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Posts Tagged ‘St. Luke’

Jesus “saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”

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

 

This verse exemplifies the theme of utter renunciation found throughout the Gospels.

Fishing was a prominent industry in the Sea of Galilee, so Ss Simon and Andrew were leaving behind a stable and prosperous future.  Here, the brothers leave their livelihood behind to follow our Lord.  In a moment of decision, they left their nets and followed Christ.

“Follow me!” is a manly command from Christ.  Indeed, Follow Me is the proper name of the statue we called Iron Mike at Fort Benning, of a Korean-War-era soldier leading men into combat.

St. Andrew and his brother could support themselves and their families with their fishing, but making a living differs from making a life.  They left their nets and followed the Living God to a more meaningful existence.  They became fishers of men and bold missionaries eventually martyred on their missions.  They did not follow a school of thought or pious notion but a Man, a divine Person, the Son of God, their friend Jesus.

St. Gregory the Great, a pope devoted to missions and St. Andrew wrote:

Peter and Andrew had seen Christ work no miracle, had heard from him no word of the promise of the eternal reward, yet at this single bidding of the Lord they forgot all that they had seemed to possess, and ‘straightway left their nets, and followed Him.’

We see this ready obedience to instantly follow Christ in the New Testament.

Further along in the Gospels of St. Mark (x.28) and St. Luke (xviii.28) we read :  “Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.”

St. Luke shows Christ calling various men.  In ix.59:  “And he said unto another, Follow me.”  (St. Luke ix.61-62):  “And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.  And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Christ demands our obedience to His call.  Each of us must make a decision to the command given to Ss Peter and Andrew.  Consider St. Luke xii.20, after the rich man accumulated great wealth:  “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee:”

One of my personal favorite verses of Scripture is from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians vi.2.  Quoting Isaiah il.8, he writes:  “(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”

 

That now of immediacy is an interesting thing.  In that moment, that now, you can hold your breath, you can stand still, but you cannot keep it.

The now, that moment when swimming in which you are present, but within the flow of movement from what has been to what will be.  Each moment when swimming, you can feel the water flow over your skin, you can feel the resistance of the water as you move forward.  But each moment is a snapshot of our lives in time.  How can we feel the flow of our bodies in the water in a moment?  This is a paradox.

We follow Christ in a moment of immediacy amidst a journey with Him.  The now is not isolated; it is but a moment of our lives:  This moment, this most important moment.

 

Also consider what we do with our hearts and with our bodies.  When President Carter said he had lusted in his heart, he thereby acknowledged that he had effectively committed adultery in the eyes of God.  For we are culpable for what we have done in our hearts.

While you and I may not have been called to renounce our family and work to follow Christ, we ought to be willing to do so in our hearts.  He who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom of God.  Yet many a farmer keeps ploughing with his body whilst following Christ in his heart.

You and I may not be called to shed our blood for Christ, as St. Andrew and his holy brother did.  Yet we ought to be willing to do.  Each moment is the moment we ought to turn to our Lord and follow Him.

 

As our hearts wander from our Lord, so must we turn back to Him.  We always do this in our now.  This very moment is always the moment to return to Him.  As we slip and fall along the way, so must we accept the Lord’s help in picking us up and setting us back on His path.

1 St. John i.8-9:  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We cannot confess the sins we are currently committing, for we have not turned from them.  But if we confess our past sins now, we head off into a future of righteousness in Christ.  We must drop what we are doing and follow Him.

 

Jesus “saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”

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

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“WATCH thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”

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

 

“The work of the evangelist”

Why do we sing the Gospel during the Mass?  Why do we stand when it is proclaimed?  Why do we sometimes process the Gospel out amongst the congregation to proclaim it?  Why must the Gospeller be in Holy Orders?

We read in Isaiah lii.7:  “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”

Beautiful feet?  That sounds over the top.  Yet over-the-top is how we proclaim the Gospel both here at St. Luke’s and in catholic churches around the world throughout the ages.

St. Luke’s Gospel tells the story of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, from before His Annunciation till His Ascension into Heaven.  His is the Greatest Story Ever Told, and our patron saint, St. Luke the Evangelist, is one of the sacred four who told the story so that the rest of us might hear it.

 

The patron saint of our parish wrote almost as much of the New Testament as Saint Paul.  He is the only Gentile who wrote one of our Gospels.  According to Colossians iv.14, we know that he was a physician.  As a doctor and writer of a Gospel, he is considered the patron saint of doctors and healers.  His sign as evangelist is the ox with wings, giving us the name of our newsletter, the Winged Bull.

He is also the patron saint of artists.  During the Middle Ages, many Guilds of St. Luke encouraged and defended artists in important cities in Rome, Flanders, and across Europe.  Here at our parish, our Creative Christians group continues this tradition by encouraging both Christian art and Christian artists.

But St. Luke did not only write a Gospel leaving us inspired depictions of the life of the Blessed Mother, our Lord Christ, and the early Church.  St. Luke also did the work of an evangelist by journeying with St. Paul on at least two of his mission trips, staying with him in Rome.  Our patron is counted among the Seventy who Christ commissioned and sent out to do ministry in today’s Gospel lesson.

 

St. Luke wrote his Gospel in Greek, helping spread the Good News of Christ throughout the pagan Gentile world of the First Century.  The Early Church suffered greatly for proclaiming the Gospel.  St. Paul and all the Apostles save St. John met their Lord in the martyr’s death.

And lest we think that the persecution of Christians is a bygone practice, this Wednesday we celebrate the faithful Christian witness of eight Anglican clergymen whom the Japanese killed for preaching the Gospel in occupied New Guinea during World War II.  Tens of thousands of priests and millions of faithful Christians died at the hands of the Communists in Russia and elsewhere in the Twentieth Century.  The Moslems have killed far more over the centuries, and they are still at it today.

Closer to home, we hear rumblings of persecution.  I warned in my annual report last year of coming troubles.  As St. Peter writes in his first epistle, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

This week, news came out of Houston, Texas which has troubled the hearts and minds of many Christians.  Let us look into what the facts are:

The city council and mayor of Houston passed an ordinance which would permit women to use men’s bathrooms and men women’s bathrooms and allowing people to file complaints with the city government if they are not allowed to use the bathroom they want.

Houston preachers and others organized a petition for a referendum to overturn the ordinance at the November election.  The city government claimed that too many of the signatures were not valid and refused to schedule the vote.  Christian activists then sued the city to accept the signatures and thus the petition and put the ordinance to the vote.

In response, the city’s lawyers issued subpoenas to five conservative preachers to hand over sermons to determine of any preaching related to homosexuality, so-called gender identity, or even the mayor.  A subpoena is a legal writ compelling someone to appear before court or to surrender documents to the court.  These preachers would now have to surrender to a law court any sermon mentioning any of these topics.

The mayor has asked if the preachers gave instructions on how to sign the petition.  The city attorneys hold that the subpoenas are valid because the preachers worked to organize the repeal petition and are thus pertinent to the case.

Both conservative and liberal ministers have spoken out against the subpoenas.  There has been a public outcry over the city’s actions.  An interdenominational coalition of over 400 churches in Houston have opposed these subpoenas.  This local action has sparked national debate.  Some pastors have refused to hand over sermons.

The mayor and city attorney then agreed that the original subpoenas were too broad.  New subpoenas have now been drawn up which do not ask for sermons, but rather for speeches and presentations, and do not ask about homosexuality, but still ask for other things besides those on the petition.

You may ask what a conservative pastor’s PowerPoint presentation on the ordinance has to do with the validity of the signatures on the petition.  The answer is:  Nothing.  The city’s attorneys are still reaching beyond the appropriate legal necessity at hand, which has the effect of threatening the free speech of the preachers and the public practice of religion by the ministers of Christians.

A Christian – or another religion’s – minister preaching, speechifying, or presenting on the sexual nature of God’s Creation and on the divinely ordained morality which faithful people must practice are not crimes, do not threaten the state, and indeed support the wholesomeness, integrity, and the commonweal of the people.

The representatives of free American citizens are not called to sift through the words of religious leaders, looking for sedition.  The city is not a political organization which cannot tolerate dissent.  The governmental structures of this world have no legitimate role in approving or disapproving the voice of the Bride of Christ.  Our American governments have no legitimate role in intimidating preachers or believers.

 

We Continuing Anglicans directly descend from those who were quickened with zeal by the Assize Day Sermon by Blessed John Keble at St. Mary’s Church in Oxford, in which he publicly from the University Pulpit criticized the Whig-controlled Parliament for reducing the number of bishops in Ireland without the approval of the Church of Ireland.  As your priest and rector, I stand in a very long line of bishops and priests who have criticized the state when the state has had the worldly effrontery to admonish and attempt to control Holy Mother Church.

This very day last year, Archbishop Haverland sat right there and in the words of our Book of Common Prayer challenged me “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.”

It would certainly please many people if we decided that we would ignore the things of God and whole-hearted accept the things of man.  But that would be forsaking God by making us pleasing to men, and I have been told not to be a “man-pleaser”.

My wife once saw a person wearing button which answered an unasked naughty question with “No thanks, I’d rather go to heaven.”  We lives our lives in this world, oftentimes forgetting that our lives are given to us by our good God in Heaven.  We may choose to do many things.  But we will be called to divine judgement one day.  All choices are not the same.  Some are right, and some are wrong.  When we are enticed, seduced, and tempted to make a wrong choice, it is good for us to say, “No thanks, I’d rather go to Heaven.”

I know you.  I know that most of you won’t budge if this Houston business happened here.  You know me.  You know that I won’t budge if this happened here.  We know our archbishop.  We know that he won’t budge if this happened here.

And this hasn’t happened here in Augusta.  Indeed, we elected a preacher of the Gospel as our mayor.  But this has now happened in these United States.  My dear children of God, I would rather you live your lives in peace, but I tell you this day that we will soon be facing worse, and not just in Texas, but here on the banks of the Savannah River.  Our sister parish across the river, All Saints’, Aiken, witnesses to the Gospel in a state where a Federal court might force their county to issue marriage licenses to people of the same sex.  Dark days are coming.

We here at St. Luke’s will continue to preach the Gospel of Christ our Lord, especially to those who need to hear it.  Many stories are told of the old Roman martyrs, some of whom are named in our Mass, who witnessed to their tormenters and executioners to great effect, converting souls in the Holy Name of Jesus.

If anyone in this world wants to know what I preach, come here to St. Luke’s most any Sunday at 10:30 and hear for himself.  I even put my sermons up on a webpage.  I would love for everyone out there to hear me preach about our Lord and Savior!

The government can hear our public proclamation.  Those who try to order us about and deny us our freedom both to practice and proclaim the True Religion of Christ are the ones who need to hear it the most.  We shall not back down.  St. Luke our patron did not back down.  St. Paul did not back down.  Fr. Keble did not back down, and neither did the faithful gathered together at the Congress of St. Louis in 1977.

We at St. Luke Church are uniquely positioned to proclaim the Holy Gospel to souls in peril here in Augusta as the times grow darker.  We preach the unadulterated truth, the whole Gospel, all the Sacraments, without Roman and Eastern doctrinal accretions, and we do so in the traditional language of this nation.

Everything St. Luke wrote was to tell other souls about Christ.  He commended Christ to everyone at all times.  He wrote down timeless truths about our Lord that the other Evangelists did not record.  When we stand under the name of the Evangelist St. Luke, we stand for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And like St. Luke, we are not only to sit down and tell other people about Christ, but we are to get up and tell people face to face, traveling to them to share the good news of Christ our Lord.

 

After St. Paul says in today’s epistle, “WATCH thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry”, he continues and says “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”

The day is coming when we will have to answer for our faith in Christ.  That day may come when we draw our last breath and slip beyond the veil of this mortal life, when we will face the individual judgement.  Jesus will look at each of us and know what we have done with the life He suffered and died to save, that life which the Holy Ghost bestowed with graces.

Or the day is coming when someone out there will make us chose to follow the world or to follow Christ.  Maybe someone will try to seduce you into sexual sin.  Maybe a crook will tempt you to help him commit a crime.  Maybe your own elected government will coerce you to deny Christ and follow the popular godless way.

Will you stay the course and profess your faith in Christ when your livelihood and social standing are threatened?  Will you stay the course and profess your faith in Christ when your life is required of you?  What will you say when they come to coerce you to renounce your faith?  Are you able to say that today?

 

“WATCH thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”

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

 

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“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

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

 

Being Sent

THE same day at evening, being the first day of the week….  This first verse shows that the Church has gathered and worshipped together on the Lord’s Day beginning with that very first Easter.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John whom the Romans martyred in AD 117, wrote in his Epistle to the Magnesians:

“…those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death….”

The Vigil of Sunday is Saturday night, so there was likely some stages in between our neighbors’ synagogue worship on Saturday morning and our Church worship on Sunday morning.  The Vigil of Easter takes place on Saturday evening, which is the third Jewish liturgical day of Christ’s death.  The Jewish day begins at nightfall.  But the day Christians worship is invariably Sunday.

The doors were shut can also be translated the doors were locked.  St. John says here that the disciples feared the Jews, but they feared the Romans as well.  Their leader, the Christ, had been taken from them.  They were afraid.  If we no longer had Christ, if we lost faith in Christ, we too would be afraid.

Today we keep our church doors unlocked so that anyone off the street (we earnestly hope!) might come in and worship God with us.  But the disciples kept their doors shut and locked to protect themselves from danger.

In other parts of the world, Christian congregations have to post guards.  In one of our parishes in Pakistan, the priest’s son keeps guard with an AK-47 in case Moslem terrorists attack.  Our parishes in the Congo have faced attack, and at least one of them has been completely wiped out – raped and murdered.  We ought to give thanks to our good God that we do not have such problems here.  While being thankful, we should also remain vigilant that such attacks upon the peaceful practice of religion are defended against here.

Peace be unto you is a standard rabbinical greeting.  But it is also used in Judges vi.23 and Daniel x.19 when angels visited the frightened Gideon and Daniel.  Since the disciples are afraid, Christ speaking this privileged religious greeting to them is most appropriate.

As with Gideon and Daniel, the moment of this greeting is important.  Christ is declaring His peace to His disciples.  Christ, being God made man, who was killed and yet triumphed over the grave, has created an eschatological peace, a peace for the end of time, a peace for the disciples and all others as well.

The terrors and sorrows of death, of sickness, of grief are put to bed with their defeat by our King and our God.  We are promised the peace that passeth all understanding.  This peace is not a simple hello; it is not just a comfort and joy amidst grief and fear; no, this peace is a deep permanent peace which will follow you to the grave and out the other side into Resurrection!

Earlier in St. John xiv.27, Christ 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.”  Peace here is not a worldly peace which is a mere respite from trouble; this is an eternal peace which is a gift from Heaven.  With the reception of the Holy Ghost, Christ’s peace becomes something that not only lives inside each of disciples but which they take out into the world.

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.  Later in verse 25, Christ shows the disciples the nail holes in His hands and the lance wound from His side.  Christ comes to them, gives them His peace, and shows these frightened disciples His sacred wounds.

St. Luke xxiv.39 mentions His hands and feet.  Two hands plus two feet plus one side equals the five wounds of Christ.  If you cross yourself with your hand flat, you are using all five fingers.  Upon my ordination, I changed how I held my hand when I crossed myself so to remember the five wounds of Christ, the wounds Christ suffered when He gave Himself up for me and for you.

After years of modern scholars dismissing the nailing of feet by Romans during First-Century crucifixions, archaeological evidence was found in 1968 showing nail holes in the ankles of one crucified.  As to the objection that nails in the hands would not have held victims up, both the Greek and Hebrew words for hands could also refer to wrists and forearms or lower legs.  The five wounds of Christ are real, despite what skeptics and non-traditional Christians say.  Christ suffered those for us, died, and then rose again.  Here in today’s Gospel, the disciples see it for themselves with their own eyes, and St. John bears testimony to this across nineteen hundred years.

Christ shows the disciples His Body, showing the physical evidence of the continuity of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  Theologically, we understand that the Resurrection completes the Crucifixion.  Liturgically, Easter follows Good Friday.  But Christ shows our spiritual ancestors physical evidence of the bodily continuity of Christ’s Body in life, in death, and in Resurrection.

Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.  Of course they were!  Imagine their emotions as their human minds tried to sort out the miraculous workings of God.  Their hearts had been up, down, and all around those last few days.  Now, they have proof that their Christ Who died on the Cross was the very same Who stood before them in the flesh — alive!  The wounds proved it so.

And now, St. John switches terms.  After the Resurrection, St. John begins referring to Christ in His Gospel as the Lord.  Christ is our Lord.  We know that.  But for those who walked with Him for years, they had to learn that.

And lest we forget, those around us who do not have the sweet consolation of Christ in their lives must also learn for themselves that Christ is the Lord.  They will watch you.  They might imitate you, especially if they are children.  They might test you if they are family or friends.  But either way, they will watch you for signs of the Resurrection life in your life.

If you see Christ, if you see Him in life, if you visit Him in His Passion, if you watch Him die, if you mourn for Him, and then if you rejoice in His Resurrection and accept the Peace of the Lord, then you will be different, and those out hurting and grieving in this sinful and broken world will see that difference for themselves.  And with God’s grace, they will want to share in that Resurrection life as well.

As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  This closely parallels St. John xvii.18, when Christ prays to the Father, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”  The word apostle means one who is sent.  The disciples in a sense become apostles here, for they shall bear Christ into the world.  They continue the mission of God the Son into the world.  Christ bears witness to the Father, and the apostles bear witness to the Son.

The continuation of the Resurrection is the evangelization of the entire world.  Our sharing the Good News is an extension of Christ’s Resurrection.  The living out in our lives loving-kindness and communion with God brings forth Christ’s Resurrection into the lives of those who did not experience it themselves.  We continue, we carry on, that which has been given to us.  Like as we have mothers and fathers, so we bring forth children who themselves become fathers and mothers.  I may not have earthly children, but I may have spiritual children.  Likewise, he who has earthly children may be destitute of spiritual children.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them….  God breathes the breath of life into Adam in Genesis ii.7.  Some ancients at that time held that the breath of a holy man had great power.  Christ certainly has great power.

The filioque clause of the Nicene Creed which we say every Sunday means from the son.  The Creed in its Western revised form we use says that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and from the Son.  This verse is evidence that the Holy Ghost does in fact proceed forth from the Son, but not necessarily in the same way as from the Father.  We could change the Creed back to the way it was and drop this and be fine, but we are not incorrect in saying that the Son sends the Holy Ghost into the world.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost:  But wait:  The Holy Ghost comes upon the Apostles and Blessed Virgin Mary at Pentecost according to St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles!  What does this mean?

The Second Council of Constantinople, being the fifth Ecumenical Council, condemned the view of Theodore of Mopsuestia.  Theodore held that Christ did not really impart the gift of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles on the night of Easter.  This is contradicted right here in St. John’s Gospel.

St. John Chrysostom preached that this gift of the Holy Ghost empowered the forgiveness of sins while the gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost in Acts gave “the power to work miracles and raise the dead.”  Others have made different suggestions, but the fact here is that He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.  Christ gives the Holy Ghost to those who will preach His Gospel and …

Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.  This Authorized Version translation wisely shows these sentences in passive voice.  That is, these things are done, but it does not say who does the doing of them.  This is important, for when a priest says that he forgives you your sins, technically he is authoritatively declaring that your sins are forgiven.  And they are forgiven.

But God is the actor, not the priest, not the apostle.  When a bishop as the successor of the apostles, and priests as his parish agents, forgive sins or do not forgive sins, then so those sins are forgiven or not forgiven.  But the apostle, the bishop, and the priest are agents of God, and God is the one who completes the action.  This is the Sacramental grace of Penance or Confession.

The role of the forgiveness or retention of sins, as well as of binding and loosing, directly supports the command to take the Gospel to all nations, to be sent as Christ has been sent.  The world is to be freed from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Souls will be saved, people will be liberated, sins will be forgiven, and loving-kindness shall rule all relationships upon the preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ!

 

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

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

 

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“And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”

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

 

 

“They forsook all”:  Ss. Peter, James, and John respond to Christ by giving up their belongings, their work tools, and their livelihood to go and follow Christ.  To follow Christ means not only to go where He goes, but also implies a commitment that overrides all other ties.  Elsewhere in the New Testament and St. Luke, the call to discipleship is responded to by a leaving of things behind.

St. Luke xiv.26-27:  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

In Acts ix.15-16, the Lord says to Ananias about Saul:  “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

We are not all called to give up all the physical means which support us in this life.  But the example of Christ’s disciples here is for each one of us.  We must understand that all we have comes from Him; our plenteousness, our comfort, our good life, our next meal, our paycheck or retirement check comes from Almighty God.  We may not see it that way, but that is our false vision and not the truth.  We must realize that we are to trust wholly upon Christ, that we are to rely upon Him, that we are to hold Him as our fundamental relationship.  All that we have is so much garbage without Christ, for all our earthly treasure will be worth nothing in our life eternal.  When we realize this, when we feel it, when we are as sure of it as our own name and our next breath of air, then we know that we could leave it all behind in an instant and follow Christ.  We are probably not called to offer all that we have up for Him, but we must all be willing to sacrifice everything we have to keep our relationship with Christ.

In the Old Testament, we learn of how much God expects of us and how much the Patriarchs would give him.

Genesis xxii.9-12:  “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

Abraham willingly offered his only son Isaac to God and was stayed from killing him only by an angel of the Lord.  God wanted Abraham to know that he entirely relied upon, trusted, and obeyed God before God gave him the blessing of a great multitude of descendants.

You and I may not be called to give our all to God, but we must be willing to do so if we are so called.  Those heroes of the Christian faith, those monks and nuns and friars and sisters, they give up their worldly goods to leave behind the life of plenty and embrace poverty.

For tertiaries in our Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion, that is, laypeople and clergy who do not leave the world but try to live after the example of Brother Francis in their regular lives, instead of giving up property and embracing poverty, they embrace simplicity.  They do not own vacation homes and fancy cars.  They live on what they need and freely give of what they do not.

As not all of us are called to embrace poverty, not all of us are called to embrace simplicity either.  But we are called absolutely to trust in Christ and to give generously to the Church and to the poor.  Indeed, this is one of the six essential Duties of Churchmen.  You can pick up the St. Augustine Prayer Book in the middle rack of your pew and turn to the bottom of page eight.  I’m not making this up.

The disciples forsook all and followed Christ.  We are also to follow Christ.  Our internal disposition towards Christ influences the outward disposition of our property.  At the absolute minimum, we are each required to give support to our Holy Mother the Church and to the poor.  At the absolute most, we are called to renounce the world and give away all our possessions.  In between, we are expected to tithe.

The tithe is ten percent of our income given to the support of church and for the poor.  For many American Christians, this ten percent is not sacrificial and should be given without any conditions to the parish.  Everyone is welcome to give of their abundance for special projects and particular ministries, but for all those who are well outside of poverty themselves, these special gifts are to be given over and above one’s tithes.  Now, this is not absolute.  But to not tithe to one’s parish when one has the means is remarkably stingy.  The tithe is a typically adequate gift of our property to our generous God who gave us his only-begotten Son to die on the Cross for our salvation.  To give gifts to be used in one’s favorite ministry or special project when one is capable of tithing and does not displays a fundamental misunderstanding of one of our most basic duties as Christians.  Just like people who display a fundamental misunderstanding of our other basic duties – Sunday attendance at worship every week, regular communion, keeping one’s conscience clean, obeying the Church’s law of marriage, and keeping the fasts of the Church – people who willfully neglect giving to the parish and to the poor within their means need to repent of their wickedness.

But in any case, we see the disciples giving up their means of making a living and following Christ.  We do not see everyone in the crowd which He has been teaching make the same commitment.  Not everyone is to surrender all they have.  Indeed, for a working man to give up the tools of his trade and leaving his family in the lurch would be a very naughty thing indeed.  Instead, we must be willing to surrender all we have.  We all need to take up our cross and follow Christ.  We do not know where He will take us.  We cannot see the future.  When we see a Baptism or Confirmation, we normally respond with joy and perhaps forget to think about how difficult the road might be.  When we see a wedding, we rarely think about the financial and sexual temptations which lie ahead, the family difficulties which remain unseen, and the stories which the couple might one day tell.

How unlike this were our representatives of the Second Continental Congress which met in June and July of 1776.  They had a very good notion of what they were getting into.  Battles had been fought.  Men had died.  People had been driven from their homes.  These men had lived through the French and Indian War; they knew a good amount of the horrors which awaited them.  Nevertheless, they swore a compact together.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  These men knew what was at stake, and because they knew how valuable freedom was and what it meant to the men, women, and children living in the country, so they agreed, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Christians who live eternally in Christ cannot pledge anything less to the author of our lives, our Lord God Almighty!

 

“And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”

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

 

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“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.

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