Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

6/30/2005

Which theologian are you?

In the seemingly endless procession of quizzes, now we offer Which theologian are you? Here are my results:

You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period. He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'

Anselm

93%

Augustine

87%

John Calvin

73%

Jürgen Moltmann

73%

Karl Barth

67%

Martin Luther

67%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

53%

Charles Finney

40%

Paul Tillich

33%

Jonathan Edwards

27%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

I'm pleased with the overall rating weighted toward Anselm and Augustine, but curious about the John Calvin part. He's a great theologian, with some influence on Anglicanism, but I wouldn't have guessed myself to be that high in Calvin while being lower in the Germans Karl Barth and Martin Luther.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

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6/29/2005

Spirit's Fire

The current exhibit at the Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts website is Spirit's Fire. Curator Jan Neal writes,
The Spirit's presence within the ragtag band of apostles was clear to thousands around them. Its presence within our own lives can seem equally unmistakable – be it mystifying, frightening, joyous, or simply inexplicable. How do we react?

For this exhibition, we sought art to respond to, and reflect, artists' ideas of the Holy Spirit – the divine mystery – and how it moves within and upon us.
Artist Kathy Thaden who created the image "Like a Dove" reproduced here wrote,
The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove; this mosaic is both transparent and opaque glass on clear glass, allowing for light to shine through. It is made of recycled glass, scraps that were not large enough to make anything else, pieces that, when put together, created something new.

Working with glass is a transforming process. The pieces are broken, change shape, fit together, and then are made whole again with glue and grout – often in unexpected ways. Piecing together many small hand-cut bits of glass, all of my works express a prayer of thanksgiving for God's love for all people.
A thumbnail gallery of the exhibit is found following this link.

1 Comments:

  • At 1/25/2006 12:12 PM, Blogger Jan Neal said…

    Hi Frank,

    Wish I could take credit for the beautiful curator statement for Spirit's Fire, but Brie was the curator.

    Jan

     

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6/28/2005

Devotion

Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929) wrote in Wisdom of the Sadhu
Once, as I traveled through the Himalayas, there was a great forest fire. Everyone was frantically trying to fight the fire, but I noticed a group of men standing and looking up into a tree that was about to go up in flames. When I asked them what they were looking at, they pointed up at a nest full of young birds. Above it, the mother bird was circling wildly in the air and calling out warnings to her young ones. There was nothing she or we could do, and soon the flames started climbing up the branches.

As the nest caught fire, we were all amazed to see how the mother bird reacted. Instead of flying away from the flames, she flew down and settled on the nest, covering her little ones with her wings. The next moment, she and her nestlings were burned to ashes. None of us could believe our eyes. I turned to those standing by and said: "We have witnessed a truly marvelous thing. God created that bird with such love and devotion, that she gave her life trying to protect her young. If her small heart was so full of love, how unfathomable must be the love of her Creator. That is the love that brought him down from heaven to become man. That is the love that made him suffer a painful death for our sake.

1 Comments:

  • At 7/05/2006 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The new SADHU SUNDAR SINGH graphic novel by Alec Stevens is now available:

    http://www.calvarycomics.com

     

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6/27/2005

Illumination


Working on vellum with quill pens using hand ground pigments in their natural handmade inks, a group of monks are creating an illuminated Bible in the 21st century. Called the Saint John's Bible for the abbey and university which commissioned it, this is the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned since the invention of the printing press. There is something about the loving care that is quite touching. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams wrote
In the days before printed books, people must have thought and felt differently about words on the page: words were written with discipline, slowly and thoughtfully. It was a kind of outward expression of that ruminating over the words of the Bible which shaped the inner world of the reflective believers, especially monks. This project not only revives the ancient tradition of the church sponsoring creative arts: it also offers an insight into that lost skill of patient and prayerful reading. We tend to read greadily and hastily, as we do do many other things: this beautiful text shows us a better way.
Psalm 1 in the Saint John's BibleThe Saint John's Bible is not completely alone. In a less broadly publicized (outside of Texas that is) effort and with no commission, James G. Pepper is working on his own to create an illuminated Bible. Using less technology and funding, Pepper is painstakingly handwriting an illuminated Bible.

Both efforts are loving works of art created from the words of scipture. This slow work of illuminating a text is what Rowan Williams compared above to the sort of rumination which takes place in lectio divina or divine reading. Lectio Divina is an ancient way of four steps of reading, meditating, praying and contemplating scripture. In Lectio Divina, we seek illumination from the text through nothing less than's God's presence within the text itself. Janice Morris will teach about Lectio Divina on our Quiet Day, at King of Peace July 16. There is more information on this in the current issue of The Olive Branch.

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6/26/2005

God's Word in our words

Sierra WilkinsonA sermon is not to give the preacher's words of wisdom, but God's Word in the preacher's words—the eternal and perfect coming through finite and a fallible human. It is a joy for me, as a preacher, to hear other preachers. I hear the familiar Word of God through someone else's life experience and the stories they have read and heard.

Today it was a joy to have Sierra Wilkinson come preach her first ever sermon at King of Peace. I have known Sierra for five years through the summer camp program and then youth programs of the Diocese of Georgia. I have seen her grow into using her gifts for ministry as she was a youth represntative to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003 (where she was named as one of two youths on the nominating committee for our next Presdiing Bishop), as she led a Happening retreat for teens, and now as she brought God's Word to us through her words. She preached of social justice as orthodox theology and then she challenged each of us with the question, "They talked about Jesus for caring for all persons. What will they say about you?" You may hear the 8-minute sermon online.

I believed everything she preached, but I would have never preached that sermon. It was the sermon God had for her as she was the one to deliver it. Yet each of us preaches of our faith each and every day. All of our actions give God's Word through our own words and actions. Your neighbors may never hear you preach from the pulpit of a church, but they have heard a sermon on Love thy Neighbor when you reach out in love to them. Perhaps this is why Saint Francis said those words so often attributed to him, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

3 Comments:

  • At 6/27/2005 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was a wondeful, moving sermon.

     
  • At 6/29/2005 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That was a beautiful sermon. Well done, Sierra.

     
  • At 7/04/2005 9:45 AM, Blogger Celeste said…

    I just had the chance to listen to Sierra's sermon. I am sure that God would say to her, "Well done, my good and faithful servant". I am sorry I missed it live and in person. Thanks Frank for providing a way for folks to keep in touch when they're MIA. Please tell Sierra how much I enjoyed it and I look forward to hearing more about her and from her.

     

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6/25/2005

I have not come to bring peace

In our Gospel reading for tomorrow Jesus says that most embarassing declaration for King of Peace Church,
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
The context does not explain away the saying or take away the sting of the words. Jesus is clear that being his follower is demanding. He goes on to say,
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
The cross leads to calvary and death and yet Jesus wants us to make the same choice that he did. We are to choose obedience to God's will over all other options. Two sermons in the archives, God's peace is no peace and Hope for Fishy People, in different ways look at the challenge of choosing God's peace over every lesser peace.

New Links
The new issue of The Olive Branch is now online and will be available at the church on Sunday and then will go in the mail.
Photos from Troop 226's camping trip this week to Cumberland Island are online.
Introducing the Bible, The Tribune & Georgian religion column for this week, is also now online.

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6/24/2005

Community rather than Family

The Rev. Richard Laribee, an Episcopal priest in Maryland, writes at his blog re-Marks,
for more than 25 years as an ordained pastor or priest, i have noticed something that i once thought was odd, but now understand to be normal. in any given worship gathering in any given congregation, there may be someone in the pew who isn't really sure he or she wants to be there. they sit alone, trying to be anonymous. if they had a cloak of invisibility they would certainly use it. they may feel shattered, burned out, or beaten up. they may be merely exhausted. they may feel dead. they may feel nothing at all. they definitely feel out of place, and some wonder whether they will ever recover. many, but not all of them, are ordained.
He goes on to reflect on what a community of faith can offer those who have gotten hurt or burned out. He distinguishes a church as a community, rather than a family.
one of the things that became clear to me in my healing was that the church is a community, not a family. you can't be anonymous in a family -- to attempt to be anonymous in your own family entails rejection of family relationships and is perhaps even hostile. but communities are different: communities allow for all kinds of things that families don't. communities allow for friendships and families, but they also allow for anonymity.
Why would we want King of Peace to be a community rather than a family? Toward the conclusion Richard writes,
loving my neighbor doesn't require me to actually LIKE my neighbor—just to be willing to behave like Christ to my neighbor.
Perhaps loving one's naighbor means recognizing the different needs which various neighbors have as they worship alongside us. The whole post is well worth a read as are his other blog entries.

1 Comments:

  • At 6/24/2005 8:46 AM, Blogger Celeste said…

    This reminds me of times when I have had no faith on my own, but that is when my church "community" or "family" were able to step in and have the faith needed until the end. It sounds bad, but sometimes heartache tries your faith and there is always another brother or sister in Christ to help lift you out and perhaps say the one thing to remind you of His love. That is why our Community is so important. I couldn't survive long without that.

     

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6/23/2005

No man is an island

John DonneJohn Donne (1572-1631) was an Anglican priest and a poet. In the 1620s, Donne contracted a serious illness and thought he was dying. Around him, he could hear the bells of London tolling following the deaths of many a person. Lying in extreme sickness, he composed in his head a serious of devotions which on recovering he wrote down. They were published in 1624 as Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. In the most famous, Donne writes,
The church is catholic, universal, so all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another....

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by sea, Europe is no less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of a friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefor never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
The full text of this Devotion XII is here online.

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6/22/2005

The Force be with you. And also with you.

a Jedi Knight
Creating a new religion is not as easy as one might think. A 2001 email urged New Zealanders to write in by the thousands to have Jedi acknowledged as an official religion on the census. A similar, more successful campaign, took place in England, where 390,000 people actually filled out census forms declaring themselves to be Jedi Knights. At 0.7% of the population that number is still quite small compared to the 37.3 million Christians in England. Faced with a similar campaign in Australia, the empire struck back with the Australian Census Bureau threatening $1,000 fines for anyone falsifying census data on their forms. There is a Wikipedia article on the incident. Of course, the census campaign was essentially a prank and not a serious effort to establish The Force of Star Wars as a real religion, but the ability of fans to take things too far can't be overestimated.

Orson Scott Card takes a look at Jedi as a religion in a belief.net column No Faith in the Force. Card writes,
As a religion, the Force is just the sort of thing you’d expect a liberal-minded teenage kid to invent. There’s no God and there are no rules other than a vague insistence on unselfishness and oath-keeping. Power comes from the sum of all life in the universe, and it is manichaean, not Christian — evil is simply another way of using the Force. Only not as nice.
Yet, the intesrest in the neo-pagan religion of the films shouldn't be completely dismissed. As Card notes,
It shows that the universal hunger for meaning is still prevalent, even in our agnostic era, which is encouraging; but these true believers will eventually realize that the philosophy behind Star Wars is every bit as sophisticated as the science — in other words, mostly wrong and always silly.
It's interesting how many spiritual seekers are convinced the one place they know they won't find what they are searching for is in the Christian faith that is their heritage. Yet, Christians are not innocent in this. Sometimes churches have injured people who then don't want to risk getting hurt again, as referenced in a sermons in our archives called Why Bother with Church? and Hope for Fishy People.

Never one to take itself too seriously, Belief.net offers a quiz on the religion of Star Wars.

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6/21/2005

Vocation

For the German Reformer Martin Luther it was not only those called to be monks, nuns or priests who had a vocation from God. Luther noted that everyone has a calling from God no matter their station in life.

In 1990, the Synod of Orthodox Bishops published a statement saying,
All are called to be saints (to be Christians), but each person is called to do so in his or her own unique way.... Some will work primarily in a physical way, others will work intellectually. Some will be artists, scientists, business people, and professionals. In the eyes of God none is better than the other is."
As the poet W.H. Auden put it,
You need not see what someone is doing to know if it is his vocation,

you have only to watch his eyes:
a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,
a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression,
forgetting themselves in a function...

There should be monuments, the should be
odes...

to the first flaker of flints
who forgot his dinner,

the first collector of sea-shells
to remain celibate.
Your vocation is the work you do that best uses the gifts God has given you. You may work in a job to pay the bills while your true vocation is a scout leader. Or your job might itself be your vocation as you are the teacher, sailor, banker, nurse (or whatever it is) that God created you to be, and you serve others through that vocation. It is the idea captured in the English tombstone inscription that reads,
“Here lies John Smyth who cobbled shoes in this town 40 years to the glory of God.”

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6/20/2005

Online Bookstores

Here are a few links to publishers of religious books whose catalogs, online and otherwise, you might enjoy perusing. This is not a blanket endorsement for all things at all of these sites, but just a few places to go hunting:

Church Publishing's Bookstore—The Episcopal Church's official publishing arm

Cowley Publications—the publishing company run by the Society of St. John the Evangelists, a group of Episcopal monks

Eerdmans—is an independent Christian bookseller with some great titles. They also have Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

The Morehouse Group—the Episcopal arm of the Continuum publishing group

Orbis Books—the publishing arm of the Maryknoll priests within the Roman Catholic Church, they offer some great books including Christianity Rediscovered

If you want one great site for finding all of the above and more, there is ChristianBook.com a megastore with great prices on a wide selection of Christian books.

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6/19/2005

Mission vs. Maintenance

In his book, From Survival to Celebration, Howard Hanchey writes that most churches are in a maintenance mindset, concerned with the church itself. He proposes a mission mindset that goes about celebrating what God is already doing in the world.
worship at King of PeaceThe contemporary Christian church is strong on programs and issues and short on the celebration of God's ministry in the world. We can either celebrate the work of God in the world—truly good news, or celebrate the work of the church in the world, truly work news. Modern-day Christian tend toward the latter, and it is killing us....The choice before us is always: Will we walk in the way of the gospel or the way of the world? If you decide for the way of the world, know this: you are in the company of much of the church, with its shrinking budgets, dwindling numbers, and dispirited attitude. If the gospel doesn't get your attention, maintenance will.

Does the church belong to God or does the church belong to us? Does the ministry of the church belong first of all to God or first of all to us?
This split between maintenance and mission was on my mind as yesterday as I opened up the church for a pest control treatment (clearly maintenance) then went to Honey Creek to pick up my daughter from summer camp. A priest there told someone who will soon preach at King of Peace,
"They're a warm crowd. You can feel God at King of Peace from the time when the first person goes in to get the coffee ready until the last person leaves. God is there as much as in churches in which people have prayed for hundreds of years."
worship at King of Peace on Easter 2005That sounded like an affirmation of a mission mindset to me. I know that what he said is true. It is also truly a gift of God and not something we create and so I am all the more thankful. I am also aware that while God gifts us with the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can also quench that same spirit when we get focused on those already in the building, or even worse on the building itself. The temptation is always there.

A sermon in the archives How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place is one I preached at the dedication of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Moultrie, Georgia which touches on this issue.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

1 Comments:

  • At 7/03/2005 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The first time I walked into the sanctuary, I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit within me and knew that this was a living church.

     

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6/18/2005

Proclaim from the housetops

In the Gospel reading for tomorrow, Jesus tells his disciples,
What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Larry Gillick, a Jesuit at Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality writes this about the Gospel reading for Sunday
I, personally, never won an argument about God, arguing about faithreligion, spirituality and the like, mainly, because very early in my life I found it a bad investment of time and words. Arguing is different from witnessing. Proclaiming is different from denouncing.

On our campus here at this Jesuit Catholic University we have students of various faiths telling each other that they are not going to heaven, because they are not of this group or that. There is much of witnessing which is more like arguing....Arguing about who is going to heaven and who goes to hell is not of any import....What is more difficult is buying into the simplicity and stability of Jesus and letting how we choose and how we speak and how we define ourselves be our strongest religious argument. It just might get us in trouble, but it will also get us into heaven.
The full reflection by Gillick is here at the Center for Liturgy Sunday Website.

Photos from the the Father's Day Party at The Preschool are online.

1 Comments:

  • At 6/18/2005 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    witnessing is different than arguing - how true!

     

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6/17/2005

Wake up routine

In his book Beginning to Pray Anthony Bloom offers the following advice on a wake-up routine,
The Logues on the A.T.Awake in the morning and the first thing you do, thank God for it, even if you don't feel particularly happy about the day which is to come. 'This day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be grateful in it.' Once you have done this, give yourself time to realise the truth of what you are saying and really mean it—perhaps on the level of deep conviction and not of what one might call exhilaration. And then get up, wash, clean, do whatever else you have to do, and then come to God again. Come to God again with two convictions. The one is that you are God's own and the other is that this day is also God's own, it is absolutely new, absolutely fresh. It has never existed before. To speak in Russian terms, it is like a vast expanse of unspoiled snow. No one has trodden on it yet. It is all virgin and pure in front of you. And now, what comes next? What comes next is that you ask God to bless this day, that everything in it should be blessed and ruled by Him. After that you must take it seriously, because very often one says 'O God, bless me,' and having got the blessing we act like the prodigal son—we collect all our goods and go to a strange country to lead a riotous life.
Today's religion column for the Tribune & Georgian, Stick close to the center is now online.

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6/16/2005

Sanctification

With our lengthy sojourn in purgatory yesterday, it is worth asking how it is that we can fulfill Jesus' words,
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48)
which themselves echo Leviticus 11:45,
"For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy."
Christians are called to a process of sanctification, which means to be made holy. This takes a lifetime and more in which we grow in grace and love as we more closely conform our lives to Jesus' life over time.
One sermon in the archives on this is called Becoming Like God. Another sermon called Pop Tarts and Pickles contrasts justification and sanctification without using fifty-cent words though that sermon is available only in audio form.

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6/15/2005

Purgatory

purgatory textA post last month linked to the Dante's Inferno Test, which caused one reader to write and ask,
Is it just Catholics that believe in purgatory? And if so, why? And if it is more commonly believed, what happened to being forgiven as long as you repent? Doesn't purgatory imply that for certain sins you are only 'partially' forgiven? And then, wouldn't that mean pretty much every one would pass through purgatory at some point?
Yes, the doctrine of purgatory is a uniquely Roman Catholic one. But as the entire church in the west was still part of that one catholic church at the time the doctrine of purgatory arose, it is worth wondering about together.

To get a Roman Catholic take on the doctrine, I went to the New Advent Catholic Encycplopedia. The full article is here, but it says in part
Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.
The Doctrine of Purgatory came from the Council of Florence in 1431, which was called to create some clear statements of the catholic faith in response to some early reformers (particularly the followers of Jan Hus, known as Hussites). That council would not have seen the Doctrine as a new creation, but a formulation of an already held belief.

For most later reformers, including Martin Luther and John Calvin, the rule of thumb for reforming the church was something to the effect of "If it is not in scripture, we won't do it." These church reformers with one voice (which was rare in the Reformation) denounced the doctrine of purgatory, leaving it out of Protestant churches.

But what of the Episcopal Church itself? The reformation which came to England with the break from Rome during Henry VIII's reign (creating in time the Anglican Communion of which King of Peace is a part) opened what they called the via media or a middle path in which if a teaching or practice was contrary to scripture, it was dropped, but things found to be helpful, which were not contrary to scripture, could be retained. The official teaching of the Anglican Communion on purgatory is found in the 39 articles, which are themselves still within our Book of Common Prayer in the historical documents section (pages 867-876). Article XXII states,
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
illustration from Dante's Divine ComedyHaving stated that it is not a generally Protestant doctrine, nor one uniquely retained by the Episcopal Church, it is probably still worth exploring where the idea comes from. Roman Catholic theologians would point to I Corinthians 3:11-15,
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
This passage speaks of a purifying fire through which one is saved.

Another relevant passage is I Thessalonians 4:13-18,
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
This passage seems to refer to an intermediate state for those who have died and are awaiting judgment and so some Christians through the centuries wondered about that state and then combined it with the idea of purifying fire from the passage above in First Corinthians.

One more passage, which while not scriptural, was particularly relevant. Some books from the time between the Old and New Testaments were preserved as the Apocrypha. While they are not considered to be the inspired word of God and so authoritative for the church, these books are instructive of Jewish history and thought during the intertestemental period. In the Book of II Macabees, there is an incident which points toward a purgatory-like belief found in chapter 12:39-45,
And upon the day following, as the use had been, Judas and his company came to take up the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen in their fathers' graves. Now under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the law. Then every man saw that this was the cause wherefore they were slain. All men therefore praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid, Betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain. And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.
While not scriptural, this passage did lend credence to the idea that purgatory was not contrary to the Jewish faith from which Christianity was born.

With these passages in mind and the knowledge that we humans do not deserve the love God has shown us, the idea developed that as we wait for the judgment, God punishes us for lesser sins and purifies us for heaven. This idea found its fullest expression, not in the councils of the church, but in Dante's literary work, The Divine Comedy.

illustration from Dante's Divine ComedyThe Doctrine of Purgatory came about as Christians reflected on the fact that we humans are not perfect and generally do a poor job in attempting to live Christ-like lives. As we know God to be Holy, many wondered how it was that a Holy God could hang around with us unholy humans just because we had died. Purgatory filled in the gap and gave God a dynamic way to continue our purification after this life and before an eternity in heaven. The problem is that this, while connected to some scripture as noted above, went beyond not just the words of Christ, but the overwhelminging force of the bulk of scripture, which says that God's love is unearned, undeserved by humans and God loves us anyway. As Paul wrote to the Romans (5:8-10),
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
So while it may seem too much to ask for to be truly forgiven of our sins by virtue of repentance and confession alone (rather than fiery purification), it is not more than Jesus promised us in scripture.

Closely connected to the concept of purgatory is the idea that we can pray for the dead. Certainly if one believes in purgatory, it is consistent to pray for those who are there. But what about the rest of us? If there is no purgatory, can and should we pray for the dead? I think the answer is yes. Those who we know and love who have died are no longer present to us, but they remain present to God and so it is not inappropriate to remember them before God. Not that we are praying them out of an intermediate state of punishment, but instead we trust them to the care of our loving God. This is what every funeral service does, turning over the care of someone we love to the God who made them and died to redeem them. So we can pray after the funeral, continuing to trust God to be with those we love, whether there is a purgatory or not.

peace,
Frank+

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

2 Comments:

  • At 6/15/2005 10:12 AM, Blogger St Michael's Episcopal Church said…

    The Orthodox pray for the dead because they view salvation "as a dynamic process, a continual growth in holiness, purity, and closeness with God which continues even in heaven. Since we are created beings, and God alone is Uncreated, how can we imagine that men and women will ever fully comprehend God or be totally filled with His holiness, His Uncreated Life? He is infinite Love and infinite Holiness: those with Him in heaven are blessed to grow in this Love and Holiness infinitely."
    - Dr. David C. Ford "Prayer and the Departed Saints"

    I always found this compelling.

     
  • At 6/16/2005 9:37 AM, Blogger Celeste said…

    I wonder if the thief on the cross had met the level of holiness to be with Jesus in Paradise on that day. Perhaps he realized in the last moments of his life the love that God had for him.
    Just posting my thoughts.

     

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6/14/2005

Compassion

[Jesus] heart overflowed with compassion.—Luke 7:13

the Good Samaritan by HeqiOnly your compassion and your loving kindness are invincible, and without limit.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

By compassion we make others' misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.
—Thomas Browne, Sr.

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
—Thomas Merton

Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.
—Frederick Buechner

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
—from The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

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6/13/2005

Forgiveness

Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?
Seven times?"
"No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!
(Matthew 18:21-22)

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.—Peter Ustinov

There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.—Josh Billings

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.—Mahatma Gandhi

Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.—Cherie Carter-Scott

Forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of its immense benefits to the one who forgives.—Lawana Blackwell

If you forgive those who sin against you,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you refuse to forgive others,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
—Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:14-15)

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6/12/2005

What would our Lord do?

Jerry D. Jones' book 201 Great Questions asks,
Mother TheresaMother Theresa called you today and said she is very short-staffed and desperately needs your help in India for two years. There is no pay, but she can provide a bed for you and simple meals with her staff. She explained that your primary responsibilities would be emptying bedpans and giving spoonfuls of water to the dying. What would you tell her? Why?
The following is from Becoming a Christian Extremist, a column for the Tribune & Georgian.
A retired Bishop told me this story of when he was a young minister sent to work for a time among Mother Teresa’s community. Soon after his arrival, the young minister was sent with a team to go change lepers’ bandages in the streets. One leper saw the minister working at the station and asked him to lay hands on him and pray for healing. Horrified by the disfigured face, he ran to the nun leading the group.

“That man wants me to lay hands on him and pray for him. What should I do?” the nervous minister asked.

“What would our Lord do?” the nun asked.

“I know what our Lord would do. I want to know what I am to do,” he stammered back. “How is the disease transmitted?”

“You want a medical answer, and I will not give you one,” the nun replied. “The man wants God’s healing touch. If you are a priest, you will do what your Lord would do. As you walk back over there, decide whether you intend to be a priest or not.”

The now retired Bishop said that the nun’s insistence on following Jesus’ example was the kick in the seat of the pants he needed to become a real minister of Gospel.

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6/11/2005

Making the team

In the Gospel reading for tomorrow Jesus names his twelve disciples. The selection of the 12 disciples conjurs for me images of the schoolyard drill of two captains picking their teams for a game. Some men end up walking away shaking their heads in amazement. They had been sure they would be part of Jesus' inner circle. "Peter was picked ahead of me," one mumbles as he walks away. Of course, it might not have happened this way at all, but making a choice usually means other options not taken. Picking a team means leaving some people off the squad.

In a wonderful sermon at the Diocese of Georgia convention this year, the Rev. Steph Britt told about his middle school days and something he called the Emmanuel Davidson event. It's well worth the few minutes it takes to read.

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6/10/2005

Back to the font

Max is baptizedThis is the last day of Living Water, our Kids in the Kingdom Week for 2005 and we will circle back to where the week began this past Sunday—at the baptismal font. On Sunday, Payton, Kali and Max were baptized. Through the week we have encoutered two Bible stories a day relating to water from the creation to Jesus post-resurrection breakfast on the beach with his discples. The journey brings us back today first, to Jesus' baptism and then to consider our own baptisms. This is the same sort of cycle we go through in life from our own baptism, away into other stories and then a reminder comes along that we have new life in Christ by virtue of our faith and baptism.

water squirters aimed at the cameraIn the back of the King of Peace sanctuary the baptismal font stands full of water as a tangible reminder of your own baptism. Yet if our senses are open to the possibility, all water may remind us of our baptism—every soaking rain, every car wash, swimming pool, or even a mud puddle. Any of these things can serve to remind us of the waters in which we died with Christ and through which we were raised to new life. This is why the Methodist Scholar Lawrence Stookey is said to have been heard on occasion shouting a joyous appeal to his students while dashing across the college campus in the rain saying, "Remember your baptism, and be thankful!"

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6/09/2005

Faith whether stormy or fair

Raven soaks Griffin during VBSDuring today's session of Living Water, the kids will learn about Jesus walking on the water and his post-resurrection breakfast on the beach with his disciples. In both stories, the disciples found themselves in turmoil and in both of these stories we see that Jesus is present with us in our troubles and wants our faith to be a resource when things go bad as well as when everything is going well. Of course, the problem is that we need faith to weather the sunny periods as well as faith to weather the storm. For some of us are more likely to turn to God when the bottom falls out than when everything seems to be going our way.

Raven soaks Griffin during VBSThe sermon in the archives on walking on the water linked here is called Faith to Make it through Life's Storms and the one on breakfast on the beach is called Plenty of Room in the Net.

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6/08/2005

Love your enemies

Love your enemies!
Pray for those who persecute you!
—Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:44)

making faces during a story TuesdayToday during our Kids in the Kingdom Week, the kids will learn about Elisha healing Naaman of Leprosy and the Samaritan woman at the well. The two stories are tied together not merely because of water. In both stories, godly compassion is shown to two people who most would view as enemies of Israel.

In the first, Naaman is a Syrian General who has been leading Aramean raids into Israel. Among the captives was a young girl given to be maid to Naaman's wife as a maid. One day the girl said to her mistress, "I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy." Naaman's wife told the general who put together a king's ransom in order to sway the prophet into healing him. But when he came to Elisha, the prophet would not meet with him, sending word that the general should wash seven times in the (rather muddy) Jordan River to be made clean.

Naaman was enraged that the prophet would not even see him and was even more incensed that the so-called great healing was merely to wash himself in the Jordan seven times. The general went away in a rage, but later, calmed by his servants he did as the prophet had commanded and was healed. Naaman went back to Elisha to pay him and give thanks. The prophet refused the reward for the healing, which was God's action and not his own. And the opposing army's general proclaimed, "I know at last that there is no God in all the world except in Israel." Elisha's healing Naaman of leprosy is a very Christ-like act.

In the archives is a sermon on the Samaritan Woman at the Well called See yourself as God sees you.

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6/07/2005

12 Stones

handprints on a large banner made during Kids in the Kingdom WeekThe two stories for Living Waters today are of Moses striking the rock at Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7) and water gushing forth to save the lives of the thirsty Israelites.

In the second story today, we'll recount how the Israelites crossed through the Jordan River on dry land as a remembrance of the Red Sea crossing a generation before. As they crossed, each of the twelve trobes of Israel set up a stone and together they made a cairn to mark the place for future generations.

If we look at our lives, each of us has had occasions where God has acted in our lives and a miracle has occurred. Forget whether you can prove it to someone else. A miracle happened and you know it. How do you mark those miracles in your life? Have you let others know about the miracles you have experienced? The Israelites were to tell of God's mighty acts to their children and grandchildren. So are we.

processing from the house to the current church buildingA sermon that draws this idea out more clearly was the last sermon preached when King of Peace met in the house on our current property. Following communion, but before concluding the worship, we prayed to secularize the house once more and processed out together to our current building. The sermon, High Water Marks remains online.

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6/06/2005

Truth and Myth

Today, we will begin Living Water, our Kids in the Kingdom Week with the stories of the creation and the flood. Scholars see this stories as myth, which used to aggravate me as I consider the stories true. Dictionary.com defines myth as:
myth n.
1. a. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society: the myth of Eros and Psyche; a creation myth.
1. b. Such stories considered as a group: the realm of myth.
2. A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal: a star whose fame turned her into a myth; the pioneer myth of suburbia.
3. A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.
4. A fictitious story, person, or thing: “German artillery superiority on the Western Front was a myth” (Leon Wolff).
[New Latin mthus, from Late Latin mthos, from Greek mthos.]
stained glass of creation at King of PeaceI considered myth more as defined in 2 or 3, meaning first and foremost that it is untrue. But if we consider Genesis from the standpoint of definition 1, then certainly it is an ancient story of ancestors that gives the worldview of a people. In fact we will share these stories with the children hoping they will grow up with a biblical worldview. We will teach the children that God made each of them and loves them very much, and today we will do that with the stories from Genesis. I guess that makes the stories myths, as they are ancient stories containing a worldview. But that doesn't make the stories untrue, perhaps it makes them more true as they contain the essence of our very first stories in the long, overarching story of God loving the creation.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

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6/05/2005

Living Water

Kali is baptized

Max is baptizedToday we welcomed into the household of God, Payton, Kali and Max. This week, all three newly baptized members of the Body of Christ will take part in our Kids in the Kingdom Week called Living Water, where we'll look at stories in scripture about water as we look toward discussing our own baptisms. The name for the week comes, of course, from John's Gospel (chapter 4) where Jesus told a Samaritan woman at the well that "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

Payton is baptizedIt was that well at which the baptisms today took place, for we do not baptize, God does. And in Jesus, God promised Payton, Kali and Max, a well springing up to eternal life.

Check back this week and we'll have photos at the King of Peace website showing all the week's fun as we get drenched in God's love.

More living water
James visiting the font where he was baptizedI received this email and photos today from Matt Munro and family who are traveling in Germany:
Father Frank,

We just returned from church, the same church Jimmy was baptized in (see attached). There was a choir which sang beautifully; it was breathtaking!

I hope and pray all is well back in Georgia. We miss y'all terribly. Please let me know if you would like me to bring something back for you or the church.

Yours,

Matt, Birgit, James and Sarah <><

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

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6/04/2005

The Unthinkable

In tomorrow's Gospel reading Jesus does the unthinkable—he names a hated tax collector as one of his inner circle of disciples. John J. Pilch writes this of tomorrow's reading,
The scene is Capernaum, Jesus' own town (9:1). Capernaum was located on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee along the major road of international trade between Damascus and Egypt. Domestic trade among the towns and villages on the shores of the Sea of Galilee also had to pass through Capernaum.

Capernaum was well situated for collecting tolls which were levied on all goods in transit whether entering, leaving, or simply being transported across a district. Tolls also had to be paid for goods crossing over bridges or gates, or landings. Matthew was a toll collector who worked in the Capernaum custom house.

In Jesus' time, a toll collector was a native who contracted with Rome to collect the allotted tolls but paid them personally to Rome in advance and hoped to collect enough to make a profit. Historical evidence indicates that the gamble rarely paid off. The rich and the educated, a minuscule minority in Jesus' day, routinely criticized toll collectors. The poor rarely had anything on which duties could be levied and would likely sympathize with rather than criticize those who, like themselves, were trying to eke out a subsistence.

Jesus draws an analogy between his association with toll collectors and sinners and the association of healers with sick people. Knowledge of the history of medicine helps a modern reader appreciate the analogy. In antiquity, healers preferred not to treat sick people because if the sick person died the healer might be put to death as well.

Jesus' activity contrasts with this cultural view because he touched the untouchables and associated with the outcasts in a way that good healers should have done but didn't.

Moreover sickness in ancient Israel nearly always entailed separation from the community until health returned. This was part of the understanding of purity and wholeness. In a group-oriented culture, separation from the community is a fate worse than death. Jesus' healing ministry in general always includes a restoration of the person to community, whether someone with repulsive scaly skin conditions (called "leprosy") or toll collectors who in general were a remarkably fair and honest group of people routinely stereotyped, condemned, and shunned by their peers.

Whom do contemporary American believers stereotype, condemn, and shun? How would Jesus respond?

1 Comments:

  • At 6/05/2005 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for sharing that Matthew was a toll collector. I spent a lot of time on 3 different occasions in Capernaum and always picture Matthew at the gate of the Temple there. It makes much more sense now that I know where he sat.
    Judy

     

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6/03/2005

The Martyrs of Uganda

Martyrs of UgandaAs I once wrote in a column for the Tribune & Georgian, The Martyrs of Uganda and I have a history. I studied Hebrew in their presence. Their quiet witness taught me of the importance of scripture.

Their story is that,
on 3 June 1886, thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith.

These martyrdoms totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by a handful of Anglican and Roman missionaries after 1877, the Christian faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885. Mwanga first forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out Christianity.

The Namugongo martyrdoms produced a result entirely opposite to Mwanga's intentions. The example of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond the court. The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man's religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily. Uganda now has the largest percentage of professed Christians of any nation in Africa.
Some of those put to death for their faith had come to Christianity after seeing the death of James Hannington and his Companions. Of Hannigton, it is written,
James Hannington, born 1847, was sent out from England in 1884 by the Anglican Church as missionary Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa. As he was travelling toward Uganda, he was apprehended by emissaries of King Mwanga. He and his companions were brutally treated and, a week later, 29 October 1885, most of them were put to death. Hannington's last words were: "Go tell your master that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood."
As with the Roman Empire centuries earlier, the blood of the Christian martyrs became the seeds of the church. As the unconverted saw the faithfulness of Christians unto death, they got more interested in this new religion and were in turn converted. Today their continue to be martyrs for the Christian faith in the Sudan and China and elsewhere.

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6/02/2005

The Martyrs of Lyon

Lyon is in modern-day France. As a part of Gaul in 177, Lyon was the site of a vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. As is typical of Christian persecution under Rome, the problems in Lyon started with floods and fire. Someone needed to be responsible and the Christians were blamed. As they did not sacrifice to the pagan gods, it must be their fault that calamity was befalling Lyon.

James Kiefer wrote of this persecution,
BlandinaAt first, Christians were excluded from the public baths, the market place, and from social and public life. They were subject to attack when they appeared in public, and many Christian homes were vandalized.

At this point the government became involved, and began to take Christians into custody for questioning. Some slaves from Christian households were tortured to obtain confessions, and were induced to say that Christians practiced cannibalism and incest. These charges were used to arouse the whole city against the Christians, particularly against Pothinus, the aged bishop of Lyons; Sanctus, a deacon; Attalus; Maturus, a recent convert; and Blandina, a slave.

Pothinus was beaten and then released, to die of his wounds a few days later. Sanctus was tormented with red-hot irons.
The charge of cannabalism was common as somone might overhear something about eating "the Body of Christ" and make cannabilistic assumptions rather than sacramental ones. Yet, the Martyrs of Lyon suffered death willingly rather than deny their faith. Early church historian Eusebius (c. 260-341) wrote that Blandina,
so frail in body ... was filled with such strength that the torturers, who followed one another in relays and tormented her from morning to night with every kind of torture, acknowledged that they were beaten and had nothing more that they could do to her, ... and were amazed to see her still breathing while her body was torn and laid open."
In the midst of the torture she declared, "I am a Christian, and we commit no wrongdoing." She died by being gored by a wild bull placed in the ring with her. The Roman Empire persecuted Christianity sporadically and occasionally quite systematically from the decades after Jesus' death and resurrection until 313.

The prayer for June 2 in the book Lesser Feasts and Fasts is
Grant, O Lord, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of you, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; 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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6/01/2005

What I wish I'd said

Don't you hate it when the quick comeback comes to you too slowly? On Sunday, my wife, Victoria, and I were signing some of our books at the reopening of the Camden County Library. Since I was already going, they asked me to say the invocation. I brought my Bible and read Ecclesiastes 12:12,
And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
That comedy bit aside, I went on to say how in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are people of the book and we had long ago aided in the creation of libraries and universities as we knew that God is Truth and in seeking knowledge of the world, we also come to know more of God. Then I prayed.

Later that meant my Bible was still with me at the book signing. Someone asked, "Did you write that one too." I said, "No, I didn't write this one." A few beats later the right answer came to me. I wish I had said, "No, I didn't write this one, but I know who did, and I'll introduce you if you like."

Another I-wish-I'd-said moment occured this week. In a recent newspaper column and this past Sundays sermon I wrote of seeming coincidences that I know to be God-incidents. This week I ran into what I wish I had said in that column and sermon.

Victoria and I are wrapping up a book on Anglican Prayer Beads for Church Publishing Company. It was while looking for a quote in Bill Hybel's book Too Busy Not to Pray that I read, "as an English archbishop once observed, 'It's amazing how many coincidences occur when one begins to pray.'"

That was perfect. But I wanted to know who said it and went on a Google search until I found the original. I'm glad I did. I like the full version even better:
“People tell me that answers to prayer
are merely coincidences.
I can only reply that when I pray coincidences happen
and when I stop praying they stop happening.”
—William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury
I think that sums it up better than I did. So now more than a few beats later, I finally got to say what I wish I'd said.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

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