The Mystery of Iniquity

main image

As Americans today we are reeling from the news of the mass murder in Orlando. We all cry out in solidarity as a nation for respect and security for all our fellow citizens. I believe it is incumbent on traditional Christians to express most clearly their solidarity with their gay and lesbian neighbors.

I have been thinking today about the nature of human evil. The media have so far managed a partial picture of the perpetrator. He was fueled by anger toward our LGBT neighbors, affected by mental illness, and influenced by the ideology of hatred and violence found in ISIS.  This seems typical of human sin.  There is an irreducible dimension of human responsibility, the outgrowth of the vice of anger and hatred. But this is entangled with his own weakness. He was himself mentally ill, impaired. Finally there is always the dimension of what the New Testament calls the ‘powers and principalities.’ These are corrupt structures of belief and relationship, beyond the individual, that makes human society tilt toward wrong. Whether in some smaller cruelty or in the horrendous, these three are ubiquitous. Why they are with us in this God’s world is itself a mystery only made clear on the last day when every tear is dried and, before Christ, we see face to face.



Priestly Nation

main image

Most every Sunday I lead a service in which the Baptismal Covenant figures prominently. Candidates for baptism and confirmation repeat (in the early church literally 'tradite') the creed, and then they renounce evil and affirm in public their commitment. These are ancient parts of the rite - I always liked how, in the early church, they would spit at Satan and then turn east toward the coming Christ. To these ancient elements have been added a series of promises, which are meant to comprise the Christian life.

 This section has given expression to a whole theology of the church, an 'ecclesiology.'  Baptism is the one and equal doorway to life with Christ. In fact it is significant that the Roman and mainline Reformation churches recognize one another’s baptism. The baptized are, as one, a 'priestly nation,' Peter tells us, for they mediate the good news about Christ to the world. On this foundation is placed the affirmation that ministry belongs to the whole people of God (Ephesians 4).  Ordained ministry orders, encourages, and reminds the body about who it is what it is called to do.

It would seem, however, that different branches or corners of the church grasp different aspects of this covenant. A lopsided account of Christian life can result. So, it is important to bear two things in mind. First, who Christ is (and did) precedes who we are. We have already heard the word of God. The creed recited then sums up His saving reality. Before the church does anything, it confesses its faith in Him.

Secondly, the account of the Christian life is intentionally varied and broad: worship, evangelism, repentance for sin, service to those in need, engagement with the social order. I bet one's style of Christian life makes each of us lean to one and away from another. It's good to give extra attention to those promises we find ourselves most recalcitrant to - they tell us the most about ourselves. And of course in the rite of confirmation follows - God's work matters supremely, but the church needs the confession of that faith as our own.

A baptismal church, and so a baptismal Anglicanism is Christocentric and Trinitarian, holistically evangelistic and diaconal, grace-oriented and 'confessional.'  It is insistently lay-oriented, though this makes the ministry of the ordained more important and distinct, not less.




12...112113114115116117118119120121 ... 137138

Complete the Race (II Timothy 4:17)

At the end of our vacation we find ourselves in Chicago for its Marathon weekend (the fastest, I have read this morning, perhaps because it is cool and relatively level). Marathons offer many good things. You can see world-class athletes from places like Ethiopia and Kenya. There is a feel of fiesta with signs by family members, getups by some for-fun runners, and food for sale.

But as I looked out my hotel window at 7:30 a.m., I watched the race of competitors who have lost legs or their use. Wheeling vehicles by arm for 26 miles means serious fitness and determination.

Those competitors were to me, this morning, a symbol of the Church too. For each is wounded. The larger family cheers them on. Each by grace has risen up to run the race. Ahead is the goal, the prize, the welcome home. We find the companionship of Jesus the Lord, there, and along the route too.