A Collect for Reformation Sunday

Here is a collect I wrote for Reformation Sunday, which is this Sunday, October 28.

Each year the Reformed Churches solemnize the Sunday closest to October 31 in commemoration of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. I have composed this prayer in a manner that celebrates all reformations throughout all times in every branch of the Church, and prays for the Lord to continue that reform.

Heavenly Father,
You have set Your Son Jesus Christ as Head of the Church and Your Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth.
We give You thanks for our fathers in the faith who reformed Your Church in ages past,
and we pray that You would so guide her so that she is being continually reformed according to Your Word;
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord;
Amen.

Feel free to reproduce this prayer and use it in your worship and prayers this week.

Why Do We Say the Long Ending of the Lord’s Prayer?

A leaf from the Codex Alexandrinus, a 5th century copy of the Bible in the Byzantine textual tradition.

This question came to me from a parishioner: “In the Lord’s Prayer, why do we say, ‘For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever,’ if it is not in the Bible?”

I thought it was such a good question, I wanted to share my answer here for everyone’s benefit.

There are basically two issues at play. One is pretty simple and the other is a little more complicated.

First the simple one. Though our modern bibles tend to omit the phrase, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever,” it has a very long history of being used in worship in the church. For example, the Didache is a Christian text written in the first century AD (around the year 90AD) shortly after the Bible itself was completed. Didache has quite a bit in it about worship, and it text has the long ending of the Lord’s Prayer in it. So we know that this line was used in worship from the earliest times.

Also, there is certainly nothing wrong with the phrase. The words themselves come from 1 Chronicles 29:11-13:

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13 ESV)

So, there’s certainly nothing wrong with praying this part of the prayer. It is theologically sound and it is biblical. Furthermore, it has a long tradition in the worship of the church (as long as can possibly be).

So, what is the conclusion? It is fine to pray this part of the prayer and it is also fine not to. It is simply a matter of choice. The one who does not pray it is fine not to do so, and the one who prays it is likewise fine. This is what we call in theological discussions a matter of adiaphora, which is Greek for a choice which is left to one’s discretion.

Now to the second, more complicated, issue. This part of the discussion involves the history of the texts of the Bible as well as the history of the Protestant Reformation.

You ask, “Why do we pray [it] when it is not in the Bible?” Well, the fact that this is not in the Bible is not certain. This is a matter of debate among biblical scholars. Granted most biblical scholars will say that it is not original to the text of Matthew. But this is a guess on their part. A very educated guess based on solid scholarship, yet a guess nonetheless.

You see, the text of the New Testament you hold in your hand is based on two different families of manuscripts. One family is called the Alexandrian and the other the Byzantine. On 99% of New Testament these two families agree. Yet they differ on some points. The ending of the Lord’s Prayer is one of them.

First let me tell you about these two families of texts.  By far, most of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that we (and by “we” I mean the scholarly community) have are of the Byzantine family. The oldest of the Byzantine texts dates back to the 4th century. That’s about as far back as we go with complete texts of the Bible. The Byzantine family is also the basis for the text used in the King James Bible.

Then we have the Alexandrian family. There are far fewer texts of the Alexandrian family and they weren’t discovered until the 19th century or so (when I say discovered, I mean that Western scholars didn’t know about them). Biblical scholars like the texts of the Alexandrian family because they are cleaner (meaning there are fewer variations between them) and they omit some of these section of the bible (like the ending of the Lord’s Prayer and the long ending of Mark). For biblical scholars, shorter = simpler = less contaminated = closer to the original. Almost always when the Byzantine differs from the Alexandrian, biblical scholars will go with the Alexandrian. This is a generalization, but it is normally the case.

So the New Testament you hold in your hand is mostly of the Alexandrian family, while the King James is of the Byzantine. Thus there are the differences.

Now for the Church history part (if you are still with me I commend you!). The Greek version of the New Testament was not copied very much in the West (by “West” I mean Europe, for the most part), because the Western Church relied on the Latin Vulgate as their main biblical translation. St. Jerome translated the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek in the 4th century. Jerome was an excellent scholar, and his translation is pretty good, as long as you can read Latin.

The Reformers understood that most people couldn’t read Latin and their emphasis was to get the Bible into the language of the people. Some of the earlier (before the Reformation) translations of the Bible, into English for example, were done from the Latin Vulgate, which isn’t a horrible thing, but it is one step removed from the original.

At the time of the Reformation there was a parallel academic movement called “humanism” and one of the tenets of humanism was ad fontes, which means “return to the source.” Thus the humanists, whether they were Protestant or Roman Catholic, were seeking to produce a text of the Bible in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Erasmus was one of these humanists who became a Roman Catholic. Luther was another who, of course, became Protestant.

In search of Greek texts of the New Testament the humanists were forced to go to the Byzantine family, because it was all they could find. Thus the earliest modern versions of the Greek New Testament were of this Byzantine type and subsequently the English translations coming out of the Reformation were also of Byzantine type. As a result, they all uniformly included the long ending of the Lord’s Prayer.

We also have to appreciate the church politics going on here. The Roman Catholic worship service did not include the long ending of the prayer. Imagine when the Protestant Reformers discovered that the exclusion of the long ending in the Roman version of the Prayer was not biblical! They certainly were going to include that version of the prayer in their Reformed worship services, now weren’t they?

Also these Byzantine texts were coming from the Greek Orthodox Church. That’s because they continue to use the Greek text of the New Testament as their Bible to this day. The Reformers had some affinity to the Greek Church because, well, they weren’t Roman Catholic. Furthermore, the Greek Church represented a church that was every bit as old as the Roman Church and was at odds with the Roman Church just like they were. So you can imagine why the Protestant Reformers would have some reason to side with the Greeks on this issue. If you read any writings from the Reformation era you will see how bitterly at odds they were with each other.

So, as a matter of liturgical history, the long ending of the prayer was not used in Roman Catholic services but it was in Protestant ones. This is still mostly true to this day.

Fast forward to the 19th century. In the 19th century Western scholars discovered some biblical texts that were different from the texts they were used to. They began to see similarities between these newly discovered texts and saw that they formed a family of texts. This is when they began to call one family Alexandrian (because it comes from Egypt) and the other Byzantine (because it comes from Greece).

Now the picture of the history of the Bible became a little clearer. What seems to have happened with the Lord’s Prayer is that in the Greek East the longer ending was added to the prayer. This did not happen in the Western churches because Jerome (who was based out of the Middle East) likely used an Alexandrian text type for his translation into the Latin. So we have two strands of liturgical history: the Western churches not using the long ending, but the Eastern churches do use it. Thus we see that at a very early date (as far back as we can go) the Byzantine texts have the long ending, but the Alexandrian texts do not.

But who is to say if the Byzantine ones added it, or the Alexandrian ones somehow lost it? Who’s to say that there weren’t two copies of Matthew circulating? Who’s to say which one is correct? We are supposed to confess and believe that the academicians hold the key to the truth on this matter. Yet their own method directly privileges one textual tradition, the Alexandrian, over another and almost always goes with the shorter reading (which almost always is the Alexandrian). They say, and this is not a bad argument, that textual corruptions naturally enter into a text over time. Thus the Byzantine text has more corruptions. Yet because the Alexandrian texts were hermetically sealed in a vacuum they were free from corruption for something like 1,500 years. Think of the woolly mammoth frozen in ice. You can see why they prefer the Alexandrian if this narrative is true.

At first glance this sounds good. Yet what are we to do with the church for 1,500 years that had this particular “corrupted” Byzantine text? Was the Spirit absent with the church during this time? It is a complicated question.

In my Bible (an ESV) the footnote says, “Some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” And in the study note (it is the ESV Study Bible) it says, “This is evidently a later scribal addition, since the most reliable and oldest Greek manuscripts all lack these words, which is why these words are omitted from most modern translations,” (emphasis added).

Now, I think I take issue with that. The oldest? Well, technically maybe. The two oldest and best (and by best here I mean complete) examples of the Alexandrian tradition, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, both date to the 4th century. The oldest and best examples of the Byzantine, the Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Washintonianus, date to, wait for it… the 4th or 5th century. Oldest? Not by much.

What about “most reliable”? That’s a judgment based on the “hermetically sealed” and “shorter = better” parts we were talking about above. Yet if both the Alexandrian and the Byzantine were circulating at the same time from the earliest of dates 300s-400s (Which is, by the way, when the making of books as opposed to papyrus scrolls became more of the norm. Codex is another word for a book.) who’s to say which is better? What about the argument that the text that “won” should be privileged in a reading like this? There’s no debating that up until 100 years ago the Byzantine text had won, at least among those who actually spoke Greek. The Alexandrian text had for all intents and purposes disappeared and was not a version of the Bible that was actively being used. It was a museum artifact. We have to ask ourselves why the Byzantine came to be privileged over the Alexandrian. What was the role of the Spirit in all of this? Again, complicated questions.

So, you see, the “fact” that this is not in the Bible is not a certainty. It has been in the Bible in the East for 2,000 years. It was not a part of the Bible in the Latin West for 2,000 years. It has been in the Bible for the Protestant West for 500 years. It has recently been again removed from the Bible in the Protestant West.

Back to my point on adiaphora. Whether or not this is in the Bible, it is certainly fine to say it. It is a Protestant tradition to say it, and this tradition connects with the oldest traditions of the Church.

My preference is to say it because it is the more catholic (universal) thing to do, in other words, more Christians over the scope of Christian history, and even today, have said it, so I’ll go with saying it.

But if the church across the street does not say it, it’s OK too. It’s not something to worry a whole lot about, in my opinion.

I bet that was a whole lot more than you ever figured you would get out of that question!

The Athanasian Creed

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This Sunday at Christ Our King we will be confessing the Athanasian Creed. It is a very long creed, and because of its length the modern church does not confess it much any more. Yet it seems like a good practice to confess this creed at least once a year, on Trinity Sunday. The reason is that the Athanasian Creed is a more detailed, robust, and instructive statement of both the deity and humanity of Christ and the mystery of the Trinity than the Nicene Creed is. It will be good to stretch our theological muscles in this way.

The Athanasian Creed is named for St. Athanasius, a 4th century theologian and churchman who dillgently defended the orthodox faith concerning the Trinity and the deity of Christ against the rising tide of Arianism. At times it seemed to Athanasius as if he was completely alone in defending the truth. Because of this the slogan, Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world) became to be associated with him.

Athanasius is also important because his Easter Letter of 367 is the first written witness to the entire New Testament Canon.

But Athanasius did not write the Athanasian Creed.

It was attributed to him and was thought to have been written by him up unto the time of the Reformation. Yet we still refer to the creed as Athanasian because it expresses the ideas that the bishop fought for during his life. The author of this creed is still unknown. It is a Western Creed that has been confessed in the churches going back until at least the sixth century.

We will confess it this Sunday, on the Day of the Holy Trinity, because it contains a robust confession of the doctrine of the Trinity as we profess it in catholic churches. The creed is also very instructive, as it lays out many of the nuances of Trinitarian doctrine. Though it is a very long creed, it will be helpful to at least once a year stretch ourselves to profess the doctrine of the Trinity in this way.

The Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith unless any person keeps whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither combining the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Spirit unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sits on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

A Short History of the Wearing of Clerical Collars in the Presbyterian Tradition

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Introduction
There does not seem to have been any distinctive everyday dress for Christian pastors up until the 6th century or so. Clergy simply wore what was common, yet muted, modest, and tasteful, in keeping with their office. In time, however, the dress of pastors remained rather conservative, as it is wont to do, while the dress of lay people changed more rapidly. The result was that the dress of Christian pastors became distinct from the laity and thus that clothing began to be invested (no pun intended) with meaning.

Skipping ahead, due to the increasing acceptance of lay scholars in the new universities, the Fourth Lateran council (1215) mandated a distinctive dress for clergy so that they could be distinguished when about town. This attire became known as the vestis talaris or the cassock. Lay academics would wear an open front robe with a lirripium or hood. It is interesting to note that both modern day academic and clerical garb stems from the same Medieval origin.

Councils of the Roman Catholic church after the time of the Reformation stipulated that the common everyday attire for priests should be the cassock. Up until the middle of the 20th century, this was the common street clothes attire for Roman Catholic priests. The origin of the clerical collar does not stem from the attire of Roman priests. Its genesis is of Protestant origin.

The Origin of Reformed Clerical Dress
In the time of the Reformation, many of the Reformed wanted to distance themselves from what was perceived as Roman clerical attire. Thus many of the clergy took up the attire of academics in their daily dress or wore no distinctive clothing whatsoever. Yet over time the desire for the clergy to wear a distinctive uniform returned to the Reformed churches. What they began to do, beginning in the 17th century as far as I can tell, is to begin to wear a neck scarf, called a cravat, tied around the neck to resemble a yoke. Thus common dignified attire was worn by the pastor, supplementing it with this clerical cravat. This style can be seen in many of our famous Reformed divines, one of the more famous of whom being Charles Hodge.

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Charles Hodge pictured with clerical cravat

When Reformed pastors would enter the pulpit, they would add what is known as a “preaching tab” or “neck band” to their clerical dress. This type of dress is nearly ubiquitous among 17th and 18th century Reformed pastors. Here are a few examples:

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Jonathan Edwards featuring clerical cravat and preaching tabs
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George Whitfield
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John Owen – 17th century Reformed pastor

In the following picture we see more clearly the use of both the clerical cravat and the inserted preaching tabs by one Thomas Chalmers.

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Thomas Chalmers, 19th century. Notice both the cravat and tabs clearly visible.

The reader will note that the men depicted here were of great eminence as Reformed pastors and theologians. They are all well known for their commitment to Reformed theology and biblical teaching and practice. These are not obscure men who sported clerical attire.

One might ask whether this sort of attire was universal among the Reformed. The answer is, no. Upon perusing several portraits included in the Presbyterian Encyclopedia of 1880, published by Presbyterian Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, I found that there was diversity of clerical attire chosen by Presbyterian pastors of the 19th century. Some wore clerical cravats. Some wore what looks like a modern rabat with a collarette (a black vest which closes at the top with a bit of white collar revealed all around). Others wore bow ties or neck ties. The conclusion to be drawn is that in the Presbyterian tradition, there has been diversity of clerical dress without any type enforced over the other.

Another objection that might be raised is whether or not this neck band or cravat, such as we see Charles Hodge wearing, was in any way distinctive clerical garb. Several 19th century sources reveal that these cravats were, in fact, considered distinctive clerical garb. The following quote is from a 19th century source called The Domestic Annals of Scotland, Volume 3:

In the austerity of feeling which reigned through the Presbyterian Church on its reestablishment there had been but little disposition to assume a clerical uniform or any peculiar pulpit vestments. It is reported that when the noble commissioner of one of the first General Assemblies was found fault with by the brethren for wearing a scarlet cloak he told them he thought it as indecent for them to appear in gray cloaks and cravats. When Mr. Calamy visited Scotland in 1709 he was surprised to find the clergy generally preaching in neckcloths and coloured cloaks. We find at the date here marginally noted that the synod of Dumfries was anxious to see a reform in these respects. The synod – so runs their record – “considering that it’s a thing very decent and suitable so it hath been the practice of ministers in this kirk formerly to wear black gowns in the pulpit and for ordinary to make use of bands do therefore by their act recommend it to all their brethren within their bounds to keep up that custome and to study gravitie in their apparel and every manner of way.”

Here we see several members of the 18th c. Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) having their hackles raised over some ostentatious clergymen wearing scarlet cloaks and cravats. Later they hold a Synod where they decide that they ought to wear black gowns and to make use of neck bands. This paragraph shows us two things: the wearing of cravats was considered to be distinctive clerical garb, and the synod of the kirk decided ultimately that modest use of neckbands was permitted. (There are many more such examples in 19th century sources which can easily be researched on Google Books. I invite the reader to see for himself.) Thus when we see all manner of 17th-19th century Reformed pastors sporting preaching tabs, neck bands, and cravats, we should interpret them to be intentionally sporting distinctive clerical garb. We should also gather that the author of these annals, one Robert Chambers, included this anecdote in his work in order to promote the modest use of bands and clerical garb in his day.

The last bit of history to cover regards the origin of the modern clerical collar. According to several sources, including one cited by the Banner of Truth website (no Romanizing group), the modern clerical collar was invented by a Presbyterian. In the mid 19th century heavily starched detachable collars were in great fashion. This can been seen up through the early part of the 20th century if one has watched any period television shows or movies. If we observe the collar worn by Charles Hodge we can see that at first these collars were not folded down as they are today, but left straight up.

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Charles Hodge revisited. Notice the upturned collar protruding from the top of the cravat.

 Yet in the mid to late 19th century it became the fashion of the day to turn these collars down. You and I still wear a turned down collar. The origin of the modern clerical collar is simply then to turn or fold the collar down over the clerical cravat, leaving the white cloth exposed in the middle. According to the Glasgow Herald of December 6,1894, the folded down detachable clerical collar was invented by the Rev Dr Donald McLeod, a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland. According to the book Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, “the collar was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.”

Yet two questions arise: how did the clerical collar then fall out of use among Presbyterians and how did it come to be so associated with Roman Catholic priests? The answer is that up until the mid 20th century the prescribed dress for all Roman Catholic priests was the cassock, a full length clerical gown. Yet during the 20th century it became custom for Roman Catholic priests to wear a black suit with a black shirt and clerical collar, which collar they appropriated from Protestant use. Owing to the large number of Roman Catholic priests in some areas, and due to the fact that some sort of everyday clerical dress was mandated for all priests at all times when outside their living quarters, the clerical collar became to be associated more with the Roman Catholic Church than with the Protestant churches. It stands to reason that once again a desire to create distance between the Reformed and Roman Catholics and the increasing desire throughout the 20th century for ministers to dress in more informal ways has led to the fact that barely any Reformed pastor wears any distinctive clerical dress these days, though plenty of examples show that our eminent forbearers desired to do so.

Sources
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, 2003
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, 1996
The Presbyterian Encyclopedia, Alfred Nevin, 1880
Wikipedia: Clerical Collar
Wikipedia: Bands (neck wear)
Wikipedia: Clerical Clothing
Clerical dress and insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry McCloud, 1948
Domestic Annals of Scotland, From the Revolution to the Rebellion of 1745, Robert Chambers, 1861, pp. 147-148.
Google Images
Google Books
Wikimedia Commons
Ken Collins’ Website – Vestments Glossary
Banner of Truth Website
Pastor Garrett Craw’s Blog

Visit our church’s website: www.christourkingcolumbia.org

An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.

Counter Culture: a Lenten Reflection

The National Anthem of the United States of America is “The Star Spangled Banner.” Yet while this song about the perseverance of a piece of cloth (for we have no human to revere in our great land) still tugs on our patriotic heartstrings from time to time, perhaps the real anthem of the modern America is a rock song by Queen:

I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now.

This anthem is what drives the American spirit. Just walk into any Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart where you can literally have it all, and have it now, if you only have access to enough credit.

I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now.

How did we get here? We are a country that was built on the backs of hard work and perseverance. How did we become so lazy, impatient, and averse to suffering? How did we get to the point that we truly believe that everything is our due, and we owe absolutely nothing for it?

I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now.

No, this is more than our anthem. This is our litany, our national prayer, our creed. We name it, and we claim it. We shouldn’t have to wait, we shouldn’t have to save or do without, and we shouldn’t have to pay for it.

I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now.

There could be nothing farther from the ethos of the scripture than this litany of consumerism, this patriotic anthem of acquisition, this creed of impatience, pride, and gluttony. The bible says, wait, be patient, and suffer. That’s actually what the bible says! Wait, be patient, and suffer. What could be farther from our cultural norm? Yet we see in Mark 8:31-38 that though Christ was God incarnate, omnipotent and omniscient, and he certainly could have taken the rule of the entire earth, for he certainly had the power,yet he didn’t! He waited, he was patient, and he suffered.

And yet even after he waited, faithfully passed the tests, was patient, and suffered for his bride, he still does not have the fullness of worldly power. Why? Why did he not at least then, after he waited so long and suffered so much, did he not then take what was due him? Why? Because he also wanted glory for his people, his bride, and the only way to real glory is to wait, to be patient, and to suffer. So we must wait, be patient, and suffer, though we are anointed priests, kings, and prophets to the world, we must wait, be patient and suffer for the life of the world just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did.

We must wait, be patient, and suffer.