Saturday, December 29, 2007

The First Sunday after Christmas Day

The Holy Gospel is written in the 1st Chapter of Saint Matthew, beginning at the 18th Verse. The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Our Gospel today from Saint Matthew completes the telling of the story of our Lord’s birth that was begun on Christmas Eve. Each of the stories that were told on Christmas Day emphasizes a different aspect of Jesus’ birth. The Gospel of Saint Luke tells us the story of the Nativity from the perspective of the world. The Blessed Virgin Mary gives birth in the stable and the Angels appear to shepherds, telling them to not be afraid and singing celestial melodies of “Glory to God in the Highest.” The Gospel of Saint John recounts a different story of the Incarnation, identifying Jesus as the Word and describing how the Word has existed with God from the very beginning and is indeed God. This passage culminates in the powerful sentence, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Gospel of Saint John is the story of the cosmic battle between light and darkness, between good and evil, between God and the Devil. But the Gospel of Saint Matthew tells a different story, the story of a simple carpenter, Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph was a man much like us and in this short passage in which Saint Matthew describes the birth of Christ, the Evangelist tells us several facts about Saint Joseph that serve as models for us in our Christian life.

The first fact that the Gospel tells us is that Saint Joseph was a just man. Now justice is something that has a specific meaning for the Jew. A “just” man is a man who is faithful and absolutely obedient to the Law. As would have been the custom, Joseph would have been a man who had been circumcised according to the Law of Moses, educated in the Jewish scriptures, and faithful to his duty in the synagogue. A carpenter, Saint Joseph would have spent time as an apprentice before becoming a master of his trade and taking on apprentices himself. As an employer, a just man would have treated his apprentices with the same respect, firmness and fairness that a father would show to his sons. In short, to be a just man is to be a man who lives his life in conformity with the Law of God and that fairly describes Saint Joseph.

The second characteristic that the Bible tells us about Saint Joseph is that he was a merciful man. When Joseph learned that his fiancĂ©e Mary was pregnant, he was aware that it was his right under the Law to publicly humiliate her. In fact, the Law would have even allowed him to have her stoned to death. Mary’s pregnancy would have been shameful to Joseph because it would have meant that she had been unfaithful to him even before their marriage or that they had been unfaithful to the Law and customs of their faith. Either way would have been terribly shameful both for Joseph and for Mary. But what does the Bible tell us about Joseph? When faced with this horrible shame, he decides to divorce Mary quietly. He doesn’t wish to create a public spectacle in order to save his own reputation. Nor does he desire to have her punished under the Law as was his right. Rather, Saint Joseph understands the failings of human nature and he decides to show mercy and allow Mary a dignified way out of a difficult situation, a quiet divorce that would reduce her shame. Only a man who understood the mercy and forgiveness of God could have done such a thing and that fairly describes Saint Joseph.

The Gospel then goes on to tell us of a third characteristic of Saint Joseph: He was absolutely and unequivocally faithful to the commands of God. Lying his bed, faced with disappointment that he would not take Mary for his wife, he drifts into sleep. And in that sleep, an Angel appears to him in a dream. The Angel tells him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. The child she is carrying is of the Holy Ghost. And she will bring forth a son, and you will call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And what does Joseph do? Does he question his senses? Does he say, as would only have been human, “I cannot allow myself to be subject to the humiliation and ridicule that would come from taking this woman as my wife”? Does he say, “What kind of foolishness is this? This dream is not from God, it is simply my own mind playing tricks on me,” much in the same way that Scrooge though Marley's visitation was the result of undigested meat. No, Joseph knows the Scriptures and he knows that God often speaks in dreams. And he understands what he must do: He must take this woman, Mary, to be his wife. He must raise this child, Jesus, as his own, teaching him the lessons that only a Father can teach; nurturing this child in the Law that has sustained him; and protecting Jesus from all that would harm him. Only a man who was absolutely faithful to God could place the command of an Angel in a dream before his own needs and reputation and that fairly describes Saint Joseph.

As we gather here on this First Sunday after Christmas and we hear the story of Saint Joseph, we realize that Saint Joseph is a model for us and a challenge to us at the same time. Joseph was a just man who lived in obedience to God’s Law. Does a commitment to the Law of God fairly describe us? Saint Joseph was a merciful man who placed his concern for others before his own reputation. Does a commitment to the mercy of God fairly describe us? Joseph was absolutely faithful without reservation to what God asked him to do. Does that type of fidelity to God fairly describe us? Every year the Christmas season presents us with the story of our Lord’s Nativity from a variety of perspectives, but only on this, the First Sunday after Christmas Day, do we encounter a man, much like us, who is called by God and asked to do a remarkable thing. On this day, we are given the example of Saint Joseph, a man of justice, mercy, and fidelity. Let us ask Saint Joseph to intercede for us with the Father, so that the values which characterized his life may live in us as well both in this Christmas season and for evermore.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from TheShrinkingCleric

May God's blessings come down upon you and your family as we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Jersey: Protecting Life from Conviction to Natural Death

This morning as I was preparing to go to work, I heard that New Jersey had outlawed the Death Penalty. I'm sure this will make most people on the Left happy. After all, we have to protect potentially innocent people from being killed. Sadly, this same protection doesn't apply to babies in the womb or to those who are in a persistent vegetative state. This protection only applies to those who have been adjudicated guilty of the crime of murder with heinous circumstances. I guess innocence is in the eye of the beholder. Someday, if I can stomach it, I will critique the late Cardinal Bernardin's "Seamless Garment Theory."

Here, sadly, is the link:,4670,DeathPenaltyNewJersey,00.html

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Third Sunday in Advent

The Holy Gospel is written in the 11th Chapter of Saint Matthew, beginning at the 2nd Verse.
At that time: Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.


To a large extent, Advent is a season of promise and a season of hope. Our preparation for Christmas, when we remember the birth of Christ as man, is also a preparation for the fulfillment of the promise that Christ will come again in power and glory. There is much in our world that suggests otherwise. First of all, it’s been 2,000 years and Christ has yet to return. Second, the world itself can be a pretty grimy place, with war, disease and corruption seemingly everywhere. If there was ever a challenge for Christians, it is remaining hopeful and optimistic in the face of so much evidence which seems to lead, not to hope, but despair. It is this question of hope and despair that our Gospel addresses on this Third Sunday in Advent.

Our Gospel from Saint Matthew begins in a pretty hopeless place, King Herod’s dungeon. In the gloom of the prison sits St. John the Baptist, arrested at the whim of Herod. The Baptist is no fool and he knows that the odds are quite good that he will die in that jail, that he will die very soon, and that it will not be pleasant. In the depths of his prison cell, he sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a simple, but powerful, question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect another?” This question has puzzled scholars for some time and there are several different interpretations concerning John’s motive for asking the question and the nature of the question itself.

As to the motive, some scholars say that John only asked the question to help clarify Jesus’ mission in the minds of John’s disciples. After all, John was Jesus’ first cousin and other biblical narratives tell us that John even lept in the womb at the presence of Christ. So John obviously had no doubts either about Jesus’ messiahsip or what form Jesus’ messiahship would take. Therefore, the question had to be asked in order to help John’s disciples transfer their allegiance from John to Jesus.

Another explanation goes this way: John the Baptist was in the dungeon both physically and spiritually. He had dedicated his life to the proclamation of the coming of the Messiah. But what Messiah had he proclaimed? Most Jews, and the Baptist may have been no different, expected a Messiah to come who would be a political ruler, overthrowing the Romans and restoring the primacy of Israel. Was that the Messiah to come and, if so, what about Jesus? Didn’t John witness the sky open up at Jesus’ Baptism, didn’t he hear the voice, “This is my Son, my beloved. In whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” Well, if those were the words of God and Jesus was indeed the Messiah, then John needed to know in the darkness of his prison cell whether or not his life had been a mistake, because Jesus did not seem to be living in a way that would bring him to the pinnacle of this world’s power. In asking the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect another,” John is placing himself squarely between hope and despair: The hope that Jesus was truly the one who is to come or the hard truth that he was not and that John’s life which would end soon with the executioner’s blade might have been lived for nothing.

So the disciples of John go to Jesus and they ask him the question: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we expect another?” And the Lord, who knows John’s pain and confusion, who knows that he lives on the edge of hope, tells them, “Go and tell John the things which you have heard and seen. Tell John that the blind have received their sight. Tell John that the lame are walking, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel, the Good News of God, preached to them.” And in that message, Jesus restores John’s hope. He tells John that his Lordship was not one that would find its center within the corridors of political power or at the front of mighty armies. Rather, Jesus’ Lordship was over the human heart. As the human heart is touched by Jesus, miraculous things begin to happen, life emerges from death, health from sickness, and what was once muddled is now clear. Jesus message that comforted the Baptist in his final hours was this: “I am the Lord and you, cousin John, have been my messenger. You have proclaimed my coming as the Messiah who came to suffer and to serve and in suffering and service, to win the souls of all men and women who live in their own darkness, their own dungeons of sin and death.”

Jesus’ message did not save John from the executioner, but it gave him the comfort of Christian hope. You know, hope is a funny thing and it’s a term that is often misunderstood, but for a Christian, it is an absolutely vital concept. Our hope is in the promise of Christ that if we will follow him, we will live with him forever. As we live our lives as Christians, this hope that comes from Christ actually becomes manifest itself in different ways. It can be observed by others in a variety of ways. In some cases the hope of Christ comes in the dramatic forms of physical healing, in others it takes the form of the resolution of estrangement. Sometimes, the evidence of Christian hope can be found in serendipitous coincidences, like the telephone call from the friend who said just what you needed to hear. But in each case, the evidence of Christian hope can be found in the fruits of the believer’s life. If a Christian truly has the hope of Christ, the evidence will be present in their life, because Jesus transforms the lives of all that he touches.

As we come to the midpoint of our Advent celebration, let’s pause and give thanks to God for the hope that he has given us in Jesus Christ. Let’s ask God to see the gift of his Son in the birth of a babe in Bethlehem. Let us pray, as Christmas approaches, that as God came to earth to dwell with us so many years ago, so he will come again in great glory to fulfill the hope that he has given us.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Some Thoughts on San Joaquin

As many of you know, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in California has voted en masse to leave the Episcopal Church, the first time such a thing has happened. Our friends over at The Continuum (, probably the best Anglo-Catholic oriented blog on the web, wrote a piece about this latest episode in the history of TEC.

San Joaquin has left the Episcopal Church in order to align itself with a third-world Anglican province in order to remain in communion with Canterbury. Much of the initial response centered around the potential for lawsuits between the Diocese and the National Church. I thought another matter was of equal importance and submitted this post, which I have decided to share with you here.

Here's the link to the original post. My response follows.


My response:

I keep thinking about Archbishop Haverland's excellent but uncomfortable article some months ago about "pseudo-Anglicans," those folks who adhere to a patchwork Anglicanism that accepts some developments but rejects others. For example, Canon Hollister puts it well when he describes some jurisdictions as accepting the attempted ordination of women to the priesthood. According to Archbishop Haverland, there are many different iterations of this phenomenon. Some hold to the 1979 BCP but reject the rest, some hold to the new Baptismal covenant while others don't, and some like everything up to the election of Gene Robinson.

Some people might say that Anglicanism is by its very nature something of a patchwork and they would probably be right. But there is, I think, a true Anglicanism, and that is an Anglicanism that grounds itself in a solid Catholic faith, one that is based on fidelity to the Councils of the undivided church; that holds to the traditional worship forms that have been laid down in Anglicanism, less some of the ambiguous texts that are symptomatic of the aforementioned patchwork; and, most importantly, is faithful to the command of our Lord that only men can be ordained to the sacerdotal priesthood.

If a church decides to break away from the Episcopal Church or any other church in communion with the See of Canterbury, which itself has abandoned these foundational principles and therefore their apostolic connection, then it is simply a matter of time before that same group is brought into the very fire from which they have attempted to extricate themselves.

This is, at least to my mind, the reason why San Joaquin's efforts are ultimately futile. To them it is important to remain in communion with Canterbury, a see that has rejected the above-noted principles. Now think about this for a moment: If Canterbury is holding positions that have historically been classified as heresy, can they be in communion with anybody? And is anybody ever benefited by seeking to remain in a union with a heretic? I think not.

Parenthetically, this is also a problem with Roman Catholic/Anglican relations. With all due respect for Roman Catholics, and my respect for that church is quite high, the continued attempts at dialogue between Rome and Canterbury is absolutely astounding to me as Canterbury and its satellite churches (I can't refer to an Anglican Communion because I think it ceased to exist long ago) have absolutely no intention of engaging in any behavior or recantation that would be necessary in bringing about a true ecumenical dialogue. Until Rome understands that true Anglicanism exists within the Anglo-Catholic segment of the continuing church and seeks dialogue with that group, then any ecumenism is a house built on sand.

I know that many will disagree with me and I'm sorry for the discomfort that my words might cause for well-meaning Episcopalians or Protestants or even contemporary Catholics. But I firmly believe this and I further believe that until disaffected Episcopalians understand that they have to cut out their problems and errors root and branch, they will not find long-term relief simply by staying in an alliance with a see that is, quite possibly, not only heretical but apostate.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

He Wore Blue Velvet

Just to show that I am not on a complete downer this holiday season, see the attached post from Father Z, a Roman Catholic priest, whose blog is "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" Father Z is a traditionalist, which makes me happy, and this particular post concerns one of my pet peeves, the tendency of some churches to want to wear blue vestments during Advent even though no compelling reason or tradition exists for it. There's a picture of a stunningly hideous blue chasuble and a wonderful parody song set to the tune of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

Here's the link:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title

This morning I was visiting The Continuum, an Anglican blog and I noticed that the host, Albion Land, had something called "A Peculiar Aristocratic Title." This pretentious sounding thing immediately appealed to me, since as an Anglo-Catholic and an inveterate high-churchman it is presumed that I have a love of both pomposity and frivolity. When I saw, Mr. Land's title, "Bishop Lord Albion the Lachrymose of Withering Glance," I knew that I had to have one too!

So I went to a wonderful website that specializes in the dispensation of such titles. It's "Your Peculiar Aristocratic Title." This website will take your name and gender and give a title that is just for you. Don't like what they suggest? No problem. Keep clicking until you get one you do like.

So, are you ready for my Peculiar Aristocratic Title (and believe me, it is peculiar.)
Here it is:

"His Grace Lord Robert the Mellifluous of Lower Bumhampton"

I got this one on the first click!

Now isn't that magnificent? It's pompous, pretentious, and utterly frivolous. And I'll bet that you want a title too. Here's how you can get your own Peculiar Aristocratic Title: Click on

By the way, if you see my wife and daughter, don't forget to greet them with their new peculiar titles. My wife is henceforth known in pomposity as:

"Her Most Serene Highness Lady Mimi the Harmonious of Puddleston St. Droop"

Our daughter Melanie will henceforth frivolously be known as:

"Her Exalted Highness Duchess Melanie the Discombobulated of Pigotts Sty"

(Duchess Melanie's title took more than a few clicks to find the one that fit!)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

On the Trinity Institute and The Golden Compass

Last week I received an invitation to participate in this year's Trinity Institute. Each year, Trinity Church (Episcopal), Wall Street, one of the wealthiest churches in the country, holds a teleconference that brings together well-known speakers to discuss issues of the day that are of significance to the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion. Different churches are selected all around the country to host this teleconference and it was an Episcopal church in the Athens, GA, area that sent me the invitation, encouraging me to attend or send a parishioner.

Lasting three full days in January, the conference is choosing to discuss perhaps one of the most powerful issues facing the Anglican world: The problem of religious violence. I had to laugh when I saw this. Here is a church that is hemorrhaging members, where entire parishes and now entire dioceses are leaving because of the church's apostasy, and they want to talk about violence in the name of religion. What a frivolous waste of time and resources!

And they do not intend to talk about violence in any one religion. Oh, no. It is the contention of the speakers that religiously inspired violence exists among all people of faith. Okay. I'll buy that. After all, don't we all have vivid memories of how those Jews strapped bombs on their bodies and blew up innocent Arabs in that shopping mall? And who can forget those vicious Christians who flew that airliner filled with nuns and orphans into the Eiffel Tower?

All right, maybe I'm being a little sarcastic. But a glance at the speakers gave me pause. One of the speakers is a former Roman Catholic Priest who is a noted peace activist. Another speaker is a reformed Jewish rabbi, also a peace activist. Then there is the ubiquitous Muslim whose purpose at the conference seems to be to decry people who seem to have misconceptions concerning the "religion of peace." Finally, there is a Buddhist or Hindu, I don't remember which. I think his purpose was to show how thousands of people meditating on peaceful images will improve both the shape of ice crystals and Dick Cheney's hunting aim. Finally, as if this cast of characters wasn't enough, the big selling-point in the brochure was the televised Vespers from Trinity Church with, don't hold your breath, a sermon from Mrs. Katherine Jefferts-Schori, the ersatz Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. If that isn't enough to lure you in, then I don't know what is.

Back to the issue of religious violence. Perhaps I would take this conference a little more seriously if they were addressing the issue of how do we interact with a religion that has, in its sacred text, the command that all people must either convert, submit to the religion in a second-class status, or die? How do we talk about religious violence when the mere naming of a teddy bear can cause a non-practitioner of a religion who was without malice in any way to face the possibility of enough lashes to kill a man and, surviving that, imprisonment?

Along these same lines, I read a review on National Review Online of the new movie, The Golden Compass. The movie, which has caused great consternation in Christian circles, was panned by the writer, who described the film and the books that inspired it as an attempt to create, "a checklist to infuriate conservative Christians." What is most interesting to me is the following paragraph comparing and contrasting the Christian reaction to The Golden Compass and the Muslim reaction to perceived insults. Discussing why the writer of The Golden Compass used Christians as a symbol of ruthless authoritarianism rather than a benign country such as Iran, the author writes:

"What is notable is that most of the outraged buzz circulating about the movie did not ask it to be banished from the screen. In fact, the opening line of one of the most widely circulated e-mails mildly states, 'If you decide that you do not want to support something like this, I suggest that you boycott the movie and the books.' A comparison of Christian objectors to rioting Islamists provoked by cartoons and teddy bears would be laughable. And that comparison is precisely what makes it so revealing that the film (and the books) chose not to use radical Islamic republics as its stunt double."

The writer's point also raises the issue of why the Trinity Institute this year is discussing a silly topic: Discussing the issue of religious violence without focusing on the one religion that uses terror as an evangelization tool is absolute madness. Attend the Trinity Institute at your local church if you want. Perhaps it will be good entertainment. However, I'd prefer to see three days devoted to the proclamation of the saving love of Christ to a world lost in sin and darkness. I wonder if we'll ever see that topic discussed at Trinity Church, Wall Street?

Here's the link to the review of The Golden Compass:

The Second Sunday in Advent

The Holy Gospel is written in the 21st Chapter of Saint Luke, beginning at the 25th Verse.
At that time, Jesus said unto his disciples: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.


My father-in-law has an unbelievable devotion to The Weather Channel. There seems to be no limit to the amount of time he can spend in front of the television waiting for yet another announcement, “And now, here’s your Local on the 8’s.” In fact, he will watch The Weather Channel for hours, even when a big red “H” has remained steady over his Florida home for days. Undoubtedly, my father-in-law loves The Weather Channel. And, I must confess, so do I. The fact of the matter is this: Everybody wants to know the future. Everybody wants to know what’s coming next. Perhaps this comes from our desire to be prepared for bad weather, or sour economic times. Or maybe it simply comes from our desire to remain dry. But whether your passion is The Weather Channel, or “The Universal Stock Market Timer,” or – God forbid – the Psychic Friends Network, everybody wants to know the future. Christians are no exception to this. For example, take a look at today’s Gospel.

In our Gospel reading from Saint Luke, Jesus warns His disciples of the signs of the end of the age telling them what the markers would be that signaled His return. Jesus paints the picture of a horrifying apocalypse in which there are signs in the sun, the moon, and even the stars in heaven. He describes political tension and great confusion among the nations, men living in terror as even the very powers of heaven, the entire angelic chorus is shaken by the force of the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the fig tree and He uses it to teach the disciples and us to read the signs of the times. Our Lord tells us that when we see these signs come together, then we should lift up our heads and rejoice. Rejoice, even though the world quakes in terror, because we will know with blessed assurance that our redemption draweth nigh, that the Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of our lives, is coming in great power and glory.

For over 2,000 years, the Christian world has waited for that day when the Lord will return. Saint John the Divine saw the return of Christ immanent in the great persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Saint Augustine was convinced that the fall of Rome would usher in the return of the Lord. Throughout history, generation after generation of Christians have been born, lived and died with the conviction that they were living in the last days, that the final battle between the Antichrist and the Lord Jesus was just around the corner. Even in the last century the global terrors of the First and the Second World Wars, the nuclear terror of the Cold War, and now the conflict with Islamo-fascism, all lead some Christians to see the end of time and the coming of the prophesied “son of perdition,” the Antichrist.

And speaking of the Antichrist, speculation has run rampant as to his identity. Some thought that Nero and Diocletian were good candidates. Nero’s full name actually had the numeric value of “666.” Martin Luther was convinced that the Antichrist would be one of the popes and I’m sure that several of the popes felt the same way about Martin Luther. Adolf Hitler was the candidate for many people, and he certainly was an appropriate candidate. Even the late President Ronald Reagan was considered a candidate for the position of Antichrist since each of his names, Ronald Wilson Reagan, had six letters in it, making him the dreaded 6-6-6.

Additionally, theories concerning the end times have abounded since the earliest days of Christianity. Many of our evangelical brethren hold to theological positions that are known by the technical titles of “pre-millenarianism,” “post-millenarianism,” or “amillenarianism.” Our Catholic brothers generally foresee a great chastisement followed by the restoration of a Catholic spiritual and political order. And our liberal protestant brothers…Well, they just believe that it’s all a myth that means anything other than what the Bible really says. So with all these competing theories, what is a Christian to believe?

Which one, of all the competing theories, is right? Well, I’ve studied them all pretty closely over the years and I think I have reached a definitive conclusion: I have no idea. But there are a couple of things that I do know. There is a one good simple reason why every generation believes that it is the “Terminal Generation.” Only the Father knows when the Lord will return. The Devil does not know and this puts him at a distinct disadvantage. Since only the Father knows when the Lord Jesus will return, then Satan is forced to have an Antichrist in the wings at all times, waiting for that moment in history when the time will be right for his emergence on the world stage. So, to a greater and lesser degree, the signs of the times foretold by our Lord are always present in our world.

The only way to resolve this tangle of theory is this: As Christians, we are called to live in the awareness that our Lord could return at any moment. Think of what our lives would be like if all Christians woke up every morning resolved to live their lives as though the Lord would return before the day was over. What difference would it make in how you lived your life if you knew for a certainty that Jesus would come to earth this very day? Would you be kinder? Would you be more charitable? Would you look at your brothers and sisters in Christ in a different light? Would you hold up your head and rejoice as your salvation drew nigh?

My brothers and sisters, the signs of the times are among us now, just as they have been for more than 2,000 years. As we prepare to gaze on the Christ-child in the manger in just a few weeks, we recognize the promise that just as Christ became Man in Bethlehem, so too will He return to call us all to Him. As Advent continues, look up and rejoice, because your salvation draws near.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Merry Tossmas!!

Now I like Christmas as much as the next person but I am sick and tired of the word "Christmas" treated as though it were an obscenity. When I saw this short film online I just had to link to it here. Merry Tossmas, everbody!!

Here's the link:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Signs of the Times?

I was almost hesitant to post this. Then I thought, "Well, it's a sign of the times."

Sometimes I think that Christians have been treated like the lobster who is put into the pot of cold water and then slowly boiled by imperceptible increases in temperature. I say this because images such as this stand in such contrast to where we were as a nation just a century ago and the slow, almost imperceptible, marginalization of Christianity that has occurred, particularly in the last 50 years. It should really remind us of the need to pray and to work diligently to bring more people to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, here's the link:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The First Sunday of Advent

The Holy Gospel is written in the 21st Chapter of St. Matthew, beginning at the 1st Verse.
When they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name 'of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.


Today’s Gospel reading, St. Matthew’s story of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple may, on first hearing, seem a strange choice for the First Sunday in Advent. After all, we’re preparing for Christmas, aren’t we? That special feast when we celebrate the birth of a little baby in the stable of Bethlehem. We’ve cleaned our church. Many of us have been cleaning our homes preparing for the guests who will descend upon our families like the Wise Men from the East. We’re buying gifts, boy are we buying gifts. We’re listening to Christmas music, XM Satellite radio has five, count them five, channels exclusively devoted to the Sounds of the Season. So, if the church were in step with the world, you’d think that we’d hear a story about the angels. Maybe we’d hear about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. Maybe we’d hear something from Luke about shepherds. Definitely we should hear something upbeat, something that makes us feel good about being a Christian at this most wonderful time of the year.

But the Church, as we all know, is not in step with the world. Rather than the flutter of angel wings, we are presented with the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, that pivotal event that begins his Passion. Then follows the story of the cleansing of the Temple, when Jesus drove the moneychangers and merchants from the Temple, claiming that they had made His Father’s house, “a den of thieves.” The Church uses this puzzling story to mark the beginning of Advent, that special season when the church stands at the foot of the Cross and looks backward to the mystery of the Incarnation and forward to the triumphant return of Christ at the end of time. Today, let’s spend a few minutes together meditating on these two comings of Christ. Let’s further reflect on Christ’s call to us to cleanse the temples of our own hearts in preparation for both of his comings.

Standing at the foot of the cross, we see the suffering Lord who assumed the burden of our sins. We see his agony and we realize that this man, this innocent man, has chosen to die for us so that we might live. And looking back across the years, beyond the miracles, beyond the call of the disciples, beyond the finding in the Temple, we are left with the promise of a baby; a very special baby. For this baby Jesus is the Promised One of Judaism. He is the Messiah, the one who will set the Israelites, and indeed all mankind, free from their sins. In fact, we see a baby with a unique destiny, a unique purpose. For when we contemplate the coming of Jesus in manger at Bethlehem, when we behold the wonder of the Incarnation, we are immediately struck by a painful but glorious reality: This is a child who was born to die! Yes, a child who was born to die. Now for most parents the promise of a child lies in what they will accomplish with their lives. We worry about where they will go to school, who they will marry, what they will do with the gifts God has given them. But, when we reflect on the coming of Jesus, the God made man, we are brought face to face with the fact that Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth was to die so that man could be free from sin. Remember, left to our own devices we are wrapped in the mantle of sin, the cloak of darkness. There is no way that we can make any sacrifice for ourselves because we are unclean. So the promise of the Incarnation is this: In taking on human flesh, God has willed to take upon himself all of our failings, our weaknesses, our sins. God, in the person of Jesus, pays the price of death so that we can be set free. Yes, my brothers and sisters, the promise of the Incarnation is the promise of a child who was born to die.

But there is another view from the Cross: It is the view forward to the end of time, when Christ will return in power and glory to make all things right, to judge the living and the dead, and to call all men and women who have believed on His Name to live with him for ever. This is the second, and, in some ways, the most important aspect of Advent. Can any of us, as we reflect on this powerful Day of the Lord, be any less than struck speechless at the power of our God? That God, who made the heavens and the earth, who set the stars in their courses, who knew each one of us by name when were yet unborn, that God who holds all things in existence simply by his willing them, will return in power to judge the living and the dead. Well, if a Christian has an ounce of sense in him, then he will want to be ready for that great and terrible day, when he will stand before his Lord for judgment. And this Second Coming, this Day of the Lord, brings us to our third point: the call to prepare and cleanse the temples of our hearts.

When Jesus entered the Temple, he was faced with the powerful effects of good that had been corrupted. A place that had been set aside by God for His worship had been corrupted by sinful men. What was the sin of the moneychangers and the merchants? Was it the practice of their trades? Probably not. The fact of the matter was that Roman money could not be used in the Temple and Temple money could not be used in the secular world. The merchants who sold lambs and doves for sacrifice provided a necessary service for those who came from all over Israel to offer sacrifice to God. So what was their sin, their wickedness? Many speculate that the sin of the moneychangers and merchants was that they placed their livings above their devotion to God. They misplaced their devotion, focusing their best efforts on the means of their income rather than the ends of the worship of almighty God.

And there is the lesson for us at the beginning of this Advent season. The Church and our Lord call us to cleanse the temples of our hearts. Jesus asks that we allow him to enter our hearts and to upset all of the tables on which rest the misplaced devotion, the foolish priorities of our own lives. Jesus asks us to allow him to cleanse us from our pride, our greed, our sloth, our lusts; all of those things that hold us back from following the Lord more closely. Jesus promises us that if we offer our hearts to Him this Advent, then he will cleanse us from all that separates from him. Jesus will prepare us to see anew the promise that will be in the manger at Christmas and he will grant us the assurance that, “When next he comes in glory, and the world is wrapped in fear, may he with his mercy shield us, and with words of love draw near.”