Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday, June 10, 2017

TRINITY SUNDAY

Tomorrow I will also post an audio recording of a new sermon (God willing). In the meantime, here are two from the archives of this blog. The first one is about the doctrine celebrated on this Sunday, and the second is from the appointed Gospel reading, and speaks of the Kingdom of God.

THE REVELATION OF THE TRINITY AND SALVATION 

TRINITY SUNDAY 2014 (THE KINGDOM OF GOD)

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Pentecost commonly called Whitsunday



Acts 2:1-11 * John 14:15-31
This is the day in which that small band grew very suddenly from five hundred eyewitnesses of the resurrection, to thirty five hundred people, only to continue growing. Men who, just a few weeks earlier, had argued over who would be the greatest, who had hidden in fear, who briefly had doubted Christ’s resurrection until seeing Him face to face, stood tall and unafraid as leaders and as fishers of men. St. Peter, who only a few weeks before had denied the Lord for fear of his life, now rose up as brave and bold as any hero in battle. Through these men the very same miracles that Christ had wrought, and greater in number than He had done, gave proof of His Gospel; the lame walked, the blind saw, the dead were restored to life, demons were driven out of the afflicted. What gave such power and courage to these same men who, in the four Gospels, had never come across as impressive?

The answer is simple, but it is so hidden to the eyes of those who cannot believe that it may as well be very complicated. The simple answer is, they were filled with the Holy Ghost. It was the day of the Church’s corporate baptism as the Body of Christ.

The very first thing that becomes evident is the sound of them preaching the truth of Christ in foreign languages that they had not learned. We would expect them to speak Aramaic, and to speak and read Hebrew. We would expect that they could address these same people in the Lingua Franca of their day, that international language, Greek. But, they spoke directly to men’s hearts in the local languages of their various homelands, the apparent mastery of the tongues themselves serving as a sign, a miraculous sign that the Logos, the Word made flesh, is the Master, as in the Lord, of all communication. His word is for all people, for every kindred and tongue, people and nation. As Man, in his sinfulness, was divided by the sentence of God at Babel, so the scattered peoples of the earth are gathered as one in Christ, who speaks to all in their own tongues.

When we look at today's reading from the Gospel of John, we learn that the Church was not designed to function without the Holy Ghost. He is the Comforter, which is Paracletos (παράκλητος) in Greek; that is He comes to our side, pleads for us and gives us aid. “Comfort,” in the mind of the readers of the King James Bible when it was translated, did not speak of a cushion that helps us to relax and go to sleep. The meaning of the word is found, really, in the second syllable, in fort, as in fortify- to strengthen. We see that fortification in St. Peter, who, knowing the sentence of death that only weeks earlier had been passed on His Master, nonetheless had the courage to rise to his feet and preach. We hear, in his sermon, wisdom from God, as he opened and explained the meaning of the Scriptures, unraveling the mysteries of the ancient prophecies with understanding and conviction. This simple fisherman had the power to persuade men’s hearts, suddenly transformed into a master orator. Just as he had, years before, thrown out his dragnet and hauled in large catches of fish, so now he is a fisher of men, converting three thousand people by preaching the Gospel with power and authority.

In St. Peter’s sermon we see, as in every other utterance of the Holy Ghost through the apostles, the clear and straightforward doctrine of Christ exactly as we know it to this day, as we say it in our creeds, as we pray it in the whole of our liturgy, as it is found on every page of scripture, and as it is especially clear, with perfect focus, in the New Testament. This, that we believe today, is the same Gospel that was preached on that day.

Right here, we need to understand what tool the Holy Spirit used to draw in three thousand people in one day. Peter did not erect an altar and celebrate a Mass. He preached the Gospel. Why am I saying this? I am saying it because we need to see what a powerful and effective tool true preaching is. Like Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who gave us our Book of Common Prayer, I believe that it is necessary to have Holy Communion every Sunday and good for the Church to have it every day so that people may have frequent Communion. I would like to see us achieve that ideal some day. But, somehow over the last century, some Anglo-Catholics have decided to embrace the fallacy that the Word and the Sacrament are in opposition, or tension, and that the truly "Catholic" thing is to place an underemphasis on preaching in order to highlight the sacrament. They have accepted a romantic notion in which the Christian priesthood is only about celebrating at the altar. I have news for anyone who believes that: It is not, and never was, the Catholic Tradition of the Church. Read the sermons of the Church Fathers in Antiquity, such as St. John Chrysostom. Good, sound diligent preaching is the Catholic Tradition, not light little seven minute homilies.

And, beginning with St. Peter's Pentecost message, the stuff of proper sermons is the story of who Jesus is, and what He did when He died for our sins and rose again, and that He is Lord and Christ, and will come again. We see, also, beginning with Peter's sermon, that the meat and substance of effective and powerful preaching is Holy Scripture. He showed that the Scriptures of the Old Testament were about Christ. He unlocked from Scripture the meaning of the events he had witnessed, opening the mysteries formerly hidden, of Christ's betrayal, passion and death, and of his having risen again. He opened the mysteries of the Kingdom of God with the keys he had been given. He showed that the Scriptures are about Christ, and that by them we know the Gospel. Good preaching is not drawn from personal anecdotes, and it is not designed to impress people with worldly wisdom from academe. It is aimed at the mind and at the heart, calling all men everywhere to repent, and it is the means by which faith comes, for it is the proclamation of the Word of God.

Peter had changed. He had been a natural man (ψυχικός psychikos-soulish) unable earlier in his life to understand why the Christ, the Son of the Living God, was ready and willing to take up the cross; later he was afraid and denied the Lord three times. But, now he stands on his feet boldly, not afraid of death, having his mind focused on the truth, able to understand and know from Scripture everything that had unfolded and was unfolding. He had been a disciple for more than three years, but now was closer to Christ than at any time when he beheld Him with the eyes; for he was now part of the Body of which Christ is the Head. Many a time Peter had stumbled and tripped over his own tongue, and he had failed to speak the right words on the night in which his Lord was betrayed. But, now he spoke with more clarity, more power and more authority than any prophet of the Old Covenant. He delivered the first Christian sermon, as he was now the fisher of men Christ had foreseen; for his dragnet of words brought in about three thousand souls. The whole band of Apostles was transformed. They taught and worked miracles, continuing the ministry of Christ Himself.

None of this was man-made. The best efforts of organization could not have produced it; the most detailed planning could not have pulled it off. No human effort could have brought it forth in a day, because the New Covenant people, the Church, manifested on the Day of Pentecost, was chapter two of the Word made flesh. The Body of Christ revealed in the world as His Church.

Frankly, in light of the foolishness of sinful men, it is very obvious that God's power and grace have never depended on anyone less than God Himself. Never think that we, as the Church, have succeeded in anything simply by our own human cleverness, or our best laid plans, or our own strength. We have an organized structure, but the permanent shape of that structure was revealed and enacted by the Holy Spirit. The whole life of the Church is charismatic (χάρισμα); from the receiving of Scripture to the Sacraments, from the Apostolic Succession to the faithful service of each member. From powerful miracles to simple hospitality, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are worked through each member of the Body.

Indeed, St. Paul, speaking in the context of spiritual gifts, even goes as far as to call the Church by the name of Christ himself: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ...Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (I Cor, 12:12, 27) So, I have not spoken carelessly in saying that the Church is part two of the Incarnation. The Jesus who goes about now doing good and healing is none other than the Body of Christ and members in particular. He does His work through you, through His Body the Church, by the Holy Spirit, the other Comforter who is with us and in us.

We know from the end of the Gospel of Luke that the disciples were forbidden to take this new work on themselves prematurely, as if it depended simply on human power and wisdom. What is the life of the Church? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. What is the strength of the Church? It is the power (δύναμις) of God by his Holy Spirit, present within us. Who is it that takes fallible and failed human beings, lifts them up from the ground and sets them on their feet? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who is it that puts His word of eloquence and power on their formerly unclean lips? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who is it that fulfills His own purpose and will with flawed human instruments? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who makes Christ known among all nations of the earth, making one redeemed people from every race and tongue? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who has unlimited power, and works most effectively through us after we have come to the end of our own strength, and can go no further? It is the Holy Spirit present within us. Who makes us into children of God accepted in the Beloved Son? It is the Holy Spirit, at work in us, present here and now as Lord of the Church.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Audio Sermon preached on the Sunday after Ascension Day May 28, 2017 at St. Benedict's ACC.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

From the archives

Fr. Wells Bulletin Inserts
(First published here June 1, 2011)
THE SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION DAY

One of the most beloved moments in our Prayer Book liturgy is that phrase “Lift up your hearts.” This phrase, with its ensuing dialogue between priest and people, is one of the most ancient features of our worship. This marks the point where we go “into high gear,” as the Church, having confessed its sins and heard the message of forgiveness, now pleads our Saviour's promise of His presence in bread and wine. This moment begins the great Prayer of Consecration, and therefore it is altogether appropriate that we burst into song as this dialogue is solemnly chanted.

“Lift up your hearts,” but how high do we lift them? This simple admonition, let us remember, has everything to do with the great mystery we celebrate at the end of Eastertide, the truth of our Lord's Ascension into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of His Father, reigning, interceding, preparing for His final Coming at the end of history. The answer makes this clear: “We lift them up unto the Lord.” That is, we lift them up to our exalted Saviour Jesus Christ, our Advocate with the Father.

On Easter Day itself, in the most joyful liturgy of the year, we proclaimed this truth: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” On Easter Day we hardly do justice to those words, as we focus then on His appearances to the disciples and their joy in seeing Him alive and active in their midst. But now we need to hear the message—the Good News—of His Ascension into heaven.

Without the Ascension, the Resurrection itself would soon become meaningless. The Gospel history would shrivel up into a series of “Jesus sightings,” as He appeared here and there but never for long. Without the Ascension, we would not know what became of the Risen Christ. We have every right to ask:  Where is Jesus now?  

His Ascension into heaven, returning to the glory which He had with His Father “before all worlds,” surely does not represent a separation from us or a loss to us. He was taken up into heaven not to abandon us, but “to prepare a place for us, that where he is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with him in glory.” Putting it bluntly, the Ascension of Christ is not His ascension alone, but is the final destiny of every Christian believer. He was raised; we shall be raised. He was taken up; we shall be taken up. When we lift up our hearts at His eucharistic table, we are sending our innermost selves on ahead, to the place where we will spend eternity with Him, both in our bodies and our souls.

Although Ascensiontide (which began on Thursday past and runs until next Saturday) has never managed to command the attention we pay to Advent and Lent, it has been honored with a wealth of splendid hymns. Our local tradition is to start singing these soon after Easter Day.

My favorite is the great hymn by Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, No. 103 in our hymnal, "See the conqueror mounts in triumph." Our hymnal is parsimonious in giving only three stanzas of this hymn. The original was much longer and contained some interesting lines worth quoting:

He who walked with God and pleased Him,
Preaching truth and doom to come,
He, our Enoch, is translated
To His everlasting home.
Now our heavenly Aaron enters,
With his blood, within the veil;
Joshua now is come to Canaan,
And the kings before Him quail.
Now He plants the tribes of Israel
In their promised resting place;
Now our great Elijah offers
Double portion of His grace.

Those lines require more familiarity with the Old Testament narrative than most modern church-goers possess. They also assume the ability to understand that narrative as closely foreshadowing the life, death and resurrection of our Saviour. This accounts for their deplorable omission. It would take more space than we have here to explain how Enoch, Aaron, Joshua, et al., are all previews of Jesus.

The greatest line in the hymn, however, is one we really ought to find jarring: In Stanza 3, we are forced to sing, "Man with God is on the throne."

God sharing His throne with Man? Really? Out of context, that might sound like the most blasphemous humanism, the error which tells us falsely that "Man is the measure of all things." But Bishop Wordsworth was simply stating the Catholic truth that in Jesus Christ, the Divine Person truly took our Human nature. When Jesus was taken up, He did not leave that human nature behind. He continues forever to be God and Man in One person. Even now, in His heavenly glory, He retains His humanness. That is how He can be a sympathetic high priest and our "advocate with the Father." Because the human nature of Jesus, which is our human nature, has been carried into the skies right into the dwelling place of God, in His Ascension we see already our own eternal destiny.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Ascension Day

Click on the link

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2012/05/ascension-day.html?m=1





Sunday, May 21, 2017

Audio recording of

the sermon for Rogation Sunday preasched at St. Benedict's ACC on May 21, 2017. Use this link or this link.https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1tC4rnJs3lKb2hPODBGSVJwM1U/view

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fourth Sunday after Easter

No variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Morning Prayer: Psalm 116; Job 19:21-27 * John 12:44-50

Holy Communion: James 1:17-21 * John 16:5-14



From today's Scripture readings we may learn that God is the author of our salvation, that it was all his plan, and that it is his gracious will that sustains us throughout this life, and guarantees the joy of eternal life in Christ. None of these good things were our idea, nor were they a grudging benefit in answer to our pleading. Our entire inheritance given to us in Christ's Testament, the New Covenant, has been the will of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit from all eternity. In that long discourse after supper, recorded by John, Jesus spoke words beyond the understanding of the disciples, words that demonstrated how fully, how detailed, is the counsel of God's will (Eph.1:11). Jesus said to them just enough, in that discourse, for them to remember later, at the time when the Holy Spirit would be with them as the other Comforter (that is, the other paraklētos), and as the Spirit of Truth.       
That time arrived, the Day of Pentecost, when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), and began to be the voice of God in the earth, the messengers by whom the Holy Spirit convicted the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment. They knew the truth and were able to teach it and hand it down to all generations that have followed. This plan from eternity, the eternal counsel of God's will, has meaning today for the Church, and for each one of you as a member of the Body of Christ. 

To begin with, based on the promise made here by the Lord Jesus Christ, you may believe the teaching that has been handed down throughout the centuries. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth," is not spoken to any of you as an individual. You cannot decide the truth, in this sense, for yourself. 

The truth has been revealed; and so, from earliest times, the Church has heard the voice of the Lord above all in the books set apart as Holy Scripture, the New Testament books recognized very much as we have them in our Canon alongside the books of the Law, and of the Prophets and Sages of Israel who had spoken before of the coming of Christ, all quoted as having special authority by the earliest Christian writers.         
In spite of popular fiction to the contrary, the New Testament was recognized by the Church, it was a vox populi recognition, with a few questions raised about II Peter and Revelation, and a few people who believed in a book called The Shepherd of Hermes. But, the overwhelming consensus throughout the Church was that the voice of God was recognized clearly in the Twenty-Seven books of the New Testament, as it had been recognized in the Old Testament all along. No one imposed any of it, certainly not an emperor.    
And, even with its human imperfections and sins, the Church has been what St. Paul called her, when writing to St. Timothy, "the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (I Tim. 3:15) What it means for you, as an individual, whether or not you are a scholar, is that when people come literally knocking at your door with another gospel about another christ, you may be certain that the Holy Spirit, in his role as the Spirit of Truth, guided the Apostles into all truth, and the Church has received by revelation what it has passed on to you and your children with authority, especially as it is summarized in that great Creed we have said together this day.       
The old phrase from what we call the Vincentian Canon is not true literally; but is true with poetic license. The phrase translates into English as "That which has been believed everywhere, always and by all." In fact, nothing has been "believed everywhere, always and by all," perhaps not even that two plus two equals four. But, using poetic license, it tells us that from earliest times the Church was guided by pastors and teachers who received the teaching of the Apostles and understood the Scriptures with a like mind. The poetic license by which we say "That which has been believed everywhere, always and by all," means, in fact, that they heard their Master's voice in words of the Apostles and preserved that same doctrine in the Scriptures, which they understood. 
What makes us catholic people is that we receive not only the books they believed in, but we receive those books as they understood them, not with some novel interpretation. As Anglicans, everyone of you is encouraged to read the Scriptures yourselves. We, among the clergy, do not teach the whims of human beings, the doctrines merely of men, hoping that we may rely on your ignorance. We teach the plain meaning of Scripture relying on the Spirit we have all received, that reading it daily yourselves, you may glean the truth from what we say, however imperfectly we may express it.         
Be like the noble Bereans, and search the Scriptures daily to see if what we say is so. (Acts 17:11) And, be guided by the wisdom of the Church from its earliest generations. Let me make this simple; if someone's teaching and preaching does not agree with that Creed we said, you may be confident that it does not agree with Scripture; and that means that it contradicts what the Spirit of Truth revealed to the Church. By the way, the Holy Spirit does not grow in His understanding. He does not learn new things. He does not, as the banal statement of today has it, “evolve.” He does not change his mind. His wisdom is perfect and eternal.        
This brings us to the Epistle we heard, the words of St. James, that with God there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning." In fact, we have two phrases from that Epistle that can cause problems to modern ears. This phrase, "no variableness, neither shadow of turning," sounds so grand and musical that we may fail to think about it. The other is, "superfluity of naughtiness," because it makes sin sound trivial. Today we think of "naughtiness" merely as childish misbehavior, and it suggests innocence. The Third Millennium Bible is almost word for word the King James, but with a few differences. It says "superfluity of wickedness," which communicates better to modern ears. We need to understand both of these phrases, and to understand them in context.  
First of all, notice that James teaches that our salvation is God's gracious will in eternity. It was all his initiative. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," says James. That means that everything that happened in Christ's coming, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), was the plan of God in eternity, the one will of the whole Trinity. It was God's will to beget us again, that we could be born again unto eternal life, delivered from sin and death. Christ delivered us from sin and the consequences of sin by his cross.  
This was not Jesus dying to pacify his angry Father, though some have accused the entire western tradition of teaching such an error. This was God satisfying the just requirements of his own holiness, acting in his own love, and also healing the conscience of each person who repents. God saved us in that terrible way, by the cross, because our condition of sin was truly terrible, as St. Paul wrote: "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom. 3:26) God's love turned on his own holiness and perfect righteousness, and his own holiness and perfect righteousness turned on his love, so that God himself, in the Person of the Son, Jesus who is the Word incarnate, took the full weight of human sin himself and bore it unto death. This was the will of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the eternal counsel of God's will. Therefore, God justifies sinners, and is also just in doing so (Romans 3:26); for on the cross he took away the sin of the world. This is the greatest love story of all.
And, when I say "healing the conscience of each person who repents," I have in mind the Epistle to the Hebrews:

"The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but 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?"

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins...Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
 (Heb. 9:8-14; 10:1,2,19-22). 

What does this mean? Often we think of Christ's atoning death as satisfying the righteousness of God, and so we read in the Suffering Servant passage that He is the true Sin Offering for which the sin offerings of the Law were a mere shadow (Isaiah 53:10). We see also that we would not be able to receive forgiveness without atonement, without the faith that our own sins have been covered. That is a necessary part of the Law of God written on our hearts. In the suffering of Christ on the cross we see not only payment for our sins, but two things that we need. The first is, as I said, that we may truly believe that we are forgiven, we need to see that our sins are paid for, covered, atoned for by Christ. We need also to know that God is just in justifying us, rather than unjust, that He is not every bit as unprincipled as the sinners he forgives ("To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." - Romans 3:26). So, we see in Christ's suffering and atoning death the truth that heals our consciences after first breaking our hearts: that is, what a terribly weighty matter it is indeed that our sins are the very opposite of Divine Love. Without that we could not be changed as we need to be. Without that, how could it be part of the New Covenant that God has now written His law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34)?
He conquered death also, which is what this season of Easter is all about. His resurrection will be our resurrection when he comes again in glory. And as he cannot die again, (Rom. 6:9) we too will become immortal through him, and live forever. Now, that is the Gospel, and never let anyone tell you another gospel; for there is no other authentic Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). 
So, that phrase, which sounds so grand that we may fail to hear its meaning, ought to comfort us greatly: "The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The word for this in academic theology is "Impassibility." In the first Article of Religion it is said this way, that God is "without ...passions."  It means, simply, God does not change. He does not change his mind, he does not change his nature, he does not change his will, he does not change at all. In all eternity God is perfect in three Persons. He has no need of learning, he does not need to gain wisdom (certainly not from puny creatures like us), he does not need to mature, does not “evolve.” Nothing has ever effected a change in God. He is perfect in all eternity. The cross and resurrection did not change God; they changed us.  
    
The impassible God, the God who does not change, will not forget you.

       "But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (Isaiah 49:14-16)

In some religious circles it is popular to promise that everyone who has faith, that is real deep faith, will be healed of all earthly sickness, will be in perfect health, will be rich, and live in victory over all things all the time. By twisting the Scriptures and wrenching Bible verses violently from their context, they present this burdensome, impossible, and dangerous doctrine, and often extract great sums of money from people looking to escape from desperate poverty by what actually constitutes a practice of attempted magic. But, these "faith and prosperity" preachers will get old themselves, and they will die the death of all men. 
Real faith carries with it trust. If God seems to hear your prayers and grant you what you ask of him, it is because of his love and wisdom. But, if he seems not to grant your prayer, and perhaps even seems as if he were far away, that too is because of his love and wisdom. He need not prove his love over and over. He proved his love for you already on the cross, and calls you his friend from the cross. It is the same love and the same Fatherly wisdom from God who does not change. You may have faith enough, for a grain of mustard seed is enough, and yet have a share of suffering that seems impossible to bear. Another may hate God and seem to have all his heart's desire. What matters for you is that God knows what is best for each of his children, and so you may trust his love and wisdom, the love of the one who has the scars in his hands and feet, with the wound of the spear in his side. You may trust him whether you have prosperity and healing, or whether you have a share of suffering for a time.

Only one thing can stand between you and the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and it is not a created thing, that is, it is not a thing that God made (Romans 8: 38,39): That one thing is unrepentant willful sin, or, as James calls it, "superfluity of wickedness." Remove all such barriers, if they are in your life, and you may trust that whatever comes is, ultimately, in the hands of the one you may trust absolutely.

Then we have only one thing left to do, and that is to give thanks. In the words of today's Psalm from Morning Prayer:

What reward shall I give unto the LORD * for all the benefits that he hath done unto me? I will receive the cup of salvation, * and call upon the Name of the LORD.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

A musical interlude

We may not have such sights for our own eyes, but we have the faith that created the beauty. The music is my own.
See the video here.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Audio Recording of the sermon preached on the THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, May 7, 2017.  http://www.saintbenedicts.net/sermons--audio--video-archives.html

Friday, May 05, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED! Easter 2017


John 20:1F

One of the great themes we discover on that first Easter is the theme of disbelief. I am not talking about the honest skepticism of Thomas, but about the general disbelief of everybody who was told that Jesus had risen from the dead. The Book of proverbs tells us not to sing songs to a heavy heart, because people who are in the deep valley of bitter disappointment will tend to resent the sound of cheer as hollow and meaningless.

Today’s Gospel reading from John corrects a common misstatement of the facts. It is commonly stated that the women were quick to believe, and the hard-hearted men weren’t; but, contrary to popular imagination, when we compare the various accounts, we learn from Matthew and Luke that the first witnesses of the resurrection were “Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them.” They saw the Lord as they went back to tell the Apostles what the angel had said.
 Comparing John’s account to these other accounts, we learn that Mary Magdalene somehow became separated from the other women, and did not see the risen Lord along with them. After Peter and John went to see the empty tomb, at Mary Magdalene’s urging and with her accompanying them, they left, but Mary stayed behind-to weep. Did Mary believe? Listen to her words, as we look a little further at this 20th chapter of John’s Gospel. When two angels asked “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” 
No, she did not believe either. No one believed on the basis of an empty tomb, and no one even believed the word of angels. It was not enough; it was little better than songs sung to a heavy heart. In fact, the empty tomb proved nothing. How could it? Mary easily explained away the empty tomb: “Jesus saith unto her, ‘Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?’ She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, ‘Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away (v.15).’”
 There you have it. If the Apostles had preached merely an empty tomb (and they would not have bothered-but if they had) we would not be here. History would have been completely different. If people in such a world knew of the Apostles at all, they would take time from the worship of their gods, perhaps from human sacrifices, to laugh about some silly ancient Jewish fishermen who got nowhere, doing nothing. There is no gospel of an empty tomb. That is not our message. The gardener, the gardener, of course! That gardener did it! He took the body somewhere else.

“Jesus saith unto her, ‘Mary.’ She turned herself, and saith unto him, ‘Rabboni;’ which is to say, ‘Master (v.16).’” Now we’re getting somewhere.
It is part of the Gospel, indeed an absolutely necessary part of the Gospel, that the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to witnesses. If evangelists do not preach that the Risen Lord was seen, and identified, they fail to preach the Gospel accurately and fully. If the eyewitness accounts of His post resurrection appearances are omitted, the message is not compelling, not convincing, and ultimately just plain boring. An empty tomb-so what? A Risen Christ? Now that is compelling.
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” (vs. 19, 20)
We need to know that they saw Him. He bid them to look closely and to touch His wounds. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39)
  And, a week later:
“Then saith he to Thomas, ‘reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” (John 20:27,28)

St. Paul told the Christians in Corinth that the Gospel had four essential points.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (I Cor. 15:1-9)

We see four essential points: 1.Christ died for our sins, and 2, was buried. 3. He rose the third day and 4. appeared to witnesses. Paul said that this was “according to the Scriptures,” that same phrase we ourselves have said in the Creed. It means that these things were foretold by the Prophets, and written in the Scriptures centuries before the actual events happened.

What has been handed down to us from the ancient Church is that eyewitnesses told their story, their good news, that is their Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostles did not preach just religious ideals, a pattern of secret Gnosis, an impressive and considered philosophy, a collection of clichés or even the Golden Rule. They told the world that Christ had risen from the dead; they had seen Him alive again. Had they not seen Him, there would be no such thing as Christianity. The Church would never have existed. The world might have remained mostly in the darkness of the violent and cruel pagan religions that we know of from ancient history and archaeology. All history would have been different, for the worse; for it is the message of Christ that has made compassion and justice possible, to what degree these ideals have prevailed among the various nations on earth.

Sadly, today the word “martyr” has been corrupted by radical Islamists. For Christians, however, the word “martyr” is a good word. A true martyr does not kill himself or others. One cannot do violence in the Name of Christ, inasmuch as the whole idea of taking up the sword for Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), is utterly blasphemous. A martyr is not an Islamist suicide bomber. A real martyr is a witness of Jesus Christ. A true martyr, a Christian martyr, is motivated by love.

The word “martyr” was not about death, and a martyr was not someone who died for a cause; that is, not until long after the Church was spreading through the various peoples of the ancient Roman empire. The word comes from the Greek word μάρτυς (martys). A martyr was a person called to give testimony as a witness. Because the witnesses who saw the risen Christ were condemned to death for their eyewitness testimony that they had seen the Lord Jesus Christ alive again after His resurrection from the dead, and because they went bravely to their deaths by refusing to recant or change their testimony, the definition of “martyr” came to mean someone who gave his life for a cause.

No one would give his life for an empty tomb, so easily explained away as the efforts of a gardener. But, for our sakes and for the sake of everyone who might hear the Gospel, eyewitnesses bravely laid down their lives rather than saving their lives by recanting their testimony, that they had seen the Lord alive, raised from the dead.

We need to recognize their initial unbelief at first, when confronted with nothing more than the mystery of an empty tomb. We need to realize that they were as realistic, skeptical and disappointed as any of us would have been. Indeed, it was necessary, for our sake, that they were just like you or I would have been, skeptical and unbelieving. Even though they had seen miracles at the hands of Christ, their skepticism prevailed at first. Efforts to explain away their testimony always end up looking pathetic and weak. That is because the attempts to explain away the eyewitness testimony end up being impossible to believe, far more hard to believe than the truth of His resurrection. The whole idea of a group hallucination is the silliest. One may as well try to convince us that several people could all wake up and discover they had had the same dream. 

The simple fact is this: The Apostles and other disciples were not ready to believe in the resurrection. They were certainly not preconditioned to believe it. All of them, not just Thomas, refused at first to believe. Thomas was simply not there when the others had their doubts removed, and their skepticism satisfied. That includes Mary Magdalene who warded off even the word of angels, weeping still in her unbelief until she saw Him. They were not susceptible or gullible. In fact, they were bitterly disappointed and of heavy heart, not ready for empty promises or cheerful songs. “As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.” (Prov. 25:20) But, these skeptics became convinced. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. (v.20)." They believed because they were eyewitnesses.

The Gospel comes to us as history. God has invaded the sinful and sorrowful world, and has left His mark, His footprint. All of His promises have been confirmed, and with them all of His claims. Christ’s great I AM statements, identifying Himself as God, have been vindicated and proved true. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (II Cor. 1:20) The Gospel preached by the Church is still that eyewitness testimony of Apostles and other early disciples who saw the risen Lord. We do not preach the mystery of an empty tomb, but rather the certain testimony, confirmed in the blood of martyrs, that explains that empty tomb. We preach Christ crucified as the risen Lord of glory. 

________________
You may hear my Easter Fugue at this link.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lancelot Andrewes A Good Friday Sermon

Try fitting this into a seven-minute homily. Click on the picture for the link.


Two for Good Friday

From our archives: this one of Fr. Wells Bulletin Inserts:

GOOD FRIDAY

The special liturgy for this day is one of the great treasures of Christian spirituality.  As a sign of unusual mourning and penitence, both today and tomorrow the Church refrains from celebrating the Holy Eucharist and still in most places does not administer Holy Communion to the faithful.  In effect, we place ourselves under a sentence of excommunication as we remember the crime of our Saviour's death.  Today's liturgy is merely a "liturgy of the Word," which Anglicans of another generation called the Ante-communion.

Two further features of the Good Friday liturgy are the Solemn Collccts and the Reproaches which are chanted or read during the Veneration of the Cross.  Both of these have archaic qualities which recall the earliest centuries of Christian history.  In the "Solemn Collects" we remember that in His very death our Lord was officiating as our Great High Priest .  His first "word from the cross" was a prayer of intercession, "Father forgive them."  So His Church, keeping vigil with Him on Calvary, intercedes for all her children and likewise for the whole world.

The nine prayers of intercession are comprehensive, beginning with the bishops and hierarchy of the Church, proceeding with "all estates of men in thy holy Church," continuing on with various special needs, and concluding with prayers for the Jews and for the heathen.  Each intercession has a special bidding, "Let us pray for..."  One phrase runs through and unites them:  "the Lord our God."
Here we have an echo of the covenant formula which unlocks the entire Bible, "I will be your God, and ye shall be my people, and I will dwell with you."

The covenant of grace, first intimated in the Garden of Eden in God's curse of the serpent and later inaugurated with Abraham, comes into sharp focus today.  When was that promise ever so rejected, or ever so confirmed, as it was at the death of the Messiah?  When the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ, human wickedness (the depravity of all mankind) reached its lowest and vilest point in His murder.  But never has the covenant promise been so ratified as it was when He prayed "My God, my God."  We might lose our way in the rest of that word of dereliction, "why hast thou forsaken me," if we forget that He was pleading the covenant promise, "I will be your God."  Never was God so perfectly "our God" as when He put forth His only-begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  The covenant language in the Solemn Collects should remind us that like our dying Saviour we are pleading the promises of the Covenant sealed in His Blood.

In the Reproaches, we have a meditation on a passage from the prophet Micah.
Here are the original words (Micah 6:3--5).
O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I wearied you?
Answer me!
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt
And redeemed you from the house of slavery,
and I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.
O my people, remember what Balak, king of Moab devised,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.

This address of the LORD to Israel was part of a covenant lawsuit, in which He had called on his unfaithful and idolatrous people to to give an account of their breach-of-contract with the God who had redeemed them.  Their situation is untenable, they have no defense in the LORD's courtroom, they have invoked His curses, their doom is certain.

Micah's description of the covenant lawsuit of God against His people is recalled on Good Friday because on Calvary this untenable situation was resolved, when Jesus Christ took upon Himself our guilt and our doom, by enduring the curse which we have justly provoked.  It is of some interest that Micah describes this lawsuit as taking place "before the mountains."  He may have foreseen Jesus' walk up Calvary's hill to answer for us.  Surely it was there that the greatest "saving act" of the Lord took place.

It is truly sad that this magnificent liturgical poetry (brilliantly set to music) is so little known.  This is owing to the frivolous notion that the Old Testament allusions are somehow anti-Semitic and offensive to the Jewish people.  We must be quick to say that the address "O my people" is not directed toward the idolatrous Israelites of Micah's day, nor to the Sanhedrin which sent Jesus to Pilate, and certainly not to the Jewish people of later centuries.  The Reproaches are addressed, specifically and painfully, to ourselves, the Christian community of here and now.  Because of the "new covenant" which our Saviour announced in the Upper Room (really the ancient covenant of grace re-established and made new), we are God's covenant people.  And we too are faithless, idolatrous, guilty covenant-breakers.  I am not convinced that it was sensitivity for Jewish feelings that has placed the Reproaches in our liturgical attic.  Each time I read them I feel bound to respond, "Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy" not upon them, but "upon us."

Mercifully, the Reproaches do not end with the covenant lawsuit in which we are convicted.  The conclusion is, "We venerate the Cross, O Lord, and praise and glorify thy holy Resurrection, for by virtue of the Cross joy hath come to the whole world."

ONCE FOR ALL

The central and most important prayer of our Prayer Book is the one found on pages 80 and 81, called the Prayer of Consecration.  The more technical and ancient name for this prayer is the “Canon,” a Greek word meaning rule or norm.  This prayer not only consecrates bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper, but is also a normative statement of our church’s teaching concerning the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. 

Near the beginning of this all-important prayer we find the words: by his one oblation of himself once offered.”  These words are placed in parentheses, but surely not to suggest that they are optional or unimportant but to emphasize their critical importance.  These words are there to give point to the following language, “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”  Had it not been “once for all,”   the sacrifice of Calvary would have been less than perfect and insufficient for our salvation.

This language has been part of our Anglican liturgy since the original Prayer Book of 1549.  It is interesting that Archbishop borrowed all this from the Roman Catholic Archbishop Herman of Cologne.

The intent was to refute two serious errors of the late Middle Ages.  One was the grotesque notion that at every celebration of the Mass, our Lord and Saviour is re-sacrificed or even re-crucified.  The other error was the curious idea that every mass has only a finite value as a meritorious act.  Therefore if one mass is good, two would be better, and 1,000 would be better still. This was the basis for masses with a special intention and for mass stipends.  We must be quick to say that such was never the dogmatic teaching of the pre-Reformation Church nor of the Roman Church at the Reformation or now.

Authentic Biblical teaching exposes this  popular belief as radically wrong.  St.  John tells us that at His death, our Lord uttered the cry of victory, “It is finished,” with a Greek word which was a book-keeper’s term meaning “paid in full.”  His death was decisive, final and unrepeatable.  

The Epistle to the Hebrews, in a passage we read on Good Friday, contrasts the sacrifice made by Jesus, the Great high Priest, with the sacrifices made over and over, morning and night, every day of the year, by the priests of the Old testament.  Hebrews uses a very emphatic word, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”  The word which Hebrews hammers home is EPHAPAX, once for all,



We treasure our prayer book for its clear Biblical, Reformed and truly catholic teaching.  Our Saviour made one unique and perfect sacrifice for us,  which we can never repeat, to which we can add nothing, on which we may confidently rely for our salvation.  LKW  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Two for Maundy Thursday.

I have here two things for Maundy Thursday. The first is a study on a much neglected topic, the New Covenant. Inasmuch as Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the lesson appointed for Morning Prayer, I offer you this link to an essay from our archives for your consideration. The second is a sermon for the Holy Communion service, which is at this link.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Palm Sunday

          Click the icon for a link to a sermon

Thursday, March 30, 2017

URGENT Appeal for the South Sudan

http://anglicancatholic.org/news/Bishop-Garang-Issues-Urgent-Appeal-for-Aid

Bishop Garang Issues Urgent Appeal for Aid

Mar 27, 2017

Sudan_famine_web

Food relief is essential for the most vulnerable populations--the pregnant, the elderly, and the young.

In recent months both the ACC website and The Trinitarian have reported on the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.  Though many have responded, the situation remains dire, leading Bishop Wilson Garang to make the following appeal.

In February 2017 the United Nations formally declared famine in South Sudan.  According to a recently released report, 4.9 million people are in need of urgent food.  This is more than 40 percent of South Sudan's total population.

The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity of the crisis. The UN report also notes that more than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan.

The Diocese of Aweil has also been severely affected by the famine since last year.  Many have migrated from Aweil to North Sudan in search of food. Others have resorted to collecting wild fruits and leaves for food. 

I am therefore appealing to well-wishers to donate funds to provide famine relief.  Donations will be used to distribute food to the most severely affected and the vulnerable--pregnant mothers, households with children below five years of age, and the elderly.  Items to be distributed will include sorghum, maize, beans, powdered milk, Unimix, and Plumpy'Nut.

Your brothers and sisters in South Sudan pray for aid.  Those who are in need will not forget what you do. May God bless you.

+Wilson

Donations for famine relief may be made through the Saint Paul Mission Society.  Click here to find out how.

Tagged: aweilfoodfaminereliefdonationssaint paul mission society

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Lent at the URL below


http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2015/03/fourth-sunday-in-lent.html?m=1

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Synagō

For the Third Sunday in Lent             

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. (Luke 11:23) 

What does it mean to gather with Christ? It is possible that the word "gather" was meant to convey the idea of kibutz (קָבַץ), a word that the modern world became familiar with because of the early Zionists and the state of Israel. Or it may have been meant to convey adah  (עֵדָה), which means congregation, for which the Greek equivalent is the word ekklēsia (κκλησία), the word translated as "church" in the New Testament. The Greek word actually used in the verse is of great interest, synagō (συνάγω), from which we get the word "synagogue." No matter how we approach it, that verb form of "synagogue," used by Luke when quoting Christ, must bring to mind the assembled local Church.  

It is also significant that this line is recorded in a context about spiritual warfare and the attack of the Kingdom of God, a frontal assault to take back territory formerly siezed by Satan, and to set hostages free. Going back to v. 20, we see that context:  

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

And what follows is about spiritual warfare also, with a warning.  

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (vs. 24-26) 

Gathering with Christ and His Church seems to be one and the same, at the very least inseparable. When on his way to die in a Roman arena, St. Ignatius wrote several letters to various churches (circa 110 AD). Though he knew that he himself would never return to his bishopric in Antioch, he wrote for the good of all churches everywhere and for all generations to come. In his Letter to the Smyrneans, he said: “Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”  

The alternative is to be part of a great scattering, a life of isolation where it is all too easy to avoid the clutter of prayer, worship, sacraments and sound doctrine. In that scattering an individual becomes such a house as Christ describes, "swept and garnished," ready for the habitation of evil plus more evil times seven. That last state is worse than the first.  

Koinonia
Another word that is relevant to the subject of gathering with Christ and His Church is the word translated as "fellowship," which is koinōnia (κοινωνία). "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (κοινωνία) with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:4) Here we see that this fellowship is impossible without the truth of Apostolic doctrine, the word of God in Scripture.

This same word, koinōnia, is translated "communion" speaking very directly of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the body of Christ?" (I Cor. 10:16) 

A form of this word is used also to say we are partakers. That is koinōnos (κοινωνός).  

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers (κοινωνός) of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (I Pet. 4:13) 

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers (κοινωνός) of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (II Pet. 1:4) 

Contrary to that is a kind of fellowship from which we are told to turn away. 

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Ephesians 5:8-11)." 

In that passage we see a form of the same word translated "fellowship," sygkoinōneō (συγκοινωνω). With what have fellowship, that is communion? The Body and Blood of Christ, or the unfruitful works of darkness? With whom have we fellowship, that is communion? Christ and His Body the Church, or the devil and the world? Choose. 

One can see the skillful use of words in our Service of Holy Communion when we come across such lines as, "humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction." The scholars of the Church of England were second to none, and they knew exactly what they were saying in light of the Biblical use of words that formed their thinking. 

We partake, we communicate, we have fellowship; this is with Christ and His Church; and it is across all barriers of time and space. As St. John tells us in the larger context of his words quoted above about our fellowship, going back to the first verse and taking it from the top:  

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-4)  

Our Synagogue
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb. 10:22-25) 

That word "assembling" is a translation of yet another form of the word "synagogue." It is episynagōgē (πισυναγωγή).  

I do not know what value each of you place on the fellowship of God's Church, especially in countries where the choices seem endless, and where it is so free and easy to gather together. Unlike the ancient Christians under the Roman persecution before 313 AD, and unlike many Christians in various countries where the Church suffers persecution, modern western Christians do not take a risk or pay a high price for the opportunity to assemble. But, to understand the value everyone ought to place on the fellowship of God's holy Church, let us summarize the points we have learned in this brief study. 

When we gather as the Church we gather with Christ Himself. If we do not so gather or assemble together, we scatter and become prey for the enemy. If anyone doubts the reality of that peril, let us look at the very next verse from the portion we have quoted of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Vs. 26, 27 tell us, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Why does the writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warn that forsaking the assembling together of the Church leads to a state of willful sin? Need we really ask this question?

When we gather as the Church we have fellowship. This is not merely social; more than that it is also sacramental and theological. That it is sacramental is obvious, as we have seen from the passage about the communion of Christ's Body and Blood. That it is theological is obvious, because of what John tells us about the doctrine of the Apostles who touched, who heard and who saw the Incarnate Christ (especially as they again touched, heard and saw Him after He had risen from the dead). Our fellowship and communion is in the truth of God's word and it is sacramental. It is with God, and it is with one another. Across barriers of time, we have fellowship with the Apostles themselves by believing their testimony and doctrine; this fellowship is with God and with His Son. We have communion with Christ's Body and Blood; we have fellowship one with another; together we look forward to the day when we may be partakers of the Divine nature. 

I hope you are not planning to sleep late this Sunday.