Saturday, November 28, 2015

First Sunday in Advent.

Click here for a written sermon.

From earlier this year, a sermon for the Feast of Christ the King

Only the audio came out, nonetheless I am using this You Tube link. Any advertisements on the page are not from me, and do not necessarily have my endorsement.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Communion ties among Continuing Churches affirmed at ACC Provincial Synod

by John Omwake
Ties between the ACC and the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Province of America, which have drawn increasingly closer over the last four years, have taken a giant leap 'forward in faith'. 
This took place Oct. 28 on the floor of the XXI Provincial Synod...
You may read the full article by clicking here.

Sunday before Advent

John 6: 5-14

I recall specific miracles that I have seen with my own eyes. For years my mother carried around before and after x-rays of her spine, sort of the way some people have before and after pictures to show the results of a diet. Before we prayed for her spine, every vertebra was out of place and the whole spine was crooked. Afterward, immediately afterward, the whole spine was perfectly straight (I recall watching her move in response to what looked like reactions to invisible hands under an aqua colored blouse quickly rearranging each vertebra). I remember in 1976 a lady who had a deformed left shoulder, in the town of Westminster Maryland, whose husband always drank away half their income. Through a camel colored blouse, I saw the left shoulder instantly straightened and rebuilt during a prayer. The real punch line to that story is that her husband, seeing the obvious result of a miracle, sobered up and became very serious about his Christian faith. The last time I saw them was twelve years later, and they were doing very well. I don’t want to sound at all like one of those faith healing television evangelist types; but, I do want to make it clear that I am an eyewitness to miracles, and could not have a problem accepting as literal fact the miracles of the Bible, including the one we just read about, even if I wanted to.

In the 1960s it was rather trendy to try to explain away the miracle in today’s Gospel, using the Stone Soup theory. Of course, there would be no point in telling this story at all unless it was for the purpose of reporting another miracle of Christ. People who need to try to explain away miracles really do not need to be reading the Bible, since they cannot make sense of any of it. Either believe the story or don’t; but don’t play with it. But we need not fear that the Church will ever succumb to unbelief. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, we have a Divine promise that His word will always be taught faithfully. “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15).”

The problem is partly a philosophical void: the Rationalist cannot use his mind rationally. Anyone who notices that the universe just happens to exist, is living all the time with the evidence of the first miracle of the Bible, the Creatio ex nihilo. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” To make everything out of nothing is much more impressive than the multiplication of existing material, a little bit of bread and fish to feed thousands.

Notice, in today’s Gospel the miracle came at a time of need, since there was no food for the people in the wilderness, just as there had been no food when the people came out of Egypt and were in that wilderness. The manna came in the days of Moses, and Jesus fed thousands of people on this day with next to nothing. In scripture, we often see miracles coming in the time of need. Imagine the people with Pharaoh’s army behind them, and the Red Sea before them. This was a perfect setting for God to show the power of His hand. The people being pursued appeared to be in the greatest of danger. But it proved safer to be one of those escaping slaves on the shore than to be in the mighty army, because everything was in the hands of God. The former slaves went forward on dry land in the midst of the sea, forward into freedom and the Promised Land; and the mighty army drowned.

The fact is we all are on the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptians coming up after us. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Cor. 15:19).” We all need a miracle, because we shall most surely die- unless the Lord returns first. Even so, those who are alive at that time will have to die to this life, and shed their mortal nature.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Cor. 15: 50-54).”
To share in Christ’s resurrection is our only hope, inasmuch as mortality reigns through sin in this life; unless the waters of that sea part, we are doomed. So, we must believe in miracles in order to have the hope of eternal life, and we must believe not only that miracles can still happen: We must look forward in anticipation of the greatest miracle promised to us for the future, which roots our hope in the past. Christ rose from the dead after bearing away our sins on the cross. Saint Paul reminded the Church at Corinth that Christ's appearance to witnesses after His resurrection, was an essential part of the Gospel as he preached it. Because they died rather than change their eyewitness account, the word “martyr”- that is, witness- has come to mean someone who dies for his testimony. The shed blood of the early martyrs is a guarantee that they have left to us that we may always have hope, knowing that the dead are to be raised. So we call it “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.”

Among Satan’s ministers, preaching in many pulpits today, the mission is to destroy your hope and joy, and to restore to you the terror of the grave. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 15:57).” We have the food and drink of eternal life, given to us by Christ Himself. When we read on in this sixth chapter of John, after Jesus walked across the lake, the multitudes came and met Him on the other shore.

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world… I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (see vs. 26-51).’ ”

Ultimately, that is the greater message of this Gospel passage. The Lord Jesus multiplied those loaves and fish because He was teaching, by that miracle, that He Himself is “the True Bread that comes down from heaven, which, if a man eat thereof, he shall live forever.” He taught that His flesh is food indeed and His blood is drink indeed, and that by Him we are nourished with eternal life.

He commanded that the fragments left over from this miracle be gathered up and that nothing be lost. In this world, first by His creation, and then even more so by His coming in the flesh as fully God and fully Man, material things can take on the quality of holiness. This bread was too holy to be treated with disdain and left to spoil. And, it was only a mere symbol of this bread and wine, which will become the Reality of His Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of this altar. If you wonder why we go to so much trouble not to profane the Sacrament, to preserve it set apart in the tabernacle, remember this story. It was a miracle that only served to shadow this Sacrament, this means of grace; it was used by Christ to teach that we must feed on Him, and do so in faith, to have His risen life within us.

The miracle of His resurrection is our hope for the future. We depend on the God of miracles to give us our share in Christ’s resurrection. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity Audio

There isn't video for this, but there is audio. It is based on the Gospel reading for today, Matthew 9:18-22. Listen by clicking the link here.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity

Col. 1:3-12 * Matt. 9:18-26

Taken together, the Epistle and Gospel appointed for today speak to the reality of everything we do here. St Paul writes to the Colossians about their knowledge of God, a thing essential to the life of every Christian, and the very definition of eternal life. Jesus had said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”1 This hearkens back to the thirty-first chapter of the book of the prophet Jeremiah, who foretold the New Covenant, that New Covenant that our Lord spoke of as established in his own blood on that night in which He was betrayed. To know God is at the heart of the New Covenant, which contains this promise: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”2
Here, in the Epistle, St. Paul speaks openly and simply about the knowledge of God; he assumes that his readers do, in fact, know God. The idea that God might be a stranger to the home, and the heart, of any Christian was unfathomable to him. This speaks to the reality of the Christian life of faith; it is not simply a matter of form, and it is never a matter of anything we should call “blind faith.”
Our faith is not blind. Unbelief is blind. Rationalism is blind. The darkness of willful unrepentant sin is the darkness of blindness. But, faith sees, and sees clearly. God remains above and beyond our comprehension, so that we cannot describe him, except by St. Paul’s chapter on charity. That is, we cannot explain God, or know how to define His power, His wisdom or His essence. Nonetheless, this unknowable God has made Himself known, and He has revealed Himself by the Word made flesh, the only mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. 3 “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” 4 said our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot comprehend God, we cannot describe God, we cannot understand God, and yet we can know God. He has made Himself known, He has revealed Himself in His word, and above all the Word made flesh, His only begotten Son. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” 5
And, we can know his will. He has not hidden it away for the wise and learned, but revealed it. Some of that revelation is so simple that we teach it to our children in their earliest years- or, that is, we should. We teach them the Ten Commandments, the Summary of the Law, and to pray “Our Father. “ We begin to teach right from wrong at a very early age. This is part of knowing the will of God. As we mature, and need wisdom, we have the wonderful gift of Holy Scriptures to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.”6
According to the Wisdom Literature of the Scriptures, such books Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach), Wisdom and Ecclesiastes, the essence of wisdom is moral rather than intellectual. The wise man is a godly and righteous man, and the fool is the one who lives in sin without the fear of God. So, the essence of wisdom is moral rather than intellectual. The wise man is a godly and righteous man, and the fool is the one who lives in sin without the fear of God. Someone who has his gaze fixed always and only on the things of this world, and lives as if he is naturally immortal, and will not face judgment, is a fool, no matter how high an IQ he may possess.
True wisdom knows the very thing that genuine science constantly rediscovers. No matter how much knowledge we learn, our ignorance outweighs it all. Every valid scientific discovery adds to our ignorance. How can that be? Simply put, the proportion of human ignorance against human knowledge grows by every major discovery, because every discovery opens more questions than we had before. The arrogance of late 19th century and early 20th century Rationalism should have been blown away forever by the major discoveries of Einstein, and by every advance in modern physics. But, we still run into people who think there is a conflict between faith and science, and who are unaware of the great number of religious people, Christians and Jews, among the world’s prominent physicists (such as Fr. Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître). Of course, this is not just an absence of wisdom, but also of education.
But, more to the point, the complexity of the physical universe tells us that the mind of God is beyond all human comprehension. The very complexity that makes up what we call matter, and what we call energy, is enough that we should see how far above our comprehension God is. Yet, even though His creation is beyond our finite minds, and Himself completely hidden, we know God. Furthermore, St. Paul tells us that we know His will, and that He opens the eyes of our understanding to know it as we need to. Listen again to his words:
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might,6 according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
If we approach what we do here today as simply a matter of form and nothing more, how can today’s scripture readings enter into hearts and minds to renew us? I say this because I have been among traditional Anglicans long enough to know that a very great number of our dear brethren have never sought to penetrate the deep meaning and reality of our faith. I was acquainted with the term “Shinto Episcopalians” by the late Archbishop Robert Morse. I asked what it meant. In Japan, the Shinto religion is very old, and no one knows anything about any teaching associated with it. Those who practice it observe the rituals very strictly, but have no knowledge of what they mean. Some people have very strong opinions about how to do a Church service “correctly.” They have their own mental rubrics from a lifetime in church. But, how many of these details really matter if we fail to worship God in spirit and in truth? Recall these words from John’s Gospel:
“The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”8
The woman who had the flow of blood was able to get to the heart of true sacramental theology
Today’s Gospel reading shows the power of Jesus Christ to raise the dead at His will, and the power of true faith to apprehend His promise. The woman who had the flow of blood was able to get to the heart of true sacramental theology; not that she knew what she was doing in those terms. The grace of God was present in the Word made Flesh, in Jesus Christ who was walking among the large crowd of people. She pressed through the crowd to touch a simple material thing. She reached out to touch the hem of His garment as He walked, a thing so simple and mundane, and so very material. You know, as a Byzantine Catholic priest said to me once, everything you need for the sacraments can be found in a proper Mediterranean kitchen. Wine, water, olive oil, flour- just a few simple things. The hem of Christ’s garment was a simple thing. It was a real material thing.
The sacraments work this way. They all stem from the incarnate Christ. He is present in the world that He created, having added to His Eternal and Uncreated Person the created matter and nature of everything that is truly human. From the fact of His incarnation, His human nature that tabernacled among us, the physical matter of His human body that walked the earth complete with a human mind and soul, and from the garment in which He clothed it, grace flowed out and healed the woman.

Yes, you can go through the Form very properly; but, in addition to that, your real need is to reach out and touch the hem of Christ’s garment. You come to this sacrament today in very real need. You cannot even keep your own soul alive. No cleverness, no correctness of rubrical directions, and no proper performance will save you from sin and death. You must come “with hearty repentance and true faith” to "take this sacrament to your comfort." You are subject to sin and death, without hope of eternal life unless you lay hold on the grace of God as you pass through this life. You are not coming to receive this sacrament because you deserve to have it, but because you need it. You need to feed on the bread of life, to be saved from sin and death by consuming the food and drink of eternal life.9 You need Jesus. You are coming in that need to reach out and touch the hem of His garment. Without this faith, without this knowledge of God, without this humility, without dependence and reliance on His grace and on His power, you would be lost and doomed. I like correct Form for its beauty. But, you are coming for something in addition. You need to receive the Matter with the Intention of feeding on the Living Christ. This sacramental life is the life of faith, and it is based on knowing God.

1. John 17:3
2. Jeremiah 31:31-34
3. I Timothy 2:5
4. John 14:9
5. John 1:18
6. Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent.
7. δναμις
8. John 4:19-24

9. John 6:26-59

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

Allow me to point you to two previous posts from years gone by, here and here.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Reflections on Provincial Synod XXI

of the Anglican Catholic Church, Original Province

Last week (October 26-30) delegates, observers, clergy and bishops gathered from every major continent for the biannual Provincial Synod of the Original Province of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), held this time in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia Hotel and Conference Center. Also present was Pakistani Bishop Mushtaq Andrew form the Second Province of the ACC, whose speech on Wednesday (Oct. 27) concluded the day's meeting on the Synod floor and received a standing ovation. The bushiness of the Synod (i.e. Angends items) was conducted beginning that morning, and the day ended with the Provincial Synod Mass at St. Stephen's ACC in Athens, which included a moving sermon by recently consecrated Bishop Dominic Sonwabo Mdunyelwa of South Africa.

What most of us in the western developed countries (the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia) take away from these Provincial Synods, every other year, is the rich and often moving experience of the ACC people and clergy who live in other countries in which persecution and poverty are among the hardships associated with the life of Christians in general (and though Colombia and Haiti are also in the west, geographically, their day to day life, with all of its struggles, are in many ways more like the lives of our brethren in those countries than life in, e.g., the U.S.). 

The shift of Christianity's center of gravity, from the Europe of old Christendom to the Global South as observed and noted years ago by author Philip Jenkins, is visible in the ACC. Our largest diocese of all is in the South Sudan, cared for by Bishop Wilson Garang. It is quite moving, and can make us feel that our own experience is lacking, if in anything, the kind of suffering under which so many others bear up by the grace of God. I want to say, at this point, it is more practical to give what we can to help and support the Church in those countries. One practical way is for a western parish to join with a sister parish in one of the countries where the need is great, to raise funds and to pray. Another is, of course, individual donations which you can make.

Canonical clarifications

The ACC has found it necessary to make very specific clarification in its Canon Law, all of which proposals were voted into effect on Wednesday (Oct. 28) by the lay delegates, clergy delegates and bishops, due to the present day confusion of basic matters of sex and marriage. The language restricting marriage, as we recognize it, to a life long sacramental union between one man and one woman (as ordained by God, and taught by Christ) and concerning what our clergy are allowed to celebrate and bless, and concerning the protection of ACC parishes from litigation regarding the use of their property, etc., was tightly and unmistakably altered so as to avoid any all possible legal loopholes. This also serves the needs of ACC Military Chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Furthermore, regarding the modern confusion about "gender identity" our Canon Law now clarifies that one's sex is "assigned" at conception and is an objective biological fact. For purposes of marriage, a "man" is an adult who is male and was conceived male, and a woman is an adult who is female, and was conceived female. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27)." For purposes of marriage we recognize two sexes, not a large variety of "genders." (On The Continuum we have addressed these issues doctrinally and in terms of medical science. See "Not the Author of Confusion" and "The Doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ Concerning Marriage.")

The ACC has acted prudentially in taking these necessary steps both for spiritual reasons and for legal reasons. Obviously, these issues must be understood correctly for reasons of doctrine, as basic teaching and sacramental theology. They must be clarified, also, to protect our clergy, laity and churches from malicious litigation, or maybe even someday prosecution, as the courts continue to side, more and more, with confusion and immorality at the expense of Freedom to exercise religion. 

Continuing Church ecumenism

Present also were the Most Rev. Brian Marsh, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America, and the Most Rev. Walter Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America. This has become normal for the Provincial Synods and is no mere symbolic gesture. This generation of bishops are working together in real and practical ways. Presiding Bishop Royal Grote of the Reformed Episcopal Church was present for a while on Wednesday the 28, but was unable to stay for the whole day and for the Synod Mass in the evening.


The feeling and atmosphere of Provincial Synods (which I attended every other year since 2009) is one of peace and joy. All things are done decently and in order. The business conducted on the Synod Floor is always about genuine and relevant issues upon which to vote. Spiritually, the whole experience is always rich and rewarding.