Saturday, November 30, 2013


This last Sunday the Gospel was St. John vi. 5. WHEN Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 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. This Gospel shows us that God’s love and abundance is overflowing. There were in this Gospel baskets and baskets of leftovers after people having their fill from what started out as a small amount of food. In our Gospel passage for today Jesus is by the Sea of Galilee. He feeds a multitude of people with a small amount of fish and bread. One would think after hearing the Gospel I would be writing about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes by God’s hand. After all, that passage is about a large group of people eating and eating until they are all full… A perfect Thanksgiving bit of Holy Scripture. But, I feel called to discuss another type of “bread”. John Ch. 6: Vs. 27 States, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” I was thinking today that it is unfortunate that we live in a society that many time puts God last. We come to church and worship him “IF” we have “nothing else better going-on”… “IF” it is convenient for us… “IF” we get exactly what we want out of our church experience. And… “IF” we don’t… We will find a church that does meet our needs… And… Underlines our personal beliefs… Even if they disagree with the Historic Christian faith. It’s very sad that we live in a world when we…God’s wayward children….Put other “needs” ahead of our need for the bread of life made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ is the only real need that we have to live a life of eternal blessing, and yet, we pursue cars and homes and all manner of possessions and in the process neglect the importance of returning thanks to the giver author of everlasting life. Perhaps you aren’t feeling too blessed this upcoming THANKSGIVING... Maybe you are having trouble seeing the gifts that God has given you.
Maybe the pain of life has overwhelmed you to the point where you don’t see how blessed you truly are. Think about this… Maybe you have been so blessed in your life, that even the blessings you do have don’t look all that good. We live in a world where suffering is magnified and we focus on our sufferings instead of on our blessings. We think we cannot be truly happy until something… Whatever it is… Is made right… We spend our lives waiting for something to happen… A new job… A retirement… More money… Our kids to grow up… You might ask… Why do people suffer? The great Anglican preacher, JC Ryle stated this… "Sicknesses, losses, crosses, anxieties and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful and spiritual–minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine and the refiner’s furnace to the gold." ~ J.C. Ryle It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.But, a life of true fulfillment can come to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. As difficult as it may be, find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings. Now for a few things to be thankful for! It is stated in ACTS 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." It is stated in Colossians 1: 13-14 “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” It is stated in 1 Corinthians 15: 3&4 “For what I (Paul) received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” It is stated 1 John 5:12 “He who has the Son (Jesus) has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” This is the TRUTH of CHRIST and we should be thankful for it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Father Magee
Trinity X

The Gospel. St. Luke xix. 41.
AND when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple.

In our Gospel today it says…"He beheld the city, and wept over it".

Why should Christ have been so suddenly gripped in that way? This was the very last week of His earthly life and ministry. In another six days or so, He was to be crucified so this was His last visit to Jerusalem. Our Lord broke out with violent weeping and He tells us why. It is because of the things He knew. Jesus was aware of the horrible things that were soon to happen to Jerusalem and it’s people. So He burst forth with weeping. The thing that moved our Lord was the plight of these poor people who did not believe in Him. Jesus knew very well what would happen to Him. He knew about the scourging that would come, He knew about the crown of thorns that would be soon placed upon His head…He also knew about the cross, the mockery, the jeering and the hatred that was in His future. He saw it all by His divine eye, but He did not weep for Himself. No, Jesus wept for others. He knew what would happen to Him in Jerusalem and still yet He went to serve.

To be a Christian is to be Christ like. It is literally to emulate Jesus Christ and His actions upon this earth. This Gospel passage has always reminded me of one of my personal heroes…Who of course…Just happened to be an Anglican Priest… named, Fr. John Magee. Don’t know who he is? Don’t be surprised. I have yet to meet laymen or another priest who knows his story. Yet, he is an example of an American Anglican Saint.

John Magee was from a wealthy Pittsburgh family. He went to the finest schools. He had access to wealth and business connections. He could have been a wealthy industrialist, a politician, a man of power…Or, even a playboy with nothing to do but enjoy life. However, Father John Magee chose to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. After graduating seminary he chose to go and serve in China as a missionary. He met and fell in love with a young English woman who had also come to China to save souls in Jesus’ name.

Father Magee started doing missionary work in Nanking, China and was at the same time the chairman of Nanking Committee of the International Red Cross Organization. On December 13, 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army stormed the Chinese city of Nanking. There was one area that offered some protection from the Japanese. It was the so-called “International Zone” where almost all the foreigners lived, including Father Magee. During the following six weeks, the Japanese Army murdered and tortured countless civilians whose only crime was being Chinese. Over 300,000 people were killed and over 20,000 women were brutally raped. Some estimate the numbers to be much higher - 340,000 and 80,000 respectively. During this dark period when hundreds of thousands of defenseless Chinese were ruthlessly slaughtered by the Japanese army, Father Magee, who was appalled by the atrocities he witnessed, ran out of the Nanking International Safety Zone, without regard for his own safety and took part in rescuing over 100, 000 Chinese solders and civilians who were facing certain death by making sure they found safety from the Japanese. Father Magee shot several hundred minutes of film with a 16mm movie camera. These films recorded men being beheaded by the Japanese army, women being violated, and babies who lost parents with corpses lying all over in villages. Father Magee gathered the world’s most complete photo evidence of the Massacre of Nanking.

Even though Father Magee knew that at anytime the Japanese were likely to learn of his chronicling their atrocities and that they would most certainly kill him for it… he still continued to go back into Japanese held areas of Nanking over and over again and rescue Chinese nationals and gather more proof of Japanese war crimes. Like Jesus did in today’s Gospel, Father Magee wept for others but he did not worry for himself. He knew his death was likely imminent but he continued to do God’s work anyway. It is very likely that the world would have never learned about what was later to be called “the Rape of Nanking” if it were not for the actions of Father Magee. It is certain thousands would have died without his help.

Why do so few know of Father Magee today? Because Father McGee didn’t care if you knew about him or not. Because that was not the reason he served. He never wanted to be a bishop. He never wanted a “plum church” or a high paying job. He never wanted to “sell” his story. He never wanted fame of any kind. All he wanted to do was be a priest and to serve others. Father Magee wanted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

We should ask ourselves: Are we attempting to walk with Jesus Christ? Are we? Are we attempting to be Christ like in our lives? Do we weep and complain for ourselves or, do we weep for others? Not all of us can be a Father Magee. But you know what? We don’t have to be. All we have to do is to want to be like Jesus. To love others. To cry for others rather than cry for ourselves. If we do not walk Jesus's path Christ pities our souls. He weeps for us. Jesus says, "Repent and believe in me and I will forgive all your sins and wickedness, whatever it has been. All you have to desire is to walk my path.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

From our Gospel on Christmas, “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

Light is an interesting subject this time of year. Most of our homes have some sort of Christmas lights up for decoration. Sometimes we even drive through certain neighborhoods known for elaborate Christmas light displays. Or, we go over to Garvin Park and see the GD Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights Display here in Evansville. Or, we have to put up with neighbors like the Griswold that put up way too many lights.

Christmas and light seem to go together. Light is one of the most basic symbols of our Christian faith. Holy Scripture begins and ends with light. God’s very first recorded words are, “Let there be light” open up creation, just as Revelation closes with the promise that there will be no more night in Heaven, for the Lord Almighty and the Lamb shall be our light.

Light stands for all that is good and right and holy, as opposed to darkness, which stands for all that is sinful and evil and to be feared.

Jesus called himself the “Light of the World”. In our Nicene Creed we confess him as God of God, Light of Light. For all the good things that light stands for… That is what Christ represents. Jesus Christ is the light in the midst of darkness.

Have you ever wondered why Deacon Mike, myself and others in the clergy wear the black shirts with the white collars? It is because we are this age’s testifiers of the light. We clergy all dress alike. That is because we are not important, but the message is. We bring the message of light to a dark, cold and sinful world.

Jesus, the Light of the World, was born to dispel the darkness of sin... To dispel our sin. Yours and mine.

One thing I have noticed is that as so many of us go about our Christmas celebrations and the darkness is never seems far away. Don’t we all feel it????

The darkness of strained family relationships. The darkness of the stressful demands on our time and money. The darkness of a loneliness in this supposed happiest time of the year. The darkness of missing ones you wish were with you, but are not any longer. The darkness of guilt looking back on a year full of mistakes. The darkness always seems to be there.

Don’t we all carry with us to some degree the feeling that even though it seems like the rest of the world is full of smiles, candy, and Christmas decorations we are still in darkness?

But… When we focus on the true message of Christmas the darkness is chased away.

On that First Christmas Night in the darkness were the shepherds protecting their sheep until light from the Angels broke into their darkness.

But the greatest light the Shepherds saw that night was not the choirs of Angles singing God’s praises. The greatest light was a tiny baby wrapped up and lying in a meager manger.

Let us recall the words the angels used to announce the news to the shepherds.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

God's salvation isn't sometime, somewhere out there, somehow undefined and unsure and hazy… This isn’t just one competing philosophy of many philosophies. This is the truth. In Christ, in Bethlehem, in the manger, in swaddling clothes, today, he is born, said the angels. This is real!

I absolutely love this Gospel reading …The First Gospel reading of Christmas…

I love the Gospel of John One.

John came to testify concerning Jesus Christ the Light of the world, that He was the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Almighty Saviour, to whom all of us dark souls should apply.

This doesn’t just need to be Christ’s birth we celebrate but our own birth, our own regeneration. We can celebrate that complete change of heart and nature which takes place in a person when they become a Christian and truly accept Christ Jesus.

God offers a change so great that no other image but that of a new birth can fully express it. When we fully accept Christ in our hearts we become a new being, with new appetites, wants, and desires.

As it says in 2 Corinithians, Chapter 5, Verse 17, A person born of God is "a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

We are offered through Christ’s birth and death free salvation by faith in HIM.

As the great Anglican Bishop JC Ryle once said, “Of all the doctrines of the Bible there is none so important as that of free salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. He that believeth on Jesus is not condemned. By Him all that believe are justified from all things."

This is my brothers and sisters is the cornerstone of all Christianity. A mistake in this belief is fatal… True belief in free salvation through Christ will keep us on the true and certain path.

This is the doctrine of light for which we should cling to until our very deaths. We should cling to it for our own peace; we should seek it as person locked in a room with no light at all feels and gropes the walls for a light switch. It would be better to take away the sun a million times from heaven than take out of Christianity free forgiveness of our sins by faith in Jesus Christ.

For that is the true light.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saint Michael and All Angels

Revelation xii. 7.
THERE was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

We have a tendency in our modern world to take powerful images and dumb them down. The cross is a good example. A mother of a young girl that was going to be confirmed went into a store to purchase a cross. The sales lady asked the mother, “Do you want one with the little man on it or not?” Crosses are not respected for what they truly represent. After all, the Cross is an emblem of State Sponsored Capital Punishment. If someone wanted to kill a person in biblical times they would simply stab them or behead them. But if they truly wanted them to suffer in a cruel and ultimate way…The way our Lord did…They would be crucified on a cross. Today, people would think several times before wearing a t-shirt with an electric chair on it…But that same person would probably think nothing of eating a chocolate cross at Easter. I’m not saying we shouldn’t wear crosses. In fact, we should. We should just know their meaning.

Angels suffer much the same fate. There are angels of the month, birthstone angels, dashboard charms that say, "Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly." Little yellow signs hang on the back windshields in cars and proclaim, "Angels on board." There are gardening angels, Mother's Day angels, Hallmark angels holding everything from Halloween Jack O' Lanterns to St. Patrick's Day shamrocks.

Fat blonde babies with wings play and frolic on every possible item. Chubby cherubs looking more like the Campbell’s Soup kids than anything that would cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty!" Millions of Christians in the East say at every divine liturgy “You thousands of archangels, myriads of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, six winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft on their wings.”…While, in America, we put Angels on greeting cards, wallpaper, and tattoos…Yes, Angels are everywhere. Angels have become part of our popular culture in a way that Jesus and the cross has. In a way that really does not reflect reality. They have become ineffectual and are nothing powerful at all. Angels have become for the most part simply interesting popular symbols.

First of all…Angels are not human beings that have died. The truth is that ANGELS ARE EXTREMELY POWERFUL BEINGS… That are separate from mankind. We can read many instances of Angels in the Bible…An angel, Gabriel…Was chosen to announce the greatest event in all of history…Christ’s birth! When we read about other events Angels were involved in we see in scripture that in Isaiah 37:36 185,000 Syrian soldiers were slain by one of God's angels.
2 Samuel 24:15 Some 70,000 Judeans were killed because of David's sin. Revelation 7:1 Angels hold back the four winds from destroying earth.

In our Epistle today we read There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. Against Satan and his minions. War in heaven? Now, there’s a thought for the manufacturers of religious greetings cards. St Michael reminds us that the usual condition of the faith is to be at war. We are always under attack by sin and evil. And we are expected to fight,
to be among those who loved not their lives unto the death. Like all Saints… Michael is an example for us to live by.

Saint Michael is the patron Saint of First Responders because of His courage. Because he stood up to the ultimate evil and cared not for his own safety….I think it is fitting that men and women that do the opposite of human nature…I had a psychologist tell me in 1988, long before 911, "It's fitting that St. Michael, the one who had the courage to go head to head with the Devil, is the Patron Saint of First Responders. Because they run into burning buildings and towards gun fire, telling themselves to go against the very way their brains are 'hard wired', people don't realize how difficult it is to go against everything your very nature is telling you not do".

Sad to say not all the heavenly host are holy. About a third are evil. Revelation 12:4
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth
The Devil has been dumbed down as well. My original mentor, Fr. David Booher, used to say that the greatest of the Devil’s victories was to convince people that he didn’t exist. He’s on Red Devil Razor Blades, lighter fluid and he’s used as a mascot for sports teams….From religious schools no less. Yes, the Devil has declared war on God and on all God’s creation…Each one of us is special. We are made in God’s image. We are so special that God came and dwelt amongst us in the flesh. He suffered and died so that we might not have to. So, you better believe that Devil hates us just as much as God loves us. Satan has declared war on us.

But…There is great hope…We together are the body of Christ; we together conquer Satan. We each have a personal battle, but each personal battle is not insignificant. Satan is defeated ultimately through the millions of defeats he suffers in the lives of individual Christians. Each personal battle is part of that process of defeating Satan.

Look again at verse 11 in our Epistle. How do we conquer Satan? By what means? “By the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Thus, we do not defeat Satan by ourselves, by our own power. We defeat him by the “blood of the Lamb”. What does that mean? We defeat him by the confidence we have in Jesus Christ. So when Satan accuses us, saying, “You are guilty! God will never forgive you! You’re dirt!” we respond by saying, “Yes, I am guilty! But it says in scripture, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our sins."

Furthermore, look at the last phrase of verse 11: “They loved not their lives even unto death.” As Jesus says in John 12:24-25, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." Thus, when Satan says, “You’re going to miss out on life unless you commit this sin!” You can respond, Jesus says "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". That’s how we conquer Satan by the blood of Jesus. But verse 11 also tells us that these brothers conquer Satan by “the word of their testimony.” What does this mean?

Think of it this way: Each of us conquers Satan in part through the encouragement of others. As we speak the Word of God to others – through preaching, yes, but also through speaking biblical truth in other contexts - God uses His Word to protect His people. So the author of Hebrews says: "All of you, brothers, take care, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But all of you exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," so that not one of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13) We are to “exhort one another” – that is the “word of their testimony”. You defeat Satan in your own life by the way you live your life and spread His Gospel. By this way, you help you help your neighbor not love their lives even unto death.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday After Ascension

The Epistle. 1 St. Peter 4:7-11
7 THE end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

I quote Peter in our Epistle today when I say, "The end of all things is at hand".
C.S. Lewis’ wrote, "Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again."
"Please, Aslan," said Lucy, "what do you call soon?"
"I call all times soon," said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away - C.S. Lewis - Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This last Thursday was the celebration of the Ascension on the Church calendar. Christ Ascended into heaven as He was watched by His followers, in what many would no doubt say was “an end.” I’ve never personally liked goodbyes. I especially hate watching friends walk out of my life. Everyone of us has had that experience…Watching friends leave. Often times friends will exchange promises to keep in touch, though the truth is that they seldom follow through. “Don’t be a stranger”, they always say. Or, “I’ll come back and visit”. But, we all know distance usually doesn’t really make the heart grow fonder….However, we have to remember we are speaking about God’s kingdom here.

God’s kingdom is a very different kingdom from how we often times perceive it. It’s a kingdom where you don't earn your pay. Where you get more than you deserve. Where God serves man. Where death brings life. Where the last are first…And the first are last. And where sinners are made righteous because the righteous one took all sin upon Himself. We have to remember that we Christians do not belong to a kingdom of this world. We belong to a kingdom of grace. Our perceived earthly rules really don’t apply to God‘s Kingdom…And…We’re really (all of us) actually living in God’s kingdom.

How would it change things if you thought that today was indeed your last day upon planet earth? If you were told that before the sun set upon this day, you would stand before your Maker, how serious would you be about prayer? I don’t know about you. I’d be getting pretty darn serious about prayer…and fast. Peter is saying in this Epistle: You better get serious about prayer right now because the end of all things IS at hand. You do not know how much longer you have. None of us truly do. You and I are just a heartbeat away from His presence….However, the truth is this…We are always close to His presence

Let’s ask ourselves: Do we want a God that truly understands us? Do we want to have a God that can identify with us? Well, if you’re a Christian…Then, you have that. The Ascension certainly underlines this….Think about this: One part of the Holy Trinity is human flesh. Jesus Ascended into heaven flesh and all. No other religion can claim that one. No other faith connects God to His people like Christianity does. We are truly blessed….For we are always close to His presence. He is never far from us.

At times it may seem like Christ has left us alone. Even though he has ascended and rules on high, the way he rules might not be what we expect. Again, His kingdom is very different from what we expect. We see conflicts in our family, stress at work, and not enough money in our pockets. We struggle with health problems, and we see our loved ones taken from us in death. We may feel abandoned by the one who promised He would care for our daily needs. Even when we turn to God in prayer, it can seem like our requests fall on deaf ears. We feel alone.

As Peter says…Be of sound judgement. Pray often and wisely. If we do this we will grow to understand God and know that we are closer to Him. In C.S. Lewis’ tale, "The Chronicles of Narnia," Lucy sees Aslan, the Christ-figure after having been parted from him for many a year and exclaims, "Aslan, you’re bigger.
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
"Not because you are?" she asks.
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
Here is an interesting truth. The older and more mature you are in the Lord, the bigger you will see that He is. The more in awe of Him you will be. The closer you will feel to him.

Peter writes, “Above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). Notice that this is specifically described as a love that is fervent among yourselves. You would have thought that Peter would have said that we are to be fervent in our love for the Lord. But Peter had been taught something special about love from Christ himself.

In scripture Christ asks, "Peter, do you love me?" And when Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus says to him: "Then feed my sheep." Peter is passing on that same command here. Here is the point. Do you love the Lord? Then show it by loving His people. Show it by keeping fervent in your love for one another. Show that you know the Lord is close. Show that you know we are part of His body.

Peter says we are to serve one another: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same to one another (1 Peter 4:10). The same thing is taught here in Peter’s Epistle. He teaches us that spiritual gifts are for one another. Your spiritual gifts have been given for my benefit and my spiritual gifts have been given for your benefit.

When we are speaking of Spiritual Gifts, we ought not to lose sight of the fact that we are talking about GIFTS. A “gift” is something that you are given. You don’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. You are simply given it. It is the same with our salvation. God’s gift was wrapped in human flesh, born as a baby and growing up to walk our dirty streets and to die on cross as an atonement for our sins. His body was broken and His blood was shed for all of us. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sins. Jesus took your sins upon Himself and suffered for our sins. He is the Savior who saved the undeserving.

I ask each of you this question. The question is a simple one. The question is the same one Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Christ?”…If so, figure out what your gift is and use it. Become active in your parish. Become active in His body. This isn’t fire insurance people. We don’t just keep or membership in Trinity Church in a fire proof lock box and say… “Yep, I am paid up. I am going to the pearly gates someday”. This is the body of Christ. It is our salvation. It is our spiritual family and our home. Become active in the life of the Church. Become active in His body. Sing, perform a song, head a committee, volunteer to bring something for coffee hour, ask to help with Vacation Bible School…Use your gifts and Feed His sheep. Feed His sheep. Because…He is close.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Looking toward the Epiphany

I read something I had to laugh at the other day…If you could overhear the wise men while they were on their journey what statements would you have heard them saying …Perhaps…

1. Man, I'm starting to get a rush from this frankincense!.. By the way…Many of us in the clergy can identify with at one.
2. You guys ever eat camel meat? I hear it tastes like chicken.
3. What would possess your parents to name you Balthazar anyhow?
4. Okay, whose camel just spit on me?
5. We’re going to have to pull over. All this staring at a star while riding a camel is making me sick at my stomach.

At Christmas time we celebrate God’s coming into the world. God came to us in the form of a human being…A little infant. Not very likely, if you think about it. God coming to us as a baby…Tiny…Fragile… Humble….In our modern and secular thinking we have to ask, Why not an angel ablaze with glory holding a gleaming sword of fire? Why not in the form of a wise and caring philosopher that respects everyone and their individual points of view?

No…. That’s not how it happened. In that unlikely place, at that unlikely time, in a very unlikely way, God’s light came into the world.

We are coming up toward the feast that marks the end of the Christmas season this week. This week we celebrate the light of Christ coming to us personally: our own moment of enlightenment when we come to know, each of us, that Christmas, that God’s light,is meant for us. This week the Church calendar ushers in the Epiphany.

Epiphany is a huge celebration in certain parts of the world. Almost as big as Christmas itself. Why? Because, it is the celebration of Jesus being introduced to all mankind. In Epiphany Jesus is just not introduced to the Jewish world…He is introduced to the whole world. For God and His love has been revealed to us.

According to the very earliest texts the earliest celebration of Epiphany in the Church was prior to the year 194. Earlier even than the Nicene Creed. When we think of Epiphany we think of the wise men….The Magi. The wise men came from the East, possibly from Persia. They were most certainly astrologers. We traditionally number them as being three because three gifts are specifically named in the Gospel of Matthew. Scripture never states the specific number of wise men.

The Magi…The Wise Men take part in a journey that would seem foolish by today‘s standards. The Magi followed their hearts not knowing their exact destination.
They took part in an arduous journey through the desert to find the location of a newborn king. The journey of the Magi is symbolic of our journey in life. Just as the magi search for Jesus, our lives can be seen as a journey…With the goal of our lives finding salvation.

Anglican Bishop JC Ryle wrote about the wise men, “Let us walk in the steps of their faith. Let us not be ashamed to believe in Jesus and confess Him, though all around us remain careless and unbelieving. Have we not a thousand-fold more evidence than the wise men had, to make us believe that Jesus is the Christ? Beyond doubt we have. Yet where is our faith?”

Bishop Ryle asks a good question, “Where is our faith?’…“Where is our faith?”

The wise men followed their faith… They didn’t give up their knowledge of the stars or their learning…However, they trusted in something more important than themselves.
They sought to be obedient to God and His will.

In our modern world and in so many denominations out there you find people acting as if “personal opinion” were somehow equal to God and His teachings. It’s where you get clergy and seminaries teaching things like “abortion is a blessing”…Yes, a head of a famous seminary said that recently. It’s where people get the idea that the “Bible is a collection of historical documents”, instead of being the Word of God. It’s where you get a leader of a national church that says, “To say Jesus is the only way is to put God in a very small box.”

Many in our modern world could learn a lot from the wise men. The Magi sought God and His direction in their lives.
Our lives are a journey to Christ in that each day we are called to search for God just as the wise men did. We find Christ in our lives in many ways. We find Christ in our lives through prayer and the reading of scripture. We find Him in our interaction with those around us. We are called to encounter Christ in the service that we do for the least of our brothers and sisters.

We are called to Christ through attending church, taking part in the sacraments and worshipping together. We are called to Christ by being brave enough to step out of our comfort zone and standing up for what is right. I invite you to insert yourselves into the story of the wise men. We are not only to seek Christ in our lives but we are to bring Christ to others. We are to seek His will. We are to bring the truth of Jesus’ message to others in the world.

As members of the body of Christ our lives are a testimony to others. Where we stand…And who we stand with honors our Father in Heaven. I ask you to think about something for a minute….The story of the Magi calls us to be manifestations of Christ to the people we come into contact with.

Just as the infant Jesus was a manifestation of God’s love so our lives are to be a manifestation of Christ. Yes, our lives are to be Epiphanies to all those whom we come into contact with. Just as the Magi undertook a dangerous journey in the distant past God calls those who believe in Him to take a journey today. By believing in God’s word. By standing up for what is right. By refusing to put a wall around ourselves and saying, “Those people out there can be heretics but I’m safe within the confines of my own individual church…As long as we hold the line right here.”

By being brave enough to take a journey those of us in the Anglican Church in North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church are now walking in the steps of the Magi. Each of the wise men had to make a personal decision to leave their home, their family and friends to come to worship Christ.

The Magi were probably inconvenienced along the way. But their focus was on God. Many who are part of the Anglican Church in North America had to walk away from a lot. Clergy have walked away from pensions and laity from beautiful buildings that their families had had worshipped in for generations. But they gained so much more…For they now walk with Christ. They…Now follow God’s will.

We are on an ancient journey which started long ago.

You and I are walking the path of the wise men this very day. For we seek His will… And not our own. We live in a world that is sorely in need of Jesus Christ. We know the truth… All the fancy philosophy in the world. All the pretty buildings and stained glass…They won’t help someone when they are on their death bed one bit… Only the truth revealed in scripture can do that.

In the Epiphany season we celebrate how Christ was first revealed to all the nations of the world. This time reminds us that the salvation of Jesus Christ is a salvation for all people. This season reminds us that the Epiphany of Christ did not end in Bethlehem but instead continues to this very day. Let us continue on our journey…The journey the Magi started. A journey to discover His will for us.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holy Innocents

St. Matthew ii. 13.
THE angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Christmas… A time of happiness?

Yes… And… No.

I learned a valuable lesson at five years old. My parents took me to a Christmas tree farm out in the country and we picked out a beautiful spruce tree and actually watched the owner of the farm cut it down with a chain saw.

We took the tree home and decorated it. Being the early 1970’s we put the rather large old fashioned type of Christmas tree lights on it. You know…The old fashioned kind of lights that you really only see used outside now days.After decorating the tree we sat back and drank some hot chocolate and talked and we marveled at the beauty of three. It had some very fragile glass ornaments on it and literally several pounds of the silver looking string tinsel you also don’t see very often anymore on indoor trees.

I woke up the next morning and realized that the lights on the Christmas tree had been left on all night when I walked past the living room. And… Those large old fashioned lights were known for getting pretty hot. Even at five years old I realized that to leave the lights on the tree plugged in all night was a fire hazard.
I quickly ran up and looked at the tree. And… Suddenly, I saw hundreds… Literally, many hundreds of baby spiders crawling everywhere.

Some of the spiders had crawled onto the lights and had burned to death and shriveled up. However, almost all of them were very much alive. The spiders were dropping onto the presents. They covered the ornaments. Again… The spiders were literally everywhere. It looked like the whole tree was squirming and moving.Obviously, baby spiders had hatched out during the night as we had slept. There must have been an egg case in the branches of the tree that we simply didn’t see when we decorated it.

I was filled with fear and anguish. I ran and hurriedly woke my parents up. My father cursed and went to the spare bedroom and hurriedly wrapped a sheet around the tree. He pulled the plug to the Christmas lights out of the wall so hard sparks literally flew everywhere. My Dad then pulled the tree…Ornaments and all and threw it on the edge of the street for the garbage man to pick-up.My mother was despondent and simply cried inconsolably.

Christmas was pretty much ruined that year.

That incident taught me at a very early age bad things happen at Christmas. I recall a few years back I that had a newly ordained member of the clergy call me and ask about, “all the negativity on the Church Calendar right after Christmas.” This individual was talking about the Martyrdom of St. Stephen on the 26th of December, The Feast of the Holy Innocents celebrated on the 28th of December that commemorates all the innocent male children that died by King Herod’s order when he was trying to kill the infant Jesus and the Martyrdom of St. Thomas Beckett on the 29th of December.

Holy Innocents has always been a special day at our house. Not only do we like it as a feast day...But both my wife and dog have birthdays on December 28th. My wife, Sabrina, is always happy when it falls close enough to Sunday to be celebrated during a regular service. No such luck this year.

Although, the world has already moved on to the next holiday on the Hallmark calendar…We in the church get to keep singing Christmas songs, celebrating, and hanging on to that warm and wonderful Christmas feeling….Right?…Well… No…Not really…. Our reading for the Holy Innocents hits us in the face like one of those giant inch and a half thick candy canes (which I loved as kid) across the bridge of our nose…With the terrible story about the slaughter of innocent babies….

Herod, that evil king, in his desire to preserve his power, had a whole village of children under two years old murdered. Just to make sure he would have no competition for his throne. He had heard, through the wise men from the East, that a king had been born. But the wise men had fled back home without telling Herod exactly who this “new“ king was.

Into our season of Christmas joy our lectionary reading destroys our all our holiday cheer with the thought of babies dying, innocent children, at the hands of a tyrant….Let’s look at it like this…The Gospels are not only concerned with spreading the joy of Jesus Christ (which I assure you they are). They are also given to us to explain the truth….You and I all know that the truth is not always a pretty thing. Matthew is not worried about our holiday spirit as much as he is about showing us truth.

The whole point of Christmas is to give hope to tragedies like the Holy Innocents…..I’m going to say that again…. The whole point of Christmas is to give hope to tragedies like this. To say to those suffering, in pain, “fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy – a Savior is born!” When we start thinking in these terms it makes sense that we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents in the Christmas Season. For we no longer have NO hope…We have a Savior. We have Jesus Christ…We now have hope! We now have nothing to fear!

The world is a hard place…. and like Herod it will try to silence the Good News of Jesus Christ. The harshness of this world will try to distract us and make us doubt. The world will bring each of us trouble and heartache. Each one of us carry heartache….Our own burdens. Our own anguish in our hearts….But now…We can “fear not”.

But rather than letting the harshness of this world turn us away from Jesus, let us rely on Christ as the Savior from all our suffering…A savior from our brokeness and heartbreak. For the promise of his birth, now fulfilled, shows God's faithfulness in all His promises of forgiveness and the paradise that waits for all those who just believe.

Whatever tragedy you face, whatever cause for weeping and mourning, whatever great sadness or guilt or pain you bring here today…Or, will face tomorrow – find hope in Christ. Find forgiveness and blessing. Look forward in faith and trust in a God who always keeps his promises… “Fear not”.

The Holy Innocents…Were among the first martyrs of the Church. They were some of the first to give their lives for Christ. The Holy Innocents helped God save his Son, and kept Jesus from the slaughter, only to give him over to a horrible and cruel death, later to a different Herod. Why? Because Jesus had a mission. We have to realize that if one separates the Incarnation from the Crucifixion, one doesn’t fully get Christmas…Or, Christianity for that matter.

Our greatest present this season does not come from under a tree but HE did die on one. Christ’s resurrection from suffering and death becomes our resurrection from the cold dark grave of despair… Jesus was delivered, and so are we.

May your Christmas heartache give way to Christmas joy, as you find hope and comfort in the Christ who was born for you. Who died for you…And…Who is a present for you……………Merry Christmas!