For those who are preaching this weekend on John the Baptist’s proclamation of Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World”, this ancient song is worth reading:
The Lamb Replaces the Scapegoat. Romanus Melodus:
Now the the garment of mourning is rent; we have put on the white robe
Which the spirit has woven for us from the lamb’s fleece of our Lamb and our God;
Sin is taken away, and immortality is given us, our restoration is clear.
The Forerunner has proclaimed it.…
O, the message of the Baptist, and the mystery in it!
He calls the shepherd lamb, and not only a lamb, but one to free from mistakes.
He showed the lawless that the goat which they sent into the desert was ineffective.
“Lo,” he said, “the lamb; there is no longer need of the goat;
Put your hands on him,
All of you who confess your sins,
For He has come to take them away, those of the people, and of the whole world.
For lo, the One whom the Father has sent to us is the One who carries away evil,
Who appeared and illumined all things.”
Kontakion on the Epiphany 6.12–13.
Elowsky, J. C. (2006). John 1-10 (pp. 70–71). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
People regularly ask me about the meaning of reconciliation. This quote below, from a longer essay by Bishop Nick is a good starting point. (It’s part of longer essay, the full version of which is linked below.)
Words like “peace and reconciliation” can appear bland; but the task of reconciling is demanding and costly. It’s about trying to hold together people whose experience has torn them apart. The whole point of it is that already divided, damaged and conflicted people can choose to break the cycle of hatred.
The symbol of Christianity is a cross – a man nailed to it with arms open, exposed to all that the world can throw at him, but not throwing it back. Open arms can represent welcome to all-comers; they can also hold together those at extremes who otherwise might pull apart into different worlds. And there’s the risk that those doing the reconciling find themselves being pulled apart in the process.
We have a great tradition of holding classes for parishioners in Lent, but once Easter comes, and Spring springs, we tend to focus on other things. But, what would happen if we tried an Easter class – like a Lent class, but later?
Have I got a deal for you:
In 2011, the Episcopal Church House of Bishops issued a pastoral letter on the environment. In response, a five-week study course titled A Life of Grace for the Whole World has been created. The curriculum follows the five sections of this letter.
This is the result of work done by the Episcopal Church in New England, spearheaded by Bishop Tom Ely and two incredibly talented priests, Stephanie Johnson and Jerry Cappel. It’s a perfect fit for a springtime course, and it’s basically turn-key. Download it and go. The only thing we ask is that if you use it, you let us know how it went. What could be easier?
[Episcopal News Service] Are science and faith compatible? Ordained scientists in The Episcopal Church offer insight on this sometimes controversial question through a new groundbreaking video curriculum offered by Forward Movement, now available for free download. The curriculum, offered in partnership with the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith, invites a sense of wonder and discovery to play a part in building care for creation in our faith communities.
In the Beginning explores the Bible’s basic doctrine of creation, the modern scientific worldview, perspectives on the Big Bang and evolution, and the biblical roots for environmental care. The Rev. Stephanie Johnson says it is a “thoughtful, engaging invitation into a deeper understanding of all God’s Creation.” Featured clergy-scientists include Katharine Jefferts Schori— former Presiding Bishop and oceanographer; Nicholas Knisely—the Bishop of Rhode Island and physicist; Rev. Lucas Mix—evolutionary biologist; Rev. Alistair So—microbiologist; and the Rev. Stephanie Johnson —environmentalist.
Thoughtful conservatives who are less concerned with waging culture wars have begun to admit that such a shift is occurring. In The New York Times last week, David Brooks argued that while American college campuses were “awash in moral relativism” as late as the 1980s, a “shame culture” has now taken its place. The subjective morality of yesterday has been replaced by an ethical code that, if violated, results in unmerciful moral crusades on social media.
A culture of shame cannot be a culture of total relativism. One must have some moral criteria for which to decide if someone is worth shaming.
“Some sort of moral system is coming into place,” Brooks says. “Some new criteria now exist, which people use to define correct and incorrect action.”
I’ve been thinking that the pendulum has been swinging for a while now. Looking back at the 70’s and 80’s when there really was an “anything goes” season, we’re definitely in a very different moment.
I’m not sure if anyone can put a finger on the moment it changed, or what might be identified as the proximate cause, but we clearly are in a different moment.
Either way, this is certainly what we’re seeing happening on Social Media – which is probably the most effective window we have into the collective Zeitgeist.
Something for you to think about on the other side of the Triduum:
Russell Cowburn is Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge where he leads a large research team studying the physics and applications of nanotechnology. He is also a Christian. In this talk he describes what nanotechnology is, how it might be used to help solve global problems such as climate change and how we might begin to answer questions such as ‘what does God think about nanotechnology?
Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 279)
I awoke to the news of another coordinated multi-site attack in Europe, with many people dead and wounded. And this following the attack over the weekend in Turkey, following the unspeakable horrors and carnage caused by the ongoing war in Syria. It seems to me the only response in this moment is prayer and service to the victims of this violence wherever it is happening.
O Lord God, who gavest to wise men of old a glorious star to lead them to the Christ: Grant that we whom thou hast given a yet more glorious sign, even his holy cross, may follow and be led by it the whole way to our salvation and thy heaven, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
From “A Procession of Passion Prayers” by Eric Milner-White OGS, CBE, DSO, one time Dean of York Minster.
On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.
In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.
In this moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege. We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.
We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.
The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting in retreat, unanimously approved this statement.
A new way of approaching the way massless particles move in the vacuum of space looks like it has the potential to clean up a number of existing cosmological puzzles – at the cost of changing the way we would understand “time”.
Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das have published a paper in Physics Reviews vol. B that does all of this and removes the violation of General Relativity that is at the heart of the Big Bang. Essentially what they argue is that we need to revisit David Bohm’s understanding of zero mass particle trajectories. Bohm, a well respected physicist of the last century, found a way of describing a system’s evolution in time that removed the non-deterministic nature of the system. Though Bohmian mechanics is described as a “hidden variable” theory, it’s primary proponent has been J.S. Bell himself (of Bell’s inequality fame). According to Ali and Das, returning to Bohm’s ideas changes the way we understand the beginning and the end of the Universe and essentially gets rid of the conundrum of “dark energy”.
The really provocative claim to my mind is that this new idea allows a direct calculation of the cosmological constant that is in close agreement with what we measure. (Unlike calculations based on the mass energy of the quantum vacuum which are off by many many orders of magnitude, or the handwaving introduction of quintessence.)
From an article on Physics.org:
In addition to not predicting a Big Bang singularity, the new model does not predict a “big crunch” singularity, either. In general relativity, one possible fate of the universe is that it starts to shrink until it collapses in on itself in a big crunch and becomes an infinitely dense point once again.
Ali and Das explain in their paper that their model avoids singularities because of a key difference between classical geodesics and Bohmian trajectories. Classical geodesics eventually cross each other, and the points at which they converge are singularities. In contrast, Bohmian trajectories never cross each other, so singularities do not appear in the equations.
In cosmological terms, the scientists explain that the quantum corrections can be thought of as a cosmological constant term (without the need for dark energy) and a radiation term. These terms keep the universe at a finite size, and therefore give it an infinite age. The terms also make predictions that agree closely with current observations of the cosmological constant and density of the universe.