Don’t Forget Your Important Anniversary!

“Theses Doors”, commemorating Luthers’ 95 Theses – All Saints Church

October 31 of this year will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of “95 theses” (that is, 95 arguments he wished to defend in public debate) on the church bulletin board at Wittenberg, Germany, where he was a professor of Biblical studies.  Luther criticized the way the Church (based in Rome) was selling “indulgences” to raise money and championed the idea that Christian belief should be based solidly on the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ.  The subsequent public controversy was a prominent event in what we know as the Protestant Reformation.  The Anglican church, of which St. Barnabas is a part, was formed in the Reformation, as reflected in its founding documents and current catechism (about which we are having a series of classes on Sundays at 9:10 am).

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1517 was an exciting time.  Leonardo da Vinci was alive, transforming art and technology.  Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World had been only 25 years earlier.  In 1517, Hernan Cortes was preparing an expedition to Mexico, where he would discover the Aztecs.  The first diplomatic mission from Europe (from Portugal) reached China at what is now Hong Kong in 1517.  Erasmus of Rotterdam was working on a scholarly revision of the Bible using Hebrew, Greek, and Latin sources.  William Tyndale had begun his studies that led to the publication of the first Bible translated into English.  The printing press had recently come into wide use in Europe.  All of these events affected one another.

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So let us remember and reflect on this an important anniversary to the greater glory of God.

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And Now a Word From Our Sponsor…

Test Pattern

What does God want to give you?

God wants to reconcile me to himself, to free me from captivity to sin, to fill me with knowledge of him, to make me a citizen of his Kingdom, and to enable me to worship, serve, and glorify him now and forever. [From the 2014 ACNA Catechism, Question 7.]

seventh seal the knave speaks

( Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal) http://www.morethings.com/pictures

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WHO IS GOD? Part 9 (Abraham continued)

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.

Anaiah:  We have been talking about how God has chosen to bless all the families of the earth not by a supernatural display but through the modest, even unknown figure of Abraham.  There is an important point here.  Suppose you are a botanist and you discover that one desert plant blooms every year while another blooms every fifty years.  You do not criticize either plant for behaving incorrectly.  They do what they do.  The same is true of God.  We listen to what God says and discover his character.  If God chooses to act through Abraham, we must not criticize God for acting unexpectedly.  We must watch and learn what God does.  There is this difference between God and desert plants.  When God acts unexpectedly, we usually discover that he does it out of love for us, and that he is more loving than we could have imagined.

St. Barnabas BlogYou were going to tell about the time God asked Abraham to sacrifice his child.  Does that sound like a loving thing to do?

Anaiah:  Wait and see.  Here is the story.  Remember that God’s promise to Abraham was about his descendants, who would form a mighty nation.  Well, there was a problem:  Abraham had no child.  After several twists and turns, Abraham finally had a son, Isaac, in his old age.  It looked like the promise of a posterity was now coming true.  But then (Genesis Chapter 22) God made a startling demand:  “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

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SBBDid Abraham argue about this?

Anaiah:  Interestingly no.  Abraham argued with God at other times, but here he simply obeyed without question.  He took his son and the materials for sacrifice to the mountain and actually raised his arm with the knife before God stopped him:  “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  And God renewed the promise that Abraham would have many descendants “and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”

SBBWhat do we learn about God from this episode?

Anaiah:  We learn that God’s relationship with us is dynamic, interactive, that our obedience and loyalty are part of God’s plan for bringing a great blessing to all people of the earth. God’s plan may be difficult for us to discern, as it certainly was for Abraham, but even without our understanding God brings life from death.  We learn that all of our own plans and potentialities, all of the things we are tempted to hold dear, like Abraham’s son, must be sacrificed, renounced, in favor of God’s plan.  We see that when Abraham has been willing to sacrifice Isaac, he receives Isaac back as part of the promise.  In general, when we sacrifice our lives to God, we get them back, blessed by God.

SBBWhat happens if we don’t sacrifice our lives to God?

Anaiah:  We give in to the temptation to make idols of ourselves or our worldly goods, to treat them as having ultimate importance.  When we do this, we find that they are ultimately unsatisfying and harmful.  Rather than clinging to these things that cannot satisfy, it is better to trust God and obey him.

SBB So what is God up to in this story?

Anaiah:  God is saving Abraham, and through him the world, from the empty idolatry of self.  God, the creator of the world, who has made the earth and the sun and the moon and the stars, nevertheless cares for us, who wander the earth, out of love.  But he knows, as we so often forget, that the only way to save us is to bind us to his own perfection through obedience, submission, and sacrifice.

SBBYou say that God wants to save us.  Save us from what?

Anaiah:  Ultimately from sin (idolatry of self that causes alienation from God), evil (forces in the world that frustrate our plans and warp our wills), and death.

SBB How did the world, created by a good God, come to be a place where sin, evil, and death are found?

Anaiah:  No one knows.  I can tell you a story, however, about Adam and Eve that tries to address this mystery.

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Blessing of the Animals

pet blessing sign Oct 1 2017

This Sunday at Noon after the service, bring your animals for a blessing.

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Animal Blessings

Join us this Sunday October 1, 2017  at Noon for a service of Pet Blessings. We do this in recognition of St. Francis and the great honor we have as caretakers and stewards of our animal companions. We will pray over and bless each animal. If weather is good, we’ll gather outside. If weather is poor, we’ll meet in the Narthex (entry of the church, just beyond the red doors). Every pet is welcome.

Please bring your animals to the pet blessing so they are not forced to drive on their own.

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The official feast day of St. Francis is Wednesday October 4, 2017.

Francis, the son of a prosperous merchant of Assisi, was born in 1182. His early youth was spent in harmless revelry and fruitless attempts to win military glory.

Various encounters with beggars and lepers pricked the young man’s conscience, and he decided to embrace a life devoted to Lady Poverty. Despite his father’s intense opposition, Francis totally renounced all material values, and devoted himself to serve the poor. In 1210 Pope Innocent the Third confirmed the simple Rule for the Order of Friars Minor, a name Francis chose to emphasize his desire to be numbered among the “least” of God’s servants.

The order grew rapidly all over Europe. But by 1221 Francis had lost control of it, since his ideal of strict and absolute poverty, both for the individual friars and for the order as a whole, was found to be too difficult to maintain. His last years were spent in much suffering of body and spirit, but his unconquerable joy never failed.

Not long before his death, during a retreat on Mount La Verna, Francis received, on September 14, Holy Cross Day, the marks of the Lord’s wounds, the stigmata, in his own hands and feet and side. Pope Gregory the Ninth, a former patron of the Franciscans, canonized Francis in 1228, and began the erection of the great basilica in Assisi where Francis is buried.

Of all the saints, Francis is the most popular and admired, but probably the least imitated; few have attained to his total identification with the poverty and suffering of Christ. Francis left few writings; but, of these, his spirit of joyous faith comes through most truly in the “Canticle of the Sun,” which he composed at Clare’s convent of St. Damian’s. The Hymnal version begins:

Most High, omnipotent, good Lord,

To thee be ceaseless praise outpoured,

And blessing without measure.

Let creatures all give thanks to thee And serve in great humility.

A collect (prayer) for this feast day:

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant unto thy people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of thee delight in thy whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 6869-6896). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Cooper at the rail

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To Be a Christian: New Class Starting

Starting on Sunday, September 24, at 9:10 am (between our two liturgies) St. Barnabas will hold a class to examine the Catechism published by the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  A catechism is a summary of basic Christian belief and practice intended for use in teaching those fundamentals to new and developing Christians (hence the name, “To Be a Christian”).  It is written in question and answer form, and it used to be the practice in the Anglican church to have candidates for confirmation memorize the answers to all the questions.  We won’t insist on any feats of memory.  The Catechism is centered on the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments and forms a great introduction to Anglican church culture, which promotes Biblical literacy in an atmosphere of prayer and structured worship.  New Christians and those seeking to develop their understanding of the Christian faith are welcome.

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WHO IS GOD? Part 8 (Abraham)

Our time machine has brought us together with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C.  He has learned our language and something of our culture and understands that we want to find out what the Hebrew sacred writings say about God’s communications with human beings.  Anaiah suggests that we begin with Abraham.

St. Barnabas Blog:  Why begin with Abraham?

Anaiah:  He is the patriarch of my people.  Let me tell you something about him.  His original name was Abram and he was born in the city of Ur sometime around (what you would call) 1900 B.C.

SBB:  There is an ancient site in southern Iraq that archaeologists think may be Ur.

Anaiah:  Sounds like it could be the right place.  The Bible says that Abram and his father Terah left Ur heading for the land of Canaan (the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea).  They got to Haran, where Terah settled down and ultimately died.  (Genesis 11:27-32)  [Note:  the chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were invented long after Anaiah’s time].

SBB:  Haran is an ancient site in southern Turkey.  That’s a very roundabout route from Ur to Canaan.

Anaiah:  Of course.  The trade route follows the Euphrates River to the northwest, then turns south through Damascus.  That way you avoid the desert.  Anyway, now comes the critical part:  Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  (Genesis 12:1-3)  How’s that for a communication from God?

SBB:  Do you think this really happened, or is this some kind of legend?

Anaiah:  Yours is a skeptical age.  Think about Charlemagne, king of the Franks.  He is as remote from your time as Abraham is from mine.  Do you think that Charlemagne was a real person?

SBB:  Of course.

Anaiah:  But many colorful legends have grown up around Charlemagne, as they may have done around Abraham.  We can discern a historical character despite the legends.  But our focus here is really on God, not on Abraham.  We can’t prove that God spoke to Abraham.  We can look at the recorded communications and see whether they add up to a consistent character.  Let us think about this initial communication to Abraham, that he should go to a new land and establish a nation there.  The Hebrew people, living in the former land of Canaan, do think of themselves as descendants of Abraham.

SBB:   So what does this (alleged) communication from God tell us about God’s character?

Anaiah:  You might think that an all-powerful creator of the universe would have little interest in us, so the fact that God communicates at all is significant.  His message is also significant.  Abraham’s world is divided into tribes, each one worshipping a different god.  However, while God promises to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation, God reveals that his ultimate purpose is to bless “all the families of the earth.”  It is not yet clear how this is going to work, of course.

SBB:   That universal benevolence is indeed unusual.

Anaiah:  There are two more things I would like you to know about God’s communications to Abraham today.  First, notice that God does not propose to wave his hand and solve human problems all by himself.  Instead, he sets a fallible human agent in motion (Abraham is certainly depicted as fallible).  Why would God do this?  I think that God’s decision to involve us in his plans reflects his love and care for us.  For similar reasons, we involve our children in important family events.

A second aspect of God’s character comes out in Genesis chapter 17:  When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”  This shows that God is morally pure.  Those who would be in his presence must also seek moral purity.  This gives us a valuable clue to God’s ultimate plan to bless all people.  Our greatest blessing would be to live on intimate terms with the supremely pure and loving God forever.  As we shall see, this is in fact God’s plan.

Next time, I’ll tell you about the time God asked Abraham to sacrifice his child.

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Abrahams-Journey-Jozsef-Molnar-1880

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Annual Nigerian Sunday Celebration September 10, 2017 – 10:30 a.m.

Nigerian Sunday Webblog posting 9 2 2017

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WHO IS GOD? Part 7 (A Time Traveling Approach to the Old Testament)

We have resolved to look at the Bible, starting with the Old Testament, to see whether it provides evidence that the creator of our ordered and moral universe has communicated with human beings.  Some may be skeptical that writers of well over two thousand years ago, lacking modern science and technology, could provide any useful information about the nature of the universe and its creator.  Such people are asked to preserve an open mind.

A brief scan of the Old Testament books reveals that, in general, they follow a chronological arrangement.  The first book (Genesis) describes the creation of the universe.  The second records the escape of the Hebrew people from Egypt, led by Moses.  Later books trace the establishment of a monarchy under Saul, David, and Solomon, and the eventual destruction of an independent Jewish state by a Babylonian army. 

Side note:  the people in question had a variety of names at different times and in different contexts.  They called themselves the “children of Israel,” using the name of a legendary patriarch.  They were also called Hebrews and their language continues to bear that name.  After Solomon’s time, the kingdom was divided into a northern part, called Israel, and a southern part called Judah.  In New Testament times, the Romans called the area Judea and the people Judeans.  This has influenced the modern term “Jews.”  In this series, the terms “Hebrews,” “children of Israel,” and “Jews” will be used interchangeably unless the context makes it important to distinguish them.

The Old Testament contains various other materials, including the tales of Job and Jonah, poems (psalms and the Song of Solomon) proverbs, and several books bearing the names of Hebrew prophets (like Isaiah and Jeremiah).  The variety of books makes it difficult to find a starting place for discussion.  Analysis is complicated by the fact that scholars disagree about when and for what purposes the books were written. 

The approach taken in this series will be to begin with some dates we can verify from other records.  The Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem in 597 B.C.  As a security measure, many of the Jewish inhabitants were deported to other parts of the Babylonian empire.  The Babylonian dynasty was itself conquered by the Persians in 539 B.C.  The Persian king, Cyrus, permitted many of the captive peoples to return to their homelands, and the Jews were included in this decree.  Many scholars believe that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity set in motion a process by which the sacred books were collected and edited, resulting in most of the Old Testament as we have it today.  So let us take a time machine back to the 500’s B.C. and find an educated Jew to be our guide.  We want to find out, from someone who knows, what the Old Testament says about the history of God’s communications with human beings.  Where should we begin?  Our guide might well answer:  “Let me tell you about Abraham.”

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Abraham Entertains Three Strangers.

(The Dore Gallery of Bible Illustrations – Gustave Dore)

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Eclipse P.S

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Some people read a New Testament passage like Mark 15:33, which says that “darkness came over the whole land” for three hours during the crucifixion of Jesus, and wonder if maybe it describes a solar eclipse.  The answer is no, for three sufficient reasons.  No total eclipse was visible in Judea at the time of Jesus’ death (astronomers can figure that out).  Solar eclipses last only a few minutes, not three hours.  And most telling of all, Jesus is recorded as having been executed on or about the Passover, which is a festival of the full moon.  When the moon is full, it is on the side of the earth opposite to the sun.  For a solar eclipse to occur, the moon must be on the same side as the sun.  So whatever phenomenon Mark (and Matthew and Luke) recorded, it was not a solar eclipse. https://i1.wp.com/godhungry.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Cross3.jpg

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