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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.


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Psalm 110

Trinity XIX

October 11, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“King, Priest, and Judge”


All of us have probably heard the analogy used to convince people that all religions in this world are but only different pathways to the same God.  Religion professors especially are drawn to this analogy, because it passionately declares that all religions are thus equally valid for mankind!

Here is the analogy… There are four blind men who discover an elephant. Since the men have never encountered an elephant, they fumble about, seeking to understand and describe the new wonder.

One grasps the trunk and says it is a snake. Another explores one of the elephant’s legs concluding it as a tree.  A third finds the elephant’s tail and proclaims it a rope. And the fourth blind man, discovering the elephant’s side, determines that it is, after all, a wall.

Each in his blindness is describing the same very thing, we are told -- an elephant! Yet each describes the same wonder in a radically different manner.

This, we are told, is a picture of the world’s different religions!  All describe the very same God but in radically different ways. Thus, we are to conclude, no one individual “religion” has a “corner” on truth.  All are equally valid.  All are equally ultimate.  So goes the analogy.

We should be very grateful to Dr. David Horner (Talbot Seminary) for his careful – and revealing -- analysis of the “elephant analogy.”  For he points out a “bottom line” somewhat hidden from us… that all four blind men were, in fact, mistaken.  They were in error.  They were wrong!  They were blind!  It was an elephant -- not a snake … it was an elephant -- not a tree… it was an elephant -- not a rope… it was an elephant -- not a wall.  It was an elephant all along!  Their opinions were not equally true!  They were actually equally false.

The “bottom line of the analogy in this light becomes something quite different!  All of mankind’s religions are false -- not true – because they do not include any special revelation of truth!  They are only the pooling of man’s blindness.

If a fifth man were to arrive on the scene -- one who could see (and who could demonstrate perfect vision) -- and described the elephant as an elephant... it would entirely change the analogy.

Jesus Christ, unique among all religious leaders of history, claimed to be such a “fifth man!”  All who came before me were thieves, He declared!  And many of the people who saw His miracles and heard His teachings were offended by his clear statements about reality. This was why they sought all the more to kill Him, were are told, because He… called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

The psalm before us this morning is the most-quoted psalm in the Bible!  It consists of only seven verses, yet they are quoted a total of twenty-five times!  Jesus famously quotes it.  St. Peter quotes it.  St. Paul quotes it!  And so does the Epistle to the Hebrews!


But it is not on the “favorite reading list” of the many “Christians” (and their “spiritual leaders” for that matter) -- who relish attending “interfaith meetings” listening to those labeled the ”parliament of the world’s religions” as they “hawk” the virtues of pluralism to give themselves standing...


Psalm 110 is not so “inclusive.”  Indeed, far from it!  Psalm 110 – and the LORD God its Author -- are in fact “exclusive.”  Listen to what King David records…


The LORD [Yahweh] said unto my Lord [Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son], Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.


Jesus quoted this remarkable verse to many people during His earthly tenure!  He quoted it to Pharisees, to scribes, to chief priests, to elders, to the Sanhedrin, to false witnesses, and even to the high priest himself on the night of His betrayal. 


A footstool was a piece of furniture used by a king seated upon his throne.  No part of him, in his elevated “intermediary” state, touched the earth!  His body rested high upon his throne above his subjects his feet resting upon his footstool. 


In the same manner, the Scriptures tell us that Heaven is God’s Throne and that the earth is His Footstool.  Jesus’ Footstool is a reference to His subjugated enemies.  God has ordained that all of Christ’s rebellious foes and every last one of His defiant enemies will in time be defeated and become the figurative resting place for His Holy Feet.


This is an incredibly encouraging reference for His beleaguered servants trying with all their might to extend His influence in such a froward and recalcitrant world!  This psalm tells us that in His pursuit of His enemies (and the rapid approach of their impending destruction) our Lord will not even stop to refresh Himself… but hastily drink of the river before Him as He continues His pursuit.


If you read the Gospels, Jesus did not speculate with others about the nature and attributes of His Father – where everyone’s opinion was equally ultimate… equally noble… equally true!  No, He came to declare His Father and proclaim Himself one with Him!  He who has seen me has seen the Father, He taught!


And just as we are told our Heavenly Father will make our Lord’s enemies His footstool… so are we told in verse three that His people will offer themselves willingly in their worship of Him – and we should note it specifically says “holy” worship.  Not trivial worship!  Worship set apart specifically for the glory of God… not the glory of man.


And then we find a unique reference to our Lord as a Priest – after the order of Melchizedek (which means “my King is righteousness”), who was called a priest of the Most High God… and is without human parentage.  In the same way, Jesus appears on earth to fulfill His Father’s oath upon Him to obtain the pathway of acceptance for His people.  Those who close this door in God’s face seal their own doom. 


Last of all, we discover a reference to our Lord as Judge!  He shall judge among the heathen, we are told!  And because He is Judge, we are to withhold our own judgments.  The New Testament verb for judging is krino – which really means render a verdict.  It is fine for us to hear opinions and characterize the truth regarding others in our own minds as we see it.  But we are not to pronounce verdicts upon others – as though we were prosecuting attorney, judge, and jury “all in one.”  Our Lord is that Judge and His judgments are true and righteous and binding – and fearful for those who do not repent and serve Him!


I find it more than interesting that Billy Graham, who turns 97 next month has apparently written his “swan song,” as it were, in his new (and perhaps final) book entitled Where I Am… And of all things it is about hell!  In a Religious News Service release we are told that “In his latest book, evangelist Billy Graham declares that non-Christians are doomed to live in a fiery hell, a message his son said he has wanted to share for several years.”

“There were some family members who thought that he shouldn’t do it because it was a negative subject,” said Franklin Graham in an interview Friday (Oct. 2). “And Daddy said, ‘It is a negative subject. It’s a real subject. It’s a real place.’”

Let us make sure we are Christ’s people by offering ourselves to Him willingly through holy worship.  He has brought us the clear and true revelation of the Father – and our role is to understand it… to obey it… to set it forth for others… and to guard it. 


The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 


So it was in the beginning.  So has it always been.  And so shall it ever be.  World without end.  Amen.



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Psalm 46:1-11

Trinity XVIII

October 4, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“Be Still… and Know That I Am God”


Be still… and know that I am God.


Perhaps no wiser counsel, nor rewarding promise, nor majestic words are to be found in all of the Sacred Scriptures!


Be still… and know that I am God.


We have all heard the beautiful “sounds of nature” CDs on which are recorded the pleasant and comforting – mesmerizing – sounds of soft raindrops, rustling leaves, insects, and even the whisper of the wind.  But little do you and I appreciate the monumental task production crews face in finding quiet and still settings in which to record these faint sounds, without the distracting background noise generated by mankind.


Ultra-sensitive recording equipment is set up in the outlying regions of suburbia only to be interrupted by the honk of a distant car.  One account tells of a producer who hiked by backpack into the wild only to record the sound of a hunter’s rifle.  He was then flown by helicopter to the furthest outreaches of civilization where isolation and seclusion are almost assured – only to record the unwelcome roar of an overhead jet!


Be still… and know that I am God.


Nor is stillness to be found in the “natural” temperament of men, women, children or young people!  As the fallen sons of Adam and the fallen daughters of Eve, our souls are all too often filled with the din of the world’s blare to enjoy any shade of “stillness.”  Conversations here, there, and everywhere!  Violent emotional upheavals!  The press of deadlines!  With people on the right and left flowing like a river in the race to nowhere! 


And yet the word of the LORD to us this day remains unchanged.


Be still… and know that I am God.


These are most intriguing words for the sophisticated members of 21st century mankind!  They are without doubt most instructive words for those who will listen to them and who will learn from their rich counsel.  They have been with us for three millennia, penned during the challenging days of Israel’s history when the Almighty delivered her from her fierce enemies through the hand of King David.


This psalm begins with a reminder that God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble, and ends with the words, The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  These majestic words, by the way, inspired in the German Reformer, Martin Luther, the lyrics of his famous hymn:


A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

Our helper he amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing…


Of all eleven inspired verses of this psalm – which speak of earthquakes and floods, the disorderly conduct of nations and the unruliness of mankind, accounts of wars and rumors of wars – these are the only words uttered directly by the Ancient of Days!


Be still… and know that I am God.


We might well ask ourselves the question: Were these eight remarkable words written for God’s benefit or were they written for our benefit?  Since God is without any need or needs, totally self-sufficient and self-capable, we may safely conclude they were certainly written for our benefit!  He loves us and desires that we understand and follow His ways!  Indeed, much benefit accrues to us if we will hear and heed.


Consider First, to be “still” is to “relax” (in the vernacular, to “chill out”)… to calm down, something very foreign to modern man.  It comes from the Hebrew word rah fah’ which means to “let fall.”  Let all angst and worries and stress fall – fall away… fall to the ground!   


Be still… and know that I am God.


This verb is furnished as a command!  Be still!  To “be still” is contrary to our nature. So the Almighty furnishes us the command, “Be still.”


To “be silent” is to cease from speaking words.  But to “be still” is something more.  It is not only to cease from speaking words, but in addition, to cease from all actions! 


Thus to “be still” is to be silent and calm to the point of being motionless.


Several of us here this morning were trained according to a philosophical seam in American and Canadian education that yet understood and considered this command to “be still” as an implicit component of the educational curriculum.


Beginning in the first grade, children were thus taught to “be still.”  To practice this, their hands were placed on their desks and their feet placed squarely on the floor.  Their heads were bowed and there were to be no words.  There were to be no actions.  The teacher would walk quietly around the room and touch the top of each child’s head in recognition that he or she did well.  This began first for five seconds, then the next week for ten seconds, and so on, until at the end of the year all of the students could easily “be still” for long periods of time!


Those who were taught such simple control of their mouths, their bodies and their emotions were granted one of the greatest gifts of all – to be “still” on command – something that does not just come naturally to us!  Some may say, “I was never taught this!”  It is never too late to learn!  It is always within the reach of all of us!


There is an old saying: Sometimes God stills the storm.  Sometimes He lets the storm rage… and calms His children!


It might be good for us to remember that our Lord knew how to be still.  We can see Him asleep in a boat caught in the midst of a wild storm!  The Twelve had to wake Him up to ask for His help!  Peace be still, He cried out – and it was so!


We also might remember that the Solomonic Temple was constructed in utter silence – by Solomon’s command (read I Kings chapter 6 for the details) – reminding us of the reverence that should mark God’s House!  But also reminding us that we -- as the temples of God – should also possess that same tranquility!


How many people play back in their minds the hasty words… the ill-advised actions that led to their downfall – because they never learned to be “still”?


I am amused, but even more, astounded and humbled at the wisdom of the old nursery rhyme:


A wise old owl sat in an oak.

The more he saw, the less he spoke.

The less he spoke, the more he heard.

Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?


Second, to be “still” before God is to define true worship. 


It does not say to be still and “find yourself”…

It does not say to be still… and emotionally healthy…

It does not say to be still… and seek nothingness!! Nirvana…

It says… Be still… and know that I am God.


Much has been said, much has been written, and much has been endlessly debated, regarding the proper worship of Almighty God. 


The eight words before us this morning teach us something regarding true Christian worship that is irrefutable.  They link knowing God with the practice of being silent and reverent – and still.


Be still… and know that I am God.


In fact, these words, if completely thought through are eventually recognized as an irreducible axiom.  To know God requires in some manner the practice of being still. 


We can certainly thank the Almighty for the many, many gifts He has lavished upon this humble parish!  We all dress appropriately, knowing we are assembling before the King!  There is a readiness to kneel and joyfully participate in the service!  There is Christian love with accompanying actions!  But above all there is a reverent and silent tenor that marks and fills this House of Worship – people talking silently to God before the service, letting God talk to them during the service, then talking to one another after the service.


Third, and last, to be “still” defines God’s Presence amongst mankind.  Be still… and know that I am God.


When the LORD’s prophet, Elijah, found himself in trouble – deep trouble – with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel on account of the Word of the LORD which he had declared, indeed, when they sent secret agents after him to seize him for execution, do you remember what he did?


He fled into the wilderness below Beersheba to the south, and continued for 300-miles on foot until he stood in the mouth of a cave at Mt. Sinai.  We are told a great and strong wind rent the mountain and broke the rocks – but God was not in the wind!


We are told an earthquake shook the earth and made the mountain tremble.  But God was not in the earthquake!  We are told a fire passed by, consuming everything in its path.  But God was not in the fire!


But finally, a still small voice came to Elijah.  And God was found in the still small voice. 


It is like the old adage states… When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!  When we are silent and still, the Lord will appear!  Our Heavenly Father makes His Presence known to us in stillness.  ~He always has!  He always will!  When we have been made “still” through injustice and the humility of heart-wrenching events, it is then that He comes to us like the evening dew to calm and soothe our troubled souls.


When we are silenced through injuries and illnesses and debilitating weaknesses and the threat of various inescapable maladies that afflict our tabernacles of clay -- when we find ourselves still in a mantle of darkness -- it is then that He comes to us to sanctify our burdens.


Our Heavenly Father makes His Presence known to us in stillness.  He always has!  He always will! 


This is why regular, reverent, exalted public worship is so important.   It is when two or three are gathered in His name that He says He will be in their midst!    


Be still… and know that I am God.


These words are too important to let slip away!  Let us therefore hold them close – and better yet, put them into practice!


So it was in the beginning.  So has it always been.  And so shall it ever be, world without end.



Psalm 10

Trinity XVII

September 27, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“The LORD Is King For Ever and Ever”


There are many statements in the Bible which are offensive to fallen Man!  But probably none of them are as offensive as the unyielding statement found in the psalm read together this morning!   It is a phrase which the church, in its smug sophistication, cozy friendship with the world, and attempt to be more compassionate than God Himself… needs to hear!  It is a phrase which the fallen sons of Adam and fallen daughters of Eve need to hear in hope and faith they will be converted by God’s grace and live.  It is a phrase, indeed, which you and I need to hear often and “live out” consistently in our daily lives!   


It is found in verse 18. 


The LORD is King for ever and ever. 

The LORD is King for ever and ever.


Why was it written?  It was written because the psalmist, of old, had seen so much pervasive and unrelenting evil in his day – he could no longer keep silence and hold it in!  The psalm is really a lamentation written to God, as it were, from his heart!  Note how it begins…


Why standest thou so far off, O LORD, and hidest thy face in the needful time of trouble?  In modern parlance, “How come You don’t help us?”


And then follows a litany of very real contemporary issues – each insulting to the faithful – but even more so, to the Almighty Himself!  Pride (verse 4), injustice (verse 5), arrogance (verse 6), fraud (verse 7), theft and murder (verse 8), secrecy (verse 9), deception (verse 11), heresy and sacrilege (verse 12).


And then he calls out to God!  Arise, O LORD God (v. 13).  Take the matter into Thy hand (v. 15).  Break the power of the ungodly (v. 17). 


Finally, he offers words of comfort to all the faithful in their distress. 


The LORD is King for ever and ever. 


It does not say: The LORD is a king (small k) – although some would wish it so to be!  It does not say: the LORD is one king amongst many kings – although that might indeed be what many think!  It does not say: Hope for the LORD to be King for ever and ever!  What it says is:


The LORD (all capitals letters – Tetragrammaton -- the Name of Eternal God: Yahweh, the Great I Am) is King (present tense with a capital K) for ever – and then repeats once more -- and ever.


The LORD is King for ever and ever.


As we sang in the processional hymn this morning:


Under the shadow of Thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure

Sufficient is thine arm alone

And our defence is sure.


Just how is it, we ask ourselves, this reference to Almighty God as King has almost disappeared from Christian vocabulary and prayers?  How is it that our role as His enlisted soldiers has drifted from the consciousness of His troops -- the Church militant -- until it is now almost AWOL?  How is it that His mighty army – once a colossal juggernaut and force that brought about Christian civilization – has, like a chameleon, blended in with the world to such a degree they are now almost indistinguishable?


Some say the “adversarial nature” of armed conflict is passé (out of date).   But St. Paul, in II Timothy 2:3 tells us: Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  Lest we have forgotten, we are in the midst of a spiritual war which requires spiritual armor and discipline (Ephesians chapter 6)!  We dare not lose sight of the King Who commands us!


The LORD is King for ever and ever. 


The Christian hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers, has been the backbone of Christian Hymnody for 150-years.  But through a development in 1986 which reveals much more than intended, the 9.1 million member United Methodist Church considered the lyrics of Onward Christian Soldiers too militaristic, and so it was voted out of their hymnal along with another hymn that refers to warfare -- "Battle Hymn of the Republic." 


Yet, we should recall, the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers was sung at the funeral of former American president Dwight Eisenhower at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC (March, 1969).


I would like to remind you of an event on August 10, 1941 most would think fictional, were it not documented as being historical!  At the signing of the Atlantic Charter (which was a broad statement of U.S. and British war aims through a joint declaration released by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill even as Germany was inflicting humiliating defeats upon their enemies).– the British Battleship Prince of Wales sat in harbor in Newfoundland.  On its wide deck a crowd of British and American sailors were gathered before the two famous men.  And they did the unthinkable!  What did they do?  They sang!  Sang what?


Onward! Christian soldiers,

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Can you believe it?  Both Churchill and Roosevelt had chosen the hymns that day -- when American and British sailors stood shoulder to shoulder before the start of WWII.  The specter of war and destruction changes outlooks!


Churchill had selected as hymns O God Our Help in Ages Past and Onward Christian Soldiers.  Roosevelt selected Eternal Father Strong to Save.  And so the three great hymns filled the air that memorable morning.


What – almost 75 years later -- has happened to our world?  Why can we not see and respond to the great wickedness of our days?  Prayers can no longer be prayed to Him at public school graduation services!  Leaders cannot find the will to stop the sale of organs and tissues of aborted babies.  There is the legalization of same-sex marriages.  And Christians are told to keep their religion to themselves; their voice is just one among many in an America that is now no longer Christian but pluralistic! 


I was hoping the pope – known as the “vicar of Christ” -- in his recent address before the U.S. Congress might remind our leaders of Jesus’ role as King of kings, but he did not mention the name of our Lord once!  He mentioned the environment, illegal immigration, and social justice – in the same manner that politicians do.  But not one reference to the Savior of the world… and the Redeemer of Mankind!


And so we ask ourselves, “Does the Almighty no longer have any say in the matters of this world? Or has 21st century man been deceived?


Indeed, 21st century man has been deceived!


St. Peter warned the people of his day, Save yourselves from this “untoward” generation. Or in more modern language, Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.


It is fine to talk about Eternal God as our Friend, but we dare not forget that He yet remains King (capital K)!


The LORD is King for ever and ever.


It is fine to talk about Eternal God as immanent (near us), but we dare not forget that He yet remains “wholly other” (transcendent).


The LORD is King for ever and ever.


It is fine to remember and honor the dignity and office and function of civil magistrates, but we dare not forget the Almighty still sits enthroned over them – judging them according to His Royal Decrees!


The LORD is King for ever and ever.


It was Thomas Jefferson who said: Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.


And it was Thomas Jefferson who also reminded us that if we forget the paths of wisdom so carefully set before us by the Ancient of Days... and the founders of this nation – the children of the land will (and I quote): wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered.


May you and I carefully and reverently – conscientiously -- take to heart the inspired and timeless words God has given us, His soldiers,  through His psalmist, of old:


The LORD is King for ever and ever. 


Psalm 18:1-20

Trinity VII

July 19, 2015

“I Will Love Thee, O LORD”

Life is full of decisions!  They clamor for our attention from the moment we wake up until we retire for the night. 

Decisions with too little information to go on.  Decisions touching life and death.  Decisions concerning the health and well-being of others.

Deminimus decisions -- those with little in the way of consequences.  And absolutely critical decisions which touch upon the fate of nations and civilization itself!  

Life is full of decisions!  We are, as one dear poet put it so well, essentially “infinite decision makers.”  At every fork in the road of life, we must make decisions before we may proceed – and these decisions, individually and collectively, shape our lives and our very existence!

Life can’t give us joy and peace;

It’s up to us to will it.

Life just gives us time and space;

It’s up to us to fill it.

The Bible furnishes us a wealth of information about decisions and concerning how to make them.  God details bad decisions for us -- such as when our first parents decided they were ultimate with God and chose to partake of the forbidden fruit.  God also details good decisions for us, such as when Solomon asked for an understanding mind and the gift to discern between good and evil.  

Life is, indeed, full of decisions!

We must remember that man is not entirely free in this decision-making process!  He is limited.  One of the great contributions of the Reformers in this regard deals with man’s limitations.  It was Martin Luther who wrote his great work, Bondage of the Will in which he reminds us that we are all bound by our natures.  The unregenerate are free to act and decide – humanly speaking -- only according to their fallen nature.  The regenerate are free to act – indeed they are reminded and encouraged to act – in the power and development of their new natures!  

And this morning, you and I are very, very privileged to learn from King David, the psalmist of Israel, an inspired lesson regarding decision making!

The ordeals of his life and of his “ministry,” if you will, were so real, so difficult, but also so beneficial!  And they can be so helpful to us, as well, if we will listen and learn!

His troubles, when in hiding from his father-in-law, King Saul, and the entire military apparatus of Israel that hunted him down as a criminal, he likens unto an overflowing flood.  Like a huge wave that would bury him… a tsunami!

David had unending concerns whether or not he would even live to see the next day!  And he knew he must follow a wise course if he were to survive!  So what did he do?  What was his solution?  What was his path to maintain sanity?  Hear the first six words of this morning’s psalm. They reveal it to you and to me!