Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Forty Years Long...


The four leading bishops are pictured above, from left to right, the Rt. Rev. Paul Hewitt (DHC), the Most Rev. Walter Grundorf (APA), the Most Rev. Dr. Mark Haverland (ACC), and the Most Rev. Brian Marsh (ACA). 

As promised, I write my reflections on the 2017 Joint Anglican Synods. For those not knowing what it was, the Anglican Diocese of the Holy Cross (DHC), the Anglican Province in America (APA), the Anglican Church in America (ACA), and the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) came together last week in Atlanta Georgia. Each jurisdiction held the business sessions necessary to a provincial synod separately, inasmuch as those meetings are about all sorts of specific things, many of which are put to a vote, some involving budgets, etc. But the spiritual and social activities, from church services to meals, were all held together. On the last day of the gathering, Friday October 6, all synod business having been concluded, everything was done together. In the morning, the four leading bishops signed the agreement for full communion. This was followed by a man calling out "Praise God!" and a spontaneous rendering, sung by all of us, of the Doxology. A little bit later the four jurisdictions held a Mass together. 

Whether they drew lots or simply discussed who would do what (I can ask my Archbishop if anyone thinks it matters how), the celebrant was Bishop Paul Hewitt, and the preacher was Bishop Grundorf. In his sermon, Bishop Grundorf preached on the theme "For such a time as this," words of Mordecai from the Book of Esther. As the keynote address the night before, by Fr. Charles Clendenin, Bishop Grundorf's sermon was direct, to the point, and very honest about the forty years long of our wandering (Psalm 95:10). He also spoke to the times in which we find ourselves, and about the challenges and opportunities before us. I believe both men were more than a keynote speaker and a homilist. They spoke as prophets, as I said this past Sunday in my own sermon (at this link you may find the sermon for the 17th Sunday after Trinity 2017). 

Earlier, when the four leading bishops were preparing to sign the agreement, Bishop Hewitt spoke of the "hand of God" on us, and of "the anointing" of the Holy Spirit. When considering the Biblically significant number of forty years (since the St. Louis Congress in 1977), and the leading of four bishops (evoking the memory of the first four Continuing bishops of the Denver Consecrations a few months after the Congress of St. Louis), it does appear that God Himself is the One Who has arranged these events, and Who is speaking to us "for such a time as this." I believe that God Himself judged it best for us to wander in division until He cleansed out from us much of the sins and error still in our old Episcopal Church and Church of Canada hard hearts, most especially the deadly sin of pride. As the ancient prophets of Israel told on their own people, and as the people eventually heard it to become a people prepared by God, so it is for us at this time. 

For my own reflections to be complete for you, I recommend hearing the sermon I preached two days later, as I linked above.

Press conference during the Joint Synods

Anglican Joint Synod - Press Conference

Anglican Joint Synod - Keynote with Fr. Clendenin

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Communion at the Joint Synods Mass, Oct. 6, 2017

video


The hymn you hear is very appropriate. This was during the receiving of the Holy Communion. Check this spot for my reflections on the 2017 Joint Synods Mass, which I will be writing and posting soon.

The Offering

of the collection taken at the 2017 Joint Synods Mass will be used to help ACA parishes and people in Puerto Rico, because of the terrible damage from the hurricane.

I will write my impressions of the Joint Synods after discharging the usual duties of my ministry here brought on by what seems to be, after this week, the sudden arrival of the weekend. Suffice to say, it is the hand of God at work that has created this new beginning after the biblically significant period of forty years.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

2017 JOINT ANGLICAN SYNODS

The joint Anglican synods are well underway in Atlanta Georgia, marking a new and long overdue initiative by leading bishops to unify the Continuing Church. I am busy taking part, and will write about it when I return. In the meantime I may be able to post a bit here and there as time permits.

Friday, September 08, 2017

"Gender" Confusion in Holy Orders

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana

I have tried to abstain from saying much about the fairly new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). But in light of the news about them at this time, it seems that a few words are in order. Clearly, one cannot tell, despite their name, if they are a church or a confederation of churches. In reality, it is confusing even to many on the inside; actually they are both in certain ways.

The tragedy of their decision regarding Women's Ordination is that they are following on the same road, in the same direction as the Episcopal "Church" from which they claimed independence only eight years ago (although absorbing two other Anglican church bodies that were older, the Reformed Episcopal Church and what used to be called the Anglican Mission in America, later renamed Province de l'Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda in the USA). Once again they have imitated the Episcopal "Church," which years ago had decided that the ordination of women would be accepted, or not, by each local diocese. That is exactly what the ACNA bishops decided to reaffirm for their church just one day ago. 

"September 7, 2017
PREAMBLE In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood."
Later in the same paragraph they say:
"It was also unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America."
Such was also the rule of the Episcopal Church until 1988, and of the Church of England until the 1990s. Once the idea of women's ordination is accepted at all, it is arbitrary at best merely to limit it.  So, do not expect this to last.
Then, with telling irony, they declare:
"We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood."
Learning from history
A brief history lesson is in order. What the ACNA bishops have reaffirmed is exactly the official position that the Episcopalians took concerning Women's Ordination throughout the late 1970s, into the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming heavy-handed and dictatorial about it when the new century began. Furthermore, this is the position taken by the Episcopalians at their General Convention in 2000 about the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions (they stopped short of saying "Same-Sex Marriage" at that time only for legal reasons. But the meaning was clear enough to anyone who knows that the ministers of Matrimony are the man and the woman. The role of the Church, through the clergy, is only to bless, not to effect, the Union of a married couple). In 2003 they repeated that, but have, since then, become quite solid in their affirmation of Same-Sex marriage. Their most recent General Convention was little more than Satan worship, reveling in heresy, apostasy and immorality in an open manner that was rebellious and brazenly malicious against Almighty God.
Ten years ago, when the ACNA was not yet even a gleam in Bp. Robert Duncan's eye, I wrote the following for this blog:
"The fact is, once the 'ordination' of women was accepted, the movement to bless same sex unions was inevitable. The arguments for Homosexualism are not merely similar to the arguments for women's 'ordination.' Rather, they are the exact same arguments. The blessing of same sex unions, practiced now throughout the heretical but official Canterbury Communion, is performed as a church rite by sincerely lusting couples under the direction of clergypersons of both sexes and all genders, to be as close to the semblance of marriage as the Law of each state, province or nation makes possible. In short, it imitates the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and does so on the newly understood basis that the sex of a person has no significance in a sacrament. If Shirley and Maggie can be "ordained" they can also be married, and so can Adam and Steve.

"The 'conservatives' among the Anglicans have failed to understand the gravity of logic. It works the same way as this illustration. If I stand at the top of a thirty foot hill with a big round rubber ball, and decide to roll the ball only ten feet down the hill and no farther, like it or not, the ball will roll the entire thirty feet to the bottom before it stops after rolling even farther still. It does not matter that I intended only to roll it ten feet. Once I let go, gravity will take the ball the whole way. This is how a premise works in relation to logic. Once you let go of the ball, that is, once you state or merely accept a premise, the gravity of logic will take over. Perhaps you only meant to let women be priests, but not to let the premise take its own logical course to the final end. However, the premise itself is subject to the gravity of logic, and must keep rolling until you are "blessing" Adam and Steve in the imitation sacrament of Unholy Unmatrimony. Those who want to argue that this was not inevitable have two problems facing them: First, we predicted this would happen, and second, it has.

"So, with all due respect to our conservative and principled Anglican friends who want to keep their priestesses, and make new ones, we cannot surrender the doctrine that the sacrament Holy Orders is, by God's revealed will, reserved to men. Otherwise, we only slow the process down instead of preventing it. We don't need to be ECUSA part II, waiting to happen again."

In light of our plans
I invite the bishops and people of PEARUSA (formerly the AMiA), and those in Forward in Faith North America to consider those of us in the Continuing Church, despite our own obvious failing to stay together in unity in the past. It is not because we are perfect that I ask them to look at us seriously, because, indeed, we have been all too often ignorant of Satan's devices (II Corinthians 2:11). But that history is behind us, very much consigned to a previous time. This newer generation of bishops is working to repair every breach made by some who caused divisions in the early days. The upcoming Provincial Synods being held jointly in Atlanta merely make official what has been reality for years.

Human flaws are everywhere to be found, of course. The problem with false doctrine, however, creates a greater danger than mere human failing. It takes people down a destructive path, and at a pace that they cannot control, no matter how much they may feel in control. As I wrote ten years ago, once the premise is released, it shall go all the way to its inevitable end. Nothing can stop it, because it exists in the realm of ideas, and is committed to each new generation.

Gender Identity Confusion
Is it not obvious that "Gender Identity" is the great new deception of this time, and that its main victims are children and youth? The lie is spread everywhere that contradicts one simple fact: "God made them male and female (Genesis 1:27)." Children are suffering abuse at the hands of adults who actually force this confusion on young minds, incapable of putting up a defense. This can lead to the plastic surgery falsely called a "sex-change" operation, after which a patient becomes twenty times more likely to commit suicide.

The issue of women's ordination is part of the entire struggle, no less than same-sex marriage and "Gender Identity" confusion. It is part of the same overall deception that is harming the future of the whole society, and creating confusion for children and youth about basic human nature. I see it as part of the great spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness. My position may seem radical; but, I fear that nuance is never called for when people are racing to the edge of a cliff, or even merely plodding along at a somewhat slower rate than those who are racing. The destination is the same, and ultimately it is worse than rolling down a hill.

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Click here.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2017


II Cor 3:4-9 * Mark 7:31-37
Many years ago, back in the 1970s, some of the notable figures of the Charismatic movement- the popular “neo-Pentecostal” movement that spread across all denominational lines- would address the burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” The truth is, miracles of healing can and do happen every once in a while, but, to be honest, not most of the time. The reverse question that ought to have been obvious, but that no one seemed to ask, was: “Why, considering that ‘all have sinned,’ has God ever healed anybody?”

In popular religious movements it is all too easy for false doctrine to arise. Furthermore, one of the insidious results of false doctrine is to hide true doctrine from view. People become obsessed with the demands of false teaching. In the case of the healing and faith emphasis of popular Charismatic ministers, the concept was introduced that people can receive healing for any and all ailments (as if they could never die) if only they would embrace methods to work their faith up to such a level that all things would be possible on demand. This mistaken notion of faith carried with it no moral implications, and this kind of faith itself was the substitute for all of the virtues. In this whole mess of confusion, the truth that was lost was the Gospel itself. I am not saying that everyone in that movement was guilty of this; however, the right question was not asked. Why has God ever healed anybody?

Indeed, why did Jesus heal this man in this portion of the Gospel of Mark? Why does He give to him ears that hear and a tongue that speaks? Why did the Lord heal people? Why did he show compassion? If He had handed out what was due, he would have slain everybody; “for all have sinned.” But, instead we see His ministry described in the words of St. Peter: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38).” The purpose of the Incarnation includes this fact: He does not deal with us as our sins deserve. If we repent, He forgives us.

Some people misread the Lord’s words: “Thy faith hath made thee whole." All too often, this is presented as if faith worked like some kind of magic charm, or, as if faith becomes the one work that brings salvation. Such an idea would invert the great teaching of St. Paul that faith does for us what our own works cannot do. It is not the one human merit that earns either healing, blessing or salvation, but instead is the doorway by which we may receive God’s gifts.

In today’s Epistle reading we see two curious phrases: “the letter” and “the Spirit.” We learn that the letter, which refers to the Law, kills; but the Spirit, which is the life of Christ given to us in the New Covenant, gives life. The letter, the Law that God gave in the Covenant of Sinai when He revealed His commandments to Israel in the days of Moses, is “holy and just and good," as St. Paul tells us in another Epistle, the one to the Church in Rome. The glorious ministry of the Law is condemnation, and the severity of that condemnation justifies no one. Our Lord is the one who brought this fact out most clearly. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount each of us learns that he has received the sentence of death, utter condemnation- damnation. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican that we looked at only last week demonstrates the folly of anyone pleading for life by the letter that kills. Only a self-deceived man living in a fantasy of self-inflicted and extraordinary delusion, pleads the Law of God, expecting to be justified by it. The Pharisee deceived himself into believing that he was not a sinner “even like this Publican.”

The glorious ministry of that Old Covenant revelation of the Law is that it slays each of us; it condemns each of us. “All have sinned, and come short of the gory of God.” So, then, why did Jesus go about and do good to sinners? Why did he heal anybody ever? Because the glory of the ministry of the New Covenant is even greater than the glorious ministry of condemnation.  In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord spoke of the blood that would be shed from his own body as “the blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The disciples understood this from the prophecy of Jeremiah, in which the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit of life was foretold:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” ( Jer. 31:31-34)


Israel looked ahead to the time when this covenant would produce the new man who has the Spirit of God within him writing the commandments of God on his heart. The forgiveness of sins and the promise that each person would know God, was the promise of the new Covenant. 


The promise of forgiveness was demonstrated by the works of Jesus, and supplied only by way of the cross. Not one person that Jesus healed deserved that healing. But by healing Jesus showed that he forgives sins. Every time he healed someone, and every time he spoke the words of forgiveness to a repentant sinner, he knew that it was all due to the pain he would endure as he would pour our his soul unto death, with the nails through his hands and feet, and the thorns piercing his brow. It was not free of charge, for he would pay the price. The burning question “why does God not heal everybody?” can be answered only by saying, in terms of God's perfect will, "but he does"- if only because all who believe in the Son of God, all who eat the Bread of Life, all who live by the Food and Drink of eternal life, will be raised up on the Last Day, when Christ comes again in glory.

We need the ministry of condemnation in order to appreciate and understand the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus never approved of sin; he was far more condemning than Moses, speaking of Hell in a way no other preacher ever did. Forgiveness requires condemnation. Churches that approve of sin cannot meet the greatest need of the human heart; and they cannot bring healing. For, there is no acknowledgment of the wound among them. Forgiveness itself is very condemning, for what is approved cannot be forgiven. Jesus condemned all sin on the cross in the most powerful way possible. Justice and mercy met where the cross intersected, where he hung beneath the charge of the Roman governor. But, St. Paul, in another place, tells us that the real charge that hung over the Lord was the Law of God (Colossians 2:14). There He paid the full price of sin for you and me. Then He rose the third day, and overcame death. So, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

And that my friends, is why God has ever healed anybody.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tenth Sunday after Trinity


1 Corinthians 12:1-11 * Luke 19:41-47a
"...thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

In the Gospel we see the Lord himself entering His city and His temple, present in a very direct way, cleansing and purifying His Father's house. The city belonged to Him in a special way, His chosen city, the place of the throne of David that signifies the Lord's own eternal rule. The temple was the chosen place for His abiding Presence in the Holy of Holies, where the Blood of Atonement was carried within the veil and sprinkled once a year, and where no one but the High Priest dared to go, and never without that Blood of Atonement shed on Yom Kippor. The City was always the place of the Temple, the abiding place of His glorious Presence.

          And, yet, even though the abiding Presence of God was there, Jesus speaks of His arrival at that hour as their time of visitation. The opening of this passage is sober: "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
          The Epistle speaks also of the abiding Presence of God in His temple, that is, in His Church. And, it speaks, also, of Christ's visitation in this, the living temple of His people. For, Christ Himself is present whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit is present. In the Church we have always the Presence of Christ with us. He is with us by the abiding Presence of His Holy Spirit. By that abiding Presence He makes His Presence known further by charismatic realities.
          The word "charisma" is the New Testament Greek word (χάρις- charis) that is translated both as "grace" and as "gift." When we say that something is charismatic, we do not mean, necessarily, that it is exciting or spectacular. Neither are we speaking, necessarily, about what was called, or is called, the Charismatic Movement. We speak, rather, of the graces or gifts of the Holy Spirit, doing so by using an English form of a word from the original language of the New Testament.
          We hear a lot and read a lot about the charismatic reality of the sacraments, and of the mystery of His Presence in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. That sacrament is one of the charisms or charismata, one of the gifts that operates in His Church, in this case through the ordained ministry of the priesthood. The Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the sacrament comes from the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church; it is, in that proper and true sense, charismatic.
          This chapter from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Church in Corinth ties all of these realities together. Christ is, by the Holy Spirit, always present in His Church; His is the abiding Presence. And, yet, each time He uses a member of His Body, the Church, He comes to us with a visitation. We can receive and acknowledge Christ our Lord, as He comes to us through the various members of His Body, the Church, or we can fail to know the hour, the time of our visitation. We can be reverent about His Body as He is present in the sacrament, and yet be irreverent toward His Body, the Members of that same Body who surround us here and now, the people sharing this room with us, Christ's Body the Church. When you stand in the presence of another member of His Body, you are faced with the hour of visitation. How will you respond?
       Perhaps you might see, even now, why St. Paul followed this chapter, chapter twelve, with the famous chapter thirteen about that highest kind of love, the love we call charity:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal...And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (from I Corinthians 13)
                 We have not even begun to learn the lesson in today's Epistle. We may talk for hours about the Real Presence in the Eucharist, even debating various fine points of sacramental theology. In this chapter twelve, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the members of the Church are the members of His Body. Paul places this in a very significant context: Between chapter eleven about the sacrament of Holy Communion, and chapter thirteen about charity, the love without which we are nothing, and without which we would be counted dead while we live.
          In this chapter Paul teaches us that the gifts and graces God gives, without which each one of us is incomplete and terribly needy, are given to the people who surround us right now, in these members of the same Body, the Body of Christ. Metaphorically, and also somehow quite truly, you may be an ear, another may be a hand or a foot, unable to function all alone; and we all need what the other members have been given by the Holy Spirit. We depend on each other, we need each other. What we need is not each other's faults and failings; we need to be forgiving of those, because what we need are those gifts of the Holy Spirit God has placed even in the least comely of members.
          We have different passages in the New Testament where gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed, and no two lists are the same. The possibilities are endless, because it is God who works in His Church according to His will. But, you may rest assured that you can afford to be hateful and resentful of absolutely nobody in your congregation, and of nobody in the Church; you can afford to be unfriendly to no one. Each member of the Body presents you with a visitation from Christ.
          Furthermore, we cannot afford for any of you to miss your calling, to ignore the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been given to you for our common good, and to further the witness of this parish in our common mission to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. You must not become lukewarm in your commitment to Christ and His Church, or turn away from it. You were given gifts for our benefit, even if you have yet to discover them.
          I like to point out to those who study for Confirmation that C.S. Lewis wrote about the sacrament of Confirmation in his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the chapter where the children meet Father Christmas, he gives them gifts; but these gifts are not toys; they are not given for the amusement and fun of the children. For example, Peter, in the story, is given a special sword to help win the battle to liberate Narnia, and Lucy is given a flask of liquid to use for healing. That is, the gifts are given to each of the children not to use for themselves, and not just for fun, but to use for a common war effort against evil, and for the benefit, indeed the healing, of others. That is a picture of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
          To know this, the time of our visitation from Christ, we need to see the gifts that flourish from the abiding Presence of the Lord. We need always to see each other in the light of Christ, quick to forgive and always motivated by love. Indeed, if ever we wax ignorant of Satan’s devices we could develop a thousand reasons not to love one another; and we could not afford to yield to even one of them. We need always to walk in charity, because, as much as we need to have reverence for the Presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament, we need no less to have reverence for Christ in the members of His Body the Church--indeed, your own church, right here and right now.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A passing thought

Jesus told us how to live, most clearly in the Sermon on the Mount. A rather "solid Anglican" explained to me the other day why he wouldn't obey part of it. All I can say to that is, stop wasting time in religious hypocrisy; why not rather just spend your the time in honest sinning and unbelief?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

                        To read the sermon click on the picture

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Transfiguration of Christ


 


II Peter 1:13-18  * Luke 9:28-36
It became trendy in the later part of the twentieth century to infuse the word "religion" with negative meaning. People were accused of being "religious" back then, in some church groups implying something less then genuine and sincere. It appears that this trend has only gotten worse, with some of the entertainment minded churches afraid to exhibit crosses, afraid even to be called "churches," opting instead for the designation "worship centers." In these "worship centers" there may be very little worship, but a lot of musical performance. Among the worst of these in recent years was the "Seeker Sensitive" movement, in which the Gospel had no cross and God had no glory.

            When we look at the Gospel for this Feast of the Transfiguration, we cannot appreciate its depths if we fear those things which are specifically "religious" in its presentation. Christ our Lord was on the mountain, a place that for Jews symbolized the revelation of God, going all the way back to Moses. It was as He was in prayer that He was transfigured. This is very important. For, the chief reason why trendy Christians step away from their perception of "religion" has everything to do with a hesitation to embrace and love that most important of all doctrines, that central revelation of God, the Incarnation. 

            They fear the sacraments, specifically the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Communion with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In all of their very sincere love for Jesus, there comes a point, nonetheless, when they have a very difficult time with those aspects of our faith that involve the senses of taste, touch, seeing, and hearing. Any honorable mention given to the Blessed Virgin mother of our Lord is, for them, uncomfortable. They profess belief in the two natures of Jesus Christ, that He is both Fully God and fully Man in One Person; but in every practical way, they fear and step back from the full implications of what that means. They fear to come close, fearing all of the echoes and ripples of what it means that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." They confuse the implications of this, and misunderstand those things as if they were some sort of idolatry.

            But I say these things for your sake, that you will never fear to embrace the saving revelation that "the Word was made flesh and pitched the tent of His human nature among us." I say these things so that you will be liberated in your heart to come close to Christ as He is known and revealed. I say this, because of how Saint John (one of those three apostles who are part of today’s Gospel reading) described what the Church truly is, and what it shall continue to be for all time until Christ returns on the Last Day. In the opening of his first Epistle, the Beloved Disciple wrote:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (I John 1: 1-4)

            You see, the fear is that worshiping Someone Whom eyes could see, hands could touch and ears could hear must be some form of idolatry. Let me help you by being very clear. Once you know that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, it is idolatry to worship only a god whom we cannot see. Idolatry is to worship the images we ourselves make from our own minds, and therefore, it is to worship a god who is not the One known by the revelation He gives of Himself. 

            We, who would bow down at the feet of the Man Jesus, should He walk into this room right now, would not be idolaters. But, a Unitarian, worshiping his notion of a god that is pure of such "adulteration" as the taking of human nature into Himself, can worship only an idol of the human mind, a god who did not reveal himself. His god may very well be a creation of the doctrines of demons, or simply a fantasy. But either way, such a god is not known by revelation, but by imagination. However, our God is not confined to heaven. The true God revealed Himself, most perfectly by taking human nature into the Divine Person of the only and eternally begotten Son of the Everlasting Father.

            This is why we are not afraid to, as the hymn says, "touch and handle things unseen"- nor even to look upon visible things that both effect and signify what is invisible. We are not afraid of holy water, or visible representations such as icons and crosses. We do not treat the Blessed Virgin Mother, through Whom God the Son received His human nature, as some sort of outcast. Furthermore, we know that the bread and wine that will be placed upon this altar today, will be taken into the Person of the Son of God, and given back to us as "the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of...our Saviour Jesus Christ." And, as the Apostle John wrote, we will look upon, and our hands will handle the Word of Life. In this way, you will have fellowship with the Church of the Apostles, and in that fellowship you will have fellowship with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, "that your joy may be full.”

            On the Mount of Transfiguration, which Saint Peter called "the holy mount"- itself a phrase showing the effect of the presence of the incarnate Lord upon all creation- what the Apostles saw was not actually the Divine Nature itself, because that remains invisible to the eyes of every created thing. What they saw was the Shekinah, the manifest Glory of God. They saw a manifestation of our ultimate hope, theosis. They saw that human nature itself is transformed by the presence of God; a certain kind of blindness, that protects the eyes of our yet fallen and imperfect humanity, was removed for a brief glimpse of deified human nature. Christ’s human nature was revealed to be glorious, because in His Person He is fully God. Because of God's human nature in Christ, our transformed and resurrected human nature is destined to be glorified by grace when we partake - κοινωνός  (koinōnos) - of the divine nature.

            In the Transfiguration of our Lord we see our hope, and we see why we need have no fear of death. Christ let His disciples see why His coming death should not fill them with dread. How strange that in this scene, while shining with the light of His glory, the Lord speaks to Moses and Elijah about the death He would accomplish at Jerusalem. Notice, His death would be His own to give. 

            This was Luke’s way of telling us the same thing that Jesus told us, as St. John wrote; That no Man took Christ's life away; He laid it down freely, and freely took it again (John 10:17,18). In speaking of His death to Moses, Christ showed that He was going to fulfill all the Law, and be the One Who dies for us, to forever take away all our sins; that in dying He would fulfill the types and shadows of every sacrifice ever offered on the Old Testament altars. In speaking with Elijah, He showed that He is the fulfillment and subject of prophecy itself. It is He of Whom Moses and the prophets spoke. And, in this scene on the holy mountain, it is He of Whom the Father speaks: "This is my Beloved Son; hear Him."

            I want the words of this sermon to ring in your ears, because my desire for you is that you never fear to come close and touch the Lord; that you never fear to live within the fellowship of the Church, and by that, within the fellowship of God the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ; that your joy may be full.


And now, unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, glory and power, now and forever. Amen



Fr. Laurence Wells  "Bulletin Insert"



Here we are, in the dog days of summer and nearly half way through the long season of Trinity (the “Trinity Trek”), celebrating the mysterious feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration.  That word means a change of appearance and refers to what Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us, that “his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.”  This happened while Jesus was praying by night on a certain mountain, alone with Peter, James and John. 



This vision of Christ in glory (which Peter later insisted was no “cunningly devised fable” but an event to which he was an eye-witness) sounds almost like one of the appearances of the Lord after His resurrection.  But all three Synoptic Gospels insist that this took place during the course of His earthly Galilean ministry (just as we celebrate it in the rather dull season of Trinity).



One detail which sets this event apart is that all three Evangelists made an unusual effort to date it within the narrative.  Luke says “about eight days after.”  After what, we have to ask.  The preceding event must be important, since the Gospels are mostly vague about the time-sequence of events.



The Transfiguration follows, after the interval of a week, upon the critical event of Peter’s great confession, which is the hinge episode of the Gospels, the great turning point of Jesus’ ministry before His Passion.  “Who do men say that I am?  Who do ye say that I am?  Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”



Now, before they have caught their breath, the outspoken Peter and the two ambitious brothers James and John , who aspired to high position in the king-dom, are allowed to see a vision of exactly Who Jesus Is.  While this is a momentary change in His appearance, it is no change in His person or nature, but a sudden revelation of His deity, as the eternal Son or Word of the Father. 

In this vision He is conversing with two personages of long ago, Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets, the Scriptures of the Old Testament.



Peter (who still has some learning to do) devoutly proposes that they build three tabernacles or booths) in which Jesus, Moses and Elijah might be enshrined.  But at that suggestion, Moses and Elijah disappear and Jesus is left alone with His disciples.  The heavenly voice repeats the statement uttered at His baptism: “This is my beloved Son,” but adds the command, “hear Him.” 



In Jesus Christ, in His humility and His glory, we see Someone far greater than Moses and Elijah or any other “hero of the faith.” He is unique.  Therefore in His presence we are commanded to hold our tongues, to give up our own religious ideas, and to obey.                                    LKW



The Transfiguration of Our Lord

 

 



Re-Posted from August 6, 2008
A sermon by Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson, Rector of St. Andrew's in Easton, and Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Chesapeake.
The Lesson: Exodus 34:29
The Psalm: 27, Dominus Illuminatio
The Epistle: II St. Peter 1:13
The Holy Gospel: St. Luke 9:28
+In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Poor Peter. He had to decide which mountain he wanted most, whether Mount Tabor or Mount Calvary. As James and John went with him to Jesus’ prayers on Mount Tabor, the brothers still were smarting from the fresh humiliation of their mother having begged Jesus for thrones to be bestowed upon them; they were in no position to side with Peter in his argument against the Lord’s revelation to the twelve of his impending Passion. Fervent in denial, Peter’s expectations were heightened on the suddenly fashionable Tabor.
As the Lord Jesus prayed there, he was transfigured, or, as Matthew and Mark put it in the Greek, he was metamorphosed. Their description of Jesus’ altered countenance was so intense that King James’ word smiths had to coin a term to describe it: glistering.
Understand, this was no miracle, but the sighting of the Lord’s normal appearance, the veil of his humanity momentarily lifted; the robe of flesh clothing the Word who had chosen to be numbered among the transgressors here parted to reveal Very God. No, there was no light shining upon Jesus, but his deity radiating from within. This was how Moses and Elias had seen Jesus, the vision glorious which they had known in him.
Then, just as the Father and the Holy Ghost had joined Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, at his Baptism, so now did they join him at its close, the Three Persons of the Holy and Undivided Trinity revealed in the same place and time. The Father again spoke from heaven of his pleasure in the Only-Begotten Son; and just as the Holy Ghost had appeared at the Jordan mikvah as a dove, so now did he come in the cloud to be present with this holy Jesus, whom these prophets had known intimately through the Spirit’s vision bestowed upon them.
Why in particular was Jesus joined by Moses and Elias? Simply said, it is because he was the fulfillment of everything they had taught: the Messiah, the Chosen One of Israel whom they had known through the revelation of the Holy Ghost, Moses having delivered the Law, Elias the chief of the prophets. But if you want it said a little more complex, they were ‘types’ of the Messiah. By ‘type’, I do not mean they were sort of or kind of like messiahs, but that by their beings and teachings they had ‘resembled’ one like them but so much greater. God had revealed this much to Moses: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." (Deuteronomy 18:18)
Moses, in the closing moments of his leadership, participated in the most telling prophecy yet of the Saviour, when instructed by God to strike the rock which had followed them. "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly...." (Numbers 20:10) Now, this rock actually was the presence of Christ among the people of Israel, the water from it the symbol of his precious blood. We know this because St. Paul teaches us, "[They] all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." (I Corinthians 10:4)
There is a very peculiar fact about the water from that rock. It is described by a strange Hebrew word, which transliteratesmeribah, translating as the water of strife, or the water of contradiction. It bespeaks the never ceasing stream of grace from God to his people, even in their most rebellious and contentious moments against him.
Elias, Elijah if you prefer, was known as the chief and greatest of prophets, and especially because he was drawn up into heaven by a flaming chariot via a whirlwind. Many Jews (and remember that Judaism, then as now, was a multi-sectarian religion) considered Elias to have been a prophet in a sense so great that he was a messiah, and who, because he departed this world alive, could return alive. Some Jews today believe he will return again. In fact, there is even a Christian tradition that he will precede Christ’s return, his purpose to convert the Lord’s own Jewish people, and then their rabbis!
The Archangel Gabriel would comfort old Zacharias by likening his son St. John Baptist to Elias: "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (St. Luke 1:16) You may recall, in fact, that the priests and levites thought John to be Elias returned. (St. John 1:19)
So now, can you imagine how raced the hearts of Peter, James and John? You would have thought that on the holy mount they had learned so much of the Cross when hearing God in Christ, with the Law and the Prophets, speaking of "his decease," of his redemption of the world; and of the joyous joining there of the Father and the Holy Ghost! I must believe that the brothers, the sons of Zebedee, had taken it in, because merely a few years would pass after Jesus "decease" that the courageous James would be the first Apostle to witness for the Lord Jesus in martyrdom; and John, seasoned by time so many years later, would receive the apocalyptic Revelation. You and I know that Peter would wholly understand these things only after Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, and especially at Pentecost.
But, my beloved, not today. As I have told you that Peter was fervent to deny Jesus’ foretelling of his Passion, his expectations for a bloodless Christianity were heightened on this day. And I have told you also that Peter was torn over which mountain to choose: The romantic garden spot of Tabor, or the stinking, blood-sodden rot of Calvary, where, by an old Jewish myth, was buried the skull of Adam.
So Peter desperately appeals to his seeming fatalistic Lord to build three shrines here, for each of the nobility in the cloud. He thinks he can prompt God in Christ into self-aggrandizement. Satan has tried this before, hasn’t he? And Jesus had called Peter ‘Satan’ in another event, hadn’t he? "He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (St. Matthew 16:23)
No way the Cross! Peter wants a bloodless Christianity, a religion vacant of struggle against sin and the way of death. He wants a religion of Mount Tabor, not a religion of Mount Calvary.
The unconverted spirit of the old Peter is alive and well today, in the Church of Social Cachet, the Church of Sentimental Footsteps Carrying Us on the Beach, in the Church of The Success Culture, and in the Church of Sexual License and Better Bowling Scores: Such as these Jesus calls the church of the whited sepulchre, the churches "that be of men." It is a Mount Tabor Christianity with benign shrines. But the religion to which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calls us is that of Mount Calvary.
You see on Mount Tabor what you should want to see forever, the radiance of his face (....it’s all right, go ahead, look at him in Cimabüe’s crucifix over the altar, gaze into his loving eyes), that face which in weeks after Tabor will bear the thorny crown of ignominy, soon to be "sore wounded"; spattered with blood beaten out of him by the Roman guards, the same blood’s Real Presence on our Altar this holy day and every Sunday, each Sunday a little Easter. And look today on his glistering raiment, because you won’t see it on Mount Calvary, stripped away to reveal him, in Wesley’s words inspired by St. Paul, "robed in flesh, our great high priest," that flesh which had been the tabernacle of his divinity, which had come among us, full of Grace and Truth.
You know how I am forever telling you that your religion must be as intensely practical as it is mystical. As with all else, even the Transfiguration of Our Lord must speak to your heart.
Mine? On August 6, 1963, I paused for a few days at The Abbey of St. John the Baptist at Collegeville, Minnesota. (I know the arithmetic is a mystery to you young people, who have always known that I am only thirty-nine years old.) In those days, St. John’s was the most populous Benedictine monastery in the world. Well, I was en route to my undergraduate experience in Chicago and needed a few days of prayer. So, at the Abbey on this day, the Feast of The Transfiguration of Our Lord, I thought to myself: Goodness, it looks more like Easter, so decked out in flowers and lights, ebullient to the ear in joyous chant!
I asked my old friend the choirmaster, Fr. Gerard Farrell, of blessed memory, how this could be. And he replied in such a way that I was reminded of the passage from the Revelation to St. John which we always read on All Saints’ Day. "These are they," he began, "who’ve seen death beyond measure, and who’ve fled to Jesus, because they know he’s the only one who can make sense out of Calvary, to know the one who died there, who’s still alive."
Well, you know, I was a kid, and I’d thought every monk was some kind of world-wise sophisticate like Thomas Merton. But Fr. Gerard explained to me that most of the monks were farmers or common labourers, ordinary people like you and I, who either had enlisted or were drafted into two world wars. For them, there was no Mount Tabor to which to return. They wanted, they lived for, the life-giving religion of Calvary, knowing this is the place from which Jesus saves!
You see, just as Peter would have to decide whether to choose Tabor or Calvary — rather, whether his would be the Christianity of Peter or Jesus — you and I must decide, too. The old Peter’s path is to one hell of a realm of materialism where you fret over the meaningless vintage of your failure to redeem yourself; whereas the other by simple humility and submission will lead you to the royal wine of heaven. Simple as that!
My beloved, given that St. Andrew’s faces some serious days ahead, I tell you we’re going to succeed because we have chosen the right mountain. We will stand some ridicule because we have chosen not to imitate the world’s vision of the Church, but because we have chosen Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and so his salvation and sacrifice as the mission and message of his Church. One day, rich or poor in the world’s sense, we’ll be able to answer to the Lord Jesus in his Day of Judgement.
But listen, as Peter was transformed, so shall we be transformed; Christ changes all things and all persons who come to him. For here’s what Peter wrote years later of the Transfiguration. Please read it aloud, and listen not only for the sublime poetry; but understand this same Jesus can touch your heart, too.
"We had been eye-witnesses of His exaltation. Such honor, such glory was bestowed on Him by God the Father, that a voice came to Him out of splendour which dazzles human eyes. This, it said, is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased..... We, his companions on the holy mountain, heard that voice coming from heaven, and now the word of the prophets gives us more confidence than ever. It is with good reason that you are paying so much attention to that Word: It will go on shining, like a lamp in some darkened room, until the dawn breaks, and the day star rises in your hearts." (II Peter 1:16-19; tr. Ronald Knox.)
+Joel Marcus Johnson, Chesapeake


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Among scholars of Sacramental Theology is none greater than the woman with the flow of blood. "If I may but touch the hem of His garment."

Friday, July 07, 2017

Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Romans 8:18-23  *  Luke 6:36-41
The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading come in separate sections. Let us look at each one, one by one.

Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 

This is not about pretending not to know right from wrong, but about mercy. All too easily, we apply to others a standard we would not want applied to us, not about right and wrong, but about forgiveness. It goes without saying that everybody, including everybody here, is a sinner. I am not talking about notorious and unrepentant sin. I am not talking about accepting a low standard of conduct, either for others or for ourselves. I am talking about the need of every personto be forgiven failures and offenses.
          Jesus commands us to be merciful because God Himself is merciful: “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” It is that very appeal, to be merciful because God is merciful, that is taken up later by St. Paul: "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph. 4:32) "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colo. 3:13)
          One thing that has plagued the Church for centuries is a readiness to pull away from each other. Rather, God commands us to acquire the combination of love and humility that preserves not only good order, but the sacramental bond of fellowship and communion by which we are in Christ. Separating from a religious body that cast off the truth of the Gospel was unavoidable; but, continued secessions are not, thereby, justified.
          God, as our Father through His only begotten Son, has brought us into His own family and made us His children. Just as an earthly father rejoices to see his grown children love one another, and is grieved if it is otherwise, so it is out of love for God that we are told to love one another in the Church. “Even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you," says St. Paul; and “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
          Not be a judge means not to set yourself up as the judge, not to condemn, not to write off your brothers and sisters as hopeless cases, beyond the pale, not worth bothering with. It is easy to take a mental photograph that freezes individuals in time, perhaps at their worst. But, the truth is that the Holy Spirit, the One Who is at work in your heart and life, is active also in changing and sanctifying all of God’s children. That mental image you retain, taken at someone’s worst moment, needs to be torn up and thrown away. This requires faith in God, in this case, in the Holy Spirit Who is at work changing your brother just as He is changing you.
          Since the measure you mete will be meted out to you, love one another, be merciful, and have faith that God the Holy Spirit is at work.

And he spoke a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 

Jesus used the image of the blind leading the blind, on another occasion, to speak about the dangers of religious leaders who teach false doctrines (Matt. 15: 12-14), specifically of the Pharisees. But, here in this context, Jesus uses the same words to speak of something different, which we shall see in a moment. But, first let us consider the words, “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
          Though He was Lord of Heaven and Earth, Jesus accepted the role of a servant for our sakes. His patience was more than remarkable; it was, literally, Divine.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:10,11)

Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:13-17)

Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28)

This must be the attitude of each one of us in His Church. We are here to serve, to wash one another’s feet, and so to be like our Master (or Rabbi).
          I mentioned to you the man who told me he wanted to be a priest, in fact, that he wanted to be a bishop; and that he asked me, hypothetically, “isn’t it right to want to climb to the top of your chosen field?” I mentioned to you also that I told him to forget entirely about ordained ministry; that I would not help him on that road, not even one little bit. If ever he comes back to see me, I will hope it will be because he wants to serve God, even if it means washing the feet of his brethren; and that he will have no longer a desire born of ambition. It is enough to be like our Rabbi, our Master Who came not to be served. And, this calling, to be like Christ, is everyone’s calling. It is your calling and it is mine. Be content to serve in whatever way God has called you and given you gifts for service. It is enough.

And why beholdest thou the mote [speck] that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam [log]  that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

You can see, as I said, from the context that Jesus has used the image of the blind leading the blind, and both of them falling into a ditch, differently from how He used it regarding the Pharisees. And, here we see that one of the services you may provide, out of love that moves you to be merciful as our Father is merciful, is to pull the speck out of your brother’s eye.
          To the degree that your brother may need your help, you cannot help him blinded, as you are, if you are walking around with a log protruding out of your own eye. When it comes to helping your brother get his eye clear, if you are the one to be of help, first remove the log that blinds you.
          Well, that is simple enough to understand, surely. But, the reality is subtle. We all prefer to see the faults of others, and to ignore our own faults; and that includes the fault of finding fault. “Why isn’t you-know-who just the most judgmental, fault-finding and critical bore we know?” When my brother was a young and mischievous seminarian, he wrote a sort of not quite hymn that went:

I thank Thee Lord, for I hear tell
That another sinner went to Hell.
I thank Thee I am not as he,
An hypocrite and a Pharisee.

Consider what I am saying in light of last Epistle reading, about Satan going about as a roaring lion. Spiritual warfare is a reality concerning which our own people have all too often been quite dangerously naive. 
Think of these words by St. Paul: 
"To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Cor. 2:10,11)
          But, today the Church is ignorant of Satan’s devices. One great problem is the disproportionate number of people, in far too many cases even of clergy, who have proved themselves ignorant of Satan’s devices. We cannot afford the luxury of this ignorance. Our adversary the devil still goes about as a roaring lion. It takes real humility before God, and in relation to one another in the Church, to resist him. It takes, also, steadfastness in the faith.
           
We have an enemy already – our common enemy; and we are all on the same side. It must be like the musketeers said: “All for one and one for all.” Or, to put it better, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.