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Archive for May, 2012

G. K. Chesterton was convert from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church.  He was a prolific journalist, novelist (the Father Brown mysteries) and lay theologian and all with sharp insights and writing to match those insights.  If you want to read more of his bio, the Wikipedia article is a place to start.

“This man who composed such profound and perfect lines as “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried,” stood 6’4″ and weighed about 300 pounds, usually had a cigar in his mouth, and walked around wearing a cape and a crumpled hat, tiny glasses pinched to the end of his nose, swordstick in hand, laughter blowing through his moustache. And usually had no idea where or when his next appointment was. He did much of his writing in train stations, since he usually missed the train he was supposed to catch. In one famous anecdote, he wired his wife, saying, “Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” (quote from  The American Chesterton Society)

I suppose his book Orthodoxy (available on-line) is  for many Christians his most theologically memorable. So much of Chesterton is eminently quotable. I think it ranks as an apologetic equal to Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  

Below are just a couple of quotes from Mr. Chesterton:

In Orthodoxy, he asks the question:  Why does God make the same thing over again and again?  One rose will not do, He makes them again and again.  Mr. Chesterton’s answer:

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when thy find some game or joke that they really enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want-things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again “to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

More quotes from Orthodoxy:

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” 

“The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” 

“I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in thewrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.” 

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This was posted on Facebook from http://danspulpit.com/,  a site under construction.  What do you think?

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The first small town my wife lived in is the one we now call home.  In the lead up to Memorial Day, the VFW were distributing “Buddy Poppies” and asking for a donation.  She had never heard of buddy poppies.  The story behind is a poem written by Dr. Major John McCrae, second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery during the Second Battle of Ypres in April and May 1915.  Below is the poem’s text and a video song version of it.   A buddy poppy is a good remembrance.

As a Christian and a pastor, Dr. McCrae’s line, “If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep” resonates with a Biblical truth:  the Church is a democracy of the dead where the dead have a voice (G.K. Chesterton).  We can not break faith with the dead then we are dead.  For  the Lord is the Lord of the living, not of the dead for all are alive to Him (Matthew 22: 31-33).  Keeping faith with the dead, we keep faith with those who live:  the families and friends of those who died in defense of our Constitutional liberty.  Support the work of the VFW, the American Legion, Wounded Warriors, etc.  Pray for our soldiers and sailors, especially those in harm’s way.  

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Lessons:

Exodus 19:1-9

Psalm 113

 Romans 8:12-27

St. John 14:8-21

GRADUAL:   Acts 2:17b, Rom.10:10

I will pour out my Spirit I on all flesh,*and your sons and your daughters shall I prophesy. With the heart one believes and is I justified,* and with the mouth one confesses I and is saved.

VERSE: Alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia.

Intro:  Pentecost is the third, but by no means the last, of the Three Great Holy Days of the Christian Church year.  Each day, and its season, corresponds to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

  • Christmas, originally Christ Mass, is the celebration of God the Father.  God the Father in the fullness of time sends His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary and He is the Word made flesh.
  • Easter, or Pascha, is the celebration of God the Son, Who after His earthly ministry and then sufferings, crucifixion, rises again on the Third Day.
  • Then Pentecost, 50 Days after Pascha, on , the Holy Spirit is publically pored out upon the 120 (Acts 1: 15) gathered together and they begin to speak of wonderful deeds of the Lord He accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

As the Holy Trinity is one so are the 3 great feast days of His Church.

Reflection:  The word “spirit” in Biblical Hebrew is “ruah”.  Spirit in Biblical Greek is “pneuma”.   Our English word, which is from the Latin, “spirare” translates well both Hebrew and Greek: all three words can also be translated as “breath” or “wind”.  So our Lord uses these different definitions in a word play  in John 3.  Scripture reports in Acts 2 that the descent of the Holy Spirit was like a “mighty rushing wind.”

Now our English word “spirit” and it’s Latin original “spirare” is also the second syllable of these following words and taken together form a whole Bible study of the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • expire
  • respire
  • inspire
  • conspire
  • transpire
  • perspire
  • aspire
Expire:  literally without breath .The “s” has dropped out in our pronunciation.  We were dead in our trespasses, spiritually dead, expired.  In sin we are spiritually in the tomb with Lazarus until the Lord calls out by His Word: Come out!   When we sin again we are without breath till repentance and forgiveness.
Respire:  literally, to breathe again. The Holy Spirit performs resuscitation in the work and word of Jesus Christ so we  can breathe again.
Inspire:   breathe in.  All Scripture is inspired by God, God-breathed.  He breathes in the Word and makes it alive as Jesus Christ is alive.  Scripture is also for the Holy Spirit to rebuke sin and reconcile us once again to the Lord.  Every Word of the Bible, either Law or Gospel, is inspired.
Conspire:  literally breathe together.  The Holy Spirit builds us up in Christ to the glory of God the Father, a holy conspiracy, His Church so that the Word is preached, taughted, administered, served, confessed and believed upon in the world.
Transpire:  literally breathed across, as in the whole history of Israel culminating in the 3 great feast days of the church and in the Church today till the day when forgiveness will no longer be needed: Come, Lord Jesus, come. The Spirit and the Bride say come!
Perspire:  literally breathe through, that is sweat! The Holy Spirit works and man sweats, when we know the depth of our wrong and nothing we can do to extricate our selves from it.  We sweat and panic and the Holy Spirit blows upon us the Word of Christ to soothe,cool, heal…forgive.
Aspire:  to breathe towards, to want to do better.  We can not aspire and be saved on our own, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  But once baptized and forgiven, we aspire to be made holy in our lives through faith, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, etc. by walking in the Spirit, feeding on His Word and Sacrament day by day, for as branches are to the vine, we can do nothing without Him.
All of these words describe the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not an independent operator but works in perfect sync with the Father and the Son, who is forever to be worshiped and glorified in His Church, one God, one Lord,  both now and forever. Amen!
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.                                   (Collect of the Day)

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These two photos are of one wooden statue depicting our Lord riding the donkey…complete with wheels! It is on display at The Cloisters in Manhattan which is a museum of nothing but Christian Medieval Art. This particular statue was used in churches on Palm Sunday.

Psalmody:  Psalm 118:19-25

Additional Psalm:  Psalm 9

Old Testament Reading: Numbers16:23-40

New Testament Reading: Luke 19:29-48

In the daily Lectionary, today’s New Testament reading is the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the meditation below reflects this Gospel.  The meditation below is by Pr. Scott Murray in his excellent devotional A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year. The emphasis is my own for a post-script reflection.

Meditation:  When John Goodman’s character in the movie King Ralph is suddenly catapulted from utter obscurity to become the King of England, he initially exults in the power it gives him. He has a bowling alley installed in Buckingham Palace. However, it isn’t long until he realizes that power’s crown weighs heavily on the brow that bears it. 

Jesus comes from Galilean obscurity to Jerusalem, receiving the accolades of majesty from the frenzied crowd. Although they did not surprise Him, the burdens His kingly crown brings with it weigh upon His sacred head, wounding it for our transgressions. His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need. Like the unfortunate baseball manager who inherits a last-place team, Jesus has nothing but woe ahead of Him. King Jesus is acclaimed to humiliation and ignominious death. He comes not to subjugate, master, and overpower, but to suffer and die. His throne is nothing other than the cross. The crowd thought their hosannas would acclaim His power, and they were right in that He came to save. However, He came to save not by employing His power but by hiding it. He came to save not by menacing His enemies but by forgiving them. He came not to drive His subjects, but to make them His sons. Such is the one whom we hail as King.

 “What mental suffering the Jewish rulers must have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King (Luke19:38)! But what honor was it for the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship overIsraelwas not for exacting tribute, putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, or subduing His enemies by open warfare. He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, hope, and love were centered in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews is in the heavens the Lord of angels” (Augustine, Tractates on John, 51).

Post-Script:  “His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need.”  This reflection works well for Ascension. Ascension is the Lord’s enthronement in heaven when He sits at the right hand of God the Father.  The versicle  and response for Ascensiontide’s daily prayer makes this explicit:

The King ascends to heaven. Alleluia!/O come, let us worship Him.

He ascends to heaven still to descend in “humble water, humble words, humble food”, for His Body, the Church, that is, in Holy Baptism, Preaching and Teaching of the Pure Word of God, Law and Promise and the Holy Communion.

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1)

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
   and he gave gifts to men.”

 9( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended intothe lower regions, the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4)

For 1,979 earth years He has been at the right hand of God the Father,  to be with us all and by  His scarred hand to preach and administer Word and Sacrament for His Church, for the life of the world through those whom He has called.

 Let us pray…

O King who comes in the name of the Lord, through Your birth and death, earth and heaven were joined together in peace. May Your coming as King into Jerusalem in humility on the donkey help us to see that You continue to come to us as our King hidden in humble water, humble words, humble food; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Day)


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I write  this on our desktop which is also used by our youngest son (sophomore) for homework and social networking.  He will leave homework assignments on the desk and this morning he left this instruction sheet for an English assignment:

“I Am” Poems

The first part of the assignment is “Formatting: ” and then:

“I am (two special characteristics you have)

I wonder (something you are actually curious about)…”

etc, etc, etc.

I would wonder if I  had to do this assignment why do we have to do it! My guess is below.

Then in the second part are samples of these poems:

“I am”

“I am sharp and focused

I wonder what the camera really sees

I hear a buzzing bee…”

etc. etc. etc.

Writing an “I Am” poem is to say, check me out, I’m great.  There is not a lick of humility in that.  Now we know the reason for this kind of assignment:  self-esteem.  This has been going on for a long time because I remember back in grade school (50 years ago) we had to write an essay entitled, “Me, Myself and I”.

Narcissism  is the reigning idolatry  in our day and it is force-fed in our schools.  This forces us to look into ourselves without a guide and to accept what is there apart from the Lord.  This esteeming of the ‘sacred’ self has become a religion, the televangelism of the mass media  of self-idolatry.  No wonder we are constantly clashing more and more into each in a billiards game of just bouncing into each other.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53

 Looking inside, without humility, will result in either overweening pride or the darkness of despair because I do not compare well with others.  I wonder if the increase in suicide is a result of this self-esteem ideology. And the overweening pride, the anti-God state, is quite demanding: just glance over this clip art. After all, there is supposedly no original sin, only original goodness.

This assignment to write “I Am” Poems reminded me of Someone who said “I am”, as in “I am the Good Shepherd…”, “I am the light of the world…”, “I am the Resurrection and the life…”  ad eternum:  Alleluia!  But only He could actually speak an “I Am” poem in perfect humility for He is without sin, even in His flesh, who bore our inward looking sinful selves so we may look upon Him Who died and rose for you.  In His death, we die, and in Him, we live.

4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2

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“There have been too many historical Jesuses – a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.” C. S. Lewis

 

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