The Prayer Book as Regula

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The Large and Mysterious Shape of Sacrificial Action

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This isn’t about going back into the deadlocked debates over whether Christ explicitly established one form of ministry to be valid for ever; even in the sixteenth century, Hooker was critical of those who claimed absolute certainty about this. But it is about getting away from a view of the Church that is very seductive and very damaging – and very popular. This is the view that the Church is essentially a lot of people who have something in common called Christian faith and get together to share it with each other and communicate it to other people ‘outside’. It looks a harmless enough view at first, but it is a good way from what the New Testament encourages us to think about the Church – which is that the Church is first of all a kind of space cleared by God through Jesus in which people may become what God made them to be (God’s sons and daughters), and that what we have to do about the Church is not first to organise it as a society but to inhabit it as a climate or a landscape. It is a place where we can see properly – God, God’s creation, ourselves. It is a place or dimension in the universe that is in some way growing towards being the universe itself in restored relation to God. It is a place we are invited to enter, the place occupied by Christ, who is himself the climate and atmosphere of a renewed universe.  Continue reading

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The Only Way to Reestablish a Broken Community

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

In a real sense nonviolence seeks to redeem the spiritual and moral lag that I spoke of earlier as the chief dilemma of modern man. It seeks to secure moral ends through moral means. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.

I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community. It is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, and irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep.

Martin Luther King Jr., The Quest for Peace and Justice

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Pro-Life Ethics are Black Life Ethics

To be pro-life is to be pro-image-of-God, wherever that image may occur. It does no good for us to advocate the protection of a child whose heart has only been beating for a few days, while ignoring or else defending the systemic destruction of our black neighbors. Anyone fashioned in the image of God is infinitely precious. It is irrelevant whether they are inches long and can’t survive on their own, for example, or whether they are Black or Hispanic, poor or in prison—all lives are carefully crafted in the image of almighty God and deserve our eager protection and tender advocacy. In fact, any ‘pro-life’ ethic that requires less than a complete and total commitment to the flourishing of every human being is hypocrisy. Don’t ever forget that Jesus was a fierce and tireless advocate for the poor, the destitute, and the oppressed. In the gospels, he never looks a person in the face and says, “You brought this on yourself.” No, he makes our burden his burden. He shoulders our sorrow and shares in our suffering. Take up that conviction. Be consistently pro-life by becoming a comfort and refuge to black lives today.

Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The Simplicity and Purity of Primitive Christianity

Bishop Moorman on the Via Media of the Caroline Divines:

In the eyes of those who were shaping the destiny of the Church in England there was no sense of separation from the rest of the catholic church. The Church in England was, as the title-page to the first Prayer Book had implied, a part of the catholic church, even though it had repudiated papal jurisdiction. It was catholic, but it was also reformed. Its roots ran back to the primitive church, but certain customs and ideas which had clung to it during the Middle Ages had now been cut away. The fundamental doctrines and constitution of the Church remained the same, but a number of genuine reforms had been carried out, such as the vernacular liturgy, the administration of the Sacrament in both kinds and permission for the clergy to marry.

[Their] point of view. . .may be summed up in the dying words of Thomas Ken, who had inherited the great tradition laid down by the Caroline Divines. ‘I die,’ he said, ‘in the Holy Catholic and Apostolick Faith, professed by the whole Church before disunion of the East and West. More particularly, I dye in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan Innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.’ Continue reading

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Child of Europe, Czeslaw Milosz

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We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.

We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.

We, from the fiery furnaces, from behind barbed wires
On which the winds of endless autumns howled,
We, who remember battles where the wounded air roared in
paroxysms of pain.
We, saved by our own cunning and knowledge.

By sending others to the more exposed positions
Urging them loudly to fight on
Ourselves withdrawing in certainty of the cause lost.

Having the choice of our own death and that of a friend
We chose his, coldly thinking: Let it be done quickly.

We sealed gas chamber doors, stole bread
Knowing the next day would be harder to bear than the day before.

As befits human beings, we explored good and evil.
Our malignant wisdom has no like on this planet.

Accept it as proven that we are better than they,
The gullible, hot-blooded weaklings, careless with their lives.

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Treasure your legacy of skills, child of Europe.
Inheritor of Gothic cathedrals, of baroque churches.
Of synagogues filled with the wailing of a wronged people.
Successor of Descartes, Spinoza, inheritor of the word ‘honor’,
Posthumous child of Leonidas
Treasure the skills acquired in the hour of terror.

You have a clever mind which sees instantly
The good and bad of any situation.
You have an elegant, skeptical mind which enjoys pleasures
Quite unknown to primitive races.

Guided by this mind you cannot fail to see
The soundness of the advice we give you:
Let the sweetness of day fill your lungs Continue reading

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After a Murder

While I was driving this morning through the city, I noticed a crime scene taped off on a side road, and the body of a murdered black man laying lifelessly in the middle of it. Whether it was done with a gun, a knife, or a fist, it does not matter. It does not matter whether it was a dope deal gone wrong, a vengeance killing, or just indiscriminate violence. The fact is that someone’s son is dead, or perhaps even worse, some child’s father. No one should find that normal. Jesus certainly didn’t. When he wept in agonizing prayer—when he stood sobbing at the tomb of his friend, or wept with pain at the stubborn hostility of Jerusalem, it was toward the brutality of death, and the violence that creates it, that his passionate hatred and heartfelt sorrow were directed.

Jesus is the confrontational love of the Father. He is the delivering and healing hope of future peace. He is paradigmatic for Christian faithfulness, and his injunctions are non-negotiable. If Jesus is the incarnation of God’s peaceful presence in the midst of the chaos and horror of human bloodshed, then his death—the way that he absolutely refused to employ violence or enjoin his followers to use the same, even in a moment of extraordinary injustice, should be programmatic for the way that the Church incarnates God’s future today. Let us be a people characterized by the refusal to confront violence with the very methods that bring it about: bombs, knives, fists, guns—let us extinguish the cyclical violence that has infected our cities by assuming the cruciformity of sacrificial love. And may God be ever merciful to grant us grace for the paradox of enemy-love that our sons and fathers be murdered no more.

O God who art the Author of peace, and lover of Concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternall life, whose service is perfect freedom : defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies, that we surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any Adversaries through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 1662 BCP, “Collect for Peace”

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