Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Saints Day November 1.

Click on the icon for a sermon from 2011.

The XXI Provincial Synod of the Anglican Catholic Church, Original Province

From the Facebook page of the Anglican Catholic Church: "The first day of synod featured reports from the ACC around the world. The final address of the day came from Bishop Mushtaq Andrew of the Diocese of Lahore. His report on his work among the people of Pakistan brought the assembled delegates to their feet in a standing ovation."

To readers of The Continuum: I will say more about the Provincial Synod during the week, as I have returned to it just in time to have my clerical weekend - the opposite of most people's weekends.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fr. Wells Bulletin Inserts

from 2009



Speaking humanly, the saddest line in the entire New Testament comes in the Epistle lesson appointed for St Luke's Day. Paul wrote, “Only Luke is with me.” Those are the words of an elderly man, worn out with many years of hard service to our Lord, now in prison awaiting execution at the hands of the cruel Emperor Nero.

When Paul had first arrived in Rome a few years before, he was received by the sizable Christian community there almost as a conquering hero. He went there, of course to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but confident that the Roman imperial government would vindicate him against his Jewish opponents. At first things went well. Paul either won his appeal or had his case dismissed. He proceeded on another missionary journey. But then things turned sour as Nero became demented and hateful toward the Christians. We do not have the details, but we can tell from Paul's final Epistle (II Timothy) that he was arrested, tried, and executed

That was a bad time for the Christians in Rome. People being people, the Church was scattered in many directions. Those who had welcomed Paul at first now abandoned him. “Only Luke is with me.”

But what a companion Paul had for his last days! Luke was a physician, able to bring a degree of relief to a frail and exhausted man. But more than that Luke was the diligent historian who had meticulously researched the words and deeds of the Saviour, who had interviewed the Blessed Mother herself, who had been Paul's companion on his travels. Tradition holds that Luke was one of the seventy disciples we read of in today's Gospel. Surely he was an eye-witness to many events in our Lord's earthly life, to His Resurrection and also to His Ascension. What a source of spiritual strength and comfort to a dying man!

Luke wrote the two longest books of the New Testament, but modestly kept his name out of the record. But we can hardly keep from believing that Paul had Luke in mind when he wrote in 2 Cor. 8:18, “and we have sent with him [that is, with Titus] the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches.” That text is not easy to interpret, but it may well refer to the Gospel Paul's faithful companion was busy compiling, or had even published! So it was understood by the author of the Collect for the Day in the English Prayer Book.

The Saints of our Prayer Book kalendar are variously described as apostles, martyrs, confessors, and evangelists. Only Luke and three others qualify for the last title. An evangelist is one who brings the Gospel, the good news of God's saving acts, to a weary, exhausted, and dying world. As we celebrate Luke on his day, we recall our own vocation. There are many who are hungry for that good news. As Luke ministered to the dying saint Paul, may we serve a lost and dying world. LKW

Saint Luke October 18

Click on the icon for the link to a sermon.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sermon on video

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, Oct. 4, 2015.

Click on the picture.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

I Corinthians 1:4-7 * Matthew 22:34-46

Article VII. Of the Old Testament: THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.”

In less than two months it will be Advent. When that season arrives, we shall be singing that great hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. One of the verses of that hymn says:

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,

who to thy tribes on Sinai's height

in ancient times didst give the law

in cloud and majesty and awe.

It is only fitting for Jesus Christ to comment on the Law- the Torah- and to give us the Summary of the Law in the two greatest commandments. After all, it is He who is the true author of the Law. We need to understand that, because far too many people think that Jesus Christ and the New Covenant contradict the Old Covenant; that God was formerly rather vengeful and mean, until Jesus came and straightened Him out.

But, here is what He said:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matt. 5:17-20)

The Law of Moses was separated into three kinds of law. These are the ceremonial, the civil and the moral. One of the best known sayings of the Jewish people can have a double meaning: “The law of the land is the Law.” It means that in whatever land the Jewish people live, they must be law-abiding people. But, it also means that in the Holy Land, the land they call H’eretz Israel, the Law of the Land is the Torah, the Law given through Moses – that is, it was the Law of their country in antiquity.  

The people of Israel, throughout the Old Testament period, and into the days of the Macabees, had only one national constitution, the Law of God. Therefore, it contains the civil code of the nation, complete with laws of criminal justice, public safety and so on (some of the practical wisdom of which we ignore to our peril. For example, in our Country a person may be convicted on the testimony of but one witness rather than two or three. Our way can lead to injustice. The Torah requires the testimony of at least two witnesses in order to convict the accused. One of the safety laws of the Torah required that every roof have a railing, desert roofs being flat, so that people could not fall off of buildings – Deuteronomy 22:8). Also, the Law of Moses had in it everything we would call a rubric. The commandments tell the people everything that they are to do regarding the worship of God, sacrifice, feasts, fasts, and the details about the Levitical priesthood. This we call the ceremonial portion of the Law.

It is in the Ten Commandments that the Moral Law first appears with absolute clarity. If you were taught properly for Confirmation, no matter how long ago it may have been, you should recall that the Ten Commandments are split into two parts. The first four teach us how to love God. 1) That we worship no other god, 2) that we make no idols to distract from worship of the true God, 3) that we do not abuse, that is take in vain, His Name, 4) that we keep holy the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, as holy to the Lord. Then, the second part gives us six commandments about how to love our neighbor. 5) To honor our parents, 6) not to murder, 7) not to commit adultery, 8) not to steal, 9) not to bear false witness (including not only perjury, but also slander or libel), 10) and finally, not even to covet what belongs to our neighbor.

Part of the great wisdom of our Prayer Book is the Catechism that teaches us how the two great commandments summarize these ten. Furthermore, if we read the New Testament carefully, we see that these commandments are much deeper than they might appear. The commandment to honor one’s parents extends to the teaching that we are to have a respectful attitude to all proper authority (Romans 13:1f). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that anger and hatred, and a lack of forgiveness, are all a violation of the commandment against murder; and that all sins against chastity, even if nothing more than the willful indulgence of "the lust of the eyes" (the kind our entertainment industry tries to cultivate), violate the true meaning of the commandment against adultery, whether by married or by single persons. When we get to the tenth commandment, against coveting, we learn that the entire concept of applying the meaning of the Law to the hidden attitudes of the heart was not a new idea when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.  He had centuries earlier revealed from Mount Sinai the same principle: The Law must be written on the heart.

The Law requires something that it cannot give, that it has no power to impart. It requires a heart that loves God and our neighbor. Furthermore, not simply that we love our neighbors in the plural. That way we could love only some of them, and say that we are fulfilling the commandment. But, the commandment is stated in the singular. “Love thy neighbor” teaches the same thing as those words of the Lord Jesus: “as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren," and conversely, “As ye have done it not unto one of the least of these my brethren” (Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matt. 25:31-46). Charity, that is the highest kind of love, is not about how we treated mankind. It is about how we have treated, forgiven and come to the aid of the one, especially, perhaps, that one we simply do not like.

And, we learn something else, namely from Saint Paul writing to the Galatians:

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:22-24)

When we really think about the Summary of the Law, we can be filled with either despair or hope. I know that I have never lived one day in which I have managed to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. I know that never has the day gone by in which I have loved my neighbor as myself, at least not that one. I would like to be so holy, so filled with virtue. But, I am not.

Saint Paul called himself the chief of sinners. In fact, a genuine mark of a true saint is that he is very much aware of his sins, and of how far he falls short of God’s requirements. Even though he or she lives better than most people, even though he wants to please God and serve Him truly, even though he abstains from willful sin and repents sincerely of every sin into which he might have fallen, he never imagines that he has succeeded or become perfect. If the saints know themselves to be sinners, what about those of us who know that we are called to become saints, and yet know that we have not even gotten close? (For, make no mistake, a saint is exactly what each one of us is called to become.)

The commandments, even the list of negative commandments, that is, those that tell us what not to do, are summed up in the positive commandments, that is, what we are commanded to do. We are to love God, and we are to love our neighbor. That is the whole duty of man, as long as we understand that love means agape, or charity. It never rejoices in iniquity, but only in the truth, says St. Paul in the famous chapter of First Corinthians (chapter 13).

But, how do we come to hope, rather than despair, from these impossible requirements? The answer is what Saint Paul says, that we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing can give me greater confidence in God’s mercy than the impossibility of fulfilling, by my own strength, these two Great Commandments we call the Summary of the Law. He knows our weakness, and does not turn away from us if we come to Him with repentance and faith. That is because He sees us in the Person of His Son, as in that wonderful phrase that is repeated constantly in Paul’s Epistles: “in Christ.” That is where we are, by baptism, by faith, by living in the Church with all of its sacraments that are real and powerful through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can grow into the love of God by heeding these words of Saint John, in that simple phrase: “We love him, because he first loved us (I John 4:19).” How did He first love us? As Saint Paul says, “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).”

I cannot manufacture love for God, or for my neighbor, as such an endeavor is artificial. But, I can look at the cross of Jesus Christ. I can look at Him in His pain and agonies pouring out His soul unto death for me - as can you. If you want to obtain this love for God and for your neighbor, you must look up at Jesus Christ on the cross pouring out His soul unto death for you. That is how the seed of charity is planted within your heart. And, it is by returning to the foot of that cross every day that the seed of charity grows and bears fruit unto eternal life. Realizing that He has died for you is the door of hope by which you can rejoice in His resurrection.

The very nature of what is required in these two great and impossible commandments can give either hope or despair. Because I see the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, I can understand the words in today’s Epistle reading:

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ: that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”