Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Covenant of Baptism

Back in 2014 I wrote a blog post about Baptism and it's nature as a sacrament and some of the theological background thereof. That post can be seen HERE.

Today I will look at some of the scriptures and their impact on my personal view of baptism.

As most of you can probably guess (since I am an Anglican) I am a paedobaptist. What that means is that I support and strongly encourage the baptism of infants as soon as is practical after their birth. There are many reasons for my holding this view but today I will explore the strictly Biblical perspective.

First and foremost baptism is important. It is so important in fact that Jesus Himself participated in it. Not only did He give it to us, as He did with the Lord's Supper, but he also did it. Luke 3:21 says that, "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too."

John the Forerunner (also John the Baptist) preached of baptism "for the forgiveness of sins" (Mark 1:4). In Matthew (28:19-20) the command is given to make disciples of, "all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey..."

The Gospels speak of baptism as an initiation. They speak of a baptism that forgives sins but also a baptism that begins a journey. The scriptures order that the people of the nations be baptized and then that they be taught the laws of God and to obey them. Baptism is a seal, a sign of our journey and our covenant with God. It is our participation, our entry into the Grave with Christ. Being baptized into Christ we are also baptized into His death and "buried with Him through baptism" (Romans 6:4).

We are baptized with water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is our initiation. This is our seal into the death of Christ and into the covenant of God and His people. We are, "circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands." (Colossians 2:11) We were ruled by sin and flesh which is put off when we were, "circumcised by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism..." (Colossians 2:11-12)

Circumcision is the mark of the covenant between God and His people. As people of Christ we are people of God. Now here is where paedobaptists and creedobaptists run into conflict.

Circumcision is the mark of the covenant between God and His people, which is ordered of the sons of every Jew. Baptism is the circumcision of those who belongs to God by the death of Christ. It is appropriate that those who convert into the family of God's people should be baptized at the time of their conversion just as one who becomes a Jew should be circumcised at the time of his conversion but like circumcision it is right that one who is born into the family and faith should be baptized and sealed into that covenant at birth.

Lydia was baptized (Acts 16:15) because she believed and her family was all baptized with her. In Acts (16:30-34) the jailer sent to arrest Paul and Silas came to believe and then he was baptized along with his whole family. As I pointed out earlier we are commanded in Matthew (28:19-20) to make disciples of, "all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey."

We baptize our children because they are born into our family and our faith. They are baptized, then they are taught to obey the Lord and to grow in that baptism. They need not convert to that which they are already.

I will close with this short passage from Ephesians (4:4-6a) "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all..."

Amen





Port and Crackers? Why not Grape Juice and Wonder Bread?

A handful of people have asked about the name of my blog. Why do I call it Port and Crackers? Why not something else? Of course the obvious answer is because it is my blog and  I can call it whatever I bloody well please. The more rational answer, and slightly less inflammatory, would be that I am an Anglican. Port and Crackers is, as you might guess, a reference to the elements of Holy Communion. I am a priest and I celebrate the Holy Communion at least twice each month and generally more than that.

Most Christians (all Christians for the vast majority of Christian History) use wine for Holy Communion. The rationale for this is simply that Jesus used Wine at the Last Supper/First Communion. There are of course some modernist American Protestants that argue that Jesus didn't use wine but rather the term "wine" in scripture actually just means "fruit of the vine" or grape juice. I simply invite those people to keep grape juice from autumn until Passover using 1st century technology without letting it become wine.

Anyway, as an Anglican it is our tradition to use Portwine. For many centuries the English pretty well stayed in a perpetual state of war with Spain and France. The English have always been good at making beer but Wine making was left to the continent, and rightly so. If you're at war with France and Spain where would you expect to get your wine from? Portugal of course! What sort of wine is made in Portugal, you ask? Portwine! The only sort of wine that could be readily obtained in England for many years was Port so naturally it was Port which came to be used in English churches.

Port has a litany of other benefits for use as a Communion wine though. (It is certainly a better idea than Sherry!) Port wine is almost exclusively red, and as you might imaging red wine has always been favored for Holy Communion. Who knows why? Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that blood is red. (Yes. That is sarcasm, thanks.) Port is also a fortified wine, which has distilled grape spirits added to it for flavor, preservation, and to increase the alcohol content (usually to between 18-21% Abv). Now I do not believe that there is a single documented case of anyone ever getting sick from the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, in fact I personally consider it heterodox at best for someone to believe that you can but... The simple fact remains that we live in a world full of paranoid people who are terrified of germs and disease. As Anglicans we practice communion by letting everyone drink from the chalice. Using a wine of 18%+ ABV makes it pretty certain that no germs an be passed around. Some Anglicans even allow people to dip their host or bread in the wine rather than drinking it (though this is a far less sanitary practice than drinking from the chalice). I promise that most people have dirtier fingers than mouths.

Either way, Anglicans generally use Port. I am an Anglican. This is my blog. I decided to call it Port and Crackers.

I'll explain the "crackers" bit later. :-)

Monday, December 12, 2016

A 19th Century Christmas Pudding in 2014

My wife (whose blog can be seen HERE) and I are avid living historians. What that means is we dress up in old timey clothes, go various places, and recreate historical events or situations with great emphasis on historical accuracy in every detail.

As you will see when you visit my wife's blog the focus of her (and by extension my own) research is food. She is a bit of a celebrity in LH and Reenacting circles for her historical cooking. Occasionally she gets invited to sites and museums to cook this or that in a historical context or setting. Even more occasionally I get to tag along. In December of 2014 she was invited to cook at the 1897 Poe House in Fayetteville, NC for their Christmas program. The original plan was for me to drop her off and go on my merry way but that didn't happen. I stayed and helped her in the kitchen. As we cooked we both realized that we had forgotten some of the ingredients for our Christmas pudding and home was over an hour away. Needless to say running home was out of the question so... In true 19th century fashion we improvised!

Using our combined working knowledge of historical cookery we began mixing. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, this, that, a pinch of something else. Now there is always that one person who lives by a recipe but neither the wife or I are that person. We know our ratios, we know what tastes right with what, and we know what doesn't. So using that basic culinary know-how we made a batter that "looked right" and tasted nice. Into the baking tin, and into the oven it went. As it baked we worked ourselves up a bit. The waiting is ALWAYS the most stressful part of cooking with us so to pass the time I made a sauce for the pudding. After all, no pudding is really complete without a sticky, sweet, delicious sauce!

The time had come... The pudding was ready so out of the oven and onto the plate. We tapped the tin a few times and PLOP! There stood the most beautiful 19th century creation of culinary joy that we had ever created, and we knew from the moment we saw it that it would never be replicated. I covered it with that sticky saucepan of golden syrupy goodness and it was ready to eat. Everyone who tasted it approved. All that was left at the end of the day was a sticky plate with a small puddle of sauce in the middle.

It was a Christmas Miracle!

If you would like to see the original post on the wife's page you can HERE!

The North Side

A Defense for 
Celebrating Holy Communion from the North Side
using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for the United States of America

by The Reverend John Taylor Brantley

It has been said, by many clergymen and laymen of Anglo-Catholic persuasion, that the historic Anglican practice of celebrating the Service of Holy Communion from the North Side (also called the Right Side in some texts) of the Holy Table while using the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer is inappropriate and is out of conformity with the rubrics of the aforementioned Prayer Book. This article is intended to be a repudiation of that claim and likewise to demonstrate that the practice of celebrating the Service of Holy Communion from the North Side of the Holy Table is a venerable and beneficial practice, both for the congregations of the Church and the clergy.
Here follow the Rubrics concerning the Holy Table and the placement of the Minister of Holy Communion which appear at the beginning of the Service of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer in 1662, 1789, 1892, and 1928.

1662
The Table at the Communion time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel, where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said. And the Priest standing at the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling.

1789 (before 1833)

The Table, at the Communion-time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel. And the Minister, standing at the north side of the Table, or where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said, shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling; but the Lord’s Prayer may be omitted, if Morning Prayer hath been said immediately before.

1789 (after 1833)
The Table, at the Communion-time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel. And the Minister, standing at the right side of the Table, or where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said, shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling; but the Lord’s Prayer may be omitted, if Morning Prayer hath been said immediately before.

1892
The Table, at the Communion-time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel. And the Minister, standing at the right side of the Table, or where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said, shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling; but the Lord’s Prayer may be omitted, if Morning Prayer hath been said immediately before.

1928
At the Communion-time the Holy Table shall have upon it a fair white linen cloth. And the Priest, standing reverently before the Holy Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling; but the Lord’s Prayer may be omitted at the discretion of the Priest.
The rubrics which have been laid out here demonstrate that the historically normative position of the Minister of Holy Communion is that of standing at the North or Right side of the Holy Table. The changes which appear in the 1928 BCP are not intended to abolish the North Side posture in favor of the popish practice of celebrating ad Orientem. Rather the changes in the rubrical text are meant to create a flexibility which would permit the growing number of High Church and Anglo-Catholic clergymen to exercise their more Catholic theological perspective without failing to conform to the rubrics in the Prayer Book. 
The argument has been made, although in vain, that the wording in the rubrical text which states that the Priest should be, “standing reverently before the Holy Table…” can only be interpreted to mean, …standing in front of the Holy Table…” implying the ad Orientem posture. This argument is dismantled however by looking at the rubric which appears immediately before the Prayer of Consecration in each of the Prayer Books, which are written as follows.

1662
When the Priest, standing before the Table, hath so ordered the Bread and Wine, that he may with more readiness and decency break the bread before the people, and take the Cup into his hands, he shall say the Prayer of Consecration, as followeth.

1789 
Then the Priest standing before the Table, hath so ordered the Bread and Wine, that he may with more readiness and decency break the bread before the People, and take the Cup into his hands, he shall say the Prayer of Consecration, as followeth.

1892
When the Priest, standing before the Table, hath so ordered the Bread and Wine, that he may with more readiness and decency break the bread before the People, and take the Cup into his hands, he shall say the Prayer of Consecration, as followeth.

1928
When the Priest, standing before the Holy Table, hath so ordered the Bread and Wine, that he may with more readiness and decency break the bread before the People, and take the Cup into his hands, he shall say the Prayer of Consecration, as followeth.

The rubric demonstrates that there is no credence to the argument that the wording, “…standing reverently before the Holy Table…” is incompatible with the North Side posture. In fact the rubric here goes further to imply the favorability of the North Side posture over that of ad Orientem by implying that the bread should be readily and decently be broken in the sight of the congregation, not hidden from view by the body of the minister or clumsily held aloft above the minister’s head. Even less desirable is the practice of the minister turning around, away from the Holy Table, to break the bread so that the people can see it. This practice is neither decent nor favorable. The rubrical requirement for, “readiness and decency” shows the desire for minimal movement and inconvenience on the part of the minister. These words also strongly encouragethe minister that the bread should be broken over the plate or paten in a graceful and reverent way. 
Contrary to popish practice, the Holy Communion is not a show or spectacle to be put on display for the gathered audience. Likewise it is not a mystical ritual intended to be secretly carried out behind closed doors as is the custom of the East. The Holy Communion is a sacred institution which unites the Christian with the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
In conclusion, the rubrics of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer are intended to allow the minister the discretion of deciding where he should stand and what direction he should face, so long as it is done with due reverence and respect for the sacrament.