Monday, January 29, 2007

A Beef with James, and Schleiermacher Too

I had the honour of preaching this Thursday at an ordination (the ordination of my own mum, no less!), on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I had to cut this piece out of the sermon, but I am so attached to it, I thought I would post it here, and not let it go completely to waste.


Faithfulness to tradition is not as far from the story of St. Paul's conversion as we might think. St. Paul isn’t exactly changed in an instant, so much as everything that he once knew was revealed under the scrutiny of a blinding light.

St. Paul may very well have been a Jew by necessity in salvation history, because if he wasn't a Jew, he would not have recognized the voice of the Messiah. Only the most Jewish of Jews would recognize that the one who spoke to him in the light was the Holy One of Israel. Without knowing the history of Israel, and God’s uncompleted work within that history, St. Paul would not have understood the way in which his life and faith were changing. And after that, where does St. Paul go? He enters a Christian household, the house of the Damascene believers, where he learns to see again, where his life is re-oriented according to an ancient faith understood in a new light, the light of the coming of the Messiah.

St. Paul’s experience on the road was not a singularity within his life, as William James would have it; nor was it a subjective experience that was later, and with great hesitancy, put into words, as Schleiermacher might put it. St. Paul already had the words and the knowledge to understand his experience, and the experience was contiguous with the life he led before he saw the light, even as it changed his life in deeply significant ways.

So St. Paul's experience was not of the breaking with tradition, but rather it was of the breaking open of tradition. St. Paul never broke faithfulness with who he was, nor with what he knew, even if he and his world changed completely that day on the road to Damascus.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

For the Third Sunday After Epiphany

When Jesus had read this passage, he rolled up "the scroll, gave it to the servant, and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him." Now too, if you want it, your eyes can be fixed on the Savior in this synagogue, here in this assembly. When you direct the principal power of seeing in your heart to wisdom and truth and to contemplating God's Only-Begotten, your eyes gaze on Jesus. Blessed is the congregation of which Scripture testifies that "the eyes of all were fixed on him!" How much would I wish that this assembly gave such testimony. I wish that the eyes if all (of catechumens and faithful, of women, men, and children) - not the eyes of the body, but the eyes of the soul - would gaze upon Jesus. When you look to him, your faces will be shining from the light of his gaze. You will be able to say, "The light of your face, Lord, has made its mark upon us."

Origen, Homilies on the Gospel of Luke 32.6.

Get this book in Canadaor in the U.S.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Difficult Read

Bob Carlton, who blogs at The Corner, has posted some reflections on his old parish, St. Matthias. St. Matthias is breaking up with the Episcopal Church, and Bob helpfully reminds us that children are often the people who get hurt the most in a divorce.

Bob writes:

"One of my biggest a-has has been that it is our faith, not my faith - that following God in a Jesus way is a communal thing more than it is a singular journey.

So my hurt from what one might think of as a very inconsequential change - the fact that St. Matthias Episcopal Church is likely breaking ties with an entity that seems to be at the very least denying death if not dying - well, that hurt is a lot more than just words changing on a sign. It is that a legacy that, in some ways, is tied up in a building and a community is being breached. A thin space that I still visit in my memories and in my soul is fracturing.

Our faith is being divided into mine and yours. I know this happened long ago, but something about this change has grabbed my soul by the collar (opps, bad metaphor) by the scruff of me neck. The rots of this faith run deep - just yanking them up is not actually possible. These roots are intertwined, connected to that tree over there and that bush yards away."

His first post on St. Matthias, "Love - and the church - sometimes hurts", can be found here.

The second, "Part of Why It Hurts", and from which I quote above, can be found here.

Check them out.


Friday, January 12, 2007

For the Second Sunday After Epiphany

He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? He who turned water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is sweetness and altogether desire.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration

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Sunday, January 07, 2007


A parishioner, and musician, shared this hymn with me after church today. It is from the Canadian hymnal, The Book of Common Praise, Revised, 1938, p. 90.

I found it quite moving, and sad that there aren't more opportunities to sing Epiphany hymns.

The heavenly Child in stature grows

The heavenly Child in stature grows,
and, growing, learns to die;
and still his early training shows
his coming agony.

The Son of God his glory hides
with parents mean and poor;
and he, who made the heavens, abides
in dwelling-place obscure.

Those mighty hands that rule the sky
no earthly toil refuse;
the Maker of the stars on high
a humble trade pursues.

He, whom the choirs of angels praise,
bearing each dread decree,
his earthly parents now obeys
in deep humility.

For this thy lowliness revealed,
Jesus, we thee adore;
and praise to God the Father yield
and Spirit evermore.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I Cut My Hair

This is probably the most vain post ever. Yes, I'm blogging about my hair.

After nine years of looking like a hippie, I've crossed over. I'm now the man, man.

The beard almost went too, but I decided I really don't need to look any younger. Looking young (heck, being young) can be kind of a liability in my work.


N.T. Wright, Right Again

N.T. Wright hits it right on the button, as usual:

"The Gnostic conspiracy theory says that orthodoxy hushed up the really exciting thing and promoted this boring sterile thing with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And of course there's a great lie underneath that. In the second and third centuries, the people being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake and sawed in two were not the ones reading Thomas and Judas and the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. They were the ones reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Because the empire is perfectly happy with Gnosticism. Gnosticism poses no threat to the empire. Whereas Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do. It's the church's shame that in the last 200 years, the church has muzzled Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and turned them into instruments of a controlling, sterile orthodoxy. But the texts themselves are explosive."

Read the rest here.

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