Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Photo of the Week

The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

- Romans 8:19, 21

Monday, February 17, 2020

Quote of the Week

(On pastoral ministry):

"What is the distinct service of the pastor-theologian? We reply: for confessing, comprehending, celebrating, communicating, commending and conforming themselves and others to what is in Christ.... In sum: the real work of theology is the work of getting real--conforming people's speech, thoughts, and actions to the mind and heart of Jesus Christ, the source and standard of all truth, goodness, and beauty."

- Kevin Van Hoozer, from The Pastor as Public Theologian

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

(Frescoes, Vank Cathedral, Armenian church in Isfahan, Iran; photo by Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA)

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, that we may with one mind and one mouth glorify Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Accession Prayer for the reign of King George I

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hymn of the Week: I Lift My Heart to God Alone

One of the major sub-genres of Protestant hymnography is the hymn of conversion or repentance. I didn't really have one in my corpus that fit that category, so I wrote one this week. It's to the tune of the old English song "O Waly Waly," often used as an alternate tune for "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

I Lift My Heart to God Alone

I lift my heart to God alone:
No idol shall receive my praise.
To the true faith I'm coming home,
There to abide all of my days.

Long have I wandered in the night,
Pursuing sin to ease my pain;
But now I'm turning to the light,
And finding peace in Jesus' name.

Lord, I repent! I bow my heart
In sorrow deep for all I've done;
And you your grace to me impart,
All through the merit of your Son.

His righteousness has clothed my soul
In beauty of his holy love;
By Jesus' blood I am made whole,
All praises be to God above!

Now let the voice of his redeemed
Rise up before him evermore;
May every word and every deed
Proclaim the glory of the Lord!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Antony and the Desert Fathers

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  - 1 Cor. 9:24-27

Antony and the Desert Fathers and Mothers

- Antony lived from 251 to 356 AD in Egypt 

- Born into a wealthy family, he renounced his wealth and went alone into the desert to pursue a life of prayer and virtue.

- The verse that changed Antony’s life was Matthew 19:21--"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

- His biography, The Life of Antony, written in the 4th century by Athanasius, became one of the most influential books of all time and helped launch the Christian monastic movement worldwide.

- He is known as "The Father of All Monks," and was described as "a man of joy and of a settled state of soul."

- The Desert Fathers and Mothers include many men and women from the 3rd through the 5th centuries who renounced their former lives, fled into the wilderness, and lived lives of fasting, prayer, spiritual warfare, and the pursuit of holiness.

Quotes and Sayings

Abba Antony: "Let us not think, as we look at the world, that we have renounced anything of much consequence, for the whole earth is very small compared with the kingdom of heaven….Therefore let the desire for possessions take hold of no one, for what gain is it to acquire these things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather get those things which we can take away with us—things like prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from anger, and hospitality? If we possess these virtues, we shall find them preparing a welcome for us there in the land of the meek-hearted." (Life of Antony 1.17)

Abba Poemen: "A man will be always tripped up by that thing which he will not cut off from himself."

When Abba Macarius returned to his cell one day, he found a man stealing his belongings. He reacted calmly and helped the thief load his donkey with the objects from his cell. As the thief departed, Macarius recited the words of Job: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Abba Agatho: "If an angry man raises the dead, God is still displeased with his anger."

A young man came to Abba Macarius and said, "I want to become a holy man by tomorrow’s end." Macarius smiled and said, "To be a holy man, what you must do is this: Spend the day at the cemetery, cursing the dead. Throw sticks and stones at them, call them names—whatever you can think of. Spend the whole day doing nothing but that." So the young man went and did as Abba Macarius had said. When he returned at the end of the day, Macarius asked him what the dead had said in response to his abuses. "Nothing," the young man replied. "They’re dead." So Macarius sent him back the next day and told him to spend the entire day doing nothing but praising the dead. "Call them righteous men and women, compliment them, say everything wonderful you can imagine." So the young man went out and spent the next day complimenting the dead. When he returned, Macarius asked him again how the dead had responded. "They didn’t say a word," said the young man. "Ah," Macarius replied. "They must be holy indeed. You insulted them, and they did not answer. You praised them, and they thought it of no account. Go and do likewise, my friend, taking no account either of the scorn of men or of their praises. And you too will be a holy man."

Abba Antony: "Don’t be afraid to hear about virtue….The Greeks travel all over the earth and cross the seas in their quest for knowledge. But we have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue….For it is not far from us, nor is it outside of ourselves, but the quest for virtue is within us, and is easy if only we are willing." (Life of Antony 1.20)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Evangeliad (13:44-14:1)

Section 13:44-14:1 (corresponding to Luke 7:24-28; Matt. 11:7-11)

After John's followers turned and were gone,
Christ spoke to the gathered crowds about John:
"What did you go to the desert to see?
A wind-shaken reed? No? What did you see?

A man arrayed in the softest of clothes?
I'll tell you where you would find some of those--
The king's palaces hold such finery,
Herodian courts stuffed with luxury.

You went not to see such things. What then?
A prophet, the lowest and highest of men?
Indeed, and more than a prophet, I say,
For John is the one the Scriptures proclaimed:

'I'm sending my messenger before you appear,
To prepare the way for you to draw near.'
Believe what I say, for truly I speak:
None born of women is greater than he.

Yet now God does something new in my name,
Something of which John could only proclaim;
So the least of all in the kingdom of God
Shall be greater than all the greatness of John."

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Photo of the Week

Do not be in a greater hurry than the Most High.

- 2 Esdras 4:34 (Old Testament Apocrypha)