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Posts Tagged ‘Pentecost’

“he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”

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

 

“The Apostles”

What is an apostle?

‘Apostle’ literally means, ‘one who is sent’.  Which raises the questions, sent by whom?  Sent for what?  And sent where?

The apostles are personally commissioned by our Lord Christ.  They continue Christ’s ministry in His Church and the world by proclaiming the Gospel and governing the Church.  The apostles are sent to all the nations of the earth.

Acts ii.42:  “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

The apostles are key to the continuation of Christ in His Church.  The apostles’ doctrine and fellowship are the doctrine and fellowship of Christ.  They spent three intense years under Christ, not merely learning but being formed by Him, walking with Him in His ministry and Passion.  He spent forty further days explaining all they had experienced through in light of the Resurrection.  They were the first given the Holy Ghost in St. John xx.22 and then more broadly in Acts ii.4 along with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The apostles possess grace and authority from Christ Himself, which they then passed on to their successors the bishops as the Church grew.  And the Church here on earth grew rapidly while losing many to martyrdom.

The four marks of the Church are found in the Nicene Creed:  One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  These four characteristics or marks are found in the Nicene Creed.  Unfortunately, due to a printer’s error centuries ago, our Book of Common Prayer omits the word “Holy”.  Every Sunday we proclaim aloud that the Church is Apostolic.  What then is the character of the apostles?

 

First, apostles are humble.

The Gospel shows the Lord chiding the disciples regarding position and lordship.  Instead, Christ shows another way.  “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”  Only the humble may be great in Christ’s kingdom.  They shall rule and lead, but they must serve as they rule.

This is contrary to the way of the world.  Many leaders in the Church have not followed Christ’s path of humility.  But we are called to crucify our old selves and put on Christ.  We must mortify, that is kill off, our old sinful self to put on the Resurrection life of Christ our Lord.

The apostles also continue the ministry of Christ in His Church through their morality and way of life.  The maniple I wear today is derived from the heir of the old deacon’s towel, ready to wipe and to clean.  This humility is also symbolized by the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday, when the bishop or priest kneels before his people.  Our own archbishop ordinary, that is to say our regular bishop, is quite modest in his life and manners.

 

Second, apostles proclaim the gospel.

Apostles are men duly commissioned by Christ who are sent to preach the Gospel to the whole world, carrying with them Christ’s doctrine in humility and love.  This proclamation of the Word of God is central to their character.  All of them, except St. John, died the martyr’s death preaching the Gospel of Christ.  Today’s Saint Bartholomew is said to have been horribly murdered for converting the King of Armenia through Gospel preaching and the great work of exorcism.  We see this emphasis on preaching the Gospel in Christ’s own words, from St. Peter on Whitsunday or Pentecost, and from St. Paul in Corinth.

Christ tells the remaining eleven disciples in St. Matthew xxviii.18-20 to teach the nations:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

When the people of Jerusalem wondered if those gathered in the Upper Room who had been given the Holy Ghost on the feast of Pentecost were drunk, St. Peter answered with mighty preaching.  We read the result in Acts ii.37-42:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

St. Paul refers to his own preaching to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians xv.1-4, in which he preaches the Gospel he himself was taught:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

The successor to the apostles appointed over us here at St. Luke’s Church is Archbishop Mark Haverland.  He will come to visit us this November 2nd.  He will preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, and tend to his flock.  He is the one responsible for our missions both overseas and domestically.  He teaches well and has proven himself to be a staunch and unmovable believer in the Gospel of Christ which he ensures is taught faithfully to you, his faithful people through the likes of me, one of his priests.

 

Third, apostles rule with authority.

Today’s lesson from Acts refers to the wondrous workings of St. Peter, showing that the apostles held healing power comparable to Christ.  St. Paul does similar work later in the Acts.  The apostles work wondrous miracles, they are to be a paradigm of humility according to the Gospel, they preserve the Lord’s doctrine, they form the core of the Church’s fellowship, and they are to become the rulers of Israel.

We ought to remember that the wonderful works and teachings and love shown forth the apostles and their successors are not theirs; they are Christ’s.  Without Christ, none of us can do any good work, can teach God’s honest truth, or love one another and God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds.  All our good works, teaching, and love bear fruit in Christ alone.

The Church today is in continuity with the Apostolic Church through the Apostolic Succession.  Our own bishop has received the ensured Sacramental grace of Holy Order through both touching hands on heads and by practicing today the faith of the early Church.  Our doctrine conforms to the doctrine of the early Church.  If it does not, then we must reform so that it does so conform.

The Church is Apostolic because she keeps the faith delivered to her by Christ through the apostles and the successors of the apostles, the bishops.  Their consecrated touch in the Sacrament of Holy Order freely and certainly bestows the Holy Ghost which enables them to perform the work necessary to their calling.  This is clearly shown by St. Clement before the end of the first Century, conforms to the Holy Scriptures, supported by others immediately afterward, and taught throughout the Catholic Church.

Today’s Gospel shows that the Lord will have the Twelve Apostles judge the tribes of Israel.  As those ministers directly commissioned by Christ to grow the Church which He has planted, the apostles have the authority to rule over the Church.

After Pentecost, the apostles delegate authority to bishops, or overseers.  The Greek word for bishop is episcoposEpi means “over” and skopeo means “to see”.  A bishop oversees the church.  They continue the apostolic rule of those of Christ’s own ministry to Christ’s own Church.

Today, we crave Christ’s ministry amongst us.  Christ knew we would, and so He appointed those who would continue His ministry to the Church.  The apostles and the heirs of the apostles provide this leadership.  They are a great blessing from Christ to us.

The bishops ensure we hear the true Gospel every Sunday.  The bishops ensure every priest is vetted and trained before ordination.  That is why I read the Si Quis this morning, so that if any of you had something the bishop needed to know about Dr. Malone before his ordination, he would hear it.  Bishops convene synods of all the parishes, intervene in disturbed parish situations, discipline the clergy, and try to keep unity with good discipline and proper dogma with other Christian bodies.

 

Ask the holy apostles for their prayers.  They were personally selected by Christ, taught by him, and died for him.  They are alive in Christ in His Body, the Church Triumphant in Heaven.

Pray for your bishop, Archbishop Haverland, and your priests, Father Martin and me.  Christ has given us grace in the Holy Ghost to continue His work amongst his people.  But we are still frail sinful men like yourselves.  Pray that we stay humble, proclaim the true Gospel, and rule with loving-kindness and authority.

 

“he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”

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

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“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

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

 

“Speaking the wonderful works of God”

 

God has spoken to Man throughout the ages.  God communed with Adam in the cool of the morning.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s.  God commanded Noah to build the Ark.  God chose Abraham and sent him on his journey, communicating to his through angels.  God spoke to Moses from the burning bush to lead the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and gave him his sacred Law.  The tabernacle of the Ark of the Covenant signified the presence of God to the priests and people of Israel.

Yet even when the Ark was lost, God still spoke through the prophets of Israel, correcting and admonishing the priests, kings, and people when they grew lax with God’s Law and sought to worship themselves instead of God.  These prophets and the calamities visited upon the Israelites scattered many of them but sharpened and honed others.

Out of these others came Ss. Mary and Joseph, Ss. Elizabeth and Zacharias, and those who waited for the consolation of Israel.  The Son of God the Father became Man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Holy Ghost came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.  God raised a great prophet in the elderly womb of St. Elizabeth.  As her son, St. John the Baptist, preached and prepared those hoping for the restoration of Zion to receive their king, Jesus grew in stature and wisdom until his Baptism by St. John and his ministry amongst the Jews.

Thus we understand the first two verses of Hebrews:  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”

As we have worshipped in the cycle of Holy Church through the preparation for Easter, Pre-Lent and Lent, and thence through Passion Week and Holy Week, worshipping through the Passion, death, Resurrection, and then Ascension of our Lord Christ, so we come to the time Christ promised us:  Pentecost.

WHEN the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Christ gave the Holy Ghost to the Church to hold her accountable to what He taught her.  We are given the Holy Ghost in the Sacraments to bring God’s presence into our lives and accomplish all things necessary for holiness.  The Third Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, instructs us, seals us in the knowledge of God, and preserves the teachings of Jesus Christ.

 

From the Confirmation rite found in the Book of Common Prayer:  “Strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and under-standing, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear,”

Zechariah vii.11-12:  “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.  Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.”

St. John iv.22b-24 “…Salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Romans viii.9-11:  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

I Corinthians ii.9-10, 12:  “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God…. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

 

We are comforted – strengthened – by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit also leads us into all truth.  The two come together in that teaching of Christ, that the Holy Ghost will preserve and keep us in the word of God from Christ.  He “brings all things to remembrance”.

In the Collect, God “didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit” and we beseech God to “Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things”.

Teaching the hearts of the faithful and granting us right judgement are both brought about by the first thing St. Peter does after receiving the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.  He preaches.

He preaches that those who have not heard may hear.  He preaches that those who do not understand may understand.  He preaches that those who fail may be strengthened to succeed.  He preaches that the faithless may find faith.  He preaches that the stout-hearted give glory to God and lead others to glorify God as well.  He preaches by telling the truth that the authorities do not want to be told.  He preaches by speaking the wonderful works of God.

Will you stand up alongside the great apostle and speak the wonderful works of God?

 

“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

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

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“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost”

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

 

Most of us sitting in here and our friends, families, neighbors, and total strangers outside this church are not ready for what is to come.  We will die and be judged.  If we don’t die first, then Christ will return and judge us.  Each and every one of us has offended God and earned the fires of Hell.  Only Christ stands between us and everlasting damnation.

Since we have lived for ourselves and not treated God or our neighbors with pure loving-kindness, that lack of love has prepared us for the pains and separation of Hell.  Since we think that we are always right and think it proper to sit in judgement of our neighbors, we will fit right in there.

The Blood of Christ will get us into Heaven if we call upon His Holy Name and submit our straggly ole selves to dying and being reborn with Him in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  But even when He claims us for His own, we, being the way we are, are in no fit shape to live in the presence of God forever, much less a single day.

For this reason, Christ has ascended into Heaven and ten days later given us the Holy Ghost.  When the disciples walked and talked with Him on earth, they did not have the Holy Ghost.  Christ left them staring up at the sky, and He sent the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth to them in the Upper Room ten days later, on Pentecost, this very day.

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the gathered brethren, the Church.  We celebrate that Christ gave us the Holy Spirit of God to be with us and dwell within us so that we might snap to it and get with the program.  We are not okay the way we are.  We are not ready for Heaven.

Do you think about dying?  Do you think about mortality?  I grew up among churches that held proper funerals with proper viewings.  I knew that my elders died, and that one day, hopefully long in the future, I would join them.  I walked the cemeteries containing the bones of my ancestors.  I visited the grave of my first namesake.  I figured that I would die – one day.

But when I grew up some to be a teenager and looked at the Army and Marines with an increasingly serious eye, I began to reflect on what might happen if I did join up.  I wanted to be a good young man and do right by my country.  If that involved combat, then that would involve death.  If it did not involve my death, it would involve the death of somebody else.  That stopped me cold.  I enjoyed the next few years with cars and girls and kept thinking about that in the back of my mind.

When I finally did swear the oath, I was ready.  I wasn’t a soldier yet, mind you, but I stepped up to be made into one.

When we take up our cross and follow Christ along the path of sorrows up to our own Golgotha, we should know that we are facing death in a mature and adult way.  When we follow the way of Christ, when we keep the faith and run the course, then we are Heaven-bound.  It is better to finish the race dead last than it is to fall out.  We must step up and remain faithful to Christ to the very end.

Our prize is Heaven, and in Heaven we will live with God forever.  But we won’t only live with God forever, we will live with our faithful brothers and sisters who also faithfully ran the course.  We will live with the elect of God forever.  And if we are going to live with our brethren forever, we had better learn some good manners so that we all get along in Christ.

Christ has sent us the Holy Ghost.  We are bought with the death of Christ and are marching on to the heavenly Jerusalem, but we are not ready to live there.

Daddy Hall said of the Holy Ghost:  “He is also the gift of God, and it is by His presence that the Father and the Son are made present in our hearts and operate effectually for our good.”  By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost does the redeeming work of Christ avail us.  In the Holy Ghost, we are made proper children of God.  By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, our very bodies are made temples of Almighty God.  Our own bodies!

Christ says in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  We have a very high bar to meet, and Christ gave us the Holy Ghost to stay with us and in us for our journey here on Earth.  We do not even have to earn our salvation, for Christ has done that for us.  Even as we grow in holiness befitting Heaven, we have the Holy Ghost – who is God, mind you – to dwell within us.

Summarizing St. John, Hall says:  “[The Holy Ghost] is sent by the Son, and it is by His operation that we are made members of Christ and Christ comes to us with saving power.”  Christ is with us through the Holy Ghost.  With the Holy Ghost, we grow ever closer to Christ.

To do anything other than strive hard to improve ourselves into the likeness of Christ is sheer laziness and impudence.  How dare we look our Savior in the eye as He sits in judgement of us on that last great day and say “thank you for saving me” having held back part of ourselves as we tried to skate by with the least we could do!  It’s a disgrace.  It’s an affront.  It puts our sins and contrariness between us and our Lord.  And we will no doubt pay the price for our mouthiness and disobedience in the future.  For those of us going to Heaven, we will be made fit for that beautiful place of light and refreshment whether we like it or not.

The Holy Ghost unifies us with our Savior.  We enter Heaven through the Body of Christ.  That Body of Christ is right here among us right now, in that tabernacle behind that veil.  Christ’s Body is both Man and God which allows us access to eternity and endless loving-kindness.  We enter Heaven through that Body, and in the next few minutes, Christ’s Body will be with us and given to you.  We don’t take Christ’s Body; we receive Christ’s Body.  This is why we cross our palms right over left to make a throne for Christ to dwell upon.  This is why we open our mouths and take Christ’s Body, either from that throne you have made for Him or from the hand of Christ’s priest.  We receive Christ, and in receiving Christ with faith and repentance, we are joined with Christ.  Receiving Christ without faith and repentance damns us to Hell.  It is better to cross our arms in front of our chests and receive a blessing than to eat the Body of Christ unworthily.  The Holy Ghost carries the grace of Christ to us in that most Holy Sacrament, and to receive Christ unworthily dishonors the Holy Spirit of God as well.  But when we receive Christ faithfully and truly, then the Holy Ghost works in us to bring us ever closer to God, purifying us and strengthening us with Heavenly Grace freely given from on high.

A certain modern set of preachers and praise songs will tell you that to fall in love with Jesus is to lose control in the mode of a teeny-bopper or fanboy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Following Christ and being filled with the Holy Ghost enables each one of us to grow into the full stature of the man or woman we are each called to be by God the Father.  We are given the gifts we are given so that we may exercise Christ’s ministry amidst this hurting and fallen world.  We are strengthened with virtues and heavenly power not for us to lose control, not for us to selfishly pursue our own agendas, not to benefit our friends, but instead to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth, to build up Christ’s Church, to help save the lost, to build up and not to tear down, to love one another as Christ loves us.

My sons and daughters, I commend to you this day of Pentecost calling upon God the Holy Ghost to strengthen you in all virtue and help root out all vice from you.  Pray to God the Holy Ghost to confirm and strengthen you in the way of life everlasting.  Ask God the Holy Ghost to guard and ward your way in this life, to convict you of your sins so that you may repent and be forgiven, and to protect you amidst the temptations of our wily enemy.

 

“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost”

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

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“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

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

 

I John v.4-5:  “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Peace comes from overcoming the world; those of us who believe in Christ overcome the world, as Christ has overcome the world.

In today’s Gospel, the words of Christ were directed to His disciples.  The scattering of the disciples cannot take away the peace which Christ gives.  This is like Christ not being alone during His crucifixion because He remained in communion with the Father.

Francis Moloney says that “The oneness between Jesus and the Father is Jesus’ assurance of victory, no matter how convincingly the forces of this world may appear to have won the day in the violence that will terminate Jesus’ life.”

So to His initial disciples Christ says that His victory is so universal and complete that He can promise peace to His troubled and failing disciples.  They are unable to accept His departure, they are unable to remain steadfast at His side, they are unable to keep from losing hope, and yet they possess the peace of Christ.  Obviously, this peace does not look like the peace of the world with which we are familiar.

The scattering of the disciples is akin to inexcusable failure among us.

Amidst our own failures, even amidst our own death, when we are so very alone and no one else present shares what we are going through, we are not alone; Christ is with us.  We worry so much about our present cares and worries, about the messes of our families and ourselves, about the pain and consternation others experience that we forget about the example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who when He hung alone on the hard wood of the Cross enjoyed mystic communion with God the Father in Heaven and was by no means alone.  He is our salvation; He is our communion with God the Father in Heaven.  When we are with Him, we are never alone, we are entirely at peace; there is no force in the world, no sin, no temptation, no devil, no enemy that can disrupt us.  If the connection relied upon our own feeble miserable powers, then we would have much to fear.  We should tremble and shake and jump at our own shadow, for death and disgrace would be ready to jump us at any time.  But not so with Christ!  He has won the victory!  He tells us, “I have overcome the world.”  Not just the evil forces of the world, not just the natural calamities of the world, not just the wicked hearts of men who rule the world, but He has overcome the world and all that therein is.  He is supremely victorious.  Christ has defeated death itself.

In ancient classic stories, we read about heroic deeds.  Prometheus stole fire from the gods.  Beowulf slew Grendel.  Hercules killed the Hydra.  But Christ defeated death.  And unlike Prometheus, Beowulf, and Hercules, Christ is a historical figure of antiquity, born a Jew in the Roman Empire and judged by Pilate.  Christ defeated death.  Unless He returns in the Second Advent before our death, we will have to suffer our own personal death.  But as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Christ has been there before us, and He will be there with us as we ourselves go.  Even in death, we will not be alone.  Even in death, we will have the peace of God.

The peace of man is peaceful and restful indeed.  When we receive a good night’s sleep, we enjoy a bit of worldly peace.  Nothing stirs us.  Our dreams are lovely.  We awake refreshed.  We do not feel well rested every night, but when we do, we have experienced a bit of worldly peace.

As a child, I fished for bream with a cane pole beside my grandfather.  The occasional breeze through the still hot air, song of a bird, and ploop from the lake when a turtle moved were all I could hear.  We sat in silence; we sat in peace.  I remember those days, and I miss those days.  Fishing with my grandfather was lovely.  But it brought me only a peace of this world.

To look for a deeper peace, I consider my days as a hospital chaplain in the Labor and Delivery ward.  The anxiety, pain, and weariness of the ladies before their child was delivered stay with me.  But I remember many mothers on the other side of their labor.  With exhausted but peaceful smiles, they could hardly take their eyes off their babies.  Mother and child had both passed successfully through the hours of agony and travail.  The mother was no longer expecting; the child who was so long expected was now with the family.  Like a nativity scene, family members and friends and nurses gathered around to adore the mother and child.  The whole child’s life lies before them, with trials and problems and restless nights.  Yet the danger and pain of childbirth has ended.  New life is out into the world.  Tomorrow’s challenges are for tomorrow; today she may rest from her labors.  And yet even this peace, this lovely and blessed peace, is still of this world.

Christ promises a peace which transcends our experience and our imagination.  If we dismiss this peace or consign it to some worldly meaning, then we do it and the bringer of it, Christ Jesus, a disservice.  The peace of God is not necessarily a peace of rest, of comfort, and of recuperation.  The peace of Christ exists when the disciples break discipline and scatter before the enemies of Christ, even though Christ has overcome the world.  This peace of Christ is not dependent upon us, but upon Christ.  This peace of Christ is not brought about by our good works or serene thoughts.  This peace does not come from within.  This peace comes from without; it comes from Christ, as Christ comes from God the Father in Heaven.

When we attempt to build peace for ourselves, we build it on top of things which can neither bear such a tremendous weight nor such a precious cargo.  We build our peace atop a pile of money for financial security.  We build our peace atop a pile of family whom we love and who will support us when we need them.  We build our peace atop a church service that feels comfortable to us instead of one that truly proclaims the Word of God.  We build our peace atop a sense of well-being that accompanies a privileged place in our society, a gentleman, a veteran, a mother, a priest.  We build our peace atop good things that cannot bear the weight, and since they cannot bear the weight, our peace is a lie that is about to crumble beneath and overthrow us.  Only when our peace is built upon the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ, do we have someone unassailable and sturdy to rely entirely upon.

Peace is promised to us in Holy Scripture.  In Isaiah (ix.6) we read:  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Earlier in St. John’s Gospel (xiv.27), Jesus says:  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

St. Paul writes in Philippians (iv.6-7):  “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

We have this peace; we must adjust ourselves to Christ so that we may feel this peace and use it in our lives; we must stop resisting God’s love and plan for us so that we might grow into the mature Christian adults He wants us to be, so that we might enjoy Heaven with Him and serve as a light to this broken and distressed world so that we might bring Christ to others.

Christ’s peace was based upon the unshakable rock of God the Father.  Our hope likewise is to rest on Christ, unshakeable rock that He is, Who has overcome the world and defeated death itself.  We can face anything if we rest in Christ, for what can shake us?  What can move us?  Poor Job did not know Christ when he faced his catastrophes, yet he still had faith in God.  Death cannot break our peace and overthrow us, for Christ is our rock and our salvation and He has defeated death.  The loss of our riches, our families, our homes, our friends all cannot assail the peace of God, because his peace is not predicated upon such secondary goods; it is founded squarely upon Christ Himself.

This is why we love Christ more than our children or our spouses.  Like it or not, we will one day lose our children and our spouses, but we need never lose Christ.  Like it or not, one day we will be separated from that money, but we need never lose Christ.  We may go blind and never see another sunset; our senses of taste and smell might fail so that we never enjoy our favorite meal again.  We may go deaf and not be able to hold a conversation with those around us.  But we need never lose Christ.  If Satan and his evil angels and all the powers of Hell were to assail you when you got home this afternoon, for all the harm and foulness he could do to you, he could never, no not ever, take Christ away from you.  We are absolutely unassailable in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Nobody can ever take away our Baptism and our salvation.  Nobody can strip away from us our Confirmation and the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost.  Others can take away our property, our freedom, and our lives, but they cannot strip from us our salvation and ultimate peace in Jesus Christ.

Christ has overcome the world, and therein is why the disciples have peace.  Christ has left us to Ascend to the Father, and we are broken and pitiful men and women.  Yet we have the deepest peace there is:  unity with Christ and thereby with the Father, and soon, at Pentecost, with God the Holy Ghost.  We are deeply and profoundly united with God through Christ and in the Holy Ghost.  Amidst the pains and harrowing suffering of this wicked world wherein the Prince of this world has authority, we live with God even now, we have peace even now.

 

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

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

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“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

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

 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….”  Christ instructs the disciples that the Holy Ghost will become their teacher after He leaves them.  In leading them into all truth, the Holy Ghost will not teach new doctrine, because Christ Himself is all truth.  Rather, God’s continuing revelation of himself profoundly entered upon in Christ’s first Advent will not end but indeed continue after Christ’s Ascension after His Resurrection.

Christ promises in St. John viii.31-32:  “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  In accordance with Christ’s promise, the Holy Ghost speaks to and instructs us of the things of Christ, who received all He had from the Father.  Within the accord of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is all truth and goodness.  The Holy Ghost will lead us in the path of truth in accord with the promise of Christ.

What does this guidance look like which Christ has promised in the Holy Ghost?  A Scriptural example of being guided in the truth is found in the Acts of the Apostles viii.31:  The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Scripture without understanding it.  When St. Philip observed that he was reading Scripture, he asked the eunuch if he knew what it meant.  The Ethiopian replied, “‘How can I, except some man should guide me?’ And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”  St. Philip sat down with the reader of Scripture and showed him, guided him in understanding what it meant.  The apostle was not the Scripture, but showed him how to understand the Scripture.  This is an example of guiding in the knowledge of God.

Sometimes we experience fresh insight into the things of God or we “hear God’s voice” instructing and comforting us in our lives, perhaps in our distress.  We ought to be extraordinarily wary of attributing any internal thought or feeling to God the Holy Ghost.  Yet truly we might be hearing from the Holy Ghost.  We must ask ourselves:  “Is this thought or feeling in one accord with Christ and His Church?”  If not, then we ought to reject attributing the authority of God to what we have experienced.  But if it is in accord with Christ and His teaching, then we may carefully and humbly attribute it to God the Holy Ghost for our personal edification and instruction.  Let us remember that my particular inspiration is for me, and it is not for me to teach or instruct you.  For our common instruction, we have Holy Scriptures and the official dogma of Holy Church our mother.

 

Now, the Holy Ghost does not speak “for” himself, but on behalf of Christ.  Keeping in mind that he speaks not for himself but for Christ, let us look at St. John xii.49:  “For I [Christ] have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”  Again in St. John xiv.10:  “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”

What Christ says about the Holy Ghost speaking on behalf of Him, Christ also says about Himself concerning the Father.  The Holy Ghost speaks for Christ, and Christ speaks for the Father.  Both the Holy Ghost and the Son of God do not speak for themselves but on behalf of another person of the Holy and ever-blessed Trinity.

Each person of the Holy Trinity is at unity with each other.  There is no division within God; there is no division within the three Persons of God.  The First Article of Religion, found in our Prayer Book, states that “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions;” and “in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost only speaks what the Son tells Him.  Christ says, “All things that the Father hath are mine:”  All that the Son has is from the Father.  Each member is in unity with each other; there is only one God.  When we are led and guided by the Holy Ghost, we are being led and guided by God.

 

Intriguingly, Christ says in today’s Gospel that the Holy Ghost “will shew you things to come.”  Does the Holy Ghost act like a sorcerer, giving us peaks into the future?  Will he give us next week’s lottery numbers?  Is this some strange new doctrine?  No.

We do not need knowledge of the future; what we need is a fuller understanding of the things of Christ.  Some of the things of Christ we will not understand or recognize in importance until future things come to pass for us, and at that time, the Holy Ghost will still be there for us and guiding us into all truth.

In the past, Christ sent his disciples the Holy Ghost after He left them.  And in the future, Christ will come again in power and great glory for the Last Judgement.  The time when the Holy Ghost will be with us is an interim time between the first and second Advents of Christ.

We should have great confidence because we are being led by the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.  We are not alone.  He shall “shew you things to come” – this is an on-going relationship we have with him, and he will be with us along our journey.  We can count on it, for Christ told us it is so.

We live in the tension between the gift of today and the promise of tomorrow.  Christ will come again; but we are also told to live thoroughly into the day we have been given.  Christ says in St. Matthew vi.34:  “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Unlike some Eastern and New Age religions, the Christian religion is one of both today and tomorrow.  We are not to live a moral life today so that we may live in Heaven tomorrow, we are to live in the presence of God all the time.  Today we live in the presence of God the Holy Ghost, tomorrow we live in the presence of the Son of God when He returns, and forever we live with God the Father in Heaven.  Thus, today we feel an inherent tension in living the Christian life.

The Holy Ghost directs the Bride of Christ, the Church, on this side of death until Christ returns.  He teaches no new doctrine, but explains us Christ’s doctrine as the ages roll by.  For instance, now we have more explicit notions of salvation through faith and the apostolic succession.  As new challenges face us, the Holy Ghost through the teaching office of Holy Church illumines Christ’s teachings so that we can face these new challenges, such as environmental pollution, embryonic stem cell research, and artificial birth control.

 

The Holy Ghost leads us into all truth.  The Holy Ghost does not speak for himself, but on behalf of Christ, Who in turn speaks of what the Father has given Him.  And the Holy Ghost will accompany us, speaking through the Church and in our hearts, from the day of Pentecost until the day Christ returns again.

 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

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

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