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Showing posts from October, 2015

"Bible Sunday"

I should probably be more patient, but this is how I feel every year on the Last Sunday of Trinity: at last, Ordinary Time is coming to an end! The long green monotony is about to make way for All Saints and All Souls, the Feast of Christ the King and before we know it, deepest purple Advent, with which the new Church Year begins.
The Last after Trinity does have one perk, however: its Collect, a modern version of the Prayer Book's Collect for Advent 2. In my view, this is one of Archbishop Cranmer's finest prayers:
"Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."
I like this thoroughly Anglican prayer for what it does not say as much as for what it does. It does not …

Monarchy: servant leadership

James and John ask to be the leaders of the nascent Church. Jesus does not say that there is anything wrong with this per se, but he tells them that they don't really know what they are asking. If they want to lead, they will have to be baptised with the baptism he is going to be baptised with: that is, his death on the Cross. "You are not to be like the Gentile rulers and tyrants who lord it over their people," he says. "The great among you must be servants, and the greatest a slave to all."
Songs by the Sex Pistols, Hollywood movies and the consensus of sneering, metropolitan comedians might tempt you to believe that the villainous tyrants to whom Jesus objects are kings and queens. Yet compare the behaviour of American presidential candidates with that of our Queen, and you can quickly dispel the myth of republican superiority. Her commitment to selfless public service is indisputable even by the most hardline critics of the Crown. Forgive me for aiming at s…

St Francis - fret ye not!

Sometimes I wonder whether modernity has somehow tumbled out of the mind of Thomas Gradgrind, the headmaster in Dicken's Hard Times who believed in nothing but Facts, nothing that could not be weighed and measured. Our computers, our 'phones, even our watches nowadays produce reams of data about us, weighing and measuring the minutiae of our lives. We've got apps to tell us how many paces we've walked, how fast our heart is beating, how many calories we've eaten, what we've spent our money on. And all that data flies off automatically to some Gradgrindish machine in California which then berates us remotely for the woeful inefficiency of our lives. Is it any wonder we're all so worried?
Of course, there are things we should be worried about. As Christians, we should definitely be worried about the plight of the poor and the decline of our nation into unthinking heathenism. We might also be justified in worrying about such things as sacramental assurance and…

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

"Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life,' not 'I am the way, the social convention and the life.'"
In case you think I'm about to wuss out of controversy, those words didn't come from me, but from that arch-liberal 6th-century Pope St Gregory the Great. Yet it's funny how in every generation the popular truths of Christianity seem to echo the moral preoccupations of our grandparents. They're often sold as "Christian values," a handy way of agreeing with the bits of Christian teaching that happen to accord to one's particular prejudices without having to go to the intellectual effort of thinking about all of that supernatural mumbo-jumbo.
But Christianity isn't a list of values. The Bible isn't a Haynes manual. It's the God's life-story, and life's more complex than a clapped-out Anglia. Imagine if someone tried to take your life, the relations you've had, everything you've said and done, an…