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.
Scroll down the page
St. Mark 7:31-37
September 7, 2014
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
“He Spake Plain”
Speech. A remarkable gift God has entrusted to mankind! Words. Sentences. Thoughts simple. Thoughts profound. Communication through the rhapsody of speech!
The first words ever spoken were the words of our Creator. And God said, Let there be light...
But words can be misused… and abused. This is why we are advised in Holy Writ to be discrete in which sounds pass through our teeth.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
A true sage once observed:
Speech is given to ordinary men to communicate their mind, but to wise men, whereby to conceal it.
And elsewhere we are told:
A man of words, but not of deeds,
is like a garden full of weeds.
But the poor man in the text before us this morning could not speak even a single word! And he could not hear sounds! He was both deaf and dumb.
The events described in the narrative before us this morning reveal the compassion and healing power of the Great Physician in His dealings with mankind. Let us focus our attention for a few moments upon verse 35:
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
We are living in a world which is de-volving, if you will, not e-volving! Progressively devoid of substance! Stripped of meaning. Literacy on the decline. Morality disappearing. The corrosiveness of sin burning ugly blemishes and unsightly blotches in the once beautiful fabric of Western civilization.
This can be seen and observed in several arenas of life, but especially can it be seen in the manner of our speech as a nation. Ours has become a land of people with small, shrinking, halting vocabularies, who stumble as they try to think and speak at the same time. Aphasic -- unable to locate the correct word -- not because of a lapse in memory, but because the word was never learned!
Thousands of words were never learned! Phonetic rules never learned! Grammar never learned! Syntax never learned! Verbal crutches are everywhere -- “Ya know,” “I mean,” “It’s like,” and the list goes on!
Words -- or more properly, sounds -- are now employed which are not words at all... ya, nope, huh? And mindless “placeholders” such as um, uh, ah. The collapse of godly education has left untold numbers handicapped, crippled. An estimated forty million functional illiterates dot the landscape of this once-great land – sadly unable to read the headlines of a newspaper. And there, but for the grace of God – through the help of parents and loved ones -- would we also be bound!
One of the first purposes of education is to enable a person to speak and to be understood. Yet for so many parents, this is just not a priority! Incoherence is not a virtue! Feeble language is the swiftest road to a feeble mentality!
No wonder our Lord, in the lesson before us this morning, fixed His eyes upward to heaven, and sighed. The word translated “sighed” is the Greek stenazw… found six times in the New Testament -- and also translated as “groaned” or “grieved.”
Considering such destruction, such damage, such carnage, He was grieved and He groaned. “...looking up to heaven, he sighed...”
As our land rushes headlong toward God’s judgment, our Lord quietly takes you and me aside! He separates us from the crowd and skillfully places His fingers in our ears -- which are so reluctant to hear and to obey His Voice.
Examining our tongues, blistered and stained by misuse, beholding our lips, cracked and parched with mediocrity, the Great Physician stretches forth His skillful Hand and gently touches them. He heals them, redeems them, purifies and consecrates them for His own use. There must always be examples available to show others what it means to “speak plain.”
The prophet, Hosea, commands us: Take with you words, and turn to the LORD...” (Hosea 14:2). Hosea’s standard is noteworthy. We are not to approach the Almighty in prayer, in worship, in the sanctuary of life with stammering and stuttering and incoherence. Hence “said prayers” are employed out of respect for our Lord!
When we are told the healed man spake plain, the word employed is the Greek orqwV: “correct.” He spake plain, with no trouble. He spake rightly… properly…. correctly.
The prefix ORTHO abounds in our English language. The field of ORTHOdontics seeks to CORRECT teeth problems. The field of ORTHOpedics seeks to CORRECT skeletal problems. The Great Physician corrected this man’s speech problem. He untied the cord which up to that time had bound his tongue. And we are told the healed man spake plain.
What do you suppose this man did with this new gift of speech? How did he use it? We are not told. But we can certainly imagine some incredible, inspiring possibilities which would reveal its fullness and splendor!
The Master’s sterling Voice echoes down the corridors of time, and reaches each of us this morning. He addresses you. He addresses me with the same word. Eph΄-pha-tha: be opened. Eph΄-pha-tha. Speak properly. Depart from Babel. Eph΄-pha-tha. Speak correctly. Get rid of verbal crutches. Eph΄-pha-tha. Speak plainly. Slow down and speak in an understandable manner.
If we think we are hopeless cases (and I have been there), we should think again! We need to consider the account of this healing! These dear friends brought this man for the assistance of our Lord’s Hand. But all that was required was the use of two Fingers. If with a Finger He cast out devils… with a Finger He is most assuredly able to cast out our old and sloppy habits!
Even dear Moses, who as you recall, was plagued with slowness of speech, would have despaired, had not God intervened.
Who hath made man's mouth? God asked him. Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth... (Exodus 4:10-12).
Moses did go, and God went with him. He who had once despaired of plain speech, penetrated the heart of the mightiest empire of his day with words. He pronounced God’s truth and judgment with simple clarity, and witnessed the power of the Most High.
It is to the same noble calling that you and I are again commissioned! We sometimes tell ourselves that any speech will do! Any speech is fine, as long as it is sincere. But we must often recall the standard – and the binding example -- of our Lord Who Himself did all things well! Who spake with gracious and understandable speech! Who always made Himself clear to those who listened – captivated, as it were, by His sterling manner!
“Never man spake as this man” is the testimony recorded in the Bible. Let us take heed, and let us conform to His worthy example! We are not to follow the broad and easy way of this world with sloppy speech!
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
And so should we… world without end. A-men.
: Back to the top :
Scroll down the page
St. Luke 18:9-14
August 31, 2014
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
“God be Merciful to Me a Sinner”
Two men went up into the temple to pray, we are told.
The first, a Pharisee did not really even pray to God! We are told in a unique phrase that he “prayed… with himself”! This seems strange until we understand what he was doing. He was delivering a testimonial about himself to God!
A cynic once observed a preacher doing something similar to this… And the cynic said that what he heard was the most eloquent prayer ever offered to a Boston audience! Ouch! What an indictment! Prayer – true prayer – is always offered to the Almighty and to Him alone!
Ceremonial law required only one fast – on the Day of Atonement! But the Pharisees who sought to merit God’s special favor through works of “supererogation” (that is, going above and beyond what God desired – a form of being more holy than even God Himself desired of us -- also fasted on Monday and Thursday of each week! And they showed that they were fasting by the way they appeared and dressed! Guess what? Mondays and Thursdays just happened to be “market days” when Jerusalem was full of people from outlying areas. They wanted as wide an audience as possible to see and stand in awe of their feats of piety!
The Pharisee did not go to the temple to pray! He went there to tell God what a wonderful person he was!
The second, a publican – not a republican! but a publican… a Jewish tax collector – was altogether different. Not even lifting up his eyes, he struck his chest and cried from the depth of his soul: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Actually, in the Greek text it says literally, God be merciful to methe sinner! The chief of sinners! The sinner par excellence!
One important observation which we must understand is that in this parable the publican was indeed a sinner. The publicans were the quislings of their day. The term quisling (q u i s l i n g), by the way, is used to describe a traitor or a collaborator with an enemy. The term quisling, interestingly enough, comes from the name of a Norwegian army officer, Vidkun Quisling, who assisted Nazi Germany in conquering his own country. “Why?” we ask. So that he could rule the Norwegian government himself after they took over. Not only were the publicans quislings (traitors or collaborators), they were indeed also the unjust extortioners the Pharisee indicated in his prayer. Backed by the power and support of Rome, the publicans added their own generous “transaction fees” to the taxes they collected for the hated overlord. It was, as they say, “easy money.”
Jesus tells us this humbled, nameless publican – sinner though he was, who threw himself on the mercy of God – was justified (that is, he was pardoned and declared righteous). He was forgiven of his sins and set free of his troubled conscience. And the one who had carried out the letter of obedience – but was haughty toward God – was not justified. He was notdeclared righteous by his deeds.
Our Lord then furnishes a remarkable summary statement – a moral rule regarding what we are to “take away,” as they say, from this parable. All who exalt themselves will be abased (or brought low). And all who humble themselves will be exalted. Dear Mary, mother of our Lord, wrote in her great hymn of praise – The Magnificat – He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
And here we find the crux of the lesson. Salvation is by the mercy and the grace of God – not by the efforts and labors of man. Not one of us is worthy of redemption on our own merits. But God is gracious toward those who acknowledge their own inadequacy, their own sins, their own rebellion.
There are many other valuable lessons here as well for God’s people on their pilgrimage through life!
Certainly we should consider the insight of Ephraem the Syrian – famous fourth century Christian teacher! What did he say? He wrote, “It is more difficult to confess one’s sins than one’s righteousness.” How true this is! It is always easier to trumpet our virtues than our failings! We do well always to monitor our own words… to guard our own mouths and lips when in a weak moment we begin to hear ourselves play the world’s game and brag concerning some “deed” or perceived virtue!
We also do well to think twice... or even thrice… when we find ourselves on the verge of despising someone... anyone… anywhere… at any time… however deserving the individual might be! Our Lord does not look favorably on those who despise others!
The meaning of the root word he used is to be “worth nothing.” It is the same word used of others concerning Him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, we are told, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
The Pharisee through selective emphasis and selective logic arrived at the position that those who were not like him – “others” (the rest of mankind) were worth nothing! St. Ambrose left us with wise Christian counsel – the logic of man adds nothing to the revelation of God!
And let us always remember the publican who bowed his head and smote his chest… and let us take courage. The same Jesus Who commended the prayer of the wicked tax-collector sits at the Father’s Right Hand to make intercession for penitent sinners.
Let us never lose sight of the immortal words: “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
St. Luke 22:24-30
August 24, 2014
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
“St. Bartholomew, the Apostle”
Why do we recall the life and celebrate the ministry of St. Bartholomew, the Apostle each August 24th?
The primary reason is that the basic rule of Scripture requires it: Render therefore to all their dues (Romans 13:7) …honour to whom honour [is due]. And we must remember that Jesus earlier had said: If… any man serve me, him will my Father honour. (St. John 12:26).
In our lesson this morning, Jesus says He Himself would honor them with thrones and critical functions in Heaven! If God so honors these faithful Apostles of His Son, who in the world do we think we are to break rank – and withhold the honor due to St. Bartholomew? And this is to say nothing of the benefit that comes to us from knowing “his story.”
The Bible, after all, does not say the Church was built on the foundation of Jesus Christ! It says the Church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets! Jesus, we are told, is the cornerstone!
As the cornerstone He sets the location of His Church – its setting in the world! As the cornerstone he sets the moral elevation of His Church. As the cornerstone, He sets the direction His Church is to face! As the cornerstone, He sets its levelness -- and long-term stability required to support the glorious construction of every age!
Behold what manner of work Christ performed through St. Bartholomew!
After the Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, just as Christ instructed, His Apostles bore witness in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria. Then some – including Bartholomew – dispersed to bear witness to the “uttermost parts of the world.”
According to tradition, St. Bartholomew traveled to Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) in the company of St. Philip, where they labored as servants for Christ.
And just as the reading this morning tells us that many signs and wonders were wrought by the hands of the Apostles, so the wife of the Roman proconsul of Asia Minor was healed by these Apostles of her illness and she became a Christian.
Seeing this, her husband ordered Philip and Bartholomew to be put to death by crucifixion. Philip was incarcerated by the proconsul and martyred. They pierced him through his thighs and hung him upside down until he died. Bartholomew, however, escaped and traveled eastward into Armenia.
There he is said to have labored the rest of his life in the region around the southern end of the Caspian Sea – then called Armenia, but today divided between Iran and the Soviet Union – approximately 500-miles north of where the American journalist was recently executed by his captors. St. Bartholomew carried with him a famous and most valuable copy of the Gospel according to St. Matthew (his fellow-Apostle), which he according to tradition left with the Church in Armenia.
There he labored unceasingly for almost two decades, bearing witness to the life and death, resurrection and ascension, and holy purposes of Jesus Christ, Lord of lords and King of kings. And it was there that Bartholomew was also martyred – by best estimates, in the Year of our Lord, A.D. 68.
And this is how it happened… Bartholomew is described as having healed the king’s daughter in that area of her illness. In so doing, he exposed the hollowness – indeed, the emptiness -- of the land’s idolatry. The king and many others believed and were baptized. The king’s brother, however, named Astyages, and his heathen priests remained hostile.
Bartholomew was arrested, beaten, then flayed alive (skinned alive) with special flaying knives. Afterward, his bloody body was nailed to a cross. And there in great agony he died the ignominious death of crucifixion (as did his Lord). That area is near a city today named Derbend in the district of Azerbaijan (ah-zer-by-zhawn’), home to roughly 40,000 people on the Caspian Sea.
Thus, St. Bartholomew faithfully passed on from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant, and to his reward – recognition (honor) by Jesus Christ, his Lord.
The crest, or symbol, of St. Bartholomew typically shows that copy of the Gospel he delivered, with one or more wide flaying knives resting on top of it.
St. Bartholomew bears the distinction and mark of being one of five Apostles to have labored in Armenia where they were the first to sow the seed of the Gospel. This day we remember that Bartholomew, Son of Talmai, not only planted the seed of the Gospel there, but also watered it with his own blood!
It is very much worth noting that the Faith planted in Armenia did grow – and grow – and grow! Armenia in due time became one of the first self-proclaimed Christian nations this world ever knew. Christianity was officially proclaimed in A.D. 301 as the national religion of Armenia. Who hath despised the day of small things, asked the prophet Zechariah!
Oh, to God, that we had more St. Bartholomews among us today!
My hat is off to this dear and faithful Apostle of our Lord who trumpeted the truth to those who had never heard it! My hat is off to the others among the Twelve for their witness and testimony to our Lord. They together were skinned, stoned, sawed, burned, beheaded for Christ!
My hat is off to the “Seventy” sent out by our Lord to fill this earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord!
My hat is off to every martyr who has stood tall and faithful in his or her final hour of testing.
Our hats should be off to every man, woman, young person, child who has told another human being about Jesus Christ, the Son of God -- about the need to repent and be baptized and live according to Christ’s Way – however inarticulate… incoherent… faltering the words might be!
All twenty-first century Christians should stop and take a good hard look at the sterling example of the royal son of Talmai who humbled himself and served -- and carried out the mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ: 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 (St. Matthew 28:19-20).
And my hat is off to us as well – as we give the same witness in our days… in our places… in our opportunities!
Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs,
Holy days of holy men,
With all pleasant recollections
Greet we your return again.
Worthy deeds they wrought, and wonders,
Worthy of the Name they bore;
We, with praise to God Most High,
Honor them forevermore.
St. Luke 15:11-32
August 17, 2014
“The Loving Father”
The parable of the “Prodigal Son,” is one of the most cherished teaching illustrations ever spoken by our Lord. It is one of the most beautiful stories found in all of the Bible – and in all of the world’s literature, for that matter.
According to Biblical law, the elder son received a double portion of the patrimony (or estate) inherited from his father. In a family with two sons, the elder son received a two-thirds portion and the younger son one-third. It was not unusual for a father to distribute his estate before his death, if conditions required it.
We are not told how long the rebellious young man was away – possibly many years. What we are told is that as his resources disappeared, his life became thoroughly unbearable. A Jew finding himself feeding pigs revealed the depths of his degradation. This young man was destitute. He was lonely and he was utterly famished. No one around him cared about his well-being.
In his despair, we are told something most unique happened – he came to himself. What does that mean? In the Providence of God, perhaps remembering the teaching of his youth, the full realization of his rebellion and sin and poverty finally dawned upon him. He determined to return to his father and to beg for his forgiveness.
The father must have been watching day after day…. waiting month after long month – praying and hoping and earnestly looking for the return of his son! For we are told he saw him while yet a long way off in the distance.
He brought out the symbols of his forgiveness. The robe, signifying honor. The signet ring, signifying authority. And shoes, signifying sonship. Only members of the family wore shoes; servants went about barefoot. The feast with the fattened calf reveals the rejoicing of the entire household at the return of the son from his wandering.
There is a stark change in the mood of the story with the entry of the older brother. He is sullen and angry. He is unhappy at his brother’s return. He did not even acknowledge his kinship. He referred to his brother, not as “my brother,” but as “your son.” And he referred to his own perfect obedience in the Greek as slavery!
The younger son signifies all of us throughout the ages who have gone our “own way” – who have rebelled against our Heavenly Father, squandering His gifts and inheritance… His favor.
The older brother represents all, who like the Pharisees of old, self-righteously feel themselves to be good – who smugly believe they deserve God’s favor. Tragically, there are millions of such “older brothers” in this world. Some even attend Church on Sundays. But their obedience is an onerous and burdensome duty rather than a loving and joyful service to their Heavenly Father.
The loving Father, of course, represents the Ancient of Days… Father par excellence, Father of all mankind, and the One from Whom you and I have all received our life, our health, and our resources – fully just… fully merciful!
There are many lessons for you and me in this magnificent parable. There is, for example, the pattern of decline for fallen mankind. First, self-centeredness. Then rebellion. Then alienation…. self-deprivation… poverty… loneliness… sorrow… and finally despair. Is this not the tragic pattern repeated by fallen men and fallen cultures throughout history?
There is also the arrogance of sin. The young man in his pride was most arrogant. What he said to his Father in essence was this – “Give me now the part of the estate that I will get anyway when you are dead and let me get out of here.” Instead of honor, respect, and self-control, we find contempt and irreverence.
Consider also the value of adversity. Had the young man’s resources held out, had he remained prosperous, had he remained affluent in that strange land, he might have continued his notorious and riotous living and never known the peace of a repentant heart. Without the hunger pangs and the awful chill of a lean soul, he might never have found the warmth and solace of a Father’s forgiving love. Often we do not recognize the value and worth of adversity until “after the fact.”
We should also note in passing that our Lord includes in this parable the doctrine of “prior claim” which has almost disappeared from this land. And what is this doctrine of “prior claim?” When the prodigal son came to his senses and prepared his humble confession and plea for forgiveness, it is noteworthy that he said: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee…” His sin, and our sins, are first of all sins against the Almighty.
Another glorious gem found in this parable deals with the overflowing mercy of the father. When his wayward son returned, he politely gave him his full attention while he confessed his repentance. But before his son could recite the second half of the script he had so carefully prepared – that he would be willing to be as an hired servant – the father calmly and strategically interrupted, calling for the servants to bring forth the robe, the ring, and the shoes – and the fattened calf.
There is yet another consideration that clamors for our attention. The word “son” is found nine times in this text. In all cases but one, the Greek term υιος is employed, meaning: “full-grown son,” and “heir.” The one instance when an alternate Greek word translated “son” is employed is when the father had to come out from the festivities to entreat his older son who was angry and would not go in. It was then that he employed the term τεκνιον – “little child.” Jesus intended to reflect the attitude of the Pharisees, and so He placed the word “little child” on the father’s lips to indicate his elder son was acting with immaturity.
But perhaps the most compelling truth of all is that found in the final verse of this morning’s lesson. It is the climax, if you will, completing what our Lord set out to illustrate. It is the fait accompli – the feat irreversibly accomplished… the eternal witness forever echoing down the corridor of history – resonating the comforting Word of the Lord Himself!
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
In these words spoken from our Lord’s own lips and by His own voice we find the heart of God – and Good News for all of us, wayward sinners that we are. In a majestic and unfathomable way, God sets before us the matrix of life itself. And He lets us look for as long and as carefully as we wish. To confess our sins and to find forgiveness is to find the Father. Confession is the pathway to a right standing with the One Who brought us into His world! His forgiveness is total!
As long as the sun runs his race from dawn to dusk, there is hope – hope for fathers and mothers… hope for grandparents and great-grandparents… hope for wayward children. The loving Father knows how it feels… and His heart is greater than our own.
As long as the stars march silently along their celestial course, there is hope – for all of us – if we in humility entreat our Heavenly Father in genuine confession.
As long as the world endures, this parable of the Loving Father and the Prodigal Son will stand as a steadfast sentinel, faithfully pointing the way to eternal life for all who will embrace and follow its counsel.
My dear ones, we all must follow the pathway home to make peace with our Heavenly Father.
…for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
St. Matthew 7:15-21
August 10, 2014
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
“Walk the Walk”
One of the beautiful things about God is that He always says what He means… and He always means what He says! You can count on it! You always know where you stand with God!
The same is true with His Son! In the Sermon on the Mount – the greatest sermon ever preached by the greatest Preacher who ever walked this earth -- Jesus says what He means… and He most assuredly means what He says!
“What does He say?” you ask.
He says to be careful – to be cautious… to beware – as we pass though life! Why? Because bad people will approach us who are pretending to be good people (wolves disguised as sheep)! And their intent will be malicious – to hurt us! And why does God tell us this? Because He loves us and He seeks to preserve us!
And as though He reads the question in our minds – How will we know them? -- He quickly answers that we will know them by their actions! They may talk the talk! But we have the responsibility to watch and see if they will walk the walk! The Master says, Ye shall know them by their fruits. How many people have been destroyed – who only wish they could re-live the ruinous chapters of their lives to make better decisions armed with this glorious counsel! Ye shall know them by their fruits.
And then He challenges you and me “point blank” – as His would-be followers! His would-be disciples! The same holds true for you, He says. On the final day, you will stand before Me as I separate the sheep from the goats. To the sheep (God’s people) I will say -- Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
To the goats (those who are not God’s people) I will say, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…
And why does he tell us this? Because once more He loves us and He seeks to preserve us!
To talk the talk in that day will mean nothing! There will be those who insist, “Don’t you remember me?” They will even double the manner in which they address Me – Lord! Lord! Don’t you remember me?
I am telling you ahead of time, He says, My evaluation will not be based upon your words! But upon your actions – the way you lived! The walk you walked!
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
God’s purpose for His Church… God’s purpose for His Kingdom… God’s purpose for His people is to DO HIS WILL! Which part of these three simple words do we not understand?
God has let me overhear enough conversations to reveal just how much His church and people – and dare I say it… you and I -- have become absorbed by this world. It is indeed frightening!
One soon sees… understands… perceives… where all of this leads! It leads to the absurd conclusion – which must make God either laugh or cry -- “You don’t need to be a Christian to be a Christian!”
What, pray tell, ever happened to “doing the Father’s Will”?
I’ll tell you what happened to the old fashioned “doing the Father’s Will”! It became outdated when “entitlement religion” entered the church last century! It was about the same time the Lord’s Prayer was rewritten to read: Hallowed be my name… my kingdom come… my will be done!
May I humbly offer four suggestions to help guide all of us as a church family as we pass through the world’s gauntlet each day?
First, beware! These are our Lord’s first words of this morning’s lesson! For indeed the world will offer us plausible sounding substitutes for God’s “outdated” and “obsolete” requirement that we Do His Will!