Monday, July 28, 2008

A Lament over Lambeth, or, The Anointed Must Replace the Appointed

The lessons* I read yesterday (Sunday) evening and this (Monday) morning had implications for the current Lambeth Conference in England. A bishop there, speaking to the press about various strains on the Anglican Communion, said:

"The failure to respond presents us with a situation where if the three moratoria are not observed, the Communion is likely to fracture."

(Note: "three moratoria" means no more gay bishops, no more blessings of same-sex relationships, and no more bishops crossing one anothers' borders).

Last night's lessons included:

Lamentations 1:1-12 - All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem has been stripped away. Her princes are like starving deer searching for pasture. They are too weak to run from the pursuing enemy. (verse 6)

Luke 19:41-48 - But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes... He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (vv. 41-42, 46)

In these passages, Jeremiah and Jesus lament over the Holy City, the center of the faith in its day. God's favor is taken away because of the spiritual blindness and evil actions countenanced in Jerusalem. The "fracture" of the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion seems inevitable - "But now it is too late" - because affluent apostates have gone unchallenged for too long. The bishops - "Her princes" - scrape about looking for something, anything to keep it all together, but are too weak.

This morning's readings were:

I Samuel 18:1-9 - This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (vv. 8-9)

Luke 19:29-40 - “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (vv. 38-40)

The "old guard" grows angry as God shows his favor to new leaders. David and Jesus, both anointed by God, displace old leaders enmeshed in self-serving emotion and entitlement. The people turn from the appointed leaders to seek the anointed leaders. As one leader of the vibrant, growing Anglican churches in Africa put it, "We don't need to go through Canterbury to get to Jesus."

Of course all of this is traumatic and sad - but it is the poisonous fruit of false teachings and practices too long indulged by those who were entrusted, particularly as bishops, with defense of the church's faith and unity.

O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

* I read from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer lectionary (actually a 1945 revision). I find it close to the intent of the Anglican Reformation, providing consistent reading through whole Bible books rather than skipping around after "themes."

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