November 15, 2015 1 Samuel 1:4-20; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-8
Paris Attacks: Grief and Heartbreak Around the World
Look! He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him… So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:7-8)
We end another of too many weeks in shock at the absolute horror that abounds in this world. I certainly can understand those who proclaim that there is either no God or that he is so incredibly cruel and uncaring that they want nothing to do with him/her/it.
The people of the world, literally, have no possible framework that allows them to under-stand what is happening. When you have a worldview that only allows for the advancement of humanity, of the universe, always into a better state, how do you understand complete depravity? It’s even more complicated when that same world seems to have decided that Islam is immune from criticism and must be protected because it is the “religion of peace.” I understand how they don’t understand, but that is not our view.
We know there is evil, incredible evil in the world – that is being realistic. We know God does not cause it, nor does he allow it, except to give us free will. We know mourning; we know weeping; we can know despair. But we know “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” While seeing clearly that the world is not getting any better, we rejoice that it is ultimately ruled by the one who is “the Alpha and the Omega,” the beginning and the end. Because he has always been and always will be, those of us in the middle know we are help in arms that stretch both ways into eternity. As we say in the Eucharist as the “mystery of faith,” Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Those are truly comforting words.
Rejoice! Rejoice! In the midst of the unbelievable cruelty that has just been perpetrated in the name of ISIS, who is now promising that action to be “the first of the storm,” we rejoice. In the midst of life, we rejoice. In the midst of sorrow, we rejoice. In the midst of illness, we rejoice. In the midst of death, we rejoice. With Job we proclaim, “…I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25-26) With John, we have “heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13)
Yes, I am heartbroken and raise the French in prayer. Yes, I am angry and want to condemn ISIS to hell. Yes, I want to despair and give up, but…
But I know Jesus Christ died for my sins. I know he was raised from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, from where he intercedes for me and my sins (and for the sins of the world). I know that “now [I] see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)
Now I cannot see – but then I know I will. That makes yesterday, and D’s cancer, and J’s liver, and E’s (and C’s & N’s & J’s & _’s!) back, and our other problems, times of prayer and rejoicing, not times of despair.
Pray – pray – pray for the unity and orthodoxy of the Church. Without that Islam advances – without that ISIS can plan with impunity – without that sin reigns.
11/08/2015 Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Today we have two examples of God’s women and how incredibly important women are to salvation history, beginning with Eve. Did you know there are 85 women or groups of women mentioned in the New Testament alone – plus 19 from the Old Testament are mentioned. In Matthew 1 is listed the genealogy leading to the birth of Jesus (1:2-17):
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nashon, and Nashon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king, and David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, … and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Five women were vital for Jesus to fulfill the prophecies – he had to be the “son” of David and the line was kept pure through the women – including those who God called to step in when the time was right. Without them everything falls apart.
That God would use women in a time women were ignored, owned, put down, denied, uneducated, and deemed lower than the lowest man, is extraordinary and unprecedented, and shows so clearly how God loves his creation – in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Today we find part of the story of Ruth. Ruth has been widowed and goes with her mother-in-law instead of returning home [Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16)]. Ruth chooses to leave her idol-god and to follow the one true God. By being faithful, even though she was not born of God’s People, she become the great-grandmother of David the king, and eventually, an x-great-grandmother of the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Messiah.
Our other woman today is even more useless than Ruth seemed to be. Here is a widow, past being useful to bring sons into the world, too poor to make a difference in the Temple, to insignificant to even be noticed – but notice her Jesus does. That he would notice her at all would be unusual, that he would comment on her would be unbelievable to the disciples. Jesus uses her as one more lesson of the Kingdom – in the Kingdom, we are called to be in 100%. This widow knows that everything she is, everything she has, comes from God – and that’s what she gives back.
When we are faithful God can use us to do incredible things – often things we will never see, but the seeds of which are planted by our action in obedience. The question isn’t does God want to use me – the question has more to do with, “Am I hearing what God is calling me to do?” and “Am I willing to do it?” We may not be called to become the direct ancestor of the Savior or to give every last cent to the Kingdom, but we are being called to be faithful, to be obedient, to be “all in” the Kingdom.
While we may never see the result of our obedience, rest assured that the results will be there – remember, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) What God speaks is already accomplished - promise!
I’ve often been told that one of the greatest frustrations of being a pastor is that you so seldom see results. It is not easy being called to be a seed-planter, but that is what we are all called to be. We plant the seed, but God waters it, and someone else enjoys the fruit. We are called to bear fruit in our own lives – but that fruit is not from our labor – someone else planted the seed, God watered it, we enjoy and share the fruit. Fr. Tere
11/01/2015 Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44
All Saints Sunday
It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Anglicans are a very odd bunch, often seeming to hold contradictory views. All Saints and All Faithful Departed (Nov 1 & 2) bring this out clearly. The 39 Articles, our founding documents, setting out our evangelical precepts, says: XXII. Of Purgatory. The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
This sets up our dichotomy – if there is no purgatory, which is certainly not something found biblically, why should we pray for those who have died, saints or sinners? If we are not to invoke the Saints, why do we celebrate a day devoted to them?
In my humble opinion, we can live with the paradox. I am not going to pray to anyone but the Father, in the Name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, but I also know there is a connection between the Church already gathered and the Church here on earth. If there is a connection, we can certainly pray in remembrance of those who have died, especially those who have been martyred. I don’t think I can pray anyone out of hell and I don’t think the prayers of the saints are as effectual as those we pray on our own.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man shows the chasm between those who have died in Christ and those who haven’t – we cannot bridge that gap with prayer. The time to pray for those we love is before they die – that they chose Christ, that their heart, attitude and behavior might be changed by Jesus. Once life is over, there are no more choices to be made.
Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” He echoes that at the end of John’s Revelation: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Before the end of all time, It is done! There are already those in heaven, but now God brings forth a new heaven and a new earth that the “dwelling place of God is with man.” As he did when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” God again comes to us. He is not a God far away and uninterested in us, but a God who comes down to us, takes on our flesh, dies, and brings his kingdom to us.
While we wait for that, there are many paradoxes with which we must deal – praying in remembrance of the saints is a minor one. Fr. Tere
10/25/2015 Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Another approach to Jesus’ gift to us: salvation = healing = vision. When we become one of Jesus’ own, we are forgiven, saved, healed, and our vision is made clear (or as clear as it can be while seeing through a glass darkly, as Paul puts it), as our hearing is changed forever.
The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, yells out to Jesus as he goes by in the midst of a great crowd. He makes a nuisance of himself, so that Jesus can hear him over the clamor. He didn’t start yelling on his own – I guarantee that! He yelled because he was prompted by the Holy Spirit, who convicted him of his sins and made him aware that he could be forgiven, saved, healed, and receive his vision, all at the same time, from the same man/God, Jesus Christ. In the bit from Job today, he says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job finally realizes his smugness, his assumption that what he has he has earned. He realizes he had heard about the great high God: the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob, but he had “heard about” him, he had not allowed himself to “hear from” him. And God leads him to a salvation-moment when he can now “see,” not “hear about,” God. It changes Job’s perspective and he, along with Bartimaeus, can now see.
These stories are about our own salvation journeys. We, along with Job, had “heard about” God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but we had not taken the time to “hear from” or “see” God, so we weren’t able to accept the great and awesome gift of salvation he had already prepared for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. At some point, we were urged by the Holy Spirit, convicted of our sin and sinfulness, and made aware that we could not do this journey on our own, nor under our own power and hard work. The Spirit made us aware that there was only one Truth (Jesus Christ), one Way (Jesus Christ), and one Life (Jesus Christ), and he prepared us to receive his love, mercy, grace, healing, forgiveness, salvation, and new sight. Once we realized whose we were and asked him to be our Savior, our sight was restored so we could see the Truth around us, the Way to eternal life, and the Life that he wanted us to live.
How clearly are you seeing?
Have you allowed him to heal every part of your blindness so we, too, can receive our sight and follow him on the Way.
Sunday 10 am November 22
Last Sunday in Pentecost
Christ the King!
Readings: 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
Collect of the Day: Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Wednesday - November 25th - 7:00 pm
Eve of Thanksgiving
Sunday@9 am Acts of the Apostles
Tuesday@7 pm Revelation of John
Thursday@10 am Revelation of John (on break this week)
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