Father Philip Sang: Faith in the Midst of Storm

Sermon delivered on Trinity 3B, Sunday, June 20, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: 1 Samuel 17.1a, 4-11, 19-49; Psalm 9.9-20; 2 Corinthians 6.1-13; St. Mark 4.35-41.

A story is told of a young lady who was driving along with her father one day. They came upon a storm, and the young lady asked her father, “What should I do?”

He said “keep driving”. Cars began to pull over to the side, the storm was Getting worse.

“What should I do?” The young lady asked?

“Keep driving,” her father replied.

On up a few feet, she noticed that eighteen wheelers were also pulling over. She told her dad, “I must pull over, I can barely see ahead. It is Terrible, and everyone is pulling over!”

Her father told her, “Don’t give up, just keep driving!”

Now the storm was terrible, but she never stopped driving, and soon she could see a little more clearly. After a couple of miles she was again on dry land, and the sun came out.

Her father said, “Now you can pull over and get out.”

She said “But why now?”

He said “When you get out, look back at all the people that gave up and are still in the storm, because you never gave up, your storm is now over.”

Moral Lesson: While there are sometimes legitimate reasons for stopping, oftentimes dry land is right in front of us — we just can’t see it while sitting in the storm. This is a lesson that we can apply to all facets of life.

So when we hear in our Gospel ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ well in my own way, I have a sense of what they were feeling.

They were stuck on a boat in the middle of the lake, and taking on water, and in danger of sinking, some of them were seasoned fishermen, and so we know that this is no ordinary storm, because if it was, then they would have dealt with it themselves, there was only one thing they could do, and that was to wake up Jesus.

Immediately he rebuked the wind and the raging sea, and all was well once again.

But as I thought about this reading the question which pre-occupied me was why did Jesus say ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’

This story deals with the principle question of our faith, where do we place our hope, who do we trust above all others, and how do we demonstrate that trust within our lives.

We all know that when life is easy and everything is fine, then it doesn’t take much effort to have faith in God, we can almost take it for granted. But when trouble strikes our lives, how far do we go to try and resolve our problems ourselves before turning to God to help us?

We all experience storms in our lives, where there is a real and present danger, but there are those storms which we encounter in our personal lives, be it a tragedy, bad news or a situation which is just too big for us to cope with on our own.

Is our first reaction to panic and to try and resolve the problem for ourselves, or do we turn to God and ask him to help us, to give us the strength and the courage that we need to face the situation?

In our Old Testament lesson we heard of the story of David and Goliath. In the midst of this storm that faced the children of Israel David felt that something had to be done even when the great army of Israel was at the verge of giving up. Faith in the midst of storm

We all need to remember that it’s never the trial that makes us stronger; it’s what we choose to do with that trial.

If we choose to lay it at the foot of the cross, and say we give this trial to you. Then in faith and trust that he will help us, we can remember what it says in the book of James.
‘whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete and lack nothing.

We have a God who walks with us, not only in the easy times, but also in the storms and the trials that we face in our lives. God is the one who can calm the storms for us, the one who can bring us the hope and the knowledge that we need to face any situation, however dire we may feel that the situation is.

As Christians we don’t walk the journey of life on our own, we walk with a God who wants to know us, to be there for us in everything that we have to face, and when we call upon him we can have the confidence, the faith, to know that he will be there to guide and strengthen us in any situation.

As I was preparing I came across this prayer by Lisa Engelhardt that I would like to share with you. It says,

If you have a secret sorrow,
a burden or a loss,
an aching need for healing,
Hang it on the cross.
If worry steals your sleep,
and makes you turn and toss,
if your heart is feeling heavy,
hang it on the cross.
Every obstacle to faith,
or doubt you come across,
every prayer unanswered,
Hang it on the cross.
For Christ has borne our brokenness,
and dearly paid the cost,
to turn our trials to triumph.
Hang it on the cross.
Lisa O. Engelhardt

Every Sunday before we dismiss at the end of our service we remind ourselves what we need to do as we face the week ahead: to send all our problems, all our difficulties, and all the devil’s work to the cross of Christ and to set all our hopes on the risen Christ

Sadly, far too often, we act like the disciples who were afraid on the boat, we try to face the problems that we encounter on our own, we look to the world, and its solutions, and often find that the solutions it offers don’t bring us the peace that we long for, our faith doesn’t enter into the equation.

Today Our Gospel reminds us that Christ stilled the waters for the disciples, let us remember this morning that whenever we turn to Christ, He will be an ever-present help to us and be there as our guide in all the storms that we encounter in our lives. Faith in the midst of a storm.

In the Name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.

Flag Day 2021: A Short History of the United States Flag

From here.

A popular belief is that Elizabeth Griscom, a Philadelphia flag maker who was also known as Betsy Ross, sewed the first “official” flag in June 1776. The legend goes that George WashingtonRobert Morris, and George Ross came to Betsy Ross’s house to discuss the design of a national flag. The original design had six-sided stars representing the thirteen colonies on a field of blue with red and white stripes. She suggested a five-pointed star. The three men, amazed at how quickly she could cut the five-pointed stars, assigned her with the task of sewing the flag.

This belief originated with William J. Canby, Ross’ grandson. He presented this idea to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870 and stated that his aunt Clarissa Sydney Wilson, one of Ross’s daughters, told him the story in 1857. Ross had died twenty years prior. Today, there is no conclusive evidence supporting or denying this claim.

“The Betsy Ross Flag” believed to have been originally designed and sewn by Elizabeth Griscom, known as Betsy Ross. 

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the first Flag Resolution. This resolution officially adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the national flag and states:

Resolved That the Flag of the united states be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.

June 14th is celebrated as Flag Day because of this resolution. Since the resolution did not specify the arrangements of the stars, flags exist with a variety of “constellations.” The “Betsy Ross” flag arranges the stars in a circular pattern.

Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Jersey, claims that he designed the “Stars and Stripes” that was designated as the national flag. The above resolution was adopted from the Marine Committee, who had been using these guidelines for flags since July 4, 1776. Francis Hopkinson was chairman of the Navy Board’s Middle Department which was under the Marine Committee at the time that these guidelines were established in 1776. On May 25, 1780, he requested a quarter cask of wine in payment for his help in designing the national flag and aiding in designing the Great Seal for the United States. After his letter went unanswered, he asked for £2,700. The Auditor General, James Milligan, and the Chamber of Accounts, investigated his claim and noted that Hopkinson was not the only person on the Navy Committee or the three Great Seal committees, so he should not singularly be called out and compensated for his work. There are no surviving illustrations of his design, but the flag most likely has 13 red and white stripes, and 13 six-pointed stars in a field of blue.

Read it all.

Also check out this cool timeline of how our flag appeared over history and get yourself educated on how to properly fly the flag if you don’t know already. Happy Flag Day!

Father Santosh Madanu: The Parables of the Kingdom of God

Sermon delivered on Trinity 2B, Sunday, June 13, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: 1 Samuel 15.34-16.13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5.6-17; St. Mark 4.26-34.

Prayer: Lord, God the almighty Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Increase my zeal for your kingdom and instill in me a holy desire to live for your greater glory. In Jesus precious name we pray. Amen. 

In this parable of growing seed Jesus shows us that the Word of God s like the seed that causes the growth of the kingdom of God 

Today we shall see that Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed presupposes this very thing that the Word of God always accomplishes His purposes, for in this parable Jesus shows us that the Word of God causes the growth of the kingdom of God until He returns

In a well-known passage, the LORD spoke through the Prophet Isaiah about the power and effectiveness of His word to accomplish His intended purposes:

Isaiah 55:6-11 Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

What is The Context of the Parable?

The preceding context of this parable features the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told to the crowds who gathered to hear His teaching (vss. 1-9).

Here Jesus describes the advancement of the kingdom of God by means of the analogy of a farmer sowing seed. The seed represents the preaching of the Word, which Jesus has already identified as the means by which the kingdom is advanced in this world 

Application: The application to us should be fairly obvious. As we continue to sow the seed of the Word, the kingdom of God is growing in a manner that we do not cause and that we cannot fully comprehend. 

1 Corinthians 3:5-7       who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

This is a lesson we must remember as we sow the seed of the kingdom, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. We must realize that true growth comes from God Himself

Proclamation of the Kingdom of God

As Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, he demonstrated his mercy by calling all to repentance.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” –Mark 1:14-15

 “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” ( Jn 18:36) “Verily, verily I say unto thee, unless a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” ( Jn 3:5) “I have come to call sinners, not the just.” (Mk 5:32)

We can be thankful for the grace that God extends to us, repenting of our sins and resting in his mercy.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom. When Jesus spoke about the kingdom, he perplexed people. They had a certain image of God and his ways, and Jesus turned them upside down and inside out. In our own ways, we too have images of God and ways of thinking about how God does things that he wants to turn upside down—which as it turns out will be right side up.

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God?”

What can mustard seeds teach us about the kingdom of God?  The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God’s word. And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Just as a seed has no power to change itself until it is planted in the ground, so we cannot change our lives to be like God until God gives us the power of his Holy Spirit. The Lord of the Universe is ever ready to transform us by the power of his Spirit. 

Are you ready to let God change you by his grace and power? 

The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Paul the Apostle says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).

Do you believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

The Gospel of Matthew dedicated to the parables of the Kingdom of God (13:44-52). Among these are two small masterpieces: the parables of the treasure hidden in the field and of the pearl of great value. They tell us that the discovery of the Kingdom of God can happen suddenly like the farmer who, ploughing, finds an unexpected treasure; or after a long search, like the pearl merchant who eventually finds the most precious pearl, so long dreamt of. Yet, in each case the point is that the treasure and the pearl are worth more than all other possessions; and therefore when the farmer and the merchant discover them, they give up everything else in order to obtain them. They do not need to rationalize or think about it or reflect: they immediately perceive the incomparable value of what they’ve found and they are prepared to lose everything in order to have it.

*This is how it is with the Kingdom of God those who find it have no doubts, they sense that this is what they have been seeking and waiting for; and this is what fulfills their most authentic aspirations. And it really is like this: those who know Jesus, encounter Him personally, are captivated, and attracted by so much goodness, so much truth, so much beauty, and all with great humility and simplicity. To seek Jesus, to find Jesus: this is the great treasure!

Many people, many saints, reading the Gospel with an open heart, have been so struck by Jesus they convert to Him. Let us think of St Francis of Assisi: he was already a Christian, though a “rosewater” Christian or baby Christian or easy Christian, When he read the Gospel, in that decisive moment of his youth, he encountered Jesus and discovered the Kingdom of God; with this, all his dreams of worldly glory vanished. The Gospel allows you to know the real Jesus, it lets you know the living Jesus; it speaks to your heart and changes your life. And then yes, you leave it all. You can effectively change lifestyles, or continue to do what you did before but you are someone else, you are reborn: you have found what gives meaning, what gives flavor, what gives light to all things, even to toil, even to suffering, and even to death.

Jesus spoke very clearly about the kingdom of God and indicated the importance of kingdom of God

Mathew 6: 33 “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Example of hide and seek game of children: Children seek every nook and Connor until finding every one. 

So seek with all the love and with all your strength till you find the kingdom of God till the end of your life. Because God is ready and available for us to find Him.  Need to make conscience decision to turn toward God rather than to anxiety, worry and loving the name and fame and pleasing the people around you.

How do you seek? How can a Christian or non-Christian seek first the kingdom of God?

1.  Prayer: 1 Thessalonians 5:17

2. Bible Reading: Psalm 119 9 and 119: 105

3. Worship and Praise and Thanks giving: Recognize God as the Almighty worship in the living room and in and out and at the church. Psalm 22:3 God inhabits the praises of His people; Psalm 100:4

4. Repentance (hearts attitude is necessary for salvation) John 3:16

5. Bible verses Memorization: Ephesians 6; Psalms 119:11

I seek God above all else.  Because nothing close to his comparison.  Jesus Christ is Trust worthy.

Never to miss kingdom of God with the worries, worldly concerns, and temptations most of face day to day life.  Because God the father promised us to give us what we need every day. We can Trust Him.

Act 17:24-27

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us”.

We got to talk about God’s dealing with humans and the universe.  God has spoken already (Bible) 

There is lot of difference between what we say and what we think about what we believe in God and then we live differently meaning in reality some of us may not live the faith that we (they) received through the sacraments.  This is stated belief verses real belief in living.

I would like to reflect with you on the first reading of today 1 Samuel 15:34-16, 13.

Why God did reject Saul whom he chose and made as first king of Israel?

Because Saul betrayed his own soul in the sight of God. 

 1.  Saul offered the sacrifices that only priest or prophet allowed to do.  He did it to please the people.  This is a violation of the law of God.  This is a manipulation. This is what everyone must know no king, no president, no prime minister with all their authority have no right and  no authority to do the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist but only the deacons, priests and bishops are allowed.

2.  Saul was concerned about his image and popularity rather than glory of God

3.  Saul killed the priests – the servants of God.

Can God reject His chosen ones- even the priests, religious and Christians if they disobey?

Yes. If anyone deliberately and consciously disobeys God and does not observe His Ten

Commandments.  Because there is no genuine love of God and love of neighbor.

The scripture is very clear “the obedience is better than the sacrifice.  We may try to please God with all the good works- charities towards the sick and needy, but if we do not obey God, do not like to transform our lives, God may reject us.

The point is we must Trust in Jesus and should believe in the authority of the Bible and pray to God and seek constantly his guidance and protection.

I want you to listen to these words of Prophet Samuel to Saul the king,

 God has abandoned you, left you, God has taken your thrown.  I can’t do anything.  Saul sought for his fame and name, popularity, loved the wealth at the cost of loving and trusting God.

Prayer: Let us pray, God we love you.  We trust in you.  We want to know more about you and your kingdom.  Because the world is in need of your kingdom for its salvation, to live in love and peace.  

We are unable to fix the problems of the world especially Covid 19.  Please destroy this virus and free us from it.

We pray Lord that through your body and blood and soul and divinity that you’re Kingdom of love, justice and peace may reign in us and in the whole world.

June 6, 2021: On a Personal Note

On this date in 2010 at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert, OH we debuted the anthem commissioned in my mother’s memory, Longing to Draw Near by Craig Courtney. My grandparents Maney were married 104 years ago on this date in 1917, my dad participated in D-Day on this date in 1944, I graduated from high school 50 years ago on this date in 1971, and my daughter Bridget graduated from high school on this date in 2008. June 6 has been a big day for the Maney family!

June 6, 2021: FDR’s D-Day Prayer

“My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. 

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: 

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. 

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. 

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. 

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

Read (and pray) it all.

June 6, 2021: General Eisenhower’s D-Day Speech

From here:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

— Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

June 6, 2021: Remembering D-Day

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the greatest amphibious assault the world has ever known (and hopefully will ever know). Sadly, most of those valiant soldiers are now dead, and our country is the poorer because of it.

The Normandy invasion was a terrible and costly effort on the part of the Allies and must have been horrendous to those who had to face the deadly onslaught of the Nazi defenders. I would commend Stephen Ambrose’s book, D-Day, to anyone who is interested in this monumental battle. Ambrose was a wonderful storyteller, which all good historians are, and meticulous in his research. He weaves an absolutely riveting and terrifying tale of what the first troops landing in Normandy that day faced, and anyone with a semblance of imagination who can put himself in those soldiers’ shoes is sure to wonder if he could have faced that deadly fire with the courage and resoluteness that those soldiers did. I am simply awe-struck by it all.

I am also proud that my own father, John F. Maney, was part of that great and historic event. Fortunately, he did not have to hit the beaches until D+2 because it wasn’t until June 8th that our forces were able to establish a beachhead substantial enough to land a significant artillery presence, of which he was part. Like many of his generation, my dad is now dead, but one of my fondest memories is when we went back to Uffculme, England in 1984 to visit where he was stationed. We went into a pub to get some supper and find a place to sleep that night, and ultimately were led to a man who had been a “honey-dipper” while dad was stationed there, prior to D-Day. When Roy entered the pub that evening, he shook my dad’s hand and said to him, “Hello, young soldier.” He then welcomed dad back and thanked him for his service. It was as poignant a moment as I have ever experienced because my dad was no longer young and was no longer a solder; but he had been there, and he had been part of that monumental effort. I will always treasure it.

Thank you, young soldiers, for your bravery and determination in defeating an unspeakable evil that was Nazism. You paid a terrible price so that the rest of us can enjoy our freedom. I hope and pray we do not forget you or your generation, or the price freedom sometimes requires to persevere. Likewise, I pray we will not forget what it means to live responsibly in this democracy of ours so that we will not abuse the freedoms for which so many of you fought and died.

Who are your heroes from that generation? If they are still alive, take a moment today and thank them for being who they are. Then post their stories in the comments section.

Father John Jorden: Unless You Eat MY Body and Drink MY Blood…

Sermon delivered on the Feast of Corpus Christi (transferred), Sunday, June 6, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Jorden celebrates his 50th ordination anniversary with us today but gets all whiny when we ask for a written manuscript. Nobody’s got time for that so click here to listen to the audio podcast of his sermon.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 14.18-20; Psalm 116.10-17; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 6.51-58.

June 2021: The Battle of Midway

Today marks the 79th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942), the decisive turning point in the war against the Japanese during World War II. It was unique in that the opposing navies never fired a direct shot at each other. It was all fought through the air.

Read more about Midway here and check out the video below.

For you history buffs who want the real thing, check out this video below.

Father Philip Sang: Adopted to Blessed Trinity

Sermon delivered on Trinity Sunday B, May 30, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 6.1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8.12-17; St. John 3.1-17.

Grace and peace to you all, in the name of the Holy Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

A friend of mine decided to adopt a baby from Africa, it took years for the adoption to go through. Painstaking planning, paperwork, interviews. And every time when it seemed they were nearing completion, something would come up and the process would be delayed. When my friend finally did bring the adopted child home, to say they were happy was the understatement.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” In the ancient world, for one who once was a slave to be adopted into a household was a profound entry into a family it meant having a name, a place, and a future. It is with this reality as backdrop that Paul says WE are adopted into the family of God, becoming now and forever children of God. And not just children, he continues, but heirs of God, heirs with Christ, this means we have a name, a place, and a future in this family. 

As I watch children I know who have become part of a family through adoption grow, I marvel at the giftedness of such choosing, adoption is a deliberate and intentional act of love and welcome.

When I look at families through adoption, I am overwhelmed by the idea that God has welcomed me into God’s family in the same way. I am struck by Paul’s words: “We have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back in fear, but a spirit of adoption.” In Christ, we have a name, a place, a future. 

We’ve been brought into this identity, not accidentally, but by a deliberate act of inclusion and welcome. God our Father is always concerned for our wellbeing and good purpose in our lives, God is always seeking to bless us, and as His children we have identity in Him, we have a new name we identify with,  a place we belong to, and a future. 

On Memorial Day we remember those fallen Heroes who sacrificed and put their lives in the liveline for the love of this country they belong to, defending the name they bear, American, and securing a future for us and them.

It is to brothers and sisters that Paul writes his letter to the Romans. These brothers and sisters are a mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians, most of whom he had never met. Brothers and sisters? That is no small statement, In Christ, with all the things in the world that might divide us, such divisions are insignificant next to that which connects us. Brothers and sisters, brought together by a promise, and now we share one name, belong to the same kingdom, and a new future together. 

No less profound is what John writes in our gospel reading today, where we overhear Jesus teaching Nicodemus, a Pharisee, about being “born from above”; born of the spirit. Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night, secretly, in darkness. Nicodemus was one who knew the law well. He practiced his faith and observed all the religious requirements of his day. But he was baffled by Jesus when he said, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

This was radical talk, birth status in the ancient world was very important. Who you were was all about who you were born to. “Birth status” was the single most important factor in determining a person’s place in society; one’s “class”; one’s honor rating; one’s level of respect; one’s perceived value. 

Of course, this is often true in our world too. 

Growing up, I remember I benefited from the respect my parents had earned in our community. I was the son of Samuel and Rebecca, and that carried a certain idea of who I was, and expectation of how I would behave.

I am grateful for my family, my Sang name, my place in the family, and the future they’ve helped pave for me.

Every baptism we witness and celebrate reminds us of our spiritual rebirth into the kingdom of God and into this family.

We baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus commissions us to do so at the end of Matthew’s gospel, in Greek he says we baptize INTO the name of the father, INTO the Son, INTO Holy Spirit. INTO this relationship, INTO this story of faith that gives meaning and purpose to our living. To simplify even better the word INTO is also translated to belong to.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit…yes, it is Trinity Sunday today. It is the only Sunday of the church year named not for a teaching of Jesus, or historic event in his life or the life of the early church…but for a church doctrine.

The word “TRINITY” doesn’t even appear in the Bible. This doctrine of the trinity didn’t really take shape until the 4th century, when arguments arose surrounding the identity of Jesus. Who is God? And who is Jesus in relationship to God? Was he divine? Was he only human? And what about the spirit that Jesus promises? 

Questions like these have led to the development of Creeds and doctrines alike. These are big questions that really we cannot answer with full certainty. 

As your servants, your priests, Father Kevin, Father Wylie, Father Santosh and I, we want you to ask us questions in regard to faith that are hard to answer, because faith is about seeking, and wondering, and asking hard questions of ourselves, and of God. Where is God, in suffering? Where is God beyond Christian faith? What does heaven really mean?

These are questions of faith, and the more we ask hard questions like these, the more we discover that a simple answer just doesn’t suffice. A “right” answer doesn’t really exist…because FAITH is not just about the right doctrine, or a set of rules. Faith is a relationship. 

In conclusion on this Trinity Sunday, as we celebrate the love of God we are invited into and the experience of God we are invited to share with others. 

As we go home today one way we can celebrate our faith and our Christian family is for all of us to spend time this week to pray for our new building as a reminder of our shared faith and prayers, our shared mission and ministry, shared name, shared place, and shared future in Christ, for we have been adopted INTO or rather to belong to Blessed Trinity.

In the name of the Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit Amen

Traditional Memorial Day 2021

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Today is the traditional day for Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day.” Until 1971 it was always celebrated today. But afterward it has become a movable federal holiday. You can read about its history here, and I hope you will take the time to do so. On a personal note, my grandparents Shaffer were married 104 years ago today in 1917. That it has been 104 years boggles my mind.

Take a moment today to remember again those who have given their lives so that we might enjoy the freedom we have. Take time to remember the current members of our armed forces as well and give thanks that God continues to raise up brave men and women to serve our country in a very dangerous world.

Thank you veterans, past and present, for your service to our country. May God bless you and yours.

A Prayer for Memorial Day 2021

Adapted from here:

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your loving-kindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
(though we sometimes feel that low)
and without fear
(though we are often anxious).
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things going meaninglessly well.

God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully (as it seems)
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion and thanksgiving those who have died
serving this country in times of war.

We all must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
But we believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”
because we believe that you have raised Jesus our Lord from the dead
and conquered death itself,
and that you have given us the privilege
of sharing in his risen life as his followers,
both now and for all eternity.
We offer our prayers and thanksgiving
in Jesus our risen Lord’s name. Amen.