Sermons

Trinity Seven (2018)

(St. Mark 8:1-9)

In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude…”

One of the biggest issue we face in the ACC (and in Continuing Anglicanism) is how to show and share the faith and worship God has formed in us to the culture that surrounds us; both Christian and secular.

How do we “get the word out” that we are Biblical and evangelical; along with being Sacramental and Traditional, to those who may desire to be in a church that contains them?

There is no magic formula to be sure.

Unlike many churches today, we do not take license and alter doctrine or change worship in order to attract (if not compromise with) the zeitgeist, the “spirit of the age.”  No church should take such license!

St. Jude writes (I) “…exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 St. Paul writes “Therefore, brethren stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.”

God does not give any church the right to alter doctrine! And churches should be very judicious when they consider changing worship; the basic form of which has been handed down within the Church from her first days.

Why?  Through correct doctrine we know the revealed truth about God and can be saved. And the purpose of earthly worship services is to connect the faithful here with the perpetual worship that is occurring in heaven.

We have a good idea of what that perpetual worship “looks like.”

In Isaiah 6:1-7 and Revelation chapter 4 (eleven verses) we are shown a “snap shot” form of what worship in heaven is like.

Though from an earthly, historical perspective there are about nine hundred years separating the time Isaiah observed the perpetual worship in heaven until St. John observed it; the accounts they give are remarkably the same!

It is reverent. It is majestic. It is holy.  Our Prayer Book liturgy is ordered in such a way as to lead the worshipers here on earth to join with the perpetual worship activity in heaven.  It is reverent. It can be majestic. It is holy.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is central to making this connection.

1 Corinthians 10:16 states “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” We are joined to Christ by the Eucharist.

Our Lord Jesus commanded we “do this” when we gather to worship Him.

In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 St. Paul gives some rather detailed instructions on what the Corinthian’s were to do when they gathered for worship.

In v. 23 he states “For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you…”

Jesus personally revealed to St. Paul how the Church is to worship. Jesus reveals Himself to us when we obey Him.

He has instructed us on how our worship here on earth can assuredly connect us with the perpetual worship in heaven.

And since Isaiah and Revelation teach us the worship in heaven does not change, then how can worship services on earth be so malleable?

It should not!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

If the Object of our worship is God in Christ, and He does not change, and the Biblical accounts of the form of worship occurring in heaven do not change, then churches cannot rightly change it as casually as many do.

A few years ago I read an article from the New York Times about the challenges the Roman Catholic Church faced if the Pope was to try and turn that church back in the direction of Biblical and Traditional orthodoxy.

Now we are not Roman Catholics, but we face some of the same challenges since we are both historic branches of the Church.

The author of the article wrote “Our age is still religious; it’s just made its peace with human appetites and all the varied ways they intertwine.” The religious people of our age “…just dismiss the idea that the divine could possibly want anything for us except for what we already want for ourselves.”  

In other words, the religion many people seek today is one that will make them feel at peace in their sins, instead of convicting them by the Holy Ghost that true peace only comes from confronting and renouncing sin, and embracing of the way of the Cross.

The worship many people seek today are forms that allow them to sit back and be entertained and / or that will play to their emotions, not a form that causes them to be involved (to assist) in body, mind and spirit.

The writer concludes: “Religion without renunciation has obvious appeal. But its cultural consequences are not self evidently positive.”

Not only are the cultural consequences to religion without renunciation not self evidently positive; the eternal consequences will be devastating!

   If we try to make peace with the world by compromising theology (who God is as He is revealed in Sacred Scripture), doctrine (how we are to live in light of who God is, as Scripture and Tradition detail for us), or worship (how we offer praise and thanks to God for salvation through Jesus Christ) we will end up participating in a religion which is unrecognizable in heaven.

Unrecognizable to God.

A religion that is a means in itself, not a means to an eternal end.

A religious social-club or entertainment center.

Those kinds of religion may satisfy human nature and its emotions, but they are not capable of transforming men from sinners into saints, which is the primary purpose of Christianity.

  So here is where we are at.

We need to soberly face the fact that maintaining the doctrine, worship and faith practices which have been handed down to us from the days of the Apostles are not popular in our culture.

We should not expect them to be.

While many Western people are still “religious,” their religion is not based on “…the faith which was once for all delivered.”

This then leaves us with a choice.

We can, as a many churches have, make compromises (some small and some large) to doctrine and worship, hoping to not alter them to the point where they become ineffective for salvation.

Or, we can “Stay the Course” and remain faithful to what has been handed down to us, which we know is very effective for salvation.

In our church, and throughout the Continuum, the choice is clear…

“Stay the course!” Remain faithful!

Scripture and over 2,000 years of the Church’s undivided Tradition have our back. Almost 470 years of Anglican tradition has our back.

May God grant us His continued grace to remain faithful.

And may He lead others to recognize the value of our Biblical, Sacramental, Liturgical, Evangelical and Anglican faith and practice.  Amen.

 

Trinity Five (2018)

(1 Peter 3:8-15, St. Luke 5:1-11)

“And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”

How do we become fisher’s of men’s souls? This is what Jesus told St. Peter He was going to do in him.  How does Jesus do this in us?

Do we have to sit on a boat on the shore of Claytor Lake or Smith Mountain Lake and call the people on the shore to follow Jesus?

Do we need a collar or any type of ordination?

No. We don’t need a boat, have on a collar or be ordained.

What we need, all we need, is the anointing and the call which Jesus gives to us all; the anointing and call of Holy Baptism.

When Jesus was baptized by St. John Baptist in the Jordan River the waters of Baptism were healed for us.

The baptism of John was an acknowledgement of sinfulness and a sign of one’s desire to repent, but it was not a healing from sin. It was only a sign.

But with the baptism of Jesus that changed. When Jesus entered into those waters, He healed them; He filled them with grace so they would not only symbolize the forgiveness of sin, they would affect that forgiveness!

From that time foreword the sign was transformed into the sacrament of Holy Baptism. By it we receive our anointing and “ordination” into the priesthood of believers.  By it we are given our “license” to become fishers of men’s souls.

So what do fishers or men’s souls do?

St. Peter tells us in this morning’s Epistle lesson.

Being a fisher of men’s souls is as much about who we are as it is about what we do; as much about our character as our actions.

The two are interwoven.

St. Peter teaches that fishers of men’s souls are of one mind with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

This means being of one mind with the Church.

Fishers of men’s souls receive and practice the doctrines and disciplines the Church has believed and taught for over 2000 years now. Doing this keeps them from being “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” as St. Paul states it in Ephesians 4:14.

Fishers of men’s souls are “pitiful”; that is they are compassionate.

They show compassion towards others; all others, both their brethren and those who are outside of the Church.

They do not render “evil for evil or railing for railing” (insult for insult), but rather they turn the other cheek when wronged. They suffer long. Like Jesus they stand silent like a sheep before the slaughter when others berate them for their faith or launch into personal attacks.

They leave all such things to the Just Judge, knowing that all who suffer insult for the sake of Jesus are blessed above all men (St. Matthew 5:11, 12).

Fishers of men’s souls seek peace. Peace becomes their pursuit.

St. Francis of Assisi prayed:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon  Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope  Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand  To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Fishers of men’s souls seek and pursue peace; with God first and then also with others.

The world is daily filled with tribulation. Loss, sickness, death, anxiety, despair.

Think of the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee in St. Luke 8:22-25 (which we read in Morning Prayer this past week).

Though many of the Apostles were experienced sailors, when the storm arose they were gripped with fear. They cried out to Jesus who woke up, rebuked the storm and calmed their fears.  Verse 24 states “…and there was calm.”

What effective fisherman we are when we are the one who brings calm to the storms of others, by bringing the peace of Jesus Christ to them.

This is who we are to be; men and women who bring the peace of Jesus Christ into the lives of people in loss, sickness, death, anxiety or despair.

Fishers of men’s souls bring the peace of Christ into the lives of others.

Fishers of men’s souls are a blessing to others.

They bless them with their thoughts, with their words and with their actions. Above all, they bless them with their love.

Fishers of men’s souls think kindly of others; they think the best of their motives, giving others the benefit of a doubt. They speak kind words to others. They do kind things for others. They do this not only for those who will reciprocate, but for those who will not.

In St. Matthew 5:43-46 Jesus says “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven… For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?”  

Do we want to be fishers of men’s souls?

Then we need to bless others with the love of our Lord Jesus.

You will note in all of the examples I’ve given that being and doing are interwoven.

Being fishers of men’s souls is as much about who we are as what we do.

Fishers of men’s souls are the presence of Christ, the hands of Christ and the voice of Christ interwoven together for the sake of others.

As Jesus says it in St. Matthew 5:13-16, we are to be salt and light.

You don’t see the salt in food, but you taste it. When a light shines, darkness flees.

Brethren, our Lord Jesus has given us all we need to be fishers of men’s souls. He has baptized us into Him!

Let us embrace our priestly anointing.

Let us be one, let us be compassionate, let us suffer wrong, let us seek peace and bring it to others, and above all let us bless others with love.

In doing so, we will be as St. Peter was; we will be fishers of men’s souls.  Amen.

 

Trinity Three (2018)

(1 Peter 5:5-11)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith…”

Brothers and sisters, the devil is real!

Satan is not a myth or a metaphor for evil. He is a real being; a fallen angel. His angelic name was Lucifer, and he was the most beautiful of the angels. But he rebelled and was cast out of heaven with a third of the angels.

The book of Job tells us he goes to and fro in the earth, walking up and down in it. This is what St. Peter tells us too. We must be wary of him. We must be on the watch. He seeks to devour all who have been baptized and profess faith in Jesus Christ. He is like a lion.

When we think of being “devoured” by Satan, we may think he consumes us all at once. Sometimes that is the case.  I think of those who go through loss or trauma and walk away from their faith, and even resent God. Such instances are tragic.

But more often, Satan works subtly.

Instead of devouring in one bite, he devours us slowly…over time…one bite at a time. We need to be wary of this. We need to be watchful. We need to be vigilant. Satan is always on the prowl! He is real.

When Satan devours us slowly, it usually takes him five “bites.”

With the first bite he devours our prayer life.

He gets us too busy or tired to find time to pray. Or, he gets us to believe we sin “too much” for God to listen, which is a lie from the father of lies.

When we stop praying we stop talking to God, and when we stop talking to God our relationship with Him begins to break down.

We see this in our society. The less people talk with each other, the more relationships break down. The same happens when we stop talking to God.

With the second bite, Satan devours our desire to read and study Scripture.

Scripture is the means whereby we can truly know God. Scripture is the sword of the Spirit; the only offensive piece in the full armor of God.

Every word of it is given by God’s inspiration and we must study it to be approved unto salvation. We live by every word that proceeds from Him.

With the third bite, Satan devours our witness; our willingness to defend the Faith and tell others about Christ.

He gets us to think we are hypocrites who are no better than others. In part he is right!  We are no better than others. But witnessing is never about us.

We witness for Christ; to tell others about what He is doing in us, and can do in them, because we know we are sinners being saved by God’s grace. We witness so Christ may save them as He is saving us.

When Satan stops our mouths, he gains a foothold in the Church herself, for Jesus has commissioned us to go and be His witnesses in this world.

We must remember he is the “accuser of the brethren,” so when he accuses us of being hypocritical we must say to him “Get thee behind me Satan, I know Christ is my righteousness, my sanctification and my salvation!”

With the fourth bite, Satan devours our willingness to minister.

He gets us to put down our works, throw up our hands and cry out “What’s the use?!” What can I do to make any real impact in the world?

Or, he gets us frustrated thinking “We do this ministry and that ministry, but the Church continues to shrink.”

In both cases, Satan has already become very effective in devouring ministry. He plants the seed of a wrong purpose for ministry and then when it fails, gets us to stop doing it all together.

We must be wary of this!

We need to know the purpose of ministry is to glorify Jesus; it’s about making Him visible in this sinful world, not about numbers. We must not allow Satan to get us to grow weary in well doing.

With the fifth bite, Satan gets us to stop worshiping.

In the 21st century this is his most effective bite.

He gets us thinking “God’s going to be there next Sunday, so I can miss mass this Sunday.” Or, “I can worship God just as well from anywhere.”

Both are gravely wrong!

The Fourth Commandment states we must keep the Sabbath Day holy; it must be kept set apart for the worship of God.

In our 24 / 7 / 365 society it’s difficult to keep the entire day set apart, but keeping the Sabbath holy should at least mean being at mass, shouldn’t it?

Moreover, Jesus has commanded us to “Do this…”

We are to be present with Him to receive His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist at least each Sunday.

This is the standard the Holy Ghost led the early Church to set (Acts 20:7).

In receiving the Eucharist we receive grace, the means by which our faith strengthens and grows.

Ephesians 6:16 states it is the shield of faith that quenches the fiery darts Satan uses to take us down.

When we don’t worship, our faith weakens, leaving us very vulnerable to Satan’s bite.

In listing Satan’s five bites, we shouldn’t be deceived into thinking he devours everyone in that order.

For some he may start with prayer, with others Scripture, or witnessing or ministry, or worship. He knows our weaknesses, so we have to keep our spiritual heads on a swivel at all times.

But no matter the order he bites us in, if we are not on the alert, he will devour us.  Because we are already believers, likely one bite at a time.

Satan is deceptive that way.

So we must be sober! We must be watchful!

Our spirits is willing but our flesh is weak.

St. James 4:7, 8 states “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”

If we do not want to be devoured we must submit, we must resist, we must draw nigh.

We must pray, we must study Scripture, we must witness, we must minister and we must worship.

Yes brethren, Satan is a real!  He is the sworn enemy of God!

He tried to defeat Jesus three times during His sojourn on earth: first, by the hand of Herod when Jesus was born, second, after His forty days of fasting in the wilderness, and ultimately by the hand of the Jews and the Romans on Golgotha.

He failed all three times!

Since he was not successful in defeating the Son of God, he now targets those who believe upon the Son of God for salvation. He targets us.

He could not stop the salvation of the world, so he tries to stop the salvation of you and me.

What will he use, who will he use, to deceive and devour us?

The devil is real! So we must be sober.

The devil is real! So we must be vigilant.

The devil is real! We must resist Him steadfastly in the faith. Amen.

 

Trinity Two   (2018)

(1 St. John 3:13-24, St. Luke 14:16-24)

“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many”

Our Anglican Catholic church has wisely and faithfully maintained the Holy Eucharist as the center of our worship of God, The Holy Trinity.

The celebration of the Eucharist is a great privilege given to the Church.

It is a great privilege because, using the terminology Jesus used in today’s Gospel Lesson, it is an invitation to come to the Great Supper of God each Sunday.

Our baptism in the Triune Name and our confirmation by a bishop in apostolic succession grants us this privileged invitation.

By them we are bidden to come.

Each of us has an invitation to dine at God’s Table and feed upon the food Jesus supplies to nourish our bodies and souls unto everlasting life: His own Body and Blood.

God instructs His servants; the bishops, priests and deacons to prepare the feast on His behalf, and then commissions them go out and compel all who have been bidden to come and feed upon the manna given to us (to the eyes of faith) by the hand of Christ Himself.

At this meal, in a way unlike any other way, we formally enter into, feed upon, and receive the Real Presence of our Lord.

At this meal, in a way unlike any other, we can present ourselves to God as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable before the Father.

When we eat this meal; this bread and wine that has become the Body and Blood of Christ, we plead the mercy purchased on our behalf by the passion and death of the Lord for the forgiveness of sins.

When we eat this meal we do as Hebrews 10:19, 20 exhorts us to do; with boldness we enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus through the new and living way He has consecrated for us through the veil of His flesh.

When we eat this meal, by faith we receive the great means of grace which preserves our bodies and souls unto everlasting life.

This Holy Supper is a meal of love.

Jesus so loves us that He laid down His life so we could partake of it.  Subsequently, only those who are willing to lay down their life for others can expect to receive the fullness of its benefits.

Jesus died for us, for us men and for our salvation.

And He calls us to join Him; to be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), die to ourselves; to take up our cross daily, follow Him, and lay down our lives for the brethren.

This is a challenging task, and yet through the Great Supper we are given the grace, courage and strength we need to fulfill it.

This Holy Supper is a meal of obedience.

In v. 23 of the Epistle St. John states the Father commands us to believe on the Name of Jesus Christ, and in 1 Corinthians 11:26 St. Paul says that when by faith we eat of the Bread and drink of the Cup, we proclaim we believe this very thing.

We proclaim our belief in Jesus’ propitiatory death and resurrection, and in doing so also show forth our obedience to the One who commanded we “do this” in remembrance of Him.

This Holy Supper is intimate.

It incorporates us deeply into Christ and He into us.

By Baptism we were given true union with Christ, and by the Eucharist we are given true communion with Him as He comes to dwell in us and we in Him.

When we come to the rail in faith and obedience to the command of our Lord, we are provided with an effectual means for the cleansing of our sins, a cleansing which is essential to our having fellowship with God.

There the imperfect sacrifice of ourselves, our souls and bodies, is joined with Jesus’ once for all perfect and complete sacrifice at Calvary and offered to the Father in the power of the Holy Ghost for the forgiveness of our sins.

What a high and holy privilege it is to commune with our Lord.

What a blessing to enter into His Real Presence in a way we cannot do by any other means while here on earth.

Knowing what is given in the Great Supper, why would anyone refuse God’s gracious invitation to come?

Sadly, far too many do.  They reject God’s bid to come.

Like the men in today’s Gospel parable, many Christians who are bidden to come to the weekly celebration of the Great Supper find excuses.

Some do not come because they do not really believe this Supper is all that great.  To them the meal is common, a mere memorial, and not an opportunity to intimately dine with (and upon) our Lord.

Others do not come because, like the men in the parable they are “too busy” with the things of the world.

They allow business, personal interests, or other engagements to interfere with God’s call to come and dine at His Table.

Still others do not come because they feel they are not properly prepared.

Occasionally this could be the case.

We could, due to sin, place ourselves outside of the state of grace and need to be restored before we answer the invitation to come.

But if this were to occur it does not mean we should stay home from church!  We should still come, hear the Word of God read and preached, confess our sins and receive absolution.

If our conscience is still not cleared and we cannot come to the altar, then we must use the week ahead to seek a greater sense of God’s forgiveness.

We may need to ask forgiveness from whomever we have wronged.

We may also need to receive the Sacrament of Penance to gain an assurance of absolution.

Whichever means the Holy Spirit leads us to use we cannot allow sin to become an excuse to not partake of the Great Supper.

We need to repent, amend our lives and get ourselves back into the state of grace. We must not delay being restored so that we can accept God’s invitation to come to the Great Supper.

These are just a few excuses people use to refuse God’s invitation.

There are surely others.

None of them though are good excuses.

Let us make sure we do not refuse to come for these or any other reason.

Let us be sure to we are always prepared, ready and desirous to accept God’s invitation to dine with Him.

My dear friends in Christ, as Anglican Catholics God bids us to come to His Great Supper every Sunday.

This is a great privilege.

Our invitation to come is signed and sealed upon us by the washing of regeneration in Holy Baptism and the renewing of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the Bishop’s hands in Holy Confirmation.

We need no other invitation. What greater invitation is there?

God bids us to come to Him and eat, not the crumbs which fall from His Table, but the main course: the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

Let us be sure we understand who bids us and the holy meal He provides.

Let us be sure we are never too involved with or distracted by worldly things to refuse His gracious invitation.

Let us be sure we are never unprepared due to sin.

It is the Master Himself who bids us to come.

It is invitation we should not refuse!  Amen. 

 

   Trinity One (2018)

(1 St. John 4:7-21, St. Luke 16:19-31)

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom.”

We are all familiar with the adage “The only two sure things in life are death and taxes.”

While the second part of that adage is mostly true (not everyone pays taxes), the first is absolutely true.  Every life surely ends in death.

As sure as each of us is sitting here today, one day we will die.

What does the thought of death invoke in our thoughts and in our spirits?  Fear?  Peace?  Or, maybe we just don’t want to think about death at all.

This morning we are going to think about it, for as the Gospel parable infers it’s important to do so.  Not doing so has eternal consequences.

The first thing we need to remember as Christians is that we can “take fear off the table.” As Christians we should not fear death.

In the Epistle St. John tells us why: “…perfect love casteth out fear.”

As those who have been baptized and confirmed into the life of Jesus Christ, we have His perfect love dwelling in us by His Holy Spirit.

That perfect love has the power to cast out all fear about death, which for Christians is really a “passing on” into new and everlasting life.

Christ is in us, and we are in Christ and therefore we know that when our spirit leaves our body, like the poor beggar Lazarus, our soul will be taken by the angels to Abraham’s bosom and that very day we will be at rest in Paradise.

The assurance of this perfect love does not come from any perceived ability we have to love or virtue we may think we have.  St. John is most clear about this when he writes: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

   The propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus is the source of this love.  It is God’s love in us. When that love is received and lived out faithfully, we have the assurance that God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts, casting out all fear.  Even the greatest of man’s fears: death.

Often when death is talked about I hear people say: “It’s not death I’m afraid of, it’s dying; it’s the process of death.”  I understand this.

Whether what causes death is the natural aging process, a prolonged illness, a sudden, painful illness or injury, or a combination of them, the process of death is rarely comfortable, often frustrating and at times frightening.

Yet (and not to make light of it), here again the solution is “perfect love casteth out fear.”  If we take hold of and firmly embrace the perfect love of God shed abroad in our hearts any and all fear will be cast out.

The pains and the process will likely not be cast out, but the fear will be.

And once the fear is gone, replaced by perfect love, it is almost certain joy (not to be confused with “happiness”) will well up within us too.

As St. Paul wrote in Heb 12:2 it was “for the joy that lay before him that Jesus endured the cross…” Even in the midst of the difficulties of the pains and uncertainties of the process of death, we can face it as Jesus did: for the joy that lay before us.

By perfect love, the fear and difficulties can be superseded by joy.

A few times I have heard it protested:  “Jesus only had to endure His suffering for about 18 hours, from the time He entered Gethsemane until He dismissed His spirit from the cross.”  That’s not really true.

Think of who Jesus is.  God yes, but also fully man.  From the moment of His Incarnation throughout His entire 33 year life on earth He endured the weight of more suffering and pain than any of us will endure in our lives.

It is hard for us to fully grasp this because we have only one nature, a human nature.  Jesus had two full and complete natures, His eternal Divine nature, and a complete human nature, in His one Person.

As Man, He was touched by the feeling of all our infirmities and tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin.  What infirmities do we have?  What ways are we being tempted?  Jesus has “been there and done that.”  He has endured them all.

So we can go to Him, call upon Him, and lean upon Him for strength.

And if we have abandoned our lives to Him, we will know His peaceful presence in the midst of our aging, our prolonged or sudden illnesses and pain, and the fears that can accompany them.

   Let me share a true account of perfect love casting out fear.

There was a Christian man I knew.  Not for very long, but long enough and closely enough to learn a little about preparation for death.

This man was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.

At first when he went to sleep at night he had to leave the overhead light on in his bedroom because when he woke up for brief moments if he did not see light, he would fear that he had died.

This went on for a few months, but as his faith strengthened and he united his sufferings (which were great) with those of Jesus, the fear he had felt dissipated, and in the final weeks of his life he did not need that light on.

Perfect love cast out his fear and he died with joy and in peace.  

My brethren death is inevitable for each of us, much more so than taxes.

For some it is closer than for others (and not necessarily because of age).

For some there will be more pain involved in the process than for others.

But for each of us, no matter the length of time or the pain we are to endure, we can “take fear off the table” by grasping hold of and living in the perfect love that casts out all fear: the love of God in Jesus Christ!

There is nothing we need to do to obtain this love.

It is already ours in Christ.  When we receive His Body and Blood this morning that love will be strengthened in us.

If we will abandon ourselves to Him, His love will work ever deeper into our spirits casting out all fear, replacing it with joy and peace.

But we need to take hold of it, place our faith and trust in it (in Him), live by it, until the day life passes from our body and the angels take our soul gently and reverently to be with Jesus in Paradise.

In both life and death perfect love casts out all fear.

May we take hold of that perfect love this day and live in it, so that we may live in the joy and peace of Jesus, and not in fear; all the days of our life, in preparation for death, and especially at the time of our death.  Amen.

 

Trinity Sunday (2018)

(Revelation 4:1-11, St. John 3:1-15)

“Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity…” (From the Collect for Trinity Sunday)

Liturgically speaking, today the Church begins the second half of the year.

Over the first half we have recalled the many great things Jesus has done on our behalf for our salvation.  We have rejoiced in His advent, His birth and the Epiphany.  We have with penitence recalled His passion and death for our sins during Lent.  We have celebrated His resurrection and ascension, and then last Sunday, His sending forth of the Holy Ghost.

Today, as we begin the second half of the liturgical year we recall a different type of feast day. On this day we do not celebrate an act God has done for our salvation as we did on the feast days of the first half of the year.

Today we celebrate, more so we contemplate, the great doctrine of the Trinity. We contemplate the great mystery that our God: the One, True God is three distinct Persons in one divine Being: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

This doctrine is the very foundation of Christianity.

To worship God in spirit and truth requires us to worship the Holy Trinity.

He cannot be truly worshipped otherwise.  Any other understanding or doctrine of God is false. All other “gods” are idols.  

While all Christians should know and believe this doctrine, the truth be known, a growing number are not being taught, and / or no longer believe it.

Many no longer know or believe in God as He is confessed in the Creeds.

They no longer believe in the Trinity in Unity: Three Persons in one God.

Instead, claiming to be “spiritual” and not “religious,” they reject the True God, and remake Him (their own god) into their own image and likeness.

A number of churches are subtly heading towards Unitarianism or modalism; the latter which believes in one “god” with three “modes” of activity; not three, distinct Persons in One God.  

Certainly the Trinity is a mystery.

Even the greatest theological minds are not able to fully understand or fully define Him.  But then we are not supposed to. The finite cannot understand the infinite.  How can the creature fully understand His Creator?

We cannot.  But, we can believe in Him!

By faith we can believe what God has revealed about Himself.

Instead of trying to alter the doctrine of God as revealed in Sacred Scripture and defined by the Church in her Sacred Tradition, Christians need to receive what has been revealed and believe it by faith.

With disciplined minds and faithful spirits we should strive to understand as much as we are capable about our Triune God, keeping our understanding within the boundaries of Biblical revelation and orthodox dogma. (Pause)

   God is certainly knowable, but what is knowable is limited to what He has revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and taught to us through Sacred Tradition.

Those of us who are or have been parents may understand this better?

We do not tell our children everything about ourselves.  They only know what we reveal to them.  We don’t do this to be deceptive, but in order to keep the right relational order between parent and child in place.

In the case of God’s revelation of Himself to man all we need do is look at the cause of The Fall in the Garden of Eden to understand one of the reasons why God has limited what He reveals about Himself to us.

In Genesis 3:22, 23 we are told “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden…”

By nature we are rebellious creatures, constantly believing Satan’s lie that “we can be as God.”

Therefore God limits His revelation of Himself, while at the same time revealing what we need to know about Him to worship Him in spirit and truth, and be saved.

He then calls us to believe by faith, submit our lives, and worship what He has revealed about Himself: Father, Son and Spirit.

As with every doctrine of the Faith, faithful Christians subordinate their own understanding to God’s superior wisdom as it set forth in the Scriptures.

We join with St. Paul in declaring “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. For who hath known the mind of the Lord?

Because Scripture does not directly define the nature and Person of God, (for example, the word “Trinity” is not used in the Bible) He gave His Church the wisdom and guidance of His Holy Spirit, as He promised in

St. John 16:13, to rightly divide Scripture and define these doctrines.

The Church has done this, particularly in the Seven Ecumenical Councils held between the fourth and eighth centuries.

The doctrinal definitions determined by those Councils, along with the three Creeds that were formulated in that same era, have been accepted and believed (formally or informally) by all faithful Christians since.

These Councils properly interpreted what Scripture teaches about God.

By them we know the Three Persons of the Godhead are equal in Substance and Person, yet ordered hierarchically in their work in the world: the Father greater than the Son, and the Son greater than the Spirit.

How the Three Persons of the Godhead are equal in substance yet the Son and Spirit are subordinate in ministry is a great mystery.

Yet this is what God has revealed about Himself, and therefore faithful Christians receive it by faith and study to gain the best understanding they can.  This “faith seeking understanding” is the duty of all believers.

Trinitarian dogma is complex, and demands the finite abilities of man to search out and try to explain the infinite nature of the “I Am.”

This is what the Church has faithfully done.

Beloved, complete understanding of God is not possible by finite man.

But what is possible and must be remembered is we can know God well enough to have a true understanding of Him, and avoid false understandings.

True understanding is grounded firmly upon Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (the definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils).

False understanding is based upon humanistic speculations and the spirit of the age, both which still believes the lie that man can be as God.

May we continue to know, believe and profess what God has revealed about Himself in His Word and taught by His Church in the three Creeds.

And may we maintain a true and lively faith that will keep us faithful to the One and only True God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and in believing be saved.  Amen.

 

 

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