Sunday, March 31, 2013

Original music for Easter

Fugue and Recapitulation on Salzburg
composed and performed by Fr. Robert Hart, recorded in 2005
https://soundcloud.com/robert-w-hart/easter-fugue-on-salzburg

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter

(originally posted in 2008)

In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah we find the most powerful and dramatic prophecy about the Lord’s Suffering Servant.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”

Then the prophet foretells the resurrection of this Suffering Servant from the dead:

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
I want to remind us of the prophecy we heard on Good Friday, from the sixth chapter of the book of Hosea:

“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”

Here what the prophet Hosea gives us is complementary to the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Suffering Servant.

Whereas Isaiah tells us that this individual, this one man, bore the sins of the whole world (as St. Paul would later develop it, the one for the many) Hosea tells us that we ourselves went through this death. The Lord has “torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” We are told that it is we who have died and that we have risen the third day. The answer to this mystery is expressed best in that oft repeated and simple phrase of St. Paul the Apostle, who constantly tells us that we are “in Christ.” Christ’s death was our death. And his resurrection was our resurrection.

We are given this gift and pledge in the sacrament of baptism. In baptism, St. Paul tells us, we died to sin and we rose with Christ to new life (Romans 6:1 f). Hosea foretold that after the Lord would raise us on the third day, he would come to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This is the meaning of these words: “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” Following the Lord’s Passover victory, that which we call Easter, and his ascension after forty days to the Father’s right hand, the disciples did continue on to follow the Lord by their obedience in staying together and coming together in prayer. And so, on Pentecost God the Holy Spirit poured down on them as the former and latter rain; he came also as fire and as a rushing mighty wind. They were given power from on high to proclaim the Gospel, and the Church grew.

After baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament we call Confirmation. That same power of the Holy Spirit is present, and we need only to dare believe it. This means also that we are empowered to live out that new life of our baptism, having died to sin and risen with Christ. The Holy Spirit brings not only the exciting gifts that people find sensational, such as tongues, prophecies and miracles, gifts that some people experience. He brings to all Christians the power to live in that resurrection power in this present time, the present that is for us both past and future as well. It is from the past because of the accomplished fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead the third day. It is future, because his resurrection is also our resurrection, because his victory over death is also our victory over death, because his immortality is also our immortality. St John wrote about this present and future, rooted in the past of his resurrection, by saying: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:1-3) This is why Hosea said that we were the ones who were risen up on the third day; we are in Christ, and so his resurrection that we celebrate now is our own resurrection.

He accomplished our salvation by his Passover. He carried us out of our slavery to sin and death, just as our Hebrew fathers in the Faith were carried out of slavery in Egypt to go into the land of promise. As on that miraculous night when the Red Sea destroyed the armies of enslavement under Pharaoh, Christ’s true Passover destroys our enemies of sin and death, and also the world, the flesh and the devil, because we are in Christ who shall come again in glory on the last day to raise all who belong to Him, and therefore to His Father. Yes, his resurrection on the third day is our resurrection in him, both now as a power to transform us after his own purity, and as our sure and certain hope of the resurrection on the last day- if we are found in him.
Another prophecy of Christ’s triumph over death is in the 25th chapter of the Book of Isaiah:

“And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.”

Christ’s resurrection, in that time and place almost 2,000 years ago, was the death of death itself, for death has been dealt a mortal wound and will not recover. It is the last enemy, and St. Paul tells us that it will be destroyed when Christ appears in glory. People are constantly being told how the world will end, or how things will be after the human race has become extinct. It is enough to make an unbeliever depressed if not suicidal. The human race will never become extinct, because Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection. In fact, you, if you belong to Christ by faith, will never yourself become extinct. You will not become a dinosaur, a fossil of a vanished species. You will live forever as a child of God, and, as St. Peter wrote, “a partaker of the divine nature.” (II Pet. 1:4)

In the past, I think I used too much the phrase “the empty tomb.” It is popular to speak of the resurrection this way. But, to speak too much about the empty tomb is to speak about a puzzle, a story that ends with a question mark. The story does not end with a question mark about an empty tomb, but with an exclamation point about a certainty, a certified fact documented by the evidence of many a triumphant martyr’s blood. The curtain does not come down on Mary Magdalene weeping outside the empty tomb and saying, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” The curtain stays up as she says “Rabboni!” The curtain does not come down on the weary and frightened band of apostles as they hide sorrowing. Because the curtain is yet up, we hear the words: “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:11-23)

And, the curtain has never come down. For Christ is alive even now, and through us he continues his ministry here in this fallen world. So, let us not speak of the empty tomb unless we speak also of the risen Christ, seen by eyewitnesses, most of whom died as martyrs in order to give us the certainty of their faith. Consider well the faith of those eyewitnesses; that is, eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

What in this world strikes fear into your heart? Of what is there to be afraid in this life? Death has been overcome. On the third day God rose us up in Christ, and he will raise us up fully at Christ’s coming. "We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

I will close with the words we use all this next week as the first canticle in Morning Prayer.
CHRIST our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast; Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor. v. 7

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin: but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. vi. 9

Christ is risen from the dead: and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. xv. 20.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday


(Originally posted in 2009)

This night is the night of the Passover 1 that Christ ate with his disciples, and so we rightly ask, why is this night unlike all other nights?


           A wall carving in the chapel of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland.
First of all, the Lord gave the answer to a riddle that had long been in the minds of his disciples. Like other Jews who turned away from him, these Jewish men also must have wondered, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 2 They expected a genuine answer, unlike others who asked hypothetically (to put it mildly). This night the answer was given. He took bread and wine, and told them that it is his body and blood. He commanded them to do this in remembrance of him. So, from the earliest times to this very night, we do this in remembrance of him. We remember that he promised us that to eat his flesh and drink his blood is to take the food and drink of eternal life.

As Anglicans, we are instructed that this eating and drinking benefits only those who believe. Following the teaching of St. Paul about the dangers of eating and drinking this holy sacrament without first knowing in ourselves “hearty repentance and true faith,” Article 25 warns, “And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.” And, Article 27 tells us, “it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.” And, the warning of St. Paul is repeated again in Article 28: “The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.”

This must be true, because of what the Lord told us: “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” 3

And, St. Paul says that those who eat and drink unworthily do not discern the Lord’s body, and endanger their souls. 4 So, we learn from these scriptures that a person may eat and drink this sacrament, and yet not in the saving way that Jesus taught. This is because the sacraments are one of the ways in which God imparts his grace; by these mysteries that signify what they effect, and effect what they signify. If the heart is not right with God, one may eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, and yet not feed on the Living Christ who is himself the food and drink of eternal life. What is the effect, then, of eating and drinking with a bad conscience but to harden one’s own heart against the very grace of God that is only in Jesus Christ himself, and nowhere else? The sacraments are charismatic, not magic. They work with the conscience; not mechanically, but honestly and truly.

He referred to the cup as the cup of the New Covenant in his blood. Our translation says “testament,” but we know that the meaning was the closest that Greek came to the Hebrew understanding of B’rit. The reference is to the New Covenant. Hear what Jeremiah said, and you will know what these words meant to the apostles who heard Jesus refer to them on the night in which he was betrayed.

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 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.”5

What does it mean to have the Law of God written in our hearts, to know that our sins have been forgiven, and to know God?

All of this is more than simply observing a ritual, and more than eating and drinking these mysteries as part of a ceremony. We are here to feed on the Living Christ himself, the only one who is the food and drink of eternal life. We must bring to the altar, as we come to eat and drink this sacrament, “ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice.” 6 We dare not bring only our bodies simply because it is the custom. We must bring our whole selves along with the truth that speaks to an honest conscience, knowing we are sinners, knowing we need his mercy, knowing that he alone is the food and drink of eternal life, and the fountain that washes us from every stain of sin, and the Passover that frees us from death. He established this New Covenant in his own blood that we may know him. Knowing him is eternal life, knowing him is salvation.

On this night he established this sacrament so that we could die to sin and live again in him, so that in this New Covenant we could enter into a special intimacy with him, and through him, with the Father. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” 7 He established this sacrament to that we could enter into his life as he enters into us. He uses such earthly things as bread and wine, just as also he uses water, and as he uses the oil we carry for healing. This is because he uses earthly things for heavenly purposes, just as he himself took the fullness of our own human nature. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” 8

The hope of this sacrament is tied to all that will follow in the night in which he was betrayed. He will begin to shed his blood in the duress of his prayers in Gethsemane. He will offer himself willingly with the words, “not my will, but thine be done.” He will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And we all know what will follow the pain and suffering of death. It will be the resurrection that completes the true Passover.

We will pray: “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.” How can the body be sinful? Because death is unclean according to the Law of Moses. But, as we feed on the Living Christ, we are freed from death, with that freedom and cleansing we look for when he comes again in glory. The soul, the nefesh, of all flesh is in the blood, says the Book of Leviticus, “therefore I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls.” 9 Christ has established the New Covenant in his blood to wash our souls clean from all stain of sin: "Because he hath poured out his soul (nefesh) unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." 10

When you come to the altar rail this night, the night in which he was betrayed, understand the meaning of all that has been done for you in the Passover of Christ. Your sins have been nailed to the cross in his own body, to die and pass away. Just as we look ahead to Sunday morning remembering his resurrection victory, we look ahead to his coming in the clouds of heaven and in his Father’s glory to give us our share of his immortality and eternal life.

Yes, this sacrament is a means of grace. It effects what it signifies. Your sinful body will be cleansed from the uncleanness of death and your soul will be washed in his most precious blood, because you are coming in the fulness of a living faith to offer back to him your very self, your soul and body, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice. You are coming with hearty repentance and true faith. You are coming to feed on Christ, who is himself the New Covenant, and the food and drink of eternal life.
  1. Luke 22:11-15
  2. John 6:52
  3. John 6:54
  4. I Cor. 11:29
  5. Jeremiah 31:31-34
  6. From the service of the Holy Communion based on Romans 12:1,2.
  7. John 17:3
  8. John 1:14
  9. Lev. 17:11
  10. Isaiah 53:12

Saturday, March 23, 2013

PALM SUNDAY





We enter into the drama of the Gospel this week. No more powerful expression of the feeling of this week has ever been produced than the opening chorus of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The very sound of it evokes deep emotion, as music paints a picture of something beyond suffering. It is the willingness of love to embrace suffering, to own it, and in so doing to give the great gift of charity. It is our sorrow at Christ’s pain and death, but a sorrow of gratitude producing in us the love we could not have without His sorrow, His gift to us. The heart of the drama, as Bach put it into music, as Grunewold painted it, and as countless poets have hymned it, is not the drama of a tragic figure whose life is wrongly taken in a Kafkaesque trial, a mockery of justice. It is the drama of the One Who loved us unto death, and gave that life which no man could take from Him.

This strikes us in our hearts and moves us to love Him, and it awakens our consciences from their slumber. Not because we feel guilty, though it is popular to say that our sins crucified Him. But in truth, our sins had no power over Him. In answer to the question, "Why did He have to suffer and die?" we answer that He had to have done nothing. Indeed, He owed us nothing. He did not die because He had to, or because we made Him do so. Pilate had no power over Him, the priests and Sanhedrin had no power over Him, the soldiers of Rome who beat, mocked and crucified Him, had no power over Him.

Hear the words Christ had spoken a while before ascending to Jerusalem:

"Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father (John 10: 17, 18)."

Remember, as we will read on Friday the Gospel of John, that when they came to arrest Him, they all fell backward, and could not stand up until He spoke again and allowed them to do so. And, as St. Matthew tells us, He spoke these words to Peter:

"Put up thy sword into his place...thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be (Mat. 26: 53, 54)?"

The One Who prayed in the Garden, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt" and said "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends" would show greater love than is possible for human strength, as He would die for His friends and His enemies. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)." He set His face as a flint; His face was set toward Jerusalem. No man could make Him go there; no man could send Him to the cross.

So our consciences are stricken, and our hearts afflicted, by something more profound than guilt; we are brought low, and moved, by this true drama, to gratitude, to give thanks with tears, moved to love, all of which restores to us hope, and faith, and charity for all. Our consciences are cleansed by His death, and made new. They are made active; they stir to holy living. No longer is our life a matter of rules for the sake of rules, laws for the sake of laws. The Law is written on our hearts by the Holy Ghost along with the deepest recognition that we could not give enough thanks to our Redeemer had we a thousand tongues to sing, and that we will never stop giving thanks for eternity, unto ages of ages, or world without end. It is now personal. "We love Him because He first loved us."

We are moved beyond the power of words to tell, not because the cross of Christ makes us guilty in forcing Him to bear our sins; but, rather, because the cross removes our guilt, we are moved to gratitude and to love. It is because He "bore our sins in His own body on the Tree (I Peter 2:24)." "He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of the many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isa. 53: 12)." This was the Divine plan, about which we had no say, in which we had no input. Like life itself, it is the free gift of the Triune God to creatures dependent upon His grace, grace to live, and now grace to be restored to His favor. Think upon the words we have read from that famous passage of St. Paul to the Philippians, that He "was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

What can that mean if not that the death of the cross was the Divine plan? This is a profound mystery. We can understand the principle that the death of the One Who was without sin, Who never deserved the wages of sin, reverses death and brings eternal life. That His death is, therefore, the sacrifice offered to God by the Righteous One of Himself for all sinners is plain enough as a theological principle, and is itself demonstration of the love of God for the fallen children of Adam. But, the death of the cross, the death of severe pain and humiliation, involving the worst physical suffering man can feel, coupled with all of the shame and torment of cruel mocking and scourging. Why was this the Divine plan? What does each stripe mean? What means the piercing of thorns and nails, the contempt and anger, the beating over the head with a reed? Why the derision of heartless enemies added to the pain of crucifixion? What is all of this about?

The answer, as is written in the First Epistle of Saint Peter, is that He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” We are proud, are we not, of our minds? Can we not out think all creatures on earth? But, how does God view the vain and selfish use of our minds? He crowns our proud intellects with thorns. We are proud, are we not, of the work of our hands? Have we not made things greater than the Tower of Babel itself? But, what thinks the righteous God of the selfishness with which we labor? Our hands deserve the piercing of nails. We are proud, are we not, of how we walk before God and men? We suppose that we are not like other men, and are just humble enough to render proud thanks as we pray thus to ourselves, "God, I thank thee." But, in the eyes of God our own standard of righteousness tends to self-flattery. What says He of our walk, but that nails should be driven through our feet?

But, I think I only scratch the surface of this mystery. Certainly, nothing that happened to the Son of God was an accident. He allowed it all, so it all has meaning, and the mystery is more profound than I can say, of what it means that "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree." The cross shows us the Divine sentence upon our sins, and yet, remember, that we had no power to crucify Him.

On this Palm Sunday, let us look at the determination with which He fulfilled His mission. Nothing could keep Him from the purpose for which He came as a Man, and took upon Himself our nature. In the movie The Passion of the Christ, the "bad" thief, the one who does not fear God even while dying, is filled with anger at the sight of the Lord embracing His cross. "Fool!" he yells, "Why do you embrace your cross?!" Christ entered Jerusalem, unmoved by the praise of the crowds, for He had not come to be their King, not yet. He had come to be priest and sacrifice. The great drama of this coming week, the drama Bach expressed so powerfully through music, the drama we feel this day, and which will break our hearts on Thursday night and Friday, is the drama of His love, which produces our love, our thanks; and that afflicts our hearts with both pain and comfort at once. We, though undeserving, are loved.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Word from Archbishop Haverland

Father Wells came through his surgery well and is off a ventilator.

God is good. Keep the prayers going.

+MDH

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why was Cranmer Burnt?


Writing an article about Thomas Cranmer when many cities are having their St Patrick's Day parades will confirm my reputation for being 'the so-and-so that wears orange on the 17th of Old Ireland' but that's the way it goes. March 21st, which is coming up in a few days, is the 457th anniversary of Cranmer's execution in Oxford in 1556. Now, one thing I think Anglicans today are very unclear about is why Cranmer was burnt. I would not be surprised if some folks think he was burnt for wearing a Gothic Chasuble in a Fiddleback parish - which seems to be the only heresy left for some of my Affirming Catholic friends - but no, he was burnt for professing the Reformed faith.

Cranmer was very much a slow developer as a theologian, but as McCullogh's biography shows, Cranmer actually underwent only two serious changes in his point of view. The first occurs somewhere around 1530, when Cranmer moves away from the humanist Catholicism of Erasmus towards Lutheranism. This committed Cranmer to the 'Five Solas' and the sort of mildly Predestinarian position that you see expressed in Articles 6-17 of the 39. Given Henry VIII's stated theological opinions, it must have been a relief to him to be sent as England's ambassador to Nuremberg, a thoroughly Lutheran City-State. Whilst there he married a niece of Johannes Osiander, the principal Luther minister and reformer there, so when he was brought back to England to become Henry's Archbishop, he was not exactly enthusiastic. However, he saw it as an opportunity to push for reform, but he also knew Henry VIII well enough not to push the pace. Small reforming measures came out one by one in the 1530s, suffering only a temporary check from the "whip with six strings" - the Six Articles Act of 1539 - which halted Cranmer's reforms for some years.

However, whilst Cranmer was surviving the vicious court politics of Henry's Court, and also administering his diocese, he found time to read and to write. It is evident that he managed to keep up an extensive correspondance with the best reformed minds on the continent, including Bullinger in Zurich, and Bucer in Strassburg. However, it was a local influence - Nicolas Ridley - that finally moved Cranmer from the Lutheran to the Reformed position. He did so by lending Cranmer a tract by an eighth century theologian Ratramnus of Corbie, who argued that Christ was present spiritually, not corporally, in the Eucharist. In his controversy with Gardiner (1549-1551,) Cranmer came to articulate his position as 'the True Presence' which to me reads an awful lot like the Receptionism of the next generation. Cranmer argues that Christ is present in the celebration, not the elements specifically, and that we receive the spiritual benefit, not the actual, Body and Blood of Christ when we receive Communion.

This theology of the Eucharist animated his reforms to the liturgy in both 1549 and 1552, though it has to be said that Cranmer was more subtle in expressing his Reformed theology in the former than the latter. One suspects that 1549 was very much a committee production, with a range of reforming opinions from the mild to the Reformed having to be accomodated, whilst the 1552 reflects the temporary victory of the Reformed wing under Edward VI's second Lord Protector.

The high watermark of Cranmer's programme of reform comes in 1552/3 when a new BCP and the Forty-two Articles are published. Both reflect a Reformed position not a million miles from that of Bucer and the Second Helvetian Confession. The Articles are less sharply Predestinarian than the writings of Calvin's followers a generation later, but their Biblical basis and Augustinian emphasis is clear. Like Bucer, he seems to have been essentially Lutheran on issues such as Baptismal Regeneration and Predestination, but on the Eucharist he joins Bucer, Bullinger, etc., as an advocate of the True Presence. The 1552 BCP's Order of the Lord's Supper gives liturgical voice to Cranmer's convictions on both the nature of the Eucharist and the nature of Justification and Sanctification by putting Communion into the middle of the Eucharist Canon. All of this, along with his complicity in Henry's annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, made him a marked man in Mary I's book.

Cranmer was fairly swiftly arrested after the accession of Mary, though there is some evidence to suggest that Mary did hesitate long enough to allow him to escape to Germany had he really wanted. Instead, he remained in England, and was arrested and imprisoned first in London, then in Oxford where he heard of the trial of his friends Latimer and Ridley, and witnessed their execution by fire on 16th October 1555. By this point, Cranmer's captors had decided that he had been left to stew long enough, and he was worked on to produce an abject recantation of his Reformed opinions. However, Mary had one last trick up her sleeve. Rather than remit Cranmer's sentence as was the custom in the case of a heretic who had recanted, she decided that Cranmer must be burnt anyway. This stiffened Cranmer's resolve, and he recanted his recantation, thrusting his unworthy right hand into the fire first.

Although Cranmer was not a simple, heroic martyr, he did, in the end, die professing the Reformed Faith. Historically speaking, it was Cranmer's moderate Reformed theology that dominated the Church of England in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as much as Calvin's. His opinions were also received favourably by eighteenth century Evangelicals in England, by the Virginia Churchmen of the nineteenth century, and by folks like J I Packer today. To say that Reformed Theology has no place in Anglicanism is a gross misreading of history, and a disservice to the English Reformers who died professing the Reformed Faith, and left us the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles. Personally I believe that Anglicanism is a broad tradition that can emcompass both Reformed Anglicans and Prayer Book Catholics. To try and remove either position from the Anglican Church in this country would be a grave mistake, as much of the genius of Anglicanism comes from the interplay between the Reformed and the Catholic elements within it. Above all things, though, we need to avoid unneccessary strife and remember that we are 'all one in Christ Jesus.'

Passion Sunday


Hebrews 9:11-15 * John 8:46-59

The Church, in her wisdom guided by the Holy Spirit, chose today's Gospel reading for the beginning of Passiontide, the climactic final weeks of Lent that carry us right through the betrayal and crucifixion of our Lord on Good Friday. Now, the emphasis is on the cross in a special way, for we must fix our gaze on it and what it means. Before we begin to consider any other aspect of this time of the year, and of our Scripture readings as appointed, and what they teach us, we ought to bear in mind that Jesus foretold his death and resurrection many times long before entering Jerusalem that last time. He meant to go there; he saw the cross as his mission; he insisted on giving his enemies the opportunity to do quite literally, their worst, with such words as:
"And [you] say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers."1
In short, not only did he refuse to avoid the cross; he ran toward it.
And so it is with his words in what we read today:

"Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple."


I will provide an explanation of why this statement is a picture of Jesus running, figuratively speaking, to the cross. But, first, we should clear up one possible objection. It may appear otherwise, inasmuch as at this point in the story he, as it says "hid himself." Frankly, the reply to that objection is obvious: As he had once said to his blessed virgin mother: "mine hour is not yet come." 2 His disciples had not yet been prepared; all things had not yet been accomplished. 3 But, in this passage we see that he gives his enemies a cause for pursuing him, hounding him unto death.

I could say this in my own words, but it was said so well already by Fr. Laurence Wells that I will simply quote from one of his bulletin inserts:
"God revealed His name...telling Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' That mysterious and awesome Name was abbreviated with the one word all devout Israelites past and present feel is too sacred to be uttered aloud, the Divine Name YHWH.

"When Jesus began to make statements, 'I am ....' it surely sounded as if He were claiming for Himself the very Name of God, the Name too holy to be spoken above a whisper. But in John 8:58, He left no room for doubt, when He stated firmly to His opponents, 'Before Abraham was, I AM.' Not only did He claim to be older than Abraham, He claimed to be God. If the words are obscure to us, the meaning was perfectly plain to the Jews. It is no wonder that they attempted to stone Him on the spot."

I do not know how important each of you considers the doctrine of the Incarnation and the doctrine of the Trinity to be; but, understand, that it was Jesus Christ's open revelation of these two doctrines that led to his death: the eternal truth about himself as God the Word (λo’γος), with God and in the beginning with God, 4 though clearly visible as a man with flesh and blood. He confessed and revealed that he was one with the Father, and it was this that made his enemies mad with hatred, and that caused the opposition and hostility that became present throughout the time of his public ministry among the people. If Eusebius was correct, these things were spoken before most of the events we read about in the other Gospels, even before the Sermon on the Mount where he also spoke of himself as one with God:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord..." 5

However, whether he spoke them very early or near the time of his entry into Jerusalem, the effect of the words, "before Abraham was, I AM," is obvious: They picked up stones meaning to stone him to death.

In chapter 10 of St. John, we see a strikingly similar passage, where Jesus says:
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him." 6

The Incarnation and the Trinity are the double theme that sounds clearly in each of the four Gospels, and especially so in the Gospel According to John; it is even more clear in this, the fourth Gospel. And, here, in these passages from that Gospel, we see the strong connection binding together this double theme of Christ the Son of the Everlasting Father, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the theme of the cross. That Jesus is fully God and fully man, that he has revealed his uniqueness as One with the Father, led directly to the enmity that culminated in his cross and death. So, in her wisdom, the Church opens Passiontide with an explicit public statement Jesus made about his divinity: "Before Abraham was, I AM." He revealed this to a hostile world, and he did so because his mission to die for the sins of the world was, as the St. Luke calls it the Book of Acts, his passion.7

We see what his cross does for you and for me by hearing the Epistle appointed for this day:

"By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

Saving the human race from sin and death, most especially those who believe in him, was his passion. For that cause he embraced the cross as his passion. Nothing could keep him from it. The revelation that he, as he stood before them in creaturely flesh and blood as a man, is one with the Father, was both worth dying for, and was the motive that he handed them to go ahead, in their madness and fury, to seek his execution.

It also tells us that terrible truth we do not want to know. Throughout the history of Christianity many preachers, even some of the brightest, have made a habit of using these passages to speak of the Jews as especially evil, as the ones who hated God. But, if we understand clearly the words of John, we see a double lament in his first chapter, in the eleventh verse: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." The fact, however, is that John was also one of "his own," that is, his own chosen covenant people. So were all the disciples, So was the Lord's blessed virgin mother. So, also, was God the Son himself, the incarnate Word. He was flesh in the general sense, fully human. Specifically, as every human being who lives in the real world (as opposed to a theoretical world) comes from a specific people, he too was a Jew; he chose the Jews, and he came into the world as a Jew, born the son of a Jewish virgin, raised in a Jewish home, affirming always the truth of Jewish religion and Scripture as God's own revelation to his one and only chosen, beloved covenant people.

After all, that eleventh verse from John's first chapter follows the tenth verse, which is why I said it is a double lament: "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." The evil of those who "knew him not" as children of the devil is not some special designation of Jewish unbelievers; it is the terrible truth about the whole human race - the world that does not know Christ; for not knowing Christ is what defines "the world." And, apart from his grace given to you through baptism and through your faith, it is the truth about you. You were born a child of the devil, subject to the full wrath of Divine justice. That is, in fact, why the cross was Christ's passion.

When Jesus was betrayed , he called his betrayer "friend.”

"Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him." 8

Judas Iscariot was no friend, was he? But, Jesus was not saying that Judas loved him; rather he meant that Judas was still the object of his, that is Christ's, love; of Divine love. Christ still loved his betrayer, calling him "friend." And, as everyone can quote, he said about all his persecutors among both Jews and Romans, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." 9 This is consistent with his words, "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." 10 Saving the whole world was his passion, whether Jews or the many Gentiles, that is, the people of all nations. He went to his cross willingly; indeed, no one could have kept him from it. It was his passion to save all the children of the devil, and make them into the children of God through himself; as many as will hear and believe.

When John specifies "the Jews" he merely relates, on one hand, a fact of history: that is, it was Jewish people to whom, he spoke. But, in emphasizing their Jewish identity (which they shared with Jesus, and his mother and all his disciples), he was not saying they, as Jews, were especially evil. He was saying that even the best people, the people of God who were born into his covenant and who knew his revelation, were lost in sin and death. How much more so, then, were those who were once Gentiles born into a hopeless condition of sin and death, born into the world as children of the devil, needing adoption and new birth as children of God. We stand in total dependence on, and in need of, God's grace. That is why, in his love for fallen mankind, for you and for me, it was his passion to embrace the cross. Possessing the infinite power of Divine love, He calls his enemies and betrayers, namely you and me, "friend."
1. Matt. 23: 30-32
2. John 2:4
3. John 17: 1, 4
4. John 1: 1-14
5. Matt. 7:21, 22
6. John 10:27-31
7. Acts 1:3
8. Matt. 26:48-50
9. Luke 23:34
10. John 10: 47

Friday, March 15, 2013

About the New Pope and the Ordinariate

The Anglican Communion Archbishop of the Southern Cone, in  Buenos Aries, Archbishop Gregory Venables, knows Pope Francis personally, and has this to say:

From Greg Venables: "Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him."


This is very interesting news indeed. We agree that the Ordinariate is quite unnecessary, and that the Church needs us as Anglicans.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lent IV Sermon Notes


“For freedom Christ has set us free+


What is the original context of this statement? St Paul is explaining to the Galatians that they do not need to become Jews first in order to be allowed to become or remain Christians, as some have told them. They have been told by others that they cannot follow Christ unless, if male, they are circumcised and thus come under the old covenant God made with the nation of Israel. The Apostle makes the point elsewhere in this letter [5:3] that if they do this, they are then obliging themselves to follow the whole law of Moses, including all its hundreds of ceremonial and ritual prescriptions. But, more than that, he says, they are entering a covenant which made “righteousness” depend on strict obedience to all these laws [5:4-5]. In other words, they are making their acceptance with God, their “being right with God”, which is what righteousness means here, dependent on themselves and their religious 'performance', so to speak. In fact, however, the only true righteousness that they can hope to possess is that given to them freely by God's forgiving and giving love, merely received by them through faith. As St Paul asks them: “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? … For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law


So, the freedom St Paul speaks of is firstly freedom from having to save their souls by obeying the full written law of Moses. He also teaches that they cannot do this anyway, and that even the righteous men and women of the OT were in fact, like us, saved by faith in the gratuitous divine promise to accept and bless them. The passage I just quoted [“no one is ...”] and today's Epistle make just this point [vv. 28-31].


We are sinners who need God's mercy. We cannot earn God's love, we cannot make ourselves righteous in his sight. But he can make us so, if we will let him. And this is great freedom, great joy, once we truly admit it, trust it and really take it in.


But this liberation has other glorious parts to it. We are freed not only from the guilt of sin, but from its power to dominate us from within: [Read Romans 8:2-4]. (Note that flesh here means, not our bodies alone, but our earthly natures as infected by sinfulness, as spiritually fatally flawed.) So, we are no longer slaves to the dark elements of human nature. But we are not transferred from sin-slavery to being mere slaves of God either. St Paul says in another verse in Galatians that we are no longer slaves but children of God [4:7]. This means that, while we maintain a reverential “fear” of God in loving worship, we are freed from the servile fear of God as punishing judge, as St John also teaches in his First Epistle [4:18]. Unfortunately, this kind of cringing, terrified, joyless approach to God can be found among religious people. God is, without them realising it perhaps, seen as this frowning titan, just waiting for any excuse to smite, and smite hard. “Ha! Got ya!” The NT, on the other hand tells us we can approach God with “boldness”, even while worshipping with reverence [10:19, 12:28].


Our liberty is also liberty from bondage to the Devil and his power to tempt, deceive and thus manipulate us. Without God's grace, that power cannot be persistently resisted. With grace, the victory can be ours, because it was Christ's, and we are one with Him.


And our liberty is not only liberty from, but liberty into something. Into what? Into the new, abundant life of the Holy Spirit, a life of awe in adoration of God, a life of fulfillment as we serve others.


But what if I don't feel this freedom, a Christian might ask? What if I feel bound by circumstance, bound by my own flaws, bound by fear and guilt? Then you must recognise that the only slavery that can really bind our hearts is sin. External circumstances, no matter how restrictive, cannot destroy us spiritually if we are connected to Christ by faith and love. Recognition of this brings hope and a steady inner peace, a clam in the midst of the storm. But what if we feel disconnected, if it is our internal flaws and fears that are the problem? Then the answer is to repent if we need to, availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance as it is required, and then to have a full trust in God's mercy. If, instead, our fear and guilt are not due to unrepented sin, then we must fight fear with faith, abandon anxiety and return to relying wholly and unreservedly on Christ as our Righteousness. Know that God loves you, let that knowledge settle into your soul, and boldly stride forward into freedom. +

Fourth Sunday in Lent


Archbishop Haverland will be with us at St. Benedict's this Sunday, celebrating and preaching. So, I am rerunning the following sermon.


But, I want to comment first about the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In that miracle we see something unique. There Jesus works His miracle through the hands of ministers, the Apostles, rather than working directly. This miracle, one of feeding, is a picture of the Lord's ministry in and through His Church, both of word and sacrament. It is a picture of His ministry through the Apostles and their successors, and as such should remind us of the opening of St. John's first Epistle, that our ongoing fellowship (or partaking) is rooted in the Incarnation, and that it is truly Apostolic fellowship and communion. 

Galatians 4:21-31 * John 6:1-14


The Epistle and Gospel appointed for this Sunday teach us about the wide gulf between God's grace, and the weakness and hopelessness of man's highest aspirations apart from that grace. The Epistle is a blend of doctrine and St. Paul's autobiographical reminiscences that demonstrate the truth of that doctrine. The occasion for the writing of the Epistle was a heresy that is described in the 15th chapter of the Book of Acts. "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." This so troubled the Church that the first Council was called, the proto-Council of Jerusalem. This new and troubling doctrine contradicted what all the Apostles had taught ever since the day that St. Peter entered the house of Cornelius, and Gentiles had become part of the Church.

This heresy is called the Judaizer heresy, and it has very much in common with a later heresy of the fourth century. Pelagius in the fourth century taught that man does not need the grace of God to become righteous, but can achieve perfection by the power of the flesh. What the Judaizers did not understand, and what later the Pelagians did not understand, is expressed perfectly by St. Paul in another Epistle, the Epistle to the Church in Rome: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."1 The Law cannot save us, because the flesh is weak. The Law, rather, serves the purpose of diagnosing our genuine condition, that we are subject to sin and death, and that we need the Savior. In this context Paul opens the whole Epistle by contrasting the limited and weak state of man against the unlimited power and wisdom of God.

The Gospel tells of a miracle that Jesus used for the purpose of teaching that he alone is the food and drink of eternal life, that he imparts grace and salvation as we partake of him, the true Bread from heaven. He not only wrought our salvation: He himself is our salvation.

The Epistle

The only way to understand the Epistle is to know your Old Testament. The story from Genesis about Hagar, and her son, is the story about two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Both of them are the sons of Abraham, but Paul tells us that one, Ishmael, was born after the flesh, the other, Isaac, after spirit. St. Paul considers his own life, and presents himself as an example of both of these, inasmuch as before his conversion he was very much the son of Abraham, but only after the flesh. Look at these words that were read today from the text we have heard: "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." In the overall context of the Epistle, this follows the autobiographical confession of St. Paul near its beginning, where he wrote:

"For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." 2

And, this gives an autobiographical flavor to what comes near the end of this Epistle:

"As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." 3

And, so also an earlier passage:

"Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." 4

Saul of Tarsus had been that son of Abraham born only after the flesh, for he had yet to become a full son of Abraham by faith in the Messiah. Born after the flesh a son of Abraham, but not a son with the faith of Abraham, he persecuted the Church, those who were born after the spirit, those born according to the promise which was by faith. In those days he imagined that he was keeping the Law: "Imagined" I say, because he described his own self-deception in no uncertain terms, in yet another of his Epistles, and then describes the light of truth that shined on him:

"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other manthinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."5

What Saul learned, on the day that Jesus Christ appeared to him, was that his greatest crowning act of righteousness, persecuting the Church, was a filthy rag,6 the sin of persecuting the Messiah himself. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" But he also learned that righteousness is accounted to us only through faith. This was not simply any faith. The old question of faith and works can be very misleading if we see these as mere principles. What matters is not some thing called faith versus some thing called works, but specifically faith in Jesus Christ himself. Only that faith can save us, because only Jesus Christ can do what the Law, the good, holy and death-dealing Law that condemns us all, cannot do. What the Law cannot do is not because it is weak, but because we are weak due to the Fall of man into sin and death.

Saul, on the road to Damascus, lying in the dust of death, now revealed by his own most righteous act to be a miserable offender in desperate need of God's mercy, rises to become Saint Paul the Apostle. No longer clouded by the self-deception of having some righteousness of his own, but having the righteousness of faith in the Messiah, Jesus, he is forgiven, justified, and called to true service in the Kingdom of God.

So, when St. Paul contrasts faith in Jesus Christ against the works of the Law, he speaks from his own life. When he speaks of the good works to which Christians are called (in full agreement with St. James), he speaks even of these as part of the life of faith, something that charity itself, by the Holy Spirit, produces in us because of our faith; not something that we can manufacture by our own strength. So, he wrote to the Church in Ephesus:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."7

St. Paul had been the son of the bondwoman, and he so cast out the son of the bondwoman from his own heart and life, that he became the son of the free woman; that is, in place of Saul was Paul; he was born again, born of the spirit,8 a child of Abraham by faith. Now he receives persecution rather than dishing it out. And, that share of persecution was part of knowing Christ and fellowship with his sufferings in light of the hope of the resurrection.

The Gospel

The very next verse, directly following the selection we have heard today from the Gospel of John, says, "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone." Later, as recorded in the very same chapter, it was this that prompted Jesus to say to the crowds that sought for him, "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." 9

The crowd was interested in having the problems of this world solved. The aspiration to have a king who would break the tyranny of a foreign empire, Rome, was understandable, as was the desire for a king who could employ his miraculous power to feed the nation. But, like those who later would teach salvation by the power of the flesh to keep the perfect and holy Law of God, the worldly focus of the crowd fell short of God's grace as he was revealing it through his Son.

This miracle revealed that Jesus Christ places in the hands of his Apostles miraculous food for all the people, and he does so in a desert place where no one can keep himself alive. Where there is no means of feeding, and where there is no power from human strength to bring forth bread from the earth, Jesus Christ provides all that is needed. He sustains life, feeding the bodies of the crowd to teach them that it is he who gives the only true bread, the food and drink of eternal life. For, we are in the desert place, unable to keep ourselves alive, unable to avoid the universal sentence for all human sin, namely, death. No matter how long we hang on in this desert, we do not have in ourselves the power to survive forever. Sooner or later, this applies to each one of us: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."10

It is from this miracle that the Lord begins to teach them, to lift the vision of those who will see, and to speak the word to those who may hear:

"Then Jesus said unto them, 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. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."11

He went on:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 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. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, 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. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever."12

Not until "the night in which he was betrayed," when he broke the bread and took the cup, did they know how to eat his Body and drink his Blood. Those who continued to follow him trusted him enough to expect the revelation that would explain how to make sense of his words. "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life," said Peter. On that night, months later, they were not disappointed.

Jesus Christ places into the hands of the ministers in his Church the means of eternal life, this Sacrament "generally necessary to salvation." But, remember that this sacrament is a means of grace only to those who believe in Jesus Christ. As St. Paul tells us in the 11th chapter of his First Epistle to the Church in Corinth, those who presume to eat and drink without faith, add sin to sin and incur judgment. They do not receive the grace of the sacrament. Therefore, our Book of Common Prayer only bids those who come with "hearty repentance and true faith." To approach the sacrament without "hearty repentance and true faith" is dangerous, profiting nothing, incurring judgment. Therefore, as we have heard, Jesus prefaced his teaching by saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life."

When our Anglican Fathers wrote the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549, under the direction of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, they emphasized the need to eat and drink the sacrament rather than merely to attend Mass. They gave the service we are having this day a new and somewhat long name: "The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Masse." Since then, to emphasize the words of Christ ("take, eat...drink, ye all, of this...") Anglicans have called the Mass by this Biblical name, full of meaning: "Holy Communion." "Holy Communion" means something; and what it means is very important. It takes us to the words of Jesus Christ about himself, and how he gives himself that we may be partakers of him: "I AM the Bread of life." The Name of God, "I AM" is contained in these words. The grace of God is revealed in these words. He is our salvation.

When you approach the altar rail, know this is the gift of Christ to you, and you are feeding on him as he gives himself. Come forward with hearty repentance and true faith, or not at all; because, we are not trying to keep ourselves alive by the efforts of our own flesh, weak as it is through sin. We put our trust in Jesus Christ, and not without that faith that makes us children of Abraham, born after the spirit because we were buried and risen with Christ in baptism, partaking of him by that same faith as receive him in this sacrament today.

Even the best aspirations of mankind, of hopes for this world and confidence in our own ability, are nothing worth, compared to the grace of God revealed in his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And now, unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominon, power and glory, henceforth, world without end. Amen.


1. Rom. 8:3
2. Gal.1:13,14
3. Gal. 6:12-15
4. Gal. 3:6,7
5. Phil. 3:4-9
6. Isaiah 64:6
7. Eph. 2:8-10
8. John 3:1-17, Rom. 6:1f
9. verse 26
10 Gen 1:19
11. John 6:32-35
12. John 6:47-58