Sunday, June 25, 2017
Friday, June 23, 2017
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Saturday, June 10, 2017
THE REVELATION OF THE TRINITY AND SALVATION
TRINITY SUNDAY 2014 (THE KINGDOM OF GOD)
Sunday, June 04, 2017
Saturday, June 03, 2017
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
Saturday, May 27, 2017
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.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017
Monday, May 15, 2017
Friday, May 12, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Friday, May 05, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
“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
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
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 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
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?
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
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Friday, March 31, 2017
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Bishop Garang Issues Urgent Appeal for Aid
Mar 27, 2017
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.
Donations for famine relief may be made through the Saint Paul Mission Society. Click here to find out how.