Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Remembered Past in U.S. History

Below are my "class notes" (essentially a brief description for parents of what we've done in class thus far) for the first quarter of U.S. History. They provide a brief peek into how I teach my course.
Our theme in United States History is "the Remembered Past." Throughout the year we consider not only what happened in the past, but also how we remember past events differently at different times. We began the year with a unit reflecting on the nature and limits of history as a discipline, which culminated in an imaginative exercise in the interpretation of evidence: "A Post-Apocalyptic Historical Archaeologist Reads Two Plays and a Packet." 
Our second unit, which we wrapped up last week, introduced us more concretely to U.S. history through a brief survey of the interactions and relations between European colonists and Native Americans. Along with a unit test, we also had a group debate reflecting upon our unit through the lens of historical memory in public memorials. Students were required to make a case for memorializing one of four opposing figures (assigned, not chosen): John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, "King Philip," or the colonial victims of "King Philip's War." In doing so we not only researched individual figures; we also discussed (without resolving the question) whether monuments ought primarily to be reflections of past history or present values. 
We now turn our attention to the Founding Era, where we will consider the intra-colonial debate over independence, read a colonial midwife's diary in order to reflect upon whose stories are worth telling, and evaluate the historical reliability of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the text they are reading in American literature.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Earth & Altar

The clergy at All Saints Anglican -- primarily Fr. Sean McDermott, with yours truly in an assisting role -- have launched a website, Earth & Altar, dedicated to "Catholic Ressourcement for Anglicans." It is specifically intended as corporate formation for the Anglican Province of America, but we hope and expect it will be useful for others as well.

In particular, we've organized the site around parish resources related to Liturgy, Education, Spiritual Direction, and Community. For example, we have essays detailing our parish's Sacred Music and Arts Camp (aka "SMAC," aka our version of VBS), our parish Agape meal, how we do youth and adult education, etc. -- as well as links to resources related to the seven sacraments and other liturgical services. We also link to useful podcasts and blogs, and we are maintaining our own occasional blog as well.

For a helpful introduction, you can listen to and read about the plenary talks given at our diocesan synod by Fr. Sean and me here.

So far, I've contributed a paper on youth ministry at All Saints and written a few short blog posts including one that briefly reflects on the one-year lectionary (with a link to a podcast that goes more in-depth).

Most recently, I wrote an essay that considers avenues of fruitful theological reflection on sexuality beyond the old same-sex-marriage debate. Here's the introduction:

Is there any fruitful ground left for theological debate around sexuality? The answer at first seems a definitive "no." The denominational landscape of American Christianity has been rent asunder in the past half-century, most fundamentally over questions related to same-sex marriage — and rent so definitively that no common ground exists any longer. The warring camps, it seems, share no spaces or institutions in which — or even over which — to argue. Perhaps such ground never really existed anyway. The breakup of jurisdictions and denominations happened more through open power struggles than genuine intellectual dispute. These power struggles continue in some quarters, of course, but the theological question of same-sex marriage — specifically, whether or not the biblical vision of marriage can be modified to include the institution called "same-sex marriage" — seems rather played out. Continuing Anglicans in particular may be tempted to think that affirming the impossibility of same-sex marriage — and women’s ordination — sufficiently clarifies our theology of sexuality. 
As I read Wesley Hill's thoughtful review of Paul Griffiths's latest book, Christian Flesh, however, I was reminded of the various under-explored questions beyond the tired same-sex marriage debate. That debate has arguably obscured the distinctions and boundaries between sexual and non-sexual forms of human intimacy — for instance, the intimacy of a parent and child, between siblings, and among friends. Further, partisans on both sides have typically failed to think deeply enough about the nature of regeneration and redemption in relation to all forms of human sexuality.
Read the rest here.

Just a final note: I posted the essay under the category of "Clery Education," though I do think the questions considered are potentially meaningful for any theologically informed Christian.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Sermon for Trinity X

This past Sunday I preached and celebrated a Deacon's Mass (a Mass of the Presanctified Gifts) at St. Philip's Anglican Church in Blacksburg, covering for the inimitable Fr. Wade Miller. The sermon texts were 1 Corinthians 12:1f, and Luke 19:41f.

The text for the sermon comes from the epistle:

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

St. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to sort out serious problems in the church at Corinth, problems involving both moral scandal and bad theology. We learn in chapter 7 that the Corinthians had written St. Paul to ask him some questions, but in chapter 11 St. Paul also lets it slip that he has additional sources who have been informing him about the church’s scandals. Our epistle text, then, may be a response to a direct question from Corinth or to things St. Paul’s been hearing from other sources, but in either case, it is clear that the Corinthians are misusing their spiritual gifts.

The problem is not, however, the absence of gifts. Interestingly, St. Paul nowhere doubts the validity of the Corinthians’ spiritual gifts — he affirms them as genuine instantiations of the Holy Spirit’s work. Indeed, the church at Corinth seems full of spiritual gifts and power — but these gifts are being used not for the good of the Church but for self-aggrandizement, and they have created a culture of ingratitude and envy. It is chillingly ironic that spiritual gifts from God become the occasion for the primal Satanic sin of pride — but this is precisely what St. Paul means when he warns in 1 Corinthians 13 that, without love, prophecy becomes a noisy gong and mountain-moving faith amounts to nothing.

St. Paul reminds these Corinthians that, in an ultimate sense, no Christian is an individual but is rather a member of a Body, animated by a single Spirit, and defined by love. And, as our Collect and Gospel texts indicate, we learn to live this reality out in our lives by becoming, individually and corporately, a house of prayer.

Let’s turn to the Epistle text:

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.”

There’s an important nuance to the Greek here that gets lost in translation. The noun “gifts” is not actually present in the Greek. The word used is an adjectival noun, pneumatikon, which is literally “spiritual things.” It is not until verse four that St. Paul shifts from pneumatikon (“spiritual things”) to charismata, “gifts.” The root word of charismata is charis — which means grace. With this shift, St. Paul subtly reminds them that these “spiritual things,” which have become for them sources of pride and envy, are not their possession by right or by merit but by grace, as a gift. God’s gifts are only rightly enjoyed when the credit and glory that they bring passes through the recipient to the Divine Source of the gift.

St. Paul also reminds the Corinthians that spirituality per se is not enough, because not all spirits are of God. The Corinthians had been plenty “spiritual” before their conversion:

“You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

Being “carried away” in idolatry is probably a reference to ecstatic experiences in pagan worship. Those spiritual experiences may have been quite real, but they were not of God — and the test is whether a spiritual experience conforms to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And, whereas in paganism a variety of spiritual experiences would have indicated a diversity of gods, St. Paul notes that the spiritual gifts of God, however diverse, all stem from one Spirit, one Triune God:

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

Christian gifts, ministries, and activities communicate the grace of God to a dying world. In turn, Christians must constantly point the world back to Jesus Christ. In this way, we act as images and icons of Jesus, channels through which God both acts and receives glory and honor.

The Corinthians’s spiritual gifts were real, but they seized the praise stemming from these gifts for themselves. They became not icons of Christ but living idols. And as each Corinthian claimed the Creator’s glory for himself, the unity and complementarity of the Spirit’s work was obscured, and envy arose. Instead of working for the good of the whole and for the glory of God, the Corinthians sought their own glory and poisoned their community. Obviously, this is directly contrary to the very purpose of spiritual gifts!

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.”

It is probably best not to try to read too much into the particular list of gifts which follow. In different places in this and other of his epistles, St. Paul varies his lists of spiritual gifts. They appear to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or systematically outlined. St. Paul’s focus in our text is not on the particular gifts themselves but rather the unity of one Spirit animating all of them. The remainder of 1 Corinthians 12 beyond our text describes the Church as Christ’s own Body, with each member of that Body providing a different function; with all functions harmonious, organic, and symbiotic; each crucial to the health and well-being of the whole Body. Every spiritual gift proceeds from “one and the same Spirit” at the Spirit’s discretion and “for the profit of all.”

That the Corinthians were able so to misuse the gifts the Spirit that they became occasions for destructive pride and envy is startling. Something like this Corinthian dynamic seems to be what our Lord had in mind when, in Matthew 7 (verses 21-23, ESV), he warned: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

The antidote for this poisonous and apparently damnable pride is loving attention to the Body of Christ rather than selfish pursuit of our own ends. Our Gospel text teaches us how to do this.

Just as the Corinthians manipulated spiritual gifts for selfish ends, in our Gospel text we find that the Temple — God’s dwelling place with man — has become a “den of thieves.” Literally speaking, Jesus was decrying the profiteering that debased the sacrificial system in his day. But we know something Jesus’ original audience did not. The dwelling place of God with man was no longer the Temple complex in which Jesus stood but rather the very body of Jesus himself (see John 2:21). Moreover, as St. Paul explains throughout 1 Corinthians, Christ has consecrated the Church as his mystical Body, and by extension the very body of every Christian becomes at baptism a temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 6:19).

The Church fathers, therefore, rightly drew profound and sweeping theological conclusions from Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Indeed, the pairing of today’s Epistle and Gospel texts, which dates back to the fourth-century Lectionary of St. Jerome, was predicated on making this connection between the Temple of Luke’s Gospel and the Temple that is the Body of Christ. We must ensure that our Body — the Church corporate and each of our lives individually — does not become a den of thieves. We do so by making our Body instead a house of prayer.

Living prayerfully is the solution. St. John of Damascus defined prayer as the lifting up of the mind to God. This is exactly what the celebrant asks the people to do in the Sursum Corda: “Lift up your hearts.” “We live them up unto the Lord.” This is harder than it sounds. It requires not merely effort but also training and formation. First and foremost, this happens Eucharistically, as we feed on Christ’s sacramental Body and are thereby more fully united to his mystical Body. The common prayer of our liturgy — particularly Holy Communion and the Daily Office — teaches us how to pray as members of a Body. Even when I pray alone in my room, I pray to our Father and not my Father. Holy Eucharist and the Daily Office should be the basic building blocks of every house of prayer, but as we grow in spiritual discipline we should add contemplative, personal prayer, which helps us understand how our membership in Christ relates to each of our particular situations and circumstances.

In these ways, we learn how to consecrate our whole selves to Christ’s service, to bring all our gifts into right relation with our membership in Christ, and to live a filled life of humble love and ceaseless prayer.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

Friday, May 31, 2019

Teaching American History, Trusting Jesus

This is a "final reflections" email I sent to all my students after the conclusion of the semester. I know at least three (out of 65) actually read it, so I'll call that a teaching victory.


This is the time of year I reflect on my teaching and think about, you know, the stuff I wish I'd done differently. So I'm gonna do that, and you're gonna read it. (Just kidding. You can go ahead and click that little trash can icon up there if you'd like.)

My major concerns always have to do with whether I've really upheld goodness, truth, and beauty for you to pursue. I'm not sure.

And part of the problem is that I simultaneously believe three things that are at least in tension with each other and may in fact be mutually exclusive:
  1. The "American experiment in self-government" is rooted in some fundamentally good, true, and beautiful insights that are worth preserving and upholding.
  2. Slavery and other forms of exploitation are inextricably interwoven into American history, such that it is hard to argue that there is any part of American history that hasn't been in some way affected.
  3. And then a third, sort of out-there one: the Western liberal (using the term broadly) Enlightenment-based ideal of a value-neutral, religious-commitment-free space (on which the American experiment is based) is a lie. There are no religiously neutral spaces; the secular state is not a neutral arbiter of religion but is itself a combatant (and a dominantly successful one) in religious conflict. (See the attached argument from William Cavanaugh--come for the invigorating take on the falsely named "Wars of Religion"; stick around for the part where he compares American government to a mafia protection racket.)
My overriding conviction always is that the Church -- which, as St. Paul repeatedly says, is the Body of Christ -- is the one community that should "relativize" all others. That is, all other loves find their rightful place and expression as they are brought into relation with Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus, all loves inevitably become disordered, distorted, and destructive. Anything you pursue to give your lives meaning, purpose, and happiness apart from Jesus will eventually crumble into ash.

So your duty as Americans is indeed to love your country, just as you should love your family and friends. The problem is never -- could never be -- too much love. But it can be disordered love. Or it can be hatred or selfishness falsely masked as love. (That's why "love is love" can only mean something if you know what "love" actually is...) So your overriding duty is to find what loving America looks like when it's brought into relation with the fundamental commandment to love Jesus.

And I should say that bringing things into relation with Jesus is not a matter of hard things becoming easy. The whole "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" line is true, so long as we remember that that "wonderful plan" might look quite a bit different than the wonderful plan we have for our own lives. Ten of the twelve disciples were martyred, after all.

The Christian life is cross-shaped. Jesus invites you into a real death to self, but it's through that dying to self that you find life -- and that, actually, you find yourself. The Collect for the Monday of Holy Week puts it well:


And that's the promise. You will suffer in this life, one way or another. Walking in the way of the cross means uniting your sufferings to Christ, who will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5), so that when you suffer, you do so with hope and even, dare I say, joy (1 Thes. 4:13-18).

Fr. Perkins

Friday, April 19, 2019

Christ reigns from the tree

[I'll be preaching this brief homily for Morning Prayer this Good Friday in about twenty minutes.]

“Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he.”


This morning’s second lesson is packed with Old Testament allusions. We begin with Jesus crossing “over the brook Cedron.” This is the same river that King David crossed when he fled from his son Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel (15:23). In fact the word translated as “brook” is a specific word for a river that only flowed during winter (the rainy season in Israel), and it’s precisely the same term used in the Greek translation of the account of David’s flight. In that Old Testament story, meanwhile, David’s close advisor Ahithophel betrays him and then eventually hangs himself — one of only two characters in the Bible to do so, the other being Judas Iscariot.

 The account of David’s flight is poignant: “David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went” (2 Sam. 15:30, NRSV). Likewise, our Lord enters into the Garden of Gethsemane, which was an olive grove (Whitacre 425), where, the other Gospels tell us, he endured great agony as he anticipated his impending death (Luke 22:44; Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34). It is there that he asked his disciples to pray one hour with him, there that they all failed. And it is that grievous hour in that garden that some of you even now reenact as you seek to enter into the suffering of our Lord in some small way.

John refers to this place of watching simply as “a garden.” He gives the same name to “the place where [Jesus] was crucified” and buried (19:41). Mary of Bethany will even mistake him for the gardener (20:15) — as indeed he is, the New Adam whose death reverses the curse wrought by the first gardener’s fall (1 Cor 15:22; Rom 5:14-18).

This morning’s first lesson provides us with another Old Testament foreshadowing of Christ. The Isaac who is nearly sacrificed and metaphorically brought back from the dead becomes the Christ, who truly dies and then becomes the “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18). Indeed, Jesus acts as both Abraham and Isaac, for he willingly offers himself up in obedience to God.

The account of David’s flight from Absalom arouses pity because in it David has become so pitiful — a sad, broken-down old man who must be roused to his own defense by his allies. And Absalom’s rebellion is implicitly presented as the consequence of David’s own sordid history of lust, murder, and parental neglect.

Evening Prayer today will emphasize that Jesus, by contrast, is an innocent sufferer whose suffering expunges the guilt of others. But as our reading from John makes clear, Jesus is not a passive or helpless victim.

Having eluded his opponents’ previous attempts to apprehend him before the appointed hour, Jesus now dictates when, where, and how he will be taken. His enemies come in full military force, but it is Jesus and not they who control the scene. He comes forth and interrogates them: “Whom seek ye?”

They answer “Jesus of Nazareth.” He responds, “I am he.” That last word, “he,” is grammatically implied but unstated in the Greek, so what Jesus has actually said is simply, “I AM.” This declaration of the divine name literally knocks the armed band clean over. They are, it seems, so rattled that Jesus has to prompt them again to say who they’re looking for, and they dumbly repeat the same name. Jesus then orders them — it is an imperative — to let his disciples go. Here and throughout his interactions with Pilate, the superficial powers of this world are belittled and diminished in the presence of true omnipotence.

Good Friday is tragic. Jesus’ death is the result of sin, and as Fr. Glenn recently reminded us, sin is no happy fault. It is grievous. The grim spectacle of our Lord upon the cross should fill us with deep sorrow for our sins which placed him there. And yet, throughout St. John’s Gospel, the cross is Christ’s glorification. The great Anglican theologian E. L. Mascall writes that in his obedience, Christ’s “divine dignity is not diminished but manifested; when he stands before Pilate, it is he, not Pilate, that is the judge; when he is nailed to the Cross, he is reigning from the tree.” As we grieve, therefore, let us also worship and adore our king, for whom the cross is at once torment and triumph.

“Jesus saith unto them, I am he.”


Thursday, February 7, 2019

On Politics and Disgust Sensitivity

Another (modified) excerpt from my Sent folder.

After having read the whole article (on alignment between political positions and "disgust sensitivity"), I do think that Alan Jacobs' point -- that liberalism is taken as the "baseline," and conservatism as the weird outlier that needs explanation -- seems evident from start to finish.

The article would read differently if the starting point was, "How come people with lower disgust sensitivity and less developed taste buds have a 'liberal ethos'?"

McAuliffe acknowledges the dual ways of reading the data towards the end:
If you’re liberal, you may be thinking, So this explains some of the other side’s nativism and hostility to immigration. But it’s just as easy to flip the science on its head and conclude, as conservatives might, that the left is composed of clueless naïfs whose rosy-eyed optimism about human nature—and obliviousness to various dangers—will only lead to trouble.
But the whole article nevertheless suggests a particular read on the data -- which you can see when, a couple paragraphs after that, she emphasizes the fundamental irrationality (or perhaps "sub-rational" operation) of disgust.

And, interestingly enough, it dovetails with a (conservative, anti-abortion) piece I recently revisited that was arguing for the (limited) moral value of gut-level disgust -- that we shouldn't just dismiss our revulsion but consider whether it might have some real meaning.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sermon for Epiphany II

Last week I preached the sermon for Epiphany II on the beginning of St. Mark's Gospel, climaxing with Jesus' baptism by John. The baptism introduces us to Jesus in Mark, and in this way sets the tone for his entire ministry.
The Eastern Fathers reflect at length upon Christ’s baptism as a potent symbol of the Incarnation in all its paradoxical majesty and mystery. An Orthodox hymn for Epiphany notes that in Jesus’s baptism we see “The River of Joy… baptized in the stream” (The Festal Menaion, 295). The One through whom all water was made and in which all things subsist is himself submerged in muddy Jordan. How can this be?... 
Christ’s baptism is a particular act of humility. St. Matthew’s Gospel dwells on the inversion of Jesus being baptized by John. “I have need to be baptized of thee,” John protests, “and comest thou to me?” (Matt. 3:14). St. Mark’s compact account draws attention not so much to the incongruity between John and Jesus but rather to the startling nature of John’s baptism. John preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” and it is this baptism to which Jesus submits, despite having no sins to remit. Thus, in his first act in Mark’s Gospel, Christ explicitly identifies himself with sinners. Later Jesus will describe his impending Passion as “the cup that I drink” and “the baptism with which I am baptized” (Mark 10:38-39, ESV). From the outset, he expresses a freely chosen solidarity with sinners, and this identification of the Sinless Christ with sinful humanity comes to its awful and glorious climax on the cross.
Christ's baptism also inaugurates sacramental baptism, and so it reveals not only who Christ is -- but also who we are:
...we should never forget that, in being baptized into Christ’s death, we are also, as St. Paul tells us, “risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). We share in his death and in his resurrection, and we indeed partake of his divine life (2 Pet. 1:4). 
At every baptism, the heavens are rent, the Spirit descends, and the voice of God speaks: 
“Thou art my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”
You can read (or hear) the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Jesus' Baptism, Liturgical Language

A (lightly modified) excerpt from my Sent folder (head nod to Alan Jacobs): 

 In light of my sermon this Sunday, I'm looking at Orthodox liturgy for Epiphany (from The Festal Menaion translated by Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary) and its reflections on Jesus' baptism. Fascinating stuff:

"Make ready, O river Jordan: for behold, Christ our God draws near to be baptized by John, that He may crush with His divinity the invisible heads of the dragons in thy waters."

I have no idea what that really means -- the footnoted reference to Ps. 73:13 proves less than illuminating** -- but it's pretty cool. I sense a Marvel adaptation.

But anyway, in the Preface there's this explanation of the language of their translation, which fits what Martin Thornton says about liturgical language (perspicacious but elevated is the ideal, which, he says, makes Elizabethan English perhaps the perfect liturgical form):

So far as the general style of our translation is concerned, after much experimenting we decided to take as our model the language of the Authorized Version... This, we realize, is a controversial decision. Many of our readers will probably feel that, if the liturgical texts are to come alive for people today, they must be rendered in a more contemporary idiom. To this it must be answered that the Greek used in the canons and hymns that are here translated was never a 'contemporary' or 'spoken' language. The Byzantine hymnographers wrote in a liturgical style that was consciously 'artificial', even though it was never intentionally obscure or unintelligible. As we see it, the language of the Authorized Version is best adapted to convey the spirit of the original liturgical Greek.... For three centuries and more the Authorized Version, and along with it the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, have provided the words with which English-speaking peoples throughout the world have addressed God; and these two books have become a part not only of our literary but of our spiritual inheritance...

Fr. Mark

**Turns out the reference is to Ps. 74:14-15 (in the 1928 Psalter; in the ESV it's 74:13-14): "Thou didst divide the sea through thy power; thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou smotest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat for the people of the wilderness."

Double cool.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Advent IV Sermon: On Heaven

Today I preached for Advent IV -- on heaven, heavenly citizenship, and the bodily resurrection:
This heavenly citizenship — which is ours through membership in Christ’s Body, the Church — makes us a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV). Every rival loyalty must be submitted to the surpassing reality of our incorporation into Christ (Gal. 3:28-29; 1 Cor. 12:13). But this relativizing of other loyalties does not mean their diminishment — quite the opposite! 
We love Jesus not by loving others less but precisely through loving them rightly. Saints Paul and Peter make it abundantly and repeatedly clear that loving your spouse, your children, and your parents, so far from being in conflict with heavenly citizenship, are in the fact the very ways in which we love Jesus. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 3 affirm that part of being a good Christian is being a good earthly citizen. These other loyalties are relativized not by being diminished but by being brought into right relation with our ultimate identity as members of the Church. 
Problems arise not when our love for family or country becomes too great but when our love is disordered. And in this fallen world, these other entities — family, country — can and inevitably will at times demand that they be your primary loyalty, that all things be made subject to them rather than to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Read (or listen to) the whole thing.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Four Last Things

For Advent this year, the clergy at All Saints are following the medieval tradition of preaching on the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven).

I. Death
I have already posted about Fr. Sean's beautiful sermon on death.

II. Judgment
Fr. Dan's sermon on Judgment is also compelling and worth your time. Some excerpts:
What is our end? Our end is simply wonderful and magnificent: to live in the presence of God forever and ever, world without end; to participate in the very life of God as his adopted children through the holy waters of Baptism; to become fully human; to learn and to grow in God's presence without ceasing forever and ever and ever and ever. 
For all divine judgment is rooted in this very first declaration of God: that his creation is very good. 
God’s judgment of Adam was really ultimately his divine means of grace and salvation for the human race.”
Listen to the whole thing!

III. Hell
And last week, Fr. Gene preached on "Lewis' conception of Hell as a mercy of God," ultimately concluding with the right combination of eschatological hope and epistemological humility:
There may come a time—and I believe Hell exists within the temporal creation—when all those in hell repent and accept the forgiveness freely offered by the Lord Jesus. However, the Church has not been vouchsafed with the revelation that this must come to pass. The possibility exists that the damned will cling to their rebellion forever, no matter how foolish or how horrible it seems. I do believe that it is acceptable to hope for and pray that all come to the beatific vision.
Read the whole thing.

IV. Heaven
I'll finish with a sermon on Heaven tomorrow.

As my rector wrote, “Now all the pressure is on you to top off the Advent series with an all encompassing, yet specifically attentively and responsibly executed sermon on the four last things while also gently pulling back the veil and exhibiting before our yearning eyes all that the Ancient of Days has prepared for those who love him!”

No pressure.