• Sacramental and Incarnational - The Third Stream

    Image result for jesus using spit

    To be Christian is to recognize that God took upon himself human flesh.  God does not despise the physical but rather enters into it and restores it to its original beauty or should we say goodness.  God does not despise material things, in fact, when God created the world he called it good (In Genesis 1:31 God not only calls it good, he calls it very good).  This very fact separates Christianity from a number of other religions that despise the physical world and often say that human beings are spirits trapped in bodies.  We are not spirits trapped in bodies, we are human beings created to exist with bodies and spirits tightly integrated together.

    So often Christians ignore the gift of creation as a means to experience the grace of God.  Our physical bodies, like our spirits, strive to encounter God holistically and completely.  God became flesh to redeem us because human beings are “fleshy” creatures whose bodies encounter the divine just as their spirits do.  That’s why people have always included material things in their worship of the divine.  While many religions distort this practice and create rituals that look like magic, Christians use creation in worship in a purely appropriate way.  The use of water in baptism, bread and wine in communion, oil for anointing, are all ways to use the physical to enhance the encounter with the divine.  

    The convergence movement embraces the sacramental/incarnational experience of worship like the Christians of old.  One thing that was lost in the reformation was the idea that the sacred liturgical and sacramental engagement of worship was not appropriate.  It led to an extreme view of worship in which it became highly rational with the reading and teaching of the word and little use of sacramental means for encountering God’s grace.  Certainly one can understand why they grew suspicious of the use of sacraments in worship, the Roman church had taken things to an extreme.  Baptism, Eucharist, Anointing, etc. all became ways of manipulating God’s grace not encounters with it.  However, the use of a sacramental and liturgical encounter with God is something early Christians have always done.  Paul talks about communion in his letters to his Christian communities (Read 1st Corinthians, you’ll find a number of things Paul says about it), Jesus not only initiates communion but is found using created things in other ways to convey his grace to others.  He lays hands on people (Matthew 9:18; Mark 5:23; 6:5; 7:32; 8:22–25; Luke 13:13), he himself is anointed with oil (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8), and we even see when he cures the blind man he uses his spit and mud in the process (John 9:6, Mark 8:22-25).  Early Christians and Jesus himself were sacramental in the way they ministered and worshiped with and to one another.

    Sacraments are simply outward signs that convey the experience of an inner grace.  They are a physical way to deepen the experience of an inner spiritual reality.  Because we are physical creatures we need physical elements to our encounter with God.  Even the bibles we read are sacramental.  Ink, paper, and other material makes the bible a physical creation that when read in faith leads to a spiritual encounter with God.  Water, oil, bread, wine, and numerous other things can do the same.  As a convergent Christian I want the whole experience of God, not just the evangelical and charismatic, but the sacramental incarnational as well.  It is my hope that by these three posts I have made you are interested in the same.  God has so much to offer us, why limit the encounter with him to just one of these three streams!

  • The Convergent Penecostal

    Free Baptism of Jesus Christ Stained Glass Stock Photo

    What does it mean to be charismatic/Pentecostal?  How can one understand that expression as part of the convergence movement?  We can look to the early Christian church to get a sense of what it means to be a Holy Spirit filled community.  The early Christian community was filled with the Holy Spirit.  They had a charismatic sense of how to live and exist in the cultures they inhabited.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were alive and empowered them to preach the gospel wherever they went.  They spoke in tongues (Acts 2:4), they healed the sick (Acts 3:1-10) and performed numerous signs and wonders (Acts 5:12-16).  Paul reminds us that a charismatic life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit manifests numerous gifts meant to build up the community and give glory to God.  Paul writes the following in 1st Corinthians 12:1-11:

    Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

    There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

    Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

    While these gifts of the Spirit remind us of how powerful these early Christians lived the charismatic life, it does not even touch on the most powerful of gifts.  A Pentecostal Holy Spirit life may not even show some of the above gifts.  Paul reminds all Christian that there is one gift that supersedes all of them and I would argue the one gift that sums up the whole charismatic life.  We read in 1st Corinthians 13:

    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

     Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    This passage reminds us that to be filled with the Holy Spirit, one is first and foremost a person where love manifests itself so strongly that people are struck with awe at the acts of Christian living.  I am reminded of a passage written by an early observer of the Christian community that was awe struck at how early Christians live.  Aristides, a Greek philosopher and second century Christian wrote a beautiful description of how Christians lived differently from those around them manifesting this charismatic expression of love:

    The Christians, O king, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things. … Wherefore, they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet that what is not theirs. They honor father and mother and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not do to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols, they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O king, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him into their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindness toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort the body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God ( Aristides Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 9 “The Apology of Aristides, ” 276-277)

    It is important that charismatic Christians understand the gifts of the Spirit as acts that culminate in love.  A love for God first and foremost and a love for neighbor.  The love demonstrated in the above early Christian communities reflects something unique, different, and totally radical in comparison to its surrounding community.  It was a true miracle much like speaking in tongues and prophecy are.  If Christians today are going to embrace a convergent Christian experience, they need to be evangelical as we have described here and charismatic/Pentecostal in the whole sense as captured in the biblical texts and early accounts of Christian living.  However, there is one more dimension to this convergence that the early Church lived and that is the sacramental or if you prefer, incarnational dimension.  That will be addressed in our next post!


  • Convergent Evangelicals-What Is That?

      Free Holy Bible on Stand Stock Photo

              What does it mean when we say we are “evangelical” from the context of convergence?  This is an important question I get asked frequently since we are known as the Continuing Evangelical Episcopal Communion, and are a convergence community of Word, sacrament, and Spirit.  Like so many words we use in church today, the word evangelical evokes numerous images, some that are really far from the intended meaning.

    One way to understand evangelicalism is to see it in a much broader sense than that of the political right in the United States. Historically, evangelicals are Christians who can be described by four key principles. These principles are often associated with Dr. David Bebbington’s “Quadrilateral.” Bebbington stated that historically evangelicals are Biblically centered (Biblicism), conversion centered (Conversionism), atonement minded (Crucicentrism), and proclamation focused (Activism). I, like many Christians might state these a little differently since even these words have attracted a multitude of interpretations. I would say that evangelicals are Christians that are centered on the primacy of the Word of God for all matters of belief and living, conversion focused, knowing that a true encounter with Christ causes one to be transformed, Christocentric in that Christ is the key and answer to all problems and questions facing the human condition, and finally, outward reaching, believing that the Christian life is one meant to be in service to others so that Christ may be proclaimed to the world. This is what I believe evangelicalism looks like as historically expressed in the Christian church. It's not a political movement, it's a Jesus movement for knowing Christ in the scriptures, being transformed by him through the Spirit, finding the answer to all of life’s experiences in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and missional, requiring one to go out and preach the Gospel with their whole life. I believe if you read the book of Acts, you will find this type of evangelicalism in the early church. Let me give you just a couple of simple examples.

    One of my favorite passages demonstrating the strong evangelical nature of early Christian life is the story of Philp and the eunuch (This also demonstrates the charismatic nature of the early Christians which I will discuss in another post).  In that passage we read the following:

    Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:







    The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him but went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:29 - 39).

    This passage demonstrates how evangelically word centered the early Christians were.  Note in the passage Philip explains who Christ is by using the scriptures, from the very beginning.  The idea that because early Christians were often simple men and women who did not read or write is misleading.  Perhaps they did struggle to read or write, but the Word of God was proclaimed and preached by those who could and memorized by those who listened.  They were evangelical in the truest sense.

                The Apostles knew the Word of God in such a way that they saw how it was fulfilled in the events that led up to their point and time in history.  For example, when we read Acts 1:20 we see Peter explaining the death of Judas as a fulfillment of the prophecies in scripture.  He says, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and,“ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’”  Peter obviously knows the scriptures and they form his view of how events have unfolded.  The Apostles read and studied scripture as more than an intellectual exercise but rather to inform how they lived and walked with God.  The way they lived and the central place that the scriptures had in their lives was an exceptional expression of the evangelical approach to Christianity.

                This form of evangelicalism is what we seek to foster in the CEEC, and in particular the Apostolate of St. Chad.  The Celtic tradition we embrace requires us to be truly evangelical in the manner just described.  The Celtic Christians were exceptionally christocentric (Just read the prayer of St Patrick and you will see that) and missional.  They knew the transforming nature of an encounter with the LIVING Christ (not a historical figure).  For those of us following authentic convergence, evangelicalism is so much more than what so many believe it to be.  Next week I will explore what we mean to say we are Charismatic/Pentecostal as well!  I hope as you read these posts you will also recognize the Word, sacrament, and Spirit are so intimately connected that we can’t pull them apart!


    (Note: Much of this post comes from an upcoming book by Fr. Dominick and Fr. Rick)



  • Epiphany

    By Hannah Coyne

    The Epiphanies of my youth were full of bongos and empanadas. For me, January 6th was not “Epiphany” but the Festival de Los Tres Reyes – the Feast of the Three Kings. At the inner-city cathedral in western Massachusetts where I was raised, several of my friends were Spanish speakers who were part of our Hispanic congregation. On January 6th, they hosted a huge feast for our church filled with guitars and drums, dancing, costumed kings bearing gifts for the children, and best of all, the best meat pie empanadas you’ve ever tasted in your life. To our joy and delight, there was a seemingly never-ending supply of piping hot empanadas flowing from the fryer. Epiphany was thus spent in a language and culture very different from my own middle-class, white suburban context.

    Given Epiphany’s significance, this feels very appropriate in retrospect. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of God’s glory in Christ for all people. Coming from the Greek word for “manifestation” or “appearance,” Epiphany is associated with the arrival of the Magi who travel from the East to worship the Christ child. Guided by a bright star, Christ’s arrival is made known to these Gentiles—non-Jewish wise men—who have sought him out to worship him. This story fulfills Isaiah’s vision of Israel being the recipient of God’s glory and light to which the nations will stream. During Epiphany, we celebrate the appearance of the Morning Star, Jesus. Just as the light of the star guided the Magi to Jesus, the Church is called to be the light of the world as we make Christ manifest, or apparent, in our midst.

    Only Matthew’s gospel, with its target Jewish audience, tells the story of the wise men. Matthew establishes early in his account that Yahweh is indeed for Israel—and through Israel, for people of all nations. I am struck by the words that the Gentile wise men said to King Herod upon their arrival in Jerusalem: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). To put it mildly, Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” was “disturbed” (Matt. 2:3) at this announcement of a rival king. The Magi are not reported to have bowed at King Herod’s feet. These Gentiles seem to care very little about the power and honor ascribed to Herod. Instead they “bowed down and worshiped” the toddler Jesus.

    The whole story is imbued with celestial apparitions and divine guidance. God leads these Gentiles from another country and culture to Jesus by the light of a star. God then intervenes through a dream by telling these Gentiles to flee from Herod by sending them home via a detour. It sounds like another story we know… one of God’s children being led by a light (a pillar of fire) at night and their leaders receiving God’s guidance by dreams and visions. It is a story that Matthew’s Jewish audience knew very well, except this time the Gentiles are the ones being led.

    The wise men are often called ‘kings’ and depicted riding camels. Why is this? A clue might be found embedded in Israel’s story, in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah writes that one day, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn… Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD” (Is. 60:3,6).

    Matthew uses this prophetic imagery to affirm that indeed, Israel’s light and glory has arrived—a promised Savior who is for all people, even Gentile wise men. He calls Israel to see the light—to have an epiphany. He asks the Jews to consider what it would mean to bow down, worship Jesus, and present him with their treasures like the Gentile wise men did. He nudges them to acknowledge this other King and this other Kingdom. It is not a path for the risk-averse. King Herod felt threatened by the worship of the Magi—so threatened that he had all the male toddlers and infants in Bethlehem killed in an attempt to eliminate Jesus.

    In the season of Epiphany, the Church is called to be the light of the world as we make Christ manifest in our lives and communities. We are called to consider the ramifications of this manifestation. It may involve risk. It certainly did for the wise men and for the families of the children who were slaughtered as a result of Herod’s wrath. It may involve eating different foods as you share the good news with people who are different from you. It certainly did for me and for the apostle Peter, who had to get used to the fact that in God’s Kingdom, it was okay to eat bacon. However it happens, it will definitely involve living into a Kingdom that is not of your own making, and that will result in many little epiphanies along the way.

    I love the way that poet W.H. Auden depicts this new Kingdom in his poem “For the Time Being”:

    “He is the Way.

    Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;

    You will see rare beasts and have unique adventures.

    He is the Truth.

    Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;

    You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

    He is the Life.

    Love Him in the World of the Flesh;

    And at your marriage, all its occasions shall dance for joy.”

    Here’s to an Epiphany full of unique adventures, great cities, and, like the wise men, the “overjoyed” (Matt. 2:10) feeling of discovering our King.

    Collect for the Feast of the Epiphany:

    O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    Hannah Coyne is a native of western Massachusetts and obtained her Master’s in Pastoral Theology from Regent College in Vancouver.

  • Why do Carolers often travel from house to house singing Carols during Christmas?

    The familiar sight of people walking throughout the neighbourhood and singing Christmas carols is a tradition begun by Saint Francis of Assisi who is sometimes called the “Father of Caroling.” In 1223, Francis encouraged the people of his parish to sing while presenting their Christmas dramas in church. This was a departure from standard practice, since only ordained clergy men were permitted to sing the hymns of the season.


    The people were so overjoyed at this chance to sing that they took to the streets after acting out a drama and sang from house to house.


    By the 16th century, wandering minstrels, called “waites,” travelled the English towns, accompanying themselves with bagpipes, drums, and fiddles. They repeated their little “concerts“ nightly from Christmas Eve until the feast of Epiphany (January 6).

    -Father Rick

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