How we continue to make God into matter…and does it matter?

We try to make Jesus present…
Gavin Ashenden

Firstly—yes, it does matter that man continues to attempt to make God into matter…
because that means that where the spark of the Creator remains,
the created continue to seek Him…

I was so very blessed yesterday when I got to watch the video, included below,
that was actually an interview between Bishop Gavin Ashenden and the British journalist
Rodney Hearth concerning the good bishop’s observation regarding the fire at Notre Dame.

Bishop Ashenden does a marvelous job of sorting through this emotional event from the lens
of a Protestant…

Contrary to popular belief, Anglicans / Episcopalians are Protestants…
and as I’ve tried explaining before, Catholics are not some sort of two-headed monster.

I’ve grievously come to realize that many of the Protestant faith do not understand
why everyone is making such a to do over the fire at Norte Dame.

Sadly they do not see the relevance to their own faith.

And that is in part…a lost lesson in history.

Yet I am not here today to teach but rather to share.

The good Bishop explains that humankind has always attempted to make God into what
we all can comprehend…that being matter–the same of which we are made.

This is why the ancient churches and cathedrals were built—man reaching upward
to the unseen Creator—a tangible to the nontangible.

With regard to this very tragic and very public fire,
the good Bishop notes the significance of fire and the Christian faith as a
“Theology of Fire.”

He also shares the observation of crisis—of which this fire was…
as it is just one more piece to the crisis of the collective Church in Europe,

Crisis in Greek, κρίσις, translates to judgment.

And when we stand in judgment, we are exposed to God’s fire—
It is a fire that burns away the dross… that of our sin—
It burns but it equally cleanses when we repent…becasue we are cleansed by a Holy fire.

But on the other hand, if we do not repent, we are also exposed to Holy fire—
however, this is the fire of Holy Judgement and in that unrepentance,
we are cast into an unending inferno.

It was not lost on either of the men that ironically, there is a symbol of Christianity
burning on an island that was flanked on either side by the right and the left banks…

In the reality of the current battle being waged by the culture gods of secular relativism
as they strive to prevail, working earnestly to erase any vestige of our Judaeo / Christian
heritage…the Left fights the Right over which values our culture must embrace—all the while,
in between these two warring factions sits the Church— engulfed in a raging inferno.

The key question to Christians and to all of Christianity, a question I continue to ask—-
how will we, the faithful, respond?

“Interpreting the great fire of Notre Dame.” Gavin Ashenden in conversation with Rodney Hearth.

Yes and No

Just as Eve brought death into the world through her fall,
and through her succumbing to Satan,
so too Mary becomes the new Eve who brings life into the world through her ‘yes’ to God.
This imagery of Mary as the new Eve goes all the way back to the Old Testament.
She is the new woman, who will overcome the serpent through her ‘yes’ to God and through
the coming of her Son, the Messiah.

Dr. Michael Barber
from What Every Catholic Needs to Know About Mary


(image of Mary from The Passion of the Christ looking upon the foot of her dead son)

My aim today is not to debate the importance or lack of importance of Mary in our
collective faiths.
Be that in the Catholic Faith or be that that within the Protestant faiths…

Bless Mary…for she has become such a pivotal, and dare I say, a contentious image within the
collective Christian Chruch.

I for one find that to be a truly sad factor for us all of the collective Christian faith
as we have allowed Mary’s significance or insignificance to become divisive.

Yet that topic is not my focus today.

Not being Catholic, I was not raised with a strong sense of a Marian devotion.
Yet I do not hold that against my Catholic kinsmen.
Mary is important to our Catholic kin, just as she is important to all of us of the Fatih
for she bore willingly a most heavy burden…a burden she bore willingly for all of us.

She does not surpass the importance of her Son.
Yet that is often lost in the accusations and fussing.
No Catholic puts the mother above her Son
but her role as a universal mother does not go ignored.

Yet all of that is neither here nor there today.

Yesterday morning I read the quote I’ve added above by Dr. Barber regarding both Mary and Eve.
Two very pivotal women within the Christian Fatih.

Eve is blamed for all of our current state of affairs while Mary is the quintessential image
of willingness, sacrifice, and selflessness.

Darkness and shame versus selfless light.

After reading the quote and knowing I wanted to use it in a post, I actually noticed that
several folks had viewed a previous post that I had offered on Christmas Eve…
it was a post based on a homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

And as I don’t believe in coincidence but rather the prompting of the Spirit, I will
again offer that same post here…as it seems to be calling out…

The post is titled “Eve’s no verses Mary’s yes…”

“i imagine that yes is the only living thing.”
E.E. Cummings


(Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden / Masaccio / 1425 / Florence )


(Bicci di Lorenzo / 1433-1434 / The Annunciation panels / private collection)

Please enjoy the Christmas Eve Homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
Bishop Ashenden raises an interesting observation…

That in Eve’s having said “no” to God—in her refusal to His obedience,
man in turn then fell victim to the addiction to sin and disobedience.

Mary then counters that sinfulness no by offering her simple “yes”….

And in Mary’s yes…she brings us all to God’s saving Grace.
Of which brings to all of humankind, through the birth of her son Yeshua,
the freedom from this never-ending cycle of disobedient addiction…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/eves-no-verses-marys-yes/

There is but one Gospel

After finishing every piece of his glorious music, Bach would sign it SDG.
To the glory of God alone. If we recovered more of that zeal,
humility and love – what a transformation would be seen in our self-obsessed,
faction ridden, hypocritical churches.

David Robertson


(a lone Lilly / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

I am no theologian nor biblical scholar.
I am no mystic who has a special connection to God via the Holy Spirit.
I am just a simple believer, follower of Christ, member of the Christian fold.

I am also a person who greatly enjoys history…

So I am well aware that this is the 500th year marking the Reformation.
Otherwise known as the day a disenchanted German Catholic monk nailed 95 points of contention to the doors of his hometown church, the Wittenberg Cathedral.

And life, as the faithful had known it, has never been the same since….
for good and bad.

For some of us, that was a grand and glorious day…
for others, it was the opening of Pandora’s box in a Christian nutshell.

Meaning all hell had broken loose.
And of course we know who really enjoys that notion….

I happen to know that there are some Catholics out there who, to this day, will
not even allow themselves to say the name Martin Luther as it is
linked to heresy, schism and blasphemy.
Just as I know that there are some Protestants out there who relish calling all
Catholics “the Devil’s own children.”

Gotta love the squabbling of family
As in one big happy Christian family don’t you know….

And of course those squabbling family members don’t think either’s side is
actually truly Christian… but that is a tale for another day….

Personally I hate that it ever had to come down to such.
Because I’m just not a fan of schism or divide…
or of the ensuing wars and disputes and inquisitions that followed suit.

But what exactly does one have to do to get the ‘powers that be’
to step up to the plate and fly right!!!?

As obviously that very notion seems to have plagued our friend
Martin the monk.

I for one just see a now long sad line of spiraling ever outward.

First the West and East spilt.

Then the reformers spilt from the west.

Then the English followed a king and his kin who got mad at the West.

As the spiraling and spiraling and spawning and spawning has given birth to
denominations begetting more denominations.

Even today local churches are getting in on the act when one group in the church gets
mad at another group and breaks away starting their own new little church….

On and on ad nauseum it goes…

So I was quite interested when I read that our friend the Scottish Reformed
Presbyterian Pastor David Robertson added his 2 cents on this momentous
marking of these 500 years on out…

“I was once asked to take part in a joint mission in a Scottish town that included
one of the local Church of Scotland’s.
I did not see that as a problem because there were (and still are)
a good number of C of S congregations and ministers that remained faithful
to the Gospel and whom we could work with.
During a preliminary meeting I began to be concerned about the basis on which
we were going to do this mission.
“Are you a Gospel Church?” was the subtle question.
“Oh, yes” came the certain reply.
‘What do you mean by the Gospel?’
“Telling people that they are saved!”.

That was the end of the mission.

These were two different gospels –-
telling people that they are saved is vastly different from telling people they
are lost but they can be saved!

More recently I have come across this strange phenomena.
Mainstream churches that use all the Gospel language but mean something
very different.
They would deny the atonement, the virgin birth, heaven and hell,
and the necessity of the New Birth,
but they still get mortally offended and ‘hurt’;
if you dare to say they are not a Gospel church.
“Of course we are a Gospel church–look at all the work we do.
We are faithful people seeking to bring the Good news of Jesus into our communities”.
The combination of the hurt card and nice sounding language often means that
those who are genuine evangelicals back off and buy into what is in fact nonsense–
indeed, worse than that.
It is poison.

Those who are genuine bible believing Christians need to stand together, even if they differ on secondary issues, for the basic and most fundamental truths of the Gospel.

Instead of showing denominational loyalty to dead churches and false,
lazy or ignorant shepherds (the real wolves in sheeps clothing),
we need to get back to the basics of the Reformation and make sure these glorious
truths are heralded clearly throughout our land.”

And so as a “reformed” Presbyterian, I see that the good Pastor is right on point…
but he is also on point as a member of the greater Christian fold….
in that, despite these secondary issues that we divided and often divisive Christian
family members tend to bicker over and make greater than they actually are,
it is to the fundamental Biblical principles in which we truly must attend…
That being the Gospel of Jesus Christ—
And not our own proclamations and decimating of the twists and spins we feel
necessary to offer according to the times…

God’s word is God’s word.
It has stood the test of man’s time on this planet…just as it will remain long
after we are all gone and this planet is no more…

His sacred and holy Word is not in need of being reinvented for each new generation.
It does not need to be amended to fit this ridiculous new mindset of
all things inclusive.
It is not simply a signpost for peace and love…

It and He are each much much more…

Man was given tenants and rules in which God decreed.
He also decreed that should said rules, laws, tenants be broken, there will be consequence…
Simply rewriting them or ignoring them does not make them go away.

Then Jesus, who was immaculately conceived, was born of a Virgin.
He was the bridge to reunite fallen man with God…
who is not of sin, space nor time.

Jesus freely offered himself as payment for our sins.

He was crucified, died and buried.

He descended into Hell.

After 3 days, He rose from the dead.

It sounds all so unbelievable and yet so simple all at the same time.

As C.S Lewis reminds us…
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him:
I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,
but I don’t accept his claim to be God.
That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a
great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic—-on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—-
or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice.
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you
can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God,
but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us.
He did not intend to. . . .
Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend:
and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem,
I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

(Mere Christianity, 55-56)

And yet it was even far earlier that a man proposed this very notion of
lord or lunatic…

In the mid-nineteenth century the Scottish Christian preacher “Rabbi” John Duncan
(1796-1870) formulated what he called a “trilemma.”
In Colloquia Peripatetica (p. 109) we see Duncan’s argument from 1859-1860,
with my numbering added:

Christ either [1] deceived mankind by conscious fraud,
or [2] He was Himself deluded and self-deceived,
or [3] He was Divine.
There is no getting out of this trilemma.
It is inexorable.

Justin Taylor

And so…Reformation or not—be it good or be it bad…it is.

No ignoring it or being mad at it or simply embracing it…
the bottom line is that we must be a people of the Gospel…
not dogma, not demigod, not ourselves and our culture but of the Gospel–
because when it’s all said and done and and nothing else is
left standing…the Word of God remains…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16

An unlikely tale of unity

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

― Gwendolyn Brooks

DSC02690
(American Beautyberry bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Crown Him with many crowns. . .a much beloved and joyful hymn sung in any number of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. How many of us, who have sung this hymn during any given Sunday service, have known that this hymn is as much about Biblical scripture as it is about Christian unity?

Catholics and Protestants have long suffered through a strained relationship of both love and hate–a tenuous relationship that has existed ever since Martin Luther set loose a reformation with all that nailing to a door business.
It’s been a tug of war between acceptance and rejection ever since 1517.

There has been blood shed, heads chopped off, houses of worship destroyed, statues crushed, books burned, the faithful tortured, confessions coerced, beliefs recanted, prayers cursed. . .
all in the name of the proper observance for the Christian faith.

During one such tumultuous time period in this long suffering relationship, a hymn was composed by two vastly different men—Matthew Bridges a Catholic convert and Godfrey Thring an Anglican clergyman. The composition however was not originally intended as a joint effort in unity but rather, in actuality, was a conglomeration of equal time for each opposing team.

In the 1800s there was great tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches. Crown Him with Many Crowns is a wonderful example of how God takes the troubles of man and turns them around for good (Romans 8:28).The song was originally penned in 1851 by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who once wrote a book condemning Roman Catholic theology, and then later converted to Catholicism. Bridges wrote six stanzas, based upon Revelations 19:12, “…and on His head were many crowns.”

Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) was a devout Anglican clergyman who was concerned that this popular hymn was allowing Catholic theology to be sung by protestant congregations. And so he wrote six new verses.

The 12 stanzas have been mixed and matched down through the years.
(excerpt taken from Sharefaith.com)

So as we stand in our collective churches this Sunday morning, lifting our voices skyward, may we all be mindful that our faith in the resurrected Son of the Most High God, is the tie that binds us as brothers and sisters–bound by the blood of Christ—one belief, one faith, one Savior, one voice lifting to Heaven. . .