Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

10 Most Fascinating People in Christendom

Soon, Barbara Walters will have her annual 10 most fascinating people on ABC. A preview of her list includes Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Kanye West, and Jamie Foxx. Almost all of this blog's readers recognize these names, but I wonder if we can come up with a list of 2005's 10 most fascinating people in Christianity. They don't have to be people we agree with, just people that fascinate us. I'll start (in no particular order):
1. Pope Benedict XVI (how will he lead the Roman Church in the future?)
2. Archbishop Rowan Williams (how will he handle the divisions in Anglicanism?)
3. Rod Parsley (where does he get his suits?)
4. Bishop Bob Duncan (what role with the Network play?)
5. Bill Hybels (what is the future of the mega church?)

Who else should be on this list?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Website Updated

At our website, yesterday's sermon (with audio) and the November newsletter are all online.

Morning Prayer

1 Peter 1:1-12 (NRSV)

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, 11 inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-things into which angels long to look!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Where does one draw the line?

As I have stated in a recent post, this blog is not a political one. So it is with fear and trembling that I ask the following question. In a recent news story, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena is facing the revocation of their tax exempt status by the IRS. The reason? A former rector (now retired) preached a sermon on the eve of the 2004 Presidential election condemning the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts. The news story goes on to say that the website of All Saints condemns the Republican-based propositions that are to be voted on today. Now most people in my neck of the woods (middle Georgia) will shrug it off and say, "That's California." However, I think a deeper question exists - where should priests/preachers/pastors draw the line in the pulpit? I do not and never will endorse or campaign against a political figure from the pulpit, but what if there is a scenario when the Church must speak out? What if there are actions or policies in local, state, or federal governments that are contrary to the teachings of Christ? When I was in the United Methodist Church, I was sent a letter by the higher ups stating that I had to preach a sermon against the proposed state lottery. I did not feel comfortable in directly addressing a piece of legislation so I attempted to weave the overall issue of gambling into the sermon. Should I have been more direct? And what about our tax-exempt status? God knows income tax and property tax would kill (or severely hurt) most churches, but are we subtly tied to censorship? I'm not sure. I am not a political activist for any side. I tend to keep my political discussions internal. At St Michael's, a candidate running for Lt. Gov. came to our men's club gathering and we invited him to join us for the Low Country Boil, but he was not allowed to campaign. But what if, down the road, we need to speak out? At the very least, I hate the bad press the Episcopal Church always gets.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Oldest Church in Middle East Discovered

With all the news about escaped convicts, tornadoes, and the whole bit, this may have slipped under the major news radar. The oldest (believed) church in the Middle East was discovered by inmates excavating the ground near their prison in preparation for a new prison wing. This discovery is not without irony (at least in my opinion). For the past few weeks at St Michael's, we have been using Eucharistic Prayer D, perhaps the most theologically dense of the Eucharistic prayers. During the anamnesis there is the phrase, "To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy." How wonderful for those who are held captive by their own actions to discover an ancient site where people worshipped the source of all freedom. What hope this must bring to them, that as they were preparing to build another wing to house more prisoners, they, ordinary criminals, made one of the most exciting archeological discoveries. One note to the story, there is the mention of the Greek word for "table" that has baffled the scholar quoted in the article, as they were expecting it to say "altar." My knowlege of early Christian worship before Constantine causes me to think that a table was used in worship before elaborate, permanent altars could be constructed. Also, an Orthodox priest friend sent an email reminding that the Orthodox, who aren't hip to much change, still call their altar the "Holy Table."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Requiem aeternum

Tonight's All Souls' liturgy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

All Saints

Whenever I go to a cemetery, columbarium, or any other such place where persons are buried or entombed, I always notice benches near graves. Obviously this is where people sit near the graves of their friends and family. But why sit? Is it because they are tired and need to take a break? Or is it something more? I also notice letters and notes placed behind a fresh bouquet of flowers on many of the tombstones? Who is the letter to? The groundskeeper? Certainly not. And then I notice people standing near graves talking. The thing is, most of the time they are by themselves. Are they talking to themselves? I don't think so.
Today is the Feast of All Saints. We celebrate the Church Triumphant and especially those who have lived exemplary lives, so much so that the Church has recognized them as holy. For many, the concept of celebrating the lives of saints is one thing, but they get nervous when prayers are addressed to them or when any form of veneration takes place. But remember the scenes in the cemetery. Remember people sitting near the graves of their deceased. Remember the notes left. Remember the conversations that take place. Our celebration of All Saints is nothing more that what most people do already. Most of us, whether we are aware of it or not, talk out loud to our beloved dead expecting them to hear us. Most people believe with all their heart that their beloved dead watches over them. Then why is it so difficult to extend the same belief that St. Stephen, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Julian, and the vast multitudes of persons the Church calls holy, can hear us?
When persons invoke the saints, they are doing the same thing that a dozen people do to me every single week: they ask for prayers. People without thinking will go to priest or some other church leader and ask them for prayers. Mainly because they think that priests and other clergy have "better access" to God. When we ask for saints to pray for us, we are affirming that we are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses" and that, especially in the Eucharist, the separation between the Church Militant (us on Earth) and the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven) is not as wide as we may think. In fact, it is in the Eucharist that we being one with those who are feasting at the eternal banquet as we are feasting on its foretaste.

Let us give thanks for those holy men and women whose lives continue to guide us by providing the example. And may we rely on the prayers of both those who rejoice in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.