Day 7: Rest

This will probably be short because yesterday’s post drained me. I really wanted to keep editing it, but it was getting late.  

Part of this process is me finding my writing voice and style and then figuring out who my audience is. I’m not writing this “for” anybody but the ethereal “internet”. 

But as I wrote that sentence I realized I’m writing to other Christians principally. So, that’s a start. Probably other Christians who are happily sacramentalists. Or are amenable to it at least. 

So my fellow travelers, peace to you. Rest in the Lord. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 6: On Traditions

I’ve been posting every day for about a week now. I posted two posts immediately before I started my 30 day blogging “challenge”. This process of writing everyday has been stressful, but very rewarding. I am feeling a bit of an endorphin rush as I see people are actually reading what I’m writing. Please, please feel free to leave me a comment. I’m looking for feedback. 

So I had coffee with my brother this morning. Over the past couple of years our conversations have slowly moved from primarily political to nearly always theological. We share the same upbringing in all things western philosophy and American. We were both raised Episcopalian. 

As most siblings we disagree on a few things. We had a wide ranging discussion on practical aspects of church life: conversion, baptism, communion and discipleship. The discipleship aspect we are pretty much in agreement on because we were both mentored/discipled by the same man: Pastor Ken Hall. I think I’ve written on Ken before, but I will try to make a post about that in the coming days, I think it’s a story worth repeating. 

My brother and his family attends a non-denominational church. The founding pastor was essentially a Lutheran, so much of their doctrine is Lutheran. Evidently there’s a debate going on now that the founding pastor has departed as to where they sit doctrinally. 

I deeply sympathize with where they sit. The wholesale abdication of the Christian responsibility of teaching the Truths of the faith by the preceeding generations has landed us in this spot. We can look at American Roman Catholicism and see it’s failings: whole congregations of people who think by being baptized and taking communion and going to confession once a year means they are “good to go”, no changed life required. We can see the failure of independent churches that gave rise to Joel Osteens (love of money), Mark Driscols (abuse of authority, lack of humility), Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (I feel good about myself because I worship something once a week) as well as the distinct brands of guilt laden quasi-Christian practice (this one doesn’t seem to need an explanation). 

Which why I’m deeply indebted to those who came before me who saw the need to be faithful. Those who left the Episcopal Church to preserve Tradtional Anglicanism. I, as an Anglican, get to draw from the early church. The Anglican Church was founded well before the Roman Catholic Church decided The Pope was the head of the Church (rather than first among equals) after the fall of Rome. We slowly imbided the ideas coming from the European continent during the reformation. So we aren’t fully Protestant, but more “Reformed Catholic” in the ancient sense of the word catholic. We preach Christ and Him Crucified. We teach the ancient creeds. We preach the bible as the inspired word of GOD. We look to tradition to teach us: what were the practices of the earliest Christians? 

We in the United States have been too quick to change things. We adopted the Seeker Friendly™ model. We pitched the nearly two millennia of church tradition because modernity demanded it. In retrospect this hasn’t turned out well. They did not consider first what they were getting rid of and what the loss might be. 

Chesterton’s fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The quotation is from G. K. Chesterton’s 1929 book The Thing, in the chapter entitled “The Drift from Domesticity”:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it

Modernity threw the baby out with the bath water. The Ancient practices support the teachings of the Gospel and the Church herself. They aren’t fences like the analogy above, but more like strings around our fingers, reminding us of Him to whom we owe our devotion. They are, of course, insufficient flying all by themselves. And they are useless if the church doesn’t understand what they are for. But that’s not a case for getting rid of them. It means we need to lean into them: to be teachable. 

They are there if we will but listen: The Rhythm of the liturgy. The morning and evening prayers. The Lectionary. The Eucharist. Baptisms and confirmations.  May God give us the Grace to be humble enough to receive this gift from those faithful followers of Christ who proceeded us. 
Soli Deo Gloria 

PS: as providence would have it the Word and Table podcast (which is essentially Fr Stephen, the Canon Theologian of the ACNA Diocese of the Upper Midwest) posted today is about Anglicanism 

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Foundational Faith

DAY 5

To my most beloved sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus who lives and reigns for evermore:

I make myself breakfast every morning. Ever since my wife and I did the South Beach Diet (which didn’t “stick” by the way) I’ve made eggs for breakfast. I found my morning goes better because I feel fuller for longer. But I goofed a little this morning. I started heating the pan, cracked my eggs and plunked them in the pan to make fried eggs. I’d forgotten an important step though: making sure the pan was hot enough. Sure, I had coated it with a thin layer of oil, but but it just wasn’t hot enough. So what’s the big deal? Well, if you’ve never done it, it means the eggs will stick. A lot. I made what my father in law refers to as fried scrambled eggs. And it’s a pain to clean the pan, stuck and dried on egg. And the end product, the eggs, are not as good as when they are done correctly. Sure, I could eat them but in a restaurant the customer would have sent the food back. It’s similar, but not really the same end result. 

“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Who Have We Become?

Christians in America: Who are we? How do you first identify yourself? Is it by gender? Is it by place of birth? Some other modifier? Or by denomination? Does anything come before “Christian”? 

I realized in my own life, that I was more defined by my political viewpoints. I was defined by the western education that raised me. By the philosophies of the Greeks and the Romans and the English. None of which is bad, in and of itself in my opinion.

But I had missed the foundational layer: Christ. Christ in me, the Hope of Glory. 

I. Am. Christ’s. 

We cannot serve two masters, we are told in scripture. And the very tenets, the very roots of yourself need to be in Christ. I think this makes the command to “pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” a little easier to grasp. 

Does some philosophy apart from Christ cause you to stumble? 

Does your self made image need constant care and maintenance? 

Then pluck it out. Tear it out. Burn it down. Dig it up and burn it. 

Whatever. It. Takes

“How?” you ask. The way the Church has for centuries counseled the penitent: With prayer. And fasting. And confession. And giving of alms. And meditation on God’s word. And tears. And supplications. And agonizing and pitiful sobs to the Holy Spirit. Because it’s the only way to dig away the sand to the rock that is Christ. Because your soul depends on it my sisters and my brothers.  And only GOD can give you the strength to do it. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 4 is it?

BIG PICTURE STUFF

Over the past year I’ve been earnestly seeking the Lord’s will for me. I have a job I’ve been in for going on 9 years. It has changed some, but essentially it’s the same. The biggest part was stepping out of a direct supervisory role. My innate tendencies are at odds with the agency I work for. I didn’t “grow up” in their environment and thus still see it from an outsiders perspective. I think this confuses my superiors. It may be more annoyance and frustration and I’m projecting.

One of the very surprising side effects of this little 30 day challenge is how my mood has improved. The cathartic work of putting my ideas down into words has been immensely gratifying. So much so that I spent some time at work yesterday writing and vetting the various tasks I needed to accomplish along with other work I’ve been thinking of doing and then working out priorities from there. Nice and orderly like. Oh, and some tasks at home that really need doing too, but I’ve been procrastinating on.

Yes, I realize I’m rambling, but it’s my party and I’ll ramble if I want to. 

WHERE I GET TO MY POINT 

In all seriousness, I sense I’m doing something I should have been doing. Eric Liddle, the missionary to China and Olympic athlete famously said: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I don’t know yet if writing is my purpose. I’ve desired many things in my life that led to near ruin, so I will not be too quick to pronounce anything. 

I’ve wanted to write for years. I’ve picked it up off and on. In fact I remember wanting to write a book when I was in the 6th grade. Needless to say that didn’t happen. 

GK Chesterton once said “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” The link we help you understand what he meant by that, because it is quite profound. He was challenging the idea of the professional being preferred over the amateur. The amateur does something for the love of it, not necessarily because it makes money. Think of the role of a mom. Who is really the best to care for her children, the mom who is fully emotionally invested or a professional day care worker? See the dilemma? 

In fact part of the reason I changed this blog to “Amateur Anglican” was the effect of reading Os Guinnesses’s book The Call. Os quotes GK talking about the nature of work. If you love doing something, you need not be the best at it. And what you do to “earn money” can many times be comepletly disconnected from your vocation or calling. 

The other reason I changed it was to put myself in my room off the main hall as CS Lewis puts it. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the Ancient Ways. To look to the Christians who came before us, the paths they trod and the stories they tell us. We are still in the Acts of the Apostles my friends: because we serve a God of the Living, not the dead. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 3

This is turning into an interesting challenge. What to post about EVERY SINGLE DAY?!

I could talk about catechism. I am a huge proponent of intense and sustained teaching. The church I am a member of didn’t really require much to be a member. It was more than previous churches. But really this culture has deeply eroded the faith. Too many think they are Christians when they haven’t a single clue what orthodoxy is. 

And then KLM inadvertently struck epic level self parody. Either that or it’s a viral lost in translation error. 

Either way it’s instructive. The image is like the beginning of Romans: nature attests to God. The error is so painfully obvious:

It. Doesn’t. Work. That. Way. 

Now, certain spiritual concepts can be counterintuitive. But the natural order of things has been clearly delineated because God designed it that way. The ingrained aspects of God’s creation are meant to be on display. Again, see the first few chapters of Romans. But there’s only one buckle that will function as designed and with its intended end result: securely holding you in your seat in case something bad happens. The other ways may seem creative or fun but it WILL NOT WORK. 

So what’s meant to sound “inclusive” ends up pointing to the inherent error. If we would have only eyes to see and ears to hear. 

God Have Mercy On Us. 

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Day 2! Wherein Richard visits a deconsecrated church…

Hello All!

So I’m at something called Naper Settlement here in Illinois, a mid-1800’s display of replica houses and stores. My daughter is here for summer homework for a US History class. 

So to my amazement there’s a church. I’m sorry, a Church! Not some replica. Built in 1864 it was an Episcopal Church. Amazingly it hasn’t been stripped of its artifacts. I only had a few minutes inside before I had to leave because there’s a wedding planned. 

It’s stunning, my pictures here don’t do it justice. It’s not the Sistine Chapel, but its surely isn’t a “modern American Church building.” An Altar up front that the priests would offer Eucharist facing away from the congregation. Ornate woodworking. Vibrant colors. Solemnity. 

And it has been reduced to essentially a historical curiosity. As I consider the crumbling theological structures of the Church of England it’s impossible to miss the parallels. 

Instead of Ancient traditions and solemn worship there’s capitulation to the modern times. In Europe the old churches are being torn down: here and here. The CofE thinks it can do the Theological legwork in short order to incorporate “gay weddings and transgender affirmations”. A hundred years ago I wouldn’t have to tell you this is wrong, we’d all know instinctively. 

I’m torn as to which is ultimately better when a local church community dies: demolition or historic talisman. The former is sad in the loss of majestic artistry but reflects reality; the later retains the physical beauty but is drained of any real life giving vitality. 

Fortunately, our life is in Christ and not any building. The Church, she is us, the body and bride of Christ. We Anglicans are just starting the process of rebuilding. In coffee houses, garages, borrowed spaces, the faithful’s houses, Elementary Schools and at Cathedral of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest in a renovated factory. 

The Church isn’t a building. We the followers of Christ are. She is us and we are She. Wherever we meet it is a church gathering. I’m not arguing against beauty here. I’d love some more at mine. But I’ll take orthodoxy over capitulation. We must rebuild. This new generation must be taught the Ancient ways. The way of humility. The way of submission to Christ Jesus. The way of the Cross. For in them is Life. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Anglican 30 day blog life

So I was recently listening to the Always Forward podcast for ACNA Church Planters. The priest who runs the “Anglican Pastor”, Fr. Greg Goebel, was being interviewed and he encouraged church planters to try blogging for 30 days.

Well, I’m not currently a church planter nor do I have plans to be one (God may have other plans, but that goes without saying).

So, I will try this.

I’m a refugee from the Episcopalian Church essentially. I grew up in it until my early 20’s, but left it because I had never encountered the gospel there. A dear friend led me to grace and I started going to the Baptist church he attended. But low church never felt like home to me. I had a hard time vocalizing that, but I had encountered biblical instruction only in the low church setting. 

The next few years were wandering from church to church as my wife and I moved around the hemisphere. 

After desperately trying to engage in some Presbyterian churches we ended up in an ACNA church. It was a divine appointment type thing. I went with my wife and daughter a writer event being held at the church, which was being attended by a friend (whose discernment I trust) from a previous church in the area we live now. I also had a writer whose book I had recently read, who it turns out was a member of said church.

After that visit we thought we would try the Sunday service. My wife grew up in Roman Catholic satuarated Guatemala, so a lot of the elements are identical. By the end of the service she’s crying and I’m in shell shock. A liturgical service that had the life of the gospel in it. Dripping with it. Not dead ritual, living movements in a divine dance. 

We’ve been there coming up on three years. Coming up on two years as members. It’s good to be home. 

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ACNA Provincial Assembly 2017

The recent provincial assembly was a time well spent. My wife wasn’t that thrilled that I was spending all day at the event, but she appreciated some of the information I brought home. I would say the most impactful thing I encountered was the couple who are using their garage as a church. They deliberately moved to a low income neighborhood. They went intentionally knowing the lack of resources available to those who live there. It initially started as Sunday bible time with the smaller kids in the neighborhood who were making friends with their children. The husband is an ordained priest, but works bivocationally.Slowly a few other adults came, but it is still principally centered around the children. The other active adults were explaining how they’ve seen the kids start to mimic the words of the prayers and sacraments. Slowly, bit by bit the wisdom of scripture is filtering into their lives. Less hostility between siblings, slowly less one upsmanship between friends. I couldn’t help but think of Moses exhortation to the Hebrews after the giving of the law.:

Dueteronomy 11:19

“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

The second big impression was the minute details of the life of the church. There are lots of people working in lots of places doing what God has put them there for. Big and small. Mostly small by our modern era’s standard. And there is a big lesson for us. As culturally soaked American Christian’s, smallness is not what we were brought up on. The usual trope is “Go big or go home”. [as a side note, I’ve tried to pick up the habit of “pray big or go home”]
I hadn’t thought about it until writing this. Assurance. We think of the word in connection with our final “saved” state, that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. But there is also the assurance of a final Judgement. Where all things hidden will be revealed. This who did evil in the dark will have it brought into the light. But those who labored for righteousness in the dark and cold places of this planet are assured of a revelation themselves. That no labor done for the Lord, no matter how trivial, menial or obscure by the eyes and judgements of this world will be kept from God’s eyes and from all the saints. There are names we know from history, apostles and early church fathers and the patriarchs and the prophets and the martyrs. But there are untold more from pre-Christ to the church era who are lost to us. But NOT to GOD. 

When I think of modern obscurity I nearly always think of North Korea. We know next to nothing of the people there. They must feel so isolated and so alone. Can you imagine coming to Christ and not having a church body to meet with regularly? That faith is a faith truly bathed in grace. So when I’m praying the psalms in my morning devotion, the words of David “protect me from my enemies” I think of them. 

Those saints, those humble beggars: we Americans will walk them to the front of line and take our place in the back. 

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Daily

So, here I am cruising at 35,00 feet, or whatever the cruising altitude is for this trip. I’ve been practicing daily morning prayer for over a year now. I am most acutely in need of it on work days. My tendency to over do it. My tendency to depend on myself at work, to drive myself and others, to use strong words and not grace filled ones is strong. I need the daily reminder of who I belong to. I am God’s. I am bought with a price. I was redeemed from the dead. Stolen back from Satan and his evil schemes. The world, wholly owned by Satan, is constantly trying to teach me something. And it’s never good. Time with scripture and the canticles and antiphons remind me I’m just me. I’m not GOD. There have been faithful followers of Christ before me and there will be after me. The prophet Ezekiel  dispaired that he was “the only one left”. GOD pointed out there were still 7000 who had not bent the knee to Baal. Seven thousand may be a depressingly small number, but it isn’t just one. 
When it comes to one and only, that’s Jesus the Lord and Messiah. 

So, I read and pray and remember my smallness. 

And that is is how I start my day, by remembering my smallness. I’m no big fish, big kahuna, no keeper of the gate. I’m a small fish in a very large ocean. 

I don’t say this out of a bleak outlook or a resignation to my fate. No, I say this in a triumphant shout against my enemy, the Father of lies. The path to life is through the narrow gate. The small gate. The path of humility. The path of obedience to our Saviour. 

<Just edited this, I thought I already had. Nope! But now it is.>

<I forgot to mention this was written on 7/19/17>

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The Tortured Ones

Down into the murky depth

Raw, unfiltered, unfettered filth

Oozing wounds, broken glory

Souls broken, twisted, gory

Seeking the lost and tortured we
Goes the Triune One but Three

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