What does God hate?

Things God HatesIn Sunday’s homily, I posed the question, “What does God hate?” A knee jerk reaction would be, “nothing,” since God is love (1 John 4:8), right? As a church, we must remind the people that God indeed is love, but He also hates sin and will judge sin with a fierce wrath. It says as much in Holy Scripture. King Solomon in the book of Proverbs, wrote

“These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19).”

Alice hates snakes. She hates them because some species of snake are dangerous. If a snake threatened Raven, you can be sure Alice’s “momma bear” would appear and that snake would not stand a chance.

God hates sin the same way that Alice hates a snake which threatens her child. God loathes evil and demonic forces that try to pull people down to a Godless eternity, just as a mother hates a poisonous snake.

God loves man. Compassion prompts God to loathe sin. God gave His best (Jesus) so that we may have the best (heaven) and eternal communion with God), thus, God abhors anything that seeks to foil our communion with Him (Sin, Satan, and eternal perdition).

After some self-reflection, you may respond, “Well I’m not guilty of any of that,” to which I refer you to the very first mentioned sin mentioned by King Solomon. Good for you, your thoughts of pride are your reward, however, if you are thinking, “What can I do about these traits of the heart?” there is an answer. You cannot do anything your own. God has already done the work for you.. St. Paul tells us, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)”  Acknowledge your sin, turn to Jesus, and follow Him only. Jesus comes into your heart. He transforms your heart, changes your nature so that you will love instead of hate. Gossip, slander, and maligning will no longer provide you pleasure.

Jesus, through His triumphant death on the Cross purchased a new life for us all. “I am come that they might have life (John 10:10),” He said, and, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”

No matter our guilt, God will forgive you, because Jesus Christ (God become flesh in the person of Jesus) died on the Cross for our sins. God hates the evil in the hearts of men and women, but He loves you. God loathes the forces that lead to perdition, but God loves everyone with an infinite love. You must know that God does not force us to follow Him. Instead, He offers us a gift of love. It is up to each of us whether we accept this gift or not. Here is God’s promise to you, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (1 John 1:12).”

What are “Last Rites?”

Last RitesSunday evening I received a call from the Riverside Walter Reed Chaplain. There was a Roman Catholic man there dying, wishing to receive Last Rites. I was available and able to visit with a family I’d never met, and may not see again.

I’ve received similar calls in the past, people wishing to see a priest either due to their illness, or imminent death. Answering these calls is not morbid. In answering the call, I am able to share God’s mercy and love to people in dire need, and I am greatly appreciative to our Lord for first calling me to this office.

You may ask, “Well, Father Kevin, isn’t ‘Last Rites’ a Roman Catholic ritual? Why are you, an Anglican Priest, doing giving Last Rites? More importantly, why do that at all? Where are Last Rites in the Bible?” I hear your questions frequently, and I’d venture a guess that some of you may have those, and other questions for me, if you knew I was performing Last Rites for people outside our Church.

Last Rites are nothing more that the three Sacraments of the Church that are appropriate for a person approaching death. These are first Confession and Absolution, second Holy Unction, and finally Viaticum (From Latin, “Provision for the journey.”) or Holy Communion.

The Sacrament of Confession and Absolution are based on the Scripture John 20:19-22. Jesus said, to the Apostles;

Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them [his] hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; [and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained.

God wishes reconciliation with us, that is why Jesus, the Word of God, was sent into the world. God became a part of His own creation and became a sacrifice for our sin on the cross (For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life Jn 3:16). The word of the priest does not supplant the work of Christ on the Cross, rather the pronunciation of God’s forgiveness (It is God who forgives sins and not man) to the penitent is a reminder of God’s grace and the forgiveness of sins. I can only imagine the comfort that a person waiting on death feels when they know that our Lord Jesus loves them, wants to be with them forever, and forgives them of whatever may have separated them in the past.

St. James Parishioners will recognize the second Rite, that is Holy Unction. We just finished a study of James Epistle and you may remember the scripture, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord (Jas 5:14).” The sick are prayed over and anointed with oil by the priest using the prayers found on page 320 of the Prayer Book.

Finally, Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of our Lord are administered to the dying to give them food for their journey from this life into the next. Our Lord Jesus said,

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… Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. Jn 6:48-50 & 54

In confessing sin, believing, and receiving Jesus, the dying (which we all are, just at different rates, and at differing times) receive eternal life.

I could tell that the couple, indeed, the family I met Sunday, followed in God’s grace for years. The husband and wife were married for nearly six decades, and they still shared kind affection one for another. The life of Christ enlivened their marriage, just as assuredly as it livens those who follow Jesus after their bodily death.

Jesus wants us every day, for eternity, and not just on our last days in this life. The Sacraments of Confession and Absolution, Holy Unction, and our Lord’s Supper are available to us now, and any day, so that we may receive God’s forgiveness, healing, and life. We need not confess to a priest to receive forgiveness, or be anointed with oil in order to be healed. We do receive in those Sacraments, however, the grace and reassurance that God does indeed forgive sins and provide healing. I invite you to participate in the life of the Body of Christ, not just so that you may receive the benefits of this participation (which includes eternal life), but so that you may also work to build God’s Kingdom, beginning in this life. Kevin+

 

 

Pray for Protection From Adversity… So That You May Serve the Living God

God is Preparing YouLord, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Collect for Trinity XXII).

 
The Church is God’s household. We, the Body of Christ, are born into the divine family through our Baptism. When we celebrate Holy Communion, God’s family gathers at the Father’s table. The Church is made holy by the washing with blood Christ shed on the cross, the blood shed by the, “Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” When our Lord Jesus returns, the Church will be presented to Him as His spotless bride.

Last week, I wrote about saints in the parish email (November 4 & 5, 2015), preached about saints at Wednesday’s noon Mass, and again Sunday on All Saints Day. We, those who are baptized into Christ’s Church and follow Jesus as Lord, are the Saints of God in the Church Militant. We have work to do. We have a calling, and part of that calling is to become holy. We do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. God has begun a work in us all. We should pray, as did St. Paul, “…that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6 KJV).”

 
In the Collect, we pray, “…that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities…” The Church faces opposition in the World. It is attacked by the unbelieving world, and by those who do not believe the truth contained in Holy Scripture. We pray for God’s protection of the Church, not only so that it can survive, but so that it may serve God through Good works.

We must pray with fervor, so that we may be holy, protected by God, and serve Him in Good works. Then, with God’s help, we will persevere as members of Christ’s Church, God’s household of faith.

God’s Love is Made Manifest in Our Love for One Another

Lazarus and the rich manIn this was manifested the love of God towards 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4.9-11)

The Lectionary and the Christian Calendar set the fundamental message of Holy Scripture in an orderly framework. The Gospel and Epistle readings appointed for Sunday reading leads us to a deep and clear awareness of Christian truth, and a sense of our Christian privileges and duties.

 
The Epistle lesson for the First Sunday after Trinity summarized the Christian Year to date. The simple lesson is, “in this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him (1 John 4:9).” That summarizes everything celebrated in the first half of the Church Year: the manifestation of God’s love in Jesus Christ as He takes on our human nature, transforms it, and elevates it to a spiritual plane making us sons and daughters of God by adoption and grace. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).”

The point of all the Church Seasons this year is that we see the love of God, and that we be reborn by the vision of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
The knowledge that God is love is sight to the blind and the very ground of salvation. This new vision allows us to see, “a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). To see the world with new eyes is to be spiritually reborn as Jesus said to Nicodemus in the Gospel Lesson for Trinity Sunday. When you see the world with new eyes, you are saved from fear and hopelessness.

 
“Hereby we know love, because he laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16).” Jesus died for us because He loves us. It is our fate to be transformed by that love. That is the second point made by John in the lesson, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another (1 John 4:11).” That passage introduces us to the season of Sundays following Trinity. The Epistle and Gospel readings for the Trinity Season educate us in the practice of Christian love. God’s love manifests itself in our love for one another. God’s love is not a superficial emotion. That love is not merely, “in word and in tongue,” rather it is a love manifested,”in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).” Without the deeds that flow naturally from God’s love manifest in us, then our love of God is counterfeit, “if a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar (1 John 4:20).”

Jesus’ telling of Lazarus and the rich man illustrates this. Why is the rich man in hell? He denied God’s love. He did not love his neighbor, thus he had no love for God. That lack of love resulted in a tormented soul, a soul that rejected God’s love.

Loving another means willing the eternal good for another and acting in terms of that will. How do we do this? To begin with, our own neediness and fears get in the way of loving others. We do not begin with ourselves. Instead, we begin with God’s love for us.
“We have known and believed the love that God hath to us (1 John 4:16).” “Herein is our love made perfect (1 John 4:17).” Knowledge of God’s love enables us to love and thus to will the eternal good of another. Knowing that God loves us, frees us from our own needs and fears. We need to grow in knowledge of God’s love for us.

The passage from First John commands us to love. That seems strange. How can we be commanded to love? We modern people are accustomed to thinking of love as being spontaneous. People “fall in love.” You cannot command something that is spontaneous, but that is not the love commanded by Holy Scripture.

The approach to love commanded by the passage is more practical than the modern notion about the spontaneity of love. God’s love manifested in our love for one another is the work that flows from a Christian character, a character formed through a long process of habit formation. That formation begins with God’s commandment and our obedience, just as our worldly lives begin with obedience to our parents and those set at authority over us. Through our obedience to God, we grow in love. That growth in love is our sanctification, our growth in holiness. “And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also (1 John 4:20).”

Heroic Examples to Live By in Holy Scripture

The Martyrdom of Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens

The Martyrdom of Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens

Corruption, terror, and war are just another day’s headline. Christians living in a post-modern world may sometimes find it difficult to know how to respond to the world around us, a world that promotes vanity and deprecates life. How do we answer this world?

 
Christ is our great hope. In and through Him, we are redeemed. We, who follow Jesus as Lord, have nothing to fear from the world, and we look toward Jesus’ coming again. In the interim, we obey, pray, read His Word, love our neighbor, and worship Him.

 
We know this, yet it is helpful to have examples for Christian living. We need heroes we can mimic. Jesus is the greatest of these. We are to model our lives after Him, but we can also learn from the example of the heroic men and women of the Bible. We can do as they did in our world today.

 
I was contemplating this during Evening Prayer Wednesday night while reading the Second Lesson for Evening Prayer, Acts 7:35-53, and was awed by the example of St. Stephen. Stephen was the first Deacon and Christian Martyr. Scripture describes Stephen as a man filled with grace and power. He spoke with wisdom when debated. He was brought before the Sanhedrin and accused of blasphemy by false accusers.

 
In answering his accusers, Stephen recollected the history of God’s relation to the Jews; the Abrahamic Covenant, the life of Moses, the ten plagues and emancipation from slavery in Egypt, the rejection of Moses and turn to idol-worship by the Jews in the Wilderness, and the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Solomon. Stephen concluded his defense by reproving his accusers for betraying and murdering the prophets, chief of whom was Christ. He said;

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Stephen told his accusers that their ancestors rejected God’s Word for generations before Christ. God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the prophets were rejected, persecuted, and murdered. Their betrayal of Christ was the ultimate disobedience to the Law.

St. Stephen was himself a prophet sent to God’s people and he bore the fate of other prophets. He was rejected and murdered.

Today we live in a world that continuously mocks Christ. Ultimately, God will judge the world. In the mean time, we are to answer the World as Stephen did. We must be a prophetic people, who live for Christ and who speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), even to people who reject Christ. We must reprove those who do not live according to the Word of God, for, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16 KJV.)”

Before he died, Stephen uttered the words, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59 NAB.)” and, “Lord Jesus count not this sin against them (Acts 7:60 ESV).” He prayed for his persecutors, following the example of His Lord, who prayed for those who put Him to death, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34 KJV.)”

We must pray for those we love, yes, but we must also pray for those who reject Christ, that they may know Christ. We should pray for even those who persecute us, that they too may know Christ, and be forgiven.

May we be given the grace to live lives of truth speaking, truth doing, of prayer, and of forgiveness. May we follow our examples in the faith, St. Stephen, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

2015 Lenten Appeal Hits Home

Holy Family

Holy Family

This year’s Lenten Appeal is to fund the building of a Domestic Mission. The ambitious goal is to raise $100,000 for a selected ‘mission church project.’ It would be used over a period of three years to support a well-trained energetic priest who would relocate to the chosen area. Please see the letter below from Paul Moruza, member of All Saints Church, Charlottesville, VA, regarding his experience regarding the need to help fund domestic missions.

***********************************************
March 27th, 2015
“The Life and Death of an Anglican Parish.
The story of Holy Family Parish.
Or why we should all give to the Bishop’s
domestic mission fund.”

In the three or so decades our four children were being born and raised, Audrey and I would faithfully and gratefully return every summer to the hospitality of her parents’ ranch style home nestled in the coastal redwoods near the university town of Arcata, California. Audrey’s parents, Joe and Jackie Kasun, joined the Anglican Continuum about the same time Audrey and I did in the late 70s. Under the auspices of Bishop Robert Morse, my father-in law, Joe Kasun, a beloved History teacher and decorated WWII Hero, became a licensed lay reader and would lead morning prayer on Sundays when one of the visiting priests (mostly from the established Anglican parish over the mountains in Redding, CA) was unable to come. Audrey’s Mom was a renowned Economist and one of the great Christian culture warriors of the Reagan era, manfully taking on the anti-life, ZPG [Zero Population Growth] types of the that time with solid academic research, lectures, articles and books (see her “War on Population” by Jaqueline Kasun). Like Holy Family Parish, her life work affirmed the goodness of having and raising kids and showed the next generation that we need not fear the dooms day messages of “overpopulation” or to despair about having children. So, they christened their little Anglican Parish, “The Holy Family,” and it was where we worshiped each and every summer vacation for my en-tire Army career and then where Audrey and the kids worshiped for the year I was sent to Korea by the Army. Jackie, an accomplished pianist, would play the organ and Joe would lead Morning Prayer, while the Bishop would come up for Confirmations from time to time. That’s why to this day, we cherish a photo of the extended family of the grandkids lined up at the altar proudly with Bishop Morse and their grandparents, Jackie and Joe in appropriate liturgical robes and the boy-cousins arrayed as acolytes. The photo for me symbolizes both the love of our extended families and the love of our Lord as he has engrafted all of us into his Holy Family.

Unfortunately, a full time priest was never called and/or funded to come to Holy Family Parish, and so as the years went on, an aging parish slowly faded away; and when Jackie and Joe both died within three years of each other, the flame of the parish went dark. I am thankful still for Holy Family Parish and the people that we got to know and love there, but had they had some funds to call a priest, I am sure it would still be alive today providing a place for the locals to hear the gospel and worship with the historic Church Militant.

Bishop Grundorf began this Lenten fund drive to nurture and keep alive a “Holy Family Parish” out there that needs a full time fully trained Anglican Priest to continue in the Great Commission of our Lord. I ask you to please join Audrey and me and give to the fund this Lenten season as you are able.”

—Paul Moruza

Bishop’s note: It’s not too late to give. If you have not done so, you can still contribute to the Lenten appeal. Please note checks with “2015 Lenten Ap-peal” on your check to your church. We request all funds be received by April 30, 2015.

Finding Joy In Shattered Expectations

Emmaus Road

Emmaus Road

We are accustomed to think of Easter as the most joyous of festivals, and certainly all the texts of today’s liturgy, and all the Easter hymns, fill our mouths with words of rejoicing:

Sunday, I discussed the first Easter. It was a distressing day for Jesus disciples. When you read the Gospel accounts, you see the immediate response of the disciples was fear and despair, rather than joy.

Consider the account of the two walking sorrowfully along the Emmaus road. A stranger joined them as they walked and asked them what it was that they were talking about so sadly. They told him about Jesus’ death and the empty tomb. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done (Jn 24:21).” They were blinded by their grieving, and did not recognize that the stranger who walked with them was the Risen Lord. “O slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Lk 24:25)!”

Does their blindness surprise you? Consider what had happened. The death of Jesus upon the cross spelled the end of his followers’ hopes. The triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the prior week The triumphant procession into the Holy City only a week before where Jesus was hailed as the Messiah by the crowds must have seemed like a farce following his death on Calvary. A week after this apparent triumph, Jesus was executed, dead, and buried. How could this be the Messiah? Even worse, the body was now gone.

This made no sense to the disciples, so they were disappointed, afraid, and they ran away and hid. They were unable to see beyond their own broken dreams and expectations. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel (Lk 24:21).” The disciples followed and heard Jesus. They heard him speak of his dying, and rising again. They heard him speak of his kingdom, a kingdom quite unlike earthly kingdoms. Despite this, it was impossible for the disciples to see beyond their own hopes, ambitions and expectations, even when Jesus was still with them. In Jesus, they were sure, they had found the leader who would restore Israel to its ancient glory.

They could not comprehend that God’s redemption could be something greater than their own hopes. They experienced the loss of their hopes, the pains of travail. It took the ruination of their expectations to open their eyes to God’s new way of living. It was only by sharing in Jesus’ death that they could share in his new life.

God does not support us in our own limited expectations. God makes all things new. Jesus says there is no new birth without the pains of travail (Mt 24:8).

All of us have make plans, and we own our ambitions. Each of us expects certain things out of life and each other. We feel frustration when our expectations go unfulfilled. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel (Lk 24:21).” We make plans and we expect God to support us in those plans. Who knows better than we what God ought and ought not to do? We are disappointed when things do not go our own way, and sometimes we worry and despair.

That is wrong-headed. The truth is that if we are to live, we must first die.
St. Paul said, “For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3).” “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die…” says Jesus, “it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit (Jn 12:24).” God brings resurrection out of death.

When we gain freedom from the bondage of our empty vain ambitions, we become heirs to God’s new kingdom. Bread becomes the bread of life after it is broken. Wine outpoured becomes for us the cup of blessings. God makes the world out of nothing. Before God made the world it was “Tohu wa bohu,” formless and void (Gn 1:2). God created the world from nothing and so he makes life from death. That transformations is painful and simultaneously awesome.

So when we come to God, we do not come to him asking for support in our own little things. No, we come to God for resurrection. As the passage from Revelation states, God makes all things new.

So now, during this Eastertide, we must sing our praises to God; to Jesus who died, and now lives together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. To God the Holy Trinity be all honour, praise and dominion, now, henceforth and for ever. Amen.

Holy Week and Our Betrayal of Christ

Palm SundayHoly Week is a week about our betrayals of Christ and our betrayals of each other. Judas’ kiss epitomizes this betrayal. We are all complicit in that kiss. We all betray Christ in some fashion.

Thankfully, there is mercy, the mercy of Christ that overcomes the betrayal of our hearts. The victory of the resurrection overcomes the betrayers’ kiss.

We need Holy Week to face the vision of ourselves as Christ’s betrayer. This week, we cannot cast an accusatory finger at someone else. We must point that finger at ourselves. We are not spectators of the Christ’s Passion, we are actors within the drama of salvation.

Palm Sunday the message was, “Hosanna too the Son of David; blessed is he who cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (Mt 21:9),” as the St. James worshippers processed from the Glebe house to the chapel. Shortly thereafter, the message from the Gospel repeatedly insisted, “Crucify him, Crucify him (Mt. 27:22).”

Jesus ScourgedSunday we celebrated Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. There he will be spitefully treated. He will be spat upon. He will be mocked, beaten, crucified, and he will die. We are there, like the people in the crowd. We, humanity are on display in all our ugliness.

We have all betrayed Christ. That is central to our understanding of Holy Week. “All we like sheep have gone astray (Is 53:6).” We must ask ourselves as did the disciples in the Upper Room with Jesus, “Is it I Lord?” “Am I the one who will betray you?” We must realize that you and I have betrayed God and one another. In our sin, we betray the truth and goodness of God and apart from God, there is no truth or goodness in us.

Our betrayal of Christ is made visible to us in Christ’s crucifixion. The point of the whole matter is to move us toward penitence. In our penitence, God moves us toward love. We become new beings in Christ that serves God with a heart of gratitude.

I am certain that many people will read this and deny that betray Christ. People believe that they are good people, that they are nice people and quite unlike the people who Crucified Jesus.

Well my friends and parishioners, if you think that, you are wrong. Every human being is implicated in Christ’s crucifixion by our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Jesus CrucifiedYou and I are guilty of the blood of Christ through our betrayals, but God is merciful. Jesus turns our condemnation into joy. Jesus suffers our betrayal in his death on the cross, but then he rises from the dead. He comes to reconcile himself with us.

This week, contemplate your betrayal, but accept Christ’s offer of reconciliation. Humble yourself. Admit your sin, then accept Christ’s love and forgiveness. Trust in Jesus’ promises. Believe that like him, you too will one day rise from the dead and live forever in Paradise.

Resist the “Lust of the Flesh” Through Lenten Discipline

Christ and the Canaanite Woman

Christ and the Canaanite Woman

In the Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent, we pray and reflect in our prayer the humility and persistence of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel reading;

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the collect, we recognize that God’s power is necessary to defend us from external enemies, as well as internal enemies that attack our minds and souls, the result of which is sinful behavior. We pray for God’s help in resisting temptation, since we have no power of our own to help ourselves. Our resistance to temptation is itself a grace from God.

St. John’s first epistle speaks of three classes of temptation, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 Jn 2:16).” These classes of temptation are the focus of the Second, Third and Fourth Sundays in Lent. This week’s Epistle bids us to reflect upon and resist the lust of the flesh.

 
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, the Canaanite Woman’s daughter is “…grievously vexed with a devil (Mt 15:22).” This description applies to people in the present day every bit as much as it applied in the first century. If sin has hold over you, you are in possession of a demon.

Ask yourself, where does sin come from? All sin is an attempt to replace God’s truth with a a created, corruptible image (Rom 1:18-23). All sin comes from embracing a lie (Rom 1:25). Embracing a lie means giving your heart over to the devil, the father of lies (Jn 8:44). When you give your heart to the devil, you are possessed by a demon.

It is difficult to eliminate possessions that result from the lusts of the flesh.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Rom 1:24-25).

The lust of the flesh includes sinful desires for the material goods of this world, including sexual desire, therefore fornication is a fundamental enemy of our sanctification (I Thess 4:3). There are two reasons for this. First, this sin is a transgression against our brothers and sisters (I Thess 4:6). It violates the holiness of other people. Second, it is a sin against our own bodies (I Cor 6:18) that separates our bodies from Christ’s mystical body. It drives the Holy Spirit from our body, his temple, and fouls that temple (I Cor 6:12-20).

Our modern culture does not believe these things. Advertising and our entertainment economy bombards us with images designed to tempt us and lead us to sin. Being unchaste replaces natural love and undermines relationships.

Our Lenten task is to shed unchastity, and all disproportionate desire for the world’s goods through prayer, fasting, and alms giving. This week contemplate the Canaanite woman from the Gospel reading. May we display the same humility, faith and perseverance as she. We must persist even when God seems to resist our requests. God will answer our prayers and defend us, “…from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.”

The Ember Days

ember-daysThe Wednesday of the First Sunday in Lent, is a day of fasting called an Ember Day. Biblical support for the fasts comes from Zachariah 8:19;

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

Tradition ascribes the recognition of these days to Pope Callistus I (c. 218-225). By the fifth century, Ember days were associated with Ordination. It was traditional to confer Holy Orders the Saturday of the first week of Lent. In the Collect for the Ember Days, we pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire men to be drawn to the ministry of reconciliation, so that mankind may be drawn to God’s Kingdom. Ember Days fall on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent, the Feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13.

The Epistle for Ember Days comes from Acts 13:44-49. In the Epistle, we read of Saints Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia. The Gospel Message is rejected by the Jews, and so the Evangelists turn to the Gentiles who gladly receive the message.

The Gospel reading for Ember Days comes from Luke 4:16-21 where we read of Jesus’ appearance in the synagogue of Nazareth. There, Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1-2;

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD

Jesus sits after reading the passage and proclaims, “This day, is this scripture fulfilled in your ears (Lk 4:21).” Jesus is saying he is the Messiah. He is the fulfillment of the prophets. He is God’s anointed one. He is the light to the Gentiles (Is 42:6, Lk 2:32 & Acts 13:47).

On Ember Days, we should pray for those discerning their call to Holy Orders. I also think there is a broader message. Jesus came to “…preach the gospel to the poor (Lk 4:18).” As the Body of Christ, we all have a calling, a role to pray in bringing the saving Gospel message to the poor. We, who are members of the Body of Christ, are a body of many members so that we may do Christ’s work in the world today. During Lent, and during the Ember Days this week, we should all reflect upon our calling to the ministry of reconciliation. We must ask ourselves if we are doing the work we are called to do.

In considering your work, think momentarily upon the Example of Mother Theresa. Mother

Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa

Theresa lived a humble life, feeding, clothing, and living amongst the poorest of the poor. She knew human need and answered God’s call to serve. She said in her book, A Simple Path;

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Incarnate love every human needs. Jesus Christ is, “…the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever (Jn 6:51)” The Bread of Life is the only food that satisfies the human hunger for love.
People in our world are perishing from hunger. We learn from this week’s Gospel lesson that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4).” No matter how well fed or hungry a person may be physically, if they do not receive the bread of life, the Word of God, they are perishing. Life comes from God’s Word. We must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor (Lk 4:18).” The poor may be poor in estate, or poor in spirit. Indeed, there is a famine on earth, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD (Am 8:11).”

So, my friends and parishioners of St. James Church, God is love, and we possess the love of God by possessing His life. We receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Jesus said, “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 (Jn 6:53-54).” The world is starving, starving for love. This hunger can only be satisfied by the love of God. We must share this infinite love of ours and bring life into the world.

Our Lord accepted his role of ministry. He must be the example of how we live in the world. We must pattern ourselves after his ministry of love and reconciliation.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Lk 4:18)