Hope, and Prayer

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As I said in my last post, I do not feel competent to offer solace to the other victims in this scandal: the women who have been cheated, by themselves, and by pressure tactics from having their children. They too pay a heavy price. While I don’t have any personal experience of this, my dearest friend, Jessica does, and in this post from February 2014 she recounts her experience. Neo

Thomas Merton wrote that ‘Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy, never seek it.’ One of the things which puzzles me is how those who do not know of God know they need him and come to him. I have been privileged to share in a remarkable example of how this question is answered by God.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine had a knock on the door of the vicarage where he lives. It was a young woman. She was pregnant and did not want to be. She could not get an immediate appointment with a doctor or a medical social worker, or even the counsellor she was seeing at the abortion clinic; she’d heard that you didn’t need an appointment to see a vicar – so there she was. She’d never been to church and admitted she didn’t know what ‘it was all about’, but she needed an ear. My friend listened to her for about an hour. He did not try to influence her against her will, but to discern that will. She was clearly confused and in some desperation.  After the hour, she left, thanking him.

We heard nothing more until Friday evening, when she telephoned to say she was going to have an abortion the next day; she asked if he would come to see her on Sunday. He asked if he could bring a friend – me, as he felt a woman might help in the situation; she said that would be fine.

I posted about her on my own site and asked people to join me in prayer for her. Most of those commenting did so, although there was one poster who thought we ought to be telling her what a dreadful sinner she was, although, since she knew not the Lord, it is hard to know what she would have made of that. We went, wanting to be there to extend compassion to her, and to do whatever the Lord wanted.

When we went into her small flat, it was clear that she was depressed – it was like a huge cloud over her. She told us that she had been counselled about all the medical things, and the side-effects, but she had never felt so empty and so ‘wrong’. She cried, and it was hard to know what to do, so I held her hands. I asked if she’d mind if we said a prayer, and through her tears she said she didn’t really mind, though couldn’t see it would help. The three of us held hands and I asked God to have mercy on the three sinners in the room, and to grant His grace to the dead child. The room filled with light. We all felt the same thing. She gasped. We sat in silence, holding hands for as long as was needed.

As he light faded, I asked her how she felt. She said: “As though God has spoken to me saying that I should go and sin no more,” I asked if she knew where those words came from, and she laughed and said “I’ve just told you, God told me.” I said I knew, I had heard them too, but did she know they had been said before? She asked what I was talking about, so I told her about the woman taken in adultery. She got very serious: “But I thought you Christians would condemn such a slut – and one like me, but you haven’t, and God loves me.” We all cried.

God, alone, can comfort the child who will never be born, but whatever anyone says, I believe that child is with God. But the would-be mother, a soul so lost she did not even know she was lost, had come to know God’s mercy.

Out of the stuff of tragedy a new hope was born. We cannot know what He has in store for her, or for us – but we can trust and love and show the compassion He shows to us. Is there anything more to Christianity at bottom?

I’ll add a bit here, the woman that Jess talks about here is now engaged to that vicar (then, now a priest) and from what I hear they are very happy. After hearing God’s word, she instantly became a pillar of the church, and still is. So while he and Jess lost the child, mostly because of a lack of time, I think, she and Fr A. saved the mother. But this is an extraordinary story, in that she stumbled across a very good priest, and a very supportive woman to help her. That happens rarely. How many of the women who go through this trauma (for that is what it is) are damaged, some beyond earthly repair? Many, I warrant.

I know a bit about that black pit of despair that she was in. I’ve been there a couple of times, and without help, I doubt I would be here, because I was very close to suicide, and from what Jess has told me, not all of it published, I don’t think this woman would have lived a week, without their caring, prayer, and God’s intervention.

So recoil in horror at this unfolding story, that’s appropriate, but remember this, as well. In this case, God himself quoted Christ to the woman taken in adultery, “Go, and sin no more”. That’s not letting anybody off the hook, that is what Christ taught us to do. They will likely pay a higher price than we could imagine, or impose. So, let us go and do likewise.

As for the people running abortion mills, like Planned Parenthood, well I doubt God is amused.

My comment at the time this article appeared was this:

Thus only those sinners belong in the kingdom of Christ who recognize their sin, feel it, and then catch hold of the Word of Christ spoken here: “Neither do I condemn you.”—Martin Luther, Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1235.

Neo

Christ is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

We have been talking this week about Jesus the leader, and his unflinching dedication to the death to his mission. On Easter this mission is revealed. It finally becomes obvious that His mission (at this time, anyway) is not of the Earth and it’s princelings. It is instead a Kingdom of souls.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what set Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid  and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

And as we know, the Christ is still leading the mission to save the souls of all God‘s children. It is up to us to follow the greatest leader in history or not as we choose. We would do well to remember that our God is a fearsome God but, he is also a just God. We shall be judged entirely on our merits as earthly things fall away from us. So be of good cheer for the Father never burdens his people with burdens they cannot, with his help, bear.

As we celebrate the first sunrise after the defeat of darkness, Hail the King Triumphant for this is the day of His victory.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all.

 

[First published on  31 March 2013]

Sacrifices

Zadkiel was said to be the Angel who prevented...

Zadkiel was said to be the Angel who prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son, Isaac. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Genesis 22

 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

We know the story as well as any don’t we? Abraham was fully prepared to sacrifice his only son, the his future of his family, that he cared about more than anything to God.

That what is meant by sacrifice. It means giving up something that means a lot maybe everything to us for a cause. In truth, as hard as it may be for us, it doesn’t really mean giving up chocolate for Lent. (The nice thing about God is that he understand about symbols though, so it does count.)

But here’s a thought for you, if that angel in verse 11 was late or got sidetracked, Genesis, Israel, Judaism end right there, Christianity never starts. The Bible ends at Genesis 22. Good thing angels aren’t human, isn’t it? Because then Abraham’s clan are just another bunch of nomadic Semites roaming around doing human sacrifice.

But the angel is on time, and stopped Abraham, and God provided the sacrifice, not a lamb but a ram. And that’s why we’re talking about this today.

Because this is not quite the end of human sacrifice in Judaism, there would be one more instance. That instance took place yesterday. It was quite different from what Abraham was willing to do. In fact, it is unique in history. because for the only time in History

God sacrificed his Son for man, not the other way around.

Think about that for a while, in all the universe, God has one begotten Son, and he was sacrificed like Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac. Here is the lamb of the sacrifice that the ram filled in for.

The omnipotent, omniscient God, who knows all about us, how we are disobedient, childish, petulant, greedy, vain, prideful, and all those other things that we know we are, gave up his own Son, who was sacrificed for us. He took upon his shoulders the sins of all of us, willingly, for all our generations, only asking that we worship and believe. And thusly:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

And that is something to think about this Saturday as we wait, pray, and hope for the Resurrection.

Since the Passover which our Jewish friends just celebrated and Easter itself which is intrinsically linked to it are both celebrations of the freedom of individuals, as well as free will to choose good or evil, I thought I would include this here to remind us in America of who we are.

[First published on nebraskaenergyobserver on 30 March 2013]

Good? Friday

Christ Before Pilate. Friedländer (1969): p. 83.

Christ Before Pilate. Friedländer (1969): p. 83. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a child, I always wondered how the day when Jesus suffered murder by the state could be called Good. As I grew up and put away childish things and thoughts, I came to understand the story. It is the ultimate story of servant leadership. It is the story of how God himself came down in the guise of a man, to show us the way. Here’s a part of the story.

And so now we come to the climax. We have seen Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have seen the Last Supper with it’s echoing call “Do this in Remembrance of Me”, we have seen the arrest during prayers in the garden.

We have seen Peter, renamed Cephas (the Rock) deny the Christ 3 times. We have seen the trial before the Sanhedrin, and the passing of the buck to the Roman, Pontius Pilate who could find no fault in this man but allowed him to be condemned according to Roman practice.

We have even seen the treachery of Judas,who for 30 pieces of silver betrayed his Lord, soon repented, attempted to return the reward (which ended up funding the paupers cemetery) and his death as a suicide.

And so now we come to the fatal procession from Jerusalem to Golgotha.

In one way or another we will all walk the Via Dolorossa. One of the mottoes I use to keep trying to do the right thing, “No one, not even Christ, ever got out of life alive”. For me, that about sums it up. You may as well do the right thing, you might not get the reward on earth that you were striving for, but at the judgment seat you will be rewarded.

Here is the story according to St. Matthew:

And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew.

And the chief priests said unto Pilate, It should be written and set up over his head, his accusation, This is he that said he was Jesus, the King of the Jews. But Pilate answered and said, What I have written, I have written; let it alone.

Then were there two thieves crucified with him; one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it again in three days save thyself. If thou be the Son of God come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now; if he will save him, let him save him; for he said, I am the Son of God.

One of the thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. But the other rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation; and this man is just, and hath not sinned; and he cried unto the Lord that he would save him. And the Lord said unto him This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli,lama sabachthani?(That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) Some of them that stood there, when they heard him, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let him be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Jesus when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and the bodies of the saints which slept, arose, who were many, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, heard the earth quake, and saw those things which were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him for his burial; among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

Now, remember this was on Friday following the triumphant entry the prior Sunday. How the mighty had fallen, from the crowd’s hero, one might say a rock star, to an executed criminal buried in a borrowed grave in a week.

This was the man many had expected to free Israel from Rome, there would be others for that mission, it would culminate at Masada and in the destruction of Temple and Jerusalem and the diaspora. The next ruler of the city, after Rome, would be Islam, contested by the Crusader knights. But until our own time Jerusalem would not be ruled again by the Jews.

And so the Messiah, the King of the Jews died. The lesson would seem to be not to upset the applecart, to go along to get along, even to sit down and shut up, wouldn’t it?

It’s a pretty sharp lesson too. One of the most cruel methods of execution ever devised by man.

And so ends the story;

or does it?

[First published on 29 March 2013]

 

RFRA, Religious Liberty, Republicans, and Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht

I suppose I should write a bit about the furore in Indiana and Arkansas about their state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The whole mass is distasteful, grotesque, reminiscent of fascism and several other -ism’s, not to mention despicable. But rather than tell you all about it, I’m simply going to give you a few excerpts of what others are saying.

David Harsanyi writing in The Federalist reminds us that Republicans have undergone a spinectomy.

Let’s Face It, When It Comes To Religious Liberty, Republicans Are Cowards. (But Voters Aren’t).

As always it’s up to us, The People.

Kevin D. Williamson at National Review reminds us that there is he War on the Private Mind, In Indiana, in Arkansas, and in the boardroom.

Read more at: War on the Private Mind.

The Anchoress compares the mess in Indiana (correctly, I think) to Kristallnacht. She thinks saner voices may prevail. I pray she’s right.

Deacon Greg Kandra adds some detail to that in Great moments in journalism: TV station fabricates a controversy, destroys local business. Business as usual for the4 media these days, sadly. Not quite what the Founders had in mind but, what you often get in the neighborhood of one of the great pseudo-Catholic institutions Notre Dame University.

So the news is pretty distasteful this Maundy Thursday, and Holy Week, in fact but, The Newman Lectures remind us that it’s nothing new. From Keble:

“DARK FROWNED THE FUTURE E’EN ON HIM, THE LOVING AND BELOVÈD”

  “O Holy mountain of my God,
How do thy towers in ruin lie,
How art thou riven and strewn abroad,
Under the rude and wasteful sky!”
’Twas thus upon his fasting-day
The “Man of Loves” was fain to pray,
His lattice open toward his darling west,
Mourning the ruined home he still must love the best.

   Oh! for a love like Daniel’s now,
To wing to Heaven but one strong prayer
For God’s new Israel, sunk as low,
Yet flourishing to sight as fair,
As Sion in her height of pride,
With queens for handmaids at her side,
With kings her nursing-fathers, thronèd high,
And compassed with the world’s too tempting blazonry.

   ’Tis true, nor winter stays thy growth,
Nor torrid summer’s sickly smile;
The flashing billows of the south
Break not upon so lone an isle,
But thou, rich vine, art grafted there,
The fruit of death or life to bear,
Yielding a surer witness every day,
To thine Almighty Author and His steadfast sway.

   Oh! grief to think, that grapes of gall
Should cluster round thine healthiest shoot!
God’s herald prove a heartless thrall,
Who, if he dared, would fain be mute!
E’en such is this bad world we see,
Which self-condemned in owning Thee,
Yet dares not open farewell of Thee take,
For very pride, and her high-boasted Reason’s sake.

   What do we then? if far and wide
Men kneel to Christ, the pure and meek,
Yet rage with passion, swell with pride,
Have we not still our faith to seek?
Nay—but in steadfast humbleness
Kneel on to Him, who loves to bless
The prayer that waits for him; and trembling strive
To keep the lingering flame in thine own breast alive.

   Dark frowned the future e’en on him,
The loving and belovèd Seer,
What time he saw, through shadows dim,
The boundary of th’ eternal year;
He only of the sons of men
Named to be heir of glory then.
Else had it bruised too sore his tender heart
To see God’s ransomed world in wrath and flame depart

   Then look no more: or closer watch
Thy course in Earth’s bewildering ways,
For every glimpse thine eye can catch
Of what shall be in those dread days:
So when th’ Archangel’s word is spoken,
And Death’s deep trance for ever broken,
In mercy thou mayst feel the heavenly hand,
And in thy lot unharmed before thy Saviour stand.

 

What If The Crucifixion Never Happened?

English: A 14th-century of Jesus Christ bearin...

English: A 14th-century of Jesus Christ bearing the cross, from the monastery in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I saw this article this morning and it moved me in several ways. First it is a very good commentary on the whole “For God so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son” theme. He did, and not only did He give us his wisdom and goodness, and gentleness, He allowed the world to torture Him and inflict a barbaric death upon Him. But what really struck me is a comparison. First read what Brother Burrito has to say and then we’ll talk a bit

 

Just suppose that God became incarnate and grew up to become the greatest teacher of Divine wisdom the world has ever seen, as would be appropriate for the Son of God. Just suppose that his every word was recorded for all time in incorruptible form, without error, and was passed down through the ages without misinterpretations to enlighten all the generations of men born thereafter.

Just suppose that after a long lifetime of teaching and good works and countless miracles to prove his provenance, Jesus just died of old age and was buried in the most magnificent tomb which became the supreme place of pilgrimage for all human beings until the end of time.

Wouldn’t that have been a much neater solution  to the problem of fallen mankind needing salvation from his sins, and hope of eternal life? Much less of a bloody mess. Less disturbing to keep in mind. Feel-good warm glow all round.

Well, I hope that anyone reading this can see that the correct answer to this question is:

NO!

The reason for Christ’s bloody torture and mutilation unto death is because sin and its cost is real, terrible and infinite.  That cost must be met or the Book of Life will not balance. Sinful creatures cannot enter Heaven as anti-matter cannot exist amongst matter.

Who can settle an infinite debt other than infinite God Himself. We all know the pain of indebtedness, and the hungry gnawing feeling it gives us. Imagine that feeling lasting for eternity. That is what Hell feels like.

So why should God repay our debts? Surely it would be less trouble for Him to write off the debt and dispose of us, His wayward creatures, as broken playthings. That is what we would do.

Now this is the clincher: God values us too highly to write us off. He makes us in His own image and loves us as His children!

 

 

Continue reading What If The Crucifixion Never Happened?.

 

We will talk more on this tomorrow but for now let us think a bit about Christianity itself. Of all the world’s religions only Christianity is based on the actual begotten Son of God, not a prophet, not revealed wisdom, but the actual begotten Son of the one God. And what happened to him? He was arrested, convicted (of nothing much) and executed. Not the way religions are normally founded is it?

 

In the early days, our religion was known as “The Way” and it spread like a prairie fire in Nebraska during a drought. By the time Mohammed was born it had spread from those 11 men and a few women in Jerusalem to all parts of the known world. From the British Isles to China, from Norway far into Africa, “The Way” was known. It never spread by the sword, as some others did. It never posited world conquest, and most of all it never promised a good life on earth. Instead it has always offered (and still does) each individual life everlasting in the next. But you have to learn to trust and obey God.

 

And you must learn to serve men as well, pride has no place at this table as Jess has shown us this morning both here and on her site. The Apostles themselves had a great deal of trouble with this lesson and so do we. And we will continue to do so, it’s a very difficult thing.

 

The main thing Christianity teaches is that good and evil exists and we must strive to do good, they are not relative, they exist, and if we attempt to humbly do good we will be better for it and if we trust God we will be saved. This is the religion of the Christ, and him crucified, and there is nothing easy about being a Christian, never has been, never will be. It is the toughest mission on earth because we live our religion not die for it.

 

We honor many martyrs, and we know there will be many more. Everyday we see reports of those murdered because of their faith, and we wonder how we would bear up. Hopefully, we will never know, but the answer is there, and the answer is that symbol, the cross.

 

We will bear up in direct proportion to our faith.

[First published on 28 March 2013]

 

 

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