Showing items filed under “The Rt. Rev. George Sumner”

Are Sneakers a Sacrament? 

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How many sacraments are there? The answer was two because Communion and Baptism are mandated by Christ himself, hence “dominical” (though Luther in a certain mood included confession and absolution as a third). In the Middle Ages the catholic tradition settled on seven. Our prayer book splits the difference by considering the other five “sacramental.” But in the early Church the views were more fluid - is Sunday a sacrament? Or foot washing? Or the blessing of a grave?

If one sees the sacramental as the employment of physical things to bespeak Christ to us, because He is lord of both creation and redemption at once, then the point may be not so much how many, but rather how a genuinely sacramental vision, rooted in the dominical words, radiates out into more and more of our lives.  This really is the heart of catholic, and certainly eastern orthodox, spirituality. Read for example Alexander Schmemann's “For the Life of the World.” In the kingdom, he says, all creation will be a means of communion with Jesus Christ as the consecrated bread and wine now are. This does not obviate our need of the sacraments but expands their meaning. 

I think of this after our morning with Samaritans' Feet, which connects giving young people shoes with the dominical act we remember on Maundy Thursday. This model is true throughout the lives of our parishes. We grow into seeing more and more of our outreach and stewardship as “sacramental,” extending to home and work. There is found the true heart of a reformed and catholic spirituality.  




The Other Soft Voice

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A great deal of the discourse these days is anger, dissembling, harshness. It is a shame, but I suppose it has one advantage. No one would seriously claim it is up-building. You know whence it comes. 

Perhaps more dangerous are voices that seem unctious, quiet, sophisticated in a world-weary way. “No he didn't mean that - don't take him so seriously - you won't die - you will be enlightened... .” His menace is more hidden.

I recently read an advert of the Hemlock Society, presenters at a diocesan convention, believe it or not. “We've moved far past these primitive notions of a God ruling life - perhaps now we can see how in such cases taking life enhances quality life - and our powers to affect this may be God's will in our time - who is he anyway to command life and death - our methods are so pastoral now... .” The soft offer of half-truths to an opposite end - to learn whose soft voice that really is where spiritual safety lies.  To hear God's voice plainly as His, even in the modern hall of mirrors - what if that is the higher wisdom? To reject the soft, spiritual, skeptical voice, Girma Wormtongue's, may be the key to Christian ethics.



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