Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spending Time With the Puritans

I've been spending some time reading Puritan sermons recently...well, that is until my computer malfunctioned on Tuesday, preventing Internet access. (I am blogging from the local library's system now.) Anyway, before I lost Internet connection, I was reading an abridgement of Jeremiah Burroughs' sermon, Christ: All in All at the Fire and Ice web site. Here is a selection from that sermon on Christ's being "all in all" in the matter of our justification and pardon of sins..

"...In the point of justification and the pardon of sins, the great thing we stand in need of from God is the acceptation of us as righteous. Christ is all in all to us here, that is the tenor of the gospel, Rom.3:24, ...being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Our justification is not made up by what we have done or all that we can possibly do. You will say, "True, we have done little." But suppose any of you should do your utmost in any particular that God requires. You will say, "I hope if I can do what I can that God will accept it." No, you made a great mistake if you think this. People are very apt to look upon God as if the terms between God and them were no other than this: God is full of pity and mercy and we are weak and can only do a little, but if we do what we are able, God will accept the will for the deed. No, God does not accept the will for the deed in the point of justification. It is true in those that are already justified that God accepts the will for the deed in the performance of a duty, so as to take delight in them, but in the point of justification, pardoning sin and acceptation to righteousness, He must there have perfect obedience. Though we endeavor never so much, unless we can bring to God  a perfect righteousness, we are undone forever..."           (Large print emphasis, added)

p.s. (Can anybody give me an encouraging word regarding any possibility of hope for my 10 year old e.machine running Windows Me.?? Please don't say that it is a miracle that it is still running at all. I don't want to hear anything like that : /

Monday, January 17, 2011

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Calvin on Evangelism

"God invites all indiscriminately to salvation through the Gospel, but the ingratitude of the world is the reason why this grace, which is equally offered to all, is enjoyed by few."

John Calvin __ Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels 1:116

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's Christmas for Orthodox Christians

*This post was revised and expanded on January 12th


Whereas the traditional Christmas greeting most of us are accustomed to hearing is "Merry Christmas," or in England, "Happy Christmas," I am told that those in the Orthodox branch of Christendom salute one another with, "Christ is Born: Rejoice!" I like that. It definitely contains more substance than simply "Merry Christmas," as it includes the reason to celebrate, or to "Rejoice." (It is also the title of a wonderful hymn.)

Another distinctive of the Eastern churches is that those who are on the "old calendar" celebrate the birth of Christ on a different day than those in the Western tradition. This is because their ecclesiastical year is based on the Gregorian, rather than the Julian, calendar. The Orthodox churches are generally classified into two categories, "Eastern" and "Oriental." Most of the divisions within these categories are along national lines,  thus we have Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and so on. The Oriental Orthodox Christmas Eve is on January 6th, and some Armenian churches will celebrate Christmas on January 19th. 

The Oriental churches are far fewer in number, but  include the historically significant Coptic church in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox church, said to be the two oldest churches on the African continent. The Coptic Church in Alexandria traces it's founding to St. Mark and and counts Dionysius, Clement, Origen and Athanasius among its "theological ancestors," while the church in Ethiopia traditionally traces it beginnings to the "Ethiopian eunuch"  (Acts 8:26-38) who brought the gospel that he heard from Philip the evangelist. However, it was not until the fourth century that the church was officially established after the country had been evangelized by Frumentius and Edesius of Tyre. They had first been taken as prisoners to Abyssinia, and later set at liberty, using their freedom to preach the Gospel.


Today the Coptic churches (in Europe, as well as in Egypt) are the targets of Radical Islamic jihadists, who have vowed to "destroy the cross" by blowing up churches, especially when they are full of worshippers during Christmas services. Some observers see this as part of a more extensive enterprise involving other Christian churches as well as Jews. The jihadists first want to see how the West reacts to the bombings. See the article on the Cranmer blog:

Here are some excerpts from that post:

[T]he strategy appears to be to intimidate the West through the targeting of this pre-Arab, pre-Islamic Christian group which has sought refuge from the Islamic world. The Islamists are essentially testing the soft underbelly of the beast. When apathy and indifference are established, they will doubtless escalate their jihad and turn on other Christian groups...

...[T]he Copts are not only being threatened in Germany: the inexorable Islamist jihad is also spreading through the Netherlands, with Coptic churches in Italy, France, Austria, Sweden and the UK also being targeted.

...To their credit, the three largest Muslim organisations in the Netherlands have called on Muslims to protect Coptic Churches in Eindhoven, Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called, The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin.

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to this temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.  __Malachi 3:1

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Simeon Blesses the Christ Child
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, "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; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
_Luke 2:22-40

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Saturday, January 1, 2011