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?

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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.

Worthy of Glory by the Way of the Cross

Call to worship: Psalm 24.
Lessons: Revelation 4–5 and Matthew 21.1–16.

Procession+in+the+Streets+of+Jerusalem+by+James+Tissot

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

DEAR brethren in Christ, we are gathered today to fear God and worship him. Today, on the Sunday before Easter, we remember when the Lord came to Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt and knocked at the gates of Jerusalem’s heart. Today, we remember that the Lord Jesus came knocking to bring us near to God, as he has said in the seventh of the letters in the Revelation to John:

‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.’

We are here today to remember a victory that our Lord won by passing through the darkness of the shadow of death. The path to the knowledge of the glory of God leads through Jesus’s death on the Cross, and by the promise of God this path of humility is the noblest in the world.

In the Revelation to John, as soon as our Lord Jesus has dictated his letters to the seven churches of Asia, the very door of heaven is opened, and the scene changes from letters on earth to visions in heaven. So our author is taken up to heaven by the sound of a trumpet. Many decades after the Lord Jesus has been taken back up to heaven, to sit down as a man at the right hand of God the Father, now the old man John is taken up to heaven in order to see things which, in his words, ‘must be hereafter’. Thus he is caught up from earth to heaven to see what, at the time of his writing, is yet to come. Hear the sound of the trumpet that speaks to him: the trumpet says, Pay attention! The wisdom of heaven; let us attend.

And immediately, says John, I was in the spirit. What he saw, these spiritual realities, he saw by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us then see what John saw. A throne is set in heaven, and there is one who sits on the throne. We are reminded of the last throne John mentioned, when he said, ‘To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.’ Let us look at this throne, and at him who sits upon it.

This is our God, whom John sees in heaven by the Holy Spirit: His throne is girded about with a rainbow that gleams with the depths of an emerald. Around his throne are the twelve tribes of ancient Israel and the twelve Apostles of the new Israel – this is you, if you put your trust in Jesus – clothed in white and crowned to reign with God, forming the circle of the cosmos. He himself sits upon a throne with lightnings and thunderings and voices, and his seven fiery spirits blazing before him. This is the God whose face none can see and not die.

The Lord, he dares you to be lukewarm in the presence of his power, before the vision of his throne. Look at a sight like this, look at it truly, and tell me if you can be lukewarm. Either you will share in this glory and be drawn into it, or you will flee as far as you can flee from this presence. You can be hot, or you can be cold, but think which you will be.

And before this throne are four angelic beasts full of eyes before and behind, and six wings on each of them, wings full of eyes. As they cry ‘holy, holy, holy’ to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, day and night, the twenty-four elders fall down before him that sits on the throne, and worship him that lives for ever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. This is the God who was, and is, and is to come, the God who spoke the worlds into being.

This is the worship into which we are come today; this is the worship into which we are come every week, into the presence of uncountable angels, into the presence of the living God; this is the worship for which mankind itself was made, for which the Church was made, for which the only-begotten Son of God rode up to Jerusalem the Sunday before Easter, that in heaven he might offer this worship up to God. This is a noble and worthy purpose.

But who is worthy to open the book that lies upon the open right palm of him who sits on the throne of God? Who is worthy to open the seven seals that seal the book, to open up the knowledge of God, that his heart might lie open to us, and that we might lie open to one another, heart to heart? The voice of the angel that asks this question, his voice pierces heaven, earth, and hell; his voice pierces, and the human heart answers. This is the longing of the heart, to know what is in the book of his future purposes, to look into the future and see the heart of God and see him face to face. But no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. This is why Jesus rode up to Jerusalem the Sunday before Easter, because no man anywhere could open that book of life where everything is declared.

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. How did he prevail? The word of God declares it, by the pen of Matthew. The disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the donkey, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. When a true king is crowned, there is always rejoicing. But this ‘hosanna’, the Sunday before Easter, was not Jesus’s victory. It was only a sign of the praise he would receive for the victory he was to win in a week. Jerusalem hears the great noise of people rejoicing, and David asks in Psalm 24, Who is this king of glory? This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee, the Lord of uncountable hosts of angels: he is the king of glory.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? Who can open the seven seals of the book in God’s right hand? Matthew shows us. Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

But he had ridden that day into Jerusalem not to be proud, but to be humble; not to be served, but to serve, and to give up his life as a ransom for many. His cleansing of that filthy temple, his kicking out the buyers and sellers, his overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers, was for you. God is to be worshipped, and Jesus had to stand in his holy place and make us able to worship. One does not simply walk into the worship of Almighty God. In the Old Testament, under the law of Moses, in order for God to live with his people, the priest had to wash the temple with blood, because the sins of the people stained the temple and made it a foul place, too sickening for God to dwell in. That foul sin in the temple, that corrupting of God’s praise into the seeking of gold, of gain, of money, of all the things we grasp for instead of God – the soap for scouring that sin out of our hearts is blood. Blood is the price for sin. Sin is in our hearts, and the seven seals of the scroll could not be opened, and Jesus had to humble himself that week.

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did, and the children calling out in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased. The path to glory is not an easy one. The course of true love never did run smooth. The rich and powerful opposed Jesus. They hated Jesus. If you love Jesus and follow in his footsteps, they will hate you. If you are willing to stand for the truth against all the power of the newspapers and the schools and the banks, they will call you anything they can think of to break your heart. At school, they will call you a fool and an enemy of science; at work, they will call you a sexist, a racist, and a homophobe; at church, they will call you a blasphemer against the Name of God. Imagine this: You know that both the Old and the New Testaments call homosexual acts a shameful and hateful thing before God. You see a Christian friend come out as ‘gay’. What do you do? If you see that friend’s post and refuse either to like the post or to write a favourable comment, people will try to get you rejected at school, and sometimes they will get you rejected; they will try to get you fired, and sometimes they will get you fired; they will try to get you shunned by Christians, and sometimes they will get you shunned by Christians who are afraid and call you a judgemental, unloving, false Christian. Can you bear this rejection by people you know, or will you never reach that point? Think carefully whether it is better to be with Jesus or to be against him. If you choose every day to be with Jesus and not with his enemies, those who hate him will also hate you and call you haters of mankind. Jesus himself rode into Jerusalem to cleanse the temple, and the chief priests and scribes were displeased and tried to find a way to kill him.

But there is something noble here. Jesus saw what was before him, he saw what he had come to do, and he humbled himself to do it. The book of God’s right hand had to be opened for us, that we might know God. He who was God and had laid the foundation of the earth, he now trusted in God. He knew he was coming to his death. He had chosen to do this. He willingly came to give himself up to his enemies, and to lay his life down before those who did not want him to cleanse the temple and show himself as the Root of David. A man who hands himself over to his enemies without any hope of being vindicated, justified, upheld, so that his case is justly avenged, such a man is a fool. There is nothing noble in being a fool. There is only shameful death, to die alone, scorned, rejected, and supported by neither man nor God. And Jesus, on the path to his own kingly glory and to bringing many sons to glory, accepted having this said about him, that he was a fool. He knew that his powerful enemies and the whole nation of the Jews would despise him and mock him, saying, ‘He trusted in God, that he would deliver him, if he delight in him.’ Trust, if not based on facts, is useless. But Jesus was willing to be called a fool, because he was not a fool. His mission was already declared by the prophets who spoke in the Old Testament, and he trusted that God would vindicate him as righteous and wise and worthy. Therefore, for good reason, he would humble himself lower than he deserved; and in lowering himself as a man, betrayed, beaten, stripped of all his clothes and hung upon an instrument of dishonour and death, he would become worthy to be the king of Israel and of all the nations of the world.

This is how he humbled himself in order to truly and spiritually make the worship of God clean, spotless, holy. On Friday morning, five days after today, Jesus was delivered by the Jews to the Roman governor, and by the Roman governor back to the Jews, and he came to the place where he took upon him all our sin and shame. He had taken the nature of man upon himself in order to deliver it from sin, to make it holy again; and now he was nailed to the wretched thing that the Romans used to kill criminals and slaves. As some Christians sing on that Good Friday,

Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree,
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.

Why did Jesus do this? He knew that God’s promise to him was faithful and true. And so, being a man like us, he trusted in the justice of God. He trusted that the mockery of the bystanders saying, ‘He trusted in God,’ would be changed by God into a testimony of his worthiness. ‘Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.’

This is the path we must all take if we would see the glory of God, if we would have the seven seals of the book of God opened to our eyes. As people say, No guts, no glory. Weep no more, says the elder: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. When we say we follow Jesus, we must follow him in the path of the Cross, to be killed in the flesh with all its lusts for comfort and ease and power, so that our souls and bodies may be justified with him in glory.

And God, who is faithful and just, did not leave Jesus in the land of the dead. And I beheld, says John, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. Jesus had been slain, had been shamefully slaughtered before the eyes of all Jerusalem, but here he now stood in the midst of the throne of God, surrounded by the winged beasts and all Israel of the Old and New Testaments. His human body had been raised from the dead in glory, and 40 days later his human body had been lifted up to heaven, where he now stood. And here, in John’s vision by the Holy Spirit, the God-man Jesus came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Take part in the glory of Jesus. Accept, as he did, the shame and spitting of those who hate him. If you already love him, do not be afraid. If you live your life trusting in what he has done for you, you are there in heaven today when you worship him with your whole heart. God by his Holy Spirit lifts you up in Christ Jesus to those heavenly places where John saw this vision. If Jesus is the one you trust, you are there in heaven today with the four beasts and twenty-four elders. You have nothing to fear from the enemies of God, because the one you love is with you, and being despised and rejected like him will only make you partake of the glory into which God has transformed the Cross.

Jesus comes knocking at your door, and he has ridden up to Jerusalem today to cleanse the temple of your heart. He wants you to be able to worship him in the purity of truth, in the beauty of holiness. He humbled himself; he wants you to bend the knees of your heart and follow his humble path to the Cross. He wants you to die to yourself every day, that you may truly live. Every nation must bow before him, because the earth is his, and everything in it. As he says at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ The reward, of knowing God and inheriting the earth with Jesus, is for those who humble themselves now because of the love he has humbly showed to us. As he said to the church in Philadelphia, so he says of his enemies and yours, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

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.

Psalm of response: Psalm 130.

China: a Fourth Rome?

Last month Thermidor Magazine published my article on the idea of China as a fourth Rome (#China4thRome); my article was also picked up by Geopolitica. That was pretty cool. May the Lord direct the growth of his Church in China, and purify the saints there, that his Church may serve his purposes and not unwittingly those of Antichrist.

*

As a Chinaman born in the United States, I find myself able to speak to both places and neither. By accidents of fortune, however – or of providence, rather – I have identified more with China even as I have lived my whole life in the West. English is my third language, after Cantonese and Mandarin, even if I use it to express my intellectually most complex thoughts; and though my best of the three in writing, trained by the use of Latin, it is the vehicle of a Chinese soul. So it is in English that for the past year I have memed an idea as unconventional as it is ambitious, unto the Europæans a stumbling-block, and unto the Chinese foolishness: #China4thRome.

This idea I do not attempt to defend rigorously, between various powers’ conflicting claims to carrying on the Roman heritage; neither do I intend to claim that Moscow, which has seen itself as a Third Rome after the original Rome and then Constantinople, is fallen. Instead, I think back to the division of the Roman empire, first under Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and then at the death of Theodosius I, the last ruler of the undivided Roman empire. In the second partition, at the death of Theodosius, Arcadius became emperor of the East, with his capital in Constantinople, and Honorius emperor of the West, with his capital in Milan and then Ravenna. That the Roman empire did not stay uniformly strong under a plurality of emperors is not the point. What is significant about the administrative division of the Roman empire among several emperors is that the idea of Rome can be one even while its administration is diverse.

By divine providence, the Christian religion – and through it, Rome – has spread even through the bourgeois imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Across the world, the civil calendar of common use is that of Rome, reckoned from 1 January; few places has Roman law left wholly untouched. Nevertheless, never have we observed in the world of Roman culture an ethnogenetic pattern like that of the Chinese empire as described by the prologue of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義: ‘The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.’1 According to classical Chinese cosmology, the phrase rendered the empireis more literally all under heaven 天下, the Chinese œcumene being its ‘all under heaven’ much as a Persian proverb speaks of the old Persian capital of Isfahan: ‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast,’ Isfahan is half the world. As sociologist Fei Xiaotong describes it in his 1988 Tanner Lecture ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese People’,

The Chinese people had their home in the vast land of eastern Asia which borders on the Pamirs in the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east with the offshore islands, the vast desert to the north, the sea to the southeast, and the mountain range to the southwest. Bounded by natural shelters on all sides, it is a geographical unit with a complete structural system of its own. In the eyes of the ancients this was the only piece of land for the human race to live in. For this reason the land was called Tianxia, meaning “all the land under heaven.” Another name for China was Sihai, meaning “the land surrounded by seas on all sides, as was believed in those times. These conceptions are, of course, long outdated. What remains true is that this piece of land, which forms a geographical entity by itself, still serves as a living space for the Chinese people.

And this Chinese œcumene has united and divided for centuries, even as those who live in it have recognized a fundamental unity. But Rome, unlike the Chinese empire, has lived on in multiple successor polities, sometimes several at once, without ever coming back together as one empire administered as one. Perhaps something of its character has instead uniquely suited it to being the spirit of a kind of broader world empire. As Dante says in De Monarchia, ‘As the human race, then, has an end, and this end is a means necessary to the universal end of nature, it follows that nature must have the means in view.’ He continues,

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman people, in subjecting to itself the world, attained the Empire by Right.

The chain of great civilizations from the Atlantic to the Pacific has long been Rome-Persia-China, but of these three only one, for better or worse, has now set the world’s common terms of discourse. This is perhaps not yet as much the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran, but the entity we call China has been shaped by an encounter with Christendom, and with elements parasitic upon Christendom, whose impact cannot simply be ignored or blotted out. The very explicit concept of China as a geopolitical space – the geopolitical awareness that the ‘all under heaven’ of the axial Son of Heaven, who sits in the centre, facing south, was a space among spaces on the planet – comes from an encounter that forever shattered the older, literal interpretation of these spiritual concepts. There is no going back. The Chinese knew, long ago, that there was a Rome; even farther back, it was from Indo-Europæans (possibly those we today call Tocharians, inhabiting the Tarim Basin now part of Chinese Turkestan) that they learned chariot warfare and possibly bronzeworking, and even the ancient Chinese word wu巫, ‘mage’, may derive from Old Persian maguš. So it is not that the Chinese were ignorant of other advanced cultures, but, even with the tides that enriched the Chinese with the ideas and materials of other cultures, nothing else had the powerful pull that generated and sustained the Huaxia 華夏 culture whose cradle was the middle reaches of the Yellow River. So even the dialectic of Huaxia culture with the Steppe, without which China would not be what it is – for Turan has given China not only the pipa 琵琶 and the erhu 二胡 but also emperors of dynasties we see as native – has not so challenged the identity of the Sinosphere. The power of Rome in Christendom, and of Christendom in Rome, has reshaped China and is still reshaping China, and it is in response to this encounter most of all, as it is for the individual who is converted to the gospel of Christ, that the Chinese have had to define themselves; for it is, what the Chinese have not known before, an encounter with Christ and Antichrist.

Oswald Spengler has spoken of the (modern) West as wholly different in character from ancient Rome, Faustian rather than Roman, but it is perhaps truer and more fitting to say that in the life of the Western nations is both something we can call Faustian and something we can call Roman, sometimes the one having the upper hand and sometimes the other. For, even if much of the modern talk of Rome and living its glory be counterfeit, a mere conceit, yet something must be there to be spoken of so widely, so long after some have dated the ‘fall of Rome’ at the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in the West at the hands of Odoacer. The translatio imperii, transfer of empery, is not merely a fiction, for the polity of Rome was indeed set in Constantinople, and there it became, though smaller in jurisdiction, a more perfect vessel of the truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh; likewise, Frederick II of the House of Hohenstaufen, whom Dante called ‘the last Emperor of the Romans, last, I say, as regards this present time’, took up the mantle of Rome and, though twice excommunicated by the Bishop of Rome (in 1227 and 1245), from Sicily and the south of Italy extended his ambitions not only to Germany and Italy but also to Jerusalem, holding a court at Palermo that was known for its culture, where philosophy, art, music, science, and poetry from Latin, Arabic, Italian, Northern Europæan, and Greek traditions bore fruit together. Europe itself, as a geopolitical space and not merely a designation of physical geography, can be said to be a Rome, for a long time a multiple Rome. When aligned with the heavenly City of God, it breathes the spirit of the Rome used by God; when aligned against it, a Rome assimilated to the Faustian spirit. Yet the line between the two Romes, to borrow a line from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, cuts through the human heart.

That God was at work even in and through the colonialism of Rome’s Western successors, which was driven by the greed of evil men and the libido dominandi, the lust for mastery, is no idle talk built upon the sand; for even through these shameful things, great and terrible, the saving gospel of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ has gone forth to the ends of the earth, through the humble and not through the boasting of the merchant-pirates and usurers. Some have thus seen how God spoke to their peoples through types and figures before the coming of the gospel, and in the gospel found themselves, found the principle by which their selves and their nations should be saved. From the Ming dynasty to the present, this is the power that many of the Chinese, from Matteo Ricci’s Confucian converts to Republican fathers Sun Yat-sen 孫中山 and Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石, and even Chen Duxiu 陳獨秀, cofounder of the Chinese Communist Party (more here, with abstract in English), have felt in Christianity coming from the Roman world: that it can save the empire. Thus can Rome be said to have set its expanse – or to have been set in its expanse – over the world.

The Chinese œcumene’s first significant record of the Roman empire was in the Han dynasty, in the 1st century, when military ambassador Gan Ying 甘英 called it Daqin 大秦, or Great Qin. Rome was therefore, in some way, a copy of the Chinese empire, an alter Sina. The empire’s first meeting with the gospel of Jesus Christ coming from the Roman world, however, may have been in the 7th century, with the coming of the priest called Alopen. The Nestorian Stele – of which Georgetown University has a fullsize replica – records the favour with which the powerful Tang dynasty emperor Taizong responded to this ‘luminous religion of Daqin’ 大秦景教. But the crucial direct encounter with the West, for good and for ill, was almost a millennium later.

As University of Oregon professor Arif Dirlik explains in his essay ‘Born in Translation: “China” in the Making of “Zhongguo”’, this encounter is what created the concept of China for the Chinese. The renaming of the empire of the Great Qing (1644–1911) in its last years, he says, ‘was directly inspired by the “Western” idea of “China”, that called for radical re-signification of the idea of Zhongguo [‘Central Country’], the political and cultural space it presupposed, and the identification it demanded of its constituencies’. The idea of the Central Country was, rather than a political entity, a civilizational ideal rooted in the classical culture of the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 BC–256 BC) and its central states on the Central Plain of the Yellow River. It was not until the rise of nationalism, and finally, the Republic after the fall of the Qing, that Zhongguo became the name of an actually delineated country rather than a diplomatic convention.

We may say it was the West, being both Rome and Faust, that broke the old interpretation of the ancient Chinese cosmology and made the concept of China and thus exposed it to more open war between Christ and Antichrist. In the mid 19th century, the First Opium War (1839–1842) and then the Second Opium War (1856–1860, treaties signed 1858 and ratified 1860) blew the Qing empire open to the presence of Western aliens even in the interior, and to embassies in the capital, and thus to both Christian missionaries and the Sassoon family’s opium (cf. the Sacklers’ trade in opiates today). Meanwhile, the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864), picking up the Christianity thread in doctrinally aberrant ways, was a response to the decadence of the late Qing and the suffering of the common folk under foreign imperialism, but it also killed about 23 million persons. The line between Christ and the Antichristian spirit of global capital was twisted and strange indeed, and in the midst of these convulsions was the modern national idea of China-born. Though biochemist and historian of science Joseph Needham 李約瑟 shows in Science and Civilisation in China that Chinese science had already developed indigenously before the arrival of modern Western science, Arnold J. Toynbee’s account reflects better the feeling of the Chinese people:

In breaking off relations with the West in the form in which the West had first presented itself, the Chinese and the Japanese had not disposed of their ‘Western Question’ once for all. A rebuffed West subsequently transformed itself, and then reappeared on the East Asian scene, now offering its technology instead of religion as its principal gift, and the Far Eastern societies now found themselves confronted with a choice of either mastering this newfangled technology for themselves or else succumbing to it.

The challenge was, and is, to develop technologically in such a way as to stand up to the weaponry of the West, yet without becoming the West and thus surrendering without a fight. On the one hand, the Great Qing Code was reformed along German lines, making China a potential inheritor of Roman law through the Napoleonic Code, if it will have it; on the other hand, Sun Yat-sen’s ressourcement of the Chinese tradition looked not to the Faustian West for China’s modern identity but to the wisdom of the ancient past. China can be a fourth Rome, but it cannot be the Rome of the modern West without losing its soul. Instead, it must be a Rome of true Christian orthodoxy against the dissembled and dissembling Christianity sold by Faustian agents today.

The Chinese Rome may have the power to challenge the Faustian West and its White-supremacist Faustian Christianity, a false Christianity we see not only in the most obvious exponents of the neoliberal (dis)order but also in the fantasies of Ross Douthat and Michael Dougherty about an ‘Africa’ that, as P. T. Carlo puts it, ‘exists within a narrative for the sole purpose of helping the white protagonist realize his potential’, and for this reason is assimilated by Mr Dougherty into the Faustian geopolitical entity of The West™. The fetish of some Papalists for Cardinal Sarah (the based Negro cardinal) is not, as some imagine, a Black supremacism, but a White supremacism in disguise; and this Western chauvinism in ecclesiology and geopolitics deserves to be turned back by a non-Western Romanitas, whose priorities are not those of the Faustians of the West.

A Christianity both indigenous and orthodox is perhaps hard for a Westerner to see. Following Jesus’ designation of himself as the Vine and the parts of the Church as the branches, consider wine and terroir. The seed is the word of God, which is sown into the heart. The gospel of Christ is the life of the Church – being in one Head, we have exactly the same Holy Spirit, and we drink of one cup in the Eucharist – but how exactly to treat the one grape will vary by terroir: just as you factor soil, altitude, terrain, sun-orientation, and microclimates into decisions on pruning, irrigation, and harvest time, so the same faith varies in things indifferent to its being. Cultivated in different conditions, the same plant (or the same clonal variety) looks different and makes for wines that look, smell, and taste different. The Church of China will not look like a typical Anglican church, and neither will it look like a typical Byzantine church: such is a national church fit for a China opposing the coercive and deceptive force of the West.

As reported by David P. Goldman at the Asia Times, the West is panicking at the œconomic rise of China, not least in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) linking China to Europe by the ways of the ancient Silk Road – a growing œconomic power Dr Goldman thinks is matched by cultural power, not least in Yuja Wang’s interpretation of Beethoven.

Western analysts in general dismissed China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). During the past year, though, new rail lines have lined China to Iran, Turkey and from there to Western Europe, drastically reducing the time and cost of shipping across the Eurasian continent. Two rail links to Iran are now in operation. On September 6, the first train to Teheran departed from Yinchuan, capital of northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with a 15-day journey time to Iran’s capital, half as long as sea transport. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway linking China with Turkey and the South Caucasus begins operations in October. China already is Turkey’s largest source of imports. As a result, once-neglected areas of Western China have become the most dynamic zones in the China’s economy. According to a recent study by the Milken Institute, the fastest-growing city in China is Chengdu, a metropolis of 12.3 million people in Sichuan province. Few Westerners can find Chengdu on a map, but it exemplifies the initial success of BRI.

Of greater moment, however, is spirituality, not œconomics. The œconomic integration of a geopolitical Eurasia led by Russia and China against the geopolitical West of the neoliberal Washington Consensus is, I think, only a sign of more significant spiritual things. The BRI designs of the Chinese Communist Party align – probably not by human design – with many Chinese churches’ ‘Back to Jerusalem’ vision for evangelizing all the lands from China to the Holy Land. Indeed, some Christians of Asian origin have reported being led by God to begin work in Central Asia in the 1990s when no one understood why, and only now is it becoming clear to them that God, who prompted that work then, has also now orchestrated BRI development in Central Asia. For China, the spiritual stakes have been raised.

It is possible that China contains, for development, an alternative of multipolarity to the Washington Consensus of open-market policies promoted by the IMF, World Bank, and the US Treasury, but the way is dangerous. The Chinese bourgeoisie is growing in power and therefore in its capacity for immorality, and to follow their lead would be a worthless endeavour.

Bourgeois culture, spiritually threatening to assimilate the powers that be in China to the global (Western) élite, is a challenge for the Church itself. Wenzhou, sometimes described as ‘China’s Jerusalem’,2 is a nouveau riche city with Christian bosses who rose from rags to riches; it features a capitalist Boss Christianity whose prosperous lay leaders believe they serve God by making money, running churches as entrepreneurs and running factories as Christian enterprises drawing poor labourers to the promise of a better life in Christianity. It looks like the religion of Americanism, a nihilism that grew into the global capitalism of the post-Cold War world. Will China go with a Wenzhou Boss Christianity, oriented toward the business of manufacturing outsourced from the West, and the seeking of power and glory through commerce? or will it go with a Christianity oriented toward the Eurasian continent, and the voluntary laying down of boss power to build neighbours up? Chinese Christianity must align not with high-finance imperialism, which breathes the spirit of Antichrist, but with those who like Burkinabé president Thomas Sankara in the 1980sare resisting that neoliberal disorder’s supremacy by struggling for independence from it. Only thus will the Church be the spiritual life of a China that takes the shape prædestined for it by God, a China that leads other nations by the strength of Christ in a common resistance against the geopolitical powers of Satan. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Now back to Zion goes the pilgrim’s eye,
Translating holy leaves into Chinese,
The sages for Aquinas. Riding high,
He circumambulates the Dipper’s keys.

Around the four directions goes his sign,
Yet stays where northern lights have made their home,
Facing the south, where province-cauldrons nine
Are come to offer to this lord of Rome.

For this is where we find Jerusalem,
And holy Zion in the pious heart;
This is the dwelling, faith the bosom’s gem,
Where Holy Ghost and Holy Church ne’er part.

By faith is fair Jeshurun in Cathay,
A promised temple for a coming day.

Notes

  1. Fei Xiaotong, in ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese’, 214: ‘Going back in history, China as a state was unified during two thirds of the post-Qin period, and it was divided for the remaining one-third of the historical span. But the picture was different concerning ethnic relationships. Throughout the ages the Hans had been expanding themselves, and the process of absorption and assimilation went on with more vigor whenever the country found itself under separatist rule, as conquests by national minorities generally brought the ethnic groups closer together.’ 
  2. See Nanlai Cao’s study Constructing China’s Jerusalem: Christians, Power and Place in the City of Wenzhou

Flimsy Grounds for Dismissing Jason Reza Jorjani

My eyes are shot, enough that I donʼt believe I can take my final exams, but I thought I would post some comments from an email I sent a while ago, on a statement written by the history faculty of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University against Jason Reza Jorjani:

The entire statement is to denounce Jorjani’s ‘views on race’. I cannot feign knowledge of the details of Jorjani’s views on race, enough to judge his ability to ‘educate and evaluate [NJIT’s] students’. Some of the details given in the statement, however, are not to the purpose.

First, the ‘exposé’ cited is classified even by the New York Times as an opinion piece. Jorjani is there quoted as saying, ‘We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great. And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category – no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.’ While I disagree with classing Hitler together with Napoleon and Alexander the Great, I also think no good is done by maintaining a mythos in which he is the one great unique man of Europe, ‘without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life’, whether favourably or unfavourably. Is it objectionable to glorify Hitler? For his objectionable deeds, aye. But I do not think Hitler’s genocidal behaviour toward Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and others unique. It is those who most strongly play up The Holocaust™ as a culture-defining mythic event that have most often find it useful to attribute to Hitler a quotation about the Armenians as a genocide no one remembered:

Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [Lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Indeed, I cannot see who still remains as a proper subject of guilt for The Holocaust™. The desire to foist it upon all White Europæans, and even upon all who can plausibly be called White (except Jews), is itself at least as despicable as the desire to rehabilitate Hitler for which the op-ed blames Jorjani.

Second, believing in differences in IQ distribution among broad population groups keeps no one from recognizing academic ability and achievement in students of all genetic and ethnic backgrounds.

Third, given most people’s firm support for keeping the likes of Peter Singer at Princeton, I cannot see how this quoted opinion of Jorjani’s is particularly problematic: ‘With the emerging technologies of embryo selection and genetic engineering, it would be possible, with the right leadership and government planning, to restore the pre-Arab and pre-Mongol genetic character of the majority of the Iranian population within only one or two generations.’ The implicit approval of abortion and related evils is objectionable, but that is not at all what the authors of the statement consider objectionable. Nor does it give any more reason to find Jorjani more inappropriate an instructor than Singer. A fortiori, if approval of abortion be insufficient to consider Jorjani unable to educate and evaluate students, so is approval of genetic engineering aimed at restoring a certain genetic character to a countryʼs population.

Marginalia on What?

In light of the impossibility of hope, I return to Dávila for Jerusalem.