Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity
St. John’s Church – Moultrie, GA
June 27, 2010

It should come as no surprise that I am a fan of the Prayer Book Collects. I’ve preached on the collects before and I’m sure I’ll preach on them again, and this morning will be no different. The one appointed for today is one of the more familiar collects, and thus, one that many have memorized over the years.

There is an interesting story about this collect in relation to C. S. Lewis. In his book entitled, The Weight of Glory, Lewis speaks of a time when he was praying this very prayer, and gets a little bit tongue tied. Here is how he recounts the story.

Not long ago when I was using the collect for the fourth Sunday after Trinity in my private prayers I found that I had made a slip of the tongue. I had meant to pray that that I might so pass through the things temporal that I finally lose not the things eternal; I found that I had prayed so to pass through things eternal I finally lost not the things temporal. Of course, I don’t think that a slip of the tongue is a sin. I am not sure that I am even a strict enough Freudian to believe that all such slips, without exception, are deeply significant. But I think some of them are significant, and I thought this was one of that sort. I through that what I had inadvertently said very nearly expressed something I had really wished.

Very nearly; not, of course, precisely. I had never been quite stupid enough to think that the eternal could, strictly, be “passed through.” What I had wanted to pass through without prejudice to my things temporal was those hours or moments in which I attended to the eternal, in which I exposed myself to it.

Lewis, I believe, expresses a sentiment that we all share and usually don’t want to admit. What he’s referring to are those parts of our lives where we close God off, and tell Him, sometimes quite literally, “Hands off.” We remain tied to those besetting sins that always seem to make our list when we perform an examination of conscience prior to making a sacramental confession, or at a minimum, during the General Confession prior to receiving the Sacrament. Perhaps it’s that one aspect of our lives that we feel like we’ve got completely under control, and can manage on our own. It could also be some of the very possessions that we own that occupy an exorbitant amount of our time, and leave us little room for God, prayer, study, fellowship, etc., that is fundamental to the life of a disciple. We often don’t want to pass through those things temporal as our collect suggests and prays for.

Let us take a look again at exactly what the prayer is asking God to do.

The first thing that we ask of God is an increase of His mercy. What better thing to ask for considering what is to follow in the prayer, because our mortal nature is going to be quite incapable of adequately performing the task we are called upon to perform. Not only do we ask for an increase of God’s mercy, we ask that he might multiply it. It isn’t simply enough to have a little bit more, we actually need more and more of our Lord’s mercy for the numerous times that we will most inevitably come up short. An exponentially increased outpouring of God’s mercy helps nurture the longing that we have within us to please God.

The second thing the collect mentions is the acknowledgment that God is our ruler and guide. I think those are two most interesting words, because of the double meanings that they both imply. First, and this just happens to be the way those words come to me, is through in the more authoritarian context as God being our ruler and we His loyal subjects and that he will serve as our guide, directing our steps along the way. This is certainly one way to look at those words, and I see that as a most sincere, most beautiful request.

However, I see another way those words can be prayed that also exhibits a faithful interpretation to the text. Being an engineer, I immediately recognized ruler and guide in a building context. In many respects, this prayer also asks that we might see God for who He truly is, the ultimate standard by which all things are measured. He is Perfection whereby all else is compared.

In the book of Amos, we hear the following words: “Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the LORD stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the LORD, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel:”

God wants Amos to see that the only way that a wall can be built straight is through the use of a plumbline, a standard by which one knows that the wall is straight and plumb. In order for the walls of our lives to be straight and strong is for us to allow God to test them to see how they measure up. I’ve heard it said that there are many angles by which one may fall, but there is only one angle by which we can stand straight. We must allow God, our ruler and guide in both senses of those words, to continue to fill us with his grace and mercy so that we might pass through those temporal things en route to those that are eternal.

Finally, we come to those words that C. S. Lewis juxtaposed, and the conclusion of our collect. We pray that we might pass through the things temporal so that we finally lose not the things eternal. There are two points of interest in these lines that I wish to elaborate upon briefly.

First is the fact that we are passing through the things temporal. I believe it’s important to note here that we’re not avoiding the things temporal, or bypassing them. No, we’re passing through them. The good things of this temporal world are meant to be enjoyed within their proper context of pointing to the God and Father of us all who created them, or gave us the capacity to create them ourselves. God created things good, and if they were created by a good God, who declared them to be so, should we not enjoy them as the gifts they are intended to be? We are not dualists here who believe that the things of this world are evil, or bad, but rather, extensions of the God we worship and adore.

Second, and perhaps the most interesting parts of this final clause, is the daunting reality that the things eternal could still be lost. Some aspects of very reformed theology say that once you are saved you can never lose your salvation. If that’s true, how do we reconcile the words of our Lord when he says, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” The purpose of this phrase is to remind us that our eternal destination is always in front of us, eagerly awaiting us, as we strive toward the prize, which lies ahead. I don’t believe that it’s coming at us from the perspective of the fear of hell, but rather, the looking toward the joys of heaven. Far too many approach the Christian faith from the first perspective, and I personally have trouble with those who use fear rather than joy to extol the virtues of the Christian faith and life. After all, as we began this season of Trinity with the words of St. John in his first epistle we are told that, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

Over the weekend, William and I were watching some of the Star Wars movies, and as I was pondering my thoughts for my sermon and this collect, the following line struck me as quite pertinent to what we pray for in this collect. From Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Yoda says to Anikan Skywalker, who is struggling mightily between the good side and the dark side of the force, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” So often we are too busy worrying and fretting over the things of this world that we don’t think we could ever live without. At times, I’m sure we’ve actually been caught in the grip of fear of losing something, or someone. Letting go of everything that we fear to lose, is not speaking of being callous, or indifferent, or unloving, or uncaring or detached and distant. Rather, it’s the recognition that in order to truly love, one has to learn how to let go. God exhibited that so perfectly in that he was able to let go of His only Son to a gruesome death upon the cross so that we might live with Him for all eternity. Through that sacrifice, all debts that we had ever incurred or will ever incur are marked, paid in full. Knowing that Easter lies upon the other side of Good Friday gives us the hope and joy and longing expectation that once we are able, through God’s grace a mercy, to pass through the things temporal the things eternal are awaiting us in all of the splendour, and majesty, and awe that befits the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this heavenly father, for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity
St. John’s – Moultrie, GA
June 13, 2010

I’m sure all of us at one time or another has received that invitation in the mail. No, I’m not talking about the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes form! I mean that invitation in the mail to attend a big wedding, or dinner party, or event that is almost that one-of-a-kind type of affair. We put the date on our calendar, we think about what we will wear, who we’ll see there, who’ll see us there, and then we look forward to it with eager anticipation, knowing that nothing will stand in the way of our being in attendance.

Then, comes the conflicting event on the same day, and we are presented with the choice. Do we continue on as planned and attend the event to which we were bidden to come, or do we let the new item on our calendar begin to crowd out that event that we’d been longing for, planning for, praying for?

In our Gospel lesson from St. Luke, we are presented with this same dilemma.

Matthew tells this same story from the perspective of a man who holds a marriage feast for his son, and ends with that somewhat troubling episode of the guest being thrown out because he doesn’t have on a wedding garment. Perhaps I’ll preach on this parable from Matthew’s perspective next year, but this morning, I wish only to concentrate on the story as told by St. Luke.

We only hear of an unnamed man and his invitation to three particular individuals and their excuses for why they couldn’t come to the party. There are a couple of peculiar details here that jumped out when reading this passage. First, was the interesting sentence, “And they all with one consent began to make excuse.” I think the intention here is to jump to the conclusion that these people had originally intended to come, but were now so entangled in their own affairs that they had no time left to attend the banquet. It seems like all those who were bidden began to make excuses for why they should be allowed to miss the party, even though we only hear of the excuses of three in particular. However, for those of you who love numbers, it’s not a coincidence that the number of people who offer up excuses is the same as the number of times that the servant of the man goes out to bid people to come. Three calls and three rejections.

The second point of this parable has to do with the excuses themselves. None of these activities, assessing the worthiness of the purchase of oxen or land, or wanting to spend time with one’s wife is a bad thing. It would make sense that God would want us to be good stewards of our money, and make sure that what we do with what He’s entrusted us with is used to it best means. And most certainly, God would want us to nurture a new marriage, and do everything possible to ensure that a couple’s new life together starts off on the right foot.

The problem lies in the setting of priorities. These people had been bidden to come to feast with a “certain man” who we know in the parable to be God Himself, and they place more importance on creation than the Creator. They fail to recognize that this was one of those times that they needed to let go of their worldly attachments, and cling to God. That is one of the hardest things to do – know when it truly is God calling us, and when we are simply offering up excuses.

I was flipping through radio stations the other day, and happened to catch something on the Catholic Channel, and the host made a rather simple, and yet profound statement when he said something along these lines:

All my wandering thoughts are either morally neutral or morally negative. I can’t ever think of a time when I’ve thought to myself, honey, I’ve got to run and spend two hours Eucharistic Adoration, or calling up a few buddies and not invite them over to watch the ball game, but to spend time praying, meditating and studying God’s Word. It’s usually the other way around, and I find ways to keep from doing those very things.

Folks, that radio host was spot on, and I can probably think of at least 5 things since getting up today that have kept me from focusing on God and His will. This is clearly one of the very points our Lord wishes to convey in this parable.

Another point has to do with the two trips by the servant of the man to bid others to come into the feast.

Did you happen to catch who the master told the servant to go out and find? He said go out into the city and find the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind. When Jesus says to first go out into the city, he means go out first to the Jews who were in fact blind, lame, poor because those who were the religious authorities left them in that sad state. They were blind because their leaders were not leading them toward the light, but were leading them further and further into darkness. They were deaf because all they were hearing was not the truth of the Gospel, but rather the perverse teachings of a select few. They were lame because they were left in a crippled state, unable to leap for joy because they did not hear the Good News that the Messiah was here and was in their midst. The One who they had been longing for all of their life was alive, and amongst them.

Finally, the servant comes back and tells his master that there is still more room for more guests and the man then tells him to go everywhere, out into the high-ways and hedges and bring anyone who will hear and heed the invitation to come in and be fed. Actually, he goes further, as he tells the servant to “compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” We are those folk who were not just poor, maimed, halt, and blind. We are the folk who were completely on the outside, outcasts if you will. We are the ones who were commanded and compelled to listen to the words of the man and accept the promises that came through the Jews were for us to embrace as well. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.”

We have now received the invitation to come to the great feast, that invitation we’ve been long waiting for has arrived, and we now come to dine at the Master’s Table. There’s one final difference that actually makes all the difference in the world.

We don’t come to our Lord’s Table to simply be fed some cuisine that God has prepared for us. That would make our food ordinary, and we come to be fed something extraordinary. The master hasn’t simply been crafting something. Rather, he sets forth something far more intimate, far more nourishing – he gives us himself, His Flesh and Blood. For when He took the bread, and looking to Heaven he blessed it, and gave it to His disciples and said this wasn’t simply bread anymore, this is my flesh which is to be broken for you, go now and do this in remembrance of me. He picked up the cup of wine and told his disciples that this wasn’t simply a cup of wine, but rather it was his blood that would be poured out for them and for many for the remission of sins, go now and do this in remembrance of me.

One of the aspects of a dinner invitation is the opportunity to enter into the intimacy of breaking bread with someone else. Jesus takes this notion of intimacy to an entirely new level when He promised us that, “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”

“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready.” We have received the invitation to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, come and receive the Bread of Life.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

But now are they many members, yet but one body.

Earlier this week Ms. Schori issued a response to the Archbishop of Canterbury in which she politely (or maybe not) told him and the rest of the Communion, we have no need for you. No, she didn't say those exact same words, but one word that she did use, that appeared again in a "talking points memo" from 815 yesterday was the word "autonomy."

I think we know and understand what that word means in general, but how is it used in the church? Can we rightly use the word autonomous faithfully when speaking of the Body of Christ?

As St. Paul admonishes the Corinthian Christians, there is one Body, the church, and one group can't just simply make the assertion that others can simply be brushed off like one would swat away at a fly. No there is much more at stake here.

So what is Ms. Schori getting at here?

I'm afraid that she is advocating a gnostic understanding of Christianity that is contrary to Holy Scripture and heretical. She touts a more full understanding of the work of the Spirit that apparently only those who've been enlightened are privy to. She and others believe that Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church teaching, and the majority of Christendom have all erred, and that through this new revelation, extra-marital relations are not only not sinful anymore, but should be celebrated and acknowledged as holy. Those of us who hold the traditional understanding are simply not in tune with what the "spirit" is doing, and need to sit back and wait for that enlightenment to occur.

Going back to the original question, what of autonomy, she now espouses autonomy as the watchword of TEC. TEC is an "autonomous church which is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, serving God and working together to spread through word and action the good news of God in Christ." "The member churches of the Anglican Communion are joined together by choice in love, and have no direct authority over one another."

No, Ms. Shori. You are replacing catholicity with autonomy, and you do so to your peril, and this Church's peril. This Church has been teetering on the edge of cult-like status for decades now, and it seems like Ms. Schori is hell bent on making that a reality.

I frankly have no idea how she says the Creeds with any integrity whatsoever, since autonomy seems to be the only game in town. If she and others like her truly believed that we were part of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," then we wouldn't be regularly telling the rest of the communion to go pound sand. It's only because TEC bankrolls the rest of the communion that we're allowed to get away with this type of discord within the Body of Christ.

Too bad there isn't a St. Paul ready, willing, and able to call this Church back into line and confront the apostasy that is The Episcopal Church.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sermon for the First Sunday after Trinity
St. John’s Church – Moultrie, GA
June 6, 2010

Did anyone happen to catch the number of times the word love or one of its cognates appeared in our Epistle lesson from First St. John? To save you the trouble of going back to count for yourselves, the number was 28 in 15 verses. Twenty-eight times the beloved disciple conveys the central theme of salvation history – the fact that God is love.

That phrase is the centerpiece of Christian theology because it defines who God is in His most intimate nature. One of the ways that theologians over the years have attempted to describe the Holy Trinity is through the use of the word love. They refer to the Father as Lover, the Son as the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit as the Bond of Love that is shared between the two. As St. John says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world.” “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”

Those interrelated passages from John’s Gospel and his first epistle speak of the intimate character of the Godhead. The Son resides in the bosom of the Father, and then in the fullness of God’s special time, He vouchsafed to allow us to behold His glory through His Son. The love that has always been between the Father and the Son could not be contained at either Jesus’ baptism or His Transfiguration as the Spirit of the Father cried out, “This is my Beloved Son.” We have received the Father through His Incarnate Son.

As I mentioned last Sunday we now begin the second half of the Church Year. What started on Advent Sunday last fall found its culmination in the Feast of the Holy Trinity. We now begin the season known as Trinitytide. This shouldn’t be seen as simply the “long green season,” but rather, the period where we are able to meditate more deeply, and be drawn more fully into the reality of what took place in the first half of the year. There’s a very good reason why the ancient lectionary chose these two lessons from St. John and St. Luke to begin that reflection because we are allowed to reflect upon where things all began – the Love that is God, and how that love has been shown to us.

From the preparation of the Incarnation, to our Lord’s birth at Christmas, to his Epiphany and manifestation, and then to his death, resurrection, and ascension, we see the fullness of God not in a concept, but in reality. We see how God acted and continues to act in salvation history.

When we think back to the Book of Genesis and the Garden of Eden, there was an intimacy and knowledge between Man and God that was pure, undefiled, almost mystical in character. Then in one fateful moment, that intimacy was replaced with the thought that mankind might just be able to replace that intimacy with God with a self-generated intimacy that came from being like God as the Serpent said. Unfortunately for Adam and Eve, and for us their offspring, we’ve been chasing a mirage ever since. Every attempt at self-satisfaction and self-generated intimacy leaves us longing for more, and the terrible realization that we can’t get back to Paradise of our own longing and volition. We long for and desire an intimacy that only God is capable of filling. And since God has written eternity on our hearts, we are forever longing to return to our source, and thus, to our Creator.

There is a word of particular importance that I would like to focus upon just a bit more deeply. John says, “everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” I want us to concentrate on that word knoweth. It comes from the Greek word "ginwskw" that means to know, to ascertain, to come to understand, to be sure of. When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek this word "ginwskw" took on an interesting connotation. It came to mean, “ ‘a personal relationship of care and affection.’ The word know…is often used ‘in a sense practically synonymous with ‘love,’ to set regard upon, to know with particular interest, delight, affection, and action.’” Also, whenever the Bible speaks of a husband knowing his wife in a sexual connotation, the same Greek word is used in those instances as well.

The reason that it’s important to recognize and point out this nuance to this passage is because of the recurrence of this theme. The word "ginwskw" is used over 200 times in the New Testament, and almost half of them are used by John. That in and of itself is somewhat telling because there are other words that carry the meaning to know, yet John uses this word quite regularly in his Gospel, Epistles and Revelation. The more striking comparison comes when one looks at some of the other instances when that word appears and how it is used, particularly in light of what we heard this morning.

On the Sunday preceding Lent, we hear the great passage on love from St. Paul to the Corinthian Church. As the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians begins to close we hear these words, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part….For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Each time St. Paul speaks of the limits of our knowledge on this side of eternity he uses that same word "ginwskw." But if we listen again to what is being said here, we recognize that on our side of the equation we are limited in the depths of our intimacy with God, but the flip side is not true. God truly knows us at a level that we can only aspire to, yet will remain just outside of our grasp. However, the goal is in the quest, in the search, in the journey toward knowing and being known.

That is why the imagery of marriage is so useful when our Lord speaks of us as his bride. The bridegroom longs to know us so deeply, so intimately, that the link between husband and wife is the only one that conveys the magnitude of true knowing.

Think of it this way. If, as a husband, you truly know your wife, her wants, her needs, her desires, do you really have to ask her what she wants for Christmas or her birthday? No, because the depth of your knowledge of what will make her happy doesn’t require her telling you, you know it instinctively.

The same goes for God on a much larger and more grand scale.

He wishes to shower us with blessings both in this world, and in the life to come. He knows what we need before we even ask. He gives freely out of His abundant grace and mercy. He provides for us in ways that really cannot grasp.

In return, we are called to know Him at much more than just a superficial or surface level depth. Part of knowing God more deeply is spending time with Him in prayer every day. Part of knowing God is spending time reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting His Holy Word. The greatest way we can know God is in what we are about to do in just a few moment when we come to meet and know Him in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a knowledge of our Lord Jesus that is so personal and intimate and one that we should frequent as often as possible.

The only way that one can cultivate a truly deep marriage or friendship is through hard work, and constant contact. So too with our relationship with God. Truly knowing God can only come through our participation in the worship and praise of Him, and His holy Name. Even though we’ll only being doing so through a glass darkly, we then begin to know our Creator as he has known us since the beginning of time.

It’s no wonder that our first lesson in Trinitytide speaks of God’s intimate nature as a God of love. We come to experience that love again in the Sacrament of His Son’s most precious Body and Blood. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God….In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins….We love him, because he first loved us.”

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sermon for Trinity Sunday
St. John’s Church – Moultrie, GA
May 30, 2010

Act II, scene ii of Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most widely recognized pieces of any Shakespeare play. I would venture to guess that more people know the story behind that particular scene better than any of Shakespeare’s other works - even if those same people have never watched a production of it, or taken the time to read the play itself. If someone asked me to recite one line from any Shakespeare play, the first one that would immediately pop into my mind is “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Perhaps others would say something different, but I’m sure that line is there somewhere.

So what link is there between Trinity Sunday, and some of the familiar lines of Juliet from Act II, scene ii…?

“Deny thy father and refuse thy name…”
“Tis but thy name that is my enemy…”
“Oh be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

What parallels can we draw between Trinity Sunday and the words of Romeo…?

“My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself because it is an enemy to thee. Had I it written, I would tear the word.”

Or from his response to Juliet when she asks him if he is Romeo and a Montague

“Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike”

I mention these lines from Romeo and Juliet because some of the same sentiments are being expressed within the Church regarding the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

In an era of political correctness, and rabid feminist theology, the terms Father, LORD, King, and others that have traditionally been used to describe the Godhead are considered passé today.

These terms were the byproduct of men in a patriarchal society, and need to be abandoned in deference to gender neutral terminology for God.

In our Gospel from St. Matthew, we receive the Trinitarian Formula with which we are to baptize and bring people into Christ’s flock, the Church.

We are called to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

We do this not out of nostalgia, but rather out from a command from Jesus Himself.

We do this because when the newly baptized are brought into the fold of Christ’s flock, they are branded and receive a new name.
They receive the name of Christian.

They are putting on Christ as St. Paul says, and thus, putting on His Name as well. (cf. Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27)

At baptism we put on Christ, and we do so in God’s name.

In the Old Testament, the personal, proper name for God was I AM.

In the New Testament, we are able to see the full revelation of who I AM is.

This full revelation is expressed in a new name – the name of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

This is God’s Proper name.

It is not something we have permission to tamper with, or modify to suit our needs or whims.

There is only one person who has permission to change names, and that is God himself.

On two separate occasions in the Book of Genesis, God changes a person’s name to reflect His purposes for them.

Abram and Sarai receive the names Abraham and Sarah to express God’s desire to build a new nation through these two people.

This new nation was to be a people of the Covenant that God established with Abraham.

The other time that God changes someone’s name was when Jacob wrestled all night with a man, and his name was changed from Jacob to Israel to signify that “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Gen. 32.28)

God is doing something that God alone can do.

This is why it is so significant when Jesus changes the name of Simon to Peter.

Jesus is doing something that God alone can do.

Tampering with the Name of God is absolutely something we cannot do.

When people want to change the name of the Holy Trinity to Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, or Mother, Child, Womb, they are not just eliminating patriarchal sounding terms they are changing the very identity of the Godhead.

Not only does this action express the ancient heresy of Modalism, it also means that they are worshipping a completely different god altogether.

They are doing something that they do not have permission to do in changing God’s Holy Name.

C. S. Lewis said “God knows how to describe Himself much better than we know how to describe Him.”

In the grand scheme of things, why do I even bring this up?

Why do I even bother preaching a Trinity sermon on something like this – something that seemingly doesn’t concern us here?

After all, isn’t the Trinity a mystery anyway, something that we can’t really comprehend?

Shouldn’t my first Trinity Sunday sermon be some glorious exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity – using big seminary words like homoousia, substantia, persona, hypostases, Perichoresis, and the like?

Sure, all of those terms are necessary to try and put human explanations onto a sacred mystery, and they do give us a glimpse into what One in Three, and Three in One actually begins to look like.

However, if we can’t even get the naming correct, everything else will collapse around us like a house of cards.

Today marks the entrance into Trinitytide, the long green season of the Church Kalendar.

Our hymns today speak of the Holy Trinity, and it is usually the only time that many preachers tackle the Trinity in a sermon.

However, the longest season of the Church Year is the Trinity Season.

All of our readings in one fashion or another reflect the Triune nature of God, and His work in salvation history.

Trinitarian theology should permeate preaching, and should not be left to only one Sunday a year, Trinity Sunday.

Perhaps the fact that Trinitarian theology has become so clouded, so muddied, so confusing is due to the fact that it has taken a back seat.

There should be no reason for this to be so since our liturgy is steeped in Trinitarian language.
We invoke the name of the Holy Trinity no less than six times in a service of Holy Communion.

And yet, the Trinity seems to move further and further away from our grasp and understanding.

One preacher commented about the Trinity, “We all believe in the Trinity, and we pray to the Trinity that no one would actually ask us about the Trinity!”

This should not be the case.

The Trinity should not be something that we shy away from, and leave for someone else to explain or deal with.

Bruce Ware puts forward the following argument, “The doctrine of the Trinity is both central and necessary for the Christian faith. Remove the Trinity, and the whole Christian faith disintegrates.”

These words should be a call to action for us all to recognize and embrace the Holy Trinity for what it is.

The only way that the name Christian makes sense is if its foundation is in the Triune nature of the Godhead.

As we entered the service today, we sang a hymn that we don’t sing that often.

Perhaps it needs to be one that we sing on a regular basis.

We will sing about binding ourselves to the strong name of the Trinity.

Being bound to the Trinity is not something to be afraid of, but rather, it is the only source of true salvation.

This is summarized in the final verse of our Processional hymn:

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

So what’s in a name?

If it pertains to living as a Christian, absolutely everything is in a name.

And that name is the ONE and ONLY TRUE name of God Almighty:

The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Irenaeus Desperately Needed

One of the Church Fathers of the Second Century AD was Irenaeus of Lyons. One of the great treatises he wrote was Adversus Haereses in which he defended the orthodox Christian faith from both heretics and gnostics who were preaching and teaching contrary to the Apostolic witness. Many of the heresies he attempted to combat were affronts to the Nature of Christ and his full-divinity and full-humanity. We need another Irenaeus today.

Earlier this week the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a Pentecost letter in which he made some of his strongest statements yet regarding the apostate and heretical actions of the Episcopal Church in the consecration of Mary Glasspool as a bishop in Los Angeles. Even though there is allot to be discussed, at least the Archbishop admitted that there needed to be consequences for these actions. How that will all play out remains to be seen.

It didn't take long for Ms. Schori to get her feathers ruffled with this letter, and has since written a pastoral letter to the church in response. She claims that the Archbishop's letter has an authoritarian tone that is unAnglican in attempting to establish some norms for what is "in" and what is "out" regarding Christian ethics and morals at least from the perspective of homosexuality. At one time the Creeds helped with that, but since Jack Spong is still wearing a collar and flouting his credentials as a retired Episcopal bishop, we've had to move to more drastic measures.

Several times in her letter, Ms. Schori alludes to what I think sensible readers would deem to be gnosticism. She and the leadership of The Episcopal Church apparently are the sole proprietors of some sort of special knowledge and insight into the Spirit (notice she never says Holy Spirit), and what this "Spirit" is up to in our distinctively American context.

Also, the tag line phrase appears once again like clockwork, "The baptismal covenant prayed in this Church for more than 30 years calls us to respect the dignity of all other persons and charges us with ongoing labor toward a holy society of justice and peace. That fundamental understanding of Christian vocation underlies our hearing of the Spirit in this context and around these issues of human sexuality." When are the folks in the Episcopal Church going to wake up and realize that the "baptismal covenant" and the revisions of the '79 Prayer Book regarding baptism and confirmation is nothing but 21st Century Pelagianism. This is a works righteousness, make a deal with God mentality that has no ground or warrant in either Holy Scripture or church teaching. Rather, this is feel good, warm fuzzy, existentialism wrapped up with a little Eastern mysticism, and the trappings of something that appears Christian. In actuality its nothing more than white washed tombs full of dead men's bones.

We need another Irenaeus in our time, and we need one soon.

May God have mercy on us all.