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.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Trinity V- Holy Fear

In the gospel for Trinity V from St. Luke 5, Simon Peter reacts to Jesus' miracle of the great catch with fear. His fear is two-sided. Peter recognizes his own sinfulness before Jesus. Peter also recognizes the overwhelming power of God at work in Jesus. Such fear is both a natural reaction and a religious virtue.
Unfortunately, many well-intentioned modern Christians do not see the value of such fear. In several different Bible studies over the years, I have had pious church-goers argue against the value of holy fear. They claim that fear is just a hold-over from what they view as primitive Old Testament religion. They maintain that believers should always function at higher levels with values such as love, mercy, hope, confidence, peace, etc.

Such claims are based on high ideals, but they are not the whole truth. Although Christians know to look beyond Old Testament law, the Hebrew Scriptures still contain the same basic message as the New Testament. The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Psalm 111:10). As a human being, even the Messiah has an appropriate spirit of fear of the LORD (Isaiah 11:2). The fear of the Lord is one of the seven traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit. Such fear is reverence and awe, but it is more basic than some polite reverence or aesthetic awe. It is the natural and primal reaction of the fallen and finite human being before the righteous and infinite God.

Thus, Peter is right to have a holy fear of divine power at work in Jesus. And so should we. Holy fear is not the whole story. Hopefully, in our spiritual journey, we move into other reactions such as faith, hope and love. Yet, if an element of fear is not present in us, then we do not truly appreciate our own frailty and propensity toward sin or God's almighty and infinite holiness.

Friday, June 29, 2018

St. Peter the Apostle- June 29

The Apostle Peter is an important figure in Christian history and an interesting personality. Much has been said and written about him over the centuries, often in the course of theological and jurisdictional disputes between the church of Rome and other parts of the Church. Although this post will not go into all the issues, a key passage is the Gospel from St. Matthew 16: 13-19. Here Simon Peter confesses his faith that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. Because of this faith, our Lord calls Peter the rock of the Church, the new community of faith. Peter is the first minister of the church, but similar commissions will soon be given to other Apostles. Furthermore, despite his important confession, Peter is far from infallible, even in matters of faith. Within a few verses of his confession of faith, St. Matthew points out that Peter resists Christ's teachings about the way of the cross and serves the cause of Satan.

So let us honor St. Peter, his faith, his leadership, his service, his courage (most of the time) and his eventual martyrdom. However, let us not make the mistake of thinking that he or any other mere human being can be infallible for even a short period. May we have the grace to follow his good points and to avoid his errors.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Trinity III- Christian Individualism

One can hear all sorts of things about the individual human being. Some people stress the individual in all areas of life. Some others react by down-playing the importance of the individual; they may stress the human group- family, community, society, nation, humanity. Depending on the circumstances, both emphases can be appropriate.

However, in light of today's Gospel from the beginning of St. Luke 15, let us think a bit about the spiritual value of the human individual. One lost sheep is important enough to leave the rest of the flock to find. One soul that repents leads to heavenly rejoicing. This passage points to a general teaching of Scripture: the supreme human value of the individual soul and its relationship to God. This is the basis of any true Christian individualism. While this value may have an impact in all areas of human life, Christian individualism is not about philosophy, politics, economics, psychology, or societal building blocks. True individualism is spiritual; it is about God the Father reaching out in grace through Christ and the Holy Spirit to save individual souls.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Trinity II- Excuses

It has been a while since I commented on this Sunday's Gospel (https://bcpanglican.blogspot.com/2011/06/second-sunday-after-trinity.html). As I looked over the readings this week, I was truck by the theme of excuses. Lately, I have been noticing how often I hear excuses on all sorts of subjects. Maybe that is partly because I am a clergyman. People often seem to feel the need to make excuses to religious leaders- maybe seeking some sort of "absolution lite."  We also seem to live in an age of excuses. People make all sorts of excuses, great and small. They always seem to have extenuating circumstances for every major or minor failing.

Such human behavior seems to have been around since the Garden of Eden, and we certainly see it in our Gospel from St. Luke 14:16ff. Using the comparison of an ordinary feast, our Lord points to God's gracious invitation and the human tendency to make excuses. Such excuses really harm the one making the excuse, not the divine host. God asks for our fellowship. If we turn from His grace, we deprive ourselves. He may be offended, but He can always find other guests who will be grateful.

Weekly and daily, God invites us to spend time with Him. He asks us to read His Word and pray, publicly and privately. He offers to feed us in the Lord's Supper. And He hopes that we will accept His hospitality and fellowship with other guests. So any hesitations or excuses should be few and based on very serious circumstances. Rather than looking for excuses, let us accept the grace that God offers.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Trinity I- "Love, Love, Love"



Trinity I             I John 4:7- 21             3 June 2018
  Sermon Notes by the Rev. Dennis Washburn, Ph.D.

Many human beings over the millennia have talked and sung about love. Especially since the late 1960's, popular culture has included a lot of talking and singing about love. A characteristic example is John Lennon's “All You Need is Love”. And the churches have been influenced by this popular culture. Of course, Christians have always spoken of love, but much of the talk in recent decades, even in the church, is far from Christian ideals. In contrast to such popular nonsense about love, this morning, let us spend a few minutes thinking about some New Testament views of love.

We begin by highlighting the beginning verses of our Epistle from I John 4:7-11, “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.

In this passage, the Greek term used for “love” is agape'. In Christian Greek, this love became clearly distinct from eros, “desire” and philos, “brotherly love.” This kind of love has its source in God; it is an attribute of the divine nature. “God is love.” Divine Love is creative and unselfish.
Such love, agape', is not some naive and syrupy sentiment. Love is not weak. It does not tolerate evil. It is powerful and holy or righteous. It is not selfish but it reaches out to care for the universe and created beings. According to divine wisdom, God's love may be applied in differing ways according to the circumstances. It may lift up the humble and bring down the proud. Love may strengthen the faint-hearted and punish the sinful. Divine love means that God is concerned about the true well-being of the one loved. He cares about our souls and works for our salvation, even in the worst worldly circumstances.

The clearest indications that human beings have about divine love cannot be separated from the life and saving work of Jesus Christ. As He Himself told us in the Gospel of John, “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” (John 3:16). The ultimate goal of love is salvation and eternal fellowship with God. We see this in Jesus. He helped the poor and weak, and He rebuked the rich and proud. He chastised the self-righteous, and He forgave penitent sinners. He blessed those with even a trace of child-like faith in Him and His Father. And He gave Himself over to suffering and death for all who would turn to Him in faith.

Divine love is always there, and God's creatures benefit from it before they are even aware. The only condition attached to love is to accept it in faith. And once accepted, divine love should have results in our human lives. “..If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Although our particular expressions of love need wisdom, guidance and concrete expressions, true love does not start with us. It starts with God, especially in Christ, and asks us to respond. Because God first loves us, we love Him in response, and like Him, we love His creation and His creatures.

Like His love, our love should be powerful, committed, and unselfish. Unlike God, we remain fallen and fallible. Sometimes, we do not love as we should. And even when we do love, we don't always do so with strength or wisdom. We may love naively or inappropriately. We may not be tolerant enough, or we may be too tolerant of the wrong things. St Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15 that we should speak “the truth in love.” We have trouble keeping love and truth together in the best ways. When we speak the truth, we may not be very loving. And when we try to be loving, we may hesitate to speak the truth. Love can be expressed through Christian courtesy, but there is a difference between being superficially polite and being loving. True love is more concerned about the long-term and eternal well-being of others than about their temporary and temporal comfort.

Therefore, let us heed Scriptural teachings about love. Let us avoid straying to the right or to the left. We must not avoid the danger of true divine love, and we must not substitute some cheap political or sentimental nonsense. If we must be foolish in loving, let it not be some artificial worldly propaganda from the movies or political activists of any kind. Rather if we are foolish, let it be the foolishness of the cross of Christ, the perfect love of God.