"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Undivided Hearts

"Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Ps. 86:11b

I came across this verse in my reading several weeks ago and it has really stuck with me. The two parts of the verse don't quite seem to fit together. You might expect "Give me an undivided heart, and I will praise you," or "I will love you." Why "fear your name"?

I think the answer is that Jehovah was to the Kingdom's surrounding Israel a God to be feared. When he fought on the side of his people, Israel, the outcome of the war was certain. This fact did not go unnoticed by the Israelites, at least not always. Many Hebrews over the generations knew they were to fear the LORD. They also knew, as we ought to know, that the fear of the Lord is the first step in learning to love God. But you cannot fear the Lord if your attention is diverted from him. From personal experience, I can relate how easily this happens, as I'm sure anyone reading this can.

It is too easy to be caught up in the ways of the world and make God almost an afterthought. We forget that he will judge our misdeeds. An illustration might help. There could be a venemous snake under a nearby bush. I should fear that snake. But I will not if I have forgotten that it is there. That is why I have been mediating on this verse. "Give me an undivided heart." For when my heart is focused on God and who God is, ultimately my Judge, I will fear him and in due time, begin loving him for who he is.

And really, this is the essence of the Great commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. With all! There are to be no divisions within ourselves. Completely undivided we are to give ourselves to Jesus. Fear and genuine love of God's truth, righteousness, and mercy will be the natural fruit.

Pray for an undivided heart.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the Invocation of Saints

As an Anglo-Catholic there are few beliefs I hold which irritate other Anglicans and Protestants as much as my belief in the practice of invocing the prayers of the Saints. I would like here to offer a brief defense of the practice and conclude with why I believe it to be an important practice.

There seem to me to be two main objections praying to the saints...
1.) We should only pray to God, through Christ.
2.) The Saints are dead, they cannot hear our prayers.

I would be happy to answer any other objections if a reader thinks I have over-simplified these issues.

The first objection raised usually takes its roots in a verse St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy. "There is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. (I Tim. 2:5) To this "objection", I would give a hearty "amen". Yes, there is but one Mediator, one go between, for humanity and the Father. The problem with this objection is that it does not stand up as a problem for the doctrine of invoking the prayers of the saints. After all, I would ask anyone I know to pray for me, if I needed prayers for something. That is not undermining the role of Christ as High Priest and Mediator. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that there is a power in corportate prayer. When we ask the saints to pray for us, such as in the Ave Maria, we do not ask the Blessed Mother to go to the Father, but we ask her to pray to her Son; for not even the most glorious of God's creations has access to the Father except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Thus, objection #1 fails because the practice does not seek to circumvent Jesus, but to bring more prayers and petitions before him.

The second objection misses some key points. First, the Saints are not dead. Two passages from the Revelation of St. John (6:9-10, 8:3-4) show that the Saints are quite alive and, surprise, surprise, praying! Now, of course, it would be naive to say we have the same level of communication with those who have died as when they were on earth. But as the Scripture plainly teach, there is but one Body of Christ. Therefore, even in death, the Church militant remains united to the Church triumphant. So it is not a stretch to say our communion with the Church on the other side of the vale allows for them to hear us. But I believe this opinion is cemented as fact by the cry of the Martyrs, cited above, from the Revelation. Their question "how long?" until they are vindicated indicates they are more than well aware of what is going on on earth. Aside from this, we have the testimony of Hebrews (12:1) that the saints are a "great cloud of witnesses" surrounding us. As witnesses, they must see and hear what we do. The weight of the evidence suggests that the saints are alive, aware of earthly conditions, and disposed to praying.

Of course, there are not any biblical references of praying TO the deceased. But there does not need to be. There are many things we are not commanded to do, but we do because they are logical and allowable. Furthermore, this practice helps make our prayers more effective. Not necessarily because it means more people are praying (though that does help). St. James teaches us that "the prayer of the righteous man avails much." (James 5:16) Those of us who believe have the righteousness of Christ within us to varying degrees. But the Saints in heaven are fully free from sin. They are more righteous than we are. Therefore, their prayers avail much more than our own.

With all this in mind, I have posted below one of my favorite versions of Ave Maria. This is the Bach/Gounod arrangement performed by Carmen Monarcha.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Political Musings

I would like to look at the horse race for the U.S. Senate. There are 17 seats which are potentially in play this coming elections (that is, a person from the party out of power could win the election.)

I believe there are 11 possible pickups for the Republicans. There are 6 potential pickups for the Democrats. You will find each state listed below in an order I think reflects their likelihood of changing parties.

Republican Pickups-
I have little doubt of these:
North Dakota (Byran Dorgan would have faced a tough re-election, without him running the dems don't have a prayer.)
Indiana (The Bayh name was a household one in Indiana-made it easy for Evan to win a couple of terms. Without him on the ticket, even conservadem Ellsworth won't hold the seat for the party.)
Arkansas-research tells me that the Republicans have held a Senate seat only one term in the last century in this state. Nevertheless, Lincolne trails her Republican challenger by 25 points in the polls-I don't think she holds on.

Republicans should pickup-
Delaware-Mike Castle has been the long-time at large representative of the state. He is a moderate Republican and acceptable to a state-wide electorate. I'm tempted to move this to the above category. Two problems to that-1.) It's Joe Biden's old seat. 2.) Delaware has voted heavily democratic in presidential elections.
Colorado-the state has trended democratic, and voted for Obama in '08. But an appointed senator fills Interior Secretary Ken Salaazar's seat-not an easy sell in a swing state. Polling looks decent for team Red-I say a pickup.
Nevada-Harry Reid was tasked with the unfortunate job of passing healthcare. It was not overly popular in his state, but if he didn't do it, he looked incapable of passing Obama's agenda. His approval is stuck in the low 40's and has been for sometime. He got a break with a Tea Party candidate who apparently at one time favored prohibition winning the republican nomination. Even still, Rasmussen showed her leading Reid by 11 points this morning (significant even for a pollster who has had a Republican house effect this cycle.)

Republicans pickups that likely won't be-
Washington-Dino Rossi has lost two statewide races. That says something. Patty Murray doesn't exactly have a distinguished career-but has done nothing deserving ouster. Rossi is talented and I think will make it close-could even win-but I don't think so.
California-Fiorina was not the best choice to face Barbara Boxer. She'll make it close and her money may matter. But she had a hot mic moment this morning and her views on immigration will not maker her a darling to anyone in the southern part of the state. Close, but no cigar.
Pennsylvania-perhaps the most interesting race of the cycle. Sestak is too liberal for the state at large, and Toomey is too conservative. The fact is, while he may be a SOB who cares about nothing but his job, Specter was a decent ideological fit for the state. It's close in the polls, but I think Sestak, with his Philadelphia roots, will prevail.
Illinois-This is a hard state for R's to win statewide. Mark Kirk, a moderate republican, was a good choice to run. But he has recently come under fire for lying about his Viet Nam record. This more or less cancels out his democratic opponent's scandal-family bank went under. The dems obviously have serious scandal on their hands with Rod Blago's trial in the news...but I think the dems hold this seat.
Wisconsin-The republicans failed to get Tommy Thompson to run against Feingold. Feingold is a rather liberal member of the senate, considering he comes from a fairly moderate state. He's beatable. But the R's didn't get a great recruit. Nevertheless, polling shows this one being winnable for the republicans. Still, I would chalk this one up for team Blue.

Democractic possible pickups-
Ohio-This is a classic swing-state. Obama won it by 4 last election. If I remember correctly, Bush won it by 2 in 2004. Polling shows this open Republican seat leaning ever so slightly democratic. I think this is the dems best chance of a pickup. But I don't think it will happen.
Kentucky-Economic Libertarians are not a huge part of the Republican party in the evangelical conservative south. But that is what Rand Paul is. He can defeat his democractic opponent, and will start with a lead-but it won't be easy.

Democratic pickups that likely won't happen-
New Hampshire-This state has trended very blue of late. However, Kelly Ayotte seems to have Paul Hodes' number. She has dominated the polls-insofar as a swing state can be dominated.
Missouri-Very close race in the polls. However, of the states Obama looked to flip from the Bush 2004 category, the only one in which he was unsuccessful was MO. I think that's worth noting in a close race.
Florida-Who knows what Charlie Crist's move will do? I tend to think, that unless he manages to bring down Obama's endoresement, he will not beat Marco Rubio. Would the president back an R turned I? Not impossible, but recent moves by Crist seems to indicate that might be the goal for which he is angling. Polling for now remains very close. Can Kendrick Meek take advantage of Crist and Rubio splitting R's and conservative Indies? I just don't think so.
North Carolina-Richard Burr is an underperforming freshman senator. Can't get his approval out of the 40's. A couple of years ago, I would not have thought that a big deal. That was before Obama eeked out a win in NC. I don't really think this will be a pickup-but it's worth keeping an eye on.

So there you go...in January we will have a Senate divided 53-47 in favor of team Blue.