Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A passing thought

Jesus told us how to live, most clearly in the Sermon on the Mount. A rather "solid Anglican" explained to me the other day why he wouldn't obey part of it. All I can say to that is, stop wasting time in religious hypocrisy; why not rather just spend your the time in honest sinning and unbelief?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

                        To read the sermon click on the picture

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Transfiguration of Christ


 


II Peter 1:13-18  * Luke 9:28-36
It became trendy in the later part of the twentieth century to infuse the word "religion" with negative meaning. People were accused of being "religious" back then, in some church groups implying something less then genuine and sincere. It appears that this trend has only gotten worse, with some of the entertainment minded churches afraid to exhibit crosses, afraid even to be called "churches," opting instead for the designation "worship centers." In these "worship centers" there may be very little worship, but a lot of musical performance. Among the worst of these in recent years was the "Seeker Sensitive" movement, in which the Gospel had no cross and God had no glory.

            When we look at the Gospel for this Feast of the Transfiguration, we cannot appreciate its depths if we fear those things which are specifically "religious" in its presentation. Christ our Lord was on the mountain, a place that for Jews symbolized the revelation of God, going all the way back to Moses. It was as He was in prayer that He was transfigured. This is very important. For, the chief reason why trendy Christians step away from their perception of "religion" has everything to do with a hesitation to embrace and love that most important of all doctrines, that central revelation of God, the Incarnation. 

            They fear the sacraments, specifically the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Communion with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In all of their very sincere love for Jesus, there comes a point, nonetheless, when they have a very difficult time with those aspects of our faith that involve the senses of taste, touch, seeing, and hearing. Any honorable mention given to the Blessed Virgin mother of our Lord is, for them, uncomfortable. They profess belief in the two natures of Jesus Christ, that He is both Fully God and fully Man in One Person; but in every practical way, they fear and step back from the full implications of what that means. They fear to come close, fearing all of the echoes and ripples of what it means that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." They confuse the implications of this, and misunderstand those things as if they were some sort of idolatry.

            But I say these things for your sake, that you will never fear to embrace the saving revelation that "the Word was made flesh and pitched the tent of His human nature among us." I say these things so that you will be liberated in your heart to come close to Christ as He is known and revealed. I say this, because of how Saint John (one of those three apostles who are part of today’s Gospel reading) described what the Church truly is, and what it shall continue to be for all time until Christ returns on the Last Day. In the opening of his first Epistle, the Beloved Disciple wrote:

“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. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (I John 1: 1-4)

            You see, the fear is that worshiping Someone Whom eyes could see, hands could touch and ears could hear must be some form of idolatry. Let me help you by being very clear. Once you know that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, it is idolatry to worship only a god whom we cannot see. Idolatry is to worship the images we ourselves make from our own minds, and therefore, it is to worship a god who is not the One known by the revelation He gives of Himself. 

            We, who would bow down at the feet of the Man Jesus, should He walk into this room right now, would not be idolaters. But, a Unitarian, worshiping his notion of a god that is pure of such "adulteration" as the taking of human nature into Himself, can worship only an idol of the human mind, a god who did not reveal himself. His god may very well be a creation of the doctrines of demons, or simply a fantasy. But either way, such a god is not known by revelation, but by imagination. However, our God is not confined to heaven. The true God revealed Himself, most perfectly by taking human nature into the Divine Person of the only and eternally begotten Son of the Everlasting Father.

            This is why we are not afraid to, as the hymn says, "touch and handle things unseen"- nor even to look upon visible things that both effect and signify what is invisible. We are not afraid of holy water, or visible representations such as icons and crosses. We do not treat the Blessed Virgin Mother, through Whom God the Son received His human nature, as some sort of outcast. Furthermore, we know that the bread and wine that will be placed upon this altar today, will be taken into the Person of the Son of God, and given back to us as "the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of...our Saviour Jesus Christ." And, as the Apostle John wrote, we will look upon, and our hands will handle the Word of Life. In this way, you will have fellowship with the Church of the Apostles, and in that fellowship you will have fellowship with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, "that your joy may be full.”

            On the Mount of Transfiguration, which Saint Peter called "the holy mount"- itself a phrase showing the effect of the presence of the incarnate Lord upon all creation- what the Apostles saw was not actually the Divine Nature itself, because that remains invisible to the eyes of every created thing. What they saw was the Shekinah, the manifest Glory of God. They saw a manifestation of our ultimate hope, theosis. They saw that human nature itself is transformed by the presence of God; a certain kind of blindness, that protects the eyes of our yet fallen and imperfect humanity, was removed for a brief glimpse of deified human nature. Christ’s human nature was revealed to be glorious, because in His Person He is fully God. Because of God's human nature in Christ, our transformed and resurrected human nature is destined to be glorified by grace when we partake - κοινωνός  (koinōnos) - of the divine nature.

            In the Transfiguration of our Lord we see our hope, and we see why we need have no fear of death. Christ let His disciples see why His coming death should not fill them with dread. How strange that in this scene, while shining with the light of His glory, the Lord speaks to Moses and Elijah about the death He would accomplish at Jerusalem. Notice, His death would be His own to give. 

            This was Luke’s way of telling us the same thing that Jesus told us, as St. John wrote; That no Man took Christ's life away; He laid it down freely, and freely took it again (John 10:17,18). In speaking of His death to Moses, Christ showed that He was going to fulfill all the Law, and be the One Who dies for us, to forever take away all our sins; that in dying He would fulfill the types and shadows of every sacrifice ever offered on the Old Testament altars. In speaking with Elijah, He showed that He is the fulfillment and subject of prophecy itself. It is He of Whom Moses and the prophets spoke. And, in this scene on the holy mountain, it is He of Whom the Father speaks: "This is my Beloved Son; hear Him."

            I want the words of this sermon to ring in your ears, because my desire for you is that you never fear to come close and touch the Lord; that you never fear to live within the fellowship of the Church, and by that, within the fellowship of God the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ; that your joy may be full.


And now, unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, glory and power, now and forever. Amen



Fr. Laurence Wells  "Bulletin Insert"



Here we are, in the dog days of summer and nearly half way through the long season of Trinity (the “Trinity Trek”), celebrating the mysterious feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration.  That word means a change of appearance and refers to what Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us, that “his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.”  This happened while Jesus was praying by night on a certain mountain, alone with Peter, James and John. 



This vision of Christ in glory (which Peter later insisted was no “cunningly devised fable” but an event to which he was an eye-witness) sounds almost like one of the appearances of the Lord after His resurrection.  But all three Synoptic Gospels insist that this took place during the course of His earthly Galilean ministry (just as we celebrate it in the rather dull season of Trinity).



One detail which sets this event apart is that all three Evangelists made an unusual effort to date it within the narrative.  Luke says “about eight days after.”  After what, we have to ask.  The preceding event must be important, since the Gospels are mostly vague about the time-sequence of events.



The Transfiguration follows, after the interval of a week, upon the critical event of Peter’s great confession, which is the hinge episode of the Gospels, the great turning point of Jesus’ ministry before His Passion.  “Who do men say that I am?  Who do ye say that I am?  Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”



Now, before they have caught their breath, the outspoken Peter and the two ambitious brothers James and John , who aspired to high position in the king-dom, are allowed to see a vision of exactly Who Jesus Is.  While this is a momentary change in His appearance, it is no change in His person or nature, but a sudden revelation of His deity, as the eternal Son or Word of the Father. 

In this vision He is conversing with two personages of long ago, Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets, the Scriptures of the Old Testament.



Peter (who still has some learning to do) devoutly proposes that they build three tabernacles or booths) in which Jesus, Moses and Elijah might be enshrined.  But at that suggestion, Moses and Elijah disappear and Jesus is left alone with His disciples.  The heavenly voice repeats the statement uttered at His baptism: “This is my beloved Son,” but adds the command, “hear Him.” 



In Jesus Christ, in His humility and His glory, we see Someone far greater than Moses and Elijah or any other “hero of the faith.” He is unique.  Therefore in His presence we are commanded to hold our tongues, to give up our own religious ideas, and to obey.                                    LKW



The Transfiguration of Our Lord

 

 



Re-Posted from August 6, 2008
A sermon by Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson, Rector of St. Andrew's in Easton, and Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Chesapeake.
The Lesson: Exodus 34:29
The Psalm: 27, Dominus Illuminatio
The Epistle: II St. Peter 1:13
The Holy Gospel: St. Luke 9:28
+In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Poor Peter. He had to decide which mountain he wanted most, whether Mount Tabor or Mount Calvary. As James and John went with him to Jesus’ prayers on Mount Tabor, the brothers still were smarting from the fresh humiliation of their mother having begged Jesus for thrones to be bestowed upon them; they were in no position to side with Peter in his argument against the Lord’s revelation to the twelve of his impending Passion. Fervent in denial, Peter’s expectations were heightened on the suddenly fashionable Tabor.
As the Lord Jesus prayed there, he was transfigured, or, as Matthew and Mark put it in the Greek, he was metamorphosed. Their description of Jesus’ altered countenance was so intense that King James’ word smiths had to coin a term to describe it: glistering.
Understand, this was no miracle, but the sighting of the Lord’s normal appearance, the veil of his humanity momentarily lifted; the robe of flesh clothing the Word who had chosen to be numbered among the transgressors here parted to reveal Very God. No, there was no light shining upon Jesus, but his deity radiating from within. This was how Moses and Elias had seen Jesus, the vision glorious which they had known in him.
Then, just as the Father and the Holy Ghost had joined Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, at his Baptism, so now did they join him at its close, the Three Persons of the Holy and Undivided Trinity revealed in the same place and time. The Father again spoke from heaven of his pleasure in the Only-Begotten Son; and just as the Holy Ghost had appeared at the Jordan mikvah as a dove, so now did he come in the cloud to be present with this holy Jesus, whom these prophets had known intimately through the Spirit’s vision bestowed upon them.
Why in particular was Jesus joined by Moses and Elias? Simply said, it is because he was the fulfillment of everything they had taught: the Messiah, the Chosen One of Israel whom they had known through the revelation of the Holy Ghost, Moses having delivered the Law, Elias the chief of the prophets. But if you want it said a little more complex, they were ‘types’ of the Messiah. By ‘type’, I do not mean they were sort of or kind of like messiahs, but that by their beings and teachings they had ‘resembled’ one like them but so much greater. God had revealed this much to Moses: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." (Deuteronomy 18:18)
Moses, in the closing moments of his leadership, participated in the most telling prophecy yet of the Saviour, when instructed by God to strike the rock which had followed them. "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly...." (Numbers 20:10) Now, this rock actually was the presence of Christ among the people of Israel, the water from it the symbol of his precious blood. We know this because St. Paul teaches us, "[They] all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." (I Corinthians 10:4)
There is a very peculiar fact about the water from that rock. It is described by a strange Hebrew word, which transliteratesmeribah, translating as the water of strife, or the water of contradiction. It bespeaks the never ceasing stream of grace from God to his people, even in their most rebellious and contentious moments against him.
Elias, Elijah if you prefer, was known as the chief and greatest of prophets, and especially because he was drawn up into heaven by a flaming chariot via a whirlwind. Many Jews (and remember that Judaism, then as now, was a multi-sectarian religion) considered Elias to have been a prophet in a sense so great that he was a messiah, and who, because he departed this world alive, could return alive. Some Jews today believe he will return again. In fact, there is even a Christian tradition that he will precede Christ’s return, his purpose to convert the Lord’s own Jewish people, and then their rabbis!
The Archangel Gabriel would comfort old Zacharias by likening his son St. John Baptist to Elias: "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (St. Luke 1:16) You may recall, in fact, that the priests and levites thought John to be Elias returned. (St. John 1:19)
So now, can you imagine how raced the hearts of Peter, James and John? You would have thought that on the holy mount they had learned so much of the Cross when hearing God in Christ, with the Law and the Prophets, speaking of "his decease," of his redemption of the world; and of the joyous joining there of the Father and the Holy Ghost! I must believe that the brothers, the sons of Zebedee, had taken it in, because merely a few years would pass after Jesus "decease" that the courageous James would be the first Apostle to witness for the Lord Jesus in martyrdom; and John, seasoned by time so many years later, would receive the apocalyptic Revelation. You and I know that Peter would wholly understand these things only after Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, and especially at Pentecost.
But, my beloved, not today. As I have told you that Peter was fervent to deny Jesus’ foretelling of his Passion, his expectations for a bloodless Christianity were heightened on this day. And I have told you also that Peter was torn over which mountain to choose: The romantic garden spot of Tabor, or the stinking, blood-sodden rot of Calvary, where, by an old Jewish myth, was buried the skull of Adam.
So Peter desperately appeals to his seeming fatalistic Lord to build three shrines here, for each of the nobility in the cloud. He thinks he can prompt God in Christ into self-aggrandizement. Satan has tried this before, hasn’t he? And Jesus had called Peter ‘Satan’ in another event, hadn’t he? "He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (St. Matthew 16:23)
No way the Cross! Peter wants a bloodless Christianity, a religion vacant of struggle against sin and the way of death. He wants a religion of Mount Tabor, not a religion of Mount Calvary.
The unconverted spirit of the old Peter is alive and well today, in the Church of Social Cachet, the Church of Sentimental Footsteps Carrying Us on the Beach, in the Church of The Success Culture, and in the Church of Sexual License and Better Bowling Scores: Such as these Jesus calls the church of the whited sepulchre, the churches "that be of men." It is a Mount Tabor Christianity with benign shrines. But the religion to which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calls us is that of Mount Calvary.
You see on Mount Tabor what you should want to see forever, the radiance of his face (....it’s all right, go ahead, look at him in Cimabüe’s crucifix over the altar, gaze into his loving eyes), that face which in weeks after Tabor will bear the thorny crown of ignominy, soon to be "sore wounded"; spattered with blood beaten out of him by the Roman guards, the same blood’s Real Presence on our Altar this holy day and every Sunday, each Sunday a little Easter. And look today on his glistering raiment, because you won’t see it on Mount Calvary, stripped away to reveal him, in Wesley’s words inspired by St. Paul, "robed in flesh, our great high priest," that flesh which had been the tabernacle of his divinity, which had come among us, full of Grace and Truth.
You know how I am forever telling you that your religion must be as intensely practical as it is mystical. As with all else, even the Transfiguration of Our Lord must speak to your heart.
Mine? On August 6, 1963, I paused for a few days at The Abbey of St. John the Baptist at Collegeville, Minnesota. (I know the arithmetic is a mystery to you young people, who have always known that I am only thirty-nine years old.) In those days, St. John’s was the most populous Benedictine monastery in the world. Well, I was en route to my undergraduate experience in Chicago and needed a few days of prayer. So, at the Abbey on this day, the Feast of The Transfiguration of Our Lord, I thought to myself: Goodness, it looks more like Easter, so decked out in flowers and lights, ebullient to the ear in joyous chant!
I asked my old friend the choirmaster, Fr. Gerard Farrell, of blessed memory, how this could be. And he replied in such a way that I was reminded of the passage from the Revelation to St. John which we always read on All Saints’ Day. "These are they," he began, "who’ve seen death beyond measure, and who’ve fled to Jesus, because they know he’s the only one who can make sense out of Calvary, to know the one who died there, who’s still alive."
Well, you know, I was a kid, and I’d thought every monk was some kind of world-wise sophisticate like Thomas Merton. But Fr. Gerard explained to me that most of the monks were farmers or common labourers, ordinary people like you and I, who either had enlisted or were drafted into two world wars. For them, there was no Mount Tabor to which to return. They wanted, they lived for, the life-giving religion of Calvary, knowing this is the place from which Jesus saves!
You see, just as Peter would have to decide whether to choose Tabor or Calvary — rather, whether his would be the Christianity of Peter or Jesus — you and I must decide, too. The old Peter’s path is to one hell of a realm of materialism where you fret over the meaningless vintage of your failure to redeem yourself; whereas the other by simple humility and submission will lead you to the royal wine of heaven. Simple as that!
My beloved, given that St. Andrew’s faces some serious days ahead, I tell you we’re going to succeed because we have chosen the right mountain. We will stand some ridicule because we have chosen not to imitate the world’s vision of the Church, but because we have chosen Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and so his salvation and sacrifice as the mission and message of his Church. One day, rich or poor in the world’s sense, we’ll be able to answer to the Lord Jesus in his Day of Judgement.
But listen, as Peter was transformed, so shall we be transformed; Christ changes all things and all persons who come to him. For here’s what Peter wrote years later of the Transfiguration. Please read it aloud, and listen not only for the sublime poetry; but understand this same Jesus can touch your heart, too.
"We had been eye-witnesses of His exaltation. Such honor, such glory was bestowed on Him by God the Father, that a voice came to Him out of splendour which dazzles human eyes. This, it said, is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased..... We, his companions on the holy mountain, heard that voice coming from heaven, and now the word of the prophets gives us more confidence than ever. It is with good reason that you are paying so much attention to that Word: It will go on shining, like a lamp in some darkened room, until the dawn breaks, and the day star rises in your hearts." (II Peter 1:16-19; tr. Ronald Knox.)
+Joel Marcus Johnson, Chesapeake


Sunday, July 16, 2017

AUDIO RECORDING FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

Sermon preached by Fr. Robert Hart CLICK HERE

July 16, 2017

St. Benedict’s Anglican Church
870 Weaver Dairy RoadChapel Hill, NC 27514

www.saintbenedicts.net
Among scholars of Sacramental Theology is none greater than the woman with the flow of blood. "If I may but touch the hem of His garment."

Friday, July 07, 2017

Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Romans 8:18-23  *  Luke 6:36-41
The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading come in separate sections. Let us look at each one, one by one.

Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 

This is not about pretending not to know right from wrong, but about mercy. All too easily, we apply to others a standard we would not want applied to us, not about right and wrong, but about forgiveness. It goes without saying that everybody, including everybody here, is a sinner. I am not talking about notorious and unrepentant sin. I am not talking about accepting a low standard of conduct, either for others or for ourselves. I am talking about the need of every personto be forgiven failures and offenses.
          Jesus commands us to be merciful because God Himself is merciful: “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” It is that very appeal, to be merciful because God is merciful, that is taken up later by St. Paul: "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph. 4:32) "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colo. 3:13)
          One thing that has plagued the Church for centuries is a readiness to pull away from each other. Rather, God commands us to acquire the combination of love and humility that preserves not only good order, but the sacramental bond of fellowship and communion by which we are in Christ. Separating from a religious body that cast off the truth of the Gospel was unavoidable; but, continued secessions are not, thereby, justified.
          God, as our Father through His only begotten Son, has brought us into His own family and made us His children. Just as an earthly father rejoices to see his grown children love one another, and is grieved if it is otherwise, so it is out of love for God that we are told to love one another in the Church. “Even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you," says St. Paul; and “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
          Not be a judge means not to set yourself up as the judge, not to condemn, not to write off your brothers and sisters as hopeless cases, beyond the pale, not worth bothering with. It is easy to take a mental photograph that freezes individuals in time, perhaps at their worst. But, the truth is that the Holy Spirit, the One Who is at work in your heart and life, is active also in changing and sanctifying all of God’s children. That mental image you retain, taken at someone’s worst moment, needs to be torn up and thrown away. This requires faith in God, in this case, in the Holy Spirit Who is at work changing your brother just as He is changing you.
          Since the measure you mete will be meted out to you, love one another, be merciful, and have faith that God the Holy Spirit is at work.

And he spoke a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 

Jesus used the image of the blind leading the blind, on another occasion, to speak about the dangers of religious leaders who teach false doctrines (Matt. 15: 12-14), specifically of the Pharisees. But, here in this context, Jesus uses the same words to speak of something different, which we shall see in a moment. But, first let us consider the words, “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
          Though He was Lord of Heaven and Earth, Jesus accepted the role of a servant for our sakes. His patience was more than remarkable; it was, literally, Divine.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:10,11)

Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:13-17)

Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28)

This must be the attitude of each one of us in His Church. We are here to serve, to wash one another’s feet, and so to be like our Master (or Rabbi).
          I mentioned to you the man who told me he wanted to be a priest, in fact, that he wanted to be a bishop; and that he asked me, hypothetically, “isn’t it right to want to climb to the top of your chosen field?” I mentioned to you also that I told him to forget entirely about ordained ministry; that I would not help him on that road, not even one little bit. If ever he comes back to see me, I will hope it will be because he wants to serve God, even if it means washing the feet of his brethren; and that he will have no longer a desire born of ambition. It is enough to be like our Rabbi, our Master Who came not to be served. And, this calling, to be like Christ, is everyone’s calling. It is your calling and it is mine. Be content to serve in whatever way God has called you and given you gifts for service. It is enough.

And why beholdest thou the mote [speck] that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam [log]  that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

You can see, as I said, from the context that Jesus has used the image of the blind leading the blind, and both of them falling into a ditch, differently from how He used it regarding the Pharisees. And, here we see that one of the services you may provide, out of love that moves you to be merciful as our Father is merciful, is to pull the speck out of your brother’s eye.
          To the degree that your brother may need your help, you cannot help him blinded, as you are, if you are walking around with a log protruding out of your own eye. When it comes to helping your brother get his eye clear, if you are the one to be of help, first remove the log that blinds you.
          Well, that is simple enough to understand, surely. But, the reality is subtle. We all prefer to see the faults of others, and to ignore our own faults; and that includes the fault of finding fault. “Why isn’t you-know-who just the most judgmental, fault-finding and critical bore we know?” When my brother was a young and mischievous seminarian, he wrote a sort of not quite hymn that went:

I thank Thee Lord, for I hear tell
That another sinner went to Hell.
I thank Thee I am not as he,
An hypocrite and a Pharisee.

Consider what I am saying in light of last Epistle reading, about Satan going about as a roaring lion. Spiritual warfare is a reality concerning which our own people have all too often been quite dangerously naive. 
Think of these words by St. Paul: 
"To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Cor. 2:10,11)
          But, today the Church is ignorant of Satan’s devices. One great problem is the disproportionate number of people, in far too many cases even of clergy, who have proved themselves ignorant of Satan’s devices. We cannot afford the luxury of this ignorance. Our adversary the devil still goes about as a roaring lion. It takes real humility before God, and in relation to one another in the Church, to resist him. It takes, also, steadfastness in the faith.
           
We have an enemy already – our common enemy; and we are all on the same side. It must be like the musketeers said: “All for one and one for all.” Or, to put it better, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

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.