Saturday, July 7, 2018

Transcript of My FIRST SERMON

I was able to give a sermon on July 1st, 2018, at St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral. Unfortunately, there were problems with the recording; because of this, I decided to simply have the homily reproduced in text:

I hope you’re not hungry or tired, because my sermon is titled, “One Hundred and Twenty Seven Ways We Can Love our Neighbor”.

No, I’m kidding, but we are going to talk about Love today, a subject which we as a society know almost nothing about. Which is sad, because we talk about love ALL of the time; it is the most common subject of the most popular songs. It is the subject in some form of almost every movie. It is even in our advertising. We hear about newfound “love” or lost “love” or breaking up with one you “love”. But...are they really talking about love?

I mean, what is love? (*softly sings "Baby don't hurt me"*)

This problem is not only found within the secular society today; it is among self-professing Christians as well. I think we as the People of God do not always know what love is, exactly, for two reasons. The first one has been touched upon: we have been fed this understanding of love in which it is little more than a good feeling we receive from someone else. If that is the case, love is really only that feeling. If love is a feeling that we receive from thinking about or being with someone, then love is a commodity to be bought and sold, like anything else in the marketplace.

I think that this mindset causes the second reason we don’t know what love is, even as Christians: when the understanding of love becomes skewed, people follow that understanding, and those people become our examples of love. This can happen on the societal level: From horribly cheesy romantic comedies, to Disney movies teaching us that you can find “the one” after a three day adventure involving a magic carpet ride.

 It can also be found on the personal level. From abusive fathers to neglectful mothers. From friends telling you that they care, only to never be found when the days are dark, to spouses walking out the door never to be seen again. All of these examples, and so many more, are bad example after bad example of love. They’re counterfeit love.

This is perhaps why my generation is so afraid of commitment; if half the marriages are ending up in divorce, why marry? Just live with the person, and when the infatuation and benefits end, leave; it’s cheaper that way. After all, love is only a feeling. When that feeling is no longer there, why continue with a charade?

This is why we need to get our understanding of love from God Himself, Who has revealed in Scripture what love is and how it works.

I want to look at three levels of love. Each of these levels goes deeper into what it means to love.

Love will have inconvenience.

More than that, love will havel dedication.

 And finally, love will have self-sacrifice.

Inconvenience. Dedication. Self-sacrifice.

In the Old Testament reading for today (Deuteronomy 15:7-11), we see a command from God concerning what is known as the “year of release”.

You see, at this time, God had made in the Torah a law that debts were to be forgiven, among other things, every seven years...This sounds like a law that *cough* many of my fellow college and graduate students wouldn’t mind seeing on the books here in the US. Please write your representatives. It was part of a seven year Sabbath, a release from what binds us down.

So it would make sense, under the law of the ancient Israelites, to not give loans out to people when that seventh year was swinging around. Of course that makes sense! get to the reading today in Deuteronomy.

 “Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart, and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye be hostile to your poor brother, and you give him nothing”. Ouch. That’s a hard rule.

First of all, hear this: this passage is NOT saying, nor am I claiming, that you give money simply to anyone who asks, or be poor stewards of your money. PLEASE understand that. Nor is this actually a sermon on tithing or telling you how to manage your money. My point here is simply this: love is not always convenient. In fact, love is most inconvenient.

It’s inconvenient when you find out your stupid brother was in a car accident, and you travel 400 miles with less than twelve hours’ notice to spend a weekend helping him out, as my brother did (which would make me the stupid brother, of course), when you have five kids and a wife at home and on top of that you foster children. That’s inconvenient. That’s love.

It’s easy to demonstrate love when doing so benefits you. It’s easy to do an act of kindness, to be seen by men. Jesus tells us about the worthiness of actions done in order to impress others. But when that act puts you in your discomfort zone, it begins to be more of that sort of love that is tough to emulate.

Let’s look at the New Testament reading (2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15). Here, we have the often-troubled Church in Corinth being told by St. Paul about the beautiful example of Love the Macedonians are giving. This part of the passage sort of jumps out from the page for me; you can almost hear the excitement in St. Paul’s voice:

“We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will,  begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints”

“In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part” Wow. This goes beyond inconvenience. This is dedication. This is when love hurts you, but you empty yourself anyway. And this can take many forms: I know people who have moved their families across the country to be with their mother or father in the last years of life. I know a gentleman at this parish who, every day, goes to the nursing home to spend his time from morning to evening with his wife there. Dedication goes beyond inconvenience.

Finally, we have the last level; that of self-sacrifice. More than a mere inconvenience, more than even dedication, we see the ultimate example of this in whom? C’mon, He’s right there! (At this part I point to the Tabernacle.) Yes! Jesus! Take a look at the beautiful Crucifix for a moment. (At this point I point to the Crucifix and pause for an uncomfortably long time.) That act goes beyond inconvenience, beyond dedication. That act is self-sacrifice in its most literal sense.

Look again at the Corinthians reading for today, verse nine: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” We are not talking about a mere financial poverty, here. We are talking about the very sacrifice of God, the Creator of the Cosmos, for the sake of the whole world.

“Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

On Calvary Jesus did not give us some of Himself. Jesus didn’t tithe on the Cross.

He gave us all.

So what is Love? We’ve talked about its beginnings being inconvenience, then dedication, and finally pouring forth ultimately as self-sacrifice. This is radically different from what we are taught today. Is there a better word for it? How about this: whenever you hear the word Love being used, or whenever you use it yourself, try to associate it with the word “DEVOTION”. It’s easy to love your spouse, by the world's definition of love, when he or she looks beautiful on your wedding day and honeymoon. But when dark storms in the marriage appear, Disney’s version of love won’t be able to withstand the rough waters.

We need something more than infatuation. We need something more than a passing fancy. We need something more than mere attraction. We have our example literally before us (Points to Tabernacle and Crucifix). If we want to change this messed up world, let us go and do likewise.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What's Been Up with Me, For Reals?

Those of you who follow my work know that I have been involved in a podcast that I started with an atheist who goes by the name "Xrys". Sadly, a few weeks ago we parted ways after some online altercations. This means that my podcast with Xrys is no longer airing. 

Instead, I am doing a largely solo podcast called, you guessed it, Barely Protestant. That link is for the podcast in general. This link is for the episode giving a bit of information concerning the new format. I hope you check it out; if you like what I do on my blog here, you'll likely love the podcast! Just understand that Barely Protestant starts with the episodes that say, well, "Barely Protestant" or "BP" on them; before that you'll find the old Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner episodes (as of the initial writing of this article, July 5, 2018, there are no Barely Protestant episodes yet). The Barely Protestant episodes will be run weekly as consistently as possible. 

My summer has been great. First, I'm doing an internship in Tallahassee, Fl, at St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral. Here's a video showing the Cathedral:

Beautiful, isn't it? I am a fellow this summer at the Charles Simeon Institute here at St. Peter's Cathedral. I'm learning the ropes of being a priest: from preaching to liturgy to teaching classes (on the history of the Anglican Tradition!) to learning how a parish is run to all sorts of other things one might not even think about concerning ministry. The people have been nothing less than amazing and completely loving. I've preached for their three Sunday services on July 1st (2018), but there seems to have been a problem with the recording. 

My grades came in, and I am mostly satisfied with them. There's room for improvement, of course. My prayer is that I won't have to work as much as I did this past year, which is where you all come in. I'm dedicating a lot of my time to both blogging and podcasting now, and I'm asking for your support in this endeavor. If you check out my Patreon page and consider supporting me, that would be amazing! 

Anyway, I hope your summer is going as well as mine is!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Times, They are A-Changin'

Greetings! I hope you are having a blessed Holy Week.

So, yeah. I've been rather busy. Apologies.

First off, an update on where I've been!

I've completed my first semester in seminary, and am now in my second. Greek is kicking my butt, but everything else is going fine. I absolutely love it up here in Ambridge, Pennsylvania: my fellow seminarians are awesome, my professors are great, and I'm learning more than I can keep in my head at any one point in time.

I'm hoping to get a summer internship at one of the cathedrals in our province; I'll actually be hearing from them this week (Holy Week, 2018), so please keep me in prayers on that.

Those of you who've followed this blog know that I also run a podcast with my atheist friend Xrys: The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast. It's great fun, and we have no plans to stop it. However, if you've noticed, I've not been super active on this blog. Sincere apologies for that. Chalk it up to a general, "I've been incredibly busy because I'm working full time and doing seminary full time while having no car and it's hard to sit down and write a paper, let alone write for a blog." problem.

If things go as expected (and I won't go into detail now), my time will be freed up immensely, and in a very good way. I do plan to continue this blog, but I want to focus on something else as well.

What is that "something else"? Another podcast.

Yes! I am planning a new podcast. It will be called...wait for it...The Barely Protestant Podcast!!! You'll find a lot of what you've expected from this blog, and more: I'm planning on interviews, prayers, spiritual formation, and much more.

Anyway, I have to get back to writing a paper and studying Greek. Make sure you go to every Holy Week service you can. Blessings!

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Five Hundred Year Old Schism is Nothing to Celebrate

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation; most of the people celebrating it would be considered blasphemous heretics by Martin Luther, and those of us not celebrating it recognize that schism is not a thing to rejoice over.

Let us pray that our descendants will not be observing a 600 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Let us pray that we as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church will be reunited, for the sake of the world.

 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."--John 21:20-23

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Response to Quad-Cities Anglican Radio on their Interview with Fr. Mark Rowe

One of my favorite podcasts is Quad Cities Anglican Radio. I actually happened upon it by chance; the name does not conjure up any sort of thoughts of Anglo-Catholicism, and there are plenty of Anglican podcasts out there already for me to listen to. So I kept myself subscribed to them, and more or less forgot they existed.

However, one day I looked at the names of their episodes, and found their topics to be interesting. After giving an episode a try, I was amazed to see how the hosts, both priests, were apparently very strong Anglo-Catholics. They quickly became one of my favorite podcasts.

The ACNA (Anglican Church in North America), which is what both they and I are currently under, recently came out with a statement concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood. Traditional Anglicans, myself included, reject the ordination of women to the priesthood (yes, it’s a controversial topic, and this article is not aimed at defending the historic position; I do plan on writing an article in the future on that subject). Unfortunately, the ACNA has some bishops who “ordain” women to the priesthood, and the statement released recently stated, in essence, that that practice will not change for now.

This is an unfortunate development within Anglicanism, and many of us are deeply upset about our bishops’ current position on the matter. So Quad-Cities Anglican has been doing a sort of tour of other catholic bodies of the Faith, seemingly (and this is perhaps reading too much into their actions) to hint that they and others are seriously looking at different jurisdictions.

Do I blame them? No, not at all. I don’t even think they’re doing anything particularly wrong. They first looked at what’s known as the Continuing Anglican churches, which just had a joint synod (that’s a very exciting development, too). As well, they recently visited a ROCOR (RussianOrthodox Church Outside of Russia) Western Rite conference, and spoke to some former Anglicans there.
This is where I started to find problems in what they were doing. No, no; it’s not wrong to look at becoming Eastern Orthodox. Not necessarily, at least (more on that, later). I sympathize with their frustration with the ACNA. I truly do.

My problem is particularly in their first episode at the conference, the one with Fr. Mark Rowe. Fr. Mark, a former Anglican (part of the very Anglo-Catholic and conservative Continuing Anglicans; he also was Roman Catholic before that…), joined the Orthodox Church after years of searching. One of the pivotal points for him was visiting an Orthodox monastery, in which he was asked four questions by a monk there.

The questions were—well, we’ll get to that in a moment. They’re, bluntly put, silly. The responses (or lack thereof) were what greatly frustrated me; both from Fr. Mark Rowe when he was Anglican and first receiving these questions, and the two Anglican priests interviewing him.

I want to stress that I consider the Orthodox--both Eastern and Oriental--to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I consider them full brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, they do not extend that same thought to Anglicanism (though there are historical exceptions). My problem is not that someone may want to join Orthodoxy, but rather that one is claiming that there is not Catholicity in Anglicanism, whatsoever. Furthermore, the responses to the following questions are, as indicated before, lackluster at best. 

First Question: “Is your church (currently) producing Saints?”

Response from the Anglican Priests:
No canonized saints being currently produced. They agree with Fr. Mark Rowe that, “The only answer is ‘no’.”

My Response:
What an insult to their own parish members. I’d be insulted by that claim towards my parish; there are plenty of Saints there. A woman, the week I listened to this, had given me money to help pay for my rent. She did it without me asking, and she did it with no fanfare. One at my parish in Tennessee adopts children in his old age, and will just as soon give the shirt off his back to clothe someone naked. But they are not  Saints?

As for canonicity, I find that a rather silly particular: are we being asked for an official canonization process? Is there something lacking in us not having the title “St.” preceding men like C.S. Lewis, who has his own Anglican feast day? And what about Canon Andrew White? Did he not cross the minds of our Anglican co-hosts as someone who most certainly is a Saint being produced by our Communion? Is the Orthodox Church currently producing Saints? Who? Seraphim Rose, the guy who apparently allowed “Gleb” HermanPodmoshensky to abuse young men at his monastery?
This question is rife with problems that, for the life of me, I do not understand how even an unlearned Anglican could be troubled by. Frankly, the response they gave is both intellectually dishonest and an insult to their flock.

Second Question: “If you could do, liturgically, for the most part, that which you do now, but do it within the Church that unequivocally is the Church founded by Christ, why would you not do it?”

Response from the Anglican Priests:
“I have no retort to that one.”
“I have no retort.”
To be fair, later, one of the priests defends Anglicanism in this one; what I respond with in my first paragraph is also what he says (he places it as a hypothetical; that one “might” argue such-and-such, distancing himself from the argument). He then “balances” that with claiming that we aren’t recognized by any of the five Patriarchates.

My Response:
The question presupposes that I am not part of the Church founded by Christ already, or at least am unsure that I am. Except that I am sure that I am; as sure as the Eastern Orthodox are.
We aren’t recognized by any of the five Patriarchates, but that’s easily chalked up to politics at play. I mean, that’s what 1054 itself is largely about, yes? And the debates between Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy are, themselves, due to mistakes and misunderstandings. As well, I would argue that Canterbury is certainly a Patriarchate—and if you are going to raise the heresy that is currently going on in the Church of England, I’m going to simply point to one of the past Patriarchs of Constantinople, the arch-heretic Nestorius, and many others, in response.

Third Question: “Why would you even take a chance on risking your salvation?”

Response from the Anglican Priests:
A defense of Anglo-Catholicism was given, with an admission that there is a “fly in the ointment” in the larger Anglican Communion.

My Response:
Yes, there is the "fly in the ointment" of women being "ordained" into the priesthood. There is, of course, also the greater problem of liberalism in the Anglican Communion in general. But in the 300's we had the Church Catholic literally taken over almost entirely by Arians--people who deny the full Deity of Christ. That was, interestingly enough, pushed by Eastern Bishops. We also had Nestorianism, again pushed not only by Eastern Bishops but literally named after the Patriarch of Constantinople. Later we had Monophysitism pushed by Eastern Bishops. Then Monothelitism pushed by Eastern Bishops. Seeing a trend, here? So the Eastern Orthodox have plenty of flies in their ointment's history.

Heresy gains major footholds sometimes; our job is to stand resolute against heresy, and speak the Truth in Love. 

Fourth Question: “If you were at liturgy in the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher—the Tomb of your Savior, Christ—could you take Communion?”

Response from the Anglican Priests: No.

My Response:
Why does that matter?

Seriously, if Mormons became militant and took over the Middle East, and set up a church at the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher, would that mean that they are the one true Church? When Rome took over Jerusalem in the Crusades, did that make them the one true Church? This argument depends upon the geo-political reality of today, and doesn’t really demonstrate any ecclesiastical ontology.

Also, you receive Communion; you don’t “take” it. Communion is not yours for the taking.

These were the four questions the monk asked Fr. Mark Rowe, which ultimately helped lead him to reject his Holy Orders and become Orthodox. I don't find them convincing, on even the slightest level. There are reasons people are frustrated with the ACNA; I count myself among the frustrated. But these are not reasons to leave. This sort of thinking is one of the reasons I abandoned my journey towards Eastern Orthodoxy, and instead joined Anglicanism.

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Sacramental Theology is So Essential to the Christian Life

There was a man, Nicky, and woman, Suzie, who one day decided to get married. They invited their families and friends to the wedding, had their preacher marry them, and went off to their honeymoon in the Rockies for a week. When they returned, they bought a house together, got jobs, and lived in the same home for their entire lives. The couple lived long lives: both died in their nineties. 

There's just one problem: during their entire lives, Nicky and Suzie never--and I mean never--were intimate. They never even held hands. Not a single time did they even accidentally physically bump into each other. 

Oh, sure, they intellectually knew so much about the other: Suzie could tell you, from memory, every job that Nicky had ever had. Nicky could tell you what Suzie's favorite TV shows were. They both knew each others' favorite cereals. If you gave them each tests about the other person, they'd surely ace them. 

Would...that be fully participating in marriage? 

I think we would largely agree that something essential is lacking in that relationship. 

But we have many Nicky and Suzie stories out there, today, in Christianity. We have "Christians", so-called, who aren't Baptized. We have people who have never received the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. We have people who think that the Christian life is all about an intellectual ascent, or maybe merely an inward repentance, and nothing else. I'm not talking about special cases, like the thief on the cross, or the person who's dying and who's just heard the Gospel for the first time. I'm speaking of people who, for years, actively do not participate in the Christian life via the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. 

Baptism is our marriage into Christ: it is where we are physically enjoined to the death of Christ, so that we might rise with Him. That's in Romans 6, the entire chapter. 

If Baptism is our marriage, then--and I don't mean anything funny by this--the Eucharist is sex. 

1 Corinthians 10:16 seems to indicate as much in its usage of the word "koinonia"; it's meant to convey a most intimate connection. That's not necessarily sex, but I'm using it as an "if/then", and koinonia is certainly a very deep connection/participation/fellowship. 

Not comfortable with that? We can use this instead: if Baptism is birth, then the Eucharist is feeding for nourishment. 

However you want to look at it, Baptism and the Eucharist are important parts of the Christian Faith. Jesus claims that we have no life in us unless we "truly [His] Flesh and drink [His] Blood". Back to 1 Corinthians 10:16, it asks rhetorically if Communion is not a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ; St. Paul also claims that we must be careful to discern the Body of Christ, or we partake to our own judgment (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). 

Sacramental theology is the belief that we are actually, truly, connected to Christ in some mysterious way, through the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. That's what "Sacrament" means: mystery. Unlike much of modern American Christianity, it teaches that there is a tangible, incarnational element to our Faith that we can physically interact with. 

Jesus didn't simply leave us with a book (well, He never did that anyway; let alone "simply" do that). Jesus left us with a cleansing and a meal. It was by eating that we fell in sin; how fitting that by eating, we are brought back into a most intimate fellowship with God. 

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Long Awaited Update from the New Seminarian

Hey, all! I'm in seminary now!

So, this entire year has been rather eventful: from my brother and his family becoming Roman Catholic (former Baptists), to me starting a relationship with a girl (some girl...likes me? I know; I'm amazed, too!), to starting a new podcast, to a car crash, to lots of traveling, and finally, to applying and now attending a seminary, I've been through quite a bit!

What seminary am I at? Well, Trinity School for Ministry, of course! It's an Anglican seminary, with a strong Evangelical bent to it. You might think that a cranky Anglo-Catholic like myself would want to stay away from an institution with such a push...and you'd be right, probably. While I'm Anglo-Catholic, I'm not (always) cranky.

But sincerely, I don't want to be unbalanced. There is this understanding of Anglicanism where we are "three streams" of Christianity: Liturgical, Evangelical, and Charismatic. I don't want to segment myself into simply one of those streams; I want to embrace the fullness of the Faith. Catholicism, properly understood, embraces the fullness of the Faith, and I want to do likewise.

Trinity is an amazing seminary, with excellent professors and a welcoming, loving spirit. The education has, so far, been top-notch. As well, there is a Lutheran track for my Lutheran friends! What I love best is how the seminary is equipping us for ministry, rather than simply filling empty heads with knowledge (mine's more emptier-er than others).

Please keep me in prayer, as finances are tough during this time.

That's where you guys come in.

I've set up a Patreon page in order to help with the finances for my time in seminary. I'm going for an M.Div, so that means I'll be here for three years. As of now, I'm doing full time work and full time school; while I am so far managing that balance as much as I can, it is incredibly stressful and does not allow me to fully immerse myself in my studies. Donating to my Patreon will help me, immensely, in being able to devote my time to my academic studies.

Thanks for sticking with me while I continue this crazy ride through life, continuing to follow my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, however imperfectly that is done. :)