Winsome Words 10/29/13

Life is not long enough for a religion of inferences; we shall never have done beginning, if we determine to begin with proof.  We shall ever be laying our foundations; we shall turn theology into evidences, and divines into textuaries...  Life is for action.  If we insist on proofs for everything, we shall never come to action: to act you must assume, and that
assumption is faith. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Another upteemth thousand sq. ft. home for a pastor who is spending his “own money”

It is all so very sad. Very sad.

Here is the article. It’s from Mail Online, so it needs to be read with a grain of salt, but what I know of the situation is clear enough.

A simple truth: those who call others to follow Christ so publicly as this Pastor has the responsibility to model for others a value system that mirrors our lowly Savior. There are some gray areas for sure. This one isn’t in that zone.

Today is Orthodox Church’s Feast to Commemorate Pilate’s Wife

Pilate’s Wife Honored as a Saint

Dream of Pilate's wife

PILATE IS INFAMOUS as the Roman governor who executed Christ although he knew he was innocent. But ancient stories of her conversion have led the Orthodox and Ethiopian Churches t regard his wife as a saint. This day, 27 October, is her feast.

The Bible does not give Pilate’s wife a name, but tradition says she was called Procula (or sometimes Claudia). The Gospel of Matthew records that during Christ’s trial, she sent a message to her husband saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19)

That is all the Bible says about her. The tradition of her conversion goes back at least to the second century, when Origen remarked in section 122 of his Commentary on Matthew that God providentially willed the vision to “turn around Pilate’s wife.”*

The Gospel of Nicodemus, written in the fourth century, claims that Pilate mentioned Procula’s dream to the Jews, at which they retorted, “Did we not tell you that he [Jesus] was a sorcerer? Behold, he has sent a dream to your wife.”

Pilate was a tough governor, who more than once butchered Jews, but we do not know how he behaved toward his wife. Did he usually trust her judgment? Was it brave of her to send him a note while he was sitting on the judgment seat?  Whatever the situation, Pilate was in a tight place. Pressures from Rome made it imperative he not allow a riot; therefore, although he knew Jesus was innocent, he was not willing to take the risks necessary to save his life. In the end, he ignored his wife’s warning and had Christ crucified.


qui voluit per visum convertere Pilati uxorum in the Latin version.

 [JW1]I don’t know if you have ever read Dorothy Sayers’The Man Born to be King (a series of twelve radio plays on the life of Christ) but her treatment of Pilate’s wife’s dream, and of their relationship, is very interesting. You might enjoy taking a look.

Other Notable Events

Death of Louise Rathke, at Valparaiso, Indiana. She had been the first trained deaconess to serve in India.

North Vietnamese soldiers enter the Laotian town of Kengkock, taking prisoners, including missionaries Evelyn Anderson, Beatrice Kosin, Lloyd Oppel, and Samuel Mattix.

Farewell service is held for Dr. “Harry” Ironside who has resigned as pastor of Moody Memorial church. He will continue to serve as a world evangelist.

The first Lithuanian Church in America is organized in Plymouth, Pennsylvania with Rev. Alexander Burba as its first pastor.

Birth of John McClintock in Philadelphia. He will become a Methodist clergyman, the first president of Drew Theological Seminary, and co-edit the 12-volume Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature with James Strong.

Francis Asbury lands in Philadelphia and will soon lead American Methodists to become the largest denomination in the United States.

William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson became the first Quakers to be executed in America for their religious beliefs, Stephenson saying, “Be it known unto all this day that we suffer not as evil-doers, but for conscience sake.” The date will later be observed as International Religious Freedom Day.

Christians in Japan face a deadline to hand over all mission material to authorities.

Servetus is condemned by  Geneva’s magistrates to burn alive for rejecting the Trinity. Calvin, who had vowed to execute him if he ever fell into his power, attempted to have the method of execution changed to beheading.

Birth of Desiderius Erasmus, whose writings will help bring about the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Honorius I begins his reign as pope. His belief in Monothelitism (that Christ had only one will, not two), later condemned as heresy by the Roman Catholic Church, will figure in arguments over papal infallibility.

From The Christian History Institute

Pain is a kindly, hopeful thing, a certain proof of life, a clear assurance that all is not yet over, that there is still a chance. But if your heart has no pain — well, that may betoken health, as you suppose: but are you certain that it does not mean that your soul is dead?     A. J. Gossip

A Quote from Annie Dillard that keeps coming back to me

My favorite quote by Dillard: I often think of the set pieces of the liturgy as certan words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed.

I have been raised in and ministered in “low church” congregations. In these churches the value is spontaneity, friendliness, extemporaneous prayers, long sermons and a focus on the individual crossing over spiritual barriers with crisis moments of decision. Mostly I am comfortable with this. But I am not unaware of its dangers and downsides.

The most obvious downside is that such worship can be faddish, captive to culture, and totally dependent on the charisma of the pastor. Pastor-as-normal will not do. There must be someone who in a live act sort of way embodies all the emotions of the moment, much like a stand up performer. The pastor must read moods, conditions, and on the spot shape the service. It is quite demanding. Few do it well. Where it is done well, church attendance can swell. And then when it fades, church attendance predictably goes the other way.

But there is a huge downside to an overreach in this direction – the careless use of words, spoken spontaneously and without being time tested and examined for fruitfulness. Words become realities, they shape inner visions and expectations. If they are bad words, they build landscapes that have hidden traps, marshes and cliffs. Words can be nuanced and with a slight turn of emphasis can create impressions that take us one way or the other. The question is which way.

The liturgy developed over time and tested by multiple generations helps us speak words that keep us safe. God doesn’t shoot arrows at people who misspeak. He does look at the heart. But he does respond to vain words that are thoughtlessly thrown around as if it does not really matter what we say. I have been to many a service where the pastors and other platforms personalities seem to have no clue that they are word craftsman, responsible to choose the right word for the right time.

For many the liturgy is dry, formulaic, rote and often seen as insincere, like reading notecards to a lover. But I ask worshipers to take another look. Why do we memorize love poems? Why do we read poems again and again? Why are there songs we continue to repeat? Mostly because these words work and take us to good places where we will be safe and well-guided.

I have tried to blend liturgy with my free church tradition. I do get push back on it. But i think that if a church stays with it, over the long haul they will be edified and kept from danger. Creeds, lectionary readings, read prayers, corporate confessions of sin, etc., can serve the church by keeping its platform personalities on topic and not carry it far afield by the exigencies of the moment. Witness to what happens to a congregation on the day the Lord’s Supper is served. The Supper shapes the service in a way that keeps the platform in check and focused. No loose jokes and “chipper” chatter.

Words, words, words, words, words. Be careful of them. They can and will be used against you.