Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bishop Iker: ACNA is “in a state of impaired communion.”

Earlier this month, Bishop Jack Iker addressed his Diocese of Ft. Worth in convention.  He was very frank in addressing division in the Anglican Church in North America over women’s ordination.  After discussing the Holy Orders Task Force and the Conclave earlier this year, he concluded:

So where are we? Most ACNA bishops and dioceses are opposed to women priests, but as it presently stands, the ACNA Constitution says each diocese can decide if it will ordain women priests or not. We now need to work with other dioceses to amend the Constitution to remove this provision. 

And he went further (Emphasis mine.):

We are in a state of impaired communion because of this issue. The Task Force concluded that “both sides cannot be right.” At the conclave, I informed the College of Bishops that I will no longer give consent to the election of any bishop who intends to ordain female priests, nor will I attend the consecration of any such bishop-elect in the future. I have notified the Archbishop of my resignation from all the committees to which I had been assigned to signify that it is no longer possible to have “business as usual” in the College of Bishops due to the refusal of those who are in favor of women priests to at least adopt a moratorium on this divisive practice, for the sake of unity.  Bishops who continue to ordain women priests in spite of the received tradition are signs of disunity and division.

The hoary joke about bishops having their backbones extracted at ordination does not apply to Jack Iker!

The bishops and dioceses that ordain women are the sources of so much that is objectionable in ACNA – weakness on the authority of scripture, confusing lib/left activism for ministry, lack of concern for unity for starters – that I am glad to see the Bishop of Ft. Worth take this stand.  I once was sanguine about ACNA and women’s ordination.  Taken by itself, women’s ordination has not been a big issue with me.  But I now see the issues are more than the gender of whom we ordain.  After seeing these bishops and dioceses – and who they ordain – in action since ACNA’s formation, I am with Bishop Iker on this.  Sometimes godly unity requires saying enough is enough.

The Current State of American Catholic Universities

No, this won’t be a long essay.  Anne Hendershott has already written one for us, and it is excellent, the best overview of Catholic higher education today in the United States I’ve come across.  It includes some interesting if distressing history as well.

Yes, I do use the word “Catholic” loosely.  I can be creative in choosing words to describe, say, Georgetown, but “Catholic” is rarely one of them.  “Jesuit” maybe.

As Hendershott writes, there are rays of hope; there are exceptional genuinely Catholic universities out there.  But the larger ones have invariably taken the “Catholic” and the “education” for that matter out of Catholic higher education.

Personal Note:

Speaking of higher education, I have completed my Patristics course.  So I may torment you more often for a couple months or so.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Presiding “Bishop” Curry and The Episcopal “Church” Attack Freedom of Religion

. . . Because freedom of religion is only for those who agree with Social Justice Warriors and enlightened liberals.  All you bigots can pound sand.

Yes, I am angry about this, and I am posting before sleeping on it because I do not want to wimp out and tone it down.  An alleged church which enjoys freedom of religion and then turns around and attacks the religious freedom of a Christian small business owner is an outrage.

The case focuses on a baker who declined to make a cake for a reception after a same-sex wedding, an action that Colorado courts determined violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

And who are these other “major religious groups” attacking the religious freedom of a Christian baker? The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the General Synod of the United “Church” of Christ, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (It’s safe to say the Southern Baptists have nothing to do with these tools anymore.).   These are all shrinking and hardly “major” due to their running off the orthodox with their apostasies.

Phonies and hypocrites abusing the name of Christ to attack the freedom of real Christians is why there needs to be a Hell.

(By the way, studies are going well, thank you.  The way the fathers went after apostates and heretics is proving a godly example for me today.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

You might be a babykiller if . . .

Back in the 70’s I remember pro-lifers often called pro-abortionists “babykillers.”  Because of fears that was rubbing potential allies the wrong way, that term became more rare in the early 80’s.

But I am less concerned with rubbing people the wrong way and more concerned with reality checks, which brings me to House passage of a bill to virtually outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Now, for those who are math or biology impaired, 20 weeks is five months (or just under five 30 day months) and more than halfway through a typical pregnancy.  The child is very well formed by then; you have a very recognizable baby that simply needs to grow a bit before saying, “Hello, world.”

And most of the world’s abortion laws recognize that and outlaw abortions after 20 weeks.  So this is a common sense reform all reasonable people can support….

But then there are Democrats.  Most Senate Democrats are expected to filibuster this bill.  To which I say you might be a babykiller if . . . you oppose efforts to protect unborn children after 20 weeks of gestation.

Really, if Democrats block this bill, the mask is off, is it not?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Michaelmas Eve

As I’ve mentioned, I need to give studies more priority and this blog less at this time.  But I cannot let this Michaelmas pass without note.  Yes, again my thoughts turn to Oxford and Cambridge as they did last year and years before.

I will say there is a difference from last year.  One of the possibilities I obscurely mentioned has been taken off the backburner.  But more on that in due time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Gavin Ashenden Consecrated as Missionary Bishop to UK

Briefly, I am very pleased to hear this.  I’ve become quite a fan of Rev. Ashenden.  For one thing, he has a remarkable talent for being both soft-spoken and straight-speaking at the same time.  Watch him on Anglican Unscripted or watch his own YouTube videos to get a taste of that.

The Christian Episcopal Church is definitely punching above their weight to bring Ashenden on!

And, in case any wonder, I think working both inside and outside the Church of England is appropriate now.  There is still some excellent ministry going on in the CofE.  But the Philip North affair revealed the Church of England cannot be trusted to provide faithful traditionalist bishops like North and Gavin Ashenden.  And being an orthodox Anglican without those is problematic indeed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Back to Studies

I have been sorely tempted to post on a number of items the past few days.  But I’m in the midst of stepping up my studies in hope of completing a Patristics course by Thanksgiving.  That is a big ask but I’m going to do my best to finish by then anyway.

Therefore I will become even more selective in my blog posting well into November at least.  Some may rejoice in that.  But my apologies to the rest of my forbearing readers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Revealing Statement on the Conclave from Forward in Faith N. A.

Overnight, Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA) released a statement on the ACNA Conclave and its decision on womens’ ordination.  This statement finally answers some questions I and others have raised.  The beginning should not be skimmed past:

Beloved in Christ,
As the Council of Forward in Faith, North America we have discussed with the six FiF NA bishops who have just returned from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where they met in Conclave, the implications of the Message from the College of Bishops. They have been very clear that the agreement of the College is that individual statements, and, in particular, attributing to individual bishops, their comments cannot occur. Moreover, any comments that would appear to suggest some form of “victory” would be highly inappropriate. 

Thus the quiet from anti-WO bishops is explained – the College of Bishops agreed that there would not be individual public statements afterward from bishops.  (That begs the question of why at least three bishops from dioceses that recognize the Holy Orders of women have made statements.  But I will just leave that question out there for now.)  But FIFNA has discussed matters with the six FIF bishops, who all oppose womens’ ordination of course.  So Forward in Faith’s statement should give some insight into what happened at Conclave and into the thinking of the six and likeminded bishops.

And these six may think that the result of the Conclave may not be as bad or as final as some think.  First, they are making a point to avoid and to urge others to avoid “any comments that would appear to suggest some form of ‘victory.’”  Second, “the College understands that the January meeting in Melbourne Florida will be the next opportunity for them to meet and prayerfully proceed.”  And later (Emphasis mine.): “This Conclave was designed and reported to be the very first time that serious theological conversation has occurred regarding the nature of Holy Orders as an innovation in the Episcopal Church in 1976.”  So it may not be as over as it seemed at first.

I had suggested that the Conclave was not all that unanimous.  I appear to be correct: “We also acknowledge that the Statement was unanimously endorsed, but that this endorsement does not imply that Traditionalist Bishops have reached any conclusion other than the one that has been articulated for 2000 years.”

FIFNA puts a positive face on the current situation and emphasizes conciliarity but then acknowledges, probably also reflecting the mind of the six FIF bishops:

…we are disappointed. We wonder if this would not have been an excellent opportunity for those Bishops who ordain women to recognize that this action continues to cause division. We wonder if it would not have been possible for those bishops to announce a moratorium on the ordination of women, rather than continuing to contribute to the potential of an Ecumenical crisis. We wonder if those bishops would recognize that female clergy cannot function in most of the Dioceses of the ACNA and in the vast majority of Christian churches throughout the world. In that regard they have intentionally or unintentionally effected a state of impaired Communion, whereby not all Clergy are in Communion with one another. We further recognize that many Forward in Faith Bishops are put in an awkward position regarding their ability to participate in the consecration of Bishops who fully intend to contribute to disunity by virtue of their willingness to ordain women.

It is hard for me to improve on that.  Thus Forward in Faith North America has issued a very helpful statement.  They have provided some clarity on what happened at Conclave and on the mind of traditionalist bishops.  Since the Conclave there has been not a little unhappiness among traditionalists, particularly clergy.  And the quiet from traditionalist bishops certainly taxed the patience of some.  Hopefully this statement and bishop-clergy meetings and communications in the dioceses will calm things down.

However, peace and unity are not one-way streets as the statement itself notes in its irenic way.  Pro-WO bishops and dioceses also need to make a point to calm matters, not inflame them with the usual baggage that so often accompanies WO in the West, such as using the auspices of ACNA to push a so-called “social justice” agenda.  Nor should there be a rush to ordain women as there was immediately after the formation of ACNA.

But I am nonetheless thankful for this statement from Forward in Faith North America.  While not telling everything, it provides some needful clarity and perspective.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Maria - Worst Name for a Hurricane Ever

Come on.  Whose idea was it to name a Hurricane after Mary?  And is the National Hurricane Center so clueless that no one said, “Hey guys, about that “M” name for 2017…”?

Well, I guess when people get visited by Mary lately, she does often seem a bit ticked.  So maybe naming a hurricane after her isn’t that off.

Now that I think about it, the Second Coming won’t be a picnic.  So how about Hurricane Jesus?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

AMEN Drags ACNA Further into Immigration Politics UPDATED

I’ve noted that some in ACNA are dragging us into divisive immigration politics.  The Anglican Multiethnic Network (AMEN) and Caminemos Juntos, self-described as “entities of the Anglican Church in North America dedicated to helping the province better reflect the diversity of North America in our local churches” are among the culprits.  The latest from them explicitly asks for citizenship for “dreamers”:

We therefore ask those entrusted with the role of governing and legislating to provide a comprehensive solution to the wider immigration issue that includes a path to citizenship for those children raised here who only know this place as their home.

Leaving aside the question of whether the federal government should do this (Except for those who serve in the military, I am adamantly opposed to citizenship for illegals.), this is not appropriate for a church organization to do.  If individuals in ACNA want to push for - or against -amnesty on their own time and without ACNA’s name being attached to it, fine.  But AMEN’s act is as inappropriate and divisive as, say, me and the likeminded in ACNA forming the REAL Anglican Massive Edifice Network (REAL AMEN), associating ourselves with ACNA as AMEN and Caminemos Juntos does, and agitating to Build the Wall.

I very much want to “build the wall” and secure our borders.  But I have enough discernment and concern for unity not to push for that under ACNA’s auspices.  I do that on my own time and without attaching ACNA’s name to it.

Should the church ever intervene in politics?  Yes, when there are biblical principles that clearly apply and when there is a church-wide consensus on how to apply them.  Such areas are freedom of religion, abortion, and the persecution of Christians. 

Whether illegals should have a path to citizenship is not such an area.  There is not a consensus in ACNA about that.  Therefore what AMEN and Caminemos Juntos just did puts secular political preferences above the unity of ACNA.  Sadly, this is not the exception but a pattern from some of ACNA’s leadership.

UPDATE: I may have been overly charitable in saying ACNA was dragged into this.  They have posted this statement on the church website itself. (You may have to scroll down.)

MORE: And on ACNA’s twitter feed, too:

Friday, September 08, 2017

Initial Observations on the Statement of the ACNA College of Bishops on the Ordination of Women

Their Conclave having concluded, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America have issued a statement setting forth their decisions.  In short, the status quo on women’s ordination in ACNA will continue.

Although disappointed with their decision, I do have to give them credit on one thing – they did not kick the can down the road, but went ahead and made their decision.  Whatever one feels about WO, it’s better to know where we stand now than later.  I, for one, am thankful that the option of stringing along the faithful, so often practiced in the Anglican Communion, was rejected.

However, I do not think the bishops realize, or at least are not admitting in this statement they realize, what danger ACNA is in.  Archbishop Beach’s statement that the bishops are “more unified than ever” seems wishful to me.  Maybe the bishops are very unified but many of the rest of us in ACNA are not. But I will have to put that subject aside for another post or two.

And perhaps the bishops are not all that unified.  I do not have privy information nor should I speculate.  But a close reading of the statement may reveal divisions.  Abp. Beach wrote that the College of Bishops unanimously agreed to the final statement.  And that statement documents that they unanimously agreed to continue with the policy of not having women bishops.  However, the other agreements noted in the statement are noted without indicating whether they were unanimous or not:

In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood.

And this:
Having gratefully received and thoroughly considered the five-year study by the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, we acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood. However, we also acknowledge that this practice is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order. We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. 

Now it could be that these agreements were unanimous also.  But since two important unanimous decisions are noted – on the statement as a whole and on women bishops – one would think if these other agreements were unanimous, that should and would be noted as well.  Perhaps statements in the coming days from various bishops will clarify how unanimous the Conclave was.

The College of Bishops’ statement, along with the Holy Orders Task Force, did not address the baggage that seems always to attach itself to women’s ordination in the West.  That is a serious omission though an understandable one since several bishops surely would not acknowledge WO has such a problem at all.  That, too, is part of the problem.  Many in ACNA, like me, can live with women’s ordination.  Fewer will put up with the baggage that so often comes with it.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Scottish Episcopal Church gets called out by … The Anglican Church of Australia??

I don’t expect much good news from the Anglican Communion or Australia anymore, and I certainly did not expect this.  The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia (ACA) just passed a resolution expressing “regret that the Scottish Episcopal Church has amended their Canon on Marriage to change the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman by adding a new section that allows clergy to solemnise marriage between same-sex couples….”

Further, the resolution expresses “support for those Anglicans who have left or will need to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church because of its redefinition of marriage and those who struggle and remain….”

Given that some in the ACA would rather denounce interventions of support, such as from ACNA and Bishop Andy Lines, this is remarkable.  Now this resolution does not overtly mention such interventions, but still….

I knew there would be such a resolution proposed at the ACA General Synod but I didn’t give it a snowball’s chance.  It seems the Diocese of Sydney’s influence and numbers are so increasing and the influence and numbers of the libchurchers are so declining that Australia is not firmly in the libchurch camp anymore.  If so, I gladly confess this good news snuck up on me.

David Ould is more on top of this and has the full text of the resolution here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Archbishop Foley Beach Writes on the Bishops’ Conclave

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach has issued a call to prayer for the Bishop’s Conclave on Holy Orders which begins today.  It begins (Emphasis mine.):

As many of you may have heard, the College of Bishops is gathering this week (September 5-7) in conclave (a private assembly of the bishops) to discuss the report we have received from the Task Force on Holy Orders earlier this year, specifically women's orders. This is the beginning of our formal discussion as bishops, and I sincerely doubt it will be the end of our prayerful deliberation on this important issue. We are seeking to hear God's will for us as Biblically orthodox, and faithful North American Anglicans, who are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

So it sounds like a decision on women’s ordination is unlikely at this meeting.

I do not feel comfortable commenting further before the Conclave concludes.  But, yes, I am indeed praying.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Pray for the ACNA College of Bishops in Conclave

In the midst of recovering from Harvey (My dwellings did okay; my state of mind is another matter, particularly after my house was broken into.), I let the ACNA College of Bishops Conclave sneak up on me.  It begins tomorrow in Vancouver and is scheduled to go into Friday.  The task will be acting upon or at least considering the issue of Holy Orders, namely women’s ordination.

Bishop Bill Ilgenfritz of the Diocese of All Saints wrote a letter about this last month.

I am praying for this Conclave and urge all readers to do likewise.  Personally, I doubt godly unity in the Anglican Church in North America can continue without some difficult and wise decisions from the College of Bishops.  This Conclave is that important.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Lectionary, God’s Providence, and Harvey

Back in my very non-Anglican days, I heard my favorite Bible teacher, whom I’m still a fan of, Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church note that God knows where you are going to read in the Bible, and he knows what you are going through in life.  And he can bring the two together to speak right to you.

Well, I have seen the Lord do that with the Lectionary.  This past Sunday, the 10th Sunday after Trinity, I intended to teach a group from 1 Corinthians 12.  Some of the group goes to my REC parish, so I usually check what the readings at church are to see if they go with something I will teach.  And I saw that Epistle for Holy Communion was from . . . 1 Corinthians 12.  I guess I wasn’t the only one who wanted 1 Corinthians 12 taught!

Today, I woke up early and ill at ease due the overnight ominous forecast changes concerning now Hurricane Harvey.  I decided to do my Morning Prayer early.  With it being St. Bartholomew’s Day the assigned Psalm was 91.  And that turned out to be the perfect Psalm for me to read.  I would practically have to quote the whole psalm to tell how it comforted me and encouraged me.  God in his good providence definitely used the lectionary in a gracious way this morning.

By the way, do pray for us near the Texas coast.  I intend to pray the Litany in the morning myself.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Apple Feeds Hate

Combating hate is a laudable goal.  Although I will say combating the nutcases of the KKK and neo-Nazis while giving the far more dangerous Antifa and BLM a pass is like going after piss ants in your yard while ignoring skunks living under your house. (I’ve experienced that.  It was not pleasant.)

But the way to combat hate is not to feed hate.  Yet that is exactly what Apple and its CEO Tim Cook have done in contributing to the Southern Poverty Law Center.  For SPLC is itself a hate group, using that old trick of lumping traditional conservatives, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and even David Barton, for goodness’ sake, in with Nazis, the KKK and the like.

Apple’s contribution perpetuates a double standard that has become even more rampant in recent days – hate from the “Right” is horrible; hate from the Left is not an issue or even praiseworthy, and if you condemn hate from both sides, you’re practically a Nazi.  And that double standard, too, feeds hate.

Sadly, that double standard has infected the church as well, but that's another subject.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Post-Charlottesville, The Double Standard Continues

After the awful events in Charlottesville, there has been an odd, but familiar phenomenon.  There are the rightful denunciations of the Nazis, KKK, etc.  But if someone even asks the denouncers if they have ever also denounced Antifa and Black Lives Matters, two groups who also have demonstrated racism and political violence, then even that question gets denounced.  Those who denounce both the Nazi types and Antifa and BLM, and who denounce double standards also get very similar treatment.  I’ve seen this sorry exercise even on the Facebook group page of the Anglican Church of North America, which is shameful.

This is an in-your-face example of a big double standard that has poisoned politics and the study of history since World War 2.  While the atrocities of the “Right”* are emphasized, the atrocities of the Left are downplayed or ignored, even if those atrocities are of a much greater scale.  The History Channel once was dubbed the Hitler Channel because of the frequency of its emphasis on Nazism and its atrocities. And certainly we should “never forget.”  But how often does one see documentaries of the atrocities under Lenin and Stalin, who killed millions more than Hitler?

Of course, there is much more to the study of history than the History Channel – thank God – but the phenomenon can be found across academia as well.  And when someone tries to provide some balance and focus on Communist evil, they often get grief for it.  The controversy that surrounded the publication of the Black Book of Communism is one example.

I detest this double standard, which only enables the Leftist New Totalitarians, who are a much greater danger than the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other loons.  If someone has been silent for over a year as Antifa has violently attacked peaceful demonstrators, Trump supporters, free speech, even those who simply wanted to hear a speaker, then his/her display of indignation over white supremacist violence is worth very little to me.

And, yes I will say it, President Trump was right to denounce violence from both sides.  And he was courageous to do so in the face of those who hate truth-telling about the Left.

By the way, these kind of double standards just feed hate.  Denouncing rightist hate while being silent about or even praising Leftist hate throws gasoline on hate.  The double standards must stop.  The political violence from both sides must be denounced and stopped.


* I use “right” very loosely here.  Placing, say, Nazis on the right is highly questionable as they are a form of totalitarianism not very different from Communism.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

As a student of Western medieval history for over ten years now, the Muslim rule of Spain has been a subject that interested me, but that I had not quite gotten around to in any detail.  So when I heard good things about Dario Fernandez-Morera’s The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, I decided to read it for myself.

The book is even better than I expected.  D. F. M. well debunks the hoary academic myth that Muslim Spain was a tolerant multi-cultural paradise. But it is the manner in which he does so that most impresses.  He begins his chapters with quotes from those holding the prominent viewpoint of the “Andalusian paradise.”  He frequently acknowledges their views, including points on which they are correct.  Also, he thoroughly documents that Christians and Jews in Spain, not only Muslims, were harsh in a number of their laws, restricted contact with each other, and were largely segregated, contributing to the lack of tolerance in Spain.  The Muslims were not the only bad guys, if you will.  So this book is no one-sided polemic.

Instead, this work is thoroughly scholarly.  D. F. M. quotes primary sources so much, it is almost overkill at times.  But he is debunking the dominant academic view of Muslim Spain; his near overkill is necessary.  Further, his notes and long bibliography take over a hundred pages!  The main text only goes to 240 pages – this is not a hard read.  But combined with the notes and bibliography, this is both a good introduction to the subject and an excellent resource for further study.

Sadly, the current state of academia is so averse to truth-telling about Islam and its history, one may have difficulty finding other books on Muslim Spain that are this good.  That makes this already (The publication date was 2016.) that much more a must have on the subject.

A personal note - I was struck while reading that the atrocities of ISIS and other Islamonazi groups are nothing new.  For example, how several medieval Muslim rulers turned executions into outlandish spectacles much like ISIS stood out to me.  These included mass executions that Muslims bragged of.  Trust that bragging is not too strong a word.  Actual history, as opposed to fashionable academic revising of it, and the view of Islam as a benign peaceful religion are not compatible.

But even if one disagrees with me on that observation, any open-minded student of Muslim Spain needs to get The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Sermon for the Ninth Sunday After Trinity

I preached the following sermon today during Morning Prayer.  You have been warned.

The Struggle: The Good Fight

Today one often hears from pulpits, particularly television pulpits, sermons stating that you can do anything you set your mind to do and have everything you want in life.  You can do it if you just have enough faith (and send a contribution to P. O. Box…)!

This is not one of those sermons.  Yes, God can and does use his people for remarkable things even beyond what we can imagine.  And God is a gracious and generous provider indeed.  But, at the same time, the Christian life involves endurance, struggle, and discipline.  You may not hear that on T.V. but you will hear that from scripture particularly from Hebrews chapter 12 read this morning.

By the way, Hebrews 12:1 was a favorite verse of mine as a High School distance runner.  I took “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” very literally.

However I admit that I did not like verse 4 quite as much.  You may remember that reads, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”  I preferred to stick to distance running.

But the Christian life is to be a struggle against sin and a struggle for what is good and right.  Even St. Paul struggled against sin in his life as he confessed in Romans chapter 7.  He said he desired to do what is right, but he struggled with inward temptation and sin that wanted to do what is not right.  And often he found himself doing wrongful things he did not want to do.  If St. Paul had to struggle, I suspect we all have to struggle.

So what do we do as we struggle against the wrong and for the right and somehow run with endurance this race of life that is set before us?  Well, it so happens that a major theme in the readings of this long Trinity season is striving to live as disciples of Christ.  But that is a matter for several sermons, and I do not wish to add to your struggle by attempting to summarize this theme.

But I do wish to make two observations about the struggle of the Christian life.  These two points are simple, although you may not ever see them on television.

First, we are to struggle well.  We are to run with endurance the race of life that is set before us.  We are to fight even.

Now “fight” is a strong word! I would not venture to use such strong language except that St. Paul uses it.  Something I recently noticed – by the way, a big reason to keep studying the Bible is you will notice gems of truth you did not notice before even in passages you’ve read many times before – as I was saying, something I recently noticed is that in his first letter to Timothy, towards the end, Paul exhorts Timothy:

O man of God . . . Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

That’s better than Braveheart!  So in 1st Timothy, Paul exhorts Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith.  In 2nd Timothy, near the end of his life, Paul states:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

In 1st Timothy, Paul exhorts, “Fight the good fight of the faith.”  In 2nd Timothy as he nears the end of his race of life, he says, “I have fought the good fight.”

So, yes, we are to struggle; we are to fight against sin and for what is right, for Jesus Christ, for his Holy Gospel, and for his kingdom.

But, second, we are not to fight alone - thanks be to God.  Numerous Bible passages testify to this.  At the beginning of the famous passage about the armour of God in Ephesians 6, St. Paul exhorts, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”  Psalm 46 proclaims, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  This psalm further emphasizes the strong presence of God by twice saying, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  And note how Jesus concluded The Great Commission at the conclusion of the Gospel of St. Matthew:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

We are to trust in our omnipotent and ever present Lord Jesus to help us to struggle and to fight well, to fulfill his Great Commission, to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

The collect for this 9th Sunday in Trinity reflects this reliance on God to help us to live right and to run well.  In our REC prayer book and in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it reads:

Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

That “we… cannot do any thing that is good without thee” is a radical statement indeed.  It joins a number of other collects of Thomas Cranmer in expressing a radical dependence on God.  But the collect we have here is a revision of Cranmer’s collect.  In his first Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer wrote even more radically “that we, which cannot be without thee, may by thee be able to live according to they will, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  And this was not an invention of Cranmer.  He closely translated a Latin prayer that dates back to at least the 7th century.

Thus the original collect says not only that we cannot do anything that is good without God, but that we cannot even exist without God - and rightly so!  It is God who has created us, not we ourselves.  And it is God who has recreated us by making us new creatures with new hearts in Christ.  So Cranmer was right to express a radical dependence on God.  And that should be our attitude as well.

But that is not a passive dependence.  We are to depend on him, his help, his strength, his presence as we seek to do always such things are right, as we seek to live according to his will, as we seek to fight the good fight of the Faith, as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission, as we seek to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Thanks be to God that he has given us such a glorious calling, such a noble task, along with his very present help and the assurance of victory in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

And now we will pray Thomas Cranmer’s original collect.  Let us pray.

Grant to us Lord we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, which cannot be without thee, may by thee be able to live according to thy will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.