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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.


10 Sermons:

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Romans 8:12-17
July 17, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"Abba, Father"

 God has revealed Himself to us through His many, many titles in the Bible!  He is known as the Ancient of Days… the Buckler… the Creator… the Dwelling Place…  By one study, He has revealed Himself to us through over 900 titles in the Bible!  But of all of them, not a single one is more meaningful that that which is so carefully embedded in our Epistle Lesson read together this morning!  And what a gem it is!  Two words.

Abba, Father.
But what does it mean?  It is an emphatic term!  It is less formal than “father” and perhaps could possibly be translated in the vernacular as “dad.”  It is a term that is personal, affectionate, and indicates “closeness” and “warmth” of relationship.  Some have gone so far as to indicate it has the flavor of the term “daddy.”
St. Paul did not “come up” with the term on his own!  Jesus is recorded as using it during His earthly ministry!  On the night of His betrayal and arrest – when events were rapidly spiraling toward their appointed end, we find our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane – kneeling – fervently praying!  What did He pray?  St. Mark 14:36 tells us -- ...he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
In the travail of His Soul, in the dark hour of need, He drew as near to His Father as He could – in order to garner and secure strength and endurance for what was to follow!  Abba, Father.
And this was in reality His practice throughout His earthly Ministry!  His critics were deeply offended because they felt His was an overly familiar approach to God!  Too pedestrian an approach to the Creator of the world and Lord of mankind!  

But Jesus is very clear in His teaching that His Own intimate relationship with His Father is to be the pattern of our relationship with Him as well.  He taught us to pray, did He not:
Our Father Who art in Heaven…
In the lesson this morning St. Paul adds an important element of explanation!  As followers of Christ, we have not received the spirit of bondage which requires us to tremble and quake and worry with fear.  On the contrary, we have received, he says, the spirit of adoption – and as a result we cry out to God: Abba, Father!  The One Who brought us into the world… Abba, Father!  The One Who brought us into His Family… Abba, Father!  The One who loves us and cares for us and is concerned for us.  Abba, Father! The One who died for us in Christ!  Abba, Father.
We must not lose sight of the fact that God relates to His people -- and to us -- just as an earthly father relates to his children whom he loves except our Heavenly Father’s affection and concern are even truer… deeper… more secure… more lasting… more real!
These are thus two of the most special words in the Christian’s vocabulary.  Abba, Father.  When trouble swarms around us and ill tidings would throw us down into the dirt, we find the greatest of comforts in our approach to God with the words: Abba, Father.  Help me!
When joy fills our hearts to overflowing at some wonderful development from the Hand of God, we give perfect expression of our gratitude through the words: Abba, Father.Thank you!
Especially is this to be valued when we remember the Greek and Roman pantheon of “gods” and their harsh – terrible... acerbic -- dealings with men and women!  We must remember they were only “deified men” – and delighted to torment others through their capricious and unpredictable ways.
This led, as we know, to the “Greek Tragic” view of life – a terribly un-Christian worldview!  For the Bible tells us: …all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  But the Greek tragic view of life taught just the opposite!  No fixed, sure, immovable trustworthy point life.  No great and totally good Father to be trusted... and called upon... and loved with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. 
Abba, Father.  
In the final analysis, this is a very liberating gift from God – bringing healing to troubled souls and calm to frenetic minds!  It reveals to us that we may always draw near to our Heavenly Father and that He will take time in turn to draw near to us!  After all, He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present!  
We are not alone!  He is ever near to us.  He Who delights to be called by us -- Abba, Father – is all around us.  There is no place where He is not!  When we are in the dark, He is there.  When we are in danger, He is there.  When we face trouble, He is there.  In the midst.  Like St. Paul on the wind-driven ship of old!  When we are sad, He is there.  When we are alone, He is there.  As Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote over 100-years ago: Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
“Oh, where is the sea?” the fishes cried,
As they swam the crystal waters through;
“We have heard from old of the ocean’s tide,
And we long to look on the water’s blue.
The wise ones speak of an infinite sea;
Oh, who can tell if such there be?”
God is all around us – if we only pause to look and see Him… to stop and be quiet and feel His great strength and holiness.  Be still and know that I am God.  And of all things, He invites us to address Him with the title: Abba, Father.
We should pause and point out in our day of “entitlement religion” – where the Almighty is all too often framed as a “cosmic errand boy” in the service of self-sufficient Man -- that with such great privilege comes an equally great responsibility.  It is not those who call themselves the sons and daughters of God who are His true and noble children, but those who actlike His true and noble children!
Verse 14: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  More careful examination of the text reveals this to mean God’s adopted children specifically put to death their old natures.  To show themselves to be His children, they putoff the old nature of Adam.
And along with this responsibility comes a word of warning (verse 17) – as Jesus often said – count the cost!  To be an adopted child of God is to be His heir, which makes us joint heirs with Christ... who suffered!
If we plan to be His glorified children, there will be suffering involved!  Plan on it!  Count on it!  It is part of the process of Sonship!  Jesus showed us this by His sterling example.  If we cannot see this, it is because we are not yet grown up sufficiently in the Faith.
So we have before us this beautiful Trinity Season Sunday morning something dealing with each of the members of the BlessedTrinity.  God the Father inviting us (beckoning us) to be His adopted children.  To address Him as Abba Father!  Jesus showing us by His example what it means to be His child.  And the Holy Spirit encouraging us not to be reluctant... but to step forward into the implications of such a grand calling. 
A privilege with a great responsibility!
Is this how we know Him -- Abba Father?  Is this how we carefully address Him in prayer?
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
This is the word of the Lord… and may it stand forever... in our lives... world without end.  Amen. 

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Romans 6:19-23
July 10, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"Gotta Serve Somebody"

Bob Dylan, the American song-writer and singer, became a born-again Christian in the late 1970s... and then proceeded to win the Grammy Award for his 1979 hit single Gotta Serve Somebody.  The lyrics are indeed probing and relentless in their witness.  The chorus reminds his listeners:
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed.  
You're gonna have to serve somebody. 
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord.  
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
In a nutshell, this is the very message of the Apostle Paul in the Epistle Lesson before us this morning.  You’ve gotta serve somebody!  And in hearing and understanding this, we find yet another choice Trinity Season theme!
Verse 19: ...as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
The word “servant” which St. Paul employs four times in this morning’s lesson is really in the Greek doulas “slave.”  A “slave,” we should immediately remind ourselves, is a person who lives under the will and control of another.
Doulas is a popular word in the New Testament, found 127 times!
The Roman centurion, for example, is recorded by St. Matthew as telling Jesus: For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to myservant (doulas), Do this, and he doeth it.
We should not really be surprised at this usage of doulas (slave), because Jesus taught that No man can serve[same Greek term: be a slave to]two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other (St. Matthew 6:24).  And in the Letters to the Corinthians God tells them: You are not your own… you were bought with a price.
And we are immediately face-to-face with a huge issue in life... one which Dylan saw and put it so well (even if with improper English) -- You’ve gotta serve somebody!
Some of the biggest names of history were once slaves!
Aesop (of Aesop’s Fables fame) was a slave.  According to tradition, he lived on the Greek island of Samos and through his cleverness acquired his freedom -- and became an advisor to kings and city-states.
Spartacus was a slave!  Spartacus, from Thrace, served in the Roman army.  He became a bandit and was sold as a slave when he was caught. He escaped a gladiatorial school, where he had plotted a revolt with other gladiators, and set up camp on Mount Vesuvius, where he was joined by other runaway slaves and some peasants.  With a force of 90,000, he overran most of southern Italy, defeating two Roman armies in what is now termed the “Third Servile War.”  And as Jesus taught – he who lives by the sword will die by the sword– so did it happen.  Spartacus was betrayed and died on the battlefield.
St. Patrick had been a slave!  Born in Scotland, at the age of 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave.  Six years later, he escaped and by means of a circuitous route through France, finally returned to his home.
Two years after his return home, he had a vision (or a dream).  And in his own words he has described for us what happened:
“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland.  His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."
 
What would you have done?  What did St. Patrick do?
He went!  But this time, not as their slave… but as the servant – the slave (the doulas) – of God.  And he taught them about the Blessed Trinity through the shamrock… and he placed the cross of Jesus Christ over their circular pagan symbol of the sun – yielding the Celtic Cross which we employ here at St. Paul’s 1600 years later!
In the final analysis, all people are in some sense slaves whether or not they believe it – even if to themselves and their appetites.  As Dylan rightly perceived... You’ve gotta serve somebody!
In our lesson this morning, St. Paul reminds us how important it is to understand the conflict we face.  We either serve sin as slaves in freedom from God… or we serve God as slaves in freedom from sin.  One or the other, but not both! We cannot have it both ways!
We either trust God fully and serve Him as our Master – or we delight in sin fully and serve it as our Master! 
In the 1950s a Western American city (and quite a business hub) of about 40,000 people discovered a problem.  Because of local corruption, people were “picking up” their possessions and moving to other communities.  And the effects of this could be seen in their dwindling community.
A new police chief was hired and ordered to “clean up” the city in order to save it!  This he did – eliminating gambling... prostitution... and other ugly vices in their midst!  But he was promptly fired!  “Why?” he asked.  He was informed, “We didn’t mean for you to make our community that clean!”
You see, they wanted the appearance of justice for the sake of business... while at one and the same time sacrificing justice in order to preserve the favorite seams of lawlessness.  
And when St. Paul speaks of serving sin from iniquity unto iniquity, he is alluding to the fact that lawlessness never stands still.  It only grows worse!  This is a recurring theme among celebrities who often die young!  Their slavery to sin is too strong for them... and destroys them.
Even debt which was a dirty word for my grandparents’ generation (He who goes a borrowing will return a sorrowing) grew to become common in my parents’ generation.  And by the third generation (my generation) it has consumed the world!  Threatening to take down Western Civilization altogether!
If we are going to serve Jesus Christ as His servants (His slaves... His douloi), the commitment must be total – not as an “appearance only” exercise... but in genuine servanthood!  Jesus taught us that the greatest among us will be the servants of all.
And I am sad to say that many sons of Adam and many daughters of Eve try to position themselves halfway in between – not wanting to be to too radical in following the Almighty and yet not wanting to get too close to the vortex of sin.  Such worldlings really are attempting to “get the best of both.”  And by not making a clean break with sin, they reveal in their own foolishness they are really operatives for sin!
In verse 23, a landmark Bible verse, we are told the eventual outcome of the two types of slavery.  Slavery to sin leads to death.  Slavery to God leads to eternal life (both in quality and in quantity).
So whose slaves are we?  And whom do we serve?  You’ve gotta serve somebody!
There is another character in the New Testament who was also once a slave.  His name was Onesimus.  And a Book of the New Testament deals with him.  He ran away from his master (Philemon) and possibly robbed him.  He then met St. Paul in Rome and became a Christian.  The Apostle wrote a letter to his master (Philemon) and explained that Onesimus was returning to him as more than a slave… as a brother in the faith.  He asked for forgiveness  s and restoration.
And guess what?  He received it.  Onesimus became a slave of God!  There is a strong tradition that Onesimus became Bishop of Ephesus fifty years later!
Which way are we heading in life?  Whose slave are we anyhow?  Whom do we serve?  Who “calls the shots” as they say?
We are given only one life to live… and we must get it right!  Death and eternal life daily open up before us!   
Let us yield our members slaves to righteousness in holiness…
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You’ve gotta serve somebody!

This is the Word of the Lord…  World without end. Amen. 

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Deuteronomy 10:17-21
July 4, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"Great and Terrible Things"

He [is] thy praise... he [is] thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.
It was 240-years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that the Continental Congress voted to dissolve their “connection” with Great Britain -- declaring their thirteen united colonies to be free and independent states.  And a new and independent Republic (which means “rule by law”) was born!
After each of the 56 signers had penned their names to this Declaration, Samuel Adams (“Father of the American Revolution”) declared: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
John Adams (who would become the second president of these United States) wrote: “We are in the very midst of a revolution... the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.
Many have questioned (and still do today) the legitimacy of such a “rebellion” given the Scriptural injunction to honour the king.  The reason for this drastic action, of course, was based upon the fact that King George III and the British Parliament had acted faithlessly – indeed, recklessly -- in breaking the charters they had sworn to uphold.  They had become lawless!
And in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence the signers went into great detail to explain to mankind their many grievances!  Quote... “The History of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” 
To prove their claim, dozens of facts were submitted, as they wrote, to a “candid world” – including first, obstruction in the administration of justice... second, making judges dependent upon the will of King George III alone... and third, the creation of a multitude of new offices with “swarms” of officers to harass the colonists and consume their substance...  
The signers’ actions on behalf of the American colonies have been accurately described as self-defense
As we know, all actions have consequences... and the Declaration of Independence had consequences as well!
Within days, British naval vessels began arriving – their sails first appearing as tiny shining specks on the distant horizon, then steadily growing until they made their way into New York harbor.
General William Howe sailed in on July 6th.  Five more ships on July 25th.  Eight more on July 26th.  And 20 more on July 29th.  By mid-August the total British armada at anchor off Staten Island included 400 ships!  The British officers gleefully reminded themselves this was the largest fleet ever seen in American water – in fact, the largest expeditionary force of the entire 18th century... from Britain or any nation of the earth!
The British had everything!  Guns... cannons... explosives... food... clothing... specialized training... experience... equipment, and confidence (lots of it... too much of it!).  They also had troops – 32,000 of the finest.  This was more than the entire population of Philadelphia, America’s largest city.
What did the colonists have?  Not much humanly speaking!  No ships (not a single one)!  Few weapons.  No cannons.  No explosives.  No trained soldiers.  Many were just teenagers.  Some did not even have shoes.  Others not even coats or shirts!   Few experienced military leaders.  A growing national debt.  An increasingly worthless currency known as the Continental.  They had defections... British spies in their ranks... British spies in their towns, constantly listening, constantly watching.
They also had Benjamin Franklin in France seeking financial assistance and military help.  Especially the services of Comte de Grasse, the experienced admiral of the French Navy.  They had the “Black Robed Brigade” – Anglican and other clergy angered by the takeover of colonial churches by the British for use as horse stables.  The Black Robed Brigade became famous for their role in fortifying fearful communicants and encouraging them to pray and labor and not give up in the quest for liberty for their families and generations to come.  
They also had the keen eyes, wits, and courage of General Washington.  They had faith in God.  They had unending prayers to Him on their behalf.
We have not time to stop at Valley Forge, the Crossing of the Delaware, the Battle at Trenton and the defeat of the Hessian Colonel Rall, or the surprising  victory at Princeton.  But I would like to tell you on this special day how five years after the Declaration of Independence, God quickly brought the conflict to an end –  miraculously -- and our liberties of old were won.
By 1781, the French had agreed to assist the colonists in their struggle.  Rochambeau and Lafayette were with Washington and Comte de Grasse was cleared to move his French armada to America to assist the patriots.
Miraculously, a dispatch reached General Washington revealing that the British General Cornwallis had settled in at Yorktown on the York River (ten miles from its mouth) without any regard for the fears of his commander, Henry Clinton, that he might be trapped.
This was the “misstep” Washington had sought!  Rochambeau and Lafayette agreed.  Washington proceeded to send out fake dispatches for the “benefit” of Clinton indicating the French and Americans were heading to New York to engage British troops there.  Meanwhile secret dispatches were expedited for his officers to bring troops from all thirteen colonies to arrive outside Yorktown (trapping Cornwallis from a land-route escape).  Word was also sent to Comte de Grasse to pilot his armada at the mouth of the York River and set a blockade to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown.
The plan, in the Providence of God, worked perfectly.  The Americans, who were always outnumbered... out-equipped... out-supplied... this time had every advantage!
The blockade was set, the city surrounded, and the siege of Yorktown began.  With British supplies dwindling, the allies began pounding the headquarters where Cornwallis was residing.  One of the British ships was hit and caught fire... which burned two others next to it. 
Unbeknown to Washington at the time, half of Cornwallis’ army had come down with malaria and were unable to fight.  In a last ditch effort, Cornwallis began an evacuation of his men in small boats to the other side of the York River.  In miraculous fashion, God sent a squall (wind storm) to push them back to Yorktown... disabling the operation  making any further evacuation impossible. 
Under heavy and unceasing bombardment, Cornwallis consulted with his officers and agreed the situation was hopeless.  A drummer was sent out the next morning with an officer behind him waving the white flag of surrender.  
Terms of capitulation were negotiated, then Cornwallis was called upon to appear and deliver his sword in surrender.  He would not meet with Washington, claiming illness.
October 17, 1781 marked the end of the American War for Independence.  It is always much easier to begin something that to end it.  But with the help of the Almighty the struggle for freedom and independence on the part of the American colonies was finally brought to a glorious end.
In a day when the average person in America no longer knows about George Washington, King George III, Comte de Grasse, or Yorktown – we are indeed privileged to understand how God’s strong Hand and mighty Arm brought religious freedom to America.
Not because we deserved it... but because He is good and heard the devout prayers of many of His own.
I believe it was Thomas Jefferson, who when national symbols were under discussion, recommended the parting the of the Red Sea – for that is precisely what the Almighty did for the American Colonies... He opened a way for His people to liberation and safety.
He [is] thy praise... he [is] thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. 

And may they stand forever. World without end... A-men. 

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Romans 6:3-11
July 3, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"Dead and Alive -- With Christ"

The Trinity Season is all about growth!  It is the logical outcome of all the other eight ecclesiastical seasons before it – the Birth of Jesus at Christmas... His appearance to the Magi of old during Epiphany... His suffering during Lent... His Easter Resurrection... His Ascension... the Descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost...
The Epistle Lesson read together this morning goes to the very root of our new life in Christ – baptism – and examines it thoroughly!  And we discover that the “root” of our faith governs the “fruit” of our faith!
Four brief observations to understand and take with us this morning if we would grow healthy and strong in the Christian Faith this Trinity Season...
First, baptism is mandatory.  Verse 3: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  
Our entire understanding of the Christian life and our abhorrence of sin is governed by our understanding of baptism.  St. Paul was baptized for the “washing away” of his sins (as described in Acts 22:16), but from his phraseology it would appear that not everyone else was baptized!  Listen to what he wrote…  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ… If this is true,we must ask ourselves a question... Why would someone not be baptized?  Why would a thirsty man in the desert refuse a large glass of cool, refreshing ice water?  Why would a terminally-ill patient refuse medication to heal and restore health?  Why would a prisoner refuse clemency?  Because fallen man is blind and foolish and weak.
Years ago, we were interviewing a young woman for a teaching position at the Christian School we were serving.  During the interview, she asked if we believed in baptism.  I remember thinking to myself, “What a strange question.”  We replied, “Why yes.  Jesus said in His Great Commission: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…
She proceeded to explain that she and her husband did not believe baptism was any longer mandatory (they were Dispensational) – because the Bible says: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
This approach to God’s Word – the smorgasbord approach, where you pick what you like and reject what does not “appeal” to you -- has, I am sorry to say, become so embedded and enmeshed so much in the warp and woof of much of Christianity that it is producing an insipid and tasteless “faith” which reflects much more the thinking of man than that of God. 
Can we see how easy it is to get “off track”?  The principle of “picking and choosing” what we like or dislike… The principle of “picking and choosing” what we prefer to believe or not to believe… can never replace the historical practice of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.  Truth is found in the Sacred Scriptures and faithful interpretation and application according to Apostolic Tradition.  When asked on the Day of Pentecost, “What must we do to be saved?” St. Peter replied, Repent, and be baptizedThat is a command!
We should remember that even Jesus Himself was baptized in order to show us just how important He considers it to be for His people.
Second, baptism’s meaning.  Verse 4: We are buried with him by baptism into death...  I will never forget the first time I really came to understand the magnificence of this statement!  Here we find the meaning of baptism.  Something incredibly important takes place during baptism.  That is why baptism has been termed (as in Anglican circles) a sacrament (which means “sacred thing”)! Now there are churches today that avoid using the term sacrament in favor of the milder term ordinance.  But an ordinance does not carry with it the same miraculous connotation as does the term sacrament.  A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace instituted by Christ!  When those of us who were baptized were baptized, St. Paul reminds us, we shared in Christ’s death to sin!  He died, never to suffer from sin again.   A n d   s o   d i d   w e!
When Jesus died on the Cross with the sins of the world heaped upon His shoulders, we died with Him (in principle through our baptism)!  We died with Christ in order to be dead to sin.  Sin can command us all it wants, sin can bark out orders all day long -- but as dear old Origen (A.D. 184-254, early Christian theologian and scholar) pointed out: “Nor does a dead man lust or get angry or have passions or steal what is not his.  Therefore, if we suppress all these desires in our bodies they may be said to be dead to sin.” 
Two natures beat within my breast,
The one is foul, the other blessed.
The one I love.  The other I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.
 
Third, baptism’s purpose – an even deeper understanding of the mystery of baptism!  Not only does the Apostle explain what happened to us at baptism – he explains why it had to happen!  Verse 6: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him…
Here we find the core of St. Paul’s argument. Our “old man,” our “old nature,” our “old sorry and sin-laden self” was crucified with Christ!
I have always been mesmerized by the title of a book I once saw advertised – Remove the Thorn and the Hand Will Heal!  Some things are that simple in life!  In our case, crucify our old natures and the sinning will cease!
The serpent… the tempter… the beguiler… the devil… entered our race, as it were, through our fallen nature – when our first parents sinned.  Eve trusted the serpent more than she trusted God!  
And Adam trusted the word of his wife (Eve) more than he trusted the Word of God!  And sin entered the human race.  And our first parents were lost!  Adam, where are you?
The only way out of our sins for us as sinners, of course, is through the death of Christ.  Through baptism, our old natures are nailed to the Cross with Him.  They scream… they cry… they wheedle... they beg…that we might release them, bow down to them, and follow them once again.
But God through St. Paul says “Do not do it!”  You have died to sin with Christ in baptism!  And your old natures are crucified with Him.
Therefore, sin is not an option to us as Christians!  Baptism has rightly been called the funeral service for our old natures.  It has also rightly been called the inauguration service for our new lives in Christ!
Fourth, the outcome of baptism takes time and effort (a lifetime of it)!  Verse 11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.  
This outcome does not take place overnight!  It requires a lifetime and lots of effort.  We are told elsewhere that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  And dear St. Peter adds, Make your calling and election sure.
St. James adds for our benefit these words: Faith without works is dead.
The Christian life is not a passive entertainment!  It is as engaging as could possibly be imagined!  Even the Apostle Paul later in this epistle would write, O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  
We are not the same people we once were!  Nor are we yet the people we are destined to become!  The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of man might become the sons of God!  
First the blade, taught our Lord... then the ear, He continued, then the full corn in the ear!  Plants do not grow overnight!  Rome was not built overnight.  Our faith does not become fully mature overnight!
When St. Paul says reckon (the Old English for our more contemporary word “consider”) he was using the Greek term logizomai from which we derive our English word “logic.”  We all get impatient with our progress (or lack thereof) and St. Paul reminds us to “reckon” – to not forget the logic of it all!  There is a reason for the struggling and the wrestling!  There is a God-ordained reason for everything in life!
This is how moral growth and development occur in Christ’s School of Learning!  And it is how a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly!  If you have ever watched a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis you will agree that lots of work is required.  Struggling... then rest.  Energy expended... then relief.  Over and over again!  This is how God’s masterful design pumps fluids into the capillaries of the butterfly’s new wings.  Without the struggle, there is no fluid.  Without the fluid, there is no flight.  Without the flight there is no butterfly!
A man once saw this miracle underway and felt sorry for the emerging butterfly, so he stepped forward to help!  A knowledgeable friend halted him and told him to consider (reckon) – think about -- the logic of it all!  And he did... and the butterfly was left alone and soon flew on its way! 
So it is with us in our Christian lives.  Moral exercise is required!  Where are we this day?  Reckon… yourselves… dead indeed unto sin.
This is the word of the Lord.  Amen. 

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July , 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

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I Peter 3:8-15
June 26, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"Suffering as a Blessing"

What a delight it is this morning to read and digest God’s Word to us by the Holy Spirit through the quill of St. Peter, of old...
He had acquired an inspiring view of life – first as a fisherman plying the beautiful waters of Gennesaret, then as a disciple of our Lord carefully observing His skilled manner in dealing with the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve, then as an Apostle who carried the Gospel to the far reaches of the globe -- and then finally in laying down his life as a great Martyr! 
We are privileged to gain some portion of his wide and all-encompassing perspective... his fearlessness of life... his rugged durability of faith.  He cast a wide fishing net in his youth.  He cast a wide theological net in his advanced years!
And in our text this morning he is addressing Christians in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) who were undergoing persecution.  Not organized Roman-style persecution – but local persecution!  Insults... slander... social ostracism... physical abuse... sporadic violence.  His goal was to calm them... settle them... encourage them... establish them in Christ’s Way.
He did this by reassuring them that everything happening to them has purpose before the Almighty!  Support one another, he begins – and do not try to “go it” alone!  To “shore up” their foundation, he tells them to be sympathetic, compassionate, humble with each other!  He calls them to separate themselves from the ways of their persecutors.  You do not want them to do this to you; make sure therefore that you do not do it to one another!
Instead of retaliating in kind, try blessing instead!  Good for evil.  Right for wrong.  If you want God’s blessings, he says, you need to learn to give His blessings to others!  Jesus prayed for those who nailed Him to the Cross!  And then to bolster them he quotes a beautiful passage from Psalm 34:12-16!
If you would still enjoy life and see better days, make sure you do your part, he says!  Guard your tongue from all manner of evil.  Love and practice all things that are good!   Seek peace, he reminds them – indeed pursue peace relentlessly!
And never forget that God favors the righteous (His eyes delight to watch them and His ears are always eager to hear their prayers)... and never forget the Almighty is against evil-doers!  Commit yourselves therefore always to do the thing that is good... and see if God does not block the way of your adversaries!  The Book of Proverbs reminds us that when a man’s ways please the LORD He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him!
And then he ends by adding that if suffering still comes for doing good, count it a blessing.  For Jesus’ final beatitude in His Sermon on the Mount reminds us: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  St. Matthew chapter 5.
Therefore on the basis of all this, do not fear their threats... do not be frightened... But in your hearts revere Christ as the Lord.
We should find it most interesting to discover that in Christ’s School of Learning... s u f f e r i n g has a necessary and important role!
Verse 14: But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.
The Buddhist world-and-life view, we should carefully note, holds the very opposite view of suffering.  The Buddhist syllogism is as follows...
Major Premise: All existence involves suffering.
Minor Premise: Suffering is caused by desire (especially the desire for continuation of existence = the will to live).
Conclusion:       The suppression of desire will lead to the extinction of suffering.
To reduce the Buddhist world-and-life view to simplest terms, we may say the will to live must be suppressed so that man can be delivered from the disappointments of life.
Evil for Buddhism is not sin!  It is suffering!  Disappointment!  It is not having your own way!  It is therefore a form of petulance (annoyance at not having one’s own way).
It is worthwhile to understand that Gaut’ama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was a prince – who was born in luxury... and who was reared in luxury!  The seam of the civilization during which he lived was marked by wealth and leisure!
Buddhism reduces to intense “self-pity.”  Nothing about watching out for others!  Nothing about loving life and seeing good days!  Nothing about God’s master plan for our lives that assures coherence and meaning and purpose! 
What a far cry from the comforting thought stated by the Apostle Paul that All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose!
Instead of loving God and His people – and indeed instead of loving all our neighbors – in Buddhism we discover “salvation” through “escape from life”!  From viewing life as an illusion!
This is only a stone’s throw away from the Stoics – who maintained the “sage” is the one who is able to live above the many confusing and conflicting emotions of life... and becomes immune to misfortune!
When compared to the durability and ruggedness of the Christian world-and–life view stated by the fisherman of old... Buddhism seems awfully shallow and comes across as incredibly thin-skinned!
Nor should we be surprised that the core tenet of Buddhism is really all around us in 2016!  The Buddhist view is a world where no living creature should ever be refused anything!  Such refusal is disappointment (suffering) and this is intolerable – and merits flight from life itself! 
Many probably remember the “retro” television program from the last century -- Father Knows Best – starring Robert Young and Jane Wyatt.  The struggles their family underwent were always resolved by the wisdom and experience and balanced counsel of the head of the house!  In the same way, our Heavenly Father knows what is best!  His ways, as pointed out by St. Peter are always best!   Sometimes “suffering” is mixed into his plans for us – to winnow, to purify, to humble, and to redirect His children.  When this comes, he says, happy are ye! 
St. Peter’s counsel is so balanced... so weighty... so immovable... so wise.
But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.  Blessed.  Fortunate.
Let us individually and collectively carry this with us through Trinity – and through life!  World without end... Amen.

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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 inlove.

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'-tās– void orvacuum!  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 11, 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.  Heresisteth 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 goodwillHe 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.

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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 – ismagnanimity.  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 ridiculed.  Stage two – what he continues to say is violently opposed.  Stage 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. 

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I John 4:7-21 : Trinity I
May 28, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"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. 

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