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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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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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Psalm 121

Christmas II

January 4, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“Help for the New Year”


We have crossed the threshold into 2015 -- a new calendar year full of opportunities and bright prospects!  But also undoubtedly a year full of very real challenges and difficulties!


Recent articles listed the fears which many share as they head into 2015 – loss of employment… loss of health… loss of shelter… loss of a child… loss of a parent… inability to pay off debts… to name just a few!


I have always been intrigued by an astute Christian proverb that is so apropos!  Wise men, wise women, wise children, wise young people all know what they do not know!  And that is what makes them wise!!  They have some humility and know what they do not know!

There are many people in this world who think they know everything!  And that they have the world by its tail – and everything “under control”!  They are like Job’s “friends” of old – to whom he spoke the famous words of one seasoned with experience in life, No doubt… ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you!


One of “Murphy’s Laws” – the humorous listing of rules explaining why everything always tends to go wrong – reminds us that if we think everything is under control and going well, we have definitely overlooked something


Wise people acknowledge that they do not know everything!  They do not deceive themselves into thinking they possess exhaustive knowledge!  They admit they do not know what a new year will bring forth!  Jesus took it a step further –teaching us to approach only one day a time – and to remember that sufficient to each day is the evil thereof!  


The inspired psalmist who penned Psalm 121 was very wise, indeed!  He knew what he did not know!  He admitted that he was not self-sufficient for his passage through life!  And he wrote for all the world to see and to understand that he needed help (and was not ashamed to say so)!


He began by rhetorically asking, From whence cometh my help?  I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills!  Will they help me?  Those who know the history of Israel remember that it was on the hills (the “high places”) that God’s people destroyed themselves!  There they populated detestable idols… groves… images… abominable practices!  They even took Moses’ bronze serpent from the wilderness wanderings up into the hills and burned incense to it!  Good King Hezekiah had to tear it down and break it into pieces!  No – the psalmist would not find help from the hills!  Nor will you and I!


God is our help!  And He is so concerned about His children’s welfare He points out He will not even allow their feet to “be moved.”  To ”slip” – that is, He will not allow them to lose their balance or their traction or to “trip and stumble”!  This undoubtedly includes a symbolic reference to our moral walk through a very immoral world!  


It is interesting that our Heavenly Father says several times He will not take His watchful eyes off of us.  Verses three and four: He that keepeth thee will not sleep. Behold, he… shall neither slumber nor sleep.


It was sleep, in a very real sense, which cost the British the Revolutionary War almost 240-years ago!  For after their short-lived victory at the Siege of Boston, the Continental Army was in constant pursuit… constant retreat!  Hounded first from Brooklyn, then from New York, from Kips Bay, from Harlem Heights, from Fort Washington, from Fort Lee.  Finally in New Jersey in the dead of winter – with freezing, blizzard-like conditions – the British called off the “chase” in order to retire for the winter and warm up in the cities they had captured!  The Hessians (German mercenaries hired by the British), under the command of Colonel Rall – also withdrew.


During the night on Christmas Eve (1776), the Hessians had partied, then gone to bed – even as General Washington and his troops crossed the freezing Delaware River in an incredibly bold move in a blinding snowstorm!  This led to their victory at Trenton, the capture of the Hessians, and then to another victory at Princeton!


And this was the turning point in the war!  The tide shifted!  The seasons changed!  Because the British and Hessians slept!


Not so with God!  He that keepeth thee will not sleep. Behold, he… shall neither slumber nor sleep.  What a privilege to have such a loving and caring Heavenly Father!


The LORD tells us He will be closer to us than our shadows are to us!  He will protect us day and night!  He will preserve and guard our souls (our lives) from evil!


He will monitor our “going out” and He will watch for our “coming in” without pause or interruption.


Why does He do this?  Because He loves His own who have covenanted themselves to serve and honor – and be faithful – Him!  He knows they need His help!  And He delights to receive their praise in worship! 


We all know deep down we will need help during 2015, that is for sure!  Help from each other as a Church Family!  But especially help from the Almighty – our Heavenly Father – Who thankfully never slumbers nor sleeps.


Wise people know what they do not know.  Let us be wise and remember our need for help from the Ancient of Days in 2015 – individually, as families, and as a church!  He offers us His help!  And that is our priceless treasure! 


My help cometh even from the LORD, who hath made heaven and earth. 


World without end. Amen.

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Psalm 26

Holy Innocents

December 28, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“The Holy Innocents”


There is a very famous saying that has been with us for some time.  You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for very long! 


Herod, the so-called Great, believed in the use of bayonets!  He believed in building and maintaining his “bayonet throne” with any and every force available to him!  The Jewish historian, Josephus described him as “a man of great barbarity towards everyone.”


A party of ardent supporters dedicated to his policies are mentioned in the Bible who went by the name “Herodians.”  They helped him manage his subjects through terror.  They performed all manner of espionage in his service.    His lust for power led him on a dangerous quest to manipulate and bend the immense power of Rome through craft and intrigue to the service of his iron fist.  He is known as one of the most ruthless rulers of all time!  


You recall that he was visited by the Magi (the Wise Men) who had traveled from the East – perhaps in excess of 2,000 miles – following a special star that had led them to Jerusalem in their search for a newborn King.  When word of their arrival reached Herod, we can only imagine the consternation that immediately gripped him. 


For the Magi were very powerful leaders in the great Persian Empire, which had never been subjugated by Rome, as had Palestine.  Appearing in Jerusalem in their royal splendor, accompanied by a large and impressive entourage, they certainly gained quick attention and easy access to Herod’s royal court.


There are historical indications that Persia was, at this very time, threatening Rome along the eastern boundaries of the Roman Empire.  No wonder then that Herod was “troubled!”  No wonder then that “all Jerusalem” was troubled “with him.”  For Persia was seen as supporting a new insurrectionist king recently born in Judaea.  


St. Matthew informs us specifically that Herod, when he had quietly and secretly called the wise men, inquired of them diligently in order to discover the timing of the star.   


This man was not unlike the other usurpers of power in history.  He lived in constant worry and anxiety that deception and plotting were taking form all around him. It is common knowledge, for example, that Karl Marx would not sleep in the same bed two nights in a row, lest he perish by those who might be observing his patterns!


Herod worried that faithless underlings were all around him, ready to isolate him, and to assassinate him.  He was so obsessed and paralyzed with the fear of conspiracy that he had one of his own wives put to death – and also three of his own sons executed on his suspicions. 


After consulting his chief priests and scribes, we are told he sent the wise men on to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the young child.”  Then he added these words – dripping with deception, “and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.”  


The Almighty, however, warned the Magi in a dream not to return to Jerusalem.  So they departed to their own country, we are informed, along another route.


When Herod realized he had been “tricked” by the Magi (and really, by God Himself), he was furious, for he had lost his best “lead” on the whereabouts of this new insurrectionist King of the Jews!


So he ordered the wholesale slaughter of all male children up to two years of age in the region of Bethlehem.  He had hoped thereby to slay the Holy Child.  But by the time Herod’s troops had arrived, as we learn from the text, Joseph had already received directions from the Angel of the Lord in a dream, and had at once set the Holy Family’s steps on the pathway to Egypt under cover of darkness.


St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, called the Holy Innocents “buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”


The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity came down from heaven to save sinners, and at once we read that Herod the king sought to destroy Him.  Our Lord was a Man of Sorrows even from His Infancy!  


Thus was fulfilled that which was spoken by the Prophet Jeremiah: 


…a voice [was] heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and [she] would not be comforted…


The patriarch, Jacob, was surnamed “Israel” by the Ancient of Days, and Rachel was his beloved wife who had died and been buried in Bethlehem.  The grieving mothers of Bethlehem’s slaughtered children were all personified in her revered name.


You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for very long.  


We should note that before the Holy Family returned from Egypt, the Almighty had removed Herod from the scene.    


He had attempted to pass on his fame and possessions, his ruthless power, and his extensive public building projects to his heirs.  And he attempted to do this through the writing of six wills.  As soon as he died, as you can imagine, family troubles began!  Three of his sons, each born of a different mother, took the issue to Caesar Augustus, emperor of Rome!  The intent and validity of Herod’s wills were contested by his heirs as they jockeyed and elbowed to see who would succeed him on his throne!


Augustus chose the course of compromise, and designated each a ruler over a divided and partitioned kingdom.  The resulting vacuum of power led to a revolt on the part of those who sought to revenge the shedding of blood by Herod!  The resulting repressions of violence were unbelievably harsh!  Hatred and violence filled the land until Rome finally crushed Jerusalem and became full overlord!


The power and the fame and the coveted possessions and the grandiose plans of Herod soon disappeared.  And his horrid memory was soon forgotten, except as recorded in the sacred Scriptures.


You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for very long.  


I need not remind you of just how many holy innocents are still being slaughtered in our own day!  Over 55-million since Roe v. Wade in 1973.  Our days make Herod look like a “piker.”


And across the world, 1.4 billion have been slaughtered in the same manner and timeframe.  God will not allow His world to continue such carnage before His eyes!


The Proverbs-writer tells us that if we do not act to help those who are being carried away to die… God will hold us accountable.  And the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us God does not take delight in fools!


No wonder the psalmist reminds us this morning of the wise course we all should be careful to follow in 2015!  1. Walk in the truth.  2. Have no fellowship with the deceitful or the blood-thirsty.  3. Wash our hands in innocency by living innocent lives!  


You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for very long.  


I will walk innocently.  O deliver me, and be merciful to me…


World without end. Amen.


Psalm 89:1-30

Christmas Day

December 25, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“Asleep in the Manger”


The pathway leading to the Christ Child on Christmas Day requires four weeks to travel – an entire month, an entire Advent Season – but brings us to this blessed point when quietly and reverently we as a Family kneel together at His Manger and behold His small form… remembering the cataclysmic challenges awaiting Him… marveling how the outcome of world history rests upon His young frame!


To arrive here, a great many things were required of us.  To cut down hills of pride.  To level mountains of arrogance.  To fill deep valleys of ignorance.  To bridge deficiencies in the makeup of our character.


Briars of sin had to be severed… cast aside in order to make our way.  Nettles of sloth trampled underfoot.  The meandering trail of apathy and indifference made straight.  At some junctures, headway was made only by kneeling in humility, getting close to the earth in order to escape the thickets of self-will with their clutching arms of self-promotion and thorny fingers of egoism.  


Each inch of the way, however, brought us closer to the realization of true peace and calm which we find in the Presence of the Christ Child this morning.  A holy reassurance speaks to us, reminding us that each and every step of our annual pilgrimage is never taken in vain… always more than rewarded – in this life and in the life that is to come!


This morning, by quiet and serene observation, we are given to understand things of great value in life, priceless gifts which in our normal, hectic, frenetic schedules we blithely pass by.


We see the Holy Family, for example, and are reminded of the importance of love, commitment, loyalty, and dedication.


We see the menagerie of creatures gathered in silence around our Lord – and are reminded once more of the importance of simplicity – and quite frankly, the expendability of this world’s sophisticated ways.


We study the crude walls and rafters of the stable, we smell the hay, feel the earth under our feet, and remember this world is a sphere of scarcity – where austerity, thrift, and rigor are indeed our friends. 


We glance at the humble shepherds in their modest attire, unassuming and respectful, each with staff in hand – and we are reminded of our important need to take care of one another… the importance of friendship… the value of community in God’s Family.


God politely interrupts our contemplation in order to remind us of something we soon forget.  We listen and are not disappointed:

 

I will make… His throne as the days of heaven He says (verse 30)

I will make… His throne as the days of heaven


The Child in the Manger is no ordinary child!  The Babe asleep so soundly is a King!  He came to earth from the ivory palaces of His Father… to the humble stable from Heaven where all that glitters is gold...  where streets are paved with it… where beautiful colonnaded halls and limitless perfection abounds in all directions!  The Infant under the watchful eyes of Joseph and Mary is the King of kings…. the Lord of Lords!  And He is asleep on the hay – without a worry!  


His coming was heralded by Gabriel, one of God’s brightest and most powerful archangels!  And His Birth was announced by yet more angels – myriads of angels… choirs of angels!  He is the King of angels!  And in stillness we see Him asleep in the Manger.


He is the great Pivot Point in the affairs of mankind and upon Him the outcome of human history is hinged.  It is He Who brings to the world the great reversal in the tide of human history.  Upon Him hangs the changing seasons of mankind’s destiny!  And He is not afraid… He is not worried… He is asleep in the manger!


We in our sophistication and busy-ness can learn a lot from Him – indeed, we must learn much from Him!  To trust God and not worry!


In beholding this Child of the Manger, we view the King Who will at the end of time judge the world and all its inhabitants… in righteousness and in true holiness!


In kneeling this beautiful morning before such a Majestic Figure, we bring bright praise… reverent worship… sincere prayers that He will share His grace with us.  That we may share our skills and our talents and our zeal for the development of His Kingdom and the glory of His Name!  To somehow help Him!  To humbly pray for His Kingdom to come… His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven!  And He sleeps in the manger!


In worshipping Him this blessed morn, we do obeisance to the King of Creation, Who as a small, weak Child came bestowing the undeserved blessings of Heaven!  This Child leads us to the Holy Father.  It is He Who gives us the privilege of bearing His Name!


I will make… His throne as the days of heaven, God says…


And we are glad…. delighted to be a part of it!  World without end.


Amen.



Psalm 50

Christmas Eve Service

December 24, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“God Hath Spoken”


We have spent the four weeks of Advent preparing for this very evening – and our approach to the stable and to Christ’s Manger!


The first week of Advent, the Prophets’ Candle of was lit – the candle of HOPE –reminding us that His coming was foreseen from afar!  The prophet Isaiah wrote, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.  His coming was promised by God all the way back in the Garden of Eden when He told our first parents the woman’s seed would come and resoundingly defeat the Evil One!  And we instantly remember G.K. Chesterton’s famous observation that “Fairy Tales are more than true not because they tell us dragons exist… but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.


The second week, the Bethlehem Candle was lit – the Candle of FAITH – reminding us of the message the writer to the Hebrews made so plain.  Now faith is the substance (foundation) of things hoped for.  You may have hope, but it is faith that brings it to completion!  Mary and Joseph brought the Christ Child into the world in Bethlehem not because it was easy – but because it was terribly difficult -- and they had faith to bring it to pass… the type of faith that “works” and will not be denied!  George Washington, who knew all about hardship during the Colonies’ “War of Self-Defense” wrote: Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in every age!  And God’s reminder to us – The just shall live by faith – is four times issued… once by the prophet Habakkuk, once in the Epistle to the Romans, once in the Epistle to the Galatians, and once in the Book of Hebrews!!


The third week, the Shepherds’ Candle was lit – the Candle of JOY – reminding us that God warms our cold hearts when we reverently approach His Son in worship!  He certainly did for the shepherds of old that wonderful night as they approached the humble stable!  Joy unspeakable and full of glory!  The joy of the Lord is our strength!  Rejoice and again I say rejoice!  These shepherds were not busy about some common task!  They were tending the Temple flocks – which were being groomed for sacrifice in Jerusalem!  And to them the Almighty gave the privilege of being the first to behold His Son – the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world!


The fourth week of Advent, the Angels’ Candle was lit – the Candle of PEACE – reminding us that Jesus Christ is the source of peace which passeth all understandingPeace on earth. good will toward men, the angels proclaimed.  This is not a reference to the Greta Garbo “leave me alone” variety of peace!  It comes from the Hebrew word “Shalom” – which has a broader, deeper, weightier meaning.  Health… well-being… prosperity… contentment… wholeness… soundness… harmony!


And this holy night as we approach the Christ Child in the manger we discover all of these are God’s gifts to us as we reverently approach His Son.  To get to the white candle we are required to pass through the violet candles of preparation.  And our preparations allow us to kneel before the Lord with hopefaithjoy… and peace as our great possessions!


What do we find as we peer into the straw-filled manger and see the Christ Child asleep?  We find the summum bonum of life – that is Latin for the “greatest good.” To find Christ is the greatest good available to mankind (both individual and collective).  The Scriptures remind us that to find Him… and to know Him… is “life eternal.”  It is, indeed, its own reward!


The psalm read together this evening begins with the words, The LORD, even the Most Mighty God, hath spoken. I can picture the little girl who hearing these words read in Church, just as we read them together this evening, asked her father what it was that God said!  The LORD, even the Most Mighty God, hath spokenWhat did He say?


Well God has spoken in many ways!  The heavens declare His glory, we are told… and His voice is of a language that all mankind understands!  What did He say?


When Christ entered this earth, He called – He summoned -- all of its inhabitants to look, to listen, and to understand the great thing He had done!  He said that He had appeared in “perfect beauty” – not just the wonder of a newborn baby, but the miracle of God in the flesh!


As was so eloquently observed by the German Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who met his end 80-years ago):

 

God became like us… that we might become like Him!


Jesus lying in the manger reminds us that He took upon Himself our human nature… that we might take upon ourselves His divine nature!  And grow in it!  A nad progress with it!  That we might leave behind our old and corrupted natures in order to be like Him – in His communicable attributes.  Those attributes available to us!  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.


What did God say?  He summoned us to be like His Son – conformed to His Image – not just at Christmas… but every day of the year!


May the hope… the faith… the joy… and the peace we have discovered propel us forward in this lifelong calling!  


God hath spoken! 


World without end. Amen.



Psalm 27

Advent IV

December 21, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“St. Thomas the Apostle”


St. Thomas is known by two names in the Bible -- Thomas (which is Semitic) and Didymus (which is Greek).  Both names mean the same thing – “Twin.”  He was in all likelihood a “twin” and is mentioned a total of fifteen times in the New Testament.  


A resident of Galilee, he was by trade a hard-working, untiring fisherman.  The Bible singles him out as one given to questioning and doubt.  Even to this day, we know him as “Doubting Thomas.”  


His character is projected throughout the pages of the Gospels.  When our Lord resolved to travel to Judea to heal Lazarus – against the fact the Jews were lying in wait to capture Him and put Him to death – it was Thomas who spoke up with intense loyalty, saying,  Let us also go, that we may die with him.    


When Jesus assumed the disciples knew the way to His Father’s House, it was Thomas who refreshingly confessed his ignorance – something most of us would never do.  Lord, He asked, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?


And Jesus replied, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.


In the Lesson before us this morning, for some reason unknown to us – perhaps because he was disillusioned – Thomas was not found with the others when Jesus appeared to them on the evening of the Resurrection.  When told they had seen the Lord, he stubbornly refused to believe it. 


Except I…  put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.


He remained in their company until eight days later when our Lord again suddenly appeared.  Addressing Thomas, Jesus now invited him to come and examine His wounds.


…reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.


Whereupon Thomas kneeling on the ground before the Resurrected Lord, uttered the grandest expression of Faith possible:


My Lord and my God.


The last view of Thomas furnished in the Bible comes from the Book of Acts.  He is portrayed as a loyal follower of Jesus Christ – gathered in prayer with the others.


As you know, the Apostles did not remain in Jerusalem, but went forth as commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission.


All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.


This commission reveals two commands – GoTeach!  But who were they to teach?  “My sheep!” Jesus had said!  “My lambs!” 


Teach and care for my adult followers… teach and care for my little ones -- not just adults, but also little children.


…forbid them not… to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.


St. Thomas understood this commission, this burden, with unusual clarity and with unflinching zeal!  George Washington once observed, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”  How true… especially as it applies to dear St. Thomas, of old!


Many legends have grown around the far-reaching ministry of this Apostle, and these legends have a great deal of history to back them up.  In fact, it may be said that we really know more about St. Thomas than we do about the others, with the possible exception of St. John and St. Peter.


St. Thomas carried the Gospel to Persia, then on to India and then on to China!  He was a fearless evangelist and a builder of Churches.  The seed of Christ’s Truth indeed fell into good soil.  As Jesus taught -- first the blade appeared, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.  Conversions were followed by baptisms.  Baptisms were followed by the establishment of congregations.  The establishment of Churches was accompanied by the development of Christian schools!


From the book entitled Traditions of St. Thomas Christians we read:


“There is evidence… there were specialized people and educational centers for… training… Thus Joseph the Indian could [say]: They (the Christians of St. Thomas) have excellent doctors [meaning teachers]… [They have] study of letters… [They] teach the Old and New Law, especially the prophets in… schools…”


According to tradition, this St. Thomas was stabbed to death while praying on a mountain (now termed Mount Thomas) located in Mylopur (located due north of Sri Lanka), and this was done by the order of the king.  The Apostle died on the 21st day of the month of December, in the 30th year of the promulgation of the Gospel.  


What a joyful story!  He whose first steps were timid and doubtful, in the end is found taking great strides of fearless Faith across countries – indeed, across continents!


If you and I would see Christ’s Kingdom flourish and prosper, then our first loyalty must be to the One whom St. Thomas called My Lord and my God.  And this loyalty must extend to His Church – entrusted with the care and safe-keeping and education of His flock. 


No one can estimate how many millions of Christians came to believe in Christ because of St. Thomas.  They are beyond counting.  To this day, missionaries in India report the message of the New Testament is still welcome and effective among the St. Thomas Christians there.


The seed of Christ’s Church has always been watered by the blood of the martyrs.  That is why the liturgical color today is red!  St. Thomas watered the Gospel seeds in India with his own blood, then moved on to his reward in Heaven to be with Christ!  And he left us his good example to assist us in our yet unfinished work.


And I ask you – If Christ did this through St. Thomas, just what might He also do through us?  A brief word to the men of the congregation… three vestrymen have fulfilled their term of office and will be coming off the vestry next month.  The nominating committee will be approaching some of you asking that you consider helping Christ’s Church as a vestryman.  In light of St. Thomas’ exemplary commitment, please give these requests sober consideration!


With St. Thomas, of old, may we all carefully prove with our lives that Christ is indeed our Lord and our God.


World without end. Amen.



Psalm 96:1-13

Advent III

December 14, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church