Saturday, November 29, 2014

“Advent: Hope” - November 30, 2014

Matthew 13:24-30

24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 

            The parable in today’s gospel lesson points out how, in our human effort to root out injustice – which is an honorable and praiseworthy calling – good people and innocent people can often be hurt.  So what should we do?  Simply let the weeds grow alongside the wheat?  That seems like a prescription for disaster.  It comes across as weak and passive at best, inhumanly cold and callous and heartless at the worst.  Yet there are times when it is a sign of strength and the fruit of wisdom not to use the power that we may have, not because we do not care, but because we recognize that in some situations the only one capable of bringing true justice is God.  So we live in hope, hope of the day when real justice can be established.

            From the outset, let’s recognize that the waiting involves pain.  It is not pain for its own sake, though, but the sort of pain that gives birth, and the Spirit of God helps us through it, like a midwife helps a woman through delivery.  As the letter to the Romans [8:22-27] says,
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
It is as if the Spirit, in the midst of the most painful injustices, says, “Breathe.  Just breathe.”

            Jesus warns against the rush to judgment, not because our judgment isn’t sometimes right.  He warns us that there may be consequences we do not even suspect.  I go back time and time again to thoughts of my seminary classmate and his family.  He grew up in a small town in South Carolina, where his father worked at the local funeral parlor and had a second job at night at a convenience store.  That’s where he was one night when two white men came in to rob the store and then decided to terrorize the dark-skinned man behind the register.  His body was found with multiple bullet holes four days later.  The thieves were caught, put on trial, and convicted of murder.  There was no doubt of their guilt.  The District Attorney then went to the victim’s family to ask permission to seek the death penalty.  His mother, my friend’s grandmother, gathered them together and they all went to the prison to watch the killers through a one-way window.  They talked it over for days after that, but the final decision was reached when the dead man’s mother and wife told the authorities to ask for life imprisonment.  They agreed that the killers deserved execution, but said that they could never do to their families what had been done to them.

They had heard the words of Jesus, how

in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them”?  [Matthew 13:29]
Crimes are committed not just against individuals.  Crime cuts to the heart of the safety and well-being of the community.  One person might be mugged, but the sense of security is stolen from many others.  In the same way, the effort to establish justice can inadvertently touch the lives of the innocent.  You would hope that someone contemplating a crime of any sort would have a twinge of conscience before acting, some thought of what kind of shame they might be bringing on the people who are their family or their friends.  There’s an old hymn that says,

“I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.”[1]

Unfortunately, though, somewhere in the world there are people whose last name once upon a time was Capone who had to have it legally changed.  Nobody named Manson will ever again name a baby boy “Charles”.

            Yet we have hope.  We have hope because we know someone who can sort things out better than we could.  Jesus said,

“at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” [Matthew 13:30]
            One more story about Death Row here.  It’s about someone whose son I baptized a few years after his two older children had died in a house fire in 1985.  Fifteen years after the fire, he was convicted of setting the fire that killed them.  He spent twelve years on Death Row and then his sentence was commuted to life in prison, because some of the evidence used in the trial that related to the cause of the fire was shown to be scientifically questionable.[2]  To this day I am uncertain, as are many others who knew him, exactly what happened.  The mother of the children who died maintained that, even at his worst (which was pretty bad) he would never have hurt his children – and this was a woman who had no love left for him.  His second wife told police that he had confessed to setting the fire, but she did that in the course of another very nasty divorce.[3]  For my part, I know that whenever he heard “Danny Boy” he would break down and totally fall apart. (One of the dead children was named Danny.)  Was it grief or was it guilt or was it both?  I will never know.  Honestly, I don’t want to know.

            There is a need for judges and juries to make the best decisions they can.  Pray for them.  It is hard work, and serious work.  Only, do not rush to judgment even on those who might be clearly guilty, because they may be experiencing a sentence we can never know, and even when we have to make decisions for the safety of society about when someone needs to be in prison, remember that the final judgment is not ours.  So, too, never assume that someone walking free will not also be sorted out in the end.

            A man who came from Nazareth was convicted of treason and inciting insurrection.  He was sentenced to death, like many others had been sentenced, by the local governor and executed that same day.  The governor’s name was Pilate.  The other one’s name you can guess.  Whatever happened to each of them?

            We live in hope, because the wisest judge of all sorts these things out.

[1] Howard A. Walter, “I Would Be True” (first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1906).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Not Your Doing" - November 26, 2014

Deuteronomy 8:7-18
Community Thanksgiving Service
Phoenixville: Sacred Heart RC

In the play Shenandoah, a farmer in Virginia sits down at the head of the table where his family is gathered and they all reverently bow their heads as he prays,

“Lord, we cleared this land.  We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it.  We cook the harvest.  It would be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.  We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you, Lord, just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.”[1]

That’s the attitude that the book of Deuteronomy [8:11-14, 17-18] tries to warn us against. 
“Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, … Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.”
It’s rare that anyone puts it as baldly as the father in Shenandoah, but it is nonetheless a common way of thinking.

            You can hear it in the way that some people call tomorrow “Turkey Day”.  That’s not to say that turkey will not be on our minds from early in the day.  That and pumpkin pie.  And mashed potatoes.  And stuffing.  With gravy.  And those string beans with the crunchy onion things on top, and cranberry sauce on the side, and maybe some apple sauce with cinnamon.  Of course, there will be rolls with lots of butter and maybe some sort of alternative protein source for that cousin who wears a lot of natural fibers.  It will be the turkey whose aroma fills the house, though, and at some point we will also be filled with the awareness that we live in

“a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.” [Deuteronomy 8:7-9]
There is nothing wrong with that.  But if it is “Turkey Day” and not “Thanksgiving Day”, then we have missed the point. 

            We live in a society that teaches us to admire the “self-made” person.  We are taught to admire the one who does all that they can do to become “successful”, which is generally understood to be the same as “wealthy”.  Yet even Ralph Waldo Emerson, someone who did not identify success with money, still went on at great length in his overblown, Victorian way, about how

“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”[2]
The American hero, from the earliest days, has been someone like Ben Franklin, who ran away from Boston as a teenager and landed in Philadelphia with almost nothing in his pocket, but built up a printing business and eventually became ambassador to the court of Louis XVI and flirted with Marie Antoinette.  It’s the same general story as the one about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak starting Apple Computers from nothing and making it what it is now.  It’s the same story as Oprah, the disadvantaged and abused child who made her way to a television studio in Chicago, became a reporter, then got her own show, and went on to become the fount of wisdom who also gives away cars.

            Look into their full biographies and you will find, along with all the hardships and challenges, the people who helped.  You will find Ben Franklin’s father-in-law, another printer who helped set him up.  You will find that when Steve Jobs officially dropped out of college, his friends let him stay in their dorm rooms and his teachers let him keep auditing classes.  You’ll see that Phil Donahue saw the potential in Oprah Winfrey and served as her mentor.  Yes, people work hard and talent counts a lot.  No one, however, is totally “self-made”.

            Beyond it all, too, are the gifts of God that we all, whether we recognize it or not, depend upon.  

“Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” [Deuteronomy 8:17-18]
Toward the end of the play Shenandoah the same character who opened it with a self-congratulatory prayer has lost two sons and a daughter to the Civil War.  He tries to offer the same words of prayer, but they leave his mouth with a lot less conviction.  He hasn’t been able to protect his family or to keep the world and its violence at arm’s length and he is beaten down.  The amazing thing is that in his humbled state, the part where he says,

“We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you, Lord, just the same for the food we’re about to eat”
comes across as far more genuine.  You get the sense that he’s been held together by a power far greater than his own, which is pretty much gone.

            That is far closer to the spirit of Thanksgiving, a holiday that our national mythology traces back to people who had struggled through their first year in a strange land, during which 26% of the children, 52% of the men, and 70% of the women among them died of cold, disease, and starvation.[3]  Those who survived did so only with the help of the natives with whom they unwittingly shared smallpox, which made it easier to take over the land.  Even so, it was those two groups who sat down together to feast when it became possible and to give thanks.  It has to do with recognizing that what we have, great or little, is from God.  It is saying, with the prophet Habakkuk,

“Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation. 
God, the Lord, is my strength;
   he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
   and makes me tread upon the heights.”

[1] from Shenandoah by James Lee Barrett (1965), cited at

[2] from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance” (1841).
[3] Figures taken from George Willson, Saints and Strangers: Being the Lives of the Pilgrim Fathers and Their Families (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945).  Cited at

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Good Manners" - November 23, 2014

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

This sermon begins with the distribution of a piece of chocolate to everyone in the congregation.  They are invited to unwrap and eat it, if there is no reason they cannot. 

Next, I will play a video clip that shows cocoa workers in Ivory Coast who after years and years of harvesting and drying cocoa beans taste chocolate for the first time in their lives.

            It’s really easy for us (isn’t it?) even though we enjoy and are grateful for a good piece of chocolate, to gobble it down and lick our fingers and go on our way.  How often do we really and truly feel the full joy of something and in the midst of it say, “Thanks!”?

            It so often takes someone who has never known the blessings that we take for granted or going without that makes us realize what we have.  It takes that Samaritan, that outsider who does not take things for granted, to feel and to express real gratitude is.

            We get so used to asking and receiving forgiveness from God that we forget how amazing grace is.  We are so used to the notion of God’s love that we lose track of how incredible it is that the Creator of time and space, who exists in a way far beyond our comprehension, who holds in a single glimpse all that has ever been or ever could be, who knows the limits of infinity, could have time to listen to the crying of a child who has just lost a goldfish.  We are so wrapped up in ourselves that we assume we deserve all the good that comes our way, and forget that it is all a gift, every last bit of it.

            And what a gift it is!  Even the simplest things of life, when we see God’s grace behind them, can call out a deep response.  Twenty-five years ago I was in a major hurricane in the Virgin Islands and, like everyone else, went quite a while without a lot of things that today I barely think about.  I do remember, though, how two months into the recovery I had a week to return to the States for a brief rest and was on a plane, somewhere over the Atlantic, and went back to the bathroom where, for the first time in weeks, I turned a handle and felt hot water run out of the spigot and began laughing almost hysterically.  I hope that God understood that that was my best way of saying, “Thanks,” at that moment.

            We cannot and do not live with that intensity all the time.  It would probably wreck us.  All the same, when it happens, go ahead and give thanks, and don’t let the moment pass.  That in itself, too, is a gift.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Freedom to Fail" - November 16, 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

I find this parable of Jesus troubling because I know that I have a lot in common with the third servant, the one who gets into trouble with his Master because he wants to get things right.

We’ve heard the story.  There’s the servant with a lot, who uses it to make a lot more for his Master.  There’s the one with a little less who makes a little less, but the Master is okay with that, and welcomes his work as much as the first servant’s.  Then there’s the third servant, who takes what was given to him and protects it to make sure that nothing is lost or stolen.  When the Master returns he presents it all to him intact, every last bit.  Not a coin is missing and the whole sum is intact.  Yet the Master is definitely not pleased.

            The third servant explains,

“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” [Matthew 25:24-25]

He completely misread and misunderstood the Master.  He knew that his Master somehow always did well but overlooked the fact that it takes risk to do that.  The Master had risked his wealth by distributing it among his servants in the first place.  The Master took a chance on each of them.  He was alright with that.  He chose to do it.  What he had difficulty with was a servant who wasn’t ready to do the same, and to understand that it is okay to fail, as long as you try. 

            The two servants who were able to succeed were the two who also took a chance, the way the Master was taking a chance on them.  That understanding allowed them the freedom that it takes to do anything challenging or worthwhile, which is the freedom to fail.  There was always the possibility, in their buying and selling, that they might take a loss.  Who knows?  Maybe they did lose on a few deals.  As it turned out, in the long run they succeeded. 

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.” [Matthew 25:16-17]

If it had all fallen apart, however, they still would have been able to face the Master upon his return and say, “I’m sorry.  I tried.”  They would not have had to say, like the third servant, “I’m sorry that I didn’t try.”

            There’s a scene in The Karate Kid where Pat Morita has begun to teach a student about the discipline involved in the sport.  They’re sitting at a table, eating, and a fly is buzzing around.  Pat Morita jabs at it in midair with his chopsticks.  The student asks, “Wouldn’t a flyswatter be easier?” and he answers, “Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.”  The student says, “You ever catch one?” and he answers, “Not yet.”[1]

            To try and fail in the process is part of success.  Edison went through a ridiculous number of materials when he was trying to find the best filament that he could for the incandescent light bulb.  For a while, it looked like the best material was going to be bamboo.  Even after he went with tungsten, in the process, he had discovered it wasn’t just a matter of getting the material right.  He found that the bulbs gave the most light when the filament was glowing in a vacuum, so he had to make bulbs that were the right shape and strength.  It took thousands of trials to get it right.  No matter what we do as human beings, we are going to make mistakes and get things wrong.  One of the biggest mistakes of all, though, is not to try because of that. 

            I assure you that anytime you or I try to do anything worthwhile, there’s a good chance of failure.  I also assure you that it is alright to fail.  I know that because of what I read in the gospels.  Do you remember the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and said,

“Master, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  [Matthew 19:16] 

They had a discussion about the importance of keeping the commandments and at the end of it Jesus told him,

If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” [Matthew 19:21]

At that, the man went away, grieving.  He did not just go and follow Jesus.  Still, Jesus had tried.  Again, Mark finishes his account of Jesus’ time in his hometown of Nazareth with the words:

And he could do no deed of power there”. [Mark 6:5]

John says that it was not long after Jesus had fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish that almost everybody who had been following him suddenly grew disillusioned.  He had taken a chance and used that miraculous moment as an opportunity to explain that he himself was the bread sent from heaven for the life of the world, and it backfired on him.

“Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.” [John 6:66-71]

            If you look at Jesus’ experience, which is the experience of human life in its fullness, including (especially) that of our troubles.  Isaiah [53:3] had said of the Suffering Servant that he would be one who

“was despised and rejected by others;
  a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity”.

The thing is that, because Jesus willingly accepted that role, his moment of greatest failure, his death on a cross, in fact became the moment of completion, when he cried out,

“It is finished!”  [John 19:30]

And it was.  The moment of his loss was the moment that he successfully redeemed us from our own failure, wiping out not only our mistakes and our shortcomings but also our sins.

            Now we are free.  We are free to live, not in terms of success as the world defines it, but in terms of faithfulness as God defines it.  That is a freedom worth having, and a freedom worth using.  Let faithfulness alone be your goal, and the day will come when you hear the final summation on what you do:

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.[Matthew 25:21]

[1] The Karate Kid (1984) Directed by John G. Avildsen (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita as Mr. Kesuke Miyagi and Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

“Some Misconceptions and Deceptions” - November 9, 2014

Matthew 25:1-13

            One of the basic beliefs of the Christian faith is that there will come a point where God looks at the universe and says, “Okay.  It’s time to wrap things up!” and then does exactly that.  All the loose ends of history will be pulled together and all accounts will be settled.  Everyone’s lives will be reviewed, and whatever needs to be put right will be put right.  What happens beyond that is in God’s hands.  That doctrine is supposed to be a hopeful and comforting thought.  It underlies the visions of faith expressed in places like the book of Revelation [21:1-4]:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; 
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’”

There is a catch, though.  If faith tells us, “Relax.  God is in charge,” then we really do have to trust God with the what and the when and the how.  That means giving up control of the whole business and not claiming (falsely) that we know the schedules and mechanics of the coming of the kingdom as if we knew better than Jesus himself, who said, “you know neither the day nor the hour.” [Matthew 25:13]

            Let me make three points about this whole business:
·         Some people in good faith think that they can map out the future.  They are wrong.
·         Some people use that desire and people’s insecurities to make money.  They are dangerous.
·         Jesus was more concerned that whenever it happens, people are in the right spot.  He should know.

            First, then: the Bible does not map out a timeline for the end of days.  You can, if you want, go online and read a lot of descriptions and debates about such matters.  The chef who wrote the recipe for this soup was a nineteenth-century British evangelist named John Nelson Darby.  He came up with the language of a system called “dispensationalism” where terms like “the rapture” or “the millennium” get tossed around.  Darby grabbed a verse of scripture here and another there, mixing the book of Daniel, probably written between 164 and 167 B.C. by a Palestinian Jew to encourage faithfulness in the face of persecution with a letter of Paul to a group of Gentile Christians living in Greece two centuries later as they were thinking about members of their community who had died recently and then throwing in passages from the book of Revelation that were the record of visions by a man in prison who wanted (kind of like the in Daniel) to share them for the comfort of other people who were suffering for their faith.  His process has been repeated in books like Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth[1] that go into tremendous detail about predicting cosmic events.  Televangelists like Jack van Impe go on at great length in the same way.[2]

            The problem is that none of this is what the Bible was trying to get through to us.  I appreciate the way it was put by a man named Cliff Wall who recently wrote,

“The idea is that before a period of seven years of tribulation and before the final judgment Christ will partially descend to “take” true Christians up to meet him in the air. Then after seven years of worldwide tribulation Christ will return with his church to destroy the wicked and set up his kingdom. The problem is that you can’t read this exact sequential scenario in any one place in the Bible. It is a narrative that is pieced together by taking bits of passages from here and there.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for example contains one of those bits, and is one of the primary places used to ‘prove’ the rapture, although the bit about the church waiting out seven years of tribulation with Christ in heaven is not there. The meeting in the air is simply concluded with the statement, ‘so we will be with the Lord forever’ (v. 17 NRSV). Many scholars believe that the imagery of meeting the Lord in the air evokes the common imagery in the ancient world of a special envoy going out to joyously welcome a king or some other dignitary and then immediately escorting him back into the city. One such scene may be found in the Gospels when Jesus makes his entry into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday!  Moreover, neither does chapter five of 1 Thessalonians contain any such narrative of the Church awaiting with Christ in heaven during a great tribulation. There is simply a warning that the second coming will come unexpectedly like a thief and followers of Jesus should be found awake and sober, not lulled asleep into conformity with the ways of an evil world and not drunk on its spiked Kool-Aid either. This is symbolic imagery that Jesus himself used.”[3]
Let me be clear.  What matters is not figuring out the times or seasons so that you can protect yourself from cosmic destruction or earthly troubles.  If those are your motivations, as they are for many people (not all, but many) who become fixated on the end times, then you need to look at those motivations closely.

            Other people have other motivations, too, and those are not always honorable.  Fear sells.  People make money manipulating other people’s uneasiness.  A review in Christianity Today of the most recent Left Behind movie, that came out at the start of October, pointed out that this movie, like a lot of others, is not necessarily “Christian”.  It simply targets a Christian audience, the way that Frozen targets pre-teen girls.  It may be a little cynical, but the reviewer said that,

“Hollywood producers …know they can make back 5x their initial financial investment—they want to exploit that, by pumping out garbage (not moral garbage, just quality garbage), slapping the ‘Christian’ label on it, and watching the dollars pour in.
They want churches to book whole theaters and take their congregations, want it to be a Youth Group event, want magazines like this one to publish Discussion Questions at the end of their reviews—want the system to churn churn away, all the while netting them cash, without ever having to have cared a shred about actual Christian belief.”[4]

You can make your own decision about that.  Perhaps a company called Entertainment One that also released a movie called The F Word in 2013 is truly looking out for your spiritual welfare.  Perhaps this company that has a hand in the science fiction series Haven (which I happen to like) knows the distinction between science fiction and the apocalyptic books of the Bible.  Perhaps.  Do think it over, though. 

            Finally, having spent way too much time on talking about the Bible instead of considering what it actually says, I simply want to point out what Jesus said in the parable we heard this morning.  That is that we all have limited energy, limited oil for our lamps, and if we use it foolishly, it won’t be there to use on what it is provided for, which is to light the way for the Bridegroom when he finally is ready to bring the kingdom of God into its fullness.  Is anyone really brought into a living relationship with the living God, or does anyone really learn about God’s love in Christ by hearing speculation about “the number of the beast”?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt it.  Either way, we have work to do before God says to stop.

“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  [Matthew 25:13]

[1] Hal Lindsey and Carole Carlson, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1970).
[2] See pretty much anything accessible through .
[3] Cliff Wall, “Revelation: for Speculation or Transformation?” in UMC Holiness, October 10, 2014 at

[4] Jackson Cuidon in Christianity Today at  He goes on to remark: “They want to trick you into caring about the movie. Don’t.  (We tried to give the film zero stars, but our tech system won’t allow it.)”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Some Things We Should Have Learned by Now"

While not a sermon, this site seemed as good a place as any to post a paper presented to Phi Beta, a group of Methodist clergy that has been meeting in the Philadelphia area for over a century for the presentation and discussion of scholarship that undergirds or aids ministry. 

“Some Things We Should Have Learned by Now”
presented to Phi Beta by Mark Young
November 6, 2014

            A wise woman, Sister Joan Chittister, has noted that
“When structures are in flux but ideas are stable, there is room for error.  When ideas are in flux but structures are stable, there is room for confusion.  But when both ideas and structures are in flux at the same time, error and confusion are of the order of the day.”[1]
She wrote this as part of her reflection on the corporate life of some Benedictine nuns in Erie before, during, and following the Second Vatican Council.  Change, and not mere adjustment, has been, she notes, the hallmark of our age in vast areas of life and while individuals can sometimes forego change or insulate themselves, institutions’ longer lifespans commit them to grappling with change, like it or not.
“The evolutionary nature of institutions assumes a continual process of adjustment.  For an institution to survive, it only makes sense that it must keep abreast of new ideas in the field.  At the same time, simply upgrading a present process is seldom enough to assure the survival of an institution when the whole nature of the undertaking and the world around it changes.”[2]
It is safe to say that in the second decade of the second millennium, both the ideas and structures of Christianity as an institution are in flux precisely because lesser adjustment no longer assures survival, at least within Western culture.  It is one of those moments when the words of John 12:25 (“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”) carry a deep resonance.
            Because we stand at the edge of a time when the future may call not simply for revival of the sort that Protestantism has seen so regularly that each wave receives its own name, like a hurricane (“The Pietist Movement”, “The Great Awakening”, “The Second Great Awakening”, “The Azusa Street Revival”, and so on), but for a more thoroughgoing mission to a culturally non-Christian or even non-theistic culture,  it behooves us to consider how earlier examples of attempts to meet missional need have called the Church to alter its own ways,  rather than insist that the evangelized turn their backs on every established aspect of their lives.  Sister Joan holds that particular instance up as a precursor to the ideals she sees expressed in the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, where
“…missionaries are, in the too lately discovered spirit of the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, to be more presence than proselytes [sic].  They are to become enculturated and, as quickly as possible, enable the new church to become native.  The purpose of missionary activity is not simply to convert people to a Western form of Catholicism.  It is to allow the culture to flourish in a native church.”[3]
Matteo Ricci’s work was indeed highly successful but because it displayed flux in both ideas and structure he was charged with error and the confusion that came in its wake lasted for generations on three continents.  As the United Methodist Church passes through a time when regional difference threatens schism across and within continents, there is some comfort in recognizing that as nothing peculiar to our own age, but an inevitable byproduct of any attempt at true change.
            Before looking at Ricci’s missionary efforts, which took place in China astraddle the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it would be good to glance at one approach used in the introduction of Christianity into Northern Europe a thousand years earlier.   Setting aside the earlier traditions of Celtic Christianity that had largely been driven out of Britain with the advance of Germanic tribes, the evangelization (or re-evangelization) of Britain under Anglo-Saxon hegemony was carried out at the instigation and under the direction of Rome.  Bede’s Ecclesiastical History [chapter xxx] records that in the year 601 Pope Gregory directed the missionary monk Mellitus how to go about winning over the hearts and minds of the pagans.
“…the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let water be consecrated and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed there.  For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more freely resort to the places to which they have been accustomed.  And because they are used to slaughter many oxen in sacrifice to devils, some solemnity must be given them in exchange for this, as that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs whose relics are there deposited, they should build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from being temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer animals to the Devil, but kill cattle and glorify God in their feast, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their abundance, to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are retained, they may the more easily consent to the inward joys.”[4]
Here, in short, Pope Gregory encourages the maintenance of institutional structure in order to limit flux in the cultural sphere.  This would, he judged, reduce resistance to the transformation of ideas.
            Gregory’s approach was not the only one open to him, and in June of 601, only a month before writing to Mellitus, he had written to King Ethelbert of Kent, a convert to Christianity, advising a harsh suppression of paganism and the destruction of its shrines.  One writer, considering the contradictory papal instructions, posits a reason based on the insufficiency of either alone.
“Perhaps Gregory thought that the most that could be expected of Aethelberht at this stage was that he should bring all his political weight to bear in opposing paganism and promoting Christianity in its place. The letter to Mellitus, on the other hand, seems to imply a recognition that royal opposition to paganism was not enough to defeat it permanently. The theory that the inconsistency between these letters represents a deliberate, two-pronged attack on paganism is naturally attractive, but the danger of a disintegration of the missionary enterprise is clear: Gregory sets Aethelberht to destroy pagan shrines, and very soon afterwards tells Augustine (via Mellitus) to preserve them—a recipe for confusion, if not conflict.”[5]
The two conflicting approaches would reappear during the Chinese Rites Controversy, one championed by the Dominicans and Franciscans, the other by the Jesuits.  The cautionary insight that Pope Gregory the Great himself felt ambivalent about fully backing either policy is telling.  So is the fact that the advice to Mellitus prevailed over the advice to Ethelbert.
How successful was this approach?  Peter Orton observes that
“By minimising the disruption of existing patterns of pagan observance, it was hoped that damaging, open conflict between Christianity and paganism could be avoided, and that the former would absorb and eventually replace the latter. Gregory must have been confident that Christianity would emerge as the dominant strain in this hybridization; but his new policy seems calculated to lead to a syncretistic religion combining Christian and pagan elements.”[6]
Whether or not syncretism truly emerged, the institutional structure of revelry certainly persisted and despite being relabeled or repurposed, the worldly spirit that accompanied the celebrations did not completely evaporate, even given a thousand years to do so.  Francis Beaumont, one of Shakespeare’s collaborators, wrote of the “church ale” festivals that supported the parish churches of Elizabethan England.
“The churches must owe, as we all do know,
For when they be drooping and ready to fall,
By a Whitsun or Church-ale up again they shall go
And owe their repairing to a pot of good ale.”[7]

Puritans tried to eliminate church-ales as a regular part of their reforms.  In Twelfth Night [II. iii.] Shakespeare’s drunken character, Sir Toby Belch, addresses the sanctimonious steward Malvolio, asking, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”  To use Sr. Joan Chittister’s language, the structure persisted (with adjustments) over time and so apparently did the idea (again with adjustment rather than complete change).  So despite Puritan and later Victorian efforts to suppress the church-ales, to this day pastors often face the suggestion that the church should find money to fix the roof by holding a beef-and-beer. 

            While the continuity of the pagan and the Christian festivities in this case seems a matter of folkways, other examples from across the world display outright syncretism.  A case in point would be the popularity, among Mexican Catholics and their American cousins, of devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  The legend is recounted by one web site dedicated to Marian devotion:

“Mesoamerica, the New World, 1521: The capital city of the Aztec empire falls under the Spanish forces. Less than 20 years later, 9 million of the inhabitants of the land, who professed for centuries a polytheistic and human sacrificing religion, are converted to Christianity. What happened in those times that produced such an incredible and historically unprecedented conversion?
In 1531 a ‘Lady from Heaven’ appeared to a humble Native American at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City. 

She identified herself as the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. 

She made a request for a church to be built on the site, and submitted her wish to the local Bishop. When the Bishop hesitated, and requested her for a sign, the Mother of God obeyed without delay or question to the Church's local Bishop, and sent her native messenger to the top of the hill in mid-December to gather an assortment of roses for the Bishop. 

After complying to the Bishop's request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native's tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 480 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.”[8]

What none of this account mentions is that, as is pointed out elsewhere,

“Before the fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1521, the hill where Juan Diego had his vision had also been the site of an ancient temple to the Aztec goddess Tonantzin (Our Revered Mother), later leveled to the ground by the Spaniards.”[9]

The subjugated Mexicans, in other words, substituted one Revered Mother for another, one who revealed herself not to the foreign, episcopal potentate but to a representative of the indigenous people, becoming first the unofficial and eventually the official patroness of the native population.  Juan Diego, to whom she appeared, was canonized by John Paul II in 2002.  The Spanish bishop who doubted his visions was not.

            At the end of that same century, an attempt to expand Western Christianity eastward from Europe was made by the newly-organized Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), who were given official sanction by Pope Paul III in 1540 and again in 1550 by Pope Julius III

“to strive especially for the defence and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, by means of public preaching, lectures and any other ministration whatsoever of the Word of God”.[10]
One of the many fronts on which the Jesuit work went on was in Asia.  The foundational document noted that they were especially charged to evangelize and to nurture the faithful “by means of retreats, the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity”[11] and so it was that one of the order’s early members, an Italian priest named Matteo Ricci, entered China with a mandate to share the gospel and to educate.
            He and his coworkers made a decision that would have wide-reaching consequences and that stands out sharply in comparison to the earlier activity of Mellitus and his European contemporaries.  Rather than beginning by adapting the local culture to their own ways, the Jesuits began by adapting themselves, at least outwardly, to the local culture.
“The Jesuits quickly decided that missionaries must adapt themselves to Chinese customs.  This involved much rapid self-education.  Their first great missionary, the Italian Matteo Ricci, on his arrival in 1582, adopted the dress of a Buddhist monk (bonze), without realizing  that bonzes were despised by the people who mattered.  When his mistake was pointed out, he and his fellow Jesuits began dressing as Confucian scholars, complete with long beards; they were determined to show that their learning was worthy of respect in a culture with a deep reverence for scholarship (an ethos of which naturally they greatly approved). …The Chinese upper class was indeed impressed by the Jesuits’ knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and geography, and the Society gained an honored place at the emperor’s court through its specialist use of these skills, even taking charge of reforming the imperial calendar – but not gaining many converts.”[12]
The Jesuits were off to a slow start but were undeterred.  In one of his letters to a missionary in Ethiopia, Ignatius Loyola had laid out a path that Ricci would follow in China. 
“Without taking away from anything in which they are particularly interested or which they especially value, try to get them to accept the truths of Catholicism. …Although you are ever intent on bringing them to conformity with the Catholic Church, do everything gently, without any violence to souls long accustomed to another way of life.”[13]
The practicality of this approach shows itself in the outcome.  At the end of the seventeenth century the Jesuit presence at the Chinese court established by Ricci put French Jesuits on hand to provide the emperor K’anghsi with quinine when he fell ill with malaria and European mediation when Peter the Great began to expand Russian hegemony into the Chinese sphere.  Partly out of gratitude for these acts,[14] in 1692 an unusual decree of tolerance was issued for Chinese Christians.
“The Europeans are very quiet; they do not excite any disturbances in the provinces, they do no harm to anyone, they commit no crimes, and their doctrine has nothing in common with that of the false sects in the empire, nor has it any tendency to excite sedition . . . We decide therefore that all temples dedicated to the Lord of heaven, in whatever place they may be found, ought to be preserved, and that it may be permitted to all who wish to worship this God to enter these temples, offer him incense, and perform the ceremonies practised according to ancient custom by the Christians. Therefore let no one henceforth offer them any opposition.”[15]
The Jesuit approach had been applied in Japan in the previous century, where Francis Xavier had arrived with his associates in 1549.  Fifty years later there were possibly as many as 300,000 converts.  A native clergy was in formation, drawn especially from the classes of the nobility and samurai.[16]
This stands in stark contrast to events following the arrival in 1593 of the Portuguese Franciscans, carrying the baggage of the confrontational, forced conversions of South America had entered the Asian mission field in a different spirit.  There
“they adopted an aggressively negative attitude toward Japanese culture, which led to a number of them suffering death by crucifixion.  In the early seventeenth century the Tokugawa expelled Europeans from Japan except for one rigorously policed trading post.  They then launched one of the most savage persecutions in Christian history, and their repression of Japanese Christians was not without some military assistance from the Protestant Dutch, who were doing their best to wreck Portuguese power in eastern Asia.”[17]
            What Emperor K’anghsi may not have realized was that the Jesuits whom he honored as peaceable were at that time embroiled in controversy with those Dominican and Franciscan orders who had acted imperiously in Japan.
“When Dominicans and Franciscans arrived in China from the Philippines in the 1630s, they launched bitter attacks on their Jesuit rivals, and raised major matters of missionary policy.  The friars, with a background in America assuming total confrontation with previous religions, violently disagreed with the Jesuits in their attitude to the Chinese way of life, particularly traditional rites in honour of Confucius and the family; they even publicly asserted that deceased emperors were burning in Hell.  …Complaints about the ‘Chinese rites’ were taken as far as Rome itself, and after a long struggle successive popes condemned the rites in 1704 and 1715.” [18]
What is known in the West as the “Chinese Rites Controversy” had begun not long after Ricci’s death and lasted nearly seventy years.  The Jesuits had begun with a respect for Chinese culture that was reflected in a willingness to adapt to its forms. 
“We have let our beards grow and our hair down to our ears, at the same time we have adopted the special dress that the literati wear … of violet silk, and the hem of the robe and collar and the edges are bordered with a band of blue silk a little less than a palm wide.” [19]
They were accused of altering, on that account and others, of surrendering core Christian beliefs in the course of adopting Chinese cultural practices.  Specifically, controversy centered on the Jesuit acceptance of converts’ participation in rituals honoring their ancestors, which the Franciscans and Dominicans held to be unacceptably idolatrous.  Likewise, certain aspects of liturgy had been freely altered in ways that diverged from the European norms that the mendicant orders had forcibly established in the Americas and the Phillipines.  They did not see why the Jesuits had not maintained those standards in China.[20] 
            The waters were further muddied by theological antipathies in the West that were being projected onto China, so that the Chinese Rites Controversy turned into a proxy fight.
“Notoriously, different religious orders had divergent theologies, and none more so than the two ‘intellectual’ orders, the Society of Jesus and the Order of Preachers. Jesuits and Dominicans lined up on opposite sides on the theology of grace, on moral casuistry, and on the Christian response to modern science. By the end of the seventeenth century with French Jesuits and French priests from the Missions Étrangères de Paris arriving in large numbers, the shadow of the Jansenist controversy reached out to China.  China became a sort of surrogate battleground for European ecclesiastical conflicts.”[21]
Nor was the battlefield limited to China.  The principles of enculturation expressed and attacked there were also present in Africa. Philip Jenkins notes:
“From about 1700 too, the Kongolese church now began a long period of decline, which represents one of the greatest wasted opportunities in the story of African Christianity.  Political fragmentation in the Kongo state was partly to blame, but much more significant was the Church’s refusal to approve native liturgies and its reluctance to ordain African clergy.  Nor was the Vatican willing to grant other key concessions to African values, including a married clergy – a model that was accepted elsewhere, in parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.  The Chinese Rites debacle, and the cultural rigidity it symbolized, crippled the progress of Catholic missions worldwide for a century.”[22]
The first generation of the eighteenth century saw the official condemnation of the work of the previous hundred years, as witnessed in two competing magisterial decrees.  The first was issued in Rome in 1715.
“Pope Clement XI wishes to make the following facts permanently known to all the people in the world. ...
I. The West calls Deus the creator of Heaven, Earth, and everything in the universe. Since the word Deus does not sound right in the Chinese language, the Westerners in China and Chinese converts to Catholicism have used the term "Heavenly Lord" for many years. From now on such terms as ‘Heaven’ and ‘Shang­ti’ should not be used: Deus should be addressed as the Lord of Heaven, Earth, and everything in the universe. The tablet that bears the Chinese words ‘Reverence for Heaven’ should not be allowed to hang inside a Catholic church and should be immediately taken down if already there.
II. The spring and autumn worship of Confucius, together with the worship of ancestors, is not allowed among Catholic converts. It is not allowed even though the converts appear in the ritual as bystanders, because to be a bystander in this ritual is as pagan as to participate in it actively.
III. Chinese officials and successful candidates in the metropolitan, provincial, or prefectural examinations, if they have been converted to Roman Catholicism, are not allowed to worship in Confucian temples on the first and fifteenth days of each month. The same prohibition is applicable to all the Chinese Catholics who, as officials, have recently arrived at their posts or who, as students, have recently passed the metropolitan, provincial, or prefectural examinations.
IV. No Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship ancestors in their familial temples.
V. Whether at home, in the cemetery, or during the time of a funeral, a Chinese Catholic is not allowed to perform the ritual of ancestor worship. He is not allowed to do so even if he is in company with non-­Christians. Such a ritual is heathen in nature regardless of the circumstances.
Despite the above decisions, I have made it clear that other Chinese customs and traditions that can in no way be interpreted as heathen in nature should be allowed to continue among Chinese converts. The way the Chinese manage their households or govern their country should by no means be interfered with. As to exactly what customs should or should not be allowed to continue, the papal legate in China will make the necessary decisions. In the absence of the papal legate, the responsibility of making such decisions should rest with the head of the China mission and the Bishop of China. In short, customs and traditions that are not contradictory to Roman Catholicism will be allowed, while those that are clearly contradictory to it will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”[23] 
Six years later, in 1721, the same emperor who had issued a glowing edict of toleration for Christianity in China, responded to Clement’s declaration by rescinding his former decision.
“Reading this proclamation, I have concluded that the Westerners are petty indeed. It is impossible to reason with them because they do not understand larger issues as we understand them in China. There is not a single Westerner versed in Chinese works, and their remarks are often incredible and ridiculous. To judge from this proclamation, their religion is no different from other small, bigoted sects of Buddhism or Taoism. I have never seen a document which contains so much nonsense. From now on, Westerners should not be allowed to preach in China, to avoid further trouble.[24]
The Jesuits remained in China, and eventually were joined by many other Christian missionaries from the West, but the era of their official influence and their honored position was over.
The twentieth century would eventually bring a re-evaluation of the work of Ricci and his Jesuit successors in China.  Both religious authorities and secular historians would see in his work an opportunity for the expansion of Christianity that was torpedoed by matters external to the work itself.  A Chinese student of Chinese history, Caitlyn Lu, observes:
“Ricci was finally vindicated by Pope John XXIII in 1958, when by decree in the encyclical Princeps Pastorum he declared that ‘Matteo Ricci would become the model of missionaries.’  But as historian Arnold Toynbee lamented, ‘Christianity had during Ricci’s time and after the chance to become a true world religion—but rejected it over internal squabbles over semantics and local customs. Never again would history present itself on such favorable terms.’ Had Ricci’s method of accommodation been embraced and supported by Rome, the religious history of China might well have been quite different.”[25]
John Paul II followed up on John XXIII’s encyclical forty-three years later in a speech commemorating the four hundredth anniversary of Ricci’s arrival in Beijing, saying,
            While the mainline Protestant churches of the West do not work under the same magisterium as their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, and while the level of centralized control is not anywhere near as enforceable as it was for the Jesuits working in China, there remains the same possibility that those who engage in outreach toward a culture that is increasingly alienated from both the institutional forms and the ideas of traditional Christianity will be pulled back by those who identify any deviation from the familiar as heretical.  Attempts to recognize the concerns of feminists by the introduction of non-gender-specific language in the 1970s and 1980s were met with dismay and change in the Trinitarian formula was equated with modalism.  Attempts to open leadership to homosexual persons or to recognize their innate value among the laity have been met with accusations of moral laxity, disrespect for scripture, or cultural accommodation.  Alternate forms of liturgy sometimes catch on in niche groups but fail to find support among those enculturated to traditional ways, to whom they do not speak.  Groups meeting for prayer and praise outside familiar times and places are applauded but not copied. Even a conservative writer such as Chris Altrock bewails the limitations that are found when the inclusion of insider language and code-words that signify orthodoxy to the already-converted place walls between the preacher and the potentially Christian.
“It’s one thing to have a passion for evangelistic preaching.  It’s an entirely different thing to preach evangelistically in a way that makes sense to postmoderns who are unfamiliar with the Bible and with Christianity’s worldview.”[27]
            Undoubtedly, the community has a responsibility to evaluate innovative ministries of all sorts to make sure that they are true to the gospel, but it is on the basis of the gospel itself, not the institutions which have supported its propagation, that the evaluation should take place.  From our own tradition, we would ask questions such as what it meant for Susannah Wesley to hold Bible studies in her kitchen, for John Wesley to name Coke and Asbury as superintendents for North America (fully aware of the Greek translation of the word and its English cognate), for Asbury to have supported the work of Richard Allen in establishing a separate denomination for African Methodists, or for Bishop Welch to have altered the elements on the Lord’s Table when he fostered the switch from wine to grape juice.  All of these actions could be seen within the pattern followed by Matteo Ricci and other effective evangelists, to meet the people where they are and to speak to them in their own language, as was done for all humanity when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

[1] Sr. Joan Chittister, The Way We Were: A Story of Conversion and Renewal (New York: Orbis Books, 2005) 69.
[2] Ibid., 65.
[3] Ibid., 99.
[4] Found in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at .
[5] Peter Orton, “Burning Idols, Burning Bridges: Bede, Conversion, and Beowulf”, Leeds Studies in English, n.s. 36 (2005), 17.
[6] Ibid.
[7] from “Exaltation of Ale”.  The verse is cited in E. Peacock, “Church Ales” in The Archaeological Journal, vol. 40 (London: Royal Archaeological Institute, January 1, 1883), p. 14.
[8] “Our Lady of Guadalupe”, found at .
[9] Ronald A. Barnett, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Tonantzin or the Virgin Mary?”, November 11, 2009. Found at .
[10] from the “Formula of Institute of the Society of Jesus”.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (New York: Viking, 2009), 706.
[13] Ignatius of Loyola to John Nunez Barreto in Letters of St. Ignatius of Loyola, translated by William J. Young, SJ (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1959), pp. 384 and 387.  Cited by Kenneth Winston and Mary Jo Bane, “Reflections on the Jesuit Mission to China” (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard – Kennedy School Faculty Working Paper Series, February 2010), p. 5.
[14] V. Cronin The Wise Man from the West (Fontana, 1961), pp. 262-274.  Cited at .
[15] S. Neill, A History of Christian Missions (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1964), pp. 189-­l90.
[16] MacCulloch, 706-707.
[17] MacCulloch, 707.
[18] Ibid.
[19] James Martin, S.J., The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), 366.
[20] Paul A. Rule, “The Chinese Rites Controversy: A Long Lasting Controversy in Sino-Western Cultural History” in Pacific Rim Report [No. 32, February 2004] (Ricci Institute at the University of San Francisco), 2.

[21] Ibid., 4.
[22] Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 33.
[23] China in Transition, 1517­-1911, Dan. J. Li, trans. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1969), pp. 22­24. Cited at .
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
[24] Ibid., 22.
[25] Caitlin Lu, “Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit Mission in China, 1583-1610” in The Concord Review, 2011, p.15.
[26] John Paul II, “To the Participants in the International Conference Commemorating the Fourth Centenary of the Arrival in Beijing of Father Matteo Ricci” (October 4, 2001).  Found at
[27] Chris Altrock, Preaching to Pluralists, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2004), 49.