Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday: it's time to get out of the boat

From Brother Ivo:

If there is one thing we can be sure of when reading the Bible, it is that the morning Saul of Tarsus took his breakfast before setting out along the Damascus road, he was a man at peace with his certainties.

He was a scholar who had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and was accordingly well-versed in both the scriptures and the interpretation of them through a long line of learned commentaries. He had his marching orders from high authority. He carried the necessary legal paperwork to enable him to root out heresy in those Jewish communities falling under the malign influence of those seeking to overturn thousands of years of tradition. He had the confidence in his own ability, for, as we can read for ourselves, Saul/Paul can craft an argument with the best of them.

Paul was versed in logic, emboldened by his Roman citizenship, comfortable in his skin – and about to have his world turned upside down. He arrived in Damascus shaken, blind, and with no better plan than to hear instruction from Ananias, who might have been forgiven had he thrown his would-be persecutor out into the street to fend for himself.

Brother Ivo thought of this Bible passage when mulling over the Gospel passage chosen by Archbishop Justin for his sermon at his enthronement ceremony this week.

He chose the text when Peter was called by Jesus to get out of the boat and walk with him on the waters, and it has remained with Brother Ivo over subsequent days.

It was a good choice and it probably sets the tone for the Archbishop’s term of office.

There is, of course, a big difference between these stories of Paul and Peter. Paul has no choice: Jesus hits him like a bolt from the blue and, having struck him, leaves the broken and confused Paul few options but to comply. Peter, on the other hand, has a choice. Any of us who has teetered on the edge of a diving board, or stood at a similar decision point, will understand the difference. Peter has a choice to take or reject a leap of faith, and amazingly finds himself able to do so and to become the person Jesus destined him to be.

We don’t always see what we need to see, however.

Before Archbishop Justin read the Gospel with life, vigour and exciting inflection, a group of African drummers preceded him. Some said they were celebrating the Archbishop. They were not. This was a Gospel procession: they were drumming and leaping for joy for the coming of the Gospel!

We are so used to seeing a dignified slow walk that many did not recognise that the underlying form of the service remained whilst the expression of it was culturally enriched. An exuberant welcoming of the Gospel – how terribly and embarrassingly un-Anglican. Put a stop to it at once!

In both the form of the service – with several innovations and by his sermon message – it seems that Archbishop Justin is calling us all to take similar leaps of faith. Surely his words were nothing if not an exhortation to ‘get out of the boat’.

Yet some fell on stony ground.

Reading the timeline on His Grace's blog it was clear that, far from being open to getting out of the boat, there were a number urging the Archbishop to circle the wagons. All might be well, but only if he turns his back on women’s ministry, refuses even to talk to Peter Tatchell, and consigns ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ to Room 101 where all such abominations rightfully belong.

Yet circled wagons are just not going anywhere.

Getting out of the boat is scary, decidedly perilous, ill-advised and utterly counter-intuitive.

Yet this is what the Archbishop plainly believes we should do and he does so for a simple reason that suffused the service in Canterbury. The reason is the transforming power of Christ.

He is not ashamed to proclaim the transforming power of Christ Crucified. It is not a social gospel or a tradition, but a living transformative relationship. If Jesus wants Peter Tatchell, He will shall welcome him just as he reached out to that other dreadful fellow, Saul, and He knows how to encourage even the most timorous to get out of the boat.

The enthronement sermon can usefully be read in conjunction with the Archbishop’s previous one when he was enthroned at Durham. In that sermon there is a striking passage:
In Africa in 2010 I stood with a group of ten men, by the mass grave holding the bodies of the majority of the village’s women and children, cut down in a raid a few days earlier. In that darkness, because of the gospel, with other raids around us, they spoke of reconciliation. A few years ago I met a cardinal from Vietnam, an Archbishop who had spent 13 years in prison for his faith, tortured, told he was forgotten. In that darkness, because of the gospel, he had led his torturer to faith in Christ and then trained him for ordination when he too was imprisoned, and started a church in the prison, celebrating Mass each day with a grain of rice and enough rice wine to hold in the palm of one hand, and preaching the gospel in whispered sentences during roll call.
A bishop who comes from those experiences knows a thing or two about transformation, daring to step into the unknown and being amazed by what the God of Surprises can achieve when risks are taken.

So the challenge is there for all of us. Which of our certainties, securities, logics and traditions are we prepared to put aside to follow the African dancers leaping and dancing as the living Gospel makes its way through our hallowed buildings?

How ready are we to ‘get out of the boat’?

(Posted by Brother Ivo)


Blogger Corrigan said...

When Peter got out of the boat, he sank through the waves when he took his focus off Jesus and thought about the "reality" of the situation. Kind of like dealing with the "reality" of women priests and Peter Thatchell.

24 March 2013 at 10:17  
Blogger Nick said...

I guess we should reflect on what "stepping out of the boat" means to us as individuals. We should be prepared to step out of personal comfort zones when we know it is right. That probably includes being more open about our beliefs, even though it might bring ridicule from a highly secularised and lost society.

As to Peter Tatchell, we should remember that God created all of us, however vile our behaviour has become, and potentially, anyone can be "won over" by God.

24 March 2013 at 10:35  
Blogger Flossie said...

I shall be stepping out of the boat shortly for the Rally for Marriage at Trafalgar Square at 2pm today.

A small gesture, perhaps, but an important one.

Thermal undies on! It's freezing cold with occasional snow flurries.

24 March 2013 at 10:41  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

If Jesus wants Peter Tatchell, He will shall welcome him just as he reached out to that other dreadful fellow, Saul, and He knows how to encourage even the most timorous to get out of the boat.

Ivo, more of a question of whether Tatchell wants Jesus. Let’s not get too carried away here with chances. If the answer is no, then realise this. Know your enemy and the damage your enemy can inflict. There is no second chance for lost souls, they are well and truly finished. This is God’s plan. It is harsh, but it is HIS plan.

24 March 2013 at 12:59  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

From Pink News...

“The Bishop of Buckingham, the Right Reverend Dr Alan Wilson, has criticised the Church of England’s refusal to allow blessings for civil partnerships, and said that some parishes were ignoring the ban in order to avoid conflict.”

Bishop Wilson, the Inspector cries unto thee. “it’s time to get out of the boat”. Find Jesus, he’s waiting for you...

24 March 2013 at 13:55  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

In Africa in 2010 I stood with a group of ten men, by the mass grave holding the bodies of the majority of the village’s women and children, cut down in a raid a few days earlier. In that darkness, because of the gospel, with other raids around us, they spoke of reconciliation

Suppose the raiders returned and slaughtered the men, too. There would then be no one left in that village to speak of reconciliation, or in the next village, or the next. The Christian message of turning the other cheek is praiseworthy in theory but, in countries where Christianity is pitted against Islam and its message of violence, turning the other cheek is suicidal. It is in such circumstances that the third great commandment comes into its own: the Lord helps those who help themselves.

24 March 2013 at 14:26  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Ah, Mr Rottenborough. Reconciliation is one of this man’s favourite words ! In fact, he’s somewhat lost count of the number of incidents where the righteous (...not the victims...) are urging reconciling while the corpses are still warm. The problem with the African village scenario is that there can be no full reconciliation while one side bears all the suffering and the other congratulating themselves on a job well done. So, to put that right, reconciliation must happen AFTER the capture, trial and execution of the perpetrators...

One likes to see both sides wailing and bawling, not one.

24 March 2013 at 15:02  
Blogger John Henson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 March 2013 at 18:46  
Blogger John Henson said...

Here we go again; Flossy, Corrigan and OIG all spouting clap-trap behind the security of anonymity.

Do us a favour and try to address the issues rather than peddle your prejudices.

As Paul repeatedly informs us, we are saved by faith, not through mindless obedience of "the law".

24 March 2013 at 18:50  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

"In Africa in 2010 I stood with a group of ten men, by the mass grave holding the bodies of the majority of the village’s women and children, cut down in a raid a few days earlier. In that darkness, because of the gospel, with other raids around us, they spoke of reconciliation"

Goodness Ivo.

Loving your neighbour is not letting them walk all over you.

Loving your neighbour is helping them to know what Jesus has done for us.

This cannot be achieved if all the Christians are dead.

That is why pacifism is not a Biblical Christian position.

CS Lewis makes the point

"On the test of fact, then, I find the Pacifist position weak. It seems to me that history is full of useful wars as well as of useless wars. It all that can be brought against the frequent appearance of utility is mere speculation about what would have happened, I am not converted."

"The doctrine that war is always a greater evil seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils. But I do not think they are."

"The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not dies for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners."


24 March 2013 at 18:55  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Good morning Inspector
Good morning respected employer
One notes you’ve started posting on Cranmer under your real name. You certainly gave the gay lot short shrift, well done.
{AHEM} Rather good of you to say so - er what’s that in your hand.
It’s your P45 old chap. You see, as much as we all favour freedom of speech and as much as I actually agree with your sentiments, I just can’t afford the gay crowd demonstrating outside this place.
So you want me gone.
That’s the idea. You don't even have to work the months notice. I’ll give you a damn good reference, and we’ll put your departure down to policy disagreements
Absolutely superior of you, you know !
You still here ?

24 March 2013 at 19:07  
Blogger Corrigan said...

The inspector makes a good point. John Henson makes a big noise about straight talking, but he's talking the approved dogma, sometimes called "the line of least resistance".

24 March 2013 at 19:42  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

So, who is ready to follow Archbishop Justin out of the boat then?

24 March 2013 at 19:57  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

You’re damn right there Corrigan. Every so often, the herd charges to a new place in the field for no apparent reason. We’ve seen that with SSM. The likes of smug John Henson derides those who stand firm behind. It’s so bloody easy when you go with the flow...

24 March 2013 at 20:02  
Blogger len said...

There seem to be several' boats 'brother Ivo all going in different directions.Some boats only take directions from Rome ignoring all else.

I incidently have no boat as I left mine some time ago because the Captain of my boat didnt get his orders from 'the manual' but made it up as he went along.
My compass steers a straight and true course because it was created by a Master Mariner and He guides me personally.

24 March 2013 at 20:07  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Brother Ivo

Paul did not cast aside certainty for an irrational leap into the dark. He surrendered false certainties so he could acquire true certainties. And then he went forward to proclaim those true certainties. Peter did not surrender certainty for an irrational step onto the water. He subordinated his knowledge of the water to his knowledge of the Lord of the Waters. You are juxtaposing knowledge with action, as if the former is the enemy of the later. A man doesn't close his eyes to act. He fixes his eyes upon God to act. He has to know God to do that. The exercise begins with knowledge, and not with its intentional absence.

If you want to step off the boat, you better know in Whom you trust. And you had better be willing to circle the wagons in defense of that knowledge when it comes under assault.


24 March 2013 at 22:42  
Blogger Peter Damian said...

"Some boats only take directions from Rome ignoring all else."

How very ecumenical. Catholics take their direction from Christ and should 'Rome' misdirect us on significant matters of faith and morals we will be duty bound to resist.

I think I'll wait to see what first steps the new Archbishop and the new Pope take. At the moment, I'm waiting on them to condemn openly and directly the scandals of our age.

24 March 2013 at 23:41  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

John Henson24 March 2013 18:50: "Here we go again; Flossy, Corrigan and OIG all spouting clap-trap behind the security of anonymity."

Hah hah hah hah! Well, nothing anyone can add to what Corrigan and the Inspector said about that, Mr Henson, but I note that you don't seem disturbed in the slightest that their "claptrap" and "prejudice" which happens to be the traditional, normative and majority opinion compromises their security. We've come a long way, baby.

25 March 2013 at 00:19  
Blogger Peter Damian said...

Brother Ivo
I think we may be overlooking key lessons here and one's I'm sure Archbishop Welby was referring to - when we follow Christ there is no fear.

After allowing the disciples to struggle all night in the tempest, Jesus walks out to them on the water. When they see Jesus, they cried out in fear, supposing a ghost was approaching them. However, Jesus called to them to take courage that it was he and there was no need to be afraid.

Peter replied, through faith, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Peter knew that all he needed was the beckoning of the Lord, and His will would be done.

Here is the basis of faith. We can do whatever the Lord commands and we dare not do anything that the Lord has not authorised. Faith comes by hearing the words of Christ. We walk by faith. Whatever we do, we do it with the authority of Jesus, not by saying that Jesus will authorise whatever we chose to do. We must chose to only do only the things Jesus authorises.

Jesus gave Peter the command – "Come". Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the water, but he did not get far before he began to sink because he began to doubt that he could accomplish what Christ had commanded. Peter saw the strength of the wind. He would not have been troubled by the wind and waves if he had remained focused on Jesus.
The Church and all of us must be aware of dangers facing us and be careful not to let them trap us. We must not allow our awareness of these things affect our focus on Our Lord.
Peter’s problem was not that he was aware of the wind and the waves. He focused on them and allowed his awareness to become fear, which in turn weakened his faith. In that moment of doubt, he forgot which was more powerful – the wind and the waves, or the creator of all things. This is why Jesus scolded Peter, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
The Church cannot defeat the waves of false teaching, worldliness, apathy, or doubt by being fearful or by compromising or pretending they don’t exist.

Peter’s walk on the water was not dependent on him ignoring the wind and the waves, but upon his trusting and obeying Jesus Christ despite the wind and the waves. We need to use the ability and strength that Christ provides.

When he began to sink he cried out "Lord, save me." And He did.

25 March 2013 at 00:36  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Interesting point that if Rome should misdirect us on matters of faith and morals,we would be duty bound to resist.To my knowledge no other religion has this creed which speaking personally makes it difficult to believe that once a Catholic one could ever opt for anything else. I know it happens but it can only result from a lax Catholic education and questionable family values.

25 March 2013 at 01:56  
Blogger len said...

Peter Damien.... IF you had resisted all unbiblical dogma you wouldn`t be a' true' Catholic ie accept ALL Catholic theology as beyond question?.
Paul was a Pharisee and thought he had the 'correct theology 'but his theology actually placed him in direct opposition to Christ.

Peter trusted in his own ability as much as he trusted Christ.Hence when he placed his faith in christ he 'walked on water' when his faith returned to his own ability(works)he sank.

Peter only placed his entire faith in Christ when his faith in his own ability was destroyed(which happened at his denial of Jesus under extreme pressure, threats and intimidation.)
Peter was restored by Christ and filled with the Spirit at Pentecost which totally transformed the disciples from 'fearful'to those who preferred death to dishonouring Christ.

IF Peter could only be a good Christian after he was filled with the Holy Spirit(some might call this 'born again)' then we cannot possibly hope to do any better!.

25 March 2013 at 08:12  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brothers Carl and Peter

I think our Archbishop has real life experience of these issues rather than theological reasoning, and I doubt he will tell us of an absence of fear - indeed Christ himself asked for the cup of sacrifice to be taken away from him.

Archbishop Justin has twice telephoned his wife to tell her his faith had led him to a point where he was expecting to die. It is paradoxical that the presence of real fear pays tribute to faith more than asserting that in Christ there is/ need be no fear.

25 March 2013 at 08:30  
Blogger Jack Sprat said...

It is a pity that Archbishop Justin was not courageous enough to go out in the freezing cold yesterday to the Rally to Defend Marriage in Trafalgar Square. Well done Flossie for attending! There Welby might have found danger enough. as those who met to speak and bear witness were attacked by two hundred thugs wearing rainbow flags (most inappropriately stolen from Dr M.L. King's peaceful and moral civil rights movement). Luckily the police restrained them and they were left just bellowing abuse at the back of the square. According to remarks found on Stink News and other unsavoury websites (treated with excessive leniency by HG "Cranmer")this violent confrontation was deliberately planned, and was set on by Secular Europe, an anti-religious movement approved and funded by the EU. Their manifesto calls for muscular and active confrontation with religious groups. In other words they are violent.
You say that in Christ there is no fear but what if you had been flung to the ground and suffered a cracked skull yesterday? You wouldn't be alive to say that would you?
The Times today should be printing excerpts from the excellent speech by Chris Sugden about how this madness of "gay" marriage means suppressing freedom of speech and
severe loss of civil liberties.

25 March 2013 at 09:58  
Blogger Erin Pascal said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful post. Trusting the Lord with all our hearts and without ever doubting is what the Lord wants us to do. We should keep strengthening our faith and move forward knowing without a doubt that the Lord is always with us. May God bless you.

25 March 2013 at 13:07  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

Brother Ivo - some already have got out of the boat in an ecclesiastical sense and have found by years of experience that Christ is entirely trustworthy, despite the dire warnings of what will happen if tradition is forsaken. It is also possible to mix metaphors and claim to be getting out of a boat when in reality one is jumping off a cliff in disobedience to Christ. However, given that the Bible is not a great big trick question with a contradictory sub-text, that danger can be managed.

Looking on at the events of the past few weeks and last Thursday's sermon especially, many outside the C of E have been greatly impressed that a link with the Gospel has been boldly established as essential by someone at the top of the organisation - something we haven't seen in 30 years. That's what we've been praying for.

On the Peter Tatchell thing - I think it's a good idea of the Archbishop to meet and talk with him privately. Does that mean he surrenders the Christian position? In itself it doesn't, but I have no idea what he will say - whether good or bad.

I'm afraid Peter Tatchell made his way into an ecclesiastical picture back in January.. (shameless blog plug- ).

Carl might like it, it's not meant to be negative or self righteous – just a point of view.

25 March 2013 at 13:29  
Blogger Jon said...

I'm not sure the metaphor of circling the wagons is particularly helpful when you're discussing ideas. You circle wagons because it's a position from which your vital supplies can be defended.

You can't defend ideas in this way. In a contest of ideas, which is what any form of evangelism really is, a defensive position wins you nothing much - it leaves people free to ignore you. Your ideas have to gain attention, show merit, and hopefully, some kind of advantage to their adherence.

For me, the Church getting out of the boat should be about re-engaging with the world around it, confident in its beliefs, and showing the advantages to being a Christian. Those who advocate purity and wagon circling are denying the Church's calling and undermining its voice in the world.

I remember a bible verse about salt losing its saltiness - and this is clearly what the wagon circlers fear. But what good is salt if it never leaves the cellar? The inspiring part of the Vietnamese archbishop's story isn't that he was tortured, but that his "saltiness" endured in horror to touch the lives of those around him.

Some of the commenters here are so busy wrestling with their private battles and obsessions with modernity, that the bigger picture eludes them. I thought this was an inspiring post, Brother Ivo, and I don't think I'm anything like your target audience! Nicely done.

25 March 2013 at 14:10  
Blogger Peter Damian said...

By my reading of Scripture, Pentecost was a miraculous intervention by God to empower Christ's new Church and Apostles. So too was Paul's vision an exceptional intervention.

I don't believe the Bible suggests either of these are models for all conversions. For some yes, but not for all. If God chooses to over power some, so be it. If He chooses to work more slowly with others, who can question Him?

And of course Catholics accept all of Catholic doctrine and dogma. I mean, we wouldn't be Catholic otherwise. However, within the Church, particularly since Vatican II. there is division about how to best interpret and apply Church teaching, with some pushing for more 'Modernist' approaches. Some would argue there is much ambiguity in developments since the 1960's.

The Bishops, the Pope and the Vatican Curia are not above respectful, sometimes robust, criticism by devote Catholics.

25 March 2013 at 14:38  
Blogger Tony Fisher said...

"If there is one thing we can be sure of when reading the Bible, it is that the morning Saul of Tarsus took his breakfast before setting out along the Damascus road, he was a man at peace with his certainties."

I, I'm afraid, cannot be so sure. I've always thought, and still think, that Saul's behaviour was that of a man throwing himself into violent action in an attempt to hide his own doubts, his own conscience, from himself. What else does "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" mean (Acts 9.5)?

Also, I do not believe that God is a violator of personalities. But if Saul really was utterly and completely convinced of the falsity of the Gospel of Jesus was not his experience on the road to Damascus such a violation?

25 March 2013 at 14:53  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

25 March 2013 at 16:42  
Blogger John Henson said...

Corrigan said...
The inspector makes a good point. John Henson makes a big noise about straight talking, but he's talking the approved dogma, sometimes called "the line of least resistance".

If I knew what you were talking about I'd try to make a sensible reply.

26 March 2013 at 19:34  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Of dash it, I missed the old bird's post. No doubt a response to Len, as Len seems to enrage Dodo birds and cause them to beat their wings against the window.

Mr Henson, as Corrigan may be busy getting a hair transplant, allow me to interpret. He means to say that your opining under your own name impresses not, as it is the politically correct, equity-certified and trendy social pabulum which would get no one in the industrialized world into the slightest bit of trouble. Except perhaps in a biker bar outside of Biloxi,I'd caution.

28 March 2013 at 15:51  
Blogger len said...

'Dodo Birds' and' old buzzards' such as the Inspector are ripe for knocking of their pompous perches.

It is getting somewhat boring though the are soooo predictable they have a mindset conditioned to run in blinkers.
So any new revelation is totally beyond them.

29 March 2013 at 21:59  

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