So, “Why the Church?” is our BLOGFORCE topic for the week. The answer, I think, is fairly simple. It’s found at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Church’s Raison d’être is non complex. It is to proclaim the message of Jesus to all, whether it’s someone who has heard the message or one who has never heard it before. It is to remember that Jesus is always with us. But, much like the answer generated by Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the real problem is, ”What is the question?” What is the issue or condition that the existence of the Church purports to solve? Why should we proclaim the Good News? Different parts of the church frame the question differently.
For me, it has to do with a relationship with God, which is the state we are intended to be in. We thrive as human beings when we are in such a state. In all human cultures, there is an awareness that we are not where we need to be in regards to this. In some cultures, this takes the form of taboos. In cultures with monotheism, we tend to talk of a concept of sin. The myths in the book of Genesis address this. What’s the nature of sin? In Eden, the offense is disobedience and striving to become gods ourselves. Yet, that sin is tempered by the fact that without that original offense, much of what makes us human would never have existed. For this reason, many Jewish scholars speak of an “Upward Fall.” I think the real crux is the next extension. Since we are more “god-like” in knowledge, we also have the right to make judgments of life and death. The myth of the murder of Abel by Cain is (as Rene Girard would say) the “Founding Myth” that establishes the cycle of envy and violence that is at the core of human consciousness. Civilization did not change that. In fact, it only systematized and formalized the cycle using the idea of sacrifice. Even secular societies require sacrifice for coherence. For proof, see Thomas Jefferson’s popular quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” As humans, we require sacrifice to reconcile our confused hearts. This works subconsciously. It cannot function fully when we are aware of it.
Jesus turns that on it’s head. In his life, Jesus refuses to play along with human concepts of blame and sacrifice. On the cross, Jesus is sacrificed by both temporal (Roman) and religious (Judean) authority in order to maintain societal peace, just like thousands before him. The difference is, he is not only blameless, but God as well as human. His resurrection is not simply Jesus coming back to life, but a refutation by God of the entire idea of sacrifice. (Ps 50: “Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?”) Jesus is not sacrificed because God requires blood. As Julian of Norwich wrote, “Then spoke our good Lord Jesus Christ, asking: ‘Art thou well satisfied that I suffered for thee?’” Jesus dies because humanity requires sacrifice. His thwarting of human will begins a cycle of divine non-violence that coincides and competes with the human cycle of violence, subverting it and growing in power.
The church, in short, is intended to serve God, whom is non-violent love. It is to be both the temple that enshrines the Godly cycle of non-violence (a priestly role), and the mouth and hands that enact this cycle in the world (a diaconal role). We are to remember He is with us, even to the end of the age, and we are to proclaim the message that our human need for sacrifice of each other on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level is a false god. The sacraments serve this end, proclaiming inclusion for all who call upon Jesus (Baptism) and a bloodless re-participation in Jesus’ singular cycle-destroying sacrifice (Eucharist.)
Does the church always live up to this mission? By no means. It is founded in divinity, but also in humanity. It fails regularly and spectacularly. It is often compromised just like any other human institution. It buys into human narratives of race and class. It becomes so sure of itself that it can’t see the speck of dust in its own eye. It refuses to listen to the critique of the voices of God’s children outside its own walls. Most of all, when it becomes preoccupied with the one thing Jesus seemed to be least obsessed with - his own suffering - the church can stop being a temple to love and become a sustainer of the very violence Jesus taught against. The church is not intended to fixate on Jesus’ death at the hands of human violence, but on his resurrection at the hands of a loving God.
Why the Church? Because God is the only effective antidote to human violence and preoccupation with death. The Church, when doing it’s job right, proclaims the fact that death is already dead, and that all our human peccadillos and atrocities that flow from the fear of death are false. When we get it right, we stand against violence in our culture and in our own hearts, whether that is to others or to ourselves.
Julian of Norwich (2011–03–30). Revelations of Divine Love (Paraclete Essentials) (Kindle Locations 835–836). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition. ↩
I’ve been a Chief Election Inspector in the City of Waukesha for about three years now. People often ask me questions about the nitty gritty of the election process. One I hear a lot has to do with primary elections, which is timely because one is coming up tuesday. A parishioner asked me today, “Why can’t I vote how I want to next Tuesday?” What he was asking was why he can’t vote in the democratic primary for governor and the republican primary for sherrif. This is important because in Waukesha County, the Republican Primary often determines a local election. The Democrats may not even field a candidate in the fall General Election. I think it’s easier to explain by talking about what it’s like in my home state of Kentucky.
In Kentucky, they don’t have open primaries. This means that when you register to vote, you must declare a party affiliation. Most people are Republicans or Democrats, although there are some Libertarians, Greens, etc. as well. You can also declare Independent, but that basically means you don’t get to vote in primaries. When you arrive at a polling place, you state your name and the poll workers look you up in the poll books. Next, they state out loud your party affiliation. You are then handed a ballot that only has the candidates from the party you have registered in on it. This shows the nature of a primary. It is not a “public” election in many ways. It is the gathering of a political party to decide which candidate they are going to send forward to the General election. It is in the State’s best interest to run these elections to keep the process accountable and above board. It is also in the state’s best interest to have all the primaries at the same time to cut costs.
In some states like Wisconsin there are “Open” primaries, meaning all candidates are on one ballot. This saves all sorts of trouble due to mis-registration and cuts ballot printing costs. HOWEVER, the election is still a primary. It is effectively a group of separate intra-party elections held at the same time. While it may appear that the Waukesha County Sheriff’s race is determined this Tuesday, the choice will be which candidate the Republicans have on the ballot in November. The fact that the Democrats may not even field a candidate in November does not change the nature of the election.
So, if you walk into a polling place on Tuesday and mark a ballot with votes in more than one party, the optical-scan machine will reject it as a cross-vote. By voting in a primary, you are declaring that (at least for Tuesday) you are a member or supporter of a particular political party. By definition, you can’t participate in more than one party’s internal political process. You are not being denied a right to vote or having your choices narrowed. In fact, an open primary increases your choice by allowing you to choose on election day which primary you wish to vote in rather than requiring you make that choice semi-permanently when you register to vote.
In a recent episode of Acts8’s “The Collect Call,” I tendered a correction on the origin of the common commemoration of Sts. Peter and Paul. That citation came from a truly remarkable book that I wish was better known in the Episcopal Church: Stars in a Dark World by Fr. John Julian Swanson, ObJN. It’s available from Forward Movement in print form (About 2’ Thick!) and on Kindle, Nook and Itunes Books.
The volume is a unique and idiosyncratic mix between hagiography and bibliography of the Saints on the calendar of the Episcopal Church, as well as the additional commemorations on the kalendar of the Order of Julian of Norwich. It contains both historic information as well as legendary material, noting that such material provides us with important information, even if it may not be factual. To quote from the introduction:
The biographies of saints and histories of holy days contained in this volume are meant to be devotional aids, to be offered to the public, or to serve as the basis for homilies. No pretension is made to academic or scholarly precision. The prejudices of the author/ editor are evident in several of the essays— without apology. In our scientific age, the majority of books featuring the lives of the saints pay very little attention to the (often historically unlikely) legends, fables, and myths that grew up around the devotion to the saints. However, to our mind, those often enrich and entertain us, and give us insight into the devotion of past centuries of Christians, so we have included many of them without any claim for their historicity. [It is certainly rather doubtful that St. Christopher – whose very existence is improbable – was born of a race of men with dogs’ heads, and only gained a human face at his baptism, but the legend is at least an intriguing curiosity!]
He weaves in archeology, church history, and theology at will, making it a compelling read. If you wish to learn about the men and women on our Saints calendar, there is neither a more exhaustive, nor a more entertaining option than this volume. To give you a taste - sections of the entry on the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
Once upon a time, there was a Middle Eastern potentate, deeply and bitterly hated by his subjects . During his reign he had ten wives, one of whom was a cousin and another a niece. These wives produced 9 sons and 5 daughters. His second wife and her mother conspired with a neighboring tyrant to remove the king from the throne and substitute his wife’s brother as ruler. When the plot was discovered, the king had that brother-in- law drowned in his bath, and both his mother-in-law and his wife executed. Another brother-in-law was soon murdered for an alleged conspiracy against the throne. And, a few years later, the king had two of his own sons strangled to death for plotting to take the throne from him. A year after that he executed yet a third son accused of trying to poison his father. Caesar Augustus himself joked that it was safer to be this king’s pig than his son! As he approached death, he had young men from the noblest families of his subjects taken into custody with the instructions that the moment he died, the young men were to be slaughtered —in order that the whole country would mourn, and it would seem they were mourning the king’s death. That Middle Eastern potentate was, of course, King Herod the Great— King of Palestine from 37 to 4 B.C. 67 , personal friend of Mark Antony of Rome and, later, of the Emperor Caesar Augustus himself. …
The story of the massacre appears only in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, and there is no corroboration of it in any other historical documents, secular or ecclesiastical— but since the scholars believe that the massacre involved only between six and twenty infants in a very tiny obscure village, it is unlikely that such a relatively small event would receive much notice in a notoriously blood-soaked place and time. After all, Herod had brutally murdered three of his own sons out of jealousy for his throne, so he might well have ordered the massacre of the innocents of Bethlehem, and there is no reason to doubt the historicity of the event. …
Since the murdered children were not “martyrs” in the usual sense of having voluntarily given their lives for Christ, their status has always been a bit ambiguous, and until 1960 their day was kept as a penitential day, with purple vestments and the Kyrie Eleison. In Rome there was even a medieval tradition that flesh meat was not eaten on this day. However, since that time, it has become generally the practice to treat the Holy Innocents as “unwitting martyrs”, dying on account of the Infant Jesus, and their feast is now universally celebrated in the West with the red vestments of martyrdom and the singing of the Gloria in Excelsis. In medieval England the feast of Holy Innocents often involved the reign of the “Boy Bishop” who had been elected from among the cathedral choristers and vested as a bishop. It is said that the practice was suggested by the appearance of the boy Jesus in the Temple, discussing with the elders. The tradition had it that at First Vespers (i.e., on the eve) of Holy Innocents during the singing of the phrase in the Magnificat – “he hath put down the mighty from their thrones ” the real bishop symbolically stepped down from his throne and took a place in choir, and on the phrase “and hath exalted the humble and meek” the chosen boy bishop rose and took the bishop’s seat. The boy bishop then ruled the Cathedral for twenty-four hours: he censed all the altars, performed all the Divine Offices , and preached. He processed around the city, giving his blessing and gift tokens to all. There is every evidence that this was not an instance for horseplay or the ridiculing of clergy, but was treated rather in good spirits and was widely popular. Henry VIII abolished the custom in 1542, but Queen Mary revived it in 1552, and it was finally eradicated by Elizabeth I – but it has been revived in several Anglican cathedrals in England and America in the 20th century.
About a week ago, I went about installing a Do It Yourself Fusion drive in my MacBook Pro (Mid–2012 Non-Retina Display). What’s a Fusion drive? Its a hard drive that combines the blazing speed of a Solid-State Drive (SSD) with a traditional platter-based hard drive (HDD). While MacBook Airs now have SSDs standard, and the prices have dropped, they are still significantly higher priced and lower in capacity than traditional hard drives. A fusion drive uses both, holding the most-used data (usually the OS and other things) in the SSD portion and transferring the lesser-used stuff to the HDD. You can buy a fusion drive as a single drive, and higher-end Macbooks have those as standard options now. One option I looked at was a 1TB fusion drive. But as I looked at it, I realized that they only have a very small SSD portion. For less money, I could add a 250GB SSD to my 750GB HDD, have two SATA buses moving data, and have a lot more of my data in the SSD. Apple’s Core Storage technology which is integrated into Mavericks can take two separate physical drives and operate them as one logical volume. So I settled on buying a 250GB SSD from OWC along with a Drive Doubler, which is a bracket that replaces your optical drive and allows you to mount a second hard drive inside the case. I also bought an eternal housing for my removed optical SuperDrive so I can use that when I need to, but i’m finding I need that less and less.
It is hard to quantify exactly how much speed this has added to my system, but it feels like a completely different computer. It boots in less than 30 seconds, when that used to take up to five minutes or so. Everything, including Adobe bloatware, loads almost instantly. I am overjoyed with the results.
There are a number of blog posts out there that describe this process, but I ended up using a combination of advice, which I will share here in one place. There are four caveats:
Be aware that putting in a drive doubler MAY void your Applecare warranty. There are differing stories about this on the internet. A large part may be who your local service guy is. An Apple Authorized Repair shop will be less picky than an Apple Store or returning a unit to Apple by mail.
This is a slightly advanced thing to do. It’s more difficult than replacing a standard Hard Drive or memory. However, it’s not too bad if you have the correct tools.
Be aware that what you are doing in effect is creating a RAID 0 volume. Backing up is twice as important as when you have one drive because if EITHER of the drives has mechanical failure, you have a problem. I use both a Time Machine and a Crashplan internet backup.
You are adding a second hard drive to your setup. It will take significantly more battery power to run. This wasn’t an issue for me because I’m almost always hooked up to a power source.
So here’s the procedure I followed:
The base procedure is from OWC. I followed mschaus’ modification:
You don’t really need anything other than a Time Machine Backup. No Carbon Copy Cloner is required. Make a backup before you start the process.
Make sure you have the Mavericks installer in your Applications folder and an USB drive with at least 8GB that has been formatted Mac OS X Extended (journaled) using Disk Utility. The volume name should be “Untitled.”
Copy and paste the code block from mschaus into the terminal.
You now have a Mavericks installation volume on the USB drive.
Do your hardware installation. Note that if you are installing a 6G SDD, you need to put the SDD in the main drive bay and the HDD in the doubler. I recommend using OWC’s really excellent instruction videos. My only problem with this whole process? Didn’t pay attention to the caveat at the beginning of the video saying that Apple sometimes switches between Phillips and T6 screws. Pay attention!
Reboot to the USB drive by holding down the option key.
It opens into the installation utility. One of the menu options is to open Terminal.
Once in terminal, follow cpragman’s instructions to create the logical fusion volume. THIS WILL COMPLETELY ERASE YOUR DATA OFF THE HDD. He suggests that you make the Fusion Drive out of the entire SSD and just the data partition of the HDD. This preserves the rescue volume on the HDD should you need it.
You can then do a restore from Time Machine to your new fusion drive while booted from the USB drive.
So the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby came out today, and the reactions are predicable. The reaction that I find problematic is that from some on the right that this decision is some sort of victory for “Religious Freedom.” I maintain it is the opposite.
Before BvHL, All for-profit corporations operated according to neutral principles vis a vis religion. If you did business in the public sector, everyone was bound by the same laws no matter what the religious beliefs of the company owners were. Now it would appear that if the owners of a company hold a particular religious belief that conflicts with public policy, the company itself can disregard public mandate. This brings up questions of other medical procedures, such as blood transfusions. The majority tries to head this off on page 6:
“This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.”
But why should it not? There’s no explanation for the reasoning of why it shouldn’t. The court simply notes that no one has asked for anything other than a contraception waiver yet. But what’s the deciding principle of what is acceptable for religious reasons or not? What this does is set up a hornets nest for the lower courts as further cases are tried. The implied logic here is that a religious belief that is against contraception is a “valid” religious belief, but a religious belief that is against vaccinations or blood transfusions MIGHT NOT be “valid” enough. SCOTUS is saying that instead of the old status quo which was that the American for-profit sector was religion-neutral, the courts will have to decide which religious beliefs are “worthy” of exemption. Did you get that, people who talk about “activist judges?” Due to the lack of clarity in this decision, lower court judges will be be asked to decide on the worthiness of your particular belief system and whether your belief is “real” enough to deserve this new “protection” from public mandate.
As Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent:
“Approving some religious claims while deeming others worthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.’ … The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”
Christian brothers and sisters. Never assume that we will always be in control of the culture. Ask what it would be like if it was reversed and this was some Muslim or Hindu or even “Humanist” objection to public policy being favored. It was simpler and fairer under neutral principles. It is indeed a sad day for American religious liberty.
“Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your Holy Spirit to N.; fill him with grace and power, and make him a priest in your Church.”
As a “Professional Christian,” there are many times when I skeptically wonder if the Holy Spirit is active in various things going on in the church, but there is one where I always feel a palpable presence. The Ordination Scrum. During the ordination of a priest, the candidate kneels before the bishop and the congregation sings the Veni Sancte Spiritus as the other presbyters move forward to surround the candidate. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the Holy Spirit filling the room, but the physiological symptoms for me include the hair on the back of my neck standing up. It’s a simultaneously creepy and comforting presence. If the consecrating bishop is worth their salt, we simply sit in the presence of the Spirit for a bit. The bishops then places his or her hands on the candidates head, and we presbyters place our hands on the candidate as well while the bishop prays the prayer above. The power is palpable. The change apparent.
It isn’t magic. It’s not about the words or the manual acts. It’s not even about the Bishop. While Episcopalians are really picky about Historic Succession and Episcopal ordination, etc., and I am notoriously High Church, I have had the same experience of the Holy Spirit in ordinations in other denominations. It is the gathered community of Christ, lay and ordained, that the Holy Spirit comes to, not the Episcopal magus.
Why does the Spirit come to anoint those we set apart for sacramental and pastoral leadership in a fractured church? Our divisions are more about human preference and culture than anything remotely divine. Why does God encourage our divided Christian communities? Perhaps it’s because God looks upon us, as Julian of Norwich wrote, “With pity and not with blame.”
We approach Trinity Sunday this week, and once again we are reminded that God exists in a way beyond our comprehension. Our best attempt is a philosophical construct that holds that God is three persons in one substance. But, as CS Lewis once remarked, trying to wrap our heads around God is kind of like a square trying to understand a cube. What we can see points to the greater reality, but we cannot fully comprehend something that is a mystery to us due to our limited nature. We are made in the image of God - the image of the complexity of the Trinity - but we can’t live into the fullness of that image. Perhaps that is the source of our human brokenness. We can’t hold the tension of community and unity like the Godhead does. God knows this as our creator, and continues to bless us with the presence of the Spirit in the sacraments despite our brokenness and sad divisions. God simply will not leave us comfortless, despite our efforts to the contrary.
The Holy Spirit is present to us in our Sacraments, Sacramental Rites, and all of the other sacramental moments of our lives that are too numerous for the church to enumerate. But for me as a priest, the most resonant moment is the Scrum, where scripture, history, and the community all come together to set one apart for special service.
“May he exalt you, O Lord, in the midst of your people; offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to you; boldly proclaim the gospel of salvation; and rightly administer the sacraments of the New Covenant. Make him a faithful pastor, a patient teacher, and a wise councilor. Grant that in all things he may serve without reproach, so that your people may be strengthened and your Name glorified in all the world. All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
The term “Ordination Scrum” is not a common term - It’s mine. Hate on me if you must…