Memorial Day & Trinity Sunday, 2013

This is Memorial Day weekend. And today is Trinity Sunday. It occurred to me that there are some interesting connections… Memorial Day, if you’ll allow me to speak idealistically, is about remembering and giving thanks for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Whether a soldier agreed with or even understood the policies and politics of what was going on at the time, they stepped out and went forth and died for the highest ideals which our country is built upon: e.g., democracy and equality, liberty and life; freedom of expression and of belief. We hold them and their sacrifice in our hearts and we are grateful. Their offering of themselves affords us the opportunity to continue to enjoy the rights they died to preserve.

And we know that without our vigilance, our devotion, our gratitude, and our remembrance of their sacrifice we stand to lose what was so hard-fought for and won. If we ignore or neglect our freedoms, we will lose them. At least: they will be taken away; at worst: they will atrophy. Either way, we will be lost…

The doctrine of the Trinity is in similar straits. It is the core of Christian belief that without our vigilance, our devotion and gratitude, without our remembrance, we stand to lose what was so hard-fought for and won and which defines us.

There is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now I could speak philosophically and at length and find myriad quotes about freedom and democracy, liberty and equality. I could speak theologically and at length about the Trinity. For instance one of the most succinct statements about the Trinity is from Sergei Bulgakov: “God is one in his holy trihypostasizedness.” His essence or beingness is threefold… But eyes would glass over and snores might rise. Isn’t it better when we offer examples of these things? Isn’t it more helpful to illustrate and demonstrate than pontificate?

So let’s show how the Trinity is applicable. There is pragmatic reality and consequence to believing the Trinity. For instance I strive to use the Trinity to guide how I live my life, understand my job, celebrate the Sacred Mysteries, and worship God in the fullness of His beauty.

In my public life: I try to think of economics and politics with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as my grounding: The Father is the source of a morality of love, Jesus is shows a morality of self-sacrifice and the Holy Spirit instills a sense of altruism.

In my vocation, which includes social work & “ministry”: Hope is the ground of all my labor. God did not give up on His creation. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” But I fall short of that love and come under indictment: Jesus said “if you love me you will keep my commandments.” While forgiveness through Jesus Christ is given, that is not enough to motivate me and so Jesus says “the Holy Spirit will remind you of everything and inspire you to do more…” If this is how God treats & leads me, shall I not do the same for others?

In my worship: Worship is all about how we honor and respect and love God. It is the worth that we place on our relationship with God. Typically we refer to the major liturgical styles as “high” or “Anglo-Catholic/Orthodox,” “evangelical,” and “charismatic.”

At its very best, high church worship with its majesty, its jewels, precious metals, and incense, its ceremony and ritual, trumpets and chants, at its very best, high church worship is an enthronement service for God the Father.

At its very best, evangelical worship with its unapologetic proclamation, the appeal and invitation for Christ the King to become Lord of our lives, the invitation to ask Jesus into our hearts, the preaching of the word of God: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. At its very best, evangelical worship is the exaltation of God the Son.

At its very best, charismatic worship is about the enjoyment, the sharing, the spontaneity and the manifestation of the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The healing, the compassion and guidance, the power, the freedom, the joy: at its very best, charismatic worship celebrates the presence of God the Holy Spirit.

Christians believe that God is eternally revealed as Holy Trinity: One in Three and Three in One—God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. So if we would worship all of God, we must honor the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Otherwise we must decide what part of God, do we not want in our worship?

The ramifications of this are profound. Without the Holy Spirit, high church worship for all its splendor, can become rote ritual. Without the Holy Spirit, evangelical worship can become legalistic and puritanical.

Without God the Son, so-called Spirit-filled worship, with all the freedom and joy, is susceptible to being ungrounded and individualistic. Without God the Son, high church worship for all its splendor can become merely precious.

Without God the Father, evangelical worship can become rule driven and reward focused. Without God the Father, charismatic worship can become chaotic, detached from Truth, and far too subjective.

This isn’t just a matter of taste or style. And it sure isn’t about just what we like; there are practical repercussions. One of the most important goes back to the principal reason for why Jesus came to die for us in the first place, and what we accomplish when we come together to worship Him. He came to save us from our sins. His sacrifice provides us with the possibility of a personal relationship with God, and to make our union Him and with one another a reality. This is why we worship regularly and frequently together. And this is why liturgical worship is not democratically or dictatorially derived. As faithful worshippers and followers of Jesus, we need ancient hymns: their very deep theology and the connection they preserve for us with our ancestors. And we also need new songs. Every generation has to write its own affirmation and love song to God. I’ve noticed that most ancient hymns tend to speak about God and about our faith; whereas many new hymns tend to sing to God, and address God as “You.” A steady diet of either, and either without the corrective of the other, is problematic. We need the grounding and we need the relationship. We need the strident majesty and subtle beauty. And we need the exuberant praise.

At its heart then, Christian worship is all for God and affords us the opportunity to express our relationship with Him in the community of brothers and sisters. I want to worship all of God. I want to experience God in His fullness. I know that our personal tastes don’t plumb the depths or exhaust the range of all that the Lord wants us to know or experience.

So the last manifestation of the Holy Trinity is the patience and love and humility we all need to respect one another in the myriad idiosyncrasies which we manifest in our worship. Some stand, some sit, some kneel. Someday someone may dance. Some fold their arms. Some fold their hands. Some lift their hands and raise their arms. Is any of this wrong? Does any of this not fit? I don’t think so. Is there room for variety, for differing expressions? I hope so. Without it, we run the risk of missing the Kingdom of God and not noticing Heaven in our midst.

May the Lord bless us each of us and all of us as we seek ever more faithfully to serve and worship Him in the fullness and the beauty of holiness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.



St Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory NyssanWhen we celebrate this venerable saint according to the Western Calendar (March 9) it is the anniversary of my ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Under the mentoring of Stewart+ Pierson, and during the episcopacy of +Jim of Ohio (RIP), and on behalf of +Jerry of Colorado, the Rt Rev. William C Frey laid apostolic hands on my head while I served the parish of St. Peter in Lakewood, Ohio.

When we celebrate the Feast of St Gregory of Nyssa according to the Eastern Calendar (January 10) it is also a very holy and special day for me. My son was baptized on Jan 10 and then four years later my daughter was born on this date. It is also the birthday of my marvelous mother-in-law.

So many things happen in association with this incredible saint that I feel connected to him in profound ways. Add the fact that he was an ardent champion of the Orthodox Faith against the prevailing heresies of his day, and I am a comrade in arms… May you be blessed as you read the glory that is the life of Holy Gregory of Nyssa.

St Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a younger brother of St Basil the Great. His birth and upbringing came at a time when the Arian disputes were at their height. Having received an excellent education, he was for a time a teacher of rhetoric. In the year 372, he was consecrated by St Basil the Great as bishop of the city of Nyssa in Cappadocia.

St Gregory was an ardent advocate for Orthodoxy, and he fought against the Arian heresy with his brother St Basil. Gregory was persecuted by the Arians, by whom he was falsely accused of improper use of church property, and thereby deprived of his See and sent to Ancyra.

In the following year St Gregory was again deposed in absentia by a council of Arian bishops, but he continued to encourage his flock in Orthodoxy, wandering about from place to place. After the death of the emperor Valens (378), St Gregory was restored to his cathedra and was joyously received by his flock. His brother St Basil the Great died in 379.

Only with difficulty did St Gregory survive the loss of his brother and guide. He delivered a funeral oration for him, and completed St Basil’s study of the six days of Creation, the Hexaemeron. That same year St Gregory participated in the Council of Antioch against heretics who refused to recognize the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God. Others at the opposite extreme, who worshipped the Mother of God as being God Herself, were also denounced by the Council. He visited the churches of Arabia and Palestine, which were infected with the Arian heresy, to assert the Orthodox teaching about the Most Holy Theotokos (“Mother of God”). On his return journey St Gregory visited Jerusalem and the Holy Places.

In the year 381 St Gregory was one of the chief figures of the Second Ecumenical Council, convened at Constantinople against the heresy of Macedonius, who incorrectly taught about the Holy Spirit. At this Council, on the initiative of St Gregory, the Nicean Symbol of Faith (the Creed) was completed.

Together with the other bishops St Gregory affirmed St Gregory the Theologian as Archpastor of Constantinople.

In the year 383, St Gregory of Nyssa participated in a Council at Constantinople, where he preached a sermon on the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. In 386, he was again at Constantinople, and he was asked to speak the funeral oration in memory of the empress Placilla. Again in 394 St Gregory was present in Constantinople at a local Council, convened to resolve church matters in Arabia.

St Gregory of Nyssa was a fiery defender of Orthodox dogmas and a zealous teacher of his flock, a kind and compassionate father to his spiritual children, and their intercessor before the courts. He was distinguished by his magnanimity, patience and love of peace.

Having reached old age, St Gregory of Nyssa died soon after the Council of Constantinople. Together with his great contemporaries, Sts Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian, St Gregory of Nyssa had a significant influence on the Church life of his time. His sister, St Macrina, wrote to him: “You are renowned both in the cities, and gatherings of people, and throughout entire districts. Churches ask you for help.” St Gregory is known in history as one of the most profound Christian thinkers of the fourth century. Endowed with philosophical talent, he saw philosophy as a means for a deeper penetration into the authentic meaning of divine revelation.

St Gregory left behind many remarkable works of dogmatic character, as well as sermons and discourses. He has been called “the Father of Fathers.”

breaking news from Episcopal Life Online

PITTSBURGH: Diocese releases 135 clergy (sic)

Episcopal Life Online – DIOCESAN DIGEST.

how to be faithful “in the mean time”

Over at StandFirm, in response to this article, Eddie Swain wrote:

I’m starting to see that my problem is my ecclesiology.  I don’t get the whole “individual and personal goals” thing that [some are talking about].  But, that is because I think of the church as one body.

I’m not looking for me to develop a plan on my own and then follow my own personal goals . . . I wouldn’t even be all that terribly wild about a local parish plan for survival.  All of that is just too “congregationalist” for my understanding of ecclesiology….

But, I have yet to be convinced that ACNA will end up being much more than “congregationalist” by the time all is said and done, though I am convinced that the goal is to move past congregationalism in some way or another.

It may be that all of our options are just too congregationalist for me, and that may be a reality that I just need to accept and evaluate my choices from there.

What I long for is a concerted effort rather than a collection of individual and personal goals that do not have a clear unified direction.  That appears to be impossible on the “inside strategy,” and, if so, another reality I just need to adjust to.

Believe it or not, Sarah’s clarification [Sarah had written, the national institutions of TEC are lost forever.  But then . . . we all knew that back in 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2008, right? The question is, are there portions of TEC that are salvageable.  I believe that there are. But we shall see and time will tell.] may have helped, even though it wasn’t at all what I was hoping to hear.

and my response:

I too resonate with the whole subject of ecclesiology. And I too find parochial and personal plans to be nearly deficient. It has helped me to remember that “catholic” does not mean universal as so many want us to think. You’ll remember that it comes from two Greek words: kat’, meaning “according to,” and holos, meaning “the whole.” To be catholic means that every church has the marks of, the characteristics of, the whole Church. Fr. Thomas Hopko has said

The term “catholic,” as originally used to define the Church (as early as the first decades of the second century), was a definition of quality rather than quantity. Calling the Church catholic means to define how it is, namely, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking.
Even before the Church was spread over the world, it was defined as catholic. The original Jerusalem Church of the apostles, or the early city-churches of Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, or Rome, were catholic. These churches were catholic… because nothing essential was lacking for them to be the genuine Church of Christ. God Himself is fully revealed and present in each church through Christ and the Holy Spirit, acting in the local community of believers with its apostolic doctrine, ministry (hierarchy), and sacraments, thus requiring nothing to be added to it in order for it to participate fully in the Kingdom of God.

And so the personal and parochial plan I’m engaged in is to work very hard to see that my parish has the marks—the characteristics—of unity, sanctity, wholeness and faithfulness to the Tradition. I can do that irrespective of whether the ABC and the Primates choose to recognize the ACNA, and I can do that irrespective of what 815 and General Convention do. My spiritual director reminded me to take the long view and be patient. It took from 325 to 681 for the Church to work out Who Christ is and what His nature is…

a very important perspective

In my humble opinion, Metropolitan Jonah briefly describes the only direction in which the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion in general, may proceed toward life and health.

inspiration from the past

A friend of mine posted this quote. Very inspirational:

I am not what I ought to be.

I am not what I want to be.

I am not what I hope to be.

But still, I am not what I used to be.

And by the grace of God, I am what I am.

… the Rev’d John Newton (1725-1807)

Geo Conger analysis of Lambeth ’08 and tec

I found this to be quite illuminating. There is much in this article that would be classified as reporting, and yet there is also appropriate interpretation (imo) as well.

THAT THERE will be no real change in business as usual, Lambeth notwithstanding, was further made clear on September 18, when Bishop Jefferts Schori presided over a House of Bishops’ meeting that voted to depose conservative Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan.

Acting only five days after being formally notified that the matter would be considered at the HOB meeting in Salt Lake City, U.S. prelates agreed that Duncan had “abandoned the communion” of TEC by holding that his diocese may realign with another part of the Anglican Communion – to which TEC still claims to belong. The Pittsburgh diocese was not due to vote on realignment until October 4.

The move to defrock this leading U.S. defender of the historic faith effectively ended the “season of gracious restraint,” and repudiated Dr. Williams’ authority.

Please take the time to read and digest it all…