Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blogday 2007

Youngfogey coined a rather useful term when describing the anniversary of setting up a blog, and 29th December 2007 marks this bloglet's second birthday!

So what did I say last blogday?
Well, I don't call myself an Anglo-Catholic these days except only as a rough guide to where my churchmanship lies since few people have heard of the Anglo-Papalists. Indeed, if I'm asked, I always say that I am Catholic. If anyone is astute to notice my Church of England Readers' badge then I have some explaining to do. I've certainly learned more about my Papistical leanings and the fact that Anglicanism does need the Church of Rome for guidance in its doctrine. This position has been ratified for me by the rati-zinger himself , His Holiness Pope Benedict, who demonstrates the importance for the Church to be faithful to its Tradition. Following the C of E's declaration that women in the Episcopate is consonant with Anglican Understanding, I am at present waiting to see what the "brief from Hell" is going to propose before I make my decision whether I need to swim or not. I am constantly reviewing this situation which is far from ideal. I certainly do not consider myself to be an Anglican if Anglicanism is consonant with women "bishops". As for my Benedictinism, well, that's on hold for a little while as I get used to my new job. I continue to develop my relations with Elmore Abbey in the hope that some more formal affiliation may result. I have found St Benedict very useful for balancing my life out. So one year on sees some growth and some change but still the same problems and irritations. We are stuck with the -isms, including the Neo-Arianism that Dan Brown seems to be selling as well as Gnosticism. These can only be fought by working on our beliefs as set down in Scripture and communicated through the Church. History does not fight the Church, it is modern historians who are trying to make it look as if the Catholic Church is responsible for cover-ups and conspiracies. I cannot see what it would gain from doing so. This year I do need to do more study, my Latin is horrible, my Greek worse and my Hebrew appalling. As I settle in my new job then hopefully I shall find the time to work on some things that I've laid aside for a while such as the proper ministry of Women and the "Natural Sacraments" that I proposed last year. No - I hadn't forgotten. Perhaps you wish I had! Well here's to another twelve months.

Well, events have taken me away from the theology of the "Natural Sacraments" more's the pity. At the moment, I appear to be in some self-imposed exile from my parish celebrating only the Morning Office until the Mass is treated with some respect. It's a bit of a bind when the only other parishes within walking distance (and since I don't drive, this is necessary) are an Aff-Cath church where things are done decently but the theology dodgy, and a Roman Catholic Parish which seems to treat the Mass with about as much reverence as the parish I'm trying to leave.

So I end this blogyear in some kind of ecclesiastical limbo - certainly not a perfect arrangement, and I hope that this is going to be entirely temporary. Now that I receive communion on a much more sporadic basis, I believe I appreciate the spiritual nourishment better.

Whatever state the C of E may be in, I still maintain my links with Elmore Abbey - the only place where I've really felt spiritually uplifted in past years, and it's partly for them that I am loathe to leave the C of E. The Abbey has always represented a weak link between the C of E and the Roman Catholic Church. I find that I need them and on some level they need me, and I find that this is enough for me to remain in a church whose establishment is falling around my ears.

I seem to have spent my year building up my (lack of) understanding of Anglo-Papalism which gets mentioned every other post making me sound like the stuck record of a monomaniacal parrot. It's important because of the confused nature of the discipline. Every Anglo-Papalist is confused on some level and that's because the Church is a confusing place to which to belong. I now have friends like Marco Vervoorst trying to draw me into the Holy See, and others, like my friends from the Continuum trying to call me into a Continuum parish. It just shows what good friends they are, caring about me like that, and it is very much appreciated even if their attempts are not proving successful. However, I pray about the situation nightly, and despite my pressing for a decision, I still feel that I am told to wait for the path to become clear. Perhaps I must wait for the inevitable fragmentation of the C of E - that would make sense (at least to me). I have to be patient, and so must my friends. Intellectual arguments are not enough at the moment.

My Latin is passable, Greek even worse, and Hebrew infinitesimally better, but at least I've settled into the school which is providing spiritual stimulation of an intriguing kind. Having to defend your beliefs to young adults is very bracing and I heartily recommend it.

Thanks for reading over the past year. I hope that you will stay with me and pray with me for the Holy Estate of the Church of God, whatever state she's in.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Catholic Cartoonery

I found this wonderful blog, which I'll now append to my links on the side here.

I've already used this cartoon at my church. Considering that, at Midnight Mass, instead of the intercessions we had a poem about Father Christmas praying for help delivering the presents, I think it's applicable to both the Liberal wing of the Roman Catholic Church and the present mush of the C of E.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A splitting headache

San Joaquin has withdrawn from the Episcopal Church of the United States. Of course the media proclaims a split in the Anglican Church. On the other hand we have the Traditional Anglican Church seeking reunion with the Holy See and an end to nearly 500 years of separation. We seem to be reaching a time in history of a reshaping and remoulding of the Church, or a further fragmentation, and it is Anglicanism that is bearing the visible brunt of this.

Only within the Canterbury Communion can we find a church with a Catholic heritage and yet which deems heresies as being consonant with the faith. What can one reasonably do when the institution on which you have relied makes the wrong move? There seems to be only two things that can be done: stay or go.

Who stays?

  1. Those complicit in the heresy;

  2. Those who are elderly or infirm;
  3. Those who are too frightened or tired to undergo such upheaval;

  4. Those who intend to fight from within;

  5. Those who intend to honour a commitment despite the heresy.

Who goes?

  1. Those who want to send a clear signal that heresy is wrong;

  2. Those who feel that the integrity of the church has been irrevocably compromised;
  3. Those who wish to preserve the purity of the church;

  4. Those who cannot associate with heretics;
  5. Those who believe that the grass is greener on the other side.

These lists are neither exhaustive or exclusive, but merely representative of the feelings and thoughts of those whom I have met. There are deep passions blazing within the chest of the Anglo-Catholic and the Anglo-Papalist which only manifest themselves after too great an imbibing of port or the sight of a woman who appears to be wearing a dog collar, but maybe it's just a roll-necked jumper.

The main trouble is that the Bishops are constantly presenting us with choices, notably the preference of Schism over Heresy. When one side cries "schism", the other invariably cries "heresy" and the two sides get further apart.

What is clear from the Lord's teaching is that He will send his angels to separate wheat from tares. What is not so clear is how this separation wil take place and how the agents of this separation will be. From the Apocalypse we are aware that each Church has its angel, and it may possibly be that it is these guiding angels who will draw away the righteous from the payers of lip-service. However, we still do not know!

For me, it is important that members of the Anglican Continuum and Communion at least engage in some prayer together in an attempt to heal the rifts. I see in myself too great a desire to withdraw from those with whom I disagree. The temptation is always there to demonise and to allow the memories of others to become bitter in the soul. While Mrs Jefferts-Schori, Gene Robinson, Bishop Spong, and others may hold heretical beliefs - which they do when measured up to the Catholic Faith however much they try to justify their learning - they are still deserving of kind words, loving gestures, gentle discussions and holy prayers, not because of themselves but because of the God who desires to sit and eat with us.

The Benedictine Rule advocates the idea of excommunication - the setting apart of folk who have erred from the way.

Capit. XXVI

Si quis frater praesumpserit sine iussione abbatis fratri excommunicato quolibet modo se iungere aut loqui cum eo vel mandatum ei dirigere, similem sortiatur excommunicationis vindictam.

If any brother presumes without instruction from the Abbot in any way to associate with an excommunicated brother or to speak with him or direct a command to him, let him be issued with the same punishment of excommunication. [My translation]

In this, we see that there is a definite need for the separation to be distinct. The abbot must make sure that the offender is kept apart from the community, and that the community is protected from the damage caused by recalcitrants. However St Benedict makes it quite clear that the Abbot is still responsible for the excommunicated, and indeed that the excommunicated is still part of the community.

Capit. XVII

Omni sollicitudine curam gerat abbas circa delinquentes fratres, quia non est opus sanis medicus sed male habentibus (Matthew ix.12). Et ideo uti debet omni modo ut sapiens medicus, immittere senpectas, id est seniores sapientes fratres, qui quasi secrete consolentur fratrem fluctuantem et provocent ad humilitatis satisfactionem et consolentur eum ne abundantiori tristitia absorbeatur (II Corinthians ii.7), sed, sicut ait item apostolus, confirmetur in eo caritas (II Corinthians ii.8) et oretur pro eo ab omnibus...

With every solicitude, the Abbot must show concern about offending brothers, because they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. In in this way, as a wise physician, he must use all skill to send senpectae, that is, older and wiser brothers, who console the erring brother as if in secret, and guide him to a satisfation of humility and to console him lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow but as the Apostle also says that ye would confirm your love toward him and that all might pray for him ... [My translation interspersed with the bible references from the AV]

Dialogue must therefore continue across a schism, but only between the wiser and more senior. This need not be the best educated - indeed it may be preferable that this not be the case particularly with those filled with intellectual pride! It should include those whom the whole church would regard as living a holy and spiritual life.

Indeed it is the person of the Abbot who has the authority to inspect and adjust an issue of excommunication. It is therefore important that the Abbot himself should closely follow Benedictine principles as laid down in the Rule. In practice however, there has been many an Abbot go off the rails. Likewise, in this day and age, we see Bishops - sources of Unity - rely on the integrity of their own belief rather than the Faith of the Church and use their roles of unification to damage and rend the Church.

This is in part why I have developed into an Anglo-Papalist. In viewing the Pope as the Vicar of Christ following in the succession of St Peter, he is an object of unity in obedience to the Catholic Faith. He is also, I believe, the one who could heal the rift of the Reformation quite easily. As successor of Peter and keeper of the Keys, he is able to bind to himself branches which have become severed. As the Vicar of Christ, he can graft together that which has been torn apart for whatever reason. Apostolae Curae (whoever this is more problematic for) can easily be circumvented through such a binding - a Papal declaration of regularity conditional on communion with the Holy See. Whether it has been broken off at the Reformation or not, there is a temporal branch of ordination which links every Anglican Bishop, Priest and Deacon and which can be made to be valid in the eyes of Rome by binding that branch to the living branch of the Holy See, just as the Lord himself spoke about grafting branches onto Himself as the true vine.

I'm an idealist. I apologise. Indeed there are still many obstacles of doctrine and jurisdiction. It is not enough to say "Why can't we just all try to get along?" particularly if there is a wave of heretics muddying the waters. There must be a greater level of trust built up between the Holy See and the Anglican Continuum - both sides must realise in full the others' concerns and work at addressing those barriers together in love and prayer.

I'm afraid the Anglican Communion will never be able to enjoy such a relationship on her present course because she does not perceive that what she is raising are indeed almost insurmountable hurdles to reconciliation. But nonetheless, the Continuum must act, sending senpectae to this ailing body. The distance of excommunication must remain until the recalcitrants are brought back, but there must be this level of ongoing dialogue!

Excuse me while I wallow in my idealism!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Feast of the Nativity 2007

I often wonder how the Christ-child would have appeared in this day and age. Forgetting the details of our lives (something I'm good at) that would be different, can you imagine the Angel Gabriel declaring the message of the Annunciation to a teenage girl in an industrial estate in Birkenhead? A teenage pregnancy there would not be unusual, so the example would not exactly be of any great effect or produce great wonder. Imagine:

And there were security guards abiding in the malls, keeping watch over their flat-screen tellys by night, and the Angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, "@*£# off to the Sondheim Estate and there you'll find a kid in the dog's basket who has come to cheer you up, you miserable #*&$£5s!"

It's just so commonplace! So ordinary! The birth of a baby is important to families and friends but you don't cross town just to see the child born to a teenage mother who's probably given been put in that state following a binge in Bermondsey, however cute the baby, unless you're in social services.

What made those shepherds and those magi, travel to stop and stare at the simple sight of a young lady and a tiny baby in the oxen's trough in a stable?

Well, if you believe modern church thinkers (and it's often wise not to), it probably didn't happen. All this Nativity business is sheer literary window dressing on the part of the writers of Matthew's and Luke's Gospels, just to enhance the Lord's reputation.

Why the need to enhance the Lord's reputation? Surely the accounts of His years of ministry, his miracles, His death and resurrection, His teaching, His "wild claims" of being the Son of God, surely that spells it out quite adequately without needing a fabrication of the Nativity. Mark doesn't need the Nativity for his Gospel, and neither does John, the life of the Lord stands well enough without the stories of the baby in the manger. So why did Matthew and Luke feel the need to include these passages? Why did the Church feel that these parts of the Gospels were necessary? Why were they not edited out, as some modern folk think the Early Church was very good at?

I suppose the message of the Nativity means for me that people can react very differently to the very ordinary. Professor Dawkins would have seen the child in the manger, probably paid compliments to the mother and charitably handed over a five pound note to help the baby (he is, after all, a decent human being), but he would have seen nothing other than a rather pitiable state of humanity. He does not attribute any further significance because there is no scientific test for metaphysical significance. However, some see the significance in their science, others are told about the significance from strange agencies. The meaning is deeper than mere physicality: the ordinaryness of a mother and a new born baby forced to take shelter in a stable is just so human.

Yet we can easily see the Lord's humanity without the Nativity, so His ordinaryness is not dependent upon the circumstances of His birth. The Nativity tells us to look, and to keep looking for the Christ-child in our day and age, to see the significance of our humdrum and monotonous existence without the need for a man to point it out to us using miracles and teachings. We can find God in our lives if we look for Him, even if it gets difficult, confusing and a bit depressing. It's a bit like looking for one particular baby in a Middle Eastern town.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God..."

May you find the Christ-child this Christmas, and know His joy and peace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Away in an old orange crate found at the back of the cupboard

Homily preached at Eltham College on 10th and 11th December 2007.

What would you say was your most
embarrassing Christmas ever?

One of the greatest sources of seasonal embarrassmentof memories of injusticethat really curdles the memory when you tryand picture it,
the school nativity play!

Did you take part in one?

What role did you get?


According to Junior School custom
in allocating roles,
the most popular girl in the school
should be chosen to play Mary
and the boy least likely
to stick his finger up his nose
to play Joseph.

Then of course there are
the other roles to be fought for.

The Angel Gabriel will be given
to the one with the voice that can split granite

The other angels are going to be
those of you who have access to
a job lot of tinsel and wire coat hangers.

It’s no good telling mentioning
that there is no biblical record of angels
ever having wings,
you’ll just be ignored
and relegated to the cattle.

Then there are
the Three Kings/Wise Men/magi/whatever
from the East.

To be qualified for these roles,
you have to have parents willing
to sacrifice the best bedspread
to the ravages of glitter and glue.

Knowledge of the fact that, again,
nowhere in the Bible
does it ever mention three kings
means automatic disqualification
and a summary demotion
to second sheep on the right.

To be an innkeeper,
you have to be trustworthy enough
to say the line in the script and not say
“Yes, Mary and Joseph,
there’s plenty of room in here,”
thus giving the teachers a fit
trying to sort that one out.

And then there are other roles
– the ones which you’ve been hoping to avoid.

These days,
you’re not allowed to exclude any child
from being in the play.

Thus there are a plethora of
snowflakes, sheep, oxen and donkeys
consisting of those who aren’t allowed
for whatever reason to have a speaking part
– untrustworthy innkeepers
or biblically correct magi.

If you are one of these unfortunates,
then you are then forced to wear
some grotesque concoction of cereal box,
cotton wool and card,
despite assurances that it is a sheep,
looks more like a disastrous attempt
to splice genetically Shaun the Sheep
and the Coco Pops Monkey.

There are behind-the-scenes folk as well:
the cereal box geneticists responsible
for the sheep-monkey hybrids,
the providers of tired old dressing gowns,
and the housekeeping team
who has to mop up afterwards
– not a pleasant job if the angels
get over-excited.

It’s a lot of work for everyone!
So why do it?

Why does an ever-decreasing number
of Primary and infant schools
subject themselves and their students
to such an ordeal?


Somehow the parents think that it’s wonderful!

Despite all the naffness,
there is something
that draws a parent
out of Christmas shopping
to see their child in a Nativity Play.

It’s a fact that all this dressing up
and acting actually makes a Christmas
for a parent whether or not
they actually believe in the story
that is being told by their children.

They see their children
going through the same traditions,
the same story,
the same dressing-gowns and tinsel
as they did when they were that age.

It may not mean much to you,
but to a parent,
it is a sign that their child is playing
an active role in making Christmas
a special time of year
not just for their family,
but to the community of the school.

what happens to a child’s participation
in Christmas when it outgrows Nativity Plays?

How do you participate?


If you’re a chorister,
then your role is clear.

You are doomed to spend November
learning carol after carol
and tediously jolly bits of tinkly music
insipidly arranged by John Rutter
after a quick buck.

By December 26th,
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
makes you want tell those herald angels
to go away in no uncertain terms.

But, however many times you sing it,
there may be just one time
that you make someone’s Christmas.
You’ve been through Christmas
at least eleven times in your lives,
and there’s a chance that you may find it all
a bit run-of-the-mill.

When Christmas day arrives,
what more to it is there beyond
the wrapping paper,
the new Wii golf game, the latest gore-ridden murder on Eastenders
the over-eating and resultant indigestion,
and forgetting to listen to the Queen.

Isn’t it just another day of the year
albeit a day when it doesn’t actually snow?

Well, this surely depends on what you make of it.

Is Christmas a special time of year for you?

It is only a time different from
the other days that just blur into one big mass of
school books,
chapel addresses,
and tucked-in shirts
if we work to make it so!

This is why we have Advent to help us
prepare for Christmas.

If you’re a Christian,
then Advent offers you a time to reflect
on the meaning of the little baby
born in a manger who grows up
to save the world.

It offers you a chance to engage
with a God who not only lives
but seeks to live among us.

If you’re not a Christian,
then you have to find out the meaning
of Christmas for yourself.

It offers you the opportunity to go out
and give of your time
and abilities to others,
to make their Christmas more enjoyable.

It’s down to you, then,
to figure out the point of it all.

Either way,
you have a role to play
in making Christmas more special for yourself,
your family and your community
- preferably not in that order.

The question is: what is that role?

Well, only you can answer that one!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Homosexualism and Holiness

The debate rages within the Anglican Church about the acceptance of practising homosexual priests and my friends on the Continuum blog continue to elucidate the orthodox line about how the issues of the female "priesthood" and acceptance of homosexuality are in fact the same thing. They are both concerned with the corruption of the Natural Order.

The main trait of Anglicanism seems to be what the Young Fogey calls Tolerant Conservatism, and I wonder just how well that is being brought to bear in this argument which is turning out to be quite bitter. Archbishop Akinola seems to be the proponent of Conservatism, and Dr Jefferts-Schori claims to be "tolerant". It seems clear to me that Dr Jefferts-Schori is certainly not conservative (nor is she especially tolerant, but then what did you expect?), and Archbishop Akinola certainly not tolerant. Both, in my honest opinion, have attitudes which are quite repugnant to the word of God.

I cannot accept that it is any way loving for an Archbishop not to shake the hand of a homosexual just because he is a homosexual. Christ ate with sinners. He would eat with me, with Hitler, with Mother Theresa, Gene Robinson, Akinola and Mrs Jefferts-Schori preferring not one of us above the other, all this despite our vileness. Yet clearly we have to respond to His reaching out to us for the Grace to be efficacious, and this means complicity with the rule of His Kingdom that lies within us. The Kingdom within Robinson and Mrs Jefferts-Schori seems very much like the British idea of Constitutional Monarchy in which the Queen is the nominal head, but the realm run by bureaucrats and politicians geared more to pleasing the people rather than running a healthy country. That's true of all of us, but only the leaders of the extremes in this matter are exhibiting this most clearly.

For Akinola, he should look and see what would happen if the roles were reversed. What if the Natural Law was homosexual, and he remaining firmly heterosexual? What then?

Perhaps Akinola needs to walk a mile in Dr. Jeffrey John's shoes. He, if you remember, is the homosexual Dean of St Albans who maintains a celibate relationship with another man, and who had to withdraw from the race for Bishop of Reading. While the ramifications of Dr John's relationship are dangerous and contrary to Divine Ordinance, I believe that Akinola needs to look at the situation like a doctor examines a tumour and see where the malignancy lies, not shunt the patient straight to the hospice. We should be trusting our bishops to behave like spiritual physicians as St Benedict says with skill, firmness, love, patience and complete orthodoxy.

It must be desperately hard for homosexuals who are, after all, as human as every other sinner. The human being was created to be loved, and that is precisely what all of us crave, except everything is skewed by Original Sin, and thus do not recognise that at the heart of this yearning is that of wanting to be loved by God. Most of us feel that strange sensation that occurs when we see someone utterly desirable, but we can't pinpoint what it is about them that we desire. That desire can burn and burn unless it is acted upon, but the question remains - how?

This desire can be utterly selfish - a lust, a desire to make the object do what we want and be powerless to exercise any of their desires in the matter. The trouble is that this lust comes clothed in much more acceptable terms. The lust is augmented by a desire to please, to protect, to comfort the object. There is no desire to hurt or to harm, only desire for what is holy and good, but it still comes tainted with this lust which offsets the balance and threatens to take away the humanity of the other.

This is if the desire is unrequited, so imagine the joy when the object feels exactly the same way about us! It is therefore quite reasonable to think that it is meant to be, that there is some Divine approval for the end of this deep-seated lonliness.

But God, while blessing the love, does not approve when it becomes the excuse for sex outside of marriage.

Yes, it seems evilly unfair, and I myself struggle to believe that there is no way that homosexuals can in anyway express their love for each other in a physical sense. However, the Natural Law is quite clear, the Holy Scripture is quite clear, the Holy Tradition of the Church is quite clear, homosexuality is not physically expressible.

Why? I used the phrase in my previous post below: sexuality is the beginning of life for someone else. As Fr Robert Hart kindly pointed out to me, there is no way that there can exist a love that is both holy and erotic (in the proper sense of the word) without there being a sexual dimension, and a sexual dimension is necessarily geared to beginning a life. That's what it is there for. Thus there is no sexuality-free version of romantic love.

This doesn't address the passion within each one of those unable to express themselves physically. I believe that it is to these individuals that a great commission has been given, namely to find new expressions of love in holiness. Since so many people of this orientation are gifted with new visions, artistic skills, sensitivity and creativity, surely they have been invited to a great and wonderful calling to find ways of expressing love beyond the confines of human physicality and yet within the Divine Ordinance.

As for the Anglican Church, well, parts of her continue daily to leave the path of Tolerant Conservatism, i.e. keeping faithful to the Catholic Faith yet bearing in love the humanity of others. But there is a true and faithful remnant both in the C of E but mainly in the Continuum where the stance is made clear. Is that stance made lovingly? Perceptably so?

With thanks to Fr Robert Hart and Ed Pacht from the Continuum.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Personal Patristics

Found this little piece of silliness.

Which Church Father are you?

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Of course, I am(!) How silly of me!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

An orthodox apology.

I have to make an apology to Alana Asby Roberts who very kindly commented on my post about excellence in worship and who asked me a few questions about my experience of the Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Now that life is leaving me alone for five minutes, I shall answer her here in the main blog in the hope that she is able to read it without hunting for it among the comments.

I have to honestly answer that my experience with the Eastern Orthodox is limited to the musical and the theological. While there are Orthodox Churches in Blighty, they don't appear to have any parishes near me, but then I'm not a driver so that has limited my vision. Of course what marks me out among Anglicans is my view of the Holy Father in Rome as the Successor of St Peter and the Vicar of Christ.

I have a great love of the Orthodox Tradition and applaud the fact that they do have the excellence in worship that is being torn out from Faddish-Anglicanism. One only has to just read through the Liturgy of St James with that call of "Sigesato pasa sarx..." by the Deacon to know that the whole Mass is devoted to the heavenly comes into contact with the earthly. I believe that the old Anglo-Papalists contemporary with Fr. Patten were able to bring that same electricity into our humdrum existence. Both Orthodoxy and Anglicanism have unique musical schemes centred around their liturgy, something which the Roman Catholics have sorely lacked even in recent years.

From the point of view of Christian Unity: if it is possible for the Eastern Orthodox Churches to regain communion with the Holy See and keep their unique identity then it is, in theory at least, possible with the Anglicans who have remained true to Holy Tradition. I do agree that the unity which Anglo-Papalists have been praying for may only be possible because of the Orthodox Church. There would be nothing to lose and all to gain there! I pray that Orthodox Catholicism would become complete once again, and may it start by mutual oecumenism of the dynamic sort.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The oldest thirty-something in town.

As I watch my hairline sweep backwards across my head as if it were mortally afraid of my nose, and see my students ask that dreaded question "Who?" when I mention Wilson, Keppel and Betty, I begin to see something of the love affair that the world has with the young.

The epithet beauty is almost exclusive to the young, and there is a good reason. We watch their vitality, freshness, newness, and see our old ideas beget new thoughts in their heads. In each young man and woman there is a power and a potentiality that we find frightening.

It's easy for us to be filled with twinges of regret and envious loathing as they remind us of the southward drift of the stomach and the stiffening of the joints that result in pistol shots emanating from under the cassock every time we genuflect.

The love affair with the young is vicarious in nature, we can live our hopes and dreams through our sons and daughters and yet we can forget that they are people in themselves. None more so is this evident with the sexualising of the young by a desperate society trying to stave off the ravages of time with more and more impossibly handsome young men and women. Society has forgotten that sexuality is the beginning of life for someone else: it is not something for the individual to possess, not a pleasure to indulge in, not for ourselves as a pastime.

This attraction that exists is a desire to possess and to live one's life over again, trying to mend all those faults that we have incurred, trying to find pleasures that we have now lost. I see so many children cleverer than I am/was, and it's a shocker to see that the intellect that I was once proud to possess eclipsed by my students. Do I regret it?

No. Not one bit. It is sobering, but "at the end of the game, all the pieces have to go back in the box" as John Ortberg says. So it is pointless to dwell on past glories. We have to be prepared for this, and allow these youngsters to play their game - use their time and chance to make this world better. To steal time from them is vanity and a form of violation. Nonetheless, we do have a duty to help them avoid the pitfalls that caught us, to help them exercise and train their skills and encourage them into thinking new thoughts built upon the foundations of the old.

My only hope is that they are shown that true life is not something that can be taken apart and analysed, but rather a God-given gift given to each one of us to do with what we will, and that also comes with responsibilities and duties, for they too will reach this stage with half a life lived and wonder, as I do, "where has it all gone?"

What about for us whose life is half lived?

Well, there is still the other half to go...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kaluza-Klein theology

Okay, what I'm not going to put forward is an actual Kaluza-Klein theory. Kaluza-Klein theory properly done is an attempt to unify the forces occuring in nature by extending the gauge group of electromagnetism into a product of possibly non-commutative Lie groups. The necessity outcome of this is that we find ourselves finding more hidden symmetries of nature, and this points to the existence of higher dimensions.

Now higher dimensions ar rather interesting for me in several ways. Four dimensional space (and by space I mean an abstract space which requires four coordinates to describe it rather than the void between stars and planets) can be endowed with many interesting structures which are unavailable in higher dimensions.

It's when we consider Time as part of the fabric of the Universe that things become fascinating. If we step outside of Time, then we find ourselves investigating a static universe in which the common housefly has turned into a string which interweaves the universe. People turn into long ropes with human cross-section which grow and then shrink and then dissipate into frayed ends as our particles disperse to the dust. The Universe consists of Space and Time together mixed inseparably. It's like holding the reel of a movie. You can see each moment in space and time in one vantagepoint.

God has created the universe and we are powerless to see his existence. We cannot see Him act precisely because His creation involves Time. From His point of view, Creation is complete, He doesn't need to continually fiddle with it. It sits in His hand and from His indescribable Eternity, He gazes upon it. For those whose existence is contained within this Universe, the Maelstrom of complex forces and changes and chances of Time veil our perceptions.

Now this is not a "God of the gaps" argument for the existence of God, that God only acts where Science cannot see Him, but rather that He acts definitely where Science can see His actions, but attributes His acts to other causes because God gives it the freedom to do so. It's perfectly possible for the miracles of Christ to have a Scientific explanation. That doesn't stop them from being miraculous provided that we get away from the idea that a miracle is an occurrence which science cannot explain. The hand of God is still in the rising and setting of the Sun, because from our point of view the Universe is not yet fully created. This Creation is not yet perfected, but it will be! One needs to step out into the extra-temporal dimensions to look.

As a scientist I do look for explanations for why things happen. There are some wonderfully glorious sets of coincidences which people attribute to supernatural occurences. However, a miracle does not need that sense of dumbfounding science. A miracle is any occurrence that causes us to reflect on the presence of God, any event that has that numinous quality that touches our lives and brings us closer to Him.

The overreaching principle that God has had in creating Humanity is that Humanity should be free to choose, to have a will of its own. Only then can a gesture of true love be meant. Thus the atheistic scientist is free to interpret an occurrence in a rational way, and quite honestly, that occurrence is indeed rightly described rationally. It is the claim that a scientific explanation naturally rules out the direct influence of God that is questionable. Scientific explanation and Divine intervention are not mutually exclusive terms. Scientific theory is not absolutely correct but it does have a verisimilitude that makes its explanations compelling. Evidence is not proof, but it makes good sense. The Sun will rise tomorrow (barring Divine Intervention). However God, being bigger and existing outside the dimensions of the Universe, does not Himself create a Universe without order and sense. We can attribute every action to His Divine Intervention, but we cannot break down our observations into determining His Divine Will in any particular matter. A sparrow falls to the ground because it is tired and due to the force of gravity. This doesn't exclude the action of God in the matter.

At the Wedding in Cana, water was changed to wine. It caused people to reflect on the person of Christ, the God Who chose not to be remote but rather to make His presence known to mankind; the God Who chose to be seen to act and intervene but yet allows others the freedom to attribute His actions elsewhere. Whether the miracle was performed by a spectacular act of legerdemain, by a miscalculation and misdirection of the servants, or by the molecules of water suddenly finding themselves interspersed with molecules of fermented grapes isn't really the issue. It's the fact that Christians see in this act the first public act of a contraversial figure in history.

Of course the atheist question is then: how can we build a societal structure on the personal revelations to a few people of an unprovable God? Surely Society must be governed in such a way as reflects only that which can be observed and scientifically demonstrated.

Again, here I see the desire of God that mankind should be free to govern itself. At the moment the Church does not wield the power that it had in the past. Perhaps this is a good thing and prevents leaders of the church from becoming corrupt. (Well that's the theory!) Our society's moral and ethical code is, in the West, largely built up from the morals and ethics inherited from past theistic government. However, there is much evidence to show that the Church has, more often than not, been under the thumb of secular government.

As Christians, we do not (indeed cannot) coerce anyone into doing our bidding even if we believe that it is for their own good. Abortion will always remain despite the Church's protestations to the contrary. The Ten Commandments will be broken no matter who is in charge. The point is, that no matter which government runs the show, Christian ethics will remain and be kept by some and rejected by others.

Atheists believe that organised religion is dangerous because it causes people to separate and object to reason on the grounds of belief in an unprovable God. Religious symbols should be banned from public areas because they cause offence to too many.

What has this all got to do with the extra dimensions? Well, that's half the problem. Atheists cannot see that solutions are possible in a way that passes their understanding. They have a need to understand. Actually, I have a need to understand, but I accept while I struggle to understand that reality, morals, ethics and ultimately the questions of life and death have elements that point out perpendicular to the sense of the Universe. As an Anglo-Papalist, I live in a contradictory world full of confused jurisdiction and disjointed ecclesionlogy. However, I have the overriding promise of God that the Church is One, despite denomination. That gives me something to look for, pray for, live for and work for.

Contradictions exist in this Universe, the problem of evil, the reconciliation of an active God with a rational explanation, and their solutions may expressible in terms of this universe but I believe only partially so. It is only looking out in Hope beyond our understanding that I obtain the conviction to work at a solution within our understanding.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Up with the gauntlet!

So here it is, my somewhat inadequate ten minute defence of my faith. Next week speaks our resident atheist, and I'll try to blog something about that then.

Homily preached at Eltham college on 14th November 2007

How old were you
when you stopped believing in the tooth fairy?

What about Father Christmas?

Of course,
you realise how to prove that neither exist.

For the tooth fairy,
you just wrap up a lego brick in tissue,
and see how that is replaced at night
with a 50p piece.

It’s tried and tested!

To show that Father Christmas doesn’t exist
– sorry, he doesn’t except as an embellishment
of the character of St Nicholas of Myra
– just write two note to Santa.

In the first,
you are nice and polite
and ask for your Dr Who action figures
or new Bratz Skiing outfit
– this one you show to Mum and Dad.
In the other,
you call Santa a fat weirdie-beardie
who smells of dead reindeer
– this one you secretly post
to the North Pole.

You’ll know he doesn’t exist
if you still get presents this Christmas.

If he does, then you’ll have to be
very apologetic next year.

Are these really sufficient proofs of non-existence?

What about God?

Does He exist?

After all, you can’t see Him,
touch Him,
you can’t test for existence by sticking Him
in a test tube and holding Him
over a Bunsen burner.

If we cannot make
any observations about His existence,
then does that necessarily mean
He cannot possibly exist?

Well think about it!

Indeed, a thought is not material,
or a force.

There is much that is non-material and yet exists
- the number one,
for example.

We understand the number one is,
and yet it has no dimension.

No mass,
no height,
nothing measurable.

It cannot be tested,
touched tasted or smelt,
yet we know what it is.

It is just one.

The question “what is it made of?”
is utterly meaningless.

You can see one apple,
but if you take the apple away,
it’s just one.

So it is possible for things
to exist without having an observable presence.

It is the same with God.

His is an existence completely other than our own.

Like the number one,
to ask what He is made of is meaningless.

God is the Creator,
and by that we mean the being
who causes all other things to be.

He is the first cause
– how can He be made of anything
if there is nothing from which He can be made?

If He is the first being,
then He doesn’t change,
because there is no material for to change.

But matter changes.

Throw a lump of sodium hydroxide
into a vat of hydrochloric acid
and all you get,
by and large is salty water.

But how does the sodium hydroxide
know how to change into salty water?

How do we know that this always happens?

How do we know that one day,
your chemistry teacher is going to throw a lump
of sodium hydroxide
into hydrochloric acid and instead of salty water,
the result is a vat of Carlsberg?

After all we haven’t finished all our opportunities
for doing that experiment yet!

Mathematical and scientific theories
only describe what happens when
sodium hydroxide meets hydrochloric acid.

They have been honed by years and years of discovery
and improvement.

We now have models which can make
some very accurate predictions,
but there are always some gaps,
and the models don’t explain
how the chemicals know how to behave.

How does sodium hydroxide know that there are rules to obey
so that it makes brine rather than
a refreshing pint of ale?

The universe does seem to conform to rules,
and if modern cosmology is correct,
then these rules appear to be being made up
as the universe continues to be.

But where do these rules come from.

If God exists as the first cause,
then He made up the rules.

Perhaps these are the only rules
that would make this universe exist?

But why does this have to be the case?
– after all these are the only rules we know.

How can we even imagine things being different?

When theists say God created the Universe,
we don’t necessarily mean that He is like
some cosmic Design and Technology teacher
gleefully carving human beings
out of a lump of 2 x 4.

It’s a horrible thought
– what would the universe be like
if a certain Design and Technology teacher
created the Universe?

It wouldn’t be just the one Big Bang, would it?

When we say “God created…”,
we mean that He caused it to be.

It’s why many scientists can believe in God
and the Big Bang and Evolution.

If God created the Rules,
then He created our existence
through Evolution,
through a Big Bang,
if indeed that’s how things did begin!

Some Scientists in an attempt to get rid of God,
say that the universe was created when
two 10 dimensional membranes collided and formed this universe.

A necessary result of this collision
is the existence of parallel universes.

The trouble is,
because we cannot break out of our Universe,
the existence of parallel universes is just
as unprovable as the existence of God.

Superstring theorists have merely replaced
one debatable being with another,
and even then this doesn’t answer the question:
where did the parallel universes come from
in the first place
and what caused them to collide?

The fact that God has created the rules
shows that He has a will and an intention
for the existence of the Universe
- how He wants it to be.

However scientific we want to be,
because we have no way of
stepping outside the universe,
or of being present at the Big Bang
we have no scientific means
of proving or disproving
the existence of God.

Thus we have no way of knowing that God exists,
we can only believe.

If Science is not the tool to use
to talk about the existence of God,
then what about ethics?

If God exists and is good, why has He created evil?

Why create a world in which we have so much,
and yet others die a pitiful death
from starvation and disease,
uncared for,

Why create a world
where your own followers and people
who believe in you tear each other
to pieces in ever more ingenious and pathetic ways?

This has more to do with free-will
– our ability to choose
to believe in God
or not to believe in Him,
the ability to make our own decision
for ourselves without being forced
to do something.

If God doesn’t exist,
then surely we have no free-will
and are merely clusters of atoms
obeying arcane laws of the universe.

In which case what meaning does life really have?

What hope for justice is there
for the Sudanese mother who loses her baby
in a military attack?

If God exists,
and, as Christians believe,
seeks to give justice to the oppressed
in a new life if not this one,
then doesn’t that offer us some hope
for our own existence?

No, it gives us no answers now,
and to others belief in God
seems like wishful-thinking
but then the existence of God
is not something that we should expect
to give easy answers
to the big questions of life.

God is absolutely unlike any other person
that we experience.

We still have to think,
argue, and wrestle with things
that we cannot understand
in the hope that our attempts
lead us perhaps a little closer to the Truth.

But what is the Truth of the matter?

Can you be so sure?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Visions of the Future?

Lazar stands on the edge of the cliff looking over the metropolis watching the distant computer-organised vehicles weaving impossibly around each other from a thousand possible directions, each conveying a single occupant a hundred miles in a matter of a few minutes.

He looks up at the star shining redly over the landscape. Soon, in the next hundred thousand years, the metropolis will be uprooted to the next solar system. Lazar himself has had to endure that five or six times now. Each time, he has been responsible for ensuring that the servile classes in his area obey the directives that involve the regulations for packing away. The serviles just don't have the intellect required to follow the complicated sequences of digits formed by high modulus values of polylogarithms encoding population distribution data. Lazar can manipulate these in sequences in his 30 second sleep period. This reminds him that next week he is having genetic modification in order to reduce his necessary sleep to 15 seconds.

As Lazar looks into the distance, his eyes firmly focussed on a winged creature preening itself with one of its three appendages a kilometre away. he tries to find one good reason why he shouldn't take that one more step forward off into oblivion. His genetically perfected eyesight scans the figures in the citadels of the metropolis, each one moving aimlessly at their work - making sure that the computers self-regulation systems are still self regulating. What else is there for them to do?

They've dreamed their dreams. They fly among the stars visiting new planets, but when you've see 5,000,000 new planets, you've seen them all. Alien species have they met, but since most of them don't really resemble the life that human beings can really converse with (like the gas vortices living in the surface of the star above them) there is not much more mystery left in meeting them. Indeed alien life doesn't seem to recognise human beings as being living things.

Lazar realises that it has been 50,000 years since he last looked into a mirror. His enhanced memory remembers it well. However, since Lazar hasn't changed in 50,000 years, he hasn't needed to check his appearance. Nothing changes about him. his life goes on. His pleasures have been fulfilled a thousand thousand times over. He has had sex a myriad times with a myriad people of several genetically enhanced genders, and has fulfilled his quota of 3 children per planet that he has visited. He remembers his 5,000,000th educational stage that he reached last month with top marks. What pleasure does education have for him now? He remembers every word that he has ever read in his life, plus there is all the information that he has downloaded directly into his brain via the computer interface.

What else is there for Lazar to accomplish? So he shrugs and takes the final step off of the cliff into the lava flow below. Bessed oblivion?

The central computer of the metropolis recognises that Lazar has ceased to function. It then sends a signal to the biological reproduction centre which authorises a clone to be generated from Lazar's DNA. The clone is prepared in seconds. The computer interface is inserted into its neck and all of Lazar's memories are downloaded into it.

On the table, for the 4,000th time, Lazar awakes. Looking up at the ceiling above him he reads the words: "Science: mastery of the universe."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Excellence in worship

While I've been on Sabbatical, I've been visiting various churches of various denominations. It's interesting that in each parish, all I've found is an attitude of "well that'll do, won't it?" People will do enough to make the Mass work and/or a vaguely pleasant experience, but no more. I often wonder what's going through the head of the average congregant. What are they expecting to happen when they come to church? What are they expecting to do themselves?

Most of the time, the liturgy, the music, the sermon, and subsequently, the whole ethos is geared to accomodating the "comfy chair" syndrome that pervades most of society and panders to what the congregation wants rather than what forms an adequate expression of our love of God. It's interesting that these two concepts of "what the congregation wants" and "adequate expression of our love for God" are either totally discrepant or only common at the lowest level. I was most distressed to walk into a Roman Catholic Church and find the same vision of the Mass as entertainment (guitars, flutes, trendy songs with lowest common denominator lyrics) as exists in Anglicanism.

As a Church, we need to strive for excellence in worship. No, of course we are not going to end up with the perfect Mass. There will always be a flaw or imperfection in the way that we do things. However, spiritually, the West is rapidly reaching the point where God will say as He does in Amos (v.21-27):

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?

But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.

The quality of belief comes only from the quality in which we are prepared to invest in Worship of God, and this is a notion that each member of the congregation needs to be met with head on. We have to work to remove insincerity that affects even the best Mass.

To this end I'm making a start on trying to answer the question: What makes Excellent Worship? In view of the fact that all our worship is imperfect, we have a great scope for working for improvement in each act of worship that we do. We need:

  1. Excellent Liturgy:
    I've written on this before. The purpose of the liturgy is to form a process from the temporal world to the Divine. It needs language that will strive to reflect on that transcendent nature and provide an adequate springboard for the soul to dive off into the Eternal Source. Excellent liturgy points the way univocally to God for the humblest soul, yet challenges the position of the most exalted. Excellent liturgy opens the way to the refreshment of the Soul, and needs to reflect on the pitiable state of humanity encouraging and drawing them into that Spring of Living Water.

  2. Excellent Catechesis:
    I've also written about liturgy as having a didactic role, that it should not pander to the lowest common denominator in order to draw up the understanding of the Faithful. However, further than that, we now have entire generations who are unchurched and unlearned in the faith, the Church needs to focus its instruction on the Traditional faith. This can only come with an Excellent Catechesis. Excellent Catechesis has only one aim: - to pass on the beliefs of our Fathers to the next generation fully and faithfully. Each Parish must have a full educational programme of catechesis directed at the young. This is exceendingly difficult as it means that each Parish effectively needs to take on the role of School in educating infants, children and adolescents in the ways of Christ. A parish that does not invest in a full, planned, and thorough catechesis of the young, but rather a scrappy, hit-and-miss, vague and impromptu Sunday School will lose.

    For the Adults, this Catechesis needs to continue also. This is why house groups are vital. One should not remain a member of a Parish without being part of a housegroup which meets during the week to read Holy Scripture or to discuss Doctrine. The individual needs to be challenged by the sound teaching of the Church so that points where the individual disagrees with that Doctrine can be investigated and that the individual can truly grow.

  3. Excellent Participation:
    In the CofE,traditional liturgy has been deemed "not inclusive enough" and leaves little scope for the Congregation to play a part. The consequence is that many of the Eucharistic prayers in Common Worship are interspersed with refrains like "To you be glory and praise forever" or "it is right to give thanks and praise". The sentiment is fine, but it's like scratching Michelangelo's David to insert precious jewels. The jewels are beautiful but their insertion into something else that's beautiful, but in a different way, is damaging to both. Likewise the process that draws the human being to the Incarnate Word present in the Host is interrupted with a repeated refrain. It's a fact that if you repeat a word or phrase frequently it loses meaning particularly in an environment in which one's attention is being drawn in several different directions. It is a good thing to pray the Jesus prayer repeatedly in time with one's breathing because it is an act of personal devotion and private prayer in which an individuals attention is locked on one purpose - namely an interior search for proximity with God. At Mass, however, the search is exterior and in communion with others, and with one's attention being diverted out to the consecration, it takes an effort beyond most of us simultaneously to give meaning to a repeated refrain.

    The result of this "inclusion" of the congregation into a CofE liturgy produces a confusion of roles and practices. What is the real purpose of the vicarious nature of the priest if the Congregation are expected to divert their attention away from the altar in order to make a response which is well-meaning but not necessary.

    Excellent Participation removes confusion. Each congregant knows why he is going to Mass and what his role is in that Mass. If he is "just" (there is never "just") a congregant, then he must realise that He is to give glory to God and to receive nourishment from Him in an organised way. There must be a submission of the individual to the liturgy so that Communion is full and God glorified by each person acting unity with the parish and the whole Church. This will mean the individual prays the Eucharistic prayer attentively and devotedly as an individual, but allowing the priest as alter Christus to be his voice. The participation need not be vocal, and it certainly should not intrude on the central voice of the priest. Excellent Participation must also remind the individual that his duty towards God is to live a Christian life daily, and to work hard at serving God in everything, so that the Mass becomes his observation of the sabbath in which he rests. It is only people who encounter Christ once a week who cry out for something more to do in the liturgy.

    Excellence in worship can only come about if the Church impresses upon the individual that he must participate in a Christian life daily, and strive to make the Kingdom of God real in the world around him. How is the Church making and equipping new disciples? If a parish has no plan to turn congregants into effective and participating disciples then how is it still a part of the Church?

These are only a few preliminary thoughts on how we can try to strive for excellence in our worship of God. They are ill-formed and have gaps in, and I intend to keep looking for ways in which I can make some of these ideas more precise, and realisable. The Church's main enemy is that voice within that cries "inclusivity". A person can only really be included into the Church if he is willing to be changed into a Christian. The Church can but only minister to one who wants his own way, and he can never enter it until he submits to the teachings of Christ that the Church has received from the beginning. A parish that tries to change to become "more inclusive" will only remain a Church if by "more inclusive" it means broadcasting the message of God so that more people feel called to be changed into Christians and submit to His kingdom.

Monday, October 29, 2007

St Jude - patron saint of Anglo-Papalism?

Today is the feast of SS Simon and Jude, apostles of Christ, transferred from yesterday.

I often feel sorry for St Jude since he has been tarred with possessing the same name as Judas (surnamed Iscariot). Of course I also have a sympathy for the Iscariot as well. If ever there was one who made the wrong decision, it was he. However in the citation of Judas Iscariot as an example of perfidy and treachery, St Jude Thaddeus, the rather subtle and more background apostle, only is asked to pray as a last resort, hence his patronage of lost causes.

Might St Jude be the saint who ought to be praying for Anglicanism in the West?

It's interesting that in his epistle, St Jude says:

3 ἀγαπητοί πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει

4 παρεισέδυσαν γάρ τινες ἄνθρωποι οἱ πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι εἰς τοῦτο τὸ κρίμα ἀσεβεῖς τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν χάριτα μετατιθέντες εἰς ἀσέλγειαν καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι

5 ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι εἰδότας ὑμᾶς πάντα ὅτι ὁ κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν

6 ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν

7 ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου δίκην ὑπέχουσαι

8 ὁμοίως μέντοι καὶ οὗτοι ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι σάρκα μὲν μιαίνουσιν κυριότητα δὲ ἀθετοῦσιν δόξας δὲ βλασφημοῦσιν

3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. (Epistle of St Jude vv3-8)

Personally, I just don't see how the Liberals in the United States can come to any conclusion other than that their blessing of same sex marriages can be anything other than futile at the least and corrupting at the most. There are plenty of other of scriptural references which say the same thing. Yet I cannot possibly be right because I am not a U.S Bishop who are obviously so much more learned than I and who can show me that "going after strange flesh" doesn't really mean homosexual practice between a committed couple.

Conservative members would I'm sure be forgiven for thinking that ECUSA is a hopeless cause, and around the Catholic members, there must be several prayers aimed in the direction of St Jude. You see, like St Jude, faithful Episcopalians ar being tarred with the same brush as those who seek to reinterpret Holy Scripture to their own devices. While some strive to get out, for others it is not so easy, and yet they still remain faithful.

The same is true of the Church Of England as it languishes in its "re-invention" as a trendy and "relevant" church. There are Traditional parishes but far and few between. Similarly, this is true of parishes of the Roman Catholic Church in its swapping of dignified hymn singing for the twang of guitars and trendification of the Mass.

The future for Anglicanism looks bleak, as does Traditional Catholicism. I still maintain my Anglo-Papalist course remembering that the movement is very much temporary in its nature. So what does St Jude say to those who are trying to overcome vast obstacles?

20 ὑμεῖς δέ ἀγαπητοί ἐποικοδομοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ὑμῶν πίστει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ προσευχόμενοι

21 ἑαυτοὺς ἐν ἀγάπῃ θεοῦ τηρήσατε προσδεχόμενοι τὸ ἔλεος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον

22 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομένους

23 οὓς δὲ σῴζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες οὓς δὲ ἐλεᾶτε ἐν φόβῳ μισοῦντες καὶ τὸν ἀπὸ τῆς σαρκὸς ἐσπιλωμένον χιτῶνα

24 τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ φυλάξαι ὑμᾶς ἀπταίστους καὶ στῆσαι κατενώπιον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ ἀμώμους ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει

25 μόνῳ θεῷ σωτῆρι ἡμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν δόξα μεγαλωσύνη κράτος καὶ ἐξουσία πρὸ παντὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ νῦν καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

So there's the message for Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Papalists alike. Just keep at it. Just keep holding to the Catholic Faith. There are so many in both the Holy See and in the Anglican Church who are just trying too hard to include what cannot be included and who say that Anglo-Catholicism is just clinging to the past, and that the Anglo-Papalists are confusedly clinging to the past. There is much that both aspects of the via media have to be hopeful for. For the Anglo-Papalists, we have a Pope who seeks to reinstate the Traditional Mass and remove the insipidity of modern song-writing. For the Anglo-Catholics, there is a fresh and strengthening recourse in the Anglican Catholic and Traditional Anglican Churches.

Still much to pray for. Are the Prayers of St Jude still welcome?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Heard this read today. It spoke volumes.

DESIDERATA by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly & clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull & ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud & aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain & bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing future of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment
it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness.
Beyond wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees & the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours & aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Does a Christian need self-confidence?

This question has been puzzling me for some time. I see many a student paralysed in maths exam purely because of a lack of confidence in their ability to solve the problems. They check and double check and, if the question has a non-obvious answer, they become distressed when they reach that inevitable but strange conclusion.

One recent problem involved finding a number which turned out to have to satisfy two different conditions, first x lies between 2 and 4 and second, x is less than 2. Well clearly, a number cannot be both between 2 and 4 and simultaneously less than 2, yet when they reached this conclusion, several students doubted their own work and tried to rectify it by altering their answers.

This leads me to the idea of having confidence in our ability. Can a Christian who is necessarily aware of their own fallibility as a person ever have any self-confidence? It would seem not, and indeed the best answer is to have confidence first in God rather than the self. However, let's just unpick this to see in what way our confidence should manifest itself.

The fact is that each one of us is fallible and limited in every single aspect of our being. We can do nothing without the possiblity of failure lurking in the background like an uninvited member of the paparazzi, haunting our every step. It is precisely our awareness of failure that can paralyse us into inactivity. As Christians, we have to walk this path of life doing what we can, examining our talents and making use of our faculties despite their inevitable failure.

So the problem with self-confidence has its roots in our perceptions of success and failure. Whenever we start a task, we often begin it with a preconceived notion of what it would mean to succeed or fail. This is inevitable in such systems within society as our education systems where success or failure is determined by a percentage score on an exam. Even if we are not being formally examined, we construct parameters for the pass mark in ever undertaking we begin. We often measure the outcome of our labours by comparing the actual result with the intended result; the greater the discrepancy the greater our perception of failure.

Even if we are in complete control of the work, we often take our pass mark from the expectations of others in society. Unintentionally the perceptions and judgments of others affect our own judgment of the quality of our work and thus a judgment on ourselves as human beings. We all know that we "shouldn't care what other people think" but that's a challenge which we nonetheless fail to apply to our lives. We judge ourselves by our actions all to easily, even if our intentions were honourable.

The sooner each one of us stops seeing ourselves as something to be useful to society the better. The sooner that each one of us loves oneself as a person despite faults and failings and foibles, the more that we realise that our successes or failures in life are not the measures of a human being, the more we can be confident that success or failure is only of a passing significance. Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas would probably say that we cannot measure the substance of a human being, we only measure the accidents of our being. Our substance as human beings requires only love to make us substantial as humans, and that Love comes from God creating us in His own image.

Ultimately, the Prince of the bigger picture, who is responsible for putting everything into a cosmic perspective will show us the effects of our "successes" and "failures" and throw our understanding and measurements upside down. After all, one only ascends the ladder of humility by descending.

So Christian self-confidence must lie, not in the confidence of our ability, but rather in the reality of our existence and its intrinsic meaning as an object created for loving and being loved. Our confidence is in the fact that no matter what we do (including the worst sins), we still have the opportunity to find our worth in the love of God. He will judge us according to what we do, but this judgment is Eternal and far beyond the understandings and comprehensions of what we do. Our self-confidence lies in our confidence that we are loved by God. Do we really believe that?

...and down comes the gauntlet!

I would very much appreciate your prayers. I have been asked by the powers that be in my school to give an address (reasonably light-hearted and yet a little challenging) to the sixth-form as part of a series of three addresses on belief in (or otherwise) God. It has fallen to me to begin the series with the address on Theism and I will be followed by an Atheist and an Agnostic.

It's a big ask to present an apology in front of young adults and, of course, out of my own steam I cannot do this but seek help from my Creator. Having your prayers supporting me would be a great fillip.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What is this thing called wuv?

Homily preached at Eltham College on Wednesday 10th October 2007.

Pass the sick-bag!

That’s the reaction of boys aged between 10 and 13 to the sight of the modern-day Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Anthony and Cleopatra, or Katie Price and Peter Andre engaging in the contest of “who can reach the other’s uvula first.”

Of course a courting couple, to use your grandmother’s phrase, would call this activity kissing and that their reason for exchanging several pints of saliva is that they are in “in love.”

What does “love” mean for you?

Does it make your stomach turn?

Do you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed?


All too often our view of love is obscured by clichés and commercialisation.

St Valentine’s Day usually sees the lovesick swain spending thousands of pounds on objects coloured pink to persuade the object of his desire to engage in a mutual massage of molars.

Shops are filled with balloons and flowers and chocolates and teddy-bears wearing T-shirts which say that most tiresome, vapid and odious of phrases “I wuv you.”

It is sickening, but why?

Think about it!

It is common practice among many animals for the male of the species to find some trinket, a shiny stone, a collection of the right sort of twigs, or a mouthful of dead caterpillars.

In the eyes of the female, the male who can provide the best material for bringing up a family is going to be the better father.

So, human males are merely following their biological instincts in buying hideously expensive and ludicrously useless trinkets for the women.

Likewise it is the same biological instincts which are responsible for the plumage parade of the peacock and scrapping of tom cats in the alley at night that are also responsible for the lad wearing his hair long and dying a strip of it green and using up half of the British supply of Davidoff all for a night out with a buxom blonde from Bromley.

But is it love?


Animals do not have a concept of love.

They thrive merely on biological instinct.

They pair up in order to produce babies, who grow up in order to pair up and produce babies who grow up in order to pair up and produce babies et c.

That is all.

Human beings wonder what all this is for.

What is the point of having children if they are just going to have children who are just going to have children and so on?

To what end?

Human beings see very clearly the concept of love as separating us from basic biological machines.

But why is it that we feel revolted by outward expressions of love?

Many of us who see the stock on sale around Valentine’s Day feel a sense of loathing because all these items are so superficial – they don’t really mean what they are saying.

The “I wuv you” teddy bear makes us uncomfortable because it conveys a message about something which love isn’t.

Indeed, it isn’t talking about love at all, but this tedious and meaningless quantity called “wuv”.

What is this thing called “wuv”?


For many of us, the idea of love makes us feel uncomfortable because it seems to involve a loss of reason, or control.

The rather soppy notion of love in our Jeremy Kyle culture forgets the mathematician Pascal's famous saying, "The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing."

Love is something that is intensely personal, that invades our innermost beings – our thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences.

It is dealing with this invasion of our inner selves that takes effort.

We become embarrassed through sheer fear that we are going to forget ourselves and make a fool of ourselves in front of our mates.

But where would we be without love?


Look at your life and imagine.

What if when you go home tonight and find that there is no love in your family?

No warmth towards you, no kind words of greeting, just coldness, indifference, uncaring - there are folk who do come home to this.

That raises a different kind of discomfort – a bleakness and a fear.

No matter how embarrassed we are at the idea of love, we realise that nonetheless we need it.

St Paul tells us the attributes of proper love:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

Love never comes to an end.


So if ever you are patient with a friend, or make allowances for someone, then you are showing love.

That pain you get when you miss someone who has moved away or died is love.

That need to help someone out just because they are in difficulty is love, whether you recognise it or not.

This might not be something you’d like to think of.

You’d still feel mighty awkward if your friend sat next to you suddenly turned to you and said “I love you.”

Most of us would run a mile, or at very least start edging away very slowly.

But what we should be edging away from is this idea of love as being a slushy, sentimental, vacuous, vomit-inducing and at times downright rude emotion.

Instead we should see love in the life of Mother Theresa of Calcutta who devoted her life to the poor of India.

We should see love in the lives of Edith Cavell and Raoul Wollenberg who sought to save lives rather than sit back and just let them be destroyed and so paid with it with their own lives.

And indeed for those of us who are Christians, we cannot fail to see anything but true love in the self-sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross.

There is nothing vacuous or artificial about the love that resides in these folk.

Whom do you really love?

Can you honestly describe that love as artificial?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Does anyone hear that tearing sound?

The folk at the Continuum have reported upon the Common Cause Partnership, the alliance of conservative American Parishes opposed to the liberal excesses of ECUSA. Albion Land comments:

"In the short term, however, we face the prospect of Avignon versus Rome -- two entities vying with each other as the true face of "mainstream Anglicanism" and seeking to convince the world of their bonae fides."
Which will be the true Anglicanism? Only the Anglicanism with the roots can survive. As we remember the parable of the Sower, it is only the Church whose roots go into the deep soil that will grow and produce the fruit of love because she bears the message.

It will not be the feeble "Anglicanism" of Dr. Jefferts-Schori that just tries to reinterpret Scripture to suit the whims of the people. This will be attractive to people because it will not require them to think but rather just to be "nice" people. It will issue no challenge to live the hard Gospel. It has no teeth to challenge wrongdoing because it has already accepted wrongdoing as allowable.

It will only be the Anglicanism that faithfully holds to the Truth as it has always been taught. If she holds to this course, then there is only one, wonderful outcome: Reunion with the members of the Holy See that hold the same course and the Orthodox Churches.

The split has to happen for Anglicanism to grow. We cannot hang on to doctrinally dead weight any more.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Critical thinking!

Homily preached at Eltham College on Monday 24th September 2007

Nigel gets out of the shower,
puts on his new CK boxers,
socks, best jeans
and new silk shirt.

He decides to wear
his shirt half open
to expose the new gold chain
around his neck.


For today Nigel
is auditioning for X-Factor!

For good measure,
he empties three-quarters of a can of Lynx
all over himself,
so that Dannii Minogue
will pay him a bit more attention
and maybe give him
her phone number.

Four hours of queuing later,
Nigel finds himself
in front of Simon Cowell,
Sharon Osborne,
Dannii Minogue
and Louis Walsh.

“What are you going
to sing for us tonight, Nigel?”

“I believe in a thing called love, by the Darkness”
says Nigel knowing
that he’s going to knock the judge’s socks off
in a rendition that will make
Justin Hawkins sound
like a bag of nutty slack.

And so he begins.

The effect on the judges is electric.

Both Louis and Simon sit back in their chairs,
eyes and mouths wide open
in obvious awe at Nigel’s brilliant voice.

Sharon’s up and screaming
at him like a groupie
and the lovely Dannii,
object of Nigel’s affections,
is sitting in her chair gasping
for breath and fanning her face
with her papers.

With a flourish, Nigel finishes the song.

“Well, what do you think?”
he asks,
thinking “aha, it’s in the bag!”

Simon is the first to recover his composure.

“I’ve heard nothing like that ever in my life.”

Nigel smiles but Simon continues,
“and I hope I’ll never hear anything
like that again.

This is a singing contest,
and you cannot sing.”

“Whaddya mean?”
asks a visibly shocked Nigel,
“Sharon loved it?”

“No dear, I was standing up
and waving to get you to stop.

My ears are ringing.”

Nigel looks to Dannii, his last hope.

“No!” says Dannii,
“I’m suffocating from
an overpowering smell of Lynx.”

“But this isn’t fair,” says Nigel
his temper rising,
“I come in here and do my best
and you have the cheek to tell me
that I cannot sing!

I used to think you were good people,
that you used to be able to spot talent,
when clearly you can’t spot talent
when it’s standing right in front of you.”

“Nigel,” says Simon,
“I’ve heard many singers,
and have worked with
many professional musicians.

I am qualified to say that you can’t sing.”

Nigel storms out in a huff
leaving a cloud of indignantly smelling Lynx
wafting behind him.


A few weeks later, Nigel sits down
to watch his audition on telly.

He sees himself,
a fat middle-aged man
prancing about with his shirt unbuttoned
and his beer-gut sticking out,
screeching like a cat
who’s just fallen into a pond
of piranha
or a countertenor with cystitis!

What do you imagine Nigel’s reaction is to the truth?

Will he deny it, or will it hurt him deeply?

What do you think is the real source
of Nigel’s embarrassment?


We’re all talented at something
- Football,
playing the organ,
or running a school.

Some of us have other talents
that aren’t immediately recognisable
but which mean a lot to those around us
– the ability to listen
or to make peace in an argument,
the ability to introduce people
to others
or simply to be a good friend.

Each one of us has something
to give to the world.

The difficulty is how far
can we reasonably expect to take it?

Perhaps you can sing.

Not like Nigel who couldn’t hit a note
if it were stapled to a 10 foot-wide punchbag,
but really sing.

How far do you want to take your singing ability?

In order to find out,
you have to assess how good you are
and how much it will cost you
to improve your voice.

If you’re good at soccer
and you want to play for Man United,
is this just a pipe dream
or do you know what you have to do
in order for Sir Alex Fergusson
to say “Yes!”?

It does mean taking a risk,
a risk of embarrassment or rejection,
the possibility that our attempt
will leave us feeling smaller
than a mouse’s iPod.

There’s no way of knowing
what we’re capable of until we try.

Nigel thinks he can sing
but until he tried he wouldn’t
have known for sure.

However, it’s important
to receive any criticism
we get with honesty,
even if that criticism appears to be unfair,
and be fair, Simon Cowell
does ham up his criticism for the telly.

But Nigel refuses to accept the truth
from experienced music producers.

If he finally realises that
his singing upsets the dogs half a mile away
then he may find a way
to overcome the problem.

Perhaps his voice
isn’t suited to The Darkness,
perhaps he might make
another version of The Streets.

He will only improve
if he takes a risk and receives
his criticism with honesty.

The same goes with anyone of us
– if you want to find out
whether you’re going to be good at something,
then take a risk,
but be honest about the outcome.

Christians believe that any little talent
has the possibility of changing the world,
and if we exercise our talents for God,
then we change the world for the better.

Whether you are a Christian or not,
you will be surprised at just how talented
you really are
if you are just willing to risk
a trial and learn from your critics.

How well can you take criticism?

Is this something you need to improve upon?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

O Sabbath Rest by Galilee...

Well, that's my last sermon at Church for a little while, though I've homilies to preach at school.
I've decided that I need a six-month Sabbatical from my Readership owing to the many pressures, physical, intellectual and spiritual that are impinging on me at the moment. There has to be something wrong when you leave church feeling worse than when you went in, so I'm taking a break to rethink things.

I'll keep blogging as best I can as I find that it's the best way to offload all the thoughts that come to me, and indeed from the valuable comments that I'm getting (though not enough) I learn much.

Please pray for me at this time.

Beaux people.

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church Swanscombe on 16th September 2007 based on and St Luke xv.1-10

It’s six thirty in the morning,
and the sheep need to be out grazing.

Sam packs his provisions for the day -
food, drink and Bible -
and, for the first time in his life,
prepares to move the sheep off
to their usual pasture .

He doesn’t have
very many sheep to look after, just 27
– all belonging to Mr Roache the farm owner.

As he lets the sheep loose into the pasture,
Sam counts them,
remembering that Mr Roache was only joking
when he told him to count the legs
and then divide by 4.

It’s when he reaches a count of 26
that he realises that the smallest sheep,
barely a lamb, has disappeared.

Sam remembers the parable of the shepherd
who leaves 99 sheep to find the missing one.

“Ah, “he says,
“that must be the right course
of action to take.”

So, he leaves his 26 sheep in their usual pasture
and wanders back to find the one missing.

It takes Sam an hour before he finds it
caught in a hedge where it has tried
to grab a blackberry just out of its reach,
so he disentangles it
and makes for the pasture
And the other sheep.

What do you think he will find
when he returns?


Well, not surprisingly
Sam returns to find the pasture empty.

Apart from the small one
that he’s brought back with him,
the hill-side is a sheep free zone.

Well, you can understand
that Sam is upset, can’t you?

After all, he’s tried to be a good shepherd
and follow what the Lord Jesus
tells him in the Parable.

“"What man of you,
having a hundred sheep,
if he loses one of them,
does not leave the ninety-nine
in the wilderness,
and go after the one which is lost
until he finds it?”

Sam loses his temper, “O God,
I’ve tried to follow your word
and treat these sheep just as you’ve wanted.

You tell me to leave my sheep
just to come after this one who went missing.

Now they’ve all gone missing
apart from this one little sheep
who has returned with me.”


There is a rustle behind him that makes Sam jump.

He turns and he sees Mr Roache,
the owner of the sheep standing behind him.

“What are you having a go at God for?

Is it His fault that you’re in this mess?”

“Well, yes,” says Sam indignantly,
“I merely followed what He says in the Bible.”

“And look where it’s got you!”
says Mr Roache,
“all in a pickle.

Since when has the Bible
been a comprehensive manual
for the herding of sheep?

You might as well use Moby Dick
for tips on whaling
and “A very hungry caterpillar”
for breeding butterflies."

Is Mr Roache right?


"Read the passage again,”
says Mr Roache.

“"What man of you, having a hundred sheep,
if he loses one of them,
does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness,
and go after the one
which is lost until he finds it?”

“Now,” says Mr Roache,
“where does it say he left the 99 sheep?”

“Well, according to the text,
it says in the wilderness,” says Sam,
his faith shaken.

“Right,” says Mr Roache,
“but what you’ve got to understand
is that the wilderness was the best place
for pasturing sheep in those days!

The sheep would have known
that place like the back of their hooves.

The Good Shepherd is not going
to leave the sheep on the edge of a cliff,
or a minefield
or in a place with a sign saying
“Wolf Enclosure” is he?”

“But what about all the sheep?

I can’t see them,” asks Sam, rather agitated.

“Call ‘em up,” says Mr Roache, “just like I taught you.”

Sam gives the call.

One by one,
the sheep appear out of the various nooks and crannies,
looking rather bemused at being called back
after only a few hours grazing.

But it’s Sam who looks sheepish.

“You see, Sam, the sheep know this pasture very well.

They can disappear into all their usual haunts
all safe and sound.

But I am pleased with you
‘cos you saw that little Doris was missing
and you did exactly what
any good shepherd would do
– left the sheep somewhere
where they would be safe,
and went to find the missing one.

I’m glad to see that you value all the sheep the same,
that just because one gets lost on the way
doesn’t mean that you forget it.

You could have said,
‘blow Doris, I’ve got the majority of the sheep,
that’ll do me,’
but instead you know that
all of these sheep matter equally.”

And it is at this point that Sam understands the parable.


The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd
and seeks to bring back any lost from the fold.

It’s not that He does not value the 99 sheep
– they are the ones whom He loves and keeps safe –
but He will seek out those who are lost
and rejoice when they are found.

He does so because He loves them
and will not allow any single one
to be overlooked.

Is the Lord Jesus looking for you?

What will you do so that He can find you?