The Funeral Message I Did Not Deliver

Recently at my church we had an event take place that was so horrific it’s hard to write about.  One of our more esteemed members, with an active lay ministry, shot and killed himself in front on his wife on Christmas Eve after losing his job.  For a long list of reasons (not the least of which is that I don’t have ministerial credentials) I was not asked to speak at his funeral, but if I had been this is what I would say.  I put this here because it touches many of the issues I discuss on this site, so perhaps this is the best venue after all.

It is a difficult thing to get up and say much of anything meaningful after the tragic end of our friend.  Those who have spoken before me have waxed eloquently about his life–his warm personality, his burden for the souls of those around him, his active leading of cell groups and outreach to single people, his regal treatment of his wife, and all of the other things he did that made him an outstanding and beloved member of our church.  And yet his end–an end which has deeply wounded us all–begs for some kind of explanation after the life he lived.

One of those before me has simply stated that he was overcome by depression he could not control.  Honestly, I cannot take this explanation at face value.  I am aware that an axiom of moral theology is that we cannot be held responsible for those things we cannot control.  But I also know that the church I grew up in, steeped in the Fruedian paradigm so fashionable in the 1960’s, basically adopted the position that there were no moral absolutes and no moral resonsibilities.  Once we start attributing everything that we do to internal forces beyond our control, we obviate the whole concept of sin and ultimately of our responsibility to turn ourselves over to Jesus Christ in salvation.  We only need to look at the world around us to see where this kind of thinking has landed us.

Am I saying that our friend eradicated his eternal life along with his natural one?  I am not.  His life–all of it–is done, and he, like all of us, must give his own account to God for it.  Our task is not to determine what other people’s eternities are, but to change them for the better.  But in the midst of this tragedy–one that has torn all of our hearts–there is a lesson for all of us who remain on the earth to live the life that God has given us.

When our ancestors–spiritual and literal–turned their backs on the religion their dread Sovereigns gave them, they rejected a liturgical form of worship for the one we have today.  At the centre of this worship is the preaching of the Word.  This was supposed to make for a more God-centred form of worship and life.  But it puts a man at the centre as well.  The great besetting danger of this form of Christianity–both as Pentecostals and as Evangelicals–is that, in attempting to make our worship God-centred, we end up making it more man-centred than we were supposed to.

This was not God’s intent for us.  "For it is by God’s loving-kindness that you have been saved, through your faith. It is not due to yourselves; the gift is God’s. It is not due to obedience to Law, lest any one should boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created, by our union with Christ Jesus, for the good actions in doing which God had pre-arranged that we should spend our lives." (Eph. 2:8-10)  The idea that all that we do for God should have ultimately come from God is something that should permeate our entire Christian life.

Today we hear our friend eulogised for the good things he has done and the people to whom he ministered.  But all of the worth of all that he did depends upon whether his works came from God, whether they served God’s purpose, and whether they were for God’s glory or his own.  We believe that his purpose was to further the kingdom of God on this earth.  That being the case, our focus must be on God, not man.  We must remember him not because he was an especially good person in and of himself, but because he did the will of the One who sent him. (John 4:34)

And that leads us to the urgent question that all of us–especially his family and closest friends gathered today–have.  How was it possible that someone who did all of the things he did and meant so much to us could take himself away in the horrific manner that he did?  Clinincal speculation is interesting but ultimately not helpful for us who remain.  We are masters in our society at focusing on pain relief rather than lesson learning and problem solving.  His death, like his life, has a lesson for us that is both comforting for the present and educational for the future.

The reality is that our friend, like all of us, was a sinner saved by grace–a grace which, by definition, neither he nor us deserved.  We humans have wandered the earth for many years, leaving a legacy of failure and pain.  The world is such that, as one character in my fiction sermonised, "this life is too painful that we love it so much."   But God has offered us his free gift of salvation and eternal life, and has not withdrawn that offer because we are not up to it.  Our task today is to realise that God’s faithfulness transcends human failure–our friend’s failure, our failure–and that the good things he did in Jesus’ name should not be forgotten, as they brought people to the only real purpose this life has and the only viable way out of it.

My prayer today for you is that you will look past the tragedy that has ripped our lives, that we will continue to live and grow together in the love and knowlege of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that we will "…lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us,our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the Leader and perfect Example of our faith, who, for the joy that lay before him, endured the cross, heedless of its shame, and now ‘has taken his seat at the right hand’ of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1b-2)

Henry Louttit: Not a Chip off the Old Block

The letter from the Bishop of Georgia, Henry Louttit, to his oldest parish trying to force them to pay up to an Episcopal Church they have no confidence in shows in vivid terms how far the Episcopal Church has gone in the last forty years.

As we reminisce in a piece from our “Palm Beach Experience” section, his father, when Bishop of South Florida, attempted to have James Pike tried for heresy.  The Episcopal Church at the time “chickened out” which helped lead to the situation we have now where his son is forced to put the screws to a conservative parish to keep the “ship afloat.”

There’s one thing the son learned the father didn’t quite master: never give a sucker an even break.  That’s all the liberals have left to continue the institutional existence of the church they spoiled.

Pardoning Richard Nixon was the Right Thing To Do

The death of Gerald Ford has revived one of the great guessing games of the 1970’s: was it right to pardon Richard Nixon after all he had done?

We think it was.  To drag out Nixon’s trial in the liberal-controlled media of the time would have furthered the left’s agenda by running down people’s respect for the Republic in an era when running down authority was the left’s main weapon of their own advancement (that has changed, as Hillary Clinton knows all too well.)  It would have given the left another opportunity to finish the job of making their dominance over the political life of the country permanent–at least until the country had collapsed, which it would have done had they succeeded.

Ford stopped their onrush, which eventually prepared for liberalism’s check with Ronald Reagan’s election, its revival as a world power and the end of the Cold War.  None of this would have happened if Gerald Ford hadn’t pardoned Nixon and gotten the matter off of centre stage of American life.

Whether the right has squandered this legacy in this decade was the issue of the 2006 election and certainly will be again in 2008.

A Country Needs to be Defended by its Own

Although we are unenthusiastic about bringing back the draft, we aren’t any more enthusiastic about our military actively recuriting foreigners to defend our country.

This is not based on some vague, moralistic patriotic urge.  It is based on a knowledge of late Roman history, and specifically the disaster that the British leader Vortigern induced when he brought the Saxons over to defend a newly independent Britain.  Although late Roman emperors, pretenders, power challengers and generals had brought the "barbarians" in many times to defend the Empire, eventually these people basically moved in and took over, dismembering the Empire in the process.

If a country isn’t–or can’t–be defended by its own, sooner or later it will cease to exist.

The Christmas Story, from the Positive Infinity New Testament

About that time an edict was issued by the Emperor Augustus that a census should be taken of the whole Empire. (This was the first census taken while Quirinius was Governor of Syria). And every one went to his own town to be registered. Among others Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, the town of David, in Judea–because he belonged to the family and house of David–To be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was about to become a mother. While they were there her time came, And she gave birth to her first child, a son. And because there was no room for them in the inn, she swathed him round and laid him in a manger.

In that same country-side were shepherds out in the open fields, watching their flocks that night, When an angel of the Lord suddenly stood by them, and the Glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were seized with fear. “Have no fear,” the angel said. “For I bring you good news of a great joy in store for all the nation. This day there has been born to you, in the town of David, a Savior, who is Christ and Lord. And this shall be the sign for you. You will find the infant swathed, and lying in a manger.” Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly Host, praising God, and singing–“Glory to God on high, And on earth peace among men in whom he finds pleasure.”

Now, when the angels had left them and gone back to Heaven, the shepherds said to one another: “Let us go at once to Bethlehem, and see this thing that has happened, of which the Lord has told us.” So they went quickly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger; And, when they saw it, they told of all that had been said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds were astonished at their story, While Mary treasured up all that they said, and dwelt upon it in her thoughts. And the shepherds went back, giving glory and praise to God for all that they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)

For the Way to God’s Pleasure, click here

Ann Coulter’s Voting Problems Continue

Back before the election, we noted a piece in the Shiny Sheet about Ann Coulter’s problems with voting in Palm Beach.  At the time, we felt that this was a prosecutorial fishing expedition, politically motivated.

Things keep moving somewhere with this.  Now the Town of Palm Beach has thrown the investigation back to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections (and ultimately perhaps the District Attorney.)   The desire to make something out of this–which the election authorities should have dealt with up front–continues.

Leaving the Episcopal Church: Doing What Has to be Done

The in-process exodus from the Episcopal church by various parishes in Northern Virginia has been greeted with glee by many in the Anglican community.

The reality is, however, that what they are doing is more of a necessity than a joy.  When a denomination or other church organisation decides to abandon the basics of Christianity, it is incumbent upon those who stick with the essentials of the faith to make some kind of departure, either individual or corporate.  This process will have happy consequences in the long run but is difficult in the near future.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me is how long this took.  The course of the Episcopal Church has been set for a long time, and the real break should have taken place in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the downward slide got going in earnest.  At that time the only option was for individuals to leave, which, as we saw, was something many did.  The fragmentation that resulted is one reason why the liberals have had the upper hand for the last forty years.

And that brings us to the greatest danger of the whole process.  Leaving out the "continuing" churches that are not in formal communion with Canterbury, we see that several provinces have established a presence in the U.S.  The largest of these is of course the Anglican Mission in America, but the northern Virginia parishes are headed to Nigeria for oversight.  If we throw in those who affiliate themselves with Uganda or the Southern Cone, we see a situation which will undermine any attempt to establish an alternate Anglican province in North America.  (The Episcopal Church is already the "alternative" province from a GLBT perspective.)

And this, of course, gets us to the same problem that bedevils the careerist Middle East:

They came to Capernaum. When Jesus had gone into the house, he asked them: “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had been arguing with one another which was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said: “If any one wishes to be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:32-34)

What Episcopalians Used to Expect from Themselves

On the back of an Episcopal baptismal certificate, 1863.

The only similarity between then and now is the authoritarian command of the church. And these days the Episcopal Church is getting its authority from somewhere other than above.

After Jesus had come into the Temple Courts, the Chief Priests and the Councillors of the Nation came up to him as he was teaching, and said: “What authority have you to do these things? Who gave you this authority?”

“I, too,” said Jesus in reply, “will ask you one question; if you will give me an answer to it, then I, also, will tell you what authority I have to act as I do. It is about John’s baptism. What was its origin? divine or human?”

But they began arguing among themselves: “If we say ‘divine,’ he will say to us ‘Why then did not you believe him?’ But if we say ‘human,’ we are afraid of the people, for every one regards John as a Prophet.”

So the answer they gave Jesus was–“We do not know.”

“Then I,” he said, “refuse to tell you what authority I have to do these things.” (Matthew 21:23-27, Positive Infinity New Testament)

Is This Redneck or What?

It’s bad enough that Jimmy Carter has uncritically accepted the idea that Israel is solely responsible for all of the Middle East’s problems. But the fact that he won’t even debate Alan Dershowitz–a card-carrying liberal if there ever was one–only shows that his hopeless pseudosophistication has gone beyond human repair.

Carter has forgotten that Jews have been stalwarts of his party for many years, which is more than can be said for his fellow Scotch-Irish Southerners. The fact that he is turning his back on them after all of these years shows that he, in reality, has not advanced from the anti-Semitism that has been traditionally tagged with the least progressive elements of his region.

What Carter has done is to join the conspiracy of the self-pitying, those who believe that everything bad in life is the fault of someone else. While that runs deeper in his culture than some of us would care to admit, it doesn’t justify setting the world up for another Holocaust–which is exactly what Hamas is gunning for, as we discussed last year.

Is this redneck or what?

Me and My Big Mouth

We’re sure that this is what Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky is saying to himself after the fiasco (which SEA-TAC is finally reversing) in which the Rabbi threatened to sue the airport for not including a menorah with the Christmas trees at the airport. The airport, of course, responded by ordering the removal of the trees, which resulted in an uproar.

Jewish leaders would do themselves many favours if they would make a few well placed phone calls to Christian ones (not the liberals!) before they threaten to take this kind of action. Any self-respecting evangelical would not only love to see a menorah in the airport, they might even help pay for it. As we noted last year, Jewish symbolism is quite the thing amongst evangelicals these days. Besides, a menorah has much stronger religious symbolism than a Christmas tree any day of the week. (Use of the evergreen as a symbol of eternal life is Masonic, in case you didn’t know.)

The Rabbi’s reaction points to a central problem, even amongst the orthodox: many Jews reflexively believe that the “Christian culture” around them always wants to persecute them, so their default reaction is to want to secularise it. By now it should be obvious that the interest of neither Jew nor Christian is served by this kind of thing. In the UK, even Muslims are stirring about supporting a religious celebration of Christmas along with Christian. And why not, with verses from the Qu’ran such as this:

When the angels said, ‘O Mary, ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of a son through a word from HIM; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God; ‘And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of the righteous. She said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touch me? He said, ‘Such is the way of ALLAH. HE creates what HE pleases. When HE decrees a thing HE says to it ‘Be,’ and it is; (Sura 3:45-47)

That’s more than most liberals can manage!