Friday, April 27, 2007

A German Christian Defends the Talmud

Week 17: April 22-28

In the usual course of the study of history people hear a great deal about the movers and shakers who bring about momentous change. What we seldom hear about however, are the people who work in the background, helping to make the movers and shakers. The people without whose contribution, great events might have unfolded differently.

In the midst of a wave of anti-Semitism, a converted Jew named Johann Pfefferkorn and the Dominican inquisitors managed to extract from Emperor Maximilian an order to burn all Hebrew works except the Old Testament, particularity the Talmud and the Kabbala. The accusation was that because the Jews denied Christ their works and writings were contrary to the truth, full of errors and blasphemies. Fortunately, before the edict could be carried out, the Emperor had second thoughts and consulted the greatest Hebrew scholar of the age - Reuchlin.

In February of 1455 Johann Reuchlin was born into a working class family, but his
talent for singing brought him to the attention of the Margrave of Baden who brought him into his household as a companion for his son. It was in this new environment that Johann discovered another talent - languages. An avid learner, once given the chance, he achieved his Masters at the age of 22 and began to teach both Latin and Greek. He wrote the first Latin dictionary published in Germany and a Greek grammar in 1479. Hebrew however, was his dearest love. He ferreted out the rules of Israel's ancient language by study of Hebrew texts and conversing with every rabbi who appeared within his range. His authority became widely recognized.

Reuchlin urged the Emperor to preserve Jewish writings as an aid to study, and as examples of errors against which champions of faith might defend. To destroy the books would give ammunition to the church's enemies, he said. Convinced the emperor revoked the order.

Furious, the Dominicans tried to prove Reuchlin was a heretic. In truth, he might well have been one, for his ecclesiastical writings appear to espouse salvation through cabalistic practices rather than relying totally on Christ's atoning blood. But since the Dominicans main target was anything written by Jewish teachers that wasn't scripture, for focused their attack on his supporting of writings written by the "killers of Christ.". Reuchlin was ordered to appear before the Inquisition, tried and convicted in one breath, and his writings were ordered to be burnt.

Scholars sympathetic to Johann and his ideals appealed to Leo X. The Pope referred the matter to the Bishop of Spires, whose tribunal heard the issue. The tribunal declared Reuchlin not guilty. It was a great victory for freedom of learning.

The Dominicans however, were not known for giving up easily. They persuaded the monestaries at Cologne, Erfurt, Louvain, Mainz and Paris to condemn Reuchlin's writings. With their new-found scholastic support, they once again made their case before Leo X. As is often the case, Leo found himself in the middle of a dilemma. Should he win the applause of the scholars by protecting the Jewish books, or placate the clerics by destroying them?

In the tradition of politicians everywhere he appointed a commission. The commission backed Reuchlin. Still reluctant to create enemies Leo decided to suspend judgment which, in itself, was a victory for Reuchlin. As a result not only were the Talmud and Kabal saved from destruction throughout realm, but Reuchlin's Greek and Hebrew dictionaries survived as well; the same dictionaries that Luther would later use to create his German translation of the New testament and selected Old Testament passages.

In 1517 Luther posted his 95 theses. "Thanks be to God," said the weary Reuchlin. "At last they have found a man who will give them so much to do that they will be compelled to let my old age end in peace."

As trying as his experience might have been, it is important to note that Johann did not suffer to no purpose. Reuchlin's ordeal preserved not just the Talmud and Kabbala but many other Jewish writings that have helped us to understand the world and culture in which Jesus walked and taught. His victory was also a victory for academic freedom and scholarly investigation.

Johann Reuchlin was found innocent of all charges by the tribunal of the Bishop of Spires on April 24, 1514 — 493 years ago this week.

Other events that happened this week - April 22-28

April 22, 1864 - The motto "In God We Trust," conceived during the Civil War, first appears on American coinage.

April 23, 1538 - John Calvin and William Farel are banished from Geneva. The day before, Easter Sunday, both had refused to administer communion, saying the city was too full of vice to partake. Three years later, Calvin returned to the city to stay.

April 25, 1214 - Louis IX, king of France, is born. Leader of the Seventh and Eighth Crusades (he died on the latter), he was known for his humility; he wore hair shirts and visited hospitals—where he emptied the bedpans. So great was his devotion to his Christian duty he was made a saint in 1297, twenty-seven years after his death.

April 26, 1992 - Worshipers celebrate the first Russian Orthodox Easter in Moscow in 74 years.

April 27, 1667 - Blind, bitter, and poor, Puritan poet John Milton sells for ten pounds the copyright for Paradise Lost—a book that would influence English thought and language nearly as much as the King James Version and the plays of Shakespeare. Paradise Lost is about Adam and Eve--the same story you find in the first pages of Genesis, expanded by Milton into a long, detailed, narrative poem.

April 28, 1789 - In the South Pacific, a band of hedonistic sailors stage the famous mutiny on the Bounty. The mutineers then sailed to uninhabited Pitcairn Island, where they soon fell into drinking and fighting. Only one man and several women (taken earlier as slaves) and children survived. The man, Alexander Smith, discovered the ship's neglected Bible, repented, and transformed the community. The Bible is still on display in a Pitcairn church.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I Think of Him, Therefore God Is

Week 16: April 15-21
"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).

Even a cursory glance over the information available in the various forms of media reveals that a great deal of time and energy is spent attempting to prove the existence of God. This is especially true in the midst of the creation vs evolution debate. And yet it was not always this way.

In the early days of the church there were very few people who denied the existence of God, hence the designation of those who did as "fools." Without exception the early fathers of the church wrote and taught from the premise that there definitely is a god, the only questions up for debate were: Who is the true God, and, Is there more than one? That is, until a monk named Anselm came along.

Anselm was born in 1033 near
Aosta, in Italy. We know very little about his early life, other than he left home at twenty-three, and after three years of apparently aimless travelling through Burgundy and France, he came to Normandy in 1059. Next, Anselm entered the Bec abbey as a novice and excelled under the tutalage of Lanfranc, Bec's prior and a teacher of wide reputation, under whose leadership the school had become an important center of learning.

Anselm's intellectual and spiritual gifts brought him rapid advancement, and when Lanfranc was appointed abbot of
Caen in 1063, Anselm was elected to succeed him as prior at Bec. He was elected abbot in 1078 and under Anselm's leadership the reputation of Bec grew even more as Anselm writings in philosophy and theology, drew the attention of rulers and nobles all over Europe and beyond, who sought his advice and counsel on a variety of matters.

That was what brought Anselm to England in 1092. Hugh, Earl of Chester, had sought his advice about a monastery he wanted to build, but Anselm was reluctant to go because there were rumors around that he was on the short list to succeed his mentor Lanfranc as the archbishop of Canterbury. Lanfranc had died three years earlier but King William Rufus was keeping the see open because as long as he avoided appointing a new archbishop, the monies slated for the office went into his pocket instead. A violent illness which brought him to death's door frightened Rufus into changing his mind. When he recovered, he nominated Anselm archbishop of Canterbury, issued a proclamation against various abuses, and promised that in future he would govern according to law.

Anselm was still reluctant to accept the honor, but after much negotiation, which included returning to the see of Canterbury all the lands which had been taken from it since the days of Lanfranc, he was consecrated at
Canterbury on December 4, 1093.

But being Archbishop of Canterbury is not why Anselm is remembered. Despite the requirements of his various offices he never stopped pursuing philosophy and theology. As it the volume of work in produced in this regard that for which he is most well known and for which the church is most thankful.

Can the existence of God be proven? Anselm thought so. Modern philosophers and theologians disagree; however, it is Anselm's argument, known as the ontological proof, which remains the most troublesome for them.

Anselm's argument went something like this:

In order to discuss the existence of God, we first need to define him. In general he is defined as a perfect being, greater than anything else which can be imagined. If God does not exist, then the name "God" refers to an imaginary being. This makes the definition of "God" contradictory, since in order to be "greater than anything else that can be imagined" God would have to be real, living, and have power, all of which is not available to the imaginary. The upshot of this is we cannot even discuss the word "God" as defined if he does not exist, because I have to conceive of him as really existing in order for him to be greater than anything else, for a God who does not exist is not greater than anything else. In other words, no philosopher can legitimately argue that God does not exist if said philosopher defines God as a perfect being greater than any which can be imagined; because to be perfect, God must have real existence. Philosophers who acknowledge His existance do not have a problem with self-contradiction. So... since we can indeed raise the question of God's existence and argue the point, then God must exist.

As a theologian, Anselm is remembered for his book, Why Did God Become Man? In it he argued that each of us has run up such a debt of sin that there is no way we can repay God. Christ, as infinite God, has merit enough and to spare to pay our debts.

As a scholar, Anselm argued that we must believe in order to understand. He wrote: (translated from the Latin) "Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand. But after the faith is held fast, the attempt must be made to demonstrate by reason the truth of what we believe. Indeed, it is wrong not to do so: I hold it to be a failure in duty if after we have become steadfast in our faith we do not strive to understand what we believe."

In modern terms we might say that truth only begins to comes clear when one is committed to it. You cannot see around a bend in a trail unless you walk toward it.

When Anselm died he was surrounded by friends who declared to the world the church was poorer by a great mind and England by a zealous reformer. It is generally believed that he was canonized in 1494, although there is debate whether this occurred at all. Regardless, Anselm will long be remembered as one of the great thinkers of the Christian world.

Anselm (pictured is his statue at Canterbury) died April 21, 1109 – 898 years ago this week.

Other events that happened this week.

April 15, 1415 - Jerome of Prague is seized by church authorities meeting at the Council of Constance. Under duress, Jerome recanted his Wycliffe-influenced beliefs and accepted the authority of the pope. When a crowd was assembled so he could repeat the recantation publicly, he changed his speech and eloquently defended Wycliffe's teachings. Jerome was subsequently burned at the stake.

April 16, 1905 - In St. Petersburg, Christian leaders are summoned to the Palace of Princess Lievan. They are presented with a manifesto of religious tolerance relieving the suffering Christians had been under for over 200 years. As good as the news was, it didn't last. Nicholas II was one of those world leaders who broke his promises almost a soon as he made them. This helped play into the hands of the revolutionaries who eventually toppled him, the last Tsar, from power.

April 17, 1937 - With Mussolini's troops occupying Ethiopia, Sudan Interior Mission missionaries who had started a small church among the previously devil-worshiping Wallamo tribe are forced to leave the country. "We knew God was faithful," one missionary wrote. "But still we wondered—if we ever come back, what will we find?" The missionaries returned in July 1943 to find that, despite severe persecution by Italian soldiers, the Christian community had grown from 48 members to 18,000.

April 18, 1587 - English Protestant historian John Foxe, author of Actes and Monuments of Matters Happenning to the Church (the shorter version is now known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs), dies at age 71.

April 19, 1529 - At the Diet of Speyer (Germany), princes and 14 cities draft a formal protest of Charles V's attempt to crush Lutheranism, defending religious freedom for religious minorities, e.g. those involved in the Reformation movement. From then on, the Reformers were known as Protestants.

April 20, 1233 (some say 1232) - Pope Gregory IX appoints full-time papal inquisitors and gives the Dominican order authority to carry out the Inquisition. For their vigilant and persistant work, the order won the moniker "Domini canes" or "God's dogs."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Henry’s Handy Handouts

Week 15 - April 8-14

If you are a serious student of the Scriptures you probably own one. It’s certain there is one in your pastor’s study, and likely in the church library. It is regarded as one of the ‘must have’ resources for any student of scripture. But how did it come to be? It’s not a long story, but it’s one worth telling.

In 1898 Henry Hampton Halley was ordained as a pastor and quickly developed a reputation as a meticulous scholar. Whenever he entered the pulpit he could be seen to carry with him a sheaf of notes that he would follow diligently as he delivered his sermon for that day. After preaching in this manner for a number of years he was forced to take a number of years off from full time preaching because of ill health.

As his health returned he was asked to preach at the church of a friend and fellow pastor. He eagerly agreed to do so but in his eagerness to get back into the pulpit, found himself standing there on the fateful day without his notes.

What to do? After a moments thought he remembered the promise from
Isaiah 55:11, “ is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” With this thought in mind he simply began to recite scripture. Not just a few verses, but whole passages, entire chapters, complete stories from the Bible told word for word just as they appeared in scripture. [Author’s aside: Those of you who know me as a Biblical storyteller now know why I find his story interesting.] It seems that during his prolonged period of illness Henry had occupied his time by memorizing large portions of scripture. It has been estimated that he could recite scripture passages for upwards of 25 hours before running out of material.

The response over-whelmed him. They invited him back to recite more passages. Other churches also invited him. Before reciting a passage, he always gave an explanation of its context. You see, Henry Halley didn’t just study the Bible, he studied everything he could about the Bible; geography, cust
oms, rituals, traditions and habits, everything he could find that would help him to understand the context of the passages. People tried to jot down what he said. One pastor even went so far as to hire a stenographer to take notes. But Henry found her typing and shuffling so distracting that he decided to create and hand out his own notes wherever he appeared.

The first set of notes were 16 pages long. The second 24 pages. They grew from there, with more and more pages being added as his storehouse of knowledge grew. By his 90th birthday the notes numbered almost 1,000 pages. Halley’s Bible Handbook became a published work, available to any who desired it. It became an immediate best seller.

Most historians agree that its popularity was owing not only to its usefulness--it featured maps, outlines of Bible books, archaeological discoveries and much more--but to the honor it accorded to God. Henry Halley always emphasized that the Bible is God's word, that "every Christian should be a constant and devoted reader of the Bible..." His handbook was designed to make sure its readers received the maximum benefit from their reading.

The other reason for its popularity is that it bears no denominational, or interpretational ‘bent’ whatsoever. Henry stuck to the facts he could discover about that Bible and left his own opinions out of it. His handbook was "not designed as a textbook, but rather as a handy, brief manual of a popular nature, for the average Bible reader who has few or no commentaries or reference works on the Bible." For this reason pastors, preists, scholars, teachers, and everyday Bible readers could benefit from Henry’s work regardless of what their own belief about the Bible’s meaning might be.

After Henry Halley died in 1965, he was buried in Lexington, Kentucky. New editions of the Handbook continued to be issued by his family.

The creator of Halley’s Bible Handbook was born on Aril 10, 1874 — 133 years ago this week.

Other events that happened this week - April 8-14

April 8, 1546 - At its fourth session, the Council of Trent adopts the Vulgate, Jerome's Latin translation of the Bible, as the only authentic Latin text of the Scriptures. It became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. Jeromes translation was completed in 405.

April 9, 1906 - In Los Angeles, Holiness minister William Seymour and several associates experience what they called the "baptism of the Spirit," marked by speaking in tongues. This launched the three-year "Azusa Street Revival," considered the first major public event of Pentecostalism.

April 11, 1506 - Pope Julius II lays the foundation for the new St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Builders delayed its completion until 1626 (120 years later) due to its immense cost, size, and numerous disputes with a number of popes. Indulgences sold to fund the construction drew criticism from Protestant reformers, most memorably Martin Luther. In was in response to these indulgences that Luther first posted his 95 Thesis.

April 12, 1204 - The Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople, an allied city they were actually sent to save. The attack virtually destroyed the Byzantine Empire and ruined any hope of reunifying eastern and western Christians.

April 13, 1742 - Handel's famous oratorio Messiah premieres in Dublin's Fishamble Street Musick Hall and is met with critical praise.

April 14, 73 - According to Jewish historian Josephus, 967 Jewish zealots committed mass suicide within the fortress of Masada on this last night before the walls were breached by the attacking Roman Tenth Legion. (Two women and five children survived by hiding in a cistern, and were later released unharmed by the Romans.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Amazing Travels of Xavier

Week 14 - April 1-7

In the resurgence of contemplative spirituality currently making its way through North American Christianity, the name of Ignatius of Loyola is a common one. Other than his ‘Spiritual Exercises' he is best known for founding the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits.

But Ignatius did not found the Society on his own, he was one of a group of monks. I'd like to tell you about another of the co-founders of the Jesuits.

Born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, Francis Xavier proved to
be a man of great promise. He went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met Savoyard, Pierre Favre, Ignatius Loyola, and four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla; together the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, Aug. 15, 1534 which led to the founding of the Jesuits.

The original intention of the seven was to carry the gospel to Islam. It didn't happen. However, the Pope did employ the Jesuits throughout Europe in a variety of positions. Whatever their mission, they labored in prisons, among the needy, and with the sick.

It was at this time that King John III of Portugal asked the Pope for missionaries to evangelize his Far Eastern possessions. Xavier was chosen. Immediately he departed for Portugal. There he met the king, who begged Francis to visit all his territories, report on the state of Christianity in them, and to do all he could to bring Christian
ity to the lost.

For three weeks, opposing winds kept Xavier from sailing. When the wind finally turned, the monks set up a pulpit and Francis preached to the people gathered at the docks to say farewell to loved ones. As he finished his sermon, he was told about a young man who had been mortally wounded in a duel. Francis went immediately to the young man's side and pleaded with him to forgive the man who had wounded him, but to no avail - he refused. "Would you pardon him if God granted you life?" Francis is reported to have asked him. "Yes," was the reply. "Then you will recover," said Xavier. The young man did, and Xavier sailed for India.

He landed at Goa, May 6, 1542 and spent five months preaching and
ministering to the sick in the hospitals. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, where he hoped to restore Christianity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon.

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He laboured there for the last months of that year reaping a great spiritual harvest. About January, 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been difficult to identify. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed o
n the island of Mindanao, and for this reason Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines. But so far it has not been proven absolutely that Xavier ever landed in the Philippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christianity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at Goa. He finally left for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied Him.

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, Aug. 15, 1549. The enti
re first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he continued his mission eventually traveling all over Japan preaching the Gospel and establishing missions.

After working about two and a half years in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Next he turned his thoughts to China, and in April, 1552, he left Goa and in the autumn he arrived at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a crude hut had been built to shelter him. In these wretched surroundings he breathed his last. A statue, remembering Xavier , stands in Kameyama Park, Yamaguchi, Japan (photo).

In the short space of ten years (May, 1542 - December, 1552), he traveled 9,000 miles, an incredible feat the transportation in those days. He brought the gospel to more than 50 nations, and baptized over one million converts. In the history of missions work his accomplishments have no equal. To many, Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although due to the death of Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year.

St. Francis Xavier, the Apostle to the Indies, set sail from Goa for India on his 35th birthday, April 7, 1541 — 466 years ago this week.

Other events that happened this week - April 1-7

April 1, 1548 - British Parliament orders the publication of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) designed to ensure that any Christian in Britain could walk into any church in the land and be familiar with the order of worship. The final form of the BCP was established by Thomas Cranmer and he is rightly credited with its creation, but it should be noted he worked with a committee of scholars to assemble the prayers and other components before editing the final liturgy.

April 2, 1877 - Birth of Mordecai Ham in Allen County, Kentucky. A fundamentalist Baptist evangelist by the end of his ministry, he laid claim to over one million converts—including Billy Graham, who responded to the call at a 1934 Ham meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

April 3, 1528 - Adolf Clarenbach, German teacher and principle, is arrested, for promoting the teachings of the Reformation. After being imprisoned and tortured for over a year, on September 28, 1529, Clarenbach and another reformation preacher, Peter Fliesteden, would become the first martyrs of the Reformation when they are burned at the stake in Cologne.

April 4, 397 - Ambrose of Milan, the most universally loved and respected bishop of the early church, dies. Biblical scholar, political theorist, musician, and teacher, Ambrose was, to use a modern expression, a force to be reckoned with during the fourth century. He once brought Roman Emperor Theodosius I to his knees in repentance after the emperor had ordered a massacare of his citizens. He is most often mentioned in history books as the teacher of his most famous pupil, Augustine of Hippo.

April 5, 1811 - Robert Raikes, founder of English Sunday schools in 1780, dies. Raikes built his Sunday schools not for respectable and well-mannered children of believers, but for (according to one woman's description) "multitudes of wretches who, released on that day from employment, spend their day in noise and riot." In 4 years, 250,000 students were attending the schools; by Raikes's death, 500,000; and by 1831, 1.25 million.

April 6, 1528 - Albrecht Durer, German painter, engraver, and designer of woodcuts, dies. Famous for his religious scenes, he may have been so influenced by Luther (whom he called "the great Christian man who has helped me out of great anxieties") that he converted to Protestantism. His most popular work is "Praying Hands ".

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mother of the Nile

Week 13 - March 25-31

Over the years I’ve heard many stories about women who were left at the altar when the man they were to marry found someone else. In 1910 Tom Jordan was left at the altar when his fiance Lillian found someone else... she found God.

Actually Lillian Trasher had found God many years before when as a little girl she knelt in the woods near her home and promised Him, "Lord, I want to be your little girl." Then she added bold words. "Lord, if ever I can do anything for You, just let me know and I'll do it."

After failing to get a newspaper job that she really wanted (she was hired, but staff mistakenly told her the job had been given to someone else) she met up with Miss Perry who ran an orphanage near her hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. Soon after that she moved to an orphanage in North Carolina that operated on ‘faith principles’, that is, they did no active fundraising. It was a hard time for Lillian, in which she rarely had all she needed to run the orphanage properly. At one point the only clothing she had for herself was men’s clothing found in a pile of children’s clothing that had been donated.

Lillian attended God's Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio. She pastored a church in Dahlonega,
Georgia, did evangelistic work in Kentucky and in 1909, returned to the orphanage in Marion, North Carolina. It was during this time that she met and became engaged to Tom Jordan. After taking care of so many other people’s children she was looking forward to having children of her own. Ten days before her wedding date she attended a meeting with Miss Perry and heard the testimony of a missionary from India. She left the meeting crying, knowing that the wedding would not take place - God had called her to the mission field. She canceled the wedding and later that year (1910) arrived in Egypt with her sister Jenny, less than $100 dollars in her pocket, and no idea what it was God wanted her to do.

Settling in with a Christian mission in the predominantly Christian village of Assiout it was not long before she found out what God had in mind for her. Invited by a neighbour to come pray with a dying woman, she arrived with an interpreter and was horrified to discover a three month old gir
l trying to suck green, stringy milk out of a tin can. Lillian prayed and as the mother died she gave the baby to Lillian, who took the child back with her to the mission compound.

The two sisters took turns rocking the child and trying to get her to take some milk.For twelve days and nights they tried and the baby howled. Soon the other missionaries' patience wore out and the senior missionary ordered Lillian to take the baby back. But where was Lillian to take her back to?

In the traditional mission structure, single women were required to be submissive to male leaders. So Lilli
an obeyed,deciding to take the baby back... but she was going to go back with the baby to stay. An American woman, unmarried, in an Arab world! No one held out much hope for her success.

With the sixty dollars she had left to her name she rented a small house, bought a kerosene stove for cooking and some furniture. Now she was alone, (her sister had returned to the States), she had no money left, and her mission board support was terminated. But she had confidence in God.

Before long the fledgling orphanage had 50 children. Lillian traveled on a donkey pleading for
money and many times received children instead. The government officials were amazed that no one did anything to alarm or hurt Lillian. The governor taunted her since she was riding a donkey which was very degrading for a very attractive young lady. Lillian reminded him that a donkey was good enough for the mother of her Lord and that it certainly was good enough for her. She was known as the "Lady on a Donkey."

But a time of political turmoil was coming upon Egypt. The British government, under whose protection the Missionaries in Egypt operated, became concerned for the safety of all non-Arabs living in Egypt. In 1919 they ordered all
whites, Lillian included, to leave the country. As she stood by the railing on the boat watching the shores of Egypt fade in the distance she cried for her love of the country and vowed to return.

In the United State the newly formed Assemblies of God took Lillian’s cause to heart and sponsored her return to Egypt in 1920. With renewed vigor she set to work once again vowing to take in every orphan who came to her.

By 1923, she housed three hundred orphans. One night when the Egyptians once again rose up against the British, she huddled her children into a brick kiln to shelter them from the
fighting in the streets. When she counted heads, she realized that two children were missing. Crawling back to the orphanage she found the terrified toddlers. Tucking a child under each arm, she slowly made her way back to the kiln.

When rebels almost discovered her, she dropped into a ditch, landing on a dead soldier! Fearing discovery she muffled the scream that stuck in her throat, and hid the two children underneath her up against the dead soldier’s body. The rebels came closer and closer until one of them actually stepped on Lillian. He probably assumed she was dead, and kept moving on. When the danger was over, she crawled to safety back in the kiln.

God had protected her, and the children, and would continue to do so. As the years went by the number of children continued to grow, and so did the support. In the 1930s one Lord MacLay of Scotland became a major patron of the orphanage donating thousands of pounds to the mission. With his help and the help of an increasing number of local supporters, the mission expanded until Lillian Thrasher became known as “the Mother of the Nile.”

Lillian died in December of 1961, and by that time the Lillian Trasher Orphanage had grown to some 1200 children. Today, the institution is entirely the responsibility of the Assemblies of God of Egypt, with some 85% of its daily needs being met by donations from the Presbyterian churches of Egypt, the Soul Salvation Society, and other Egyptian church bodies.

"Mama" Lillian lies buried in a simple Egyptian tomb several miles outside the city of Assiout. She left behind a legacy of love and devotion in the face of danger that will live on for many years to come. Her resolve and determination stands as a example to us all.

The day that “the Mother of the Nile” was forced to leave Egypt by the British government was March 27, 1919 – 88 years ago this week.

Other Events that happened this week - March 25-31

March 25, 1829 - Caroline Chisholm dies in London of Bronchitis. While living in Australia Caroline started homes for poor girls teaching them life and trade skills so they could care for themselves rather than winding up in drugs and prostitution. Such was the impact of her social work on Australian society that her picture graced the Australian 5 dollar bill for 20 years.

March 26, 752 - Stephen III assumes the papacy after Stephen II dies. But Stephen III is sometimes called Stephen II, since the real Stephen II hardly counts: he died a mere four days after his election!

March 28, 1937 - Billy Graham gets his first opportunity to preach when his teacher John Minder unexpectedly assigns him the Easter evening sermon. Graham tried to get out of it, saying he was unprepared, but Minder persisted. Desperately nervous, Graham raced through four memorized sermons, originally 45 minutes each, in eight minutes.

March 29, 1602 - John Lightfoot, English scholar and theologian is born. In an England that had recently expelled all Jews from the country, Lightfoot taught himself to read Hebrew from the documents left behind by numerous rabbis. He then went on to examine the teachings of the rabbis and was able to demonstrate from the Jewish teachings that Jesus of Nazareth was definitely the Hebrew Messiah. He went on to create a massive body of work, filling fifteen volumes that explained the meaning of the New Testament in the light of the teachings and culture of the Jewish world.

March 30, 1858 - During a rally of 5,000 men in Philadelphia, Dudley Tyne, an Episcopal minister, declares, "I would rather this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God's message." Over 1,000 men were converted. Two weeks later, Tyne lost his right arm in a farming accident, and died soon after. His last words, "Stand up for Jesus, father, and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus," inspired the hymn "Stand Up, stand Up for Jesus.

March 31, 1146 - French monastic reformer and theologian Bernard of Clairvaux preaches for the Second Crusade at Vezelay, France. He urged his audience to "take the sign of the cross," and so many responded that he ran out of cloth crosses to pass out. (He ended up tearing pieces from his own habit to stitch onto the shirts of would-be crusaders). When the crusade proved to be a failure, people were shocked that a venture supported by such a powerful man of God could go wrong.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Thanks For the Assist

Week 12 - March 18-24

Okay, so you’re sitting with some friends at a Bible study, you’ve just made a great point quoting a passage you vaguely remember from Sunday School and everyone is impressed. Then it happens. Someone says, “Really? Where is it that in the Bible?”

You turn to the back of your big study Bible, praying with the turn of each page that you’ll find it in the concordance. Your prayer is answered - it’s there. You look up the passage and sure enough - you remembered it correctly. Your reputation as a great theologian remains intact. You offer a silent word of thanks to God as the discussion continues. But who else should you thank?

Hugo de Sancto Charo, Hugh of St. Cher, was born in the village of St. Cher, near Vienne, France sometime about the year 1200 (we’re not exactly sure
). After studying philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence in Paris, he entered the Order of St. Dominic in 1225. He soon developed a reputation for being adept at any task given to him and, as a result, became the confidant and adviser of several bishops, and the trusty envoy of Gregory IX to Constantinople in 1233. When the pope needed someone to reform one of the Catholic orders, the Carmelite rule and liturgy (order of service), it was scholar Hugh chosen to do the job. In 1244 Hugh became the first Dominican raised to the rank of Cardinal.

But the lasting legacy of Hugh of St. Cher is his body of scholarly work, including the "Correctorium Hugonis" known today as the "Correctorium Praedicatorum", a correction of numerous inaccuracies in the Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the day. He also initiated a project involving 500 Dominican scholars to create the firs
t ‘verbal index of Holy Writ’ of the scriptures; what we call a ‘Bible concordance.’

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “It contained no quotations, and was purely an index to passages where a word was found. These were indicated by book and chapter (the division into chapters had recently been invented by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury) but not by verses, which were only introduced by Robert Estienne in 1545. In lieu of verses, Hugo divided the chapters into seven almost equal parts, indicated by the letters of the alphabet, a, b, c, etc.” A few years later English Dominicans would add quotations of the passages themselves to the work, greatly increasing its usefulness as an aid to preaching.

Hugh created many other works including the prologues to many b
ooks of the Bible (one for the book of Amos is pictured). His third hugely ambitious work was a commentary on the entire Bible that was still in use 500 years after his death. That death took place at a Dominican monastery in Orvieto (Italy), March 19, 1263 – 744 years ago this week.

Other events that took place this week - March 18-24.

March 18, 1314 - Thirty-nine Knights Templar are burned at the stake in Paris, accused of sodomy, blasphemy, and heresy. Created to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land, they had become wealthy after the crusades. At the time few others besides Dante championed the innocence of the oft-maligned military order. Today most scholars now agree that the worst of the accusations against the order were likely inspired by jealously.

March 20, 1852 - Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter of famous Congregational minister Lyman Beecher, publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin (which had been serialized in an anti-slavery newspaper). The book sold one million copies and was highly influential in arousing anti-slavery sentiment. So connected to the events of the day was this book that Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said upon meeting Stowe in 1863: "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!"

March 21, 1747 - After surviving a week long storm that nearly destroyed his ship, slave trading sea captain John Newton dramatically converts to Christianity. He would later write what is arguably the world’s most well-known hymn "Amazing Grace".

March 22, 1818 - The last time Easter fell on its earliest possible date. The Council of Nicea (325) declared that Easter was to be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox. This meant the date of Easter would always fall between March 22nd and April 25th. March 22 therefore, is the earliest date on which Easter can fall. Since there is seldom a full moon on March 21st, Easter does not often fall on the 22nd. The last time it did was in 1818. During the twentieth century, it never fell on this day. Next year the full moon will fall on Mar. 21, but it will be a Friday so Easter will fall on the 23rd.

March 23, 1540 - Waltham Abbey in Essex becomes the last monastery in England to transfer its allegiance from the Catholic Church to the newly established Church of England.

March 24, 1980 - Roman Catholic archbishop, and Nobel Prize nominee, Oscar Romero, a vocal opponent of the San Salvador military, is assassinated while saying mass. Several men, believed to be part of a death squad, were arrested for the murder but were later released.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Jesus - High and Lifted Up

Week 11 - Mar.11-17

He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off;They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. Micah 4:3

When you look at the events taking place in the news today it is no wonder that so many people look to God in their prayers and ask, "When Lord, when is this going to happen?"

Well the fact is that it has happened on a few occasions in history, when nations and the people that govern them are faithful to listen to God's word and heed it. I'd like to tell you about one such occasion.

At the dawn of the 20th century two nations in South America were on the verge of war. At the centre of the dispute was the border between Chile and Argentina. One side felt the border should follow the watershed, the other favoured the ridge along the highest point in the range through the Andes mountains. In 1902, sabres rattled, and a resolution seemed unattainable.

Two years earlier, half a world away in Rome, Pope Leo XIII had issued an encyclical which called for "the consecration of the entire world to Christ the Redeemer." Church leaders in the two countries, citing this admonishment of His Holiness, implored their governments to find a diplomatic solution. Both the Chilean and Argentinian governments agreed, sending the dispute to arbitration. The Northern end was arbitrated by an ambassador from the United States, while the southern end was arbitrated by King Edward VI of England. In 1903 the two nations came to an agreement.

But that's just the Readers Digest(tm) version of the story.

When Leo XII's encyclical was first issued, the bishop of Cuyo had promised to erect a statue of Christ the Redeemer to remind the parties of Christ's message of peace. The 7m-high bronze statue was commissioned from sculptor Mateo Alonso of Buenos Aires.

As the the conflict between the two conutries heated up and the Christain leaders made their appeal for peace, Ángela Oliveira Cézar de Costa, a well-connected society lady and devote Christian, suggested taking the statue to the Andes in the event of peace as a symbol of unity between the two nations. A close friend of the the president of Argentina, she was able to influence the leadership of both countries. Because of her involvment in the peace process she would be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1904 the statue was transported in pieces to a point in the Uspallata Pass, 13,00 feet above sea level. Mount Aconcagua forms its backdrop, lofting 13,000 feet higher. On the day of it's dedication 3,000 Chileans and Argentinians, including several bishops and the foreign ministers of both nations (the respective presidents were unable to attend), made the difficult journey to the statue's location at the highest readily accessible point on the boundary between the two nations.

There are two plaques at its base. One reads "He is our peace who hath made us one." The other, placed there in 1937, declares: "Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than Argentines and Chileans break the peace sworn at the feet of Christ the Redeemer." It is testament, not just to a single agreement, but to a vow of eternal peace made by neighbours. In a world where ploughshares are more commonly beaten into swords it is a shining example to nations everywhere.

The statue "Christ in the Andes", cast from the bronze of two melted-down cannons, was dedicated on March 13th, 1904 --- 103 years ago this week.

Other events that happened this week - March 11-17

March 11, 1812 - Missionary William Carey's print shop in Serampore, India, is destroyed by fire. Also lost in the blaze is his massive polyglot (multi-language) dictionary, two grammar books, sets of type for 14 eastern languages, and whole versions of the Bible. Said Carey of the event, "The loss is heavy, but as traveling a road the second time is usually done with greater ease and certainty than the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing of real value . . . We are cast down but not in despair." News of the fire catapulted Carey to fame, bringing in abundant funds and volunteer labor.

March 12, 1088 - Odo of Lagery is elected pope and takes the name Urban II. Though he had some trouble taking his office (Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV supported an antipope, Clement III), he made a name for himself by proclaiming the first Crusade, in response to a request for help from Constantinople, in 1095. As it turns out Pope Urban completely misunderstood the request, as a result instead of rescuing Constantinople and Jerusalem, they were sacked, making the Pope's declaration "God wills it!" something of an "Urban myth."

March 14, 1937 - Pope Pius XI issues an encyclical against the Nazi "cult": "Race, nation, state . . . all have an essential and honorable place within the secular order," he wrote. "To abstract them, however, from the earthly scale of values and make them the supreme norm of all values, including religious ones, and divinize them with an idolatrous cult, is to be guilty of perverting and falsifying the order of things created and commanded by God".

March 15, 1517 - Needing money to rebuild St. Peter's basilica, Pope Leo X announces a special sale of indulgences. A Dominican named Johann Tetzel led the way in promoting the sale in Germany and erroneously declared that indulgences would cover future sins (Leo's forgave all past sins). The teaching angered monk Martin Luther, who soon posted his 95 Theses in response, eventually giving rise to the Reformation.

March 16, 1649 - In Canada, Jesuit missionary, John of Brebeuf, is martyred by Iroquois at the end of a tribal war with the Huron with whom the Jesuit had been living for most of the last 23 years.

March 17, 461 - (traditional date): Patrick, missionary to Ireland and that country's patron saint, dies. Irish raiders captured Patrick, a Romanized Briton, and enslaved him as a youth. He escaped to Gaul (modern France) but returned to Ireland after experiencing a vision calling him back to preach. Patrick enjoyed great success there as a missionary, and only the far south remained predominantly pagan when he died.