return with stories, revelations and places to share.

Lastly – FIFTEEN years  (I write this every year to remind us both)

I am coming to the end of my fifteenth year with you as your Rector and Pastor. I remind us both of this because being a long-term pastor is so important to me. I believe when God calls pastors to the ministry He calls us to the same commitment as when married. God calls us to monogamy. When Kay and I talked and prayed about returning to Saint James in 1998 we both knew that this was not a stepping stone, but God’s invitation to be part of Saint James either until I retired or was told to leave. For me, what we do and share together will be my life “well spent.” That is a blessing to me as I pray it is to you.

Arthur
Ephesians 3:14-21
Prayer BCP, pg. 562 & 563, bottom of the page

Why I’m Going To Tel Aviv

Posted by ajenkins on February 19, 2013 under Good News, Just A Thought, Sabbatical, Sermons and More | Be the First to Comment

“Why Tel Aviv?” To understand the answer to this question and the importance of this city for the Kingdom of God one must look at its past, present, and future.

Tel Aviv-Yafo is a city composed of both the ancient and the modern. Yafo (Jaffa, Joppa), the southern part of our city, is almost 4,000 years old and was, for centuries, the main port city on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tradition tells us that one of Noah’s three sons, Yefet (Japheth), founded the city of Yafo.  Later, the famed cedars of Lebanon were shipped through the city on the way to Jerusalem in order to construct the doors of the Second Temple (Ezra 3:7). This port city was seen as such a strategic location, the gateway to Jerusalem and to the east, that it was conquered multiple times throughout history by various empires: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Turkish, and even by Napoleon. In addition to its economic significance, Yafo frequently served as a military beachhead, the land that is captured first to take the rest of the territory.

Yafo also has a great biblical significance, as a gateway for messengers of God’s love and redemption. The Prophet Jonah was called by God to go from Yafo and bring His mercy to the Assyrian people of Nineveh (in modern Iraq). This is the example in the Bible that shows God’s love for people who are not Jewish. Similarly, in the book of Acts, Simon Peter, after raising Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead in Yafo, sees a vision to take the Gospel to the gentiles for the first time. Almost immediately, he is led to Caesarea and preaches the good news to Cornelius and his men (Acts 9-10).

Tel Aviv, Israel’s modern and secular city, was founded in 1909 on the sand dunes north of Yafo. By the 1930’s the city had become another Mediterranean metropolis, designated “The White City” for its sandstone facades and Bauhaus architecture. In 1948, Israel declared its independence in Tel Aviv and supplied food and ammunition to Jerusalem in the War of Independence. It is currently Israel’s center for commerce and trade, high tech, and the military; but is widely known for its avid nightlife, white beaches, sports, and café culture. With an inner city population of 400,000 and a greater area population of 3.3 million, the Tel Aviv region contains more Jews per capita than any place on earth.

And yet with its biblical past and its abundance of modern life, most of Tel Aviv remains in darkness, spiritually dead. Though Jewish by blood and culture, the majority of people has little faith in God and has turned to the occult for guidance and spiritual food. In the book of Joshua, the area of Tel Aviv was allotted to the tribe of Dan.  Sadly, they later gave up their inheritance to the Philistines, moved north, and turned to idolatry. This idolatrous spirit continues to pervade the modern city with its large homosexual population and rampant materialism. While the number of Messianic Jews is increasing, only 0.2% of the Jewish population of Israel believes that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.

Our hope is in the Lord and He is preparing the harvest. Tel Aviv-Yafo is still a spiritual gateway; as God sent the Gospel from this city we pray that it will return here and form a spiritual beachhead for His Kingdom to take the rest of the country. In Psalm 87: it says, “the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob,” and Tel Aviv-Yafo is one of these gates. May the Lord open up these ancient doors and transform our city to truly become His “White City;” the gateway to Jerusalem.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.” Psalm 24:9

A GOOD FRIDAY DEVOTIONAL

Posted by ajenkins on February 5, 2013 under Devotionals, Jesus, Just A Thought, Repentance, The Parish | Be the First to Comment

I WILL GIVE YOU A NEW HEART
Protection. Sometimes it seems as if all of life is about protection. Finding safety in the midst of danger. How can I protect myself from all the violence I see in the world today. In the world? Hah! How about protection from the violence and murder in our cinemas and even in our schools. There seems to be a new incident of senseless revenge-filled murder every day. While this is horrible and frightening, this violence seems to pale in comparison to the danger we experience daily through the judgment, the hurtful words of others. How can I protect myself from the hurts of others? Either I have to face them or ignore them. Facing them is too frightening, too dangerous. I’ll just ignore them. That’s it. I’ll just harden my heart towards them.
God recognized the hardness of heart of His people. He recognized that their only means of protection, of coping was to harden their hearts and to become desensitized to the horrors and dangers that surrounded them and even that which was in their own hearts. He spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel and gave them a great promise.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you…”        Ezekiel 36:26
Good Friday represents so many things to me. It reminds me of our Lord’s taking my place in the punishment I deserve. It reminds me of the price that must be paid for restoration – restoration to God, my Creator; restoration to those whom I love and have hurt; restoration to those for whom I don’t care; restoration to myself, my conscience, my life. Good Friday represents so much honesty.
Most personally and regularly, Good Friday breaks my heart. Jesus enduring the Cross for me breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to heal my heart. No matter how much I know or how hard I try, I still harden my heart as a means of coping with the hurts from others. I too easily demonize and diminish the people who hurt me. I think, “They don’t matter.” or, “If they only knew what I know.” It is in the moment of Christ’s dying proclamation, “Forgive them, they know not what they do” that His compassion and love for people convicts, breaks and restores my stony heart. Jesus gives me a new heart. A heart for people. A heart for life. A heart for Him.

THE SEASON OF LENT

Posted by ajenkins on January 30, 2013 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

SET APART FOR GOD’S WORK IN YOU

This coming Wednesday, February 13 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This invitation in worship on that day is a keystone of this season of preparation for Easter.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,

to the observance of a holy Lent,

by self-examination and repentance;

by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;

and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

-Book of Common Prayer, p.265

This invitation is the doorway into Lent. Upon first hearing this invitation it is easy to think, “Well Lent is here again and these are the things I am supposed to do to get through Lent.” But what if it is not just about getting through Lent? Maybe the real question is, “How will Lent get through to me?”
We often think of Lent as a penitential season and it is. But far too often “penitential” is misunderstood and Lent often becomes nothing more than a season of blame, guilt, regret, and disappointment. That is not what Lent is about. In fact, the very first sentence of worship for Ash Wednesday says, “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made….” If that is God’s attitude then it should also be ours. We fully believe
“What God creates, God loves; and what God loves, God loves everlastingly.”         St. Iraneaus
We need to hear these words deep in our souls. We need to hear these words as applicable to us, to those we love, to our friends and families, to those we do not like, and to those we do not even know or want to know.
The Lenten invitation is an invitation to the interior life, a call to discover and live into our true identity, our identity in God. Who we are in God is who we are. And who we are in God is a beloved son or daughter. We are no longer dependent on the culture to tell us who we are, nor are we controlled by our own estimation of our identity.
Lent invites us to self-reflection in order to consider the ways in which we have allowed our fears, attitudes, behaviors, our accomplishments, successes and failures, as well as the opinions of others to tell us who we are, to separate us from God, ourselves, and each other. Lent invites us to repent of, fast from, and let go of those false identities and recover our true identity as God’s holy people made in the image and likeness of God.
Just as I have continually prayed for you to have an overwhelming Epiphany. I now pray for you to be so filled and encouraged by the Holy Spirit of God that the Presence of Christ will drive away and heal every scab of our broken and fallen culture. Then our shared season of Lent will be one of DISCOVERY for you.
OUR PRAYER FILLED SEARCH FOR AN ASSISTANT PASTOR
Our Search Committee is fully formed and at work and at prayer. By Divine Appointment (that is without advertising) we have five candidates. These men are all pastors who are an encouragement as to the future and power of the Church. We have already interviewed one candidate and I must say that our Search Committee did a fine job. In a Godly search process the action of discernment goes both ways. Just as we are praying to discern whom God wants us to call, the candidate also has to discern if God is drawing them to us and our shared ministry. Candidates are an active part of the interview process. They ask questions. I couldn’t have been more proud and more blessed than to hear our Committee’s answers of faith, prayer and love of our Lord and Saint James. We are in good hands. I have given the Search Committee only one qualification to look for. “Find someone with whom you can fall in love, because they love Jesus.”
IT’S A SABBATICAL
The plans are fully formed now for the educational portion of my sabbatical to begin July 21st through September 21st. I begin at St. George’s College, Jerusalem with a course entitled The Palestine of Jesus. Following that two week course I will live with Rabbi Natan Ophir, a professor at Hebrew University for a month during which time I will study and also travel, I pray, to Sinai and St. Catherine’s Monastery. During my last two weeks I will return to St. George’s for a course entitled, The Children of Abraham. I am eager to go and eager to return with all that I know our Lord will have me share with you.

Arthur

A Word for Lent from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala

Posted by ajenkins on February 22, 2012 under Anglican Events, Devotionals, Jesus, Judgment, Reformation, Repentance | 2 Comments to Read

From Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith!
The disciplines of Lent, which begin on Ash Wednesday, are not intended to be burdensome, but to open our lives more fully to the transforming power of the gospel. Our mission as the Anglican Church of Kenya is simple, yet powerful: it is ‘to equip God’s people to transform society with the gospel’. This is an holistic transformation much deeper and more lasting than any government or international agency can bring because it addresses our deepest need, that of a restored relationship with the God in whose image we are made and whose workmanship we are.
The glorious truth of the gospel is that we are justified freely by God’s grace alone, but far from making us complacent about doing good, the abundant grace and full forgiveness we have through the blood of Christ should be a great spur to Christ-like living, to walking in those good works ‘which God prepared beforehand’.
Imagine the transformation if our nation heeded this call. As we prepare for general elections which will test the cohesiveness of our civil society, Christians need to model what it means to live in peace, practicing tolerance and forgiveness, with a new sense of urgency. Moreover, the foundation of our civic life is the family so it is vital that the love of Christ deeply infuses family relationships and that the shameful violence being reported in the media, not only of husbands towards wives but now even of wives towards husbands, is replaced by the kindness and gentleness of Christ.
Our Christian faith can also have an impact on the scourge of unemployment; although the immediate causes often lie with economic forces beyond our control, the Christian values of hard work, thrift, enterprise and honesty have the capacity to bring long term prosperity.
These things are not easy. They call for the spiritual depth which comes from a real and growing awareness of Christ’s presence in our personal lives. Otherwise, the good works God calls us to do will simply feel like burdens and we will not sustain them under pressure. During this Lenten season, whatever particular disciplines we adopt, our first aim should be to draw near to God in prayer and through his Word, beseeching him to make in us new and contrite hearts, hearts that will desire the things of his heart.
Without this joyful discipline, we will be vulnerable to taking short cuts that lead us away from the truth of the gospel. Some church leaders seem to think that the transformation of society will simply come through commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and at home in Kenya, the Vision 2030 initiative and the new constitution. While it is obvious that such good things as feeding the hungry, fighting disease, improving education and national prosperity are to be desired by all, by themselves any human dream can become a substitute gospel which renders repentance and the cross of Christ irrelevant.
Moreover, we need to be discerning about the values behind these visions. For instance the Millennium Development Goals have grown out of a secularised Western culture which is pushing Christianity to the margins and uses the language of human rights and equality to promote irresponsibility in social life and diminish personal responsibility.
So this Lent, let us seek to experience a renewed walk with Christ in those good works that God has prepared. The good news of the gospel is that transformation begins with ordinary men, women and children, however sinful or insignificant we may feel. It is not a responsibility we can leave to governments and agencies, but a challenge to fulfil the purposes of Almighty God in our place for our time.
May the Lord establish your hearts in every good work as you trust in Him
Amen
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya

Christmas: An Inconvenient Truth

Posted by ajenkins on November 20, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

In 2008 former Vice President Al Gore grabbed the headlines as the narrator of a film about the environment and global warming entitled An Inconvenient Truth. This short word from me is not about this film or even global warming. The “inconvenient truth” about which I wish to write is the inconvenient truth proclaimed by the truth of Christmas.

Christmas is not a shopping season. It is not a family get together to eat season. It is not even just a season to share and give charitably. Christmas is the celebration of the birth, the incarnation of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. I know that doesn’t surprise any of you, especially as I write this in a church newsletter. I am sad that it may surprise you when I tell you in all seriousness that the birth of Christ has become an inconvenient truth.

The premise of Al Gore’s movie is that we Americans see any sacrifice, no matter how slight, which might care for our environment as inconvenient. It would be inconvenient to our lifestyle, to our comfort, to our plans, to our striving for the American Dream. This is also, exactly what has happened with Christmas, the Birth of Christ and the Gospel. Scripture is filled with what have become seen as inconvenient truths because these truths may be detrimental to our lifestyle, our comfort, our plans, our striving for the American Dream.

When a society prospers and enjoys great security it is inevitable that false ideas about life, death, truth and God will flourish with little resistance. Conversely when tragedy strikes those same people no longer want what once ticked their ears, but they want answers and truth.

Sadly this is true for the visible church (meaning, the institution). As American Christians continue to gluttonously indulge themselves on the riches and excesses of life that the West has to offer, they tolerate and even welcome all sorts of twisted ideas about life, death, truth and God.
Some segments of the Church will tell you that God wants you to be rich and healthy and that if you’re not, you must be lacking faith. Another segment of the Church will tell you that no one can know anything for sure (emerging church and nature worshippers). And yet another segment will sacrifice any inconvenient truths of Scripture for popularity and the ever increasing appeal to entertain their members and the desires of society.

However, when your child is diagnosed with leukemia, when your spouse is killed by a drunk driver, when a global famine strikes or the stock market crashes or even when you finally recognize your own weaknesses and limitations, will the hard sayings (John 6:59-60) of Jesus Christ still seem inconvenient?

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”
“If anyone would come follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.”
“If anyone says he has no sin, he deceives himself and the truth is not in him.”

These and more inconvenient truths are embodied and proclaimed by the Angels at the celebration of the Birth of Christ. “For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” It has become an inconvenient truth for many and for much of the Church that we are in need of a Savior. That we are sinners in need of forgiveness and restoration to our Creator.

This year at Saint James, as in every year, we will celebrate the inconvenient truth that we are in need of a Savior. That “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” I pray you will join us.

Arthur

SHRINKING JESUS and BETRAYING THE FAITH

Posted by ajenkins on November 13, 2011 under Anglican Events, Jesus | Be the First to Comment

The following article was submitted by the Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, XII Bishop of South Carolina, Retired

What caused the crisis now being faced not only by the Diocese of South Carolina but by the entire western Christian Church? It’s more than an issue of sexuality. It’s one of pandering to the secular culture, of shrinking Jesus and betraying the faith.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan are two remarkably popular theologians who teach a version of Christianity that reduces the Christian faith to contemporary secular assumptions. For Crossan, Jesus was an illiterate Jewish cynic. No Incarnation no Resurrection. The Easter story is “fictional mythology” (p. 161, Jesus a Revolutionary Biography). Borg claims that Jesus was only divine in the sense that Martin Luther King and Gandhi were divine.  Borg dismisses the creeds (p.10, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) Jesus was a “spirit person,” “a mediator of the sacred,” “a shaman,” one of those persons like Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, et al. (p. 32)

Recently Borg and Crossan have collaborated on a book, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem.  Their Jesus is a semi-revolutionary leader of peasants and outcasts against the priestly elite and those who accommodate to the dominant system of Roman coercive authority. It was not our sinful condition that demanded his crucifixion but this elite.  Borg and Crossan’s Jesus does not come from God to take away sin but arose from among the innocent to teach us how not to be a part of the dominant systems. They fail to understand the depth of sin in all of us at all times, including peasants, as well as the elite. More importantly they lose the assurance of ultimate mercy and forgiveness.

Speaking of elites these two “scholarly authorities” purport to tell us, “What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus.” They pander to an increasingly secular culture and to the human itch to find some undemanding simplicity that now finally explains everything.  And they do this while ignoring, and without reference to, the multitude of superior contemporary scholars such as Richard Bauckham, Raymond Brown, Luke Timothy Johnson, N. T. Wright, Richard Hays, Leander Keck, Christopher Bryan, and scores of others whose works reflect the faith of scripture and the creeds.
In addition to the academic arrogance of claiming that everyone has been wrong about Jesus until now, Marcus Borg, who is a member of the Episcopal Church, denies, in his writings, the creeds and doctrine he affirmed at his confirmation and in his present worship.  It is the same moral issue as that of Bishop Jack Spong who was asked by one of his clergy, “How can you, as a bishop, ask those you ordain to swear to doctrine that you expressly and personally deny?” Crossan, on the other hand, showed some moral integrity when he resigned his Roman Catholic orders.  These are not times when people readily think in terms of doctrine or of honor.

Christian faith, but not secular faith, now effectively banned from schools, colleges, and universities, has been relegated to the private and subjective arena.  The result is the growing popularity of any who eliminate from Christian faith all that secular trust finds incompatible: miracles, the radical nature of sin and the consequent radical nature of grace, transcendence, holiness, and our human desperate need for God’s initiative action in Jesus.
The consequence of this secular replacement of Christianity over the years is that otherwise educated people can be bereft of any substantial grasp of scripture. One glaring example is Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori who tells us that Marcus Borg “opened the Bible to me.” (Acknowledgements A Wing and a Prayer). The Christian creed’s affirmation, to which she has repeatedly sworn, (but Borg negates) is that Jesus Christ is:
“the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made . . .”

Borg has not opened the scripture for Bishop Jefferts Schori but closed its revelation of Jesus’ divinity. One must ask how such apostasy has come about in the Episcopal Church.  One answer is given by the new bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas.  He accurately claims,” The Episcopal Church does not readily think in terms of doctrine.” As one thinks carefully about this statement the spiritual pathology of TEC becomes apparent.?

Doctrine is “that which is taught, what is held, put forth as true” (Webster). Doctrine is a synonym for teaching.  When we “do not readily think in terms of doctrine” we are unaware and ignorant of Christian teaching. This is true of both “liberals” and “conservatives.” We were warned in scripture about losing our grasp on doctrine and the danger of false doctrine;  (“. . . so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by cunning men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” Eph. 4:14  (see also Titus 2:;7, I Tim. 1:3, and 4:16, II John 10,  II Tim. 3:16, 4:2)

Bishop Douglas’s statement, however, is only true of Christian doctrine.  The Episcopal Church does indeed think in terms of doctrine: doctrines of litigation, abortion, divorce, sexual behavior outside of marriage and all kinds of current politically correct doctrines, as well as teachings that Jesus is reduced from the Son of God to a “subversive sage.” (p. 119, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church personifies this sad reduction, this shrunken Jesus, this betrayal of Christian faith. Her claim that “salvation is attained by many ways – Jesus Christ is a way, and God has many other ways as well. . .”(italics provided) (Interview, Time Magazine, July 10, 2006) is a violation of her ordination and consecration vows regarding the church’s creed (p. 519, Book of Common Prayer, , 1979). It is also sadly bereft of the Good News that salvation is never attained but freely given to those who believe. As to her belief in eternal life, she is unsure it exists and she contends that Jesus was more concerned with heavenly existence in this life. (Arkansas Democratic Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007)

This sad result reduces Christian faith to the secular assumptions of this age while this age is in desperate need of the very faith that has made it great. Dean William Inge’s famous warning has never been more apt than today: “The Church that marries the spirit of the age will find herself a widow in the next.”  We thank God that the leadership of this diocese not only thinks in terms of Christian doctrine but is courageously committed to the sworn faith of scripture and creeds.
When Episcopalians do not think in terms of Christian doctrine they consciously and unconsciously conform to speculations of the current age.  When the creedal and biblical affirmations of Jesus’ full humanity and divinity are given up we lose the promised assurance of God’s mercy.  The sad secular substitute for divine mercy is a culture destroying permissiveness, lowered standards of morality in society, and diminishing honor in human character.  Permissiveness is no substitute for mercy.
Let’s be clear – the doctrine of Borg, Crossan, and Jefferts Schori makes nonsense of the Eucharist:

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all. He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world. (p.362 Book of Common Prayer 1979)
The doctrine of “mere man” (like Martin Luther King and Gandhi) is indeed a widespread heresy in modern times but finds no reflection in any of the major heresies.  It was so rare that only a specialist is apt to know its name: psilantropism.  One of the outstanding contemporary scholars, Timothy George, has this to say about heresy:

Heresy is a deliberate perversion, a choice (hairesis in Greek), to break with the primary pattern of Christian truth and to promulgate a doctrine that undermines the gospel and destroys the unity of the Christian Church.  A Church that cannot distinguish heresy from truth, or, even worse, a Church that no longer thinks this is worth doing, is a Church which has lost its right to bear witness to the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ who declared himself to be not only the Way and the Life, but also the Truth.

Rest assured the Bishop and Diocese of South Carolina, in the face of heretical assault on the Church will be faithful to the “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.” The challenge for us at this time is the opportunity to recover the neglected duty of “thinking in terms of doctrine” and to show the cruelty of heresy and declare the Gospel good news of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.

Opening Closed Doors

Posted by ajenkins on April 21, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

From the Bishop of South Carolina, The Rt. Rev’d Mark  Lawrence

Dear Friends in Christ,

When Marjorie Goff closed the door of her apartment in 1949 she was 39 years old.  For her the door stayed shut for the next 30 years.  To be accurate there were a few exceptions.  She went out in 1960 to visit her family, two years later for an operation, and once in 1976 because a friend came to her apartment to take her out for some ice cream.

Marjorie suffered from that metaphor of the human condition known as a phobia.  The list of recognized human phobias is legion.  There’s agoraphobia, aerophobia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, pyrophobia, thanatophobia—just to name a few.  Robert L. DuPont a past director of the Washington Center of Behavioral Medicine called phobias, “The malignant diseases of the ‘what ifs.’”

“What ifs” add up to fears, and fears are right smack dab in the middle of the Easter story.  Matthew’s gospel tells of the chief priests’ and the Pharisees’ fear of a hoax by the disciples.  So they pressured Pilate to send a guard of soldiers to secure the world against a scheme (Matthew 27:62-66).  I’m reminded of Houdini, that renowned magician of another era, who told his wife as he was dying that he would find a way back.  His widow waited, but he never came.  You can secure the world against a scheme or even a magician, but you can’t secure it against a miracle.  Mary Magdalene however didn’t know this, so she was fearful for quite other reasons than  the priests and Pharisees.  When she returned a second time on Easter morning to the empty tomb and to face a fearful future without even the dead body of Jesus to console her, the “what ifs” got the better of her.  The Gospel of John recounts how she mistook the risen Jesus for the gardener.  “Sir,” she queried, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him…”  Our fears and “what ifs” as did hers may well hide from us the presence of the risen Christ.  No wonder in the Easter narratives the attending angels and the risen Jesus tell the disciples “Do not be afraid.”  It is Christ’s victory on the cross and in the tomb over every mortal enemy of humankind that makes these words have substance and therein makes them liberating.

“Christ is risen—Jesus lives” that is the telling message of Easter:  even in the face of Death, Sin, Hell, Judgment, the Devil, and all the “what ifs” of fear— Jesus lives!  After all these enemies of mankind have done their worst, He still Lives—and He still delivers.  This is what gives truth to those wonderful words of Julian of Norwich, “All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  She too lived like Marjorie Goff in a room with a closed door.  She was an anchoress.  Her room was attached to a cathedral.  She had only two windows in this room.  One looked in towards the altar of the Norwich Cathedral.  The other looked out to the world.  Unlike Marjorie, however, it was not fear that kept Julian behind a closed door.  It was love—love for Christ and love for a needy world.  It was for this world that Jesus died, and for which He now lives to make intercession, and within His love and intercession she presented her intercessions and so can we.

C. S. Lewis once wrote of Christ’s resurrection:  “He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man.”  It is this opened door that made Julian of Norwich free, free enough to be joyous in a single room, two windows and a closed door so she could live devotedly with an open door of abiding prayer (Revelation 3:20).  It is the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection that when rightly heard and understood will open the doors and lives of those like Marjorie Goff who have lived in the fear of “what ifs.”  I encourage you to invite a friend or acquaintance to join you at church for the Easter Day Eucharist so they might hear this Good News and of the door that Christ has opened for you and keeps open for them as well.

Blessings in Christ our Savior and Lord,
+Mark Lawrence
South Carolina

The BackLash of Judgment

Posted by ajenkins on April 15, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Judgment, Just A Thought | Be the First to Comment

Matthew 7:1-6

It is ironic that no command becomes a greater focal point of division than Jesus’ great command to end it. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” is a lightning rod of controversy and a bludgeon used both by legalists and libertarians who justify their hate of others. The wicked boomerang, “Stop judging me!” is often just as sin filled as the straight-forward, “garden variety” “You’re damned to hell you wicked sinner!” Whether couched in false humility feigning victimization or launched from the stereotypical angry brow with outstretched finger, both judgments are equally evil.

This is why it is eternally important that we get Jesus’ words right. Here is a classic example of where a right or wrong understanding of Jesus’ teaching determines whether the “eye of body”  (Matthew 6:22) sees well or remains faulty. And our understanding of this truth will determine whether we will deny the faith and cling to unbelief under the Law, or whether we will embrace the righteousness in Jesus Christ that comes by faith.

So what exactly is Jesus saying?

Words are sometimes imperfect vehicles to convey the true meaning of things. Only in this case, it is our modern use of the word judge that causes confusion. When Jesus says, “Do not judge…” he is not saying “Do not compare truths and make distinctions” he is saying “Do not condemn.” This is a key distinction for us because humans make judgments about everything everyday. So what Jesus is saying is that we ought not to make a final decision about anyone and we should never give up on anyone when it comes to preaching the Gospel. For who are we to presume that God’s kindness will not lead the legalist, the homosexual, the false prophet, the glutton, the gossip or the atheist to repentance? Who are we to act as if we control the grace of God? We should not and we cannot presume these things if we would believe ourselves to be firmly kept in the faith. Now this does not mean we should not warn unbelievers about hell, but it does mean that there is a difference between saying “The Gospel says that your unrepentant sins will lead you to hell” and saying “You’re already hopelessly damned to hell on account of your unrepentant sins.”

If Paul’s former life, and what God rescued him out of, doesn’t humble us to hope that a better end awaits the hardest sinners we know, then we should suspect that we are these hardened sinners ourselves. We should suspect that we are the kind of people who somehow sees sawdust through two-by-fours.

By nature, we are a people who are in need of corrective vision. We need to have the eyes of our heart surgically repaired (or circumcised a better theologian would say!) in order to see clearly.  We need the kindness of the Spirit in our hearts in order to gently correct the error of others.

When we condemn other people, when we place them in our horrible stereotypes and use them to justify our stinginess and with holding of our love, we condemn ourselves by the same measure we use. Remember that every soul under the Law of God will perish by that Law. When we condemn by the Law, we live by the Law. And those who live under the Law are already spiritually dead and will be judged according to its perfect demands.