On the second of June, 1953, around 20.4 million people in the United Kingdom crowded around only 2.7 million television sets to watch the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey. This was a watershed moment in the modern era, a day on which the ancient rituals of an ancient kingdom were open to the public in an unprecedented way. [Read more…]
For Ascension Day 2016.
Luke Skywalker has vanished.
These are the opening words of the opening crawl of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.
Luke Skywalker—Jedi Knight, conqueror of the evil empire, redeemer of his father Darth Vader—has vanished. If you have seen the film you will know that this vanishing has been wholly bad for the galaxy: in his absence, a new empire, a new Death Star, and a new dark lord have arisen.
Luke Skywalker has vanished and the galaxy is suffering.
The gospels also tell the tale of a vanishing and vanished hero. The original ending of the gospel of Mark has the women come to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty. Jesus has vanished and this leads to shock: the women “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8). [Read more…]
Mormons in my neck of the woods first saw live General Conference broadcasts around 1993. A few members of the church had satellite receivers powerful enough to pick up a very poor reception of conference. It got better over the next few years. By the end of the 90s, most stake centres had dishes. Now everyone watches it on the internet.
Prior to the 90s, conference here was not a big thing at all. Sometimes we watched taped versions but without a huge amount of zeal. There was, of course, the printed version in the Ensign.
We knew that there were prophets leading the church but they were distant. The big stuff got through — like President Benson’s talks on pride and the Book of Mormon — but mostly the leaders who mattered were local. No-one hung on every jot and tittle of every word of every speaker of conference as if it were all big stuff. This was ok. We were still Mormons.
I read Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots at a time when life around me made its thesis particularly stark. I had been contemplating how deeply rooted most of the things are that give me joy and support in life: the work place founded half a millennium ago, my Christian faith, the LDS community, my family, my experience as an economically liberated citizen of a centuries’ old constitutional democracy. Even quirky things like the custodianship of my father’s stamp collection, stamps he has collected since the 1950s. So many good things in my life are rooted: old but not stale, secure but still dynamic.
Contrast this with the uprootings causing turmoil in the Middle East. To take one example: the plight of the Christians of Syria and Iraq whose once anciently-rooted communities have been torn up by war and terror. Writing as a French woman at the end of the Second World War, Simone Weil (1909-1943) has much to say about our societies’ current ailments while also offering us a glimpse of a nascent France in her own time.
Elder Holland has it right: “It is not our purpose ever to demean any person’s belief or the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we ask for ours.”
It is therefore a shame to have this statement appear a few sentences before: “We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity [an unflattering amalgam of the doctrine of the Trinity] is incomprehensible.”
It is also to be regretted that the full context of Serapion’s lament — “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, … and I know not whom to adore or to address” — is not given, either by Holland, Paulsen, or Robinson). The Anthropomorphite heresy Serapion clung to had its crux in the veneration of icons. As an iconoclastic religion, Mormonism would no doubt also have frowned on Serapion’s use of icons in prayer and sought to take them away.
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The content is Mormon but the pattern is inspired by the Book of Common Prayer, which has been preparing people to receive the Lord’s Supper for 450 years. Scroll down for a version without the BCP headings (I have initially given the headings to show the order’s methodology). The intent is to place the sacrament in the centre of sacrament meeting, to bring greater focus to our prayers and talks, and to better offer due praise to God.
Prelude music is sung or played.
Announcements are given by the relevant quorum and auxiliary leaders.
The presiding officer greets the congregation.
Opening hymn. [Read more…]
How does God speak to us? Let us say he speaks in our minds and we must worry no more about it. Except I will worry because that is me.
I am speaking in my own mind right now as I form these words and type them. Somewhere in my Wernicke’s area, some chemical magic is doing something that I perceive as language. Does the Holy Spirit enter my brain and stir that soup? [Read more…]
Every year the same thing happens. Once Christmas week arrives, the profane calendar stops. No more Thursday or Friday, just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The effect lasts until about New Year when we return again to the rhythms of the sun and the times and seasons bequeathed to us by the Romans. This is why marking sacred time is so important, not because we are fundamentalists who despise the secular calendar but because we are Christians who need to find some way to extricate ourselves from its utter dominance. Christmastime offers a glimpse of how this works. [Read more…]
The Last Day of Advent.
May the sun of righteousness rise for you, with healing in its wings!
The 25th Day of Advent.
Return to me and I will return to you.
The 24th Day of Advent.
Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another?
The 23rd Day of Advent.
Careful. Will the Lord find pleasure in us?
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
The 20th Day of Advent.
On that day you shall not be put to shame.
The 19th Day of Advent.
Be silent before the Lord God!
The 18th Day of Advent.
Beware the envoys from Babylon!
The 17th Day of Advent.
Does God intervene in human lives? Does he answer prayer?
The 16th Day of Advent / John of the Cross, Poet, Teacher of the Faith, 1591.
The four last things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, Hell. But first, death.
The 13th Day of Advent.
Could Lebanon really wither away?
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?
The 12th Day of Advent.
What is righteousness but the ordering of society so that fairness and equity prevail?
The 10th Day of Advent / The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
See, the name of the Lord comes from far away.
The 9th Day of Advent / The Feast of Ambrose, 397.
The Lord waits to be gracious to you.