Friday, March 31, 2017

Dirt, Spit, and Water

Our world is a dark one. We walk this life in the darkness of the valleys, not on the bliss of the mountain tops, even though we walk faithfully with God. Things happen in our life that we cannot explain: a spouse dies, a child is suddenly taken ill, you receive a frightening report from the doctor. We live in this fallen world surrounded by disease, darkness, and death. But where does spiritual darkness come from? Darkness comes from sin. The apostle Paul teaches that through one man, Adam, sin entered into the world. In Romans 6 we learn that the wages of sin is death: sin leads to death. From sin and death spring spiritual darkness, disease, and sorrow.

How do we overcome death, darkness, and disease? Jesus overcomes it for us for only he is the "Light of the World." When Jesus shines his light into our spiritual darkness, the darkness must flee. Everything that accompanies darkness (sin, disease, and death) is snuffed out. We see one example of Jesus shining his light into the darkness of a blind man in the Gospel of John, chapter nine.
"I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:5-7).
This is such a fascinating way to heal a man. Sometimes, Jesus heals people with a command, other times he invites them to stand up and walk. However, this time, Jesus uses tangible means of mud, spit, and water to bring healing. What can we learn from this?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Why do we mourn? What is it that turns our joy into sorrow? We mourn because we recognize brokenness in this world. We immediately see it in the sting of death. We mourn because we have lost someone —  a friend, a parent, a child, a spouse —  to death. I knew a priest who within the span of a few years buried about 10 people in his parish. “Death is something I never get used to,” he would say, “because we are not supposed to get used to it. Death is not a part of God’s original plan for creation.” Death was introduced into the world because of sin. It’s a good thing to not get used to death. It is foreign to our make-up as humans.
Those who mourn shall be blessed because of the resurrection. When we die that is not the end of our life. We shall be raised up again to new life in Jesus Christ on that last day. About the resurrection, Paul writes, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). The resurrection, then, is our great Christian hope. Because it is our great Christian hope, many Christians cross themselves when saying the line in the Nicene Creed, "I believe in the resurrection of the dead." Crossing ourselves while confessing this line reminds us that  I will be resurrected only through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection three days later. Peter in his first epistle reminds us that our new birth is directly tied with Jesus' resurrection. Peter writes, "He [Jesus] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (1 Peter 1:3). Thus, we may join our voices with Paul and proclaim “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).
If you have lost someone to the sting of death, God wants to comfort you: blessed are you who mourn. Because of the resurrection we have in Jesus Christ we will see our friends again. We will feel the warm embrace of a spouse again. We will hear our father or mother laugh again. You will see your child smile again. For those of us who are in Christ, God has promised to raise us up on the last day in the resurrection where we will be reunited with those whom death has prematurely claimed. Because of the sting of death our joy has been turned to sorrow, but in Jesus Christ our sorrow is turned into joy (Psalm 30:5). We are truly blessed, indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2016

St. Augustine's 3 Categories of Christian Worship

In St. Augustine's correspondence to Januarius (Letter 54) he lays out in three categories the things that guide Christian worship of our Lord. The first category is things directly found in scripture, the second is the apostolic tradition, and the third is adiaphora or things indifferent.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Physicalness of Salvation - The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel."

Today, we celebrate the "Presentation of Christ in the Temple," also called the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The Nunc Dimmitis (so named because of the first two words in the Latin translation) are the words Simeon proclaims when he sees the Christ child (see Luke 2:29-32). God had promised Simeon that he would lay eyes on the promised Messiah before he died. This man stares at baby Jesus and can actually say "mine eyes have seen thy salvation."

I don't know about you, but I don't usually think of Salvation as being something physical. I think many Christians would think of salvation as an event -- the event of a man dying on a cross or the event of atonement.Yet, here in the gospel of Luke, the Bible declares that salvation is physical and walking around -- salvation is found in the physical body of Jesus Christ. If Simeon can look at baby Jesus and utter this provocative phrase, "mine eyes have seen thy salvation," then that means that salvation is located spatially, in tangible things. Salvation is located in the person of Jesus Christ.

By extension, wherever Jesus is -- wherever his body is -- we may join our voices with Simeon and locate salvation there. Where does Jesus claim his body is located? There are 3 places.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Few Changes

For those who follow this blog, I plan to make a few changes.

It may be obvious that within the last few years I converted to the Anglican church. Since then, much of my output has been (for better or worse) a defense and education of what Anglicanism is. The folks at Rookie Anglican are kind enough to allow me to write for them. All blogs having to do specifically with Anglicanism will be posted there. I will post other, broader topics here.

To all my readers, thank you. I love to teach, to think out loud, and to train. This blog allows me a place to do that.

Addendum: I have changed the name of this blog from BrowBeater's Blog (which I have thought for a long time has sounded overly polemical) to Sarum Notes. As I continue to be spiritually formed in the Anglican tradition I thought it appropriate to rename this blog after an important liturgical rite from England's history.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ecce Homo: A Good Friday Meditation

Today, at Golgotha, the place of the skull, something is very wrong. The God-Man, the eternal Word made flesh, is dying on the cross. Why did this man Jesus choose this fate? After all, he is God incarnate. Why would he allow himself to be subject to such a death? Perhaps a look at one statement proclaimed by Pontius Pilate will shine some light on this mystery.

In John 19:5 Pilate proclaims about Jesus, "ecce homo"  "Behold the man." Pilate is saying something profoundly theological, although he does not understand it. What does it mean that Jesus is the man? This ought to remind us of the original man from Genesis. Adam was created by God to subdue the earth to glory of God—to be the very image of God in the world. But he exchanged the truth and life of God for Satan’s lie. What was that lie? If Adam ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he could be like God.

We have this story recorded for us in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve looked upon the forbidden fruit. Being tempted by the serpent Satan, Eve first took and tried it. Adam also took and ate. Thus, as a result of their disobedience, the first man became subject to death — both sin and death entered into the world, and all mankind fell in Adam. Anyone born from Adam, which includes every single person who ever lived, will be tainted with the stain of sin, what we call “Original Sin.” St. Paul describes it this way: we are born dead in our sins.

If the narrative ended here then the story of humanity would be a sorrowful tragedy … cast out of God’s life-giving presence and taken up in death. But, this is not the end of the story. God did not leave mankind wallowing around in the darkness of despair. In Genesis 3 God promised to make all things right again. Speaking to Satan, the Serpent, God prophesied, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). One who would come from Adam’s loins, a man, would crush the head of the serpent and defeat death. Notice, Satan’s wound would be a permanent wound, a head crushing wound. But the man, the descendant of Adam, would receive a temporary wound, a wound of the heel.

The entirety of history plays out of this theme. Who is this man that would come and make things right? Who is worthy to crush the head of Satan? There are glimpses in the OT of a man who may accomplish this. Behold a man, a son of Adam, Abraham the great patriarch. But Abraham, being born with the stain of original sin, could not accomplish this. Behold another man, Moses. Could Moses, the great deliverer of the Jews from Egypt be this man? No, he too was a Son of Adam and tainted by original sin. Near the end of his life he struck the rock instead of speaking to it like God commanded. Because of this, he was not allowed to enter the promised land. Behold another man, David, the royal king of the Jews. Surely he must be the man who will crush the head of the serpent. After all, David crushed the head of Goliath. But David too was a Son of Adam and tainted by original sin. As tenacious as David was even he sinned greatly against God when he took another man’s wife for himself and arranged to have her husband killed to cover up his adultery. David was a great man — a man after God’s own heart. But, even David was a Son of Adam.

We see a theme developing. The man promised in Genesis 3 who will crush the head of Satan must not be enslaved under Satan’s rule, that is, he must be free of original sin. This can only be true about one man, Jesus Christ because Jesus is God himself who became a sinless man. About Jesus’ sinlessness Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” The Apostle Peter in his epistle writes, “[He] committed no sin, nor was there any deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). St. Paul writes in his epistle to the Corinthians, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”(2 Cor. 5:21).

We have arrived back at Golgotha. At Golgotha we have a sinless man, the new man, a man untainted by original sin, crucified on a tree near a garden (cf. Jn 19:41) . Interesting, we have a man and a tree in a garden. The events that transpire this Good Friday is a reversal of the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

Jesus, when taking the curse of sin on himself, became the curse on our behalf. Jesus reconciles us to God the Father by dying in our place. It is at Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus, like David, defeats the great and seemingly powerful giant Satan, fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 3. At the cross Satan bruised the heel of Jesus when the nails were driven through his feet. But Jesus is the one who delivered the fatal head wound to Satan. At the place of the skull Jesus is lifted up on the cross crushing the head of the serpent. According to Genesis 3, the wound Jesus receives is a wound of the heel, meaning it’s not fatal, that is, it’s not permanent. Though Jesus definitely died on the cross, on Easter morning he will rise from the dead effectively defeating death. His resurrection will deal the final fatal blow to Satan.

Because Jesus Messiah breaks the curse of sin in our lives, we may behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We now have our answer. Why did Jesus die? He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we may be made righteous. He died for us — for you and for me. His death is sufficient to remit all our sins. His resurrection will open the door back to the Eden where joyful and glorious fellowship with God is restored. Today we behold the man who took our curse for us by hanging on a tree.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Eve Sermon

Tonight, we celebrate the incarnation — God became a man and lived among us. This provokes the question, “Why did God take on flesh; why did God become a human?” This is the great question of Christmas.

To answer this we need to go back to the beginning. We read tonight that mankind, who enjoyed holy fellowship with God, sinned and was cast out of the garden. The communion mankind shared with God and the community mankind shared with each other was lost in the fall. We are heirs of this story. Because of sin, we are separated from God. Left to ourselves we will die in our sins for the wages of sin is death.

You may not think that’s fair. You may think that you’re a good enough person to make your way back to the garden, back to communion and fellowship with God. I hate to break it to you, what God demands is perfect holiness, not a good try. The standard by which we measure our righteousness is God’s holy law. Holy scripture teaches us that if you are guilty of breaking one of the commandments, you are guilty of the whole law.

Because we inherited Adam’s sinful nature, we are inclined by nature to sin. This inclination is evident in our infancy. When you were two years old and you reached out and took your brother’s toy and screamed, “MINE!,” you blew it. When you were a teenager and you told your parents you were going to “study,” but instead went out to your boyfriend/girlfriend’s house, you lied. In the law we find God's standard of righteousness: God demands sinlessness; we quickly discover we cannot achieve it.

What are we left to do, then? Because of the introduction of sin into the world, humanity is doomed to death. Because of the fall we cannot earn our way back into a right relationship with God by our own efforts. We are exiled east of Eden unable to enjoy God’s perfect holiness. But, there is hope —because we have been cast out of the garden, God comes to us. God became man — one with us — that we might be become one with Him through his Incarnation. Jesus Christ became man that through his humanity, his union with us in our human nature, he might restore mankind to a holy communion with God. Our relationship to God is restored through his son Jesus Christ.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word, the second person of the Trinity, broke through to our timeline and dwelt in a virgin’s womb for nine months. By her, he became a man, and his name is Jesus, Jeshua, which means “salvation.” We call this the incarnation. He actually took on our flesh, God became fully 100% human while still maintaining full 100% divinity. If the math sounds wrong it’s because this is a mystery, something we will never be able to fully grasp; the Apostle Paul calls it the mystery of godliness.

On that night in Bethlehem, God became human. As a man-child he grew. He fed from his mother’s milk, just like us. He first crawled then learned to walk, just like us. He fell and bruised his knees, just like us. He even lived through puberty, just like us. And he grew in wisdom and knowledge, just like us. He was like us in every way save one — he knew no sin. He lived a sinless life yet died a sinner’s death. God became man so that we might become one with him through his incarnation, the very reason we celebrate this holy day.

Jesus is God's beloved son who takes away the sins of the world! Though mankind died with Adam, Jesus became man that we might be raised to new life. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This night we celebrate Jesus' birth because he has done for us what we could never do for ourselves — in him we become the righteousness of God.

And so we return to the great and glorious mystery of the Incarnation. For unto us is born this night in the city of David a saviour who is Christ the Lord. On this night in Bethlehem lies Jesus in a manger. Jesus is to be found in a lowly manger. As we come to holy communion — a restored holy communion between God and man — perhaps we should be reminded that a manger is just a feeding trough used to feed animals. But that night it did not hold food for animals; instead, it held food for us. That night it held our savior, the Bread of Life. Eating the forbidden fruit from a tree is what destroyed mankind; eating from the man who hung on a tree will restore mankind. We are no longer exiled East of Eden but have been restored to a right relationship with God.

One Anglican divine, Lancelot Andrewes, had a ciborium (a vessel that holds bread for communion). On that ciborium sat a cover on which was engraved the star of Bethlehem as a reminder that Jesus was to be found wherever that Bethlehem star led us. In Christ's church, at the altar, we find once again he who was made flesh for us. This altar, this table becomes for us a new Bethlehem. Friends, tonight through Holy Communion, where Christ himself comes to us, we enter one again into the mystery to be found in Bethlehem where we will dine with the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who takes away our sin.

And so, we have the answer to our question: why did God become man? God became a man so he could save us from our sins. As we celebrate the mystery of the incarnation , we join our voices with those who have come before us, singing “O come, O come emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.” God's ransom has come to us this night. In Jesus Christ God saves us from our sins. Amen.