Father Philip Sang: Watching and Waiting

Sermon delivered on Advent Sunday Year B, November 29, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 64.1-9; Psalm 80.1-8, 18-20; 1 Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13.24-37.

Happy New Year St Augies! Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement.

The four last things – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – have been traditional themes for advent meditation. The characteristic note of advent is therefore expectation rather than penitence, although the character of the season is easily colored by an analogy with Lent. the anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate sense of alert watchfulness.

Many people have spent some time in decorating for the holidays, one of the best things about the holiday season is enjoying decorations. Last year my boys and I went to Hebron, National trail raceway to enjoy wonderlight Christmas lights, the boys liked and they are asking that we go there again this year. I love Christmas lights. There’s something magical about lights. There is something quite peaceful and reassuring about those little lights of the holiday season.

The preparations remind us that the season of Advent has begun, the start of a new church year, help draw us into the awe and wonder of preparing for Christmas.

The world as Christians know, will come to an end. The old world will die away, and the new world will begin. The real problem is that we all know the story. It is impossible to fool us. We know that Jesus has already been born, lived, died to save us, was resurrected, and will come again. The question is not when the world will end as we know it, but when will God end the world and bring God’s Kingdom in creation as we know it to completion. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. It is like so many things in our lives. It starts very early when children ask if they can have PlayStation. The answer is often, no, not until. . . fill in the blank. You can have PlayStation after your room is clean, after supper, after you rake the leaves, after. . . Or simply, no, you don’t get play station today. And children view this series of events as unfair. Why aren’t we allowed to have play station when we want it?

Even in today’s world of instant access to almost everything, children still have to wait for their treats. It isn’t that the parents are being mean, or want to intentionally deprive their children of a small joy. It is normally because the parents are trying to do what is good for their child, or teach their children, or most likely, a little of both.

Unfortunately, as adults we face the same problems. We want things now. We want that new television with internet capability. We want that new car. Our lives will be so much better if we can just have. . . fill in the blank. We can have the new TV after we pay off the mortgage.

Our lives will be perfect once we don’t have to wait for what we want. Our lives would be fulfilled if we could just have. . . We want it now.

Is that true with the Kingdom of God? Do we want God to end the world so that the Kingdom of God is complete? Are we prepared to have God tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at the presence of our Lord? Do we transgress because we think God is not around? Have we all become unclean, and all our righteous deeds like a filthy cloth? Isaiah is pretty straight forward and pretty rough. But there is a silver lining to this.

O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all your people.

(Isaiah 64: 3-9) This is not our time, but God’s time. We say that we trust God, but in our frailty we want God to give us the good without the work. We want the controllers/PlayStation to play before our rooms are clean. The waiting is difficult, but we wait because God knows what is best for us. If we always got what we wanted as soon as we thought we wanted it, then the reward would lack meaning. We would be hard pressed to appreciate those things given us that we don’t deserve. The magic moment is when we realize that we receive something that we don’t deserve.

Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. It is not a time of anxious waiting and anxious expectation. We must stay awake in our minds and in our actions. We do not know when the master of all creation will return. We suffer in the darkness created by our works, yet we have the ability to put on the armor of light. We must all learn to appreciate what we have right now. We are stewards of the Kingdom of God in creation while we await God’s full return. We have been given the instructions for the work that needs to be done. We know that we have to make our beds, clean our rooms, rake the leaves, because by doing the work we have been given, we do the work God has given us to do. If we do our work, we don’t receive a playstation that lasts for few minutes or so, but we will rise to life immortal through him who lives and reigns.

Advent calls us to slow down, to take a breath, to watch and wait. I know that it isn’t easy. Waiting is not easy. But Advent calls us to develop an attitude of watchful expectation, an attitude of hope. Christ has come once and Christ will come again. Heaven and earth will pass away, says Jesus, but my words will not pass away. God is faithful. God’s promises are true.

Advent is a reminder that God shows up in human lives, in human history, in the most unexpected of places.

Advent calls us to be alert, to watch and wait. And to look for what God is doing here at St Augustines, To look for what God is doing in our town, in our work places and play places, in our homes. To look for what God is doing in your own life, your own most precious life.

The passage we read from Isaiah, falls under what most scholars refer to as “Third Isaiah.” (56-66) Like Second Isaiah, these passages take place after the exile, but these chapters occur at a later date after the people have returned to their ancestral land. The prophet recognized that the hope for the people to change their ways, that they would recognize God as the true king in their life, have faded. The people have turned back to their old patterns and have forgotten God. Isaiah cried out for God to respond like in days of old, to rip open the heavens and come down the mountains, like God was present with Moses when the people went astray. Isaiah longed for the people to remember God’s ways, to pay attention to God. However, Isaiah also asked God to forgive the people, and to not remain angry, for they were still God’s people. This is what our prayer is even today The psalmist calls upon God to save the people from their enemies, to save them from suffering. The psalmist calls upon God to restore the people, to save them from their destruction. The psalmist seeks God’s presence through their “right hand” to be present with the one who will lead them—a hope of a new king. If the people are spared, if they are delivered from their enemies, they will not turn back from God. God is the only one who can restore and save them.

Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man, the Day of Judgment in today’s gospel. The Son of Man would come to establish the reign of God on earth. The Son of Man would gather people from all parts of the earth together. Jesus insisted that no one can know when these things would come to pass, but urged his disciples and other followers to stay alert, to be ready. Look at the things in the world that tell you what is coming next, Jesus said, using the fig tree as an example. When the fig tree sprouts leaves, you know summer is near. But one does not know when the Son of Man will come, so be alert, and not like the servants of a man who left the house, and the servants were asleep instead of keeping watch like they were supposed to be. The phrase “keep awake,” refers to living as Christ taught us to live, and not going back into our old selfish ways.

Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas, but it is an active watching and waiting for the arrival of Christ in our world and in our lives in a new way. We read these passages pointing to the day of judgment and Christ’s return to remind us that we are still actively waiting, alert and awake. Because of the Nativity story, that Christ came to us in a completely unexpected way as a newborn child, so in these days we must be ready for Christ to enter our world, our lives, and our hearts in an unexpected way. How do we live faithfully in times when our faith might be tested? When the world isn’t as we hoped it would be? Where can we find signs of God’s faithfulness in our lives, in the world around us? Let’s be on the watch as we wait with hope the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ In the name of God, the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Advent 2020: Bonhoeffer on Advent

A prison cell like [the one I’m in] is a good analogy for Advent. One waits, hopes, does this or that—ultimately negligible things—the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, letter from Tegel Prison, November 21, 1943

What did Bonhoeffer, who ultimately lost his life to the evil of Nazism, mean by this? We wait in the darkness of our world and personal lives for the darkness of Evil, Sin, and Death to be finally and fully overcome. We are powerless to bring about this victory. Only the power of God is capable of such a mighty feat. That is our Advent hope as Christians. It is a hope based on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and his promise to return to consummate his initial victory won on the cross and in his resurrection. Such a hope requires faith as we await the Master’s return—the focus of Advent. But It is the only hope that can fully satisfy because it is the only hope that addresses the evil of Death in bringing about God’s perfect justice. Is this your hope? If not, why are you wasting your time on a lesser, false hope that must ultimately fail you?

Thanksgiving 2020: A Thanksgiving Litany

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving 2020

Mom basting the turkey at Thanksgiving

I wish you a happy Thanksgiving today. Please take a few moments and stop to give praise and thanks to God for his bountiful blessings to us as individuals and as a nation.

Among others, I am thankful for God’s gift of himself to us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and for his promise to rescue his good but corrupted creation.

I am thankful for my family and friends, past and present, and for a childhood that was second to none. I am thankful for my family of origin and for the many wonderful memories I have of Thanksgiving growing up in Van Wert. What a blessing it was to have two wonderful parents and my extended family all living in the same town.

What are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving 2020: Robert McKenzie: A First Thanksgiving Hoax


I first encountered William Bradford’s supposed First Thanksgiving Proclamation when my family and I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some dear friends from our church.  Knowing that I was a historian, the host pulled me aside before the meal to tell me that he had found the text of Governor Bradford’s proclamation calling for the First Thanksgiving, and that he planned to read it before asking the blessing.  Here is what he had found:

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

William Bradford

Ye Governor of Ye Colony

Although I was uncomfortable contradicting my host, I felt compelled to tell him that this was a hoax.  Can you figure out why?

Read it all.

Thanksgiving 2020: A Very Brief History of Thanksgiving

After the first successful harvest in November of 1621, Governor William Bradford decided to organize a celebration, a festive three-day feast remembered today as America’s first “Thanksgiving.” The Governor gathered together the colonists along with a group of their Native American allies including Massasoit, Chief of the Wampanoag tribe for the celebration.

The only written account of the festivities comes from Pilgrim Edward Winslow’s journal in which he describes how Governor Bradford sent out a party of four men on a “fowling” expedition prior to the celebration and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer.

Due to the lack of ovens on the Mayflower and the dwindling sugar supply by the fall of 1621 historians suggest that the traditional dinner and deserts we have today may not have been on the menu during the event. Many believe the feast more likely consisted of a variety of traditional Native American fare such as deer, lobster, seal and swan along with local fruits and vegetables.

Read it all.

Thanksgiving 2020: President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thank you, Mr. President.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

Read the whole thing and give thanks for the country in which we live, warts and all.

Father Jonathon Wylie: Christ and His Kingdom

Sermon delivered on Christ the King Sunday A, November 22, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie is trying to save the forests and steadfastly refuses to offer a written manuscript of his sermon. To listen to the audio podcast of it, click here. The first 5 minutes of the sermon were not recorded, not because Father Wylie’s preaching was particularly bad but because the tech person in charge is a doofus. ?

Lectionary texts: Ezekiel 34.11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1.15-23; Matthew 25.31-46.

157th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Today marks the 157th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, one of the seminal speeches in American history. Take time to read and reflect on it today and give thanks that God has raised up leaders like President Lincoln to guide our country through extraordinarily difficult times.



Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Day of the Lord’s a Good Thing?

Sermon delivered on the second Sunday before Advent A, November 15, 2020 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 text: Zephaniah 1.7, 12-18; Psalm 90; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-1; Matthew 25.14-30.

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

If you’ve looked at the sermon’s title and are wondering if I have lost what is left of my rapidly dwindling mind, especially in light of our readings this morning, no I haven’t. We are currently in the season of Kingdomtide, that four week period of time in November between All-Saints’ Sunday and Advent Sunday. The focus of Kingdomtide is, well, on the coming Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven with King Jesus ruling God’s creation unmistakably and unambiguously. Kingdomtide is a pre-Advent season of sorts. Advent, you recall, is the season of four Sundays leading up to Christmas, with its focus on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in great power and glory to raise the dead and renew all things in heaven and earth. We get a sample of this in our readings for today and this is what I want us to focus on. How can we possibly view the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, the coming day of God’s wrath and judgment on all that corrupts and kills God’s good creation and creatures as a good thing? I will try to make my comments brief and to the point to counteract Father Wylie’s rather, um, robust sermon from last week.

Advent and the season leading up to it, Kingdomtide—formerly one season of Advent, the length of which rivaled the season of Lent—is a season of darkness. The days are shorter, the weather turns colder along with our moods—this year greatly exacerbated by COVID—and the lectionary acknowledges all this by turning to some of the more troubling passages of Scripture (troubling at least for most of us). In both the Old and NTs, the message is crystal clear: God will judge all that is wrong with his world. In both testaments, this is called the Day of the Lord. We see it clearly in our OT and psalm lessons this morning and if you are like me, that Day terrifies me. Now most of us, in our good myopic fashion, are all about having God execute his judgment and wrath on those we dislike or disagree. Serves ‘em right, we say. But we are not so keen on God’s judgment when it comes to falling on us or our friends or tribe. But nowhere in Scripture do we read that we get to dictate on whom God’s judgment falls. That is for God alone to decide. Nowhere do we read that we are exempt from God’s judgment, not even in the NT (cf. 2 Cor 5.10; Rm 14.10)! No, the Day of the Lord, awful as it will be, will fall on every one of us, not just our enemies. 

This is where the terror comes in for me because I know my own fallen heart. I know my own willful disobedience toward God, my own selfishness, my own willfulness, my own transgressions, and they are legion. And if you are honest with yourself, you will admit that for yourself as well. No one is exempt from God’s terrible judgment on our sins and the dark powers behind them. So why would anyone in their right mind, Christians included, actually want the great and dreadful Day of the Lord to come? To answer that question, we turn to St. Paul in our epistle lesson. There he tells us that, “God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thess 5.9-11). How are we to resolve the apparent contradiction of St. Paul’s logic with the logic of the Day of the Lord?

St. Paul gives us the answer, of course: Jesus Christ. Before we look at this, it is important that we think wisely, humbly, and faithfully about the Day of the Lord and God’s wrath and judgment. For those who refuse to make room for God and acknowledge his order by living wisely and humanly, i.e., as his image-bearing creatures who reflect God’s wisdom and beauty and goodness out into all creation over which we are called to rule, the Day of the Lord will truly be great and dreadful because they, like the rest of us, have failed to live as God calls us to live, and in the process their sin, along with the powers of Evil their sin allows to operate in God’s world, will be rightly judged. In other words, we are talking about God’s good and perfect justice being enforced in God’s good but corrupt world to restore and renew it so that all hints of injustice are forever obliterated. Who among us does not long for such a day? Who, but the most evil and vile among us, does not long for an end to injustice? If God is a God of love, then God must at some point put all that is wrong in this world to rights and hold those who corrupt and destroy it accountable. On that day, it won’t be a matter of personal opinion or your truth vs. my truth. God will judge all according to his Truth, the only truth there is, despite our futile attempts these days to deny its reality. So there will no opinions on that day. We will be held accountable for our actions, good and bad, by God’s Truth, not ours, and all the evildoers, both human and spiritual, will be banished from God’s presence and world forever. So while there is judgment that is coming, it is healing judgment and justice. God loves us too much to let us continue to be plagued by all that currently bedevils us and makes us crazy and less human. If we know we will not be swept away on that day, we can anticipate it with great joy, even as we anticipate it with great fear and trembling. After all, none of us dare presume on God’s great love and mercy. We remember that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rm 3.23). We are all therefore subject to God’s good and perfect justice because we are all part of the problem to one extent or another. As the story of God’s presence among his people in the wilderness attests, when the profane (humans) meets the holy (God) on their terms and not God’s, it never turns out well for the profane (see, e.g., Numbers 15), thus the book of Leviticus and its rules for living in the holy presence of God.

St. Paul understood and acknowledged all this, especially in his letter to the Romans. But St. Paul also knew Jesus Christ, crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven to rule over God’s creation. This is why he said that those of us who put our hope and trust in Christ are destined to escape God’s terrible judgment that will sweep away all things (and all people) evil because on the cross, God poured out his righteous justice and wrath on our sins by condemning them in Christ’s body (Rm 8.3-4). That is why there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rm 8.1). We are not exempt because we are special people. Far from it. We are exempt only because of God’s great love and mercy for us shown in Christ crucified. Without the cross of Christ, we are all doomed to destruction. Our response to God’s great love and mercy is to put our whole hope and trust in Jesus Christ and him crucified and raised from the dead. 

Some Christians sadly act as badly (and sometimes worse) than non-Christians, and if we do so on a regular or systematic basis, we demonstrate to God and the world that we have most certainly have not put our whole hope and trust in Christ. Instead, we demonstrate that we are putting our hope and trust in ourselves and/or something else in this world: money, power, sex, identity, security, etc. as the prophet warned in our OT lesson. I am not talking about occasional (or even frequent) lapses. I am talking about regularly acting in sub-human and ungodly ways, where we treat others and God with contempt while trying to raise ourselves and our agendas to godlike status. Those folks have every reason to fear the Day of the Lord.

But those of us whose thinking, speaking, and behavior reflect the fact that we do put our hope and trust in Christ alone and not ourselves, however imperfectly and ambiguously, have no reason to fear the Day of the Lord because we know we are covered by the blood of the Lamb shed for us. We know that on our own we don’t stand a chance on that awful Day, but we also declare that we are not on our own. We are Christ’s and he is our sole hope and chance to experience God’s promised glory in his new creation. This must create in us a deep sense of humility and thankfulness to God the Father for loving us enough to rescue us in the most unlikely way—through the death of his Son. Part of our hope and trust must therefore manifest God’s great love for us by showing it to others, especially the most unlovely in our lives. We realize we are toast (literally) without God and this must create in us a burning desire to warn and encourage others to join us in giving their allegiance to Christ instead of some lesser thing that ultimately must lead to death. 

This is what the seasons of Kingdomtide and Advent are all about. They force us to look clearly at the harsh realities of life, both about ourselves and God’s world and God’s ultimate and loving response to all the corrupts, destroys, and kills God’s beloved and good creation and creatures. Those who reject its reality are living in a deadly denial, just as the folks did in Zephaniah’s day who lived as if God didn’t care or exist or was powerless to do anything about all the wrongs of this old world and its people. The Day of the Lord reminds us that God really does love and care about us and has the power to put all things to rights one day. The dead will be raised as an answer to the ultimate and massive injustice that is Death. All wrongs will be put right and all injustices will be banished, along with those who perpetrate them. For those of us who are covered by the blood of the Lamb, that day will bring about perfect healing and beauty forever. There will be no more sorrow or sighing or sickness or imperfection, either in ourselves or our relationships with God and others as there are now. What is not to yearn about that? 

As you come for prayer and anointing today, remember that these are imperfect signposts of greater things to come. We enjoy God’s healing right now, but that healing is only temporary. Someday we must all die of something. Not so when Christ returns to raise the dead and restore God’s creation to perfect beauty and health. Use this time therefore to reflect on that promise and resolve, with the help of God, to repent of anything you are doing, thinking, and saying that is in opposition to that promise. Doing so will bring about an even greater foretaste of that blessed day. Do it all with a thankful and humble heart, realizing that without the love, mercy, and power of God, you have nothing for which to hope. But remember also that your are not without God’s love, mercy, and power and therefore have every reason to hope because you know you are Christ’s forever by virtue of your baptism, and nothing in all creation can separate you from his saving love and power. Glory to him whose power working in you is more than you can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.

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

A Prayer for Veterans’ Day 2020

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom;
for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.
On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.

Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals
or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion
and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace.

All this we ask through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.