Task Force Report on Reimagining Church lacks Imagination

Trec log

 

 

 

by Ken Howard

I just finished reading over the TREC Letter to the Church (9/4/14) which contains the preliminary recommendations of the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC), which the panel will discuss formally at its TREC Churchwide Meeting on October 2 at the Washington National Cathedral.

I have to say that I was hoping for more imagination.

But my initial reaction is that, while there are some positive recommendations contained in the report, compared to its laudable goals, its results are disappointing.

The Task Force goals spoke of making The Episcopal Church’s churchwide structures more focused on enabling mission and ministry, and on making the church organization more innovative, flexible, and collaborative in the way it operates. Instead, the majority of its recommendations read as though its main objectives were to reduce costs and increase the power of the executive.

Early on, the letter speaks of a need to move from the old paradigm of bureaucracy and regulation to the new paradigm of networking, which would be all to the good if that were the current business paradigm. But the business world has moved beyond networking to a paradigm of lean and focused experimentation and extrapreneurialism (a kind of networked entrepreneurialism)..

The letter suggests four primary roles for churchwide structures: Catalyst, Connector, Capability Builder, and Convener. The Convener role seems appropriate, but the others seem somewhat problematic.  The Catalyst role seems out of place within a highly hierarchical organization like TEC, lacking the indendence to truly instigate and too engaged in heirarchy of power and control to speak truly prophetically, as truth to power. The Connector and Capability Building roles have merit, and could be made to work effectively, but only if exercised with a light hand and only if TEC would eliminate its largely dysfunctional, unproductive, and in some cases obstructive provincial structures.

Meanwhile, if one practical yet critical role that our Churchwide could play most effectively — that of Capacity Builder, leveraging our aggregate size to benefit local level dioceses and parishes by facilitating programs and services at a lower cost and denomination-specific customization — seems to have been entirely overlooked.

[Examples of where such negotiating leverage would pay off might include: (a) churchwide (or diocesan level) copyright permission costs or waivers for Church hymnals, (b) churchwide digital use agreements to use hymns to permit hymn use on iPads and other tablets, (c) churchwide reduced-price contracts with approved vendors for record keeping software, (d) churchwide reduced-price contracts with approved vendors for online giving, (e) churchwide reduced-price contracts with approved vendors for church website development, etc.]

Some of the document’s “critical path” recommendations are reasonable, or at least steps in the right direction. But some don’t go far enough, while others would seem to have to the opposite of the intended effect.  For example, the reduction of Excutive Council from 40 to 21 members is a start: it moves the body from being impossible to govern effectively to merely highly unlikely. Reducing the time allotted for General Convention without re-thinking the entire resolutions process seems likely to produce only frustration. Meanwhile, the out placing of mission and program oriented staff, while retaining only support staff, seems to have it backward. Financial, IT, Legal and Archive services are mission independent, while mission and program staffs are not.

Finally, it strikes me that the three recommended agenda items for future years amount to “kicking the can down the road.” Capacity-building around evangelism, community leadership, and non-traditional parish formation, exploring mixed models of clergy employment/leadership, exploring seminary education requirements and debt burden are issues we should be dealing with now. And on the later issue, we should be re-thinking the entire clergy formation process, from discernment to seminary to deployment.

If our church is to not just survive, but figure out how to thrive in a future yet to be fully discovered, it’s going to have to find a lot more imagination — and be a lot more daring — than this.

 

Sep 29 – Saint Michael & All Angels

Sep 29 - Saint Michael & All Angels

Saint Michael & All Angels
29 Sepember HS (Hebrew Scriptures)

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From the Satucket Lectionary

On the Feast of Michael and all Angels, popularly called Michaelmas, we give thanks for the many ways in which God‘s loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God’s creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligences other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them, and it is not clear how much of what we are told is figurative. Jesus speaks of them as rejoicing over penitent sinners (Lk 15:10). Elsewhere, in a statement that has been variously understood (Mt 18:10), He warns against misleading a child, because their angels behold the face of God. (Acts 12:15 may refer to a related idea.)

diptych of the Archangel MichaelIn the Hebrew Scriptures, it is occasionally reported that someone saw a man who spoke to him with authority, and who he then realized was no mere man, but a messenger of God. Thus we have a belief in super-human rational created beings, either resembling men in appearance or taking human appearance when they are to communicate with us. They are referred to as “messengers of God,” or simply as “messengers.” The word for a messenger in Hebrew is malach, in Greek, angelos, from which we get our word “angel” [Digression: angelion means “message, news” and euangelion means “good news = goodspell = gospel,” from which we get our word “evangelist” used to mean a preacher of the Good News of salvation, and, more narrowly, one of the four Gospel-writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.]

By the time of Christ, Jewish popular belief included many specifics about angels, with names for many of them. There were thought to be four archangels, named Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. An alternative tradition has seven archangels (see Tobit 12:15 and 1 Enoch 20). Sometimes each archangel is associated with one of the seven planets of the Ptolemaic system (the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). Michael is associated with Saturn and Uriel with the Sun. The other pairings I forget, but I believe that you will find a list in the long narrative poem called “The Golden Legend,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (I believe that a pairing is also offered in the opening chapters of the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, by Irenaeus of Lyons, but I have not the work at hand.)

St. Michael & Satan, after Raphael: from a 19thC BCPMichael (the name means “Who is like God?”) is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures in Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel); in Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses); and in Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon). He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

Gabriel (the name means “God is my champion”) is thought of as the special bearer of messages from God to men. He appears in Daniel 8:16; 9:21 as an explainer of some of Daniel’s visions. According to the first chapter of Luke, he announced the forthcoming births of John the Baptist and of our Lord to Zachariah and the Virgin Mary respectively.

Jacob wrestling with the Angel, by DoreRaphael (the name means “God heals”) is mentioned in the Apocrypha, in the book of Tobit, where, disguised as a man, he accompanies the young man Tobias on a quest, enables him to accomplish it, and gives him a remedy for the blindness of his aged father.

Uriel (the name means “God is my light” — compare with “Uriah”, which means “the LORD is my light”) is mentioned in 4 Esdras.

It is thought by many scholars that the seven lamps of Revelation 4:5 are an image suggested by (among many other things) the idea of seven archangels.

What is the value to us of remembering the Holy Angels? Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who have chosen to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall. The greater our natural gifts and talents, the greater the damage if we turn them to bad ends. The more we have been given, the more will be expected of us. And, in the picture of God sending His angels to help and defend us, we are reminded that apparently God, instead of doing good things directly, often prefers to do them through His willing servants, enabling those who have accepted His love to show their love for one another.


Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Angels

Angel at Notre Dame CathedralThe major post-New-Testament source for Christian ideas about angels is a writer (probably a fifth-century Syrian monk) who signed himself “Dionysius the Areopagite.” His writings were taken to be those of a convert of the Apostle Paul, mentioned in Acts 17:34. Accordingly, when he wrote on angels (or any other theological subject), he was assumed to know what he was talking about. His writings had a considerable influence on the portrayal of angels in art and in the popular imagination.
What are the Nine Choirs?

The Apostle Paul writes:

[Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father,] far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion,…. (Eph 1:21)

For by him [the Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. (Col 1:16)

I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels,nor principalities, nor powers… shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38f)

For we contend not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against evil spirits in the heights. (Eph 6:12)

…that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:10)

And you are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power (Col 2:10)

And having disarmed principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col 2:15)

Early commentators tended to take “principalities, powers” etc. as the names of various kinds of angelic beings. Since demons are considered to be fallen or rebellious angels, the quotations from Ephesians 6:12 and Colossians 2:15 are no problem.

Dionysius states that there are nine orders (or choirs) of angels, three triads of three each, in order from highest to lowest as shown in the following table.

The lowest order, called simply angels, are God’s messengers and envoys to (and guardians of) the human race. The highest order, the seraphim, devote themselves to contemplating God, beholding Him face to face, and loving and praising Him. Each order helps to reveal and declare God’s glory to the order below.

Pope Gregory I (see 12 March 604), in his Homilies on the Gospel, lists the same nine choirs, but with a different ranking. Dante (see 15 Sep 1321) in the Convivio gives still a third ranking, but affirms the ranking of Dionysius in the Comedy, canto 28 (I am borrowing heavily from the Sayers-Reynolds notes on this canto.) Aquinas discusses the matter in the Summa T., part I, Q 108.

Dionysius Gregory Convivio
Seraphim
Cherubim
Thrones
Seraphim
Cherubim
Thrones
Seraphim
Cherubim
Powers
Dominions
Virtues
Powers
Dominions
Principalities
Powers
Principalities
Virtues
Dominions
Principalities
Archangels
Angels
Virtues
Archangels
Angels
Thrones
Archangels
Angels

Note that the term “angels” can refer either to all nine orders, or only to the lowest order, just as the term “soldier” can refer to anyone in the army, or only to the enlisted men (as opposed to the officers). For a little more information, see the book The Discarded Image, by C S Lewis.

Some readers will be familiar with the hymn by J Athelstan Riley beginning:
Ye watchers and ye holy ones, C – C D E C | E F G – – –
Bright seraphs, cherubim and thrones. C – C D E C | E F G – – –
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia. c B A – G – | c B A – G –
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers, c – c G G F | E F G – – –
Virtues, archangels, angel choirs. c – c G G F | E F G – – –
Oh, praise Him! Oh, praise Him! F E D – C – | F E D – C –
Alleluia, Alleluia, c B A – G – | c B A – G –
Alleluia. F E D – – – | – – C – – –

You will note that this hymn lists the nine choirs, using the ranking of Gregory.


What is a seraph?

Seraphim are mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly throne-room (Is 6:1-7), where the LORD is seated between two seraphim. (In Hebrew, most masculine nouns form the plural by adding “-im”.) Each has six wings, and with two he covers his face, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies. Later writers identify these functions with poverty, chastity, and obedience. Poverty, in that he veils his face, a sign of humility. Chastity, in that he covers his feet, a standard Hebrew idiom (or euphemism) for the lower body, including the crotch. Obedience, in that he flies to carry out whatever commission he receives from God. The word “seraph” comes from a root meaning “to burn”, and the word is used in Nu 21:6,8; Dt 8:15; Is 14:29; 30:6; where it is translated “fiery serpent.” Probably the Hebrews pictured a seraph as a kind of fiery winged serpent or reptile.


What is a Cherub?

Cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Gen 3:24, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, and two cherubim are set at the gate to guard it, so that no one may enter. The Psalmist says of God:

He rode upon a cherub, and did fly;
he came flying on the wings of the wind. (18:10)

thou that dwellest between the cherubim (80:1)

he sitteth between the cherubim; let the earth quake (99:1)

From this we infer that they were pictured and thought of as winged creatures flanking or supporting the throne of God.

Ancient Middle Eastern art regularly shows the throne of a king or a god flanked by, or sometimes resting on, two creatures. Typically, each creature has the body of a lion or a bull (often the front quarters of a lion, with claws, and the hind quarters of a bull, with hooves, or vice versa), the head of a man, and the wings of an eagle. For a picture, see the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., article on “Calah,” vol 2, p 731. We see these creatures, not only flanking a throne, but also flanking the gate or doorway of a city or a temple. They appear to be standard figures, performing the function of honor guards or that of guard dogs.

In Ex 25f and 36f, the Israelites are to make a chest called the Ark of the Covenant, and place on the lid statues of two cherubim, with their wings arching over and meeting in the middle. Aside from the fact that they had wings, we are not told anything about their appearance. It was apparently taken for granted that the Israelites already knew what a cherub was supposed to look like. It is a reasonable guess that they looked like the guard figures already standard in Middle Eastern art, as noted above.

The Ark represented the presence of God, and presumably the Israelites thought of the cherubim as guarding or flanking or supporting an invisible throne. Thus, the Ark gave two complementary messages. On the one hand, it said, “The LORD cannot be represented by a picture or statue. He is spirit, He is invisible. He is transcendent. The whole universe cannot contain Him.” On the other hand, it said, “Here is the place where the LORD chooses to reveal Himself. This is the place toward which you are to direct your homage, this is the focus of your worship.”

The prophet Ezekiel records two visions (Ez 1 and 10) in which the LORD appears to him, enthroned above four figures identified as cherubs. Each is said to have four faces, one facing in each direction, the face of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle.


Cherubs, Griffins, and Grimm Shifts

This section is linguistic. Those who dislike being lectured about the history of words and the development of languages may skip it.

I begin by pointing out that the English sound “ch” as in “chair” is unknown in both Greek and Hebrew. Accordingly, names in the Bible containing a “ch” were originally pronounced with the sound of “ch” in the German name “Bach” (or “kh” in the Russian name “Khrushchev”), and will normally be pronounced in English with a simple “K” sound, as in Christ, orchestra, orchid, chorus, and so on. SOME words that have been thoroughly assimilated into English, such as “cherub” and “Rachel” (compare the pronunciation of “Raquel Welch,” which is much closer to the Hebrew), have the English “ch” as in “chair”, but please note that the Hebrew pronunciation of “cherub” is more like “kerub” or “kherub.” (Kh as in “Khrushchev”)

In Greek folklore, we have a figure known as a griffin, or gryphon. It is usually portrayed as having the head, chest, claws, and wings of an eagle, joined to the hindquarters of a lion. For a picture, see a copy of Alice in Wonderland, preferably one with the traditional illustrations by Tenniel. The root of the word is G-R-F. (The N is an English suffix not found in the Greek.) Similarly, the root of “cherub” is Kh-R-B. Now these are related roots, related by what is called the Grimm Shift, named for the brothers Grimm, who made a folklore collection known as the Grimm Fairy Tales, but who are also scholars dedicated to the history of languages and the rules that govern their development.

There are twelve sounds known as mutes. They can be placed in a three-dimensional array, 2 by 2 by 3. They are either voiced or unvoiced, either stops or fricatives, either front (labial), middle (dental) or back (palatal).

The fronts are p, b, ph(=f), and bh(=v). They are called labials because they are formed with the lips. P and B are stops, because the breath is stopped completely when they are said (the lips are pressed together). Ph and Bh are fricative, because the air passage is not closed completely, but narrowed so that the breath rubs along the passage (friction=rubbing) and makes a sound. B and Bh are voiced, because the larynx or voicebox vibrates when they are said. P and Ph are voiceless, because they are said with the lips and tongue in the same position as for B and Bh, but without the vibration of the voicebox.

In English, the fricatives Ph and Bh (or, as more commonly spelled, F and V) are really labio-dentals rather than pure labials, because the air escapes between the lower lip and the upper teeth. However, in other languages (Spanish, for example), the air is forced out between the lips. You place your lips as if to say P and then force the air out between them to get Ph–and similarly for Bh.

The middles are t, d, th, and dh. By Th we mean the initial sound of “thin,” and by Dh we mean the initial sound of “then.” These are called dentals because they are pronounced using the teeth. T and D are stops, while Th and Dh are fricatives. T and Th are voiceless, while D and Dh are voiced.

The back mutes, or palatals, are k, g, kh, and gh. The last two sounds, the back fricatives, are not standard in English. The Kh sound is found in the German name Bach, and in the “ch” sound in Scottish words, like “Loch Ness, Loch Lomond,” etc. The Gh is the voiced equivalent, and is found in Spanish in words like “cigarro,” and sometimes when an English-speaker says “cigar.” That is, the throat is not completely closed, but only narrowed, so that the G becomes a voiced fricative.

All twelve of the mutes occur in Biblical Hebrew, and they are represented by six letters: Beth and Pe, Gimel and Kaph, Daleth and Tau. Each of these is written with a dot (called a dagesh) in the interior when it represents a stop, and without the dot when it represents a fricative. However the reader should be warned of two things:

(1) Since the dots and the vowel markings are a later addition to the sacred text, scrolls of the books of the Bible for synagogue use are written without them, and the reader is expected to know the text well enough to manage anyway. Also, since the modern Israeli is expected to know modern Hebrew, and since points are a major nuisance for a typesetter, a book or newspaper written in modern Hebrew will probably be printed without them, unless it is for the instruction of children or beginning Hebrew students.

(2) Since until recently most modern Jews spoke either German or Yiddish (a form of German), modern Hebrew contains only those sounds which occur in German. This means that the fricatives th, dh, gh, are replaced by the corresponding stops t, d, and g. The distinction continues in writing (whenever the points are written) but not in the spoken language.

Now, as a language changes, a middle mute is often replaced by another middle mute, but almost never by a front or a back mute. If you are comparing words in (for example) Latin and English, you will see that a front mute in one word will usually match a front mute in the other. For example, the English word “father” comes from the same primitive root as the Latin “pater,” and we have the correspondence f=p (two labials) and th=t (two dentals). The English word “head” was “heved” in Old English, and it corresponds to the Latin “caput”. The English “h” is as close as we get to “kh”, and the Latin C is pronounced K, so that we have kh=k (back mutes or palatals), v=p (front mutes or labials), and d=t (middle mutes or dentals).

Now the Hebrew word “cherub” has the root Kh-R-B, and the Greek word “gryph” has the root G-R-Ph. We see that the G and Kh are both back mutes or palatals, the R is the same in both words, and the B and Ph are both front mutes or labials. Hence a Gryphon, such as you see in Alice in Wonderland and elsewhere has a history connecting both the form of the creature and its name with the Semitic Cherub.


Cherubs in Revelation

Ezekiel saw four winged creatures, each having the face of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. John, in the book of Revelation (4:6-8), saw four winged creatures before the throne, the first like a lion, the second like an ox, the third like a man, and the fourth like an eagle.

CherubimSome have supposed that these creatures (and also those in Ezekiel) represent attributes of God, such as power, love, justice, and wisdom. A more widespread view is that they represent the four Gospels. What I will call the Old Match associates each beast with the beginning of a Gospel. Matthew begins with the human genealogy of Jesus, and so is paired with the Man. Mark begins with John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, and so is paired with the Lion, a desert animal. Luke begins with Zecharias in the Temple, and so is paired with the Ox, a sacrificial beast. John begins with the Eternal Word, the Logos, in the heaven of God, and so is paired with the Eagle, which soars toward heaven. How old this pairing is, I do not know. It is found in the ornamented initials of Gospel books as early as 900, but I do not know how much earlier it can be traced. What I will call the New Match considers not the beginning of a Gospel, but its overall tone. Thus, Matthew presents Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Accordingly, Matthew is paired with the Lion. Mark represents Jesus as the diligent servant, always at work, always about his Father’s business, never pausing for a moment (Mark’s most characteristic word is “straightway” or “immediately”). Hence Mark is paired with the Ox. Luke shows the compassion, the tenderness, the humanity of Jesus (as in the Parable of the Lost Sheep or of the Prodigal Son). Thus Luke is paired with the Man. John presents Jesus as the Eternal Son of God. Hence John is paired with the Eagle. How old this pairing is, I do not know. I suspect that it is no older than 1500. It has the advantage that the order of the beasts as given by John is the same as the standard order of the Gospels.

If the four beasts represent the Four Gospels, it is tempting to ask whether other books of the Bible are represented. Paul wrote letters to seven churches (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonika). Perhaps the seven torches burning before the throne represent the Pauline Epistles. There are 24 elders sitting on thrones around the central throne of the Almighty. Perhaps they represent the Old People of God and the New, twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles. Again perhaps they represent the 24 courses of priests who served in the Temple under the Law of Moses. But perhaps they represent the books of the Old Testament. The modern Protestant canon has 39 books in the Old Testament, the same books that are recognized by the Jews. But they count them differently. The twelve minor prophets are written on a single scroll, and called the Book of the Twelve. This reduces the number by 11, from 39 down to 28. The books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah are counted as one book each rather than two, and that reduces the count to 24. Some Jewish writers leave it at that, while others reduce it to 22 by considering Ruth an appendix to Judges and Lamentations an appendix to Jeremiah. The advantage of 22 is that it is the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and this permits all sorts of speculations. However, 24 books is a perfectly well established Jewish count, and there is no reason why John might not have used 24 elders to stand for the 24 books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

At this point the reader may say, “But what about Acts? What about the four letters of Paul to individuals? What about the seven non-Pauline epistles (including Hebrews)? What about the Book of Revelation itself?” As for the book of Acts, I suspect that John simply thought of it as the second volume of the Gospel of Luke. As for the book of Revelation, I think some readers might find it confusing to have the book referring to itself as already written. As for the omitted epistles, I think one might make out a case for most of them as not yet written when John had his vision. The exception is the Epistle to Philemon, which shows every sign of having been written and sent with the Epistle to the Colossians. But then, John might for that very reason have treated it as an appendix to Colossians, a sort of enclosed note as it were. But all this is speculation. I am probably about to be inundated by letters from listmembers who will tell me that I have got it all wrong, and who will explain to me the correct interpretation of the Book of Revelation….

At any rate, we can be fairly sure that the imagery of the four beasts (or living creatures) in Revelation 4 is indebted to the imagery of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1 and 10, but beyond that, it is probably a mistake to expect agreement.

by James Kiefer

Sep 21 – Saint Matthew – Apostle + Evangelist

Illumination - Matthew

Saint Matthew
Apostle + Evangelist
21 September NT

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From the Satucket Lectionary

St. Matthew, after Rubens. From a 19thC illustrated Book of Common PrayerOne day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Him, and became one of His twelve apostles. (See M 9:9-13 = P 2:13-17 = L 5:27-32) Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes). Patriotic and nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government, the conquerors, and hated them with a double hatred if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, had betrayed their own people for money. Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

(Jesus numbered among his disciples persons of widely different backgrounds. They included not only Matthew, a former agent of the Roman government, but Simon the Zealot (not to be confused with Simon Peter). Josephus tells us that the Zealots were fanatical nationalists, determined to drive out the Romans by guerrilla tactics, ambushes, assassinations, terrorist methods, or whatever worked. Their motto was, “No king but Messiah, no tax but the Temple, no friend but the Zealot.” It is not clear that Simon was, or had been, a member of the group that Josephus describes, but it seems clear that he would have regarded himself as at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Matthew.)

The name “Matthew” means “gift of the LORD.” Mark and Luke, in the story of his calling, name him “Levi.” Perhaps this was his original name, and he received a new name from Jesus when he became a disciple. (It has also been suggested that he was simply a member of the tribe of Levi.)

Of Matthew’s life after Pentecost the Scriptures tell us nothing. Later accounts of his life vary, some reporting that he was martyred, others that he died a natural death. The Christian community since early times has commemorated him as a martyr.

Whether the Apostle Matthew is also the Evangelist Matthew — that is, whether the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name — is disputed. The Gospel itself does not say who wrote it, but the designation “according to Matthew” is very old. In favor of his authorship it may be noted that (1) while Mark and Luke give the fourth pair of Apostles as “Matthew and Thomas,” the Gospel of Matthew gives them as “Thomas and Matthew”; and (2) while Luke 5:29 explicitly states, and Mark 2:15 suggests, that Matthew gave a banquet for Jesus, Matthew 9:10 in describing the same banquet does not indicate who the host was. Both of these variations would be routine touches of modesty if Matthew was the author.

On the other hand, the gospel (1) does not have the manner of an eyewitness, and (2) is thought by many scholars to contain material borrowed from Mark, whereas one would not expect someone who had been an eyewitness to borrow from someone who had not. (NOTE: The view that Mark is an older Gospel than Matthew is widespread and not long ago many scholars regarded the matter as settled. However, there is respectable opinion holding that Matthew is the earliest Gospel after all. See, for example, the comments in the Matthew volume of The Anchor Bible.)

Perhaps the Gospel was written by some early Christian, not an apostle, whose name was Matthew, and about whom nothing else is known. Early Christian readers, hearing the Gospel ascribed to “Matthew,” would naturally associate it with the Apostle of that name, and so the ascribing of the work to the Apostle Matthew becomes common at an early date, by a perfectly natural misunderstanding.

Papias of Hierapolis, writing in the late first or early second century, says that Matthew compiled the sayings (Logia) of Jesus in Hebrew. Now the material common to Matthew and Luke, but not to Mark, includes sayings of Jesus but almost no narrative. It has therefore been conjectured that there was once a document (usually called Q), now lost, that is basically a collection of speeches by Jesus, and that Matthew (the evangelist) and Luke, had access to it while Mark did not. It has been suggested that Matthew (the apostle) is the author of this document Q, which may well have been first written in Hebrew (or Aramaic).

The Scripture readings associated with the day bear the themes of Matthew as a Gospel-writer (hence readings that speak of the Scriptures), Matthew as an Apostle, and Matthew as a sinner called by God’s grace.

by James Kiefer

Sep 17 – Hildegard of Bingen – Visionary

Illumination - Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen
Visionary
17 Septembe 1179

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Hildegard of Bingen“Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.”

Hildegard of Bingen has been called by her admirers “one of the most important figures in the history of the Middle Ages,” and “the greatest woman of her time.” Her time was the 1100’s (she was born in 1098), the century of Eleanor of Aquitaine, of Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux, of the rise of the great universities and the building of Chartres cathedral. She was the daughter of a knight, and when she was eight years old she went to the Benedictine monastery at Mount St Disibode to be educated. The monastery was in the Celtic tradition, and housed both men and women (in separate quarters). When Hildegard was eighteen, she became a nun. Twenty years later, she was made the head of the female community at the monastery. Within the next four years, she had a series of visions, and devoted the ten years from 1140 to 1150 to writing them down, describing them (this included drawing pictures of what she had seen), and commenting on their interpretation and significance. During this period, Pope Eugenius III sent a commission to inquire into her work. The commission found her teaching orthodox and her insights authentic, and reported so to the Pope, who sent her a letter of approval. (He was probably encouraged to do so by his friend and former teacher, Bernard of Clairvaux.) She wrote back urging the Pope to work harder for reform of the Church. The community of nuns at Mount St. Disibode was growing rapidly, and they did not have adequate room. Hildegard accordingly moved her nuns to a location near Bingen, and founded a monastery for them completely independent of the double monastery they had left. She oversaw its construction, which included such features (not routine in her day) as water pumped in through pipes. The abbot they had left opposed their departure, and the resulting tensions took a long time to heal.

Hildegard travelled throughout southern Germany and into Switzerland and as far as Paris, preaching. Her sermons deeply moved the hearers, and she was asked to provide written copies. In the last year of her life, she was briefly in trouble because she provided Christian burial for a young man who had been excommunicated. Her defense was that he had repented on his deathbed, and received the sacraments. Her convent was subjected to an interdict, but she protested eloquently, and the interdict was revoked. She died on 17 September 1179. Her surviving works  include more than a hundred letters to emperors and popes, bishops, nuns, and nobility. (Many persons of all classes wrote to her, asking for advice, and one biographer calls her “the Dear Abby of the twelfth century.”) She wrote 72 songs including a play set to music. Musical notation had only shortly before developed to the point where her music was recorded in a way that we can read today. Accordingly, some of her work is now available on compact disk, and presumably sounds the way she intended. My former room-mate, a non-Christian and a professional musician, is an enthusiastic admirer of her work and considers her a musical genius. Certainly her compositional style is like nothing else we have from the twelfth century. The play set to music is called the Ordo Virtutum and show us a human soul who listens to the Virtues, turns aside to follow the Devil, and finally returns to the Virtues, having found that following the Devil does not make one happy.

She left us about seventy poems and nine books. Two of them are books of medical and pharmaceutical advice, dealing with the workings of the human body and the properties of various herbs. (These books are based on her observations and those of others, not on her visions.) I am told that some modern researchers are now checking her statements in the hope of finding some medicinal properties of some plant that has been overlooked till now by modern medicine. She also wrote a commentary on the Gospels and another on the Athanasian Creed. Much of her work has recently been translated into English, part in series like Classics of Western Spirituality, and part in other collections or separately. If your university library or bookstore cannot help you, try a Christian bookstore. If they do not have it, try a trendy (feminist, New Age, ecology) bookstore.

But her major works are three books on theology: Scivias (“Know  the paths!”), Liber Vitae "The Human Soul", an illumination of a manuscript of Hildegard/s VisionsMeritorum (on ethics), and De Operatione Dei. They deal (or at least the first and third do) with the material of her visions. The visions, as she describes them, are often enigmatic but deeply moving, and many who have studied them believe that they have learned something from the visions that is not easily put into words. On the other hand, we have the recent best-seller, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks, Professor of Clinical Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and author of Migraine and various other books. Professor Sacks is concerned with the relation of the brain to the mind, and ways in which the phsical state of the nervous system can affect our ways of perceiving reality. He views the pictures in Hildegard’s books of what she saw in her visions, and says, “The style of the pictures is a clear indication that the seer suffered regularly from migraine attacks. Migraine sufferers tend to see things in this manner.” And indeed, it is true that Hildegard suffered throughout her life from painful attacks of what may have been migraine. Professor Sacks hastens to add that this has nothing to do with whether her visions are authentic insights into the nature of God and His relation to the Universe.

Hildegard & her scribeHildegard has undergone a remarkable rise in popularity in the last thirty years, since many readers have found in her visions, or read into them, themes that seem to speak to many modern concerns. For example:

Although she would have rejected much of the rhetoric of women’s liberation, she never hesitated to say what she thought needed to be said, or to do what she thought needed to be done, simply because she was a woman. When Pope or Emperor needed a rebuke, she rebuked them.

Her writings bring science, art, and religion together. She is deeply involved in all three, and looks to each for insights that will enrich her understanding of the others.

Her use of parable and metaphor, of symbols, visual imagery, and non-verbal means to communicate makes her work reach out to many who are totally deaf to more standard approaches. In particular, non-Western peoples are often accustomed to expressing their views of the world in visionary language, and find that Hildegard’s use of similar language to express a Christian view of reality produces instant rapport, if not necessarily instant agreement.

Hildegard wrote and spoke extensively about social justice, about freeing the downtrodden, about the duty of seeing to it that every human being, made in the image of God, has the opportunity to develop and use the talents that God has given him, and to realize his God-given potential. This strikes a chord today.

Hildegard wrote explicitly about the natural world as God’s creation, charged through and through with His beauty and His energy; entrusted to our care, to be used by us for our benefit, but not to be mangled or destroyed.

by James Kiefer

Clicking on one of the links above will take you to Amazon.com where you may buy the books if you like.]

Sep 16 – Ninian of Galloway

Sep 16 - Ninian of Galloway

Ninian of Galloway
Bishop + Missionary to Scotland
16 September 430

click here for books about Ninian of Galloway


From the Satucket Lectionary

St. Ninian's Cave

St. Ninian’s Cave, near Whithorn, where St. Ninian first arrived in Scotland.

Ninian is also called Nynia, Ninias, Rigna, Trignan, Ninnidh, Ringan, Ninus, or Dinan. He was a Celt, born in southern Scotland in about 360, and is regarded as the first major preacher of the Gospel to the people living in Britain north of the Wall–that is, living outside the territory that had been under Roman rule. He is said to have studied in Rome (note that he is contemporary with Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine), but was chiefly influenced by his friendship with Martin of Tours, with whom he spent some considerable time when he was returning from Italy to Britain. It is probable that he named his headquarters in Galloway after Martin’s foundation in Gall. Martin had a monastery known as LOCO TEIAC, a Latinized form of the Celtic LEUG TIGIAC. LEUG means “white, shining,” and TIG means “house” (a shanty, or SHAN-TIG, is an old house). The suffix -AC means “little.” Thus, Martin’s monastery had a name which in Celtic means “little white house.” At about the time of Martin’s death in 397, Ninian built a church at Galloway, in southwest Scotland. It was built of stone and plastered white, an unusual construction in a land where almost all buildings were wood. He called it Candida Casa (White House) or Whithorn, presumably after Martin’s foundation at Tours. Archaeologists have excavated and partially restored his church in this century. From his base at Galloway, Ninian preached throughout southern Scotland, south of the Grampian Mountains, and conducted preaching missions among the Picts of Scotland, as far north as the Moray Firth, He also preached in the Solway Plains and the Lake District of England. Like Patrick (a generation later) and Columba (a century and a half later), he was a principal agent in preserving the tradition of the old Romano-British Church and forming the character of Celtic Christianity. Some historians think that the number and extent of his conversions has been exaggerated, but throughout southern Scotland there are many and widespread churches that bear his name, and have traditionally been assumed to be congregations originally founded by him.

Our information about him comes chiefly from Bede’s History (Book 3, chapter 4), an anonymous eighth century account, and a 12th century account by Aelred. Aelred is writing 700 years after the event, and is for that reason rejected as untrustworthy by many critics. However, he claims to rely on an earlier account, “written by a barbarian.” This suggests that he may have had an authentic record by a member of Ninian’s community in Galloway.

See The Christian Island, by Beram Saklatvala (J M Dent, London, 1969), plus standard references. [Note: this book is currently out of print but is probably available used.]

by James Kiefer

 

The Bible is Alive!

Gutenberg_BibleIf in one thousand years some archeologists unearth evidence of a caped crusader who protected the streets of a place known as Gotham City, they are going to have a hard time nailing down a concise timeline of his career in crime fighting. Even if said archeologists only track down the several major motion pictures that have been produced over the last fifty years [Batman (1966), Batman-Batman and Robin (1989-1997), and The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)], they’ll never be able to put together one solid storyline.

There are major conflicts between the origin stories of Batman and some of his foes, and the timing of his career seems to suggest Batman battled crime well into his golden years. Of course, the historicity of Batman’s story isn’t really the point, is it? There is something in the content and something about the effect this character had/has on people that gives us the opportunity to make meaning…Batman is more than a comic book, television show, series of films, character, Batman is alive (in my conscience, at least).

If you think I’m about to compare Batman to Moses, and his stories to Exodus and the Pentateuch, you’re kind of right—except I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they were written for the same reasons or about the same kind of subject or even in the same genre…so don’t go crazy.

Continue reading

Sep 8 – Soren Kierkegaard

Sep 8 - Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard
Teacher + Philosopher
8 September 1855

click here for books by or about Soren Kirkegaard


 

A Prayer

Heavenly Father, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ felt sorrow and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane: Help us to remember that though we walk through the valley of the shadow, you are always with us, that with your philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, we may believe what we have not seen and trust where we cannot test, and so come at length to the eternal joy which you have prepared for those who love you; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


From the Satucket Lectionary

Soren KiergkegaardSøren Aabye Kierkegaard is considered the father of the philosophical movement called existentialism.

In a Danish film, Ordet (“The Word”, based on a play by Kaj Munk), one character appears to be insane. Someone asks his brother:

“Has he always been like this?”
“No, he became this way while at the University.”
“A love affair?”
“No, reading the works of Søren Kierkegaard.”

Whenever I have seen the film, this line elicited general laughter, since the audience was a student crowd, and most knew enough about Kierkegaard, if only by reputation, to get the point.

Often, the details of a philosopher’s life are irrelevant to his philosophy. Who cares how many brothers and sisters Aristotle had? It does not affect his concept of Categories. With Kierkegaard, however, the life does matter to the student of the philosophy.

Kierkegaard’s father, Michael Pederson Kierkegaard, was a farm laborer who led a desperately unhappy life of grinding poverty. One day (I gather while he was still in his teens), full of rage at his lot, and God’s apparent indifference to it, he stood on a hilltop, shook his fists at the sky, and solemnly cursed God. Soon after, by a series of strokes of remarkable good fortune, he prospered, and ended a long life by dying a rich man. However, he carried a tremendous burden of guilt for his cursing, and his life was not happy, for his wife and five of his seven children died within a space of two years, and he felt that God was punishing him.

His youngest child, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard, was born in Copenhagen in 1813. He went to the University to study theology, but later switched to philosophy. When he learned of his father’s boyhood curse, he was shaken to the core. He became for a while a stranger to both God and his father, but later became reconciled to both. In 1840, being 27 years old, he was betrothed to Regine Olsen, ten years younger. He loved her, but he had come to believe that he was called to probe the dark, unhappy side of existence, and that he could not ask Regine to share this unhappiness with him, or make her understand what he was thinking and feeling, and that he ought to break off with her for her own good. She loved him, and was not willing to be dumped for her own good. He decided to behave so badly that when it became known that the betrothal was off, everyone would assume that she had broken off with him. He then ran off to Berlin for six months, to let the dust settle. (Mark Twain said: “Never tell a woman that you are unworthy of her. Let it come as a surprise.”) The episode had a deep effect on him, and he comments on it in several of his books. For example, he compares his willingness to renounce his fiancee for the sake of his vocation to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. However, he expected that, even without ever seeing each other again, they would continue to have a “spiritual union,” trusting that God would somehow make the impossible possible and bring them together eventually. Kierkegaard never married. Regine married Fritz Schlegel and accompanied him to the Danish West Indies when he was appointed governor thereof. Kierkegaard felt deeply betrayed by her action, and refers to it several times in his later books. He made her his sole heir.

Over the next few years, he wrote and published a series of books:

Either/or: a Fragment of Life (1843)
Fear and Trembling (1843)
Repetition (1843)
Philosophical Fragments (1844)
The Concept of Anxiety (1844)
Stages On Life’s Way (1845)
Concluding Unscientific Postscript To the Philosophical Fragments: a Mimic-pathetic-dialectic Composition, an Existential Contribution (1846)
Edifying Discourses in Divers Spirits
(1847)
Works of Love (1847)
Christian Discourses (1848)
The Sickness Unto Death (1849)
Training in Christianity (1850)

He published most of his work under a variety of assumed names, so as to make the point that they were not a single consistent point of view. Often a later book would reply to arguments found in an earlier book.

Most philosophical writers before Kierkegaard, both Christian and otherwise, undertake to explain reality, to offer a view of it that makes sense. Consider, for example, Georg W F Hegel (1770-1831), whose views dominated philosophical study in Kierkegaard’s day. He was considered by his admirers to have found the key to explaining, in principle, just about everything. His position was called Dialectical Idealism. “Dialectic” refers to the process of examining a idea (Thesis), working out its implications and consequences and applications, and thereby finding difficulties (Antithesis) that require the discarding of the original idea and the adoption of a modified form of it (Synthesis), a new idea. We then examine the new idea (Thesis), and repeat the process. The goal of the process is the final thesis, God, alias the Absolute. (Find a sleeping freshman who is taking a philosophy course, whisper “Hegel” in his ear, and he will murmur, “thesis, antithesis, synthesis.”) German professors of religious history, influenced by Hegel, wrote papers on Judaism, Hellenism, and Christianity as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. They discussed the history of the early Church in terms of Peter (who wanted to preserve the simple teachings of the Jewish rabbi, Jesus), Paul (who wanted to abandon the Jewish aspects of the faith, abolish the requirement of circumcision, and turn the whole thing into a mystery religion like Mithraism), and Luke (who in the book of Acts undertook to portray Peter and Paul as allies rather than enemies). [Please note: their descriptions of the apostles, not mine.] Thesis, antithesis, synthesis! They wrote histories of the formation of the Hebrew Scriptures in terms of the J document, the E document, the combination of the two to form the Je document (synthesis), and so on. Their opponents accused them of manufacturing theories to fit Hegel’s pattern, and then forcing the evidence to fit the theories. But to many scholars, it seemed that Hegel had made sense of everything. (Marx, in contrast with Hegel, called his philosophy dialectical materialism. He said that the fundamental fact of history was not the succession of ideas, but the succession of material and economic systems. Feudalism, working out its consequences, destroys itself and leads to capitalism. Capitalism, working out its consequences, destroys itself and leads to socialism. But these are not logical or conceptual consequences, but physical or material ones. Hence the term “dialectical materialism.” But I digress.)

Kierkegaard was convinced that this whole approach is a mistake, that the world is a mysterious and often frightening place, and that explanations that try to make it less so are dishonest. Traditional philosophers (sometimes called “essentialists” to distinguish them from Kierkegaard and other “existentialists”) are like a man sitting in an upper window overlooking the street and watching a parade go by, and undertaking to describe the parade, noting the various components of the parade and how they interact. But man is not really like a bystander watching a parade. He is like someone who, not by his own choice, is marching in the parade. And this is crucial to his experience of the parade. One cannot distinguish the observer from the observed, subject from object.

Kierkegaard also laid great emphasis on the notion that freedom means that man must choose arbitrarily, with no criteria to guide him. If he can give any reasons for his choice, then the choice is determined by the reasons and is not truly free. This notion of freedom he and many others find both convincing and terrifying.

The book by Kierkegaard most widely read in survey courses in philosophy is Fear and Trembling, which deals with Abraham’s choice when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. How could Abraham know that it was God and not Satan who was talking to him? Is not murder wrong? If we say that God makes the rules of morality, and so good Means whatever God happens to command, we then find that the statement “God is good” no longer means anything except, “God wants whatever God wants.” Moreover, the view that God can and will simply redefine the standards of morality whenever it suits Him is incompatible with what we read four chapters earlier, where God speaks of judging the wicked city of Sodom, and Abraham says, “What if there are some good men in the city? Will you destroy the righteous along with the wicked? Far be that from you [alternate translation: Shame on you]! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) And so Kierkegaard struggles with the meaning of Abraham’s choice, and talks about something called “the teleological suspension of the ethical.” And students remember the phrase, and parrot it back on the final exam.

A friend of mine who writes songs took a course in Philosophy of Religion, and during a lecture on Kierkegaard wrote the following, which I reproduce with his permission. He also wrote a catchy tune with guitar accompaniment, but I will not try to reproduce these. Make up your own.

Now children, since you’ve worked so hard
We’ll spend a little time on Soren Kierkegaard

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

This fellow, Soren Kierkegaard,
Was a Dane that didn’t want to think too hard.

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

Soren Kierkegaard refused to niggle
With Georg Wulfgang Friedrich Higgle.

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

Soren called for a radical schism
With dialectical idealism.

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

Now, God told Abraham his son to slay,
And if he’d done it, ‘twould have been okay,

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

But, just as Abraham raised the knife,
God said, “Spare that young man’s life!”

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

God said, “Abe, do you feel ill-used?”
And Abe said, “No, just a mite confused.”

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

“But I’m Abraham, and you’re God, you see,
So whatever you want’s all right with me.”

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

This God may seem a dictatorial cat,
But German Lutherans are all like that.

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

For man views God in his own image,
And Soren was deutsch from start to finnage.

(Søren, we’ll spend a little time on you.)

That’s the end of the theological session,
And the start of the Schleswig-Holstein question.

(Søren, we have spent a little time on you.)

In his later years, Kierkegaard became convinced that it was his mission to attack the complacency of the established church. The Lutheran Church of Denmark was the official Church of the country, recognized and subsidized by the government, but, still more to the point, it was accepted by polite society, and Kierkegaard saw this as dangerous. The Bishop of Copenhagen was a scholar of impressive achievements, respected both as a theologian and as a scientist. Kierkegaard describes him as follows (I quote approximately from memory):

It is Sunday morning, and the bishop is scheduled to preach at The cathedral. In his liturgical robes, he ascends the pulpit. His graying hair adds a touch of wisdom to his already striking and dignified appearance. The Royal Family is present, and several rows are filled by members of the Danish Academy of Science. Glancing over the rest of the congregation, one sees bankers, lawyers, judges, wealthy merchants. The bishop begins to speak. “Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my text this morning is taken from 1 Corinthians 1:28. Behold, God has chosen you for himself, you, the despised and rejected of the earth.” And no one laughs.

He waged a campaign against what he saw as a complacent and compromising Church, spending both fortune and health recklessly, until after two years he collapsed in the street and was taken to a hospital where he died a month later, on 11 November 1855.

For a while, immediately after his death, he was largely forgotten, but then interest in his writings revived. They struck a chord in many readers, Christian and non-Christian alike. Thus, when a new edition of his works was issued after his death, one editor was a convinced Christian, and the other two were atheists. His work has deeply influenced not only professed Christian philosophers like Paul Tillich, Karl Jaspers, and Karl Barth, but also atheists like Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus, and Jews like Martin Buber.

I close with two extracts from his writings.

Then Abraham lifted the boy up and walked with him, taking him by the hand, and his words were full of comfort and exhortation. But Isaac could not understand him. Then he turned away from Isaac for a moment, and when Isaac saw his face a second time it was changed, his gaze was wild, his expression one of horror. He caught Isaac by the chest, threw him to the ground and said: “Fool, do you believe that I am your loving father? I am an idolater. Do you believe that this is God’s command? No, it is my own desire.” Then Isaac cried out in his anguish: “God in heaven have mercy on me, God of Abraham have mercy on me; if I have no father on earth, then be Thou my father!” But below his breath Abraham said to himself: “Lord in heaven, I thank Thee; it is better that he should think me a monster than that he should lose faith in Thee.”

When the child is to be weaned, the mother blackens her Breast, for it would be a shame for the breast to look pleasing when the child is not to have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed, but the mother is the same, her look loving and tender as ever. Blessed is the one who needs no more terrible means to wean the child. (from Fear and Trembling) There is so much said now about people being offended at Christianity because it is so dark and gloomy. But the real reason why man is offended at Christianity is that it would make of a man something so extraordinary that he is unable to get it into his head.Imagine the mightiest Emperor that ever lived; and imagine some poor peasant, who would think himself fortunate if he could but once catch a glimpse of the Emperor, and would tell his children and grandchildren of this as the most important event of his life. Suppose that the Emperor were to send for this man, who had not supposed that the Emperor knew of his existence, and informed him that he wished to have him as a son-in-law. In all probability, the peasant, instead of being delighted, would be offended, since he would suppose that this could mean only that the Emperor wanted to make a fool of him! And now for Christianity! Christianity teaches that every man, say an ordinary man who would be quite proud of having once in his life talked with the King of Denmark, can talk with God any moment he wishes, and is sure to be heard by Him, that for this man’s sake God came into the world to suffer and die. If anything would stun a man, surely it is this. Whoever has not the humble courage to believe it, must surely be offended by it. (abridged from SICKNESS UNTO DEATH)

by James Kiefer

Sep 4 – Paul Jones – Bishop & Advocate for Peace

Sep 4 - Paul Jones

Paul Jones
Bishop and Advocate for Peace
4 September 1941

click here for books on Paul Jones


From the Satuket Lectionary

Paul JonesPaul Jones was born in Pennsylvania in 1880. He attended Yale University and the Episcopal Divinity School [then called the Episcopal Theological Seminry] in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was ordained and served a mission church in Logan, Utah. In 1914 he was made Bishop of the Missionary District of Utah.

He was an outspoken pacifist, and when World War I began in 1914, he spoke against it. As the war progressed, and when the United States entered the war in 1917, many Americans were vehement in holding that pursuing the war was a moral duty, and opposition to the war was immoral. In the spring of 1918, yielding to pressure, Bishop Jones resigned as Bishop of Utah. He continued to speak out within the Church as an advocate of peace and the Christian renunciation of war, until his death on 4 September 1941.

by James Kiefer

 

Sep 1 – David Pendleton Oakerhater – Deacon & Missionary

Sep 1 - David Oakerhater

David Pendleton Oakerhater
Deacon + Missionary
1 September 1931

click here for books on David Pendleton Oakerhater


From the Satucket Lectionary

Self-portrait, by David Pendleton OakerhaterDavid P. Oakerhater (born around 1850) was a warrior and leader of the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma, and led a corps of fighters against the United States government in a dispute over Indian land rights. In 1875 he and 27 other military leaders were taken prisoner by the U S Army and sent to a military post in Florida. There, thanks to the efforts of a concerned Army captain, they learned English, were encouraged to earn money by giving art and archery lessons to visitors, and encountered the Christian faith. David and three others were moved to become Christians and to go north to study for the ministry. David was baptized in Syracuse, New York, in 1878, and ordained to the diaconate in 1881. He returned to Oklahoma and there founded schools and missions, and continued to work among his people until his death on 31 August 1931. When he first returned to Oklahoma in 1881, he said:

You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all He tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.

by James Kiefer


Note
: the “military post in Florida” is Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, now a National Monument. Should you go there, you can learn more about his imprisonment there.