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jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomI went to the early morning Easter Communion service today at my neighbourhood Anglican parish church.

The early morning Easter service is always a wonderful reminder of the passing from darkness into light. As our vicar reminded us, traditional churches remain dark from the end of the Maundy Thursday service through to Easter morning, whether that be at a daybreak or early morning service.

The light returns via the Paschal candle, which is lit following a prayer. The acolyte then lights the other candles from the flame of the Paschal candle.

John’s Gospel has a recurring theme of darkness and light. The risen Christ is, indeed, that Light.

Our vicar gave a moving sermon, encouraging us to think of the Resurrection as a living reality, whereby not only our souls but also our mortal bodies will once again be reunited in glorious perfection one day.

He pointed out that Christianity is the only religion that offers life after death. This is what Jesus accomplished through His resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter.

The vicar’s sermon was a moving one, as he is a convert from another world faith. He implored us not to turn the Resurrection into an intellectual or historical exercise, because it will be a very real experience when the time comes. He also exhorted us not to view Jesus as a mere historical good example of a life well lived, but as our Saviour and Redeemer.

I thought about the vicar’s sermon for most of the day whilst occupied with gentle pursuits: caring for God’s creation in the garden and preparing a suitable, satisfying Easter dinner of roast lamb.

Our vicar’s sermon made me wish that Easter were more than just one day. Whilst we are now in Easter Week, there are no modern readings by which to remember our Lord’s resurrection for the next six days.

As each year passes, I long for a more fulsome celebration and remembrance of the Resurrection. We sing the beautiful and joyous Easter hymns only one day a year.

For some of us, our recollection of the Resurrection ends up being a fleeting one.

However, it does not need to be this way.

An Evangelical pastor in California, the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries in Fallbrook, has written a beautiful series of sermons on the meaning of the Resurrection and its impact. I hope that you will read the following posts in the coming week and reflect upon his considered, thought-provoking messages about what he terms Resurrection theology:

Remembering the reality of the risen Christ

Are we bypassing the risen Christ?

A call for Resurrection theology

Christianity IS the Risen Christ

Unlocking the meaning of the Gospel

The extension of the risen Christ

A Lutheran (Missouri Synod) pastor has also reflected similarly upon the Resurrection in the context of people’s anger with the Church. This, too, is guaranteed to get us thinking about our sin and the purpose of the Crucifixion as well as our Lord’s rising from the dead in eternal glory — for us:

A Lutheran application of Resurrection theology

I hope that you will join me in contemplating Resurrection Theology, even when it is not stated in those terms.

Christ our Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Once again, readers, happy Easter.

May the blessings of the risen Christ be with us today and always. Amen.

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Two ELCA — Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — pastors have been in the news this month.

Adult content follows — discretion advised.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, Big League Politics reported on a story that first appeared in the Christian Post about the Revd Nadia Bolz-Weber who:

is protesting the “evangelical purity culture,” also known as “adherence to the scripture,” and sometimes even “Christianity.” Her plan is to “take down” the church’s teaching about sex, which makes one wonder why she became a pastor in the first place.

This month, she is asking girls to send her their purity rings so that they can be melted down to make a golden vagina:

Mail in your purity rings to be melted down into a special sculpture. In return you’ll receive a Certificate of Impurity, an “Impurity” ring, and the support of all those ready to support a sexual reformation!

Big League Politics tells us:

“This thing about women that the church has tried to hide and control and that is a canvas on which other people can write their own righteousness ― it’s actually ours,” Bolz-Weber reportedly said to HuffPost. “This part of me is mine and I get to determine what is good for it and if it’s beautiful and how I use it in the world.”

The Christian Post article says that one pastor left the ELCA, he was so disgusted by this and similar clerical goings-on (emphases mine):

Rev. Tom Brock, formerly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, crushed Bolz-Weber on his blog. He left the church over its liberal stances on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“Instead of disciplining this heretical pastor, the ELCA invites her to speak at events,” he said. “I am part of a clergy Facebook page for ELCA and former ELCA pastors and it is tragic to see some of them defend all this.”

Bolz-Weber’s website’s About page has a potted autobiography:

NADIA BOLZ-WEBER first hit the New York Times list with her 2013 memoir—the bitingly honest and inspiring Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint followed by the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller Accidental Saints in 2015. A former stand-up comic and a recovering alcoholic, Bolz-Weber is the founder and former pastor of a Lutheran congregation in Denver, House for All Sinners and Saints. She speaks at colleges and conferences around the globe.

Big League Politics says:

Bolz-Weber’s behavior is simply the effect of modern liberalism on the church, which tends to preach God’s love and acceptance, forgetting that a large portion of the bible teaches God’s wrath and anger with the wicked.

Their second ELCA clergyman up for examination is the Revd Steven Sabin:

On Monday, December 10, Big League Politics reported on the pastor, who is from San Francisco:

A gay Lutheran Pastor with a history of fighting for gay rights within the church was arrested for possession of child pornography in mid November.

“The Reverend Steven Sabin, pastor at Christ Church Lutheran at Quintara Street and 20th Avenue, was arrested November 15 on three felony charges,” according to Bay Area Reporter. 

Sabin pleaded not guilt to one count of distribution of child pornography and two counts of possession or control of child pornography. According to a San Francisco Police Department news release, the investigators “located a cellphone belonging to Sabin, which contained hundreds of child pornography videos and images depicting juvenile minors being sexually abused. During a subsequent search, investigators found that Sabin was storing child pornography on a cloud storage application.”

The pastor has since been released on bail while he awaits a Dec. 19 pre-trial hearing.

The article says that, in 1998, before the ELCA went off-piste, they expelled Sabin for coming out of the closet. Sabin then joined an offshoot of the ELCA, Christ Church Lutheran. Fortunately, Christ Church Lutheran San Francisco took the child pornography charges seriously and issued this announcement:

We have learned of the arrest of Steve Sabin, who will no longer serve as pastor of Christ Church Lutheran. We are concerned for and ask for prayers for all affected, including all victims of sexual misconduct and for the people of the congregation of Christ Church. We will cooperate fully with law enforcement. We have zero tolerance for clergy sexual misconduct and are committed to providing safe spaces for all children and youth in our church.

Big League Politics points out that the ELCA has gone off the rails over the past two decades:

The ELCA, from which Sabin was booted for being gay, now accepts openly gay pastors, even one who teaches “sex positivity” and is asking young women to send her their purity rings so she can mold them into a large golden vagina. Needless to say, this is contrary to biblical teachings.

Absolutely.

Those looking for a church, especially parents with children, need to exercise caution and pray for discernment.

My longest standing and most loyal supporter has been the Revd Dr Gregory Jackson, a Lutheran clergyman who follows the Augsburg Confession of faith.

On November 21, 2018, Dr Jackson posted his online worship service for Thanksgiving Eve. His sermon was about the errors of the social gospel, which, over the past century and a bit, has come to supplant the Good News of the Gospel.

His Epistle is from Paul’s letters to Timothy:

KJV 1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

The Gospel reading is Luke’s account of the healing of the Samaritan:

KJV Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Dr Jackson’s sermon concerns the history of the social justice movement in the Church, beginning with the Lutherans in the United States (emphases mine below):

The Social Gospel Movement is extremely important for our country, because a tiny group of people met to form a brotherhood to promote their political goals for the denominations in America. This Brotherhood of the Kingdom was made up of liberals who redefined the doctrines of the Bible according to German rationalism, which is what CFW Walther grew up in – his father a rationalist pastor. Walter Rauschenbusch is the most famous figure in this movement, though Emerson Fosdick was also well known in his time.

The goals of this Brotherhood of the Kingdom became the agenda of the Federal Council of Churches, renamed the National Council of Churches. The mainline denominations adopted these goals, which became the platform of President Franklin Roosevelt. Naturally, these people were fond of socialism and many thought the real deal was Marxism. In the olden days one could easily identify a liberal activist Lutheran because he published something very positive about Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel.

I wrote my dissertation on this topic, so I will try to be brief. This movement turned the Gospel upside-down, making it pure works. The Parable of the Good Samaritan was not about Jesus as the Samaritan caring for us, but about making the road to Jericho safe! Jesus died to show His solidarity with the poor! Therefore, the purpose of the Christian Church (they imagine) is to change society by passing laws to control our behavior. The Left-wing activism in today’s churches is an outgrowth of this Social Gospel Movement with the addition of various kinds of radicalism.

In the LCA [Lutheran Church in America] this worked by polarizing congregations about various issues, welcoming the exit of those backward people considered conservatives, but called rednecks, Birchers, Fundamentalists. A smaller, smarter church and shrinking but better synod were desirable outcomes.

The Social Gospel Movement combined a rewriting of Christian doctrine to match its political activism

What we see in America is the Social Gospel starting in a rejection of the basic doctrines of Christianity and making an agenda the religion. Once that was achieved in the New Deal, there was agitation for more. Religious agencies dropped the pretext and simply became political action groups using Christianity as a front. I saw this happen in Roman Catholicism too, when the properly social action types wanted to conquer all church leadership and openly despised basic Christian doctrine.

I am concerned about unchurched university students who encounter Christianity for the first time on campus. What are they learning there from campus ministries and other Christian organisations? It’s unlikely to be Christian doctrine based on Holy Scripture.

Dr Jackson explains Paul’s instruction to Timothy (see the first two verses of the aforementioned Epistle) and how that helped to shape the Church (bold emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

These two verses show that Christianity in the Apostolic Age was quietistic, a phrase used by one of the top scholars of Greek language and culture for that era (A. Mahlherbe). Quietistic means the opposite of activist, engaging in politics, using the church as an instrument to make political points and pass laws governing others. We know that theocratic governments, with the church in control, have been abusive, controlling, and corrupt. The papal states in Italy, owned and poorly governed by the Roman Church, were corrupt and lax.

Quietistic means the Christians were not exhorted to overturn the government or rebel against them. The ultimate tool to remove social evil is the GospelThat solution has worked its way through Western culture over the centuries. Britain, through the influence of Evangelicals like Wilberforce, ended slavery without a civil war.

Instead of church in political action, Paul urged them to pray for all men, for kings and those in authority – the political leaders. That is why Christianity has flourished in all political systems and has grown under persecution.

Indeed.

This is how the Gospel and divine grace work (see verses 3 and 4 from Paul to Timothy, emphases mine):

It is good to remember that the Word is more powerful than any empire. There was nothing like the Roman Empire during the public ministry of Christ, and yet the gold, wealth, and majesty of Rome was no barrier to the Christian Faith. It grew from the bottom up, among slaves and criminals, the bottom of society. And yet when they were tortured and killed in huge stadiums, their peace at the time of death rattled and disturbed the pagan Romans. Slowly the faith worked its way up. Rome was knocked into the dustbin of history, as Luther observed, conquered by the One God they could not tolerate in their pantheon.

Opposition has never quashed Christianity. Earthly power means nothing, as Jesus declared, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” A local ruler could not comprehend this, and yet Jesus disturbed people by His death and His resurrection.

The secret of Christianity is that the Word grows and takes over in  a quiet, subtle, but powerful way. When people are occupied with spiritual truths, their hearts do not have much room for error, for the death-traps (scandalon, literally the trigger of the trap) that plunge people into error and destruction

The irony is that mankind trusts its own power and wisdom and disdains the power and wisdom of the Gospel. Nobody can even predict what the Word can do among believers or how it calls out the faithful from among the mass of people today. While many scorn the simple Word of the Gospel, others who have been fed the lentil soup of earthly wisdom say – “This is the feast of God’s grace and forgiveness.” Their hunger and thirst is satisfied, not by Zen but by the Good Shepherd.

That is so powerful.

I hope that churchgoing parents take time over the upcoming holiday period to ask their university-attending offspring what they are learning in chapel and in chapel-sponsored courses. The answers could be surprising — and in error.

A few years ago, I wrote extensively about the social gospel and how it grew. For those who have not seen these articles, they are near the bottom of my Marxism/Communism page underneath the heading ‘Communism and the Church today’:

The origins of ‘social justice’ — you might be surprised

Communism and the Protestant ‘social gospel’ — a long history

The left-wing origins of ‘What would Jesus do?’

Francis of Assisi never said ‘use words if necessary’

The Methodists, Alinsky and Hillary Clinton

SHOCK: Communist Catholic clergy and Vatican II – Agent AA-1025’s story

Communist infiltration of the Church – introduction — Protestant infiltration; social justice; Catholic Agent AA-1025

Insight into Communist infiltration of Catholic Church – Jesuit agents; destroying parishoners’ faith

The curious Vatican omerta on Communist infiltration – Pope Paul VI, Vatican agents, Vatican II

More on Communist infiltration of the Catholic Church – seminaries, parishes with sleeper agents

La nouvelle théologie — heretical menace to Catholics and Protestants

Media silence on persecution – quotes and incidents

Liberation theology — part 1

Liberation theology — part 2

Sojourners: More socialists masquerading as Christians

Progressives and US churches – making the connections – who’s involved with whom

Obamacare: It’s make or break time for radical and Christian organisations

Faith in Public Life: socialism cloaked in Christianity

Alinsky’s influence on Catholic bishops in the US

How the Catholic Church bankrolled Alinsky projects

How radical Catholic clergy spread CHD message in the US

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development goes on … and on

Recent Catholic funding of Alinsky-inspired projects – CCHD

CCHD collection coming in November – starve the beast! – for American Catholics

Pope [Francis] seeks to involve Chinese state in Catholic churches (2016)

The communist nature of Catholic clergy (2016)

Jesus’s words were never about social justice but life eternal through Him.

Exaudi Sunday comes between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost.

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

I have read that it is the saddest Sunday of the Church year. The faithful recall the forlorn disciples, among them the Apostles, who saw Christ’s ascent into Heaven and then awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

You can find out more about it from the following post, including Lutheran perspectives:

Exaudi Sunday: between the Ascension and Pentecost

Below are the readings for this final Sunday of Eastertide for Year B in the three-year Lectionary. Emphases mine below.

The first reading describes Peter and the other ten Apostles looking for a replacement for Judas:

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,

1:16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus —

1:17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

1:22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”

1:23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.

1:24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen

1:25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

1:26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

The Psalm is about the happiness true believers have in God, who will thwart the way of the wicked:

Psalm 1

1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The second reading — the Epistle — is from John’s letters. Either the reading from Acts or this one is generally the Epistle.

God’s testimony is greater than man’s:

1 John 5:9-13

5:9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.

5:10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.

5:11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

5:12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Gospel reading is from John. Note that Jesus said He receives believers on His Father’s behalf. God chooses believers and gives them to Jesus. Therefore, we do not choose God. God chooses us. This blows centuries-own theological concepts — i.e. Arminianism and Universalism — out of the water:

John 17:6-19

17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.

17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

17:12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.

17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.

17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

17:15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.

17:16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Although Exaudi Sunday is bittersweet, the first Pentecost saw the Apostles rush out into the world, contending earnestly for the faith, beginning with Peter.

In 2012, I excerpted a series of articles by the Revd James A Fowler of Christ in You Ministries on a concept he calls Resurrection theology.

As we are in Eastertide for the next 50 days — until Pentecost — readers might enjoy reading excerpts of what Revd Fowler wrote:

Remembering the reality of the risen Christ

Are we bypassing the risen Christ?

A call for Resurrection theology

Christianity IS the Risen Christ

Unlocking the meaning of the Gospel

The extension of the risen Christ

A Lutheran minister, the Revd Rod Rosenbladt, wrote along similar lines, although he did not use the term Resurrection theology:

A Lutheran application of Resurrection theology

It’s really essential that we Christians remember the Resurrection as often as the Crucifixion — every day.

I was glad to hear our vicar read the following verses from 1 Corinthians 15 at Easter this year. He also told us to spread this message. (Already done.) This is the heart of the matter (emphases mine):

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Both the Crucifixion and Resurrection had to occur in order for our salvation.

Believers feel elation on Easter, the Church’s greatest feast day. Paul’s words and Resurrection theology can help us maintain that elation the rest of the year.

Rather than considering Easter as just one day and Eastertide as just one season, we would do better to contemplate the Resurrection at every opportunity.

Good Friday is the most solemn day of the Church year, as we contemplate our Lord’s horrifying, humiliating death on the Cross for our sakes.

CranachWeimarAltarCyberbrethren

The following post explains more about the above painting by the Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger, father and son. Lucas Cranach the Younger finished the painting in 1555. It is the centre altar painting in St Peter and Paul (Lutheran) Church in Weimar, Germany.

Meditations on the Cross

The next three posts are about Martin Luther’s perspective on the Crucifixion:

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the false views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the true views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the comfort

Three contemporary pastors explain aspects of the Crucifixion in this post:

Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)

Readers might also find the following of interest:

The greatest reality show ends with a popular vote

Barabbas: an inspiration for liberation theology?

Reflections on the Crucifixion

The next two posts discuss Good Friday and Easter:

Easter: the drama and glory of the Resurrection (John MacArthur, explains Jesus’s relatively short time on the cross)

Holy Week and Easter — the two-part story

I hope all believers are able to devote time in their busy day to prayerfully contemplate Jesus Christ’s suffering and death so that we might enter into eternal life with Him.

Honestly, you can’t make this up.

Thanks to my Lutheran cyberfriend, the Revd Gregory Jackson from Ichabod, I discovered that Pope Francis has awarded a Dutch abortion activist with a distinguished medal.

For anyone thinking, ‘I’m not a Catholic, no need to worry’, if you’re in any one of the following Lutheran synods, Revd Jackson warns (highlight mine):

The UniSynod Loves This Pope – ELCA-WELS-ELS-LCMS-CLC (sic)

His post has the link to the relevant Breitbart article from January 17, 2018, excerpted below (emphases mine outside of the first paragraph):

Pope Francis has conferred the title of “Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great” on Lilianne Ploumen, a Dutch politician and vocal agitator for abortion rights.

Last year, Ploumen founded a pro-abortion organization called She Decides, which offers funding and support for international NGOs that provide, facilitate or campaign for abortion.

In an email to the Catholic Herald, Ms. Ploumen said that she was “very honoured” by the pontifical medal, which was sent via the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month.

In an interview with Dutch radio, Ploumen said she views the honor as a sign of the pope’s progressivism, as well as acknowledgement for her work in supporting abortion rights.

Breitbart gives a history of the medal:

The Order of St Gregory the Great was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831, under the patronage of Pope St Gregory I. It is bestowed on those who have distinguished themselves in public service or given support to the Church.

There is supposed to be an investiture ceremony when the medal is conferred to the recipient. A sponsoring prelate presents the recipient before the medal is given. Said prelate must recite a standard formula including these words:

membership in the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great “is conferred as a reward for services to the Holy See and the Church on gentlemen/ladies of proved loyalty who must maintain unswerving fidelity to God, the Supreme Pontiff, the Holy See and the Church.”

But it says that Ploumen received it via the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So, it seems to be a case of, ‘Hello, Lilianne, the Vatican sent something to you. We’ll have someone deliver it.’

Does the Pope support abortion?

Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of abortion, calling it a “very grave sin” and a “horrendous crime.”

The Vatican is walking this back a bit.

The Vatican says that Ploumen has not been given this distinguished medal for her socio-political views but for her appearance in June 2017, accompanying the Dutch royal family’s visit.

The spokeswoman, Paloma García Ovejero, said that it was a diplomatic exchange of honours.

So the medal is viewed as a mere trinket? ‘Let’s see, what can we get for Lilianne Ploumen? Hmm. How about the medal for the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great? Yeah, that’ll do.’

She’s completely undeserving. It’s not ‘only’ for her views on abortion, either:

As “a radical supporter of homosexual rights,” Register correspondent Edward Pentin states, Ploumen “urged homosexuals to disrupt Mass in a Dutch cathedral after an openly homosexual man was denied Holy Communion” in 2010.

Last September, Ploumen also gave a prominent address at the LGBT’s Core Group at the United Nations.

This was a very wrong move, indeed.

I’m not Catholic, either.

Before exploring the first feast day of the year, I would like to wish all my readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!

Traditionally, January 1 was a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church and, until recently, that continued in the Roman Catholic Church.

Circumcision of Christ stained glassIn following from the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, January 1 would have been — in Church calendar terms — the day He was circumcised according to Jewish law, Luke 2:21:

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Over the years, where circumcision was considered taboo, other commemorations have replaced it, such as Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.

However, a case can certainly be made for retaining a commemoration of the Circumcision, as it was the first time Jesus shed His precious blood, a foretelling of the Crucifixion. These posts explain more. The second one gives evidence that this feast day was also commemorated in the oldest Protestant denominations:

January 1 – Feast of the Circumcision of Christ

New Year’s Day: the Circumcision — and Naming — of Christ Jesus

As for the stained glass depiction, I am most grateful to my reader undergroundpewster who sent me two links about it last year:

The Circumcision window is currently in the Cloisters Museum in Manhattan. Originally made in Cologne, Germany ca. 1460–70 for the Kreuzbrüder (“Crutched Friars”). The Cloisters (http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/met-cloisters) is a way for us in the States to view a bit of old Europe without having to get a passport.

Window details at (http://www.ipernity.com/doc/laurieannie/35821507)

The ipernity.com link is a copy of the Cloisters’ description, where you can also see a full view of the stained glass window. What I have posted above — the mohel and the Christ Child — is a detail of a larger scene:

A mitred high priest sitting on a throne supports the Christ child on his lap with a draped hand. Two male figures kneel before him. The elder — bald, bearded and dressed in rich robes — holds a knife in his right hand as he initiates the circumcision. His young assistant, graced with golden curls but more modestly attired, holds a broad metalwork charger. The glance and gesture of the Christ child identifies the standing female in a white wimple and robes of blue as his mother, the Virgin, who witnesses the event. The cool palette underscores the solemnity of the rite.

Hmm. I thought that the mohel‘s assistant was Joseph. Joseph went with Mary to present the Christ Child in the Temple a few weeks later. But who am I to argue with art experts?

The Cloisters acquired the window in 2003. It is likely to be the only one depicting this event.

In closing, I wish you all the very best for the year ahead. May God bless you abundantly.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauDecember 17, 2017, was Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent.

Gaudete Sunday

Traditionally, the celebrant in Catholic Mass as well as Anglican and Lutheran Communion services wears a pink — rose — vestment, because this is a time of joy and hope in expectation of our Saviour’s birth.

Even in the absence of a rose vestment, the pink candle on the Advent wreath is lit on this particular day.

For these reasons, Gaudete Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday.

Gaudete means ‘rejoice’ in Latin. The name is taken from the original Introit:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

This is the English translation (emphases mine):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Many centuries ago, Advent began much earlier, after the feast of St Martin on November 11:

The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of St. Martin (11 November), whence it was often called St. Martin’s Lent“—a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks, and Advent preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential season which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent.

The Lenten counterpart is Laetare Sunday.

One can imagine that after several weeks of fasting, a break must have been welcome, which is what is done on these two Sundays during the two seasons of penitence.

The readings communicate spiritual joy and expectation.

Gaudete Sunday readings — Year B

The Gaudete Sunday readings for Year B are available at the Vanderbilt University Lectionary library.

Not all of them are used in a single service but all have the theme of hope and joy.

We see the theme of expectation in the reading from Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;

61:2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

61:3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

61:8 For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

61:9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Some Christians use that as a defence of social justice, but the greater message is that God made a covenant to send His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth to humbly save mankind. Jesus released us from captivity to sin and freed us to be with Him for eternity.

The Psalm’s theme is joy after being released from captivity. I particularly love the expressive second half of the first verse:

Psalm 126

126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

126:3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

126:4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

126:5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

126:6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

The Magnificat gives glory and thanks to God. These are the words of Mary at the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to tell her she would be the mother of Jesus:

Luke 1:46b-55

1:46b “My soul magnifies the Lord,

1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

1:50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

1:51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

St Paul’s message is one of rejoicing and praying unceasingly. As we turn from sin — an Advent theme — may God sanctify us entirely as we await the coming of our Saviour:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

5:16 Rejoice always,

5:17 pray without ceasing,

5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

5:20 Do not despise the words of prophets,

5:21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good;

5:22 abstain from every form of evil.

5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

John’s Gospel tells us of John the Baptist, who prophesied, baptised and prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah. Note John’s theme of light, especially timely as we enter into the darkest days of the year, although he was referring to Jesus Christ as the light against worldly darkness:

John 1:6-8, 19-28

1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

1:7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

1:19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

1:20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”

1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”

1:22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

1:23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said.

1:24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

1:25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”

1:26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know,

1:27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

1:28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The traditional Octave of Christmas also began on December 17. Readings to follow tomorrow for December 17 and 18.

At the weekend, I wrote about Acts 9:36-43, the account of Peter raising Dorcas from the dead.

Dorcas became a role model for charity, particularly for women. It is not unusual to find stained glass windows depicting her, especially in Anglican and Episcopal churches. The example on the left comes courtesy of Wikipedia and can be found in St. Michael’s Parish Church, Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.

Dorcas Societies — Dorcas Circles in the US — exist today in many churches around the world. They are known not only for supplying clothes to the needy, which is what Dorcas did, but also food and practical help to those who need material assistance.

Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican (including Episcopal) and Lutheran Churches celebrate her feast day on January 27 (Protestant) or October 25 (Eastern Orthodox and Catholic). The Catholic Church calls her St Tabitha. Protestants have a joint feast day remembering Dorcas, Lydia of Thyatira and Phoebe, two other notable women of the early Church — and the New Testament.

The early theologian, Basil of Caesarea (St Basil the Great), referred to Dorcas in his work, Morals (rule 74):

That a widow who enjoys sufficiently robust health should spend her life in works of zeal and solicitude, keeping in mind the words of the Apostle and the example of Dorcas.

She is also commemorated in poems by Robert Herrick (“The Widows’ Tears: Or, Dirge of Dorcas”) and George MacDonald (“Dorcas”) as well as in religious paintings.

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