Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Personal note: I am not likely to be online for around 10 days because of family time.

Although from a different letter by a different apostle, this week's traditional Epistle from Romans 8:18-23 continues the themes of last week's selection from 1 Peter 5. The point is that earthly sufferings are not truly comparable to the glorious hope which awaits those who have been united with Christ in baptism and faith. There have been and still are problems in this world, but believers must always be people of faith and hope. Our faith and hope is not in a fallen creation, not in some imagined goodness of fallen humanity and not in ourselves. Our faith and hope as Christians must always remain centered on the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Third Sunday after Trinity

Personal Note: I just survived another school year and may not write much for the next few weeks.

Although this Sunday is also the Feast of St. John the Baptist (see last year's brief post for this feast-, my attention has been drawn to the Epistle for the Third Sunday after Trinity: 1 St. Peter 5:5-11. In this passage, believers are urged to be humble. As surprising as it may be to some people, humility is the best way to withstand the devil. Of course, pride is Satan's great flaw. So pride puts us in a vulnerable position while humility means that we are less likely to pursue evil. Humility means that we recognize our proper place in the universe and acknowledge our dependence upon what God has done for us in Christ. We do not depend upon our own feeble efforts to defeat evil; we depend upon divine grace. Through grace, believers pass through the sufferings and afflictions of this world, and we look in faith and hope to our eternal future with Christ.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Second Sunday after Trinity

This week, my attention was drawn to a verse from the Epistle. In I St. John 3:14, we read: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.Here we have a basic point about divine creation and human existence. Love is the source of true life, and without love, human beings are spiritually dead. This general truth finds its clearest expression in Jesus Christ. He is the way, and the truth, and the life because He is divine love incarnate. Because He first loves us, He ennables us to love and to pass from death into true life. Apart from such Christ-based love, we can not love fully, and therefore, apart from the love of Christ, we cannot live fully. But because He has loved us even to the point of dying for us, His grace can give us new life and help us to grow in love toward fellow believers and toward all God's creatures.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

First Sunday after Trinity

The traditional Epistle for this Sunday is from 1 St. John 4:7-21 and says:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. 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. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Here we have a reminder of the core of the Gospel followed by an exhortation to apply this core to our lives. We may summarize this passage in three points. 1) God's love comes first (v.7).  2) His love has been most clearly and powerfully revealed in His Son Jesus Christ who died to save us from sin (vv.9-10).  3) "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (v.11). St. John reiterates these three key points by expressing them in more than one way in our verses, but the reality is so simple- and yet so hard to practice consistently. Indeed, from a merely human view, it is impossible to love God and our brothers and sisters. Only because God's grace and love in Christ reach out to touch us through the Spirit can we begin to love one another as we should. His love is the only true source of our love for Him and for others.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Trinity Sunday

It is appropriate that we focus on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity one week after celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. The liturgical significance of this day is summarized well in the collect for the day. The collect says,
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

Perceiving and confessing the doctrine of the Trinity is not a natural ability but a gift of divine grace. Although we can use metaphors from nature and employ reason to talk about the Triune God, a personal appreciation of this uniquely Christian teaching can only come as the Holy Spirit pours divine grace into our hearts and minds. We can cite certain New Testament texts (such as Matthew 3:16-17, John 3: 5-16, Ephesians 2:18, 2 Corinthians 13: 14, 1 Peter 1:2) which express a Trinitarian understanding of God's self-disclosure to humanity. But the doctrine is subtle, and its expression developed gradually among Christians. Notably, it was expressed structurally in the ancient baptismal questions about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit which became the basis for the Apostles' Creed. As misunderstandings arose, the doctrine was more deliberately expressed in many Christian texts including the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed (Quicunque vult) and hymns such as the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in excelsis and the Te Deum.

As we think about the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, we do not all have to be philosophical theologians who delight in discussing abstractions. However, Christians do affirm or confess this basic doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity is a central and biblically based Christian belief that is deeply rooted in the experience of redemption and in Christian prayer and worship. At various moments, we focus upon one or the other divine Person, but there is a constant interaction of the three Persons as we consider revelation, justification, sanctification and salvation. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow,... Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."