Thursday, October 19, 2017

Anglicans and the Reformation

Who’s the head of the Anglican Church (worldwide)? Some might say that it’s the Archbishop of Canterbury—while others might say it’s the Queen of England. Sorry, but both answers are wrong. The head of the Church is none other than Jesus Christ, he is the head of the Church.

That’s why it is so annoying that so many people believe that Henry VIII wanted a divorce so he declared himself to be the head of the Church in England. If it was just the matter of a divorce, well, sadly, Henry had other means at his disposal for ending marriages that he wasn’t afraid to use. So, that’s false. The vast majority of people in the British Isles were Christians, but they wouldn’t have gone along with separating from the Roman Church without a more significant reason than a king wanting a divorce.

The fact is that a couple of decades earlier the Reformation started to take root in northern Europe and the thinking that spurred it influenced the Church in England. So, when Henry finally got around to deciding to separate from Rome, there were lots of bishops, clergy and people already on board. Not everyone, of course, agreed and there were many years of turmoil ahead for the Church and people.

Although Henry might have declared himself the head of the Church, the Reformation’s influence would have held other principles more highly. Such as the central idea of the primary role of the individual in Christian faith. For example, the Reformers thought that all Christians members of the priesthood of all believers, since everyone is able to access God through prayer. “We are all priests, as many of us as are called Christians,” Luther wrote in On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. The clergy of the church, he argued, have authority over lay people only inasmuch as the people have granted this authority. And not because they are a special class of people.

No priest, no bishop and certainly no king (or queen) has the authority to stand between the individual believer and God.

There’s no doubt that the Church in England was heavily influenced by the Reformation. For the most part, Martin Luther’s criticism was against perceived abuses and excesses in the Church. If the 95 Thesis had been greeted with acceptance and change, there would not have been a division of the Church into various “denominations.” However, the reformation created great turmoil in which many people lost their lives. Which is why Reformation Sunday is seen as a commemoration, rather than a celebration. One cannot help but wonder if God wouldn’t prefer the Church to be one.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Reformation

Reformation Day is commemorated on October 31, by churches of the reform tradition. It is often transferred to the Sunday before. Here at St. Paul’s, we will commemorate the Reformation on Sunday, October 29. It serves as an opportunity for us to honour Martin Luther and other reformers of the sixteenth century, and I suppose reformers of any time.

The 95 Theses
It was 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This wasn’t the first attempt at correcting perceived errors of the Church, but Martin Luther’s actions began what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

Luther chose the night before All Saints Day because he knew that many people would be attending church the next day and would read his statements of concern about the church as they entered for worship.

The issues for Luther revolved around three main concerns: first, the power exercised by the church in Rome over the affairs of the church in Germany and other places; secondly, his opposition to the selling of “indulgences” for the forgiveness of sin; thirdly, the concern that too much money was being taken from the church outside of Roman for the building of a lavish cathedral in Rome.

Luther taught that, according to the promises of scripture, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to speak God’s Word to us and that we receive God’s grace through our faith in Christ. This is the truth that makes us free. Our life in the Body of Christ is shaped by this gift of freedom.

In Canada, the Anglican Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church have been in full communion since 2001. This means that while each church maintains its own autonomy, it also fully recognizes the catholicity and apostolicity of the other. In practical terms, this means that Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada can share the Eucharist together, use each other’s liturgies, and participate in each other’s ordinations. Anglican and Lutheran clergy may also serve interchangeably in either church. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thanksgiving Defines Us

"Go and show yourselves to the priests."  That’s the instruction to the ten Lepers healed by Jesus in our Gospel lesson today (Luke 17:11-19).

Essentially, the instruction is for each of the people who’ve been healed to be restored to society, to their former place in society. It was the priest who was responsible for determining that someone was in fact healed and could be returned to their former place in the community and family. Mothers could go back to being mothers; fathers as fathers and so on. In a very real way, it is society that is healed, not just the ten people suffering from leprosy.

Gratitude is, without a doubt, a healthy way of being, a good response to something good. I might have, if I’d just been healed of leprosy, been more keen on seeing my family again than thanking the person who healed me. Nevertheless, gratitude is good.

Given the sometimes overwhelming news of hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, bombings and other pains, it is increasingly difficult to hold onto a spirit of thankfulness. Yet, there is still goodness in the world. There are still people who choose love and courage despite their various circumstances. There is reason to be hopeful and thankful.

Most especially as followers of Jesus Christ, we must find the strength to remain people of deep gratitude. The name of the main sacrament that we celebrate each week, the Eucharist, means, thanksgiving. It is who we are. Thanksgiving defines us. Not just for the harvest and certainly not for the stuff we’ve accumulated, but for the victory of Jesus Christ which calls us into a deep relationship with a loving, forgiving and merciful God.

The nine lepers who walked away without giving thanks were still healed. The one who stayed showed his/her faith with gratitude. A truly grateful heart is to be nourished with the confidence that God’s love wins. Every time, God’s love wins.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Here Come the V's!

I guess that you would have to have grown-up in Metro Halifax to know the phrase, “Here come the V’s!” It’s what the announcer shouted when the AHL Nova Scotia Voyagers took to the ice at the old Halifax Forum. It was an exciting hockey team really. The Montreal Canadians farm team. Many of the plays became stars in the NHL and some had been stars in the NHL. Those years were winning years. The Forum was often sold out and once and a while my Dad got tickets and we went and cheered for the V’s.

Back in the ‘70’s you could still expect the infamous bench-clearing-brawl. And one game in particular between the beloved hometown V’s and Rochester (I think), such a brawl ensued. And not a soul in the Forum that day could deny that the brawl was started by the V’s, who happened to be losing. Typically, in those days, before the instigator rule, two or three players on each team would be penalized and one or two given a game misconduct. This day however, when the snow settled and the penalties showing on the clock, and it was the visiting team that had two extra minutes.

Rochester left the ice in protest—to the gears and shouts of the fans. Except for two. Me and my Dad sat on our hands. An injustice, even one that favours our team is still an injustice. It is better to lose fairly than to win unfairly.

In Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 21) Jesus questions the Pharisees as to why they question him and his authority and not John the Baptizer’s who was saying many of the same things as Jesus.

John was calling people, all people, away from the temple and it’s corruption. Jesus was call people to the Divine and a direct relationship with God, no priest, no animal sacrifice, no payment was necessary. No question about anyone worthiness. No worries about what others might think. In God’s realm, everyone is welcome.

In God’s Church today—everyone is welcome!