Why The Sunday of the Passion Matters

Sermon delivered on Passion/Palm Sunday B, March 28, 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: Isaiah 50.4-9a; Psalm 31.9-16; Philippians 2.5-11; St. Mark 14.1-15.47.

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

Today is the Sunday of the Passion, better known as Palm Sunday. For those of you who love to come to church to worship (and who doesn’t?), this is your day because you get two services for the price of one, and all under two hours. For newcomers to the Christian faith—and even for mature Christians like many of you are—today’s liturgy comes as a shock because we start out on a celebratory note with the liturgy of the Palms where we commemorate our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem as Israel’s Messiah with all its anticipation and hope, but we end with his passion and death. Hope and the utter death of hope, all within a breathtakingly short span of less than a week. Can you relate? What are we to make of this? This is what I want us to look at this morning. 

We read this year’s Passion narrative from St. Mark. Tradition has it that St. Mark faithfully recorded St. Peter’s memories while they were in Rome. St. Mark, ever the masterful story teller—story meaning a faithful narration of historical events, not some made up fiction—tells how our Lord entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey in fulfillment of OT prophecy (Zechariah 9.9-12), acclaimed by the crowds as the hoped-for Messiah, only to have the crowds turn on him later in the week. The story is pretty straightforward and because it is the word of God, it is full of power, and I am content to let it speak for itself—other than to say we would all profit enormously if we returned to his Passion narrative throughout this week to plumb the depths of its richness and power, and in the process discover (or rediscover) our crucified and risen Savior. Neither do I want to spend any time looking for reasons as to why the crowds turned on Christ, other than to quickly note that Christ failed to live up to his people’s expectations for their Messiah. While he did pronounce judgment on the Temple, something the Messiah was expected to do, Christ didn’t preach rebellion against the Romans nor did he enter Jerusalem as a great warrior, something for which many of his contemporaries hoped. And we all know what happens when our expectations get violated.

Instead, I want us to begin to explore the treasures contained in St. Mark’s Passion narrative and learn to appreciate his skill as a sophisticated story-teller because in Scripture, God’s truth is contained in God’s story. At its essence, St. Mark is telling us that this is what it looks like when God fulfills his promises to return to his people. Unlike many of Christ’s contemporaries, let us not fail to recognize God’s return to us. The first thing we note is the timing for Christ revealing his true identity as God’s Messiah or anointed one. He chose the Passover to come to Jerusalem and die. St. Mark surely wants us to see that our Lord’s death would bring about the ultimate Pascha or Passover. Just as God’s destroying angel had passed over the houses of his people in Egypt marked with the blood of the slaughtered lamb, so we are marked by the blood of the Lamb of God so that we will not suffer eternal death when Christ returns to judge his world with perfect justice. 

And there’s a reason we should rejoice in this because none will be exempt from God’s perfect justice. In telling us the story of Christ’s Passion, St. Mark compels us to see human beings, God’s image-bearers, you and me, at our very worst. Here is the Son of God, God himself, God condescending to become human as St. Paul vividly proclaims in our epistle lesson, to rescue us from permanent death and utter destruction. And our response? For starters, Christ was betrayed by one of his inner circle. If you have lived long enough, you know the sting of a friend’s betrayal where you thought you could trust the person only to find out you were utterly wrong. Having suffered that kind of betrayal personally, I can tell you that it is devastating, especially when the betrayer is someone you counted as a close and intimate friend. Here St. Mark is showing us the awful predicament of the human condition and why there is so much suffering, sickness, disorder, and darkness in our lives and this world. God has returned to his people as promised and we respond by betraying him unto death. It wasn’t just Judas who did that. How many times have we betrayed our Lord in our thinking, speaking, and actions? We are no more interested in having God run our lives than many of Christ’s contemporaries were. Human pride got us kicked out of paradise and in this sad story of betrayal, we are reminded how nothing has really changed over the years. We are still hostile to God and utterly separated from him. Whatever Judas’ motives were for betraying our Lord, he clearly did not trust in or believe Jesus to be who he claimed to be. This prevented him from seeking Christ’s forgiveness and led to his own self-destruction. The same fate awaits us if we choose to imitate Judas and trust ourselves rather than Christ for our healing and salvation.

Then there was the fiasco of the kangaroo court held by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate. The Jewish leaders weren’t interested in following God’s Truth that confronted them in Christ. They were more interested in maintaining the status quo and their position of power and privilege so they arranged for the Romans to execute this troublemaker. Pilate, of course, was caustic and cynical. Our Lord found no justice with him because Pilate wasn’t interested in justice. As soon as the mob turned against him—a mob who preferred the release of a murderer over their Messiah and threatened to riot if they didn’t get their way (sound familiar?)—he washed his hands of the situation, literally as St. Matthew reports, and condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion. 

Of all the cruel and evil ways humans have devised to kill other humans, crucifixion would be at the top of anybody’s list. None of the Evangelists were interested in reporting the gory details of crucifixion because that was not essential in telling the story of God’s rescue of us. What is important here is that crucifixion was a godforsaken and utterly degrading form of execution where victims were scourged and then nailed or tied naked to a cross for all to see and mock, and mock they did as St. Mark reports. In the spectacle of Calvary we see all the savagery and rapacity of human beings unleashed against their God, the creatures turning viciously on their Creator become human in savage rebellion in an utterly futile attempt to free themselves from God’s good control over their lives. Here St. Mark is showing us how the prophecy contained in our OT and psalm lessons played itself out as he invites us to ponder the depths of human depravity in this godforsaken spectacle. And let us not fool ourselves by thinking we are incapable of such rebellion against God and his Christ. Such thinking nails our Lord right back on the Cross. Here again in a microcosm, we see the root problem of the human condition. We are thoroughly hostile and alienated from God and each other because we are enslaved by the power of Sin, and without outside intervention from an even stronger power, we are utterly without hope. 

But we are not people who are utterly without hope because we belong to Christ. In recounting Christ’s Passion, St. Mark is proclaiming that we are people with a hope and a future because of of Christ’s saving death to free us from our slavery to Sin and the power of Death. Look at your Savior dying on the cross for you, St. Mark tells in this story, sparing you from God’s terrible judgment on your sins. Without this sacred death, none of us have reason for hope because none of us on our own are able to stand in the Presence of our Holy God so that we can live forever. And if you think otherwise, you have not yet considered the weight of sin. When Christ shouted out his terrible cry of dereliction or abandonment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was experiencing for the first time ever the awful separation from God that you and I experience all the time because of our sins. He bears the sins of the world, your sins and mine, so that we could have the hope of being reconciled to God our Father and find real healing and our peace. How do I know this? How can we be sure of this? Not because St. Mark tells us this in a story, not because some preacher preaches it, not even one as erudite and handsome as me, but because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead! The resurrection interprets Christ’s death for us and without it Christ would have been just another nameless victim of Roman cruelty. But that must wait till next Sunday. What is critical for us to reflect on right here is the nature of Christ’s death and our role in it. In Christ’s cry of dereliction on the cross, St. Mark is telling us that God is somehow dealing forever with our sins and that we will not experience the unspeakable fate of being abandoned by our Creator forever. In this story we see that we are not alone nor has God rejected us because Christ has suffered that rejection for us out of God the Father’s great love for us. Take real hope in this and stake your very life on that hope, dear people of God!

Why? Because if we believe this, everything changes for us. Because we belong to Christ we have hope for the future and strength to bear our present trials because we have this eternal hope. If God is for us, who or what can ever be against us? There is now no condemnation for us who put our hope and trust in Christ, believing that the Father and the Son accomplished what needed to be accomplished on our behalf to rescue us from our exile from God. In practical terms, this means we can bring our guilt and our shame to the foot of the cross and know we are forgiven and therefore it is possible for us to be healed of our sin sickness and self-loathing. We no longer have to fear God’s rejection of us or doubt that God loves us. We no longer have to listen to voices of condemnation, either from our enemies or from within ourselves. They are simply lies because Christ has suffered our condemnation and reconciled us to God. We don’t need to prove ourselves worthy because God has already declared us to be worthy despite our unworthiness. It means that despite the hurt we have caused, the evil we have been party to, and the damage we have done in our lives, we are forgiven and loved by God because of what Christ did for us. If this does not cause us to give our lives totally to Christ so that our thinking, doing, speaking, and values all flow from him and his teaching, it means either we have not come to grips with our new reality or we do not believe it. But we have no reason not  to believe it because as our baptism testifies, we now share in Christ’s death so that we can share in his resurrection. We are no longer our own; we now belong to Christ. Our old filthy rags, what the NT refers to as our Old Man, our sinful, fallen self, are replaced by the white garments of Christ, the New Man. Satan’s power over us has been broken and we are no longer his slaves or slaves to Sin and Evil, and therefore our destiny is no longer Death. We are no longer utterly undone and without hope. No matter the state of our self-loathing or how much others may despise us for our faith, no matter how imperfect our faith is or how imperfectly we live it, when we give our lives to Christ in thanksgiving for his life-giving death for us, we become God’s beloved, plain and simple, and not even the powers of Hell can separate us from Christ’s love. This is the result of Christ’s Passion, my beloved, and why we must focus on the events of this coming Holy Week, reflecting on Christ’s great love for us and our response to that great love.

Start by reading and meditating on the Passion narratives on your own this week and then come with our Lord to the Upper Room Thursday night where he will give his disciples a meal as the means to help them understand what his impending passion and death is all about. Watch with him in the garden as he struggles and shrinks from the gigantic task of allowing the powers of Evil to do their worst to him, and the prospect of having to bear the judgment of God for the sins of the entire world, your sins and mine. Our own personal sins can be a terrible burden to us. Try to imagine having to bear the sins of the entire world and looking into the face of the Devil while you do! With that in mind, come and venerate the cross on Good Friday as you ponder and contemplate the presence of God among us in the death of his Son for your sake and the sake of the world. Such contemplation demands silence, desolation, humility, and honest confession that your sins and mine are also responsible for the godforsaken death of our Lord. Was there ever any suffering like our Lord’s (and if you answer yes to this question, there’s a good chance you don’t really understand the magnitude of what happened on Good Friday!)? Grieve with his first followers as they laid his crucified and dead body in the tomb with no expectation of Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is the time to do just that, culminating with the Easter Vigil and the reading of the story of God’s salvation on Saturday evening. It simply won’t do to observe any of this from afar. It’s as unedifying as listening to any of the other priests’ sermons. Everything has changed because of Christ crucified and raised from the dead. That’s why we call it the Good News of Jesus Christ! We are no longer dead people walking, but rather Christ’s own forever, sealed with his precious blood and confirmed every time we come to the Table to feed on his body and blood. No, if you really love your Lord and have even an inkling as to what great love has effected your salvation and changed the course of history forever, how can you possibly stay away from our Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil services? You will rob Easter Sunday of its great power and joy if you fail to participate in these saving events. And on an even more somber note, if you are unwilling to give Christ your all as you are able, especially this week, you are likely living a lie and a delusion regarding your relationship with Christ and you probably need to take it up with him in prayer. So let none of us be too hasty to celebrate the Pascha next Sunday without first pondering and agonizing and reflecting on the great and astonishing love of God that flows from God’s very heart, a heart that was pierced by a Roman soldier’s spear, a heart through which a saving love was poured out for you and your salvation. To be sure, this isn’t a pretty or fun thing to do or contemplate. But if you commit yourself to walking with Jesus this Holy Week it will change you in ways you cannot imagine or envision, and for the good. It will change you because it is the Good News of our salvation, now and for all eternity. May we all observe a blessed Holy Week together as God’s people at St. Augustine’s. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

Palm Sunday 2021: A Fourth-Century Account of How Palm Sunday was Celebrated

The following day, Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, which they call here the Great Week. On this [Palm] Sunday morning, at the completion of those rites which are customarily celebrated at the Anastasis [the Lord’s tomb] or the Cross from the first cockcrow until dawn, everyone assembles for the liturgy according to custom in the major church, called the Martyrium. It is called the Martyrium because it is on Golgotha, behind the Cross, where the Lord suffered His Passion, and is therefore a shrine of martyrdom. As soon as everything has been celebrated in the major church as usual, but before the dismissal is given, the archdeacon raises his voice and first says: “Throughout this whole week, beginning tomorrow at the ninth hour [3pm], let us all gather in the Martyrium, in the major church.” Then he raises his voice a second time, saying: “Today let us all be ready to assemble at the seventh hour [1pm] at the Eleona.” When the dismissal has been given in the Martyrium or major church, the bishop is led to the accompaniment of hymns to the Anastasis, and there all ceremonies are accomplished which customarily take place every Sunday at the Anastasis [Church of the Holy Sepulcher] following the dismissal from the Martyrium. Then everyone retires home to eat hastily, so that at the beginning of the seventh hour everyone will be ready to assemble in the church on the Eleona, by which I mean the Mount of Olives, where the grotto in which the Lord taught is located.

At the seventh hour all the people go up to the church on the Mount of Olives, that is, to the Eleona. The bishop sits down, hymns and antiphons appropriate to the day and place are sung, and there are likewise readings from the Scriptures. As the ninth hour approaches, they move up, chanting hymns, to the Imbomon, that is, to the place from which the Lord ascended into heaven; and everyone sits down there. When the bishop is present, the people are always commanded to be seated, so that only the deacons remain standing. And there hymns and antiphons proper to the day and place are sung, interspersed with appropriate readings from the Scriptures and prayers.

As the eleventh hour [5pm] draws near, that particular passage from Scripture is read in which the children bearing palms and branches came forth to meet the Lord, saying: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The bishop and all the people rise immediately, and then everyone walks down from the top of the Mount of Olives, with the people preceding the bishop and responding continually with “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” to the hymns and antiphons. All the children who are present here, including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents’ shoulders, all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led. From the top of the mountain as far as the city, and from there through the entire city as far as the Anastasis, everyone accompanies the bishop the whole way on foot, and this includes distinguished ladies and men of consequence, reciting the responses all the while; and they move very slowly so that the people will not tire. By the time they arrive at the Anastasis, it is already evening. Once they have arrived there, even though it is evening, vespers is celebrated; then a prayer is said at the Cross and the people are dismissed.

—Egeria, Abbess, Pilgrimage

Palm Sunday 2021: N.T. Wright on the Meaning of Palm Sunday

r1405901_20102708The extraordinary twist in this story is that, having announced judgment upon Jerusalem for refusing God’s way of peace, Jesus went ahead, embodying simultaneously the love and the judgment of God himself, to suffer the Roman horror he had predicted for his people.

That dark royal story lies at the heart of all subsequent Christian understanding of the cross, though it is a truth so strange that few hymns or liturgies plumb its depths. Theseus and Oberon are one and the same. Good Friday, itself a form of Roman street theatre, was taken up paradoxically within God’s street theatre, the play within the play within the play that explains everything else.

But, even without that sequel, the questions of Palm Sunday itself force themselves upon us.

First, the questions of which story we are living in, and which king we are following, remain urgent within our culture. As our public institutions are less trusted than ever, and our behaviour at home and abroad is more confused than ever, the stories which used to make sense of our lives have let us down.

We thought we knew how the play worked: get rid of tyrants, and people will embrace democracy, peace, love and flower-power. How quickly things have moved from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. The so-called Arab Spring has turned back to winter, as we have no idea what to do about Syria, about Israel/Palestine and, of course, about Ukraine. We have run out of stories, we have run out of kings of whatever kind; all we think we can do is trust the great god Mammon, as though our fragile economic half-recoveries would trickle out into the mountains of Syria or the deserts of South Sudan. Give me Psalm 72 any day.

But that’s where the second question comes in, a personal question. If the Palm Sunday street theatre means what Jesus meant, it challenges all his followers, then and now. The crowds may have been fickle, but they were not mistaken. The two on the road to Emmaus had hoped he would redeem Israel, and they were hoping for the right thing – God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven, a this-worldly reign of justice and peace – but they had not glimpsed the means by which Jesus would bring it about. Right story, wrong king.

Sooner or later, this happens to all of us. We start out following Jesus because we think we know the story, we know what sort of king we want him to be – and then things go badly wrong, he doesn’t give us what we wanted, and we are tempted to wonder if we’ve been standing on the wrong side of town, watching the wrong procession.

Jesus warned us this would happen: we all have to live through a Holy Week, a Gethsemane, a Good Friday of one sort or another. That happens in personal life, in vocational life, as well as in public life.

Read it all.

Palm Sunday 2021

He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us to himself, we are told in Scripture: “above every sovereignty, authority and power, and every other name that can be named,” now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He came without pomp or ostentation. Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish.

—Andrew of Crete, Bishop, Sermon 9 for Palm Sunday

A Prayer for Palm Sunday 2021

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Father Santosh Madanu: Why the Cross?

Sermon delivered on Lent 5B, Sunday, March 21, 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: Jeremiah 31.31-34; Psalm 51.1-13; Hebrews 5.5-10; St. John 12.20-33.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we adore you because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world. Bless the family of St. Augustine to proclaim along with St. Paul “ For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Girl kid: says to her Mom, I am not going to school anymore?
Mother: Why Not? Asked the mother
Kid: says because my Teacher said on Monday 4+ 4makes 8
Mother: says OK
Kid: continued saying And on Tuesday she said 6+2 makes 8 and on Wednesday she said 5+3 makes 8. So I am not going to school until she makes up her mind.

This is true in our life seriously as a Good Christian, we need to make up our mind clearly about why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the Cross? &
What does it mean to be the disciple of the Lord?
Dear friends Jesus says

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

A: The first question — why did Jesus have to die on the cross? — is something Christians have?been grappling with since the time of the apostles. St. Paul writes: “We proclaim Christ?crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) I think this is a good place to start in trying to understand the paradox of the cross: It is beyond human understanding, yet contains a divine purpose and profound supernatural love.

I’ve got a crucifixi in my living room. And I noticed most of Asian churches and families, and Latin American churches and in the people’s homes have crucifixes. They tend to be graphic, with blood and wounds clearly visible. This can be a bit shocking for those of us who are accustomed to more “cleaned-up” crucifixes, but those people it is a deep devotion towards the crucifixions. They understand intuitively what the cross means for them: salvation. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, he has saved us from a similarly horrible death.

It is hard for modern Christians to grasp the full horror of that method of execution. Because “no other mode of execution would have been commensurate with the extremity of humanity’s condition under Sin.”

To understand why Christ’s passion and death on the cross were necessary for our salvation, we have to understand the idea of sacrifice and atonement in the Old Testament. According to the old Mosaic covenant, priests would offer animal sacrifices to God for the sins of the people, substituting the death of the animal for the death punishment deserved by the people for their sins and disobedience. This “substitution” brought an individual or a community back into a right relationship with God (the first 10 chapters of Leviticus give abundant details about this).

The Letter to the Hebrews bridges the Old Testament and the New and shows how Christ took the place of the Mosaic priestly sacrifices once and for all. Just as in the Old Covenant the high priest would offer animal sacrifices on behalf of the people, so Christ became the new high priest who offered himself as the sacrificial offering for the sins of the people for all time. While the Old Covenant required ongoing sacrifices, Jesus’ was once and for all, never to be repeated: “he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)

How could a loving and merciful God condemn his Son to such a fate?

The only answer is love. God took the initiative to offer his Son on the cross in order to do something we could never do: save ourselves. Jesus took the punishment we deserved and became the instrument of atonement for our guilt to the Father. We are forgiven because of his suffering and death. This is why, for Christians, the crucifix, in all its brutality, is the most powerful image of God’s love and concern for each of us.

That is why Jesus says unless the seed falls to the ground and dies it does not produce any fruits.

  • Christ’s death was the means by which the powers of evil, which held humankind under its dominion, were defeated; our job is to live knowing this is true.
  • Jesus suffered and died in order to secure salvation for all who would believe. The night of His arrest, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He committed His all to the task: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). The cup of suffering was not taken from Christ; He drank it all for us. There was no other way for us to be saved.
  • The price of forgiveness was totally paid. The righteousness of God was completely vindicated.
  • What is the ultimate good in the Good News? God Himself. Salvation is good news. It saves from hell and bestows the relationship with God.
  • Why Jesus suffered and died on the cross?
  • In order to cancel the legal demands of the law against us. To provide the basis for our justification and to complete the obedience that becomes our righteousness.
  • To be justified in a courtroom is not the same as being forgiven. Being forgiven implies that I am guilty and my crime is not counted.
  • The death of Christ is the demonstration of God’s love (John 3:16), it is also the supreme expression of Christ’s own love for all who receive it as their treasure.
  • My sin, your sin, our sin, was the reason Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The penalty for sin is death.
  • Isaiah 53:3-5 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
  • Jesus came to pay a debt, we could not pay, and that He did not owe. This is LOVE. This is the GOOD NEWS. This is the GOSPEL.
  • How are we redeemed? Is it with Gold, Silver, wealth and money?
  • 1 Peter 1:18-20 For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
  • Jesus sweated drops of blood at the thought of what He was to endure. But He chose to willingly make that ultimate sacrifice, so that we can approach Him and the Father without obstacle, 24/7.

Jesus came as the Passover Lamb to take away the sins of the whole world. He revealed His love for us by His suffering and death on the cross. Forgiveness of sin has always required a blood sacrifice. Jesus gave His own blood for you and me. Praise God!

Revelation 12:11 declares we can overcome (sin, devil) by the blood of the Lamb.
The cross is the cross-section of God’s mercy and justice. When true forgiveness or mercy is bestowed, someone has to pay the price for it. The cross offers true mercy and forgiveness, but not at the expense of justice. God, through Jesus, was perfectly unselfish. He stepped up to pay the exorbitant fine required for our sin.

Jesus’ astonishing sacrifice of himself voluntarily undergone on the cross—all for mercy, all for forgiveness, all for love. It is the gift that exceeds every hope. Praise be to Christ!

What is the Discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ?

In Christianity, disciple primarily refers to a dedicated follower of Jesus. This term is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and Acts. In the ancient world, a disciple is a follower

“JESUS THEN SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES: ‘IF A MAN WISHES TO COME AFTER ME, HE MUST DENY HIS VERY SELF, TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND BEGIN TO FOLLOW IN MY FOOTSTEPS.” MT. 16:24

We all must seek the Lord’s holy and perfect will as a disciple.

Jesus says “I came to earth not to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as the rescue for sinners (Mark 10:45). Disciple is the servant of God and His people.

“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21; see also John 17:18). This means that Jesus’s disciples are on a mission. They are to witness as true followers of the Lord.

Conditions and requirements to be disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • Christians must seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus the Lord through their living life of Holiness, Charity, Mercy, Justice and Peace.
  • Christianity isn’t simply about half-measures on our part, but total sacrifice of every part of our being. It’s “putting our skin in the game,”
  • Let’s remember that total sacrifice is the bottom line of following such a Master Jesus Christ. We can have sustained confidence in Jesus because He never asks anything of us that He has not already done Himself. He emptied Himself of divine glory and might to set an example of letting go of our past.
  • Luke records: “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him. ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head'” (Luke 9:57-58).

Story of Discipleship: (There were many missionaries came to India and still come now. You might not heard about their names like William Cary, Graham Staines, Bakht Singh, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa etc. present missionaries are Hindus and Muslims)

Let’s consider a story told about a missionary of India in the early 20th century, Sadhu Sundar Singh. It’s said that Singh and a companion were traveling through a Himalayan mountain pass when they came across a body lying in the snow. Singh wished to stop and help the man, but his companion refused, saying, “We shall lose our lives if we burden ourselves with him.”

Yet Singh, according to the story, wouldn’t think of leaving the man to die. As his companion bade him farewell, Singh lifted the poor traveler on his back. With great exertion, he bore the man onward, but gradually the heat from Singh’s body began to warm up the poor frozen fellow, and he revived. Soon both were walking together side by side. Later, catching up with Singh’s former companion, they found him—frozen by the cold.

Singh in this story was willing to lose his life on behalf of another and in the process found it, while his callous companion sought to preserve his life but lost it. This story illustrates the words of Christ in Matthew 10:39 “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Of course, ultimate finding of life comes in the future Kingdom of God.

And the story further tells us that 1) we must readily accept the invitation to think beyond the moment, and that 2) we must put skin in the game with no thought of gaining for ourselves in this life.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, it is you that I have been seeking along. Only you can fill the emptiness in my heart. All people and things on earth will fall away. Only in will I find rest, peace and salvation. In Jesus Precious name we pray Amen.

St. Patrick’s Day 2021: Some Reflections on Maney Family History

Speaking of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Augustine’s mentor, Augustine writes:

But I had no notion nor any experience to know what were his hopes, what struggles he had against the temptations of his distinguished position, what consolation in adversities, and the hidden aspect of his life—what was in his heart, what delicious joys came as he fed on and digested your [God’s] bread. He for his part did not know of my emotional crisis nor the abyss of danger threatening me. I could not put the questions I wanted to put to him as I wished to do.

 

—Confessions, 6.3.3

John F. Maney

Seventy eight years ago on March 10, 1943, my dad was inducted into the U.S. Army in Van Wert, OH. He was 20 years old at the time. A week later on St. Patrick’s Day, he left on a train for Camp Perry up by Lake Erie to begin his basic training. I never asked him what he felt like the day he was inducted (or at least I do not recall asking him because I do not know how he felt). Neither did I ask him about his thoughts and feelings as he left for basic training a week later (or at least I do not remember us ever talking about that). As I reflected on this, I wondered why I didn’t ask him about these things when he was alive? I wondered what it is about me that stayed my hand so that I didn’t ask him the questions I would love to ask him about today but can no longer do so.

Then I read the above passage from Augustine and realized that perhaps my experience is not all that uncommon. To be sure, maturity helped me take a much deeper interest in my parents’ lives as I began to realize that they too were human, just like me, and had similar hopes, fears, dreams, and worries that I have. But even now, I think of a million questions I would like to ask them but never did. Why did I not think to ask them about these things when they were alive? It is both baffling to me and frustrating.

Why is it that often we do not realize what we have until it is gone or taken from us? I suspect one answer to this perplexing question is that it is a product of alienation that our sin and self-centeredness has caused, an alienation that often exists between God and us and between humans. I know that when I was a young man, I thought I had better things to do and think about other than my parents and their experiences. I simply didn’t realize how impoverishing that was. As an old man now I wonder if my own kids will think about the things they could have asked me but didn’t after I’m dead.

So on this day, I am thankful for my dad’s service to his country. I am proud of what he did in Europe during World War II. I am thankful that God kept him safe during the war and gave him to me as a father. I am also thankful for the men and women of my dad’s generation. They truly did save the world from the unspeakable evil of Nazism and militarism.

Take time today and do two things. First, stop and give thanks to God for blessing us with the “Greatest Generation,” and for the sacrifices they made for this country. They are pretty much gone now, but that doesn’t diminish what they did or sacrificed for their country. Second, if you have parents, grandparents, or other family members still living, take time to talk with them and get to know them better. Ask God to help you learn about their hopes and dreams, their fears and worries, and share yours with them. Doing so will help you appreciate God’s great gift of family and friends.

Thank you, young soldiers, and thank you, God, for blessing us with them.

Father Jonathon Wylie: For God So Loved the World

Sermon delivered on Lent 4B, Laetare Sunday, March 14, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie gets all whiny and pouty about submitting a written manuscript of his sermon, especially after having to preach two weeks in a row! We are trying to avoid that at all costs so click here to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon.

Lectionary texts: Numbers 21.4-9; Psalm 107.1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2.1-10; St. John 3.14-21.

March 10, 2021: This Day in Maney Family History

John F. Maney under a tree at Ufculme, EnglandOn this day in 1943 my dad, John F. Maney, was inducted into the army at the age of 20 (the tree in this picture under which dad sat is outside a house in Uffculme England that was used as battalion HQ. I have a picture of that tree 40 years later when dad and I visited in June 1984). A week later he left on a train from Van Wert, OH for Camp Perry on Lake Erie. What a way to start the decade of your 20s.

Father Jonathon Wylie: Zeal for Your House Shall Consume Me

Sermon delivered on Lent 3B, Sunday, March 7, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie gets all uppity about having to submit a written manuscript of his sermon. Nothing worse than an uppity priest so click here to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 20.1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1.18-25; St. John 2.13-22.