Weekly Grace General Blog
This blog contains lead articles in the Weekly Grace columns.

Perspective 1

Although most people outside of the church tend to think the opposite, theology always plays catch up ball with the faith and actual practices of the people.  For example, toward the end of the period of Roman persecutions of Christians, many people in north Africa watched while some bishops and priests apostatized (disavowed) their faith or turned in other Christians to the Roman authorities in order to save their skins.  That some priests and bishops were still alive after a persecution while other families lost loved ones who refused to deny their faith did not go unnoticed by the people.  After the persecutions stopped and North African people went back to their pre-persecution lives, many faithful Christians understandably questioned whether a priest or bishop could continue to celebrate holy Eucharist or baptize after they had denied their faith (these were called “traditors” the Latin root of our words for 
traitor and treason
).  Some people believed that the traditors who had denied their faith to save themselves were no longer “valid” in presiding in the sacramental life of the church.

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A Christian Community

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” was the start of Paul’s admonishment to the small church community he founded at Philippi.” The community was founded based upon a dream that came to Paul to evangelize in what is now western Turkey or Macedonia in Biblical times. Even after arrival he endured stonings and imprisonment so this wasn’t a cakewalk mission for Paul. He did not live in a $10M mansion nor did he have a private jet. He suffered for his faith and he was often misunderstood.

When Jesus saw the demoniac chained to the wall at the Gerasene cemetery, he didn’t think to himself, “Uh oh, this is a crazy man. I’m gonna go somewhere else.” No, Jesus stayed, had compassion for what was tormenting the guy and he managed to transfer a legion of unclean spirits into a herd of pigs. I sometimes feel sorry for the poor farmers (unmentioned) in this story who owned the pigs. All their bacon went over the cliff but staying around even in the face of physical danger and opposition is something both Jesus and Paul did repeatedly.


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Ideology 101

Ideology: “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”  Sadly, among the items recovered in the ISIL bomb factory in Brussels last night was a Wahhabist manual.  We mourn today for all the victims of terror attacks throughout the world.

Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabist sect of Sunni Islam lived during the century of the American Revolution, 1703-1792.  This of course was also the heyday of the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment.  Rationalism was all the rage across the globe.  One can now see the seeds of today’s globalism in this nascent intellectual development.  Hindu clerics in the jungles of Malaysia as well as Muslim clerics in the deserts of what is now Saudi Arabia feared this movement.  It could undermine their totalitarian control over the people.

Not unlike the Protestant Revolution in Europe of a century before (which sowed both liberal AND ultra-conservative versions of Christianity) al Wahhab sought to “purify” Islam by taking it back to its original roots or “
salaf.”  He thought that the intervening eleven centuries since the founding of Islam had brought corrupting influences that were either “religious” innovation or polytheism.  (Does this sound like Martin Luther or other Protestant reformers?  Digression:  Recall that W. H. Auden once defined a [Christian] Puritan as someone who suspected somebody else, somewhere was having a good time.)  So far so good.

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Feel-good Church?

How many of you expect to go to church every week for a pumped up, high energy, spiritual motivational talk? Do you want your church to be the equivalent of one of those high caffeine, high sugar “energy drinks”? That can be a formula for short term growth. Some preachers profit handsomely by taking the motivational speaker approach to the pulpit, but let me tell you a true story about a particular Episcopal parish.

This parish had a reputation for an elaborate Palm Sunday passion play put on year after year complete with costumes, staging, dramatic acting and so forth. The part of sentencing, flogging and crucifying Jesus was particularly dramatic. The whole church got involved and quite a few people from the community attended on Palm Sunday as well as Easter.

One year the role of Jesus was played by a gentleman whose passion was acting in local repertory theatre and he had a marvelous, resonant tenor voice. Two days before Palm Sunday the man playing the role of Jesus came down with flu like symptoms and laryngitis. For a while there was great confusion with the passion play troupe. Should they cancel? What should they do?


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