I believe in the forgiveness of sins

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These thoughts on Forgiveness, by Fr. Kenneth Tanner, pastor of Holy Redeemer Anglican Church in Rochester, Michigan, are published here with his permission.

I believe in the forgiveness of sins. This is a bedrock Christian trust. The sentence has more than one meaning. It first affirms that God forgives humanity and forgives humanity without conditions, before we ask or repent. God forgives as we beat, mock, torture, and kill God. Forgiveness begins with a God who forgives.

I believe in the forgiveness of sins. This also means we trust that sins can in fact be forgiven—really forgiven—because God forgives. This basic trust is now almost countercultural. We congratulate ourselves on withholding forgiveness, clinging to our injuries, even after persons have “paid their debt.” The forgiveness that begins with God lacks nothing and accomplishes its healing ends.

I believe in the forgiveness of sins. This also means we trust that when we forgive our enemy, our neighbor, our spouse, child, or friend, by participating in the a priori forgiveness of God for humanity, we are healed and grow in our likeness to God in whose image we are made. The forgiveness that begins with God divinizes humanity as we practice the pardon of God. 

I believe in the forgiveness of sins. This finally means we trust that we, too, are forgiven. This might be the hardest reality to accept: that we are forgiven by God before we were born; that there is nothing we can do or not do to change our pardon by God. The forgiveness that begins with God ends in our acceptance of forgiveness. 

I believe in the forgiveness of sins. It might by now be clear that we believe in the forgiveness of sins because the human God says from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

This is also the one who taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Not that God’s forgiveness follows ours, or only arrives for us or others after we forgive, but that we also forgive in imitation of the Father.)

I believe in the forgiveness of sins. The cross is where Christ sits enthroned. The cross is the “now” of the world’s judgment and all judgment is given to the Son. Jesus Christ does not after his death appear to his disciples to give 11 men the power to withhold a forgiveness he freely extends to all at the cross.

The risen Christ simply means ‘if you my disciples do not tell them that *I* have forgiven them, and if you do not forgive them yourself from the heart, they may not realize they’re already forgiven.’

I see a lot of entitlement around forgiveness; that we are allowed to withhold forgiveness, remain offended, forgive if we want…or not.

Not forgiving—and forgiving is a process—only harms the one who does not forgive. It often means nothing to the offender until they are truly aware of their offense.

I get that some leaders have used what Christians trust about forgiveness to enable and sustain abusive behavior and structures, to manipulate those they are called to serve.

Abuse of something doesn’t negate its goodness but it can make its goodness difficult to practice.

Abusive leaders sow terrific destruction when they abuse what Christians trust about forgiveness but this must be forgiven, too, and we cannot let their abuse cancel what we trust.

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The Most Common Cause of Divisions?

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The Good Friday sermon by P. Raniero Cantalamess O.F.M.Cap., Preacher of the Papal Household, is of course addressed to Catholics. However, as Evangelical Christians, parts of what he says is applicable to us as well and should make us reflect on how we deal with each other, especially where differences of opinion on worldly matters are concerned: 

What is the most common cause of the bitter divisions among Catholics? It is not dogma, nor is it the sacraments and ministries, none of the things that by God’s singular grace we fully and universally preserve. The divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political options that grow into ideologies taking priority over religious and ecclesial considerations and leading to complete abandon of the value and the duty of obedience in the Church.

In many parts of the world, these divisions are very real, even though they are not openly talked about or are disdainfully denied. This is sin in its primal meaning. The kingdom of this world becomes more important, in the person’s heart than the Kingdom of God.

I believe that we all need to make a serious examination of conscience in this regard and be converted. Fomenting division is the work par excellence of the one whose name is ‘diabolos’ that is, the divider, the enemy who sows weeds, as Jesus referred to him in the parable (see Mt 13:25).

We need to learn from Jesus’ example and the Gospel. He lived at a time of strong political polarization. Four parties existed: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Zealots. Jesus did not side with any of them and energetically resisted attempts to be pulled towards one or the other. The earliest Christian community faithfully followed him in that choice, setting an example above all for pastors, who need to be shepherds of the entire flock, not only of part of it. Pastors need to be the first to make a serious examination of conscience. They need to ask themselves where it is that they are leading their flocks – to their position or Jesus’. The Second Vatican Council entrusted especially to laypeople the task of translating the social, economic and political implications of the Gospel into practice in different historical situations, always in a respectful and peaceful way.

This problem, that a political ideology or opinion becomes so important in some Christians’ minds that they forget or neglect charity and brotherliness in the way they relate to other Christians, is by no means limited to Catholics but is alive and well among us Evangelicals.

In our communities, too, the shepherds (and that is what “pastor” means) need to care for the whole flock and should therefore, as much as possible, steer clear of political controversy; in our communities, too, as Christians and citizens it is our task to translate the social, economic and political implications of the Gospel into practice in different ways, always in a respectful and peaceful way.

That we need to be reminded of this became especially clear during the four years of the Trump presidency, in the context of Brexit and similar controversies in other countries, as well as in our response to the Covid pandemic and the restrictions in response to it.

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Let’s repeat that:

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Here are a few things — songs, texts, objects — which symbolize Easter for me: Continue reading Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Prophetic Apologies?

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In an article with the rather sensational title, “Charismatics Are At War With Each Other Over Failed Prophecies Of Trump Victory“, noted journalist Julia Duin reports on reactions to the fact that modern-day prophets, mostly from the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR) movement, prophesied a second term for President Trump and are now either apologizing for having gotten it wrong or else are engaging in all sorts of verbal gymnastics to explain why they didn’t really get it wrong after all. And some of the mutual accusations she reports make the sensational title seem rather fitting.

I read the apologies of Vallotton, Sandford, and Johnson. The issue which they all skirt is this verse in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (and similar verses, i.e. in Ezekiel):

“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”

Basically, a prophet whose predictions do not come to pass is a false prophet (Kris Vallotton’s denial notwithstanding)—and while we obviously no longer kill false prophets, a quick apology and then business as usual seems to be a rather inadequate response.

Many of us (even some of us who are not cessationists) have had misgivings about these modern-day prophets from the start because their “prophetic ministry” does not seem to fit the biblical model. Biblical prophecy was primarily concerned with calling the people of God to repentance, not with prediction of future events and vague feel-good messages. And, importantly, the biblical prophecy model leaves no room for getting some predictions right and some predictions wrong: if you get it wrong you are a false prophet and should—at the very least—shut up and shut down your “prophetic ministry”.

And some of us, myself included, are very much concerned by the fact that increasingly the “saner” elements in the pentecostal and charismatic movements, and even some in the Catholic church, are embracing these modern-day “prophets”, as evidenced by the wide support of the “Awakening Europe” events which are organized by leaders with NAR connections, and where such prophets are invited as speakers.

For me, one of the results of all this is that I have begun to question my own involvement with some reconciliation initiatives where these “prophets” are being embraced. I shall see where this leads me.

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“Progressive” Stupidity

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I have written a lot about the unspeakable nonsense coming from President Trump and his Republican enablers, and we will see quite a bit more of that on Wednesday.

But the Democrats are also quite capable of producing incredible nonsense. Joe Biden who presents himself as an oh so pious Catholic happily ignores and actively opposes what the Catholic Church has to say on the subject of abortion and sexual morals and ethics. Additionally we had a display of progressive nonsense in yesterday’s (Jan 3) opening of the 117th Congress.

The session opened with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Miss.) who is also an ordained Methodist pastor, reading a prayer based on the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim):

“May the God who created the world and everything in it, bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace—peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber. Now and evermore.”

So far, so good. Then it turned very strange. Here is the closing of this prayer:

“We ask this in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and gods known by many different names by many different faiths. Amen and Awoman.”

This raises a number of questions:

1. Should a Methodist pastor be praying in the name of “Brahma, and gods known by many different names by many different faiths”?

2. Shouldn’t a Methodist pastor know that “Amen” is a Hebrew word which has absolutely nothing at all to do with “man/men” or “woman/women“?

3. Shouldn’t someone educated enough to represent his state in Congress realize that it makes no sense, from a purely grammatical perspective, to ask God for something in the name of God? When you replace the Trinity by many different gods the formula of “praying in the name of …” is not only theologically nonsensical, but from a language perspective as well. If someone comes to me saying, “In Wolf’s name, could you lend me a hundred bucks?” I would assume he’s lost his marbles.

Someone commented on the video below, “If you are going to be woke, at least be an educated woke.” But the use of “woke” for that mindset is an insult to the Black community which coined the term to describe someone awake to ethnic and economic injustices rather than for the fancy-pants ideologies of the leftist elites.

 

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Christmas

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From Fr. Kenneth Tanner:

Christmas is not about greatness but smallness, not about strength but weakness, not about force or coercion but invitation and welcome. Christmas does not need anyone to accept its joy or embrace its light.

Christmas happens in the margins, away from the spotlight. Christmas is elusive for the proud and the blustery, and threatening to every form of politics: Herodian or Roman, British or Irish, Indian or Pakistani, Russian or American, Chinese or Korean, Iranian or Iraqi.

Christmas is about the vulnerability of God, a revelation in human flesh that God is the servant of his universe; that if we serve the creation with God we volunteer for a hidden insignificance that somehow still holds everything together.

The human God works as the best servants do, imperceptibly. This seems mysterious to us because the world thinks of power as showy and imposing, but love (which is what God simply is) abandons arrogance and adorns herself with poverty.

Is there a final moment in history when the church visibly rejects the world’s means, the privilege of self-defense, our idolatry of weapons, and decides instead to beat our swords and spears into farming tools?

Will we come to trust the humility and weakness of God in Jesus Christ to vindicate us—not our armaments and our anger and our right to stand up for ourselves—to make manifest an already-accomplished defeat of darkness on Golgotha?

What if the end comes only after an unprecedented and great slaughter of Christians, after a worldwide crucifixion of the body of Christ, in which after great sacrifice in imitation of her Lord she dies and rises from the ashes of her demise by the Spirit?

What if God is all in all because the cruciform pattern of love that governs the universe and holds all things together and gives all living things breath is confirmed in a peculiar crucified and resurrected people with Christ as her head?

In the end Jesus tells us we will win not by defending our life, nor by trying to hold on to our privilege, but by giving up our life so that the world might live. Any genuine celebration of Christmas comprehends this.

As Stephen Colbert recently said: “The message of Christ isn’t that you can’t kill me. The message of Christ is you can kill me and that’s not death.”


“For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eyewitnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men.”

1 John 1:2 (Phillips)


Copyright © 2020 by Kenneth Tanner
Fr. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Holy Redeemer Anglican Church in Rochester Hills, MI, USA. Painting: Arcabas.
This article was first posted here on Facebook.

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Feeding God

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His face
pressed against
her breast.

So this 
is what he looks like.
The one the prophets spoke of.
The one the angel offered.

Her eyes catch Joseph’s gaze. 
Mary whispers,
‘He looks like us!’ 
‘YHWH looks like us.’

His turned-up nose
now hunting for milk.
With trembling fingers
she does her best
to flick open the mouth of God.
Pulling his head in 
closer to her chest. 
Closer to her heart.

In this way, 
God receives his first meal. 
In a stranger’s home. 
From the body 
of a teenage Galilean. 
Swallowing and slurping 
like a hungry lamb.

The memory of every event
leading up to this moment
courses through her body.
Tears of relief
cross her olive cheeks
and fall upon her newborn.

As Joseph now
strokes her brow,
she closes her eyes,
looks up to the heavens,
and catches herself
giving thanks to God
...who now lays in her arms.

Immanuel:
God
with
us.

FEEDING GOD
David Tensen
www.davidtensen.com
Dec 2020

David Tensen is a speaker, writer, consultant and trainer, as well as a poet. He brings together a unique fusion of experience ranging from business to leadership, emotional health to spiritual development. David and wife Natalie have three children and live on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

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A Christmas Childhood Memory

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(Hier gibt es eine deutsche Version dieses Beitrags)

Growing up we had a large print of a Madonna with Child hanging in our living room which has left a lasting impression.

The picture on our wall looked like the left half of the picture at the top of this page, “Four Shepherds”, and I think what impressed me was its simplicity when compared to the usual statues and pictures of the  mother of Christ in Roman Catholic Austria. Neither mother nor Child have a halo, for example.1 To me, the color scheme communicates serenity, calm, and security.

I chose to post the picture “Four Shepherds” here, instead of just the Madonna with Child, because it fits very well with the Christmas season.

The artist, Albin Egger-Lienz, was born in 1868 and died in 1926, and worked mostly in Munich, Vienna, and the Tyrol. His reputation and reception post-World War II suffered from the fact that several high-ranking Nazis had praised his work — but so had Leo Trotsky.

  1. The artist painted several versions of this Madonna and Child motif, some in different colors, and some with halos.
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Nailed To The Cross (Music Video)

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Die Musik-Videos der Fountainview Academy sind immer wieder eine Ermutigung und Inspiration für mich.

The music videos from Fountainview Academy are such an encouragement and inspiration to me.

  1. There was One who was willing to die in my stead,
    That a soul so unworthy might live,
    And the path to the cross He was willing to tread,
    All the sins of my life to forgive.

Refrain:

They are nailed to the cross,
They are nailed to the cross,
O how much He was willing to bear!
With what anguish and loss,
Jesus went to the cross!
But He carried my sins with Him there.

  1. He is tender and loving and patient with me,
    While He cleanses my heart of its dross;
    But “there’s no condemnation,” I know I am free,
    For my sins are all nailed to the cross.

  2. I will cling to my Savior and never depart –
    I will joyfully journey each day
    With a song on my lips and a song in my heart,
    That my sins have been taken away.

Author: Carrie Ellis Breck, 1989

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Indulgences are a major obstacle to Christian unity …

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This article provoked some sad thoughts:

Pope says Catholics can receive plenary indulgence for Guadalupe devotion

One of the ideas which provoked the Reformation, and which the Reformers did away with as an unbiblical innovation, was that of indulgences: Continue reading Indulgences are a major obstacle to Christian unity …

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