Aiding and abetting…

We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge,
but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life.
The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.

Franz Kafka


(a helter-skelter feeding frenzy in the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Our dear favorite ‘across the pond’ rouge Anglican bishop is at it again…
showcasing the egregious acts of The Chruch, not being the Church.

And how might the Church not be the Church you ask…

Well the good Bishop is explaining such through various means…
such as taking part in interviews, writing a plethora of posts as well as contributing to
various printed articles.

Below is the most recent pitch from an interview with the BBC…

The Right Reverend Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen,
has criticised the Cathedral for making a “mockery” of God.

“Instead of allowing a Cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God’s presence,
instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people,”

Next, in a recent article, as well as posting, the good bishop offers the following as a
lead-in to such observations…

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the public and
to get more people into the building.

One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini-golf course over the flagstones
where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter-skelter
at the heart of the building.

So for those of us on this side of the pond who simply think of the Beatles or Charles Manson
when we hear or read the words ‘helter-skelter’…a helter-skelter is actually an amusement ride.

And yes you’ve read correctly…
three churches, Cathedrals for that matter,
(Cathedrals being churches that are homes to a bishop),
have literally placed an amusement ride inside the sanctuary,
while another has put in a putt-putt green down its center aisle and
still, another is offering a gin festival…
think Oktoberfest with gin rather than beer, inside of a church.

And so Bishop Ashenden makes a very hard and painfully truthful observation about
the collective Chruch…

In every generation, the Church faces a live or die challenge.
Convert or be converted.

He goes on…
Act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven,
turned and transformed;
or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces,
other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin
covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

Yet Bishop Ashenden, however, does not sugarcoat those darker days in the Church’s history…
because the Chruch is not spotless nor free of her own egregious actions…

“There have been moments in history when the church’s failure has been tragically treacherous.
The blessing of guns destined to kill Christian German cousins a hundred years ago in the name
of the Christ who challenged his followers to meet evil with good and turn the other
cheek still burns in the recent memory.

The unquestioning presiding over the hanging, drawing, and quartering of elderly Catholic priests
guilty of nothing more than baptizing the faithful into the Church that carried the Gospels
to these islands and celebrating discreet house masses presented as acts of national,
political treason still casts a pall of shame across our collective historical memory”.

He then explains why things that are so seemingly simple and silly as a liquor festival,
mini golf greens and amusement rides residing in the sanctuaries of a church is, in reality,
an affront, as well as a mockery, to all that is Holy…

When Jesus went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity he faced not only murder,
but mockery.
The soldiers had fun at his expense, before they killed him.

Both guns and scaffolds have been the instrumentation of murder, but mockery
is no more acceptable just because it is not murder.
The trouble with the helter-skelter and the pitch and putt is that to anyone
with a sense of what Rudolf Otto called ‘the Holy” they constitute an offence
of some gravity.

The good Bishop explains that we are surrounded by a world full of distractions.
Everything is now vying, very loudly, for our attention.
We are consumed and have allowed that ‘still small Voice’ to be drained
from our being…

However, it was always the Chruch, our refuge, which afforded us the necessary quietude
and stillness in order to reconnect and to truly hear and feel that Voice while being
allowed to fall at the feet of that very Voice both in our need and in our joy.

We live in a culture addicted to distraction and pleasure-seeking.
The dynamics of this are potent antidotes to experiencing the presence of God.
They are everywhere.
We experience a saturation of stimulation and distraction in everyday life.
It is almost if the pace and pleasure of life set out to make reflection and prayer impossible.

The one place one might be free of this could be, ought to be a cathedral.

But for such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in[to] sensory pleasure and distraction
is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul.
It cracks the exquisite mirror it holds up before the presence of God; it drowns out the still,
small voice, that Elijah encountered and adored.

And thus the dear Bishop reminds us that we are currently witnessing our own rapid
loss to what is in actuality our innate need for the Sacred.
As the very place where the Sacred could and should be found is in reality,
aiding and abetting in that very loss…

Please read and hear the good Bishop’s words in the following links…

Convert or be converted – the challenge for Anglican cathedrals today.

Golf, ego and awe. An interview with Gavin Ashenden on BBC radio about cathedrals and pitch and putt. What ARE they for?

“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

sanctuary

Sanctuary, on a personal level,
is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul.”

Christopher Forrest McDowell

DSC00494
(interior of the Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

The first time I was made aware of the concept of sanctuary
as in the meaning of the word as a verb of action verses a noun of place,
was when, as a little girl, I watched the 1939 movie the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It didn’t matter that it was an old black and white movie made 20 years before I was born…
it was and still remains, just as the original story itself, a classic.

This 1939 classic starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same name, left a powerful and lasting impression on my youthful mind.
That being…
a church, The Church, can protect anyone asking it to…

Maureen O’Hara played the role of Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy girl, falsely accused of practicing witchcraft as well as murder.
Charles Laughton played the deformed bell keeper, Quasimodo, who had fallen in love with the beautiful Esmeralda.

One of the pivotal and overtly theatrical moments in the film is when Esmeralda, whose hands are bound as a rope hangs around her neck, is being led to the gallows on a horse drawn cart as she is about to be publicly hung for the crimes of witchcraft and murder.
A huge procession marches forth from the church as choirs sing and bells toll…for the people of Paris have gathered to witness the public hanging of this poor young girl.

Quasimodo, who is perched high aloft along the ledge of the bell tower, looks down at the proceedings and grabs hold of a rope…
Miraculously to the astonished crowd, Quasimodo swings down, just in the nick of time, grabbing Esmeralda from the clutches of the gallows master. He then swings back up to the safety of both bell tower and Church where, holding a now limp Esmeralda who has fainted…he lifts her high over his head for all the crowd to see while crying out “Sanctuary, Sanctuary…”
Letting all those gathered below know that the girl in now safe within the arms of the church because those who enter a church, seeking sanctuary, are protected from the masses and the authorities outside the walls of her building’s structure.

The concept of a church, the physical structure, offering safety to those at risk… resonated deeply in my thoughts….
As it seems that for centuries the collective body of The Church has been a place of protection and safety to not only our spiritual beings, but to our physical being as well.

Yesterday, when reading a recent news article about the growing security worries now facing our churches and places of worship, I imagined that moment long ago of Quasimodo yelling “Sanctuary

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/08/08/churches-take-new-security-measures-in-face-terror-threats.html

Back in April, it seems that during a daily worship service at an Orthodox Church in Riverside, California, several young mothers had excused themselves from the service as they carried their crying infants outside as not to disturb the remainder of the service.
As the women stood outside the church chatting, while holding their babies, a car appears out of the blue pulling up close to the sidewalk where the women stood.
The windows of the car are rolled down as several men with bullhorns hang out from the windows and are heard to shout Allauh Akbar…
The startled women stare in disbelief while holding their children tightly to their chests…
all the while as a feeling of dread washes over them.
And yet just as quickly as the car appeared, it drives off leaving the women shaken.

Since this incident in April, numerous houses of worship, churches and synagogues around the globe have had similar unsettling incidents to occur—
Most notably being the recent attack on Father Jaques Hamel.
The attack took place in a quiet catholic church on the outskirts of Rouen, when two young men interrupted the service grabbing Fr Hamel and slashing his throat in front of horrified parishioners.

There have also been reported acts of vandalism, break-ins and incidents where churches have received anonymous written threats of violence.

But attacks on Churches and Synagogues is sadly nothing new.

Our houses of worship, although representing something much larger and greater than mere man himself, can fall victim to acts of evil intent just as easily as the average person.

In times past, just as in this present time, there have been fire bombings on buildings, desecrations of buildings, attacks and sadly murders on both clergy and parishioners…
As it is becoming much more alarming and worrisome that these sorts of incidents are on the rise…
No longer seemingly the random act of evil and madness, but now more and more the deliberate growing act of hatred.

Whereas there was a time when the Church as a whole was revered and respected, a place in which the lost, the sorrowful and the frightened could find refuge….
that simply is no longer the expected given.

Yet whereas the building and the bodies of believers themselves may come under attack—we are not without hope—for the blood of the Lamb remains our refuge and sanctuary no matter what may befall a physical building or our physical body…

SANCTUARY indeed!!!!

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’
Ezekiel 11:16