Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Anglican Catholic Church’

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

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

 

“Temptation in Our Lives, Churches, and Society”

Looking at today’s Epistle lesson, we should know that the Corinthians were proud converts from the pagan religions of Greece and Rome.  Unlike many of the other church folk to whom St. Paul corresponded, they were not mostly converts from Judaism.  Their problems were different.

The Corinthians were tempted to compromise with their old religion, the religion of their friends, families, and social superiors. The Corinthians were tempted to consider Holy Baptism and the Blessed Sacrament as magical talismans which warded off evil and ill health.  Of course, they are nothing of the sort!  These Sacraments connect us deeply into eternal life in Christ.

St. Paul wrote to former pagans living in a pagan society.  He warns them from continuing to participate in banquets dedicated to heathen gods.  These compromises were hazardous to their spiritual health.  They were to avoid these sources of temptations lest what happened to Israel in the wilderness happen to them.

A healthy familiarity with Exodus comes in handy when reading this lesson.  Like the Corinthians and their Holy Baptism, Israel underwent a type of baptism with Moses in the Red Sea.  Like the Corinthians and receiving Holy Communion, Israel ate manna from Heaven and drank water which miraculously sprang from the rock.  But these blessings did not keep Israel from being “overthrown in the wilderness”.  They worshipped the golden calf and were punished.  They tempted God and were destroyed by serpents.  They rebelled from God and suffered horribly.  In the end, only Caleb and Joshua out of all those thousands made it into the Holy Land.  St. Paul writes, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples:” – or examples – “and they are written for our admonition.”

But with this warning to avoid compromise with unrighteousness and pacts with wickedness, St. Paul gives the Corinthians good news:  God always helps us in temptation.  At the end of the lesson we receive, along with our brethren the Corinthians, the promise that God will guard us from suffering unbearable temptation:  “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

On the one hand, God only allowing us to be tempted at a level we can resist means that we are fully culpable for each and every sin we commit.  We can resist every temptation.  Therefore, if we fail to resist a temptation, we are to blame for not having resisted more.

On the other hand, God loves us and cares for us so much that he will not tolerate his beloved souls mistakenly breaking communion with Christ our Lord.  Being grafted onto Christ, we never suffer any temptation which forces us to break communion with him without our consent.  Christ wants us with Him for all eternity.

As an aside, notice that the Apostle to the Gentiles does not say here that God will not suffer us to receive more than we can handle.  We often receive more than we can handle.  I understand, not from experience, that young mothers can feel overwhelmed from lack of sleep and a demanding little baby.  I sometimes temporarily feel overwhelmed.  God will allow our decisions and the working of our mortal life to require more of us than we can possibly give.  It is precisely at this time that we should turn to God for comfort, meaning both strength for the journey and consolation.  We will never be tempted beyond what we can bear, but we may be given more to handle than we can bear.

 

Now, having seen how St. Paul considers temptation in First Corinthians, let us turn to three ways that we may be tempted.  We may be tempted morally in our lives of personal sanctity such as bearing good fruit in our relationship with Christ and other people.  We may be tempted sacramentally and ecclesiastically in our communal experience of worship, fellowship, service, and doctrine.  And we may be tempted socially in our lives in society and culture.

We manfully fight against temptation to secure our moral lives.  Three weeks ago we read in Romans vi that we were buried in Christ’s Crucifixion and raised in His Resurrection.  Our old man of sin died, and we put on Christ.  Two weeks ago we read that in Christ we went from earning wages of sin through our actions to receiving the free gift of God, “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Last week we read in Romans viii that we have received the spirit of adoption, making us sons of God.  Instead of being slaves of sin, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.  Out of this new life in Christ we are expected to bear good fruit as befits a good tree.

Christ recognizes that temptation is dangerous and includes in the prayer He taught His disciples “and lead us not into temptation”.  St. Peter recognizes this and warns us in his first epistle, in words oft recited in Compline, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:  Whom resist stedfast in the faith.”  We are to pray to avoid temptation.  We are soberly to discern our actual situation regarding sin and temptation, sticking to the truth and not deceiving ourselves.  We are to watch for temptation with vigilance, never letting down our guard and allowing temptation to take hold and grow like a cancer into sin.  We are never in so great a danger as when we think that we are no longer susceptible to the power of temptation.

Since our old man of sin is dead and we are living in Christ, made one with His Body, we ought to strive to resist temptation and produce good works.  We can only produce good works in conjunction with avoiding sin.  Remember that the goodness of our good works does not come from our finite sinful lives but in Christ’s infinite holy life.  We guard against temptation to keep producing good works that joyfully reflect the beauty of the world, love amongst men, and love between God and man.

Think of our consecrated lives in Christ as a clear mirror which reflects Christ’s love back at Him and our fellow man.  Think of sin as besmirching that formerly clear mirror so that our reflection of Christ’s love is muddled and rendered ineffectual.  We watch out for temptation to keep our good works good.

 

We manfully fight against temptation to secure our sacramental and ecclesiastical lives.  If you recall, I once ran in horror from the Anglican Catholic Church.  I developed five reasons to never become a “Continuer”.  Yet in my fourteen years in the Episcopal Church, I saw heresy after heresy.  I tried to follow Christ, suffering mockery with my comrades, while others forged a new religion utterly at variance with the historic and Apostolic religion of the faith once delivered to the saints.  I fell to the temptation of compromise with the intolerable – valuing ersatz visible union – than to conforming myself to unwavering Gospel truth.

Beaten and humbled, I finally surrendered, yielded my own willfulness, and submitted to the Gospel in the Anglican Catholic Church.  Nightmares I had suffered for ten years vanished.  My broken and compromised faith slowly healed.  I welcomed good old-fashioned sin and forgiveness in the parish without any heresy and false sacramental unity.

We Anglican Catholics truly believe all the ancient truths of the Christian faith without any whitewashing.  I came to regard with great affection the Affirmation of St. Louis, a witness for the Gospel against the temptations of today:  No mealy mouthed half assurances about abortion; clear teaching about Apostolic Order and completeness of Holy Scripture; traditional liturgy; robust understanding of the sanctity of marriage.  I underwent Confirmation at the hands of Archbishop Haverland, as some of you did as well, as some of you look forward to doing.

I look at my friends who are priests in the Episcopal Church and the Neo-Anglicans of the Anglican Church in North America and wonder what happened.  Those ecclesiastical bodies either remain or claim to remain in sacramental communion with the Church of England, that same church which claims to ordain women into the priesthood and thereby proves that they do not adhere to the universal Catholic understanding of Holy Order.  We simply mean different things with the same words by “priesthood”, “episcopacy”, and “Sacraments” than they do.  We continue Anglicanism because we keep the same faith that Lady Julian, Charles I, Samuel Seabury, John Keble, and Albert Chambers did, even if we keep neither the once-venerated name nor the buildings of the Episcopal Church.

 

We manfully fight against temptation to witness in our public lives in society.  We can consider this in two ways, enticing society and threatening society.  The company of our good friends and of the “better” elements of society can tempt us away from the Gospel truth.  A desire to fit in with those friends who might be offended tempts us into living a public life without spiritual integrity.

We know from Holy Scripture and the teaching of our Mother the Church that we were created male and female.  In a day when marriage is openly mocked in both same-sex unions and open acceptance of divorce and remarriage, the confusion brought about by claiming to be male when born female and vice versa tempts many of us to humor those who confound the truth of the matter.  When we acquiesce or conform to those who spin fables, who entice us with social station, employment, and good reputation, then we may very well be yielding to the temptation of participating in the sins of others by silence or approval.  Many fall into sin under the guise of good manners.  Sacrificial loving-kindness produces true good manners but tolerates no caving to temptation.

Dangerous society holds its own temptations as well.  During the Boko Haram attack on the Nigerian schoolgirls this April, a seven-year-old girl was asked to deny Christ with a rifle to her head.  She refused.  Urgently asked again, she refused again.  Amazed, the Moslem jihadists let her go.  Who of us here today would have been so bold?  As Christ said, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

This past week, the Chaldean Christian primate of Iraq announced that the last Christian families in Mosul had fled with their lives before the onslaught of the ISIL.  This is the first time in 1,600 years that this ancient city has had no Christians in it.  Many are martyred, others have fled, and their property has been confiscated to distribute to Moslems.  In China, the Communist government is trying to take control of all Christian churches.  No one is dying, but would I resist unto death the government dictating to me how to preach and administer the Holy Sacraments?  I would like to think so.  But I have not suffered that temptation yet.  I pray that I never do.  But our brethren around the world are paying with their lives this very day.

 

Temptation is so important to our life with God that we pray about it every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  The wholesome habits, Christian character, and openness to God that helps us avoid and survive temptation helps us flower with the fruit of many virtues and good works pleasing to God.

Remember that in our Christian pilgrimage, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  So whether in our day to day lives, our lives in Christian unity, or moment of need before the despisers of Christ, the Lord will cover and protect us in our hour of temptation.

 

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

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

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet. that should come into the world.”

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

 

“Holy Scripture”

We read two lessons of Holy Scripture at every Mass and Office at St. Luke Church.  Our incomparable liturgy is full of it.  The minor propers are taken from it.  Our hymns often spring from or reflect upon it.  So please bring your attention to the way Scripture is used in today’s lessons.

In today’s Epistle, St. Paul speaks of two Sinais and two Jerusalems.  Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find two of these places.  St. Paul is being creative.  He is using the Jerusalem of his time as the home to Jewish Christianity.  He contrasts this to the Heavenly Jerusalem which is free of the Law.  In effect, Jerusalem here on earth is the center for Judaism; Jerusalem above is the center for Christianity.  St. Paul uses the same concept of Jerusalem in two different ways.  That’s interesting.

St. John does not contrast his account of the feeding of 5,000 against any other account.  But when we look at all four Gospels, we might get puzzled.  Ss. Matthew and Mark have two feeding accounts, one with 5,000 and one with 4,000.  Ss. Luke and John have only one feeding account, that of the 5,000.

But the differences blossom from there.  In Ss. Matthew and Mark, the disciples notice the hungry people.  In Ss. Luke and John, Christ notices the hungry people.  Only in St. John does Christ ask St. Philip where they should buy bread.  Only in Ss Mark and John are 200 pennies’ worth of bread mentioned.  In Ss. Matthew and Mark’s accounts of the 5,000, Christ blesses the bread.  In their accounts of the 4,000, along with Ss Luke and John, Christ gives thanks over the bread.  St. John’s account, sung earlier, is more like one account one way and another account another way.  That’s kind of confusing.

But this does not include Old Testament foreshadowing of Christ’s feeding of the multitudes.  The people wondering about a prophet at the end points towards Moses, who fed the Israelites with manna from Heaven.  This too is heavenly food provided by a man sent from God.  Indeed, Christ will speak on the bread of life later in the chapter.

The lad and barley loaves hearken back to II Kings iv.42, when Elisha makes a strange stew.  The setting and the people eating points towards prophecy found in Isaiah xlix.9ff.  These point to the re-occurrence or resonance of events throughout Scripture.

 

So what are we to make of all these different accounts in Scripture?  How are we to understand Scripture?  Is the Bible God’s manual for living as some say?  Is it a how-to book on living a righteous life?  Is it primarily an ancient code of ethics?  Are the Scriptures old writings by ancient religious zealots?

To understand Holy Writ, we should first look into it.  St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy iii.16 of the Old Testament, but is applicable to the New as well, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

That leads to the question:  What does God-breathed mean?  It literally means inspired by God.  To inspire is to put breath into.  <Breathe in> I am inspired just then.  The breath being put into Scripture is the Holy Ghost.  God inspired his Scripture with himself, the Third Person of the Holy and Ever-Blessed Trinity.  Scripture is godly, it is useful, and it is profitable.  It points us the way and challenges us in righteousness.

We call it God’s word, but it is not God’s Word in that great sense of it as used by St. John in the beginning of his Gospel:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  This Word of God is in Greek Logos, in Latin Verbum.  It is another name for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God.  Christ is the Word of God incarnate among us.  The Word, as God, has no beginning and no end.

But Christ and Holy Scriptures are different things.  We call them both the word of God, but we sometimes need to be careful with exactly what we mean by God’s Word when we say that.

The Affirmation of St. Louis is the founding document of the Anglican Catholic Church.  The Affirmation attests to “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands–a revelation valid for all men and all time.”  We believe that both the Old and New Testaments are given by God and valid for all men everywhere at any time and record all things needful for the Christian life.

The Thirty-Nine Articles are a Sixteenth-Century list of points of belief that has been updated through the Nineteenth-Century here in America.  The VI Article, Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, is an awesome testimony of the importance and place of both the Old and New Testaments:

“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

If it’s not in the Bible, we don’t have to believe it.  For example, I believe in the Assumption of our Lady.  There is extra-biblical evidence for it, and it makes sense.  But because it is not in Scripture, I do not teach it as necessary for salvation.

The VI Article precisely describes the best place for the Deuterocanonical, or Apocryphal, Books in our understanding:  “And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine;”  The Wisdom of Solomon and First Maccabees are wholesome to read, but we do not derive doctrine from them.

 

Every single word of Scripture is true and given to us from God for our benefit.  However, as a deposit and gift from God we can never completely understand it, nor can we ever fully comprehend the meaning of any given passage.  There is more than we can know, and there will always be much of it that some other Christian will be able to see better than we will.

Because each one of us is so very fallible, we must always remember that the authoritative teaching of Scripture resides only in Holy Church.  Thousands of scholars for hundreds of years have spent their entire careers studying what we call the Bible, only to disagree with each other and not believe a word of it.  Many of them are atheists.  And yet they study Scripture.

Scholars think that St. Paul’s account of the Last Supper came first, followed by Ss Matthew and Luke, followed by St. John.  But while that might be very astute figuring, in an important way, that misses the point.  These accounts are found in Holy Scripture, the written gift of God to Holy Church.

So when they tell us that the end of St. Mark’s Gospel is not original to the book, they may well be right.  But the end of St. Mark’s Gospel is part of the book canonized by the faithful gathered in Holy Church, devoutly read by the faithful, and described by an Ecumenical Council.  In short, it doesn’t matter to us how the Gospels and prophets and epistles and psalms came to be.  It matters to us that they came from God.  Indeed, the questions posed by scholars who do not believe the teachings of Holy Church are often meant to confuse the faithful or to increase your opinion of them.

 

As faithful Christians, do not be anxious about Holy Scripture.  God has spoken to you and to all humanity through these books.  Know that Christ is truthfully introduced to you in these writings.  And in this particular lesson today, know that Christ had mercy on the people, made a miracle, and gave to His disciples who fed His people.

Let me share with you two old-fashioned customs which you may care to adopt.  First, I never place any other book on top of the Bible.  I always place the Bible at the top of a stack.

Second, when reading the name of our Lord, Jesus, in Holy Writ, I bow my head just as if I had said His most lovely and Holy Name out loud.  It is a small way of reading Scripture with your whole body.  I do the same thing with Jehovah and Jah, which are the Authorized Version’s writers’ way of rendering Yahweh and Yah.  This also is a sacred name and is not to be read or said in disrespect.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all.  No human does, except our Lord Christ.  No saint, no bishop, no doctor of the Church understands all of Scripture.  It came through the pen of man, but it flowed out of God’s loving-kindness and giving of himself.

But the more we learn and know of it, the more the words sing in our hearts, the more we meditate upon God’s written word to us day and night, the closer we get to God.  And that is beautiful.  That is miraculous.  That is a gift from God.

So read your Bible.  Immerse yourself into those sacred words.  Glorify God in your reading of it.  And as the Collect for Advent II says about the sacred Scriptures:  “Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life….”

 

“Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet. that should come into the world.”

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

Read Full Post »

“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

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

 

Judgement

 

In the Tuesday night Bible study we have been reading the fifth chapter of St. Mark.  In this chapter, people fall down before Christ and worship Him.  One is a demoniac; another is a leader of the synagogue; the third is the woman with a hemorrhage.  Reading about them and studying the Gospel, I have often asked myself how they, alone of all the people around them, knew to bow before and worship Christ.

So when I think of the end of today’s Epistle, which recounts four Old Testament prophecies of Gentiles worshipping the Lord, I again wonder how folks recognize divinity and whom to worship.  I learned about God from my earliest days.  My mother first took me to church in her womb, I was Baptized as an infant, and I remember early days standing next to my father as he sang hymns in worship and praise of God.

I did not have to judge whether or not to give worship to God then.  But I had to do that later, as I was becoming a man.  Then I had to look around and figure out what all this foolishness was about.  I cannot speak to every person’s reasons, but I came to a lively faith in Christ as an adult after acknowledging the wisdom of my fathers, the logic of belief in philosophy, and, importantly, through the generous and self-sacrificing acts of love and goodness on the part of a Baptist coworker.

Did you see what I did?  I measured Christ and found that He fit.  This is a terribly arrogant thing to do, but in this world and in my life I needed convincing over and above my raising.  The same thing happened when I felt called to become a Catholic.  I had to use my judgement, poor as it was, to determine where God was calling me.  Indeed, I spent too long as an Episcopalian and could have become Anglican Catholic years before.  But I didn’t, which shows how we can make faulty judgements which God will correct over time.  We are never so old or so wise that our judgement is unimpaired and perfect.  We are never so old or so wise that we don’t need correction from time to time.

 

In the Office of Institution which the archbishop read right here almost two months ago, we read:

“And as a canonically instituted Priest into the Office of Rector of —— Parish, (or Church,) you are faithfully to feed that portion of the flock of Christ which is now intrusted to you; not as a man-pleaser, but as continually bearing in mind that you are accountable to us here, and to the Chief Bishop and Sovereign Judge of all, hereafter.”

According to the Book of Common Prayer and Archbishop Haverland, I am to bear in mind continually that I am accountable to him here on earth and to our Lord, “the Chief Bishop and Sovereign Judge of all, hereafter.”

An explicit part of my work here as rector is to hold myself up for judgement by our bishop and by Christ.  I shall be judged both here on earth and there on the Day of Doom, that is, the day of reckoning or day of judgement.

When we let ourselves be held accountable by others, we hold ourselves up for judgement.  Mrs. Gladys Fox and Mrs. Sam Nechtman have done excellent work straightening and keeping up our financial records over the past year and a half.  Last year, their work was scrutinized by a committee led by Mr. Leroy Walker for the explicit purpose of holding their work accountable.  They voluntarily held themselves up for judgement.  And their work was measured and judged to be excellent.  This is judgement.

 

When we behold the fig tree and see that it now shoots forth leaves, then we remember that trees shoot forth leaves during Spring.  Thus we arrive at the judgement that Summer is nigh at hand when the fig tree shoots forth leaves.

We measure the observed event by what we already know and that results in a judgement.  We observe that we have lied to our sweetheart, we remember that lying is a sin, and thus we derive from these two facts the fact that we have sinned.  This is what Christ refers to when He says in St. Matthew vii.1-2:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

The measuring stick by which we judge others is the same one by which we shall be judged.  Therefore even being selfish, we ought to show others great all-encompassing mercy so that Christ will show us great mercy at the Last Judgement.

Yet we do not do this.  Oh, sometimes we do.  Perhaps we have grown more generous over time, a mark of spiritual maturity.  But we perceive things incorrectly.  Even the best and most spiritual Christian views himself with poor eyesight.  As St. Paul says in I Corinthians xiii.12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

We see through a glass darkly; we know only in part.  When we get to Heaven after Christ’s Judgement of us, then we shall see “face to face” and “know even as also I am known.”  But for now, we know imperfectly.  And we know ourselves less perfectly than we would ever suppose.

Indeed, each of us should understand that the “old man” inside of you, the struggling sinful man inside of you, keeps you from seeing yourself clearly.  If you hearken unto God’s Word and live the life of Christian adventure working diligently at your prayers and confessing your sins regularly, then you stand an excellent chance of understanding what is right and what is wrong.

But despite this, being a frail and fallible human being despite your wisdom and strength, you will misjudge yourself often and regularly.  We dare not trust our own judgement of ourselves.  And it is precisely because we shall be judged by Christ with the standards with which we have judged others that we may experience a profound grace from Christ regarding our failed confessions.  Showing mercy to our struggling brothers, sisters, and neighbors is how we judge in the loving-kindness with which Christ died for us on the Cross.

 

We must have compassion on our fellow creatures because we must adjust our judgement to Christ’s, and Christ is the Incarnate God, and, as St. John tells us, God is love.  This is why the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor.  The two are inextricably bound together, tighter than the tightest knot.  God created us to love us.  God came down to earth to love us and save us.  God taught us to love each other and to love him too.  If we would behold our vilest neighbor as Christ beholds him, then our hearts would melt with divine love.  We would give him the choicest seat, kill the fatted lamb, and put a ring on his finger.  We would never in a million years – which is but a drop in the bucket of eternity, by the way – keep recounting past acts in ways that exalt our own role and denigrate our neighbor.

And this is the type of thing I hear all the time in this parish.  I recognize it because it is one of my sins too.  But Christ will damn us for this sin if we do not release it.  We can have no part of it.  We must throw it down at the feet of Christ, fall on our knees, and say,

“ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

We must thrust aside all sins and naughtiness if we dare to face Christ with certainty on that Last Great Day, when Christ will pronounce truth and Judgement over all Mankind in general and over every single one of us in particular.

 

Therefore, we ought to do three things:

First, we must diligently search our hearts after studying the Holy Scriptures and bathing ourselves in prayer so that we may find and repent of the many sins which are weighing us down like stones in the pockets of a drowning man.

Second, we must relentlessly practice compassion and self-sacrificial loving-kindness with every single person in our lives, particularly in our families, in our parish, and in the faces of those whom we despise.  We must serve others by acting like servants for them alongside our Saviour Christ.

Third, we must conform our opinions, understandings, and judgements to those of Christ our Lord.  St. Augustine said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourselves.”  Each of us have parts of the Gospel which are hard for us to hear.  For some, it is holding on to a cherished notion.  For others, it is keeping score of offenses, real and imagined.  For others, it is living in anxiety and fear of the things of this world.  For yet others, it is trusting in this world’s goods instead of storing treasures in Heaven above.  We must acknowledge before God that He is greater than we are, that he is wiser than we are, that he is smarter than we are, and so we must conform ourselves to his holy self.

So:  Confess your sins, love thy neighbor, and conform to God.  Do these things, and you will be in far better shape to answer to Christ our God and our King, the great Judge Eternal, on the Day of Doom, the Day of Judgement, when the disposition of all men will be made for eternity.

 

“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

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

Read Full Post »

“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

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

 

Christ is the High King of Heaven, but He is also our King.  We do not relate much to kings in our dear republic.  A king is a sort of father to his nation.  The nation is his to rule in authority, but he ought to rule in love.  As we may recall from our own Revolution and George III, a king does not always love his subjects as his children.  Christ the King always remembers that we are poor fallible creatures ever prone to sin.  But instead of berating us or damning us, God the Father sent God the Son into the world, taking up our human nature without in any way laying down His divine nature.

Christ loves us.  St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians:  “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”

Christ has earned His Kingship, His Lordship over us, but He did not have to earn it, because while Christ is Man, He is God as well, and as God He created the Heavens and the Earth.  We owe Him everything, because everything we have comes from Him.

We are His creatures.  We are His subjects.  And good faithful Christians are His good and faithful servants.

So:  What does it mean for us to be subjects of Christ the King?

Well, we must worship Him.  Worship means that we account Him as worthy; the word worship can be thought of as worth-ship.  We worship Christ every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation in the worship that is not created by His subjects out of our imaginations, but in the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Not only do we worship Him, we eat and drink Christ; we consume Him, and we become part of Him, just as He is part of us.  He says plainly in the Fourth Gospel:  “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”

Not only do we worship Him and commune with Him, we fast in remembrance of Him every single Friday of the year except in the Holy Season of His Nativity – Christmastide.  We fast before we receive Him in the Body and the Blood.  We abstain from meat because meat is fancier than vegetables and bread, and because Christ gave His own flesh for us.  When we fast, we do not simply refrain from eating something; we remember why we don’t eat something; we remember for Whom we do not eat something.

Not only do we worship Christ our King, commune with Him, and fast for Him, we also remember with our substance that He gave us our lives and everything that we have.  He gave us every single thing that own, both our lives and our possessions.  We are commanded in Scripture, in Malachi, to keep for our use nine-tenths of it.  We offer only a small token of our entire wealth – ten percent – as a memorial for the goodness and riches of God.

Not only do we worship, commune, fast, and tithe, in order to be loyal subjects – not even exceptional subjects, mind you – in order to be loyal subjects of Christ our King we must follow Christ in using our bodies only for God in keeping His Bride the Church’s Law of Marriage.  That is, we must keep ourselves chaste.  We must not commit adultery.  We must not commit fornication.  We must not sexually please ourselves with our own sex or with the opposite sex.  If we are married, we are married for our Lord and King and serve Him in our marriage with our bodies.  If He wills it, we raise up godly children in a godly household.  If we are not married, we remain single for our Lord and King and serve Him in our singleness with our chaste bodies as well.

Not only do we worship, commune, fast, tithe, and remain chaste, but we earnestly search our lives for any disloyalty to Christ our King in our words, our thoughts, and our actions.  When we sin, we commit high treason against the Lord God of the cosmos and against Christ, his only Son, the King of all that is and all that will be.  We confess our sins to Christ, in private, in public worship, and in private sacramental confession.

We confess to Christ, because Christ is not only our King, Christ is our great High Priest.  When we sin against God, we commit treason, have beaten and killed the only Son of the Father.  We have rejected life everlasting and eternal happiness by choosing, by committing, by aiding and abetting the rebellious side of rape, murder, and cancer.  Since we have voted with our selves, our souls and bodies, to kill Christ upon the Cross, we have wandered off by ourselves into the trackless desert of sin without water or shade, where we will surely die.  Christ offers Himself to the Father eternally in Heaven, and only through the Veil of His Holy Flesh can we enter into the Holy of Holies to live with God the Father in Heaven forever, enjoying the fullness of human happiness that we were intended to enjoy since the beginning of time.  Christ is King, and Christ is Priest.

This is why God gave His faithful the priesthood throughout the ages.  The Jews, the Chosen People, enjoyed the Aaronic priesthood.  In His Body, the Church, Christ has instituted the Sacrament of Holy Order and made some of his men into priests.  They are to love the children of God on Earth as he loves them from Heaven.  They are to re-present in divine worship the giving of Christ up to the Father.  They are to teach Christ’s teachings to His people.  They are to show forth the virtues of Christ and to live lives in the Holy Ghost which the people can look to for example.

But while I am a priest and I am your spiritual father here in Augusta, we are also a priestly people who live the life of Christ to the people of this fair city.  Just as we look into the eyes of Christ and see the Father, just as you look into my eyes and see Christ, so all your neighbors look into your eyes and see Christ; indeed, you look into each other’s eyes.

We turn our backs to treason, sin, and death and live fruitful, happy, loving, and productive lives for Christ, in Christ, and on Christ’s behalf.  This means that we obey happily and completely the six basic Duties of Churchmen – worship, communion, fasting, chastity, tithing, and confession.  We exercise and build up our spiritual lives through these Duties and through regular prayer and study of Scripture.  We love our neighbors as ourselves, and serve them as Christ came to serve us.  And in all this, we proclaim Christ’s advent, teaching, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven to the right hand of God the Father where right this very second He intercedes for each of us and each of those people out there.

But here’s the thing:  They don’t know that.  Oh, some of them do.  But most have no idea.  Or worse yet, they have just enough of an idea about Christ to think they know all about Him.  They don’t know about living in holiness as an offering or oblation of self to God.  They don’t know that by being stingy with God’s gifts that they dishonor God.  The culture around us tells these valuable people who are precious in the sight of God that all sorts of things are okay which yet dishonor themselves and their God.  The people around us moan and groan in the pains and disappointments of this life but do not have the consolation of the Holy Ghost.  They think that this is all there is.  They don’t think that they are the creatures of a mighty God who loves them, who sent his only-begotten Son into the world to save them.  They thirst for adventure, they hunger for meaning, they thirst for righteousness, when it is all right beneath their nose!

Serving Christ the King is neither comfortable nor convenient.  The only apostle not to be executed, to be martyred, for remaining loyal to Christ was St. John.  That’s a more than 90% mortality rate.  Three days ago I spoke to our missionary bishop of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Militias rage, pillage, and murder across the landscape of that country.  Entire parishes have been wiped out – our brothers, killed, our sisters, raped and killed.  These are not some faraway missionaries, these are Anglican Catholics whose bishop could not save them.  He has a Prayer Book, not an army.

Moslems kill Christians across the globe.  Our Diocese of the South is part of the Original Province.  The Second Province is the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, which keeps alive the traditional Anglican faith in south Asia.  The son of the Archdeacon of Pakistan keeps watch over his father saying Mass.  He holds an AK-47 in his hands lest they are attacked.  We are blessed to have a faithful old soldier keeping watch over our door, and that he does not need to be armed.

To worship Christ our King as good and faithful subjects, we must worship Him, give Him honor in chastity, generosity, and honesty, and receive His Blessed Sacrament.  But to truly honor Christ, we must look after our brothers and sisters in all their difficulties, from flat tires and unexpected pregnancy to war and famine, and attend to their needs.  Indeed, we must look after all those who do not know Christ enough to repent and be saved, by sharing with them the life-giving Gospel of Christ.  We owe our neighbors and brethren these things not for their sake, but for the sake of Him Who sent us, Who poured us out into the world to obey Him and carry His ministry of love and reconciliation to the ends of the Earth.

My children, Angela and I met our brethren from six of the seven continents this past week.  Looking into our American and Canadian dioceses, I can assuredly tell you that we have many wonderful and flavorful priests and lay folk here.  But all of them belong to one of two fundamental kinds of parishes:  Growing or dying.

Growing parishes have vibrant education and spiritual development.  Dying parishes have nothing but coffee hour.  Growing parishes give generously to missions both foreign and domestic.  Dying parishes scrounge and try to keep the lights on.  Growing parishes welcome every stranger who visits them without clinging to them, serving them in their need.  Dying parishes seek more warm bodies to fill essential positions and to give and pay the heating bill.  Growing parishes tend to be optimistic.  Dying parishes recount horror stories from people long gone.  Growing parishes look at new ways to serve their members and the community.  Dying parishes care primarily about their long-time members and preserving things the way they were.

In Deuteronomy, Moses solemnly charged the congregation of Israel:  “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”

 

“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

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

 

Read Full Post »

“A certain man made a great supper.”

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

 

We may read earlier in St. Luke’s Gospel: “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

We are each called to the great supper of the eternal good host.  Yet as we see in the Holy Gospel, not all who are called respond to that call.  The Holy Ghost prompts each and every one of us to respond to the call of God, but we are not all equally responsive.

In the context of Christ’s own time, the original invitation is for the pious Jews, the second invitation to the “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” in the “streets and lanes of the city” is for the impious Jews, and the last invitation to the riffraff out in the “the high-ways and hedges” is for the Gentiles, in other words, folks like us. This is our place in salvation history. Put all together, all the guests who attend become the reconstituted Israel, the new Church.

Considering it thusly, those of us sitting here today would not have identified with the fancy people first invited who rejected their invitations, nor even with the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame who were invited in their stead, but rather with the country bumpkins. We are the bums. But, we are bums invited to an incredible feast. Our thanks and praise should echo from the highest heavens! We who are last are coming to a magnificent banquet which will satisfy our every need, will make us whole, will change our lives.

There is no shame in not being called first so long as one comes when called. Here’s an example of being called first, second, and last.

That part of the universal Church of Christ called the Church of England stopped obeying the Church of Rome in the Sixteenth Century. The Church of England carried on the ministry and work and witness of the one ancient Apostolic and Catholic Church for generations. When England made her colonies, the Church of England was right there with them. St. Paul’s Church downtown was part of the Church of England when she was founded. These American Anglican parishes suffered a break from the Church of England as our nation won her independence and then reconstituted themselves as the Protestant Episcopal Church.

As the Episcopal Church, God’s great banquet was fully spread for generations in America, until most of the members of it made their excuses not to come to God’s great spread.  That was when we, the Anglican Catholic Church, the faithful remnant of the worldwide Anglican Church, sprang forth at the great Congress of St. Louis to continue the apostolic and catholic work of the Anglican Church as handed to us by the Episcopal Church and the Church of England.  The continuation of grace and glory of the Anglican Church as handed to us by the Episcopal Church and the Church of England puts us not in the first call nor the second call, but firmly in the third call.

Although as Christians in general and Anglicans in particular we are part of the last call, yet we have much to learn from those first few who threw away their good invitation.

A great book title I saw many years ago was Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned: But I Have Several Excellent Excuses. There are always excuses if you roll up your sleeves and diligently apply yourself to look for one or are creative enough to invent one.

Back to the Gospel lesson, all who made excuses from attending the great supper did not make sinful excuses. The matters involved were innocent. But, their excuses showed their deep involvement and complicity in the world. The host did not demand that they give up these pursuits, but the invited guests would rather do their business than come to the supper. They did not have to do those things at that time, but they choose to do them then instead of later.

The guests who would not come had different reasons but the same heart: They put themselves first. These things were lawful in themselves, but by the actions of their hearts these things became stumbling blocks. As Father Melville Scott put it, “There is room at the feast, but no room in their hearts.”

In our everyday lives, we have many things which must be done: groceries, work, laundry, family, driving, eating, sleeping, bathing. And these things are all quite decent in themselves. However, each day we suffer the temptation to place these decent things above the things of God, beyond the invitation by God to sup with him. And that is the time when those otherwise good things become stumbling blocks, temptations to serve ourselves before our good God, to put our hand to the plough and look back.

It would be funny if it were not true. Worldly and unimportant things demand our immediate attention when God comes calling. John Wesley said, “The most urgent worldly affairs frequently fall out just at the time when God makes the freest offers of salvation.”

These excuses show how much we are tangled up in owning things and relationships with persons other than God. We cannot hear the call of God amidst all the noise. Invited, the first guests had agreed to come, but when the time came to bathe and dress and set out, they made their excuses. Instead of responding to the call of God, we keep our head down and our mouth busy addressing things of our own interest.

My old professor Luke Timothy Johnson wrote:

“[T]he call of God issued by the prophet must relativize all other claims on life. The parable shows how entanglement with persons and things can in effect be a refusal of the invitation. The demands make clear that the choice for discipleship demands precisely the choice against a complete involvement in possessions or people. There is little that is gentle or reassuring in this.”

This cold realization of our own propensity to wander is good to keep in mind when we consider that God invites us to the greatest feast of all, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every human being is invited to come, and when those who are bidden refuse to come due to their selfish choices, then God will find others to take their place and reject the ones who rejected him. It is not so much that God damns people as people damn themselves. But in the face of the damned, others will be called to take their place, for God would have everyone, even those whom we despise, partake of the great feast.

God says in the Revelation of St. John the Divine: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. xix. 9.)

One of our obligations as Christians is to attend Mass every Sunday.  As a measure of mercy, those who cannot make their Sunday duty may attend a weekday service.  The Lord has prepared the greatest feast ever known – the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself to us for our salvation, not when we asked for it, not when we deserved it, but rather when in the fullness of time He came down from Heaven and was made incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Incarnate means “in the flesh”, but we could more literally read it as “in the meat”.  Christ took on meat for us and then gave us Himself as a holy meal.  Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, disobeying God and bringing the curse of sin and pain and isolation and sickness and disease and separation from God and death upon all our heads.  The New Adam, Jesus Christ the Righteous, came down from Heaven and gave us His very Flesh and Blood as a consecrated meal to counteract and remedy Adam’s Fall.  Christ provides the cure for our grave disease of sin and death, and that cure is found in His very Incarnate Body, wherein God became Man and so saved us all.

Yes, one of the most basic obligations of the Christian is to attend the Holy Eucharist every Sunday.  Yes, sometimes we’re sick; sometimes our car breaks down; sometimes we have work.  But we are obliged to God the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth, to pay attention to the Son of God and partake of the mysteries of His Body and Blood every week.

Now, we do not need to actually eat His Body and drink His Blood every week.  Sometimes we are not in loving-kindness with our neighbors; sometimes we have unrepentant sin.  To eat His Body and drink His Blood when we are willfully engaging in sin and refusing to repent of it is to eat and drink to our damnation.  We rightfully abstain from receiving the Holy Communion when we are out of sorts with God and our fellow man.  Yet as Christians we are obliged to receive Christ’s Body and Blood at least three times a year.  But we give God the glory when we faithfully attend the Holy Mass even when we do not receive.

We must give of ourselves to Him who gave Himself to us. This mutual giving of self is the essence of loving-kindness, the sacrificial love which is the highest and most noble and honorable love of all.

You and I can only invite so many people to our home for a feast lest we run out of room. But the heavenly banqueter can and does invite everybody to the great feast. There is plenty of room for everyone. There is no lack; there is only abundance. The more we promote each other’s happiness, the more happiness there is for everyone. The more we love each other, the more love there is amongst us all. The more we give of ourselves to God and to our neighbor, the more we love in the pureness of loving-kindness. It is here that we best remember, in the words of St. John, that God is love.

Outside of sacred Scripture, I can think of no better words that the words of Blessed George Herbert, Seventeenth-Century Anglican country priest and poet, in his poem, Love (III):

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

 

“A certain man made a great supper.”

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

Read Full Post »