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

 

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Sermons from St. Paul's Anglican Church

Here you will find the transcripts of our most recent sermon and those that were delivered in the past.


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Psalm 33

Sexagesima Sunday

February 8, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“The Counsel of the LORD”


The counsel of the LORD shall endure for ever,

And the thoughts of His heart from generation to generation!


This is, indeed, one of the great verses of the Bible!  “But what makes it great?” we ask.  What makes it great is that it deals with the ultimate realty… the “core”… of this universe.  It deals with the fountain of wisdom and power and goodness coming to us from the very heart of God!


The counsel of the LORD shall endure for ever,

And the thoughts of His heart from generation to generation!


There are four words here which are critical to our understanding!


The word counsel implies information.  But since it is from the Almighty, it is perfect information!  Reliable information.  Information we can -- and should – trust fully.  In its wider sense, it means purpose or intention.  To understand His counsel is to comprehend His purposes – for you… for me… and for His world!


The word LORD is all in capital letters because it is the closest thing we have been given to the Name of God.  A  name is a limiting concept, so He told Moses of old to tell the children of Israel that He is Yahweh – the Great I Am… the eternally existent One!  That is how He seeks to be known.  Everything else is but a “title.”


Then the word endure which means to stand… to remain!  That which endures is never defeated… never grows old…  never becomes obsolete.  Nothing can ever wear it down!  Whenever everything else might fall or erode or disintegrate that which endures remains standing!


And finally the word forever which indicates no end!  Perpetual… continuous… eternal.  Outlasting time itself!


The amplified sense of it all is thus this… The perfect and reliable information which our eternally existent Creator has revealed to us shall standcontinuously… beyond the end of time -- world without end!  


The counsel of the LORD shall endure for ever,

And the thoughts of His heart from generation to generation!


To have the counsel of the Almighty makes us rich!  To understand it makes us fabulously wealthy.  To follow it carefully makes us true sons and daughters of our heavenly Father!


In Hebrew poetry, everything gets stated twice!  It is stated the first time… then it is stated again a second time in the same basic form… but using different terminology.  Hence our verse this morning! 


The counsel of the LORD shall endure for ever,

And the thoughts of His heart from generation to generation!


Knowing this about Hebrew poetry, we can deduce that His counsel arises straight  from His heart… and that not only will it remain standing perpetually, but it will be available to each and every generation along the way!


God is sovereign… and His sovereign word to us is our greatest gift!  It has been termed the vicar of Christ (“vicar comes from the same root word as vicarious – a substitute)!  Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”


All of the 613 commands in the Old Testament (according to the count of Biblical scholars) can be reduced to the Decalogue (Ten Commandments or Ten Words).  This is why we recite them – in accordance with the practice of the Early Church – each Sunday morning.  This is also why we read together Jesus summary of the two tables of God’s Law – to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves!


The Church is thus called in the New Testament to defend the truth.  To be a bulwark (or defensive wall).  This is why the Church is thus called the pillar and foundation of truth!


What in the world has happened in Christ’s Church during our own lifetimes that has caused it to deflect so far from this primary task of defending and perpetuating the counsel of the Almighty?  How is it that Christ’s Church has all-but-forgotten His counsel which we were told endures forever?


Why is it that so many churches in our day of moral confusion and social ills have abandoned God’s counsel and the thoughts of His heart – and taken upon themselves an entirely new task… and new mantra… to be a weathervane?  To be inclusive… and affirming… and accommodating when it comes to the ways of the sinful world in which we live?  Something is terribly wrong!  Not only are the thoughts of God’s heart cut off from future generations, but they are actually concealed from those of our day who are earnestly looking for them!


It has been said that it is entirely possible to be so open minded that our brains fall out!   It has also been said that we are all too often like concrete – thoroughly mixed up and set in our ways!

The counsel of the LORD is the key to success in any undertaking in life.  Remember the words of dear old Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention (as the oldest delegate at 81-years of age) when he addressed his distinguished peers:


I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?


The focus of the Church is to please its Lord… root and fruit!  Not find acceptance with the world!  Not seek the respect of Christ’s enemies!  Not seek to combine light with darkness!  St. John records in the Gospel account bearing his name that Jesus’ enemies loved the praise of men more than they loved the praise of the Almighty! 


I believe the point of departure was when churches stopped worshipping God!  When worship services became “events”… “happenings” – when enthusiasm replaced reverence.


We might consider returning to the pattern laid down through King David by the Spirit of the Living God 3,000-years ago!  The first three commands given in this morning’s psalm say it all: Rejoice in the LORD… Praise the LORD… Sing unto the LORD!  Forget about man for an hour… and remember the Almighty!


It is one thing to be rooted in enthusiasm… and to bask in the accolades of men.  It is altogether something else to humbly and reverently receive the loving instruction of our Heavenly Father!


Let us never forget our greatest of all assets… 


The counsel of the LORD shall endure for ever,

And the thoughts of His heart from generation to generation!


World without end… 


Amen.

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Psalm 20

Septuagesima Sunday

February 1, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church 


“We Will Remember His Name”


Many wonder why Christ’s Church has a three-Sunday long season each year just before Lent (which is known as Pre-Lent).  Well, for one thing, it serves beautifully to shift liturgical gears from the bright light and the wisdom and the glory of Epiphany to the long and dark – ominous and foreboding --shadows of Lent!


But more practically speaking, the three-Sunday long Pre-Lenten season grew out of the sixth century A.D. – and a very difficult seam of European history when several unthinkable crises coalesced and darkness descended upon God’s people.  The solemnity of this morning’s collect asking for God’s “deliverance” – and next week’s collect asking for His defense -- underscores the difficulty of those days.  “Deliverance from what?“ we ask.  Defense against whom?


Emperor Justinian (and his empress Theodora) ruling the Eastern Roman Empire (known as the Byzantine Empire) sought to reclaim provinces lost earlier to invading barbarian tribes.  It took twenty years (A.D. 535-554) to accomplish this (a period now termed the “Gothic War”) but he succeeded, and won their lands back!  


Unfortunately it was something of a pyric victory, because in the wake of their triumph it was discovered just how much the lands had been decimated and considerably depopulated.  And to make matters worse, another foe – perhaps even more evil, the Lombards -- descended from the north and took over control of all that Justinian had just won.  And Justinian was powerless -- unable to resist them!


Coupled with this, which in and of itself would have been bad enough, there were documented earthquakes… attendant pestilences… and resulting famines!  The prayers – petitions for help from the Almighty --from those days entered the Medieval service books (also known as “missals”) of Christ’s Church and have come down to us in our own day as “collects” with their understandably somber and serious tone.


Psalm 20 which was read together this morning – one of the psalms prescribed for use on Septuagesima Sunday -- tells us a lot!


Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the Name of the LORD our God.


This psalm was composed by King David, who more than most understood the hazards of war!  Nothing is “given” (assured) in warfare.  Hence this psalm which he composed (with the help of the Ancient of Days) to give his people that they might pray it for their own defense – and the defense of their homeland!


God had forbidden the kings of Israel to multiply three things (among others) -- horses, wives, and wealth!


He forbad the multiplying of horses, in order that His people might be spared the destruction that always and eventually comes to the empire-builders of this world!  And without horses, we should note that chariots are of little worth!


The key here is that God’s people are those who remember to put their trust in the name of the LORD their God.  He is our first, second, third, and final – and only -- line of defense!


God really has no name.  To have a name is to be limited… to be comprehended by a single word.  So he told Moses, “Tell them I AM has sent you.  Tell them the eternally existent one Who has no limitations has sent you! 


As we cross the threshold this morning into the Pre-Lenten season, and look ahead through the nine-week long corridor leading to Easter Day, we will come to understand better that which was so clear to King David… and so clear to the subjects of Justinian – that God alone in our defense in life.  For as St. Paul tells us, we contend not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers… rulers of darkness… and spiritual wickedness !


We will hear our Lord tell St. Peter, “Put away your sword, for all who live by the sword will die by the sword.”  Swords were of no use in the conflict which engulfed our Lord in the sight of the Twelve.


Nor is our strength in our resolutions… alone!  St. Peter told Jesus that he would never deny Him – yet he denied Him three times before the night was over!  No, His people must remember the Name of the LORD our God!


As we walk with our Lord into the wilderness… and see Him face the Evil One without any physical weapons – a purely spiritual conflict of excruciating intensity – in which the Second Adam succeeds where the first Adam failed… we, too, begin to learn the importance and meaning of these words: but we will remember the Name of the LORD our God.


It is interesting that when the archangel Michael (according to the Book of Jude) was contending with Satan for the body of Moses, he did not even appeal to his heavenly authority – but to the Name of the Great I AM -- The LORD rebuke thee…


St. Paul reminds us the only weapons of any value in our ultimate conflict with evil are… spiritual in nature – the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation.. the breastplate of righteousness… the sword of the Spirit… etc. 


The goal during Lent is to grow strong with Christ in the Name of His Father – to see and listen and learn and follow His example!


Those who trust in physical weapons are brought down and fallen (verse 8) … but those who remember the Name of the LORD our God are risen and stand upright in victory!


What was the “secret” of St. Patrick, one of the greatest evangelists of all time (and British!) – In what is known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” we hear him intone the words “I bind unto myself today” what?  I bind unto myself today… The strong Name of the Trinity


Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the Name of the LORD our God.


…esp. as we follow His Son through the long shadows of Lent!


World without end… Amen.

Psalm 66

The Conversion of St. Paul

January 25, 2015 

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“The Conversion of Saint Paul”


The Apostle Paul was born in the city of Tarsus -- a Jew of the Tribe of Benjamin.  At his birth his parents gave him the name of that Tribe’s most illustrious member, Israel’s first king – Saul.


His family was probably well-to-do, for to be born a Roman citizen, his family must have possessed some wealth and standing.  In all probability, he began his study of the Scriptures at the age of five and his study of the legal traditions at the age of ten – brought up at the feet of Gamaliel.  Along the way, he was also became a journeyman tentmaker.


The young rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, first appears in the New Testament in the role of a ruthless persecutor of Christ’s Church – officiating at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, imprisoning Christians in Jerusalem, extraditing yet other Christians who had fled for safety to areas outside of Palestine.  His hatred for the followers of the Christ was intense and unrelenting! 


It was while traveling northward to the city of Damascus, to capture and return bound to Jerusalem followers of The Way (whether men or women), that he was confronted by the Risen and Glorified Christ!  This was accomplished in a manner which he considered comparable to the Resurrection appearances extended to St. Peter, the other Apostles, and to St. James.


It was at midday that a light from heaven flashed around him and his cohorts – throwing them to the ground and blinding him!  A voice from heaven was heard to say: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  When inquired regarding the identity of the speaker, he was told:  “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting.”


In the years that followed, a tremendous change grew and flourished in the life of this now-redeemed man.  Three convictions became inescapably obvious to him.


First, despite his zeal… his credentials… and his desire to do “God’s Will,” his life and activities in Judaism lay under the stern rebuke of the Almighty.  A Voice from Heaven had corrected him!  Nothing more could be said!


Second, he could not escape the conclusion that the Jesus Whom he had persecuted was alive!  The revelation of the Exalted Christ exposed – indeed, shattered – his worldview and forced him to revise his entire estimation of the Life, Teaching, Ministry, Death and Resurrection of the Nazarene.  The Ancient of Days had vindicated the Son of God in a manner beyond dispute!


And third, it became clear to the converted Saul (renamed Paul) that he had been appointed by Jesus Christ to be an Apostle to the Gentiles, with the message of a Crucified and Risen Lord!


It was our Lord Himself Who taught that those who are forgiven much, love much.  And those who are forgiven little, love little.  This is the only explanation for the ceaseless labors of St. Paul.  


The physical appearance of the Apostle has been the subject of much writing, some of which reaches all the way back to the fourth century.  Taken as a whole, their description is remarkably complete.  He was apparently a man of small stature, with crooked legs, bald-headed, round-shouldered with a sprinkling of gray in his beard.  He possessed eyebrows that met above his hooked nose and hollow grayish eyes.  And his complexion included a mixture of pale and red pigmentation.


Furthermore, he is described as being “all nerves,” with his sore eyes a sight “repulsive,” physically weak and possessing a distorted frame – but full of grace, full of friendliness, sometimes with the countenance of an angel!  As one historian has noted, glimpses, doubtless, of the great soul within could be caught now and then (and more frequently by his friends) as rays of warm sunlight are seen through openings in prison walls.  But for all that, the bodily make-up of the Apostle was homely and poor.


There is no question that the painful bodily sufferings which St. Paul endured left their lasting physical effects.  There must have been terrible scars remaining from the scourgings, and from the stoning at Lystra which was so severe that his would-be “executioners” left him as one dead underneath the stone heap.  


In the life of St. Paul, we observe the paradigm for all who would be true followers of Jesus Christ.  See his love of Truth and honesty in dealing with it.  See his love of neighbors and overflowing compassion for them.  See his devout and steady love of the Almighty through Christ.  We should ask ourselves if we have these!  If not, we have work to do!


In the life of St. Paul, we also observe the paradigm for all who would aspire to be leaders in Christ’s Church – and it is not all about numbers!  Watch him faithfully expositing and dispensing the Word of Truth, preaching the Scriptures, being instant in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, exhorting, encouraging.  And training qualified men to be competent in the accomplishment of their Holy Orders.  


Please realize that this beloved Apostle traveled almost 10,000 difficult and dangerous miles through the combined effort of his four missionary journeys in order to carry forth the Gospel – all without the benefit of any motorized transportation!


His plans for yet a further mission to the west of the Roman Empire, primarily Spain, were hindered by his arrest and imprisonment in Rome.  These events are described for us in the 21st through 28th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.  While under house arrest doing Christ’s bidding, we are informed in the last two verses of the Acts of the Apostles that he…


…dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.


Many have wondered if the Apostle was ever released from his imprisonment… and if he was ever able to reach Spain with the Gospel.  There is a strong tradition (though possessing little documentary proof) that indeed he did – reaching all the way to the Isles afar off (Britain)! 


This dear man concluded his work for our Lord as a martyr!  He paid the ultimate cost for his appreciation of forgiveness in Christ and his unyielding commitment to the Eternal Truth.  


The final writings of the weathered Apostle are rich, overflowing with wisdom and understanding of life and Faith!  In the face of imminent death, there remained an unmistakable note of triumph!   He closes on a note of quiet confidence and the strength of praise to the Almighty.


I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing… to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.


According to traditions extending back to the fifth century, he was incarcerated in the feared Mamertine Prison located in Rome.  On the 27th year after our Lord’s Passion and during the 14th year of the Roman Emperor, Nero, he was beheaded – passing from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. 


How can one adequately summarize his contribution to Christ’s Church and Kingdom?  Through him, the Risen Christ formulated much of the very language of the Christian Faith.  Through him, the Holy Spirit systematized the great doctrines of Christian Theology.  Through him, the Eternal Father ordained the planting of Churches and opened up to Gentiles – and to you and to me – the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Faith.


Lord, teach thy Church the lesson, Still in her darkest hour

Of weakness and of danger, To trust thy hidden power:

Thy grace by ways mysterious The wrath of man can bind,

And in thy boldest foeman Thy chosen saint can find.


Amen.



Psalm 18:1-20

Epiphany II

January 18, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“God without Thunder”

I have always been intrigued by the title of a book written almost 100-years ago entitled God Without Thunder!  It was written to counter the trend of the day given to denuding God of His Own attributes!  Indeed, it was written to halt foolish people inebriated with the “success” of their day to strip the Almighty of all His prerogatives!  Of all His might!  Of all His power!  Of all His supremacy!


The growing boldness of fallen man had crested in what is known now as the “Roaring Twenties” (1920s) – a time roaring, as it has been said, with jazz… with gin… and with jocularity… and with “apparent” prosperity. “Apparent,” I say, because the Roaring Twenties were soon followed by the Great Depression (which speedily brought everyone back down to earth… and to reality)!  


Just as King Belshazzar’s Babylonian Banquet (6th century B.C.) -- with the Hand which mystically wrote the famous words MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN on the wall – was followed that evening (as the partying unwound) by a surprise attack on the part of Darius the Mede with the result that the rule of the land passed on to him and the Medo-Persian Empire!!


The arrogance and the pride of fallen mankind – its hubris (overflowing conceit and pomposity) – always reaches out to recast God in fallen man’s image... to be more accepting and tolerant and understanding and accommodating of man’s sins and his arrogance!  Not to change man for God… but to change God for man!


A God without thunder is more like a doting grandfather or an overly indulgent and permissive parent.  Not someone Who commands and judges -- but someone Who “enables” and “assists”… to help us get what we want.  Who sacrifices Himself to help us in achieving our goals! 


David penned the psalm before us this morning, employing the most striking and expressive terms available to him, because he saw them unleashed on the wicked – smoke, darkness, arrows, hailstones, fire, lightning, thunder!


David had witnessed firsthand the most unlikely, indeed the most impossible, deliverance… and wanted posterity to understand that God Himself had brought it to pass! How could he escape the pursuing forces of his insane father-in-law (King Saul) time and time again who had turned unbelievably jealous because David had slain the Philistine champion, Goliath, and had become the most popular man in Israel? 


Thunder, interestingly enough, is caused by the rapid expansion of surrounding air when lightning (which is over 35,000ºF in temperature) flashes.  The air expands faster than the speed of sound – causing a sonic boom!  This is the thunder we hear – a “sonic boom” – a severe enough sound to cause children to cry – powerful enough to cause adults to shudder… and to die, if struck!


Biblical critics reply, “Well, doesn’t the fact that the Bible portrays God as much more loving in the New Testament than in the Old Testament prove the point?  He might have once been accurately called a “God of Thunder” but is He not now more accurately a “God without Thunder”?


Our reply, of course, is that God does not change!  He is immutable.  He does not vacillate like man!  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).


Fallen man believes that he himself came about through evolution… and desperately wants God to be nothing more than an evolutionary concept that also changes with time!  That way he is not accountable to Him!


This has, regrettably – actually, unbelievably -- led to what is known as Dispensationalism among some Christian circles – a theological system that affirms God’s changes across the ages (or dispensations)!  


The critics then ask, “What is it that you want?  Do you want us to be afraid of your God?  Do you want all of mankind to fear Him?” 


We reply that all we want -- no more… and certainly no less – is what the Almighty has clearly stated that He requires of each and every one of us.


And what is that?  To fear Him in the sense of reverencing Him… in the sense of respecting Him.  To have enough regard for His greatness to willingly… from the heart… love Him and put away all evil!  And to love our neighbors, as well.  


For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (I Timothy 1:7).


In Psalm 18, David was simply delighting in what you and I should also delight in!  That God stops the follies of His enemies – and does not let them succeed!  It appears they succeed… for a time… only to be defeated more resoundingly and permanently later on!


We can certainly delight that the God of Thunder confounded that wily and devious King Herod at every turn!  Dreams were given to the Magi to protect them and confound Herod’s wicked plans!  Dreams were given to dear Joseph to save Mary and the Infant, Jesus -- and end Herod’s assault!


We may delight in the fact that the God of Thunder is still with us!  And we can be glad like David of old!  He changes not!  He defeats His enemies and sets us free!  The LORD… thundered out of heaven…the Highest gave his thunder!


World without end.  Amen.

Psalm 72

Epiphany I

January 11, 2015

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“He Shall Keep the Simple Folk”

G.K. Chesterton – the erudite, witty, insightful, talented… humorous writer, poet, lay theologian, defender of the Faith – once curiously observed:


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly


This immediately stops us in our tracks and forces us to ask ourselves the question: What did he mean? If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly!   He is being facetious… for the adage usually states, If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well!


But if everything had to be done perfectly, guess what?  Nothing would ever be accomplished!  Because this is an imperfect world!  This is the terrible plight of perfectionists!  Everything would be “studied to death”… with a Plan B… and a Plan C for good measure… then a Plan D as a final last resort backup plan!  


This is not to poke fun at doing a job well!  But it is to remind us that we are all “amateurs” in the affairs of daily life (if it does not embarrass us to admit this)!  We all have limitations!  Our knowledge and sanctification are woefully incomplete!  We often muddle terribly through the daily events we are routinely called upon to tackle.  Even with our best efforts, we often times tangle ourselves thoroughly (like fishing line) in all of the details as we navigate through the responsibilities and the shifting duties of each and every passing day!


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly! 


At least, with God’s help it is completed.  It might not be pretty!  It might not be textbook perfect!  It might not be picture perfect!  It might not be something we are that proud of!  But we have heart… we have desire… we have courage… we have our calling… we have marching orders from the Almighty.  And we have His help!


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly! It is worth getting it done!


I often smile when I replay in my mind – and heart and soul and imagination – the gallant trip of the remarkable Magi!  Like a ship they glide across the desert sands in the silvery light of the unblinking moon slowly… surely… relentlessly pursuing their destination!  They are among my most favorite heroes in all of history!  But why do I smile?


Because though they planned their work meticulously… and then they worked their plan so meticulously (as experts counsel)… they, too, ran into difficulties (just how many, we will never know).  If we read the narrative enough times – and closely enough… and get inside of it – one gets the sense their stop in Jerusalem could have been a mistake based upon a false assumption!  It is as though they lost track of the star that was guiding them when they realized just how close they were to Jerusalem!  Why, of course, what were we thinking?  This newborn King must be in the capital city of Jerusalem!


But after their encounter with that crusty, cantankerous, irascible, wicked old Herod, they could hardly wait to leave – and we read they rejoiced with exceeding great joy [literally – rejoicing, they rejoiced greatly] when they once again saw the delightful star that had become their companion and good friend!  They had not lost the “trail” as they say!  They were back on track!  It wasn’t pretty, but they completed their course!


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly!  As long as it gets done! 


It could also be that they stopped in Jerusalem as a gesture of diplomatic “good will.” For they were from the Parthian Empire – a realm so strong that Rome was not able to subdue them. And this, of course, is what undoubtedly caused the uproar! If this is the case, it still took the guiding Hand of the Eternal One to return them back to their land without a return trip through Jerusalem.  But even then, they had to live with the aftermath – that somehow their sincere act of worshipping the newborn King led in some way to the slaughter of the Innocents of Jerusalem 


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly!  As least as it is compared to perfection! 


The psalmist David put it so well in the psalm read together this morning!  Verse 4He (the Almighty) shall keep the simple folk. He sees what they are attempting, He understands their handicaps… He knows their hearts… He understands the worry and the travail of their souls!  He guides them to the finish line!  He shall keep the simple folk...


This certainly applies to the one who foretold the “Star of Jacob.”  Jacob, the schemer who swindled his brother Esau out of his inheritance and birthright, and who even deceived his father in remarkable fashion –the schemer and the dreamer who met God at Bethel (which means “House of God”) when in his dream, he saw the ladder leading up to Heaven (with angels ascending and descending) – who got what he wanted… and a lot more – the same “back in spades” (as they say)… when his father-in-law (Laban) swindled him and when his sons deceived him with the story about Joseph being killed by a wild animal…


At the end of his life, the Bible tells us he was in Egypt at the age of 147-years, once again looking in utter astonishment and disbelief at his long lost son, Joseph as well as his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim.  And we are told he leaned upon the top of his staff… and worshipped God!


He had muddled through life – with the help and mercy of the Ancient of Days… but finally found his destination!  And at the end, he leaned upon the top of his staff… and worshipped God!


We are all fools, really, if we can be honest with ourselves!  If we laugh at ourselves!  If we can, it is really quite liberating!  We are saved and reformed by a gracious God who stoops down to help us in mercy!  As He helped the Magi!  As He helped Mary and Joseph!  As He helped Jacob, of old!  As He has helped us through another year!  Good thing God is merciful!  He shall keep the simple folk...


As we proceed with our pilgrimage through this New Year, we might do well to remember that our progress is not entirely the product of our wisdom and cleverness!  It is closer to Chesterton’s maxim, of old -- If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly! As long as it gets done!


The Magi traversed 1,000 miles of geographical challenges, and accomplished their task – though imperfectly!  Yet Herod’s counselors who quoted the prophet Micah’s inspired instructions regarding the place of the Savior’s Birth – and were themselves located only six miles away from the stable – did not even take the first step!


What tasks are before us – patiently awaiting our attention… not necessarily to be completed perfectly, but to muscle through, if need be, in order to say it is complete and “checked off the list”?  Jesus at the conclusion of a very difficult day also once said, “It is finished!”


Let us remember to thank our Heavenly Father frequently and sincerely and from the heart!  For He is merciful!  He shall keep the simple folk...


And you and I can certainly be glad!  


World without end.  Amen.