~ SO THERE I AM in early May 1995, on stage at the 1945 VE Day event for the entire province, in front of 1500 veterans, family, and guests.. only to realize I’d left my carefully crafted sermon… AT HOME, 45 minutes away. [BRAIN SPAZZ!]
Breathe!.. think!.. I normally wrote out my sermons as I’d speak them, if not for my moderate stage-fright. No time for that.
I start writing it out on a spare piece of paper, hoping the service I helped compose & the other observances will take a few minutes… Phew!
One of the most awkward but most rewarding moments ever, for a young first-time parish minister, proud to represent my grand uncles, my great uncle Gren who died in WW2, and my Grandfather, who served in Burma. Together with the men & women in front of the stage, I refused to fail them all, as they did not fail us.
Current national misleader (and Remembrance Day avoider) Trudeau & his petty minions do not represent or speak for me, or for so many families of veterans, who boldly say, down the years “WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.” Do it.
God gave me enough to preach as I’d intended that day, and I’ve tried to honour the memory of my own family veterans long years since. I also let the vets have their pick of hymns for local Remembrance Day services, without fussing too hard, as some clergy did back then.
When you’re a baby-Christian, verses like the one of Jesus on the cross crying out in Aramaic “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” can really unsettle you. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But how can the man Jesus, one person with God’s Incarnate Son, be forsaken by… Himself?!
Here’s The Thing
Maybe Jesus isn’t divine?
Maybe he was divine before he was made incarnate by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and then again after He rose again?
What is that about, verse, anyway?
OK, let’s back up. Way up.
After His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the risen Jesus speaks with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:
“Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” [Luke 24:44]
That is, the teaching of Jesus is that He is the true subject and the fulfillment of the whole of Israel’s history, her longing in the Prophets, and her Scriptures and holy writings. Even the ancient hymns called Psalms are prophetic, pointing to Him; they are His prayer-book, revealing the inner life & meaning of His mission, death, and resurrection.
So when we find out that “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” is a quotation from the Psalms (22), it helps to understand that Psalm verse– spoken from the cross– is a window into the mind & heart of the dying King Jesus, Saviour of humanity.
The sufferings are real, even down to Jesus feeling that He is somehow cut off, forsaken, in the darkness with no obvious light. Although He is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world: yet that black avalanche of everything in us that cuts us off from God and one another falls on Him.
After the sorrowful verses, this Psalm is a great dawning glow of hope, faith, and trust in the Lord shines through Psalm 22. After the suffering comes joy. After death is hope. God hears the cry of His Son, the suffering servant (read Isaiah 53), and does not abandon or reject Him, or us as found in Him.
Feelings Are Not Facts
So Jesus felt cut off from God, yet quotes the Psalm to say what His crucifixion & death means, to preach from the Cross, to share with us what it is like to feel far from God.
But feelings are not facts. Jesus was still the man divine, the only-begotten Son incarnate in the man Jesus Christ, one person & two natures. The Word made flesh. God in a man like us.
In some crisis we might say “It’s totally hopeless! We’re doomed!” even as our help is about to arrive, unexpectedly, out of the blue, at the very last minute, or otherwise in time to save & help us. In that case, how truly accurate were our feelings, versus the facts? Feelings must follow facts, else we get lost in a swamp of ever-shifting mirages.
Therefore, to wrongly imagine that “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” somehow means that Jesus isn’t God (or some other complicated bad idea) shows an ignorance of Jesus, who He was, what he lived & taught, and how the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures & holy writings were ultimately about Him.
There is no deep where God is not, be the night never so dark. There is no fear or sorrow or sense of abandonment which Jesus our High Priest has not taken into Himself, and burnt up in the fire of infinite love in the offering of Himself to atone for our sins, once and for all.
And beyond that forsakenness, even beyond what seems to earthly a final ending of death, Jesus has conquered sin, and death, and hell, and shared with us the eternal & holy life of God, that we might rejoice in Him who is the Lord of the living and the dead, who went on a head to prepare a place for us, that where He is, we might be also, and that as He is in God the Father, we may be in God the Son, sharing the eternal life & Joy of the blessed Trinity in all the saints, in the unity of God the Holy Spirit, forever in heaven.
“For to this end Christ died, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Romans 14. 8, 9.
~ FOR MODERN MEN & WOMEN, losing any sense of Death, Judgment, Heaven Or Hell leads inevitably & directly to man acting as a self-judging mini-god. That leads to warfare, supremacism, mercilessness, and getting away with things. Thence madness, violence, lies, and 2018.
As I’ve been reading about our Western cultural elites, I’m shocked/ not shocked by what the rich & powerful do behind the scenes. Many ordinary people likewise.
But what if there IS a right & wrong? Good & evil? What if we are accountable? Much of ordinary human life is all about distracting us, crushing silence and unsettling thoughts and questions.
What if all desires are known, and no secrets truly hidden? What if our old unrepented forgotten hidden sins have not just dissolved with time? What if the evil whispers shall be shouted from the rooftops in That Day?
What if God is as the Church has taught, and we are a few missed heartbeats & breaths from standing naked & defenceless before His perfect infinite goodness.. and love?
Pray this day for those who have gone before us through the veil, especially our friends & enemies, family & benefactors, and all those who died with nobody to pray for them and with them.
O FATHER of all, we pray to thee for those whom we love but see no longer. Grant them thy peace; and in thy loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of thy perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
REST eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. Amen.
A softer and stupider version of this revolution is pushed in our schools, and many parts of our overgrown government, not to mention in the leadership of many churches and sects. The revolution seems like a good idea, until (1) you actually see what it entails, and (2) you recall that it’s the same bent and failing human nature out of which perfection and utopia will come, (3) “They”, the horrible ones with power, are the same as most of us, if we had their power & opportunities. Salvation comes not via good intentions.
What then? Shall we be enamoured of the old evils, or favour new ones?
— Do you or someone you know & care for suffer from ‘The Black Dog’?
— Does that addict or drunk or sad co-worker suffer from depression? Do you?
— Do you “helpfully” offer endless free advice and ‘fixes’ because you find dealing with depression really awkward?
~ FOR MANY PEOPLE, depression is a day, a week, a season. It is left behind as an sour note in an otherwise happy life.
In our happy “we can fix everything” universe, TV and movie stories resolve every problem via heroism and happenstance and all is well again. E xcept.. people can break, and sometimes only partly tape and glue and tie themselves half-together again, enough to limp along a while longer.
What Kind Of Beast IS This?
This Black Dog is patient, vicious, and quiet: it has hunted & haunted my parents, and grandparents, and down the genetic pathways for generations. For others, life & crises and trouble starts it up fresh for them.
Yet for others– yes, of all ages– it is interwoven into the very stuff of life, perhaps as far back as memory reaches, a misty shadowed valley that never seems to come to an end, with light only breaking through now and again. The Valley of the Shadow; this vale of tears; the bleak lands where affliction dwells.
Yet even there, Christ the Lord walks and talks with his own sheep. Sometimes, he will shift us up onto his shoulders awhile. Faith can make an infinite difference in the experience & severity of depression. I’m there: so’s He.
All better? Nope.
There are no magic happy-cures, nor skipping through the sparkly flowers on a unicorn– but a costly cross-bearing love which both lightens your burden, and enlightens the path and things around you. Suicide– the permanent solution to temporary problems– may lurk like a vulture on the crag, but need not live on your shoulders.
The proper meds & counselling and living life the best you can any given day will help, too. The grinding miserable trudge can thus become a pilgrimage: but to where?
The shadowed vale of tears is not infinite. God is.
Just A Little Farther
There is a fair City and golden castle farther on ahead, with towers and steeples and fair pennons flying.. you know not exactly how far.. but in it is light, and peace, and no more pain or black dogs, suffering or tears, and all the former things are passed away. There are battles to fight and people to help along this path– and many needing help– on our way.
And perhaps in that City, the black dog– which can teach us so much about perseverance, tribulation, compassion and understanding– will be revealed as having golden fur, for the troubles that lead us closer to God are blessed troubles. St. Paul besought the Lord to remove his sufferings, and instead, God said “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Without such hope and faith and love– and the mercy of God & others– I would be long-dead. Will you walk beside me and the others like me, or pass us by on the other side? ~
I’m an original Star Wars kid. Saw the first one 14 times that Summer of ‘77. Spent a couple thou on merch over the years, helping make the Dark Lord George rich. Those first three movies were big pivotal events. Cultural moments. Good versus evil, heroes vs. villains, big over-simplified sloppy-science nerdy space-opera.
Then, George got mad about the success of Titanic, and James Cameron. Enter the prequels. Meh, take the kids, maybe there’s something.. oh. What’s that smell? Little Rebel filmmaker George had morphed into Darth Jabba, bully billionaire toy-seller with a side-order of movie-making.
I Gotta Bad Feeling About This
The latest branded product? Pretty much that South Park episode with Lucas & Spielberg raping Indiana Jones, and the audiences of that dreadful UFO+Indy movie. Except now, it’s Jar Jar Abrams, Kennedy, Mickey Mouse, and Johnson taking their turns violating Luke Skywalker, and the nerdly audiences of these three beautifully filmed– but contemptuous– violations of the SW universe & fandom.
There’s a lot of puzzled, offended, angry, and turned-off fans out there right now. And it hurt 2017 ticket-sales, toy & collectible sales, DVD & BluRay and all the knock-on money expected from big tentpole movies like this.
This feels like part revenge for #GamerGate; and the industry flipping the bird at the public for slumping ticket-sales for recent Hollywood rubbish; and the spoil-it-all ill-will of progressives towards anything they didn’t make, and of which they disapprove. Take something good, kill it & skin it, and wear the carcass while demanding respect for the new thing as if it’s still the old thing. Then, mock the fans, and drink their tears. Ha ha ha.
Clearly the next movies must be about hunting down each & every surviving character.. Chewie, R2D2, C-3PO, Nien Nunb, and Lando Calrissian in the retirement home for space-rascals, and killing them. Then, dancing on the grave of old Star Wars.
Deeper Stuff Is Important, Too
The nihilist meta-narrative that there is no good or evil, nothing worth living & dying for, no unifying spiritual force above & beyond appearances— so we can just all live in John Lennon’s craptastic revolutionary song ‘Imagine’? What a horrible dead life that would be, of competing chaotic forces wrecking everything & each other in a race to mutual bored destruction. This new Star Wars is a paean of praise to that “Eff It ALL” mentality.
The original movies were exciting & inspiring BECAUSE each person & their decisions mattered, made a difference. The protagonists were willing to live and die to help others, to hope and love and act in the face of apparently insurmountable tyranny. Leaving aside fanboyism and online insta-opinionated word-wars, it’s those deeply human elements that attracted us original kids in 1977.. a new take on movies, heroes & baddies, and interesting stories, remade with amazing effects and things we hadn’t seen before.
Of course they weren’t perfect. Of course they don’t make for a good religion or life. Of course you want to punch some fans in the nose and tell them to get a life and a religion.. but using a movie to do that is a pretty arrogant and dumb way to do it– and it’s bad business, no matter how many fart-sniffing film critics you make smirk with such work.
Nope. This original Star Wars fan is done. Not one more penny. Down with the Disney dystopia, and this disastrous train-wreck of a film franchise. ~
“The Upside Down is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world. It contains the same locations and infrastructure as the human world, but it is much darker, colder and obscured by an omnipresent fog…. [a] dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a place of monsters. It is right next to you and you do not even see it.” … “Nope. No parallels under here.” (Hilary White)
~ BINKS IS just about to finish ‘Stranger Things‘ on Netflix, Season 1. Must say, I love it.. and it’s hard not to binge-watch it.
No major spoilers ensue below. Promise.
Like ‘The Matrix‘, the hit-show Stranger Things employs that familiar & human sense of displacement, weirdness, that there is an Unseen all around us which sometimes breaks in upon us in our ‘ordinary’ lives. That there is more going on than meets the eye.
In the popular Netflix series, which overflows with references to 80’s pop-culture, there is literally an evil copy parallel dimension called ‘The Upside Down‘, where people can be trapped, and eaten by a monster. The dimensional doorways can appear anywhere and everywhere: the wall of a house, a tree trunk, the basement of a top-secret government lab.
What both ‘The Matrix‘ and ‘Stranger Things‘ lack to make them universal is a spiritual universe above and inter-penetrating the visible ‘ordinary’ universe.. and a clear sense of God & His guiding providence. Sadly, religion plays almost no part in the show, or the lives of the characters.
What ‘Meant’ Means
By comparison, the writer J.R.R. Tolkien repeatedly mentions providence without explicating that it is of the Valar (archangels) and Eru (God). The wizard Gandalf’s own long mission in Middle Earth was a sending from the Blessed Land to fight evil, help the free peoples via suffering and pity, and– ultimately– to defeat Sauron, the dark successor to Morgoth (a fallen Valar, the Satan-figure).
In that Lord Of The Rings scene– which Peter Jackson moves from Frodo’s kitchen to the Mines Of Moria– we read:
Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times; but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
That ‘meant’ bears a world of significance. Consider.
‘Meant’ is God’s providence, in the world, in events, ‘coincidences’, and via people. The Bible proclaims: “All things work together for good to them that love God.” [Rom. 8:28] Note: NOT ‘all things will be pleasant, easy, and straightforward’.
Remember: Christians serve a Crucified and Risen King, who still bears His (now glorious) scars. No easy path there: take up your cross. Follow, die.
Living Our Double Sight
And there’s another sense of “the unseen dimension”, our own actual “Upside Down”, which tempers our anger and enlightens our struggles. As Saint Paul teaches the Christians of Ephesus, and us:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Eph. 6:12]
Any battle with sin, darkness, heresy– in the church and the world, and in our own hearts, is a combination of many forces, many invisible, or acting through us or other people in a greater & darker pattern than the simply human (as bad as we can be).
Exorcists are still busy in 2018. Possessed people still exist– some in politics, and in the Church itself. Even some clergy may be thus.
The Disorientation Is Real
In the current pontificate of Francis, there is unprecedented darkness, division, dishonesty, confusion and discouragement afoot. Papal hyper-loyalists rally ’round the revolutionary throne, throwing accusations at critics and radical (deep-rooted) Catholics who demand the whole witness of the Church to be heard, respected, lived, taught.
Sometimes, it feels as if an UnChurch from some evil parallel dimension like ‘The Upside Down‘ has invaded our reality, and is seeking to proclaim itself as the real, true, and only thing to serve. There is a spiritual war afoot: each of us can play a double part, on earth as in heaven, for good or bad. The darkness is not simply the opposition themselves, nor we only the bright good ones– for humility and reality’s sake, we admit there are brighter and darker forces in conflict within what we see, and in each soul.
Holy loyalty and faithfulness and restraint are good: but we do not honour the Church or her current leadership via our blind obedience, nor forgetting Whom She really belongs to, and Whose Voice she is supposed to obey. His will is not simply to be identified with the novel dictates of people who seem bound to another message, an unKingdom, a utopia of exalted man making himself into a God, his desires and feelings the measure of all truth and goodness. OUR kingdom come, OUR will be done: and yet, even in this, a greater darkness can be felt, seeping through, pushing, ruining, distorting the Church, but also the fever dreams of utopia, too.
Some Christian Basics
That evil unholy being is not some exact counterpart to God, but a created and fallen Enemy, and likewise all the fallen angels and powers under his control. Alone, we cannot defeat such darkness, for we are but mortal and finite and compromised with darkness ourselves. From such, Christ came to deliver us.
Ancient Paganism sought to placate the dark powers; to deflect the ill will of spirits, gods, sprites, and malicious beings of every sort. Animal and human sacrifice was the trading of precious life for benefits, or being left alone.
The Incarnation changed all that. Jesus is become the Lord of the living and the dead. The suffering King Jesus lays bare the plans and pride and shining schemes of Lucifer; He bore in himself our sin, and has already won the victory over sin, and death, and Hell.. yet the long wrapping up of the battle will seem almost like defeat, as the faithful must abide darkness in the world, the Church, the human heart, and in malicious spiritual forces.
But, but– What To DO?
Read the headlines; pray; comfort one another; love the sacraments; repent. Read the Bible & the Church Fathers, and the saints. Read solid blogs and books. Same as it ever was, and there’s no greener grass elsewhere. Cheer up! It will very likely get much worse.
Stay faithful, for God is faithful, and will not abandon us, or leave us weak and comfortless and enslaved to the machinations of the Enemy and his minions, nor to our own sins, negligences, and ignorances. These bizarre times WILL be sorted by God, and by his judgment & mercy, and by better Church leaders and theologians in decades and centuries to come. +
“Lo, I am with you always,
even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
[St. Matthew 28:20]
~ THIS IS THE DAY, and the story, of two inspired young men connected by faith and death.
This day, after the celebration of the Joyful Nativity, we count the cost of God’s coming amongst us as one of us: St. Stephen’s Day (sometimes called Boxing Day in English-inspired lands). Faith costs: possibly everything.
Less than two months after the Crucifixion, outside one of Jerusalem’s gates, an angry mob stones to death a young Christian man– who fearlessly preached to the very people & religious leaders who had condemned Jesus to the Cross. Away with him! The dying even forgave his murderers as he died. Looking on was a persecutor of the young Church– one Saul of Tarsus, who would later himself convert and become St. Paul, Evangelist to the Gentile world.
St. Stephen was the first of so many to witness unto Christ Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem become Risen King by their life unto blood, called martyrs. Holy Innocent’s Day, also following Christmas, reminds us of the slain babes of Bethlehem, by the wrathful King Herod.
Meanwhile, In Bohemia..
Long centuries later, Wenceslaus (or Vaclav) I, Duke of Bohemia (from 921-935) would likewise serve Christ as a martyr. His grandmother had passed onto him the faith before she was murdered; yet many nobles and the establishment powers of Bohemia preferred the old ways of sacrifice, exploitation, murder of each other, and cruel selfishness. Vicious political intrigue was a sport for such leaders.
Why should anyone care for peasants? Why the gentler ways of the new god, Jesus? Why waste money on busy-body missionaries, and teaching the people, and building churches? Why let the exiled Christian clergy back into Bohemia? Why did the Duke live like a humble man of peace, and not a warlike, powerful, and wealthy noble? Away with him.
Before long, young Duke Wenceslaus (in his latter 20s) was slain on the steps of a church by his own treacherous brother, Boleslaw. And yet the Church and the ordinary people remembered their young duke’s Christ-like love and witness, his service and aspiration for a better way for his own lands, and for the world– and so do we unto this day. The holy Duke is the patron saint of the Czech Republic, and his relics are honoured in St. Wenceslas’ Chapel in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague (below).
Though a Duke, Wenceslaus became a inspirational figure for the Middle Ages of the “Rex Justus“, the godly and Christlike Christian king, using his powers for good, to teach & help & raise up all his people, to rule by law and love, a princely ruler whose power comes from vigour and deep piety.
The saintly friends of God Stephanus and Wenceslaus remind us that young people in general and young men in particular deeply need faithful, knightly, courageous, life-inspiring examples and opportunities to serve as fathers, heroes, leaders, helpers, world-changers, God-servers. If we do not allow this– or squander it– then the church and the world are ill-served, and young lives are wasted in idleness or violence or base pursuits, and not in bold witness unto the Babe of Bethlehem, and King of all nations and People, Jesus Christ.
The famous hymn about Duke Wenceslaus was a lovely bit of Victoriana (much despised by hymn-snobs) based on an older legend: a reminder of the kind of man the Duke was, the people and service he loved, and the kind of people we should be, in loving our neighbour. +
Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen When the snow lay round about Deep and crisp and even Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel When a poor man came in sight Gath’ring winter fuel
“Hither, page, and stand by me If thou know’st it, telling Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?” “Sire, he lives a good league hence Underneath the mountain Right against the forest fence By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine Bring me pine logs hither Thou and I will see him dine When we bear him thither.” Page and monarch forth they went Forth they went together Through the rude wind’s wild lament And the bitter weather
“Sire, the night is darker now And the wind blows stronger Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.” “Mark my footsteps, my good page Tread thou in them boldly Thou shalt find the winter’s rage Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod Where the snow lay dinted Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed Therefore, Christian men, be sure Wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing.
Congratulations on serving as Canada’s new Governor General, and representing the Queen to Canada, and Canadians to the Queen. It is an historic and storied role. Representing all Canadians is a wonderful opportunity.
Thank you for speaking out for science recently, at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Conference on Wednesday, November 1. Canada has long led the way in technology, innovation & invention, and in medical fields, amongst many others.
However, during your remarks it is reported that you said:
“”Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we’re still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period,” she said.
“And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.
“And so many people — I’m sure you know many of them — still believe, want to believe, that maybe taking a sugar pill will cure cancer, if you will it!
“And every single one of the people here’s personalities can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations.”.
Your Excellency– as I understand it, your role is to speak to and represent all Canadians– including those who need to use non-prescription supplements, those who believe that there is no contradiction between science and religion, those who are not convinced– on actual evidential bases that climate change as popularly represented is primarily anthropogenic– or whatever other beliefs are out there which you seem to have slighted in your comments.
The following distinguished people have believed there is a divine being: Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato. Einstein. Moses & Jesus. St. Thomas Aquinas. Galileo. Leonardo. Sir Isaac Newton. Nicholas Copernicus.
The following Noble Laureates in Science are also people who had some kind of agnostic or actual faith in God (mostly Jewish & Christian)–
My father was trained in the fields of computers, nuclear physics, general medicine, and the difficult specialty of pathology & medical examination. He served Canadian communities up and down the Annapolis Valley for two decades, as did his immigrant Scots father– also a Pathologist– did for 30 years prior. My father was also a Christian. He had no difficulty believing that God both created and was creating– through his created things and beings– all that is.
As a Canadian, I do not feel anyone in such a position as Governor General of Canada should be– or be seen to be– alienating or dividing our country, or possibly provoking and insulting Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, or those who follow aboriginal beliefs.
I hope this letter finds you well, enjoying your opportunities for the betterment of our Country, and richly blessed in all you do. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Yours very sincerely,
Etc., etc., so on and so forth.
UPDATE– VICTORY! 😉
Dear Mr. Binks,
Thank you for sharing your views and suggestions with Governor General Julie Payette.
Responses to specific inquiries can be expected within three weeks. All emails will be read, but general comments and opinions may not receive a response.
Nous vous remercions d’avoir transmis vos points de vue et vos suggestions à la gouverneure générale Julie Payette.
Veuillez prévoir trois semaines pour l’obtention d’une réponse à une demande précise. Tous les courriels seront lus, mais les opinions et les commentaires généraux ne recevront pas automatiquement une réponse.