All Saints Day 2020

C.S. Lewis described himself as the “world’s most reluctant convert.” He fought his conversion valiantly, but in the end he found himself cornered. Forces greater than himself—not least the force of his own relentless logic—left him no other option than to accept the reality of God.

I grew up hearing testimonies of “reluctant” missionaries who resisted the call of God on their lives: “Lord, please don’t send me to Africa.”

My father, Powell Royster, was a reluctant pastor. Only at death’s door in the throes of an acute asthma attack did he surrender to his calling.

His uncle, Alexander Royster, also wrestled with God. Actually wrestled.  When he finally submitted to the call his brother, my grandfather, Jack Royster, with whom he shared a bed said, “Finally, I can get some sleep.” When telling the story my grandfather added wistfully, “I always wish God had called me instead. I would have said yes gladly.” 

Who can understand the strange ways of God? A break-through after great resistance can make the call more definite and undeniable. Perhaps God knows that is what some people need to see them through the hard times. 

But there is a positive counterpart to this: when we want something so badly, something we never thought we would have, and then we get it.

That’s how it was for me becoming an Anglican. Worshiping at St. Francis Church in the cool of those early Sunday mornings in Kenya, in the only remaining 1662 Prayer Book service left in the country, always felt like a high privilege. Being accepted by my fellow congregants, and sometimes invited to preach, in spite of my America accent, also amazed me. And later, after my ordination, as I stumbled through the liturgy, they were patient and forgiving.

I could hardly believe it when one of my former students, Peter Karanja, then Provost of All Saints Cathedral, encouraged me to pursue ordination in the Anglican Church of Kenya. When the examining board of chaplains approved me, I could hardly contain myself.

To be admitted into Holy Orders in the Anglican Communion and to stand in the line of Anglican churchmen going back through the centuries is a priceless treasure to me, and to be welcomed into the priesthood, across racial lines, in my adoptive home was overwhelming.

There are many pathways to Christian faith, and many to the Anglican way. Some people come reluctantly into Christ’s church, and suspiciously to Anglicanism. But blessed are those who feel that both are the greatest gifts they could be given.

This All Saints Day, I am grateful for all the faithful Anglicans, lay and clergy, through whom I trace my spiritual lineage, from the frontier Methodist circuit riders and evangelists, across the ocean to that little Anglican firebrand, John Wesley, and his mother who formed his soul and that of his brother Charles, through pioneer Anglican missionary James Hannington, first bishop of East Africa, martyred on the shores of Lake Victoria, and down to the courageous Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, who twice laid firm brown hands on my pale head and conferred the orders of Deacon and Priest, passed down through 2000 years of apostolic succession on me. Me!  Unbelievable! Grace and mercy beyond measure!

What are you doing down there?

The second chapter of Ephesians describes the many great benefits we receive in Christ.  Though we were dead in our trespasses and sin, Christ makes us alive in Him.  And it is all by grace.  We no long are what we once were.  And we no longer live where we once lived.  At least we don’t have to.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ep 2:5, 6

Try this.  Recall a recent annoyance or offence.  Feel the irritation, the injustice, the stupidity.  Sit with that a moment.  Now, imagine how much that will bother you when you are in Heaven.

Recall a recent argument in which you felt it was very important for you to make your case.  Now, imagine yourself in Heaven.  How significant will winning that one be to you then and there?

Recall a recent time when you were misunderstood, misjudged, criticized, belittled, underappreciated, even publicly humiliated, or when you did not get your way or what you rightly deserved. In Heaven how much do you think you are going to be concerned about that?

I think Paul is suggesting that we can start living from a Heavenly place right now.  How about you?  Is that what it means to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places?

Use the wonderful gift of imagination, the eyes of faith, and take your seat beside Jesus in Heaven.  Are you set?  Look over at Him.  Smile back.  Then look down on yourself and others from that vantage point.

As I have done this I have found myself chuckling outloud at the things that rob me of my peace.  It is a little like a trip to the primate house at the zoo. “Look at those funny chimps.  Look at that one over there that kinda looks like me!  What’s he doing?”

When irritations and worries begin to get their grip, take your seat with Jesus and see what it all looks like from there.  I have found that this also helps me forgive, both myself and others.

Do you think you are going to be nursing any grudges or regrets in Heaven?  I doubt it. Why not go there now?  Why not live there? Paul says its part of the salvation package.




Don’t Blame the Goats, Blame the Fence

This video offers helpful, maybe somewhat painful, insight into the perennial relationship problem of feeling responsible for other people’s feelings.  This is especially a challenge for Christians since we often believe that love means making sure everyone is always happy and never upset.  I recently spent an hour with Tom (online).  He’s senior pastor of a new church in Florida.  Interesting guy.

Vulnerable Faith

Yesterday another Christian musician announced that he was leaving his faith, or that his faith had left him. Either way, he was no longer considering himself to be a Christian believer. Several other artists and authors have made similar announcements in the last year.

All of us have friends or family members who have lost or left the faith of their childhood or high school days. Statisticians tell us that the number of “nones” in America is rapidly rising, those who list their religious affiliation as “none.” Most of these are actually “no longers.” They check “none” now, but not too long ago they would have answered differently.

This trend reveals in real life a double Biblical principle: that faith is a gift and faith must be nurtured and protected to survive.  In 2 Timothy Paul wrote to his young disciple: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Tim 1:5-6).

Many of the young adults who are leaving the faith were raised in Christian homes, like Timothy. Godly nurture in childhood is a huge blessing, but it is not enough. We don’t know the details, but at some point, with the assistance of Paul and the laying on of hands, the faith that Timothy had received as a child, burst into flame, as it were, and became a living reality in his life. I have seen this happen in the lives of young people. Perhaps you have too. Or perhaps you have your own story to tell.

Using the metaphor of fire, Paul urges Timothy to take care of his faith, to “fan into flames the gift of God.”

There is mystery here. I can’t answer every question. Is faith a gift or a choice, a decision, a conviction? Yes. Can true faith ever be lost? Sure seems like it, though I know there are theoretical arguments to the contrary. All I can say is that I have seen people slide from vibrant, sincere, contagious faith into doubt and denial, and even become vigorous opponents of their former faith.

How does this happen? There are many factors (almost anything will do the job under the right circumstances) but it is usually a gradual process.

You’ve heard this old “joke” no doubt: “Man A: How did you go broke? Man B: Very slowly, and then all at once.” I think that is how it is with faith.

We can be in a gradual decline for a long time. We often do not even know it, or do not think it is serious. We imagine that we can turn it around anytime, that we are just taking a break, or maybe checking out other points of view. Then all at once, like a sort of dark epiphany, we suddenly realize we don’t believe any of that stuff any more, and we wonder how we ever did. The brave new world of unbelief makes perfect sense now. It’s not scary like we thought it might be, and feels like freedom. A freedom we have never felt before. Intoxicating. Bracing.  Bold. A new community stands ready to welcome you in. It is all so simple and clear now. You wonder what you were so afraid of. You don’t need God after all.

The journey back from this place is very difficult, and not many seem to be making it, though we who pray for these lost ones hold out hope till the bitter end, and even beyond. The danger is not that they can’t return to faith, but that they will no longer want to or even feel the need.  The Christian way becomes more puzzling.  Some Christians seem nice enough, and good for them, live and let live, but really it just doesn’t make sense for you.

Today we are bombarded 24-7 with anti-faith propaganda, some mild, seemingly innocent and neutral, some darker and more direct. Nothing is neutral! If we do not take what most “normal” American Christians would consider to be radical measures, we are likely to lose our faith. No. We are going to lose our faith. If you think it can’t happen to you then you are already in great danger.

Don’t count on your spiritual gas gauge, and certainly don’t trust your emotions. We must guard our faith as vigilantly as we guard our money or our health.  Most folks reading this are mature, even savvy, investors, wealth managers and retirement planners. Do you give as much attention to your faith as you do to your portfolio?

How do you fan the flames of faith? Top of the list is some combination of DAILY meditation on scripture and prayer. Worship. Holy Communion. Companionship with fellow disciples. Obedience. Doing the things that faithful people do, whether you feel like it or not.

For a while people wore WWJD bracelets. Jesus is a fine model. But here’s another suggestion: Not, what would Jesus do, but what would YOU do, and not do, if your faith were blazing brightly? What did you do back when it was? Start there and don’t stop!

“An Appeal for the Church and the World”

Click here for whole article.


Cardinals Robert Sarah, Joseph Zen and Gerhard Müller have joined with Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in launching an appeal to governmental leaders to respect people’s inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Titled “An Appeal for the Church and the world,” the three-page document was released in six languages on Thursday, May 7 at 7:30, local-time Rome.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, and Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, have also put their names to the appeal, together with an international group of bishops.


The list of more than 80 signatories includes prelates and theologians, doctors (several from northern Italy), lawyers, journalists and heads of associations. American signatories include Michael Matt, Editor of the Remnant, and Steven Mosher, a renowned expert on China and President of the Population Research Institute.

The prelates call on the scientific community to provide real cures for Covid-19 and remind them that developing or using vaccines derived from aborted fetuses is “morally unacceptable.” They exhort government leaders to ensure that citizens are not controlled through “contact-tracking” or other similar methods. And they urge the media to provide accurate information by giving room to “voices that are not aligned with a single way of thinking”.bishops quote 1

As Pastors, they also reassert the authority of Catholic Bishops to decide autonomously on all that concerns the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments.” They also claim “absolute autonomy” in matters falling within their “immediate jurisdiction,” such as “liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments.”

“The State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church,” the prelates write, asking that restrictions on the celebration of public ceremonies be removed.