Mammon Sniffs in Hong Kong at the Lands Resumption Ordinance

Hong Kong is infamous for its lack of housing, its expensive real estate, its subdivided flats in which people are packed like sardines. Everyone is compelled to agree, at least with his lips, that this is one of Hong Kong’s pressing problems.

SCMP reports on a proposal to use the Lands Resumption Ordinance to gain land on which to build public housing: ‘Hong Kong developers are estimated to own a huge land bank of 1,000 hectares of abandoned farmland. If the government seizes 150 hectares of usable land, it would [sic] be able to build 170,000 public homes within 10 years.’ I would ask how private developers came to own – or hold, anyway – so much abandoned farmland. If it was by occupying or claiming what others had vacated, in the fashion of squatters, then such developers should have no complaints about squatters coming onto their land and living there rent-free; but even if it was by buying land from farmers who could no longer use the land in profitable ways that could sustain their families, surely it is not only legally valid but also morally sound to compel developers to sell this same land to the state for a crucial public interest, namely the interest of providing 170,000 public homes in a city where average wait times for public housing have grown to ‘5.4 years, up from 2.7 years in 2012’.

Raising the spectre of ‘socialism’ and speaking of seizures without acknowledging that developers would be justly compensated is a scare tactic, not an honest concern. In America, except among radical œconomic liberals, the state’s right of eminent domain has been disputed mostly when the interest in which land is seized is arguably not public (e.g. Kelo v. City of New London); in Taiwan, where the vast majority of the land was once held by 20 families, Chiang Kai-shek forced landlords to sell their land to their tenants in exchange for shares in new light industries, and thus paved the way for a prosperous Taiwan. Allodial title to land belongs to the state because the land belongs to the people. In Hong Kong itself, SCMP says, ‘From 1997 to 2017, the government used the [Lands Resumption Ordinance] 154 times, including 13 times for building public housing. There were eight judicial reviews but none was successful.’ That someone has cried ‘socialism’, and appealed to the Basic Law in support of a hypercapitalism that gained wide currency only by the fall of the Soviet Union, is no reason to sympathize with private land-developers against the needs of the many in Hong Kong who are still waiting for public housing.

In Hong Kong are many, rich and powerful, who do not want to lose what they have. Whether developers who keep farmland idle to make a killing or speculators who buy up flats and keep them vacant to make profits from sales later on, they are the kind of people of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke: ‘Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!’

The judgement of God comes,
 But the wicked erect excuses;
The living God will judge,
 And as nothing are they swept away;
Like sticks in the torrent of his righteousness
 Or ashes of a forest fire,
When the Lord in his anger appears,
 To purge the earth by his grace,
Their bones are broken like matchsticks,
 And like wax melt their joints,
Before the coming of the Word,
 The judgement of the Holy One.

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The Soul’s Fellowship with God in Psalm 5.1–3

Abide in me, and I in you. The formal elements of Psalm 5.1–3 create a strong sense of correspondence and intimacy between the psalmist and God.

Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:
for unto thee will I pray.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD;
in the morning will I direct [my prayer] unto thee, and will look up.

The parallelisms here – ABC // AB; ABC // BA; ABC // BA – create lines that hold together and whose second hemistichs develop the thought of the first hemistichs, but they also help create larger units. The parallel addresses to God at the end of each line’s first hemistich create a sense of unity among the three lines, drawing attention also to the development from ‘give ear to my words’ to ‘hearken unto the voice of my cry’ to ‘my voice shalt thou hear’, a development from a plea for the LORD to hear the psalmist’s rhetorical articulation (‘words’) to an assurance that the LORD will hear, or listen to, the psalmist’s very voice, whether articulate or not. In these three first hemistichs, the psalmist relies on metonymy, using various nouns associated with prayer to refer to prayer itself, but the progression of his terms shows a real development. At the same time, in these three lines’ second hemistichs is a subtler development: the psalmist himself moves from asking the LORD to consider his meditation (or murmuring), his inward act, to committing himself to look up expectantly, an outward confidence. Indeed, one can discern a chiasm of sorts in the developments of the first hemistichs and the second hemistichs: God moves closer in to the man’s soul itself, and the man moves outward from his soul’s murmuring to a lifting of his gaze up to heaven. Rather than being explicit, this relation of the two trends is implicit in the poetic structure, and it forms a virtual merism of God’s drawing near to man’s soul and man’s soul drawing near to God, which together form a whole of fellowship in prayer.

Other elements contribute as well. In the third line, ‘in the morning’ is repeated near the end of the first hemistich (before ‘O LORD’) and at the beginning of the second. This repetition connect the threads of the first hemistichs considered together and the second hemistichs considered together, joining formally in one whole what the LORD does in the morning and what the psalmist does in the morning. Indeed, the ellipsis of ‘my voice’ in the third line’s second hemistich has the same effect: it joins together as one the actions of two agents, namely God and the praying psalmist.

For the Christian, these three psalm verses show us a picture of our being in God and God’s being in us, by Christ. Even though Psalm 5 was written long before the Holy Ghost was sent to dwell within men – for even as he wrote the Scriptures through men he was with them rather than in them, working on them rather than in them – yet in a way its sense is fulfilled, perfected, in our fellowship with God by the work of his Holy Spirit in us, by which Spirit we are in Christ in heaven and Christ is in us on earth.

A Boy Soprano, Not a Woman

Countertenor:
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
(Isaiah 40.11)

Boy Soprano:
Come unto him, all ye that labour, come unto him that are heavy laden, and he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him, for he is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(Matthew 11.28–29)

This is why you can’t just replace a boy soprano with a woman. What you need is the purity of a child, who could be a shepherd boy, singing to you the truth of God.

The Two-Document Hypothesis on the Synoptics: Q or No Q?

The Two-Document Hypothesis on the Synoptic Gospels is one I find attractive in various ways, but ultimately I think the more parsimonious account is:

  1. Mark was written first.
  2. Matthew and Luke are both based on Mark.
  3. Luke also draws on Matthew to fill out what he thinks is missing from Mark, but he recontextualizes some Matthean material to articulate what he wants to say to his own audience.

This account agrees substantially with the Two-Document Hypothesis. Of these three assertions, 1 and 2 are also part of the Two-Document Hypothesis. The verbal agreement (1) of all three synoptics, (2) of Matthew with Mark against Luke, and (3) of Luke with Mark against Matthew – but only in a few places of Luke and Matthew against Mark – suggest strongly that Matthew and Luke both based their gospel accounts on Mark and not on each other. That is, Matthew was not based on Luke, nor Luke on Matthew; still less is the structure of the textual similarities explained by a common oral tradition alone. In this much I agree with key propositions of the Two-Document Hypothesis.

The lack of direct evidence for the very existence of a written ‘Q’ source for Matthew and Luke, however, leads me to lean strongly against it. The mainly v-shaped dependency structure of Mark, Matthew, and Luke is something we can identify because we actually have Mark as a basis of comparison; for Q, we have no such evidence. If for the sake of argument we grant that there is such a Q document, it is just as easy to say that Q borrowed the same material from Matthew as Luke did, or else the same material from Luke as Matthew did: the lack of comparative textual evidence from an actually extant document gives us little basis for asserting confidently the direction of borrowing. Still less am I inclined to conclude firmly that there was a Q document upon which both Matthew and Luke drew.

On a higher level, I also think it highly unlikely that, as Q proponents seem to suppose, there was a Q document without a Passion and Resurrection narrative. Such is the nature of the Q document people have proposed as a source for Matthew and Luke, but a document has itself to have been highly respected – on par with Mark – to have been a textual source for not one but two of the Gospels. To early Christians, the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth about the inauguration and present experience of the age to come mattered only because his resurrection from the dead proved his identity as God’s Christ rather than as one more failed christic claimant; a Q without the Christian conviction of Christ’s resurrection, however, is not a text that two Gospels are likely to have used in the manner alleged by proponents of the Two-Document Hypothesis. On the other hand, it is even more problematic to suppose that a Q document had its own Passion and Resurrection narrative, but was not substantially used as a source in the corresponding parts of Matthew and Luke. These considerations, then, also suggest an alternative to the existence of a Q source for parts that Matthew and Luke have in common but did not take from Mark.

The few major agreements between Matthew and Luke on things not present in Mark, moreover, are not features that I think are well explained by borrowing from a hypothetical Q text. For example, both Matthew and Luke have ‘prophesy, who is it who struck you?’ (Matthew 26.68; Luke 22.64) rather than Mark’s ‘prophesy’ (Mark 14.65). But Q is usually posited as a document of Jesus’s sayings, somewhat like the ‘Gospel of Thomas’. Uncharacteristically for the character usually attributed to Q as as source for Matthew-Luke commonalities, the clause ‘who is it who struck you?’ is an extensive verbal correspondence of Matthew and Luke not in one of Jesus’s memorable sayings but in the Passion narrative. Either this clause comes from Q, or it comes from some other written source common to Matthew and Luke, or it does not come from a written source other than one of the four Gospels.

More plausible than a common but independent borrowing from a hypothetical Q by both Matthew and Luke, I think, is an adaptation by Luke of material from Matthew. Luke’s declared audience (‘most excellent Theophilus’, 1.3) and asides for the understanding of Gentile-born believers suggests at least one motivation for adaptation for an otherwise foreign audience. His placing of many unique parables into a travel narrative, with several reminders of Jesus’s sense of resolve in his purposeful march to Jerusalem, also suggests a sophisticated readiness to place sayings into narrative frame contexts suited to his literary purpose. Luke’s Gospel, which is the longest Gospel whereas Mark is the shortest, has almost as few citations of the Old Testament as Mark. If Matthew is written as a Gospel to the Hebrews, interpreting Jesus and his teaching by more direct citation of the Old Testament, Luke is a Gospel to the Gentiles whose author interprets Jesus’s teachings by arranging them in narrative contexts of his own choosing. Matthew and Luke are both based on Mark, but their differences in audience lead to substantial differences in their texts.

Judge Me, O Lord

Judgement is often disparaged, but Psalm 35 says,

Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness : and let them not triumph over me.
Let them not say in their hearts, There, there, so would we have it : neither let them say, We have devoured him.

With this sentiment, this desire to be judged, is aligned N. T. Wright’s claim in Surprised by Hope (HarperCollins, 2008), 141, that the main point to notice in John 5.22–30 is that ‘all the future judgement is highlighted basically as good news, not bad’. The sacrifice of Christ, then, is not at odds with judgement, but is a crucial part of God’s righteous judgement, restoring the world to peace with God and of one piece with the final justification of the Last Day, of which judgement Christian believers now joyfully partake by faith. Wright also says, 142, that in 1 Corinthians the Eucharist is also an anticipation of God’s good judgement: ‘eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus means confronting here and now the one who is the judge as well as the savior of all’.

That the judgement is fearsome – some who took it in sacrilege, God smote and slew – does not change its proper nature as a powerful means of blessing, uniting the Church to her Lord and changing her into the fulness of his glorified body. I used to be puzzled by Psalm 35 and other such psalms (cf. Psalm 7.8), observing what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10.31), but in view of my union with Christ I now mark instead how sweet it is to be changed and delivered by his judgement from the power of sin. The God whose dreadful hands formed the dry land (Psalm 95.5) is the same God whose hand cares for his sheep (95.7), who extends to me the body of our dear Lord Jesus Christ. It is not God who changes, but we ourselves as we are turned toward him or away from him. So I view the holy fire of God’s judgement as the fire of heaven to those who are saved and as the fire of Gehenna to those who perish; or, to use a metaphor from St Paul, ‘we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life’ (2 Corinthians 2.15–16).

This, to me, is the resurrection power inside me. I don’t feel it at every moment, of course. But when I sin and come back to acknowledge the God who is saving me, I try to remember that the burning inside me is not to my damnation, but rather to my salvation. As the Book of Common Prayer says, the burden of my sins – which I often don’t feel – is intolerable; but in the silence God speaks and shows me what burden is lifted from me because I am judged in Christ and share in his justification by the Father when he raised him from the dead. This resurrection is indeed, as Wright says, 193, a ‘promise of new creation’ that is about the mission of the Church. When the Father raised the Son from the dead ‘and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come’ (Ephesians 1.20–21), he also gave the Church a promise of an exceedingly great power, according to that same working of the power of his might which he exercised in the resurrection, and thus he ‘hath put all things under [Christ’s] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all’ (1.22–23).

In all the discouragements of life, these promises of God encourage me with the hope of his coming judgement, which by the Holy Spirit already convicts the world of sin. As the poem ‘Ave verum corpus’ says to the true incarnate body of Christ, ‘esto nobis prægustatum in mortis examine’: ‘be for us a foretaste in the trial of death’. My foretaste of his judgement, in what the ancients call his ‘awful mysteries’, is a matter of fear and trembling; but it’s also in his holiness that I find his love, by which I can live to know it better tomorrow than I know it today.

Spring and Summer Tang Dynasty Hanfu for Waifu

Spring and summer waifu on a Sunday or other holy day, with cloth ready to cover her head for prayer as the Apostle says. Tang dynasty ruqun in the style of the Wu Zetian period, according to hanfu gallery.

Ideal Woman in Personality and Attitude

A chastity memorial arch in China.

On Curious Cat: What is the ideal attractive woman in terms of personality and attitude? You praised submissive women before, but what does that entail, and how do submissive women behave?

To me, the most important thing in a woman is that she be (1) in due submission to the word of God and (2) honest about herself, her weaknesses, and her true feelings. These two requirements are related to the twofold knowledge John Calvin says is the most important in life: knowledge of God and knowledge of self. These two things done, the rest will be as well.

To know God is to know how far higher his ways are than our own ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts; for the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. Since the knowledge of God is something in which we grow, not by mere learning and making of many books, of which there is no end, but rather by obeying what we do know by the power of the Holy Ghost and thus feeling the life of Christ grow within ourselves, it is fundamental that a wife obey whatever she does know of God from his holy word. Obeying the word of God, she stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. Whatever the Lord commands, that must she doggedly do regardless of what it takes, even if she must kill or die to do it. This is the example of St Mary, St Perpetua, and many others who have lived in obedience to the Holy Ghost and been glorified by God in the Church. Thus, knowing that she has to fear not man but God, she must know and obey what St Peter says:

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Being humble before the Lord her God, she will know it is to him first and foremost that she submits, because to him she owes her entire life, and only second does she submit to her husband; thus she will also know that she submits to her husband as to the Lord, and that she may disobey him only in matters in which obedience to her husband and lord is disobedience to the Lord. Her trust will not be in her husband’s virtue, nor in her own ability to manipulate him with her womanly wiles, but in the Lord’s unbreakable word. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. Her husband is wise to seek her perspective, because she draws her strength from submission to the Lord and her heart is at peace with the Lord’s love for those who trust in him. She will submit to her husband with courage, not because quiet subjection to a sinning husband is easy, but because the Lord has commanded it and promised the heavenly blessing of communion with himself to those who chastely obey. She will be diligent to obey what she does know, quick to acknowledge what she does not know, and diligent to find out what she does not know. Intellectually, this means she must be humble and willing to learn, not self-assured in what she does know.

For besides knowing how high God is, she must also know herself and ‘the lowliness of his handmaiden’. She is no more entitled to a husband than I am to a wife. If she knows no merit of mine makes me always worthy of reverence, she has also to know that no merit of hers makes her always worthy of love: rather, it is the holiness of Christ that calls me to love her always, and her to reverence me always. For this reason, she shall not even contemplate divorce. Rather than blaming others for her own weaknesses, she must bear in mind that she is responsible before God for her own deeds. And so, rather than dissembling or cloaking her sins before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father, she must – as the Prayer Book says – confess them with an humble, lowly, pænitent, and obedient heart, to the end that she may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy. To do this well, it is good that she confess her sins daily before God, at both Morning and Evening Prayer, not merely to satisfy a form but to bare her heart before God and be shown the mirror of the soul. For she who has been shown her self by the mirror of God’s word, and acknowledged the truth before God, is not slow to own her thoughts and attitudes before her husband. She does not accuse others when she faces troubles, but her spirit is quieted by her knowledge of herself before her God. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

If a wife show the character of St Monica, entrusting herself to the Lord even when her husband and her son do not obey the word of God, modestly relying not on the seductions of Eve but on the power of Christ, can her husband repine? Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

/Brunch/ Is a Strange Way to Spell /Dim Sum/

Iʼm Chinese. What we do is not called brunch. We have the apotheosis of all that is called brunch, as high above brunch as the heavens are above the earth.

YouTube Censors as ‘Hate Speech’ Any Discussion of Legitimate Discrimination

‘Censored’ stamp.

Today, YouTube speaks of updates in its ‘ongoing work to tackle hate’. It lumps together a great deal of discourse with ‘videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology’ and ‘content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place’:

Today, we’re taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.

Given the vague language, these are potentially sweeping prohibitions. To assert one individual or group’s superiority over another is basically meaningless unless one specifies – or unless context specifies – in what respect. This is why most people do not assert general superiority, because God alone is superior in every way.

What YouTube has done is either to prohibit virtually nothing or to announce censorship against even the consideration of ‘age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status’ as relevant bases of rational distinction between people for any social end. If YouTube’s prohibition is not to be practically meaningless, it will by its own discretion censor discussion of any of the listed things as criteria. What YouTube lists as hate speech, then, encompasses many legitimate areas of public deliberation. To support upper or lower age limits for a public office, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary; to support prohibitions against ordaining women as deacons and priests, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary; to support keeping only a nation’s royal family eligible for the crown, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary; to support England’s old exclusion of Papalists and sectaries from public office, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary; to support exclusion of men from women’s washrooms and women from men’s washrooms, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary; to support exclusion of sodomites from the military or from adopting children, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary; to support exclusion of children from sexualized clothing and other sexual exploitation, according to YouTube, is hate speech unless arbitrary. All these discussions we may expect YouTube’s prohibitions to reach.

This would be censored on YouTube:

Or else only speech that glorifies one group as a god above another is prohibited, and most of us are untouched by the new prohibitions.

Which is it?

Christ Is Risen, Even in Sri Lanka

More than 200 killed in deadly Easter attacks on Sri Lanka churches and hotels (see also attack in Munich). May the Lord justify his holy martyrs of Sri Lanka before men on the Last Day, as he has justified them before God.

Jesus, King of Israel, Saviour of the Nations by the Cross

palm-sunday

Sermon, Sunday Next Before Easter (Palm Sunday), on John 12.12–36.

Peace be to you, brethren. Today, David and the pastor are in the Holy Land, so I am preaching instead. But let our hearts follow them and other pilgrims to the Holy Land, back to the events of Palm Sunday 2000 years ago, things that by the Holy Spirit are alive to those who believe and bring them peace.

Today, the King of Israel rides to Jerusalem. Today, the prophecy of Zechariah is fulfilled. Today, the disciples do not understand, but they will. The King of Israel has come to claim his own, and his own is all the nations of the earth, and all the nations of the earth will be taught by his disciples, that they may look upon the one lifted up on the Cross, and in his blood be saved.

As the pilgrims are gathered for the feast of the Passover, to remember how God led all Israel out of Ægypt, Jesus comes into Jerusalem seated on a young ass. O daughter of Zion, fear not! he says silently. Why does the daughter of Jerusalem fear? Because of Israel’s enemies, oppressing the people of God. But God has said through his prophet, ‘I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.’ The Lord has promised, and he delivers: fear not, he says to his people, because thy King cometh unto thee, just, and having salvation. Israel is freed from fear, because the one who is just, the one who saves, is here. This is what Jesus shouts without a word, because he rides in on an ass’s colt.

But anyone can claim to be the Lord’s Anointed King by doing what the people suppose that the Christ will do; not everyone can make good on this claim. Many kings have inscribed their names and been erased by history; many kings have set themselves up and crumbled into the dust. I can proclaim myself king, and no one will believe it. Or many false messiahs have called themselves kings, whom God has destroyed. But Jesus, without speaking, has the testimony of others, bearing witness that he called Lazarus out of his grave and raised him from the dead; and by this the people have reason to hope that he is the promised King to deliver Israel.

Do you even dare to hope for a king who can raise the dead? This Jesus has done what the people have barely dared to hope. The people feel the longing of their hearts. They come to meet Jesus. By the testimony of the Pharisees who hate Jesus, the whole world has gone after him. The people see Jesus, joy of man’s desiring, because he has exceeded what man by his own imagination is able to hope. Perhaps they do not know by what nature can tell them, but by the revelation of the prophets they dare to hope.

And there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast and said, Sir, we would see Jesus. Do you see what kind of king Jesus is? Here he is, the King of Israel, here to free his people Israel from the oppression of the heathen, of the Phœnicians in Tyre and Sidon, of the Philistines in Ashkelon and Gaza and Ekron; and yet here come the Greeks, conquerors of the nations, desiring to see this King of Israel. If a foreign king is come to his own people, what is that to you? You may like the spectacle of a king’s procession, you may be glad for the people of another country that their king will deliver them from their enemies, but do you ask to see this king yourself? There are kings, and then there are kings like this. Let the prophet Zechariah declare to you what kind of king Jesus is: ‘And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.’ He makes wars to cease for his people, and to the nations he speaks peace. Once all authority in heaven and on earth is given to him, his dominion stretches from sea to sea. Is this the desire of nations, the king you have waited for, and the king who satisfies the longings of the hearts of your friends? Was your heart made for him?

Jesus came to make the whole earth his kingdom, the kingdom of reconciliation between enemies, of peace and justice. If Jesus is the king of your heart, think of your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your friends. These are made by God, and sinners before him; remembered with God, and sinners before him; beloved of God, and sinners before him. Think of their hopes and dreams, and their need to be just and to have justice done for them, an extraordinary justice that can raise the dead from hell. For Israel needs no ordinary saviour, and the earth needs no ordinary lord. We have ourselves anointed a thousand false messiahs; the world has seen various ordinary messiahs, such as Cyrus the Great; but the universe can be put together again by only one extraordinary messiah, begotten of the Father before all worlds. We need, and our loved ones need, a king of miracles. Do they know – do you know – the peace that comes from the justice of Jesus the anointed King of Israel?

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. How fitting it is that such a man should be glorified! Not the son of Joseph, or even the Son of David, but the Son of Man, who was the root and the flower of the kingly line to inherit the earth, in whom the meek are to inherit the earth. For this he was sent from heaven, for this born of the Virgin Mary, for this now arrived in the holy city: that he should be glorified. This was the hour that he arrived, because it was the hour when he would lay down everything to receive glory from the Father. And this he did for you, that you might partake of his glory and by the Holy Spirit give glory to God. It was time. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. Do you hear what he says? This was the way of glory when the hour had arrived. There was but one way for the Son of Man to be glorified. The corn of wheat, who contains the entire life of the wheat, and without whom there is no wheat to speak of, and through whom the life of all worlds was made and sustained, that same seed must first fall into the ground and die. The Son of Man, who is come to bring life and peace to all nations by his reign, must first die. Yes, Jesus must die. We must look for his glory in his death; we must find our glory in the Cross. The Cross is how Jesus was to be glorified, and the Cross is how he is glorified. Even now, do not men die wondrous deaths in the sign of the Cross? For the sake of him who first died on it, do they not forsake all things and glory in the sign of the Cross? Is the Cross not now the sign dæmons fear, because of the one who has used it to break their power? Yes, in the Cross all nations are being reconciled today, and men that hated God and each other come to peace. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

If any man serve Jesus, let him follow Jesus; and where Jesus is, there shall also his servant be: if any man serve Jesus, him will the Father honour. If Jesus came to save his people Israel and extend God’s kingdom from Israel all the way to the ends of the earth, this is where his Church is too, bringing the nations to peace. To be sure, there are Christians – or men who bear that name – who in the name of freedom bring men to bondage, who in the name of life bring men to death. If the Church is what Scripture says it is, then those who are washed by baptism are called to condemn such blasphemies and call men to account by the word of God. Because God is love, he is willing to kill every last bit of sin in us, just as Jesus was destroyed on the Cross. The Pharisees of our time will complain that the world has gone to meet Jesus, because of the power he shows in the lives of those he has baptized. This power is available and promised to you if you are willing. Walk while you have light to see. Have you decided to enter Jesus’s service by submitting to baptism? Then follow him, and you will be where he is, and the Father will honour you just as he has glorified Jesus.

Jesus himself said, at the hour of his glorification, ‘Now is my soul troubled’; but he refused to say, ‘Father, save me from this hour,’ because for this cause he was come to this hour. To accept glory is to accept the Cross; to embrace the glory of the kingdom is to embrace the blessed Cross in which that kingdom is found. Do you wish to see glory? Think what you will say to your friends when everything that the faith demands is something society calls hateful, when the obedience to God is called hatred of the human race, when love is hate speech. Will you dare to speak, just as Israel dared to hope that her divine king was come at last? Think what you will say when you get expelled from a school, fired from a job, divorced by a spouse, because you stood up for what God taught and did not deny that he had forbidden the one juicy fruit in the garden. Your soul may be troubled, and it may be hard to believe God’s peace is still with you to defend you from your enemies. Do you say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? When we ask for the Lord’s kingdom to come, when we ask for his kingdom to overcome our oppressors, we ask for his will to be done, not ours. Not ‘Father, save me from this hour,’ but ‘Father, glorify thy name.’ Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

When God promises glory, and when glory is hidden, you may miss it. Think what God’s voice will elicit. The Lord speaks out of the clouds, and you may think it was thunder. Thunder it is, but not only thunder. For those who have no ears to hear, the voice of God himself may be just a rumbling, a rumour of a rolling, random and roiling; but for those who are listening, God speaks. This voice is not for Jesus, who already knows, but for you. God promises to honour you if you trust him with your life. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

Think how God has already honoured you by sending down his only-begotten Son to die in your place. You may have missed this neon sign as you drove by, but let us come back to it and see what it says. Already, before you ever trusted him, before you were even born, Jesus went to Jerusalem to die for your sins and defeat all the enemies that threatened to drag your life down to the pit of hell. He went trusting in God, and God so honoured him that by his resurrection even his death on a cross of shame became a death on a cross of glory. Before you were ever conceived by your mother, the Father in heaven had conceived of a way to become your Father, and the Son had fulfilled the plan. All your troubles, and all the troubles of your people, you can send to the Cross of Christ. Jesus has come to be the deliverer of all, of every nation on earth. Every nation will be saved, and indeed has been saved, by the shame that Jesus the king of Israel took upon himself to win the Father’s glory. This is the miraculous king, who turns lead into gold, wounds into gems. Your shame, if you entrust it to him, will become your glory, just as his shame became his glory, so that his riding toward his death was his entrance into his hour of glory. This is what he promised, that you would share in his glory if you joined him and stayed with him. We see that the Father fulfilled his promise to Jesus, to glorify his Name in him. Not only do we see that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but much more do we see that God raised Jesus from the dead with a body imperishable. The question, then, is not whether you should dare to trust him with your life: the question to ask is whether you should dare not to trust him with your life. If the Son of God has already died for you, do you think he will fail to honour his promise to you?

All men are being drawn to Jesus by the Cross on which he was lifted up, and through this Cross has come the destruction of Israel’s enemies, and deliverance from the hands of all that hate us. You have heard about the Son of Man, and all the world must hear from your mouth. He is the saviour of Israel; he is the desire of nations; he saves by the Cross, to the glory of his Father. The world is being judged, and the world is being saved. Choose to walk in Jesus while you can still see, that by the Holy Spirit you may share in the glory of his kingdom, which is an everlasting kingdom that holds all the world in it. Go to the king, go to the king of miracles, go to the king who is God. Amen.

Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Advantages of the English Reformation over Others?

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I am not sure a comparison between Cranmer and Hooker’s gradual approach and the Continental Reformers’ approach to the reformation of the Church is a fair one. The English Reformation already had the benefit of Reformers and Protestant states on the Continent with which to make alliances and unite as feasible in common cause. Whereas the Continent was rife with civil wars in both the Empire and France, England being peripheral to Europe could better afford to reform its part of the Church without being overrun by invaders. Thanks to English naval strength after the destruction of the Spanish Armada, even the existential threats faced by England for the next centuries seem more often to have been about the prospect than about the reality of being overrun by popish armies and (as ‘God Save the King’ originally said) popish tricks.

Nevertheless, the English Reformation does seem to have worked with the existing commonwealth in ways that the Continental Reformers seem not have done. The first vernacular piece of liturgy, the Litany, was introduced in 1544, and the Sarum Mass (in Latin) was retained until 1549, long after Protestant doctrine had begun to leaven English society in sermons and official statements of church doctrine. Even the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, though Reformed in its doctrinal basis, was so written that Bishop Gardiner was able to claim it plausibly for unreformed doctrine; and only upon that challenge, and with the advice of Bucer, Vermigli, and others for a clearer statement, did Cranmer put together the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Even at this pace, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer sparked revolts in Devon and Cornwall; still less could a more sudden change have hoped to avoid convulsing the nation. Because of this politic pace and the place of the Prayer Book in reformation, Englishmen retained their old loyalty to the Church as such rather than to what appeared to be the doctrine of some particular men, which in my judgement remains a great asset today.

Indeed, a great deal of the Sarum mass and offices was not in itself unconscionable, but only relatively conducive to beliefs and practices that were unconscionable. These forms of services were, in other words, adiaphora: in themselves indifferent, though in need of alteration according to the freedom of the Church to frame services toward ædification according to the general teaching of Scripture. The concept of things indifferent in worship was recognized by the Continental Reformers, of course, since they were themselves able to accept local differences in worship and even to defend England’s forms as acceptable for a Reformed church. All the same, England’s emphasis on treating these adiaphora prudently has lent itself to an easily understood sense that no new church was forged in the Reformation, only a cleansing made of the extant Church. On the popular level, I think, such an understanding is necessary, especially in times when the world is changing fast; strangely, perhaps, this kind of careful conservatism helps the Church adapt to changes in the world because its members understand the organism as one that has survived through challenging times with its life and biblical witness intact.

God’s Love in a Stillborn Child’s Life

Not having attended many funerals recently, I do not well remember a particular passage of Scripture I have seen used with a tender sense of the circumstances and to good effect. But I did last year attend a viewing for the death of a child who had been born dead, though I was unable to attend the funeral itself. I did not get to hear the funeral sermon, but I think in the preacher’s position I might have chosen Ecclesiastes 11.5 as the sermon text:

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

The wording of this verse alone leads us to think of both the stillborn baby girl herself and the child’s mother in whose womb her bones grew. Rather than speaking of a child and a womb only, this verse bids the hearer attend to the relationship between the mother and the child. This relationship, of both mind and body, of living soul and living soul, is what the mother has had cut off in death, and through her all the mourners. With a child who was born dead, there is not a full life from which to draw examples and testimonies of the Lord’s work, yet in the very relationship of the mother and her child we feel that work of the Holy Spirit. The kingly Preacher speaks of bones growing in a womb, as an incarnation of the relationship between the child and her who was with child, and invites us to feel that concretely: bones and womb. This was no mere shadow of the imagination, but someone who was intimately within the life, within the very body, of the one who lost a part of herself and delivered a child born dead.

We know not which way the wind wends, and we know not how the child grew bones and how the child died: the wind that blew was the Holy Spirit, who gave and took away. We know not his works, but we know that he lovingly knit together the bones of the child that now is dead. The Preacher tells us that we cannot make the Spirit’s way ourselves, but we can observe – even without seeing – the care with which he put together the body of the beautiful child who died even before she ever saw the light of day. It mattered not to the Spirit, as it might matter to us, how long the child would live to use her bones; the Spirit knew the child would die and gave her the gift of bones, that she might show a childlike love before that love was even born. This is the Spirit to whose love we entrust the baby and all the love she ever gave and received.

It is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun; but the days of darkness are many, and in those days we have nothing to trust but the one who gave us both light and darkness. The Preacher says,

Cast thy bread upon the waters:
for thou shalt find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, and also to eight;
for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Everything can change, and everything did change for the mother and her baby girl. Yet God, in the child’s life and death, showed in the darkness a patience and a love that the mother could only feel but could not see. This God judges what the eyes of man do not see, and because of his righteous judgement he knows our sorrow, knows it better than we. But this same righteous judgement, who judges what our eyes cannot see and took the child away from the sorrow of sin, calls us all to remove that sorrow from our hearts and put away evil from our flesh. He calls us to know his love in the valley dark as the womb, that we may feel his tender warmth in the darkness of the womb.

Against Speaking of ‘Balance’ in God

If ‘balance’ were a useful resolution to the antinomies of the unchangeable character of God, then we could balance the oneness (unity) of God and the threeness (trinity) of God by holding dogmatically that God is two.

Stillness in Companionship with the Bereaved

In companionship with the bereaved, as Alan D. Wolfelt says in Companioning the Bereaved: A Soulful Guide for Caregivers, a most meaningful principle is being still; it is not about frantic movement forward. This is something I have yet to learn well, even though I acknowledge its truth. We might fruitfully compare the mourning of death with the mourning of sin; and this not only because the wages of sin is death, but also because many people today are averse to mourning of both kinds. It is far harder to sit with an awareness of one’s own sin, and to acknowledge that things are not all right, than to strain forward toward God-knows-what; the same is true when one feels a piece of his heart broken by the death of one he loves. Who wants to own himself incapable of righting something wrong with him, and to acknowledge his own dependence on someone to save him? Much rather would he say it pro forma, to ease his own feeling of the moment enough to just move on. Even he who does so by reason, then, is loath to sit with the thought, and with the feeling, to sit on the ground with the truth about himself. We fear being crushed by the truth, and yet we need the truth to open our hearts to the purifying love of Christ, and this truth is what the Holy Ghost whispers in the stillness of Mount Sinai.

Yet the Chinese once knew that nothing but time, dedicated time, would be sufficient. Mourning for the dead cannot be hurried. In the idealized past, a Chinese scholar-official whose father or mother died would take leave from his post and mourn for three years, eating nothing but gruel, avoiding delights of the world, and every now and then wailing in a shack behind his house. For other relatives, within the five degrees of mourning, he would do similarly, though for a shorter time and with finer sackcloth. The ritual was systematic, even if it was an ideal to which not everyone would practically attain. We may not do exactly the same, but we may practise these things in spirit as much as we can.

To our loss, Christian Chinese seem to have given these things up. Perhaps in the rush to modernize by the latest Western standards, and to leave the old behind, we have forgotten the wisdom of the ancient paths. To be ruled by someone else’s race, rather than to be like the pole star, fixed in the heavens, is to forget where God is. What does God say? ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ To cease from striving, to know one’s abjection and yet to rest in God’s love, is to find the presence of the God who has always been here. This is the presence we share with those who have lost those they have loved, and this is the presence we desire them to know with us, and us with them. Man fears time, and time fears the pyramids; but after all things have passed away, even the pyramids, do we not find our value in being loved by God, and in loving him? When we give ourselves the space to mourn, and when we give others the space to wear sackcloth and mourn for three years upon the death of a parent – to turn their harps to mourning, and their organs into the voice of them that weep – we show respect for their pain, that they may allow themselves to acknowledge in their hearts, and before the face of God, what they have lost and how desperate they are for God. To dwell in the moment is good. We live in light of the Resurrection, and because of it we are justified, but to God the time of death is real as well. To see the light of Christ in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death is not to be out of that valley, but to be encamped there and dwell in the hope of God’s healing and deliverance; for we walk by faith, not by sight. For this reason we cling to the holy Cross. We pause in the unresolved dissonance. By putting on sackcloth for our own mourning, we are not forgetting the grace of Christ and turning back to pagan sorrow, but we are remembering the meaning of mourning as those who are doomed to die and mourn with hope. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.