religion


 

A Faithful Minister grapples with the meaning of tragedy. In 1756,  a

Rev.Samuel Davies (1723-1761)

Presbyterian minister was sharing with his congregation in Virginia his conclusions from Scripture after agonizing over the tragic losses in the great earthquake which had struck Lisbon, Portugal in December of 1755.  In 1759 this same Minister, Samuel Davies, would become the 4th President of Princeton University, then known as the College of  New Jersey. His Biblical text:

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!”

Isaiah 24:18-20

There are several blogs as well as an op-ed in the Washington Post that are speaking of this tragedy in 1755 and its effects on philosophers and clergymen alike and suggesting contrasts with the way such news is received today. Basically,  Samuel Davies is representative of Pastors all along the east coast following the time of the Great Awakening (ref. Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”). They openly and clearly spoke of such tragedies as ‘judgments’ of the Providence of God and they got their ideas from their interpretation of the Holy Bible.

Without posting any of the sermon here, I will make the entire sermon available to E4Unity readers and urge you to read it in light of recent tragedies that have come to pass in our world. It also makes a serious read for the true spirit of the Lenten season.

Sermon Lisbon Earthquake

Farewell Sermon, July 1, 1759, to Hanover, Virginia congregation.

Note: Young Samuel Davies is one of a number of outstanding Ministers in Church history who died an ‘early’ death. He was only 37 years old.

 

My favorite interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.

Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 1

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Related post: Read the First Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, 25 Dec. 2005

The Jewish Festival of Lights begins tonight at sundown and as I wish my Jewish friends a very Happy Hanukkah, I can’t help from thinking that here too is a perfect remembrance of the first Christmas.

Similar to my last post, in appreciating another faith tradition, I have little trouble in having my own Christian faith strengthened. For what was the Messianic Hope looked for when the darkness of sin and the Roman occupation seemed so hopeless? Was it not the faith that what God Himself had promised His people, He would one day give?

And then it happened-The Light of The World became human flesh and was announced by a brilliant light in the East. As I listened to a wonderful explanation of the Festival of Lights this a.m. on NPR, I was transported back in the Biblical narrative to that moment.

The word ‘anamnesis‘ perfectly describes for me now, not only the “Sacraments” of the Church that are so important to the Christian faith, but also the Advent season with all it’s expectation and joy. In fact, I happen to have a book out on my desk called, “Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (1983 edition) and what I find in the description of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, pretty well sums up what I am remembering (recollecting, reminiscing) as I celebrate Advent.

” Christ instituted the Eucharist, sacrament of His body and blood with its focus on the cross and resurrection, as the anamnesis of the whole of God’s reconciling action in Him. Christ Himself with all He has accomplished for us and for all creation…is present in this anamnesis as is  also the foretaste of His Parousia and the consumation of the Kingdom.

The anamnesis in which Christ acts through the joyful celebration of His Church thus includes this representation and anticipation. It is not only a calling to mind of what is past, or its significance. It is the Church’s effective proclamation of God’s mighty acts. By this communion with Christ the Church participates in that reality.” (page 205)

 

2012 UPDATE the Festival of Lights began on December, 8, 2012.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had a great conversation with one of my daughters-in-law. She was sharing how she had been enabled to expand her horizons to some of the world’s great faith traditions and what she was seeing is pretty close to what E4Unity sees.

As a Christian already in the spirit of the Advent season, we can appreciate a vision like this one more than most because we believe that The God of Jesus Christ is at work in all the great traditions so we expect to find evidences meant to point to the greatest of all Divine revelations in human form. Now that He has come into this world, we see Him as the fulfillment of prophecies such as this with very little difficulty.

So, this one’s for you Liz. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Related post- The Global-Worship-Wave

Dedicated to the memory of all veterans who gave their lives for us.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – The Apostle Paul

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Ephesians 4:1-6, Luke 14:1-11

I try to stay up with what is happening in some of the historic wings of the Church- including the Reformed tradition, and the Anglican tradition (see my toolbag). As I have said before, I have received much from men and women of many of the diverse displays of God’s grace at work in His churches. Last Sunday’s meditation by Robert Hart is one of the most recent examples. I greatly appreciated seeing again an important truth from the Scriptures through the eyes of a faithful Anglican.

Fr. Robert Hart

People today love to use the word “spiritual” as a substitute for genuine religion that makes moral demands. Saint Paul uses the word “spiritual” to mean overcoming the temptations of the world, the flesh and the Devil by walking in the Holy Spirit. The most practical thing we see in today’s Gospel and Epistle is that humility is essential for those who want to be spiritual. Also, since humility is necessary in order to be spiritual (as Saint Paul uses that word), it is also the key to peace among believers. Not only that, but it is the key to remaining orthodox. It is the element of character that we must have in order to bend our ears to hear, to be able to learn. The Hebrew word for hear, and for obey, is the same word: That word is Sh’mai. It takes humility to hear, and it takes humility to obey.  (read the complete meditation)

A classic reader: Humility, the Beauty of Holiness, by Andrew Murray

I frequently tell anyone who will listen, that this is the day of opportunity for those working for peace and unity in our fragmented and increasingly polarized society. Against the usual backdrop of ugliness, almost any demonstration of togetherness across the barriers that divide and separate us from oneanother is bound to shine forth as a candle in the darkness. Here is an example that is just full of implications-

Only about a dozen Jewish residents remain in Natchez, a city of about 16,400 best known for its elaborate plantation homes. As younger generations moved away, the congregation hasn’t had its own full-time rabbi since 1976.

With a circuit-riding rabbi visiting on this Friday night, about 80 Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists joined their Jewish neighbors and helped fill the wooden pews of the 105-year-old temple. Read more. . .

Rabbi Marshal Klaven reads Torah

We have come to the mid-point of our Lenten journey that will lead us to the Cross of The Christ. Remembering the original journey of our Lord to Jerusalem in those final weeks, we can’t help but wonder, “What was in his mind and heart”?

Here is a reading from the Book of Common Prayer for this the fourth Sunday of Lent, taken from Psalm 18.

18:1  “I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me; [1]
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. “

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I have no difficulty at all on this Sunday of 2010 A.D. of envisioning that Scripture passages such as this were the very things that encouraged and strengthend Jesus of Nazareth, the Servant of God, to continue his journey. And I personally am sustained by His Spirit to continue in my own journey.

Hell is an essential part of LENT.

To not speak of hell is not an option for those who want to be faithful to the Biblical story. It shows up in many places where the word itself is not specifically used. But the concept is there in both the Old as well as the New Testaments.

So we must speak and to answer my own question of how, I will say first, with dignity and respect for all of you who will read this post. I confess that this is hard to do and not something that is very common in our religious history. Just think of the latest example. The ad that was rejected by the Super-bowl committee for the game/soon to be movie, “Dante’s Inferno“.(see Dante’s “Divine Comedy“)

But this version of hell as well as the classic it takes it’s name from is not exactly the concept and theme that is so central in the Biblical narrative. I’ve heard that Jesus the Christ himself spoke more about this theme than anything else other than the Kingdom of God. I listened to a free-download of a sermon (abbreviated), said to be the most famous sermon ever preached in America. It is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“, preached by Jonathan Edwards on July 8, 1741. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

May I suggest that we all down-load this mp3 version and listen to it as it represents faithfully the Biblical concept as well as any sermon can. No book and certainly no one sermon can ever take the place of the Biblical narrative itself. This is certainly true with a major theme such as hell. To lift out even this theme and try to present it separated from its original context in the story-well, you get the picture. This is what led to my original question. How are we possibly able to speak this essential part of the divine message into our present twenty-first century of electronic games with images and sounds so common to every Play-station owning kid?

Free Mp3 Download  (34 min) with Introduction,  narrated by Max McClean.

Billy Graham’s 1949 sermon honoring Edwards ministry, 200 years earlier;  The Jonathan Edwards Center@ Yale University.

One of the ads set to be shown during the SuperBowl next Sunday involves the testimony of Tim Tebow and his mother concerning her courageous choice to give birth inspite of her Doctor’s warning of possible serious consequences. The sponsor of the ad, Focus on the Family, has been under attack from certain sections including NOW.

Here is a another story that I really believe has a tremendous message. It is also about a football player, a former player in the NFL. It is about a mother whose baby was taken from her shortly before she died after she had been shot four times. It’s about the man who killed her who has become a muslim in prison and now talks of “judgment”. It’s about a courageous grandmother and about forgiveness and about much much more.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4874549

Oh yes, about that SuperBowl ad. Check out this video from the Washington Post about another pro-life ad from players of the New York Giants winner of the SuperBowl in 1989.

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