Theological Thoughts

A Letter to the Episcopalian Conservative

A Letter to the Episcopalian Conservative

My dearest conservative, Episcopalian, Evangelical friend,
It has come to my attention that there may still be some of you who have not bowed down to Baal or Beyonce. However, the very structure that you have loved and the very articles that you have cherished have been completely abandoned by your priests. They have left you out to be slaughtered by wolves. I would like to make a simple invitation. You are invited to join our small communion of churches. It treasures your 39 articles and believes and affirms your Evangelical roots. If you would like to taste of it, and live here in Pensacola, you are welcome to join us this Sunday at 9:30. We are liturgically minded and avoid the kind of silliness you despise in modern evangelicalism. We look forward to meeting you.
Yours truly,
Reverend Uriesou Brito

 

Detective Work in Sin Patterns

Detective Work in Sin Patterns

Overcoming sin patterns is an incredibly arduous task. It is primarily difficult because we are terrific analyzers of patterns in others, but remarkably inefficient when it comes to discovering sin patterns in our own. But we should be in the business of pattern detecting.

Say you have a tendency to overreact to situations in your life. A pickle jar falls to the floor and shatters into millions of pickle-flavored crystallized pieces of glass. You then look to the heavens and declare that Zeus and Apollos have betrayed you and perhaps even the God of Abraham was in on the conspiracy. Those around you look in amazement at just how much that pickle jar meant to you. After all, no one would weep and cuss if the pickle jar didn’t have sentimental value.

After you come to your senses, you realize that the pickle jar wasn’t really that valuable and that you wept in vain. You may even feel embarrassed by the scene you caused. What do you do now? You can begin by asking God to forgive you. And he does. He is slow to anger. But then what? Well, you must begin with an analysis of those patterns. If you need help you can even ask your friends or family if they see a pattern. If so, you may need to do an autopsy of the event examining the body of evidence left in those patterns in the last few days and weeks and determine why things cause you to overact so easily. Be so familiar with that particular sin pattern that you become highly self-aware of the need to avoid repeating that action and pattern the next time. Say to yourself: “Self, I need to kill this pattern before it kills me.” Keep thinking and examining that sin pattern until you become so tired of its affect that you learn to despise it.

Maundy Thursday Reflection

Maundy Thursday Reflection

I believe that one of the greatest harms we can cause as Christians is to treat Jesus as a passion-less Lord. We tend to view him as a first-century philosopher who merely “informs our intellect…deposits new ideas into our mind, touching only the calm, cool, collected space of reflection and contemplation.” And add to that, we actually feel we are so distant from him that our wants, loves, and longings have nothing to do with our faith. Those things we so desperately desire are too trivial for this first-century rabbi to concern himself.

But what if I told you that Jesus Christ died for your desires and passions and longings? What if I told you that Jesus is infinitely hungrier to fulfill your desires than you are? What if on this Maundy Thursday Jesus says: “Dine with me and the kingdom will be yours!” The God of passion sacrifices his Son so that our sins are forgiven and our true passions restored.

The Seduction of Slogans

It’s important to grasp that political parties need slogans to seduce our attention. Let’s consider the famous conservative slogan “End Abortion.” When it comes to ending abortion, millions are given to accentuate the slogan; to make the slogan an identity marker of a political agenda so that when one looks at the party they say, “Behold, that’s the ‘End Abortion party.'” In fact, since 1973 we have had the artistic ardor to perfect that slogan. Yes, millions and millions over many years have been spent to inculcate that idea into the public mind. Politicians proudly stand in front of these signs showing their support for life and their disdain for Margaret Sanger.

It is true that perhaps one party will desire fewer abortions than others, but the slogan deceives us into thinking that every politician in a party will work vociferously to end abortion. The evidence, however, reveals that when the opportunity arises to show the world our disgust for the practice, the “End Abortion” agenda becomes secondary. “Yes, we will end abortion, but there are conditions outside ourselves that we must submit to before we can achieve that final goal. We are working to that end, but before we get there we must take several detours; it’s a complex issue, after all.”

So, what we see, is that slogans in the context of political discourse serve simply to distract us. They persuade us that everything is being done behind the scenes to secure such an outcome. But what continues to happen is that wicked men make their deals in the dark. They distract us from our main duty of worship and ultimate trust in the God of life.

God’s Communication in Worship

God’s Communication in Worship

God communicates his Gospel in many ways this morning. God’s language is his service to us. He could have focused exclusively on our sin. “You are sinners! Remember your sinfulness, confess your sinfulness, be ashamed of your sinfulness and the sinfulness of your sin!” But that language, though critical to the Gospel, is a small part of his conversation. He also communicates in explanations, in absolution, in singing, food, and drink and with his presence. Aren’t you glad God’s language is not one-sided; aren’t you glad that He serves you in more than one way? Aren’t you glad that His Gospel is yours to be heard, embraced, cherished, absorbed and eaten? Prepare for God’s Gospel through his many ways of communication.

The Meaning of Lent

What is Lent? we may ask. Every year as we enter into this season, we need to look at it afresh. It’s a season of profound healing to many; a season filled with echoes of forgiveness. Lent is the penitential season of the Church. Lent is the purple of royalty. Lent is the desert before the promised land of the Resurrection. Lent is the wilderness prison for Israel and simultaneously the way out of the wilderness. Lent teaches of the incurable disease of sin and yet the cure for sin. Lent is the long wait Jacob endured for Rachel. Lent is the “Thus saith the Lord,” when the devil whispers, “Who said ye shall be like God?” Lent is the sacrifices of incomplete priests and the exile of a perfect man so that we might be set free. Lent is the love of injustice poured on a just Man. Lent is fasting with hope. Lent is giving up idols and turning to the true icon of God, Jesus Christ. Lent is finding joy in the midst of suffering. Lent is loving without expecting to be loved. Lent is death. Lent is death to us. Lent is repenting and being forgiven. Lent is exploring your weakness. Lent is judging yourself first. Lent is John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord with locusts for the unjust and honey for the just.

Lent is a pattern for redemption. Lent is God moving his people from desert to city, from ruin to a new civilization. Lent is obedience through sacrifice, love through death.

And in this season, we are called to do life together in these next 40 days not because we wish to earn Christ’s sacrifice but because Christ’s sacrifice took away our ability to earn him. If Jesus had not died, we would still be 2,000 years later seeking to earn the way to the Father. But we cannot earn what has been earned for us. If fasting or ashes or any such thing made us acceptable, Lent would be a wasteful experience. Lent is fruitful for us because Jesus has been fruitful and multiplied in his death.

Lent is active. Are we invested in destroying evil or being deceived by evil? Killing sin so that sin does not kill us? In actively seeking Jesus or sitting passively waiting for a mystical experience? In waiting to serve or seeking to serve? Pursuing righteousness or waiting for righteousness to bump into you? Lent is actively pursuing the relief of others. Lent is giving up childish ways and embracing the ways of Calvary.

Lent is contemplative. How often have we meditated on the truth that God is for us because of the cross? He is for us. Like a father is for his child; like a mother who praises her daughter; like a satisfied teacher with his student; yes, in those ways, but so much more. He is for us even though it cost his life; he is for us even though it would shake the very universe he created. He is for us even though we were not for him: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Contemplate the God-is-with-us theme of Lent. For God so loved the world that he sent his son to be for us.

Why Lent? Because Lent takes away our arrogance. It instills a sense of need. It builds a habit of dependence. It prepares our wounds to be healed by Another. Lent is the power of Another to do what we cannot do for ourselves. We need Lent because without it Christ is no king, we are no people, and life is no gift. We all must take up our cross and follow the Christ of the cross. In Him we move, and live and have our being.

 

 

Exhortation for Communion

This table means that help has come; that we are not left to wander alone in agony and grief, but that Christ has provided a rich banquet for his people. The evil of Adam’s banquet is replaced with the good food of Christ’s accomplishments. In him we have freedom from bondage and deliverance through his blood. The bondage of the first Adam has been undone through the final Adam, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

Poetry and the Birmingham Jail

Poetry and the Birmingham Jail

Poetic preaching filled with the romance of the biblical text has been substituted for laborious lectures fixed on the iotas of the larger story while losing the story itself. As one who speaks for a living, I ask one simple thing of other speakers: “Does the speaker draw me into the truth he is proclaiming?” The same can be applied to reading. I read a lot, but I love to underline and re-read lines that create a poetic resonance; like a refrain from a great hymn. As I read through Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” I was reminded of this poetic treasure:

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

King’s use of Hebrew poetry and creational language cause this linguistic earthquake in the reader. It doesn’t take time to create long sentences and sermons; it takes time to put together beautiful words and create a memorable sentence. The job of the rhetorical revolutionary is not to give the world more words, but to give the world more meaning through words.

On this day, use words carefully, beautifully, and work to communicate gracefully. Opine strongly about a topic or cause you cherish, but articulate artistically for the sake of others.

Wine Tasting Prayer

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Holy God, we celebrate the conclusion of another Christmas season. We thank you for these twelve days which cannot begin to exhaust the inexhaustible gift of the Virgin Birth of the World’s Messiah. We thank you that even now the world is being cleansed from the infestation of sin. We give you thanks, blessed Lord, that we have been incorporated into that glorious family of God where Jews and Gentiles, male and female, slave and free are made on. We thank you for love, life, food, drink, Word, sacraments, rituals and fellowship. We thank you for the peace, yes, even the numerical growth you have given us at Providence. And indeed we know that growth can only be sustained as your Gospel and your peace prevails.

May we remember that because of the incarnation, we have life and life more abundantly. Bless our friendships; take joy, O God, in our joy for you created us to reflect the blissful harmony of the Trinitarian community: Father, Son, and Spirit.

We thank you for the wine we will be tasting, for the food we will be enjoying and the love we will share. In the garden, you gave us of all good things, and even though our first parents sinned, yet you continued to bless your righteous servants. We remember that Noah began a new world by planting a vineyard; we remember Isaac who believing he was blessing Esau actually blessed Jacob with “plenty of grain and wine.”

Our God, not only did you create wine, but commanded that it be included as a necessary part of the sacrifices that your people offered (Ex. 29:38, 40;Lev. 23:13;Num. 15:5, 7, 10; 28:7). Wine was part of feasts (Dt. 14:22-26) and a prerequisite to “rejoicing in your presence.” The Psalmist declares that wine is given to gladden our hearts, and indeed may our hearts be glad, for enjoying your good gifts is what we are called to do in this world and for all eternity. Wine even gladdens your own heart, O God, which speaks of how much we resemble our Creator.

With thanksgiving we remember that the greater Noah, Jesus Christ saw fit to turn water into wine, and by doing so making wine the Christian drink in the New Creation. Grant us hearts filled with gratitude for you drank the sour wine at the cross, so that we might drink the sweetness of the wine in the new world you established by your resurrection. For this, we bless you and thank you for no man can take this joy from us, because of our King, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin and now rules and reigns with the Father and the Spirit world without end. Amen.

 

Bathing Resolutions

If these resolutions have any chance of surviving beyond January, it needs to be bathed in the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus needs to be king over our resolutions. Our desire to do that which is good needs to be first and foremost a desire to do what is good for the kingdom. As we end this year, may we come boldly before the throne of grace for it is in bread and wine that grace is given and communicated to God’s people. If you are baptized in the Name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, you are invited to eat and drink with God’s people.