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

Eklutna

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This is the name of an indigenous village in southern Alaska, where in the 17th Century, Russian Orthodox monks served as missionaries. The village lies on an inlet of the Pacific near glaciers.  I have included a picture of the older church, (partially obscured, on the left), the newer building, and a series of small structures, the size of doghouses, in the cemetery in the foreground. These were a carry-over from pagan, pre-Christian times, when such small homes were built for deceased ancestors in their burial grounds. As a missionary, I heard of similar mini-homes for ancestors in the front yards of the homes on Wahaya in east Africa.  

No subject finds more interest than the question how to put mission at the center of theology. And what exactly is meant by mission?  One important part of the answer is found in the Eklutna graveyard. There the monks followed the advice of Pope Gregory, as recorded in the Venerable Bede: tear down their temples and build your churches on the same sites. Therein is comprised the complex and intimate relation of Christ and culture.  What if every relation ought to involve some simultaneous tearing down and building up?  Those native people were asked to leave their own faith, but at the same time to find homes for their dead in the confines of the communion of the saints.  What would it mean for us rightly to tear down and build up?  Answering this is an unavoidable part of deciphering the missional' in our own time and space. 

Peace,

 +GRS

 

On Hurricanes

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It is natural that the recent devastating string of hurricanes should provoke questions that touch on our faith, including rabbi Kushner's “why do bad things happen to good people?” (Father Victor who offers a lecture on the subject in our online course at the Stanton Center adds that the opposite is a valid question too). In the 18th century the atheist French philosopher turned his sarcasm on the idea of God in the wake of the Lisbon earthquake. At least then people honored the truth claims of religion enough to fight over the question!  It is understandable that we Christians too should ask hard questions in the wake of our own instances of what are called “natural evil.” A good quick read on the subject is David Bentley Hart. 

My point is simple - this is a case of what Daniel calls the mystery of iniquity. No satisfying answer is possible until “we see face-to-face” (I Corinthians 13). But this ought not to be taken to be a reason to foreclose complaint and questioning. Job does both, and then God silences him and blesses him! We in the meantime are left, in the face of what we do not yet know, to confess what we do.  That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus (Romans 8) must be said, but in a way that weeps with those who now weep. Eschatology is not meant to silence others. 

As a footnote, we acknowledge an outstanding piece of theological business. Consider this verse: “we know the whole creation has been groaning.. until the revealing...” (Romans 8:22). We do not really understand how the creation itself has suffered the corruption of the Fall, though it must in some sense be true. This too will be clearer by-and-by, when the circle is once again unbroken. 

+GRS

 

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