Being Christian Today

Being Christian in the World We’re in: Session 6

Over the past five weeks we’ve discussed Christian faith in History, in the Hebrew and Jewish Scriptures, in the New Testament, in Theology, in the Church and Sacraments. Today let’s talk about being Christian in the World We’re in.

The circumstances we’re in

We are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was a young adult. The two thousandth anniversary of his crucifixion will be in ten or fifteen years.

In 1968, when I was confirmed, the Episcopal Church had about 3.5 million members. At the most recent report for 2017, that figure is 1.7 million members. That’s about half as many total members, but while that three and a half million in 1968 was around 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, the current percentage is about one-half of one percent. The Episcopal Church keeps better statistics than other churches, but this is not a problem that is in any way unique to the Episcopal Church. Church membership and church attendance overall have been declining for the past fifty years and the fastest growing group is “the Nones” who are those who claim no religious affiliation whatsoever.

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The Church and the Sacraments

Being Christian in the World that we’re in: Session 5


The Church and the Creed at the time of the First Ecumenical Council

We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

In a country where many people grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, it’s understandable that people would think that this sentence from the Nicene Creed refers to that huge and venerable organization run by the Pope. However, while there was an important bishop in Rome when the Nicene Creed was adopted, he wasn’t at that council and the church wasn’t organized around the papacy at that time. The “one holy catholic Council of Niceaand apostolic church” meant something very specific to the 200 or 300 bishops who gathered in the imperial palace in the lakeside town of Nicea in 325 A.D. It referred to the faith and life in the churches they represented, a faith and life that had been passed down from the apostles of Jesus. Catholic means universal—those bishops who had come together from throughout the known world recognized the unity of a universal church with universal belief and common worship. The Roman emperor Constantine had called the meeting and was in charge of the meeting, but the one authority over that Church was Christ and not a single person or institution. Continue reading The Church and the Sacraments

Jesus & Theology

Being Christian in the World We’re In

Session 4: Jesus & Theology


“Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5

This passage from the book of Deuteronomy is the foundation of Christian and Jewish theology. It is known in Judaism by its first words in Hebrew: Shema Israel, “Hear, O Israel.” It is what the people of God should hear and listen to. God is one, God alone, and loving God is what we are called to do.

In our Book of Common Prayer, the Rite One version of the Eucharist, and other older versions, quotes Jesus’ version of this in the beginning of the service: “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” BCP p. 324 quoting Matthew 22:37-40 Continue reading Jesus & Theology

The Christian Scriptures of the New Testament

Session 3: Being Christian In The World We’re In

 The earliest Christian Scriptures

For, among the very first things, I delivered to you what I had also received: that Christ died because of our sins, in accord with the scriptures, And that he was entombed, and that he was raised on the third day in accord with the scriptures, And that he was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve. First Corinthians 15:3-5 (D.G. Hart translation)

This is the earliest preaching of the Christian church. St. Paul, who is the earliest writer in the New Testament is passing on the tradition which he received. Of all the layers of distinctively Christian scripture, it is the oldest. It says that 1) Jesus died for our sins 2) He was buried 3) God raised him on the third day. It emphasizes that the death and resurrection are in accord with scripture. 4) Jesus appeared to Peter and the Apostles. Continue reading The Christian Scriptures of the New Testament

The Origin of Our Scriptures in Judaism

Session 2: Being Christian in the World We’re In

Christianity emerged from Judaism. The scriptures of the first Christians were the Jewish scriptures. The Christian writings that became our New Testament all refer to those scriptures.  Even the way the Christian story is told in the Gospels or the Epistle to the Hebrews, for instance, is shaped by the Jewish scriptures. Most of those scriptures were written in Hebrew, and you often hear the term “Hebrew Bible” but there were Jewish writings in other languages, particularly Greek, which were also regarded as scriptural. The Christians used the translation into Greek known as the Septuagint, which included some of these non-Hebrew texts. So Hebrew Bible, Jewish Scriptures and the Christian term Old Testament refer to the same set of writings, but with a little difference in meaning and content. Continue reading The Origin of Our Scriptures in Judaism

The Church through history

Session 1: Being Christian in the World We’re In

Sunday, September 16, 2018, 9-10 am

The beginning of the U.S., the Industrial Revolution, and Evangelicalism

The beginning of the United States coincided with the Industrial Revolution. Goods were increasingly produced at centralized factories in towns and cities, rather than individually by craftsmen in towns and villages. People started moving away from rural areas where they had been impoverished, subsistence farm laborers, to more prosperous towns and cities where there was more cash—for the factory workers and for everyone who made a living in those towns. This continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

There was a lot of benefit – and a lot of disruption – that went along with a shift from rural to urban, from agricultural production to manufacturing. And that disruption applied to Christianity, too. The village church, with its old graves, was often far away from the grandchildren of the people buried there after they migrated to the cities, or to the frontier. Continue reading The Church through history

Being Christian in the World We’re In

What these sessions are about

 We are having a series of brief discussion sessions at Calvary this Fall that are meant to explore being Christian both throughout history and in the times we’re now living. Anybody can come—it doesn’t matter what age you are, or whether you buy into any of it. It’s meant to be a time to think and talk together about what Christianity is, and has been, and will be in the years to come.

These these blog posts will provide information to help give us a thoughtful understanding of Christianity, its history, and its beliefs. This will serve as the basis for our discussions on Sunday morning from 9:00-10:00. You are welcome to read these whether you come or not, and to come whether you have “done your homework” or not.

Continue reading Being Christian in the World We’re In