Thank you for coming

If you are coming here from Facebook, thank you for your interest. I had gotten to the point where I was getting nervous about all of the permissions the Facebook apps for your phone and tablet wanted – things like being able to turn on your camera without your permission, drink all of your beer, throw your dirty underwear on the floor, and write bad words on your wall in crayon. I can’t possibly imagine why Facebook needs to do all of those things, and about once or twice a week Kim Komando comes out with more security settings Facebook users need to know about.

And this is why I am on WordPress. The Twitter/Google/Blogger/Facebook universe is a little too much like living in the middle of the street in a goldfish bowl.

I have been blogging forever and there may be some of my idiotic first attempts still on someone’s server somewhere, when I was trying to be edgy and hip. But no more of that, what you get here will be straight from the heart.

This is my own blog and not an official arm of the Orthodox Anglican Church – please be advised that the opinions expressed here are my own and although they will most likely conform with the views of the OAC, they might not. Once in a great while I get it wrong…

Advent 3, 2014

A while back the Bishop sent me a link to an internet store where I could buy, among other things, John the Baptist Advent cards. John is usually shown saying “Prepare the way of the Lord”. In this version, John is pictured as a bag of bones, long hair, bare shoulder sticking out from under an animal skin he is wearing. Through clenched teeth John is saying “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

The card is quoting John from an earlier Chapter in Matthew than what our reading for today came from, where the Pharisees and Sadducees come to John for his baptism. Clearly, John had no use for deceitful and wicked men.

John did, however, know who Jesus was because later in that same chapter Jesus comes to John for his baptism and John declares to Jesus that he has need of his baptism.

Looking at today’s Gospel reading we might be tempted to think that John may have been having second thoughts about Jesus, but I have to wonder if John knew that his number was up, and he sent his followers to Jesus for their own edification. If you don’t know who Jesus is, go and see for yourselves.

In our Gospel reading Jesus is quoted as saying: (NASB) “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

In the past I have looked at this passage and wondered about the examples given here:

Blind = receive sight

Lame = walk

Lepers = cleansed

Deaf = hear

Dead = rise up

Poor = the Gospel preached to them?

In every example but the last there is a tangible and visible sign of healing but not in the case of the poor. But there is more here than meets the eye. The translations for blind, lame, leprous, and deaf are all pretty much what you find in the Greek. “Dead” has another meaning aside from having given up the ghost, it could mean the condition of unsaved men. But the one that really struck me was “poor”. The Greek word here translated as “poor” is “ptochos”, which is an adjective describing “one who crouches and cowers,” used here as a noun, “a beggar” (from  ptosso, “to cower down or hide oneself for fear”). While prosaites is descriptive of a “beggar,” and stresses his begging,” ptochos stresses his poverty-stricken condition, metaphorically descriptive of the religion of the Jews in this context. This is the same word used in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.

The condition of being poor in this case is not just one of being broke – it is to be destitute of Christian virtues and eternal riches as well.

In Davidson, North Carolina, there is an Episcopal Church Named St. Alban’s. Last April St. Alban’s placed a statue on a park bench in front of the church which is known as “Homeless Jesus”. The statue depicts Jesus huddled under a blanket with his face not shown but his nail pierced feet sticking out from under the blanket. I can imagine Jesus camping by the side of the road, as we still sometimes do today when we are traveling, although today we do it in campgrounds complete with electricity, showers, and barbecue grills. It’s true, Jesus had no home, and he says so in Matt. 8:20 “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Over the years, Carol and I have found that when you travel as much as we have, as one sometimes does in the business I work in, where companies are bought and sold like so many trading cards, that you don’t really own a house, it owns you. It ties you to a location that may be fine for a while and unworkable later. So I think Jesus’ not owning a house or property was probably not so much an indication of his poverty as much as it was a matter of practicality. Jesus was not “poor” in any sense that I understand the word. He had no spiritual poverty, nor did he lack for any eternal riches, after all he was God. But he did travel around a lot. It’s tempting to think of Jesus as being like one of the poor we have with us today, but poverty isn’t always just a lack of funds or lack of a home that you own, so I don’t believe comparisons of the poor to Jesus are entirely accurate. I would hasten to add that the validity of the Homeless Jesus statue is for others to judge, while it may provoke a strong reaction from some for the depiction of Jesus in this way, it has still inspired many who have not even seen it or been to Davidson or St. Alban’s to think about the homeless among us, and that’s a good thing.

But what did the poor receive in today’s Gospel lesson? Well, they receive the Gospel, the Good News, glad tidings, which is what we hear most about this time of the year. And what good news is that? Forgiveness. Everlasting life. Freedom, no more ptochos, no more poverty of spirit, no more hiding or cowering in fear.

Being somewhat interested in matters related to the spine I often pay attention to doctors who advertise “Laser disc surgery”, but Jesus wasn’t preaching that. He wasn’t saying Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will fix the disc in your back”. Nor was he saying “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will perform laser eye surgery to restore your vision to 20/20.”

No, those spoken of in today’s Gospel reading received forgiveness first. Forgiveness and restoration of sight. Forgiveness and restoration of hearing. Eyes to see, ears to hear, and the physical manifestations are only the icing on the cake, it’s not the other way around.

As proof I offer you the passage from Matthew 9 where some of the faithful bring a paralytic to Jesus and he says Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees, of course, take issue with this and charge him with blaspheme. In answer, Jesus replies which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? Personally, I have always thought that those two things take about the same amount of effort to say but the Lord is trying to make a point here. The forgiveness in response to the man’s faith is what matters; the physical healing, while important, is only an outward sign of that.

For the final definitive evidence, I remind you of today’s first lesson from Morning Prayer, which reads in part: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing….

When I was in college after the Vietnam War I used to be amazed by the veterans I would watch playing basketball in wheelchairs, it struck me as being incredibly courageous. And you see someone like Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a quadriplegic. She paints pictures holding a paintbrush in her teeth, and she is actually pretty good at it. I used to listen to her on the radio and for a long time I didn’t even know she was disabled, she was so full of joy and life. Even with her disability she rejoices in the forgiveness that Christ has given her, and has used her disability for the cause of Christ.

Many of us can praise God for our physical healing, but all of us can praise God for our spiritual healing. I have been in more than one church where people were very interested in the speaking of unknown tongues. I am not going to say whether I think that gift is valid and operative for today, God can do whatever He wants to do and use whoever he wants to use. But the temptation there was to, as we used to put it, “seek the gift and not the Giver”.

When we receive the Eucharist, we say, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed”, in honor of the Centurion who spoke these same words in Matthew 8 in asking Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus remarked to his disciples that he had not seen such faith from anybody in Israel. But we should have that faith, as we look forward to the coming of our Savior in this season of Advent, for we are the poor who have had the Gospel preached to us.

If you want to know if Jesus is the one we have been waiting for, like John’s disciples, come and see for yourself, be bold, come and be healed, be bold, comeand live.

1611 Kings James Bibles on PDF

I recently bought the Oxford 1611 King James Version of the Bible in Roman type face, and while reading the reviews for this book I noticed that someone had posted links to the Roman type face version and the Gothic print version.

Roman type version:

Vol 1: https://archive.org/details/holybibleexactre00oxfouoft

Vol 2: https://archive.org/details/holybibleexactre02oxfouoft

Gothic Print version:

https://archive.org/details/1611Bible_201303