07 February 2009

The hypocrisy of the Primates

A tremendous amount of cyber ink has been spillt about the Primates Communique from Alexandria, and also Lambeth 1998, particularly Resolution 1.10. A number of readers are still in the dark about it. I've decided to post it with some editorial emphasis.

First, what does resolution 1.10 say?

This Conference:

  1. commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
  2. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
  3. recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
  4. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
  5. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
  6. requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
  7. notes the significance of the Kuala Lampur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.
Take particular note of the emphasized bits of 1.10. Notice in no terms does the wording make this canon law of any province. It "commends," "believes," and "advises" -- neither of those terms makes it law. The words do not convey a command.

Additionally, the statement from Kuala Lampur is just that, a statement. It was not published as canon law. It is simply a statement from the Province of South East Asia agreed to by eighty delegates from the so-called Global South, led by the former Archbishop of Nigeria. It has not been adopted by the Communion as a whole and our House of Bishops rejected it. Make sure to read the introductory paragraph on the Statement.

Take particular note of (c) above:

. . . [All] believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.

Even to my feeble mind, that would mean sexual orientation is not a barrier to participation in any aspect of the Church. How, then, can one be a "full member" when one is denied access to all sacramental rites of Church life.

The ordination of same-gender attracted people seems to be fulfilling the express letter of 1.10. Yet, certain segments of the Anglican Communion refuse to ordain those whom 1.10 explicitly states are full member of the Body of Christ. That, to me, is egregious hypocrisy.

Equally egregious is the hypocrisy in this statement

We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons

The sad fact is that the Communion is not listening in any form. When discussions are held about the experience of "homosexual person," those persons are excluded from the discussion. Instead, they are talked about.

Now, how many of you can tell me what Lambeth 1998 1.3 is about? I bet none of you can without following the link. 1.3 that each province make an "intentional effort" to, among other things, see how "women and children are victimised by the religious systems in which they live."

I'll bet a quid that none of you have ever heard about that part of Lambeth 1998. It is completely ignored by Provinces that victimise women both religiously and support the legal victimisation of women. Is Orombi calling upon all misogynists to resign? Of course not.

From the Human Rights Organization, we learn this about Nigeria, Akinola's Province.

The rights of women in Nigeria were routinely violated. The Penal Code explicitly stated that assaults committed by a man on his wife were not an offense, if permitted by customary law and if "grievous hurt" was not inflicted. Marital rape was not a crime. Child marriages remained common, especially in northern Nigeria. Women were denied equal rights in the inheritance of property. It was estimated that about 60 percent of Nigerian women were subjected to female genital cutting. Cross Rivers and Edo States adopted legislation banning the practice and imposing criminal penalties; the governor of Rivers State announced that he would follow suit. Child labor, especially in domestic work, often completely unpaid, remained common. There were numerous reports of the organized trafficking of children between Nigeria and other West African countries, and of women within West Africa and between Nigeria and Europe. In February 2000, police announced the arrest of a Lagos-based businessman in connection with the sale of women and girls to Europe; in August, another man was arrested in Anambra State for trafficking children to other countries in West Africa.
Where is Akinola's "righteous indignation" concerning this? We hear the deafening sound of silence on this issue. He is a misogynist, therefore, 1.3 doesn't apply to the Communion.

Or, how about
Resolution 1.9? That speaks of the importance of ecology. Is Akinola leaving over that? No, the only important and "binding" resolution of 1998 is part of 1.10. The so-called Global engages in the victimisation of women and children, so most of 1998 must be ignored.

Instead, the GS focuses on persecuting the GLBT community, and they use that same, mostly ignored 1998 to support their "manifold sins and wickedness which....they grievously have committed."

That is sheer hypocrisy.

06 February 2009

05 February 2009

Bad news for Duncan - indifferent news for North America

The Primates have released their statement. It appears that the status quo is upheld. There is nothing that we have not heard ten thousand times over the past six year. The whole document his here.

As I am still processing the death of my aunt, I'll probably have more on the communique later. I do wish to comment upon the WCG Report, though.

First and foremost, we need to keep in mind who wrote this document - bishops and a retired cathedral dean all of whom are heterocentric to the last chromosome of their DNA.

They are in favour of a strong central "Anglican Church" with a curia type government that has the ability to tell each province what it may or may not do. Make no mistake about this: What they seek to do is to remove autonomy and disenfranchise the laity in the whole communion. Isn't it a coincidence that those are the exact same goals of the GS primates.

Susan Russell, on Walking With Integrity with whom I don't always agree, states it succinctly:
. . . Calling a halt to actions that violate the polity and boundaries of the autonomous national churches that are constituent members of the Anglican Communion is preserving the historic unity of the church. Scapegoating a percentage of the baptized by excluding them from a percentage of the sacraments of the Body of Christ is participating in the appeasement of bigotry . . .
To expect this "team" to write a balanced document is like asking the KKK to write a document fair to minorities. It will be up to the Primates to enforce equity and "relationships" rather than punishment.

The problem with the WCG (and primates communique) is the wonderful use of British English to disguise the fact that, although hundreds or thousands of words have been written, not a single new thought of importance has been expressed.

The part that relates to us most is this:
Therefore, we request the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate a professionally mediated conversation which engages all parties at the earliest opportunity. We commit ourselves to support these processes and to participate as appropriate. We earnestly desire reconciliation with these dear sisters and brothers for whom we understand membership of the Anglican Communion is profoundly important. We recognise that these processes cannot be rushed, but neither should they be postponed.
For years TEC has been trying to talk, but the Calvinists refuse to hear any words except "we submit, you are right, TEC is apostate; here are the deeds to all our property. May we sit in the back of the church if we promise to keep quite?"

But, this is an interesting bit.
It is not for individual groups to claim the terms on which they will relate to the Communion. The leadership of the Communion needs to stand together, and find an approach to which they are all committed.
This is not good news for Duncan or the Akinolites. The report says, "It is Canterbury that unites us, and only Canterbury can say who is in the communion. You cannot call yourselves Anglican without Canterbury." What is explicit is that there will be talk about the possibility of a new province, but it is going to take a very long time.

The first part of that statement can be taken (and "they" will spin it) as a warning to TEC and the CoC, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I see the statement more a warning to TEC and CoC than to the Calvinists-- who are clearly favoured by the drafting committee.

But, in that confusing Best of Britain language, they sting Duncan:
Any scheme developed would rely on an undertaking from the present partners to ACNA that they would not seek to recruit and expand their membership by means of proselytisation. WCG believes that the advent of schemes such as the Communion Partners Fellowship and the Episcopal Visitors scheme instituted by the Presiding Bishop in the United States should be sufficient to provide for the care of those alienated within the Episcopal Church from recent developments.
The part that I have the biggest problem with is this
There are continuing deep differences especially over the issues of the election of bishops in same-gender unions, Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions, and on cross-border interventions. The moratoria, requested by the Windsor Report and reaffirmed by the majority of bishops at the Lambeth Conference, were much discussed. If a way forward is to be found and mutual trust to be re-established, it is imperative that further aggravation and acts which cause offence, misunderstanding or hostility cease. While we are aware of the depth of conscientious conviction involved, the position of the Communion defined by the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its entirety remains, and gracious restraint on all three fronts is urgently needed to open the way for transforming conversation.
They are acting as if 1.10 is law and that Lambeth 1998 talked about nothing except that one little section. It is not canon law in any province and the reality is that the whole resolution was railroaded though by a homophobic Archbishop of Canterbury. The 1998 Resolutions deal with a wide variety of issues of greater importance.

Yet, that section as Carey (who has a unhealthy obsession with other people's bedroom antics --see here--to the extent that he sees privacy laws wrong) intended, was grabbed like a life preserver as the weapon of choice to use against the western part of the Communion.

Lambeth 1998 exposed the danger that comes with an Anglican pontiff. Many of the current Anglican Communion problems are the direct result of his pontificating. Does the communion want a formal structure to give the ABC that same power, legally?

Reflecting Carey's legacy, and in full knowledge that 1.10 is not canon, the primates have asked for more gracious restraint from all sides to further deify Carey's folley. That is reprehensible in my opinion. But remember, most are trying to keep the Communion together and someone must be sacrificed to the god of Calvinism.

The report "welcomes" the Covenant process and the primates appear committed to seeing it though, but without "teeth."
We received a report on progress in the development of the Covenant. We believe the securing of the covenant to be a vital element in strengthening the life of the Communion. We welcome the Covenant Design Group's intention to produce a covenant text which has a relational basis and tone. It is about invitation and reconciliation in order to lead to the deepening of our koinonia in Christ, and which entails both freedom and robust accountability. We look forward to the development of a covenant text to be presented at ACC-14 which will commend itself to our Provinces because it speaks of the mutuality that should characterise the life of Christians and of Churches; of a relationship which exercises the self-limitation and gracious restraint born of true affection, and which should be marked by a spirit of humility and integrity.
But, again, there is a price tag. With or without a full set of teeth, the GLBT members of the Communion will be chewed up on the altar of appeasement.

It is vital to remember that not one person on the covenant writing team is an advocate for inclusion of GLBT in the the church unless those people enter sham marriages and have "same gender" relationships on the sly as do untold thousands of presbyters (including bishops and archbishops).

Whatever the "teeth" or lack thereof, the first step to becoming law is the primates' council.

The Presiding Bishop had this to say about pastoral visitors and the whole tone of the meeting.

The pastoral visitors are expected to be people who can listen and have strong skills in healing and reconciliation . . . The conversation has been gracious, sometimes challenging, but there is a growing recognition of the remarkably different contexts in which we function.

As for the new proposed province? They aren't going to wait fifteen years - they want power now. I expect the schismatics to "pull an Assembly of God" move: (also known as the Jimmy Swaggart/Ted Haggard move): "We respect the decision of the elders, but God has called us to do this and we have to do what God tells us."

That is my quick assessment. I may have more say later. In the meantime, make sure to read Jim Naughton's take on the Windsor Consultation Report. Also, Thinking Anglicans has several links to the reaction around the Anglican Communion.

A blogger nails DV about sex

I hope that most of you read Changing Attitudes. It's a really cool UK blog and it is one of the few media outlets with some access to what is going on in Alexandria. In today's post, CA nails DV's hide to the barn door.
David Virtue wonders why I continue to mention him here on the CA blog. It’s because he has asked questions and made comments which astonish me at every press briefing. Yesterday, his question to the Archbishop of Sudan was about homosexuality and the statement made at the Lambeth Conference. The crisis in the Sudan seems of little import to David compared with the Anglican Communion’s engagement with homosexuality. Who fuels this conflict over sexuality? Not most of the Primates and not those working patiently for LGBT inclusion. It is obsessive individuals from the Episcopal Church.

David’s comment on a briefing which had considered Darfur, Bangladesh and global warming: “Another non-event.”
TTLS says simply, spot on.

With all the media hype over the strong statement by the Archbishop of the Sudan that +Robinson should resign, it is interesting that between TEC and Sudan have strengthened. and have never been better. This is a fact about which neither DV nor the general media care. They prefer to obsess over same-gender relations.

04 February 2009

The Passing of a Generation in my Family

Gertrude Holloway
1921 - 2009

This morning at 10.17 PST my Aunt, Googie, transitioned from mortality to eternal life.

When I was learning to talk, I could not say Gertie (Gertrude) so I called her Googie, and the nickname stuck. She and my uncle Orphus (whom I called Ah-ha) lived next door to my grandparents so I was there all the time. The first time I saw Wizard of Oz in colour(!) was on Googie's colour TV. All these decades later, whenever I see that movie, I always remember the magic of the moment Dorothy opens the door and there is all that colour! And I always think of Googie at that moment. I think I'll watch it tonight. And my love of tea came at her dining table.

Googie was a snazzy dresser and wouldn't leave the house until she was perfect. If someone asked her to go with them, her reply was always the same, "let me put my face on." That meant makeup, hair primped and clip on ear rings. (Only "fast" girls had pierced ears! When I had my ear pierced in the late 1970s, she said, "You know that makes you a fast girl, don't you?")

She loved speed, too. When we would get in the car she always delighted me by spinning the tires. Back then, the slang for that was to "punch it." One day we were getting ready to go to town and I yelled, "Punch it, Googie!" And She did; I squealed and the family still uses the phrase for "get the lead out and let's get going."

Sunday and Monday the doctors told us "any minute." Tuesday I didn't go visit her because her sons, grandchildren, and great great grand children were all there. That evening the doctor said that it was a matter of "a couple of hours." Yet, she held on.

This morning I went to see her and it was obvious that things were not well. I sat for about an hour with her, talking about olden days. I thanked her for being my favourite aunt and for all the love she'd given me all my life. And I told her it was okay to go; there was no reason to stay. I held her hand, and prayed that if mortal recovery was not God's plan, then the end would be quick.

Her doctor came to see her about 10 a.m. He examined her and said that with the bit of weight she had and all the build up fluid (kidney failure) that she would not die for several days - there was no imminent "danger." He said he would make arrangements to transfer her to a nursing facility.

He and my cousins walked down the hallway and left me alone with Googie, again. She had a funny breathing spell, and I began to time her breaths.

The cousins returned about ten minutes later. I was still sitting, holding her hand. My oldest cousin started telling a story about when we were young -- a story of her fast driving and of course it involved a "punch it Googie" reference. As he talked, I noticed her breaths were growing farther apart. I stopped listening to the story and concentrated on Googie.

She opened her eyes, focused on me, and I said, "Punch it Googie, I love you." She smiled, closed her eyes and took one more breath and her carotid artery fluttered. I looked at my watch: it was 10.17 a.m.

And that was it. In that fleeting second my father's and mother's generation ceased to exist in mortality. We have become the elders of the extended family. And I feel like an orphan.

I stroked her forehead, and primped her hair. When my cousins finished the story, I told them that it was over. They didn't think I knew what I was saying but when they looked at her, it was obvious that she had transitioned. My oldest cousin said, "I think you're right, Jim."

What an odd thing, that moment of transition. As many times as I've seen it, I still do not understand. It is that "twinkling of an eye" the Apostle Paul tells us about.

In a conceited way, I think she was waiting for me to help her transition. I was her favourite nephew -- so she told us. Perhaps she was just waiting for someone to say, "you can go; it will be okay." Whatever the reason, I'm so thankful that she waited for me.

There is only one small bit of unfinished business - Last Sunday, in our conversation, we talked about her love of dancing. I told her that I still don't know how to dance. She smiled and said, "Well, when I get out of here, I'll teach you to 'day-nc.'" Yes, she was a Southerner. She made Paula Dean sound like a Northerner.

Right after my cousins were sure Googie was dead, Leon, her oldest son, said, "Well, Jimmy, you'll have to wait a while for those dancing lessons."

I stayed with Googie, holding her hand, until the mortuary attendant arrived. I introduced him to Googie, and told him to take good care of her. And then I left.

After I was in the hallway, I went back and ask him for one small favour - to which he agreed. I asked that when he put the van in drive and pulled away from the curb to say "Punch it Googie."

Thank you God, for Googie.
Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Googie. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Punch it, Googie!

03 February 2009

Report on the Primates' meeting via Canada and statement on Zimbabwe

The Venerable Paul Fehelen, Principal Secretary to the Primate of Canada, The Most Rev'd Fred Hiltz has posted a report about the meeting in Alexandria. You may read the full article here. The report is dated 3 February (today).

This report confirms many of my postulations yesterday including the reception of the report on "sexuality."

But the Archdeacon himself was surprised that the dreamed-for province in North America is not up for discussion.
I was surprised by Archbishop Aspinall's answer to another question on the emergence of the entity in North America that wishes to become a province. Archbishop Aspinall said this was not on the agenda and only was referred to in passing.
But even the well informed are mostly in the dark regarding this meeting:
It is difficult to get an exact read on where this meeting is going. One can only hope that the spirit in which the meeting began can continue to permeate the conference.
Unrelated to the Canadian report, the Primates released a statement on Zimbabwe. You'll find it here. Make sure you read it.
We call upon parishes throughout the Anglican Communion to assist the Anglican Communion Office, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Office and the Anglican Observer to the United Nations in addressing the humanitarian crisis by giving aid through such mechanisms as the Archbishop of Canterbury is able to designate, and asking that Lambeth Palace facilitate processes by which food and other material aid for Zimbabwe can be distributed through the dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

We urge the Churches of the Anglican Communion to join with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing Wednesday 25th February 2009, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people,
Spread the news, sisters and brothers.

02 February 2009

Schismatics losing in Alexandria?

According to the rumour mongers and doomsday sayers, the primates of the Anglican Communion were supposed split North America like Mt. St. Helen this week. But as of the end of day two, the earth has not trembled and there is no smoke or ashes in the air. In fact, the seismic outlook is for no rumblings at all.

The Most Rev’d Philip Aspinall, Primate of Australia and spokesperson for the Primates, said that
There is a good atmosphere. The Primates are pretty relaxed, but people are aware of the tensions. There are not the levels of anxiety that have accompanied other Primates meetings.
When asked if the primates would all take Holy Communion together, Aspinall replied that "no one has made any statement that they are not going to participate in Holy Communion."

Presiding Bishop Carlos Touch-Porter of Mexico agreed:
"There is a totally different spirit. Something has happened and I wonder if it was [the 2008] Lambeth [Conference]. We still have our differences but we are talking to each other in a different way.
However, David Virtue reports that with The Most Rev’d Katharine Jefferts Schori now present, “a number of primates have said they will not take communion if she does.” If they don’t, it will make them look like the elementary school boys they are, particularly in light of the collegian feelings at this meeting.

Regarding the two most “volatile” subjects, the first blow to the schematics is the separate province for North America which has not been added to the agenda. The subject has been referred to in passing but there will be no plenary discussion.

Aspinall stated that no one expects a new province to be recommended. That is bad news for Duncan. In fact, the reports are that none of the North American schismatic leaders are even in Egypt. This is probably the most interesting bit for me since Duncan considers his status as a primate to be fait accompli.

The second blow concerns sexuality. Asked if the Primates were going to revisit the Dar es Salaam communiqué which called for the discipline of provinces that ordain homosexuals to the priesthood or bless same-gender unions, Aspinall said
That is off the table. It is in the background. It certainly prompted the primates to see what kind of communication was coming out of the meeting. But it is off the table.
Additionally, he said that the Primates had distanced themselves from any talk about sanctions, enforcement and teeth to enforce compliance over the issue of sexuality.

Instead, relationship and fellowships are prevailing and an increasing revelation of what a covenant can and cannot do. He said that legislation to enforce the covenant is not on the table for discussion.
It is an issue of moral obligation, not legal enforcement. Each participating church that makes the gift of participating agrees to self limit its autonomy. We will not proceed on dividing issues. If a church willingly enters into this covenant, it must observe obligations. If there is a failure, the remedy required is to invest in mutual relationships. The only sanction we have is non invitation to meetings. There will be no more stick over the head sanctions.
This is quite interesting when one realizes that yesterday, the first day of the meeting, the reports were that Akinola was going to force a vote on sanctions and a rival province. A report today said Akinola was asking Global South primates to remember past promises to him and to remain committed to the agreements made.

Regarding the presentation on sexuality made by Archbishop Stephen of Myanmar, (formerly Burma), Archbishops Thabo Makgoba of South Africa, Fred Hiltz of Canada, Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Aspinall said that
There was a huge variety of responses from one culture to another. In one culture, matters of human sexuality are a very real live issue. In some cases, it is alive in the culture, but it is not driving the churches. The church has not provoked or enlivened these issues.
One thing seems certain: this meeting is not going the way the Akinola and Presiding Bishop Venables were certain it would go. It is clearly leaving Duncan out in the cold.

The application process for a new province must begin with the Primates' approval in meeting. It seems certain that this is not going to happen now, or in the near future. What remains to be seen is if Akinola and his crew will announce a new province without the proper approval. If so, Duncan, Schofield, Iker et al will be out in the cold, as they are now: Not Anglican in any form.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, the Most Rev Edward Malecdan was refused a visa by the Egyptian government and will not be able to attend, while visa difficulties have delayed the arrival of the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Most Rev’d Daniel Deng Bul Yak (that name always makes me smile – it’s so singable!).

Three provinces are currently without primates and will be represented by their senior bishop: the Rt. Rev’d Errol Brooks, Bishop of Northeastern Caribbean and Aruba for the Church of the Province of the West Indies, the Rt. Rev’d Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia for the Church of the Province of Central Africa, and the Rt. Rev’d Charles Koete, Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands for the Anglican Church of Melanesia.

Be sure your sins will find you out

You must read this. While kindling the fires to burn the immoral TEC clergy, it seems that one of the wunderkind schismatic leaders was not practicing what he preached. Read it all here.

The Rev. Lorne Coyle, of Christ Church of Vero Beach, was suspended effective 2 p.m. Sunday because his bishop received an out-of-state woman’s allegations that she and Coyle, who is married, had an affair. He has admitted the affair did take place.

On Sunday, Coyle stood in front of the 400-member congregation and confirmed he had sexual relations with an adult women over a period of years,

Coyle led his congregation out of TEC and established Christ Church in response to what he said was the national Episcopal Church’s straying from biblical morality.

It appears that biblical morality only applies to gays.

Kudos to John Guernsey, the dubious "bishop," who suspended Coyle.

Remember, folks, no gloating on TTLS. Please pray for Coyle and his victim.

01 February 2009

Evensong - Epiphany IV

Evensong is from Turo Cathedral this week. You may access the BBC sige here.

Introit: Praise our Lord, all ye Gentiles (Byrd)
Responses: Byrd
Office Hymn: O Trinity of blessed light (O lux beata)
Psalms: 136, 137, 138 (Lloyd, Hylton Stewart)
First Lesson: Nehemiah 2 vv1-10
Canticles: Collegium Regale (Howells)
Second Lesson: Romans 12 vv1-8
Anthem: Seek him that maketh the seven stars (Jonathan Dove)
Final Hymn: Great God of every shining constellation (Highwood)
Organ Voluntary: Fiat lux (Dubois)

Epiphany IV

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
    If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die

Tomorrow, February second, is a cross-quarter day, more or less.

Never heard of it? Well, you are probably not alone. A cross-quarter day is the mid-point between a solstice and an equinox, the halfway point of a calendar season. It means we are nearly halfway through winter. And here you thought tomorrow was just Groundhog Day!

February second might not amount to much in Florida or Southern California, but in many parts of our country, making it halfway through winter is a big deal. Just ask any groundhog.

A cross-quarter day means, in effect, the gradual return of light and warmth; and in ancient times, this was worth celebrating. Pagan and Celtic rituals often included the burning of great fires around this time of year to welcome back the sun from its winter sabbatical. People could once again begin thinking about spring planting and summer growth.

The Church, without missing a beat, appropriated the concept and designated the winter cross-quarter day as the day to celebrate the gradual return of the sun’s light by blessing and lighting candles. It became known as the Feast of Candlemas, and it is celebrated in many of our churches, reminding us that Christ is the light who brings salvation and the warmth of God’s love.

Still today, the gradual shift from winter to spring provides an apt metaphor for our own spiritual journey from dark to light, from pagan to Christian, from mundane to sublime.

The Book of Deuteronomy, from which our first reading today is taken, is also about journey and transformation. As Bernard Levinson writes in his New Oxford Annotated Bible commentary, “Deuteronomy directly addresses the problem of the historical distance between past and present.”

The Book of Deuteronomy also addresses the distance between the exile in Egypt and life in the Promised Land. Passing through Moab on virtually the last leg of their long and arduous Exodus journey, the people of Israel became tired and increasingly irritable. They were ready to settle down. And so they said as one, “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”

The “great fire,” of course, is not the fire of our pagan ancestors lighted to ward off the evil spirits, but the fire of Mount Horeb – or “Sinai” as it is more frequently called – the sign of the Lord’s manifestation in the wilderness. Like a beacon in the night, the fire of Horeb for years brought reassurance that the Lord is still with his people, even in exile.

But now that time of journey and exile was coming to an end. Change was at hand.

As the people were about to enter the land given to them, the Lord promised a prophet who would speak his words with authenticity and authority after Moses was gone. “I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet who shall speak … everything that I command,” said the Lord.

The people would not die in Moab. But neither would Moses complete with them the journey to the Promised Land. It was time for new leadership.

Christ is for us Christians the prophet who now speaks “with authority,” as we are told in our gospel account today. He brings light and life to our cold world. As the Israelites in the wilderness longed to settle in the Promised Land, so we await the coming of the Lord’s kingdom. The Exodus passage is for us the way or “path,” as the earliest followers of Christ called their newfound faith.

For Christians, transformation must become a way of life. Christ has changed everything. He has brought reconciliation and hope to a world darkened by the consequences of sin and death.

This world’s transitions and vagaries are not optional. They come as standard equipment on the engine of human life – as does the cross itself. Only in the cross of Christ is life possible at all. It gives a whole new dimension of meaning to the term “cross-quarter day.” Like all living things, we turn to the light – to Christ, the light of the world – to fend off our fears and overcome our despair.

The candles have been blessed and lit. We in turn must now become beacons of Christ’s love for our worried and fretful world.

-- The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedus is interim rector of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar, California. He welcomes your comments at frankhegedus@hotmail.com.