Friday, January 25, 2008

CONCLUSION: The Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism

Click HERE for the link to all the posts in this series. (If you want to link this to your Blog, this is your URL). And here, for your overviewing pleasure, are Dr. Barnett's Ten Elements (You can click on each one) -

#1: Historic Anglicanism is Biblical
#2: Historic Anglicanism is Protestant
#3: Historic Anglicanism is catholic
#4: Historic Anglicanism is Reformed
#5: Historic Anglicanism is Liturgical
#6: Historic Anglicanism is Evangelistic and Pastoral
#7: Historic Anglicanism is Episcopal and Parochial
#8: Historic Anglicanism is of Rational Ethos
#9: Historic Anglicanism affirms Creation, Society and the Common Good
#10: Historic Anglicanism is an Open Fellowship

Dr. Barnett, concludes on a personal note:
'These are elements to be appreciated and valued, as a motivation for a free expression of ministry, both in church on Sunday, as well as during the week. With the opportunity to experience other traditions I have come the more to value my own. In this regard, I echo and endorse the sentiment of J.I. Packer that, "Anglicanism embodies the richest, truest, wisest heritage in Christendom." * I commend it to us as something to be valued and appreciated and out of which we exercise our ministries.'

* J.I. Packer, "Speculating in Anglican Futures" in New Directions (Sept 1995), 6
Three concluding thoughts from me:

First, I can see how these Ten Elements are significant. Personally, I like being a Christian in the Anglican tradition. And Dr. Barnett has raised things that many of us do not think a whole lot about.

The natural problem is that the present expression of Anglicanism is (as everyone agrees), very messy. The question that is often asked is: "Has the Anglican experiment failed?" My own answer to that, for what it's worth, is that Anglicans are as messy as the human heart is. Anglicans mirror the human condition. And in a strange way, I give thanks to God for this. For isn't it true that Israel's fallen-ness is on every page of the Bible? And yet, God intends good for the saving of many lives. Within the Biblical narrative, God raised up some (a remnant), and then One (a Messiah) in the midst of all that messiness in order to redeem many lives. My denomination, I say in humility, reflects the truth of this Gospel. Pray for us.

Second, I'd like your comments here (I feel I don't have sufficient knowledge). In order to justify Packer's superlatives ('richest, truest, wisest'), we'd have to now show that:
  • All ten points are, in fact, valuable;
  • That no other heritage has all the ten points;
  • That there are no other valuable elements in another heritage that Anglicans don't have.
Third, some links were sent to me that are worth including in a post-
  • Byron sent me Garrison Keillor on Liturgy (I went to see Keillor in NYC in December! V funny.)
  • Byron also linked to a person who asks Why liturgy? ('from a slightly 'higher' Anglican'.)
  • And early on, Hughesi and Jess wanted to invite you all to hear from J.I. Packer directly, as he explains in 7 reasons 'Why I am an Anglican.' (Cost: $CDN3:00 I haven't listened yet.)
Any concluding thoughts?

Pic of Paul Barnett.

#10: Historic Anglicanism is an open fellowship

This is the final post from Dr Barnett on his Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism:
"Tenth, likewise it is an open fellowship, not restrictive of membership nor exclusivist or sectarian in temper. This provides for a broad accessibility to the church of those outside its active membership. A steady flow has come to it from other churches, which historically had separated from it, as well as from the non-believing community."
I wrote 2 posts about welcoming HERE.

Pic on Flickr by P Kinski.

#9: Historic Anglicanism affirms creation, society and the common good.

If you've just joined us, read the introductory posts HERE.

#9, without commentary -- (but feel free to comment):
"Ninth, in common with other churches of the Protestant Reformation, "historic" Anglicanism has affirmed laypersons, their role in marriage and the family, and their civic vocation within society. Thus "historic Anglicanism" affirms both creation and society. It is concerned with the common good, for the "welfare of the city," to use Jeremiah’s words. Its intercessions are directed to that end and in accord with 1 Tim 2:1:

('I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way')."

Pic on Flickr by Automatt.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

#8: Historic Anglicanism is of rational ethos

If you've just joined us, read the introductory posts HERE.

In the words of Dr. Barnett:
"Eight, historically speaking, "historic" Anglicanism has been of rational ethos. It has been prepared to engage in study and debate. Anglican evangelism has been associated with apologetics, eschewing manipulative or unworthy methods of bringing people to Christ. C.S. Lewis and J.R.W Stott come to mind in this regard, giving thousands in their generations and beyond a ground for hope in the intellectual and moral acceptability of the Christian faith."
I know that this is an appeal for me. My experience of Anglicanism has been what they call 'low church': Unadorned, but truthful. Formal, and not chaotic. Straight-forward, but in no way anti-intellectual. I was never asked to believe things that couldn't be simply shown from Scripture and reason. And we have never been asked to 'check our brains at the door'. On the contrary, we were encouraged to learn and debate as much or more than we could handle. I also like how there appears to be very few 'litmus test' verses unfairly used to prove your spiritual metal (let the reader understand).

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul's words to the starry-eyed Corinthians:
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Two more to go...

From "Ten Elements" to "Ten Things" (An interlude)

I showed Dr. Barnett's Ten Elements to a friend today, and accidentally left the hard copy with him. Oops. Will get back to you tomorrow hopefully.

In the meantime, some NYC news:

I was near NYU today meeting with a student, and I walked past the apartment where Heath Ledger lived and died yesterday. It is near my home. I was there for about 5 seconds. Nothing to see except media and people thinking that they'd see something. Not sure what.

Here is what was weird: a mere 10 minutes previous to this, I saw Julia Stiles (Ledger's Ten Things I Hate About You co-star), walking into a pet store near NYU. I don't know if Julia and Heath have kept in contact since 1999. But in my mind, they are inseparable since they both got their big break in 'Ten Things' . I really don't know, but she seemed very normal and relaxed and unaffected as she strolled into the little Manhattan corner store.

I've seen Julia Stiles twice since moving here. She lives close by, I believe. On both occasions, she was polite and looked at our kids and smiled warmly at them. But seeing her today made me realize that actors, like Styles and Ledger, are real people with real lives.

And, it would appear, not immune from pain.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

#7: Historic Anglicanism is episcopal and parochial

If you've just joined us, read the introductory posts HERE.

Dr. Barnett has written many books. Is the New Testament Reliable? is a good start to Dr. Barnett's work on the New Testament. But the book that I have kept coming back to over the years as a reference and a resource is Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity. Shameless plug.

Number 7 from Paul Barnett:
'Seventh, "historic" Anglicanism is episcopal and parochial, requiring that only those who are duly recognized by the bishop engage in preaching in the congregation and in ministering the sacraments among the people. The role of ordaining and licensing in churches is placed in the hands of the bishop. Provision is made for the deposition of "evil ministers", (Article 26) which regrettably, has been under-utilised. The existence of the episcopate has provided laity aggrieved with their ministers with a place of appeal, sometimes justified, sometimes not.'
The point here is that pastors are "men under authority". And that authority is local. A minister is not a law unto himself, and he is not to act as such. There is someone who, under Jesus, gave them the authority they have, and therefore they have someone to whom they are to 'report'. There is a path for discipline (as well as support). Churches that have pastors who have no authority over them are in great danger. (And by oversight, I don't mean a bunch of peers to whom they 'share' with occasionally).

But Dr. Barnett opens a door when he says that one aspect of the 39 Articles has been 'under-utilized'. That is, Anglicans haven't kept their own 'rules' (not just the one mentioned here).

The current mess in the Anglican church (and especially here in the US) has been, in part, a failure of the Bishops and leaders to be faithful the the Faith Once Delivered. If the Bishop is not faithful to the Scripture, then that means that Episcopos can't function properly.

That's called a crisis, as far as I can tell.

One of Anglican proportions.

Pic by Flickr by petervanallen.

#6: Historic Anglicanism is Evangelistic and Pastoral

If you've just joined us, read the introductory posts HERE.

This one is interesting: Dr. Barnett makes a his proposal brief, but I can't help feeling that he is speaking to the rise of the 'seeker' service and to the Mega-church phenomena. And yet he calls us to be evangelistic like we are supposed to be! Dr. Barnett says:
'Sixth, the Ordinal, Catechism and Occasional Services commit Anglican ministers to a ministry which is evangelistic and pastoral, expressed in terms which are biblical and theologically orthodox. However, the evangelism envisaged in not of the 'hit and run' kind, independent of the continuing life of the local church. It is settled, routine and reoccurring, within the parochial setting.'
Re Pastoral:
I can see how Anglican churches are set up to be pastoral. When an Anglican Church is not pastoral, something is usually wrong. For whatever (good or bad) reasons, Anglicans don't do Mega-church. The largest US Episcopal churches are 2000 or so. But they are rare. The largest Anglican churches in Australia are about 1300 or so (but even then, they are broken into smaller gatherings with their own preachers and pastoral oversight). Anglicans, if they are growing, grow by multiplying congregations (not growing larger).

So unlike a Mega church, most people in an Anglican church can immediately call (or call on) a minister whom they actually know. They know their pastors, and their pastors know them. They are able to keep a stronger level of accountability going, as well as discipline and encouragement. Their ministers will often go to homes to see the people they pastor.

I know a young guy who was going to a large Mega church in the States. He was going simply because of the giftedness of the preacher. While there, he decided that he wanted to go into 'professional' ministry and be trained for it, but he knew no pastors or elders at the Mega church he was attending (classic problem). So he sent an email to the church office asking for oversight and got an automated reply! So he left the Mega-church that week. No one with oversight at the Mega-church knew he was not there anymore; because basically no one knew him (expect for a few peers in his Home Group Bible Study). He began attending an functioning evangelical Anglican Church (not in NY). He got involved, and has real - and not imagined - weekly pastoral oversight.

I can see how that comes straight out of the Bible:
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Re Evangelistic:
I would have liked more exploration of this one from Dr. Barnett. It seems to me that to keep a church evangelistic is one of the most difficult tasks that a pastor faces. It requires constant refocusing. It requires ministers to keep saying unpopular things. It requires a re-ordering of one's calender, and saying 'No' to some things so that we can say 'Yes' to the preaching of the Gospel. It is very difficult, and requires a level of leadership that many in pastoral ministry do not have. And yet, Dr. Barnett is suggesting here that if ministers really do what we are supposed to do (in ordination, in teaching and in occasional church), then evangelism will be at the front and center of our life as a church.

I might go and read again the words said at my ordination. That will help me to refocus for evangelism.

One more thing: I'd be interested to know what Dr. Barnett is contrasting here. What is the 'hit and run' kind that he speaks about? And how is it different from Historic Anglicanism? Is that the kind of tract-based evangelism? Or something else?


Pic on Flickr by tadj.

#5: Historic Anglicanism is liturgical

Please read the introductory posts HERE. Here is #5:

'Fifth, this [Historic Anglicanism] is a liturgical church. Anglicanism employs liturgy to several ends: to secure regular acknowledgment from the church that sinners are saved only in Christ; to express the congregation's adherence to the catholic faith in the use of the historic creeds; to express the need of the congregation to hear the Bible in both Testaments read systematically, giving a special place to the Psalms as articulating biblical piety; and to provide for prayer which is carefully crafted theologically and which reflects international, national as well as local needs.

Liturgy is not used for art's sake (that is, aesthetically), but for truth's sake (that is, theologically), in order to retain the Bible, the catholic creeds and the reformed confessions at the centre of the church's confession of faith.

And it uses liturgy for the sake of laity, to protect the congregation from the whims of the minister and to provide for the voice of the congregation to be heard articulating the faith, and not just the voice of the minister.'

*** Dr Barnett has more to say by way of reflection. Click on the comments HERE.
A couple of thoughts from me:

For some, it wouldn't matter what good reasons were proposed, they will not get 'into' liturgy. But Dr Barnett's list in the first paragraph has some power for me. I find it interesting that a liberal church that employs liturgy may read more of the bible in their services than an evangelical church with not a lot of liturgy.

Here is where I am at: I have had a love-hate relationship with liturgy over many years. As a teenager, I found myself frustrated that liturgy seemed perfectly placed for lip-service only. I always wanted to be captivated in church and gripped by God and his mission, and liturgy seemed not to captivate me. I'm sure that I was not alone.

Then, at age 20, I went to St Barnabas Broadway. Barneys was relaxed and joyful and gripped by God's love. And yet they employed liturgy to good effect. The liturgy was a servant of the congregation, not its master. There was an energy and a momentum to the service. Things were explained, but not over-explained. There was talk, but no meta-talk. I invited my friends who didn't know Jesus, and many people become Christians there.

Here at Christ Church NYC, we are definitely liturgical. And we seek to employ liturgy as a servant of the congregation. We use it for many of the reasons that Dr. Barnett has listed above. While it doesn't come naturally for some to use set forms in church, there are many who come to Christ Church because of the liturgy (and especially the younger people!) They say that they are tired of listening to the ramblings of a pastor based on what came to mind while eating breakfast. And, as Dr. Barnett says, here, they are protected "from the whims of the minister".

In this case, me.

And thankful we all are for it. :)

Some questions you might like to comment on:
  • Are there any of you that have had positive experiences of liturgy? Let us know.
  • What do you think of the comment that liturgy is "not used for art's sake"?
  • What do you gain and lose by letting go of liturgical services?
Pic on Flickr by spamily.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

#4: Historic Anglicanism is reformed

Please read the introductory posts HERE.

#4 without a commentary:

'However, fourth, "historic" Anglicanism is reformed, articulating the great biblical insights of the reformers Luther and Calvin, that sinners, which all people as the offspring of Adam are, are righteous before God "only for the merit of Christ, the sacrifice for sin", not on account of their works, or deservings. (Articles 9, 11).

Only two sacraments or signs of effectual grace - baptism and the Lord's Supper - are recognised, both of which were ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ, both of which take their character from the gospel. (Article 25).

These sacraments, however, are seen as having a significant place in this church. Both are subject of significant liturgies, that of the Lord's Supper reaching great heights of theology and devotion. Their high place within Anglican order is secured by the simple instrumentality whereby the one called and sent to teach the congregation - the priest/minister - is the one who administers these effectual signs.'


Pic on Flickr by newfoundland rcmp.

#3: Historic Anglicanism is catholic

Please read the introductory posts HERE. In this article, Dr Paul Barnett echo's J.I. Packer that Anglicanism is the 'richest, truest, wisest heritage in Christendom.' As I type, I realize that this case can only be made by hearing out all ten elements. There are many churches that are biblical (#1) and protestant (#2). More will have to be said. I'm looking forward to reading the next 7. Make comments along the way!

We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Yes. But has God been gracious to us to stop us wondering down our own individualistic path? Indeed, he has. Here is Number 3:
'Third, this church (Historic Anglicanism) recognises that great truths of biblical revelation have been secured in creeds and confessions at moments of high theological controversy. Significantly, Articles 1-5 affirm the doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation and resurrection of Christ which were in dispute in the early centuries. Thus, "historic" Anglicanism is committed to views on trinity and christology which are catholic, that is, 'according to the whole' church, as opposed to heretical or sectional teachings. The creeds - the Apostles', the Nicene and the Athanasian - are important as expressions of "catholic" Christianity, to which "historic" Anglicanism has committed itself.'
Someone pointed out to me that there is a significant deviation between Historic Anglicanism and it's current expression here in the US and Canada (and it appears to have moved a long way from the creeds). It is worth pointing out that the battle that currently exists is, in part, a calling back to the creeds.

Has anyone else noticed that the creeds are making a comeback? I was at a church recently that was far from traditional. And yet they wanted to embrace the past. What did they do at this church? They embraced and recited the Apostle's Creed.

There is not a week that goes by at our church were one of the creeds is not affirmed and read.

Pic on Flickr by Eglantine.

Monday, January 21, 2008

#2: Historic Anglicanism is Protestant

Here, Dr. Barnett echo's the sentiment of J.I.Packer that, "Anglicanism embodies the richest, truest, wisest heritage in Christendom." A strong claim, right? Such a strong claim requires a hearing. Read the introductory posts HERE.

Dr. Barnett continues with his second element:
'Second, it is protestant. Article 6 states, "...whatsoever is not read therein," that is, in the Bible, "is not required an any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith." The church upholds the right of the individual to read and understand the Bible for his salvation, as opposed to salvation truth being mediated by the church.'
I know several people who are considering Roman Catholicism. Personally, I don't understand the appeal to swim the Tiber. But I have tried to listen and speak to those who have. I have written (cheekily) about the appeal of becoming Roman Catholic in a previous post (Click HERE.)

The truth is this: I can grasp that some want the certainty of a centralized and unified interpretation of Scripture; an authority outside of me to determine the meaning of Scripture; something to mitigate against a million individual interpretations.

But I simply cannot see how Rome answers the questions that some are asking. Turning to Rome seems to raise more questions than it answers.

I read the New Testament and it appears that God seems to take a risk on people: God expects that each believer, reading his or her own Bible; accountable to pastors and elders; mindful of the great thinkers of the past, and in faith in Jesus our Lord, will 'work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.' More than that, God promises to 'work in you, to will and to work for his good pleasure.'

The point here is that being Anglican allows for this very activity...

All, it appears, without a Pontiff in Rome!

Pic on Flickr by *Toshio*.

#1: Historic Anglicanism is Biblical.

The following is an article by Dr. Paul Barnett called: "Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism". Dr. Barnett was the Anglican Bishop of North Sydney from 1990-2001. Dr. Barnett's Ten Elements were inspired by the comments of J.I. Packer in "Speculating in Anglican Futures" in New Directions (Sept 1995), 6. Read the Introductory posts HERE.

Let's begin. The first is significant:
'First and foremost this Anglicanism (Historic Anglicanism) locates its final authority in matters pertaining to salvation in the Holy Scriptures (Article 6). The church, as "witness and keeper of the holy writ", has "power to decree rites and authority in matters of controversy." (Article 20) Nonetheless, churches may err and have erred within history.

Thus the church must defer to the Bible in all matters relating to salvation and, indeed, in all matters relating to rites, ceremonies and controversies.

Thus the Anglican Church is biblical as to the basis of its authority. At ordination the presbyter/minister is given a Bible as the instrument of ministry. The Bishop's charge in the Ordinal, along with the questions and answers, make it abundantly clear that Christian ministry has the Bible as the basis and means of ministry.'
The 39 Articles are clear: If it is not in the Bible, it is not required. The 6th Article says:
'...whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.'
This is liberating, for it means that no person, pastor or power may burden a believer with the imaginations of their own heart.

Pic on Flickr by diane leigh.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Anglicanism: the richest, truest, wisest heritage in Christendom?

[This is an introductory post to a series that can be read by clicking HERE.]

When I was maturing as a Christian in my 20s, we chose not to defend the denomination of our heritage. Of course! Instead we defended the Gospel (if indeed it can be defended). We were not into being 'Anglican', we were into Jesus. We believed that the Anglican church was a good place to preach the gospel, but that is as far as the denomination was useful. We talked about the Anglican Church as a 'real estate agent' - an owner of property - and that was it.

The reason, then, that I pursued faith within the Anglican denomination was simple: Absolutely everybody who was significant in my Christian faith was Anglican (or trained as Anglican). I figured that out pretty easily. And almost all of them had trained at an Anglican Seminary in the city in which I grew up. So I put 2 and 2 together: if they could give me Christ, then I could pass Him on.

So off I went to seminary.

Here in the United States, denominations (for better or worse) play a large part in people's lives. The heritage of many here in the US counts for something. Christ Church NYC has formed itself as a church in the "evangelical Anglican tradition." So I have had to think more about being 'Anglican' than ever before. And yet at the same time, we have wanted to (of course) remain dynamic, Spirit-filled, Bible-based, God-entranced, and Christ-focused.

On Monday, I want to begin presenting to you Dr. Paul Barnett's "Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism". Dr. Barnett was the Anglican Bishop of North Sydney from 1990-2001. Dr. Barnett's Ten Elements were inspired by the comments of J.I. Packer in "Speculating in Anglican Futures" in New Directions (Sept 1995), 6.

I emailed Dr. Barnett and he has agreed to let me post his Ten Elements. Dr Barnett concludes the article thus:
I echo and endorse the sentiment of J.I.Packer that, "Anglicanism embodies the richest, truest, wisest heritage in Christendom."
Strong endorsement, yes?

Would you like to hear Dr Barnett's 10 reasons why being Anglican might be this significant? And my own thought processes along the way?

Yes or No?

Pic on Flickr by petecarr.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Anglicanism: One more thing before I start...

Louisa - You said in the comments of the introductory post that you were not sure about the Anglican Church after 5 years of working for an Anglican Church. I hear you. But it is worth saying that Dr. Barnett begins his Ten Elements with this stipulation:
I refer to Anglicanism as defined in the historic formularies: the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles.
That is, we are not discussing each person's particular experience of the Anglican church, but rather, what Dr. Barnett has called "Historic Anglicanism". Hope that helps. Perhaps we are talking about the way the church ought to be, rather than what it often is.

(For my readers: Dr. Barnett may be reading this Blog during the week. So bear that in mind as you make your comments.)

Mike -- hold your horses, mate.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

You won't experience Easter this early until 2160...

Feel like Christmas has just finished? That's because it did just finish.

But Easter falls earlier than normal this year: Easter Sunday is March 23. That means that Ash Wednesday begins the Season of Lent in a mere three weeks: February 6.

I'm told by WIKI that the earliest date that Easter can fall on is March 22nd (March 22 was last Easter Day in 1818, and it will next fall on that day again 2285.) March 23 will be the earliest you will ever experience Easter. Actually, it will be the earliest for you, and your children, and your grandchildren, and your great-grandkids and your great-great-great-grandkids. It will not be Easter Sunday this early until 2160.

Wiki says that "the cycle of Easter dates repeats after exactly 5,700,000 years, with April 19 being the most common date, happening 220,400 times, or 3.9% compared to a mean for all dates of 162,857 times, or 2.9%."


Of course, you could ditch all this, and follow the Apostle's advice to Timothy:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel.
Or you can read and study Mark 11-16 for the Season of Lent. That would be worthwhile, right? You could do this as a Bible Study or a Home Group. I wrote these Bible Studies 2 years ago, but have updated the dates for the daily readings through Lent leading up to Easter.

CLICK above and Download them at your leisure.

The only cost to you is that you simply let me know that you have downloaded them (so I can keep a track of who is using it.) Either post a comment, or send me an email (on my Profile page)

Pic on Flickr by Stringendo.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

#15- The Invisibility of God: FINAL

This is a Sermon on the Invisibility of God. Read the text: JOHN 1:1-18. It was preached at preached at Christ Church NYC on December 30, 2007. Comments welcome. Read from the bottom up.

You see that there is the possibility of good news - which I hold out to you today:

V12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

I know that the invisibility of God is a difficult issue. I face it myself. It is still a real question for me. And, of course, I do not have every answer. But I have God's...

But this is exactly why I love Jesus.

Jesus is the way forward for us. For he has made known God to me. And more than that - he has given me power and authority to be in his family. Miraculously in his family. Not taking the disastrous road of rejecting him. But the joyful road of receiving him.

The writer of Hebrews:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Here endeth the sermon.

Are you still reading?? Feel free to make a comment...

Pic on Flickr by tollen.

#14- The Invisibility of God: A tragedy *and* a diagnosis

The rejection of "the Word become flesh" is a tragedy, as while as a diagnosis. Can you see that? A tragedy usually describes an event - Like 9/11. Whereas a diagnosis describes a condition - Like selfishness.

Christ coming became, in a way, a tragedy: The Author of Life came, and humanity killed him. That's a tragedy.

But the death of Christ is also a diagnosis: How do Humans treat God? What is the diagnosis of Human Being? When he comes, the World did not know him. His own did not accept him.

I think that's why God rarely turns up to your doorstep, and knocks. (Like a desperate Presidential candidate.) He knows that this is no guarantee that you'll drop everything and follow anyway. Jesus made a similar point in Luke 16:

"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Last past to come...

Pic on Flickr by That Other Guy

#13- The Invisibility of God: From creation to Palestine to You

Where does this story end up? It ends up right here in this room - with you and me. In Jesus, there is an offer to each of us know the now-known God.

The story begins in creation, lands in Palestine, and then spreads to the world. But it could go one way or the other: acceptance or rejection of God. V10 --

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own (First Century Israel), and his own people did not accept him.

This, then, is the tragedy of the story of the Revelation of the Invisible God: The 'World' and even his own people (for Jesus was Jewish) did not accept him.

But the offer of being a part of the family is held out in him.

Two more to come...

Pic on Flickr by Patrick Q.

#12- The Invisibility of God: Damien in with the lepers

H/T Andrew Katay for giving me this illustration.

Have you heard the story of Father Damien? A missionary to the island of Molokai in Hawaii? In the 1800s, there was no cure for the leprosy. So, in order to prevent it from spreading, the Hawaiian government would send lepers to a secluded colony on Molokai.

In 1873, a young priest named Damien volunteered to spend his life serving the lepers. What he saw were people who desperately needed to know the answer to a question "where is God?"

They needed God's presence in their life.

And so, in 1873, Father Damien went to live among the 700 lepers, knowing the dangers. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches. And the whole while he was giving them the answer to that question...

Where is God?

And whenever a church service was held, he would stand up in front of the lepers, and he would warmly, and lovingly address them as "my dear brethren." But then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of "my dear brethren," he began with, "My fellow lepers, I am one of you now."

It was out of love that this man became one of them. He shared with them the answer to the ever present question... "Where is God?"

And the only way he could give them the answer is by becoming one of them.

Jesus did that for us.


#11- The Invisibility of God: God in the Pit with us.

H/T Andrew Katay for a part of this reflection.

All of this simply means: When you know Jesus, you know God. When you read Jesus, you are reading God. When you see how Jesus loves people, you see how God loves people. When you see Jesus denounce the self-sufficient, you know how God feels about the self-sufficient.

But it's better than that. It means that God become what we are: We are creatures; he took creaturehood to himself. We are weak creatures; he took weak creaturehood, flesh, to himself. We are sinful weak creatures; and he took sinful weak creaturehood to himself, and overcame all that was sinful and weak in the power of his divine life and made it pure and good.

There is nothing: No weakness; no frailty, no failure, no temptation that we can experience that he has not experienced as well.

He got into the pit with us.


#10- The Invisibility of God: A Child can 'get' it.

A kid can get it, you know -- that the one who created the world (and me) is Jesus. My wife asked our 3 year old Son "who made you"? He replied: "Jesus made me." But then The Little Man elaborates: "Jesus made me into a puzzle and broke me into pieces and then put me back together in pieces that belong to Jesus."

The Writer of Colossians puts it like this:

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Pic on Flickr by Cayusa.

#9- The Invisibility of God: Incarnation

We have a word for this (The Word became Flesh): Incarnation. Incarnation describes God turning up in the world that he made and that he owns. Jesus is divinity with a face: God moving into the neighborhood and settling in.

Jesus is divinity with breath in his lungs (breath that can, we find out, be stopped in by an execution.) The Messiah Jesus is divinity with hands and particular size feet (hands and feet that are flesh and can be pierced by Roman nails.)

Every birth is a miracle, this one much more so.

God, then, took the same path that you did.


#8- The Invisibility of God: Made known in Palestine.

The Story begins in creation, and then lands in Palestine in the 1st Century AD.

V6-9 grounds the Story of God's Revelation in a particular time and place - initially to John the Baptist. But John was not the light, nor the Word, but he bore witness to the light.

No - you have to go to Verse 14 for that. This is the climax of the Story:

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

The word 'lived' is the word 'tabernacled', or 'pitched his Tent'. The one who created the world pitched his tent amongst us.

Jesus: God with us.

In Palestine. In the Christmas Story. In history.

More to come...

Pic on Flickr by josef.stuefer.

#7- The Invisibility of God: Before Creation

First - The story of God's revelation begins before Creation.

There is so much here, that we can only touch on:
V1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being [that] has come into being. (the NIV is correct here, I believe) 4 [In] him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John is going to unfold for us the deepest things in all of reality, and so it is not surprising that it is linguistically beautiful and profoundly poetic. John uses words that belong first in Genesis 1:1-
In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.
And now we have a new 'angle' on the oldest of stories. This time - John speaks about The Word - the 'Logos': The Word about God; the Life-Giving Truth about God; the Self-Revelation of God.

He doesn't explain himself at this point. All you have to know is that this is the 'Word' is God. You can't separate self-expression from the self: God has always had a truth that is with him. He has never intended to be invisible, or in-audible. But to make himself known.

And the first Revelation of God was in Creation. All things were created through the Word, and there was nothing made that did not come about by this Word. You see - everything that you have EVER seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled was made through The Word.

Who is this Word? Where is this truth about God? Where is the light and life? Where is the self-expression and self-revelation of God to be found?

Where ought I to go fishing?

John says: "The Word become FLESH!"

He came to Palestine!

More to come...

Pic on Flickr by James Neely.

#6- The Invisibility of God: A Statement in search of a Story.

OK - now Verse 18 is a statement (No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known). It is a tantalizing and incredible statement about the revelation of the invisible God.

But it is also a statement in search of a story. A context. A larger narrative.

Otherwise, it is a statement one can simply reject out of hand. That is, John says: "Jesus is God the Son who has made known God the Father." And you could reply: "No, he isn't." "Yes, he is." "No, he isn't."

And then we are just going around in circles..

With any incredible claim, you have to take the time to figure out the context; the story behind it; the narrative, and then check that out.

And here is John's Story of the Revelation of the invisible God:
  • The Story begins before Creation. (V1-5)
  • The Story lands in 1st Century Palestine. (V6-9)
  • And the Story spreads from Israel to the World. (V10-18) (And that's where you and I come in).
In the next posts, I'll be looking briefly at the Story behind the Invisible God becoming Flesh.


#5- The Invisibility of God: Fishing for God.

My old old friend, Mike the Oxford Genius, says that he is a terrible fisherman, even though the romance of fishing really appeals to him. He once mused (in a sermon) that God is like a fish.

The thing that is so frustrating and yet at the same time so challenging about fishing, Mike says, is that it is a blind activity: On the whole you can't see the fish you are trying to catch. All you have is the suspicion of fish, or the rumor of fish. Fishing is an activity carried out in hope.

This lack of sight is why we go 'fishing', and not 'cowing', Mike says. You wouldn't put a piece of grass on a hook in a paddock and hope that a cow eats it.

I'm with Mike. When I go fishing, I get the right bait, I get the right sinker etc; I check the tides, and go with the right people. But I always see others catching lots of fish. And never me.

Mike thinks that God is like a fish in this: It appears impossible to get him to come out into the open. You can't see him, and so it is really hard to know what he is like.

"What bait will entice him?" Mike muses. We suspect that he is there. Most people, some surveys say up to 90%, believe in God in some way or another. We hear rumors of people having wonderful encounters with God, and yet it doesn't seem to happen to me.

The Apostle John says, "no-one has ever seen God." But John goes on: "It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known."

When Jesus came, God came out of the shade and into the sun. When Jesus came, God took out the guesswork, (while maintaining the mystery of the greatest of God).

More to come...

Pic on Flickr by Altus.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

#4- The Invisibility of God: The Answer.

The message of the New Testament (and of John’s Gospel in a special way) is this. V18, again:

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The old translations say that Jesus is "in the bosom of the Father".

Jesus is the one has made the unknown known. This God – and he is talking about Jesus – has made the unseen seen. He has literally exegeted the Father – opened God up for us. He has made him known. If you want to know God, the Apostle is saying here and elsewhere, he is known in Jesus.

I know that this is not satisfying to many, but that is the answer the Scriptures has for us: JESUS is the answer to the question of the Invisibility of God.

So let's explore this then...

More to come...

Pic on Flickr by Claude...

#3- The Invisibility of God: Scripturally Speaking.

The Bible does not avoid the issue of invisibility – it is entirely upfront about it. And I want to be as upfront as the Scriptures are.

Take a look at John 1, and verse 18 in particular.

No one has ever seen God.

That is the 'Invisibility of God' in a nutshell.

People had only seen that which God allowed them to see, and that frustrated many. The Psalmists, Job, King David, Israel, many of the Prophets and Kings. They had a problem with the Invisibility of God. And they all cried something along the lines of: "Hide not your face from me."

Pic on Flickr by P.A.V, Photography

#2- The Invisibility of God: Personally Speaking.

This is a Sermon on the Invisibility of God. Read the text: JOHN 1:1-18. And read from the bottom up. It was preached at preached at Christ Church NYC on December 30, 2007. Comments welcome.

Do you struggle to love an invisible God?

I do.

A personal note: Sometimes when things are really hard, I'll be lying in bed at night raising my arms up, and I'll be saying to God (and to myself!) in a half-prayer – "God, show me your face; make yourself plain. God, make it more obvious for me; give me a clue here."

And I know many who feel the same.

Even my 3 year old son has the problem. My wife said to The Little Man: "Jesus is in the room with us now". And he shrugged his shoulders and said: "No, he isn’t. I can't see him. Where is he?"


My wife had a great answer to that question (she's a smart woman). My wife is pregnant with (God willing) #3. She asked The Little Man if he could see the baby. He replied "No".

Then she asked him: "Is the baby in the room with us?" He said: "Yes". "Well", said Wife, "seeing isn't the only way to decide if someone is present."

He seemed satisfied (or was it that lunch was over?)

But still a real issue isn't it?

More to come...

Pic on Flickr by Code Poet.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

#1- The Invisibility of God: INTRO

This is a Sermon on the Invisibility of God. Read the text: JOHN 1:1-18. And read from the bottom up. It was preached at preached at Christ Church NYC on December 30, 2007. Comments welcome.

The Invisibility of God is perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks to faith in God. It is right up there (and related to) the Problem of Evil.

It goes something like this:

I can’t see God. I can barely see his hand in the world. I’m told that I have to give my whole life to him. That I have to take up my Cross and follow him.

But how can I do that without something more tangible? How can I do that without an actual meeting? Or something...

And I understand that -- If someone rang me sight unseen, and insisted that I give my whole life to them - my money, my family, the keys to the apartment - I’d be calling 311 and lodge a complaint. Or maybe 911 and call for the cops.

The Invisibility of God is a huge difficulty for many Christians. It’s such a big problem for many believers that Philip Yancey wrote a book about it called "Reaching for the Invisible God". It’s largely written from the point of view of his personal struggles.

The Invisibility of God is so big for inquirers that for many it’s a deal breaker. "If I can’t see God, I won’t listen to any other arguments or suggestions or reasons for God."

Do you struggle to love an invisible God?

More to come...


Pic on Flickr by Paco CT

Friday, January 04, 2008

January 4, 1998.

10 years ago tomorrow I met my wife.

People sometimes ask me how we met. Here is our story: we met at the wedding of her sister to my friend.

I had not dated anyone in 8 years for a number of reasons: mostly fear. Although I had never thought of myself as remaining permanently single, I did think of singleness as a genuine option for me. Until January 4, 1998.

I had been at Theological College (seminary) at Moore in Sydney from '95-97 with two Americans: Dave (sent from Atlanta, GA) and Carey (from Wheaton, IL). We had all become very good friends. During my last year at College, Dave announced his engagement to his American girlfriend Robin. Robin and Dave were looking to get married in Georgia on January 17, 1998. I couldn't make it on that day (I had just begun full-time Youth Ministry at Christ Church St Ives and needed to be in Sydney on that day). But I could make it on January 10. But not January 17.

They couldn't get a reception venue for January 17, so they changed the date to January 10. I went out that afternoon and bought me a ticket to the United States. Crazy, isn't it, how one decision (that you may not have even made) can change your whole life?

At Carey's invitation, I flew into Green Bay, Wisconsin for Christmas at the vacation home of his parent's Kent and Barbara Hughes'. Door County; log cabin; Christmas in winter; wonderful hospitality; skeet shooting. Loved every minute of it.

I met up with my friend Ed Springer in Wheaton, Chicago, and we traveled to New York City and then to Washington DC. Ed and I were at Times Square on New Year's Eve in 1997. (So this week is also 10 years since I visited NYC for the first time).

We flew into Atlanta on the morning of January 4, 1998 for the wedding preparation.

That morning, I met the bride's sister. Her name was Laurel. Laurel came in from DC where she was a post-graduate student. Like us, she came in a week before the wedding to support the bride and groom. Ed and I stayed in the Reames' basement. Because there was not much to do, Laurel become our Atlanta tour guide.

So we got to talking...

Ed asked me that week what I thought of Laurel. I told him at the time that I thought I could marry her. It took over two years, but we got there.

Met Atlanta, January 4, 1998. Married Atlanta, May 14, 2000. Nice.

Thank God.


C-Span and the Iowa Caucuses

I wrote a post a year ago about loving C-Span.

Tonight, I reiterate my appreciation for The Span.

Love The Span.

Right now, the Iowa Caucuses are taking place to begin the process of determining the candidates for the US Presidential race for 2008. Instead of watching the Spin on the network TVs, I'm watching The Span of Precinct 53 in Des Moines, IA.

It's hand counts and winter coats. It is bumbling, honest, reasonable, and technically incompetent.

I love it.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

May Your Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven...

Laurel and I are looking forward to the new year by taking joy in the hope and peace that come from Jesus. Personally, I'm thankful to God for the Bible - because the Scriptures *alone* inform me that this hope and peace is a real option.

Why do I say that?

Just now, I clicked onto a particular Newspaper and saw the following six headlines (There were no others. These were the only headlines on the page!)

Father Murders Daughter.
61 Year Old hacked to death.
Punched and robbed for his mobile.
Pilot fears runway falls short.
Israeli embassy evacuated.
Victim's family grieve over hit and run.

Hooley Dooley.

'Happy New Year' seems pretty glib in the face of that news.

Maranatha seems far more appropriate, don't you think?

(At least the cricket is going well... unless you are from India.)

Pic on Flickr by ie-fotografie.