Glossolalia, the most misunderstood

Recently the Domestic Expression of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity has been focusing on three topics stemming from the Leadership Gathering in April: clustering (getting closer together), vocations (gathering more who are called), and renewal in the Holy Spirit. My previous post of cell group teaching gave an overview of the gifting of the Holy Spirit. This post starts focusing on some of the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Remember that the previous post noted that any of the gifts of the Spirit that are exercised without the holiness that the Spirit leads us into will be perverted and become destructive. Also note that the perspective taken here is basically a biblical studies and historical approach, although with some pastoral observations.


While the lists in the Pauline and Petrine letters are not complete, but are examples shaped to the context of the argument in which they are included, we see clearly that: The Word Gifts are on a continuum: least comprehendible (by both speaker and hearer) to most comprehendible. The diagram below pictures this, and the fact will become clear as we continue.

Glossolalia/Interpretation —–  Prophecy ——  Teaching/Exhortation 


The first word gift, the least comprehendible, is glossolalia, which we encounter, first in an extended discussion in 1 Cor 12-14 and then in Acts 2. It raises a number of questions, which we shall take up one at a time.


First, is it non-language, ecstatic sounds? From a biblical historical point of view, one does find ecstatic non-language group speaking in scripture, but only in the early exilic/ pre-exilic former prophets, who attribute it to an earlier time and context. For example, one finds it in 1 Samuel and 1 Kings in the prophetic bands (the groups are still present in 1 Kings 18:13), which are probably the same as the “sons of the prophets.” While we do not hear of any content to the prophecy in Num 11, it is clear in 1 Sam 10 that the prophetic band stimulated what is normally identified in modern scholarship as glossolalia by energetic singing or chanting, accompanied by musical instruments (1 Sam 10:5). This was the means used to induce the ecstatic experience. The experience could be catching (at least when the Spirit was involved), for in 1 Sam 10:10-11 Saul “catches” it as the Spirit comes upon him and he starts to do the same thing. The experience of singing and processing seems to have included dancing (as in David’s “dancing before the Lord”) and/or laying on the earth in ecstasy (as Saul does in 1 Sam 19:20-24 – notice that Samuel is presiding over something when Saul comes up angrily and then involuntarily joins in), with both associated with “nakedness” or indecent dress (which might simply mean the removal of one’s outer garment, which one wore when out of the house and not doing physical labor, but then falling to the ground and dancing in which one kicked up one’s skirts, might both produce at least flashes of indecent exposure). While this is called “prophecy”, that is because it was the original meaning of a term that later shifted its meaning, for 1 Sam 9:9 indicates that the original meaning of “prophet” [Heb nabi’] was associated with such behavior and “seer” [Heb ro’ē] was associated with what we normally associate with biblical prophecy. Later, perhaps by the exile, the ecstatic behavior drops out of favor, and the term “prophet” comes to mean what we associate with the writing prophets (Elijah – Elisha seeming to form a transition). The term “seer” stopped being used. This type of ecstatic speaking was not unknown outside of the Hebrews, for in 1 Kings 18:26, 28-29 we find Ba’al prophets dancing around their altar (derisively called “limping” by the prophetic author of 1 Kings) and cutting themselves (when dancing alone did not do it) and prophesying (derisively called “raving,” for it was ecstatic speech, not understandable speech). While these references are all biblical, one would see something of the same in Ancient Near Eastern texts describing pagan practices. That, of course, should be a warning, for apparently-glossolalic-type utterances are not necessarily Christian (or ancient Israelite), but the altered states of consciousness can be induced by the same means in many contexts. But this is not what the New Testament means by glossolalia or “speaking in tongues.”


Second, what does the New Testament mean by glossolalia? It means speaking in a language not known to the speaker. This is clear in all New Testament references. In Acts 2 the 120 started spontaneously speaking in languages that they did not understand (since they were probably all Greek and/or Aramaic speakers), but which the those who visited Jerusalem recognized as their native languages (although a traveler would normally speak Greek). In his long discussion of glossolalia (which was being abused in Corinth) Paul in 1 Cor 13:1 groups glossolalia under the rubric of language, human or angelic. And in 1 Cor 14 Paul’s argument assumes that the language can be interpreted (i.e. that it is a language), even if the ability to do that is a divine gift. Finally, as Andrew Wilson points out in Christianity Today, in the Fathers it is also assumed that glossolalia is a language, even if unknown to the speaker or the group to whom he or she is speaking (without the spiritual gift of understanding it). Thus, what the New Testament is talking about and what the Church experienced over the centuries is a linguistic phenomenon, speaking in a language unknown to the speaker, even if the language involved was angelic.


Third, how common is glossolalia? In Acts it is a common, but not unique, mark of the filling with the Holy Spirit and thus part of Christian initiation for many people, with it either preceding or following immediately upon baptism. But in Acts it is notthe only or necessarymark of the filling with the Holy Spirit, nor is it a mark of re-filling with the Spirit even in Acts. Prophecy, joy, and other such expressions are equally marks of the filling with the Holy Spirit. Glossolalia seems to be common, as if the joy and inner experience of the Spirit can only find expression in Spirit-given words, but it is by no means unique. In Acts 19 Paul asks whether the people in a group had been filled with the Holy Spirit upon conversion, so he expected some experience, but he does not ask if they had spoken in tongues. In fact, 1 Cor 12:30 Paul argues that not all speak in tongues (the form of the question with Greek indicates a negative answer, “All do not speak in tongues, do they?”). In fact, Paul’s argument as a whole in 1 Cor 12 is against the idea that ever believer can or should speak in tongues/ use glossolalic speech, for there are varieties of gifts and no one has all of them. Finally, pastoral experience shows that some people who deeply desire to speak in tongues never do, despite prayer, coaching, and other means of “getting them started.” There is the further danger that if one by using “means” induces glossolalic-like speech in a person whom the Spirit is not gifting, since it is not coming from the Spirit, it must be coming from some other source, at best fleshly and at worst demonic.


Fourth, since we are talking about the genuine gift, how is it received? There are situations when someone, during an overwhelming spiritual experience, starts to spontaneously speak in tongues (“like a turkey gobbler” was how John Wimber put it). Yet, while one can pray for such overwhelming spiritual experience, i.e. pray for revival, trying to induce it or making it normative would be unwise at best and dangerous at worst. More often someone, upon reading or hearing about the gift and praying with relation to it, develops a desire to speak in tongues and/or receives an inner impulse to do so. In that case, opening their mouth, giving breath, and starting to speak what “comes to mind” will quietly start the gift. That is, normally the person’s will must be joined to the divine impulse, for otherwise they remain with the longing and never fulfill the longing. Let us make it clear: the person is in no way “out of control.” Thus, according to Paul (1 Cor 14), they can stop and wait for translation (or request that gift) or stop speaking in tongues altogether, for the gift is under the control of the speaker. The key element in this is the inner divine impulse – one feels an impulse within oneself that one recognizes as indicating that it is time to speak in tongues, yet even if the impulse is there, when it becomes evident that there is no translation, there is no sin in refraining. Furthermore, all gifts of the Spirit remain “giftsof the Spirit” and are under control of the Spirit, who can gift or not give whenever he wishes – they are never “my gift” that I own whatever the Spirit may want. I may, due to my personality or how God made me, frequently, even normally, be used by the Spirit in one or another area of gifting, but that do mean that I “own” it. In order to keep the gift genuine, I must be listening to the quiet voice of the Spirit within and resist jealousy if I see someone else being used in that area of gifting when the Spirit is not choosing to use me.


Fifth, Paul says that in a public assembly/ public gathering glossolalic speech should always be interpreted (or the person should be silent). Interpretation/ translation (when it is a spiritual gift) is likewise an impulse to speak, but in the known language. This impulse comes to a person who has understood what the glossolalic message means, not because they understand the language in general, but because they understand this instance by means of the Spirit. Furthermore, it is easy for a person to confuse the impulse to translate with the impulse to speak a word of prophecy on their own. In that case, the spoken message is not connected to the glossolalic message, which is not healthy. It is not healthy because prophecy should be weighed or evaluated by the leaders of the community rather than simply accepted (again, see 1 Cor 14), and if it is masked as the interpretation of a glossolalic message, it may seem authenticated by that fact and therefore not interpreted. This danger is greatest when excitement and emotions are running at a high pitch in a gathering.


Finally, we come to the “so what?” question. What is the significance of or reason for glossolalia? First, it is a sign that God is gathering all the nations (thus Pentecost in Acts 2 has people from nations around the Roman world hearing the good news). The sign is a dual sign, for it is both that God is sending the good news to all nations and that God is speaking to us through people of other languages (i.e. a reversal of Babel). Second, it is therefore a sign of the universality and catholicity of the Church, especially since we have to work together to understand it – some must interpret what someone else says. God breaks down the linguistic/ national barriers to form a universal community. Third, it is also a tool that God sometimes uses to proclaim his good news to people we otherwise could not communicate with. I had a woman in a church I pastored who was a nurse and who had the impulse to “speak in tongues” to a patient who did not speak English. The patient brightened up and started speaking enthusiastically back in their own language. At a pause, the nurse started again to speak in tongues, and so a back and forth conversation ensured, evening when the nurse had finished her duties and needed to go on to see other patients. It was clearly understandable and meaningful to the patient; the nurse had no idea what it was about, other than that she had obeyed God and thought she heard something like “Jesus” and “Christ” in what she was saying. And she never received the impulse to speak that way again to a patient, even to the same patient, whom she next saw on her way out of the hospital after discharge. These things do happen, even if, at least in our culture, they are rare. (Early Pentecostal missionaries sometimes rushed to the mission field without bother with language training, assuming that since they spoke in tongues this would be their normative experience. The results were disastrous.) Finally, it may be used in prayer to express what we cannot express in our own words, although the only scripture (Rom 8:23-24) speaks of our “groanings,” not glossolalia, while the Spirit sights in a way beyond words. But it is true that Christians have lifted up their hearts to God using repeated phrases that keep them focused, such as the Jesus Prayer or the prayers of the Marian rosary, and in the recent Pentecostal and charismatic movements group glossolalia has replaced such prayer. But, of course, such groups assumed that every “Spirit-filled” Christian could “speak in tongues,” which Paul denies. And sometimes, like with the Corinthians, there seems to be the assumption that the non-rational is better than the rational. So, while there are times when a group or someone within a group can only say, “Abba, Father,” (from Rom 8), or “Hallelujah,” or “Jesus,” or some other phrase, and for some this will be an appropriate time to glossolalia, the New Testament says nothing about the use of glossolalia in such instances. In my experience, it is also often manipulative when someone tells a group to lift up their voices in tongues, for it both raises the gift to an importance that Paul denies it has and makes those who do not have the gift feel second-class. And it may make those who do exercise that gift feel manipulated, for the impulse is not coming from the Spirit within but from someone without.

Much more could be said about this topic, but enough has been said to think about. We need to move on to the more understandable gifts of the Spirit, which will be the topic of my next post.




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The Holy Spirit in the Believer

We in the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Domestic, were encouraged to study clustering (living in closer proximity and more intense community), vocations (calling others to vocations, both domestic and monastic), and the renewal of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What follows are my thoughts behind a presentation that I made to the St Clare Cell Group on 5/22/2018, or partly made, for we are not finished. Of course, it does not include the material I added in as I made the presentation, for I am always finding places where I have left something out. Given that context, here are my thoughts:

This is a brief discussion of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, which will lead into an ongong discussion of the gifts of the Spirit.

  1. In the post-exilic period of the Hebrew Scriptures we start to get descriptions of the Holy Spirit indwelling an individual, usually a king. There is in fact a fear that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the king, which would be a disaster for him and for the people. That is the original sense of Ps 51:13, while Wisd 1:5 indicates that the Spirit flees deceit. It is also in Wisdom that the Spirit is equated with Wisdom/sophia(Wisd 9:17). The Psalms were originally a royal hymn book associated with the royal shrine in Jerusalem, and of course Wisdom is attributed to Solomon the King.
  2. The last part of Isaiah also describes the Holy Spirit as being in the midst of the people as a whole, as being God’s unseen presence. This is the sense of Isa 57:15; 63:10-11. This collective sense of the Spirit also shows up in the New Testament.
  3. The New Testament views the prophets as having prophesied via the Holy Spirit, but in the Hebrew Scriptures the term “Holy Spirit” is not associated with the prophets. The “spirit of the Lord” does come upon ecstatic individuals in the pre-monarchial period, including both “prophetic” individuals and Saul, but he is not associated with the articulate prophets of the monarchial period. Even in Daniel (which is one of the Writings, not one of the Prophets), while pagans attribute Daniel’s abilities to the “spirit of the holy gods” (Dan 4:5-6, 15, 5:11), Daniel only refers to God as being the revealer, not to God’s spirit. The closest one comes the possibility of the Holy Spirit being a revealer is in Susana (Dan 13:45), when it is said that the “holy spirit of a young boy” was stirred up, but this seems to indicate that the boy’s (Daniel’s) own spirit was holy.
  4. In the New Testament it is promised that Jesus will baptize with “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11 and parallels). Notice that this promise is made in the context of John’s baptism in water.
  5. That promise, or at least part of it, is fulfilled when the Holy Spirit is given in John 20 as authority, and that authority is actualized as missional power in Acts 2. These 120 were men and women who had been part of the mission of Jesus and probably should be viewed as having been already baptized in John’s baptism, although in John 4 it indicates that Jesus’ disciples continued that practice, so it may have been Jesus’ baptism. In other words, the Spirit completes John’s baptism of repentance by adding the Spirit-reception that is part of Christian initiation. Also notice that the authority of the Spirit in John 20 is given to the Eleven, not generally to the 120 plus in Acts, as is also true in the Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ giving the Twelve/Peter the authority of binding and loosing.
  6. After Acts 2, the baptism in/ anointing with the Spirit is characteristic of Christian initiation and is associated with baptism in water. We do not know if oil was used in that period, but we do know that laying on of hands was used. When Paul finds people in Acts 19 who do not show signs of the Spirit, he inquires and finds that they had defective faith: they did not know about the fulfillment of John’s preaching in Jesus, they did not know about the Spirit at all, and so they needed baptism into Jesus as well as the laying on of hands for the reception of the Spirit. In Acts 8 baptism into Jesus takes place right after a confession of faith, but only when Peter and John later decide that the calling of Samaritans to faith is kosher do they lay on hands for the reception of the Spirit. They complete the initiation. In Acts 10 the initiation is started by the Spirit, for the Spirit falls on the new Gentile believers before there is any talk about baptism and that is the fact that persuades Peter to order their baptism without any other qualification (such as requiring them to become Jews). That is, the presence of the Spirit persuades him to accept them as true believers withouttheir becoming Jews, an issue that will be discussed in Acts 11 and Acts 15. Paul will in Rom 8 likewise describe the presence of Spirit as normative for all Christians – it is the Spirit who baptizes men and women into Christ, who makes them put on Christ. And this is associated with baptism in water in Rom 6. Likewise, in Heb 6 part of basic Christian initiation is teaching about baptisms (plural – one had to differentiate Jewish washings from Christian baptism) and then there is a reference to the Spirit (and the works he produces) as part of full Christian initiation. In other words, the New Testament views properly initiated Christians as having the Spirit from the beginning; it does not see any need for a second experience, a “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” subsequent to confession of faith/ baptism in water, unless Christian initiation was defective.
  7. While glossolalia is a common experience in the initiation narratives, there are other phenomena associated with the Holy Spirit: joy, prophecy, boldness, peace, etc. None has an exclusive right of indicating the presence of the Spirit nor is any one of them absolutely required.
  8. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to make Jesus/God present to the world. This could be looked at in two ways theologically. One would be that it could be looked at as the fulfillment of the divine command, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The one side (love the Lord your God) is the unification of the believers with the Trinity, entering into the divine love-union, and the other side (love your neighbor as yourself) is the drawing of the peoples of the world into this love-union, starting with the unification of the church and continuing to the unification of the peoples of the world, which means extending the love of the Trinity to all people and drawing them into it.
  9. The second way one could look at the Holy Spirit’s coming to make Jesus present to the world begins by noting that the Holy Spirit is the creative Spirit of God, creator spiritus, who was active in the first creation, and is now active in recreating the face of the earth. That, of course, is why in the Orthodox tradition the color of the Spirit (Pentecost) is usually green, for it is a creative color (rather than the red of fire in the Latin tradition). But to do this recreation the Spirit has to do two things: first, he has to enable human beings to overcome their passions (sanctification), which is what we see in Rom 8, building on the previous two chapters in Romans, where the Spirit brings freedom. Likewise, Gal 5 starts with freedom and indicates that there is a passions/ flesh – Spirit contrast, the passions being rooted in “the flesh,” in the uncontrolled limbic system (to use the language of Family Emotional Systems). The Spirit brings the virtues that limit the passions and block their control of the individual, which virtues open the individual to love. Second, the Spirit has to reach out in mission, a mission in which the followers of Jesus participate. Here the Spirit convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Proclamation in Acts is Spirit-driven.
  10. The tools for this reaching out in mission are gifts of the Spirit, both those Jesus used in his mission (Isa 61:1ff quoted by Jesus in Luke 4 in Nazareth) and the those listed by Paul in 1 Cor 12 and elsewhere.

The announcement of Jesus is an announcement of the gathering of God’s people, the means of which are what would later be known as the corporal works of mercy:

Luke18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,/ because he has anointed me/ to bring glad tidings to the poor./ He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives/ and recovery of sight to the blind,/ to let the oppressed go free,/ 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

But the Spirit is also the Spirit of Wisdom or sanctification, for without Wisdom the corporal works of mercy are corrupted

Isa 11: The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:/ a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,/ A spirit of counsel and of strength,/ a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,/ and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

That is why Paul in Galatians also lists some of the wisdom of the Spirit:

Gal. 5:22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.

11. The Spirit, then, comes as part of bringing the Trinity. The Trinity brings its character as love that uses the various spiritual gifts and graces, but uses them out of virtue, out of love. Separate the two and one has corruption.

12. The more active tools given by the Spirit are listed in Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12, and in Eph 4 and 1 Peter 4

Rom 12: Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. [Notice that there is a mixture of the corporate and spiritual works of ministry and that none of the gifts are for the benefit of the individual exercising them – they are missional.]

1 Cor 12: To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledgeaccording to the same Spirit; to another faithby the same Spirit; to another gifts of healingby the one Spirit; 10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. [Again, the gifts are for the benefit of others, but in this case Paul’s point is not that of giving a complete list, but rather of showing that (1) no one exercises all the gifts and (2) that every gift is equally and expression of the Spirit – none is better than the other.]

Eph 4: But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says: “He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;/ he gave gifts to men.” [This is taken from the Greek version, not the Hebrew] What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower [regions] of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 11 And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastorsand teachers, 12 to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ. [The point here is that people are given to the church equipped by the Spirit to function in one of these ways, not for their own status or benefit, but for the benefit of the whole of the church.]

1 Pet 4: The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 11 Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. [Notice that this is in the context of a contrast to the deeds that the pagans do, which makes it similar to Gal 5. Furthermore, a list of virtues precedes the two categories of gifts, which rhetorically stresses the virtues over the gifts.]

Each of these lists is different, for each is shaped for a different context, used for a different purpose. That makes comparing the gifts difficult, for in each case examples are given that that fit the purpose of the author, and in no case does any author try to give a full listing. Furthermore, there is no sharp distinction between gifts: the attempt to define them in contrast to one another is bound to fail, for (1) they tend to be on continua (e.g. wisdom – knowledge – prophecy – preaching) and (2) the authors never define them, since that is not their point; they are illustrating rather than defining.

13. The tools/ gifts are means to an end, not the end in themselves. The end is the building up of the body of Christ, i.e. the unity of the Church and maturity of the Church. The end is love based in prayer. Therefore the gifts are not “merit badges” to be talked about, e.g. “I move in gift a, and gift b, and gift c,” but fluid tools that may come and go, although some seem to characterize a person, probably because they fit with how God has formed their personality.

14. There are times when there is revival, when the Spirit seems to take control, when there is repentance and renewal, etc. At such times the primary mark of the Spirit is holiness of life, total dedication to Christ, a living like Jesus. There are at times experiences that accompany such revival, as Jonathan Edwards pointed out (Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, but more importantly, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections) and as John Wesley experienced in his revivals, among many others. But the reality of the revival is to be judged, not by the phenomena (or, better, perhaps epiphenomena) but by the fruit in holiness of life and deepened devotion. Thus, Edwards defends the “religious affections,” as he calls them, and accepts them, but at the same time he does not view them as a mark of whether a work is or is not of God. In this connection it is important to recognize that the Pentecostal movement (as well as the Christian and Missionary Alliance) and, derivatively, the charismatic movement, grew out of a healing-holiness revival of the late 1800’s. Holiness was at the core, with healing as a manifestation. When any manifestation becomes central or becomes the validation that a given work or experience is of God, then there is corruption, either corruption already or corruption close at hand. The gift is being sought rather than the Giver. The passions are what are desired, rather than seeing them as an epiphenomenon of what often happens when the divine and the human come into contact. And in the end pride comes into play, bringing with it all types of other vices.

15. Most of the great saints, and especially those who were the greatest miracle working saints, simply sought the Lord. The usually preferred solitude to the crowd, humiliation to adulation. They preached and acted in the power of God, because they were obedient to the call of God. But they did not call attention to the phenomena, to the miracles. They called attention to God and called others to holiness, whether by preaching or through the corporal works of mercy. Indeed, they often tried to hide their spiritual experiences or miraculous acts. This is an attitude the modern spiritual movements should emulate.

16. There is not special experience needed for using the gifts of the Spirit other than prayer, both drawing close to God and listening to God. Often a person has been being urged by God to do this or that for years or has been receiving revelations and visions from God for years, but because they were quiet and inward and were not associated with outward phenomena, they have been discounted. Once one views oneself as a person whom God might use and starts paying closer attention in listening prayer, one simply starts to act (with a humble tentativeness at first, to be sure) on what one has always had. Or, as one Christian leader I know put it, “I now keep what I used to throw away.”

17. Therefore, in exploring the gifts of the Spirit there should be two foci. The first is a focus on what defeats the passions and brings the person closer to God. These are gifts (virtues) to be ardently longed for. The second is a focus stemming from the first, what makes the mission of God in the world more possible? That mission is a mission of love, the restoring of the creation, which means the building up of the church both internally and by increasing its gathering of the nations into the kingdom. If that is the mission, then we ask God for the tools to do his work, tools that may be temporary or permanent, tools that others may or may not see. Anything else is likely to become problematic.

In conclusion, I have no desire to revive the Pentecostal, neo-Charismatic, or other revival movements of the past. Their music is not sacred but temporal, their phenomena were those of that time that fit into that context, and their weaknesses do not need to be perpetuated. I do have a desire to seek revival in the present that makes a path, through repentance and ascetic practice, for the Spirit to work. I expect to see similar phenomena to the movements of the past, but at the same time new, for they are in a new context. Furthermore, biblical studies as well as theology has come a long way since 1880’s, the early 1900’s, and the 1960’s-1980’s. We want a fresh and freshly articulated work of the Spirit rather than the warmed-over work of the Spirit in the past. Francis of Assisi was not like the movements before him (e.g. Benedict) nor would the Carmelites of the 1500’s or later spiritual movements be like Francis of Assisi. God is always doing his same-new thing, same in principle, but new in outward form.

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Pentecost without being Pentecostal

It is clear that the church in the first century had an experience of the Spirit. Both Acts and Paul agree that there were a variety of experiential elements to spiritual experience, and they included glossolalia, joy, prophetic speech, healing, and similar experiential elements. I am writing this just on Ascension (or before Ascension in some dioceses) and the gospel reading is the longer ending of Mark, which includes a number of those experiences as coming from the Spirit.

What is also clear is that none of the experiences was stereotyped. Paul indicates in 1 Cor 12 that not all speak in tongues (the grammar of “Do all speak in tongues?” expects a negative answer) nor do all experience any one of the other gifts of the Spirit. But all are Spirit-filled. This was true down through the history of the Church. Not all of the monks in the desert had the experience that Anthony of the Desert had. But they (or at least many of them) were none the less saintly and Spirit-filled individuals. Not all had the conversion experience of Augustine (which was really the end of a long process), but countless were truly committed Christians. Not all had the call of Francis of Assisi. And the experience of St Dominic was quite different. And while Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola were both “converted” after an experience in battle, their paths were quite different after conversion, the one being suspicious of intellectual activity and the other forming his core group at the University of Paris. The list could go on and on.

The same is true in the Protestant world. Luther has his “tower experience,” which depended in part on Augustine, but one cannot demand that experience of others – and perhaps Luther himself carried it too far. John Wesley had a series of experiences that led to his preach tours, but they were not the same as the noisy revivals that broke out when he preached, often scandalizing proper Anglicans. Yet when it came to joining the Methodist movement and being part of the society, it did not matter whether one had had a noisy conversion or a quiet one that came over decades, but rather that one was indeed committed to Jesus. Likewise Jonathan Edwards defended the phenomena of the Holy Spirit in the New England revival and then turned around to argue that none of the phenomena were sure signs that a work was of God. Andrew Murray experience a revival in South Africa that he had been praying for for 30 years, but it was so unlike anything he had personally experience that at first he tried to shut it down. The Spirit uses infinite variety, and one cannot force everyone into the same mold. A friend of mine, a Protestant pastor, was concerned that he had not had the dramatic spiritual experience of his wife, while his wife was concerned about the same thing, thinking that he might lack the Spirit after repeated prayer. But the Anglican David Watson said to them, “[Susie – I am changing the names], you came in like a flood, while [Sam] is a slow leaker.”

However, at the end of the 1800’s in the USA something happened. Charles Finney, a great evangelist, started “using means” to induce a conversion experiences. That is the beginning of the altar call and the “mourners bench” and “tarrying” until one had the “right” experience. That would develop through later evangelists like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. The altar call, and even the music of the altar call, became stereotyped. The “steps to salvation” were boiled down to a “sinners prayer.” And one ended up with a number of simple methods of “leading someone to Christ.” The “born again” experience became the standard experience of Protestantism. Anyone who did not have such as “testimony” was viewed as not being “saved.” Now I do not for a moment doubt that such experiences did not transform lives and produce committed Christians. I know of too many stories to doubt that. But I also realize that in moving away from Christian initiation as a process that either culminated in baptism and confirmation (as in 4th century Jerusalem and RCIA today, even if it is less dramatic) or grew out of infant baptism (baptism – catechesis as one grew up – confirmation and first communion when one could articulate one’s faith) one produced precisely what Baptists criticized in those who practiced infant baptism – nominal Christians. When infant baptism is not followed by familial and church catechesis and a Christian lifestyle in the home, one does get nominalism or cultural Christianity, often with a falling away from Christian practice. When a conversion experience is the be-all and end-all of evangelistic efforts (although in some ecclesial communities there is also baptism, even baptism right after the “born-again” experience) one likewise gets nominalism. A large percentage of USAmericans identify themselves as “born again” – they have had the experience. A vastly smaller percentage actually go to church or identify with core Christian teachings.

Now I grew up in a Protestant group. However, my mother started reading (King James) Bible to me at age one (due to having a brother five years older) and noted that I soon showed recognition of the stories. I was taken to church from infancy on, and by the time I was five I felt it was important to sing the songs in our small church community. There was no doubt in my mind that what I heard was real. I was totally committed and proud of my parents’ commitment. But about age 6 a well-meaning Sunday school teacher told that class that if any of us had not “asked Jesus into your heart,” i.e. had the experience, Jesus might rapture one’s parents and leave one behind (implicitly to go to hell). Well, that so scared me that I “asked Jesus into my heart” repeatedly every night in my bed for quite a period, never telling my parents or anyone else. I was terrified. But there was no “experience,” and that was natural, for I was already a believer. I would much later, when I needed a “born again” testimony use that event, but as I reflect on it now, there was no status change at that point. Rather, it was unwitting emotional child abuse. I had grown into the faith, the faith of a child, but real faith, and would not have a crisis experience. I would, of course, grow in my faith. And there came a time at age 15 when I decided that I needed to take my faith seriously rather than drift along in the boat that was my family. That is when I asked the elders of our church for baptism, and also asked to “come into fellowship” as an adult male, and would within a year start my preaching career. I had a committed young adult faith. But there was no experience, no crisis, no walking of the aisle, but rather a quiet decision, I think in the privacy of my bedroom. Yet I had to have an experience to tell to others. And the first public talk I gave (at age 8 or 9) was a stereotyped evangelistic address based on “The Wordless Book” (it was given to a banquet for the Bible Club movement, and was also broadcast on the radio). And I would late get training in most of the canned evangelistic methods known to evangelicals. It would only be years later, long after seminary, that it would dawn on me that none of the evangelistic stories or messages in the New Testament asked a person to pray “the sinners prayer” or to “ask Jesus into their heart.”

Now all of that is to lay the basis for pointing out that not long after Finney the healing-holiness movements of the late 19th century broke out and, when those revival movements started having experiences of the Spirit, a development took place that paralleled that happening in the field of evangelism. That is, one had to have a “second blessing” or “baptism in the Spirit,” or one was not “Spirit-filled.” (This was true of many movements, from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Pentecostals, for there were a number of movements coming out of the same healing-holiness ferment.) And for some of these movements the one and only necessary sign that this had happened was that one spoke in tongues. So one “tarried,” not to “get saved,” but to “get the baptism.” It did not matter that Paul said that not all spoke in tongues. It did not matter that some earnest believers never “got it.” That was the sine qua non. And perhaps one reason for that was that, as monastic movements have long known, holiness is a process that takes time to develop, while that “sign” could be produced quickly in an emotional event. And often it was not a sign of holiness at all.

The Pentecostal revival would later spread to mainline Protestant communities and to the Catholic Church as the Neo-Pentecostal or Charismatic movements of the various groups. Often it spread with the same insistence on having the experience, although in those latter groups there was not the parallel need to “get saved” first (or at the same time). In other words, “Spirit baptism” was subsequent to a more process-oriented Christian initiation rather than a “second experience.”

I got interested in charismatic phenomena when I was at Wheaton College, but did not pursue it until after my PhD when I was teaching at Bibelschule Wiedenest in Germany. I had picked up a book during my PhD time in England while serving as a military chaplain on an Army base in Germany. I reflected on it for a while and prayed and nothing seemed to happen, but I knew that God wanted me to speak in tongues. In Germany I would sit in the forest above Wiednest and meditate and wait for God to “do it to me,” and nothing happened other than a longing. But in 1975 sitting on a balcony of our apartment in Haus Sauer and reading another book I got a bit of needed instruction and did quietly speak in tongues. No lights, no peak experience, just an “oh, so that is how it is done.” And that same longing brought me (and rather quickly us) into German charismatic meetings that were quiet, contemplative, but in which various gifts would surface from time to time. And they brought us to week-long fasting retreats. Glossalalia was accepted and properly disciplined, but it was not the sine qua non. A deep longing for God and a growth in holiness in the context of community was. But I did see marvelous healings during those days. And I learned that one did not have to be loud and did not have to have a single sign gift in order to be filled with the Spirit and know God intimately. One did not have to be manipulated, and one should certainly no boast that one “had it.” In fact, I cannot remember ever hearing my mentor, Armin Riemenschneider, ever speak in tongues. But he was a deep river of the Spirit.

I would later enjoy louder meetings, such as the National Catholic Charismatic Conference for Priests and Deacons in Steubenville Ohio, which I attended in 1980, just after having been ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1980. Yet while the Spirit was so thick one could cut it with a knife, no one was pressuring me to have their experience nor was I pressuring anyone to have mine.

I would later be involved in charismatic pastors groups in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was one such group the first invited John Wimber to Vancouver. That was another exercise in difference. He did not want to focus on gifts, but on God. The early Vineyard music tended to be quiet and intimate, intimate worship music, not message music. It seemed too simple at times, but then it was not designed for professionals, but came out  of home groups. And the actions of the Spirit were not taken as evidence of anything. From Wimber’s point of view each individual had had the Spirit since coming to faith. The point was to draw close to God, to see “what the Father was doing,” and to cooperate with it. So he was nonchalant about healing – it was just an act of obedience to what God was speaking in his heart – and very realistic about people who died. There was no blaming that the person did not have faith, as I had seen some people abused earlier, but just a note that even though thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, and prayed with great faith, that physical healing was not what the Father was doing. “Any prayer that could not be prayed at a deathbed was not worth praying at all.” And while Wimber spoke in tongues, he did not stress it. Nor did one have to testify to having that gift to become a Vineyard leader. And yet many, many were healed and, at least in Vancouver, demons were driven out, not with a lot of show, but with gentle authority (gentle towards the person, that is). And we drew closer to God.

Now Vineyard would take some twists and turns down the years, some of which happened before the death of John Wimber, and some of which John Wimber regretted and repented of. So I write what I write by way of example, not as a means of adulation.

The long and short of it is that God being who he is acts sovereignly and will not be reduced to anyone’s formula or anyone’s box. That is the story of the church in the first century, and the story of various revival movements down the years. They usually start of with someone’s experience, but eventually it gets formalized. There is an experience that one must have, whether in coming to faith or in being filled with the Spirit. And this becomes the formula for growth or healing or revival. But people being people do not always fit this formula, so some are cast aside and even abused (I will leave those stories out, for this is long enough and they would not be profitable). There is only one “formula,” and that is drawing close to God, which means conversion of heart, a deep longing for holiness, and quiet contemplation of the divine. Always loves, which means that he always seeks our good, and in his time and in his own way he fills the rooms in “the interior castle” of the person. And when that happens, phenomena happen. Often the individual is unaware. Often they will not tells stories about what God has worked through them. They want God, not the gifts. They seek the lover, not the stuff he gives them. Those gifts get his work done, so they are used as appropriate. But they are not to be boasted about ir even pointed out. The goal is becoming like Jesus, union with Jesus.

Now that is consistent with Catholic theology. And that is exemplified in the lives of saints down the ages (Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila, and dozens and dozens of others – I try to read the story of saint every day as an encouragement).

When I first met a Vineyard team, this advice was given, “Be an animal (I thought of a wounded animal dragging itself through any obstacle to reach its goal). Seek the Lord, seek the Lord, seek the Lord. And when you think you have arrived, seek him some more.” Now that is 20th century California language, and it is not the language of the Pentecostal or Neo-Pentecostal movements. But it is the language of the Spirit. I think that St John of the Cross or Anthony of the Desert or any number of others would agree. And when one seeks God, when one’s whole object is to be conformed to the cross of Christ, when one finds one’s beloved and so becomes like the beloved, as happens to true lovers, then the Spirit flows and ministry happens. But if one falls into formulas and tries to manipulate God, one may get power, but it is power with a dark side, the dark side of abuses that have dogged the charismatic and many other movements in the church. Rather, seek God and let the Spirit flow.

Enough for now.

Posted in Brothers and Sisters of Charity Reflections | Leave a comment

Clustering and Communion

In the recent Leadership Gathering of the BSCD the members were encouraged towards clustering in one form or another. This was one of three themes of Leadership, the other two being an increase in vocations and the need to pass on the experience of the Holy Spirit. But clustering might seem to be the first and easiest to deal with.

In a sense clustering has been part of the church from the beginning. Acts pictures the church in Jerusalem as located within a small area, perhaps with a range as far as Bethlehem and Emmaus, or a couple of hours walk in various directions. The central location was in the city, even if the celebrated Eucharist (broke bread) in a number of houses. That is no surprise, since a room in a large house would not hold more than 30 individuals, even if they were jammed together. A double meal table setup would accommodate 18 unless it was crowded. Thus we could talk about a cluster of house communities that cared for one another, selling investments to support one another, as needed.

Once the church scattered from Jerusalem we find groups of house communities considered a single church. In Rome we can identify 7 or 8 such communities in Romans 15. In Corinth the one church seems to have included groups in the two port cities as well as in Corinth itself. Naturally, it was geography that made the groups, for it would have been difficult to walk from Corinth to either of the ports at night, which is when meetings tended to be held, and each of the ports and Corinth itself were centers of population, such as there were in those days.

Finally, one should note that Paul normally traveled in a team, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, but he always preferred to travel in a team, and there seem to have been clusters of people gathered around other leaders as well. The lone-ranger type of Christian was not one modeled by Jesus or by his followers after his death and resurrection.

But clustering is demanding. As envisioned in the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, it would be domestic members living in their own homes, whether owned or rented, within a short distance of other members who lived in their own homes, and meeting together in a single cell group. There might also be members who lived in the homes of other members, which would be especially true of singles, but might be true of a small family if another member family had enough room in their home. Ideally this would be in the context of a single parish, so that parish life would reinforce the cluster, and the cluster would reinforce the parish.

Now this is not all that was envisioned, for it is realized that not all members are in a situation in which they can be part of a cluster. Ideally clustering is the end of a continuum with the individual isolated member being at the other end, separated members meeting in virtual cell groups being the next step, physical cell groups (some of which might meet only once or twice per month given the distance members live apart, while others might meet weekly) coming next, and clustering with a much more intense community being the final step. The idea is that, as they are able, members move along the continuum ever closer. In fact, some might feel a call to full monastic community, but that is a separate step.

Such clustering has been part of church history, sometimes with a focus on full communalism, sometimes with more of a focus of living together in the same area. Without noting the cenobitic monastic communities, one should note that villages and even cities were smaller in pre-modern times, so if everyone was a member of the parish church, there would be something of the contact that is being talked about in the cluster. Anabaptist communities took the monastic ideal and made it part of the whole people of God, so often these communities would travel together as they were forced to migrate from one area to another due to prosecution in various forms. And then there are the communities of the revival of the 1970’s that were written about in Dave and Netta Jackson’s book, Living Together in a World Falling Apart. Some of these still exist, some do not. In other words, the clustering idea is not new, nor is it limited to monastic or Catholic groups.

Our own journey with this concept started in 1975, in our year of renewal, for we had been very interested in Christian community and it was because of a discussion about it with a visitor to Bibelschule Wiednest that we discovered the Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal) in Houston, Texas, and their communities. We visited that community, as well as the Sojourners community, the Bruderhof, and the like over the next few years. We were part of a different type of clustering in Langley British Columbia a decade and a half later, for there a group of us formed an association and built 19 townhomes so that we could live in proximity. There were 15 families, and the association purposely retained 4 townhomes to rent at reduced rates to families in need of housing or at a normal rate to families that needed to live in a supportive community but were fine financially.

So one sees that clustering is part of the history of the church and that it fulfills basic human needs for support and fellowship. But it also makes demands. Most of the clusters that I know about grew out of a type of revival. There was an intense encounter with the Holy Spirit that led to deeper commitment to Jesus resulting in a loosening of attachment to property, finances, and goods. This made the sharing involved in clustering possible, for without such Spirit-inspired shared the community will be short-lived. That also means the facilitating or praying for such life-changing revival come first and clustering is an after-effect.

A second demand is that the cluster must have mature and stable leadership. On the one hand, it would be best if it were seen as a ministry or arm of the local parish, for that would give mature oversight from the church hierarchy, if they shared the vision. On the other hand, mature leadership, well-formed leadership, and spiritually and psychologically aware leadership is needed to lead the cluster. This is usually hierarchal, and even a group of thinking-alike elders can act as hierarchal, for one-person-one-vote type of structures tend to break down more quickly. Yet such a group can turn into a TACO (totalist aberrant Christian organization) if there is not outside guidance and oversight. There is a significant literature on this as well.

Finally, the cluster needs to be in a place that is physically and financially viable. Are there enough jobs available to support the group, jobs of the right type? If the group is older, are there hospitals and medical specialists available in the area? If the group is younger, are there solid schools available? Sharing can go so far, and certainly one must encourage it – support the widow and the orphan, take in the immigrant (whatever the government says or does not say), care for the sick, for all of these are deeply biblical values. But for sharing to happen, there must be something to share, so someone must have income, enough someones, so to speak. And in some areas that would be difficult. Or the jobs available might not fit the skills or physical abilities of the potential members of the cluster. Thus clusters work best in urban areas unless, like the Hutterite communities, the members are involved in farming.

These are some of what comes to mind when one thinks about clustering in any of its various forms. More reflections will come later.

Posted in Brothers and Sisters of Charity Reflections, Ministry | Leave a comment


I grew up in a Christian community that emerged during the post-Napoleonic period. It is no surprise that it was concerned about identifying an AntiChrist. Of course such identifications have multiplied over the years – Mussolini, Hitler, a Russian leader, someone who would emerge as the leader of the EU when it had 10 members, and others were all candidates “clearly identified by Scripture.”  Wrong identifications abounded without apologies or retractions when proven false, but what if the issue was the asking of the wrong questions and such a power is right under our noses?

Who Is the AntiChrist

The AntiChrist figure of Revelation (also called the beast) was modeled on Antiochus IV Epiphanes; the Beast is said by John to be Domitian, the 8th emperor (5 Julio-Claudian emperors and 3 Flavians, with Domitian viewed by some in that age as a type of Nero redivivus). Domitian himself has come and gone, but the spirit lives on. Remember that Paul argues in Ephesians that the Prince of the Power of the Air rules in the kingdoms of this earth, and Jesus says something of the same about “The Prince of this world.” My thesis is that we in the USA often fail to think of this as embodied in our government, the inner structure of the land we love.

Now, lest one jump to conclusions, I am not thinking of President Trump in particular. First, this would be just another identification like some of those noted above and so bound to fail, since he too will pass on. Second, he is nothing more than a particularly strident form of the same attitudes that have been characteristic of the USA for at least the last few decades.

It is true that the last election was dominated by emotional thinking (which is really just emotions, not thinking) and the appeal to anxiety and prejudice (i.e. another name for fear) using Twitter and the like. The USA sank to a lower level of differentiation and higher level of anxiety as described by Edwin Friedman in Failure of Nerve (1996). In fact, my knowledge of Friedman’s work made me aware of the likelihood that Mr. Trump would become President before he had the Republican nomination sewed up. The result of that campaign has been increased (increased, not newly appearing) polarization in the sense of black-white thinking and quick-fix mentality and a government characterized by the same emotional thinking. In other words, moving to the terminology of biblical theology, desire rules or the passions rule. And, of course, if one knows the New Testament, when desire or the passions rule, it is not good. It is not the work of the Spirit.
But it is also not new. The focusing on polls and popularity, the fixation on the accomplishments of the first 100 days (quick fix), and highly emotive statements without substantival backup are not unique to this past election, even if they showed up in extreme forms. Nor is the relativization of truth unique. Certainly it was more extreme: something was or is true because a candidate (or President) asserts it is to be true without citing evidence and then there is the demonization of those who dare to check for actual data that might prove or disprove the truth or falsity of the statement (liberal media, as if all media were of the same stripe), and this happens on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. But if your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth, i.e. if truth is relative to the person, is this not just a blatant example of that principle? Indeed, because of this I am not one who calls President Trump a liar (just as I did not think that President Clinton was a liar when he said, “I did not have sex with that woman”) for I suspect that he believes what he says. It is his truth for the moment (and in President Clinton’s case, I know from experience and talking with others that many in his subculture did not consider anything less than penetration “sex”). It is his emotional statement. And as such, he believes it is true, so it is, in such eyes, a violation of his person to subject it to the test of evidence. Extreme, maybe, but unique, no. This has been around in many parts of our society for quite some time.
(Also, there is also the psychological study I read that examined of the sentence structure, wideness of vocabulary, repetitions, and other linguistic evidence in Mr. Trump’s interviews and writings over something like the last 5 years. This demonstrated cognitive decline, which the psychologists who voted for Trump attributed to age-related causes, while psychologists who did not vote for Trump were more likely to attribute to some more than that. But all, not matter what their political affiliation, agreed existed. This would be further exculpatory evidence.)
Rather, I start with the central Christian claim that Jesus is Lord, that in the resurrection God vindicated his claim to be God’s promised anointed king, that in the ascension he took authority over, not just this earth, but the universe. He is Lord. The AntiChrist, then, is any symbol, spirit, or influence different from the authority of Jesus that claims to be Lord, that claims allegiance, and in particular claims ultimate allegiance. As 1 John says, many antichrists have gone out into this world. But they all have a basic characteristic that of denying absolute authority to Jesus and making some other value central.
One central value in the USA is freedom, not the freedom that the New Testament talks about, freedom from the power of evil and freedom to serve God, but the absolute freedom of the individual. In other words, “You shall be like God, knowing good and evil.” This means that you can determine for yourself who you are and what is good and what is evil from your point of view. Who are you to tell me what to do? I am an individual. And certainly this is one characteristic of this age, one that we see whenever the collective good, the common good, is put forward as more important than individual freedom.
But, sticking with John in Revelation, the characteristics of Babylon the Great (in Rev 18} have been touted as positive values by a series of administrations and candidates of both major parties in the USA. The USA has stressed its superior military might that it is not afraid to use around the world; the USA is the one the kings of the earth come to for power/weapons (although there are other candidates rising, which, of course, is what one would expect in a fallen world). Come to me and I will give you military power. That art of the military deal is not limited to the present administration. Come to me and I will support you militarily. The USA is seen as the key to power.
The USA has also stressed economic indexes as the measure of success for some time. What else is the fixation on GDP and similar measures? Nor is this the first administration that has been accused of being too cozy with or run by Wall Street or wealthy individuals. Nor is it the first one to give preferential access to the wealthy (whether wealthy individuals or wealthy corporations, even if it has been more blatant in making the superrich authority figures in the administration and even if there has been more boasting about the wealth of the President. As I said above, this is not the first time that indications of prosperity are used to judge national success (without regard to the prosperity of other nations or even of minorities within the nation). Nor is this administration unique in blaming the poor for their plight. What President Trump has done is to be rather crass and up front about all of this. With a cabinet made up of generals and wealthy business leaders, he has given clear signals about the gods in whom he trusts. Others trusted Mars and Mammon but were at least somewhat more subtle about it. Yet such subtlety is not a Christian value, after all “the snake” was the most subtle of all creatures. Naturally, if Jesus were Lord, other values than these  would prevail.
Now it is not that the Christian scriptures lack a role for rulers. The people of Israel wanted a king to lead in battle, but God seemed to think that the king should lead in creating justice. He should not create a large army, he should not gather wealth, and he should not have many wives, but, as the Psalms point out, he should bring justice to the poor and care for the oppressed. Then God would take care of the king in battle. Nor do the scriptures lack a role for the wealthy. The king is not to gather wealth, it is true. But those who prosper from just and righteous activities also have a place in God’s order, their place being to distribute this wealth for the common good, to be the advocates of the poor, to be the father to the fatherless, etc. Their place is not to heap up more of the same, for that is nothing less than finding security in something other than God. And that is bound to lead to injustice to the poor, such as offering wages on which one cannot live.
So in such values or “gods” is where one finds the AntiChrist. That spirit is alive and well. That spirit is embodied in the much of US culture. That spirit walks freely in the halls of Congress and the corridors of the White House, for that spirit is what promotes military might as security, demonizes minorities, values people on the basis of the amount of wealth they have heaped up, rejects others for failing to make it up the non-existent ladder to success, etc. That is the spirit of individualism, the spirit of a freedom that does not look at its own addictions, the spirit of an anxious protectionism, for, if I am my own god, how can I not be anxious.
The AntiChrist had great success when it manipulated US thought so that religion was said to be private and that a person’s religion should not determine his or her politics. That put Jesus in the private sphere and the AntiChrist in the public sphere. But a depoliticized Jesus is not Jesus at all, for Jesus is Lord, Lord of heaven and earth, not just a Jesus of personal internal salvation.
No, let us not demonize President Trump (or President Obama or any other President or member of the legislature). President Trump may be crasser and more blatant in his expression of this spirit, but let us remember that he is not known for his church-going background or his depth of knowledge of biblical theology. Let us realize that the AntiChrist spirit is rooted in the system and can express itself through any Congress and any Supreme Court and any President. It is only conversion of heart that will break the system. It is only embracing the cross that will undermine the system. It is only making Jesus truly Lord that will bring a true revolution.
And before that happens, Babylon the Great will likely fall.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed above are those of the author, not necessarily those of the particular church in which the author is incardinated and serves or of that church’s leaders and not necessarily those of the publican association of the faithful to which the author also belongs.
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Advent Greetings 2016



Dear friends and family,

Advent has rolled around again with that combination of reliving the
birth of the Incarnate Word from Mary and expecting his return as universal
Lord, before whom all rulers will bow to receive their judgment.

The year has been dominated by Judy’s heart condition, first diagnosed
in Sep 2015. Her cardiologist is pleased with her progress, but she still tires
easily and there have been ups and downs in her medication. Still, she is alive
and able to serve the Church in spiritual direction and pastoral counseling, so
we have much to be thankful for.

Partly due to Judy’s heart condition Gwen and Brent and their boys
drove down over their spring break to visit – a crazy trip, but one we
welcomed. We were even more thankful in that this is the first time any of our
children have visited us with their families. We are hoping for a family
reunion here next summer.

Judy did go to Canada in July, and Peter joined her for a part of that
visit. She did not do the cross-Canada tour she has done in previous years, but
remained based in Calgary, with Ian and Buffi and children coming to visit her
there. Thus  we did get to see all of our children and grandchildren (ages 2 – 19) during the year.

There were also some ministry trips: in March Peter went to Washington
DC and Baltimore for the annual Chrism mass of the Ordinariate, getting to
visit his brothers and family as bonus. Then Judy went to Little Portion
Hermitage in Arkansas in April for the BSCD Leadership Retreat; she and Peter
returned in late September for the BSCD Gathering, at which we were both
involved in ministry. A day or so later Peter flew to Boston for the National
Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, a very profitable conference. He had
flown to Omaha in July for the Institute for Priestly Formation retreat for
seminary formators (a lovely mostly-silent retreat). Then in October, just
after NCDVD he and Judy flew to Buffalo and were driven to a retreat center in
Niagara Falls, Ontario, for the annual clergy retreat of the Personal
Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, at which Judy led the track for the wives
of clergy. Then in late November Peter drove to San Antonio for the Society of
Biblical Literature meeting – he wonders if it will be his last time to attend.

[You can order Judy’s book directly from her – email is below]



But most of the year we have kept busy right here in Houston. Judy does
spiritual direction and pastoral counseling in the office next to Peter’s on a
two-day per week basis. She leads the BSCD cell group out at St Clare Monastery
on Tuesday evenings. Peter is still a priest-in-residence at Our Lady of
Walsingham and Director of Clergy Formation for the Ordinariate, which means he
is handling applicants for both the priesthood (both former Anglican priests
and celibate younger men) and the diaconate (a “from scratch” cohort will start
formation in January). His job finishes when he certifies to the bishop at
their ordination that the Church has found them “worthy” for ordination. He
also supplies in various parishes (and even for a Vineyard church), holds a
weekly service at a hospital (and then takes sacraments to patients on the
floors), and helps at St Clare Monastery. And he has churned out a series of
articles and kept up with editorial jobs for the Word Biblical Commentary. No
grass growing under our feet.

While we would like Judy to “get back to normal” (which one doubts will
ever be the case), we are in general quite pleased with our life here in
Houston. We would like to be more involved in the lives of our children and
grandchildren, but Judy does spend an afternoon or so weekly with her sister. And
so we look forward to what God will do in our lives this coming year – he is always
coming to meet us, not just as our incarnate Lord, but also as our reigning
king, whose promised “well done” is that for which we live our lives.

Grace and peace this Advent and Christmas season,

Peter and Judy Davids

1202 Seagler Rd., Apt 117

Houston TX 77042 USA

713-314-7886 (Peter) or 832-392- 9519 (Judy) or

Nativity 2

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Davids Advent/Christmas Greetings 2015

Advent       Nativity 2           2015

Dear friends and family,

As we in this Advent season anticipate the coming of Jesus (both reliving the anticipation of his birth and looking expectantly towards his return), we greet you after an eventful year. Continue reading

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