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


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Psalm 15

Easter I -- Christopher Nilson Baptism

April 12, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“God Has No Grandchildren”

God… has… no… grandchildren!  “Strange start to a sermon,” you say.  But this is a statement certainly worthy of our consideration on such a holy day!  It is a saying that has been present with Christ’s Church from the very beginning!  

God has many children, for sure, but He has no grandchildren!  He has His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ – eternally-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth – Whom to see is to behold the Father.  And He has millions of sons and daughters He has adopted by His grace and mercy and compassion -- some older… some younger.  But He has no grandchildren.  He has no “distant relatives.”  

Just being in a garage does not make a person a car… just being in a hangar does not make a person an airplane.  In the same way, just being in a Church does not make a person a Christian.  Being related to someone who is a Christian does not qualify anyone for Heaven.  God has no nieces.  He has no nephews.  He has no grandchildren!  All He has are children who know Him as Abba Father!  

“Where is this found in the Bible?” you ask.  “It is found everywhere!” is the reply!  “But I want to know where He says this specifically in the Bible!” you insist.  Well, if you insist, then I point you to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount where He said (St. Matthew 6:9): After this manner therefore pray… Our Father...  Not our grandfather…not our uncle… not some esteemed distant patriarchal relative!  Our Father...  And in the Epistle to the Hebrews He reminds us that God deals with us as with sons

Our sonship with the Father is so important, Jesus said, …call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven (Matthew 23:9).

And this truth is underscored in the psalm before us this morning!  Just whom does our Heavenly Father accept in worship?  Ten requirements are listed… all of them ethical!  They demonstrate our personal need for sincerely… truthfulness… and a love for His justice

When Jesus was twelve years old, we are told His family traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover!  And you remember how Mary and Joseph left with their relatives and friends and neighbors to return back to Nazareth.  After a one day’s journey, horror of horrors, they discovered Jesus was not with them!

They immediately returned to Jerusalem, and after three days of searching finally found Him in the Temple precincts, sitting among the scholars listening to them and questioning them.  Mary, visibly upset, asked Him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  We have been looking all over Jerusalem for you, worried sick!”  Then Jesus said something we should not soon forget: “How is it that ye sought me? Did ye not know that I must be about My Father’s business?

Even in Jesus’ development, a day was reached when He came to understand His Father’s purposes for Him!  And He is found dwelling in His Father’s House!  So it must also be with us, as His adopted children!  We, too, must be found dwelling in our Heavenly Father’s House – with sinceritytruthfulness, and love for His justice!

It is, indeed, one of life’s greatest privileges to understand our God’s purposes for us – His calling -- and to be busy attending to His business!  He has many children… but He has no grandchildren!   

Well, what about Christopher!  He is only 6-months old!  Isn’t he something of a grandson?  Isn’t he accepted by God on the faith of his parents and God-parents?  Yes, but we should note they have solemnly sworn to do all they can to lead him from his earliest days to understand that God is his Heavenly Father!  And when the day comes that he understands and is ready to take these same vows for himself – his parents and sponsors will support him as he comes forward on his own for confirmation… another great day celebrating the formation of another adopted child of the Father!

The Apostolic Fathers were the seam of Church leaders between the Apostles and the Church Fathers.  Several are known to us, including Clement of Rome… Ignatius of Antioch… the Shepherd of Hermas… and Polycarp of Smyrna (taught by the Apostle St. John).  At his martyrdom, Polycarp makes reference to what almost all church historians understand as his infant baptism.  When in the stadium at Smyrna he was asked to recant his Christian faith or be burned at the stake.  He replied, “86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”  

This entire process the Nilsons have embarked upon this sacred day is at one and the same time a great privilege… but also a solemn responsibility and charge!

Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, there will be those on the last day who stand before Him and say, Lord, Lord – did we not prophesy in Thy name and cast out devils in Thy name and do many wonderful works in Thy name?  And He will not deny it!  But He will say to them, I never knew you.  Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.

What profit is there to be called a child of God – yet never talk to Him in prayer?  Christopher will need to be taught to pray to God!

What profit is there to be called a child of God – yet never listen to His Voice in the reading of the Bible?  Christopher will need to be taught to read and memorize the sacred Scriptures!!

What profit is there to be called a child of God – yet never worship the Almighty in a worthy and regular fashion?  Christopher will need to be led to worship His Heavenly Father regularly in exalted worship!!

What an insult by the great crowd of worldlings in our day who call God their “Father” just in order to obtain “fire and life insurance!”  I never knew you, He will say.  ”Depart from me.”

Let us all take heed!  Let us all take care!  God… has… no… grandchildren.  He has no distant relatives.  He has only children who worship Him sincerely… truthfully… and with a love for His justice.

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed.  Alleluia.  Amen.


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Psalm 30

Easter Sunday

April 5, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“Joy Cometh in the Morning”

This morning, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!  The Son of God is brought back to life by our Heavenly Father!  This, without a doubt, stands as the central event of all human history!  At one and the same time it is both absolutely simple… yet, it is incredibly profound!

There are four observations we do well to consider this holy day! 

First, sometimes such truths as the Resurrection are best understood by illustrations!  The Bible is filled with a variety of signs, images, and symbols – visual reminders!  One of the most popular of the Easter symbols which according to some sources reaches all the way back to the 13th century, is of course, the colored Easter Egg!  Easter Eggs remind us that baby chicks come out of inert shells in the same way that our Lord emerged from an empty tomb!   Both bespeak a profound miracle!  Easter eggs have always been colored in celebration of this great truth!

Lilies speak of new life – pleasant and fragrant – indeed, exquisite… appearing perfect in form and detail, growing out of decomposed soil -- just as Christ emerged glorified from a place of death and decay!  

Budded crosses (crux boutinee – from the Latin crux for “cross” and the French botonee for “buttons” formed to shape buds) speak of life coming from death… but even more so, the gracious goodness of God growing out of one of the most vicious instruments of death known to mankind!

What about bunny rabbits as symbols of Easter?  Are these purely secular?  Bunny rabbits, as we are all aware, are known for their “prolific ways.”  They were introduced as Easter symbols by the German Lutherans close to 400-years ago, following the Reformation.  And this Easter symbol was brought to the shores of America by German immigrants in the 1700s!

Second, in Jesus’ Resurrection, God vindicates His Son!  Several parables of our Lord remind us that all human actions have consequences!  Consider the conclusion of the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (or tenants, who killed the owner’s son because he had the temerity to come to them on behalf of his father).  Jesus said…

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

In this light, we might ask whatever happened to Caiaphas, the high priest who masterminded the destruction of our Lord?  Pilate was insistent that Jesus had committed no wrong deserving of death!  He even washed his hands to symbolically communicate what was not understood by common speech!

Caiaphas pointed out to Pilate in Jesus’ sixth trial that He represented a threat to Caesar because he had been called a “Davidic King.”  “This is a treasonous offence we will report to Rome if you let Him go,” Caiaphas threatened.  Not wanting to “take that chance” Pilate condemned our Lord and sent Him to be executed!

Jesus was, indeed, put to death, while Caiaphas smugly remained alive… until three years later when he was deposed by Rome!  What goes around comes around!  And in 1990, when excavating in Jerusalem near a location known as the Peace Forest, an ossuary (large limestone box) was found which contained Aramaic inscriptions declaring the contents inside -- bones of a 60-year old man, identified as those of Caiaphas.  And next to him, the bones of his wife.  They are on display today in one of Jerusalem’s many museums. 

And here we see a great, ironic, reversal!  In the final analysis, Jesus lives, while Caiaphas dies!  And our Lord is vindicated!

“Well, whatever happened then to Pontius Pilate?” we ask.  He, too, was deposed three years later by Rome!  What goes around comes around!  Caligula came into power and banished him to Gaul (central Europe – and specifically Switzerland) where he, according to Eusebius and other reliable historians, committed suicide.  There is a mountain there today still named after him – Mount Pilatus!

And this is to say nothing of Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition – and his frightening end!  

“Why would God do such a thing as to avenge the mistreatment of His Son?” worldlings ask.  And their question reveals the depth of their fallen state!   In other words, they are asking, “Why does God not just stand by and accept the injustice of the wicked as acceptable?”  “God is righteous, and He does whatever He pleases!” is the correct reply.  And it is always just and always for good purposes!  All human actions have consequences which God – not man – determines!

Third, God is “pro-life.”  Yes, He is!  The Almighty brought His Son back from the dead!  And He plans to bring back a whole lot of others back from the dead as well!  If you and I expect to be raised from the dead in the future (as an act of goodness on His part to us), we might want to stop and take this to heart -- and think about caring for the lives of others!  In a day when the unholy trio of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia continue their destructive ways… when eugenics still raises its hideous head… when nations lose their freedoms and impoverish their lands through perpetual warfare… when deranged pilots intentionally fly their passengers into the sides of mountains… we might want to stop and remember our best reference point of all!  Jesus was pro-life!  He never killed anyone!  He never even hurt anyone!  He did the opposite!  He raised the dead, He healed the diseased, He restored the lame… the blind… the lepers! 

Fourth (and last), verse five of the psalm read together this morning reminds us of a great truth… 

Heaviness may endure for a night, 

but joy cometh in the morning! 

The Hebrew word translated heaviness means full of sorrow… full of sadness… full of weeping!

And the word translated joy communicates a sense of triumph!  

When the psalmist sings, O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph, he employs the very same word…

Weeping may endure for a night, 

but triumph cometh in the morning! 

My, how this describes our Lord’s followers that first Easter morning!  Their souls were carved out and emptied of everything but sorrow -- until they heard the report that their Lord was alive!  No wonder Mary Magdalene, St. Peter, and St. John ran to the empty tomb!

God had carved out the souls of His followers so they could contain more joy… more of the triumphant Spirit of Christ which He communicated to them when He declared, Be of good cheer!  I have overcome the world!  I need not remind you how they changed the world with this newfound joy!  Nothing could stop them!  Nehemiah and Ezra taught those under their care that the joy of the LORD was their strength!

And so it is with you and me!  Sometimes sorrow enters our lives, also!  Why?  For a God-ordained purpose! To carve out our souls as well, that they might contain more triumphant joy! 

This Easter, let us just as the disciples of old, celebrate and enjoy the Resurrection of our Lord this day – and this Easter Season!

He is Risen!  He is Risen, indeed!  Alleluia. Amen.

“There Is None To Help Me” – Part I

Good Friday Service

April 3, 2015

“There is none to help me…”

To be in need, and all alone with no one to help, is a tragedy.

This is a very real and continuing concern for mankind.  It is a plight visited often by unprepared and unsuspecting actors on the stage of life!  It can be a grievous tragedy, as is reported every day in the news. 

To be in need, and all alone with no one to help, can be fatal.

The Preacher (in Ecclesiastes 4) wrote: 

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

In the sacrificial system of the old covenant, an animal, whose life was to be laid down as a payment for sin, was intentionally isolated.  No one was allowed to help it.

Such was the case of the “scapegoat.”

God’s Law required that Aaron lay both of his hands upon the head of the scapegoat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions.  The animal was then sent into the wilderness to die – alone – with none to help it.

Jesus Christ was born into this world for the very same reason.  One day, as Sacrifice for the sins of the world He, too, would be all alone with none to help Him.

The writer to the Hebrews (10:1-5) tells us:

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 

Wherefore when he (Jesus Christ) cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

“There is none to help me…”

“There Is None To Help Me” – Part II

Good Friday Service

April 3, 2015

“There is none to help me…”

When Jesus Christ entered our realm of “space and time” that first quiet, star-lit night in Bethlehem two millennia ago, He was not alone.

There were certainly loving hands and caring arms to greet Him at His arrival.  There was the smiling face of His mother, Mary.  There was the protective strength of Joseph standing guard over the manger in which He slept. 

There was the brilliant angelic choir sent from Heaven to herald His Birth with majestic chorus and irrepressible joy!  There were the simple shepherds who made their way to His side, where they carefully knelt in reverent worship and humble adoration – beholding the spotless Lamb of God that would one day take away the sins of the world.

There were many who came to help Him, even in His tender years.  There were the Magi who traveled many miles from a distant land to bring Him worthy gifts. 

They brought Him gold – a most valuable gift suitable for a King.

They brought Him frankincense – a rare and precious gift to symbolize His role as Priest.

They also brought Him myrrh – an embalming agent. This foretold in elegant symbolism the important and awesome role He would inevitably assume as Victim and as Sacrifice.

When He entered this world, there were those who loved Him.  There were those who cared for Him.  There were many who surrounded Him and who helped Him.

But this would change.  One day, men would gather around Him not to help, but rather to hurt and to harm.  He would follow a most lonely and sorrowful path.  He, as the Man of Sorrows, would become the Sacrifice for mankind’s sins.

“There is none to help me…”


“There Is None To Help Me” – Part III

Good Friday Service

April 3, 2015

“There is none to help me…”

There were many who were present and willing to help our Lord throughout His infancy and childhood and also during His adolescent years.  There were several who helped start Him on the path of life that would bring Him to the strength and endurance of manhood.  

There was the aged and devout Simeon who took Him up into his arms and blessed God.  There was the prophetess, Anna, who loved Him.  Mary and Joseph fled with Him to Egypt, you remember, to protect Him from the cruel hatred of Herod the so-called Great. 

There were many who helped Him as He grew.  There were the doctors of God’s Law who sat in the Temple daily discussing matters of great import.  Jesus listened to them, we are told, and also asked them questions.

There was John the Baptizer, who baptized our Lord in the waters of the Jordan.

And after His forty days in the wilderness, when He was tempted of the devil, the Scriptures tell us that angels came and ministered to Him.  Those mighty, brilliant, heavenly emissaries were also present to help Him.

There was His friend, Lazarus, whose death evoked the deepest of sympathies in our Lord’s breast and brought tears to His eyes. 

There were many who were ever-present and close-by to help God’s only-begotten Son throughout His Ministry.  Certainly we must not forget His disciples, imperfect though they were – His closest companions for the span of three years!

But above all of these, there was always the closeness and companionship, the protection and purposes of His Father.  It was not uncommon for Him to be in earnest prayer before the sun cast its first rays of morning light.

But all of this would change.  One day, fast-approaching, He would tread the loneliest of paths – the path on which He would be slain as the Sacrifice for mankind’s sins.

“There is none to help me…”

“There Is None To Help Me” – Part IV

Good Friday Service

April 3, 2015

“There is none to help me…”

A sacrifice for sin must of necessity be isolated and without help.  A sacrificial animal was always culled out from its fellows.  It was invariably taken to a place where others could not go.  And it was ultimately put to death – sacrificed, its life drained – with none to help it.  That is the very nature and that is the calling of substitutionary atonement. 

And in the last hours of our Lord’s perfect, guiltless, precious, sinless life, this is precisely what transpired.

Despite his “bravery,” Peter went only as far as the courtyard of the high priest’s house. From there on, our Lord was alone. This was the hour that belonged to the power of darkness.

When He stood before Pilate, He was all alone.

When He stood before the wicked Herod Antipas, He was all alone.

When He was accused, set at nought, and mocked, He was all alone.

When the crown of thorns was pushed through His scalp to the bone, He began bleeding all alone.

When He was whipped and His flesh was torn by the lash, He was all alone.

When Barabbas was released and the crowd called for His execution, He stood all alone.

When they pierced His hands and feet, driving the jagged spikes into the Roman cross, He hung all alone.

And when darkness covered the land, and the sins of the world were laid upon His sacrificial frame, He – suspended between heaven and earth – was all alone.

A mighty host of angels could have delivered Him, but they did not.

His Father could have delivered Him, but He did not.

For Jesus Christ was a Sacrifice for sin!

When He asked, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (that is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”) He knew He was all alone.

As when He cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” as He drew His last and final breath, and as He gave up the Ghost – my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there was none to help Him.

The Sacrifice had been slain.  Atonement was complete.  The ransom had been paid – by Christ alone! 

“There is none to help me…”


Psalm 116:1-16

Maundy Thursday

April 2, 2015

St. Paul's Anglican Church

“The Cup of Salvation”

Many significant events took place on this evening 2,000 years ago, but not one is more significant or more important than the institution of the Lord’s Supper!  

 In the Psalm before us this evening, David freely offers thanksgiving to God for His great mercy.  Perhaps it was on the occasion of special deliverance granted by the Hand of God.  Perhaps it was as a general act of thanksgiving for the numerous times that God had delivered him out of very real dangers throughout his life.

He states that he was in misery.  The presence of death surrounded him.  The terror of a guilty conscience took hold of him.  The weight of the burden he bore was more than he could carry.

He turned to the Almighty, saying: “O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.”  The LORD inclined His ear to David.  He heard the voice of his prayer.  He helped him and preserved him from his danger.

“I will always delight in the Lord,” David summarizes, “because of His gracious dealings with me.” “He delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.”

And then He states something in conclusion most profound – indeed something most prophetic!

I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the LORD.

The cup of salvation.  Let us consider together briefly this evening the phrase “cup of salvation.”


The cup of salvation on the dry, parched lips of those who have wandered through the barren lands of sin and shame yields peace and health and strength and purpose and meaning in life.

The cup of salvation on the lips of guilty sinners gives life – not just physical life, but life eternal and life exquisite beyond our imagination!

The cup of salvation upon the lips of those thirsting for their Creator, predestined to become God’s own children, produces growth and maturity and service and Christian works.  It leads us to our calling – the restoration of lips and tongues and minds and hearts to their original uncorrupted purpose: the glory of Almighty God.

I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the LORD.

But the cup of salvation is not free. Oh, it is free to you and to me!  It is free to all who will take it to their lips and drink deeply.  It has been offered freely, and received freely, for more generations and to more penitent Christians than we can imagine over the last two-thousand years!

But it was most clearly, most definitely and most unequivocally not free!  It was purchased at a very great price! At a price beyond human comprehension!

You see, the only cup we really deserve is the cup of pain, the cup of suffering, the cup of punishment, the cup of retribution -- because of the multitude and greatness of our rebellion and willful offences.  Sins of omission (not doing those things we ought to have done) and sins of commission (doing those things we ought not to have done) testify against us. 

On the night of His betrayal and arrest, the Man of Sorrows found that very cup.  It was large and it was full – of deep sorrow and of bitter suffering and of sharp pain, and He did drink deeply of its bitter dregs for you and for me.  He willingly took it to His lips and drank all of it!

In the Gospel According to St. Matthew 26:37, we read the following…  

And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 

Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Jesus Christ did drink of that cup of wrath which rightly belonged to you and to me.

In the course of twelve grueling hours, He drank deeply!  He was:

Arrested in the middle of the night, an illegal action.

He was spit upon.

He was mocked.

He was reviled.

He was struck.

He was blindfolded.

He was slapped.

He was taunted.

He was beaten.

The Prince of Life did take our cup that we might receive His.  It was not “fair” but it was just.  And it stands as the greatest act of love that the eternal, unchanging, absolute LORD God of this universe could have ever displayed to the fallen sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

Let us understand this, and let us humbly accept His most priceless gift.

I will receive the cup of salvation, wrote David with great insight, and call upon the Name of the LORD.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I are given to do the very same this evening – as we, in great humility, kneel at His Rail and feed at His Table.

I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the LORD.