pardon the small disruption in service

No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.
Elbert Hubbard (1859-1915)


( a little seaweed / Julie Cook / Rosemary Beach, FL / 2019)

Apologies abound for the slight disruption recently in blogging…
But our family packed up two cars late last week and headed southward
toward the emerald waters and those sugar-white sands of Florida’s northern Gulf coast.

But more about all of that later…

So yes, a family vacation.

And so what do we know about vacations?
What do we know vacations to be?

In part, a vacation is intended for those who opt to head off to parts known or unknown,
in order to unplug, to unwind, to relax and perhaps actually reconnect with those
closest to the heart.

Our own little personal family’s jaunt included two under two,
so there wasn’t a whole lot of relaxing…
however there was a delightful shift in focus.

We were together.

And we were isolated from the rest of the world…or so it seemed.

The television, while seldomly turned on, was never turned to the news.

Computers were not turned on, let alone even touched.

Phones were used to take pictures not to check emails or alerts.

There was a much-welcomed 5 days of sheltered isolation.
We were simply left savoring the magic that happens between children and the seashore.
Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet yesterday, as we reluctantly and sadly loaded the cars in order to head back
to our real worlds, we were reminded in very quiet, yet very powerful ways,
that news had happened in our absence.

In small out of the way towns to tiny outpost post offices, as we journeyed northward,
flags were all flying at half-mast.

A US flag at half-mast is a very visceral and sobering gut check.
It reminds us that we are indeed a united Nation…no more so than in our
collective sorrow.

The half-mast flag is a significant sign of unification for a nation that has smugly
forgotten the very fact that it is united rather than divided.

It seems that there were more mass shootings taking place almost simultaneously around
the country.

31 lives lost
while many more hang in the balance from their sustained wounds.

And once again, the people cry out to their government, “What will you now do?!”

And it is in that cry that I am once again perplexed…

The people cry out to their government, their legislators, their president…
“what will you do to stop all of this???”

This oh-so divided Nation that tends to draw within herself when her flags are lowered,
now demands its government do something to stop the madness.

The evil madness of mass murders.

The real help, however, the real answers, will not be found in the voices of our
presidential pundits or of our local or national legislators…or even
in the words of our much-maligned president…

No…the answers will not be found in what man can do for man…
simply because man is too busy killing man…

The answer is simple really and is found in the tiny fact that we are a nation
that has abandoned our God.

There will be those, many in number, who will argue that God matters not when
a madman takes a gun…

And yet the evil remains does it not?

And so, therefore, where lies our hope, our help, our solutions, our redemption,
our salvation…?

In our government?
In our leaders?
In the words of man?

I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—
a people who continually provoke me to my very face,

Isaiah 65:1-3

“If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father”

But whoever denies and disowns Me before men,
I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:33

According to Wikipedia the story behind today’s image:
The Light of the World (1851–53) is an allegorical painting by the
English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910)
representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and
long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me”.
According to Hunt: “I painted the picture with what I thought,
unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject.”
The door in the painting has no handle, and can, therefore, be opened only from the inside,
representing “the obstinately shut mind”. Hunt, 50 years after painting it,
felt he had to explain the symbolism.

The original is variously said to have been painted at night in a makeshift hut at
Worcester Park Farm in Surrey and in the garden of the Oxford University Press
while it is suggested that Hunt found the dawn light he needed outside Bethlehem
on one of his visits to the Holy Land.
In oil on canvas, it was begun around 1849/50, completed in 1853,
exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford.

I saw this particular painting posted on our dear friend Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s blog
posting from yesterday.
He included it because he had uploaded a brief (approximately 4-minute) interview with a
British journalist stating why it was wrong that St Matthew’s and Luke’s Chruch in Darlington,
the Diocese of Durham in the UK, had offered to cover its altar cross and replica of this painting,
when it had decided to invite local Muslims to come in and worship in the sanctuary
following the end of Ramadan.

The interview is here:

Nick Ferrari graciously apologises- ‘The Truth matters’. LBC radio:- Nick Ferrari asks Gavin Ashenden why it matters that the C of E covered crosses & hid Jesus- & gracioiusly apologises when he finds out. The difference between the God of Islam & the God of Christianity is at stake & is crucial.

I touched on this same matter last week when the good Bishop was interviewed on Anglican Unscripted
regarding this rather bizarre gesture.

Isn’t that just like the Christian Chruch today???
A church wanting so desperately to appease and to appear inviting and hospitable by demonstrating
its all-inclusiveness, all the while, denying the very One who she claims as her Bridegroom.

A skewed thought process indeed.
For in its zeal of promoting the peace of one accord and good gestures,
the Church’s leadership’s ignorance shines forth.

I applaud the journalist, Nick Ferrari, for actually admitting at the interview’s end
that he had indeed been wrong when he felt that he should actually support the vicar of this parish
for opening the doors of her church to their Muslim neighbors.

To open a parish hall or to host an interfaith gathering in a neutral location is one thing,
but to offer up the Sanctuary, the place considered to be the most sacred within
a church, reminiscent of the Holies of Holy, by covering up the cross and images of Jesus,
is a venture into lunacy.

I dare say no Iman would allow any mosque to ever hide the Koran lest any Christians
venture forth.

We seem to have a great desire to rush in and show ourselves to be all-inclusive…
to show the world that we are open-minded and kind…
yet we do ourselves and our faith a great disservice when we do so
with little, if any regard, to the very teachings of Christ…
the very teachings we are expected to uphold.

Jesus never said to be unkind or inhospitable, but he also never said to hide one’s faith in Him or
pretend that, as the risen Savior, He isn’t intended for all mankind…
mankind includes Muslims, Jews, atheists, you name it…
He came into the world to save sinners…and that pretty much covers all of mankind.
It is, therefore, our responsibility to share that fact with all of those whose paths we cross.

We share hope and salvation to and for all…for anyone willing to accept and in turn follow.

We are told time and time again not to hide our faith or the Truth but to share it.

A light is not meant to be put under a basket, but rather upon a table permitting
all to see.
(Matthew 5:15-16)

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:39-40

Be kind, be gracious but never deny your Lord before any man.
Never attempt to hide Him, mask Him or disguise Him…
but rather let the light of Redemption and Salvation shine forth.

In 2015 21 Coptic Christians were marched out on to a beach in Lebanon and were
offered the chance to be spared from the fate of beheading if they would simply deny Christ
and embrace Mohammad—-the answer was no.

Even unto death…
We are told, you and I who follow Christ, we are told to follow Him even unto death.

We know that death, in this life, is not everlasting…not for the followers of Christ.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

“Sin is the distance between us and God”
Bishop Gavin Ashenden

(this poor cherub or putti’s feet have frozen off / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve used the above quote before…
However, it doesn’t seem any less important or any less relevant than say, the other day…

The other day when listening to Bishop Ashenden’s rather reflective homily,
as well as the latest installment of Anglican Unscripted,
the good Bishop was reflecting on having been asked in an interview
“what is sin?”
or it may have been more along the lines of “what is your understanding of sin?”

Either way, the Bishop was about to be taken to a very public task, or so thought the
interviewer of all things cultural…

The very secular interviewer, after asking the Bishop the question regarding his take on
what sin actually was, in turn, told the bishop that he did not feel at all “sinful”
and so the notion of what a sin was, was totally irrelevant to him and therefore obviously
anyone else who wasn’t feeling the least bit sinful.

Well, this is where the good Bishop clearly demonstrates that he knows his ‘stuff’…

He tells the interviewer that “coming to God is not something that one can do cerebrally
or rationally”

He then goes on to explain, as I shared in my post the other day, that there are actually
two types of sin—
there is the sin that the Christian recognizes—
that being the distance between himself and God.
And then that of secular sin which is anything that runs counter to the current culture’s
perception of the normative.

Bishop Ashenden goes on to note that all the recent hashtag business, the #metoo etc,
frenzy is, plain and simple, nothing more than secular sin.

The Bishop watched the Golden Globes, I did not.

He has some choice words for those who, draped in black, captured the stage in an attempt
to make a pitch to their “dewy-eyed acolytes.”

Bishop Ashenden explains that as our society has become besotted by sex,
it has become simply our very present focus.
For it surrounds us in almost every aspect of our daily lives—
through advertising, entertainment, books, music…it is an obsession.
An obsession, that many have gotten quite good at ignoring.

Society has created a secular apocalypse with women like Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep
rising to the occasion of rounding up the feminist troops while intimidating and
crushing any questioning, or opposition or competing intentions…
a frenetic feeding frenzy of destructive shaming.
There is no room for remorse, healing, redemption or hope.

Yet oddly there are years of images with both of these women in cozy photos with the likes
of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, and Roman Polansky…
women who had chosen to ignore truly bad boy and even illegal behavior.

And so we are now left wondering…
What is it now that makes things different from then…?

Is it now somewhat advantageous?
Has the time of championing feminism come into its own as it is now the popular
cultural bandwagon.
Is #metoo putting the ‘me’ in all of us dangerously closer at the center of our own universe
at the expense of common sense, grace and mercy?

Or is it simply the bravado of self-deception found in a society steeped in the notion of
its own sense of self-righteousness?
Found in its notion of the importance of the ‘we ourselves’…
Never mind answering to an authority greater than ourselves…for there is none…
because we are the demigods who have no need of anything or anyone greater.

The Bishop notes that in this secular societal self-righteousness, there lies a deeper problem.

Pure hypocrisy.

And the thing is…none of the rallying cries or the saber rattling or the
rabble-rousing allows for or has room for the utter forgiveness and redemption
found only in Jesus Christ.
For found in the sinfulness of the secular, there is no way back for the sinner.
No hope for the fallen.
And no hope equates to immediate death.

A stark contrast to the mercy, forgiveness, redemption, and life found only in the hope
of Jesus…

And thus he leaves us not with the damnation found in the current culture’s angst but
rather with the hopeful words of William Blake

“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.”

William Blake

Talking to LBC (London Radio) about sin, sex and God -(as captured by an Australian website.)

‘Operation Opra’: Secular self-righteousness – a mixture of morality, hypocrisy and revenge.

plenteous redemption

‘Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio’
With Him is plenteous redemption


(emerging peaches / Julie Cook / 2017)

Holiness is the source.
In Christ the absolute holiness of God is united hypostatically with the holiness of man.
God’s holiness (as the love of good and the hatred of evil), but first and foremost
as the love of good in everything, even the one who is evil (per accidens [contingently]).
All good (the entire sum of values) outside God has its prototype in God Himself.
God loves one in another – in this consists His Holiness.
This holiness is the basis for redemption –
also understood as the ‘re-evalutation’ of everything:
God restores the value of everything in man,
who is personally united with Him.
He is Christ – Redemptor [Redeemer]: the holiness of man consists
in receiving this good, which God loves –
in this manner Christ becomes the model of holiness.
In Him that holiness is in a way identical to redemption ( Redemptio).
In us it has to depend on, first, conversion to God, and second,
re-evaluation of everything in accordance with the value that everything has in God,
and which Christ the Lord has shown to us.

Novermber 2, 1962
excerpt from the private diaries of Bishop Karol Wojtyla
In God’s Hands / Pope John Paul II

And so it is, in Christ the Redeemer, that man has found his redemption.

Redemption so poignantly expressed each Spring as seen in the blooms, blossoms and
growth of the newness of life….

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Psalm 130:7-8

Trembling joy

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

(Hymn Imortal, Ivisible
Welsh Melody 1839 John Roberts / Lyrics Walter C. Smith 1876

1460francesco_di_giorgio_martini_illumination
(Birth of Jesus, Francesco di Giorgio Martini 1460)

So far we have been reminded that we have entered a new season.
A season of waiting and watching.

And somehow, somewhere within our trepidation of the arrival of this unknown,
we sense that as we wait and watch, we are to remain hopeful…
Because curiously we are inwardly reassured that what we are waiting for
and watching for…
is good.

And not only is it to be good,
it is to be actually grand.
As in life changing, world altering…
GRAND.

And almost within the same breath of waiting and watching,
we are reminded that what we wait for and watch for
is actually something quite intimate.
Something dear and something even tenderly precious.

Perplexed we wonder, how can this trepidation, which is so full of anticipation
and perceived to be not only good but Grand,
how can it be sweetly intimate, tender and close…?

So many good Christians are dumbfounded or tremble in fear when something of Christ’s
future is told to them.

As Christoph Blumhardt notes in his essay The Wise Men’s Star…

If we would only look forward to the Last Day with a trembling joy, as the Savior said:
“When these things begin to take place,
stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption
is drawing near (Luke 21:28)

But now, when people hear of it, they are afraid and shake and tremble.
They fail to rejoice in the reality that redemption is drawing near.

And so we are left to we wait,
and watch…
Watching and waiting for a most intimate moment…
Yet we are now told to be ready…
Ready to rejoice…
While at the same time, being filled with
trembling joy…

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zachariah 9:9

REJOICE

Rejoice in the Lord always:
and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

DSCN1447
(a weathered statue of a welcoming Christ graces the hill above Kylemore Abbey / County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Rejoice this day for unto you is born a Savior,
Christ the Lord.

His (John the Baptizer’s) father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days…

And so He has come…
God of God
Light of Light
Begotten of woman
Crucified
Dead
Buried
and Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance

Rejoice and come to the banquet… claiming your place at the table and taking in all that is given…
Hope
Joy
Salvation…
All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old, sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…

Rejoice,
Again I say,
Rejoice!