About Fr. Maney

Fr. Kevin Maney received his PhD from the University of Toledo in Curriculum and Instruction, majoring in educational technology and minoring in educational leadership. He completed his studies for a Diploma in Anglican Studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, and did his coursework almost entirely online. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) on February 9, 2008 and as a priest in CANA on May 1, 2008. He is now the rector of St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Westerville, OH, a suburb of Columbus. St. Augustine’s is part of the CANA East Diocese and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

156th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Today marks the 156th 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.

LINCOLN’S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

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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.

Kingdomtide: How the War was Won

Sermon delivered on the second Sunday before Advent C, November 17, 2019 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 65.17-25; Song of Deliverance (Isaiah 12); 2 Thessalonians 3.6-13; Luke 21.5-19.

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

During the Sundays between All-Saints and Advent, we celebrate Christ and his kingdom, a period of time we call kingdomtide. But why should we celebrate this when it appears that anyone (or anything) but Jesus rules this world? This is what I want us to look at this morning.

It is no secret that we live in a world corrupted by human sin and the forces of Evil. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul speaks of a cosmic battle being waged both in heaven and on earth (3.10, 6.2), and our Lord himself enigmatically refers to Satan as the ruler of this world (John 12.31, 14.30, 16.11). This is contrary to God’s original creative purposes because we know that God created humans in his image to run his good creation on God’s behalf (Genesis 1-2). And our readings from this morning, each in its own way, speak of a world gone terribly wrong. 

In his breathtaking vision of new creation, unique to the prophet Isaiah and the OT, the prophet tells us of a world devoid of crying and full of joy and celebration, peace and harmony, and abundant life. Implicit in this spectacular vision is the acknowledgement that in God’s original creation there is crying and disorder and calamity, and we all get that. We weep over sickness and the death of our loved ones. We all know what it is like to be afflicted with any number of calamities that can beset us. The chaos going on in our nation makes many of us want to scream and pull our hair out (or maybe the hair of those who cause such great chaos—insert your favorite villain here).

In our canticle we echoed Isaiah’s proclamation that we will trust God and not be afraid. In fact, “don’t be afraid” is the most common phrase in all of Scripture, indicating that there is plenty in our world and lives that can make us afraid. And if we lived in a world devoid of sin and evil, why would we need God to be our salvation? This all suggests things are not as God intended.

Our Lord himself even acknowledges that all is not right with God’s world, despite the fact that Christ himself was God’s agent of creation. In our gospel lesson Jesus warns his disciples of the cataclysm about to be inflicted on Jerusalem for its impending rejection of the Son of God (this, BTW, does not give us license to be antisemitic; Christ is simply speaking of God’s awful judgment on his people’s rebellion against God and his Messiah). Moreover, Jesus warns his followers of future persecution for being his disciples and proclaiming him to be the Son of God. Rarely have Christ’s true followers enjoyed peace and goodwill because they are Christians. To the contrary, because the dark powers and their human minions have usurped God’s rightful rule of his creation, Christians more often than not experience persecution and suffering for their faith, not the accolades of a fallen world. This is one way we can measure our faithfulness to Christ. Are we suffering for his name’s sake? If not, there’s a good chance we are not engaging the forces of evil by acting in Christlike ways and/or proclaiming his gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

The fact that Satan and his minions are in control of God’s world and actively rebel against God in God’s own space (heaven), can leave us even more baffled and discouraged. How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, totally good God allow this to happen we wonder? Why does God allow this? We know a small part of the answer. When our first ancestors sinned in paradise and got thrown out, it allowed the forces of Evil to usurp the role God reserved for humans. Nature abhors a vacuum and when we rebelled against God we allowed forces eager to control and corrupt God’s world to take our place. But there are other greater questions for which we have no answers. Why did God allow evil to exist in the first place? Why would God allow evil forces to step in and fill the void left by his image-bearers? Why does God allow the powers to operate and rebel against him when he has the power to destroy them forever? And how can the forces of Evil even exist in heaven, let alone rebel against the Almighty God? On a matter closer to home, in a few minutes we will hold our quarterly healing service. So why doesn’t God answer our prayers and bring about immediate healing and relief as we ask and desire? We aren’t told. Nowhere does Scripture give us answers to our questions and this can make us wonder what kind of King Jesus really is.

Instead, Scripture tells us that God is in control and has done something about Sin and Evil, despite appearances to the contrary and the evil with which we all must deal on a regular basis. For example, in our OT lesson, God tells Isaiah that God is about to create new heavens and a new earth, a breathtaking promise echoed powerfully in the Revelation to St. John (21-22). If there is no more crying or sounds of distress or chaos or war or lives cut tragically short, then the promise signals that God must have defeated all that corrupts his good world and creatures, especially his image-bearing ones. In our canticle from Isaiah 12, the prophet tells us to sing God’s praises because he has triumphed gloriously over the forces that have corrupted and harmed God’s people. When OT prophets spoke of salvation, they typically meant being rescued from the forces that made this mortal life an awful experience, things like famine and foreign invaders. Because God has rescued his people from the powers of Evil, they could now enjoy God’s presence among them once again. After all, the dark powers had no shot at harming God’s people as long as God remained with them. 

Even in our gospel, Christ speaks a reassuring word to us. You will be persecuted but hang on. Persevere and you will reap the reward of eternal salvation. For his immediate followers, Jesus also reminded them that even when they were arrested, he would be with them in the power of the Spirit to guide their speaking and testimony about him so that his Name would become known and honored throughout the world (think the promise and blessing of Abraham). There is an awesome mystery in all this. We aren’t told how it all works and often we can’t see that it does. Despite this, Scripture urges us to be content to mind our own business and trust that God is good to his word and promises to us. In short, we are called to be humble and trust God’s wisdom and power.

But how has God defeated the powers? And what about human sin and the death it causes? While none of our lessons address these questions directly, the NT certainly does. Its writers all proclaim that in Christ’s death and resurrection, the powers of Evil and Sin were defeated on the cross and the ultimate evil of Death was dealt with in Christ’s resurrection. The first witnesses to Christ all proclaimed that somehow and in some way God dealt with and defeated Evil and Sin in and through the death of his Son. St. Paul proclaims this boldly in his letter to the Colossians. Hear him now:

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross (Colossians 2.13-15, NLT).

Elsewhere, St. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere (Ephesians 6.10-18, NLT).

We want to shake our heads in disbelief and say to St. Paul, “Are you out of your blooming mind? Has Father Bowser finally gotten to you? Look around you! Nothing’s changed! In fact, things seem to be getting worse by the day!” But here’s what we need to remember. St. Paul wrote these letters while languishing in a prison for Christ’s sake! He knew the power of evil first hand. He knew the world hadn’t suddenly become an idyllic place to live! Yet St. Paul knew that what he wrote was true because he had seen and experienced the risen Christ. When God raised Christ from the dead, everything changed for St. Paul and the rest of the NT writers, not to mention the early Church. To be sure, the victory has not been consummated nor has Death been defeated as St. Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 15.50-57, but that’s only because our Lord Jesus has not returned to finish his saving work and consummate his victory over all that oppose God. Again, St. Paul knew this promise to be true because Christ is raised from the dead and rules over all creation as well as in heaven until the mysterious plan of God calls for the end of all that ruins and corrupts. This obviously takes faith on our part because we are regularly subjected to Evil and Sin, often of our own making. But if you believe Christ is raised from the dead, then you too must believe that God has won the victory and accomplished for us that which you and I cannot accomplish for ourselves: the defeat of Evil and the end of our slavery to the power of Sin and the Death sin causes. Do you believe this? If you do, then you have at your disposal the weapons to engage in the mop-up battle in this mortal life, enigmatic as life can be at times, i.e., you have the full Armor of God: prayer, God’s righteousness, the power of the gospel, and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit to make Christ available to you, among others. This is not a conventional war, my beloved, nor are we called to be the principal combatants. God has already fought the war on our behalf and won it. When the resurrection comes in full, justice and goodness will be fully restored. What we are called to do in the interim is to live faithfully and in ways that proclaim we believe Christ’s victory is ours (think baptism for starters). 

Like the monumental battle of D-Day signaled the inevitable defeat of the Nazis in Europe during WWII, so Christ’s cross signals the inevitable defeat of all the forces that hate us and want to destroy us. This victory is for the entire people of God, the Church; it is not simply an issue of “me and my salvation.” As St. Paul makes clear in Ephesians 3.6-11, those who follow Christ are promised a share in his rule and that means the Church, not just a motley crew of individuals, and that means together we are called to live in certain ways that are befitting of God’s new world. In other words, we are to live in ways that proclaim we really do believe the battle is won on our behalf. We are to persevere. We are to let love and charity guide our behavior toward each other. We are to care for one another and put up with each other’s respective idiosyncrasies, even to the EGRs among us—extra grace required folks (you know who you are). In our epistle lesson this morning, St. Paul has some harsh things to say about loafers. But we miss the point if we focus on this. What the apostle is telling us is this. You have to care for each other and when you don’t do your fair share, you proclaim by your actions that you matter more than your brothers and sisters in Christ do and that dog won’t hunt in God’s new world. So instead of using food, let me use the examples of time and money. It is a well known phenomenon that about 20 percent of parishioners do all the work. For the 80 percent who let them do that, what are you proclaiming to the ones who do the work? Do you mean to tell them that your time and energy are more important than theirs or that your other commitments are more pressing than theirs? Is this how rulers in God’s new world will rule? Christ didn’t think so because he told us that rulers who follow him will act like slaves and serve, instead of being served as the world’s rulers are (Mark 10.35-45). When you let others do the work or give of their money to fill in your parsimony, this is the message you proclaim to them and the world, and Christ’s name is dishonored, just like when those who do the work get all haughty and self-righteous with those who fail to pitch in and help and/or give of their resources. 

So part of living as beneficiaries of Christ’s victory is to show our awareness that we are part of his body and we are part of that body because of his great love for us, not that we deserve his grace and gifts. Another part of being members of Christ’s body is to live with hope and to persevere, to endure. St. Paul is telling us, among other things, that we are not to get tired of doing what is right. It is very easy to become tired when we see, all around, people who are living in a different way, including some of our own number stepping out of line. But the dance of new creation must go on (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.58). St. Paul can say this because he knew God had won the victory for him and us, undeserving as he was and we are to receive it. Let us therefore live like resurrection peeps and proclaim to each other and the world that unlikely as it seems, God has won the victory for us. How do we know this? Because Christ is raised from the dead, thanks be to God, and this is what we proclaim as we persevere in our humble and righteous words and deeds! To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.   

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

A Prayer for Veterans’ Day 2019

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.

2019: A Brief History of Veterans’ Day

As you pause this day to give thanks for our veterans, past and present, take some time to familiarize yourself with the history of this day.

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Read it all.

Father Philip Sang: Take Courage

Sermon delivered on the second Sunday before Advent C, November 10, 2019 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: Haggai 1.15b-2.9; Psalm 145.1-5, 18-22; 2 Thessalonians 2.1-5, 13-17; Luke 20.27-38.

In 586 BC the armies of Babylon destroyed the Jerusalem temple , and took most of the Jews into exile. About 50 years later Cyrus, the Persian, took Babylon, and brought the Babylonian Empire to an end. Then he allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. All of this was owing to the sovereign hand of God fulfilling the prophecies of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1).

Among the returning exiles were (probably) the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.

So Haggai and Zechariah were sent by God to assist in the rebuilding of the temple. This work was begun, but there was a delay in the start of the work of rebuilding the temple. This delay is what brings forth the message of Haggai.

The way Haggai motivates the Jews to build the temple of God has a powerful application to our own efforts to build the Church of God today.

The first Chapter 1 of Haggai reveals to the governor and priest and people that the reason they are all frustrated is that they have tried to make their own lives comfortable while neglecting the temple of God. Verses 4–6:

Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore consider how you have fared (or: consider your ways). You have sown much and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them in a bag with holes.

So they lived in perpetual frustration and discontentment. Nothing satisfied. We can’t pass over this lesson easily. It’s for us, too. If we devote ourselves to sowing and eating and drinking and clothing ourselves and earning wages, but neglect our ministry in the body of Christ (the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17), we will live in constant frustration. If we spend our time and energy seeking comfort and security from the world, and do not spend ourselves for the glory of God, every pleasure will leave its sour aftertaste of depression and guilt and frustration.

Both then and now the real problem is not the neglect of a building but indifference to the glory of God. The temple of the Old Testament existed for the glory of God. And the Church today exists for the glory of God (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). Indifference to the growth and spiritual prosperity of the Church and its mission is always a sign of failure to love the glory of God. And the sour fruit of this failure is a life of chronic frustration.

Haggai reports that Zerubbabel and Joshua and the people obey and begin to work on the temple, this was after 18 years of neglect and of course frustration, the people begin to learn their lesson.

A little less than a month after the people had begun to build. It seems as though the work has slowed or come to a complete stop, because Haggai’s message is that they take courage and get on with the work (v. 4). What makes this message so practical and relevant is that we can see ourselves so easily in the workers. And God’s encouraging words become very easily words of strength for us, too.

Haggai says why the people have become weak and discouraged in their labors. He asks, “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?”

The workers are discouraged because the memory is still alive of how glorious the temple used to be. Less than 70 years it stood in this very spot, the apple of God’s eye, the magnificent achievement of Solomon, for centuries the center of holy worship. But instead of inspiring the people, this memory made the people look at the small insignificant temple they were building and feel hopeless. “How do you see it now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?” What’s the use, they say. We can’t match the glory of Solomon’s temple. We’re wasting our time. Nothing beautiful or worthwhile will ever come of it. We got along without it in Babylon; we can do without it here. Better to have the beauty of a great memory than a paltry imitation. So their hands are slack in the work. Does that sound like anything in your experience? I think anybody who has ever undertaken a work for the cause of Christ has felt that kind of discouragement: the sense that you work and work and the product seems so petty. You pour yourself into a thing week after week and month after month and the fruit is so minimal. Then you look back in history or across town and see the grand achievement of others, and your temple seems so trivial. And you get discouraged and are tempted to quit and put away your aspirations and drop your dreams. Who wants to devote his life to a second-rate temple? Fear and discouragement grips us

Anglican church in North America is a prime target for discouragements like these. This church is the Solomon’s temple of the Anglican communion. There once was such a glory here that across the Anglican Communion is still thought of mainly in the past tense: once the biggest church; once she had an impact across the nation and the world. Most of you have known the discouragement of feeling that what we are doing here may be of so little significance that you may as well quit.

The message from Haggai is made for our hearts today. God confronts the discouragement of the people, first of all, with a heartening command:

“Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work.”

God clearly does not agree with their assessment of the situation. If they think their work on the temple is of so little significance that they can quit, they are very wrong, for God says, “Take courage, . . . work!”

He gives two arguments why they should take courage and work heartily. And both of these are crucial for us as well. The text continues “Work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit abides among you; fear not.”

God’s first argument why they should “take courage,” “work,” and “fear not” is that he is with them. How could we ever, then, belittle a work when God says he is with us in it? When God is working at your side, nothing is trivial. But the promise is not only that he will be at our side; he will also be in our hearts encouraging us.

“I am with you, says the Lord. And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord.” (1:13)

If we will ask him and trust him, God not only works with us, but he moves in to stir up our spirit and give us a heart for the work. He doesn’t want crusty diehards in his work; he wants free and joyful laborers. And so he promises to be with them and stir them up to love the work.

But not only that. When he refers to the promise or covenant made at the Exodus, he shows that his presence is the same powerful presence that divided the Red Sea. Exodus 19:4 says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” So when he promises to be with the people in their work, he means: I will use all my divine power like I did at the Exodus to help you and strengthen you and protect you. Therefore, take courage, work, fear not.

But there is one other encouraging thing about this promise. For those Jews whose minds were all taken up with the glory of Solomon’s temple, this promise may have had a very special impact. Just before David’s death he encouraged his son, Solomon, with words very similar to Haggai 2:4 and 5: “David said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and of good courage and work. Fear not, be not dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work of the service of the house of the Lord is finished”‘ (1 Chronicles 28:20). The implication of this similarity is that the same God who worked with Solomon to build his great temple is also at work with you now. Therefore, take courage, work, fear not.

The second argument God uses to encourage those who think their work only produces paltry results is found in verses 6–9:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: once again in a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake the nations so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

In other words, take courage, work, and fear not, because you build more than you see. All you see is a paltry temple. But God promises to take your work, fill it with his glory, and make your labors with a million times more than you ever imagined.

The point is this: God had a purpose for a temple. The Jews of Haggai’s day could not see it all, and what they could see seemed so paltry. So God came to them with a word of promise: Take courage. You build more than you see. The heavens and the earth and sea and land and all treasures are mine. I will take the fruit of your little labor and make it glorious beyond measure, no matter how trivial and paltry it may seem to you now.

There is a principle here that applies to you and me: God takes small, imperfect things and builds them into a habitation for his glory. O, how we should take courage in our little spheres of influence! And is this not the message of Advent and Christmas? What more appropriate word could God have said to Mary as Jesus was growing up: Take courage, young mother, you build more than you see. And so it is with every one of us. Nothing you do is a trifle if you do it in the name of God. He will shake heaven and earth to fill your labor with splendor. Take courage, work, and fear not for the Lord is with you and you build more than you see.

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

2019: Remember, Remember the 10th of November

Apologies to the Brits. From the pen of my mama. Check it out.

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One thing I thought I could do during WWII was to find out the customers of the O.P.C. [Ohio Power Company, now AEP] who had sons in the service, learn their names and ask about them when the customers paid their bills. Few checks were used back then so we were busy with cash customers. I always asked John’s Dad [my grandpa Maney] about John [my dad] and he would reply. Then, one day, he volunteered that John was on his way home! That’s why when I saw John in at Dolly’s [a now extinct local restaurant], I stopped to tell him his dad had told me he was on his way home and I wanted to thank him for all he’d done for our country–and for me. I shook his hand as my Dad had taught me, got my Coke and went to a booth to look at the Saturday Evening Post, a magazine I dearly loved for its funny cartoons. When I left to go get [mom’s sister] Betty at Thomas’ Jewelry (I’d worked there Saturday afternoons and evenings for quite awhile) John was still sitting up front on a bar stool. I stopped to show him a cartoon, he asked me if I’d like to go to the movie and I said yes after I’d told Betty I wouldn’t be walking home with her. John wasn’t really sure who I was ’til he walked me home and saw Dad’s picture. I knew he hadn’t been with a girl for over 2 years so when he was leaving I kissed him on his lips (yips as [granddaughter] Bridget used to say) and I suppose it turned out to be too much for him.

Heh. Classic mama. I’m still trying not to think too much about that kissing stuff, though. Kinda disgusting, even at this stage of the game. 🙂 Remember, remember the 10th of November, a key date in Maney family history.

All-Saints: Anticipating the Great Reversal

Sermon delivered on All-Saints’ Sunday C, November 3, 2019 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: Daniel 7.1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1.11-23; Luke 6.20-31.

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

Today is All-Saints’ Sunday, the feast day where we celebrate the communion of saints, both those who have died in the faith of Christ, the Church Triumphant, and those of us in Christ who still labor in this mortal life, the Church Militant. It is customary for us to focus on the Church Triumphant today, and we will certainly do that. But All-Saints points to a much greater reality and future than just eternal life, massively important as eternal life is. As all our readings attest, All-Saints is an appropriate day for the saints of God to anticipate the Great Reversal when the Kingdom of God comes in full on earth as in heaven as our Lord prayed in the prayer he gave to us, and good finally triumphs over evil. This is what I want us to look at this morning.

On All-Saints’ Sunday, we must be careful not to gnosticize and/or platonize this feast day. While it is very appropriate to celebrate the fact that our loved ones who have died in the Lord are with him in heaven as they await their new resurrection bodies, we must remember that heaven is not our final destination. Many Christians believe this because we have fallen for the old gnostic heresy that claims all things spiritual are good while all things physical or material are bad. But this goes against the overarching story of Holy Scripture that proclaims God created this vast cosmos of which we are part and intends to restore it one day. This is the story of salvation and it culminates in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. As St. Paul reminds us in our epistle lesson, we have a hope in God’s promised new creation because of Christ’s resurrection and as St. Paul tells us elsewhere, we who are baptized in Christ share in both his death and resurrection (Romans 6.3-8). Because Christ is raised from the dead, and because we believe that we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb shed for us and made fit to stand in God’s holy presence, we have the sure and certain expectation that we will be with Christ when he returns to consummate his saving work by ushering in the new heavens and earth, God’s new creation about which St. John speaks in his Revelation, raising the dead and transforming their mortal bodies as well as the bodies of those who are still alive at that point into immortal ones (1 Corinthians 15.51-52). Hear St. John now:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea [symbolic of Evil] was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children (21.1-7, NLT).

This is the context for eternal life, my beloved, and the destiny of those whom we have loved and lost for a season—God’s new creation. As Christians we are not destined to live in a disembodied state for all eternity. That’s a platonic (and bor-ing!!) notion. No, God created all things good and intends to restore his good but sin-corrupted and evil-infested world to its goodness and human beings to our rightful place as God’s wise image-bearers who run creation on God’s behalf. That is the biblical hope and proclamation, not a disembodied eternity in heaven. Heaven, a blessed state to be sure because it is God’s space and Christ is there, is but a way station as we await the redemption of our bodies and life in the new creation (cf. Romans 8.18-25). This hope of God’s new world where all things evil, including and especially death, are destroyed and all the damage of human sin and folly are undone and healed is what we celebrate today and what our readings proclaim.

We start with our OT reading from Daniel. This passage clearly contains apocalyptic language, a genre of biblical writings that concerns visions or revelations of the end times or age to come. Because it deals with things of God well above our ability to fully comprehend, apocalyptic writings use rich and vivid symbolic language that most of us today find strange and incomprehensible and therefore we avoid them like the plague. That’s a shame because when we skip over writings like this, we miss the blessed hope they proclaim. Let us not make that mistake here. 

In our OT lesson Daniel is terrified by a vision of beasts coming out of the sea (respective biblical symbols for evil and chaos) to terrorize the earth, and we don’t need vivid apocalyptic language to get this. We know what it’s like to live in an evil-infested world where we can be terrorized by mass murder or terrorists, untimely and/or unexpected death, opioid addition, financial catastrophe, and sickness of all kinds, to name just a few. We are bombarded by rancor and divisiveness in this country, and all kinds of perverse thinking. We all know what it’s like to live in a world that serves up uncertainty and fear on a regular basis, and it can make us terrified and challenge our faith. How can God let this happen? Why does God let this happen? Here in Daniel’s vision we aren’t given answers to those questions. Instead we are given a vision of the Great Reversal, the time when the goodness and justice of God will overthrow the forces of evil and wickedness and restore God’s good and just reign on earth as in heaven, and we as God’s people will be the primary beneficiaries of this because of God’s tender love and mercy. No wonder the psalmist tells us to rejoice and sing God’s praises! Like Daniel, the psalmist knows that God’s people suffer greatly for their faith and can lose hope in the midst of the darkness that surrounds them. But the psalmist also knows that in the Great Reversal when God’s new world comes in full, God’s people will be vindicated and freed from our suffering so that we can serve our merciful God in peace and with joy.

St. Paul says something similar in our epistle lesson. He speaks of an inheritance for the saints of God who compose Christ’s body, the Church. While nowhere in this passage does St. Paul speak explicitly of the Evil, Sin, and Death that reign and destroy and corrupt God’s people and creation, it is implicit in all that the apostle says here. God raised Jesus from the dead. That is the basis of our hope and future because it demonstrates God has power even over the evil of death and the Sin and that causes it. Not only that, but Christ now sits at the right of of God, biblical language that proclaims the Lordship of Christ as ruler over all the cosmos, and who rules until he returns to consummate his saving work. When that happens, the Great Reversal will be complete. Good will prevail over Evil in full and God’s people in Christ will reign with Christ over God’s new world forever. What an astonishing hope and promise (cf. 1 Corinthians 6.1-8)!! Until that day comes, however, we Christians can expect to suffer for our opposition to the ways of the world and must constantly remember both our inheritance and the fact that Christ reigns now so that we do not lose hope. To the contrary, St. Paul tells us elsewhere to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ because they are signs that we belong to him and that is the only future and hope available to humankind (cf. Romans 5.1-11).

In our gospel lesson, our Lord himself speaks of the Great Reversal where those who have used and abused the ways of the world to enrich themselves at the expense of others will be judged severely by God the Father who abhors injustice and unrighteousness, and those who suffer injustice will find themselves being the recipients of God’s goodness, mercy, love, and justice. Many of us get uncomfortable talking about God’s judgment but a good God must judge at some point. To ignore the injustices and Evil that currently afflict us and God’s creation is to be party to it and God cannot be party to evil of any kind. Ever. So it is for our good and an integral part of our hope that God’s judgment and justice will one day fully prevail, and we must take the promise to heart and not lose hope or fall into despair. 

But glorious as it is, the Great Reversal and our Christian hope of living in God’s new world where God’s kingdom reigns on earth as in heaven is in the future. That’s massively important because without hope we all die. But what about now? What do our lessons have to tell us about the living of our mortal days? If we really do have the hope of God’s new creation, we are to live out our hope to the fullest in this life, imperfectly as that will be because we do not yet live in God’s direct presence, and we still live in a world that is profoundly broken and laboring under God’s curse and the inexplicable reign of Evil. In other words, we are to be living signs of new creation. And how do we do that? For starters, we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We don’t retaliate when evil is done to us and we love others, especially those in our parish family, at least as much as we love ourselves. We proclaim the right and oppose the wrong. We realize that the ways of the world are self-centered, evil, and corrupt, and we avoid them whenever we can. We are quick to forgive and slow to speak and act evilly. This way of life is called holy living, my beloved. We live this way, in part, because our Lord commands us to this kind of living. But we also do it because this is the way we will live in the new heavens and earth, and God gives us the opportunity in this world to demonstrate our love for him and commitment to his way of living as the fully human beings God created us to be. 

 When we live this way, the way of the cross, we proclaim to the world that we have a real hope and a future, despite the chaos and darkness around us. We proclaim to the world and ourselves that Evil and Death do not have the final say, that despite our imperfect living we are forgiven and healed and reconciled to God the Father through the blood of God the Son and in the power of God the Holy Spirit. We will be mocked and scorned and despised for living in these ways and for our sure and certain expectation of God’s new world. But we are in good company because those in the Church Triumphant also were mocked and scorned and despised for their faith. And more importantly, so was our Lord Jesus, who died for us so that we could enjoy communion with the Father now and forever. This is what we celebrate today, my beloved. Let your new creation faith and your belief in the communion of saints heal and refresh you, and let us encourage each other with this hope in the living of our mortal days. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.   

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

All Saints’ Day 2019: St. Augustine Muses on the Saints of God

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With humans this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”— Matthew 19.25-26

The saints are those who are moved by God’s grace to do whatever good they do. Some are married and have intercourse with their spouse sometimes for the sake of having a child and sometimes just for the pleasure of it. They get angry and desire revenge when they are injured, but are ready to forgive when asked. They are very attached to their property but will freely give at least a modest amount to the poor. They will not steal from you but are quick to take you to court if you try to steal from them. They are realistic enough to know that God should get the main credit for the good that they do. They are humble enough to admit that they are the sources of their own evil acts. In this life God loves them for their good acts and gives forgiveness for their evil, and in the next life they will join the ranks of those who will reign with Christ forever.

–Augustine of Hippo, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 3.5.14

One of the reasons I love Augustine is that he was never afraid to be real. As you read his description of the saints, you cannot help but wonder how these folks can be enjoying their rest with their Lord. I mean, look at their flaws Augustine is pointing out!

Here’s the answer. They have died with Christ and so are raised with him (Romans 6.8) They were buried with Christ in the waters of baptism so that they might rise with him in his resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). And when they were alive in this mortal life, this treasure of life eternal was hidden with Christ (Colossians 3.3-4), i.e., this hope and promise of resurrection and eternal life is based on their relationship with the risen Christ, who remains hidden from us in this mortal life from his abode in heaven, God’s space.

For you see, it is not about the saints or our worthiness. None of us is worthy to stand before God in God’s perfect holiness! Rather, it is about what God has done for us in Jesus so that through his death we might enjoy real peace and reconciliation with God (Romans 5.1, 11). In Jesus, God condemned sin in the flesh so that we might be equipped to live with God forever, both here on earth in the power of the Spirit and in God’s promised new creation (Romans 8.3-4, 18-25, Revelation 21.1-7). This is what Jesus reminds us in the passage above from Matthew and that’s why we have hope for the Christian dead and ourselves on All Saints Day. Jesus is Lord, even over death!

Is this your hope or are you clinging to something less which is bound to fail? On this All Saints’ Day may God grant you the grace, wisdom, and courage to embrace the hope offered to you in Jesus. Come celebrate our victory over death in Christ this Sunday as we celebrate the communion of saints!

All Saints 2019: Bernard of Clairvaux: Why All Saints’ Day?

Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feastday mean anything to the saints? Do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the lightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning. Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. in short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.

Come, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.

When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until then we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; his purple robes are a mockery rather than an honor. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendor with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head. Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.

–Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 2

A Prayer for All Saints’ Day 2019 (2)

Blessed are you, Sovereign God,
ruler and judge of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In the darkness of this age that is passing away
may the light of your presence which the saints enjoy
surround our steps as we journey on.
May we reflect your glory this day
and so be made ready to see your face
in the heavenly city where night shall be no more.
Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever. Amen.

A Prayer for All Saints’ Day 2019 (1)

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
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.