Category Archives: Religion

Holiday greetings

For those of you who stumble across here and are Jewish.

!חג חנוכה שמח

Happy Hanukkah to all Jewish folks out there, in Israel or elsewhere in the world.

2139hrs

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Profligate grace, human selfishness and kaddish

Trinity 2/Pentecost 3/OT 11 –  Sunday

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. Life is still chugging along as usual, with all its complexities, absurdities, stupidities and happiness that it can throw at me. St. John’s today was a rather reflective service. Mother Gillian’s–it probably is correct to address a female priest “Mother” given that for male priests it’s customary to address them as “Father”–homily on Luke 7:36-8:3 was something that made me think back over my life and how it has been with God. Am I like Simon in withholding things from others at little cost or do I give extravagantly like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair?

Her homily reflected very much so on the generosity, grace and love of God that knows no bounds for one who repents for all the sins that have been committed. This was in stark contrast to the first lesson taken from 1 Kings 21:1-21 which talks of the selfishness of Ahab and Jezebel and God’s condemnation on those who will go to any lengths to get what they want irrespective of morals and God’s law.

The most challenging part of it came to these following paragraphs close to the conclusion of Mother Gillian’s homily. While these things she mentions are things that are not quite right, do they give us a fiat to exclude these people from fellowship in the Body of Christ?

What that kind of religion had done was to stop paying attention to the bigger story of God calling the Jews to be set apart precisely so they could then go and be a light to the nations, to spread God’s invitation to others. Instead of taking the wide promise of God’s blessing out to the rest of the world they began to hoard it to themselves. By Jesus’ time, then, this had become a way of life that focused on keeping the boundaries strong and ensuring that the unworthy, like the woman in this story, were kept in their place.

And lest we feel smug towards the Jews and think that at least we have got that right, I think the Church often does little better. We too are stingy with God’s grace. We fret, lest it be wasted on those we deem unworthy. So we paint a picture of a God who is against gays, or against divorcees, or those who live together outside of marriage, or who find themselves addicted, a stingy God who reflects our own fears and insecurities?

But Jesus, reclining in Simon’s house, welcoming the courageous woman, reminds us that God is a profligate God whose generosity overflows and knows no limits. This God forgives a debt of 500 denarii as though it were 50. This God forgives a woman who breaks all social boundaries as easily as if she were a respected man who was simply a little close-fisted with his hospitality. This God chose mad men and tax-collectors to be missionaries, chose fisherman to be founders of the church, chooses you and me to be God’s hand and feet in the world.

So are we paying attention? Are we distracted by questions of who belongs in church or in heaven, by worries over who agrees with us and our picture of God? Or are we willing to let God draw our attention back to those things which God has indicated are priorities – caring for the poor, the hungry, the powerless.

Oh yes, maybe I have been a little too distracted by these things. Maybe a fair few of us have and we need to re-prioritize our lives secular and spiritual. As Rev. Lui might remark, maybe this is a John 21:22 thing. As the Revised Version puts it: “Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

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I have been reading up lately about the mother faith of Christianity: Judaism. I’ve always had an interest in comparative religion, especially regarding the Abrahamic faiths. My family overseas knows of this: When I was 14 and my aunt asked me what I wanted for a Christmas present I told her that I wanted a copy of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s The Meaning of The Holy Qur’an to compare Islam with Christianity. Incidentally, the edition I have is a beautiful hardback copy with gold imprinting on the covers and spine and near flawless typesetting on the inside. I wish some Bible publishing houses took as great care in printing and binding Bibles as Islamic publishing houses do when they print and bind copies of the Qur’an.

Having received a kippah as a gift from RL from his recent trip to the Holy Land, it’s been even more so. If you’re wondering what type, it’s a black velvet kippah (which is probably a Hasidic/Haredi one) with embroidered waves along the base. Lately I’ve been reading through some classic Jewish works such as:

  • Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer’s “What Is A Jew?” (revised by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman),
  • Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin’s “To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service”, and
  • Abraham Cohen’s “Everyman’s Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages”.

Mitch Albom’s “Have A Little Faith” also has been something that I’ve read through lately too (my copy is somewhat beloved by me given that it is signed).

The Conservative Jewish Rabbi (of blessed memory) Albert Lewis, of Mitch’s childhood becomes more than this unreachable sage from memory but someone who is a friend and mentor to him as he is asked to write and deliver the Reb’s eulogy. And the story of Ps. Henry Covington that is also chronicled adds a further poignancy to this book when Mitch writes about how each of their respective personal faith have gotten both men through the ups and downs of life that God has given to each of them.

Rabbi Lewis says something to Mitch in here that is reminiscent of something I’ve heard Fr. Daniel Berrigan SJ say before.

“Mitch,” he said, “faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.”

And not only what Fr. Berrigan has said but it reminds me of what St. Paul says too regarding love in 1 Corinthians.

One of the most beautiful things I have read recently and learned about is kaddish. And it is something that I, as a Christian, can thoroughly pray (either at compline or on its own). It is something found in my two siddur‘s (the ArtScroll and the Collins ones) and probably in every Jewish siddur (as distinct from a Christian siddur) that is on this earth now.

Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’meh rabba. B’al’ma dee v’ra chiruteh, v’yamleech malchuteh, b’chayaychon, uv-yomaychon, uv-chayay dee chol beyt Yisra-el, ba-agala uvizman kareev, v’imru, Amen.

Y’heh sh’meh rabba mevarach l’alam ulal’mei al’ma-ya.

Yitbarach v’yishtabach v’yitpa-ar v’yitromam v’yitnaseh v’yit-hadar v’yitaleh v’yit-hallal sh’meh dee kudsha, b’reech hu. L’ela min kol birchata v’sheerata tushb’chata v’nechemata, dee amiran b’al’ma, v’imru, Amen.

Y’heh sh’lama rabba min sh’maya v’chayim aleynu v’al kol Yisra-el v’imru, Amen.

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleynu, v’al kol Yisra-el, v’imru, Amen.

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IMonk interview

Ordinary Time 31/4th Week before Advent – Wednesday
Feria
Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo (d. 1584), Archbishop of Milan, Reformer of the Roman Catholic Church (RC Kalendar)

Michael Spencer (a.k.a. Internet Monk) has got one helluva series of interviews with Roman Catholic philosopher and blogger, Bryan Cross on his blog at the moment. It’s quite amusing (and pertinent) to me to read of yet another person who has crossed the Tiber from evangelicalism (in Cross’ case, Pentecostalism->Reformed Church->Anglican->Rome). Well worth a read if only to broaden your horizons (especially if you only have contacts with those within evangelicalism or within one’s own church denomination).

Here are the direct permalinks to the interview parts:

Part 1 – Introduction and Christian Unity and the Gospel

Part 2 – Unity, Reformation and Tensions in Catholicism

Part 3 – Anglicans, Evangelicals, Convert Apologetics and Books

Part 4 – What should Protestants know about Vatican II?

Christian Unity has been something that has lurked at the near back parts of my mind (is that a contradiction in terms?) ever since I started looking at theology seriously and abandoned my previous views of “Arminians/Calvinists/Catholics/Eastern Orthodox/Anglicans/Methodists/Presbyterians/Baptists/*insert name of Christian grouping here* are wrong” (that was back in 2002-03). I wonder how on earth Protestants can say that we have unity in Christ, when we don’t actually have unity in doctrine (it could be Celebrity Deathmatch if you put an Arminian/Remonstrant and a Calvinist into a wrestling ring), let alone ecclesiology (i.e. how the Church is set up, run, governed and its ultimate purpose), Biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, sacraments/ordinances and a whole bunch of other stuff.

I’ve always wondered how we can sing verse 3 of hymn 425 (“Onward, Christian Soldiers”) in the EMP hymnal of choice, Hymns of Universal Praise where it says:

“We are not divided, all one body we, One in hope and doctrine, one in charity”.

Yes, maybe one in charity. Maybe. But “We are not divided, all one body we”? If one only looks at the church as being some mystical body, then yes. But visible unity? In Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, yes, that exists. But amongst Protestants? You gotta be kidding me.

“One in hope and doctrine”? The hope bit yes, for me that’s a reference to our one real hope, i.e. Christ. But one in doctrine? Again, see above. We Protestants (I include myself in this grouping as technically I am still in this camp) can’t agree amongst ourselves on matters of doctrine and instead of there being one pope, we’ve set up potentially 60,000+ popes instead (assuming one for every Protestant sect/denomination out there). For the most part, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would be well over 50% in agreement of doctrine (there’s about 75% of agreement in doctrine if I just make a rough guesstimate).

It’s enough to make me want to jump ship. Almost.

Now time to try and get to sleep. Have yet another long day of work ahead of me tomorrow. And I am so over life (in all of its facets) for this week. Looking forward to dinner on Friday. One of the very few highlights of my week.

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Anglican Advent 2008 Messages

Advent 2 – Sunday

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev’d. Rowan Williams’ 2008 Advent Message – my transcript of his message can be found here. But by all means, watch the video message instead.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev’d John Sentamu’s 2008 Advent Podcast – my transcript of Archbishop John’s message to be found here.

Archbishops John and Rowan both talk about the concept of waiting during this season of Advent. Something that we need to do in this day and age.

This is yet another reason why I love the full liturgical year that is celebrated by Anglicans, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and some Methodists (sadly not CMCA however 😦 ).

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Advent Theme, 2008

Advent 2 – Sunday

It’s been yet another year. It was at about this time last year that I wrote that “Hope” would be the theme I’d be meditating upon for Advent 2007. This year, I have the very same theme on my mind again.

Last year it was the feeling of ‘burnout’ that I was escaping from. This year, the burnout still remains but I’ve been battling my on and off bouts of ‘the blues’. It might be clinically defined as dysthymia (minor depression) given that I may exhibit at least two of the symptoms, but heck, I’m not a psychiatist so I’m not qualified to make that call. But this mood is certainly enough to give me the shits on a fairly regular basis.

And so “Hope” continues to be my meditation for Advent 2008.

The hope in Christ that objectively exists even though at times I may not feel like anything good is happening in my life.

The hope in Christ that objectively exists even though at times I may feel that God is distant from my life (and to use a cliche, it may just be that I am in the palm of his hand at such times).

The hope in Christ that objectively exists despite my subjective understanding of what is going on around me.

The hope in Christ that objectively exists when I think that I’m a jackass, moron, idiot, dumbass, f***wit and utterly useless.

This hope is what I’m meditating on given that my prayer for the last few weeks has been that God breaks me. Physically, emotionally, mentally, intellectually and whatever else-ly. That my id be put into its proper place and reside in harmony with my ego and superego (while the other two also be broken and put into their proper places). So far, my prayer seems to have been answered.

So with this hope then combined with the breaking, I may see just a little bit of the foolishness of Christ in my life (1 Cor 4:10 and to laugh with joy for it) and recognize it in the lives of the many holy fools that have been called into the Kingdom of God.

And in all of this, what is my Advent reading?

I’m revisiting my bookshelf and re-reading Simon Chan’s Spiritual Theology. It has been good thus far to become reacquainted with an old book again and take in more of Chan’s condensing of the best spiritual wisdom of the Christian faith from Scripture and various Christians from across the ages and from the worlds of Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

And in light of what I’ve written above, maybe I should also reacquaint myself with Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. The first time I read it, I kept wondering how on earth Prince Myshkin could ever be the Christ-like figure in it but over the last few days, The Idiot has been gnawing away very slowly at the back of my mind. That I should revisit it and see if I can see Christ in that wise idiot Myshkin (the holy fool) who is a rebuff to the world of knowledge, intellectualism and just plain outright idiocy (ala Idiocracy) that I live and exist in.

Lastly, as this calendar year is finally winding down, to reground myself in the Divine Office, which has been neglected in the hustle and bustle of my new tasks, roles and responsibilities that have come my way after the promotion earlier this year. That I may hearken to the voice of Christ in the Psalter and in the readings from Scripture as found in the lectionary.

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