Heresy and IHOP

Ancient Icon of the Good Shepherd

I first heard about IHOP – the International House of Prayer –┬ávia facebook. Of course, I thought they were talking about the International House of Pancakes, the chain resaurant featuring many flavours of corn syrup to pour on flapjacks. I had no idea it was so controversial until I read an article in the New York Times. Now I can see what all the shouting is about. When I did see some assertions about IHOP, Bickle’s forerunner theology, and end-time prophecies fulfilled, my response was a shrug and “Nonsense,” which hurt those “friends” who are enamoured of Bickle and his praying down the eschaton.

I am not the only mainline theologian to think this way.

This sort of muddle-headed and puropsely deceptive theology is what I have called before “heroic Christianity.” With our efforts, Jesus will return! We have the knowledge!

The “forerunner” part of this is dangerous. It contradicts what both Jesus and John the Baptist taught, that John’s time has been supplanted, and that those who follow God will model themselves on Jesus Christ, not on John the Baptist. It turns ordinary Christians who should be out living good plain lives of faith, humility and virtue into generals in the heavenly army. It elevates hubris through false ascetic practices. Mike Bickle has already been involved with a discredited “Prophets” movement, and he seems to have carried that mistake into his new heretical teachings.

I am particularly disturbed by his teaching about a “killing Jesus,” that the Son of Man will return, literally, with a sword in hand to destroy those who serve evil, and that – literally – the streets of Jerusalem will run with human blood. This is based on an exaggerated interpretation of the Revelation to St. John the Divine, commonly and incorrectly called the Revelations. John was caught up in the horrific persecutions of Christians under Nero; city streets did run with Christian blood. Certainly, John is offering visions of the return of Christ, but he is also offering Christians of his day comfort in their afflictions.

Bickle also promotes the false teaching that Christ cannot return until the temple is rebuilt, contradicting 2000 years of orthodox teaching that Jesus Christ Himself is the new temple, as He said in the statement that the temple would be torn down, but rebuilt in three days. Yes, He meant His own body and being. End of argument.

Don’t be pulled in and deceived by these false prophets. Bickle is just another nutbar looking to for his megalomania to be aggrandized by a lot of naive people who will donate money and time to his cause.

Good Shepherds

My dog went to church today, and it isn’t St. Francis Sunday. Mother Kay used as a sermon illustration for the good shepherd. Ash is a seven year old Australian Shepherd, who used to have a job, working with our sheep. Now she tries to herd the neighbour’s cats, who just aren’t into it.

I must say that she has come a long way from the year old flibbertigibbet she was when I got her – eating my boots, chewing through power cords, breaking leashes and in general being a very bad dog. She walked into church on a lead, with Mother Kay, and that choir moved right along ahead of her. She wasn’t taking nonsense from them! If one of them had tried to break and run, she would have been right on her.

She sat at the front, calmly surveying the flock in the pews. But once she spotted me, she kept a close eye, just in case I needed her to do something important. After the sermon, she trotted down to me, lay under the pew and put her head down. She came to the altar rail at communion, and sat behind me. The parishioners hadn’t dare get out of line while she was there!

I’d say she was an excellent ilustration of how the Great shepherd of our lives turns us into faithful sheepdogs, obedient and alert, if we let Him. Honestly, I almost gave up on that dog in the first six months. But she settled down, figured out that I had her best interests in mind, and excused all my faults. (Which is a bit different from our relationship with Our Saviour. The fault is all on our side.)

I was proud of her, not in a proprietary way (I hope) but because she has fulfilled her potential as a sheepdog, and as a companion animal. She is faithful and trusting, accepting without question what she is given. It’s an excellent example to follow in Christian life!

Employment Anxieties

Oh, how I wish I were working! That is, I wish I were working in a parish position again. Or at least working in the field in which I trained. I do a lot of work, but it’s the work I always do. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing. It’s good work, but I guess I’m ready to put my hand to the plow again, and not look back.

I sat in worship yesterday, listening to the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” The altar window is a very Irish looking Good Shepherd, and since it is spring, I missed the lambs so much it almost choked me. It’s been fine shepherd weather here, windy, cool, and rainy. It’s just the sort of weather that ewes choose to give birth, and the wary shepherd remembers to count heads in the morning feed buckets, since some wily young mother may be off hiding her new baby in the brush. Ewes can’t do much more for the new lamb but lick it and nudge it until it gets to its feet and finds the udder, so if it is chilled or entangled or weak she’s just going to stand over it, nickering softly and licking away. I’ve rescued lambs from sleet storms, tucked them inside my jacket, and warmed them before the fire until they get their wee hooves under them and start galloping around the house. Then it’s back to mama, who acts as if the lamb has been missing a year. Most of the time this is successful. Sometimes the lamb ends up in a box of straw, tucked into a corner of the kitchen, taking milk replacer from a baby bottle.

Palm or Passion Sunday is almost upon us. I prefer it as Passion Sunday, no palms. “All Glory Laud and Honour” is one of my least favourite hymns, and the palm procession, unless one has a well-trained choir, is a train wreck. We gamely do it every year, but I think we should reserve it for cathedrals. Be warned, whoever you are, my next parish – I am not proceeding on Palm Sunday. Sit in the pews and hear the narrative of the passion; it’s so much more important than waving fronds. I’m not one for the Disneyland moments of church anyway. Simple, serious and serene are how I like the gathering to be. It’s very Quakerly of me.

One Palm Sunday I was at the lambing pen early. God does not answer every prayer, as you may well know, for I had prayed that I would not have lambs that morning. There were three. A single born to a young ewe, and she was doing fine. Then the old ewe had twinned. She was absolutely in love with the one, probably second-born lamb. She pushed it around and whinnied to it, and let it suck. I found the first lamb tucked into a corner. I took it to her, and she nudged it away. Not mine, she seemed to say. She attempted to give it to the other ewes. It had probably been the stronger lamb, and got away while she birthed the scond twin, and now it smelled like other sheep. She would not take it no matter what. I rubbed the birth fluids from the second lamb all over it, plugged her nose, and still she refused. I had no time for more experiments – lamb jackets, vicks vaporub, jugging (putting her in a small stall with both lambs) so I grabbed the little black baby and carried it home. I had about half an hour until morning service, so I made up a bottle of milk replacer, popped the lamb into a dog carrier, and toted it to church. I was still wearing my bib overalls and the hideaous greean and black, foul smelling lambing jacket. I dumped the jacket in the back of the truck, changed from overalls to alb and stole in the vestry, and tied the nasty blood streaked overalls out on the church porch just as the organist sounded the first hymn.

Halfway through the Sursum Corda lamb woke up. Who would believe anything that small could make such a racket? One of my wardens, a farmer himself, headed for the narthex and gave the baby its bottle. I greeted parishioners at the door with little Mollie under one arm.

She was a good ewe. She followed me everywhere, and if the other sheep didn’t want to follow, I could haltar Mollie and they would tag along. finally, she went to another shepherd when I left farming, and she was a favourite there, with a lovely Shetland fleece and nice lambs.

I miss leading flocks. I miss the altar and the parish visits. But I also miss the fleecy flock, the sheering and the lambing and the move from witner pens to summer pastures. It set the tone for the year, it got me outdoors, it made the life and parables of Our Lord so much closer.