One Chalice:One Body

one-chalice

The Additional Directions in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer contain these instructions.

“During the Great Thanksgiving it is appropriate that there be only one chalice on the Altar, and if need be, a flagon of wine from which additional chalices may be filled after the Breaking of the Bread.” p.407

Why just one chalice? There are several reasons.

First it best depicts the historical narrative. The text says “In the same way he also took the cup, after supper saying….” Jesus took the cup. He did not use many cups nor did He distribute individual cups to the disciples.

Second Jesus said, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood.”

This one cup signifies the New Covenant that Jesus makes with His Church. He did not make an individual covenant with each disciple rather He invited them and us into His one New Covenant.

Third this one cup signifies that we are one Body. A Roman missal puts it well. “The presence on the altar of a single chalice and one large paten can signify the one bread and one chalice by which we are gathered into one Body by the Holy Spirit and may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ.”

American Christianity is fractured by individualism so perfectly represented by the egregious practice of distributing the Blood of Christ in tiny plastic cups. This is a celebration of “me and Jesus” rather than St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians of the Church being one Body. There is a lovely line in in one of our hymns.

As grain once scattered on the hillsides

was in this broken bread made one

so from all lands your church be gathered

into your kingdom by your Son.

 

Immigrants or Missionaries?

muslim-immigrants

(4:100) He who emigrates in the way of Allah will find in the earth enough room for refuge and plentiful resources. And he who goes forth from his house as a migrant in the way of Allah and His Messenger, and whom death overtakes, his reward becomes incumbent on Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.131

  1. It should be understood clearly that it is only permissible for a person who believes in the true religion enjoined by God to live under the dominance of an un-Islamic system on one of the following conditions. First, that the believer struggles to put an end to the hegemony of the un-Islamic system and to have it replaced by the Islamic system of life, as the Prophets and their early followers had done. Second, that he lacks the means to get out of his homeland and thus stays there, but does so with utmost disinclination and unhappiness.

 

I found this verse from the Koran with this commentary. Two things stand out. First a Muslim who dies while immigrating to a non-Muslim country, for the cause of Allah and the Prophet, is as assured of Allah’s acceptance as a suicide bomber. Second the task of the Muslim immigrant is to end the hegemony of his host nation by replacing their religion with Islam. This would also involve replacing the laws of the host nation with Sharia.

When the mass immigrations were happening across Europe I wondered two things. First why are they not going to Muslim countries? Second, why are there so many young men? Perhaps in part it is because the aforementioned verse in the Koran.

I have read a number of calls for compassion toward Muslim immigrants and while I agree, we must be sure that they are truly immigrants who want to become Americans and not missionaries who want to undo our democracy and form a Muslim theocracy. I hope that our government can create a vetting process that will separate the honest immigrant from a fundamentalist who opposes the nation whose freedom he enjoys. While I fully support caring for the homeless and the oppressed, I certainly don’t want my tax dollars funding Muslim missionaries.

Window to the Heart

window-to-the-heart

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out….and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

These are some challenging verses for folks who insist that every word of Scripture is to be taken literally or those who think that they do not need the Church’s help in interpreting the Bible. But even for those of us who know that these verses are not to be taken literally, we must confess that these verses are unsettling. So how are we to take this teaching?

As always, the context of the verses is important. Jesus just previously said that we are not to think that He came to abolish the law, but instead He came to fulfill it. Then He gives a warning to those who relax the law and teaches others to do so. This puts me in mind of the so-called leaders today who refute biblical morality by claiming the God is “doing a new thing.”

And then Jesus says, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” After saying that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus goes on to talk about anger, not calling your brother a fool; lust, sinning with your eye or your hand; swearing falsely, and the easy divorce system of His day that led virtually to legalized adultery. In short Jesus is saying that we need more than just external obedience. “You have heard it said to men of old, ‘you shall not kill’….but I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment….. You have heard it said ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you the everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In one way you can read Jesus’ words as case laws referring back to the 10 Commandments.

 So when Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees He was not really calling them righteous nor was He calling us to be like them only more so. He is making a contrast between the scribes and Pharisees who were all about the outward show and He is calling on us to focus on the condition of our hearts.

Lest we think that Jesus was not really serious about this or that it was a minor point in His teachings I want to take us to a chapter later in this same Gospel. The whole of chapter 23 is prophetic judgment by Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees. Like an Old Testament prophet He pronounces 7 woes against them. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of in people’s faces… Woe to you scribes and Pharisees hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte…you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves…Woe to you blind guides…Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin… and have neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness…Woe to you scribes and Pharisees hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and plate but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence…Woe to you scribes and Pharisees hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones… Woe to you scribes and Pharisees hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous…you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets…” 

In today’s upside world Jesus would be labeled as “Phariseeaphobic” but He was calling them out and speaking the truth. And the fact that an entire chapter is dedicated to calling them out, it is a good indication to us that we had better take His words seriously if we hope to live in His kingdom. Again, they are all about the outward show and so that our righteousness will exceed theirs, Jesus speaks to us about what is going on inside of our hearts.

“Whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says. ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” This is more than just a call to remove the word “fool” from our vocabulary. This also moves beyond the commandment that forbids murder. This is a call to deal with anger in our hearts. And given all that is going on in our nation this is a timely word.

Do you remember when Facebook used to be pictures of what you cooked for dinner and posts about your new puppy dog? But these days it is spewing with hate. Some are angry because they live in a perpetual victim mode. Some are angry because they do not feel that they are being listened to. Some are angry because professional fear mongers have scarred them to death. All you have to do these days to be called Hitler is simply to disagree or hold another view.

But the Scriptures point us in another direction. There are a good number of verses calling us to avoid anger. One of my favorites is from Psalm 37. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

I’m sure that you can imagine many ways that anger leads to evil but I watched a documentary on OJ Simpson and saw an example of how anger and wrath also lead to evil in a more subtle way. One of the jurors was interviewed and asked point blank if they found OJ innocent as payback for the Rodney King verdict. You will recall that Rodney King was the guy that they took video of being beaten by the police and the police got off. She shook her head “yes.” Then the interviewer asked her what percentage of the jury voted as they did because of Rodney King. She said, “90%.”

While the juror’s anger over the Rodney King verdict is understandable it saddened me to think of the evil done to the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown in denying them justice. In the same documentary OJ admitted to his agent that he had killed them but he got off because the jurors had forgotten Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s example that anger and payback is not how you address injustice. All anger does is create more injustice. King wrote in his autobiography that he went outside of his home to address a crowd that was growing in anger and wanted to avenge King. He said to them “We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know that you love them.” Love is how we purge anger from our hearts and then our righteousness will exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery.” And by the way ladies, you don’t get off the hook on this one simply because Jesus only mentioned men here. The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon that swept the nation awhile ago showed that women were just as capable of lust as are men. It’s just that in general we have different triggers.

What can cloud this issue about our eye causing us to stumble is trying to discern the difference between Victorian prudishness and godliness. And legalism is no help here at all because legalism just addresses outward actions and not what is going on in the heart. As they learned in Victorian times you can cover a woman from head to toe and all that will do is make a man get excited when he sees a bare ankle.

Of course things are made even more difficult these days because we live in a culture that is saturated with lust and it is used to sell everything from cars to hamburgers. So in many ways we are facing an even greater challenge than previous generations. But Christ would not call us to walk a certain way without giving us the power to obey.

Just as with anger that power is love. Lust is an artificial love and so we are to replace the imposter with the real thing. Lust seeks our own good. Love seeks our neighbor’s good. Lust pulls us towards the darkness. Love pulls us towards the light. Lust wounds the soul. Love heals it. Lust is demanding. Love is sacrificial giving. Lust objectifies. Love edifies. And as with anger and love, it is difficult for love and lust to coexist. So practice the Great Commandment and push lust away. Then your righteousness will be greater than the scribes and Pharisees.

A third area that Jesus addresses is truthfulness. I say that He is speaking about truthfulness here because He is telling us that we are not to swear by anything. As Deitrick Bonhoeffer points out in Cost of Discipleship, the only reason to swear by something is to cover up a lie, so we don’t need to swear. Our Yes should mean yes and our No mean no.

While on the surface truthfulness does not seem to be as central of a heart issue as anger and lust, I believe that it is our culture that had made the disconnect. I don’t know how or when it came about but we have gone from a culture where a man’s word is his bond to having zero expectations of honesty. We have had Presidents look right in the camera and lie straight to the American people. And they have done it so often that it doesn’t shock us anymore. The scandals in the Roman Catholic Church were a combination of lust and lies. Corporations lie to us about the effects of their products on people and the environment.

Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary declared “post truth” the top word for 2016. And the new buzzward is “fake news” so now we can’t tell the difference between real news and fake news; if there is even a true difference. As Thomas Jefferson said, “You can’t believe everything that you read on the internet.”

So truthfulness is very much a heart issue. Jesus said that anything beyond “Yes” and “No” comes from evil or in the original it says from the evil one. Satan is referred to in the Bible as the Father of all lies so we need to be as intent on removing untruthfulness from our lives as we are anger and lust.

How our righteousness can exceed that of the Pharisees is how we go about using the commandments. Remember Jesus did not come to abolish it, so the ten that hang over this pulpit are still in force. The difference is that the Pharisees used them like a checklist. “I didn’t make any golden idols today.” “Check.” I didn’t kill anyone today.” “Check.” I didn’t commit adultery today.” “Check.” “My what a good boy I am.”

I believe that Jesus is calling us to use the commandments not as a checklist but as a window into our hearts. “I didn’t put any other gods before God but I did skip receiving Christ through the Sacrament because it was a Titan’s home game.” “I didn’t murder anyone today but I could have killed the idiot who was on my bumper from Bell Road to the 24/40 split.” “I didn’t commit adultery today but I did back up and rewatch the Victoria Secret commercial….four times.”

What do we do next when we use the window to our heart and are convicted by what we see there ? Let me answer that by asking you a question. What do we do right after the priest gives the Summary of the Law at the beginning of the Mass? He says, “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandment hang all the law and the prophets.” Then we say together, “Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.” Do you see what we are doing there? We are responding to conviction by calling for God’s mercy. When we do this we become vessels for His grace. The Scripture promises that when we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us or all unrighteousness.

This brings to mind the story Jesus told of a Pharisee standing in the temple while a sinner won’t even look up to heaven. The sinner cries our for mercy and the Pharisee thanks God he is not like the sinner but Jesus says it is the sinner’s prayers that God hears. So we used the commandments to look into our hearts. We repent where we have been convicted by the Holy Spirit and we ask for mercy. God hears our prayers and cleanses us from all unrighteousness so that we can walk with Him as His people. If we will do this, at least for now, we can keep our eyes and our hands. Amen.

 

Honduras Mission Trip Part 3

honduras-4x4

During our time in Honduras the team made several visits that impacted me greatly. The first was to Hope Farms. This is a coffee business that Mike the missionary started to both give hope to the locals and to support the Children’s Home.

The farm’s supervisor is also a Baptist minister. He told us through Mike’s interpretation how the farm has changed their lives. It has not only given him employment but he is able to employ his parishioners who pick the coffee beans by hand. And now that they have employment they are able to tithe which has in turn strengthened the Church. It is a win/win situation if ever there was one. (May I encourage you to find them on the web and order their coffee. It is great coffee and you will be helping the Children’s Home).

After sharing with us we laid hands on him and prayed over him and he in turn gave us his blessing. We witnessed that even though we are divided by nations and languages the bond we have in Christ is greater still. It was a privilege to be with this servant of Christ.

Leaving the farm we stopped by a local Pentecostal Church were the pastor shared his powerful testimony. We sat in a tiny cinderblock structure on rickety benches but God was as present there as He is at Canterbury Cathedral. When we laid hands on him and prayed for him he began to weep. Clearly he was moved by our love and support. (This is why you go and don’t just sent a check). After we left the church I returned and peaked in to see if he was okay. He was kneeling at his chair still weeping and praying. I did not interrupt his time with the Lord. We were given more privilege to be around another servant of Christ. We also noted how well respected Mike was everywhere we went, which speaks well of his witness there.

On another day Mike wanted us to visit the communities that initially we were to serve in a clean water project but were not yet ready. At first we objected, wanting to continue our work at the Children’s Home but Mike insisted. He said that he wanted us to see the real Honduras. We assumed having walked through his village that we had done so but we were wrong.

So we piled into two 4X4’s and off we went. We took a snake trail down the mountain deep into a breathtaking valley. The lush vegetation was like a scene from Jurassic Park. We met the Don (landowner) at a store and Mike had a long conversation with him. His community had joined another community in working for one year to dig a 3 mile trench from a mountain cistern to a holding tank. But since not all of the people in the other community had participated there were some in the Don’s community who did not want them to receive water at all. Mike struck up a compromise. The money we provided would pay for another holding tank to be installed which will double their water capacity and there will be plenty to share. Those from the other community would help with this new project and therefore receive water. Those who don’t participate will be charged a fee. Those who are not able to work, like a widow lady, Mike will pay for her. We have high hopes the project will be completed soon.

Although the communities were only about 1 ½ miles apart there is no road connecting them so we had to drive another 45 minutes to reach the other community. We left good dirt roads to drive on poor dirt roads until there were no roads left. After splashing through a stream and climbing hills I was convinced were unassailable, we came to a stop in a pasture. From there the path was so small that we had to hike into the community. The Don’s community had only received electricity a couple of months earlier but this community would likely never receive it. They were living in shacks with dirt floors and until Mike came across them they had no sanitation. Mike built them latrines so that they would quit fouling their drinking water. He built them facilities to hand wash their clothes and take a bucket bath. He even built a school that is attended by 25 kids. Mike pays a teacher to hike into the village because education is the only way these kids will ever break out of poverty. Once again we witnessed the deep love and respect that these folks had for Mike.

The shocking thing to me was when Mike told us that what we were seeing in this community represented about 80% of Honduras. I realized then that what I believed to be a very poor community around the Children’s Home was actually Middle Class. It made me ashamed to think of my complaints about what in reality are exclusively First World problems. These folks are barely surviving and I get mad when Publix runs out of cilantro. Lord have mercy.

The people we met were gracious and kind and also joyful. Rather than being broken by their poverty they seemed to find a way to celebrate life. At night you can hear music and singing across the community. All in all it was a humbling experience and I think we were all enriched by our time there.

Honduras Mission Trip Part 2

honduras-rocks

The Mission Team engaged in several projects while in Honduras. We knew going into it that this was primarily a working trip. Initially we were to help with a water project for a couple of small communities but there was a delay in that plan. More on that later. Nevertheless there were other important jobs to be done.

A major project was creating a driveway through the Children’s Home. This was needed because during the rainy season it made driving in the compound very difficult unless you had four-wheel drive. We worked along side Hondurans. Some of these men walked miles every day from other communities to find work. They did not speak English and none of us spoke Spanish but with a lot of sign language we worked well together. Long trenches were dug and into the trenches were piled rocks. These rocks were gathered from around the compound and we also brought them in the bed of a truck from nearby fields. We are not talking pebbles here, we are talking ROCKS. Some of them took two of us to move.

Weeks earlier, when I was explaining to folks our upcoming mission trip a couple of people said, “Not to be sexist, but what are the women going to do on a working trip?” Let me tell you, they amazed me. The only flat land I saw in our area was used for soccer fields. Everything else involved either walking up hill or down hill, often at very steep angles. Well our ladies pushed wheel-barrows straight up the hills, loaded them with rocks and wheeled them down the hills to the workers who put them in the trenches. They did this work, in the hot sun, for hours!

Another project was to built a concrete pad for an additional cistern to provide water to the guest house and back up water to the children, who on occasion would run out of water. This involved digging footers on the side of a hill made of rock. Everything we did was done by hand. Mike’s reasoning for this was twofold. First it was less expensive than renting machinery and second he did not want to replace a Honduran worker with a machine. His aim is to do all that he can to support the local economy where an average day’s wage for a man is about $5. We helped the locals dig the footers and then we mixed the concrete by hand. Large amounts of cement were also being mixed at the top of the hill to be taken by wheel-barrow to fill the trenches for the driveway.

It was an interesting process. It’s like making pasta only instead of putting eggs in a crater of flour you put water in a crater of cement mix and slowly fold it in. At first I did not understand why we were making it far more soupy than I had ever done before. But then it dawned on me that it had to be thin enough to fill in around the rocks in the footers. In the US we would have filled the entire footers with cement but here we were using rocks because they are free and the result is that you need less cement, thus reducing costs.

Our pattern was to work or make a visit in the morning, lunch at noon and then work after lunch. Between 3 and 4pm Mike would call us to quit work in order to play soccer with the children. Picture twelve sweaty dirty Americans, and none of us exactly spring chickens, engaging in soccer with over a dozen kids with boundless energy who had been cooped up inside all day. They ran circles around us but some real bonding occurred. I’ll speak more about the kids in another post.

After playing with the kids we would shower (some of us) and walk down to the dining hall for supper at 6pm. After dinner we would have time recounting the day with Mike, say Evening Prayer and then we were on our own. Most nights ended by talking together around a fire pit, which was perfect for the cool evenings. It was a great way to get to know one another better.

Wednesday night we joined the children for worship. They have their own service each week that consists of Scripture reading, songs, testimonies and prayer. I came prepared to say Mass so when Mike asked how I wanted the evening to go I suggested the children do what they normally do and that would serve as the Liturgy of the Word. Then I would continue with the Liturgy of the Table. Just as I stepped up to the altar the community lost power. It is such a common occurrence that it was all taken in stride. Mike said that sometimes the power outages last for several days. So Mike stood behind me using his cell phone as a flashlight. It actually made things go more smoothly because when it was time for my assistant to read the Spanish translation of what I had just read, she knew it was her turn because Mike would move the light from me to her. To my surprise and to my joy, when I came to the Sanctus, the children sang it from memory. I was very moved to be given the privilege of saying Mass in another country with these special children so loved by God.