Weekly Reflection

Pentecost 6

07.08.2022

Christ the King is cancelling our service this Sunday, July 10 ,and joining the congregation of Resurrection Williamsburg for worship at 10am with brunch to follow. On July 24, their congregation will be cancelling their morning service and joining us in the afternoon. The impetus behind these joint services is their desire to explore merging their congregation with Christ the King. This recommendation was made to the congregation by their leaders two weeks ago and will be voted on by the congregation on August 7. If approved by their members, the work of merging the congregations will begin immediately.

As exciting as this prospect is to the leaders of both congregations, there will be much relational and institutional work that follows, so I am asking for your prayerful support. We believe the Holy Spirit is leading us in this and we are excited to see where we go from here.

If you are unable to join us for worship in person, or would rather check out the service online, please visit Resurrection's LIVESTREAM.

In Christ,
Matt

Pentecost 5

07.02.2022

Monday is Independence Day and we will undoubtedly hear more than one warbling voice remind us that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." And while no one denies that we are a self-governing nation, independent of Great Britain since our declaration in 1776, there is much debate about whether we are "free", as evidenced by the various reactions to the SCOTUS rulings.

On the right, there is much celebration over being "freed" from state constraints to the 2nd Amendment and unelected federal bureaucrats. On the left, there is much consternation over the loss of "freedom" for women to decide if they will carry a pregnancy to term. In response, many are "canceling" their 4th of July celebrations and encouraging others to do the same. I believe both sides of these debates confuse autonomy and freedom.

Autonomy is giving a law to oneself. Being ruled by something alien to oneself is heteronomy. In Western culture, autonomy is assumed to be the central human good. Matthew B. Crawford argues in The World Beyond Your Head that this anthropological understanding of freedom is actually a threat to human flourishing:

“As atomized individuals called to create meaning for ourselves, we find ourselves the recipients of all manner of solicitude and guidance. We are offered forms of unfreedom that come slyly wrapped in autonomy talk: NO LIMITS!, as the credit card offer says. YOU’RE IN CHARGE. Autonomy talk speaks the consumerist language of preference satisfaction. Discovering your true preferences requires maximizing the number of choices you face: precisely the condition that makes for maximum dissipation of one’s energies. Autonomy talk is a flattering mode of speech. It suggests that freedom is something we are entitled to, and it consists in liberation from constraints imposed by one’s circumstances.”

In contrast to autonomy, Crawford suggests that true human freedom comes through adhering to proper constraints, including our physical environment. "When we become competent in some particular field of practice, our perception is disciplined by that practice; we become attuned to pertinent features of a situation that would be invisible to a bystander. Through the exercise of a skill, the self that acts in the world takes on a definite shape. It comes to be in a relation of fit to a world it has grasped.” Therefore, a musician is most free when understanding and abiding by the constraints of harmony, melody and rhythm.

Striving after autonomy, as defined by our culture, is ultimately a fool's errand, as everyone is forced to submit to physical, environmental and political constraints outside oneself. Even Jesus was not autonomous. When he took on human flesh, he submitted to the physical constraints of this world. Furthermore, the apostle Paul says Jesus was "born under the Law" (Galatians 4:4) and his ministry was a fulfillment of the prophets, thus constrained. Most importantly, he submitted himself to the will of the Father and endured the cross on our behalf. And yet, Jesus was truly free (even when imprisoned) because he willingly embraced these constraints as essential aspects of his identity. And in so doing, he set us free to be the people God created us to be.

All that to say, on this July 4th weekend, Christians across the country should gather for worship and celebrate freedom and independence as granted to us, not by Congress, the Supreme Court or the President, but by the one who created and redeems us to live freely in this world.

In other news...

We will be cancelling our morning service on July 10 and joining the congregation of Resurrection Williamsburg for worship at 10:30am and brunch to follow. On July 24, their congregation will be cancelling their morning service and joining us in the afternoon. The impetus behind these joint services is their desire to explore merging their congregation with Christ the King. This recommendation was made to the congregation by their leaders last Sunday and will voted on by the congregation on August 7. If approved by their members, the work of merging the congregations will begin immediately. As exciting as this prospect is to the leaders of both congregations, none of us know fully who Christ the King will be at the end of the process—and we shouldn't. We believe the Holy Spirit is leading us in this and we are excited to see where we go from here.

I will be announcing this in the service tomorrow evening and then we will have plenty of time to discuss at our First Sunday picnic in the park. If, by chance, you are unable to attend tomorrow evening and have questions for me or the members of our vestry, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.

In Christ,
Matt

Pentecost 4

06.25.2022

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" —Psalm 133:1

Regardless of one's opinion about the Supreme Court's rulings this week, they again highlight the deep cultural and political divisions that pose an existential threat to the "United States."

It is in times such as these when the church must remember her identity as the Body and Bride of Christ in this world. As such, we must ever strive to be the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic" community we profess to be. This doesn't mean we ignore social and political debates and assume an "otherworldly" perspective; as such a response would deny our identity as followers of the one who took on human flesh, engaged the political powers of his day and allowed himself to be crucified by them. Nor does it mean we adopt a partisan political posture where "winning", rather than self-sacrificing love, is of utmost importance.

For this reason, Christians have long believed that the most important and politically powerful act we can perform is gathering for worship every week and reminding ourselves (and our friends and neighbors) that our primary allegiance belongs not to a political party or nation-state, but to Jesus and his Kingdom. Therefore, we unite ourselves around his table and celebrate our unity in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This summer, as further evidence of this unity, Christ the King is going to have two joint worship services with our sister congregation, Resurrection Williamsburg. On July 10, we are going to cancel our afternoon service and join them at 10am in Williamsburg for worship, followed by a shared lunch. On July 24, they are going to cancel their morning service and join us in the afternoon, after which we will share dinner. Please mark your calendars and make every effort to join us for these services. If you are traveling and cannot be with us, then let me encourage you to worship in a church wherever you may be this summer. In so doing, we remind ourselves that Jesus is bringing his kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven" and he will not fail.

If you are unable to join us for worship in person, or would rather check us out online, please visit our LIVESTREAM.

In Christ,
Matt

Pentecost 3

06.18.2022

Juneteenth is a US federal holiday commemorating June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to free African Americans who remained in slavery two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. And while Juneteenth is a uniquely American celebration, marking the end of the sinful stain of slavery in our country, it is also an opportunity for Christians in the US to remember why all Christians rejoice in the breaking of unjust institutions.

Amidst all the cultural celebrations of Juneteenth, there is a shared assumption that slavery is evil and freedom a human right. But on what grounds? If our universe exists as the result of random atomic collisions in which survival is a cage-match; then any talk of inalienable and inherent human value is incoherent. If natural selection is the governing principle of nature, then slavery may not be the inevitable result, but it certainly becomes a regular option on the socio-political menu. But if, on the other hand, our world exists as the outpouring of divine love and every human being has been formed in the very image of God, then we all inhabit sacred space and live next door to royalty. Slavery is evil and freedom (biblically defined) is a human right because God designed us for dignity and Jesus came to free us from slavery to sin and death.

[The especially wicked madness of slavery in America (and its subsequent apartheid) was its establishment and reinforcement by those who professed faith in Jesus but were unwilling to bear the cost of dismantling injustice.]

So…the best way to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend is to worship the one who gave his life that all may be saved. In addition, you may consider:

  • Supporting Black-owned businesses in your neighborhood;
  • Speaking up against racism in your spheres of influence;
  • Educating yourself about the Emancipation Proclamation and the history of slavery in the United States;
  • Meditating on Exodus 3:7, 9. “Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings.’”

In Christ,
Matt

PS Happy Fathers' Day!

Trinity Sunday

06.11.2022

A Collect for Trinity Sunday (BCP 2019)

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Trinity Sunday is the culmination of the Easter Season; a celebration of God's self-revelation in the person and work of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And while the word "Trinity" was not used by theologians until the Second Century, the concept that the one, true God exists in three persons is a divine mystery that unfolds throughout the biblical narrative. I say "unfolding" because there are traces of Trinitarianism throughout the Hebrew scriptures (beginning with the creation account which St. Augustine describes as a single act performed by three persons) that accumulate into an unmistakeable heap by the end of the New Testament.

If you have been following along with the lectionary since Easter, then you have heard Jesus say things like:

Do you not believe that I [ Jesus] am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves (John 14:10–11).

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:25-26).


And the Apostle Paul expands further:

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10–11).

Because of these and many other passages that speak of God the Father, Jesus and the Spirit indwelling one another, the church has long grasped for language that captures the concept, employing and inventing words like circumcession, perichoresis, and coinherence; each emphasizing important aspects of this unfathomable mystery. And yet, they all describe what is at the heart of Trinitarian theology: an eternal and unrelenting mutual affection. The Father, in his very nature, delights in his Son; and the Spirit is a perpetual bond and expression of familial love.

When the Bible talks about God loving the world, this is an outpouring of the love that exists for all eternity within God. And when we gather together for worship, we are not simply expressing our gratitude for God's love, we are participating in it. The Gospel is the Good News that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have welcomed us into their divine fellowship and when we call one another into worship and share bread and wine we are welcoming one another into a place of mutual delight. Join us for worship and experience God's delight.

In Christ,
Matt

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