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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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Romans 8:18-23
Trinity IV
June 19, 2016
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“The Apocalypse of Man”
The Trinity Season – represented by green, the dominant color of God’s plants – is the season given to growth spiritual... growth in wisdom... growth in character... growth in faith... growth in love.
The epistle lesson before us this Trinity Season Sunday morning is superb!  But what exactly does it mean?  And how do we apply it to our lives?
St. Paul is showing us how God’s purposes grow in time and in history... extending on into eternity – just as the green plants with which He has covered His world grow in time far beyond what we might expect!  He has been writing to the Church in Rome (in the preceding verses) about Christ’s Resurrection!
And he says that Jesus’ Resurrection, which occurred at a single point in time... has grown in influence and has come to His people and made an immediate impact on them which will affect their lives for time and eternity.  They have already been resurrected, as it were.
Then he points out that our Lord’s Resurrection continues to grow far beyond us – like the ripples of water caused by a rock thrown into a still pond -- to impact the created order itself (and here he uses the Greek term ktisis – which means “the sum or aggregate of things created”).
And just as His people groan and suffer in this world because they have made a clean break with the sons and daughters of the first Adam... their priorities... their plan of salvation... their utopian quest and vision – so, too, this world groans under the very same curse!
The descriptive Greek term St. Paul uses for vanity when he says the creation was subjected to vanity (at the Fall) – not willingly, but by the decision of God Himself Who subjected it in hope of a future restoration through His Son’s Atonement... is the term mä-tī-o'-tāsvoid or vacuum!  Emptiness! 
The picture he conveys shows the world as a person trying to grow and develop and advance into God’s purposes for it – but finding only futility... only frustration!  It sees Isaiah’s vision of the wolf and the lamb dwelling together... the leopard and the lamb... the lion and the calf... and the little child leading them.  It sees the infant playing near the cobra’s den... the young child putting its hand – horror of horrors -– into the viper’s nest... but without danger or injury (for it represents  a transformed world)!  BUT THIS CREATED ORDER HAS NO TRACTION to bring it to pass by itself!  All it feels is the void of sin and the frustration of lies and deception everywhere!
“What will eventually happen?” we ask.  Verse 21 tells us clearly the world will, indeed, eventually be liberated and transformed and fully discover God’s glorious plans for it!  This will not happen, however, in the vacuum.  It will take place along with the conversion of mankind – and mankind’s development in the Resurrection power of our Lord!
God’s plan for change does not come through revolt and rebellion... but through regeneration!  His purposes come about not through lawlessness... but through lawfulness!
I often wonder how many Christians understand God’s glorious plan and outcome for history?  Do you understand it?  Do I really understand and appreciate it?  I hope so.
Dear St. Paul says something absolutely profound in his line of reasoning!  Reading from the NIV: ...the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
Listen to the same verse in another newer translation which catches its essence: the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 
St. Paul takes the personification so far as to indicate the Creation understands its emancipation will come about only when the sons and daughters of God are revealed (regenerated)!  When those who come under the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ and live new lives marked by the power of His Resurrection come onto the scene and take their faith seriously!  I have this delightful picture in my mind of God’s creation looking at us and asking, “Are you among the ones who will help deliver me?”  It is a profound and probing picture!
We should further point out that when we are told the creation looks earnestly for the revealing (the manifestation) of the sons and daughters of God – the word used is apocalypse!  Can you believe it?  You mean like the Apocalypse of St. John?  Yes!  Exactly!
Unfortunately, fallen man has destroyed the word apocalypse... and given it a whole new meaning and connotation -- and Christians, I am sorry to say, have gone along with them!  Today it means the “end of the world” – death... destruction... nuclear annihilation... cosmic holocaust...  obliteration... extinction...
When used by St. Paul, however, apocalypse meant to reveal (from which we obtain the word “revelation”).  The Book of Revelation reveals that Christ is on His Throne and that He is the Victor... and that His people who are with Him are more that conquerors.  The Creation is looking for all such who are so marked.  St. Wilfrid, of old, was one such!  St. Patrick was another so marked.  
Millions of people today claim to be Christians – but are they so marked?  Do they have any clue what they are to do... and how much hangs in the balance?  All Christians are so marked if they do their work honestly, competently, conscientiously, speaking the truth, living the truth, bringing about the rule of Christ in their own lives and families... their own spheres... to the glory of Jesus Christ!  
What a perverse picture we have before us!  The Creation desperately waiting for the apocalypse of regenerated man!  But fallen man (including all too many Christians) waiting for the apocalypse of this world – exactly the opposite of the outcome God has promised in the Lesson before us this morning!
An ancient saying reminds us that the Son of God became the Son of Man... that the sons of man might become the sons of God!   And this still rings true!  God and His Creation are still watching!
World without end.  Amen.
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I Peter 5:5-11
Trinity III
June 12, 2016
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“Community of Life”
There is an old saying that applies to us every time we read the Bible!  A TEXT taken out of CONTEXT is nothing but a PRETEXT! In other words, a passage of Scripture not understood by the greater framework around it can unfortunately be made to mean whatever the reader wants it to mean!
The famous example of this, in the event you have never heard it, has to do with a very well-meaning individual who knew he should read the Bible daily, but never found the time (which really means he never really made the time).
So he took his Bible and went out-of-doors to enjoy the setting as he finally was going to read his Bible.  Noting the breeze, he thought to himself, “I will let God select the passages I am supposed to read!”  So he opened the Bible on his lap and proceeded to let the wind flip through the pages.  Closing his eyes he randomly put the tip of his finger down and read the verse “from God.”  It read, Judas went out and hanged himself!
Not sure what to make of this, he tried again – this time praying as the wind glided through the pages, “Lord, guide me to a better verse.”  When he put down his finger this time he quickly looked to see God’s word for him.  It read, Go and do thou likewise.  
“This is not good,” he thought to himself!  So he tried it one last time.  “Please tell me Your will, he prayed as the wind flipped through the pages.  When he put his finger down, he reluctantly read the verse it was pointing to... It read, Whatsoever thou doest, doest thou quickly!
The Word of God is not to be so read.  It is to be read systematically and in context... for A TEXT taken out of CONTEXT is nothing but a PRETEXT!
If we are not spending at least a few minutes each day during the Trinity Season methodically reading God’s Word to us, we are – I am sorry to say – dysfunctional Christians!  Man shall not live by bread alone, Jesus taught us, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
The text before us this morning is an important and helpful communication from our Heavenly Father regarding His purposes for local church families!  It is often misunderstood in our day, however, because the underlying presupposition of modern man which too many Christians and church leaders have absorbed as their framework is non-Christian... indeed, downright anti-Christian.
We can call it “rugged individualism” in the church... or by its more descriptive moniker... silo-Christianity!  There are people who enter churches – usually larger churches – without anyone noticing their entrance.  The same people leave without anyone noticing their departure.  And in-between they participate in the service as silo-Christians... with their individual tubes running up to Heaven.  It is so sanitary -- and so sterile – no contact with anyone else.  Just me and God!  And that is the way they like it!
The only problem is that this is Christianity shaped in their image.  It is certainly not Christianity formed in God’s image.  The Christian life is not to be lived in isolation.  It is to be lived in contact with God’s other adopted children and Christ’s other servants.  It is to be lived in the context of the bigger Body of Christ!  His Body has many members – and they need each other!  To live in isolation from other Christians is unhealthy and self-destructive!
Ecclesiastes chapter 5 tells us that two are better than one... and that a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
It has been pointed out that a barbecue with dozens of hot coals can burn for hours.  But if you isolate one of those coals, it soon cools down and stops burning!  It turns cold and black.  Christianity is not to be practiced in isolation!
Notice what the Apostle Peter begins by saying!  All of you be subject one to another.  How, pray tell, can this be done if we are silo-Christians?  And in verse six when he commands, Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, he employs a plural verb – humble yourselves (plural)!  
And when in verse eight he refers to the devil saying your adversary, he employs once more the plural pronoun!  “Your” plural.
If we look long enough and hard enough at the verses before us this morning, we see a beautiful pattern inspired by the Holy Spirit.  This community of life which the Almighty has entrusted to us is not an end in itself.  On the contrary it is an incredible means, under His providence, by which we are to help each other.  This morning, please note the following three objectives...
First, Keeping the Premise of Life. Verses 5-7.
What is this premise of life?  That our Heavenly Father is the Foundation of all things.  He resisteth the proud, we are told.  And stated positively, He gives grace to the humble.  
Dear St. Peter is here quoting Proverbs 3:34 (Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly).  We are to model the meaning of this for each other so we can see just how this is to be done!
The story is told of a young man who faithfully attended church services – but he was deaf and could not hear a single spoken word.  Other parishioners wondered why he came – until it dawned upon them that God sent him to show the rest of them how to be humble... to have no guile... to display a special grace given him by the Almighty in place of his hearing.
Second, Following the Promise of Life!  Verses 8-9.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
The promise of life reminds us that though we are constantly in spiritual danger, yet we are never alone!  The other brethren St. Peter referenced were still around.  They had not yet met their end!  We need each other’s example and pattern of faith to encourage us.  A dear Canterbury teacher is currently undergoing cancer treatment (level three... soon to begin level four).  Her brief email summary to those praying for her included a “lighter side” observation – she is saving a lot of money by not purchasing food because she has no appetite.  And the famous observation comes to mind concerning the man who felt sorry for himself because he had no shoes... until he saw the man who had no feet!  We are to walk in a vigilant manner.  And to do so requires the best examples all of us can offer!
Third, Following the Purpose of Life!  Verses 10-11.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.  To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.  
We need each other to remind us of the bigger purpose of life – the glorious outcome designed for us as a community.  One of Christians’ most glaring shortcomings is missing the forest for the trees.  Myopia (short-sightedness) halts our understanding of the bigger purposes of the Almighty.  Character development.  The glory of God and the development of His Kingdom.  We all need a bigger Christian perspective!
I am often reminded of the ignominious, inglorious outcome of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) – the incredibly gifted and talented philosopher who lost sight of God’s greater purposes for our lives.
Trapped by his own human-bound thinking with none to help him, he descended into Nihilism – the worldview that life is meaningless... life is senseless... life is useless.  We should not be surprised that at his end (56-years of age) he went insane.  There remains a sad photograph of his haunting blank look into the distance from the confines of his insanity.
We can certainly be thankful that we have the Blessed Trinity... but also that we have each other (and the collective wisdom, collective knowledge, collective experience, and collective goodwill He has lavished upon us).  May these spur us on to mutual encouragement remembering God’s overarching purposes in life, including His glory and dominion for ever and ever.
The Trinity Season reminds us that God is one and that God is many... and so are we to be as a congregation!  Continue to save us from silo-Christianity, O Heavenly Father!
 
World without end.  Amen.
I John 3:13-24 
Trinity II
June 5, 2016
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“A Lost Virtue”
This morning, we do well to consider a lost virtue – which, it would seem, has all but disappeared from planet earth!  “What is this lost virtue?” you ask.  I can tell you it was once common across America.  It was possessed by the founding fathers at Independence Hall (Philadelphia) at the writing of the Declaration of Independence and when the U.S. Constitution was debated and adopted.  This lost virtue was displayed by Robert E. Lee in his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia marking the conclusion of the Civil War.  It was once practiced daily by countless others across all walks of life – day in and day out.
This lost virtue is, indeed, one of the many faces of “love.”  We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethrenwrote the Apostle John in this morning’s Epistle Lesson.  But love has “thousands of faces.”  One of its faces is surely compassion.  Another of its faces is friendship.  Yet another of its faces is helping.
But the once famous “face of love” – rarely seen today and unrecognized by most – is magnanimity.  It even sounds strange to our ears!  It has grown difficult for us to pronounce!  But it is so important!  It is so helpful.  Perhaps it is more recognizable to us in another form: magnanimous.  As in a magnanimous man… a magnanimous woman… a magnanimous child… a magnanimous young person.
Magnanimous is a compound word.  Magna means great.  The Magna Charta was the great charter of liberties which the English barons forced King John to sign in June of 1215 at Runnymede not far from London.  And animus means “spirit.”  Magnanimous therefore means “great spirit.”  It denotes a person whose spiritual makeup is great enough, secure enough, balanced enough to bear troubles and trials calmly… to look down on meanness and revenge, spitefulness and hatred!  We should note this does not come to us naturally!  It is a great gift from God!  And it is something to be fervently sought during the long green season of growth – the Trinity Season!
Please note the final words of the I John passage this morning: And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spiritwhich he hath given u s[the Spirit of God Himself, the greatest spirit of all].  Of all people, Christians (with the Spirit of God Himself in their lives and their personalities) should be magnanimous toward each other – calm… balanced… reasonable… void of meanness and its fellow-destroyer, revenge.
Another great mark of a magnanimous person is certainly a lofty and courageous spirit that pursues noble and just ends -- refusing to descend into the mire of pettiness and triviality.   Please note once again the words in verse 22 of our lesson this holy day: 
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight… And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. 
Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying "In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill."
In his book entitled The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis termed those who have no magnanimity “men without chests.”  His contemporary, the great poet T.S. Eliot, called them “empty suits.”
I grew up with the stories and legends of Scandinavia.  One of the many great and colorful characters was the Danish King Hrolf who had a court servant named Hott.  When King Hrolf recognized Hott’s development in moral strength and lofty courage, he renamed him Hjalti (which means “hero”).  
And good thing Hjalti did not let this go to his head!  For instead of using his new position to taunt and execute those who had previously mocked him, he sought more noble and just ends.  King Hrolf, seeing this, then titled him “Hjalti the Magnanimous.”  And that is fabulous!
How delightful to see magnanimity in action.  And how desperately it is needed today!  Inside the Church.  And outside the Church. 
A most delightful story is recorded for history regarding a most remarkable Christian man – whose skin was black… and who lived one hundred years ago… and whose name was Booker T. Washington…
Shortly after Booker T. Washington had become head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking past the house of a very wealthy family.  The woman of the house, assuming he was one of the yard workers her husband had hired, asked him if he would chop some fire wood for her.
Professor Washington smiled, nodded, took off his coat, and chopped the wood.  When he carried the armload of wood into the woman’s kitchen, a servant girl recognized him – and rushed to her mistress to tell her of his identity.
The next morning, the embarrassed woman appeared in Booker T. Washington’s office.  Apologizing profusely, she said repeatedly, “I did not know it was you I put to work.”  Washington replied with love and generosity and magnanimity: “It is entirely all right, madam.” He replied.  “I like to work and I am delighted to do favors for my friends.”
The woman was so taken with his manner and the largeness of his heart, that she gave generous gifts to the Institute.  She also persuaded many of her wealthy acquaintances to do likewise.  So in the end, Booker T. Washington raised as much money for the Institute from this one act of chopping wood with magnanimity as he did from any other fund-raising event!
It is the magnanimous Christian who is not afraid to set forth the truth of life who changes the world far beyond his allotted influence.  And the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer summarized it most aptly.  Stage one – what he says in ridiculedStage two – what he continues to say is violently opposedStage three – what he has faithfully been saying is accepted as being self-evident.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus – how magnanimous are you and I?  It is an appropriate question to ask.  I suspect the opposite of magnanimity is to be “thin-skinned.”  How magnanimous are you at home?  At school?  At work?  At church?  In dealing with friends?  In dealing with relatives.  In dealing with “trouble-makers”?
Our Lord was undoubtedly the most magnanimous of all.  We can picture Him looking down on all of the spitefulness, hatred, and vile contempt swirling around Him – even as He prays for forgiveness for His persecutors.
And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us [the Spirit of God Himself, the greatest spirit of all]. 
Remember to seek magnanimity this Trinity Season!
This is the word of the Lord… and it will stand forever.  Amen. 
I John 4:7-21 
Trinity I
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
May 28, 2016

“Where is Love?”
A young orphan boy named Oliver Twist in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, fled a cruel workhouse in the poverty of the 18th-century for the streets of London – and subsequently fell in with a nefarious gang of thieves.  Discovering a dark conspiracy all around him, little Oliver asked one of the most probing and important questions of all time:
Where is love?
Many have claimed to know its whereabouts…  Baby-boomers sought it in a San Francisco district known as Haight Ashbury in the 1960s, but love was not found there – only a trendy substitute.
Almost half-a-million young people later sought “love” in a muddy pasture in Sullivan County, New York – at an event known as Woodstock – where “free love” (as it was called) was available for the “taking”… But once again, love was not found there – only the next get-with-it substitute.
Across the intervening years, many have heralded the whereabouts of love – sometimes the announcement comes through tabloids… often in the lyrics of musicians… always in the dark whispers of those set upon “making a buck” at the expense of others – commonly known as fleecing.
In our own day, “Millennials” would seem to believe that love and acceptance can be bought… purchased… or perhaps bartered… But once again, the trail only grows cold, leading to yet more disappointment. 
Where then is its place?  Where then is love to be found?  And once discovered how will we recognize it?  
All true seekers of love and acceptance will find their questions answered in the Bible!  There the Almighty has declared its name over 500 times!  
The love it describes is not the syrupy, saccharine variety of self-centered emotion, but strong enough to reach beyond us – first in reverence to the One Who brought us into being and made us in His holy Image!
If only one Biblical text were available to furnish us answers, that text would surely be the grouping of fifteen verses assembled before us in this morning’s Epistle Lesson – the most focused text in the Sacred Scriptures regarding love, where it is mentioned 27 times in the span of fifteen verses.  
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
What did Jesus declare as the two Great Commandments?  
…thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  
But what do these commands to love really mean?  Many definitions have been set forth… but none is as true-to-the-mark as that of faithful Noah Webster in his 1828 Dictionary of the English Language.
“The love of God… springs from… His attributes or… character, which afford the highest delight to the sanctified heart.  Esteem and reverence… and a fear of offending Him is its inseparable effect… […to love our neighbor is] to have… good will for [him].”
An old story is told of a Welsh miner, named Thomas Samson, who put in long, hard hours at the mine – his life in constant danger far beneath the surface of the earth where he labored hidden from the light of day – in order to make a meager living and put food on the family table.
One day, the foreman of the mine approached him with the welcome words, “Thomas, I have found an easier job for you above ground.  You will have less physical work and… earn more money.  … interested?”
“Oh yes, I am very interested indeed, sir” was his swift reply.  But then he paused, and in quiet reflection continued, “Sir, would you please consider giving the job to my friend, Tregony, instead?  He is not as strong as I am and he is not able to work as hard as I can.  And I am afraid the work below in the mine will shorten his life.”  
The foreman was moved by his love and compassion -- and gave the job to his friend Tregony, as he requested!
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
This would certainly seem to be God’s answer to Cain’s question of old (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”), after he had slain his own sibling… and the Ancient of Days asked him regarding Abel’s whereabouts.
To love another person made in God’s Image its own reward.  To love another person made in God’s Image is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, to carry a “weight of glory.”  It is to discover the meaning of what is meant by the word “love.”  Love is not self-centered.  Far from it, love is directed toward others!  Love is caring for others in a Godly manner! 
No man hath seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 
 
No man has ever seen God… yet we feel His presence and we perceive His abiding company when we love one another as His Holy Family.  
I’m sure I’ve told you of the small girl who had such a wonderful day at Church – exalted music... the family kneeling and sitting together in the worship of God... people greeting her… people encouraging her...  her friends playing with her afterwards.  She told her father on the way home from Church how happy she was.  He suggested that she write a letter to God in order to thank Him – which she did.  
When she later showed it to him, this is what he read: “Dear God, we had such a wonderful day in Church.  I only wish you could have been there!  Of course, God’s loving presence is what made the day so special!  God’s presence is always the key to love!  For He is love!
Where is love?  It is first and foremost found with our Heavenly Father – the Wellspring and Fountainhead of all that is good.  But love is also found among His children – though deeply flawed and imperfect!
According to tradition, the Apostle John, who loved our Lord and leaned upon Him at the Last Supper lived many, many years – almost to the threshold of the second century A.D.  Knowing just how rare and fragile genuine love and its peaceable fruit are, tradition maintains that when he was too old… too frail… and too feeble to walk under his own power, others would carry him into Christ’s Churches… and he would always speak the same words until they could no longer be heard:
Little children, Love One Another.  It is the Lord’s Commandment…
Little children, Love One Another.  It is the Lord’s Commandment…
And so it is… and so we should also love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
This is the Word of the Lord forever. A-men. 
Revelation 4:1-11
Trinity Sunday