Ten Most Read Posts in 2019

My blog really serves as a writing journal of sorts and so I am always amazed that anyone would read anything I have written as there are so many others who write about the things I write about and do it better. So I find it interesting to see what people have read and where they have come from.

Below are the top ten most-read articles:

10 – From the Archives – Marcion’s Preaching Roster

This is a seven-year-old article that I reposted (from my old blog). It is about the weaknesses of the Lectionary (namely the Lectionary for the APBA -which is the A Prayer Book for Australia – 95).

9 – Smoke…and…Mirrors 

A response to the now-retired Bishop of Wangaratta attempts to appear Biblically faithful while not being Biblically faithful.

8 – The Fallacy of the Three Streams

A critique of the attempted fusion of Evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal theologies under the auspices of Anglican Church in North America.

7 – What is the go with the term ‘Priest’

A piece I wrote to clear up the confusion about words, one word, the word priest and whether or not Anglicans should use it.

6- “There Can Be Only One”

A response to an article written for Anglican Pastor about why a priest celebrates communion facing the ‘altar’ and not the people. Anglican churches don’t have altars, there is only one – the Cross at Calvary.

5 -” The Same Old Anglican Problem

The Anglican Church consists of two religions, this piece is putting forth that this problem is nothing new.

4 – ‘A Commination Service’ – A Forgotten Jewel in the Anglican Crown

A small piece about the merits of using a service in the Book of Common Prayer that is largely forgotten.

3 – The Anglican Volcano in the Land of Oz

Australia is far away from many nations, but the Anglican Church in Australia is far from being immune to the anti-gospel forces that have erupted in those nations. It is coming here.

2-  Anglican Priests – Ontological? Functional? Or Something else?

Amazing that I wrote this published this piece over three years ago and it still receives hits. This is about the role of Anglican clergy.

1 – The Swanson Diocese

This article by far had the biggest hits, not just this year, but in all the years that I have had a blog. It is a response to the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle’s recent passing of two bills that enable clergy to bless what God in His Word deems to be sinful, to bless what the Bible says is an expression of an anti-God state of mind (see Romans 1:18ff), to declare holy what God states keeps people out of the Kingdom of God, and redefined the doctrine of marriage. The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle was where I was Deaconed, Priested and completed my curacy, thus it was the hardest piece I have ever written and one that I agonised over whether to publish or not.

Top Ten Countries

People visited from 76 countries.

  1. Australia
  2. USA
  3. UK
  4. Canada
  5. Philippines
  6. Nigeria
  7. Malaysia
  8. New Zealand
  9. South Africa
  10. Ireland

The only surprise for me is that Australia made the top spot. This is the first time this has happened as last year (and every previous year) the top country was the USA. For some reason, American Anglicans seem to like Convictional Anglican. It would have been the same this year but the Swanson Diocese article saw a massive surge from Australia.

Back in 2020.

 

The Stable & The Cross

My brother is a chef in England. He used to work at a lovely pub called The Axe & Compass. For the life of me, I cannot work out what an axe has to do with a compass nor how one points to the other.

Christmas reminds me of The Axe & Compass. Not because it is a pub where much drinking occurs but because the essence of Christmas consists of two words that at first glance, also don’t seem to work when you put them together, and those two things are the stable & cross.  Perhaps your response to these two things is the same as my initial reaction when I heard about the Axe & Compass, what does the stable have to do with a cross? How does one point to the other?

After all we all know the Christmas story, we have all seen the nativity scene in our local shopping centers. Ok, so the traditional nativity scene has taken some liberties regarding the number of wise men, wherever there was actually an inn, or what it an upper room, or a stable or a cave. But we all know the basics. There was a young very pregnant mum, a birth, a healthy newborn baby boy, a star, Bethlehem and Angels.

But what does the cross have to do with a stable? Afterall the cross is about Easter, isn’t it? The stable is about a birth, Easter is about a death, how can the stable and cross go together?

The answer is not as way out as it seems. The stable and the cross go together when we answer the question ‘why’? Why was Jesus born? Why did he come to this earth? Why did Jesus leave his throne in heaven to become vulnerable flesh and blood? Why did God become one of us?

The wonderful thing about these questions is that they are questions that have an answer, and even more wonderful, Jesus himself answers the question.

In his gospel Mark records an event where two of Jesus disciples, James and John had plans, big plans. They were ambitious and wanted great things – for themselves. And they thought the key to greatness was Jesus, so they asked him to make them great. Jesus turns their worldview upside down (or is it the right way up?) by telling them that the key to greatness is serving others. Then Jesus gives them the example of himself and at the same time answers the question of why he was born:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,

 and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

The ultimate act of serving others is Jesus giving his life as a ransom for many, and Jesus did this by going to the cross where the ransom of Jesus’ life was paid to God the Father, who accepted it as just payment for the sins of many.

And there was so much excitement when Jesus was born. This is why God made Jesus birth known to shepherds. It is no wonder that they rushed to see him, and then told everybody about him.

It seems to me at least that many people are not amazed about the birth of Jesus, and I wonder if this is because people are too busy to stop and reflect on why Jesus was born? Perhaps people are not amazed about Jesus’ birth because they think of Jesus as only ever being a baby? You see a baby, Jesus is not threatening, he does not speak.

But what makes Jesus birth amazing is not just his birth but the reason why. The stable points to the cross.

The stable and the cross makes Christmas wonderful. The stable and the cross is God’s way of connecting with us and the stable and cross is the only way that we can connect with him.

Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and friends, it is a wonderful opportunity to eat the food we don’t normally eat, (and to eat more than we would normally eat), and it is often a time of connecting with others. But Jesus is God saying, I want to reconnect with you!

Stable & Cross are words that appear to not fit together but to have Christmas without them makes for a plastic Christmas. No-one likes plastic gifts at Christmas, so when we see the Stable & Cross, why settle for a plastic Christmas?

 

Merry Christmas.

Going De-Calf

In our parish of St John’s each Monday after work I run a Reflection group. For the past two years we have been working through Bishop Thaddeus Barnum’s devotional book Real Identity.  Today’s devotion that we looked at was one that I believe is very applicable. Here it is below:

~

26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.”

And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. Exodus 32:26

It’s hard to break from culture.

Best to live for Christ with a little bit of culture. Or to live for culture with a little bit of Christ. The two meshed together like the golden calf in front of the altar.

And then party!

“And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Ex.32:6). Just like today. A world at play. A church – well, for a lot of us anyway – also at play.

Pastors caught between both worlds because, God forbid, they challenge the freedom the culture now gives us. They’ll get instant pushback. Criticism for standing for the Bible at those points the Bible doesn’t stand for culture. They’ll be mocked for being insensitive. Uncaring. Without compassion. Judgmental. Worse if they call people to repent of sins the culture no longer sees as sin. That will make them feel like outcasts. Marginalised. Persecuted.

So we do church like we do half-time at a football game. Or intermission at the local bar when the band takes a break. We have our church services – doing what we do as Christians – and when we’re done, we go back to the game, back to the band, and rock.

A little bit of culture. A little bit of Christ.

She felt marginalised. Judged. Like the world around her has more compassion for her than Christians do.

She had been at church for about a year. Her husband started coming a few months later. The more they came, the more they liked it and decided to get involved. First with a ministry to the poor in the city on Saturday afternoons, then every other week to hang out with Christians at a nearby home.

It just fit. Everything about the church fit.

One night, in conversation, she said it so casually. Like it was no big deal.

A woman asked her how long she’d been married. Her face lit up with surprise. “O my gosh, no, we’re not married. We’ve lived together for about three years. We’ve talked about it some. But no, we’re not ready for that.”

“So how did you two meet?” the woman asked.

“In college. We dated for a while. Then after college, went our separate ways. Couple of years later, we met up and decided to try again. Give it some time. It’s been great for both of us”.

“I’m glad you found our church”, the woman responded. “We are too. He’s from the south. He’s got a strong Christian family. Grew up in the church from the day he was born. My family not so much. It really wasn’t a big thing for me until I got to college. But now, I wouldn’t dream of missing it and sometimes it feels like I’m dragging him here!”

She smiled, having no idea that two worlds clashed together into one.

There’s nothing worse than Moses.

He comes down from Mount Sinai and completely trashes the golden calf. No dialogue. No church politics. No year-long studies, massive position papers, well publicised conferences to listen to both sides of the issue and then adopt a well-crafted, deeply sensitive resolution of semi-daring compromise.

Party over.

“Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.”(Ex.32:26). He doesn’t care who feels marginalised. Unheard. Uncared for. He doesn’t care if the pastors and church leaders are divided over the issue. He doesn’t care if he’s stomped on people’s rights to freely express themselves.

He cares about the glory of God.

That it’s not about us first. It’s about Him first. And when it’s about Him first, it’s actually about us to. The best for us. The Lord wants the best for us. But He will never compromise His glory. Never.

You can have culture. You can have Christ.

But when the two come into conflict, you can’t have both. You have to choose.

The woman did it so well. She called her up, asked her to lunch, said she wanted to talk to her about something. Her new friend eagerly accepted the invite. She did it with love. Compassion and mercy. Kindness and grace.

“It’s hard to break from culture”, she said. “Especially our culture where sexual freedom permeates everything. But there comes a time when it’s right to follow Jesus Christ and do what He wants for our lives. And not just for us, but for our children after us.”

She loved her enough to tell her the truth. About marriage. About living together. About what it means to want His best for her, her future husband, and their family.

“Marriage belongs to God,” she said. “He takes the two and makes them one and when He does that, nothing can break it apart. But we have to do it His way and His way isn’t the way of the culture around us.”

Her friend listened. Smiled. Nodded at the appropriate times. But inside, anger was mounting. She felt judged. Wronged. Looked down on. Like she didn’t fit into the perfect Christian image of this woman from her church.

“Is this what the pastors think too?” she asked. And when she heard her say, “Yes”, she put her napkin on the table, stood up, and grabbed her purse.

“I can find a church that’s not so rigid as yours,” she said in disgust.

And she did.

With a little bit of culture. And a little bit of Christ.

~

When I reflect on Bishop Thad’s devotion, I was reminded with sadness that we have Anglican bishops in Australia who feel that the Bible is antiquated, outdates and even wrong about the moral issues of our times; that we have Anglican bishops who are caught between two worlds and try to have it both ways.

Bishop Thad writes:

You can have culture. You can have Christ. But when the two come into conflict, you can’t have both. You have to choose. 

The Israelites could not have Yahweh and the Golden-calf. Neither can Anglican bishops, neither can anyone who professes faith in the Lord Jesusw Christ.