Category Archives: AboutFaith
Oriental Orthodox - Anglican Dialogue
Last week (26 October) a new Agreed Statement between the Anglican Communion and the Oriental Orthodox was released. As agreed statements go it is relatively short and quite readable. You can open it in the button below, or the conclusion is copied to the right. This is an ongoing discussion that began in earnest in 2001. The First Statement was the Agreed Statement on Christology. The second statement is about the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit.
- Holy Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as movement in vivid imagery of water, fire, and wind. The Holy Spirit speaks in the Church and moves her from the area of internal comfort to the arena of external engagement. The Holy Spirit acts as the dynamic force within a redemptive understanding of memory as found in a historical past and leading to future responsibility in a changing world.
- In a world of enforced displacement and fearful arrival; in a world of accelerated movement; in a world of war-torn fragmentation and courageous martyrdom; the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, transcends time and space and yet inhabits both. The same Spirit is sent to commission and empower the weak to be strong, the humble to be courageous, and the poor to be comforted and blessed in a fallen world that is upheld by the providence and grace of God the Trinity who makes all things new in faith and hope and love.
- We submit this statement to the responsible authorities of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the responsible authorities of the Anglican Communion for their consideration and action.
Article 6 tells us that all thing necessary for salvation is contained in scripture and what cannot be attested to by scripture cannot be required of anybody to believed as an article of faith. Further it lists the 39 Books of the Old Testament, and then the books referred to as the Deutero Canonical Texts (sometimes called the Apocrypha) as being good for reading and morals though not to be used to establish doctrine, and the confirms that we receive the 27 books of the New Testament.
Article 7 tells us that the Old Testament is not to be read in opposition to the New, and that laws in the Old Testament as touching rites and ceremonies no longer are required of Christian people, however those commandment which are deemed Moral clearly do apply.
In article 19 we read "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."
In the next article we read "it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation."
The Anglican Approach to Scripture
There are many views about Scripture, and the Anglicans hold a wide variety of them. There are a number of things we hold as the Anglican perspective on Scripture.
The classic position of the Reformers - often called Sola Scriptura is indeed quite close to the Anglican Position where on the Foundation of Scripture and informed by the Tradition including the Creeds, The Ecumenical Councils, and the writings of the Fathers, we may deduce what we believe. The real difference in the Anglican position is the strength that we would provide to Reason, to the informed conscience, in terms of what we accept.
The more modern position of many new churches - often called Solo Scriptura, and often confused with Sola Scriptura, is based on the notion me and Bible and we will get it all right. There are a number of issues with this approach, including the absence of history, and the absence of learning from the witness of those who have done before us.
The teaching of the Catholic Church, probably somewhat changed since Vatican II saw the Church as the arbiter of the interpretation of Scripture. In a sense this is reflected we we speak of the Church being 'keeper of holy Writ' however that is maintained in check be the requirement of her role as 'witness of Holy Writ'.
Some Anglicans will argue that the Bible is Infallible, and some Anglicans will argue that it is Inerrant, but in truth the position of the Church and it's historic documents it is Authoritative. Our understanding of the Creeds and the Tradition is understood in light of Scripture and it is to Scripture that we must return to be on solid ground, mindful of Creeds, Councils and Tradition.
The O Antiphons
The Antiphons - the sentences for the liturgy - for the last seven days of Adventhave often been collectively referred to as the O Antiphons. They are the Antiphons that express the expectation. and the looking for the dawn of the new day, in one sense the pending festival of the Incarnation of the Son of God, the birth of Jesus, but yet at a deeper level the looking for the redemption of the world as expressed in the return of Jesus at the close of the age. Advent is both Incarnational and Eschatological in the expression of the looking, which Advent calls us to.
In a sense much of the O Antiphons was summed up in the Advent Carol O Come O Come Emmanuel.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
The Feast of Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus and is fundamental to understanding the Christian Faith. St Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15.14 'and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain' and in the Nicene creed we proclaim 'For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.'
Resurrection is a mark of Christian life, not simply faith. We do not give up.
For close to one seventh of the year is set aside to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In the liturgical year this is the season of Easter.
One of the great challenges now is that the secular world basically started selling Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns somewhere around Boxing Day. Come Easter Monday the secular world will move onto whatever comes next and will be selling fireworks or some other thing.
The sense of anticipation which works in marketing, has the possibility of robbing us of living in the moment. Easter in the new reality. Death no longer has the ultimate victory. We have been empowered to make a difference, and to know that the difference we have been empowered to make can begin right within us. We need time to take this in.
So the Easter Celebration is 50 days.
For all of lent we did not utter the word. For all of Easter we will use the word repeatedly. Alleluia (or Hallelujah - it is the same word really spelled differently) is from the Hebrew and means Praise be to God.
The reason for not using the word in Lent, is in order to let the word stand out in the Easter Season as a mark of a community living in the celebration of the new resurrection life.
The date of Easter varies year to year. It also varies between Eastern and Western Christianity. The original method for dating Easter was according to the passage of the moon in accordance with the Jewish dating for Passover, though always taking it to the Sunday following, so that it always falls on the first day of the week. The Eastern Church still follow that, whereas the Western Church at some stage moderated the dating to follow Roman traditions, and whilst they dates can and sometimes do correspond, mostly they will be out of synch by a week or two.
Both Eastern and Western Church leaders have spoken of the desirability of resolving the difference in dating - recognising that the important thing is what we celebrate rather than the day on which we do it.
There have been some calls from the secular world to celebrate Easter on the same day each year.
There has been a tradition of the number 8 being closely associated with Easter as the 8th day of creation. The First day of the New Covenant, making the new beginning. Most Baptismal fonts are octagonal in shape, reminding us that Baptism is a celebration of the resurrection.
Exodus 30:22-33 is an example of the ancient importance of anointing. Indeed the title 'Christ' means literally 'anointed one'. The New Testament and specifically James 5:14 endorses the ancient role of the anointing with oil specifically in association with the prayers for healing of the sick.
There are three Holy Oils blessed by the Bishop in Holy Week that are used in our Diocese and in the Parish.
The basic oil that we use is Olive Oil, as was used throughout the Biblical Period. The oils from the previous year are reverently disposed of during Holy Week and replaced with the new Oils blessed by the Diocesan Bishop during Holy Week.
The Oil of Sacred Chrism.
Following the ancient custom the Oil of Chrism is mixed with Balsam, which gives the oil a frgrance or perfume. The oil of Chrism is used as part of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, The Blessing of Churches, Chalices, Patens, Altars, and on similar occasions. Balsam reminds us of the fragrance of salvation, as we are called to life lives in the fragrance of the new kingdom. The oil of Chrism reminds us of our belonging to Christ as members of his body and inheritors of Salvation.
The Oil of the Sick.
The anointing of the Sick (also called unction) is specifically associated with prayers for healing, in keeping with the instruction of the letter of James. The oil used is a pure olive oil with nothing added, save that it has been blessed - most normally by the Diocesan Bishop during Holy Week. This oil is also used in the anointing of the dying (extreme unction) and reminds us that our faith tells us that physical death is sometimes the healing that God has for us on the journey into the light of his presence. The Oil of the sick reminds us of our duty to pray for the sick.
The Oil of Catechumens.
The oil of Catechumens was used in ancient time for the anointing of those who were not yet baptised, to ward of evil and keep them strong and protected on their journey into baptism. The oil used is again a pure Olive Oil with Nothing Added. The oil of catechumens may also used in the Ordination of Priests and Coronation of Christian Sovereigns. The Oil of Catechumens reminds us of our duty to proclaim the gospel and prepare people for Baptism.
The Liturgy for Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, the start of Holy Week is in many ways complex and confusing.
The liturgy begins with the remembrance of the triumphant entry to Jerusalem, with Jesus mounted on the donkey and the crowds with much excitement believing that the time of liberation (politically) had arrived, waving Palms, calling Hosanna, they hail him as the King. Often the liturgy of the Church will begin outside to building, to capture something of this moment of arrival.
Once inside the Church the mood seems to shift, and the Gospel for the day will normally be the reading of one of the synoptic (Matthew, Mark or Luke) of the Passion (The section of the Gospel from the Institution of the Lord's Supper, the betrayal, before Herod, before Pilate and through to the Crucifixion). This is a long passage. It can be very moving to hear it read as a complete passage.
This sets the tone as we turn to the altar to do the very thing that Jesus asked us to do, to break the bread of life, to share the cup, recalling him in our midst.
We are then, sent into the world, to serve as Christ served, to love as Christ loved, and to make a difference for good as Christ makes a difference for good.
Sometimes the most confronting thing about Palm Sunday is what it tells us about ourselves. We who call hosanna, also call crucify. None of us are as good as we would like to be. None of us is as consistent as we imagine ourselves to be.
Sometimes the most confronting this about Palm Sunday is what it tells us about others. Those who tell us how good we are today, may well be telling us how bad we are tomorrow. Look at political history in the last 25 years in Australia, the heroes we have hailed and the demons we have cursed have often been the same person with a few months political difference.
Sometimes the most confronting thing about Palm Sunday is what it tells us about God. The passionate love of God for both us and for justice, joins with us in the struggle, with arms outstretched in global embrace, and calls us both to join him on the journey, and be one with God and with each other in glory for ever.
The Church (liturgical) year begins four sundays before Christmas. The word Advent comes from the greek word for parousia, or the second coming of Christ. In English the word is sometimes used for the beginning or start of something.
The sarum or old english color for Advent was the deep blue of the night sky, just before the dawn, save for the third Sunday when Rose vestments were used as the hint of the sunrise you get in the night sky before the sun rises. The western rite simplified this and we now most commonly use the penitential colour of purple as we do in Lent, for Advent which is specifcally a season of preparation.
The main themes of the Advent Season have to do with the return of Jesus, The Kingdom of God, the call of John the Baptist to Prepare the way of the Lord, and the emphatic yes of Mary 'I am the Lord's servant, let it be to me according to your word'.
Hard to miss that the main characters of Advent are John the Baptist and Mary the Mother, and both of them are directing our attention, not to themselves but to Jesus.
The thing that is most important about Advent is to remember not that Christmas is near, though that for all that happens in retail Australia you might be forgiven for thinking this is the Christmas Season, but rather that Christ is near. Advent offers us a chance to reflect on what it means for us to remember the nearness of Christ, and no doubt we will be making ready for the celebrations of Christmas with family and friends, with feasting and celebration, yet for us it is not simply what we celebrate, but who.
There are signs all over the place. The Star on the Tree reminds of the the long and arduous journey some must make to the truth, the Angel on the Tree reminds us of the absolute acceptance of the task that Mary makes, and the rabbit I saw on the tree reminds us that some people do not get it - yet.
Advent can be a good time to set aside a few moments each day to reflect on the coming Kingdom, the already and the not yet.
A printable Bible Reading Plan can be downloaded here, and Canon Janet has another one available. printable-advent-reading-plan
Eschatology may well seem like a big word, and certainly the weight of meaning encourages us to explore and go beyond our comfort zone.
The Origin of the Word
The word is a composite of two Greek words.
Eschatos meaning last things or the end time or the end
Logos meaning word or words about. This was also the word used in John's Gospel Prologue to refer to Jesus.
Effectively together it means words about the last things, or a theology of the end time.
But wait, there is more
There are several schools of thinking in eschatology, and much of it is very helpful for us in understanding our own experience of life, now. Eschatology clearly has to forward or future dimension, however it also has a real place in our thinking now. Throughout the life of the Church there have been many who have overplayed the dramatic understanding of eschatology, and the artists have had a field day with the four horsemen of the apocalypse. There is a clear validity to the notion that this world has not always been here, and neither is it reasonable to assume that it always will be here. In this dimension science and theology are in agreement.
Time Meets Eternity
The first thing in thinking about what eschatology has to do with, in that sense is the point where time and eternity meet. The end of time, that point where there is no more time, but only eternity is surely such a point.
Thinking a bit further about that we might ask what about creation. Surely that was a point at that time came into existence, as Genesis says, eloquently, And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. This too is a point where time and eternity meet.
In the birth of Jesus we recount that God from before the beginning was born in human flesh, this tiny child is in himself an eschatological person. For in the person of Jesus, time and eternity met again.
The Celtic tradition of English Christianity that predates the Augustinian Mission had many nuances in theological understanding that survive to this the day. We sometimes hear tell of the gloaming, or the be-witching hour, and indeed of the wonder of the dawn. These are the moments when day meets night, or night meets day, and as any photographer will tell you these are moments when the light is amazing and many exciting photos owe something of their quality to this light. The Celts understood these meetings to be moments when eternity broke through.
They had a sense of sacred space, and these were places where there was a feeling of something intensely spiritual, and they spoke of them as thin places, where eternity broke through the earth's surface. It is interesting that in another world, in another hemisphere we are beginning to find out that aboriginal people had some similar understandings and a real sense of space and place which was clearly connecting to the realm of the dreamtime.
Of course for us as Christians the sacraments are encounters with the divine. In the breaking of bread we share the body of the Lord. In the waters of baptism we are united in the death and resurrection of the Lord. These sacraments, which are bound in humble, ordinary parts of the everyday life, are opportunities for the eternal to break through, and allow us to encounter the source of all life.
In a very real sense sacraments too are moments with deep eschatological meaning. They are moments of encounter.
They point us to the reality that all of life has moments of encounter. As people we are called to live life in both a spiritual and a physical way.
We celebrate the Saints. In many Churches Stained glass windows are filled with Saints. Through the windows light filters through with colours and hues to enrich the building. Just as the Saints themselves allowed the light of Christ to shine through them that other saw something of the Glory of God in the light of truth that they shed.
At baptism we are given a candle with the words 'shine as a light in the world to the Glory of God the Father'. We do not create the light; we are called to let the light shine through us. We are called both to see some of the image and likeness God in the lives of those around us, and to allow that light to be see in the way we live. We are called to be an eschatological people.
To live life eschatologically, is not to live in the sense of awe and dread that some suggest, but with expectation of meeting the one who loves us more than we can love.
The Return of Christ
It is clear that Jesus spoke of a return, and of an end of the age. Some along the way have spoken so loud about these things that other parts of the message are diminished. It is clear that the waiting has been far more extensive than the early Christians thought. Initially some thought the destruction of the temple would mark to conclusion of the world, and the return of Christ. Some thought that Christ would return before the last of the Apostles or early believers died. The reality is we are called to live each day as if this may be the day.
In reality we are called to live each day as a day when we might meet Jesus, in the sacrament, in the reading of the word, and in the face of friend and stranger.
An Advent Theme
There is no doubt that the Kingdom of God is a major theme in eschatology. The end of the liturgical year, and the feast of Christ the King means that something of Eschatology is apparent in the reading and teaching. The beginning of the liturgical year with the season of Advent, which calls us to be prepared not simply of the celebration of the Nativity (Christmas) but also for the return of Christ t the end of the age, and to meet him day by day in the face of friend and stranger.
Do Christians Believe in Evolution?
There is a straw argument that to believe in God as a creator is to deny evolution. This is then used to mount the case that as evolution is true, Christianity (and belief in God generally) must be false.
On closer examination this argument has many flaws at many levels. Many thinking Christians accept a theory of Evolution as a reasonable scientific claim and find that it does not challenge their faith position.
Charles Darwin posited a theory of natural selection, which was to suggest that only the strongest of the species survived. He collected more evidence and the theory developed. It had to include the ability to adapt to the environment, and especially changes in the environment. Ultimately, following the Voyage of the Beagle, he put forward a Theory of Evolution in 1836, and his work continued, and in 1856 his work 'The Origin of the Species' extended this work.
There is no doubt that the theory of evolution has gained much acceptance in science and in the world generally, so much so that it is taught these days in schools as 'fact', when it is really a theory we accept as true.
The Biblical Accounts
The Biblical accounts of creation are not per se science, nor are they intended to be. They are the ancient stories of origin, almost certainly having been inherited from the stories of the Epic of Gilgamesh (from around Ur of the Chaldees). Stories of Origin are almost always intended to explain why things are the way they are. They are stories born amongst people for whom the question of the existence of God was settled and self evident. They are stories that do not try and explain God, but rather assume and determine that the world is this way, because this is the way God has willed it to be.
The Theology of The Creator
The Theology of the Creator, and our understanding of God as Creator, is important. Perhaps the question here we need to ask ourselves is if we believe that God is Creator, Creative and Creating, or is it the sense of a past tense Creator, perhaps a belief in God as a retired creator. That of course has to do with whether you believe that the creation is finished, or in progress. Once one accepts the notion that God has not finished with the world yet, and definitely not retired, then the idea of God as an evolutionary creator makes wonderful sense.
Evolution as a Law
One of the problems with Evolution at a scientific level is that it is optimistic. The law of natural degradation suggests that everything runs down hill, slows down, goes rusty, and gets old. The theory of evolution posits a proposition that things are getting better, improving, and in fact going up-hill.
One reasonable understanding for such a reversal of the natural order, has to be the introduction of something additional, and Christians and Deists who accept a theory of evolution would clearly see that There is a God answer here. Indeed many Christians would accept that it is hard to assert a belief in evolution if you are not prepared to accept the probability of God, scientifically.
We also accept that there are some Christians who find the Theory of Evolution does not make sense to them. The Church is big enough to accept many points of view.
Proclamation may be in words – effective communication of the Gospel – but also in actions, by living the Good News we preach.
Christian discipleship is about lifelong learning, so we all need formal and informal resources for growing in faith, so that the Church is a learning environment for all ages.
Churches have a long tradition of care through pastoral ministry. Christians are called to respond to the needs of people locally and in the wider human community.
Jesus and the Old Testament prophets before him challenged oppressive structures in God’s name. Christians should not only press for change, but also demonstrate justice within Church structures.
The Bible’s vision of salvation is universal in its scope. We are called to promote the well being of the human community and its environment, so that Creation may live in harmony.
The Five Marks of Mission are:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
The Five Marks of Mission were developed by the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984 and affirmed by Archbishops of the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conferences in 1988 and 1998. The Church of England’s General Synod adopted them in 1996 and Churches of other denominations have also adopted them. The fourth mark was amended at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in 2012.
The Marks enable Christians of different countries and cultures, dioceses, deaneries, denominations and churches to have a common focus as they share in God’s mission in the world.
What is the Filioque Clause?
In the Nicene creed where we say
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
The three words and the Son translate the Latin filioque.
Hasn’t it always been like that?
At the Council of Nicea in 321 the Creed they defined (The Nicene Creed) did not have the filioque clause.
At the Council of Constantinople in 381 the Nicene Creed was tidied up, and it did not have a filioque clause.
At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 the Nicene-Constantinople Creed was ratified without the filioque clause.
The Oecumenical Councils are considered to have great authority and great weight is given to their decisions.
When and Where was it Changed?
At the third council of Toledo (589 AD) in Spain, following the conversion of the Moors and in reaction the Arianism (a heresy that denies the divinity of Christ) the clause was adopted and inserted into the Nicene Creed.
From there it seems to have gained acceptance amongst the Franks and at the Council of Hatfield (680 AD) under Theodore the ArchBishop of Canterbury it became part of the English Liturgy.
It was not until the coronation of Henry II as Holy Roman Emperor in 1014 that it was used in Rome.
The Eastern (orthodox) Churches do not include the filioque clause. There are a number of other Churches that follow this practice.
Why is it Important?
Probably the most important thing about the filioque clause is that it is cited as a major contributor to the great schism of 1054, when the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman) Church split.
Theology has been built up to support both sides of the debate, and there is merit on both sides of the discussion. Eastern theologians argue that it in some way damages our understanding of the Holy Trinity by breaking it up in components an removing the monarchical character of the Father as the sole source of all that is. Western Theologians defend the argument for 'double procession' in order to ensure that there is no implication of subordination of the Son to the Spirit and no room for Adoptionism or Arianism which would deny the divinity of Jesus.
One part of the question hinges on the matter of the authority of any one part of the Church to Change that which was decided by 'the whole church' in an Oecumenical Council and indeed ratified at three oecumenical councils.
Article 5 of the Thirty Nine Articles reads "The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God."
When Don't We Say it?
In Anglican practice we now omit the filioque clause, or at least put it in brackets, on occasions where it might give offence ecumenically. It has not been used at the enthronement of the last 4 ArchBishops of Canterbury including Justin Welby.
When Pope Benedict met with the Patriarch Bartholomew they said the creed together without the filioque clause.
The Uniting Church of Australia have omitted it from their liturgy since around 1985, whilst they specifically uphold the theology, they argue that the creed may be said without the clause.
The Lambeth Conference in 1978, 1998, and 2008, has urged member churches to consider returning the creed to the original state, without the filioque clause, when they revise their liturgies. The American Church has agreed in principle but not yet produced a new liturgy, The Church of England, The Anglican Church of Australia and The Anglican Church of New Zealand have all produced liturgies that retain the use of the filioque clause.
The most likely outcome over time is that more churches will return to the original status of the Nicene Creed, that we all might declare the faith of the whole Church. Perhaps the real work will be in coming to a real agreement about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
The Christological Heresies
Much of the work of the early Councils of the Church was directed towards establishing that which constituted Orthodox Faith and conversely, that which did not. This article is an attempt to present those ideas which the early Church concluded were wrong. Much of thois work was about Christology and the Incarnation and Atonement.
Universalism teaches that Christ was born in Bethlehem to save all humans and all demons. Origen allegedly taught this. The Nicene Creed reads “for us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. Christ was born to redeem humans.
Docetism teaches that Jesus only appeared to have a real physical body. On the contrary, the Churchteaches that Christ is fully God and fully man. As Christ says, “put out your hand and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones.”
Nestorianism teaches that Jesus is two “persons” – Jesus the human son of Mary and Jesus the divine Son of God. On the contrary, theChurch teaches that Christ is one person with two natures: divine nature and human nature.
Ebionism teaches that Joseph is the natural father of Jesus. The Nicene Creed refutes this with:”conceived of the HolySpirit.”
Apollinarianism wrongly teaches that Christ did not have a human soul. They taught that the divine nature replaced the soul of Christ. This is false because Christ in the Gospels says, “Now my soul is troubled.”
Arianism teaches that Jesus not fully God, but only the first and best creature of God. On the contrary, the Church teaches that Christ is fully God and fully man.
Valentinianism taught that Holy Spirit placed the Christ Child in Marys womb and she was a surrogate mother, but not Christ’s genetic mother. Paul refutes this when he writes, “God sent His Son, made of a woman.”
Monophysitism teaches that Jesus is fully God but not fully man. TheChurch teaches that Christ has two natures: divine nature and human nature.
Monothelitism teaches that Jesus has only one will. The Churchteaches that Christ has two wills: a divine will and a human will belonging to His human soul.
Iconoclasm teaches that images are idolatrous. On the contrary, theChurch defends the use of Christian (not pagan) images since Christ became visible through theincarnation.
The orthodox base position on Christology is stated in the Nicene Creed.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
Each of the heresies discussed here represents some sense of a divergent view, and much of the work of the councils in the first five centuries was directed towards find a statement that was clear enough, and that was comprehensive enough. It is to be hope that we will think about the words we say and commit to in the Nicene Creed.
James Noble (1876?-1941), Aboriginal clergyman, was reputedly born in 1876 near Boulia, North Queensland, of parents from Normanton. In the early 1890s he was a stockman for the Doyle brothers at Riversleigh on the Gregory River, and was taken south to Invermien, their station near Scone, New South Wales. Having asked to stay in the district and receive some education, Noble was given private lessons in the evenings. He was baptized at St Luke’s, Scone, on 1 July 1895 and confirmed six days later.
Suffering from poor health, Noble left to work for Canon Edwards, of Hughenden, Queensland, and after 1896 for (Rev.) E. R. Gribble (1869-1957), son of Rev. J. B. Gribble, at Yarrabah, an Anglican mission near Cairns. Noble rapidly became indispensable to Gribble’s missionary endeavours, and on 11 October 1901 was licensed as a lay reader in St John’s parish, Cairns.
In 1904 he helped to resettle at Yarrabah some hundred Aborigines from Fraser Island.
Soon after his arrival at Yarrabah, Noble had married Maggie Frew; their son died within months and his mother shortly after. A year later Noble’s fiancée Lizzie Moore, first matron of Yarrabah hospital, also died. He later married Angelina (c.1879-1964), a part-Aborigine from Winton, abducted by a horse-dealer who, to avoid the authorities, had dressed her in men’s clothing and called her Tommy. Noticed by police at Cairns, she had been sent to Yarrabah where she did well at the mission school. In 1904, as Noble’s wife, Angelina accompanied an expedition to the Mitchell River, to help to choose a mission site.
The Nobles looked after the party and negotiated with local Aborigines warring with encroaching cattlemen. In 1905 James returned to the Mitchell with Gribble to unload supplies, pitch tents and build horse-yards, as well as performing religious duties. That year he had charge also of thirty Aborigines farming at Bukki Creek, largest of the Yarrabah mission’s eight outstations.
In 1907 Noble represented Gribble at the synod of North Queensland and in 1908 accompanied him to a missionary gathering in Brisbane, preaching and addressing large audiences. Next year the Nobles pioneered another mission on the Roper River. They returned to Yarrabah in June 1910. In 1913 at Gribble’s request they set out for a mission reopened at Forrest River on the Cambridge Gulf, Western Australia. While the family waited at Darwin for sea transport, Noble held services for local Aborigines. Arriving at Forrest River in April 1914, they found the mission to consist merely of a hut, a small boat and a few tools. Noble constructed several buildings, including a shed where Angelina treated the sick, and overlanded cattle from stations up to 200 miles (322 km) distant. Noble was licensed as a lay reader at Forrest River in February 1925. In May Gribble sent him to the eastern States where he preached in numerous churches and addressed meetings. On 13 September 1925 he was made deacon at St George’s Cathedral, Perth, before returning to Forrest River. Thus he became the first Aboriginal Anglican clergyman in Australia.
Following reports in August 1926 of police reprisals for the spearing of an overseer on a cattle-station, Gribble sent Noble, skilled in tracking, to investigate. At the site of one of the massacres he discovered an improvised oven, and the teeth and charred bones he brought back, together with his evidence before a commission of inquiry in 1927, contributed to the arrest of two policemen for murder. Angelina, who knew at least five Aboriginal languages, interpreted for the inquiry.
By 1928 there were twenty-four buildings at Forrest River, many constructed of sun-dried bricks made by Noble. In 1933 there was a permanent population of 170 Aborigines with some 800 regular visitors. In addition to nursing, Angelina taught the mission children, baked the mission bread and cooked for the staff. After their return to Yarrabah in 1932, the Nobles went with Gribble to the Palm Island mission where Noble was licensed as assistant minister on 19 December 1933.
In declining health Noble returned with his family in 1934 to Yarrabah where he visited the hospital and taught traditional skills. After injury from a fall he died on 25 November 1941 in Cairns District Hospital and was buried in Yarrabah cemetery. According to a grandson he was a superb horseman, and Gribble claimed him as a gifted speaker whose earnest, unassuming manner ‘completely won all with whom he came in contact’. Angelina died on 19 October 1964 in St Luke’s Hospital, Yarrabah, where she, too, was buried. Two sons and four daughters survived them.
Jan Kociumbas, ‘Noble, James (1876–1941)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/noble-james-7853/text13641, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 5 November 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988
Church – the word
Of course being the Church, one can be very self conscious writing about it, and there are a number of aspects to cover.
Church is an English word derived from the greek word kyrios meaning 'Lord'. The scottish equivalent is kirk from the same origin. The latin word Ecclesia also comes into English in various forms and means 'called out'.
The New Testament sense of the use of the word is to refer to baptised people. Paul write letters to the Church in various places, and he was not writing to a building as that did not come till after the conversion of Constantine. Using the word Church to refer to a building is simply a short-cut for saying 'the building in which the Church meets' or perhaps 'The Lord's House', though we normally to use it for buildings that have been set aside for the primary purpose of the worship of God in Christ Jesus.
Here is the Church
When growing up many of us learned the ditty:
Here is the Church and here is the steeple.
Open the door and here's all the people.
You would clasp you hands with fingers interlocked and index fingers making the steeple. and then invert them to shall all the people. The point of the rhyme was that the people are the Church.
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
In the Nicene Creed we affirms our belief in the Church. The four things we say about the Church are called 'the (four) Notes of the Church'
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
Our belief in the unity of the Church is important and a struggle. See the article on Oecumenical Issues. We are better at this in theory than in practice, hoever we continue to affirm a belief in our fundamental unity as believers and followers of Christ.
The holiness of the Church is about it being God's Church, set apart for God. The the article on Holy - Holiness.
The Church is Catholic in the sense of inclusive of all the faithful in all ages and in all places, stretching back to the Apostles. See the article about Catholic.
The notion of the Church being Apostolic is that the Church has a mission and a purpose. The greek word Apostolos means 'I send', as Christ sent the apostle out to proclaim the good news, this task is committed to, and continued by, the Church.
O good Jesus, hear me
Within your wounds hide me
Let me never be separated from you
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come to you
That I may praise you with your saints
Forever and ever Amen
The Church is the Body of Christ
In the liturgy of the Eucharist we stand and declare:
We are the Body of Christ
His Spirit is with us
The Peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.
This claim is astounding when you think about it, however this is what we are called to be. It is through us the world will hear the message of the Gospel of Salvation. Of course one thing this is not is some sort of radical claim of perfection, for clearly the Church is not perfect - indeed it it was perfect their would not be much room for people. The people of the Church are Christ's people, and at out best we are Christ to the world.
We are All Saints
We are also all saints. This does not mean that any of us are perfect, have a look at the article on Saints. As the people of God, the baptised share in the mission of Jesus. It is quite common practice at All Saints Belmont, and many other churches that the candidate for baptism is presented with a lighted candle, lit from the Paschal Candle (The great Easter candle) with the words:
Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.
Some have reflected that we are called to be saints, like the saints depicted in Stained Glass Windows that allow the light to come through in a gentle and beautiful way, - or perhaps as a wag once put it, 'only the cracks let the light through!'
The Ordered Community of Faith
The Church, as needs must has an institutional reality. Jesus gathered the 12 Disciples and sent them. The Apostles appointed deacons to assist them, and ultimately others to lead the community of faith as it expanded through Galilee and Israel and into Europe. This sense of order that is part of the Church has also been the cause of many stresses along the way, and much of the great councils time was spent on matters of order.
Gathering and Scattering
In the shape of the liturgy is quite clear that there is an ebb and flow, that we gather to be empowered and emboldened to go out and make a difference in our world, only to the washed back to gather to be empowered and emboldened to go out and make a difference in our world ...
No doubt some have been and are called to live lives in retreat, to empower the Church as a whole, however the Church as a whole (and indeed most of its members) is called to live it's life in the world. The world is not a bad place, having been created by God, however it is a place that is in great need of love and light and people who will make a positive difference for good.
Many Roles with One Body - The Church
There are many roles within the Church, many avenues of ministry, some of the roles are sacramentally formalised in the ordering of the Church (Bishops, Priests and Deacons), and some roles and formalised in other ways, such as Parish Council Members, Liturgical Assistants, RE Teachers, and many other roles. There are a wealth of roles and ministries that are in a sense never formalised at all, like the care of the neighbour, and meeting the needs of those in trouble, the kind word, the helping hand, and whatever it may take. Anyone can do many of these things and never come to worship, yet we believe that motivated and empowered by the Spirit of Christ we do these things in the light and love of the one who calls us to to be.
Then with the turning of the tide
prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
the world that rushes in on me
till the waters come again and fold me back to you.
Aidan of Lindisfarne
The Tabernacle of the New Covenant
During the Exodus the Tabernacle was set up, as a tent just outside the camp, where the ark of the covenant was kept and God was with his people. The door of the tent was protected. When they settled in Israel the the ark was kept at a couple of places until the temple was built in Jerusalem and the ark moved there.
In the Incarnation we the love of God is expressed in an absolute unity with humanity. John 1:14 tells us "The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory". The translation of lived among us could also be pitched a tent in the midst of us or even tabernacled among us. An encounter with Jesus was an encounter with God.
As the body of Christ, the Church is the tabernacle of the new covenant. God does not live in a tent, or a building, or a temple, God lives in his people.
To make sense of that we need to be faithful to Jesus, the the account of his love in the scriptures, the celebration of the sacraments which point to and declare that love, and in living Christlike lives, not just when we meet, but also when we are scattered in the world.
The Japanese advance into Papua New Guinea found a number f Mission Staff who stayed with the people in the best of the tradition of service and faithfulness to Christ. Their wetness and memorial has made strong the Church in Papua New Guinea. The 2nd of September is set aside in the Australian Calendar as the day to mark the annual memorial.
Bishop Philip Strong’s Historic Radio Broadcast to the Mission Staff
On the day following this evacuation the Bishop of New Guinea, the Rt. Revd. Philip Strong, thought it wise to broadcast a message to his staff. It had been customary for the Sub-Dean of the Cathedral, the Revd. John Badger, to be on the air each day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, to pass on news and information to the staffs of mission stations which were equipped with radio. The Bishop asked him to notify staffs that at 3.30 p.m. that day he, the Bishop, would broadcast the message. After lunch he sat down to draft the message, and he records that he felt divinely inspired to give more than just a report. As he took up his pen, the words of the now historic message came forth in full flood. At 3.30 p.m. he went on the air.
After reporting that the diocesan office and base had been transferred from Samarai to Dogura, Bishop Strong went on:
As far as I know, you are all at your posts, and I am very glad and thankful about this. I have, from the first, felt that we must endeavour to carry on our work in all circumstances, no matter what the cost may ultimately be to any of us individually. God expects this of us. The Church at home, which sent us out, expects this of us. The Universal Church expects it. The tradition and history of missions requires it of us. Missionaries who have been faithful to the uttermost and are now at rest are surely expecting it of us. The people whom we serve expect it of us. Our own consciences expect it of us. We could never hold up our faces again if, for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled when the shadows of the Passion began to gather round Him in His Spiritual and Mystical Body, the Church in Papua. Our life in the future would be burdened with shame and we could not come back here and face our people again; and we would be conscious always of rejected opportunities.
The history of the Church tells us that missionaries do not think of themselves in the hour of danger and crisis, but of the Master Who called them to give their all, and of the people whom He trusts them to serve and to love to the uttermost, even as He has served and loved to the uttermost. His watchword is none the less true to-day as it was when He gave it to the first disciples, `Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s shall find it.’ No one requires us to leave. No one has required us to leave. Our people need us now more than ever before in the whole history of the Mission.
No, my brothers and sisters, fellow workers in Christ, whatever others may do, we cannot leave. We shall not leave. We shall stay by our trust. We shall stand by our vocation. We do not know what it may mean to us. Many already think us fools and mad. What does that matter? If we are fools, `we are fools for Christ’s sake.’
I cannot foretell the future. I cannot guarantee that all will be well–that we shall all come through unscathed. One thing only I can guarantee is that, if we do not forsake Christ here in Papua in His Body, the Church, He will not forsake us. He will uphold us; He will sustain us; He will strengthen us, and He will guide and keep us through the days that lie ahead . . . Let us trust and not be afraid.”
The Bishop’s message was then duplicated, sent by land messengers to stations which might not have been able to hear it by radio, so that all the Missionaries would be able to receive it.
Biographical Details of the Papua New Guinea Martyrs
The Rev’d. Henry Matthews, Priest at Moresby. Although over 60 years of age, he refused to leave Papua when war came. When his military Chaplaincy was terminated because of his age he received the Bishop’s permission to move to Dogura, but first wished to visit Darn and give ministrations to isolated Christians there, and was killed en route. He was born at Ararat, Victoria.
The Rev’d. Henry Holland, Priest at Isivita Mission, with 42 years of missionary service. He had gone to New Guinea as a lay missionary in 1910 and worked amongst coastal Papuans. In 1921 he was asked by Bishop Henry Newton to explore the Mt. Lamington area with a view to beginning work there. He chose the Sangara plateau as his centre and, after a year, had a Church and school built. Both were well used. He came from New South Wales.
The Rev’d. Vivian Frederick Barnes Redlich, Priest at Sangara Mission. Ordained in the Wakefield Diocese in England in 1932, he came to Australia to join the Bush Brotherhood of St. Andrew and was stationed at Winton, Queensland. He then offered for service in New Guinea and was accepted.
The Rev’d. John Frederick Barge, Priest at Apugi Mission, New Britain. An Englishman, he came to Australia in 1926, and became an orchardist in the Stanthorpe area of South Queensland. He was ordained in Brisbane in 1932, and was appointed as assistant in the Parish of St. James, Toowoomba. He went to New Britain in 1935.
Sister Margery Brenchley, Mission Sister at Sangara. An Australian nurse, from Holy Trinity, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
Sister May Hayman, Mission Sister at Gona. An Australian nurse, trained in Canberra, engaged to the Revd. Vivian Redlich. Joined New Guinea staff in September, 1936, was stationed first at Dogura, then at Boianai, before being sent to Gona.
Miss Lilla Lashmar, Mission Teacher at Sangara, who was from Adelaide.
Miss Mavis Parkinson, Mission Teacher at Gona. An Australian, from the Parish of St. Paul’s, Ipswich, Queensland. A member of the Comrades of St. George.
Mr. John Duffill, Mission Builder at Isivita. An Australian, from Holy Trinity, Woollongaba, Brisbane, who should have been on furlough, but elected to remain in Papua.
Lucian Tapiedi, Papuan Teacher-Evangelist at Sangara (from Taupota). He trained at St. Aidan’s College, Dogura.
Leslie Gariadi, Papuan Evangelist (from Boianai), assisting the Rev’d. Henry Matthews at Port Moresby. He trained at St. Aidan’s College.
Theology is 'words about God' and Christology is 'Words about Christ'. The fundamental question that Christology asks is 'Who is Jesus?'. On a broader canvas it is about the nature, person and work of Jesus.
It is indeed the turning point of the Gospels, and each of the Gospel writers has sought to answer that question. In the gospels is is also clear that Jesus asks that question of people as well. As you read the Gospels, it is useful to remember that this is the basic purpose of the Gospels, and that the writers want you to ask this very question.
Much of the work of the Oecumenical Councils in hammering out the creeds, and in establishing what constituted orthodox faith, addressed this question as well.
We all know that when we want to understand another person, or indeed ourselves, there are no simple one statement answers that cover it all. Rather there are numbers of statements that contribute to building up a picture of the person.
Although first in the printed order, Matthew was almost certainly written some time after Mark, and was either familiar with Mark, or as often suggested familiar with a common early source tradition referred to as Q.
Matthew is perhaps the most 'Jewish of the Gospels', and so begins 'Son of David, Son of Abraham. Matthew parallels Jesus to Moses, in terms of the Authorities killing the male offspring and only one was saved - Moses in Exodus, and Jesus in the Gospel.
Jesus is described as 'Emmanuel' - God with us, and Jesus saves us from our sins, and the call is for endurance.
Mark, the earliest (and shortest) of the Gospels, begins by telling us Jesus is 'the Son of God'. In Mark, Jesus regularly refers to himself as the 'Son of Man'. In Mark Jesus is regularly refers to him as 'teacher', and Messiah.
The clearest message in Mark is Jesus declaring the 'Kingdom of God' or the 'Reign of God'. The centurion declares at the moment of Jesus death on the Cross. 'truly this man was the Son of God.'
Mark is very clear about Jesus authority, and the response he seeks is obedience and faith. Mark most simply declares Jesus is Lord.
Luke, written later than Matthew and Mark, is the most gentile of the synoptic Gospels. Luke has the same core material (Q), or is familiar with Matthew and/or Mark. Luke speaks of the written records, and claims authenticity as he was there from the beginning. Luke is concerned with historical context, and presents Jesus as Israel's long awaited, and saviour of all of humankind.
Luke places more emphasis on the role of women and the role of gentiles, that the other Gospels. The Good Samaritan narrative is only recorded in Luke. The walk to Emmaus is another Luke account, and a clear indicator of a sacramental response to Jesus.
John's Gospel stands apart from the other three Gospels, and present material in a different way. John's Gospel has what seems to be a more developed theology, and uses a number of mechanisms to tells us about Jesus. This becomes evident as you read the prologue to the fourth gospel - John 1:1-18.
The gospel begins with with the account of Jesus as the 'Word' existing from before the beginning of creation. In verse 18 he is described as 'the only begotten Son of the Father'. There is little doubt that John's description of the pre-existent logos coming into the world was very important in the formulation of the creeds and the work of the Oecuemnical Councils in informing the debate/s about Christology. In chapter 4 the Samaritan woman at the well discourse declares him to be both the the Samaritan Redeemer and The Savior of the Cosmos. John also declares Jesus to the the 'Lamb of God'.
The 'I am' statements echo the divine name revealed in the Exodus. John seems to go the some effort to declare Jesus as one with the Father. Despite the strength of the international theology resounding through the fourth gospel there is no birth narrative. The feeding narrative is augmented in John's gospel, with some theology of the bread of life, which may well indicate a developed theology of the sacraments. The institution narrative is not present in John's Gospel, however the foot-washing is there, and a lot more teaching in the upper room.
We probably know more of the history of Jesus from the synoptic Gospels, and more of the theology of the early church from the Fourth Gospel, There is no doubt that John's Gospel was a major reference in informing the Oecumenical Councils as they hammered out orthodox christology.
Much work of the Early Church was understanding who Jesus was. The Council spent a long time discussing what was right (orthodox) and that which was in error (heresy). A number of the early heresies included:
- Arianism: Jesus was essentially Human - a very good man.
- Docetism: Jesus was Divine and only appeared to be human
- Pelagianism: Jesus was a man who did not sin and so became divine
- Adoptionism: Jesus was born human and became divine at his baptism.
- Nestorianism: Christ was two persons, the divine logos and the human Jesus.
The Councils determined that Jesus was the second person of the Holy Trinity, complete human as touching his earthly life, and at the same time completely divine. Totally reconciled.
The Nicene Creed, was established at the Council of Nicea and modesty revised at the 1st Council of Constantinople and affirms that God is Trinity, and that Jesus is at the same time, human and divine absolutely unified.
The Nicene Creed is for most of Christendom the litmus test of orthodoxy.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and became truly human.
Jesus is described by a range of titles all of which provide some informations for us.
- Jesus: (in Greek Iesous) In Matthew 1:21 Joseph is told to name the child Jesus - for he will save his people from their sins. Jesus is clearly the name Jesus was called in his earthly life by those who encountered him.
- Christ: A Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah and meaning 'the anointed one'
- Messiah: A Hebrew word Massiasch meaning 'anointed one', used in the Old Testament to describe the one who would bring about the messianic age (universal peace and community without war, crime or poverty). In the New Testament it is used to describe Jesus as the one bringing in the new age.
- Son of God: In a society were patrilineal heritage was seen as significant this title of Jesus is seen to affirm a direct relationship to God. The title is seen to affirm the divinity of Jesus.
- Son of Man: The title used in the Old Testament at times to describe humans, specifically or generally, in the New Testament it is a reference to Jesus. Often used with an eschatological overtone - 'came to seek and to save', 'You shall see ... coming in the clouds of heaven'
- Son of Abraham: Matthew 1:1 uses this title as a point to the pedigree of Jesus in terms of his status amongst the Jewish People. Of course every Jew would have seen themselves as a 'Son of Abraham' (as indeed does every muslim and every samaritan)
- Son of David: David was one of the heroes of Israel, having united the Kingdom and conquered Jerusalem. David's son was to build the new temple, as Solomon did, so too in the Gospel we see Jesus builds and speaks of the temple being destroyed and rebuilt with is three days - where the temple he was talking about was his own body.
- Son of Mary: This simple title describes Jesus without reference to Joseph, as an affirmation of his humanity.
- King of the Jews: In Jesus time Herod was the vassal King - the real authority was wielded by the Roman Governor. This was the title that Pilate had affixed to the cross, and may well have been intended to irk Herod more than anything else.
- Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53:1-11, is one of the four/five songs of the suffering servant from Isaiah. In Matthew 8:17 this is directly referenced to identify Jesus as the Suffering Servant. In Acts 8:22-35 Philip the Deacon shows the Ethiopian Eunuch that the Isaiah passage is talking about Jesus.
- Great High Priest: (Hebrews 4:14-16, makes a clear reference to Jesus as the Great High Priest. The role of the high priest was to enter to Holy of Holies each year at the passover and offer the blood of the sacrifice for the people and the forgiveness of their sins.
- Lord: (Greek Kyrios) is used over 700 times in the New Testament. It is a respectful term of address, acknowledging authority and expressing a relationship of authority.
- Prophet: In Deuteronomy 18:15 there is a reference to the expectation of a prophet. In the Old Testament the prophet was the one who spoke the word of the Lord, in the present with an impact on the future outcomes. Luke 24:19 tells how many people believed that Jesus was a prophet.
- Immanuel: (also rendered Emmanuel) A Hebrew word meaning 'God is with us'. This is discussed in Isaiah 7 and 8 referring to the time of the desolation of Israel when 'the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold'. The issue was to stay calm and remember that God is with us. In Matthew 1:22-23 the writer holds Jesus as the fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.
- Advocate: In 1 John 2:1 we are told that Jesus is our advocate with the Father. This means that Jesus pleads our case before God.
- Holy One: In Mark 1:23-24 the man with the unclean spirit declares Jesus to be the Holy One of God. The inference is that Jesus is set apart for some specific purpose by God. In the setting it seams that this declaration is early in the ministry of Jesus and results in some early interest in the ministry of Jesus.
- Rabbi: Rabbi is the hebrew word for teacher of the torah. There is some suggestion that the title indicated some teaching authority had been granted to the person called Rabbi, however we have no evidence, aside from his repeatedly being addressed as Rabbi that Jesus exercised any authority save his own. The only other sense of imprimatur is the evidence of John the Baptist and the voice from heaven at Jesus Baptism. John the Baptiser seems to have been popular though not authorised (John 1).
- Logos/Word: This is the title from the opening of John's Gospel and clearly given great weight at the councils in terms of Jesus as pre-existent, eternally divine, and absolutely part of God. see John 1:1, Genesis 1, Proverbs 8:22-31.
- Alpha and Omega: Alpha and Omega are teh first and last letter of the greek alphabet, and the meaning of this title is that Jesus was there at the beginning and he will be there at the end. The Revelation of St John the Divine carries much of this material.
- I am: Jesus uses the title 'I am' in context of a range of sayings (specifically in John's Gospel) and these are seen as a reference to the tetragrammaton (YHWH) the divine name revealed to Moses before he was to liberate the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt and lead them on a journey to the promised land.
- Saviour: In John 4:42 Jesus is described as the Saviour of the Cosmos. The inference of a Saviour has a sense of rescue. There is a circumstance or situation in which a person is found and the person who extracts the person from that situation, or is able to turn the circumstances around might be said the be a Saviour.
- Redeemer: The notion of the Redeemer is a metaphor more closely aligned to the slave trade. When a slaves freedom is purchased, they are redeemed. In some ways it is similar to the nation of Saviour, in that their is a sense of rescue, however there is a particular emphasis on freedom in the notion of redemption.
- Lamb of God: In John 1:29 John declares 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world'. The worship in the Temple was mark each year at the Feast of Passover by the sacrifice of lambs for the atonement of the people. In inference here is that the new covenant has one lamb, one sacrifice, one atonement, for the sins of the whole world. Jesus is identified as that lamb.
- Good Shepherd: The notion of sheep husbandry in the 1st Century is very different to what we know today. The shepherd went about with the sheep, with a herd small enough to be able to count, and recognise the differences. In the say they took the sheep out to pasture and brought them in at night to protect them from the wolves. John 10:1-21 discusses the Good Shepherd notion identified as Jesus.
- Light of the World: John 1:5-9 speaks of Jesus as the true light coming into the world. In John 8:12 Jesus declares himself to be the light of the world, and that whose who follow him will have the light of life. Light of course is not for looking at but for seeing by. The new kingdom does not want us to spend all our time focussed on the light, but using the light to live by, and shining out light that others may also see.
- Bread of Life: John 6:35, in the midst of the feeding narrative, Jesus affirms 'I am the Bread of Life'. Many Christians have understood this in a sacramental way, and others would see that the sacramental view opens the door to understand Jesus in a broader context, and that we as Christians are called to share that life.
- Second Adam: (see Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 5:20-23, 45-49) As Adam is the first man in the old creation, so Jesus is the first man in the new creation. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
- God the Son: The phrase in not used specifically in the New Testament, though clearly has New Testament Support as in John 1:18. The work of the Oecumenical councils in wrestling (sometimes almost literally) the doctrine of God as Trinity, and who and what place Jesus takes in all of this, concluded emphatically in the Nicene Creed and at Constantinople 'We believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, Our Lord'
The Ministry of Jesus.
Jesus Earthly ministry has several stages.
- Birth: Born to the unwed Mary, with Joseph as the presumed father, whilst in Bethlehem for the Census.
- Childhood: Save for the account of the Journey to Jerusalem for the passover when Jesus was about 12, we know nothing of Jesus early years. The apocryphal infancy gospels shed no real meaningful or credible information.
- Preaching Mission in Galilee: The first part of Jesus public ministry begins at a time when he was old enough to be heard and accepted (the traditional assumption is around 30). In the wake of the ministry of his cousin John's ministry, Jesus appears with a distinctly different style, embracing townsfolk, and preaching in the synagogues. His teaching was marked by a sense of authority, and he clearly worked a number of signs or miracles, including healing. The content of his teaching was about a new kingdom, not just a new ruler, but a new way of being ruled.
- The week in Jerusalem: Following the Transfiguration, we see Jesus in Jerusalem for the week of the Passover, marked by his entry heralded by palm branches, the cleaning of the temple, with a strength of teaching that caught the authorities off guard and left them feeling challenged and threatened. On the night before the passover Jesus shared the customary meal with his disciples, and commanded them to continue that, along with service, and afterward in the garden was betrayed and given into the hands of the temple guards.
- The Crucifixion: Before Annas the High Priest Jesus is accused of blasphemy, Jesus is passed to Pilate as the death penalty in a vassal state required the Roman Governor's approval. Pilate struggles with the notion of authority and in order to placate the crowd gives them what they ask for, and Jesus is led out to be crucified at Golgotha. Following confirmation of his death, his body is released to Joseph of Arimathea, and is placed in a new tomb. It was the eve of the Holy Day, so with a stone rolled in front and a guard set, the body is left till after the Feast.
- The Resurrection: The women come to the tomb first to finish preparing the body, and discover, the guard fled, the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Initially they think the body has been stolen, and following a number of encounters with the Risen Jesus they remember the things he said that foreshadowed this, that now they understood.
Seven Signs in John
The Gospel of John discusses seven signs, or miracles of Jesus.
Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11
John describe the miracle at Cana as the first of the signs, that proclaimed his glory and enabled the disciple the believe in him. In the ministry of Moses the water was changed into Blood, and here into wine. There is a strong suggestion of some sort of parallel between the old covenant and the new. This miracle is not recorded in the synoptic Gospels. Another interesting connection is with the Abraham story where he offered bread and wine to Melchizedek the King of Salem (Jerusalem) Genesis 14:18.
Healing the royal official's son in Capernaum John 4:46-54
This is a miracle about faith, healing and authority. This miracle is in the synoptic Gospels. Something of this has to do with authority without proximity.
Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
The healing of the paralytic at the pool. It seems that the purpose of this miracle was to get people to ask what authority Jesus had. Here the man is simply told to take up his bed and walk. The sign here is that the lame walk.
Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
The feeding of the 5000 is another miracle that has some obvious parallels to the Exodus account of the journey to the promised land where the manna in the wilderness fed the people. The point in that narrative was that there was none left over, however here there are 12 Basket fulls left over. For the early Christians the connection of this account with the breaking of the bread is highlighted as Jesus says 'I am the bread of life'.
Jesus' walks on water in John 6:16-24
This is another sign which has a clear connection to the Exodus, specifically the crossing of the Red Sea. There are accounts in the Matthew and Mark where Jesus walks on water, or quells a storm. It is a sign of rescue.
Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7
This account of the man born blind carries with it Jesus declaration that he is 'The Light of the World'. Jesus makes a paste and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam, The sign here is that the blind see.
Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45
Clearly this sign points to the the resurrection of Jesus. The account is not present in the synoptic gospels, whilst the Transfiguration dos not appear in John's Gospel, In the relative Gospels this account marks the division in the Gospel between the preaching and healing mission of Jesus to Galilee and the Jerusalem mission and the Cross.
Is Jesus an historical person?
There first two facts of Jesus life that attest to his existence, namely his Baptism by John and his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. Scholars are generally agreed that he was a Galilean Jew, and that Nazareth was his home town. There is also good evidence that his mother was Mary. Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea from 26 AD to 36 AD.
The evidence, clearly collaborated by Josephus, 1st Century Historian is that Jesus was an historical person. There would seem to good evidence beyond the Gospels, and other writing of the New Testament, together with the Apocryphal Material all of which attest to Jesus, the itinerant Rabbi, baptised by John, and crucified under the instructions of Pontius Pilate.
The New Testament is a credible historical document, better researched than most.
The one at the door
In Revelation 3:20 we read 'I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me'. Jesus is the invited guest, not the gate-crasher, nor the friend so familiar that they no longer feel the need to ring the bell. The Christian life means that day after day we invite Jesus to walk with us, and not like in the movie '50 first dates' where it was always the same, but a life where every day is different somehow.
John 3:16-17 reads '‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.'.
Whilst this has been a long article, in a sense it comes down to this. Jesus is the Son of God, who deeply desires to be at one with each person, yet waits for us, and waits for us, and still there comes a time when we respond, we make our selves ready to respond tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
There is probably no more agreed statement theologically that the second section of the Nicene Creed, which to a lot of work to get sorted. None the less there is still the more important question of Jesus for each of us. Are we going the answer the door?
Oecumenical of Ecumenical
John's Gospel recounts the high priestly prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately before his betrayal and arrest. It is a poignant reminder that we do not always measure up to everything that Jesus would wish for us.
20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
John 17:20-23 NRSV
The word Oecumenical, or Ecumenical, comes from the Greek oikoumene meaning 'the whole inhabited earth'. It refers to the whole church, and is used to describe the movement for the recognition all believers as 'one body in Christ'.
Was The Early Church Perfect?
Sometimes people speak of the early Church as if in some way it was perfect. It wasn't.
In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 15:7-11) the first of the Oecumenical Council is held, and the whole council of the Church gathers to discuss the issue that was causing a great deal of stress.
The early Christians were largely Jewish converts, and for them the notion of circumcision was simply culture and practice and part of the way the covenant was sealed with Abraham. The success of the Pauline mission to Asia Minor meant that there were numbers of adult male converts and for whom the idea of circumcision was one of the less appealing ideas, and a barrier to commitment. The resolution was to allow them to convert and be baptised, asking that they refrain from eating meat that had been offered to idols and refrain from sexual immorality.
Much of what was going on at this council was the Church examining it's understanding of itself, as an extension of Israel, or as God's new and open covenant with people of faith. This fundamental issue had the capacity to tear the infant Church apart, and there was no doubt great passion on the debate.
The time of the Reformation heralded a new reign of splits, including the Calvinists, the Lutherans, The Zwinglians, and others.
The Church of England Split was somewhat different in that it represented a continuation of the ancient Church without the authority of the Pope.
The level of fracture in the church has been rather more manifestly part of Church life since that time, and not always some of our best work.
The First Big Split
There were many issues that threaten the unity of the Church. The Great councils of the Church represented a gathering of the Bishops of the whole Church to discuss and find a way forward.
There were five ancient Premier Bishops - the Oecumenical Patriachs of Rome, Constantinople. Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch. The five great arms of the Church were self governing (autocephalous is the greek term), and yet had agreed in the great matters that they would consul and find the common mind.
There were many things that they agreed about, and many they struggled with, including the date of Easter.
The first major split happened when the Bishop of Rome inserted the Filioque clause into the Nicene Creed. (This is the words 'and the Son' in the line,
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
The Western Church had accepted by and large the Athanasian Creed, which had little adoption in the Easter Church, who held that the Nicene Creed (as determined at the Council of Nicea and modified at the Council of Constantinople) was an adequate account of the faith. Many scholars argue that the Eastern Church may have been happy to accept 'through the Son', however that may be simple speculation.
The Filioque clause had begin to appear on western liturgy from the seventh century, making sense of some of the writings of the father, including Basil the Great. In 1014 the Pope finally authorised the insertion and in 1054 the East and the Wester separated. This was the first great schism, and remains today the greatest schism in the Church.
Should the Church be more unified?
It is very hard to read Prayer of Jesus in John 17, and not to lament the divisions that are part of the Churches broken witness in the world today.
It is hard to look at the news today, to look at the rise of apathy, indifference, and fanaticism, and not feel that a more unified Church would provide a better witness to the true light that has come into the world.
The short answer is of course we all believe that the mission of Christ would be better served if the Church was more unified.
The World Council of Churches
The first assembly of the World Council of Churches was in 1948 in Amsterdam. Today there are 340 Member Churches, including Anglicans, Uniting Churches, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, and very importantly the Orthodox Churches. Sadly our sisters and brothers in faith in the Roman Catholic Church are not yet members. The world Council of Churches has now had ten general assemblies. The work of the WCC has clearly brought Churches closer together, and a sense of unity of purpose and mission has, in the main, been positive and constructive.
There were numbers of people who had hoped that it may lead to some more organic unity, and perhaps institutional expression of that unity, however the experience has shown that this is more likely to be incremental and probably achieved on a one by one basis in terms of bilateral talks, agreements and closer ties between individual Churches.
At times part of the problem has been for the WCC to act in a meaningful way, and certainly on any matter regarding social justice, there will be matters of dispute. The world is a big place and a small place. The African Continent is largely content with male dominated hierarchy, and narrow definitions of moral questions, whilst the North American Continent embraces female leadership and is rather more permissive on moral questions. Sometimes, whilst we are reading from the same book, we may well be on a different page!
Anglicans have always had a lot to bring to the table in Oecumenical discussions. As pioneers of the via media, and a long history of an accomplished tradition which holds many viewpoints, we are well positioned. We have a catholic order, and an apostolic faith, and a good record of scholarship and reason.
Sometimes we have been distracted by our own issues and our own fractions, such as a range of splits that happened in relation to the discussion leading up to the ordination of women. Sometimes we have seen ourselves and Catholic and Reformed, and the answer to Oecumenism is for everyone to become Anglican. Thats not going to happen. We need to be sure of ourselves as Anglicans, without being arrogant. Anglicanism certainly works for us, however it is clear that it doesn;t work for everyone.
The secret to Oecumenical progress is to listen to God and to each other.
A Lusty King?
The easy answer you here is that the origins of Anglicanism lie in the story of Henry VIII and his need to get a divorce. Whilst it is a good (or not) story, it's brevity lacks authenticity and falls a long way short of the truth on many levels. Still we have always enjoyed it as part of our heritage, and it does remind us not to be too precious at times. The Episcopal Church of the United States ran an ad campaign in the 70's that celebrated this.
In a Church begun by a man with six wives, forgiveness goes without saying!
Some of us don't know much more about the origins of our faith tradition, so this article, is a brief look at some of that that has gone before and continues to make us who we are.
The word Anglican is from the latin phrase Ecclesia Anglicanum, which simply means 'The English Church'.
The Celtic Period -The Earliest English Christians
In 595 Pope Gregory asked Augustine, a Benedictine monk, to lead a mission to England. In 597, after the conversion of Aethelbert he settled and set up an abbey in Kent at Canterbury, on the site which today is Christ Church Cathedral.
The Gospel was heard in England long before this however. The Angles and Saxons, were preceded by the Celts. The legend of Joseph of Arimathea landing at Glastonbury on the west Coast of England has very little evidence to support or discount it - although Glastonbury was an important trading site for the Empire as a tin mine, and on the Phoenician trading routes and it makes good sense that he may well have gone there. Britain sent three Bishops to the Council of Arles in 314 AD. This means that the Church was alive and well in 3rd Century England.
The first British Martyr recorded is Alban. The dating of his martyrdom is a little more problematic. Many place it as early as 209 AD, whilst some prefer a date it 50 years later. This argues well for a 2nd Century Church in England.
The Christian story flourished through Europe enjoying the freedom of travel that was afforded by the Pax Romana. The Romans Empire had certainly ventured into England, and there can be little doubt that something of a Christian faith would have moved with them, though certainly not as the dominant theme. A number of artifacts have been recovered from this time with Chi Rho decorations, and not crosses, which perhaps suggests that it was regarded in the Roman mind as reprehensible. It is almost certain that there were some Christians in England in the first century.
None the less, Augustine's mission was very successful on many scores, yet in dealing with the British Christians he had his work cut out for him. At the Council of Arles, a decision was made to keep the Roman date of Easter. The Celtic Christians observed the Eastern date for Easter. It would seem the British Bishops at the council either to deliver the message, or failed to convince the English Church. This was one of the concessions that Augustine required of them in brokering a peace between his mission and the Church that was already there.
The Pope granted Canterbury and York the Pallium. This was the symbol of office that granted a level of independence, and allowed the Bishop to consecrate new bishops without permission from Rome. Given the distance and the travel required was a sensible provision, however meant that the English Church grew and flourished not so much in isolation but with a greater level of independence, than many of the European Churches.
Some part of the success of the Augustinian mission no doubt also lay in the conversion of local Kings and leaders.
The Anglo Saxon Period
There are many famous names in the Anglo Saxon Period of the English Church. Much was recounted by the early church historian - The Venerable Bede.
- Hilda of Whitby
- Julian of Norwich
The Norman Period
There are many famous names in the Norman Period of the English Church.
- Thomas a Becket
The Split with Rome
In 1534 Henry declared that the Pope had no temporal authority in England. The circumstances that led to the position are not as simple as some would suggest.
Henry had married Catherine of Aragon, and needed a Papal indulgence to do so. Catherine had not delivered a male heir, which Henry believed was imperative to the future of England, and saw it as a sacred responsibility of his office. The appeal to the Pope for a divorce in terms of the matters of state of the day, in normal circumstances may well have been a formality. At the time of the request, following the sack of Rome, the Pope was under house arrest and the prisoner of Charles the 5th of Spain - the nephew of Catherine of Aragon. Ultimately the Pope said nothing more than that Henry should not marry another until the matter was resolved. Henry was in love with his mistress - Anne Boleyn, so and in order that they might marry Henry took the matter out of the Popes hands, and resolved the independence of the Church in England.
This of course was not the only matter. The Church in England had become very wealthy, and the financial hold this had on England was significant, so Henry's move also improved the wealth if the national estate, and in amongst the things that Henry achieved was a financially far more viable England, and a much stronger navy.
Europe was undergoing a period of reformation in the Church, Martin Luther posted the 95 thesis in 1517 and was ultimately excommunicated at the diet of worms in 1521. John Calvin broke with the Catholic Church in 1530. Zwingli was also active at this time. The old order was being challenged. England was not immune to these ideas, and there was a mind for a liturgy that might be understood by the people. Cranmer's Litany was published in 1544 and was the first officially sanctioned liturgy in English.
One one hand the English Church declared it's independence on pragmatic rather than theological grounds. Immediately following the declaration and the Act of Supremacy, beyond the King's divorce and marriage the Anne Boleyn, not a lot changed. In that sense the English Church retained it's continuity and history going back to the Apostles, and remained Catholic. On the other hand the mood of the times meant that on some scores the mind of the reformation was going to have a hand in contributing to Anglican faoth and practice.
The Elizabethan Settlement
After the stability of Henry VIII there was a deal of instability in the English Church, following Henry VIII (1509-1547) was Edward VI (1547-1533) , Jane (9 days), Mary I (1553-1558) then Elizabeth I (1558-1603).
In religious views Henry VIII somewhat conservative, whilst open to some reform and limitation of Papal Power, he was not of himself a wholesale reformer. He seems to have supported the idea of a liturgy in the vulgar tongue. Edward was to young to have his own mind, and was clearly subject to much toing and froing, and many rival forces sought to steer the direction The prayer book of 1549 was the first complete Prayer Book in English. Mary, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon had a mindset to put the wrong to right and repealed Act of Supremacy and return England to a catholic position.
After so much done and undone, on Mary's death, Elizabeth (the child of Anne Boleyn) came to the throne at the age of 25. Many had not approved Henry VIII treatment of Catherine (and subsequent wives), yet liked even less the excesses of Mary in redressing the matter, and so with so much having gone on, the Elizabethan Settlement was reached.
This returned the English Monarch as the temporal authority 'Supreme Governor', and returned the liturgy to English. None of this was easily worked out, and it is a testimony to Elizabeths skill that she was able to broker it, and ultimately have the matter settle down. Her famous quote in relation to the Holy Communion is perhaps a evidence of her approach.
His was the word that spoke it, and what his word doth make it, I do believe and take it.
The position was largely traditional, with independence from Rome, and an English liturgy. It clearly sought to redress some of the excesses, yet was not a wholesale embracing of the principals of the Reformation. The way of the English Church was to steer the middle way.
The English Church understood itself to be Church for the English people, and as such whist holding the basics, (a trinitarian core, the incarnation, the bible, the oecumenical councils) it was a church that allowed as many people as possible to find a home.
The Articles of Religion
There were several attempts to codify Anglican belief.
1537 - The Ten Articles
One Bibe, Three Creeds, Four Oecumenical Councils, Baptism, Penance, Real Corporeal Presence, Justification by Faith accompanied by charity and obedience, invocation of the saints and purgatory. Drawn up by Cranmer, and broadly encompass the mind of the King.
1538 - The Bishops Book
This book enshrines the ten articles was written as a joint effort by 46 divines and Bishops, led by Cranmer and were to set the path for a reformation and a Church more independent, and showing some influence by the reformers.
1539 - The Six Articles
German Reformers appeared at Lambeth in 1539 and this gave the King some concern. Parliament affirmed six core points, Transubstantiation, Witholding the Cup, clerical celibacy, chastity, private masses and auricular confession.
1546 - The Kings Book
The Kings Book in 1546, the work of Henry VIII was largely a rewrite of the Bishops Book, with a string emphasis being placed on the six articles. It encouraged preaching and attacked the use of images.
1552 - The Forty Two Articles
More reformed and protestant, issued under royal mandate (Edward VI) in 1553. They did not have the approval of the Church. On the ascent of Mary they were ignored.
1563 - The Thirty Nine Articles
The forty two articles influenced the 39 articles. They argue against a number of the anabaptist positions, and ensure an established church holds an indigenous apostolic faith. In a sense they are the Elizabethan settlement theologically. They affirm Catholic and Reformed positions on a range of issues and sought to find a middle way.
In Anglican tradition the Thirty Nine Articles are not a confession of faith, though they are an important historical document. Undoubtedly in part they address the burning issues of their day.
In 1661 The Convocations of York and Canterbury approved a new Prayer Book covering the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. In many respects this was the defining liturgy for the English Church for the next four hundred years. Praised for it's language, and the great psalmody, it was one of the things that we held in common. Many a witt would quip:
The Church of England is a divers group of people loosely bound together by a prayer book!
One of the things the Church turned its attention to was education. The Church was instrumental in founding schools, colleges and universities. One of the outworkings of a liturgy in the vulgar tongue was the growth of an informed laity.
Over the next few hundred years, The British Empire began to find it's place, and as the English went forward the Church of the English People went with them. A new era of mission had begun, and as chaplains and missionaries the Anglican approach to Christianity made it way around the globe. Anglicans went with the expansion of trade and industry as well. To India and Sri Lanka, to America, The Falkland Islands, to Japan, China and the Orient, and to Austrlia and New Zealand.
In Australia the first fleet landed at Farm Cove on the 26th of January, and on the 3rd of February the first Christian Sunday Service took place close to what today is Bligh Street in Sydney.
As Anglicanism has a level of independence about it, it was bound to be that the new Churches started new Dioceses, and the Dioceses together become national Churches. In the Anglican way of things these Churches all held a level of independence, yet remained in communion with the ancient see of Augustine, the ArchBishop of Canterbury. The ArchBishop of Canterbury became the focus of unity for Anglican Churches as first among equals. National churches developed national liturgies, and organised themselves. Yet still observed the things we hold in common, and celebrated a unity in diversity.
Of course we do note that some things are a little odd. The ArchBishop of Canterbury has the official residence, Lambeth Palace, across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster where Parliament lives in London. All the Bishops of the Anglican Communion meet once every ten years at the Lambeth Conference, which normally meets in Kent, near Canterbury Cathedral.
There are today around 85 million Anglicans, making us the third largest Church, a long way short of the first two. 36 million Anglicans live on the African Continent, which is the part of Anglicanism that has seen the greatest growth over the past century, 26 Million in the United Kingdom.
Many people don’t realise that there are three creeds.
It can come as quite a shock to some people to realize that there are three creeds. In the first part of this article the we will look at the two creeds side by side. Further down we will discuss how they came to be. After that we will look at the third creed.
Generally the creeds come about to express the common faith and be a focus of unity. That also implies that for that need to exist there was a level of controversy. The Nicene Creed is almost certainly the oldest of the Creeds, The Apostles Creed is the shortest, and follows the Nicene Creed, however the changes open the creed to be more inclusive of the followers of the teaching of the Arian controversy. . The Athanasian Creed comes later again, and is considerable longer and labors a couple of theological points quite strongly.
The Apostles Creed
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Nicene Creed
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
Who has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
History of the Nicene Creed
The earliest form of this creed was established at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Part of the context of the Council of Nicea was the Arian Controversy. Arious was at odds with much of the Church for his teaching which suggested that Christ had not existed from the beginning, but was in fact a creation of God the Father. As such Arius was more Unitarian than Trinitarian. As a result you can see quite clearly that there is a strong Trinitarian thread through the Nicene Creed. Part of the mind of the Church was to set some boundaries in terms of orthodoxy and ensure that the followers of Arius would be set straight.
In 381 at the Council of Constantinople the creed was revised to include the words in the section on Jesus, 'Through him all things were made', which it would seem was to clarify and strengthen the stand against Arianism. This was further shored up with the addition of 'We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins'. The creed has been established in this form since that time.
The Nicene Creed is the one creed where we can point to councils clearly for authority in faith, and it is the one creed that is accepted seemingly universally in the Eastern and the Western Branches of the Church. The Orthodox have never paid as much attention to the Apostles Creed, generally considering it to be later and not having the same credentials, and the Athanasian Creed has had little acceptance in the Eastern Church at all.
History of the Apostles Creed
The first solid reference we have to the Apostle's Creed is in a letter from Ambrose of Milan to the Pope (390 AD), however it is clear here that the creed was accepted by many as having an Apostolic origin, and significant value. The version that Ambrose referred to did not have the line 'maker of heaven and earth', which it seems was inserted in the eighth century.
The Apostle's Creed is almost certainly a development of an earlier creed - The old Roman Creed, which probably was used in the 2nd century.
I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord, Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, whence He will come to judge the living and the dead;and in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, the life everlasting.
The Athanasian Creed
WHOSOEVER WILL BE SAVED,
before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled,
without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons,
nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father,
another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible,
and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,
but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty,
and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three
Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God,
and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord,
and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge
every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say,
There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son,
neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons;
one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other;
none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons
are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid,
the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also
believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess,
that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds;
and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man,
of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the
Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man,
yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead
into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance,
but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul
and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell,
rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father,
God Almighty, from whence he will come
to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies
and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life
everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully,
he cannot be saved.
History of the Athansian Creed
The use of the Athansian creed seems to date back to the sixth century, a hundred of so years after the death of Athanasius. The creed was written in latin, and as Athanasius spoke Greek it is most unlikely that he had any part on its composition.
The Athanasian Creed differs somewhat from the other two, in that it is considerably longer and dwells significantly on a theology of the Holy Trinity at length, then follows by a significant consideration of the incarnation, and the understanding that Jesus was both God (of the substance of the Father) and Man (of the substance of his Mother).
It is clear that part of the purpose of the Athansian Creed was to firm up the position of orthodoxy (as expressed in the Nicene Creed), and make it more difficult for any view to be held that was considered outside this and therefore heretical and needing to be corrected.
Article VIII – Of the Three Creeds
The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.
Whilst the standing of the 39 Articles is hard to determine in Anglican terms, as they do not have the standing of a confession of faith, they remain a significant historic document for us. It is clear here that that the three creeds where in some sense ratified as part of the Anglican heritage.
In contemporary liturgical practice the Nicene Creed is the one we use the most, and as the creed with the most universal acceptance across the broad spectrum of Christianity it offers the most solid stand as a focus of unity, and it does have the authority of an Oecumenica Council.
The Apostles' Creed is mainly used in non-eucharistic rites. The Athanasian Creed has somewhat fallen from public use, partly because of the length and labouring it can represent. By the time you have declared, 'The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible' it can start to seem that it is entirely incomprehensible.
Possibly one of the greatest Bible verses about faith is Hebrews 11:1.
For us faith implies following Jesus and his the teaching. In this path is the hope in things to come.
Faith for us represents trust or reliance, not simply to believe something, but to be prepared to trust that belief.
There is a tension between faith as a decision made in free will and faith as a gift from God.
Faith does not a need us to abandon intellect and reason that we also see as gifts of God. Faith is an extension to those things, that gets to places not against reason – but beyond reason.
We also use the word Faith as a proper noun and talk about the Faith, which refers to the inherited tradition and body of belief and practice.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
One of the great discussion themes in the New Testament is the matter of Faith and Good Works. Much of the letter of James is based on this issue. Paul argued quite strongly that we were saved by Faith, indeed even Abraham was saved by Faith, which Paul concluded was the foundation of the covenant with Abraham. Does that imply that it does not matter what you do, so long as you have faith. The argument in James is that part of the fruit (the natural result) of faith is good works. So the good works are a testimony to the faith, but they are not an end in themselves.
Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.
Augustine of Hippo
The Augustine theme is on the same base. The point is that faith is not simply an intellectual assent, or an emotive response, it is the point that faith involves a change in direction, an action, a consequence, and so whilst faith is not tangible, many of the results of faith will be tangible.
Catholic, from the Greek phrase ‘kata holos‘, meaning “according to the whole”. The word in common English can mean either “all-embracing” or ‘universal’, and is sometimes used in a Church context as “relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the whole Church.”
It was first used to describe the Christian Church in the early 2nd century to emphasize its universal scope.
From an Anglican perspective catholic implies or means directly the church which,
- is Jesus centred on prayer and the sacramental life.
- has a focus in mission
- declares the ancient creeds,
- whose ordained ministry includes the Historic Episcopate (Bishops), Priests and Deacons;
- is faithful to the the Canon of Scripture,
- is determined to serve all people, especially the weak and the marginalised
- exercises a prophetic voice, with a call for social justice
Sometimes people mistake certain practices in the church as being catholic, such as burning incense, lighting candles, wearing vestments, and the like. Whilst these practices are within the catholic church, they by no means define it. Another confusion that people make is that of thinking it is simply defined by that part of the church that has it’s focus of authority centered in Rome. Quite clearly this misses the point on several scores, such as to exclude the Eastern Orthodox Churches governed by the five Oecumenical Patriarchs, and of course the Anglican Church, The Old Catholics, and numerous other Churches who clearly are Catholic with the proper understanding of the term..
All three creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian) make reference to a belief in the Catholic Church – and clearly that belief is not acknowledging that there is another congregation down the street. There have been several efforts to rephrase the creed and use another word, (such as universal) however this always seems to fall short of the force and strength of a word that we have used for most of the life of the Church. Far better we understand what it means.
A very important part of our understanding of Catholic is our historic connection to the Church, not simply in every place, but also in every time. It is this connection through time that is expressed in the notion of Apostolic Succession – a line of Bishops tracing back to the Apostles, and therefore to Jesus.
It is importantly a Church for all People, at All Times, and in All Places. To hold the catholic faith is to be inclusive.
So the doctrine of salvation draws from the Old Testament and God’s dealings with Israel and from the New Testament, his covenant with the ‘New Israel’, the Church.
There are many doctrines, e.g. of God, of the atonement, of the Church, of the sacraments, of the ministry … Most require lengthy definition (particularly after 2000 years of discussion and debate) but can be usefully summarized in a catechism.
At a technical level the is some suggestion that a doctrine may require and Oecumenical Council to establish it. Most of our Christology was hammered out in the Oecumenical Councils of the first five centuries. The Apostles and the Nicene Creed, (and perhaps to a lesser extent the Athanasian Creed) were hammered out in the Oecumenical Councils. Since the rift between Western and Eastern Christianity in the 5th Century the notion of an Oecumenical Council has been rather more difficult to achieve.
The difference between theology and doctrine is that the Doctrine is a statement, a conclusion, a definition, where as theology is in a sense the process by which you might reach a doctrine.
The main service of the day is normally celebrated ion the evening, as this was the night that Jesus gathered together with his disciples to share the passover meal.
The name Maundy is thought to come from the latin phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” – “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” John 13:34.
This of course is the same word we get the english word Mandate from. On the night, in the wake of all that was before him,
Jesus mandated his Church with three things, –
- Love One another
- Serve others (in the washing of the feet)
- Celebrate his presence as we break bread (Eucharist).
In different parts of the Church this is marked in many ways, from foot washing, eucharist, and passover seder meals. The passover meal was a high point in the Jewish year as they celebrated their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. Anglicans are very aware that on the eve of our liberation is the celebration of the liberation of the ancient people of God.
The most usual case in talking about the Patriarchs in Biblical sense, is in talking about the Fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who became Israel. They hold a particular reverence within the Jewish Community. Sometimes there is a sense in which the term can be used to describe the twelve Sons of Israel, as the Fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel. The notion of the Patriarchs gave a sense of belonging and family to the Israelites, and they understand themselves to be part of the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham.
Beyond this the term is occasionally used to describe the lineage from Adam to Noah, sometimes referred to as the antediluvian patriarchs as the Fathers of the whole human race. The veneration of the Patriarchs before the Flood is more universal, and of course Jews, and Christians as children of adoption, and Moslems as the children of Ishmael, and the Samaritans all share this common tradition.
Another use of the term dates from the time of the early Church the Bishops of Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Moscow were referred to as the Patriarch of … . Part oif the reason for this is that the Bishops of these sees had/have a level of leadership over other Bishops. They are all Eastern Orthodox Bishops and predate the separation between East and West.
- In the most general sense, orthodoxy (literally, ‘right or correct glory’) means accepting what the Church has established as correct (orthodox) doctrine. Given the differences of opinion between mainstream denominations on even some major doctrines (e.g. ministry, sacraments ..), defining orthodox belief is problematical. The Nicene Creed is a reasonable starting point for testing orthodoxy.
- The second use refers to the Eastern traditions of the Christian faith. So we speak of the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox etc. They are easily recognized by heavily embroidered liturgical dress, an abundance of icons in each church, the penchant for lots of incense, and the length of the liturgy (which is very ancient). Orthodox worship appeals to all the senses.
In talking about God, revelation is critical, for if God does not reveal, then we can not know God or anything about God. Any understanding of God will will be dependent on God have made that understanding known. Apart from the fact it is outside what we understand of the nature of God, if God chooses to remain entirely hidden then will will know nothing of the divine.
Thomas Aquinas clarified revelation in terms of the General Revelation and the Specific Revelation.
- General Revelation is that which is available for all to see Paul argues this in Romans 1:20. The suggestion of the general revelation is that the creations shows the mark of the creator, so by observing with a truly open mind all that surrounds us we will be able to deduce a number things about God. Anselm in his Book Cur Deus Homo took this principal to argue that faith and science followed honestly will come to the same conclusion.
- Specific Revelation is that which is made known through some specific event. In the Old Testament this happens by theosophy (such as the burning bush), and angelic visitation or other manifestation (Pillar of cloud in the Wilderness) of the divine. In the New Testament God is fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
As Christians we affirm that the revelation of God is not complete, and our capacity of appreciate and comprehend the revelation of God is impaired. (1 Corinthians 13:12). God desires a relationship wit human beings and so continues to makes the divine love and presence known.
The Greek word is “metanoia” which suggests that has to do with a turning of the mind – getting into the another mind.
In the Bible there are two aspects to repentance, and the first aspect is the acknowledgement of sin (the bad things we have done and the good things we have not done), with a sense of sorrow, and secondly a determination to change direction and do better. If there is not determination to change then all we have done is said sorry, and whilst that is a start it doesn’t mean much unless we intend to do better
There are some who argue that repentance is some kind of radical hand-brake u-turn, abrupt rapid and quite disruptive.
Others would argue that repentance can be a more gentle long and sweeping turn as we align ourselves to the mind of God more and more completely.
In the Bible most references involve an “and” which is implicit in the notion of stop going this way AND setting a new direction.
In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-5) very early in the life of the Church, in order to help with the daily distribution, the apostles appointed Deacons.
Today, the Deacon is the first order of ordained ministry. In order to be a priest, one must first be a Deacon, and in order to be a Bishop on must first be a priest which means you must first be a deacon.
In the liturgy the Reading of the Holy Gospel is the task of the Deacon. Deacons in parish life assist the priest and the congregation in many ways, and often it is seen by many as being the apprenticeship before one becomes a priest. This is understandable, however sad in one slight way, as it is an important ministry in the life of the Church and a person who chooses to remain a Deacon fulfils a very important role.
In the liturgy a deacon wears a stole, across one shoulder, though in normal street attire they may well be hard to distinguish from a priest.
The Churches first martyr was a Deacon, Stephen and the account of this can be found in Acts 7:1-60.
An important part of the meal the night before he was betrayed Jesus washed the Disciples feet, and very menial task, and he says ‘I have come among you as one who serves’. It is the primary pattern of all Christian ministry worth of the name.<br/><br/>
There are two Dominical (meaning – of the Lord) Sacraments – Baptism and Communion. There will be separate articles about these two important sacraments. in due course.
There are five lesser Sacraments – Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Confession and Holy Unction. These also, though not clearly of the same universality as the Dominical sacrament are important.
Each of the sacraments offers an encounter with God, and whist that experience of God may be different in each circumstance we recognise that it is God we encounter here.
Notes of music are in essence physical vibrations the beat upon the eardrum. At another level they have a capacity to stir us and raise emotions to an experience that is not physical at all. Some people find it helpful to think of sacraments as the music of faith, physical instruments that enable us to encounter things beyond the physical.
The many signs we encounter in life, street signs, road signs, shop signs, sale signs, and on each occasion the sign has a function to fulfil, to declare something or to point us in the right direction. When we say sacraments are signs we are saying that the declare something and the point is in the right direction. The spiritual grace we require is that we understand what the sign is telling us, and that we have the strength and fortitude to follow the sign.
Actions that Speak
For us as human beings we know that there are times when words mean a lot, and times when they may seem a little empty. God doesn’t just speak to us in the Bible, God also conveys his love to us in actions, the most significant of which is the Crucifixion. The sacraments are tangible and involve the physical dimension and represent God speaking o us in action, not just words.
When the angels announced the birth of the Christ to shepherds, abiding in the field (Luke 2:12) they described the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes as a sign. Jesus himself is sacramental. Not only was Jesus God’s great sacrament, he also worked sacramentally, putting clay on the blind man’s eyes, and putting his finger in the ears of the deaf person.
The Work of Jesus is not done.
Jesus continues to work in this world, and part of that work continues sacramentally. The Church is called to be a sacrament, to be the body of Christ in the world, and as a sign to declare the divinity of Jesus, and to point people to Jesus as we continue his work in the world.
Part of the work of the Church as the body of Christ is to continue to work sacramentally in the world. Using the tangible to declare the intangible.
Sacraments are not Magic,
The notion of sacraments is not some kind of magic trick, but rather more simply and profoundly, God communicating his love eternal through the tangible. As such sacraments do not depend on us, on how holy the priest is, on how prepared I am, on my emotional state or wellbeing, God acts identifiably in our world. The only thing that is subjective about this is now I perceive it at the time.
Sacraments invite us to respond to God’s call
- Baptism – to shine as a light in the world
- Confirmation – to continue as Christ’s faith servant
- Eucharist – The be the body of Christ in the world
- Ordination – to proclaim the Good News or Christ
- Marriage – to radiate love as Christ loves the Church
- Reconciliation – to be determined to live a new life
- Unction – To rely on God
This word of God arises from the prophet’s spiritual depth and hence his profound awareness of:
- the loving purpose of God for his people and,
- an inspired sensitivity to the prevailing spiritual, social and political environment in relation to the divine nature and purpose.
Prophecy in the biblical sense is not crystal ball gazing or Tarot card reading (which are essentially journeys into darkness). It is not an attempt to bring the future into the present but generally an exercise in which the people of God are reminded of their covenant obligations and either of :
- the very risky nature and inevitable consequences of their present careless way of life or,
- the hope which lies in God (their covenant partner) despite their current, apparently hopeless predicament.
Some sense of prophecy is about their being a clear understanding of what is going on. Prophecy if often associated with outcomes, and so often has a sense of future, and it is this sense of future, which made the prophet desirable and their are times when the politically powerful have sought to control the prophet. It is this clear independence of the prophet which led to the constant clash in the Old Testament.
The Jews understood themselves to be living in a theocracy (a divinely ruled nation) as the people amongst who God had chosen to dwell, and politically they also sought to be like other nations, and this often led to challenges, and the prophet was often the one to deliver the challenge. Being a prophet is Israel was not the way to an easy life.
In John 1 John the Baptiser is asked if he is ‘The Prophet’, which is the prophet after Elijah at the end of time. John said no, and yet it seems that Jesus identified John as that person.
Prophecy is less a matter of telling the future, and more a matter of shining God’s clear light on what is really going on, and what the likely outcomes are. In John chapter 4 Jesus tells the woman at the well that she is right to sy that she does not have a husband, for she has had 5 and the one she is with now is not her husband. The woman responds ‘Sir. I see that you are a prophet’
- James, the son of Zebedee — Apostle, brother of John, Apostle; also called “James the Greater”. He was killed by Herod with a sword (Acts 12:1-2)
- James, the son of Alpheus, Apostle — Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13. He appears as the leader of the 12 (?the 1st Bishop of Jerusalem) in Acts 15:13 where it is his decision after the meeting on the question of what was required of gentile converts.
- James, the brother of the Lord — Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19. Without a shadow of doubt, he must be identified with the James of Galatians 2:2 and 2:9; Acts 12:17, 15:13 sqq. and 21:18; and 1 Corinthians 15:7.
- James, the son of Mary, brother of Joseph — Mark 15:40 (where he is called ò mikros “the little”, not the “less”. Matthew 27:56. Probably the son of Cleophas or Clopas (John 19:25) where “Maria Cleophæ” is generally translated “Mary the wife of Cleophas”, as married women are commonly distinguished by the addition of their husband’s name.
- James, the brother of Jude — Jude 1:1. This is may be one of the other James, probably James the son of Alphaeus, as he would be the most likely to be widely known.
In the Bible, it refers to ‘wholeness’ in the deepest and most comprehensive sense, i.e. finding our proper place, our true selves, in Christ, ‘coming to the place where we ought to be’.
It means for us as individuals the freedom of sins forgiven and a real hope of eternal life. But more than that, it means the restoration of the whole created order to the place where it ought to be.
Salvation represents to ultimate and absolute restoration of the relationship between God and humankind. If you recall the creation narratives in Genesis 1-2 recall how we were created in relation with God, and turned away and went our own way. From that point the spiritual aspiration of human kind has been to restore that which we have lost. The Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection mean that in Christ Divinity has been carried in our humanity in order that we may follow Christ who has carried our humanity into divinity, and we have been saved from the consequences of our own actions.
In early 1947 a couple of shepherds tossing stones in creek bed in the Qumran Valley heard an echo as a stone hit a container. They had discovered a huge cache of documents (parchments and papyrus) sealed in barrels to preserve them.
The documents date from the period 150 BCE to 70 CE and are generally referred to as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Some the the texts are Biblical that we already know from other sources, which tends to be handy in terms of validating other documents and establishing the credentials of the this great find. Some of the them were Apocryphal documents. Some of the texts where either essentially secular or to do with the life and order of the community that had stored these documents.
The Essene Community that lived in the Qumran Valley was a radical Jewish community, from the time of Jesus, and has led to a lot of speculation about the similarities between the life expressed here and the New Testament accounts of John the Baptist.
Some quite silly claims have been made about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they are fascinating and certainly one of the most valuable finds of ancient documents ever, and represent some of the oldest manuscripts we have for some texts.
There still remain many unanswered questions about Qumran. One question that is posed, is if in fact the documents did not belong to this community, but were brought from a library in Jerusalem and buried here for safe keeping around 70 AD.
Lent lasts for 40 days, and this reminds us of the 40 days that the Gospels tell us of Jesus fasting in the wild.
If you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday you will find their are 46 days. This is because the Sundays are not counted as being truly part of Lent as every Sunday as a celebration of the resurrection so not in the strict sense a fast day.
Historically in the Church it was a time when you could give something up, and the time on money you saved could be put to some worthwhile purpose, such as the support of the Churches missionary endeavours. It is also a good time to take things up, to do a spiritual stocktake, and to renew our commitment to living a more Christ-like life.
The colour of the season is purple, and it is customary that there is an absence of flowers and restraint in decoration in Church in the period.
Normally we do not use the Gloria during the Liturgy in Lent either.
It is interesting to note that we tend to appreciate these things a little more when we return from lent to celebrate the resurrection.
The final week of Lent is called Holy Week, and this starts with Palm Sunday (where we remember the triumphant entry to Jerusalem – liturgical colour is Red) and we will normally read one of the synoptic accounts of the crucifixion. The Friday of Holy Week is Good Friday which is the solemn day we focus specifically on the crucifixion of Jesus. The day after Good Friday, properly called Holy Saturday, has been described as the day that the Church holds its breath, waiting to celebrate the Resurrection on Easter day.
The word “Lent” comes from the old English, “lencten,” which means “spring.” In Middle English is derived the words, lenten, lente, lent; related to the Dutch, lente, the German, Lenz, also rendered “spring.” In Old German are found the related words: lenzin, lengizin, and lenzo, which probably comes from the same root as “long” and referring to “the lengthening days,” as the earth moves from the winter solstice toward the spring equinox.
In common use it is the study of God and various aspects of God. As a discipline it implies an understanding of all that God has revealed about God and creation and the relationship of all that is, including the way in which human beings are part of this dimension. The breadth of this overarching nature of theology has led to it being described as ‘the Queen of the Sciences’.
Theology is in many senses close to philosophy as a discipline. Theology will take serious account of the scriptures, as the primary record of revelation. However Theology does not stop at the scriptural record and the interpretation of that record.
Theology has changed through the history of the Church, as much as anything to reflect various changes in thought. In the post reformation era a lot of theology has focussed on the importance of the individuals experience, whereas in the middle ages the received tradition was a priority.
It is generally in the mind of Anglicanism to recognise the importance of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, as being the three pillars of a proper understanding of God.
There are numbers of arms of theology such as:
- Christology being the study of the person and work of Christ,
- Ecclesiology being the study of the nature and purpose of the Church.
- Eschatology being the study of the end times
The doctrines that the Church sets forth as being orthodox, of needs must have a theological foundation to support them. To establish doctrine without theology requires you to assert an ‘epistemic primitive’, that is something that can be accepted without evidence or reason. The Church has been wary of such claims – especially where they are unverifiable. Arguments such as ‘An angel told me’ or ‘the Holy Spirit told me’ are claims which it is essentially impossible to verify, and so these would not pass as theology. The veracity of the message may be examined in relation to other evidence, to establish some sense of credibility. If the claim seems, simply unscriptural, or illogical it may well be rejected from a theological standpoint.
This derives from ancient custom predating the christian era, and endorsed in the New Testament (James 5:14). The practice of anointing with oil is often referred to in the Old Testament and in the Psalms. The practice was also embraced by other cultures, and often associated with calming, peace, kindness, and healing. Oil was often imbued with fragrance, and this is often associated with it.
The oil used is blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass normally held during Holy Week, celebrated by the Diocesan Bishop, and surrounded by the clergy of the Diocese for a renewal of their ordination commitment. Crysm is another word for anointing.
In the ministry to the dying it is sometimes called ‘Extreme Unction’ or ‘The Last Rites’.
The last 50 years has seen a broader re-awakening of the practice of anointing the sick outside of the ministry to the dying. Today it is a general part of Anglican ministry in many parishes and many have found great help and comfort in it. Like all sacramental ministry it is through the physical we touch the spiritual.
Judas comes from the same word as Judah meaning “God is praised”. It was a very common name in the time of Jesus. The significance of “Iscariot” is uncertain and a number of theories have been advanced. It is unclear if this name as used while he was alive or after he died. One possibility advanced is that he was a member of the sicarii a militant group of extremists intent on driving out the Romans from Palestine.
There is a sense in the Biblical account to suggest that Judas was looking for a political messiah, who would deliver Israel from the Romans, and the realisation that this was not the ultimate game plan of Jesus led to his betrayal. He is portrayed as being more practical that spiritual, and his task among the 12 was to look after the money. If he was looking for a leader of a political revolution to rid the land of the Romans and return Israel and Judah to the temple and the King, it is easy to understand how a growing realisation that the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke was not what he imagined but rather a spiritual revolution, that he would have felt let down.
The quite marked thing about the account of the betrayal is that it is accomplished with the sign of brotherhood kinship and affection – a kiss.
Judas is mentioned in the synoptic gospels, the Gospel of John and at the beginning of Acts of the Apostles. Mark states that the chief priests were looking for a sly way to arrest Jesus. They decided not to do so during the feast since they were afraid that people would riot, instead, they chose the night before the feast to arrest him. In the Gospel of Luke, Satan enters Judas at this time. According to the account in the Gospel of John, Judas carried the disciples’ money bag. He betrayed Jesus for a bribe of “thirty pieces of silver”.
The theme is however very profound, and it is unlikely to be explained simply. There are quite a few strands of Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of God, and while there is no suggestion that they are contradictory, however it is clear that we will always sell the concept short when we only embrace (or over-emphasize) part of it.
There is a sense of place about the Kingdom and yet that is a very incomplete understanding of what was meant. The sense of place implies the place where God is King. You are left to infer a sense of place in many places, for otherwise we would have been speak of the ‘Kingship of God’. Matthew alone uses the term Kingdom of Heaven, as an alternate term on 32 occasions in his Gospel.
There is also in a number of places a sense of presence and event, and sayings like “the Kingdom of God has come near to you” imply something of the experience of the rule of God.
There is also a sense of process. The parable of the mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19), which starts as something we can hardly see and results in habitat and shelter is intriguing and dynamic. In this passage it seems clear that the Kingdom of heaven is not being compared to the end of the event as a goal, but rather to the dynamic of the whole process.
A consideration of Kingship needs to be understood in its cultural context. In the culture in which this was spoken Kingship was not the remote and regal and the European concept that we understand, but much more tribal and focused and local, and one may well expect that the King would know your name. It is easy for us to make the Kingdom of God something that give distance to God, whereas it is much more about the closeness of God.
Luke 17:21 often rendered as ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’ suggests that there is a dimension to the concept of the Kingdom of God that is more internalized, suggesting that it is about our being committed to the Kingdom, not so much a new rule as a new way of ruling. In the Kingdoms of this world, when they wish to take possession of a new territory they send out soldiers and set the soldiers to take possession. In the Kingdom of God, when we turn our attention to God and set our hearts on God the Kingdom of God is already being realised with us.
Icon is a Greek word meaning ‘image‘. Icons are painted images usually of Jesus, The Trinity, A Biblical Passage, or The Saints that are most prominent in the Eastern Orthodox Traditions of Christianity.
Sometimes framed, sometimes overlaid in gold or silver, and often very two dimensional.
The importance of Greek Influences in the early part of Celtic Christianity means that they have a part in the Anglican Tradition since probably the first century.
The Eastern Orthodox speak of icons as the ‘windows of heaven’ by which they mean that one should look through the icon into heaven – the spiritual truth that the icon is showing. Icons as such are more about the prayer than the art.
As Christians we are all called to be icons – made in the image and after the likeness of God – and showing by the way we live our lives that there is another dimension – that people might see something of heaven, of God, of a crucified redeemer in the way we live.
In the chapel towards the front of All Saints is an Icon of Christ the Good Shepherd, whichs shows with the cross in the background Jesus carrying us home on his shoulders. You are more than welcome to take a moment to ‘look through’ this icon in our chapel.
There has been a resurgence of interest in icons in the past fifty years or so which may reflect upon us having become more visual and less written word focussed sisnce the advent of television.
Since the advent of personal computers there has been a recycling of the word Icon, as the small image that indicates something bigger, or that you click on and it leads you somewhere.
These are traditional and and symbolic.
The Alb is white garment, full length is symbolic of the baptismal robe, and reminds us of our baptismal promises to continue as Christ’s faithful servants to our life’s end and the commision of all the baptised to Shine as a light in the world.
The word Alb comes from the Latin albus meaning white.
The Alb as such is worm, not simply by the priest, but also by those assisting (serving) in the sanctuary. At Belmont the sanctuary party also wear a seasonally coloured girdle (rope).
The stole, normally tapered and abound 12 cm wide at the bottom and about three metres in length. It is often said to symbolise the yoke of Christ. This idea of yoke is the leather band that they hung water skins on in the ancient middle east to carry water from the well to the home.
The origins of the stole as a Christian vestment may well be in the prayer shawl often used in middle eastern religions, though perhaps more probably from the bands of office that Roman Officials wore from the time of Constantine when the Christian community was rather more formally recognised. The stole will normally be in the liturgical colour of the day. Normally the celebrant and any clergy assisting will be wearing a stole.
This is the outermost vestment, normally in the liturgical colour of the day. Typically the is a single sheeted vestment (something like a poncho) and is a recalling of the robe that Christ wore on the day of the Crucifixion and that the soldiers cast lots for rather than tear the garment that was woven from top to bottom without seam. Normally only the celebrant of the Eucharist will wear a chasuble.
The origins of the garment are almost certainly the ‘casula‘ the outer garment worn for travelling in the late Roman Empire. The shape of the chasuble has changed over time, and in Anglican circles during the last century and a ha;f has returned to the more traditional oval as the predominant shape. Subsequent to Vatican Council 2 the Roman Catholic tradition has followed this trend.
The clothes we wear are not the critical issue, however they do help us focus on the sacred task we undertake, and help us set our minds on things above. The challenge for us as Christians is that the ordinary becomes sacred, and these things help us stay focused of the sacredness here, that we might recognise the sacredness that is part of our everyday lives.
In the Biblical account Abrahams child Isaac had twin sons Esau and Jacob. Esau sold his birthright, and in a strange story of deceit Jacob inherits. Jacob becomes Israel (God prevails). The twelve sons of Israel (the children of Israel) become the the twelve tribes of Israel. Contemporary archaeologists suggest that the tribes sprang up over time, and that they have assimilated rather than conquered the land.
By somewhere around 1020 BC the tribes of Israelites, were a prominent force in the land, and all somewhat autonomous and in various states of treaty and conflict. David arose and with some skill and accomplishment managed to unite the tribes to become the United Kingdom, and then around 1000 BC they were able to conquer Jerusalem, which David made the capital and moved the ark of the covenant to the City.
Jerusalem (which means ‘city of peace’) has been a fortified city from before time of Abraham ?1800BC, and remains the source of ongoing struggle to this day.
Sometime following this period of unity division arose, and around 930 BC the Kingdom was divided, with the tribe of Judah becoming the Kingdom of Judah (also called the Jews) in the south and the balance becoming the Kingdom of Israel or the Northern Kingdom. Sometime around 720 BC there was the conquest of the Assyrians which decimated the Northern Kingdom and many took refuge in the south and were distributed elsewhere.
Generally there is a bit of confusion in this area and people talk about Israel, Judah, Palestine, Holy Land, as interchangeable terms, and given the fluidity through history that may be OK, however there are times when we read the Old Testament when it is worth understanding a little of the differences involved.
Modern Israel, which covers much of the area of the United Kingdom was taken and created as part of a reconciliation following the atrocities of the second world war.
That Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of God is a central christian teaching. God became flesh, assumed our human nature, and became a person – Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second person of the Trinity.
This central christian position holds that the divine nature of the Son of God was perfectly united with human nature in one divine/human person, Jesus, making him both truly God and truly human. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, became flesh when he was born as the child of Mary.
The incarnation affirms the dignity of women, and the essential role of Mary Mother of the Lord deciding to accept what God proposed, “behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me, according to you word”.
It is generally agreed among theologians that any realistic understanding of the crucifixion and resurrection needs finds it’s genesis in an understanding of the incarnation.
Throughout the Old Testament is is clear that God is wholly other, and the encounters with God are limited to the few, and always had some form of indirectness. Moses has a number of encounters with God, in the fiery bush, on the mountain of the law, and hidden in the crevice of a rock lest he see the face of God which would surely mean death. God was largely inaccessible.
In Jesus. God becomes one of us, stands with us in solidarity, our brother in humanity, because God loved us so much he had to be part of us, that we may be part of the new kingdom for ever. No longer remote and aloof, In Jesus God stands with us on the path of life to show us the way.
The primary feast day set aside to celebrate the Incarnation of God is the 25th of December, Christmas Day.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead.
From the Athanasian Creed
The Athanasian Creed is rarely (if ever) used in worship these days, generally being thought to be too long and complex to be of benefit in public worship. The Athanasian Creed has a large section in the beginning expounding the Trinity (‘not thee incomprehensibles but one incomprehensible’) and follows this with the paragraph quoted here about the incarnation. It is quite clear here however that those involved in drafting this creed in the early Church, were very keen to underline the importance of a right understanding of the Trinity, and of the Incarnation.
In the Gospel of John there are seven of Jesus statements in the fourth gospel begin in the Greek "ego eimi" - "I am". They are:
- I am the Bread of Life - John 6:48.
- I am the Light of the World - John 8:12.
- I am the Door - John 10:7.
- I am the Good Shepherd - John 10:11.
- I am the Resurrection and the life- John 11:25.
- I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - John 14:6.
- I am the true Vine - John 15:1.
These statements in John's Gospel are intriguingly juxtaposed against the statements of John the Baptizer, (John 1:19-23) where John declares, "I am not the Messiah", "I am not Elijah", and "I am not the prophet" and finally declares 'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord”'
There is a clear sense in which these are seen to reflect the Name of God revealed to Moses when he asked of the voice in the burning bush 'who shall I say has sent me?' and is told YHWH often translated "I am who I am"
These statements clearly are to be seen as John's answer to the question, 'Who is Jesus'. The gospel begins with the powerful assertion that Jesus was the Word of God who was with God from before the beginning - John 1:1.
The Resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. The Biblical records detail in the first instance encounters with Jesus and the account of the empty tomb. Central to the Christian position is the affirmation of the accounts of the encounters with Jesus which began on the third day after the Crucifixion and conclude with the Ascension 40 Days later.
The accounts of the empty tomb are in a sense corroborating evidence rather than proof. A belief in resurrection predates Jesus, and was part of Jewish consciousness.
The assertion of the Christian faith is that Jesus did not only believe it, he did it, and in so doing paved the way for those who would follow him. (Latin – resugere = to rise again, to rise from the dead.) We are familiar with this word from the New Testament and the Creeds. Jesus rose again and this is the foundation of Christian faith and, thus, of our hope of resurrection in Christ.
A significant part of each of the Gospel accounts of Jesus relate to the last week or so, and the events leading to his trial and crucifixion. The final chapter to Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospel addresses the resurrection, and the last two chapters of John’s Gospel. All four Gospels include an account of the empty tomb, however all four gospels spend more time discussing the encounters with Jesus, after the resurrection.
The seed of faith in the resurrection of Jesus is found in the encounter with the living Lord, we celebrate what is, rather than what is not.
We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, each Sunday, and most especially at Easter.
Part of the hope of Christians is built on the premise that we can follow Christ in this life that leads, not to death but, through death into the life of resurrection.
There has been some controversy over the years when Eminent Theologians and New Testament Scholars have expressed concerns about the account of the empty tomb. The bulk of scholars certainly accept the empty tomb accounts, however it is important to recognise that it is the faith in the resurrection that is the central tenant of the Christian Faith, as affirmed in the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, none of which make reference to the empty tomb.
Indeed sunday by sunday we affirm the encounter with the living lord, as we gather in his name and around his table, in accordance with his command, to break the bread of life, and his promise that as we did, he would be in the midst of us.
Jude was one of the Twelve Apostles. He is also referred to as Thaddeus. He is clearly distinguished from Judas Iscariot, another disciple and later the betrayer of Jesus. Their names are translations of the name Judah, a name which was common among Jews at the time.
In most bibles in languages other than English and French, Jude and Judas are referred to by the same name. The Gospel of John also once mentions a disciple called “Judas not Iscariot”. In the comparable apostle-lists of Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18, Jude is omitted, but there is a Thaddeus listed in his place. This has led many Christians since early times to harmonize the lists by positing a “Jude Thaddeus”, known by either name.
Tradition holds that Saint Jude preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. According to the Armenian tradition, Saint Jude suffered martyrdom about 65 AD in Beirut, in the Roman province of Syria, together with the apostle Simon the Zealot, with whom he is usually connected. Their acts and martyrdom were recorded in an Acts of Simon and Jude that was among the collection of passions and legends traditionally associated with the legendary Abdias, bishop of Babylon, and said to have been translated into Latin by his disciple Tropaeus Africanus, according to the Golden Legend account of the saints.
The traditions are of sufficient consistency and age, that would argue for the historical accuracy of the descriptions.
Saints Simon and Jude share the feast day on October 28. Jude is regarded as the Patron Saint of ‘Lost Causes and Hopeless Cases’. This is because according to the tradition he was prepared to go where the gospel was thought unacceptable – the northern coast of africa being thought of as a lost cause or hopeless case, and prevail. The Armenian Church today sees it’s origins in the the work of Simon and Jude.
The Ministry of Jesus leading up to the Transfiguration, was generally that of a teacher and healer, going about Galilee doing good.
After the Transfiguration the ministry of Jesus is focused on to getting Jerusalem and fulfilling his purpose and mission – the Cross and Resurrection.
There is a sense in which in this moment with Peter and James and John, there is a revelation which on the surface looks to suggest that the purpose of the event is to affirm and validate not simply the Divine Commission, but in fact the divine nature of Jesus himself. The point of the appearance with Moses and Elijah may be that Jewish exegesis required two witnesses, from the Law and the Prophets, which is what Moses and Elijah represent.
At the same time there is, as we all know when we are facing something difficult a need for there to be a vision of what we are embarking upon, a goal, so that we can keep focused in the meantime. What keeps the student going through the long years of study is the goal of what is to be accomplished.
It seems this moment, this glimpse of glory, at once affirmed his divinity, yet in a real sense affirmed his humanity, in that like us he needed to see the goal to fix his focus and get on through the tough times with his vision clearly caught on the goal.
For the ministry of Jesus the Transfiguration appears to be a game changer, a circuit breaker, very much as for us as Christians the encounter with Jesus is a game changer and a circuit breaker.
There are two levels of meaning. On the one hand the Hebrew and Greek words suggest ‘separation from the ordinary’ and ‘given to God’. The word coming from the old English is about wholeness, completion and perfection. A holy person may be seen as one whose focus is on God, whose purpose is for God, yet with a real sense of balance and completeness. A holy place may be set apart from ordinary places for a specific focus and awareness of God.
Holiness is primarily a quality of God. The Hebrew word which we translate as ‘holy’ means ‘that which is separate, at a distance from the ordinary’. It is a quality that causes humans to tremble with awe/fear in the experience of God’s presence (Isaiah 6:1-8).
Holiness should not to be confused with morality, although a real sense of God’s holiness will result in moral outcomes in the lives of his people. As God is holy, so are the people he calls to be his own, i.e. we are different, distinct, even if to human eyes this is not apparent.
As God is the source of all holiness, it is a sense in which we are able to allow God to be seen in our lives that will reflect the holiness of God as distinct from anything we ourselves do which shines light on ourselves.
It is a reference to God from the Old Testament. In most modern translations we can see where this is the reference as it is normally translated Jehovah. Various streams of Old Testament writing make use of it, whilst others use the Hebrew El, usually translated God, and there are a number of variations. The devout Jew would not even attempt to utter YHWH.
One difficulty is that the four letters are all consonants and no vowels, which make it exceptionally difficult to pronounce, if not indeed impossible to say, and that may indeed be the point. No human being aware of the holiness of God could dare even utter his name.
In Exodus 3:13-15, Moses asks who he will say has sent him, the answer is YHWH, which in Hebrew is ambiguous in terms of tense and may mean “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be” or even “I was who I was” or any combination of the tenses.
The divine name was so holy that it could not even be uttered.
In Johns Gospel, there are a number of sayings of Jesus grouped as the ‘I am’ sayings and this may well be a deliberate echoing of the tetragrammaton.
For the early Church to grow it needed oversight to ensure the core body of the faith was kept in tact and to ensure the Church did not loose site of it’s true purpose, to declare a new day and a covenant of redemption open to all the world. This represents the foundations of an organisational and institutional structure. The Apostles appointed overseer’s to guard the faith and the faithful. The Anglican Church has autonomous Dioceses, and each Diocese is overseen by a Diocesan Bishop. The origins of this structure is the early Church
The Greek word for Bishop (overseer) is Episcopos from which we get the word Episcopal. The word therefore refers to Bishops. The Episcopal Church, of the USA, Mexico, The Philippines and other places is a local expression of the Anglican Faith.. Much has been written on this subject and the importance of a tradition handed down through Bishops from one generation to another, tracking right back to the Apostles.
The idea of each Bishop being able to trace their commission back through the line of Bishops through the ages to the Apostles is often called ‘Apostolic Succession’. Part of why the Anglican Church describes itself as Catholic is because we have Bishops with Apostolic Succession.
Part of the Bishops role to to organise priests around him to care for the faithful, and proclaim the good news to all the world. The role of the Bishop in looking after the clergy is referred to as ‘Pastor Pastorum’ (the shepherd of the shepherds).
The Bishops headwear (liturgically) is called a Mitre. It is shaped to remind us of the flames of Pentecost when the Apostles burst onto the streets empowered to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. Traditionally a Mitre was indeed lined in scarlet. The two longish tabs at the back of the Mitre (called lapets) remind us (and the Bishop) of the Authority of Scripture suggesting that there are two testaments (old and new).
The crosier (or Bishops staff) is shaped as a Shepherd Crook, very much capable as a staff for the journey, and able to be used to retrieve the lost and fend off the attackers.
In the Anglican Church their is a conciliar tradition where Bishops do not rule as autocrats, but in consultation with Synods and councils. At times this makes Anglicanism hard to fathom as we are neither all top-down in structure, nor bottom-up in structure but some kind of mix. This weakness is also one of our strengths.
It is the various collections of writings accepted as sacred scripture in the Church.
The Bible is normally divided into three sections:
- The Old Testament, made up of 39 books, which we hold in common with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith.
- The Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical texts, being 14 ancient writings accepted in some parts of the Church, and not in others.
- The New Testament which was discussed for a long time in the early Church Councils and finally agreed 27 books, including 4 Gospels, Acts, The Revelation of St John and a number of letters.
The Bible is in the Anglican world accepted as the primary record of the Revelation of God. In normal reference Anglicans accept the Old and New Testament as of priority, and the Apocrypha as edifying when read alongside The Old and New Testament.
At the time of the New Testament, books as we know them did not exist, and most text was written on Scrolls or Papyrus. Around the first century the Jewish scholars started to firm up that which was accepted and that which was not and the Old Testament Canon (The rule or list of texts accepted as belonging to the list) started to take shape. Some of the Apocryphal books were at times accepted and at times rejected by scholars.
At the time of the reformation (the printing press had changed thing) there reformers were keen to establish an acceptable Old Testament and so moved to Deuterocanonical texts to their own section, recognising the antiquity, and acknowledging they were not always accepted by the Jewish Community as having the same value as the other works part of the Old Testament.
In the early church their were a number of records of the life of Jesus, developed from the oral traditions and recorded and passed around. There were also a number of letters, most notably from Paul to various Churches in Asia Minor. The list of what was accepted and not accepted was firmed up, and the definitive list of the 27 books of the New Testament is recorded by Athanasius in 367 AD. The Book of Revelation was the most controversial, and some parts of the Eastern Church do not include it.
One of the great moves of the Reformers was to have the Bible delivered in ‘the vulgar tongue’. meaning in a language that people spoke. Some of those in reformed Churches will suggest that Anglicans are not a Biblical Church, and this indeed is far from the truth. We are disciplined in our reading of Scripture, using a Lectionary in public worship to ensure that we cover all of it, not just the bits we like. We also believe that scripture shows that God is not limited to the written word, and that we encounter God in word and sacrament, in prayer and praise, and in the wounded and the vulnerable. Indeed we believe that the Christ we encounter in word and sacrament prepares us to encounter that same Christ in the broken and the bleeding.
There are of course many translations of the scriptures, and all of them have their advantages and the limitations. At All Saints we use the New Revised Standard Version which is a translation accepted by many scholars as being accurate, whilst at the same time using inclusive language as is the custom of our own time.
The word appears 229 times in the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.
Saints in the Bible refers to believers or to the whole company of the believers.
The term in English was originally a specifically Christian term, though it is now often used more widely to describe persons of especial piety or holiness of all manner of faith. It can also be used to describe people are simply good people. This is not strictly the Bible meaning of the term.
The list of persons whom the Church holds high as examples of holiness and accords them the title Saint, including the Apostles and many others who have faithfully born the lamp of grace.
In the end we are all called to be saints. We are all called to be allowing the light of Christ to shine through us that others may see something of the love of Christ.
In classic Churches the Stained Glass windows were often filled with images of the saints, and through those windows can the light of the sun to fill the building with beautiful light. Our task as Christians – or Saints of God – is to let the light of Christ shine through our living that those around us may see the beautiful light of God.
The X is the Chi and the P is the Rho.
It is one of the symbols (christogram because it is letters not pictures) that has been used since very early days in the Church.
The Chi Rho is the central element of the Paschal Candle decoration, and is very popular many settings, including vestments, books, banners, and windows. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to spot as it can get squished around a lot in some applications.
The Church Year starts 4 Sundays before Christmas and ends on the Saturday before the fourth Sunday before Christmas.
- Advent – Purple/Sarum Blue -Weeks of 4 Sundays before Christmas.
- Christmas – White/Gold – 25th December for 12 Days
- Epiphany – Green – 6th January till Ash Wednesday
- Lent- Purple – 6 weeks to Easter
- Good Friday – Black/Red – Friday before Easter
- Easter – White/Gold – 40 days to Ascension
- Ascension – White/Gold – 10 days to Pentecost
- Pentecost – Red – Week to Trinity Sunday
- Ordinary Time – Green – The Balance of the Year
Some have likened this to the curriculum, in that it provides a point for our attention and means that we cover the whole story with the lows and the highs, not just the bits we like. It can’t be Lent all year, just like it can’t be summer all year.
There are variations between various Churches, for example the Orthodox date for Easter follows the Jewish Tradition for dating Passover, where we follow the western convention which means that we will often celebrate Easter of different sundays, usually within a week of two. The western liturgical year hangs on two dates. The First is Christmas, which is always the 25th of December, and depending on the day of the week, will determine the date for Advent Sunday which is four Sundays before Christmas day. The Second Date is the date of easter which is the Sunday of or following the Paschal Full Moon, which is the Full Moon following 21st March. This means that Easter will fall between the 22nd of March and the 22nd of April in a given year. Ash Wednesday, Lent, Ascension, Pentecost all derive their date based in the date of Easter.
Ecosystems provide goods and services that sustain human societies and general well-being. Ecosystems are sustained by biodiversity within them.
Biodiversity is the full-scale of life and its processes, including genes, species and ecosystems forming lineages that integrate into a complex and regenerative spatial arrangement of types, forms, and interactions. There are several perspectives which make this an important area for Christians.
Whilst the Genesis tradition asserts dominion of the created order, the dominion is in no sense unfettered, and indeed has been compromised by sin. We understand that life, the planet, and everything in it, is part of the giftedness of everything, our response to it represents something of our response to the giver. We believe we live with mutual responsibility and interdependence, we musts sustain this thing that sustains us.
And we believe that we share this gift, not as private property, but as ‘common wealth’, to be shared not simply with those with whom we share the planet now, but also with those who will come after.
In the current discussions the word ecology is often discarded in favour of Environmental Studies. The risk here is that the focus shifts from the focus of the study of the who system to the study of simply the individual items that make it up. The word Ecology focuses our attention on the question of the relationships between humankind and the rest of creation.
Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, said boldly ‘if we destroy Creation, in the end it will destroy us!’ This of course is a clear reminder of our interdependence. Climate Change is a part of this whole debate/discussion, and highlights our need to understand our role in the environment. On the subject of Carbon Emissions Al Gore said poignantly ‘what goes up, must come down’.
As Christians we accept that creation is a gift from God, and that we are part of that gift, and not removed from it. As those who respond to the love of God, we believe that we should care for the gift, both for itself and for its value, but also for the honour of the giver, whom we choose to love in return.
Part of what makes this more complex is that we recognise our brothers and sisters in humanity as part of this great giftedness, and so we find ourselves balancing between the needs to support human life and preserve the environment. Much of this ultimately revolves around our need to consume energy to sustain life. In contemporary western life part of this revolves around life style and the profusion of gadgets all of which need to be powered in some way, and the inordinate growth in the worlds human population stretches this still further.
We normally read three lessons
1st from the writings - normally Old Testament or Acts,
The Psalm re read together antiphonally
2nd from the Epistles (letters to the early church), and
3rd from one of the four Gospels (the stories of Jesus)
Normally the Priest or Bishop presiding over the Eucharist will commission (send in the apostolic sense) the reader of the Gospel to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of the people.
It reminds us that the Gospel is the peoples book, the peoples story, about the peoples messiah, and this story is told among the people.
It reminds us that we too are sent into the midst of the people with who we share our lives to live and proclaim the good news.
We normally sing a hymn as the Gospel is brought down amongst the people, and it is customary to stand and attend (face the reader), very much as the ancient people stood for the Passover meal, as they prepared for the journey to the promised land.
The word incense is from the same root as incendiary, meaning to burn. The Incense is normally formed of resin or tree sap and fragrant oils, and the smoke it gives off has a lingering spicy or aromatic smell.
Incense has been part of worship in human experience for a very long time. There is evidence of it’s use in the Ancient Egypt, Persian, India and China and the East over 4000 years. Some of this use seems to have been practical in the same way that we today might use air fresheners.
It is also quite clear that incense was used in various religious ceremonies. In Exodus 25:6 Incense is mentioned as part of the instructions re the tabernacle. There over 150 references to incense/frankincense in the Bible, and including in Revelation where it is part of the vision of the new Kingdom and in Revelation 8 where it is combined with the prayers of the saints offered to God.
Incense has been part of Christian worship since very early times. This may in part have be carried on from the Temple and the synagogue worship of the Jewish people.
One of the things that the burning of incense included was a declaration of Divinity. When the Roman Emperors declared themselves God one of the things they required was that incense be burnt before them to declare their divinity. In the Matthew account of the visit of the eastern sages, the three gifts are the clue to the story, for Gold denotes Kingship, Frankincense declares Divinity, and Myrrh is the burial spice for the one born to die.
There is a good argument to suggest that in the face of those who were busy declaring themselves to be Gods that the early Christians adopted the practice as a defiant declaration of the divinity of Christ.
At All Saints Belmont we use incense occasionally. We worship God with all our senses, including hearing, sight, touch and taste, and when we use incense with our sense of smell as well. Incense reminds us that our belief in Jesus is a bold declaration of his divinity and that we offer it with all our prayers before the throne of grace.
It is true that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not specifically an Anglican doctrine, none the less the Anglican Church has been very strong about the doctrine. All mainstream christian churches affirm a faith in the Holy Trinity.
It is also true that you can not move sideways in the Anglican tradition without confronting or being confronted by the doctrine.
We affirm three creeds, all of which affirm our belief in the Holy Trinity. The Athanasian Creed declares ‘and the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.’
We have many Churches dedicated to the Holy Trinity, There is a Sunday set apart as ‘Trinity Sunday, and for a long part of our history the season between Trinity Sunday and The Sunday before Advent, was Trinity. Windows in many traditional Churches are in sets of three, and the triangles and trefoil monograms appear often in church decor.
The doctrine actually points to our understanding of God, and whilst it does not define God as such, it does speak of the ways in which we understand God. Typically people have spoken of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and often today we speak of The Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
Some will argue that the doctrine is not spelt out in the Bible, and in one sense that might be true, however the Bible is not a theology textbook, and there are accounts in Scripture of the Creative, Redemptive and Sanctifying roles that have described the encounter of people with God.
The Bible never seeks to prove the existence of God. The Book of Genesis begins with the words ‘In the beginning when God was creating’. God is by implication the only thing that existed before the beginning. The two creative means of God are the breathing of his spirit upon the water, and the creative word that called things into being.
The beginning of the Gospel of John, takes us right back to this point to tell us that the word that was with God in the beginning has taken flesh in the person of Jesus.
We generally comprehend the alpha point of existence a point beyond which we cannot probe. We also are aware of those moments when we encounter the divine as near as breathing. We are also aware of te redemptive call to put the darkness behind us and travel in the light. And we know all this experience has a sense of complex unity.
One of the clear things that the Doctrine reminds us is that at the heart of the existence of God is relationships of depth, mutuality and integrity. Given we bear the image and after the likeness of God, we understand why we thrive when we have such relationships, and struggle without them.
Whist belief in the Holy Trinity is without doubt core mainstream orthodox theology embraced by all the mainstream churches, as a doctrine it is very front and centre for us as Anglicans. It is however a keystone doctrine, in that the value is how it holds everything else together, for without it we make very little sense of the rest of it. None the less it also means that at the depth of our understanding of God is mystery, for any God who could be fully understood by mere mortals would undoubtedly be less than God.
Justification is a complex and an important theological construct, and features as one of the core themes of Paul's writing in the New Testament. In short, all people have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God.
The attributes of God involve both Justice and Love. God is able to declare the sinner righteous only if the debt has been paid. The debt is paid in the death of Jesus (who did not sin) and through faith this forgiveness is available to all who believe in him. This gives rise to what is generally termed 'Justification by Faith'. We understand that God acts in accordance with both Justice and Love.
The greek word for Justification is closely allied to the word for the righteousness of God.
Faith and Good Works
Faith is characterized by faithfulness, where good works and the Sacraments play an important role in the life of the Christian believer.
It is important to understand that Justification is one of the important metaphors for salvation, and other metaphors are present in scripture including redemption, and sanctification.
Salvation by Grace can sometimes be a more helpful term.
- Justification has the sense of the accused in court having their actions justified, declared legal, and the accused not guilty of wrong doing. The slate is wiped clean.
- Redemption has the sense of the slave whose freedom is bought by another.
- Sanctification has the sense of being on a journey to be becoming holy. This is very much the story of a Christian life.
- Restoration which has the concept of things being put back to rights, and was a very strong theme in the expectations of the Samaritans.
Some of the arguments following the discussion of Justification have been less than helpful.
Anglicans believe both humans and God are involved in justification. Justification has an objective and a subjective aspect.
The objective is the act of God in Christ restoring the covenant and opening it to all people.
The subjective aspect is faith, trust in the divine factor, acceptance of divine mercy.
Apart from the presence of the subjective aspect there is no justification.
People are not justified apart from their knowledge or against their will...God forgives and accepts sinners as they are into the divine fellowship, and that these sinners are in fact changed by their trust in the divine mercy."
Justification, the establishment of a relationship with God through Christ, and sanctification go hand in hand.
In historic Anglicanism, the eleventh article of the Thirty-Nine Articles made it clear that justification cannot be earned,
We are accounted righteous before God... not for our own works or deservings.
The reconciliation of God and humans is the goal of the mission of Jesus.
Some people speak as if justification was the only way to understand this, however it is very clear that there are several. Any human relationship of any depth is likely to have some complexity, and we find the need to describe in several ways to the depth of it.
Clearly there is going to be no difference in terms of our relationship with God.
The Anglican Communion
All the Anglican Churches in the world are self governing churches. Many of these Churches are in communion with the ArchBishop of Canterbury. These churches are members of the Anglican Communion. The ArchBishop of Canterbury is 'first among equals' as he leads the communion.
The Compass Rose
The accepted motif for the Anglican Communion is the Compass Rose.
It is intended to say a number of things about us as Anglicans and it is a shame that more Anglicans do not know a little more about it, so here goes.
It has sixteen arms pointing to all the directions of the globe, reminding us that we are a worldwide communion, and that Jesus calls us to go to all the corners of the globe with the message of salvation.
At the top is the Mitre to be clear that we are an Episcopal Church, that is we have Bishops who overseas and direct the work of the Church. The principal Church in each Diocese is the Cathedral (from the greek kathedra) meaning seat. In the Cathedral is the Bishops chair/throne/seat as the centre of the mission and work of the Church in that place, gathered around the Bishop.
The extended lapets or ribbon-like tabs tabs extending from the mitre remind us that there are two two testaments and the are a biblically based church, with a great tradition of theology and scholarship.
At the very centre of the logo is the cross of St George, reminding us of our heritage and our connection with the Ancient See of Canterbury.
Around this in Greek (the language the New Testament was written in) is the motto of the Anglican Church which is English is ‘The Truth will set you Free’
Not in Communion
There are many Churches who have the Word Anglican in their name or ethos, who are not in communion with the ArchBishop of Canterbury. Generally there are reasons of dispute that have led to the churches splitting from churches who are in the Anglican Communion.
Issues have included things like the ordination of women, the consecration of women as Bishops, the approach to the 39 articles, a feeling that scripture is not being given it's priority, a feeling that the traditions have not been given priority, and the list is indeed quite long.
This separation is a sad reality, as baptised christians with whom we share so much in terms of heritage, it is indeed a little sad that we seem not always to hear Jesus prayer for our unity.