Quinquagesima (2018)

(St. Luke 18:31-43)

“What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.

Sin is most diabolical.

It is diabolical because it affects the soul and the body. It affects how we think, what we believe and how we live. It affects us morally and socially.

There is no such thing as a “private” sin. God is always offended by sin.

What may be most diabolical about sin is how subtle it is.

In its infancy, sin blinds us to what it actually is. In time it blinds our judgment and confuses our moral compass. This process doesn’t take place overnight.  Often it takes years.

Slowly (but surely) our eyesight dims and our ability to see sin is affected.

We begin to see “exceptions” to God’s moral standard; we excuse ourselves and then others.  In time we may find ourselves compromising with the devil himself, saying good is evil, and evil really isn’t that bad!

On the outside few see a difference, at least at first. We may stop doing things only God sees like prayer and study. Our thought life is affected.

But then in time the difference becomes stark. We stop practicing charity or attending mass. In time excuses become reasons.

Or, maybe we keep up a public appearance of faith, but our heart is no longer in it. We think religious practices will cover the tracks of our downward moral slide.

This may work for awhile, but one day our sight will be gone…

Yes, sin is most diabolical.  So what do we do about it?

What do we do if we have, or are just beginning, to lose our sight? We do what the man in today’s Gospel account did. We cry out “…Jesus thou son of David, have mercy on me.”  We pray “…Lord… [I want to] receive my sight.

The blind man knew he was blind. Do we know this?

And, he knew Jesus is the only one who could give him his sight back.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be blinded by sin. He wants us to see life the way He sees it, the way He’s created it.  He wants to give us back our sight.

1 St. John 1:10 states: If we say that we have not sinned, we make [Jesus] a liar, and his word is not in us.”  Romans 3:23 states “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

In these verses we are told the sober truth that we sin.

Do we accept this truth?  Or do we think, I have a “tendency” to do this or that, but sin? Me? Nah! I just “fall short” here and there.

The fact is we sin. We should not, and by grace we can limit it, but we do.

1 St. John 2:1, 2 states: My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins:”

The only One who can give us back our sight is Jesus our advocate!

So like the man in the Lesson we need to go to Jesus in faith and ask Him to give us our sight back!

Our conscience, and maybe even other Christians, may rebuke us. They will tell us to hold our peace. Be quiet! They say. Don’t ask Jesus that!

We must ignore them, and like the man cry out “…so much the more...”  We need to pray for forgiveness.

Lent is the Church’s season to contemplate three things:

First, that we sin. Second, the price our Lord Jesus Christ paid because we sin. Third, the means our Lord has provided us to be forgiven our sins.

We’ve already addressed the first point, so let us go onto the other two.

Each day during Holy Week, the Passion Gospel accounts are read at mass. In them, the suffering Jesus endured is detailed for us. He was betrayed, mocked, spat upon, scourged and crucified. And why? Because we sin!  Our sin caused Jesus’ suffering and death! Let’s think about that…

But let us also know Jesus is willing to forgive us our sins.  How? By confessing and repenting of our sins.

1 St. John 1:9 states: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

By what means can we, do we, need to confess and repent of our sins?

We need to confess and repent of our sins in our daily prayers. We need to confess and repent of our sins here at mass. We need to confess and repent of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

Daily confession is necessary for our daily sins; the sins we commit when we surrender to temptation without forethought, in the moment.

Confession at mass is necessary for sins committed with knowledge and forethought; sins that affect our ability to faithfully receive the Eucharist.

In 1 Corinthians 11:28 and 31 St. Paul writes: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup… For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”

The Sacrament of Penance is necessary for those sins that especially cause spiritual blindness; sins that break the Ten Commandments in thought, word or deed, and for lesser, habitual sins (sins we knowingly practice).

Of the Seven Sacraments, why is this one received the least?

I mean, when we get sick we’re willing to go to a doctor and tell him our symptoms. We go for an annual checkup, right?

Sin is the most deadly of diseases! When it starts to cause blindness or our conscience warns us sin is affecting our life, shouldn’t we go to the priest for healing?  Shouldn’t we go at least once a year for a spiritual “checkup”?

St. James 5:16 states “Confess your faults one to another…”  In St. John 20:23 Jesus said to the Apostles: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

The authority of the keys has been given to heal us of our sins!

We walk away from this Sacrament with the assurance of God’s forgiveness! We are absolved! Our soul is cleansed! If we believe we don’t need it, we show Jesus we are lacking humility… Just saying.

Sin is most diabolical.

It blinds us. It causes us to fall away from Jesus. If not repented of, it puts our soul in peril.

But as the blind man in the Gospel shows us, there is a way to receive our sight again. There is a way to be forgiven. His name is Jesus!

In Lent let us contemplate this.

And then let us use the means Jesus has provided us to be forgiven and receive our sight.  Amen.


Sexagesima (2018)

(2 Corinthians 11:19-31, St. Luke 8:4-15)

“Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold (I speak foolishly) I am bold also.”

In this morning’s Epistle lesson, St. Paul provides a litany of proofs of his apostleship, compared to others who falsely say they are apostles.

In Philippians 3:4-6, he provides a similar litany. But this time it is a litany of proofs of his righteousness before God.

He writes: “…If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal… touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

He tells the Philippians he has all the external marks of a righteous Jew.  But then he says none of them truly matter!  “So what” if he is a circumcised Hebrew, a Benjamite, a Pharisee, zealous and blameless according to the Law.  None of that matters if he doesn’t know Christ!

In Philippians 3:7-9 he writes:  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

The true proof that St. Paul was righteous before God was his faith in, and knowledge of, Jesus Christ. Nothing other than that mattered!

As I thought about this passage, I found that I could put together my own litany of “proofs.” Here it is:

I was born into a branch of the Church that fancies itself “the one true Church.” I was baptized 18 days after my birth, and thus became a Christian.

I received the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion for the first time at age seven. I was confirmed at 13. I was an altar boy for six years.

I was converted, getting serious about the Faith, at age 20. I was a co-founder of Cops of Christ in Greater Cleveland and directed that ministry for five years. For the past 22 years I have served in the sacred ministry.

That is my litany. But you know what? Who cares!

None of those things, alone or together, can make me righteous!

If I have not captured Christ; moreover if He has not captured me! If I have not “won” Christ. If I am not “found” in Him, nothing else matters!

If I can boast of anything (which I cannot), it can only be that by God’s grace the seed, sown by the Sower, has taken root in my soul by faith and has produced some small amount of fruit. That’s what matters.

All that’s in my foolish litany means nothing if I do not have faith!

I’m sure that each of you could put together your own litany of proofs.

And no doubt yours will be far more impressive than mine.

You’ve received sacraments. You’ve ministered in and out of the Church for many years, and in ways far greater.  You’ve produced abundant fruit.

But is that what matters?  Is that what we think makes us righteous before God?

Our righteousness before God is not inherent. It is not something we have by nature or can create by our own works.

Our righteousness before God is an imputed righteousness. It is Christ’s righteousness accounted to us by grace through faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:3 states “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”  Like Abraham, we too are accounted righteous as we believe God, as we believe upon Jesus Christ by grace through faith.

Theologically stated: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and not of our own works or derservings.”

Biblically, Ephesians 2:8-10 states:“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

If we can boast in any way about righteousness, it’s that by grace we have received Christ by faith; and that, that faith has produced some good works, some fruit, some evidence of Christ’s righteousness in us.

Beyond that, other than that, what can we say?  Certainly we have nothing to boast about of ourselves.

2 Corinthians 3:5 states: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;”

When I preach I have a general concern; both for me as the writer, as well as for those who hear or read each sermon.

That concern is that we, our souls, will be like the rocky soil Jesus describes in the today’s Gospel parable.

In His explanation of the parable Jesus says the rocky soil is like those whose soul receives the Word with great joy.

As we hear it (as I write and preach it) we think “Yes Lord, you are speaking to me,” and we leave mass convicted or joy-filled about it.

But then temptations come (or the cares of the world surround us) and the seed of Gods’ Word tends to wither and die in the heat of the pressure.

Let us pray this will not happen to us today. Not with this message!

It is too important! Not my words, but the principles of God’s Word.

We must always remember that whatever our litany of works is, it does not make us righteous before God!

Our righteousness is the righteousness of Christ accounted to us by grace through faith.

Yes, we are to do good works, but they are the fruit, the evidence, of a true and lively faith. Not its means, not its substance.

They are privileged opportunities God provides us to give evidence our faith is true.

By grace, may we receive and understand what the Sower has sown today in the Scripture lessons, and by faith believe it and be accounted righteous.

And may that faith take root to “bring forth fruit with patience.” Amen.


Septuagesima (2018)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

  On almost every Sunday I preach from the Epistle or Gospel appointed for our church each Sunday. Occasionally I preach from the Collect.  Today I’d like to make an exception.

While I think, as Archbishop Haverland stated in his recent Trinitarian article, it is important to preach from the lectionary, today I will not.  But there is a good reason for this. I hope you will agree.

For you see today, January 28, 2018 is the 40th anniversary of the consecration of the first four bishops in the Anglican Catholic Church.

On this date in 1978, James Orin Mote, Charles Dale Doren, Robert Sherwood Morse and Peter Francis Watterson were consecrated by Bishop Albert Chambers, retired bishop of Springfield, Illinois as the first bishops for what was then called the Anglican Church of North America.

These “Denver Consecrations” as they have come to be known, secured the Apostolic Succession for the ACC and the rest of Continuing Anglicanism.

Why is this important?  Because everything else our church, the Church, does is rooted in that act.

The episcopate is the esse, the being, of the Church.

Christ is the Head of the Church and the episcopate is her spine.

As the human spine takes signals from the brain and delivers them to each part of the body (the eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc.) so they can function properly; the episcopate takes the teachings of Christ and delivers them to each part of the Church so she can function properly.

In St. John 10 Jesus tells us He is the door of the sheep pen, the Church.  The episcopate is the fencing attached to the door that forms the boundary for that sheep pen. The links in that fencing are the bishops who have been consecrated in the apostolic succession.

Their charge from our Lord is to keep out the thieves and robbers who try to enter the sheep pen by any other means than by the door, by Christ. In 1 Peter 5:2 bishops are charged to “Feed the flock of God…”

How important is the apostolic episcopal succession in the Church?

The first thing the Apostles did, even before Pentecost, was choose St. Matthias as the successor to Judas.  In Acts 1:20 St. Peter quoted Psalm 109:8 “…let another take his office.” to verify the necessity of their actions.

When St. Titus the bishop was sent by St. Paul to Crete he was tasked with two things: set that church in order and ordain priests for its congregations.

These were his tasks because St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-13 : “And [Jesus] gave some [to be], apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”

The episcopate is an essential office of the Church, appointed by Christ to minister, edify, teach, unify and feed the faithful.  It is the means by which Jesus provides the Church’s sacramental authority.

A bishop is not merely an administrator. He is no mere superintendent.

He is the vicar of Christ in his diocese. He is a Reverend Father in God.

This is how St. Ignatius the second century bishop of Antioch understood the office. His teachings on the episcopate are the foundation for the Church’s belief: “No bishop, no Church.”

To the Church of Smyrna he wrote: “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father… Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church… It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God…”

This is the place of esteem the Church Catholic has held the episcopate throughout her history.

Those that met in St. Louis in 1977 knew this, and so their first step in establishing the ACC was to secure the episcopacy. Without bishops in apostolic succession there could be no church!

Therefore, 40 years ago today the apostolic succession was secured and the Anglican Catholic Church was established. And the Church continued.

Sadly, within three years only one of the four bishops consecrated in Denver, Bishop Mote, remained an ACC bishop. Two left to form other continuing Anglican jurisdictions. The third just faded away.

In the ACC’s history there have also been bishops who have not fulfilled their office faithfully. “Bad bishops” we call them.

But those failings serve to show the importance of the office! When a bishop is “blameless” (1 Timothy 3:2) the Church is blessed. When he is not, the Church is deeply hurt.

1 Corinthians 10:11 states “Now all these happened unto them for ensamples; and for…our admonition.”  The failures of those who have not fulfilled the office rightly serve as an example and warning to those who hold it today and in the future.

And even though some of the bishops have not rightly and duly fulfilled their calling, the office itself, the apostolic succession, remains.

When the men consecrated to the office of bishop are faithful to the charge given in it; the Church is ministered to, taught, edified, unified and fed.

This is what we are witnessing; it is what we are participating in, in our day. This past October we again saw four bishops, a different four, each consecrated in the lineage of the “Chamber’s Succession,” come together to edify and unify the fractured Continuing Anglican churches.

It was a first step, but an important one. When bishops fulfill the calling of their office the Church can only be blessed!

It is a step that most certainly must please our Lord, His holy Apostles, and all those men that have faithfully held the episcopal office in their succession throughout the Church’s history.

On this day let us thank our Lord that we are in a part of His Church that realizes the essential importance of the episcopate and zealously guards it.

And let us pray for those men who faithfully hold the office in each of the Joint Synod churches and throughout orthodox, Continuing Anglicanism.

May God grant them, and each of their successors, the grace to fulfill their consecrated calling to minister, edify, teach, unify and feed Christ’s flock.

To the glory of our Lord Jesus who instituted the office, and the building up of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Amen.