5 Paths to Repentance

I’m just stealing this in total from Richard Beck’s site. It is a great piece of spiritual wisdom from St. John Chrysostom…

Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven. Saint-John-Chrysostom

A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified. For this reason, too, the prophet wrote: I said: I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and you forgave the wickedness of my heart. Therefore, you too should condemn your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again. Rouse your conscience to accuse you within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

That, then, is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Do you want to know of a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful and comes from the heart.

If you want to hear of a fourth, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching.

If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins.

Thus I have shown you five paths of repentance; condemnation of your own sins, forgiveness of our neighbor’s sins against us, prayer, almsgiving and humility.

Do not be idle, then, but walk daily in all these paths; they are easy, and you cannot plead your poverty. For, though you live out your life amid great need, you can always set aside your wrath, be humble, pray diligently and condemn your own sins…

Now that we have learned how to heal these wounds of ours, let us apply the cures. Then, when we have regained genuine health, we can approach the holy table with confidence, go gloriously to meet Christ, the king of glory, and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

–from a homily of St. John Chrysostom

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Exodus 2:23-3:22 and Mark 14:53-72

Exodus 2:23-3:22
Mark 14:53-72
When you find yourself against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Joel 1:1-20 and Romans 10:1-21

Joel 1:1-20
Romans 10:1-21
The very thing needed is taken
God’s Word given to those who were not a nation, to those who were foolish…

Which Way Out of the Desert


Full Sermon Draft

Biblical Text: Luke 15:1-10

These are both parables of prodigal grace and repentance. Dogmatically this is one of those areas where you are forced to nod your head yes to a couple of things in contradiction. It is all grace. The shepherd calls and carries home. If so, then why repent? State of grace, oh happy condition, sin as a please and still have remission. But it is grace. Repentance is the first step of the Kingdom. If that is the case, then why do I need grace? I just do the work of repentance. But that requires grace. Aquinas had it all worked out. Unfortunately Aquinas was out of favor intellectually when Luther came around. But that is neither here nor there.

My take is that these texts set in their context are suppose to be funny. They are absurd in a way that illuminates both our lost condition and the prodigal nature of grace. You have to get the joke, you have to accept the premise of grace, for the rest to make sense. But once you accept he premise it is one of those “oh, crap” moments. I was lost, but now I’m found. Grace comes with a hidden imperative. Home is that way. Go joyfully.

The False Prophet (Contra the Good Shepherd)

PROMO5A preamble to explain the title and why I am using it. First, I’m more or less Augustinian which means in last things (eschatology) I am an amillenialist (as compared to the various pre/post-millenialists). What that really means is that I read the book of Revelation’s images as cyclical symbols. All these things take place during the time of the church which itself is the millennium. I am not looking for the perfect kingdom and the reign of Christ on earth outside the church before the new heavens and the new earth.

One of those symbols is the false prophet or the second beast. John introduces this symbol first as the second beast in Revelation 13:11-18. The beast is referred to as the false prophet in Revelation 19:20. This is the work of the false prophet: a) makes the earth worship the 1st beast (which has historically been taken as a symbol of political power), b) deceives the inhabitants of the earth by a great show, c) gives breath (i.e. spirit) to the political beast and d) marks those who are able to participate in the market. The ultimate goal of the false prophet is to turn the worship of people from the true God to anything infernal. He will do this by: simple deceit, conversion to a false spirit or as a last resort persecution for those who don’t conform through loss of material goods (or perceived material goods). There have been and probably will be more false prophets through the ages until Christ returns. As Jesus said, many will come saying “I am the Christ” (Luke 21:8-9).

Knowing this, we Christians should be able to do just what Jesus says, “don’t go after them”.

All that for this. Here is a link about a Good Friday Service spoken at by Episcopal Bishop (Ret.) John Spong. Some excerpts from his sermon…

Spong argued that Jesus could say “I and the father are one” only because he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”…Spong quickly targeted the church’s historic councils and creeds…John’s Jesus is not about saving sinners and rescuing the lost. It is about moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness…“She [Mary] is there as a symbol of transition from Judaism while the Beloved Disciple is a symbol of new consciousness,” Spong interpreted. “See God as universal and embrace all human differences. These are Jewish gifts to the world,” the Bishop added, naming race, gender, and sexual orientation as the differences to be embraced. “Christianity has not embraced this fact, but it will, and it must”…Spong also attacked atonement theology, dismissing blood washing away sins as an “evangelical mantra” and a “barbaric theology” that turns God into an ogre…John’s Gospel would never say ‘Jesus died for my sins’…As evolving creatures, the problem is not that we have fallen, but that we are not yet fully human.”…We are not sinners, the church got that wrong, we are rather incomplete human beings.”

I don’t think you could get a more complete picture of the words and tactics of the false prophet. Simple deceit – “the reality of divine human oneness” – check. Conversion to a false spirit – “Jesus is not about saving sinners…but moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness.” – check. Threats of being made to conform and worship of the political beast – “naming race, fender and sexual orientation as differences to be embraced. Christianity has not embraced this fact…and it must.” – check. It is not that there aren’t good half truths in there, it is that those truths are reached for outside of Christ’s work for us. Spong wants nothing to do with Christ himself. We can speak of divine human oneness only when we are talking of being conformed to Christ, being sanctified by word and sacrament, by receiving and being part of the body of Christ. We can talk about moving beyond self-consciousness not in a work of moving beyond it but in Spirit enabled willful submission to Christ. A losing of our lives in order to find it eternally in Christ, not some vague universal consciousness. We can talk about embracing differences, but not as good things in themselves, but as part of God’s good creation that God wishes to repent and live.

The pastor of that church should be ashamed for letting the devil have his pulpit on Good Friday non-the-less. Irenaeus tells a little story about the Apostle John meeting a gnostic (like Spong) named Cerinthus in the public baths of Ephesus. Says Polycarp through Irenaeus, “John ran screaming from the baths lest they fall, for the enemy of truth is within.” Christians need to learn to recognize the false prophet, the enemy of truth within, and not to go after them. Days are coming when that will make eternal difference.

Note – the image is an icon of the good shepherd, the exact opposite of the false prophet.