the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

Might a new day be dawning????

“When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance,
it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus;
the church no longer remains distinctly Christian;
it is no longer salt and light in the world,”

(excerpt from the Southwark Declaration nailed to a Cathedral door)


(recent Southwark Declaration grievances nailed to the doors of Rochester Cathedral)

And so it has begun…

And I for one rejoice!!!

Almost 500 years to the day, over the course of the past 48 hours,
a band of “back to the Bible” disgruntled, dare we say it, Orthodox Anglicans
have followed in the footsteps of Luther and set about nailing,
or in most cases tacking or taping, a two page document of grievances
to the doors of Anglican Cathedrals across the UK.

The document is known as the Southwark Declaration named for the
Diocese of Southwark in which the original letter was composed.

According to an article in PJ Media written by Tyler O’Neil…
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted
a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals.
The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting
of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany,
and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to follow the Bible on LGBT issues.

“500 years ago Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany,”
one document reads.
“He did it because the church had become corrupt.
Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”

“The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice
on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not
biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God,”
the document explained.
“This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across
the whole of the Church of England.”

You can read the full article here:
https://pjmedia.com/faith/anglicans-pin-95-theses-style-complaint-on-lgbt-issues-to-doors-of-5-uk-cathedrals/

The Vicar of St. James’ Church of Westgate-On-Sea, The Reverend Stephen Rae, has
opted not to remain anonymous but rather has publicly admitted to nailing the
document to the doors of Canterbury Cathedral….the Cathedral at the very heart of Anglicanism and the Church of England.

“It is with great sadness that I posted the Southwark Declaration in Canterbury
Cathedral,”
Reverend Stephen Rae, vicar of St. James’ Church, Westgate-On-Sea,
told PJ Media in a statement.
“This building that stands sentinel over the Church of England has been a symbol of Anglican leadership with, perhaps, the greatest global reach for centuries.”

“Now it has become synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty;
it stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned
its children,”
Rae added.
He quoted Ephesians, noting that the apostle Paul called “the faithful
under-shepherd” to “guard the flock against the wolves that would seek to
enter the fold.”

Citing the ordination oath the Church of England, Rae added,
“We are not merely to assert biblical truth.
We who have been entrusted with the precious gospel that speaks life into the
hearts of wretched sinners are also called to drive away anything that would lead the flock away and into judgment.”

“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance,”
the vicar concluded.
“If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling.
We are to hold out the radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith. Playing fast and loose with what God really meant when he said what he said never
turns out well.”

The Southwark Declaration

As clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Southwark:

We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority
in all matters of faith and conduct.

We affirm with Canon A5 that ‘the doctrine of the Church of England
is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers
and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.’’

We affirm, with Article XX, that ‘it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any
thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.’

We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10. 7, Matthew 19.5),
the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 (‘Of Holy Matrimony’)
that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse.

We affirm resolution 1.10 on human sexuality of the Lambeth Conference (1998).

We call upon all the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese,
alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths,
live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.

We call upon the Bishops to appoint to positions of teaching authority
only those who hold to these truths in good conscience.

“Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.”
(closing excerpt from the “nailed up” Anglican Southwark Declaration)

More on all of this tomorrow but for now, let us allow all of this to sink in…
slowly…
as we pray for the brave vicar and others who are speaking up,
stepping up and letting it be known that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
and the Word of God will stand…despite man’s attempt to alter it or change it
to suit his or her desires….

an interesting tale…

dscn4469
(morning surf, Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The following tale is taken from a writing by Madeleine L’Engle
Waiting for Judas

“There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom
of a deep and slimy pit.
For thousands of years he wept his repentance,
and when the tears were finally spent he looked up and saw, way, way up,
a tiny glimmer of light.
After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so,
he began to try to climb up towards it.
The walls of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping backdown.
Finally, after great effort, he reached the top, and then he slipped
and fell all the way back down.
It took him many years to recover,
all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance,
and then he started to climb up again.
After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and
dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table.
“We’ve been waiting for you, Judas” Jesus said.
“We couldn’t begin till you came”

I heard my son-in-law, Alan tell this story at a clergy conference.
The story moved me deeply.
I was even more deeply struck when I discovered that it was a story
that offended many of the priests and ministers there.
I was horrified at their offense.
Would they find me, too, unforgivable…

But God, the Good Book tells us, is no respecter of persons,
and the happy ending isn’t promised to an exclusive club.
It isn’t -face it- only for Baptists, or Presbyterians or Episcopalians.
What God began, God will not abandon.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.
God loves, everyone, sings the psalmist.
What has named will live forever Alleluia!

Madeleine L’Engle

It is indeed an interesting thought to consider that there was, could have actually been,
repentance, then forgiveness given…
to the one who seemingly sold his soul for thirty pieces of the silver for
the betrayal and life of God’s beloved son…
only to be followed by the taking of his own life by hanging over
the damning realization of his actions…

Who am I, steeped in the wretchedness of my own transgressions,
my own unworthiness, is to say, can say,
who is to be forgiven…and who is not…

An interesting tale indeed….

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—-
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,
carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath,
like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive
together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—-
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches
of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:1-10