But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Sermons from St. Paul's Anglican Church
Here you will find the transcripts of our most recent sermon and those that were delivered in the past.
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St. John 8:46-59
April 6, 2014
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Some have called the Gospel Lesson before us this morning a conversation. Others have labeled it a discussion. But let’s call it what it is -- conflict! For darkness hath no fellowship with truth! Indeed, this conflict between the chief priests and our Lord will escalate until the Man of Sorrows is finally tried and condemned and put to death.
What was it about our Lord that incensed them so? Everything!
The Jews of our Lord’s Day, for example, hinged their acceptance with God on their biological descent from Abraham! We be Abraham's seed, they reminded Him time and time again! And Jesus had the audacity not to go along with the “party line.” Their position has been called “genetic salvation.” To them, racial purity was the guarantee of a place in the eternal Kingdom to be established by the Messiah. You see, nothing was required of them that way. They were the ultimate “bluebloods” of all. They were the most privileged elitists of history!
We should note in passing, however, their trust in “racial salvation” did not save them from Rome! For they were destroyed by Rome’s legions in A.D. 70.
The story is told of a Chicago bank that was considering hiring a young man from Boston for employment. This bank decided to check out one of his references who happened to be an executive at a Boston investment firm.
The investment executive who responded to the request wrote back that the young man’s father was a Cabot, his mother’s maiden name was Lowell, and his background was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys and other members of Boston’s finest, elite families! The man gave his highest recommendation!
A few days later the personnel manager of the Chicago bank called the man who had sent the letter and explained, “We would really like to have a work reference from you before we hire this young man.” The Boston executive replied, “I told you all about him. Did you not receive my letter?”
The exasperated personnel manager of the Chicago bank replied, “Yes we received your letter, but we are contemplating using this young man for work, not for breeding.”
We all remember with great horror what happened seventy-five years ago when the Third Reich (Third Empire) showed the world its own brand of “racial salvation” through the promotion of the Arian race. And a vicious “ethnic cleansing” ensued!
Those who understand the flow of history know that ethnic cleansing has left its hideous mark on many more lands than the common man is ready to admit. Armenia, Ukraine, Poland, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Sudan, to name but a few...
And America has not remained untainted as we might desire to believe! An offshoot branch of “racial salvation” appeared in America through none other than Margaret Sanger last century with her famous mantra: “More children from the fit, less [children] from the unfit.”
Known now by the name “eugenics” (which means “good genetics”), it is a very real system of social engineering and population control that seeks to save this world by the management of human reproduction through various means, including, I am sad to say, a b o r t i o n. Think about it!
The concept of genetic salvation is still all around us, but people do not know what it is that has them in its grip! A man once called to find out if English people (English “stock”) worshipped with us on Sundays! I explained, “Yes. We have some lovely individuals who worship with us each Sunday who still proudly maintain the queen’s dialect.” “I am looking for a church where I may worship God with my own people,” he replied! “Do non-English people worship there as well?” He asked. “Oh, yes,” I replied, “people from all over the world. Christ’s Body has many members!” You know, he never came – even for a visit!
He that is of God heareth God’s words. In other words, we are not saved through human generation of any kind! We are saved through re-generation by God Himself! He that is of God [he that is born of God] heareth God’s words.
People wonder why our Lord was so firm and so unyielding in His reply to the Jewish leaders of His day when they explained to Him with straight faces their theory of racial salvation – genetic acceptance with the Almighty! He always sided, as should we, with the truth! Salvation comes from God… not from man! He that is of God heareth God’s words.
Christ’s words are from the Father, and they are so sorely needed in His Holy Church this day. He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye hear them not, because ye are not of God. Those who are “saved” must hear God’s Words! They must mean something to them because their hearts have been changed! They pay attention and pay heed them – because they have a new outlook… a new priority… a new agenda… a new heart!
God’s Holy Word is the Vicar of Christ… God’s Holy Word is His arbitrator. Not human DNA. Not self-proclaimed elitism. Not self-pronounced privilege. Not genetic superiority. And truth requires something of us – humility and obedience. And following God in Jesus Christ.
He that is of God heareth God’s words. This is so simple and it is so sound. And Jesus is our worthy Example. During Passiontide, let us together observe Him as He displays for us exactly what this means and how His Example is to be followed. He that is of God heareth God’s words.
In the final analysis, human genetics is not the pathway to salvation! Quite the contrary -- human genetics is the very means by which sin has been passed on to all mankind! Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin… so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…
And lest we become prideful by thinking we are better than others, let us in humility remember it is very easy to point out obvious failings of others. It is much more difficult to identify and root out our own.
This morning, let us commit ourselves to following God’s written and Living Word in every motive and in every action.
This is, after all, the meaning of Lent! And it is especially the meaning of Passiontide! He that is of God heareth God’s words.
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March 30, 2014
The Gospel Lesson before us this morning narrates the feeding of the 5,000. Truth be known, the number of those fed that day was closer to 10,000 – once women, children, and young people are included. For the text tells us the men that day numbered 5,000!
This is the only miracle of our Lord recounted by all four Evangelists! Yet even with the detailed corroboration of four separate accounts furnished by St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John, critics and skeptics still deny that it ever took place!
For those, however, who do believe the account as presented and as certified by St. John, a feast of rich instruction awaits their hungry souls and satisfying lessons are given to strengthen and guide them on their demanding pilgrimage through life – and through Lent.
We find, for example, the kindness of our Lord in thinking of others. Those who followed Him that day probably traveled almost ten miles (round trip). And Jesus was ready to help them and to feed them and to take care of them in the wilderness so they would not faint on their return journey.
There is the trustful gift of a small lunch of five miniature loaves of barley bread and two tiny fish on the part of a young boy, while doubt blinded many others as to just how Jesus could make such a small offering sufficient for the great needs of so many that unforgettable day.
There is the vision of the inexhaustible wealth of Jesus Christ freely distributed in a manner beyond human imagining. And more remains after the satisfaction He furnished than was ever offered to begin with. This is worth our deep consideration!
Lessons abound. Lessons from Philip and from Andrew. Lessons from the Disciples. Lessons from the crowd and from the young boy. Lessons from the method of distribution and even from the setting itself.
But this morning, we should take note of something that almost escapes our attention – the conclusion of the matter as far as the crowd was concerned following their miraculous feeding. For they certainly believed the feeding to have been miraculous, even if the skeptics of history do not!
When the crowd received the multiplied bread – just as the children of
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
When properly understood, a crisis was brought on by well-intended, but uninformed, people, as is so often the case. Unintended consequences! They wanted to make Him their king! This left Jesus with two options. He could either go along with their demand and become the temporal Deliverer they sought. Or He could withdraw and redirect His steps toward
He chose the latter. He resisted the “shortcut” and set His face and His heart and His will and His emotional focus toward Jerusalem. He was resolved to accomplish His Father’s Will! “From that time,” writes St. John, “many of his disciples… walked no more with him.”
Jesus addressed the Twelve with the words, “Will ye also go away?” And then came St. Peter’s immortal reply, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The feeding of the multitude is thus something of a “Last Supper” in
If He, as the sinless Son of God, required withdrawal from the commotion of this world into a place “Himself alone” to reestablish His pathway and His calling, how much more do we also at times need to withdraw from the expectations of others and from the perilous temptations of this world around us -- to follow the pathway and challenges and calling God sets before each of us?
If it took quiet reflection before the Almighty to reestablish the Cross before the Crown, to set lowliness before exaltation, to undergo suffering before joy, to submit to humility before ascending in victory – I ask you, do we not require the same quiet reflection before the very same Father in order to find the very same strength and resolve? This exercise is part and parcel of Lent.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish-born literary giant, was immensely talented. It is said of him, that he always "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen…” He is rightly known for his adventure stories. But few realize just how plagued he was with illness, pain, weakness and forebodings of death. Very few recall that he lived only long enough to see his 44th birthday.
It was resolve, pure and simple, that helped him through each day. His burdens were so great that he could hardly bear the thought of carrying them for a day. Resolve was his friend. He once wrote:
Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, for one day. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely till the sun goes down.
Resolve. Sometimes when the way is difficult, it requires all of our resolve to move forward only one small step at a time, and that only as we focus on each of His footsteps before us also taken only one step at a time.
Some may wonder “Why? Why all this talk of withdrawal? Of commitment? Of denial? Of loyalty and labored steps in the forward direction? Why the emphasis on resolve?
Why?” The answer is, of course, from Christ’s Own Lips. What was good for the Master is also required of His followers. It is the way that life is constructed. It is the means through which enduring growth in Christ comes to us. And during Lent, if we are wise, we will seek to understand it and fit ourselves into its harness.
This is the essential meaning of Lent – to follow our Lord through the wilderness… to follow His final heavy steps through Jerusalem to the Cross. It was He who said “Follow me!”
The Cross is near. Let us observe His resolve. Let us understand it. Let us learn to suffer pain with Him in His test of death.
St. Luke 11:14-28
March 23, 2014
“No Turning Back”
Several items stand out when reading the Gospel Lesson before us this morning.
For example, the many references to evil spirits! There are over a dozen such allusions. The narrative begins with the description of Jesus casting out a devil. And St. Luke indicates this particular devil had rendered the victim incapable of communication by speaking. Then he points out that when the devil had been cast out, the man regained his speech. And that the people who saw this all marveled.
Some in our day who read this maintain all of it was really just a medical condition – explaining that since first century medical acumen was so scant and superstitious beliefs were so rampant, it was described in terms of evil spirits. This, however, is pure conjecture! All we need to note, happily, is that St. Luke, a very capable medical doctor, certainly thought evil spirits were involved. And Jesus is clearly described as casting out an evil spirit. The parable told by our Lord assumes the reality of evil spirits and a literal devil.
There are those – who not understanding the conflict of our Lord’s day – even worse, claim the entire narrative to be a fabrication! What we forget is that when the Son of God began His public ministry, evil of every sort “came out of the woodwork,” as it were! St Paul would later instruct that we wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places! It was not a mystery to him! Nor should it be a mystery to us!
Then there is the strange name hurled by our Lord’s critics – Beelzebub! It literally means “Lord of the dung heaps.” The nastiest insult of the Jewish leadership was to imply that Jesus was, in fact, Himself a demon. And furthermore that He was casting out this other demon by the power of His superior, the prince of demons. Jesus calmly affirms His true identity as the Lord of the house! And furthermore that He cast out that particular devil by the Finger (and power) of Almighty God!
Then there is Jesus’ description of the unclean spirit which leaves a man. He says it passes through waterless places seeking rest. But finding none, it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” We should take careful note that the unclean spirit talks about the place he left as if he owned it: “my house.” This seems quite presumptuous, until we understand that it is true!
It is possible for a man or a woman or a young person or a child to clean up their lives, but do nothing more. Nothing positive – just the correction of a negative influence. It is possible to get rid of a great deal of immoral baggage, but still be empty. Such a life, we should note, is still open to the influence of iniquity. The cure is, of course, to invite the Lord of the House to take up residence and exercise His total lordship and dominion. The addition of a positive good is, of course, much greater than the elimination of a negative evil.
And quite remarkable are the concluding verses regarding His mother, Mary, who in God’s Providence gave birth to Him. Theotokos, mother of God. We can safely say that what was spoken, though well-intended, was off-base and misdirected.
Jesus does not deny that His mother was a very blessed woman. This, after all, is just what Gabriel had told her: Blessed art thou among women. But instead of saying her womb was blessed, Gabriel had said (and I quote): and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. There is a difference! Blessed is the Christ Who was born of thee! Jesus simply and masterfully corrects the mis-emphasis, putting it back on track, stating that blessed rather are those who – like Mary – hear the Word of God, and keep it – or obey it.
This quiet morning, however, let us take note of a rather small statement by our Lord which is recorded in verse 23. It is small, but it is terribly important: He that is not with me is against me! He that is not with me is against me! I submit to you that in these simple words, we discover the culmination of everything else in this morning’s remarkable lesson. He that is not with me is against me!
Jesus tells us there can be no neutrality in in our approach to Him! The message of His Kingdom (or rule) is not just an interesting tidbit of information intended to make us more knowledgeable and more well-rounded and interesting conversationalists and individuals. No, it requires something of all of us. It requires everything of us! He that is not with me is against me! We are either for Him or we are against Him!
Satan, we are told, is like a strong man in complete control of his house – the people under his power. But Jesus Christ is stronger than Satan, and, of course, overthrows him! This parable teaches us that the Kingdom of God offers an opportunity to mankind – to those made in His Image – to escape Satan’s bondage and to overcome his ploys. He that is not with me is against me!
To follow the Lord is to not follow the world! As the old hymn states: The world behind me, the Cross before me. No turning back! No turning back!
When Julius Caesar landed with his Roman legions on the shores of Britain over 2,000 years ago, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. According to legend he ordered all their ships to be burned! By so doing, he deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. His troops would need to bind themselves to him and succeed – or die! Unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did. Jesus said: He that is not with me is against me!
The founding fathers of America were Christian to a man! When they each took turns signing the Declaration of Independence in 1774, it was dear old Benjamin Franklin, who with a sober look and spirited gleam in his eye said, Men we must all hang together or else we will all hang separately!
If we would be followers of Jesus Christ, we must “hang together” with Him! We are called to be sold out to Him “lock, stock, and barrel” – nothing less! He that is not with me is against me!
Where are you this day? There is no better time to make (or renew) that full commitment than in His House on His Holy Day! It has been said that he is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose!
He that is not with me is against me!
St. Matthew 15:21-28
March 16, 2014
“Lenten Lessons from Syrophoenicia”
This morning’s Gospel Lesson informs us that Jesus withdrew from Galilee and traveled north into the district of Tyre and Sidon – two Mediterranean ports located well outside Israel in neighboring Phoenicia, 50-miles away! And we stop and ask ourselves, “Why?“
To answer this question, we need only read of the tumultuous events described in the preceding chapters. There was the brutal execution of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas. There was also the unending conflict with the scribes and Pharisees who had been sent all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee in order to argue with Him. It was needful to retreat and spend time with His disciples.
We are informed that even with this withdrawal, He could still not find any degree of concealment. For a woman, whose daughter had an unclean spirit, grievously afflicted by a devil, came seeking Him.
And here we discover a very real consideration in this narrative. Christ’s Commission from His Father was to bring the offer of Redemption to the “lost sheep” of the House of Israel. To those who had wandered from the faith of their forefather, Abraham. Who had wandered from the Covenant of God. Who had wandered from the oracles of the prophets and holy men sent to instruct and lead them in truth. Who had wandered and had become the “lost sheep” of the House of Israel.
But this distraught woman was from
…he answered her not a word.
The second time by generic answer.
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of
The third time by specific reply.
…he …said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
We might add that this dear woman received no help from the disciples. When she sought assistance from them, they attempted to send her away! Her petitions were annoying them.
But the direction of this narrative shifts. The tide changes! And we rejoice! The account swings in her favor, and finds swift resolution in her final petition. And it is a beautiful and revealing appeal, indeed – one captured and included in the Holy Communion service of the BCP!
…she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
The final word belonged then, as it still does today – to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
…Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
There are many tremendous lessons for God’s people found in this unique narrative. We all so often want everything delivered to us by God on a platter – for our convenience. Without stress. Without exertion. Without upsetting us. But that is not always God’s way!
Consider His dealings with our Lord during Lent. Out in the wilderness for forty days! Without food! Without comforts! Without the niceties of life! This Syrophoenician woman serves as our worthy example. Hers was a difficult path! And she was permitted to overcome every obstacle! How did she do it?
Consider first, her Humility.
In her final appeal to Jesus, she said in essence: I agree with your assessment that I am an outsider. I will not deny that I am a stranger. I am an “outcast.” I was not born a daughter of Abraham. I was not even born in the
I am not trying to force my way to take what has been set on the table for the children. I am not attempting to take that which rightfully belongs to them. I am exactly like the family dog that waits for food to fall from the master’s table!
But this does not diminish the fact that I believe in Thee. I trust in Thee. I am sure Thou hast enough grace and mercy and compassion for the children – and more to spare for the puppies that wait beneath the table. Though I am totally unworthy, I look for only a few crumbs of excess mercy to help my little girl.
This is a brand of humility almost unheard of in the sacred record! It is a brand of humility almost unheard of in the world today! And is this not a brand of humility almost non-existent in Christ’s Church this morning? Where so much emphasis is on entitlements. And recognition. And entertainment.
Consider second, her Fervency. The intensity of her appeal!
There is something absolutely refreshing – incredibly appealing – about her fervent approach to our Lord. No pretensions! No sophistication! She would not be kept away – by the disciples, by the Lord’s silence, even by His Words. She was not abrasive. She was not contentious. On the contrary, she employed His Messianic title – Son of David. She recognized Him as the Master, calling Him “Lord.” She, who was not even Jewish, “worshipped” Him.
And each time He turned her away, she carefully returned. One is soon given to understand that Jesus “read her” and completely understood her. And that each development was intended to produce in her an example for this world! And for you and for me! Of a thousand people that day, all but she would have turned and walked away in the gloom of defeat. There is much we can learn from the fervency of this dear woman.
We must never be dejected if at any time Christ delays and does not immediately grant a favorable answer to our prayers. He has other purposes which not are always seen. We might do well to consider if the developmental process itself might not be more important that the outcome we seek – understanding that He lovingly provides the outcome once He has turned the situation to our full advantage.
Finally, consider her Faith.
She who at the beginning faced innumerable odds, and had to ascend each of them like strides up a mountain, was finally shown a fantastic view – receiving a rare and unending credit. She heard the Messiah speak to her the immortal words: O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
Do you realize that such a commendation of “great faith” was spoken by Christ on only two occasions in the Bible? One to the Roman Centurion and the other was to this dear woman of faith – both Gentiles!
Where were the children who were to sit at the table? Where were the children whose portions our Lord sought to preserve? And where are God’s people this morning, if not worshipping Him in a House of worship as He instructed! He came to His own, we are informed, and His own received Him not!
The account of Christ’s gift to the Syrophoenician woman comes to us this morning during the midst of Lent. She who had so little, but received so much, reminds us that we not forget humility.
She who had so little, but received so much, reminds us to always remember fervency.
She who had so little, but received so much, reminds us that we exercise Faith.
My dear ones, where are we today? And how do we compare?
So it was in the beginning. So has it always been. And so shall it ever be. World without end. Amen.
St. Matthew 4:1-11
March 9, 2014
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
“Tempted of the Devil”
A medieval monastery has stood (or more accurately, “hung”) for countless years on the side of a mountain in Israel named the “Mount of Temptation” – believed to be the location of Christ’s testing. If you have ever seen its picture (or been there), you will know just how barren a wilderness it is.
There one finds yellow sand. Crumbling limestone. Contorted strata, where ridges run in all directions – warped and twisted. Hills like dust heaps. Rocks bare and jagged. The area shimmers with heat like a huge furnace. And it was into this wilderness that the Holy Spirit led (or as St. Mark writes – “drove”) Jesus to be tempted of the devil.
Why, we ask, was Jesus led (or driven) into the wilderness? A very good question! This much we know. The Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness parallels the testing of Israel in the wilderness 1,500 years earlier. Fortyyears of testing for Israel. Forty days of testing for Jesus. He Who would gather to Himself a New Israel first needed to succeed where Old Israel had failed.
This much we also know. The Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness parallels the testing of our first parents in the Garden of Eden 4,000 years earlier! Eve was tempted directly; Adam was tempted indirectly. A close and careful study of Genesis chapter 3 reveals they were tempted with a three-fold temptation. Jesus, after the same pattern was tempted with the same three-fold temptation. He Who would gather to Himself a New Humanity (of which you and I are a part) needed to succeed where the Old Humanity had failed.
The failure of our First Parents transformed this world from Paradise into a wilderness. The faithfulness of Jesus began a return of this world from its wilderness state back to Paradise!
Now a little more about the three-fold temptation which our First Parents and Jesus had in common. The similarity is striking!
We are specifically told that as Eve looked at the forbidden fruit hanging on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, she saw that it was first of all, “good for food.” Second of all, it was “pleasant to the eyes.” And third of all, it was “desired to make one wise.”
These three temptations, we should point out, correspond directly to the three parts of man! First – “good for food” – relates to the appetites of our physical bodies. Was this not the very same temptation the very same devil brought to our Lord (the Second Adam)? Turn these stones into bread, he commanded! You are hungry! Your are famished! You will die without this course of action. And though our first parents forgot the Word of the LORD, Jesus did not! He quoted it: Thus is it written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God!
The second temptation – “pleasant to the eyes” – relates to the dreams and aspirations of our souls (our inner man). How fulfilled you will be if you only take it. Temptations against the soul of man offer so much, but deliver nothing but disappointment. Was this not the very same temptation the very same devil brought to our Lord (the Second Adam)? Thrown yourself down from this pinnacle of the Temple. Your angels will catch you and save you. The crowds below will see it! You will become an instant sensation! Your following will be legion. How much more pleasant a path than the hard path you will otherwise need to travel. Again, our first parents failed where Jesus did not! It is written, He replied, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!
The third Temptation – “desired to make one wise”– targets our spirits (the spiritual side of each of us). Just imagine how wise it will make you, he said. Why, you will just like God Himself! How proud you will be to enjoy this instant transformation! You will not need to follow Him anymore. You can follow you own wise and clever paths! Is this not the very same temptation which has slain the leaders of this world? Was this not the very same temptation the very same devil brought to our Lord (the Second Adam)? You have a Kingdom to build! Do not forget your spiritual assignment given you of your Father! You remember… to build this world and its many peoples into your own kingdom of love and peace! You have a lot of work to do. An immense amount! And I have an offer that will speed you along your way! Just kneel down before me and worship me – and I will give all lands and their peoples to you! They will be yours in an instant! Again, our first parents failed where Jesus did not! It is written, He replied, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve!
This lesson is not just about Adam and Eve… and Moses and Israel… and Jesus! It is also about you and me. For we are also being tracked by the devil’s radar. We are also in his scope. We are also subject to the very same temptations in our day by the very same devil and his minions – temptations against our bodies… temptations against our souls… temptations against our innermost life from God (our spirits)!
Dear old St. John, Apostle of our Lord, most earnestly warns us of the same three temptations! He terms them the “lust of the flesh” (which, of course, wars against the body)… the “lust of the eyes” (which, of course, wars against the soul)… and the “pride of life,” (which, of course, wars against the very spirit or life of man).