10 September 2009

Schismatic site appeals for cash

I received an e-mail from a certain flagrant adulterer who is well known to all of us. If you remember, he divorced his wife after she had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition a la Newt Gingrich even though Jesus plainly said divorce is a serious sin. Then to compound that sin, he married another woman.

The e-mail talks about his work during General Convention 2009 and how the non-religious media used his site as a reference in their own articles. He also says that his readership was up over 35 percent.

If we are going to brag, I suppose I could mention that each day of convention TTLS received 120,000+ hits per day. According to the counter service I use, there were 214,434 first time hits. I can't say new readers because with so many people using alternate servers while in Anaheim, I'm sure that a significant portion of those "first time hits" were regular readers "in town" for the convention.

After patting himself on the back as being a "source" for secular media including the NY Times , Washington Post, USA Today and the Telegraph, and radio and TV , he includes an interesting paragraph:
To keep the news coming daily to the website and through our weekly digest of stories, please consider a tax-deductible donation to support our ongoing ministry. You can send a donation through PAYPAL by going to [URL removed] and hitting the PAYPAL link. Conversely, you can send a snail mail donation...
Things must not be too good in schismland if their main blog has to beg bread. I challenge all who donate to his cause to donate an equal amount to world hunger. The challenge is laid down, but it won't be taken up.

08 September 2009

Courage Campaign

A tip of the biretta to Ann Fontaine for alerting TTLS to this video clip.

Sweden confirms Stockholm's choice of bishop

The Church of Sweden has moved into the future and has confirmed the election of The Rev. Ms. Eva Brunne as a bishop.

The following is from Svenska Kyrkan. My apologies to the Swedish language for my attempt to paraphrase the article into English.*
Now Stokholm's diocese has a new Bishop. Eva Brunne, who received the most votes last spring has been confirmed by the Church of Sweden's examination board. [The election was not without controversy] but the examination board decided to reject the appeals of Stockholm's choice for their bishop.

Brunne said "it feels good that the examination board has confirmed the confidence that has been show in me. Now, we can plan ahead in parishes and on the diocese an secretariat."

Brunne was born in 1954 and ordained for the Diocese of Lund in 1978. Before she became "stiftsprost" in 2006, she was Vicar in Flemingsberg and before that in Sundbyberg. From 1997 to 2005 she was a clergy member of Stockholm's cathedral chapter.
She will be consecrated on 8 November in the cathedral in Uppsala. She will be the fifth female bishop of the Church of Sweden. You might enjoy supporting her election and confirmation by becoming her Facebook Fan.

Oh, I suppose I should mention that Brunne's partner is a woman.


06 September 2009

Trinity XV / Pentecost XIV

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 and Psalm 125; James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7:24-37
    Introit: Behold, O God, our protector, and look on the face of Thy Christ; for better is one day in Thy courts above thousands. -- (Ps. 83. 2). How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

    Collect: Grant us, O Lord, we pray thee, to trust in you with all our heart; for, as thou dost alway resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so thou dost not forsake those who make their boast of thy mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In today’s gospel, we hear that Jesus went about the countryside hoping to escape notice. And here and there he stops in a village or at a house. And as it appears, he stops not so much by deliberate intent, but by happenstance.

At those seemingly random locations, he is reported as casting out demons, healing the sick, and causing the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. It’s a really peculiar way to stay out of the public eye, isn’t it?

Jesus manifests divine power to cure and heal, in miracles of God’s amazing mercy and boundless love. Remember, this is first-century Palestine. There are no ambulances, no hospitals, no pharmaceuticals. People are used to getting sick and then dying, not being cured of their diseases. In this harsh world of very painful realities, Jesus stops by and, in an instant, makes all things well. Jesus comes for a visit and suddenly the mute are speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing.

No wonder Jesus could not escape notice!

And there is only one thing anyone need do in order to receive God’s grace: just ask.

Nobody performs an act of contrition, no offering is made, no sacrifice is made. There is no promise of leading a new life, no agreement to change one’s ways, no pledge of future faithfulness.

This is a clear and powerful reminder that God’s love is showered on all of us, whether we have earned it or not. And let’s face it: most of us do not deserve it.

Sometimes, sure, we are good and faithful and true. But all of us are also capable of the most despicable acts, the most grievous abuse, the most unforgivable sin. And we know this not as an abstract concept, either. We know in our hearts that we are sinners, and we know it by tangible, irrefutable, and recurring evidence.

Now some people live in a world of illusion, in which they try to earn God’s favor. They imagine that if they do just the right thing, or obey the right laws, or try very, very hard to be good – they imagine that if they do these things God will love them.

It is a surprisingly popular view nowadays, even though it cannot be supported by the witness of the gospel writers. For example, in Matthew 19 someone asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus answers, “There is only one who is good.”

In that same chapter of Matthew someone wonders, “Who can be saved?” Jesus replies that all things are possible for God.

In Luke 10, someone asks, “What must I do?” and Jesus says: just love. We don’t have to do anything – simply love God and love your neighbor.

It is not, of course, as easy to love as it is to hear the commandment to love. But the commandment is concise, clear, and unambiguous: love God and love your neighbor.

God calls us to love for one simple reason: God loves us. God loves us unconditionally. And God loved us first. So God is asking for us to requite that love, to share it with others, and to spread that love all over this land.

But whether we do that or we do not, God loves us still, always, and forever. From before we were born until after we die, when we are naughty and when we are nice, while we are sinning and when we repent: God loves us. Period.

Embracing that theological truth is simple sometimes – especially when our diseases are cured, or calamities come to an end, or misfortune turns to opportunity.

But who among us has not asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” when things go wrong?

It’s a perfectly natural response. Clergy hear it all the time. And, yes, clergy even ask the question when adversity arrives. So we must not be ashamed to ask, even as we must not get stuck asking and asking and asking. Because it is the wrong question.

You see, when ill fortune overcomes us, we become like the characters in today’s story. We get stuck in that endless and fruitless loop of asking – and blaming – God. So we need a friend, a family member, an advocate to ask God for help on our behalf.

When trials afflict us, when disaster strikes, when we trouble arrives on our doorstep – then we need a friend to ask for God’s saving help.

And in today’s story the Syrophoenician girl and the deaf man in Sidon each seem to have such a friend. These are some very good friends indeed. In today’s parlance we might say these two have health-care advocates, people who see to it that they get the attention and treatment they need.

They are truly fortunate, for the demon is cast out and the disease is cured. That does happen, and God is quite capable of effecting a miracle.

But miracles do not always come when we want them. The harsh reality is that we cannot command a miracle to occur, and – for some mysterious reason – God sometimes chooses not to, as well. The all-powerful creator of the universe sometimes decides not to intervene, not to effect a cure, not to bring an end to trouble.

This is when our faith is really put to the test: when we pray, and plead, and beg – but a miracle does not come.

Those who claim to know why God sometimes answers “no” to our prayers are fooling you, and probably themselves. The best we can do, really, is to trust that there is some bigger plan, some more important objective, some greater good that is somehow served by our individual suffering.

And as St. Paul tells us in Romans 8, the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

So to dwell on why we suffer is, again, a futile endeavor. Because it distracts us from a more comforting and more enduring truth: God loves us. God loves us unconditionally. And God loved us first.

And because God loves us, God shares in our sorrows, our suffering, and our hardships. As it says in the old hymn: “What a friend we have in Jesus. … Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?”

What a friend we have in Jesus, who willingly took the sins of the world upon his back and died a shameful death on the cross, that we might taste redemption.

What a friend we have in Jesus, who knows our every weakness, every fault, every mistake – and still loves us, and calls on us to love in return.

What a friend we have in Jesus, who knows we undergo afflictions and torments because he shares in our every pain.

-- The Rev. J. Barrington Bates holds a Ph.D. in liturgical studies from Drew University and currently serves as rector of the Church of the Annunciation in Oradell, N.J.