Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Close of the Council

Today in the first reading the Council of Jerusalem ends and the council did what all councils would subsequently do, issued a document defining the teaching of the Church on various matters.

Looking at all of the commandments of the Torah as understood at the time, they dispense circumcision and all of the other rules expect for four:
uncleanness associated with idol worship,
porneia which is various forms of sex outside of lawful marriage
pniktos- meat from animals not bled as kosher meat is
aima- the consumption of blood

The problem is that my parents and I thought of ourselves as good bible following baptists and yet. My mother could ring a chickens neck with the best of them. And my father would ear raw meat in which you could clearly see there was still blood. And as hard as it may be to believe, I was that smart aleck kid who would ask my cousin the minister. Why don't we follow that part of the bible. Mostly I would get told to be quiet and eat. Or I would get the Mark 7, Jesus made all things clean. But if Jesus made all things clean how could the apostles then turn around and declare some things were still in fact unclean.

The illogic of all this was in part what drove me away from church in general as a teenager. It all seemed random. Every preacher picking and choosing the verses that suited them. It wasn't until I was in Nicaragua and the man who remains godfather explained to me how we as Cafholics believe the Holy Spirit continues to guide the church as a whole to a deeper understanding of the scriptures. While the truth is unchanging our understanding does change. It is the development of doctrine. We also distinguish between the immutable truths of the faith, and merely disciplinary matters.

Idolatry and fornication are and always will be sins. Eating British black pudding or German Blutwrust are ok.

What was most critical in my decision to become catholic was that I saw in the Church that it wasn't random. It wasn't an individual sitting around reading the bible and teaching whatever he or she wanted. We are still using the same Church structures and same system for resolving disputes that is set forth in the Bible. Sure we've added vestments, uniforms that help people clearly identify the roles of persons and remind us who were clerical attire of who we are and what we are called to be, as leaders. But the three orders (episkopos, presbyteros, diakonos), the calling of councils, the issuing of letter, have remained true to the scriptures. And are essential as we apply the scriptures to modern situations the apostles could never have imagined. The fundamental structure of the Church is and will remain biblical.

To the surprise of most people Pope is just a nickname we use taken from Papa. His official titles are in the code of canon law supreme pontiff ( the bridge), the successor to Peter ( c. 330), and Bishop of Rome (c. 331). Cardinal is an honorary title.which we do not claim is biblical, and is therefore not considered an order in the church. They elect the pope and advise him. And the current Pope has all but eliminated Monsignor, another honorary title. But strip away the costuming and no one can reasonably argue that the Church's structure is not firmly rooted in the Bible.

In every age we face new challenges and we need a coherent system to respond. Is it perfect? We never claimed that it was. From the Pope to the local parish minster we all need to go to confession. We all sin. We all make mistakes. As the church continues to love and embrace me in my imperfection, I continue to embrace her.

We read the stories of the conflicts and resolutions in the Acts of the Apostles each year to remind us, that conflict is part of life. The Church always has had and always will have turmoil. It's what happens when you bring human beings together. But what keeps us going is our absolute trust that ultimately it is God's Church. We are held in God's hand and guided by the Spirit, on our way to the fullness of the Kingdom of God.