Visual and Aural Æsthetics of Hagia Sophia

Take a look.

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‘Trump calls for deportations without judicial process,’ says BBC

Such is the sensational headline used by BBC to describe what President Trump has said. Likewise, the New York Times says in a headline, ‘Trump calls for depriving immigrants who illegally cross border of due process rights’.

In Japan, meanwhile, clear cases of illegal immigration are not a judicial matter at all, but an administrative matter. Japan routinely deports known illegal immigrants without trial. Indeed, classifying illegal immigration as an administrative matter makes the most sense if – as some loudly assert – illegally entering the United States is not a crime but a mere lack of administrative documentation. What we should ask is, Why and since when does America treat obvious cases of illegal immigration as matters to be resolved by courts at all, rather than as routine matters of administration?

Proudhon and Authority: Federalism and Mutualism

Robert Nisbet says in The Social Philosophers: Community and Conflict in Western Thought (Crowell, 1973), 371,

To the growing bigness of things economic and political, Proudhon opposed the necessity of a society based upon small groups and communities. These would be only loosely connected in a commune, which would be the next-highest level of organization. Each group – whether a family or a local or work association – would be sovereign over all matters affecting it alone. There would be no masses of individuals each directly related by a potentially tyrannous conception of citizenship to the all-powerful central state. Federalism and mutualism would be the keys to the good society. From mutualism would proceed the groups and communities made desirable by human nature and social function, with a maximum of autonomy in each. From federalism would proceed the necessary political structure of that autonomy to be found in each form of group and association. Thus would be achieved, not direct rule through centralized bureaucracy, but indirect rule, with a high premium placed upon decentralization and division of powers.

To me, this sounds quite close to Althusius, and rather far from (anything I have seen of) Schmitt. Proudhon’s vision of human society is certainly attractive; on the other hand, against the forces of global neoliberalism, the New Left, a nation’s defence requires the power to marshal the œconomic and military and cultural forces strong enough to withstand warring aggressors on every front – in a word, autarky. This is something that perhaps Althusius can supply in theory if Proudhon cannot:

The communion of right (jus) is the process by which the symbiotes live and are ruled by just laws in a common life among themselves. This communion of right is called the law of association and symbiosis (lex consociationis et symbiosis), or the symbiotic right (jus symbioticum), and consists especially of self-sufficiency (αὐταρκείᾳ), good order (εὐνομίᾳ), and proper discipline (ἑὐταξίᾳ).

Thomas O. Hueglin has brought the two in dialogue. I should read more. What do you think?

Introducing Wang Yi 王怡’s 95 Theses on the House Church

As reported by the South China Morning Post, on 4 June of this year (this past Monday), ‘hours before a planned evening service to commemorate the Tiananmen Square anniversary’, Early Rain Covenant Church 秋雨之福歸正教會, a Presbyterian church in Chengdu 成都, was raided by police. According to SCMP, ‘The Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, had planned a two-hour prayer session at 7.30pm to mourn those killed in Beijing 29 years ago.’

My purpose here is not to explain the political implications of what was done either by Early Rain Covenant Church or by the police in Chengdu, but to draw attention to a document issued in 2015 by the church’s head pastor, Wang Yi 王怡. This document was ‘95 Theses: The Reaffirmation of our Stance on the House Church’ – or, in Chinese (simplified characters), 我们对家庭教会立场的重申(九十五条). Evoking the 95 theses of Martin Luther, these theses by Wang Yi were published online to coincide approximately with the 60th anniversary of the arrest of Wang Mingdao 王明道 in June 1955 for publishing ‘We Are for the Faith’, a declaration of the reason he and others refused to join the Party-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Wang Yi’s 95 theses are structured as follows:

Theses 1–17: God’s Sovereignty and Biblical Authority.
Theses 18–31: God’s Law and Christ’s Redemption.
Theses 32–39: Against the ‘Sinicization of Christianity’.
Theses 40–44: Church as the Body of Christ and His Kingdom.
Theses 45–72: The Relationship between Two Kingdoms and the Separation of Church and State.
Theses 73–95: Against the ‘Three-Self Movement’, and Affirmation of the Great Commission.

With some of Wang Yi’s 95 theses I heartily agree, and with others I firmly disagree on grounds both biblical and historical. I intend hereafter to write several blog posts here evaluating the principles expressed in these 95 theses. In the meantime, some will find it useful to read Chloë Starr’s 2016 article ‘Wang Yi and the 95 Theses of the Chinese Reformed Church’.

為流產、墮胎死去的小孩舉辦案葬禮

教會若為流產、墮胎死去的小孩舉辦案葬禮,邀請全體的基督徒來送殯,經常在耶和華面前致哀痛悔,結果會如何呢?

https://m.weibo.cn/status/4248091403501809

Limitations of Suzhounese

Suzhounese 蘇州話, spoken in Suzhou 蘇州 (anciently known as Gusu 姑蘇) in Jiangsu 江蘇 province, sounds nice for saying nice things to your wife, and it sounds very attractive when spoken by women, but I couldn’t take seriously any military orders given in that language.

Addai and Mari for the Church of China Today?

To do honour to the Lord’s work in China of old, the Church of China could follow the first Chinese Christians in using the Anaphora of Addai and Mari (whose structure and content Thomas Mannooramparampil explains), at least on certain days. This Anaphora could be used within the existing Holy Communion service on the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle, on whatever feast day might be set for Alopen 阿羅本 the Missionary (7c.), and on Sundays in Lent:

First Gehanta, after the opening dialogue

Worthy of praise from every mouth and of confession from every tongue is the adorable and glorious name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, who didst create the world by thy grace and its inhabitants by thy mercifulness and didst save mankind by thy compassion and give great grace unto mortals.

Sanctus

Thy majesty, O my Lord, thousand thousands of those on high bow down and worship and ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels and hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit, praise thy name with holy cherubin and seraphin shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of his praises.

Second Gehanta

And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to thee, O my Lord, even we thy servants weak and frail and miserable, for that thou hast given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, O our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.

Third Gehanta

Do thou, O my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been wellpleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world.

Yea, O our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his lifegiving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.

Anamnesis

And we also, O my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and lifegiving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.

[For on the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.]

Epiclesis

And let there come, O my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it, that it be to us, O my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been wellpleasing in thy sight.

Doxology

And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honour and confession and worship to thy living and holy and lifegiving name now and ever and world without end.

Kuyper Against Liberal Modernism

A blog post by Steve Macias on Kuyper’s debt to Tractarianism’s anti-Whiggery led me to James Bratt’s book Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat (Eerdmans, 2013). He says,

Perhaps, I am putting too much weight on Kuyper’s conversion story and its connection to the Tractarians, but they both spring from the same revolt against modernity. Both Neo-Calvinism and Anglican Traditionalism are born to combat the tides of what they saw as liberalism. It is impossible to understand the Anglo-Catholics as a liturgical movement alone, they also represented an anti-modernist political philosophy for the Church against the encroachments of ‘whiggery’. In a similar way, Kuyper would develop a political theology as a result of his high view of the church, as a defence against modernism, not as a tool for power or mere social engagement.

I myself have no confidence in Christian democracy, certainly as it has become in the late 20th century and early 21st, and I’m pretty sure Kuyper was wrong about many things, but I probably should read Kuyper and read about Kuyper.

Goebbels on Women in Society

For an anticlerical with socialist tendencies, Joseph Goebbels (1933) had perhaps surprisingly respectable views on the place of women in society:

Looking back over the past years of Germany’s decline, we come to the frightening, nearly terrifying, conclusion that the less German men were willing to act as men in public life, the more women succumbed to the temptation to fill the role of the man. The feminization of men always leads to the masculinization of women. An age in which all great idea of virtue, of steadfastness, of hardness, and determination have been forgotten should not be surprised that the man gradually loses his leading role in life and politics and government to the woman.

It may be unpopular to say this to an audience of women, but it must be said, because it is true and because it will help make clear our attitude toward women.

The modern age, with all its vast revolutionary transformations in government, politics, economics, and social relations has not left women and their role in public life untouched. Things we thought impossible several years or decades ago are now everyday reality. Some good, noble, and commendable things have happened. But also things that are contemptible and humiliating. These revolutionary transformations have largely taken from women their proper tasks. Their eyes were set in directions that were not appropriate for them. The result was a distorted public view of German womanhood that had nothing to do with former ideals.

There are things in society that men cannot do, and God has given those things to women. Nothing must usurp the place of this calling for women, especially women who wish to please God as nature and Scripture have directed.

Likewise, there are things in society that God has entrusted to men and not to women, and men must do them. It is not for women to rule, but to be the home; it is for men to rule and defend the home and the homeland that, once constituted by men’s setting and continually keeping the boundaries, has received the womanly graces that then flourish.

Tfw Cannot Speak Taishanese

Central Guangdong

My ancestral home is in Taishan (Toisan) 台山 County, Guangdong 廣東. Even though I don’t speak or even really understand the Taishanese language – my mother tongue, and that of my parents, is Cantonese – and even though my grandfather was the last person among my closer relations who ever lived in Taishan County, I do identify as Taishanese. (The phænotypes of broadly Cantonese folk differ enough that I can sometimes tell which county people are from, and certainly there are people from Panyu who do not look like anyone from Taishan.) That I cannot understand much Taishanese, let alone speak it fluently, is something I find regrettable. A great majority of my ancestry is from Taishan County or from Xinhui County next to it, whose language is very similar.

 The Seiyap languages are in light purple, and the Guangfu dialects (Cantonese and similar languages) are in pink.

Edit: The Seiyap language group, to which belong the languages of Taishan 台山, Xinhui 新會, Kaiping 開平, and Enping 恩平, is arguably not Cantonese (or Yue) at all, being closer to Cantonese only through convergent evolution. According to Sau-Lim Tsang (no close relation of mine) in ‘Bilingual Education in a Chinese Community’ (pdf, 1982), however, ‘Research on Siyi phonology has also found that Cantonese and Siyi show regular and systematic correspondence.’

Taishanese is often thought to be a variety of Cantonese, but the two are about as different as Portuguese and Italian: the average Hongkonger who speaks Cantonese can understand about 30% of Taishanese accurately, and my guess is that a native speaker of Taishanese can understand about 50% of Cantonese without prior exposure. For those who know or can recognize Cantonese, this is a Tang dynasty (618–907) poem by Li Bai 李白 read aloud in Taishanese:

Here’s something more colloquial, about certain reduplicative constructions in Taishanese (warning: there’s one curse phrase in there):

Probably the most Taishanese thing about me is my boneheaded hillbilly stubbornness. Who knows? Maybe that could help me learn a bit more of the language.

Baptism for Public Testimony of Your Own Faith? Try Again

Baptism of Constantine

The Baptism of Constantine. Excuse the tiara. The painting looks cool.

Where do evangelicals get the idea that the point of baptism is to testify outwardly about one’s faith? Not one verse in the Bible suggests that public testimony of one’s own faith is even one of the reasons to be baptized, let alone the chief or only reason. Try it yourself: search for every occurrence of bapt* in the Bible, and see if even one verse in that search suggests that one reason for baptism is for the one baptized to testify of his own faith before other men.

What do you find instead? Ananias saying to Saul of Tarsus, as St Paul later recalled,

The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

This is why in the Nicene Creed we confess, ‘I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.’

You will also find St Paul saying of baptism in Romans 6,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

And St Peter says this of baptism in 1 Peter 3:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

What surprises me is not that modern evangelicals are unable to reckon with these passages, or that they misinterpret Scripture. Many parts of the Bible have become a puzzle to evangelicals who have long imbibed the ways of the world, so that little else is imaginable. But what does surprise me is that modern evangelicals, who purportedly believe in ‘sola Scriptura’ and sometimes criticize Romanists for following another principle, do not even attempt to justify their understanding of even something so important as the meaning of baptism on the basis of Scripture. Not one verse have I heard cited in support of the understanding that the point – maybe even the only point – of baptism is to show other people that you have made a personal commitment to Jesus.

Contrast this understanding, not at all drawn from Scripture, with what the London Baptist Confession (1689) says about baptism:

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

The prooftexts listed are: Romans 6.3–5; Colossians 2.12; Galatians 3.27; Mark 1.4; Acts 22.16; Romans 6.4. In this understanding, much like those of other Reformed Protestants, baptism is ‘ordained by Jesus Christ’ as a sign ‘unto the party baptized’; the word is not of that of the believer but that of Christ, who ordained the sign. Modern Protestants, take heed.

Thematic Bible Conference for Ethnic Reconciliation?

tbc-luke-gospel-justice-peace

The W4CAA’s annual Thematic Bible Conference in Princeton (30 June to 1 July this year) is not that big, but I have high hopes for this conference as a way to promote the Church’s ministry of reconciliation and healing for the nations. In particular, I think God can use it to train Coptic Christians to reach their Muslim neighbours from Ægypt with the gospel, and Chinese Christians to reach their Uyghur neighbours, and in so doing reconcile nations that are not at peace with each other.

bible-study

Peace between Copts and Muslim Ægyptians

In 2005, Jersey City saw a Coptic family of 4 murdered, and a local Ægyptian community once living side by side in peace, sharing Ægyptian origin and culture, was sharply divided. The murders followed close upon fights in Ægypt which had killed 20 Copts and one Muslim Ægyptian. The father who was killed in Jersey City had been involved in some fiery debates with Muslims in Internet fora. Copts strongly suspected Muslims, and Muslims who did not want to be blamed. And the Coptic community in New Jersey, particularly in Jersey City, was quite large. According to the New York Times in 2005, Copts were more than 12% of Jersey City: ‘The Census Bureau does not track religious affiliation, but both Coptic organizations and the Jersey City chapter of the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations estimate the number of Copts to be above 30,000 and the Muslims to total about 25,000, out of the city’s population of 239,000.’ Discord between Christians and Muslims in Jersey City touched at least 23% of the whole city. I suspect these wounds have often been renewed: last year, on Palm Sunday, ‘many members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mark awoke to the news that people dear to them [in Ægypt] had died or were wounded simply for being Coptic Christians.’ Bombings of two Coptic churches had killed more than 40 people and injured at least 100. O Lord, Ægyptians need a peace that only thou canst give.

pope-shenouda-iii-way

As Religion News Service reported,

Dr. Mona Tantawi, a New Jersey Muslim from Egypt and a pediatrician, was profoundly moved by Copts’ reaction and sees continued attacks on Coptic churches as an attempt to destabilize Egypt.

‘The Egyptian community, Christian or not, we are the same culture,‘ she said. ’What happened was devastating, and when I look at their reaction? … They are really living out the teachings of Jesus.’

It seems the righteousness of the Copts has caused Muslims in New Jersey to give glory to God, and Jesus has commissioned the Church to also show Muslims the word of God, which is the word of everlasting life. If inductive Bible study in a context of hospitality became a way for Coptic Christians to extend peace and reconciliation to their Muslim neighbours from the same country, I know not what a powerful witness that could be in the world, a witness to the power and justice and mercy of God. If Copts in America were encouraged and equipped to show the greatest love for their Muslim neighbours, perhaps Copts in Ægypt itself would be empowered to do the same up and down the Nile. The point is not debate between Christians and Muslims. The point is not to win by the convincing arguments of man’s ingenuity. The point is for everyone to know the peace that comes from Jesus, from the word of God himself; for by his word God brings peace, and by his stripes we are healed.

Peace between Han Chinese and Uyghurs

Farther south, the DC area is home to America’s largest population of Uyghurs, more than Los Angeles. Several thousand Uyghurs have made their home in northern Virginia, and I know of 5 Uyghur restaurants – I ate at one of them, Queen Amannisa, on my birthday. Everyone who pays attention to Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan and Dzungaria) knows how Han Chinese and Uyghurs have been shaken by ethnic strife. The Chinese Communist Party, fearing Salafi Islamist separatism, has clamped down even on marriages done the traditional Uyghur Muslim way; riots some years ago killed many people, and some Uyghur Salafis (modernists who do not follow a traditional madhhab) have fought for Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. Han Chinese often fear that Uyghurs may be terrorists; Uyghurs often see Han Chinese as invaders in their homeland. At the same time, last year I saw an advertisement for an Uyghur restaurant, Dolan Uyghur Restaurant, at a Chinese supermarket. Chinese folk like Uyghur food and hospitality, and Uyghurs want their business.

laghman-dolan-uyghur-restaurant.png

God has a reason for putting North America’s largest population of Uyghurs in the DC area. I think the next move falls to the Chinese churches in northern Virginia. It is Han Chinese Christians who have to bring Christ’s message of peace to the Uyghurs in the DC area, forming relationships with them and inviting them to see for themselves the gospel of God’s kingdom, the gospel in which Jesus Christ reconciles the nations to God and to each other. The gospel is a beautiful thing, and it is Han Chinese believers who must be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation, that the Han Chinese and the Uyghurs may be friends in the love of God.

New Heavens, New Earth, New Life

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lesson: Revelation 21.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. [He is risen indeed.]

DEAR brethren in Christ, today is the last Sunday of Easter. This Thursday, 40 days after our Lord’s bodily Resurrection from the dead, we will remember his Ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Since Easter Day, 1 April, I hope you have reflected well on what the Resurrection of a Jew from Nazareth, 2000 years ago, means for you today. If he conquered the grave 2000 years ago but it does not change your life today and tomorrow and the day after that, it is of no use to you.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. St John, at the end of his visions in heaven, after many momentous events and the rising and falling of nations, sees this. After many frightful signs and many encouragements of God’s faithfulness to those who love him, after long spiritual battles between the saints and the wicked, this is the place we are come to in the visions given to John: a new heavens and a new earth, when the first heavens and the first earth are passed away.

Here are three basic truths I would impress upon you today: The new heavens and new earth are real. The wicked will not partake of this kingdom. The kingdom is glorious for those who have a part in it.

The new heavens and new earth shown here, at the end of all things, is real, as surely as the Lord lives today. Many Christians imagine that the end of all things is heaven, a place up high above the earth, away from real life. They think of it as a kind of never-never-land. They think of it as a dream. That is completely backward. The Bible never teaches that we go to heaven when we die, and that this heaven is the end of every Christian. Let me say it in other words: Your destination is not heaven. The Bible does not say you will go to heaven when you die, and it does not say you end up in heaven. What the Bible teaches is something much more real and substantial. What does the Bible say?

I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. What is being made ready now is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, not some faraway thing called heaven. Look at your Bible. Look at John’s vision. Where is this city in the end? This city comes down from God, out of heaven. So where will this new Jerusalem be? The holy city, the new Jerusalem, will be on earth.

And this holy city is a bride adorned for her husband. As St Paul also says of the Church, in Galatians, Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. The bride is the Church, the holy city, new Jerusalem; the husband is Jesus Christ. Think who Jesus is, and you will see whether this holy city that will come upon the earth is real. The Son of God is the realest being there is, because he is God. Anything imagined by you alone is less real than you. If the new heavens and the new earth were just your imagination, it would be as real as your imaginary friend when you were five. But the Son of God is realer than you, because you were imagined by him. If Jesus did not continually imagine and sustain your existence, you could not exist. And for you he was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, descended from king David. And for you he tabernacled with men, and dwelt with men. And for you he was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem. And for you, on the third day, he was raised from the dead and walked out of his tomb. And for you he remains a man today, with a new and glorious body. And for you he has imagined the new heavens and the new earth, and has laid it before you as your hope at the end of the world, and says he will wipe all tears from your eyes, and declares that this holy city of the saints, this New Jerusalem coming to the earth from heaven, is his bride. I ask you, Is Jesus such a damned fool as to be married to a mere figment of your imagination?

Hear what Jesus says: Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus says, these things are true and faithful. What he has showed John, and us, is as good as done. It is done because his own glorious Resurrection from the dead is the firstfruits of our own resurrection. The two resurrections are part of the same thing. For this reason, if Jesus surely walked out of the grave alive, then just as surely we who trust him with our lives will be raised out of our graves and come into his new world. For he himself is the first person to live this reality. The first Adam brought death into the world, and Jesus is the last Adam, bringing life into the world by his own Resurrection. Therefore he says, Behold, I am making all things new.

So this kingdom, this city, is real; but the wicked do not partake of it. Jesus says, The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. You’d better believe it. Who has his part in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur? The fearful and unbelieving. Remember who feared the coming new world: those who did not believe in Jesus or love him above the things of this world, those who loved even a sick and dying world rather than Jesus. Those who love the world rather than Jesus, he tells us what that character looks like when taken to its logical conclusion. Unbelief makes people into the abominable, people who deserve to be hated. It makes people into murderers, people who are willing to kill Christians because they hate Jesus that much. It makes people into whoremongers, people who take what is meant for marriage and spoil their bodies by doing it with whores. It makes people into sorcerers, people who refuse to submit to God and instead use witchcraft to try to control the world. It makes people into idolaters, people who serve images of health, wealth, and beauty, who refuse to know God as he truly is and instead indulge themselves with pictures they have made for themselves. These are the fruits of unbelief, and unbelief ends in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.

Think about whether you believe when your belief is tested. Or, if your belief is being tested now by suffering, see if you actually believe. As C. S. Lewis says in his book A Grief Observed, ‘Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination. Yes; but should it, for a sane man, make quite such a difference as this? No. And it wouldn’t for a man whose faith had been real faith and whose concern for other people’s sorrows had been real concern. The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which “took these things into account” was not faith but imagination. The taking them into account was not real sympathy. If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came. It has been an imaginary faith playing with innocuous counters labelled “Illness”, “Pain”, “Death”, and “Loneliness”. I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find I didn’t.’ What is your belief like, and what is your share? Do you trust the rope, do you trust Jesus, or are you the fearful and unbelieving, who will die the second death in fire and brimstone?

But let us speak of better things. The kingdom of God, which will be fully revealed and burst forth out of our hearts when the power of the Holy Spirit has remade the whole world, is glorious for those who have a share in it. This is what baptism promises us. Scripture tells us, by the pen of St Peter, that baptism saves us by appealing to God out of a good conscience, that we might share in Christ’s death and resurrection. Let us look at the resurrection. Let us look at the bride, the Lamb’s wife. If we believe in Jesus Christ, we are that city, descending out of heaven from God. The wall of this city of God has 12 foundations, and in the 12 foundations are the names of the 12 Apostles. Look at the materials of the 12 foundations: each is made of a different kind of stone, like the 12 stones that in the Old Testament were inlaid in the breastplate of the High Priest. The priests led the worship of God. This city is a city of worship, in which the saints lead all creation in praising God. We have heard about the city of Jerusalem, in the land of Israel; but here John calls us to see the glory of what the new Jerusalem will look like on the new earth. The twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

This imagery is strange to us. We are hardly able to imagine it. God invites us to see it, and our minds are hardly able to look at it. This is the opposite of shadows, which we can easily look at. The world we live in now is not the real world. Because of sin, we are now living shadows of the real stuff we will be when God makes the new heavens and new earth. Whatever is good in this world now, whatever is worth loving in this world now, we love in the world to come because it will be realer then than it is today. Whatever you can lose in this world now, in the new world you will have it realer than you have it today; whatever good you do in this world now, in the new world you will see it realer than you have ever seen it here. What are your realest and greatest joys here and now in today’s world, and what will it be like when the former things are passed away and the real world of Christ’s Resurrection is begun?

The reality is, Jesus is the Lord of the world today, and in his new world this reality will be realer than ever before. The dying bodies we have now will be raised into bodies of glory and incorruption, worshipping God and doing great things with a strength we have never known. What heroism lives in us now, the heroism of Christ living in us and redeeming our bodies, it will be something greater than we can imagine, just as what John saw was beyond what he could fully describe. Justice and mercy, wisdom and power, we will see them real and glorious, stranger and truer than we have ever known.

Let us pray, that the Lord may grant us a share in his Resurrection.

O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of the enemy: Grant us so to die daily unto sin, that we may evermore live with him who died and rose again for us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Coptic Bishop’s Advice: Bible Study for Evangelism

A Coptic bishop commends Bible study as a way of evangelism before people are ready to ‘go to church’, especially since church services are rich in ritual and there is much people will not understand without first learning about God.

The bishop says those who are seeking God and understand that church is about meeting with God, not about merely socializing with people, will not be deterred by a church that has not figured everything out about welcoming newcomers.

Are you ready to go to this summer’s Thematic Bible Conference, 30 June to 1 July?

Jesus the Risen Keeper of the Church

Call to worship: Psalm 16.
Lessons: Revelation 6.1–8 and Matthew 28.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Alleluia, praise the Lord, Christ is risen. Give me the answer: He is risen indeed. Say it. Alleluia, Christ is risen. Tell me.

DEAR brethren in Christ, we are gathered today to continue to rejoice in the Resurrection of the Lord, to worship God’s Anointed king on his holy hill, and to see him by the Holy Spirit at his throne in heaven. For a week ago, after the Lord’s progress to Jerusalem, his knocking at the doors of our hearts, after the Lord’s Crucifixion outside the walls of Jerusalem, his death for you and me, he was then found on Easter Day, the third day from his death, to be alive. For this reason, since Jesus is risen from the dead, since Jesus has split the sea like Moses and made the faithful to walk through it, since Jesus has brought us over from death to life æternal, we count it Easter for 40 days, until the day of his glorious Ascension to the throne of God. This Easter, this feast of our Lord’s glorious Resurrection, is our Passover of gladness.

When John was taken up to heaven to see the throne of God, and the book was in God’s hand but no one could be found to open its seals, no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth, he wept. John wept because no one was able to break open those seven seals of the book, to unseal the revelation of God’s heart to us in the things which were to come. No one was worthy to do so. Now, by the power of his Resurrection in glory, Jesus the Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken the scroll from the open palm of God and is able to open its seven seals. In this man’s hand are all the corners of the earth, and the seals of destiny are in the hand of this man who was raised from the dead, and we can trust in him.

On the book are seven seals, and we have heard John tell us of four. Let us look at these with the eyes of our hearts, that the same Holy Spirit who showed these things to John may also show them to the eyes of our believing hearts. These visions in heaven are fantastical signs, wonderful and strange; but they were revealed to John, and thus to us, in order that we might understand God. Though we do not understand everything, yet we may understand what is given us to know. So let us now consider these seals, Revelation 6, that were opened by the man who conquered death.

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. Here, one of the four winged beasts at the throne of God, having eyes all over him and having the face of a lion, summons John with a voice of thunder: come and see. Come, draw near by faith, and see what you have not yet known. And we see a white horse, and on that horse a conqueror. This conqueror is the first horsemen of four, and these four are often called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This is the first seal that Jesus has broken open: a horseman is sent out on a white horse, and he has a bow, and he is given a crown, and he is sent forth conquering and to conquer. Remember, at the beginning of this book of Revelation, John calls Jesus Christ the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. For when the Lord ascended into heaven and opened all things, he held all authority in heaven and on earth. This righteous man took this kingly authority when God raised him from the dead, and thus he is today the prince of the kings of the earth. When you see the kings of the earth, when you see their power, do not be deceived: they can have no power except by the will of Jesus, whom God the Father has made King of Kings. But when Jesus goes forth to conquer with the authority given to him, he sends the Twelve. At his Resurrection, he sent the eleven disciples – the twelfth, Judas, had killed himself – he sent them to conquer the earth, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ This is the conquest of the white horseman, the conquest of Jesus the king, the conquest of the Church crowned with Christ. Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit, whose words the Church sent forth as arrows reaching to the human heart, that they might overcome unbelief. And the crown on the head is promised to the Church by the Holy Spirit. This is how our risen king conquers the earth. When the Lord conquers, we conquer. So he says to the church in Smyrna, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. Come and see, says the winged calf. Do not be frightened when there is war and terrorism on the earth, when men kill one another and take peace from the earth. When fatherless sons who do not know hope burst into a school and shoot innocents, it is not a surprise. When the unbelieving Jews kill Palæstinians in Gaza, and drop poison gas on innocents, it is not a surprise. When the Saudis use American funding to rain bombs upon the people of Yemen, and destroy their hospitals where innocents are, it is not a surprise. Jesus has opened the first seal for the Church to conquer the earth with his word, and he has also opened this second seal for nations to kill one another. Our king, who is risen from the dead and rules all the nations, is willing that the nations should kill one another with the sword. For he said, in Matthew 10, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. War and blood is nothing unusual, and we are not so great that it will leave us untouched. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was hated by those who did not want the temple cleansed, and they killed him; those who reject the gospel are like wild beasts, and they kill both us and one another. But the Lord was raised. The glorious Resurrection of our Lord brings peace and rejoicing to the hearts of those who love him, but war and the sword and the spilling of blood to the hearts of those who oppose him. Yet when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be frightened, says Jesus in Matthew 24; for he is king. So he says to the church in Thyatira, He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. Come and see, says the winged man. Just a quart of wheat for a whole day’s wages, and just three of barley for a whole day’s wages. The black horse is famine, for the Lord says in Matthew 24, ‘There shall be famines in various places’; but the word is particularly applied to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, 40 years after our Lord’s Resurrection, when there was a horrible famine in the land, and men killed each other for a hint of food, and a mother in the city killed her own baby to eat him. These dreadful events that befell Jerusalem at the destruction of the city and its temple are recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus, as the Lord Jesus foretold in Matthew. And today we also see starvation. The civil war in South Sudan, even with billions in American aid, has killed many with famine; an eight-year war in northeastern Nigeria waged by Boko Haram jihadi terrorists has killed many with famine; the war of the Saudis against their neighbour Yemen has killed many with famine, in the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. The balance in the hand of the black horseman weighs grain for food, but it also weighs the faithfulness of the Christian believer. In the midst of famine, the Lord keeps for those who love him the oil of the Holy Spirit and the wine of his own blood poured out for us. The Lord keeps for us the joy of his kingdom, and he assures us that the joy of the Church is not hurt even in time of starvation. The Lord provides for his people. He gave his judgement against Jerusalem in Matthew 24, and the Church heard and recorded what he said. A few years before Jerusalem was destroyed, all the disciples obeyed the Lord’s word in Matthew and fled to another city across the River Jordan. Because they had fled in obedience to the Bible, they were not destroyed. Against the enemies of the Lord, however, the Roman army brought against Jerusalem a holocaust that killed one fourth of all Jews on the earth. By the Lord’s care, the Church was not destroyed. So he says to the church in Ephesus, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. Come and see, says the winged eagle. Here is the horseman of pestilence and death, pale as sickness. This too, even as the other three, is a seal opened by the risen Christ for us to look into the book of God’s heart and God’s judgement: the sword, hunger, pestilence. As the Lord in the Old Testament once showed his mastery over the gods of Ægypt by the ten plagues he brought upon the land when Pharaoh would not let his people go, and as the Angel of the Lord struck down the firstborn of all Ægypt, so the resurrected God-man Jesus is master of even death and Hades. Those who hate him, especially, them he destroys with plagues that man is powerless to stop. Those who see the frightful scenes of the Black Death in the Middle Ages may feel relieved that modern medicine keeps this death away. Those who saw the HIV plague kill hundreds of thousands in the 1980s and 1990s think medicine saves them now. HIV is less and less caught through drug needles and natural sex, but has only increased among men who have sex with men, who believe their medicine will save them. But I am told that our medicines for preventing death by HIV already show signs of failure, and those infected with it need harsher and harsher drugs to live. We may be on the cusp of another outbreak. What God wills, no man can stop. But the Lord loves us. Those who love God, who trust Jesus the risen Christ, who has power over all sickness and death, will be masters of death. Jesus has been raised incorruptible, unable anymore to die, and we too share in his glorious body when we eat his flesh and drink his blood in his holy Supper. So he says to the church in Pergamon, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

The preaching of the gospel of God’s kingdom comes together with war, famine, and plague; the peace of the heavenly Israel comes together with the bloody destruction of the wicked Jerusalem on earth. For God’s people, who trust in him, the gospel is good news of peace. As surely as Jesus has been raised from the dead, so will we be raised from the dead immortal and incorruptible, masters of sickness and death. The Lamb that was slain has opened the seven seals of the book of God, and he has given us the oil of the Holy Spirit and the wine of his own blood, which will not be hurt by starvation. For the wicked, however, who reject the peace of God, the gospel of peace is a rumour of war, a hunger pang of famine, a smell of death.

In the words of John Wesley, ‘The Son of David rode forth, conquering and to conquer, and will reign ’till he has brought down all opposing rule, principality and power.’ If Jesus Christ is not the treasure of your heart, the one in whom you trust, every kind of death will catch up with you, because Christ is king, and you are with Death. The choice is before you today: Do I serve this Jesus of Nazareth, or do run away in horror? Shall I kiss him today, or shall I wait for war and sickness and death to catch up to me when God wills it? Without Christ, you will be mastered by death; but with Christ, you will master death, because Christ has already conquered, and holds the keys of hell and death.

This is the choice before you because Christ has been raised from the dead. Come and see, says the angel with the face of a lion. Come and see, says the angel with the face of a man. Come and see, says the angel with the face of a calf. Come and see, says the angel with the face of an eagle. Come and see the power and majesty and love of the one who is worthy to open the seals of the book of God. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Let others fear war and famine and sickness: for our own part, let us fear nothing but the King of Kings. This man is with us, and this man now reigns over war and famine and sickness. The war comes at the leave of the Son of Man. The famine comes at the leave of the Son of Man. The sickness comes at the leave of the Son of Man. Choose to live and reign with Christ, because he is the faithful one who overcame. Because Christ has conquered, we will conquer. Come, war! we will conquer. Come, famine! we will conquer. Come, sickness! we will conquer. Come, Lord Jesus! in thee, we will conquer, and we claim the crown through thee. Let us say with the Greeks today, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life.

Hell took a body and came upon God!
Hell took earth and encountered Ηeaven!
Hell took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the firstfruits of them that have slept. To him be glory and might, world without end. Amen.

Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Psalm of response: Psalm 2.